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Showing posts from 2017

The Sidekicks - Will Kostakis

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Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people--the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they've ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.

When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.

This is a novel about loss and about finding human connection in the wake of tragedy. The Sidekicks is a novel told through three points of view: Ryan, Harley, and Miles. All three boys had Isaac in common, but as they move through the loss of their friend, they realize they might actually have more in common than they previously thought.
Ryan's narrative was probably my favourite of the three, mostly because I could relate to him the most, particularly in the sexuality department. I liked that Ryan wasn't entirely a fan of Isaac, but al…

A reduction in posts...

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Dear Internet People:

I enjoy reading to a great degree, as many of you know. I love reviewing books as well, and sharing my excitement with people all over the world! So why do I have to start reducing my posts?

Well, first of all, I'm sure many of you have seen the controversies around blogging while serving on book award committees. Currently I'm on a committee that doesn't have such a strict policy, so I will still be doing reviews, but I am on the ballot to possibly serve on the 2020 Newbery committee, so at that point, I will have to keep things to a minimum here.

Secondly, what with an increased teaching load, and with my activities reviewing books for Canadian Review of Materials and Booklist Online, I will need to reduce my reviews in number and length a bit more often.

Thirdly, I am starting my own novel writing adventure, so I'm going to be trying to curate my reading a bit more in order to keep my own imagination on track.
BUT DON'T TAKE ME WRONG!  I wi…

White Rabbit - Caleb Roehrig

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Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to "talk." Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.


This review has been temporarily removed in anticipation of an official review being released through Booklist. Once that review has become public, this review wi…

The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo

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Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.


In the rapidly growing world of novels in verse, The Poet X is a wel…

Black Chuck - Regan McDonell

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Psycho. Sick. Dangerous… Réal Dufresne’s reputation precedes himself. But except for the nightmares, all Ré remembers is beating the living crap out of Shaun the night of his death. Now Shaun’s girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Evie Hawley, I pregnant and the father of her baby is dead. Their grief and guilt draw Evie and Réal together. But the closer they get, the faster things seem to fall apart. And falling in love might just be the card that knocks the whole house down.

McDonell’s novel is not one that was immediately on my radar, but Andrew Smith asked me if I had come across it, and what my thoughts were. So I am grateful to both Andrew and Orca Books for bringing this beautiful and painful novel to my attention.

McDonell’s background in creative writing and poetry is evident in this excellent debut novel. The pain and angst of each main character is palpable, and the struggles they each face within their individual relationships as well as their shared community as large are real an…

The Serpent's Secret - Sayantani DasGupta

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MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they've kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and eve…

[GUEST POST] Release - Patrick Ness

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More GUEST POST goodness from the amazing Keith Reynolds!

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume's Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It's a big day. Things go wrong. It's intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches...

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It's a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won't come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.


Adam is not having a good day. What I liked most about all of it though was the steady pace of it kept me enthralled. Despite Adam’s emotional highs (cute friendships and a soupçon of sex) and lows (basically everything else), my interest didn’t …

[GUEST POST] I Hate Everyone But You - Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn

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Today I have the pleasure of providing you all with a guest post from a good friend, Keith Reynolds. We have some similar ideas about books, and other times our ideas are pretty polarized. In any case, I respect his opinion, and I hope you all enjoy reading his review of this novel!

Picturebook Roundup!

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Apologies for the disappearance over the last little bit. I've been in the midst of a number of deadlines and have fallen behind on my reviewing. In any case, I'm back now, at least for today, with some really great picture books!

Oliver has always dreamed about where he will fit. Will he be in the mane of a unicorn? The tentacle of a pirate squid? The helmet of an astronaut? When he finally goes in search of his perfect place, he finds that trying to fit in is a lot harder than he thought. But like any puzzle, a little trial and error leads to a solution, and Oliver figures out exactly where he belongs.


This book is adorable, heartfelt, gorgeously colorful, and speaks to the real-life anxieties around feeling inadequate or being unable to fit in. Oliver is a delightful little fellow, trying to find a place and a purpose.



