Archive for the ‘Book Club Pick’ Category

Book Club Pick: April 2020

On-The-Come-Up

Title: On the Come Up

Author: Angie Thomas

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 2019

Pages: 464 pages

Publisher Description:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. It’s hard to get your come up, through, when you’re labeled “trouble” at school and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. But Bri’s success is all that stands between her family and homelessness, so she doesn’t just want to make it – she has to.
Even if it means becoming exactly what the public expects her to be.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Brianna ‘Bri’ Jackson attends a public arts school and is an inspiring rapper. Her father Lawless, an underground rapper, was shot dead by a rival gang when she was a child. Bri is raised by her mother Jay, a recovering drug addict who has been clean for eight years. Jay is behind with the rent and struggling to put food on the table.

Bri is also supported by Aunt Pooh, a gang member and drug dealer, and her older brother Trey, the college-educated golden boy of family, who despite his education is unable to find a good job.

There are racial tensions at her school. There is an incident where two security officers throw Bri to the ground assuming she is a drug dealer. Bri puts her frustration and anger about the injustice black students face into a rap song, which goes viral.

Bri wins a rap battle at a local hip-hop venue. Will this be her breakout moment and her chance to score her a recording contract?

On the Come Up, is set in Garden Heights, the same predominantly black and poor neigbourhood as Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give. It is not a sequel, but takes places following the events of The Hate U Give.

Thomas herself was rapper as teenage and when I read Bri’s raps I could her voice clearly. I usually dislike when authors write lyrics into novels, but Thomas nails it.

On the Come Up is a compelling coming-of-age story about young black woman finding her voice.

 

Click here to read my review of Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give.

 

Links:

Angie Thomas Official Website

Angie Thomas on Twitter

Angie Thomas on Instagram

Angie Thomas on Facebook

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: March 2020

Dear-Evan-Hansen-The-Novel

Title: Dear Evan Hansen

Author: Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin Books

First Published: 2018

Pages: 358

Publisher Description:

When high school senior Evan Hansen is accidentally pulled into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, all he has to do is stick to a lie he never told, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore. And Connor’s parents have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son. Evan knows that what he’s doing can’t be right – but he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

Dear Evan Hansen is a funny, profound and utterly compelling story of fitting in and growing up, for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider.

Review:

Broadway musical adaptations of novels are not uncommon, but with Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel it is the other way around. It is a stage-to-page adaptation of the 2015 Off-Broadway and 2016 Broadway hit musical that was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical and Best Score.

Anxious high school senior Evan Hansen’s therapist Dr. Sherman has encouraged Evan to write a letter to himself each day to reframe his thinking to show how good his day will be.

Connor Murphy, finds one of these Dear Evan Hansen letters. A few days later Connor takes him own life and his parents Larry and Cynthia find the letter believing it to be a suicide note addressed to Evan.

Evan lets Larry and Cynthia believe that he and Connor are secretly friends. He soon finds himself caught up in a web of lies as he has to produce fake emails to show their friendship.

The novel is told first-person by Evan with some posthumous narration by Connor.

Dear Evan Hansen is a musical that is on my wish list. I would be interested to know what those who have seen the show think of the book!

 

Links:

Val Emmich Official Website

Val Emmich on Twitter

Val Emmich on Instagram

Val Emmich on YouTube

 

Official Website for Dear Evan Hansen | The Musical

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: February 2020

Between Us

Title: Between Us

Author: Clare Atkins

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Black Inc

First Published: 2018

Pages: 275

Publisher Description:

Ana is an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. There she meets Jono, who is dealing with his own problems: his mum has walked out, his sister has gone away to uni and he’s been left alone with his Vietnamese father, Kenny.

Kenny is trying to work out the rules his new job as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Centre. He tells Ana she should look out for Jono at school but soon regrets this decision: who is she really? What is her story? Is she a genuine refugee or a queue jumper? As Ana and Jono grow closer, Kenny spirals into mistrust and suspicion…

 

Review:

Ana (Anahita) is a fifteen-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who attends high school in Darwin, Australia. At the end of each school days she returns to Wickham Point Detention Centre, where she is being held with her three-year-old brother and pregnant mother.

At school Ana meets Jono, a sixteen-year-old half Australian, half Vietnamese boy, whose father Kenny is a guard at the detention centre. Kenny born in Vietnam, was sponsored out to Australia by his older sister, who was one of the first Vietnamese refugees to settle in Australia.

