Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar Book Review

Book Description

 coming-of-age story about transgender tween Obie, who didn’t think being himself would cause such a splash. For fans of Alex Gino’s George and Lisa Bunker’s Felix Yz.

Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.

As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water–to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I am always happy to see Trans books that are written by Trans people and especially when those books are meant for a younger group. I love that this book is written for middle grade and gives the experience of being Trans in middle school.

First off, I did find this book challenging to read at times as a Trans person as it does include instances of bullying and Transphobia both by Obie’s peers and adults in his life. While these parts are difficult to read, I did think that they are important topics that this book addresses. I think that the book portrays this in realistic ways and shows how difficult it could be for a Trans person to just exist much less thrive.

There was so much that I really enjoyed in this story and I am so glad that it exists for the younger generation. I loved that the author points out that there is no one way to be transgender and how this is only one story about a Transgender youth. I also like how the author constantly tells the reader through the story and in the author’s note to make sure we aren’t using other people’s words against ourselves.

Characters: In this story you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with Obie. You get to meet some people who are supportive in Obie’s life as well as others who are not as supportive.

I really liked the relationship that we get to see between Obie and each member of his family. I liked how each member of his family supports him and each of them are able to help him in different aspects of his life. I loved seeing how Obie would rely on his brother for relationship advice and loved how Jae-sung supports him through his first relationship.

I also loved the relationship between Obie and Charlie, and how Charlie was just so willing to learn. While I hated that Obie was outed to Charlie, I do like Charlie’s response in that moment and how she is able to walk Obie through that moment while allowing him to also have mixed feelings about it.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person and is told through Obie’s perspective. I really liked that we get to see everything through his point of view and follow along as he experiences different things.

Author Information

Schuyler is the first trans athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA D1 men’s team, and the only to have competed for all four years. He is an internationally-celebrated inspirational speaker and a respected advocate for inclusion, body acceptance, and mental health awareness.

Schuyler graduated from Harvard College in May 2019 with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology. His studies focused on social emotional learning, emotional intelligence, and education. He is a tireless advocate for inclusion through speaking engagements and social media. Schuyler also holds on-going advisory roles with Monte Nido & Affiliates (the leading eating disorder treatment provider), USA Swimming, the Harvard Medical School Primary Care Review – among others – and is a research assistant at Harvard University.

August 2021 TBR

Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology by Jess Zimmerman

A fresh cultural analysis of female monsters from Greek mythology, and an invitation for all women to reclaim these stories as inspiration for a more wild, more “monstrous” version of feminism

The folklore that has shaped our dominant culture teems with frightening female creatures. In our language, in our stories (many written by men), we underline the idea that women who step out of bounds–who are angry or greedy or ambitious, who are overtly sexual or not sexy enough–aren’t just outside the norm. They’re unnatural. Monstrous. But maybe, the traits we’ve been told make us dangerous and undesirable are actually our greatest strengths.

Through fresh analysis of 11 female monsters, including Medusa, the Harpies, the Furies, and the Sphinx, Jess Zimmerman takes us on an illuminating feminist journey through mythology. She guides women (and others) to reexamine their relationships with traits like hunger, anger, ugliness, and ambition, teaching readers to embrace a new image of the female hero: one that looks a lot like a monster, with the agency and power to match.

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin 

“What if I played football?” I ask. As soon as it’s out of my mouth, I feel stupid. Even suggesting it feels like I’ve overstepped some kind of invisible line we’ve all agreed not to discuss. We don’t talk about how Mara is different from other girls. We don’t talk about how Mara is gay but no one says so. But when I do stuff like this, I worry it gets harder for us all to ignore what’s right in front of us. I direct my gaze to Quinn. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s frickin’ genius,” he says.

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

Britta Lundin’s sophomore novel will give readers all the feels, and make them stand up and cheer. 

Often, women try to avoid the feeling of monstrousness, of being grotesquely alien, by tamping down those qualities that we’re told fall outside the bounds of natural femininity. But monsters also get to do what other female characters–damsels, love interests, and even most heroines–do not. Monsters get to be complete, unrestrained, and larger than life. Today, women are becoming increasingly aware of the ways rules and socially constructed expectations have diminished us. After seeing where compliance gets us–harassed, shut out, and ruled by predators–women have never been more ready to become repellent, fearsome, and ravenous.

The Other Side of the Sky (The Other Side of the Sky #1) by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner 

New York Times bestselling author duo Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have crafted a gripping tale of magic and logic, fate and choice, and a deadly love. Perfect for fans of Laini Taylor and Brandon Sanderson.

Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines, powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the Surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope.

