Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Summary:

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

The Review:

This book was another very heavy read, especially after reading Dear Martin. The book is told enterily in free verse poetry, and it really provides a uniqueness towards the book, since I don’t usually read poetry books.

The book is told through the perspective of Will, a fifteen year old black kid, whose brother was shot to death and is now trying to get revenge from those who killed him, and it moslty takes place in an elevator and while he is on the eleavator he keeps getting flashbacks of what has happened.

But it is not just about what happened to his brother but also what happened to some of the other people in his life, and how each of them were affected by violence.  They come in the form of ghosts.

The concept of the book and the main story is basically set within a three minute and it is mostly set in the elevator with WIll constantly having to think about getting his revenge. It really gives him time to think, and really take in the situation.

I was very blown away by this book, and it put me on a whirlwind of emotions and it is a great testament to Jason Reynold’s writing and how you could feel every word on the page come out.

Long Way Down, is another great book by Jason Reynolds. His words always has meaning and delivers a dark and complex story.

Grade: 4.5/5

 

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Dear Martin by: Nic Stone

Summary:

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

The Review:

My very awesome girlfriend gave me this book for Christmas, so it was very fitting that this would be my first read of 2018, and boy did my reading year start with a bang (I know very poor choice in words).

Much like The Hate U Give, this book deals a lot with the police violence in the United States especially when dealing with race. Justyce, is a young African American male who goes to a prep school, and is also dealing with being one of the very few black students who attend, a feeling I know all to well. A lot of the book deals with the fallout of his arrest, and him realizing that after everything, people could still arrest him.

While the book is fiction, it does touch on a lor of real life issues. After Justyce’s arrest he learns of other stories about young black men getting killed by the police who are unarmed. He uses his letters to Dr. Martin Luther King in order to come to grasp with his situation.

His issues with racial inequalities also happens a lot in his school with his classmates. Since a lot of classmates are white with the exception of Manny. Most of his white classmates dismiss issues of race and basically claim that white people have it worse, and I have also dealt with them in school. Mainly with Jared, who is most white boys I went to school with.

It also touched a lot of issues of race in regards to Manny’s father, who is a Vice President of a major company and still deals with issues of race.

A major highlight of the book was the “Dear Martin” chapters. I think the use of the letters really gave us a sense of the character of Justyce and what he is going through. I also liked his relationship with Sarah-Jane, or SJ, a white Jewish classmate of his. It kinda falls under the normal teenage love tropes in which they are debate partners and Justyce of course starts to have feelings for her and is very nervous about making a move. I thought is was nice to have a few light moments with them to counter a lot of the heavier moments that the book has.

In the end, Dear Martin is a very powerful book, much like The Hate U Give. It deals a lot of issues with race that is still going on today and Justyce is a great character to see those issues through his eyes.

Grade: 5/5

Renegades by: Marissa Meyer

Summary:

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

The Review:

If you have been following my blog you should know that I am a HUGE fan of the Lunar Chronicles, so of course I was very excited about the fact that Marissa Meyer is writing a new series, and this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017.

The book is mainly told through two POVs, Nova or Nightmare; she has the power to put people to sleep just by touching them. After her family was killed, she always has had disdain for the Renegades because she felt that they didn’t save them. She was a well developed character, she really did bring out a lot of the moral grayness with bringing out the differences between the Renegades and the Anarchists.

Adrian or Sketch, has the power to bring his artwork to life. His mother was killed in the battle of Gatlin and was adopted by two other superheros who are on the council. He also has an arc that deals with trying to get justice for his mother. He deals with a lot of pressure as being the son of two famous superheroes and he always wants to be more than a patrol hero and do some real work as a Renegade. He also deals with some of the issues that the Renegades deal with.

The relationship between both Adrian and Nova was also really fleshed out. It was basically a hero and a villain falling in love but they don’t know who each other are. It added some depth to the story and made it seem like both sides have good points. It reminded me a lot of the X-Men comics, mainly the X-Men vs. The Brotherhood. Both are contentiously combating each other but also has great points.

The world building was very well done. Marissa Meyer introduced us to a world where superheroes are already established in world and they are called Renegades, who are those with powers. I also felt that there was some back story I actually wanted to see more fleshed out. Mainly the Age of Anarchy and the Battle of Gatlin, I feel that could have been a series of books on their own.

The supporting characters were good as well, mainly the group of Anarchists who work with Nova. They had their own distinct personalities to them. I just wish they were a bit more fleshed out. Hopefully the second book will do that. I also felt the villain was a little thinly developed, mainly because Queen Levena was such a great villain I kinds wish the villain was on that level.

The ending I also felt was a tad rushed. I know the book was over 500 pages but I would have liked the ending could have also been a bit more fleshed out and hopefully a sequel will better continue the story.