Jono is struggling to find his place in the world after his mother walked out, his girlfriend dumped him, and his sister left for university. The relationship with his father strained.

Atkins similar to Jono had an Australian mother and a Vietnamese father, so grew up living between two cultures.

The novel is told from the points of view of Ana, Jono and Kenny, each alternating chapters as narrator. Jono’s opening chapters are written in verse, often with one word per line, until he meets Ana. Kenny’s adult voice added a fresh perspective to what would otherwise have been a girl-boy narration.

Between Us is an insightful and complex exploration of the refugee situation in Australia.

 

Links:

Clare Atkins Official Website

 

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: January 2020

Alex in Wonderland

Title: Alex in Wonderland

Author: Simon James Green

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United Kingdom

Publisher: Scholastic

First Published: 2019

Pages: 400 pages

Publisher Description:

Socially awkward Alex is used to disappointment, and this summer is looking to be his sorriest yet.

When he unexpectedly lands a job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade, he starts making new friends. It looks like his bad luck is about to change.

But in Wonderland nothing is quite what it seems.

And in life and love, sometimes you have to make your own luck.

Review:

Awkwardly shy sixteen-year-old Alex’s only two friends Will and Alice, who are now dating, have abandoned him for the summer.

Kendra, Alex’s dad’s girlfriend (who he views as a wicked stepmother) bullies him into finding a job for the summer. After an accident at Wonderland, a run-down waterfront amusement park, Alex secures a summer job there. Wonderland owner Maggie gives Alex a job on the condition he doesn’t sue her over his accident.

Despite giving the appearance that she hates teenagers Maggie has a soft spot for Alex.

At Wonderland Alex’s co-workers are a weird bunch of teenage misfits. He is befriended by Efia and Ben. Alex develops a crush on Ben, unfortunately he has a girlfriend Bella, who to make matters worse in lovely and definitely hard to hate.

There is also another potential suitor in the form of Caleb aka Lemon Boy, a young hunky lemonade seller, who saves Alex from drowning after he falls off the pier dressed in a pink flamingo costume – another awkward Alex moment – there are plenty.

Wonderland is in financial trouble, so Alex, Efia and Ben set out to revamp and save the amusement park.

When mysterious and threatening notes begin to appear our Scooby-Doo gang set out to investigate. I worked out who was behind the notes and other threatening incidents before the reveal, but didn’t mind as the mystery is only a sub-plot in the story.

 

Links:

Simon James Green Official Website

Simon James Green on Twitter

Simon James Green on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: December 2019

DashAndLily

Title: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

Author: David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

Series: Dash and Lily series (Book #1)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2010

Pages: 309

Publisher Description:

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.

As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be the biggest dare yet…

Review:

I have always wanted to read this in the lead-up to the festive season and I recently saw a good quality second-hand copy for $1 so I snapped it up.

It’s Christmas time in New York City and Dash is an orphan for the holidays. He has told each of his divorced parents that he staying with the other, allowing them to be out of town, and for him to be alone at Christmas. Not that Dash likes Christmas he loathes it.

Saks

Saks Fifth Avenue, Christmas 2012

Dash enjoys his alone time browsing the shelves of his favourite bookstore, The Strand. It is there that he finds a red moleskin notebook among the J.D. Salinger books with the words ‘do you dare’ on the cover.

The notebook sends Dash on a scavenger hunt through the bookstore, which includes a dare to ask for a copy of Fat Hoochie Prom Queen from the counter.

Sixteen-year-old idealistic Christmas-loving Lily has put the scavenger hunt together with her older brother Langston and his boyfriend Benny to help her find a boy. The question though is Dash that boy? – it is clear Dash and Lily are polar opposites.

Dash follows the instructions and the two characters converse using the notebook. Levithan writes Dash’s perspective and Cohn writes Lily’s, alternating chapters.

The book features many Christmas traditions and New York locations including a visit to Macy’s Santa Claus, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, and FAO Schwarz.

A sequel The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily was released in 2016.

Netflix announced it October an eight episode adaptation starring Austin Abrams as Dash and Midori Francis as Lily. The show will be adapted by Joe Tracz (who adapted A Series of Unfortunate Events for Netflix). The series is expected to screen in 2020.

