Categories
Book Club Pick

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

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.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Dear Evan Hansen: the novel by Val Emmich

Book Club Pick: March 2020

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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.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Between Us by Clare Atkins

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.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Alex in Wonderland by Simon James Green

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.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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.

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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.

Categories
Book Club Pick

I Am Change by Suzy Zail

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.

 

 

Categories
Book Club Pick

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Book Club Pick: September 2019

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Title: Leah on the Offbeat

Author: Becky Albertalli

Series: Direct sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Balzar & Bray

First Published: 2018

Pages: 368

Publisher Description:

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually right on the beat – but real life is a little harder to manage. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends she’s bisexual, not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friendship group starts to fracture. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high, and its hard for Leah when the people she loves are fighting – especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended…

Becky Albertalli returns to the world of her acclaimed debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, in this warm and humorous story of first love and senior-year angst.

Review:

We were first introduced to Leah Burke in Becky Albertalli’s 2015 debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

In this novel Simon takes a back seat as his best friend Leah narrates her senior year. Leah is not necessarily the most likeable protagonist. She can be very abrasive and judgemental. I actually found it refreshing to have a voice that is vulnerable and flawed – she is still figuring things out.

Leah identifies as bisexual, but she is only out to her mom – has been since middle school.

The story follows Leah as she develops a crush on one of her friends, as well as dealing with the usual pressures of senior year – prom, preparing for college, graduation and saying farewell to your high school friends.

It is positive to see a young bisexual woman who is comfortable with her own body and diverse POC representation.

There have been some criticisms of the novel. One criticism is that there were no hints to Leah’s sexuality in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as a result some readers have felt that the novel is more of a fan fiction of Albertalli’s earlier work. Some readers have also been critical Leah policed another character’s identity when she came out as ‘low key bi’, and did not apologise for this judgement.

Leah on the Offbeat is not as good as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and I don’t think it had a chance to live up to Simon vs. I think it would have worked better as its own story with a new set of characters – that being said it was nice to see Simon and Bram again.

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Click here to read my review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Click here to read my review of the film Love, Simon

Links:

Becky Albertalli Official Website

Becky Albertalli on Facebook

Becky Albertalli on Twitter

Becky Albertalli on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Categories
Book Club Pick

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Book Club Pick: July 2019

MoreThanHappyNot

Title: More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam Silvera

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Soho Teen

First Published: 2015

Pages: 300 pages

Publisher Description:

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend, Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future. As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threatens to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Review:

16-year-old Puerto Rican Aaron Soto is living in a one-bedroom Bronx apartment with this mother and older brother Eric.

Aaron’s father has committed suicide in the family’s bathtub, and Aaron has attempted suicide himself. Not only is he wracked with guilt over his father’s death, but he is also struggling with an attraction to other boys.

This is where the Leteo Institute comes in, a private medical centre where clients can pay to have their painful and traumatic memories erased. Can the Leteo Institute make him straight?

More Happy Than Not is a science-fiction story that explores issues of memory, race, class and sexual identity.

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Links:

Adam Silvera Official Website

Adam Silvera on Twitter

Adam Silvera on Tumblr

Adam Silvera on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Ten things I hate about me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Book Club Pick: June 2019

Ten-things-i-hate-about-me

Title: Ten things I hate about me

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Pan by Pan Macmillan

First Published: 2006

Pages: 278 pages

Publisher Description:

There are a lot of things Jamie hates about her life: her dark hair, her dad’s Stone Age Charter of Curfew Rights, her real name – Jamilah Towfeek.

For the past three years Jamie has hidden her Lebanese background from everyone at school. It’s only with her email friend John that she can really be herself. But now life is getting more complicated. The most popular boy in school is interested in her, but there’s no way he would be if he knew the truth. Then there’s Timothy, the school loner, who for some reason Jamie just can’t stop thinking about. As for John, he seems to have a pretty big secret of his own…

To top it all off, Jamie’s school formal is coming up. The only way she’ll be allowed to attend is by revealing her true identity. But who is she…Jamie or Jamilah?

Review:

The novel follows sixteen-year-old Australian-Lebanese-Muslim high school student Jamilah Towfeek living in the western suburbs of Sydney. Jamiliah for the past three years has hidden her Lebanese-Muslim identity from her high school peers by dying her hair blonde, wearing blue contact lenses, and going by the name Jamie.

Unfortunately at her school bullying and ethnic discrimination exists. So it is understandable why Jamilah is hiding her identity.

At home Jamilah feels oppressed by her overly protective father’s strict rules. He is the breadwinner and disciplinarian after her mother’s passing. Jamilah is frustrated by her older brother Bilal’s freedom, he doesn’t have the same rules and can go out to parties and date because he is a boy. She is also embarrassed by sister Shereen’s Muslim activism.

Jamilah hasn’t completely denied her Lebanese-Muslim heritage she enjoys attending madrasa, an Arabic school, where she plays the drums in a band.

There are also three boys in Jamilah’s life.

At school Jamie attracts the attention of Peter, one of the most popular boys in school, but also one of the school bullies.

Jamie is also partnered on class assignment with Timothy, a loner in school who is comfortable in his own skin and isn’t bothered by what his classmates think of him.

Then there is John, a boy who she communicates with via email (her email is Ten_Things_I_hate_About_Me@hotmail.com). John is the only person she can be herself with because they have never met.

As one will expect the novel explores Jamilah’s struggles to accept her true identity.

In 2017 I attended All Day YA at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, where Randa Abdel-Fattah was on a panel about diversity in YA Fiction. 

Links:

Randa Abdel-Fattah Official Website

Randa Abdel-Fattah on Twitter

Randa Abdel-Fattah on Facebook

 

Source: I purchased this book second hand.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Book Club Pick: March 2019

everythingeverything

Title: Everything, everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2015

Pages: 310

Publisher Description:

Live life is a bubble?
Or risk everything for live?

Maddy is allergic to the world.
She hasn’t left her house in seventeen years.

Olly is the boy next door.
He’s determined to find a way to reach her.

Everything, Everything is about the crazy risks we take for love.

Review:

The novel follows Madeline ‘Maddy’ Whittier, a biracial teenager (African-American and 3rd generation Japanese-American) who is being treated for rare disease called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SKID).

Maddy lives her life inside a sterile environment never leaving her house – hence why SKID is often referred to as ‘bubble disease’. Her only company is her doctor mother, her day nurse Carla, and the occasional tutor.

Shortly after her 18th birthday she watches from her window as the Bright family move in next door – mom, dad, son, and daughter. Maddy is drawn to the son: ‘tall, lean, and wearing all black: black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and black knit cap that covers his hair completely’. He practices parkour, is mysterious, and her bedroom looks directly into his.

The boy-next-door Olly befriends Maddy and the two first begin communicating by mime from their bedroom windows and later online, and eventually with the help of Carla are able to meet in person – behind her mother’s back.

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Maddy and Ollie communicate via email
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and instant messaging

Maddy knows that her and Olly will never be able to have a normal relationship, and the novel explores this dilemma.

The book features numerous illustrations throughout by Nicola’s husband David (his debut novel Frankly in Love is due out September 2019).

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Illustration by David Yoon

In 2007 a film adaptation was released with Amandla Stenberg as Maddy and Nick Robinson as Olly

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Links:

Nicola Yoon Official Website

Nicola Yoon on Facebook

Nicola Yoon on Twitter

Nicola Yoon on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.