An astonishing #ownvoices story of a girl coming of age in the 1980s while South Korea was controlled by the Fifth Republic, a military regime that exerted its power through censorship, fear-mongering, anti-intellectualism, and violence. Kim Hyun Sook's firsthand account of self-actualization and truth-seeking on a college campus during these tumultuous years of political division was both horrific and hopeful. Her story is a timely reminder of what's at stake when we stay silent, the potential for ordinary people to effect change by standing up and speaking out against untruth and wrongdoing, and the unstoppable power of reading - the ultimate act of rebellion.
A fast-paced, suspenseful novel set in contemporary India and told from the alternating perspectives of three very different characters whose fates become inextricably intertwined. When a young, Muslim girl is accused of being involved in a terrorist attack that killed hundreds of passengers on a train, an ambitious teacher from her past and a vulnerable outcast from her present both find themselves in a position to either help or condemn her. This is a fascinating, heart-breaking, propulsive journey through India's political, religious and class struggles; but, it's the finely drawn characters who will immediately imprint themselves onto your heart and make it impossible to put this one down until you arrive at the stunning conclusion.
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I was hooked on this book right from the premise. Ten years ago, the world was in chaos, being terrorized by a mysterious villain known as the Dark Lord. A prophecy foretells of five Chosen Ones - children who will defeat the Dark Lord and save the world. This may sound like a familiar story, but Roth brilliantly spins it out into something that feels simultaneously like a foregone conclusion and a completely original premise. Now in their twenties, the Chosen Ones are struggling with normal life. They spent their formative years in relative isolation, training and fighting for thier lives, and experiencing a lot of real trauma. They defeated the Dark Lord and saved the world, but they're not qualified to work a "real" job; some of them are barely keeping it together. When the Dark Lord seems to reappear, they're called back into action. Can they really go through it all again? What follows is a well-crafted fantasy novel with all of the rich character development, sharp dialogue, heart-pounding action and complex world building Roth's YA novels are known for. This is a highly enjoyable and satisfying read. I don't know whether we'll get more stories in this universe (I hope we will), but it's clear that Roth still has stories to tell and I look forward to all of them!
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it. The story of a Chicago teen, born and raised in South Shore, coming of age in a city that always feels like it's on the verge of self-destruction is complex, funny, sparse, and devastating. Gabriel Bump is like a prose sniper; his words will have you bleeding all over the page before you even realize you've been hit. An amazingly powerful debut!
This is the kind of book you'll read in one sitting and hug to your chest upon turning the last page. Felipe is the kind of lead character I adore in a YA story. He's smart and sarcastic, funny and vulnerable, self-aware and self-deprecating. I loved this glimpse into life in modern-day Brazil, the authentic and loving portrayal of LGBTQ relationships, the intimate look at family life (especially the relationship between Felipe and his mom), the honest insight into body image struggles, and the unrequited love story at the big, beating heart of this book. I fell head over heels for Felipe and Caio and laughed, cried and cheered for them all the way to the sweetly satisfying end.
This middle grade fantasy is smart, layered and brings a fresh twist to the superhero story. Nnamdi is the son of a police chief in a small city outside of Nigeria. When his father is murdered, Nnamdi will do anything to find the killer, but he's just a kid. What can he really do? The sudden appearance of a mysterious, ancient statue that gives Nnamdi the powers of a superhero changes everything. But, is this new power good or bad? Nnamdi will have to rely on the things his father taught him and his own heart (plus, a lot of help from his best friend) to figure it out. Realistic isn't a word you can use often when talking about superheroes, but Nnamdi has the most authentic reaction to suddenly being a 10-year-old in a super-charged, adult body I've ever encountered. Okorafor is a master at building worlds steeped in fantasy, but her real skill is keeping her human characters firmly grounded in reality. This is an author who knows exactly how smart kids are and nothing in this rich, complex, powerful story assumes otherwise.
In a near future where climate change has caused the mass extinction of almost all animal species, Franny Stone is desperate to follow what is likely to migration of the last known flock of arctic terns. If she can follow them, maybe she can save them. But, the only way to make the long and perilous journey from the arctic to the antarctic is on a commercial fishing boat. Franny despises the enterprise, which she blames for devastating the fish population and it's about to become illegal anyway, seeing as how the oceans are nearly empty. Franny is clearly haunted and running from something. Each of the individuals aboard the Saghani have their own fraught pasts and as she gets to know them as people, it becomes harder for Franny to hate them on sheer principle. This is a beautifully crafted ode to the natural world, a smart and jarring commentary on the consequences of climate change, a slowly unravelling mystery, a thrilling adventure, and a tragedy that somehow ultimately leads to hope.
