I first heard of Gloria Chao through the podcast 88 Cups of Tea’s private facebook group. And when I heard of her book American Panda, I was super excited to read a YA novel set in college. We need more of these! Seventeen-year-old Mei skipped a grade and is starting freshman year at MIT a year early. This is all part of her immigrant parents’ plan for her. A plan that involves becoming a doctor and marrying another Taiwanese-American over-achiever. A plan that also ignores Mei’s passion for dance and phobia of germs. Mei knows how much she owes to her parents and tries to follow their wishes. But the freedom of college, a crush on a dreamy Japanese-American biology major, and long buried secrets make Mei rethink following her parents wishes. But making her own decisions might mean losing the family that she loves. This own voices story is full of cultural details, romantic moments, and laugh-out-loud awkwardness. One of my favorite things is that many different Taiwanese-American families are portrayed in the story, keeping any one character or family from seeming to represent an entire culture. Continue reading “Three Mini Reviews: American Panda, Children of Blood and Bone, & Restore Me”
Category: Book Reviews
Three Mini Reviews: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, & Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
My friend and critique partner, Kristina, gave me Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum months ago. I mostly liked the cover, but once I started reading it this weekend I liked what was inside the cover even more. Why did I wait so long to actually read this one? Jessie can’t do anything right at her new school. Still grieving the death of her mother, her dad’s married his Internet girlfriend and moved them from Chicago to LA. She’s not blond enough or thin enough. She wears the wrong clothes and didn’t spend the summer hiking mountains in Tanzania or interning at google. And she’s not only alone at school, she’s alone in her new fancy pants house that doesn’t feel anything like a home. Then she gets an anonymous email full of advice. Who to try to befriend. What teachers to avoid. That kind of thing. Thus begins a two month mystery that Jessie desperately wants to solve. Who is the person who’s become her best friend? And could they be more? Continue reading “Three Mini Reviews: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, & Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds”
Three Mini Reviews: Warcross, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, and Turtles All the Way Down
Hi friends! I have somehow not posted a book review since October. How did that happen on my book review blog? Ugh to all other commitments that take my time away – like teaching and writing and friends, etc. Anyway, here are some books I would recommend to pretty much anyone – especially anyone who likes YA books enough to still be reading this blog. So … Continue reading “Three Mini Reviews: Warcross, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, and Turtles All the Way Down”
There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins
I’m a huge Stephanie Perkins fangirl. I’ve read Anna, Lola, and (my favorite) Isla too many times to keep track of. I cried when I met Stephanie Perkins. She’s one of my biggest influences as a writer. I wrote this blog post! But I was worried – really worried – when I learned her newest book would be a horror novel. I’m seriously the most sensitive person in the world when it comes to being scared. I didn’t know if I could handle reading it, but I also didn’t know if I could handle not reading it.
Well, in Halloween spirit I picked up the book. And of course, I sped through it. It had everything I love in a Stephanie Perkins novel – a nuanced and interesting heroine, a quirky love interest, the most swoon-worthy, romantic writing I’ve ever seen in YA. It also had someone killing people with a knife. And while I did stay up late to finish the book, I found I could handle it. Continue reading “There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins”
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez
Julia and her family are grieving the death of her older sister, Olga. Olga was a perfect Mexican daughter to her immigrant parents. She didn’t go away to college. She didn’t move out after graduation. She happily cleaned and cooked with her mother and brought her father water to soak his feet in when he got home from his factory job. With her gone, Julia knows she can’t fill Olga’s role. She dreams of moving to New York City and becoming a writer, and has never been the obedient child her parents wanted. But when Julia discovers a pair of sexy underwear and a hotel key in Olga’s room, she learns that her big sister might not have been the perfect daughter everyone thought she was. In her grief, she focuses on finding out the truth about her sister’s life. At the same time, she struggles through growing pains with friends, the odds against her in applying for college, first romance, and her own mental illness. Continue reading “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez”
Venturess, by Betsy Cornwell
If you haven’t read Mechanica – the feminist, steampunk Cinderella retelling – yet, what are you waiting for? Seriously, it’s so so so good. I’m obsessed with Cinderella retellings and it’s my second favorite one of all time (Ella Enchanted will ALWAYS be number one to me, sorry Betsy!). If you have read Mechanica, then I’m guessing you are already so enchanted by the amazing world building and nuanced characters that you don’t need me to tell you to read this sequel. But I had some thoughts I wanted to write out and this is my blog, so … here we go!
