Tag Archives: racism

Review: We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

We Deserve Monuments
Jas Hammonds
Roaring Brook Press
Published November 29, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About We Deserve Monuments

Family secrets, a swoon-worthy romance, and a slow-burn mystery collide in WE DESERVE MONUMENTS, a YA debut from Jas Hammonds that explores how racial violence can ripple down through generations.

What’s more important: Knowing the truth or keeping the peace?

Seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson is convinced her senior year is ruined when she’s uprooted from her life in DC and forced into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between Avery’s mom and Mama Letty makes for a frosty arrival and unearths past drama they refuse to talk about. Every time Avery tries to look deeper, she’s turned away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two.

While tempers flare in her avoidant family, Avery finds friendship in unexpected places: in Simone Cole, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family—whose mother’s murder remains unsolved.

As the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into romance—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town begin to hint at something insidious underneath. The racist history of Bardell, Georgia is rooted in Avery’s family in ways she can’t even imagine. With Mama Letty’s health dwindling every day, Avery must decide if digging for the truth is worth toppling the delicate relationships she’s built in Bardell—or if some things are better left buried.

My Review

I love intergenerational family stories, and at its core, that’s what this story truly is. In reconnecting with the grandmother she barely knows, Avery learns of her family’s painful history. That history impacts others in the small town of Bardell as well, including her two new best friends, Simone and Jade. The threads connecting each girl to her family’s past weave together to form a tapestry that’s both beautiful and terrible.

The story unflinchingly faces the complicated grief of thwarted justice. Jade’s mother’s murderer was never held to account. Neither were the men who murdered Avery’s grandfather. That grief binds the girls together and drives a wedge between them at the same time.

WE DESERVE MONUMENTS is also a love story. It celebrates the connection between grandmothers and granddaughters, even when they only have a short time together. Avery’s relationship with her grandmother anchors her in her history in a way that no other relationship in her family does. The book also celebrates romantic love—perhaps even second-chance love—as Simone and Avery fall for one another and learn to embrace the hope that the previous generation could not.

I wouldn’t call this book an easy read, but I loved the way it explored family history and relationships and the hopefulness that it leaves with its readers.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Avery is biracial (Black mom and white dad) and a lesbian. Her friend Simone is also Black and queer.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between girls.

Spiritual Content
Simone gives Avery a tarot reading. She pulls tarot cards to help her set expectations for the day. She also believes in astrological signs. Simone’s mom attends church often, and when she feels Simone has done something wrong, she makes her attend church several times per week and prays over her repeatedly.

Violent Content
References to a woman’s murder and the racist history of the South and the town of Bardell.

Drug Content
Avery and her friends smoke pot together. They get drunk one night.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: The Misdirection of Fault Lines by Anna Gracia

The Misdirection of Fault Lines
Anna Gracia
Peachtree Teen
Published April 2, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Misdirection of Fault Lines

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants goes to the US Open in an emotionally honest and openhearted novel for fans of Yamile Saied Méndez and Jenny Han.

Three teen girls compete at an elite tennis tournament for a shot at their dreams—if only they knew what their dreams were.

Alice doesn’t belong at the Bastille Invitational Tennis Tournament. She needed a sponsorship to attend. She only has a few wins on the junior circuit. And now, she has no coach. Tennis was a dream she shared with Ba. After his death, her family insisted she compete anyway. But does tennis even fit into her life without him?

Violetta is Bastille’s darling. Social media influencer, coach’s pet, and daughter of a former tennis star who fell from grace. Bastille is her chance to reclaim the future her mother gave up to raise her. But is that the future she wants for herself?

Leylah has to win. After a forced two-year hiatus, Bastille is her last chance to prove professional tennis isn’t just a viable career, it’s what she was built for. She can’t afford distractions. Not in the form of her ex-best friend and especially not by getting DQ-ed for her “attitude” before she even sets foot on the court. If she doesn’t win, what future does she have left?

One week at the Bastille Invitational Tennis Tournament will decide their fates. If only the competition between them stayed on the court.

THE MISDIRECTION OF FAULT LINES is an incisive coming-of-age story infused with wit and wisdom, about three Asian American teen girls who find their ways forward, backward, and in some cases, back to each other again. Anna Gracia, acclaimed author of BOYS I KNOW, delivers with a refreshingly true-to-life teen voice that perfectly captures the messiness, awkwardness, and confusion of adolescence.

My Review

I read and enjoyed Gracia’s debut, BOYS I KNOW, last year, so when I saw this book coming out this year, I knew I needed to read it. I love the frankness in the way this author writes. It makes her characters seem so real.

