heart Home About Me Contact Reviews Friday Contests heart

Monday, February 4, 2019


I know, this sounds weird when I do Things I've Read Recently posts all the time, which are technically mini-reviews, but I have two review books and nowhere to put the reviews of them that's aesthetically pleasing, so I thought I'd just do a post of two mini reviews. They'll be a little longer than my usual Things minis, but shorter than my normal reviews. So this is what we're doing today.

Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Published: January 15th, 2019 by Antheum Books which is a division of Simon and Schuster
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: eARC
Page Count: Goodreads says 400
Part of a series? No, I don't think so.
Got via: The publisher approved me for it on NetGalley.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Review: Wow, this was beautiful. I don't read ebooks very fast, and I think I finished this entirely in one day. That is possibly the fastest I've ever read an ebook because every time I put it down, I immediately picked it up to read it again. It is so good.

I feel like there's so much that's going to reflect the experience of so many of its readers, especially the young ones who it's obviously meant for. There's so much in here that I think reflects the experiences and feelings of kids like Genesis and the author takes such care in how they handled those things.

I will say that if you are recommending this to a child, you may want to think about if that child will need someone to talk to afterwards and if they have a safe someone. There are some things in this that are heavy things for a young reader, and I think as an adult you should take care to think about how those things will affect the children you recommend them to. Not that they shouldn't read it, but maybe don't wallop a kid with something that may trigger them and then leave them floundering in the wind, you know?

Honestly, that's how I feel about a lot of books and kids - we don't really think about trigger warnings and self-care with middle grade the way we do with YA or adult books, but they may need them just as much. This one especially deals with racism, obviously, both internalized and external, self-harm, bullying, poverty, and a parent who's dealing with addiction and is sometimes abusive.

Though while we're talking about that, I really want to commend the author for how nuanced the depiction of Genesis' relationships with her parents are, especially with her father. His depiction as a man who is clearly making the wrong choices in a lot of areas, but is still a complicated human being who isn't just villanized is really wonderful. Genesis' journey into asking about family history and learning more about her parents and her grandmother and why they don't talk about a lot of their history is also so good.

That sometimes the people you love have done things that are harmful, not just to you, or that they have views that are harmful - that's something that could have been treated in a very binary way, and it's not. The book really shows how much those things can hurt the people who feel that way, too, and it doesn't excuse them, but it's... I don't know, I want to say more fair to Genesis, that the book doesn't expect her to stop loving people and caring about them because they're "problematic". It's not that easy sometimes, especially for kids. It doesn't invalidate Genesis' pain, but it doesn't erase her love for people either.

Wow, I'm not sure that paragraph made a lick of sense. Do you know what I mean?

My only real complaint to mention is a lack of queer people. Would have been nice if a classmate had had two moms or something. Otherwise, props for her best friend having OCD - it's very normalizing. The character was previously bullied by classmates, but Genesis' reaction is rather similar to if she had asthma or something. She doesn't make a big deal out of it while respecting her friend's needs. I also loved that her music teacher, who is a big positive influence and role model, was fat. It's great to see that.

I didn't mean to talk so much here but this was so good and I just want to praise so much of it. Obviously there's a lot I'm not qualified to talk about here, but this is such a solid middle grade book, and should be on like all the rec lists. Four and a half roses out of five.

North to Benjamin by Alan Cumyn

Published: It was originally scheduled for November, but it was released December 4th, 2018 from Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, aka Simon and Schuster.
Genre: I DON'T KNOW except it's middle grade. I'll get into this in the review.
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 291 in my arc plus acknowledgements, but goodreads says 256.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: It was sent to me by the publisher for review consideration.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Freezing temperatures. Cracking ice. Ferocious wolves.

Eleven-year-old Edgar is willing to face them all to stop his mother from upturning their lives once again -- not this time, not this town. He's finally made a friend; he's finally found a teacher who understands him; and then there's Benjamin, an old dog who understands Edgar better than anyone.

But Edgar's mother's path to destruction is beyond his control, and then Edgar loses control, and Benjamin becomes the only one who understands him. So together they embark on a journey across the unforgiving Yukon wilderness for help. But soon Edgar is no longer looking to stop his mother from ruining their lives, but to save Benjamin's and his own.

Review: What did I just read. I don't even know what to say. I am so confused by this book. Also, I'm going to put a spoiler about the dog at the end of the book because people want to know that, so be prepared.

First of all, it's shelved on goodreads as "magical realism". I would love to link to an article here about the history of magical realism and how it's probably sketchy when white dudes claim to be writing it... but I'm more puzzled about why the author's website calls it a "is a psychological thriller that sees a young boy, Edgar, dragged north by his unstable mother, testing his formidable survival skills." This isn't remotely a thriller and Edgar's survival skills insist on him realizing he should put on a jacket before venturing into the Yukon wilderness. And even then I'm not sure he was wearing a hat. And he definitely wasn't wearing snow pants. Or more than one layer on his legs at all.

Just recently I saw people using the phrase "magical contemporary" and that's probably the more appropriate term for this book? Looking for feedback on that still, but I'm going to link to an article and two twitter threads that should help explain why magical realism is not an appropriate thing for this book to be called. I'm going to say either "magical contemporary" or "contemporary with fantasy elements" is what should be used on this book.

As to how those are handled - honestly I found it weird. I went in expecting a contemporary book because that's how the back blurb presented it, and then suddenly the dog started talking. And then Edgar stopped talking and could only bark. And that's the extent of the fantasy elements. Honestly with everything going on in the book it just makes Edgar seem like he's imagining these things as coping method because he has a hard life.

I didn't particularly like how the author wrote female characters. I can't really put my finger on it, but there was something that just bothered me. There's an incredibly weird subplot about Edgar's friend... I forgot her name. I put this book down like an hour ago and I've already forgotten her name. That honestly says something how little characterization she had. She liked dogs and... I don't know anything about her. Wow. Apparently her name is Caroline.

So anyways, there's this weird subplot about how this kid who bullies Edgar keeps sexually harassing Caroline. The book kind of victim blames her! There's a weird line comparing the thirteen year old girl to Edgar's mother and how she looks at men and it's just kind of super gross. And I'm not against talking about sex in middle grade books but if you're going to make it like a one page thing, I don't think you're doing that thoughtfully or for a reason besides really shock value.

I didn't enjoy the writing enough to pull through the rest of the issues I had. It didn't work for me and felt weirdly old fashioned. And last, the ending was super unfinished. None of the issues were actually resolved. It just ends.

And the freaking dog dies.

Two out of five roses.

So that's about everything I have to say! What did we think about this kind of post?

Peace and cookies,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.