If you are looking for more holiday reads please check out my past Christmas themed book reviews – Born Scared by Kevin Brooks, What Light by Jay Asher and Let it Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle

 

Click here to read my review of David Levithan & Rachel Cohn’s first collaboration, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Click here to read my review of David Levithan’s solo novel Boy Meets Boy

Click here to read my review of David Levithan’s solo novel Two Boys Kissing 

Click here to read my review of David Levithan’s collaboration with John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

 

Links:

David Levithan Official Website

David Levithan on Facebook

David Levithan on Twitter

 

Rachel Cohn Official Website

Rachel Cohn on Facebook

Rachel Cohn on Twitter

Rachel Cohn on Instagram

 

Source: I purchased a copy of this book.

Book Club Pick: November 2019

LookingForAlaska

Title: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

First Published: 2005

Pages: 223 pages

Publisher Description:

Miles Halter’s whole life has been one big non-event, until he meets Alaska Young.

Gorgeous, clever and undoubtedly screwed up, Alaska draws Miles into her reckless world and irrevocably steals his heart. For Miles, nothing can ever be the same again.

Review:

John Green’s debut coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska is receiving some attention again following last month’s release of Hulu’s eight-episode limited series based on the book.

LookingForAlaskaBanner

The novel follows awkward Florida teenager Miles Halter, who is obsessed with the last words of famous people. Miles leaves Florida to attend his junior year at Culver Creek Preparatory High School in rural Alabama.

Miles’ new roommate Chip ‘The Colonel’ Martin ironically nicknames Miles ‘Pudge’ because he is tall and skinny. The Colonel introduces Pudge to his friends hip-hop enthusiast Takumi Hikohito and Alaska Young.

Pudge is instantly attracted to Alaska, who is beautiful, mysterious and unpredictable.

The novel follows Pudge’s new experiences at school, such as smoking, drinking and dating.

There is also a war of pranks between the Pudge, The Colonel, Takumi, Alaska and the ‘Weekday Warriors’, a group of rich students who go home during the weekends. Pudge being a friend of The Colonel ends up on his first night being tied up and thrown in the lake.

The book is divided before and after – starting with one hundred and thirty-six days before and coming to an end with one hundred and thirty-six days after. I knew the major plot point of the novel going in, but it still hit me when it happened.

Looking for Alaska is currently streaming on Hulu. It is created by Josh Schwartz (The O.C. and Gossip Girl) and stars Charlie Plummer (King Jack, All the Money in the World, and Lean on Pete) as Miles and Kristine Froseth (Netflix’s Sierra Burgess Biggest Loser and The Society) as Alaska.

 

Links:

John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)

 

Click here for my review of John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down

Click here for my review of John’s Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

Click here for my review of John Green’s Paper Towns

Click here for my review of John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Click here for my review of John Green’s Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances (with Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle)

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: October 2019

I am Change

Title: I Am Change

Author: Suzy Zail

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Black Dog Books

First Published: 2019

Pages: 352

Publisher Description:

Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is.

In Lilian’s village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

Inspired by the true accounts of young Uganda women, I Am Change is the tragic but empowering story of how a girl finds her voice and the strength to fight for change.

Review:

I am Change follows Lilian, a young woman from a rural village in Uganda, who dreams of writing stories and has ambitions of becoming a teacher.

Unfortunately for Lilian in her village young women are often pressured into marriages arranged by their parents. It is expected that the young woman’s focus will be producing sons and caring for her husband’s needs. Many young women do not complete their education as these arranged marriages will occur when they are a teenager.

I understand the importance of Own Voices literature so I had my reservations reading a novel about a young impoverished Uganda woman written by a white Australian former solicitor.

It is not my place to say whether it is Zail’s place to tell this story. It is clear that she has done her research and treats the subject matter with respect.

In 2015, Zail met Nakamya Lilian, a 29-year-old woman from Uganda, who was visiting Australia. She told Zail her story of growing up in an improvised rural village and her ambitions and struggles to get an education.

Zail flew to Uganda and interviewed thirty young girls, and their stories are the basis for the novel. One of those young women Namukasa Nusula Sarah read each draft and wrote the foreword for the book.

The novel tackles some strong issues around women’s rights, such as a patriarchal education system, female circumcision, arranged marriages, prostitution, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

Although I am Change is confronting and challenging at times it is optimistic and hopeful, and inspires and advocates for change.

 

Links:

Suzy Zail Official Website

Suzy Zail on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.