This was my first book by Kacen Callender which is weird because I have followed them on Twitter for a while. But I checked to make sure, and I haven’t read anything else on their publication list. I think I started following them after watching BookCon back in 2020 when it was all virtual.
This story is about Felix (bet you couldn’t tell that by the cover) who is a trans boy living in New York City. Now, I listened to the audiobook on this one, and I tend to listen very fast, so I’m sure there are things along the way that I missed. But Felix and his best friend Ezra have a very sweet, close relationship. Although, it was a little weird to me that Ezra had his own place, and Felix’s dad was always okay with Felix just leaving the house and staying with Ezra for days at a time. I get it, kids in New York City grow up differently, and then Ezra is super rich, and they go to this private school, so all things I don’t understand. As a parent, it was just weird to me that Felix was able to do his own thing all the time.
Felix struggles a lot throughout the book, and honestly, he did get on my nerves just a little when he would complain about his dad, but again, I think that comes from my vantage point of being a parent and not a teenager while reading this book.
Felix also has no relationship with his mom. She left ‘a while ago.’ I don’t think it’s clearly stated how long Felix and his dad have been on their own, but Felix writes her emails, a lot, but never sends them. So he’s just got an inbox of 400+ drafted emails. This part kinda broke my heart. He does eventually send one, but I’ll leave what happens out to avoid spoilers.
What I liked about this book was that it had a transgender main character. Representation matters in life, and more so in books. I liked that Felix struggled with his identity. The book shows him reaching out for help, doing research, asking questions, and discovering himself. I think it definitely got the point that it’s okay not to know all the answers across really well.
I also enjoy Felix’s journey figuring out love. If anyone can ever figure it out. It was a very sweet story, and I think it was nice that he figured himself out first.
All that to say, if you’re looking for a well-written book with a trans main character, this is definitely a good one.
If you’re looking for a book about finding yourself and finding love, again, this is a good one.
This book has been on my TBR list for over a year. Everyone I knew who had read it really liked it. So one day this past semester, I was down in our school library chatting with our media specialist, and I saw it. I went to grab it and she stopped me, “Don’t do it,” she said. My initial thought was that I had heard such good things, what was her problem with the book. She went on to tell me that the audio book was SO GOOD that I would probably enjoy that much more than the physical copy.
At that time I had about 4 other audio books on my Libby app, so I put off checking it out. It wasn’t until about 2 weeks ago that I added it and started listening to it, and within minutes, I was hooked! The book is told from a dual narrative perspective, so when Sadie is telling her story, it is a narrative, but when its West McCray’s turn, it is like listening to a podcast. There is even intro music for the show. I definitely enjoyed the audio of the book.
The basic premise of this one is that Sadie is a teenage girl whose younger sister, Mattie, is found dead and now Sadie is missing as well. You find out pretty early on that Sadie believes she knows who is responsible and has taken up on a search to find him and kill him.
As the story unravels from the two perspectives, we learn a lot about Sadie and Mattie’s past and the trauma they endured. We learn that the man Sadie is after has a much more troublesome past (and present) than Sadie even realizes as she sets off on her journey.
I feel like this book was very well put together. I haven’t read anything else by Courtney Summers, but once I make a dent in my TBR, I’ll be sure to check more of hers out.
Okay, so I set a pretty lofty goal for myself in terms of books to read this year. In all honesty, with the shut downs and stay at home orders, I should already be done with my goal. But! This is not a time to hold ourselves to “should-haves”. It is what it is, and there was a good month or so that I didn’t want to pick up another book.
About two weeks ago, I peeked at my Goodreads reading goal and saw that I was 15 books behind schedule. I hadn’t quite reached 50 books, and I set my goal for 75. In past years, I would have just changed my goal on Goodreads – I know, that’s totally cheating – but this year, I decided to figure out how I could still reach my goal.
Hello, middle grade novels! Now, I do mainly ready YA and middle grade novels because this is the age I teach, but I made a point to reach for books in verse and graphic novels.
