Eliza and Her Monsters by: Francesca Zappia

Summary:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart

The Review:

This was a sort of recommendation via Amazon, after making some book purchases and it sort of stood out to me, mainly because of the premise and how it reminded me a lot of Fangirl.  Also if you have been following my blog for a while, you should know that I rarely read contemporary.

The main premise of the book deals with Eliza, who writes a webcomic called Monstrous Sea under the screen name LadyConstellation. She is also very popular online with her webcomic. In her normal world however, she is basically seen as weird and keeps to herself most of the time. Her two friends, Mark and Emmy are basically her online friends and they mostly talk about a show called Dog Days, that they obsess over.

Even though Eliza never meet either Emmy or Mark, you still give a sense of their friendship through their IMs and chats. Especially in this day in age in which your online friends can actually be your real friends and could still from a good relationship with one another.

She also meets Wallace, who is a fanfiction writer of her Monstrous Sea webcomic and doesn’t know that she is the author. I really enjoyed following their relationship. It did start off as bonding over mutual interests, but I think their was a lot of development between them to get me invested. I also liked that Wallace was a fleshed out character rather than just you typical YA love interest.

There is a lot of comparisons one could make with Fangirl, especially how it deals with the online communities and fandom in general. But I like that it deals with the mental health aspect a lot more than Fangirl did. Eliza, throughout the book finds out that she has anxiety after she kind of fainted in school.

I also loved seeing excerpts of The Monstrous Sea, which gives us a little more background of what Eliza created. I also really loved the artwork that the author included. It makes me want to read The Monstrous Sea.

In the end, I really enjoyed Eliza and Her Monsters. It was a nice read that dealt a lot with Fandom and online communities. I really enjoyed the relationship between Eliza and Wallace, and also the relationship between Eliza and her online friends.

Grade: 4.5/5

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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

 

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

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

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

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Summary:

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

The Review:

This was another author who I met at Boston Teen Author Festival, and hearing her talk about her book at the Out of Character, made me want to know more about this book.

This was a modern retelling of Cinderella, which reminded me a lot of the Hilary Duff movie, A Cinderella Story. It almost follows the same beats as Cinderella, in which a young orphan girl has to live with her step mother and evil step sisters, she puts up with abuse until she meets prince charming at a ball and live happily ever after. But this is a different set within the fandom of Sci Fi.

Danielle or Ella, is the main character. She is a nerd for Sci Fi, especially for the series Starfield, which is a semi based on Star Trek: The Original Series, a short lived series that has a huge following. There is a a movie based on the series coming out and she of course has some reservations. Ella is very much a fan girl, and that’s what I like about the character.

Darien, is another character in the novel, who is a young teen heart throb who is set to play Federation Prince Carmindor. Of course when he has cast, he really didn’t know what to make of the casting, and it had a lot of push back from the fandom, mainly Ella. It reminded me a lot of when Chris Pine was cast of Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movies and the amount of push back he got. But Darien is someone who was a closet nerd, and most people don’t see that due to his good looks and “insured abs”.

Ella and Darien’s started off online on her blog, and they would chat about Starfield in general, and than it moved to a semi romantic online relationship, they also don’t know who each other are which makes it a nice sweet relationship. That’s where the comparison to a Cinderella story comes in.

The supporting characters are also great. Sage, her co-worker at the food truck acts as the stand in for her fairy god mother, and she is also her best friend. Chloe is the evil step sister, and basically acts like one, and would constantly belittle Ella. Callipe, or Cal is the other step sister, who is actually nice to Ella. Catherine is her evil step mother, who would also belittle Ella and also her late father especially in regards to Starfield.

I also like some of the Easter Eggs it had in regards to the original Cinderella. It was a pumpkin food truck, and the ball is a Excelsior Con, which is a sci fi convention. While it was a modern retelling of Cinderella, it did have its own twist to it.

Starfield, just by reading about the show, makes me want to watch the show, but alas the show doesn’t exist. The book was a love letter to the Sci Fi fandom and it really shows especially once Ella makes it the convention. It also talks a lot about Hollywood in regards to sci fi. One aspect I really liked is the fake relationship Darien has with his costar Jess. While they weren’t meant to be together, they poke fun at their relationship and Hollywood in general. I kinda would have like to see the character of Jess, a bit more fleshed out because I did like her character.

In the end, Geekerella was a great read. It was one half of a Cinderella retelling and another half a love letter to Sci Fi fandom. It had a cute love story that made you want to root for the main characters.

Grade: 4.5/5

Moxie by: Jennifer Mathieu (CW: Misogyny, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault)

Summary:

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

The Review:

This was a book I kinda picked up on a whim. I have seen some ARC reviews about this book, and it seemed like a pretty awesome premise. I thought it was an amazing book that should be required reading for any young girl.

The book is set in high school in which the football players rule the school and pretty much get away with anything, and it was one incident in the classroom in which Mitchell, the quarterback made a sexist remark to the a girl, Lucy and when Lucy defended herself the class was punished. Vivian basically tells Lucy how that was the norm around the school. After looking through her mothers old stuff and realize that she was a Riotgrrrl she decides to to start a zine highlighting the problems girls have in the school and the misogyny they face.

I love that I got to see the “zine” within the book, it really made it feel as if I was in on the action. I also like how it started off as something small but than grew and started becoming inspiring to all the girls at the school. While the audience knows Vivian is the author, I like that she made it anonymous, so it reminded me a lot of Mr. Robot. I also like that it started a movement within the school in which most the girls were involved in.

Most the issues that was covered was the sexual harassment brought on by the football players with the “bump n grind”, the schools sexist dress code policies, and lack of funding in the girls sports teams. They are all real issues that many young girls face today. It also touched upon how sexual assault often gets mishandled by school administrators.

Vivian as a main character was very engaging. I like how she wasn’t afraid at first to do the zine because she wanted to reach as many girls as possible. I also like that has started off as very shy and only having just a few friends, mainly Claudia and Lucy.

I also love the emphasis on female friendship. You really don’t see a lot of female friendships in YA novels and the fact that the relationship between the girls seemed real. There is also a romance in the book, but it is not the main focus of teh book. There were some other characters like Kiera and Emma who I did like, but I kinda wish they were a bit more fleshed out.

Viv’s boyfriend Seth is a very well written male character, I like that he isn’t the “brooding YA protagonist”. he is actually very supportive of Viv writing Moxie, and he also knows when to be a good feminist ally. While there is times he almost ventures into “not all men” he understands that there is stuff that he will never understand. I also like how their relationship was actually well done, while they did fight it wasn’t to the point where they have the second act break up, it was an actual meaningful relationship.

A minor criticism I have is that I wish the book was little more diverse. While Lucy is a Hispanic character, I felt that some of the side POC characters weren’t really fleshed out. But I do like how Viv discusses how the 90s RiorGrrrls didn’t include many POC and was willing to make a change with Moxie.

In the end, Moxie was an amazing book that is has a lot of good feminist themes. I think it should be required reading for all young girls because of its themes. I think the book will hopefully inspire young girls to get involved in activism. It was has some engaging characters with a nice story along with it.

Grade: 4.5/5