Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World (ebook)
by Ashley Herring Blake
Ivy Aberdeen is a seventh grader and she’s facing many conflicts, both internally and externally. First of all, her house was just leveled due to a tornado, and her family is forced to live in a hotel room- Ivy, her sister Layla, her twin brothers, and her parents. They lost everything. Second of all, she is upset with Layla over a conversation she overheard between Layla and her best friend Gigi. Ivy also loses her notebook with all of her intimate and personal drawings, and it is being held for emotional ransom. To top it all off, Ivy is having feelings for one of her friends, and this really throws off all of her relationships, because she can’t deal with it herself. Like most stories, everything hits the fan and Ivy is forced to deal with her feelings.
What I liked about this book is that it’s another great coming of age story about a girl who is learning more about her own sexuality. I am so happy more books are being written about LGBTQ kids around my students’ age that are appropriate. Not that YA aren’t appropriate, but the content isn’t always age appropriate. I have not had a sixth grader who was “out” but I have had many that were possibly questioning or coming to terms with their feelings, and books like this will help them, I believe. Even for those who aren’t LGBTQ, this book will build empathy and understanding.
What I didn’t like about this book was how mad I was at Ivy’s family. It really upset me- even when I had my last child, I couldn’t just ignore my other children. They are all important, even if a baby and family crisis take over.
Book 85 of 2018
Darius the Great is Not Okay (audiobook)
by Adib Khorram
Darius is a high school fractional Persian boy living in Portland with his Persian mother and American father. He is struggling to figure out who he is, while being bullied by the popular boys at school and feeling his dad’s disapproval. Darius is slightly overweight. He is not particularly skilled in school, does not stand up for himself when he is picked on, and has few real friends. To make matters worse, he suffers from clinical depression and is on medication. When he finds out his grandfather in Iran is dying, his family picks up and goes to visit him for a few weeks. Darius is hyper aware of certain things, like being overweight and not fitting in, but it is different in Iran. He immediately makes friends with another boy named Sohrab, and they quickly become close. They spend time with Darius’s family and bond over soccer, loneliness, and an unusual connection. When Darius leaves Iran, he feels more confident in who he is.
What I liked about this book is that it covered the important subject of depression and suicide, yet it was done in a humorous and natural way. It didn’t feel forced. It was a real situation based on the author’s experiences. I also like that I got to learn more about Persian culture, especially the holidays, and the different social customs among Persians in America and Iran.
What I didn’t like about this book is that I expected Darius and Sohrab to realize they were in love with each other, because it felt very “Aristotle and Dante” but that never happened! Not that it matters, but I couldn’t tell whether either character was gay and had feelings other than friendship for the other.
Book 76 of 2018
Everything I Never Told You (audiobook)
by Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You is kind of heartbreaking, really confusing at times, and a mystery that you will want to unravel. This story takes place in the 70’s (with flashbacks from the 50’s and 60’s) in a family with a Chinese American father and white mother. The oldest daughter Lydia dies at the beginning of the novel, and the whole time, we are trying to figure out why as we learn about her very flawed family members, their suspicions and regrets, and her own frustrations with life. It is told from third person point of view, and the narrator tells the story of each family member.
What I liked about this book is that it was a mystery with a very personal touch. I usually don’t really care for mysteries, but this was a book with little adventure. Each character is complex, flawed, and you want to hate them while feeling sorry for them as you feel their pain. You will definitely make guesses about why and how Lydia died in the lake, and you will be wrong.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it got a little slow at times. I listened to it as an audiobook, and the reader’s voice can be a little monotone at times. That is the tone of the book, and it works. It was just a little tough at times, like when I was driving and tuned it out. I am still very much looking forward to reading more of Celeste Ng’s work.
Book 73 of 2018
When I Was the Greatest (paperback)
by Jason Reynolds
I just love Jason Reynolds. When I Was the Greatest took me a bit longer to get into, though. It is about a boy named Ali and his friends Noodles and Needles. Ali is a teenage boy living in Brooklyn. His mom works two jobs to support him and his sister while his dad lives in his car, stealing clothes and selling them. He was once in jail for armed robbery, but this is not the life Ali wants. He had a good friend named Noodles who lives next door. Noodles has a brother with Tourette’s named Needles, and he knits to keeps his ticks under control. Ali is a loyal friend, and does his best to keep himself and his friends out of trouble. The three boys go to a party and get themselves into a bad situation, and face tough consequences where they learn several life lessons the hard way.