I’ve read 8 books (nearly done with number 9) in the last 10 days. Here are my quick blurbs and recommendations.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Graphic novel – fully colored. Target audience is definitely upper elementary/early middle school. I still think the 8th grade/9th grade crowd would enjoy this book. Emmie is a very quiet girl who loves art and expresses herself well that way. However, standing up for herself and speaking up are not her thing. I felt this book would be perfect for 6th graders.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Written in verse. Some black/white sketches throughout. If you want a book to give you some feels, this is it. It tells of a family and their run in with ICE and detention facilities. I think this books could be used in the middle school when studying stories of immigration. I know our 6th graders read Refugee by Alan Gratz, and this could be a good companion piece.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Graphic novel – fully colored. Cute story with a lesson of meeting people where they are and helping when and how we can. The main character learns a valuable lesson about not listening to rumors and making your own opinions about who does or does not make a good friend. This would be a good classroom library book for upper elementary/ early middle school.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Written in verse. This book shocked me in the first couple pages. I have gotten to where I don’t read the back covers of books just to go in without any preconceived thoughts. I was not expecting this book to be about abuse. The front cover is yellow and bright blue, usually colors associated with happiness. This book was TOUGH for me. I tried to read it at school between classes and during my lunch, and ended up having to put it down for after school. Lots of tears. BUT I do think this is a good book to have available at a middle school. It is not graphic in it’s depiction of what happened, and deals a lot with the internal conflicts the victim goes through.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Written in verse with dual-narrators. Redwood and Ponytail are nicknames of the two main characters. The way this book is written took me a minute to figure out. The two main characters have their own section, but there are conversations within the verse and the formatting was different than I had ever seen before. After I got used to it, it was fine. The two girls meet at the beginning of their 7th grade year and hit it off as friends, but there seems to be more there. The book does a great job of showing the internal conflicts of both girls. A great coming-of-age type novel. Fits well within the middle grade books.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Graphic novel – lots of color. It took me about half-way through this book to go, “Hmmm, I wonder if this is a true story.” Maybe I should start reading the backs of books again, because it definitely says “In this memoir” on the back of the book. I really enjoyed this book, and felt very connected to the main character and his grandparents. With the language, drug references, and other things that go along with addiction, I think this is best in a high school classroom library. Maybe an 8th grade classroom library could be okay. I think the 6th grade parents would probably say something if their kid brought this one home.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Regular novel – as regular as a Jason Reynolds’ book can be. Jason Reynolds is the king of middle school literature. He also writes pretty amazing YA books as well. But this book was something special. Each chapter (section?) tells a completely different story, but they are all connected. The way Reynolds weaves these stories together is genius. I wrote my middle school ELA coordinator and told her that I think we should use this book for our short story unit and teach each chapter as it’s own individual story. It is definitely good for all middle school grades, and I think upper elementary as well.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Regular novel. Yes, another Jason Reynolds book made it to my book blitz this week. This one is the 4th book in the Track series. And again, not reading the side cover/back cover hurt me with this one. I had it in my head that the Track series books were all stand alone novels where the same characters existed. I do feel like you can read these out of order and not give away too much of the other stories. I read Ghost, which is the first in the series, and this one did not give away too much of that story. But, for my students, I would recommend going in order because they do build off each other. I love the way Reynolds wrote this book as if Lu is talking directly to the reader. It felt like a conversation. This series is perfect for upper elementary throughout middle school.
Now I find myself with 57 books read so far this year, 9 behind schedule, and 18 left to go before December 31, 2020. It doesn’t seem impossible, but I am also teaching full time and trying to write my own novel. Only time will tell.
I put all my other current reads on hold to start this one. I watched Christina Hammonds Reed chat about her book a couple weeks ago and was intrigued. It hurt my ego a little that the book was referred to as “historical fiction” since I can vividly remember the beating of Rodney King, the trial, and the outcry. I also remember a Doogie Houser, M.D. episode that focused on the protests. So yeah, I know yesterday is technically history, but when I think historical fiction, I’m thinking prairies or wars or societies without technology, not something I was alive for.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel. Ashley, the main character, is a senior and one of the few Black girls at her school. Her best friends, whom she has grown up with, are all white. She lives with her parents and her nanny, Lucia, in a nice neighborhood in LA in the early 1990s.
When the verdict is released, Ashley begins to go through a sort of transition. She starts to reexamine who her friends truly are, and she begins to see the ones she grew up with for who they truly are.
As America faces yet another incident of police brutality with the George Floyd case and the ones that have happened since the end of May and before, it was hard to read this book and realize America hasn’t changed in 30 years. Whites still think they’re better. Police still use excessive force, especially on Blacks. Systematic racism continues to harm our Black communities. It was hard to read.
Even though this book made me feel ashamed of where America currently is, I think this is a perfect book to add to any high school library. I think this will bring about great conversation, and it will help a lot of students (and adults) process through our current events.
I received this book early from #Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I’ve decided not to do a summary this time and just jump right in to my thoughts.
