Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Page Count: 208
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 10, 2019 by Make Me a World
Review: After reading this book I am surprised that it is cataloged as YA Fiction. It really read like J Fiction to me. I had to keep reminding myself that the main character is seventeen, because her character seems much younger.
The setting is a sort of Utopia where the “monsters” have been eliminated and everyone treats each other nicely (or so they think). From the very first chapter I could have outlined the entire plot of the story. I can’t say much more than what is in the synopsis without completely giving everything away, but I can tell you that the story follows a very predictable path.
I admire what the author is trying to do with this book – she is revealing the dangers of complacency and denial – but it is all overly simplified. The backstory as to how this “Utopia” setting was achieved is completely preposterous. Basically anyone and everyone who has ever committed an atrocity has supposedly been identified and imprisoned. Society has realized the error of their ways and all people are accepted regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ableness, etc, etc., etc. This book was very short, but I honestly think it could have been shorter. This would have been a great short story for an anthology if all the repetitive filler was removed.
I generally enjoy books that employ elements of magical realism, but this one just wasn’t for me.
Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Page Count: 292
Publishing Date/Publisher: July 3, 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Review: I had a very difficult time rating this book because it had a lot of elements that I loved, and yet the ending did not make the impact on me that I was expecting it to.
I really enjoy reading retellings of classic tales, and this one really takes the cake for originality. I thought that the author very cleverly wove in concepts such as modernization, colonialism, and the proselytization of indigenous peoples into the narrative. She also touches upon some very difficult topics such as abuse, rape, murder, suicide, trauma recovery, and transphobia (for lack of a better word). A lot of these subjects can be gleaned through subtext, so they may not be apparent to every reader. I want to stress that this book is not at all graphic or gratuitous. It simply shows that even in a place as magical as Neverland, darkness lurks beneath the surface.
The author does a really good job of balancing the heavier content with the yearnings of first love. Tiger Lily and Peter’s love is intense and raw, but their naivety adds an element of innocence to it. It is heartbreaking as a reader to witness their struggles as they try to define themselves and what they mean to each other. This book very eloquently shows that although we may not always end up with our first love, they can still hold a special place in our hearts long after we have moved on.
The ending of this book was satisfying in it’s own way, while at the same time feeling a bit rushed. That, coupled with the slow pacing, prevented me from giving it a full four star rating.
Title: The UnTied Kingdom
Author: Kate Johnson
Performer: Julia Barrie
Length: 15 hr, 4 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2013 by Recorded Books
Review: Well I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, but it was still an enjoyable read. The narrator was easy to listen to, and the story for the most part had a lot of action. This book was surprisingly light on romance for a romance novel. It was clear from the beginning who the fated pair would be, but the romance really doesn’t blossom until well into the last half of the book.
I am always a little leary of “time travel” books because I find the concept to be so confusing and overdone. I would consider this to be more of a “parallel universe” book with very little explanation as to how the hole between worlds works. The parallel universe Eve lands in is more of an alternate history where the trajectory of significant historical events has been changed, resulting in Britain essentially becoming a third world country that has been torn apart by civil wars. I would have liked to know more about how the rest of this reimagined world works, but you only get snippets here and there throughout the story. In a lot of ways this makes the story very insular and I was left with many questions. It is always interesting to think about how changing the past might affect the future, and it is fascinating to consider how even one decision could change the whole course of history. I suppose Johnson could write a thousand novels based on this topic and I would still have questions, so I must be content with the brief glimpse I am given in this one.
Title: Patron Saints of Nothing
Author: Randy Ribay
Page Count: 323
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019 by Kokila
Review: This is a coming-of-age story about struggling with identity and belonging. The main character, Jay, must learn to cope with the senseless death of his beloved cousin, while also coming to terms with how his own decisions may have played a role in the unfortunate series of events that led to the tragedy. It is also a story of the many ways people can surprise and disappoint us. For better or worse, our family and friends do not always live up to the image we have of them in our heads.
The writing style of this author is very similar to the writing style of Kelly Loy Gilbert. The first person perspective feels very authentic, and you very much feel like you are inside the head of the main character. This book didn’t emotionally gut me the same way that Picture Us in the Light did, but it is similar in that the story touches on some very heavy topics and reveals some very painful truths about Jay and his secretive family.
The cover art for this book is absolutely stunning. If I had not needed to read this book for a mock Printz committee, I probably would have picked it up simply for the cover art alone. Both front and back incorporate beautiful colors and symbolism.