In this book, the story follows three separate points of view: Alice, Violetta, and Leylah. All three girls have come to the Bastille Invitational Tennis Tournament with different baggage, and they’re not all even sure they want to win. They wind up as roommates and unlikely friends as the competition heats up, and they each face unexpected challenges and truths they weren’t ready to admit.

I am not at all familiar with tennis as a sport, so there were some spots where the jargon went over my head. I don’t understand the points system or some of the rules of the game, so I didn’t always follow what was going on with those elements. However, it didn’t hinder my ability to enjoy the book. If there had been a glossary of sports terms or an explanation of the points system, I would have checked it out, but I wasn’t confused enough even to internet search beyond a couple of things. For the most part, it was fine.

My favorite part was the way the girls’ friendships developed. Because they’re there to compete with one another, they’re not immediately inclined to become friends. In fact, Violetta and Leylah have some unresolved, painful history. But as the girls do get to know one another and realize how lonely they are, they begin to form tenuous connections with one another that could become the kinds of friendships that change lives, if the girls can learn to be vulnerable again.

In some ways, this is a story that wrestles with different kinds of grief. The grief of loneliness, loss, failure, and letting go. It’s also about the triumph of finding true friendship, what it truly means to win, and finally speaking up for yourself.

Fans of sports books and books celebrating friendship need to check this one out.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
The three main characters are Asian American.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between a boy and girl.

Some grooming behaviors by an adult male coach toward a teenage girl.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
A couple of people get injured playing or practicing tennis. There are some racist comments or implied racist statements made against the main characters. One character purposefully knocks into two people after the’ve made racist insinuations about another character. One character eats and purges several times. She resists recognizing this as disordered eating.

Drug Content
One character smokes pot a lot. Others do it infrequently. In one scene, a girl gets very high and behaves in ways she feels embarrassed about later.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: The Poisons We Drink by Bethany Baptiste

The Poisons We Drink
Bethany Baptiste
Sourcebooks Fire
Published March 5, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Poisons We Drink

In a country divided between humans and witchers, Venus Stoneheart hustles as a brewer making illegal love potions to support her family.

Love potions is a dangerous business. Brewing has painful, debilitating side effects, and getting caught means death or a prison sentence. But what Venus is most afraid of is the dark, sentient magic within her.

Then an enemy’s iron bullet kills her mother, Venus’s life implodes. Keeping her reckless little sister Janus safe is now her responsibility. When the powerful Grand Witcher, the ruthless head of her coven, offers Venus the chance to punish her mother’s killer, she has to pay a steep price for revenge. The cost? Brew poisonous potions to enslave D.C.’s most influential politicians.

As Venus crawls deeper into the corrupt underbelly of her city, the line between magic and power blurs, and it’s hard to tell who to trust…Herself included.

My Review

I loved so many things about this book. First, of course, I loved the relationship between Janus and Venus, who are sisters. They’re very different from one another and argue a lot, but at the end of the day, each one knows her sister has her back.

I also loved the magic system. It’s complex, but really interesting. Venus is a “brewer,” meaning she makes potions. But in order to do this, she must commit to only one kind of potion brewing. She has committed to brewing potions in love magic, so things that impact relationships.

She gets embroiled in a political scheme when legislators propose a bill that would mean witchers (magic users) would be required to register with the government, which, considering the way witchers are already treated by the government, would be a terrible thing. I liked the way the political issue drove the story forward. It made for high stakes and some intense reckoning over morals and what someone might be willing to do to protect the people they love or avenge a loved one’s murder.

While I loved the magic system, there were a couple of moments– not a lot of them– where I got confused about how things worked. An action suddenly broke a bond. A character could suddenly do a kind of magic I thought she wasn’t supposed to be capable of or didn’t pay the price that I thought she said would be exacted if she took certain actions.

It’s possible that those were fixed before the book was released (I read a pre-release copy). Even with those few hiccups, I was super carried away reading the story of this wild, pink-haired witcher ready to mete out justice or vengeance, as the situation demanded, no matter the personal cost.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Representation
Venus and other characters are Black. Venus is queer. Another character is nonbinary.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two people. One chapter opens with an explicit sex scene. A couple takes a bath together.

Spiritual Content
Some characters can perform magic, limited by the energy they have in their bodies, which they can replenish with special baths and teas or naturally replenishes over time. Powerful magic can sap so much energy from a person that it kills them. When someone breaks a magical oath or does something terrible using magic, a deviation or corrupt magical being can become part of them. This deviant will continue to try to break free or take control of its host.

Violent Content
Humans fear and hate magic users. They legislate ways to control them, from limiting the number of witchers who can be in a single area legally at a time to proposing a bill that would require each witcher to register with the government (because that always goes good places). Terrorists target witchers. Enforcers use violence to break up witcher gatherings.