If you, like me, loved Game of Thrones, were devastated / infuriated by the way the series ended, have spent a fair amount of time fantasizing about some form of revenge on the showrunners who perpetrated said devastating / infuriating ending, still enjoy dipping into the fanfic on AO3, and totally ship Jamie and Brienne, oh man, do I have a recommendation for you! Honestly, I'm a sucker for a book that plays directly into any of my preferred fandoms / pop culture genres, especially when it's cleverly self-conscious and full of fun winks and Easter eggs. On top of being all of those things in the most charming way possible, this is a well written story with a smart, confident, self-loving female lead and a hunky (yeah, I said it), hopelessly smitten for all the right reasons love interest. Reading this book was complete escape and unabashed delight -- exactly what I was looking for in 2020.
The best kind of epic, multigenerational, family saga! The Vanishing Half takes its readers from small town Louisiana to New Orleans, California, and New York following one family from the 1950s to the 1990s as their lives and relationships blossom, expand and fracture. At its heart is a story of passing - the many ways of passing - of what it feels like to be judged harshly and immediately based solely on your outward appearance; and how a person learns to hide, rebel, or adapt when who they are inside clashes with the way they are perceived by others. It's a nuanced and moving story of race, gender identity, prejudice, friendship, and love. The kind of compulsively readable, but rich and thought-provoking story that makes for book club gold!
A modern, YA rom-com loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, set in an indie comics shop where our star-crossed lovers meet at the comic con version of a masquerade ball? Yeah, this was an easy sell for me! It delivered everything I expected from that premise, plus a lot more. This novel is fun, funny and full of geek catnip in all the ways that I hoped it would be, but it's also a serious, tender and thoughtful exploration of toxic relationships, the cost of childhood trauma, and the difficulty of living with and loving someone who's struggling with a mental illness. This is the kind of book that feels needed. Highly recommend!
In today's Boomers vs. Millenials culture wars, Gen X-ers might fell more unacknowledged than ever (it's okay, we're used to it). I don't often connect with self-help titles, but I related so hard to so much of what this one had to say. There is something extremely satisfying and reassuring about having your own thoughts and feelings echoed by a stranger, even (or maybe especially) the tough ones. If you're a latchkey kid turned Riot Grrrl turned 40-something insomniac, this one's for you!
I will always pick up a new Samantha Irby. If you're already familiar with her writing, then I don't need to sell you on this; you already know what to expect and I'll just confirm that you won't be disappointed. She talks openly (and hilariously) about everything from bodily functions and aging to relationships and mental health. If you haven't read either of her previous books or her blog (bitchesgottaeat.com), what are you even doing right now? That shit is hilarious and you should definitely be reading it.
"Hello, 911? Is there any way you can send an officer to make sure that the people I know in my rational mind are totally unconcerned with the breakdown I am having over their assumed perceptions of my coarse behavior aren't secretly mad?"
If this made you snicker, smirk, nod your head, or some other physical manifestation of feeling very seen, read this book now and thank me later. (But, like, not in person because I find actual face-to-face conversation to be anxiety-inducing, borderline aggressive and largely unnecessary. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.)
I loved everything about this funny, relatable, compelling, utterly contemporary story. Jasmine has had a successful career in American soap operas; Ashton is a telenovela star. They're both hoping to break into mainstream success when they are cast as the stars of a Netflix-style streaming show. They both have very good reasons for not dating co-stars. They are definitely NOT going to fall for each other. The magic in what comes next is all in Daria's skillful writing and world-building. The cast is effortlessly and refreshingly diverse, the media insider stories are genuinely intersting, the families are authentically frustrating / adorable, and the romance sizzles. If you are a fan of Helen Hoang, Abby Jimenez, or Jasmine Guillory, do not pass this one up!
This wry and heart-felt story of prom in a small, Midwestern town will likely feel pretty familiar to anyone standing in this bookshop. But, sometimes a YA novel soars or bombs based solely on the likability of its protagonist and Liz Lighty propels this story into the heavens! There are plenty of great secondary characters, too - good, bad and surprising; but, it's Liz who gives me all the feels in this one. She's smart, funny, insecure, sarcastic, creative. You will want to be her best friend. I had a blast tagging along with her on this journey.