Review: Saints and Misfits

“I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it.” page 2

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Saints and Misfits: a novel by S.K. Ali.
Salaam Read, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA contemporary, 328 pages.
Not yet leveled.

Janna just wants to live her life – hang out with her friends, study, work her very part-time jobs, pray, and maybe dream a little about her secret haram crush.  But something has changed her world, something unthinkable, horrible, and so big she doesn’t know what to do.

Saints and Misfits resized

For some reason I thought this was a light and fluffy read.  However, I completely misunderstood, because by chapter two we’re reliving one of the worst moments of Janna’s life, when she is assaulted by a man who is supposedly holy, the man she calls the Monster.

Indeed, the title of each short chapter (Saints, Misfits, or Monsters) relates to how she sees the main people she’s interacting with in that chapter.  Some chapters contain more than one category, or a comment as she begins to realize that some of those she sees as Saints are really Misfits, etc.

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Review: Flygirl

“Sure, they’d only been around a few years, they were dangerous, and quite frankly, only a handful of colored people knew how to fly.” page 29

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.
Scholastic, New York, 2008.
YA historical fiction, 275 pages.
Lexile:  HL680L  ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 11.0 points)  .

Ida Mae Jones just wants to fly.  But her mother’s dead set against her even going North to get her pilot’s license.  So using her light skin color to join the WASP shouldn’t even be an option, but Ida will do anything to get in the air and help her military brother.

Flygirl

Those of you who have been reading for a while will recall that I’m pretty tough on historical fiction.  I want it to be inclusive of diverse characters and perspectives, but also realistic.  (A character might be targeted with hateful language, but the author should also make clear that those words are wrong.)  Depending on the grade level, I’d also like it to be appropriate for the age recommended, not too graphic nor too idealistic for young readers.  And, of course, it should be well written and have an interesting plot and intriguing characters.

I’m happy to share that Flygirl succeeds on every count.

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Review: Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go

“There are memories you write down to get them out, to force them as far away from you as you can.” page 9

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2015.
YA realistic fiction novel, 263 pages  including extras.
Lexile:  not yet leveled.
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 8.0 points)  .

15-year-old Magdalie’s been raised by her aunt in Port-au-Prince and is like a sister to her cousin Nadine.  When a massive earthquake hits the country, they’re devastated, grief-struck, and struggling to survive.  But then Nadine is offered an opportunity, and Magdalie cannot join her.  Will their sisterhood survive?  Will they?

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go

If you’re reading this review far enough into the future then this book will no longer be realistic fiction.  Just as novels about 9/11 are now historical fiction, this book about the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, a recent historical event, will one day be historical fiction!

The book opens with a scene of the actual earthquake, so it certainly starts off gripping.  After reading the blurb, I thought this book would be told in two voices, but it focuses solely on Magdalie, the sister left behind in Haiti.  This is an interesting twist on the usual immigration narrative.  Typically we follow the immigrant and don’t get as much information on those who are left behind.  In this book, the immigrant sister slowly and painfully fades away, while the focus is on the dire circumstances and overpowering need for survival in the country of origin.

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Review: Twice Toward Justice

“I felt differently. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to grow up and greet the world, and so did my best friends.” p. 27

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.
Square Fish Imprint, Macmillan, New York, 2009.
Age 10 + nonfiction, 150 pages including extras, notes, and index.
Winner of the National Book Award and a Newberry Honor Book.
Various other awards and best of lists.
Lexile:  1000L
AR Level:  6.8 (worth 5.0 points)

Before Rosa Parks was a household name, there was Claudette Colvin.  The first black woman (really a girl) to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and be arrested for doing so, she knew and inspired Rosa Parks, but was not considered suitable to be the face of the movement.  Her story is now coming to light for a new generation.

Claudette Colvin Twice Toward Justice
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.

This is “The acclaimed true story of the girl who changed history” according to the front cover.  What it is inside was a little different than I’d expected.  Most books by white men about black history tend to assume an authoritative, know-it-all position that often leaves out details important to the people who were living that history.

Significant portions of this book are told in the first person, taken directly from extensive interviews with Ms. Colvin herself.  Yet he is credited as the sole author.  I’m torn.  Hoose clearly made the best choice by letting Colvin’s voice shine and allowing her to narrate as much as possible of her book.  On the other hand, he is receiving all the credit.

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Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

“Rishi had heard once you were attracted to someone, your brain could actually rewire itself and make you think all kinds of sucky things about them were perfect.” page 197

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.
Simon Pulse, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA romance, 378 pages.
Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

Dimple is shocked when her parents are willing to pay for her to attend a special summer program for web developers – she could have sworn her mother didn’t understand that programming, not marriage, is her life passion.  Rishi doesn’t mind attending the same camp – it’s not much of a detour for the chance to meet his future wife early – and he knows his family has found his perfect lifelong partner.

When Dimple Met Rishi cover resized

This book (and the other I preordered) arrived!  Family obligations held me until 9 p.m., but then I was able to read and read.  Because of the time constraints of the #AsianLitBingo challenge, this review is after only one reading, and I’m backdating it to post on the 30th, when I read this.  If other things jump out at me, I’ll edit this post.
Edited to Add: Actually, Sinead’s review covers what I missed – some ableism, a hypocritical statement, the humor and inclusion of Hindi, etc.

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Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

“I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting there crying when another car rolls up in front of me. I look up, and it’s Peter Kavinsky’s black Audi with the tinted windows.” page 36

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.
Simon and Schuster BFYR imprint, New York, 2014.
YA Romance/realistic fiction, 355 pages plus recipes and excerpt.
Lexile:  630L  .
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 12.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would recommend this book for high school students and not elementary school.

Lara Jean is the middle of three sisters and her mother has passed away.  Her oldest sister, Margot, is moving to Scotland, leaving Lara Jean in charge of her younger sister and father.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before resized

I am probably the only person ever to read this book because I first enjoyed Jenny Han’s middle grade book Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream.  This series has been hyped so much that I thought it would be another Everything, Everything, but after reading and liking Clara Lee, I grabbed this at Target.

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Review: Monster

“Violence in here is always happening or just about to happen. I think these guys like it – they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.” p. 144

Monster by Walter Dean Myers.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999.
Teen fictional chapter book/screenplay, 281 pages.
Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Michael L. Prinz Award, National Book Award and more
Lexile: 670L.
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 5.0 points).

Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story.  At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison.  But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.”  Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder.  Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?

Monster

Honestly, for a book to get this many awards and never attract my attention is very unusual.  This book also has never been checked out of the school library I got it from.  But opening the book, I’m not surprised.  The format is challenging, the language certainly above the level indicated in many places, and the content seems aimed more at high school students in terms of the complexity of thought required to process the novel.

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