Internment: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Happy 2019! I hope the New Year turns out to be a great one.

I’m back on the blog with a review of Internment by Samira Ahmed due out March 2019 from Little Brown Books. I was sent an ARC from Novl in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

Set in a near-distant future, Muslims American citizens have had their rights stripped away and are being put into internment camps. We follow Layla and her family as they are taken in the middle of the night and escorted to what will be their new “home” indefinitely. While trapped inside the camp, Layla comes face to face with those in power as she and her friends fight for freedom.

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This was a hard book to read and I think it will be for many as it outlines how racism and fear are tactics used by the government in order to produce a certain outcome. By controlling widespread media, creating propaganda, and enacting laws against Muslims, we follow Layla through a world she does not recognize anymore, a world against her and her family. Ahmed makes the reader understand from the very beginning how dangerous things are. We are introduced to the direct consequences of hate rhetoric and how it can affect others.

Layla’s narrative is a powerful one and never once does Ahmed soften her words. There are parallels to what happened during World War II and tactics used in campaign elections. While for some, this may be seen as blowing things out of proportion, Ahmed’s writing says otherwise. It tells the reader to examine their complacency, examine their privilege, and speak up when something happening around them is wrong. By not taking action, there is always the risk of the worst case scenario.

While, I thought there could have been a bit more clarification and motivation for some characters – particularly the soldiers that wound up helping Layla and her friends – the overall message of the novel is too important to ignore. Internment, through its chilling scenes, is a necessary read, especially for teens and young adults wondering if their voice matters. This book states it does and it can do more than you imagine.

This gets 4/5 stars for me.

Xx

Megan

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You Asked For Perfect: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman due out March 2019 from Sourcebooks Fire. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

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This book dives into the life of Ariel Stone, a senior in high school who has done everything in his power to be the example applicant for college. Between his extracurricular activities and perfect grades, college applications should be a breeze, but that changes when he fails a Calculus quiz. Ariel’s plan is ruined and he must do whatever he can to stay on top without anybody noticing that he’s slipping. He reluctantly and by accident gets a tutor, a friend of the family named Amir. Their relationship only adds to the complications and pressure building in Ariel’s life.

As someone who strove for academic perfection – or as close as I could get – You Asked for Perfect hit home. Silverman does an incredible job of pointing out the pressures of academic life, applied by family, friends, self-expectations, and the education system. Together, these factors create a whirlwind of a mindset for Ariel and how not hitting any one of these goals becomes a failure in his eyes. We see from the beginning what Ariel wants to accomplish and how piece by piece, the dream that once seemed so close, inches further and further away. Towards the end (in a set of pages that resonated with my own case of academic anxiety), Ariel is forced to confront what matters most, but also what he must do to function in a healthy way.

What I loved about this book was the honesty. Sometimes, Ariel doesn’t come across as the greatest friend or the most composed individual. We see him make mistakes. We feel his desperation. We unravel with him as readers in the same way he begins to unravel.

All of this begins with one bad grade. It’s easy to forget about the pressures of academia in literature where teenagers have to save the world, fight a mortal enemy, or exist in a world where school is run differently or may not exist. What’s brilliant about this contemporary novel is Silverman focuses on something I haven’t seen in a while in a young adult novel and that’s how hard school is. I feel like some may say, well yeah school is hard, but seeing it represented on page can resonate with students who feel like Ariel.

Despite Ariel’s hardships, the book doesn’t end on a depressing note, but a hopeful one about figuring out what you need to do for yourself and your goals, but without compromising your health (physically, emotionally, and mentally).

Couple this message with a wonderful cast of characters, bisexual rep, Jewish rep, and Silverman’s storytelling, and this is a highly recommended read of mine for teens.

This gets 4.5/5 notebooks from me.

Xx

Megan

The Fever King: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review The Fever King by Victoria Lee due out March 2019 from Skyscape. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

The book follows Noam, the son of undocumented immigrants fighting for the rights of refugees who are trying to escape from terrifying and deadly magical outbreaks. When he wakes up as the lone survivor of the most recent outbreak, he catches the attention of the government who are interested in what Noam’s abilities might be. Offered a chance to be taught by the minister of defense, Noam thinks he can use his newfound grace as an advantage to help those in need. But as secrets unravel and he grows close to one person in particular, Noam has to decide what’s worth fighting for.

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The Fever King was a book that I was mad about having to take breaks from. This is a character driven story where Lee never once loses the interest of their reader. You become invested in Noam’s passion for change in an alternate world that speaks to our current political climate. I found myself holding Noam’s same anger and desire for change. Most important, I was rooting for him to succeed.

A lot of time in this book is spent figuring out who can be trusted and what pieces of the puzzle Noam will need to find that trust. I loved how compelling not only Noam was as a main character, but the villain too. We see motivation driving both of them that keep you invested from beginning to end. I want to spend time on Dara, but I think I’ll need at least ten pages to discuss how precious Dara is and how HE MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS. Seriously, you’re going to love Dara.