In the end, Renegades did not disappoint. Marissa Meyer wrote another great book and she wasn’t afraid to explore other genres. Nova and Adrian are great characters, and the world involving superheroes was great. While I felt the ending could have been fleshed out, I want to see the story continue.

Grade: 4.3/5

They Both Die at the End by: Adam Silvera

Summary:

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day. 

The Review:

After finishing this book, I just keep asking myself, why did I do that to myself. This is the third book I read by Adam Silvera this year and each one if just as devastating as the last one. But I do appreciate the fact that tells you in the title how devastating it will be.

The main plot of the book is a 24 hour period after both Mateo and Rufus receive their calls from Death Cast to inform them that they will die in the next 24 hours. After getting their calls they of course are both real devastated, and try to make the best of their last days alive.

Both Rufus and Mateo are both very different characters. Mateo is more reserved, while Rufus is more of a go getter. Adam Silvera does a good job at giving them both distinct personalities and it really shows in their POV chapters. By having them both meet each other through the Last Friend App, it sort of brings out the best in each other. They both seem as if they have nothing in common, you really get a sense of their friendship throughout the day.

The supporting characters were also well developed. Lidia, a friend of Mateo who lost her boyfriend a year earlier and now has to raise a child alone. Also the Plutos, friends of Rufus who he meet in the foster. I like how Silvera puts in their own POV, just to a little more information about the characters, and it also puts into context who Mateo and Rufus are leaving behind.

The concept behind the book is also very interesting. It kinda begs the question if you found out you only had 24 hours to live what would you do? It also ties heavily with the world around them. Deckers, those who get the death notice, get special deals and opportunities that they normally wouldn’t have. I also like the concept of the Last Friend App, for those who worry about dying alone, and they don’t have to.

In comparing this book, with other Adam Silvera’s books; History is All you Left Me and More Happy Than Not, I think this one has a more optimistic outlook. While it is a very devastating book its not as emotional as his other two. It sort of has the common message of live life to the fullest and any day could be your last, but the story is framed differently.

In the end, They Both Die at the End is another great book by Adam Silvera. He is basically 3/3 in great books. You will feel attached to both characters of Rufus and Mateo as they are really great characters. It also has a really good message.

Grade: 5/5

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

Summary:

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech – rather than say anything at all – she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

The Review:

This was a book that I added on my TBR after hearing him speak about this book back in September at Boston Teen Author Festival. The way he describe the premise it was if it was an episode of Black Mirror, that really causes you to think about could this really happen.

The book begins when Speth decides to protest the system that requires payment for every word spoken by simply not speaking at she does so by zipping her lips at her speech ceremony when she reaches of age. It is also noted that the only reason why she has the name, Speth was because it was a very cheap name that her family can afford.

It also was a very risky move by having a protagonist who spends most of teh book not speaking because it could have been difficult to connect with her charcater, but Gregory Scott Katslouis made it so that we were able to connect with her. When she makes the bold act to not speak or communicate, it heavily affects those around her. Most of friends stop speaking to her because of it.  Speth is one of the better YA female protagonist as she wasn’t in it to be the hero, only

I also think that the world building was pretty well handled. The beginning of the book or basically the prologue gave us everything we needed to know about the world which was the copyright page for the book as well as the state of Vermaine, where the story takes place.  This was also a very different dystopian novel because it adds a lot of social commentary about communication and speaking. Even the act of kissing could cost someone.

I did feel some of the pacing in the book was a bit slow, it really didn’t pick up until the middle of the book, when you find out that Speth has sort of started a rebellion in which other people started to not speak as form of protests against the system. The main villain of the book is Silas Rog, who is one of the partners of the law firm that came up with taking every word and putting a patent on it. While he was a good villain, I do feel that he should have been a bit more fleshed out.

As I said earlier, it did feel like an episode of Black Mirror because it allows a commentary on the notion of communication and how much we take it for granted. Some of the cost of communication includes:

Two seconds of screaming costs $1.98
A request to Desist costs $8.99
A charge of Assault costs $14.99
And expressing your Scorn costs 36.99

Also communication is tracked through the cuffs people wear, and if someone can’t pay their fee they would be in a sort of debtors prison. It really handles the moral of “Words matter” really well.

In the end, All Rights Reserved was a great book that I enjoyed reading. While it did have some pacing problems, especially in the beginning, it was made up for a great protagonist in Speth, and social commentary on communication. I am very excited to see where this series goes.

Grade: 4/5

The Nowhere Girls by: Amy Reed (CW: Misogyny, Sexual Assualt)

Summary:

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

The Review:

This was a book that was recommended to me after reading Moxie, which dealt with the same issues that Nowhere Girls has which is the issue of sexual assault and rape culture.

The book starts with Grace, moving to Prescott after her mother has a “feminist awakening” and getting run out of her old town. She lives in the house where Lucy, a sexual assault lived before she was run out of town after accusing the boys on the football team of rape. After meeting Rosina and Erin she begins to figure out what happened to Lucy and hopefully tries to find justice for her.