Frank loves being a spider, especially the part that involves having eight glorious legs. But one morning Frank wakes up missing a leg. One of his friends excl…

One of the Boys - Daniel Magariel

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The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.
This is a tough book to read. I need to make that clear straight away. This is where I put a trigger warning and note: child abuse, drug use, psychological trauma, death threats. If these are issues that will trigger you, then it is a good idea to let this one past.
THAT BEING SAID, the book is …

Pretty - Justin Sayre

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Set three months after Husky's conclusion and narrated by Sophie, Davis's best friend, Sayre details the private and public life of someone saddled with the adjective of pretty. Confident, stylish, and easygoing at school, Sophie is struggling in her home life. Stepping in to help as her mother's addiction spirals out of control, Sophie's aunt teaches the biracial Sophie new lessons about her heritage. While helping to heal the wounds inflicted by alcoholism, Sophie's renewed sense of self challenges her perception of place in the affluent, "liberal" neighborhood of Park Slope where she lives. Set against the backgrounds of Brooklyn and Harlem, Sayre challenges readers to confront superficial assumptions about race and beauty and breathes new life into the canon of middle-grade realistic fiction.

This book is pretty. I mean, the cover is beautiful, and the writing is solid, and the topics explored are timely and necessary. But the things that happen to So…

There's Someone Inside Your House - Stephanie Perkins

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It's been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she's still adjusting to her new life. And still haunter by her past in Hawaii. Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.
I've become a pretty big fan of thrillers and horror movies these last few years, at least where movies are concerned, so I when saw that this was a slasher for teens, I figured I'd give it a shot, and I wasn't disappointed!
Though the book itself is focused perhaps a bit more on a central romance than I would have liked, the killings and the swift pacing of the novel will keep young readers hooked. The revelation of the killer happened a bit earlier than I would have preferred, but the slow revelation of motivations …

Night of Cake & Puppets - Laini Taylor & Jim DiBartolo (Illus.)

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Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan.

It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.

This book is super cute, full of delightful romance and inventive magic. DiBartolo's illustrations beautifully complement the narrative. I will note that it's a companion novella to go along with Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so on its own, the book does lack a little bit of depth. However, when read in addition to the other novels, the story works remarkabl…

Dear Martin - Nic Stone

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Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In that media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.


If you've read The Hate U Give or All American Boys, then you'll de…

Bull, A Novel - David Elliott

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Minos thought he could Pull a fast one On me, Poseidon! God of the Sea! But I’m the last one On whom you Should try such a thing. The nerve of that guy. The balls. The audacity. I AM THE OCEAN! I got capacity! Depths! Darkness! Delphic power! So his sweet little plan Went big-time sour And his wife had a son Born with horns and a muzzle Who ended up In an underground puzzle. What is it with you mortals? You just can’t seem to learn: If you play with fire, babies, You’re gonna get burned.


I love my Greek mythology, and I love a good novel in verse, and I really appreciate it when an author plays with narrative and perspective! In the case of BULL, David Elliott manages to turn the story of the Minotaur onto its head by giving readers the opportunity to understand what went down, through the eyes of deliciously twisted Poseidon. Elliott employs humour, sexual references, double entendre, and many other delightful turns of phrase in this fast-paced retelling of a disturbing and tragic tale. Poseidon's nar…

Vanilla - Billy Merrell

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Vanilla is the story of two boys breaking up, and the reasons that bring their relationship to a head. Told in verse, Merrell's narrative explores asexuality and gender fluidity in the lives of teens against the backdrop of a world obsessed with sex. Being brought up in a society that sees sex as the ultimate expression of love in a relationship, asexuality is currently misunderstood by many and is ultimately the reason that Vanilla and Hunter feel unable to continue dating.

The writing and language are powerful, and the range of poetic forms ensures that Vanilla never feels monotonous even as it defies any type of simplistic chronological storytelling. Merrell's background as a poet is evident and I feel that the style elevates an already complex and messy story.

Vanilla and Hunter's relationship is the core of the story, and the failing of it due to differences in expectations around sex. But there is more to it than that. A third character eventually emerges as an importa…

Feral Youth - Edited by Shaun David Hutchinson

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At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and they were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive. Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, Feral Youth features characters, each complex and damaged in their own ways, who are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. 

Contributors: Shaun David Hutchinson - The main narrative Suzanne Young - A Violation of Rule 16 Marieke Nijkamp - The Butterfly EffectThe Chaos Effect Robin Talley - Look Down Stephanie Kuehn - A Caut…