But back to the plot: what I loved about The Fever King the most was how wickedly smart it was, how it makes you examine your own world the way Noam does his, how it shows each person as a key player in the world and the we are all connected. It takes a ripple to disrupt the order of things and Lee shows how the world breaks as the ripple grows. Magic may be a component of The Fever King, but it is used to expose the intricacies and lies of a failing political system.

You will not be disappointed with this book. The more you sink your teeth in, the better it gets. Lee does a fantastic job of exploring morality, human nature, flawed people, revolution, and trauma (Tw: Sexual Assault).

This gets 5/5 stars from me.

Xx
Megan

Four Dead Queens: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte due out February 2019 from Putnam Books. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

Four Dead Queens is a multi-pov story about the murder of the four rulers of Quadara. The main pov is Keralie, a thief who intercepts a comm disc containing information that would change the fate of the entire nation. Interspersed are the queen’s POVs, which not only give a glimpse into how they rule, but the secrets they’ve all kept upon the throne. Most of the time in murder stories, we never get to know the characters that are killed off except through memories or conversation. Scholte does an incredible job of investing you in every queen’s perspective and leaves you wondering how Keralie will tie into the mix.

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Keralie is a wonderful narrator. She’s brave, stubborn, outspoken and fights against demons she’s had for years. She may not always come across as likable but you see her grow as she gets pulled deeper into the mystery. You feel as if you’re reading a real person and not a caricature. By the end, I had developed so much sympathy for her that I hadn’t realized would be there to start. I want the best for her and it’s a wonderful feeling to want to a character to get their happy ending.

There’s a lot to love about this book, particularly the blending of thriller and fantasy. While Four Dead Queens has fantastical elements, it is heavily focused on putting the pieces together of a complex puzzle. Scholte uses past and present narratives to give you an all around view of the events that have taken place. When the past and present finally meet, I was left screaming because tucked away for the reader is a bit of hope and want. You want the queens to be okay. You want to believe the story can take a different turn then we’ve seen so far. However, don’t fret about this too much as every character involved gets what they deserve and that is beyond satisfying especially for a standalone novel.

Another great part of Four Dead Queens is how the world is structured and explained in a single book – something that doesn’t often happen in a fantasy novel. Each queen rules over a section of Quadara and each section is responsible for producing a particular service or media for the nation as a whole. We see Scholte challenge the idea of if a nation is better working together or separate, what is best for said nation, and what cracks are left in a system that has been in place for dozens of years. We see commentary on progress, the worth of a life, and the medical system. While Four Dead Queens is a work of fiction, there are messages to take away.

Four Dead Queens is a debut that deserves the hype and praise it has received so far. With multiple features in place to keep the reader interested, a mystery you feel compelled to solve, and culprit you won’t see coming, Four Dead Queens will easily become a book to yell about.

This gets 5/5 crowns from me.

Xx
Megan

 

 

Beneath the Citadel: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria due out October 9th from Amulet books. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers, but there will be a lot of gushing because this book was incredible.

Beneath the Citadel is a multi-pov story that follows a group of teens trying to fight against the High Council and a world run by prophecies. We have Cassa, the daughter of rebels as the leader who never takes no for an answer; Evander, a daredevil able to manipulate silver; Newt, a boy with complex family issues and the ability to bend his body past normal human limits; and Alys, a seer who is afraid of telling the future but is nonetheless awesome. These four are thrown into a situation where the truth gets muddled, their friendship is tested, and they must ultimately decide what they’re fighting for: the government, themselves, or something more.

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I feel as if everyone is wary of multi-povs because the story may get lost or the characters will begin to sound the same. This is very much NOT the case in this book. Each character has a unique force driving them forward and it’s through the povs that you see not only how deeply their friendships with one another run, but who they are. Destiny crafts a world where her characters become close to you without realizing it, where you are rooting for them so damn hard. Every character tugged at me whether it was Cassa trying to fight for what had been done to her, or Evander painting on a smile and continuing to fight, or Newt trying to find his place, or Alys overcoming her anxiety to prove to herself what she can do. Readers will easily find a home in one of these characters.

The world-building in this book jumped off the page. It felt as if each sentence was put there with an intention to add another layer to the story. I found myself hating that I had to stop reading because I was hooked by every chapter or twist or detail.

Beneath the Citadel explores important themes, particularly those of trust, war, and what to do when the government may not be on your side. An added layer to this discussion is the ability for memories to be taken and shared. Among the major POVs, we are shown memories of important people on the playing field, meant to not only craft empathy, but make the stance that no issue is ever one sided – even if it’s the wrong issue. Just as the story challenges the main characters regarding their beliefs and memory, this book also asks the reader to do the same.

You will not be disappointed with this book as it has something for everyone with all of the characters involved and the heavy subject matter. It also has amazing gay, bisexual plus sized, and anxiety rep that came across effortlessly. By the time I finished, I not only wanted a whole other book, but the characters had become my friends (and I screamed at the ending which was like a punch to the gut).