What I liked about this book is the way Reynolds developed his characters. The relationship between Needles and Noodles, and Ali’s relationship with them, the frustration Noodles felt with his brother… there’s a backstory to it all, creating people and not just flat characters. Also, with a gun on the cover, one would expect to read a book about gun violence, but the irony was that the gun in the story wasn’t even loaded. This isn’t a story about violence, but choices and growth.
What I didn’t like about the book was the treatment of Needles. I have a hard time when someone with a disability is mistreated.
Book 76 of 40
(Book 42 of 2018)
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (audiobook and hardcover)
by Erika L. Sanchez
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is an award-winning novel about a teenage girl named Julia who lives with her parents in a bad part of Chicago. We learn immediately that her older sister Olga has just died from being hit by a semi, and Olga was the preferred daughter. Julia is left alone with her grieving parents, and she is ignored and left to fend for herself emotionally. Julia soon discovers that Olga was keeping secrets, and she’s determined to find out what they are. In the meantime, she falls into a deep depression that no one notices, and every slight opportunity for happiness is dashed by her mother or sabotaged by herself.
What I liked about this book was the main character, who was so well-developed, I felt all of her feelings with her. Julia also has a great sense of humor, and even when she’s angry or frustrated or sad, and her rants and internal thinking made me feel so much better about myself. I really liked the author’s voice, and it made me think that maybe she was Julia. I could tell she was definitely writing from some personal experience, at least.
What I didn’t like about this book was not knowing about Olga for most of the story. I was left to speculate and guess what happened, and then I started wondering if I was missing clues, because I couldn’t remember what my predictions were and what actually happened in the story. When it ended, I was left wanting a prequel to the story. I was also SO frustrated with Julia’s family, especially her mother, that I kept begging Julia in my head to tell her therapist or her teacher about how terrible her mother was. Then I started wondering if I acted like Julia’s mother, and that made me sad.
Book 74 of 40
(Book 40 of 2018)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (audiobook)
by Mackenzi Lee
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is about a young man named Henry “Monty” Montague who was raised to be a gentleman, but he isn’t what his parents expect. He is bisexual and in love with gambling, over drinking, and risky behavior with women and men. He is in love with his best friend Percy, but he is unwilling to admit it to himself or anyone else. When his abusive father sends him on tour (a trip around Europe before settling into his position as a wealthy heir), he, Percy, and his sister Felicity find themselves in a predicament that takes them to parts of Europe they didn’t expect to see. In this story, you will fall in love with Monty, despite his behavior and bad choices.
What I liked about this book… there were a few things. First, I liked learning about a period of time I am familiar with, but learned more about from different perspectives. I know that being gay or bisexual was not only frowned upon, but considered unacceptable. I did enjoy reading about the clothing style, “modern” technology, and ideas of the time. Second, Monty is a character you are rooting for. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and I feel like the author was watching a lot of Hugh Grant romantic comedies while writing this book. Third, the narrator was spot on.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it ran a little long for me. I had to stop part way through, listen to another audiobook, and then come back. It was good, but I got a little bored and lost interest in the middle, which I feel bad about, because I really did enjoy the book.
Book 71 of 40
(Book 37 of 2018)
Emmy & Oliver (audiobook)
by Robin Benway
I picked up this book, because I loved Far From the Tree so much, and I appreciated that Benway wrote an engaging, award-winning young adult novel that was NOT a romance. Emme & Oliver has romance, but it is much more than that. Emmy and Oliver have been friends since babies, and are even neighbors with parents who are close friends. When Oliver is kidnapped by his dad after school when they’re in second grade, Emmy is left empty, devastated, and incomplete. The novel begins with Emmy 10 years later, when she hears that Oliver has been found and is returning home. She is wary that they won’t have the same connection she has felt in their missing 10 years, but she isn’t disappointed when they renew their friendship. Emme helps him adjust to life back home, while he helps her struggle for freedom from her over protective and oppressive parents.
What I liked about this book was that it was so much more than a love story. Perhaps the real story was Emmy’s struggle with her parents, which is way more relatable than being kidnapped for 10 years or being soul mates. I did, however, love the love part of it, and found myself smiling and giggling like a teenager while I listened to it on my run. Sometimes I need a story that I can escape in, that isn’t too deep, and this idea of having a connection with someone that goes beyond physical connection is romantic in itself.
What I didn’t like about the story was that I wanted to know more about where their future was headed. I really enjoyed the story, so I can’t say anything but I wanted more of it!
Book 70 of 40
(Book 36 of 2018)