Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Pages: 444
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction


Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hand of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the street in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. 

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. --Goodreads

The Rundown

Every so often young adult literature gives us a true gem in book that is both timely and powerful for its social and political message that also manages to be extremely well-written with characters that you can't help but get wrapped in as a reader when you go through something this important with them. It's not only a freaking amazingly good book, but it makes huge waves and starts conversations. 

These are things we so badly need to be talking about as a society: the murders of unarmed black men and women at the hands of police officers. The way the media portrays these victims as criminals until proven otherwise. The way blacks are told not to kneel in protest, not to raise a fist, not to gather peacefully. But when they ask how to raise light on the issue, they hear crickets from white conservatives who tell them to stop playing a race card, to stop making themselves victims. Racial bias among law enforcement. 

The fact that we live in a society where a racist young white man can kill multiple black parishioners inside of a church and be taken to Burgen King by the officers who arrested him, but a young black man can be driving home from the grocery store and be mistaken for someone else simply because of the shape of his nose and take seven shots to his chest as he told officers he was reaching for his ID.

I f***ing hate it. And I could go on and on and on.

Their lives matter. They matter. And not just when it comes down to an officer not pulling the trigger at a traffic stop. We have to do better. Do you hear me fellow white people? WE CAN AND MUST DO BETTER.

Every time I had to put this book down because I was angry or crying (often times both) I would see my daughter playing on my living room floor. She is a total ball of energy and joy wrapped up in creamy white skin, hazel eyes, and strawberry blond curls. And it broke my heart, not because of the obstacles she'll face as a woman (that's another blog post for another time) but because I can't imagine the fear that would grip me if I were black, if my daughter were black. I recognize the privilege of the color of my skin, but it doesn't stop my heart from breaking. My daughter will likely never have a gun pointed at her by a police officer for looking like a suspect. Could I say the same if we were black? No. And it's so wrong. 

I grew up in a small, mostly white town in Central Indiana. The only coaching I got from my dad on what to do if I ever got pulled over by a cop was being shown where my registration was. He didn't think about telling me to always keep my hands visible, to tell the officer everything I was going to do before I did it, and to do everything the officer said the first time. It didn't even cross his mind. Because how many unarmed white girls with freckles and green eyes have you seen on the evening news for being shot at a traffic stop? Exactly. Does it make you angry? It should. I pisses me off. 

I knew I would do this with this review. I would go way into depth on the social & political climate surrounding this book when I need to tell you about this amazing story. My apologies. 

Starr is one of the most fascinating characters I've met in a teen book in years. She's going to stay with me for a long, long time. All of the anger and heartbreak are broken up by hilarious dialogue with her parents (and I mean full on tears streaming down your face laughing. Her parents are great...of course they're close to my age but still, they're fun and they really love their kids) and sweet moments between Starr and her boyfriend, who is just a total doll when it comes to how much he cares for and supports her. 

Starr may be the best role model for young, female activists. She's smart, she's fun, she has a big heart, and a good head on her shoulders. I hope more Starrs (pun intended) will shine in their schools and communities after meeting her. It's only when enough of us stand up and demand change that we make progress.

Verdict: Read. Talk. Protest. Demand Change. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Wait For Me

Author: Caroline Leech
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, WWII


It's 1945, and Lorna Anderson's life on her father's farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him--from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany--the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she's always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she's willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate. --Goodreads

The Rundown

At first glance, this novel is everything, I mean EVERYTHING I usually geek out over in a book. A tale of forbidden love set against the backdrop of World War Two? Yes please! And that cover! The cover alone had me skipping home ready to dive in.

Unfortunately, that's where my love affair ended with this book. While the author got some of the broad sweeping messages of the story out (forgiveness, love winning out, and that we have more in common with our enemies than we think sometimes) most of it kind of fell flat. 

For starters, unless I read words like rationing or U-boat, or names like Winston Churchill, there were times I would forget that I was reading historical fiction. Much of the dialogue and the way the characters related to one another landed somewhere between contemporary and unrealistic. 

Neither Paul nor Lorna were developed enough for me to be really invested in their falling in love. Characters are supposed to have flaws and grow throughout the story, but Lorna's immaturity and impulsiveness never improved, leaving me with quite a bit of eye rolling. Distracting side stories with underdeveloped secondary characters slowed the pace way down. 

I feel like this book could have been so beautiful and simple, but the author tried to paint with too broad of a brush and Lorna and Paul, along with their love story, got lost in all of the unnecessary frills. 

Bummer. That cover though. A+ there!

Rating: 2 stars. A solid meh. 

Words in Deep Blue

Author: Cath Crowley Release Date: June 6, 2017 Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers Pages: 273 Genre: Young Adult,...