In addition, some scenes show violence during magic use, such as bones shifting or breaking, and brief descriptions of body horror. A powerful blood ritual binds two people after they press their cut palms together. References to murders by gunshot, bomb, or other means. Venus attacks a few people who have tried to harm her or her family members. In one scene, a person uses a magical bond to control another and makes them stab themselves.

Drug Content
Venus can create potions that convince people to forgive one another, love someone, or make them highly susceptible to new ideas. There are also potions that can restore health or save someone from death.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE POISONS WE DRINK in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Review: Gone Wolf by Amber McBride

Gone Wolf
Amber McBride
Feiwel & Friends
Published October 3, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Gone Wolf

Award-winning author Amber McBride lays bare the fears of being young and Black in America, in this middle-grade novel that has been compared to the work of Jordan Peele and praised as ” brilliantly inventive storytelling” by Publishers Weekly.

In the future, a Black girl known only as Inmate Eleven is kept confined — to be used as a biological match for the president’s son, should he fall ill. She is called a Blue — the color of sadness. She lives in a small-small room with her dog, who is going wolf more often – he’s pacing and imagining he’s free. Inmate Eleven wants to go wolf too―she wants to know why she feels so Blue and what is beyond her small-small room.

In the present, Imogen lives outside of Washington DC. The pandemic has distanced her from everyone but her mother and her therapist. Imogen has intense phobias and nightmares of confinement. Her two older brothers used to help her, but now she’s on her own, until a college student helps her see the difference between being Blue and sad, and Black and empowered.

In this symphony of a novel, award-winning author Amber McBride lays bare the fears of being young and Black in America, and empowers readers to remember their voices and stories are important, especially when they feel the need to go wolf.

My Review

The first book I read by Amber McBride was ME: MOTH, which is a novel in verse. I loved the twisty storytelling. It’s one of those books where you reach a point where everything changes, and you look back at everything you’ve read with a new perspective. I loved that about the book.

GONE WOLF is prose rather than poetry. It also has some twisty storytelling, and I felt like there was the same kind of turning-point moment where I looked back at everything through a different lens. (This is hinted at in the cover copy, so I don’t think I’m spoiling anything.)

The book definitely delves into some tough topics in a pretty unflinching way. The juxtaposition of the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and a futuristic setting was really thought-provoking. It was interesting to see familiar pieces of history alongside dystopian elements. Somehow, it made them resonate more sharply, maybe because it had that awful ring of the worst kinds of history repeating themselves.

I found it easy to get lost in the story and in trying to figure out how the two narratives connected. Future Imogen’s horror at her discoveries about the world she lives in and the ways she tries to break out of that world hit hard. I rooted for her from the beginning to end.

On the whole, I found this to be a truly captivating story. It’s got a young narrator– I think Imogen is twelve– but I would not call this middle grade. I think it’s actually a coming-of-age story.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Representation
Imogen is Black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Some brief strong violence, including violence against an animal.

Imogen witnesses a woman being beaten. She sees someone execute a dog. Imogen and a friend offer ice to people who’ve been attacked as part of a Civil Rights protest.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything but help support this blog. I received a free copy of GONE WOLF in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Tethered to Other Stars by Elisa Stone Leahy

Tethered to Other Stars
Elisa Stone Leahy
Quill Tree Press
Published October 3, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Tethered to Other Stars

Perfect for fans of EFREN DIVIDED and A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE, this luminous middle grade debut follows a tween girl navigating the devastating impact of ICE’s looming presence on her family and community.

Seventh grader Wendy Toledo knows that black holes and immigration police have one thing in common: they can both make things disappear without a trace. When her family moves to a new all-American neighborhood, Wendy knows the plan: keep her head down, build a telescope that will win the science fair, and stay on her family’s safe orbit.

But that’s easier said than done when there’s a woman hiding out from ICE agents in the church across the alley–and making Wendy’s parents very nervous.

As bullying at school threatens Wendy’s friendships and her hopes for the science fair, and her family’s secrets start to unravel, Wendy finds herself caught in the middle of far too many gravitational pulls. When someone she loves is detained by ICE, Wendy must find the courage to set her own orbit–and maybe shift the paths of everyone around her.

My Review

This is such a beautiful story. I grew up with the movie OCTOBER SKY. This book felt like it had a little bit of the vibes from that story: A girl with big dreams and an eye on the sky. A town full of people who don’t see her or understand her. A group of friends who do see her (once she lets them in). And discovering the heroes in your midst.