I first heard about this book from an Instagram live and knew right away that I was going to have to read it and quickly. I got on Netgalley because I just didn’t think I could wait until its release date in early July. It took a while to get approval, but as soon as I got it downloaded, I started reading it.
First impressions – as a parent, I was annoyed with the main character, Sophia. She wants to change all the rules in their land which is controlled by a misogynistic king who has no problem chopping the heads off those who oppose him. Her parents were first concerned with her safety, and disrupting the societal norms would not make her safe. In fact, there is a point when Sophia asks, “Don’t you want me to be happy?” And the response is no, I want you to be safe [alive]. I felt this deep in my heart as a mom of two girls.
As I read, though, I began to come around to Sophia. No dictator or dystopian ruler is ever overthrown without someone risking everything. Sophia is a strong (and sometimes reckless) main character. She cares deeply about the people she loves, and she wants better for everyone, including herself.
The setting and story building are fantastic. It is very easy to visualize what this society looks like. Every time I picked it up to read, I was transported to this world. This book is very well-written, and I am looking forward to reading more by Bayron.
A little side note: So, I once again read a couple reviews on Goodreads before writing my own. One I read complained about how Sophia quickly fell in love with this new girl after saying she was in love with her friend Erin for three years. To that person, I would say, have you ever met a 16/17 year old girl? But besides the fickleness of teens when it comes to love, I felt that Sophia really wrestled with her feelings. She felt conflicted having feelings for this new girl when she still loved Erin. I felt like the author did a great job showing this struggle.
I Loved This Book! With the current state of our country, I feel like who cares about a book review? But then I know that I start teaching again in a couple months, and my students know to come to me with book recommendations. Given the amount of books that I read, this blog helps me keep my thoughts straight and helps me remember why I would (or would not) recommend it to my kids.
As I mentioned in my last blog, I have been using quarantine as a way to learn more. I started following a handful of authors which then turned into a (what’s the next biggest thing after a handful?) well, a lot more authors. I found this book and Tiffany Jackson through that. She is also on the Project Lit Book list 3 times…and she has 3 books out! (Fourth one Grown coming out in September!) Her books have also made it on the Missouri Gateway Nominee list. So, while these aren’t the ultimate authorities for great books, it says a lot about an author when they make these lists.
Now for a quick summary since you can read much better ones all over the internet. Let Me Hear a Rhyme is a young adult fiction book that follows three youths (Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell) who are dealing with the death (murder) of their brother (Jasmine’s) and best friend, Steph. It is set in Brooklyn in the late 1990s. The day of the funeral, the trio come across some music that Steph had recorded, and a few days later the boys develop an idea to let the world hear Steph’s music. They have to get Jasmine involved, but the only way she will join in with the scheme is if the boys help her find out who killed her brother.
Like I said above, I LOVED this book. For one, it is set in the late 1990s and the late 90s hip hop references made me super nostalgic for my last few years of high school. I can remember watching the news (probably on MTV) when Tupac and Biggie were killed. I even found myself pulling up the Lauryn Hill album that is referenced a couple times throughout the book and reliving hearing that for the first time. Yes, this extremely sheltered white girl from the midwest loved hip-hop.
My students, even though they weren’t even born until 2006, still talk about a lot of the artists mentioned throughout the book, and I think that will draw some of them in.
Now, that is really just a tiny part of the book. The story is so well-written. I pride myself on being about to figure out YA books within the first couple chapters. And while I was completely right about the romance, there are a couple things I did not see coming, and one of them made me cry. (I actually audibly said, Oh NO! and then started crying.)
The chapters aren’t too long either, and as weird as that sounds, a lot of my students get discouraged when a chapter (or book) is really long.
(I have probably mentioned this before, but my reading class is for students who are struggling readers and scoring at least 2 grade levels below the 8th grade. It takes a lot to get them to read on their own, so finding little things like short chapters helps.)
I highly recommend this book. There’s a mystery to solve, a sweet romance, lots of music references, drama, girl power…
Now to get Jackson’s other books and preorder Grown!
This was my 3nd ARC from NetGally. My 2nd YA one, and I have to say it was FAR better than the last one I read. Of course, they are completely different genres, and it’s hard to compare fantasy to contemporary romance (Although, I don’t think it could be a YA book without some romance, so you aren’t missing out on that with this book.)
This books follows Siria on her journey to discover who she truly is. I really cannot say much about it, because even saying who she truly is would give away a bit of the beginning plot twist.
