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Showing posts from 2018

The Music of What Happens - Bill Konigsberg

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Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn't want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His "wives" and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won't like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he's the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they're willing to risk -- to get the thing they want the most.

This is a phenomenal book, in my humble opinion. There aren't too many books dealing with male sexual abuse, particularly in YA. Sex and sexuality are messy parts of young adulthood, but what this book does really well is discuss consent and the ways in which physical cues can be misinterpreted…

Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli

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I know, I know! I'm sorry! It's been a while. I'm still reading away, but have been putting out a lot of reviews in professional venues as opposed to my blog, so please forgive me. I'm coming back with a strong one, though, so hopefully that will help with the forgiveness! I present to you, Leah on the Offbeat!
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—espec…

Social Intercourse - Greg Howard

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Beck: The Golden Girls-loving, out-and-proud choir nerd growing up in the “ass-crack of the Bible belt.”

Jax: The Golden Boy, star quarterback with a slick veneer facing uncomfortable truths about himself and his past.

When Beck’s emotionally fragile dad starts dating the recently single (and supposedly lesbian) mom of former bully, Jaxon Parker, Beck is not having it. Jax isn’t happy about the situation either, holding out hope that his moms will reunite and restore the only stable home he’s ever known. Putting aside past differences, the boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.


This irreverent novel overflows with teenage hormones and drag-queen-worthy sass, all the while exploring topics of homophobia and religious discrimination, sexual fluidity, and toxic masculinity. Told through alternating viewpoi…

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All

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An incredible lineup of authors explore the lives and deaths of the wives of Henry VIII. A complex and in-depth examination of complicated people, each of whom has very different reasons for wanting to be queen (or not) and the sometimes bizarre behind-the-scenes reasons for their downfalls.

Henry VIII - M.T. Anderson
Katharine of Aragon - Candace Fleming
Anne Boleyn - Stephanie Hemphill
Jane Seymour - Lisa Ann Sandell
Anna of Cleves - Jennifer Donnelly
Catherine Howard - Linda Sue Park
Kateryn Parr - Deborah Hopkinsons
Queen Elizabeth I - M.T. Anderson

This thorough collection of detailed accounts is a history-lover's dream. Each queen's voice is distinctive, exploring each woman's ascent to the precarious position of Henry's wife. Henry's obsession with a male heir fuels much of his unhappiness with each woman, but others are also working in the background for their own purposes, throwing out false accusations of infidelity, incestuous relations, and other troubling alleg…

Tradition - Brendan Kiely

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Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.


As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

No. No is a word with a lot of power. At least, it's supposed to be. We live in a world…

We'll Fly Away - Bryan Bliss

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Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling.

This book is a lot of things. It is difficult to read, but it is worth reading for some many reasons. Bliss's narrative is like a well-intentioned punch in the gut (if that makes any sense... it does to me...)
We'll Fly Away is about love and family, hopefulness and hopelessness, friendship and sex, crime and consequences. Above all,…

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White

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Elizabeth Lavenza hasn't had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her "caregiver," and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything--except a friend. Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable--and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth's survival depends on managing Victor's dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
As I finish the last sentence and the loose pages of the bo…

Morris Finalists and Prediction!

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Each year I try to read as many of the Morris Finalists as I can and make a prediction about the winner. So here we go!

This lineup is incredible, not only because of the impressive range of topics being explored, but also because of the fact that the authors themselves are so diverse and each comes from such a unique background. I've read four of these and, unlike some other years, I am having a heck of a time making any predictions.

I know it would be easiest to say THUG will win, simply because of the impressive amount of accolades and the sheer number of weeks on the NYT Bestseller list. But as with so many awards that include much-hyped books, the accolades can sometimes (even subconsciously) act as a deterrent in awards processes. But I love the book and would love to see it get further rewarded.

At the same time, I would love to see Saints and Misfits get some love since it's part of the first year of publications coming out of Salaam Reads, and the book itself is phenomen…

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground - Rita Williams-Garcia

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Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.

Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.

This book is brief, but with a lot of emotional depth and the expected moments of tender-hearted, childhood honesty that Williams-Garcia is known for bringing to the page. Clayton and his grandfather, Cool Papa, get along very well, and Clayton feels more connected to him than his mom or dad. His mother is not a fan of their relationship though, having had her own compl…