I loved Wendy’s friend group. She keeps a lot to herself, so at first, there’s a lot of distance between her and her friends. As they slowly get to know one another and build their friendships, she sees that they each have fears and dark things they’ve hidden, too.

Wendy’s Mom is awesome. I love the way she quietly supports her children, sometimes without even using words. I also love that Wendy is the one who makes several pivotal choices and takes critical action that creates change in the story. It would have been easy to let that fall on an older character and have Wendy be a witness to what happens. Instead, she takes charge. Also, I loved the way her taking action gets connected to her love for stars and forces acting in the universe for change.

I loved this book, and I think anyone who loves astronomy or feels scared or alone will find lots to love about this book, too.

Content Notes for Tethered to Other Stars

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Wendy is Latine and American. Wendy’s friend Mal is Korean American. Her friend Yasmin is Muslim and wears a hijab. K.K. is Black. Etta is gay.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Wendy feels attracted to a boy briefly.

Spiritual Content
Wendy learns that her friend retreats to a safe space at school to pray.

Violent Content
Scenes show bullying and microaggressions. For example, kids deface K.K.’s campaign posters and posters about a Unity Club for inclusivity. Anti-immigrant graffiti appears on the walls. A boy also tries to take credit for Wendy’s work on a science project, insinuating that she is lazy and hasn’t helped him at all.

Characters in the story follow the case of a woman who takes refuge at a church to avoid deportation. Some characters refer to her as “illegal,” and others explain how that term is dehumanizing. A person can’t be illegal. She can do something which is illegal, but she can’t be illegal herself.

Drug Content
A teenager smokes a cigarette in a parking lot.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of TETHERED TO OTHER STARS in exchange for my honest review.

centered around a girl who loves the stars

Review: I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me by Jamison Shea

I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast is Me
Jamison Shea
Henry Holt & Co.
Published August 29, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast is Me

There will be blood.

ACE OF SPADES meets HOUSE OF HOLLOW in this villain origin story.

Laure Mesny is a perfectionist with an axe to grind. Despite being constantly overlooked in the elite and cutthroat world of the Parisian ballet, she will do anything to prove that a Black girl can take center stage. To level the playing field, Laure ventures deep into the depths of the Catacombs and strikes a deal with a pulsating river of blood.

The primordial power Laure gains promises influence and adoration, everything she’s dreamed of and worked toward. With retribution on her mind, she surpasses her bitter and privileged peers, leaving broken bodies behind her on her climb to stardom.

But even as undeniable as she is, Laure is not the only monster around. And her vicious desires make her a perfect target for slaughter. As she descends into madness and the mystifying underworld beneath her, she is faced with the ultimate choice: continue to break herself for scraps of validation or succumb to the darkness that wants her exactly as she is—monstrous heart and all. That is, if the god-killer doesn’t catch her first.

From debut author Jamison Shea comes I FEED HER TO THE BEAST AND THE BEAST IS ME, a slow-burn horror that lifts a veil on the institutions that profit on exclusion and the toll of giving everything to a world that will never love you back.

My Review

First, I have to say this author either has some up-close experience in the dance world or definitely did their research. The descriptions of what dancing en pointe does to your toes… YUP. Brought back so many memories. Wowza. Not the horrific element I expected to find here, but pretty real stuff nonetheless! Ha.

I found myself nodding along to a lot of the dance descriptions, like the ways the dancers do things, from breaking in a pair of shoes to techniques used on the dance floor. That’s a lot of stuff to get right, and the author really did that. It very much lines up with my own experience.

I thought Laure’s character was really compelling. I liked the moments she delivered commentary on the ballets the company chose to perform and how they were cast, as well as the expectations about how dancers were to look and act.

In some moments, I felt out of sync with the paranormal/supernatural parts of the plot. I felt like I was missing something. I’m not sure if I didn’t absorb a few critical details or what exactly happened there.

Still, so many parts of the book deeply fascinated me. I especially liked Keturah and Andor and the ways they impacted the story. I loved the complications Andor faced in his love life, too. It was so different and really emphasized the strangeness of the story.

On the whole, I am glad I read the book. I loved getting to be immersed in a ballet world– even one so toxic and tragic as this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
The main character is Black and queer.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Laure and her friends encounter a river of blood and an ancient god who offers them temporary gifts for a price.

Violent Content
Graphic descriptions of dance injuries and injuries resulting from sabotage. Situations of peril. Laure discovers the bodies of two people who appear to have been murdered. One scene includes graphic descriptions of torture. Another includes a battle between two god-powered characters. In a couple of scenes, a character drinks blood from another person.

Drug Content
Laure, seventeen, drinks alcohol with an older dancer.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of I FEED HER TO THE BEAST AND THE BEAST IS ME in exchange for my honest review.