It is set in a fictional kingdom of Umbraz which is ruled by a dark Queen. And by dark, I mean, the queen has eliminated the sun with her powers. She has ruled for years, and the people of Umbraz can barely remember the sun, they fear it, and rely on Queen Iyzabel to keep them safe.
That’s all the summary you’re getting.
Now for a couple personal thoughts.
One of the things I think could have been better was Siria’s character arc. She does change throughout the book, but I just felt like I didn’t really know her. Honestly, this is true of most of the main characters in the book. They are all very surface level.
On the other hand, the world building was great. Hanna Howard did a great job of helping me visualize her world. The castle descriptions were among my favorites.
This book is set to release in August, and if you like YA fantasy with a female protagonist, I would say you would like this one.
The last fiction book I finished was Four Days of You and Me which you can read about here. In that review I made the comment that adults would not enjoy the book. A few days later, I saw a different YA author tweet about getting the negative review that “adults wouldn’t like this book” and her reply was, “duh, it wasn’t written for you.”
Now, I know this is probably a common thought among YA authors, but good books, well-written books, books with good stories can and should be enjoyed by a wide range of people. I greatly enjoy many of my 5 year old’s picture books and early reader books she gets from the library, and I enjoy reading educational theories which are written at a much higher level than I probably am. YA authors should know that many of the books teens read are because a teacher and/or librarian recommended it. The list of books that make it to the top 10 lists or the different state’s award lists are determined by adults.
We adults that read YA know the books are not written for us, but we definitely will not recommend a book that has no plot, no great characters, and too much focus on what is not important to the teens in our lives.
My 6th grader read Fish in a Tree this year in her ELA class. She told me that I should read it, and that it was a really great book. After finishing it this morning, I can tell you she is 100% right.
The book follows Ally as she navigates school. She knows that she can’t read and writing is difficult for her, but she doesn’t know why. Instead of asking for help, during times when reading/writing is required she avoids class. Sometimes she tries, but even during those times, her teacher and principal think that she is just trying to make a scene, and she ends up in trouble.
It isn’t until her regular teacher leaves for maternity leave and a long term substitute teacher arrives that things start to change for Ally. Mr. Daniels, who we learn is getting a degree in special education, sees Ally’s behavior as something more than just acting out. He begins to form a relationship with Ally, and she finds herself trusting a teacher and looking them in the eyes for the first time.
This book beautifully shows how difficult life can be for students struggling with a learning difference. It examines friendships, family, and bullies, and does so very well. This book will definitely be a book that I recommend to students, but it is more for upper elementary and early middle school.
Every May 7, the students at Coffee County High School take a class trip. And every year, Lulu’s relationship with Alex Rouvelis gets a little more complicated. Freshman year, they went from sworn enemies to more than friends after a close encounter in an escape room. It’s been hard for Lulu to quit Alex ever since.
Through breakups, make ups, and dating other people, each year’s class trip brings the pair back together and forces them to confront their undeniable connection. From the science museum to an amusement park, from New York City to London, Lulu learns one thing is for sure: love is the biggest trip of all.
I joined NetGalley to help me find more young adult literature for my classroom library, but also because I love to read. And for as cheesy and corny as young adult literature can be, there are some really great books out there. Books that can appeal to both teens and adults.
This is not one of those books. This book is strictly for teens; it is 100% a teen romance. I do not know a single adult who would enjoy this book, but again, it wasn’t written for them.
Teens, probably love-sick teens who think you can only find your true love during the four years of high school, they will love this book.
What I Didn’t Like:
The main character was not likable to me at all. I feel like I didn’t know her. She is a writer and an artist, but there isn’t anything but perhaps a paragraph that lets the reader know why this book she is writing is so important to her. Her friends are all more likable than she is, especially her best friend, Max. I liked his character a lot.
The time shifting. I usually like this writing style, but in this book, it was just confusing.
The fact that this book perpetuates the lies that high school is where you find your best friends and your true love. Teen Romance as a genre probably just isn’t for me.
As a middle school teacher, I couldn’t put this book in my 8th grade classroom. There are multiple sexual scenes that are pretty graphic (in my opinion) for a teen book.
So. many. clichés. I rolled my eyes quite a few times throughout the books. I had never read this author before and kept telling myself that this was probably her first novel. It definitely is not.
What I liked
Max, her best friend, is really enjoyable and a good best friend to a girl who, quite frankly, is extremely self-centered.
I’m sorry, I really am. I just can’t think of anything else that I liked about this book.