Bottom line here: Don’t wait to pick up this book. Preorder it. Reserve it at your library. Pick it up in a store. It is well, well, worth it.

This gets 5/5 coins from me.

Xx

Megan

Not Even Bones: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer which is due out September 4th 2018 from HMH Books for Young Readers. I was sent a galley in exchange for an honest review.

There will be no spoilers so no need to click away.

Note that this book includes a lot of blood, mutilation, and gore so if you’re sensitive to this, take caution while reading.

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The story follows Nita, a teenage girl who finds comfort in dissecting dead bodies of the supernatural. Her and her mother sell the parts on the black market for money. Nita has always separated herself from killing supernatural beings, finding it easier to maintain her morality if she isn’t directly involved. This has gone well until her mother brings home a live subject and wants Nita’s help. Nita makes the decision to go against her mother and release the prisoner which as a result leads to her capture. The biggest problem with her capture: Nita is a supernatural herself with a rare skill that traders will stop at nothing to obtain.

I want to start off by saying I absolutely loved this book. It was dark, compelling, and deals extensively with the morality of a teenage girl who begins to question the actions of her entire life. Having been sheltered from the majority of the world, and exposed to crime since she was young, Nita has never had to wonder about much. She did her job for her mother and found comfort in it. But when she’s on her own, meeting other supernaturals and having to fight for her life, she realizes the lines she drew for herself may not still apply.

Schaeffer throws out the typical convention of a YA novel. Not all of the characters are likable. The plot is brutal. The reader is operating in a world that is more for villains than heroes. Even then, the word villains may not necessarily be the best fit as these characters are forced to act under conditions that challenge ‘being a good person’. Nita experiences every aspect of the black market – being a prisoner, escaping, befriending someone who had wanted to torture her, bringing down the system, and dealing with betrayal.

By the end, you’ve gone through a whirlwind of moral dilemmas and are left wondering what can possibly come next in the second book? And may I say I cannot wait until the next installment.

This gets 5/5 scalpels from me!

Xx

Megan

Summer Bird Blue: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman due to publish September 2018 from Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review. As always, there will be no spoilers, but there may be a lot of screaming!

Content Warning: This book is entirely about death and how to process the loss of a loved one. Please take caution while reading. 

Summer Bird Blue follows Rumi after the tragic death of her sister Lea and a move to Hawaii to live with her aunt at the request of her mother. Having been intertwined with Lea, the loss is too much to bear for Rumi. She feels abandoned by her mother. She’s angry at the world. She can no longer play or write music without thinking she’s betraying her sister. Music to Rumi means moving on and that’s something she doesn’t want to happen. She doesn’t want to forget Lea. At the same time, Rumi also has a compulsion within her to finish the song they had started before her death. This book centers around grief, misunderstanding, and not always being a good person. It is however brutally raw and attempts to give Rumi the tools she needs to heal herself and the remainder of her family.

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I want to start off by saying this book wrecked me because I saw so many parts of myself in Rumi. I think I cried a total of eight or nine times, all at different parts because Akemi’s writing was so strong and Rumi as a narrator was incredible. Rumi is not a typical main character. She’s made mistakes that get unraveled as she remembers Lea. She blames herself for not being a better sister and comes to terms with why she did certain things – whether they be out of jealousy, a self-serving purpose, or more. She lashes out against her mother who has her own issues dealing with the death of a daughter and her aunt who is trying to both give Rumi space and push her to leave the house.

On top of this, Rumi is coming to terms with her identity as asexual. Though she hasn’t quite settled on the label yet, it is the one that best fits. Her conflict lies in feeling she has to make a decision immediately and know herself because everyone else seems to already. Akemi’s portrayal of this is spot on and offer this message to teens: it’s okay to take time to figure out who you are and who you want to be.

Rumi’s journey through death is dark and messy. It doesn’t get wrapped up in a neat package. What stood out to me about Summer Bird Blue was who Rumi finds help in – a teenage boy next door Kai and an old man George Watanabe. Akemi presents a contrast between the two and what Rumi needs from both of them: Kai is a friend who stands by her and gives her a reason to laugh; Mr. Watanabe gives her tough love and a person to see herself in. In YA, there’s rarely an elderly figure that isn’t family involved in a main character’s life so to read this was a refreshing and welcome change. Together, Kai and Mr. Watanabe give Rumi invaluable friendships and push her to find her old self and the music she’s too long been apart from.

We also get an incredible look into a complex relationship between mother and daughter. For Rumi, this is a picture of always feeling more like a parent to Lea than a sibling and having to deal with thinking that her mother had a favorite child. For Rumi’s mother, it’s about doing what needed to be done for her family. Summer Bird Blue explores what it means to be family and what’s worth fighting for.

I can go on about this book forever. Akemi packs a powerful punch that will take readers on a painful, but unflinching journey about grief, identity, and healing from trauma you never expected to have. It’s the type of book that feels like the author put a piece of their soul into. Please put it on your TBRs immediately.

This gets 5/5 songs from me.

Xx
Megan