“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?
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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
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?
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.
“Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger. // I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.” page 118
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Novel by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2007, my edition 2009.
YA realistic fiction, 230 pages not including extras.
Winner of many awards including a National Book Award.
Lexile: 600L .
AR Level: 4.0 (worth 6.0 points) .
NOTE: Due to content, this is not generally recommended for middle school students.
Junior is a Spokane Indian with a life from a Greek tragedy – medical woes, funerals, poverty, and picked on, he still tries to find the humor in life and look for the hope in his future in this semi-autobiographical novel.
Despite all the accolades, and my recent positive experiences of Alexie’s work, I did not expect to love this book the way I did. Alexie seems mostly known for his literary fiction. Diary is a YA book still interesting to the general adult fiction reader. Unlike The Sun is Also a Star, which I might recommend to certain adults, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is a teen coming-of-age story that I would recommend to almost any adult reader. Arnold Spirit, Junior, is a Spokane Indian with hydrocephalus, a stutter, and a few other challenges, like dire poverty and 30-year-old textbooks.
Despite a life where the cards seem stacked against him, Junior perseveres, chasing his hope through tragic deaths and ridiculous logistics (how do you get to school 22 miles away when you’re incredibly poor and there’s no bus? Answer: sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you walk.)
“I’m also incredibly proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but at first I wasn’t sure why everyone was talking about it. Then I realized that as I was growing up, there hadn’t been any Latina role models in gymnastics!” page 149
I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Lauren Hernandez.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins New York, 2017.
YA biography, 231 pages.
AR Level: 6.8 (worth 5.0 points) .
Laurie Hernandez was a bit of a dark horse. Just turned 16 and only recently eligible for the US Olympic team, she not only was part of the winning 2016 gymnastics team, she also won the silver medal in balance beam. Fresh off her Olympic win, she went on to win Dancing with the Stars, a nationally televised ballroom dancing competition.
This book is definitely a teen read. Apparently Hernandez’s nickname in the press is the Human Emoji, and she embraces that as each of the 20 chapters has a different emoji associated with it (a few do repeat). However, she also manages to pack in information about gymnastics and some startlingly good life advice, coming from a 16-year old.