Title: With the Fire on High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Page Count: 392
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 7, 2019 by HarperTeen
Review: I have not yet read The Poet X, but I’ve heard enough hype about it that I was excited to get my hands on Acevedo’s newest novel. I have a feeling this book will also be widely acclaimed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it too is nominated for a Printz Award.
This book conveys many positive messages about family, identity, hard work, and following your dreams. I thought the whole thing was very smartly packaged and it’s short chapters will make it very appealing to reluctant readers. In fact, I would say this book could be categorized as a hi/lo reader (high interest, low reading level) for teens.
Although I was well past my teens when I had my first child, I shared many of the same feelings of inadequacy and frustration that Emoni struggles with throughout the story. As a full-time librarian, I often feel that I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with my son. It is incredibly difficult to balance work and family, and Emoni has the additional pressure of school and being a single parent. While many teenagers must make difficult decisions about college and the future, Emoni’s responsibility to her daughter makes the stakes so much higher. I really like the direction Emoni’s character chooses in the end, and I hope it encourages others to follow a similar path.
I loved the fact that each part of the book is prefaced by a recipe. This book really got me hyped to try new things in the kitchen, and really changed the way I think about cooking as a whole. Very inspiring!
Title: After We Collided
Author: Anna Todd
Performers: Shane East & Elizabeth Louise
Length: 19 hr, 16 min
Series: After, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: November 25, 2014 by Simon & Schuster Audio
Review: I almost never DNF books, especially not audiobooks, but three hours into this one and I had to stop to retain my sanity. Not even ten minutes in and I wanted to tear my hair out in frustration. As I stated in my review of After, I was strangely enthralled by the story, but the cooling off period between finishing that book and starting this one finally allowed me to see reason. Tessa and Hardin’s relationship becomes even more toxic in this next book and the back and forth drags on and on. It was just too much drama and not enough substance. I can officially say I am done with this series.
Author: Samira Ahmed
Page Count: 386
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 19, 2019 by Atom
Review: This is one of those books that readers seem to either love or hate, but I actually fall somewhere in the middle. It is a speculative novel that heavily draws on current events (more than a few jabs directed at the current administration) and links it with the Japanese-American Internment camps of the 1940s. In this imagining, Muslim-Americans are targeted as enemies of state and relocated to internment camps on American soil.
I thought the concept for this book was interesting, and I could appreciate the historical tie-ins, but I think it fell short of being great. My biggest issue with this book was the villain. “The Director” is portrayed as a cruel man who easily loses his cool and throws violent tantrums. He was incredibly one-dimensional, and was really a caricature of the “racist middle-age white man” that has become so vilified by our culture. Of course, all the prison guards were also white men, because apparently there is no diversity in the National Guard.
The cover art for this book is gorgeous, and that really drew me to the book more than anything. I think it appropriately captures the essence of the story and I imagine it has drawn in a lot of other readers as well. I think that this book will really appeal to teens and it would be a great discussion book for teachers to assign when studying World War II and the Japanese-American internment camps because it offers a fresh setting that they may better relate to.
Title: How to Build a Heart
Author: Maria Padian
Page Count: 352
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 28, 2020 by Algonquin Young Readers
Review: There are so many things about this book that I love. It is a very thoughtfully written book and it feels very authentic. I have very little in common with the main character, but I could totally relate to her. There was a lot about her that reminded me of myself at her age.
I recently reviewed another book that had very similar themes to this one; a biracial girl navigating grief and struggling to define herself. I personally felt that this book did a much better job of tackling these topics and I was honestly disappointed when it ended. This is not to say I wasn’t happy with the ending, I just wanted to follow her life longer! I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Title: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight
Author: Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
Page Count: 272
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 1, 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire
Review: I was eager to read this book because the two authors have done something that Kym and I have talked about at great length, and that is co-authoring a book from two different character perspectives. It worked well for this story, and I thought it was appropriate that the two characters were written with very distinct voices.
This book isn’t very long, so it was a quick read. In fact, the whole story takes place over the course of a single night. The conflict is established quickly, and the “action” is pretty consistent throughout the story. I was never bored and I would say this is a pretty timely novel considering our current political climate.
My biggest criticism is that I had hoped for a stronger character arc with both characters, so when the end came, my first thought was, that’s it? After undergoing such a traumatic experience, I had expected there to be more discussion of the aftermath and what it meant for each of the characters. I really think this story would have a greater impact on readers if this aspect was more thoroughly explored.
Title: The Distance Between Us
Author: Kasie West
Performer: Jorjeana Marie
Length: 6 hr, 42 min, 13 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2014 by Tantor
Review: This is a classic tale of opposites attract. Caymen is poor, and Xander is rich, so what could they possibly have in common??? Is it possible that Caymen is unfairly judging Xander because of his nice clothes and fancy cars?? Read the book and find out! Sarcasm aside though (sarcasm is a theme in the novel by the way), this was a wholesome romance that follows a tried and true formula. I really enjoy books like this when my life gets stressful because it does not take a lot of brainpower to follow the storyline and the outcome is predictable. Sometimes you just want a feel good romance, and for me this did the trick.
I personally thought that the reader of this book sounded a bit too old for the character, but she did a good job and had a pleasant and consistent tone.
Title: Six Goodbyes We Never Said
Author: Candace Ganger
Page Count: 416
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 24, 2019 by Wednesday Books
Review: Loved the cover, loved the title, even loved a couple of the characters *cough Dew and Violet cough cough*, but did not love this book. The writing felt very disjointed to me, I did not care for one of the main characters (Naima), and the ending just didn’t carry the weight that I thought it should given the subject matter. There was a lot about this book that confused me, and I am not sure that I liked the way that mental illness is portrayed. I got the impression that Naima is supposed to be this prickly and guarded, yet lovable individual, but for the most part, I thought she was cruel and hurtful and incredibly selfish. I tried to like her, I really did, it just didn’t happen. Maybe this book will really resonate with someone, but that someone wasn’t me.