Also there will be some necessary SPOILERS for book one in this series. Proceed with caution. Continue reading “Venturess, by Betsy Cornwell”
Three Mini Reviews of Some Good (No Great!) Books I’ve Been Reading
Happy weekend! I am having a huge good book streak. I’m really hoping it doesn’t end anytime soon – obviously. I might be losing sleep, but it’s one hundred percent worth it. Here are some favorite YA books that I’ve read in the last few weeks!
Eliza and her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia, blew me away and kept me up late at night. In some ways it felt like Fangirl on steroids. In others, it had its own special and unique magic. In the story, teenage Eliza is the creator of one of the most popular webcomics on the internet. She doesn’t do friends, at least not IRL, and her identity on the internet is a closely guarded secret. Then Wallace, her comic’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school and they develop a relationship through their shared interest. But he thinks that she’s just another fan and doesn’t know how to tell him. Ugh. This writing is beautiful. Like makes you want to cry and throw up at the same time beautiful. And the story is … I said on twitter that it made me feel like a mix between having a crush and the night before a new Harry Potter book comes out. And I stand by that strong endorsement. More people should be reading this book. Aside from being oh so swoony, it also has some of the best descriptions of anxiety I’ve ever read. Continue reading “Three Mini Reviews of Some Good (No Great!) Books I’ve Been Reading”
Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy
I took a YA lit class in grad school with David Levithan. One of the first things he said was to make the details in our writing as specific as possible. More detailed. More specific examples. These were two phrases, I became accustomed to seeing on my personal essays. It’s one of the lessons that I try to keep in the very front of my brain while writing. It’s also a lesson that no one needs to teach Julie Murphy, apparently. Because Damn! Ramona Blue, the latest book from the author who brought us Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, is one of the most specific, detailed, and unique books I’ve ever read.
As with people in real life, Ramona’s history looms large over her present struggles. She was a small child when Hurricane Katrina dramatically changed her family. She’s been a kind of surrogate parent to her little sister, who is now pregnant. She likes girls. She wants to leave town, but doesn’t know if she can now that her sister needs her more than ever. Continue reading “Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy”
Girl Out of Water, by Laura Silverman
I met Laura Silverman at the end of my orientation at New School. I was a nervous and slightly overwhelmed new student who’d moved to New York City that week and was still scared of taking the subway. She was a confident and wise second year in my MFA program, who told me to check out my now-favorite bookstore Books of Wonder and gave advice about professors. Even though she was younger than me, I definitely looked up to her – and I still do. So it was lovely to lose myself in her debut novel Girl Out of Water this weekend. I started reading it on a sunny day in the park. After having to take a break for a friend’s dinner party, I finished the book late that night. As much as I like sleep, I liked Anise’s story better. Seventeen-year-old Anise loves surfing and is intensely connected to her California hometown. But when her aunt is injured, she and her Dad must spend the summer in Nebraska helping to take care of Anise’s three younger cousins. Anise expects a summer of boredom and wistfully checking up on her friends back home. But a cute, one-armed skateboarder named Lincoln (swoon!) and her growing connection to her cousins, cause her to lose touch with her friends and her surfer identity in Santa Cruz. Continue reading “Girl Out of Water, by Laura Silverman”
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
I have major love for Lara Jean Covey and all the Song girls. I like that she is a shy, quiet, bookish girl who finds her confidence not by losing her shyness or a boy liking her – but through her own journey. I like her relationship with her sisters and the way Margot and Kitty have changed over the last three books. I like the cultural details of being half Korean American that are weaved in and out of the narrative. I’ve said this several times now, but reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was formative to my interest in writing contemporary YA. Hearing Jenny Han speak at The National Book Festival in 2012 was formative to my decision to move to New York City and get my MFA in writing for children and teenagers. So yeah, I’ve been looking forward to reading the third and final Lara Jean book since I found out it was happening. And, as expected, it did not disappoint. Continue reading “Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han”