How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You (Tara Eglington) | Goodreads | 4.5 stars
This was such a delightful surprise! It looked like fluffy fun coming in, but it still exceeded my expectations.
There was a lot more friendship awesomeness in this book, for example. Protagonist Aurora has a tight-knit group of friends which leads to some great friendship moments, especially since the bunch of them are all working on the school play that gives the book its main problem: Aurora is going to have to kiss Hayden, her next door neighbor whom she hates (yay for some nice hate-to-love romance), in the part of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing that she really just stumbled into (literally, which was one of the many hilarious scenes), and she’s been saving her first kiss for years. There’s plenty of romantic and friendship hijinks, and all of that led to a very entertaining book.
The only thing that kept this book from being a full five stars is that there was some friendship drama that wasn’t necessary. It caused a rift between Aurora and one of her best friends and it just wasn’t necessary and made me sad. Things worked out, but I still didn’t need it.
There’s a sequel, and I’m a little apprehensive about checking it out because I don’t want it to tarnish this great book, but you know I’m going to have to read it to see if it’s as delightful as this book!
Saints and Misfits (S.K. Ali) | Goodreads| 4 stars
I’ll be honest, it was the cover of this book that first caught my attention, but as always, there’s much more to a book than its cover. This debut was heavier than I expected, but we need that.
The protagonist is attacked and nearly sexually assaulted at the beginning of the book – I don’t think this is a spoiler because it affects the whole book. Protagonist Janna is understandably affected by this and spends much of the book scared of her attacker, frightened into silence, and angry about it and other things. There’s much more to her life than her attack, though, as there should be – she has normal teenage problems, like giving up her room when her brother returns and moving in with her mother (not necessarily normal for books about middle class teenagers, but YA should look at a range of people, including those dealing with money issues), disliking her brother’s girlfriend, tension with her father’s new family, and a crush on an unsuitable boy.
The thing that makes this book different, of course, is that Janna is Muslim – her uncle is an imam, she and many of her friends wear the hijab, she regularly attends the mosque, and she’s a part of the mosque’s youth community, much like you would see with a Christian youth group. She deals with issues related to her faith, expectations put upon her, and the fact that her attacker is well-respected in that community.
As I mentioned, this is a heavy book, mainly because it blends all these things together well. Issue books, like books about sexual assault, and diverse books, like books about Arab Indian-American girls, are all important and needed, but intersectionality is even more vital. No one exists in a vacuum, including Janna, and her story might feel difficult to read about, but it’s important for remembering that issue books don’t just belong to white girls and people of color have all kinds of problem that are both universal and specific to them.
Wow, this short little review ended up being longer than I expected. It’s been a month or so since I read this book, mostly while on vacation, and parts have slipped away, but as soon as I finished it, I knew I wanted to eventually get it for my own shelves so that I could reread it, especially knowing ahead of time how difficult a read it could be. I look forward to that eventual reread, as well as whatever S.K. Ali writes next.
Queens of Geek (Jen Wilde) | Goodreads| 4 stars
This book has two protagonists/narrators: we have Charlie, the vlogger turned actress who loves to stand out (see, the awesome pink hair that marks this cover), an Asian-Australian girl who’s into boys (although definitely not her slimy ex-boyfriend) and girls (like another big vlogger/actress who happens to be at the same convention), and then we have Taylor, a plus-sized, autistic girl with social anxiety and a fear of the future. I know which protagonist I should and do relate to more (hint: I don’t have pink hair), but I found myself growing a bit bored with Taylor’s chapters and wanting to get right back to Charlie’s story.
This was a great book about the friendship between Charlie, Taylor, and Jamie, the third wheel in this trio – well, that’s not true, because from the beginning you know that Taylor has a major crush on Jamie and Charlie is more of a third wheel. As they get closer, as tends to happen with a book whose tagline mentions “two love stories,” it would be easy for Charlie to really become the third wheel, so I appreciated the fact that she never did – she was cheering them on from the sidelines, and they never pushed her out simply because she wasn’t part of the romantic couple in the group.
There’s a lot to like about this book, and I really did – Charlie being sure of her bisexuality, despite never having dated a girl and dealing with an ex who seemed threatened by it; Taylor trying to overcome her anxiety because it was holding her back in some ways, while also accepting that it was a part of her; and two girls growing both personally and romantically – but I never felt blown away by it. I enjoyed this book, and I look forward to new things from Jen Wilde, especially if they’re as diverse as this one, but I don’t think this is a new favorite that’ll inspire me to go to a convention or don pink hair. I enjoyed it and think some people could love it, but this book isn’t a love story for me.
When Dimple Met Rishi (Sandhya Menon) | Goodreads | 4 stars
I was definitely looking forward to this book because we need diverse and fluffy books, especially in our current climate. This was a lot of fun, but it had some deeper stuff than I expected and more romantic drama than I really needed.
There are two POV characters, Dimple and Rishi, and the book is written in third person as a result, which really threw me – I guess I’m just to only having third person in darker books and fantasy, not fluffier romances. Dimple was also more stand-offish than I expected, with more family trouble. Nothing wrong with that, but not what I was expecting, and I think that threw me a bit.
The book had some coding drama, which is awesome because diversity in coding! but it took focus from the romance at the beginning and then fell by the wayside when the romance got more focus. And, like I mentioned, the romantic drama was a little much for me, especially when you just want fluffiness.
I also saw in this article (good read, check it out) that Sandhya Menon has faced some backlash for creating an unlikable character in Dimple. I can see where some people might be coming from (not the attacking her part – as long as the character isn’t offensive, which Dimple definitely isn’t, there’s no reason to target the author), because especially at the beginning, Dimple isn’t a happy-go-lucky type of girl, but that’s normal. People, including teenagers, can be annoying and judgmental, and that’s all perfectly normal and necessary. It’s also important to note that Dimple isn’t a horrible person, she’s just someone who feels crushed under family expectations and has to face institutional racism and sexism on a daily basis, especially in a male-dominated field such as coding. She’s allowed to be prickly, just like she’s allowed to throw iced coffee in the face of a random stranger who comes up to her and says “Hello, future wife!” out of nowhere. She shouldn’t be defended because there’s nothing wrong with depicting a realistic person, whether she’s Indian or white or any other race.
I look forward to future books from Menon as well as more diverse and fluffy books, so get on that, book universe.
This is How It Happened (Paula Stokes) | Goodreads | 4 stars
I was extremely lucky to receive a digital ARC of this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of this review.
This book wasn’t what I expected, and I think that dampened my enjoyment. I liked it, but when I think about it, I feel a little disappointed, even though I think it does deserve 4 stars.
First of all, it’s weird to read a book with a protagonist who has your name. Seriously, how do you people with common names do it? “Genevieve” is starting to become more popular in books, but so far, it’s always been given to side characters, no the main one. I also don’t like the nickname “Gen” for my name, and of course protagonist G (can’t say it, can’t call her Genevieve, that’s MY NAME!) goes by that sometimes. So, that’s totally personal and probably won’t bug anyone else unless you have my name and feel the same way.
Book-wise, something that could bother people is that there was a lot more drama about the crash than I expected. I thought this book was more like Stokes’s Girl Against the Universe – a girl trying to fix herself and get to a healthier mental state, and it is that, but the reason for the crash isn’t so cut-and-dry, so that caused drama I wasn’t expecting. Again, not something that will bother everyone, but going into a book expecting one thing and getting another can take you out of a book a bit.
Not a bad book, despite my issues, but I hope that Stokes does some fluffier books like her fantastic debut, The Art of Lainey – I want more of that.