Rosina, is a queer latina who spends most the book dealing with her huge extended family and also working at her families Mexican restaurant. Her main arc deals with how she has to deal with her family values, especially with her being a queer latina and being forced to choose between family and a normal life.

Erin, is one of my favorites. Mainly because she is a Trekkie and any book that makes references to Star Trek especially TNG is fine in my book. But she is also a character on the autism spectrum. While I am not on the spectrum, it was nice to see a fully fleshed out character on the spectrum.

This book also reminded me a lot of Moxie. mainly due to the fact that it deals with high school girls trying to combat sexual assault on their campus. This dealt with a more proactive approach in which the girls withhold sex from their boyfriends or other boys at school, and it starts a movement with the school.

There is also a very misogynist blog post that keeps popping up with the book called The Real Men of Prescott, which is just as vile as I could describe it. It is basically a Pick up artist blog that brags about the number of women he is “scoring”. I would also say trigger warning when reading those parts of the book, it gets pretty graphic.

There is also a lor of great minor charcters who are also fleshed out such as, Margot, who is the student body president, Melissa who is the head cheerleader and Sam who is in drama club. Even though they didn’t have POV chapters like the core three girls, they still were fleshed out characters that added a lot to the story.

This book also does a good job at tackling the issue of rape culture especially in high school and how a lot of young girls don’t really have a support system when it comes to rape, and also what happens if a girl accuses a boy of rape. The main idea of The Nowhere Girls is to make sure that girls has a voice to be heard and come together. The main strength of the book lies in sisterhood between the girls and with what is going on right now I feel that it is needed.

It also does a good job at tackling religion. Grace’s mom is a pastor for a Congregationalist church, which is a very open minded church, and it provided some much needed religious commentary especially coming from her mom.

This book was an extremely powerful read that does a good job at tackling the issue of sexual assault. This is the first book I read by Amy Reed and I may pick up more of her books. It also deals with female friendship and working together to fight an injustice. For fans of Moxie, I highly recommend it. It also has great characters that you would love to root for

Grade: 5/5

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by: Mackenzie Lee

Summary:

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. 

The Review:

This was another anticipated read of 2017 and it was also a genre that I don’t really gravitate towards which is a period fiction that doesn’t have a lot to do with fantasy.

This was also a very fun read, and it had a lot of great comedic moments within the book. Monty, who is the main character is a someone who was born to be a gentlemen and to also run his families estate. He is set to go on a European tour before he trains to manage is families estate. He is someone who has a carefree attitude and spends most of his free time taking parts in vices; such as gambling and drinking.

Monty has a sister, Felicity. Even though she is a women living in the 18th Century she challenges the gender norms such as reading, and learning. She does not want to go to finishing school in order to become a proper lady. I love the relationship between Monty and Felicity and they have a great sibling bond, especially when dealing with their father. She was also very smart and used a lot of her brilliance on their journey and always knew an answer to something.

Percy, is Monty’s best friend, but also crush. He is bi-racial, which is nice to see in a book especially with the 18th century setting. Even though is a friend of Monty’s, he still deals with a lot of racial issues that was going on in 18th century Europe. There was places where he couldn’t go  and also some of the back handed compliments he would receive. He also has epilepsy, and of course during that time period, having epilepsy meant that “you had the devil in you” and it wasn’t properly treated as it is right now.

The main plot of the book deals with Monty stealing something that a lot of people want, including highway men and rival Dukes who wants it. It is suppose to be a “cure all”. Monty is hoping to us the “cure all” to maybe cure Percy of his epilepsy. So Monty, Felicity and Percy go on an adventure to find the “cure all”. There is also several obstacles in the way, my favorite being them getting captured by “pirates”.

The pirates were one of my favorite aspects of the book, and I want to see more of them. I think in the second book, which is mainly be from Felicity’s perspective they will be in it. There is also a huge story of how they became pirates is actually pretty compelling.

Mackenzie Lee, also takes full advantage of its setting, and the book takes you to London, Marseilles, Spain and Venice and it feels as if I was also taking part in the European tour, and I would love to go on a tour of Europe, but lack of funds is keeping me from doing that.

While the plot was good, the main strength of the book is in its characters. The main three characters are all fully fleshed out characters. The relationship between Monty and Percy was also well done. While yes, most of it was them playing “I love you” chicken, I the entire book shipping them and hoping they will finally tell each other how they feel.  It also ties a lot to abuse which Monty went thorough at the hands of his father and how he wants to try to be his own man, and not be like his father.

In the end, Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a fantastic read and I loved every page of it. The characters are all enriching and fleshed out. It deals with a lot of complex issues such as, racism, mental health and abuse in the 18th century. I really hope to see what this author puts out.

Grade: 4.7/5