North’s and Nimh’s lives are entwined—though their hearts can never be. Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland 

The Hating Game meets I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter in this irresistible romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?

Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas 

Gilmore Girls meets Red, White and Royal Blue in this witty and warm-hearted novel about a trans teen finding his place in the world.

There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, D.C. and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls.

And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality.

Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity.

People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things–like who you are and who you love–are not up for debate.

Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo by Mansoor Adayfi

This moving, eye-opening memoir of an innocent man detained at Guantánamo Bay for fifteen years tells a story of humanity in the unlikeliest of places and an unprecedented look at life at Guantánamo.

At the age of 18, Mansoor Adayfi left his home in Yemen for a cultural mission to Afghanistan. He never returned. Kidnapped by warlords and then sold to the US after 9/11, he was disappeared to Guantánamo Bay, where he spent the next 14 years as Detainee #441.

Don’t Forget Us Here tells two coming-of-age stories in parallel: a makeshift island outpost becoming the world’s most notorious prison and an innocent young man emerging from its darkness. Arriving as a stubborn teenager, Mansoor survived the camp’s infamous interrogation program and became a feared and hardened resistance fighter leading prison riots and hunger strikes. With time though, he grew into the man nicknamed “Smiley Troublemaker”: a student, writer, advocate, and historian. While at Guantánamo, he wrote a series of manuscripts he sent as letters to his attorneys, which he then transformed into this vital chronicle, in collaboration with award-winning writer Antonio Aiello. With unexpected warmth and empathy, Mansoor unwinds a narrative of fighting for hope and survival in unimaginable circumstances, illuminating the limitlessness of the human spirit. And through his own story, he also tells Guantánamo’s story, offering an unprecedented window into one of the most secretive places on earth and the people—detainees and guards alike—who lived there with him. Twenty years after 9/11, Guantánamo remains open, and at a moment of due reckoning, Mansoor Adayfi helps us understand what actually happened there—both the horror and the beauty—a stunning record of an experience we cannot afford to forget.

Cazadora (Wolves of No World #2) by Romina Garber, Romina Russell

In Cazadora, the follow-up to Lobizona, Romina Garber continues to weave Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.\

Living Beyond Borders: Stories About Growing Up Mexican in America by Margarita Longoria 

Twenty stand-alone short stories, essays, poems, and more from celebrated and award-winning authors make up this YA anthology that explores the Mexican American experience. With works by Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, David Bowles, Rubén Degollado, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Diana López, Xavier Garza, Trinidad Gonzales, Alex Temblador, Aida Salazar, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Sanchez Garza, Dominic Carrillo, Angela Cervantes, Carolyn Dee Flores, René Saldaña Jr., Laura Perez, Justine Narro, Daniel García Ordáz, and Anna Meriano.

In this mixed-media collection of short stories, personal essays, poetry, and comics, this celebrated group of authors share the borders they have crossed, the struggles they have pushed through, and the two cultures they continue to navigate as Mexican American. Living Beyond Borders is at once an eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and hopeful love letter from the Mexican American community to today’s young readers.

Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries #2) by TJ Klune Book Review

Author Information

TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories. 

Book Description

Flash Fire is the explosive sequel to The Extraordinaries by USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams, but with new heroes arriving in Nova City it’s up to Nick and his friends to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous. Which is a lot to handle for a guy who just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley, Macmillan, and Tor-Forge for an advanced reader’s copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Thoughts and Themes: I really enjoyed book 1 so I was so happy to get a chance to read this one and this book did not disappoint. I rarely read series as they come out because I don’t feel the need to read the next book as soon as it comes out but this was one of those that I had to know what happens now.

It is quite difficult to provide you all with a review without ruining book 1 so if you haven’t read that book yet, go do that before you continue reading this review.

I love the way Nick finds out about certain things in this book, I also like the way he responds to the things that he finds out. It’s like his whole life is unraveling before his eyes and as he thinks he has it all together it only unravels some more. The way this is done kept me reading even when I guessed where the story was going.

Something that I was really hoping was going to change with this book or at least be brought up was the amount of police admiring went on in the first book. I am glad that this book did begin the conversation about police brutality especially as Nick’s dad did beat up a man. While I was quite upset that Gibby and her family were the ones to bring up the conversation, I am glad that it did happen. I also liked how we do see Nick struggle with what it means for his dad to be a cop and begin to ask questions rather than just having it be fact.

Characters: The characters in this book, Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz are just as great as they were in book 1. I just love how they formed a found family and watching as how their relationships develop through the course of this book. I really like how we get brief glimpses of each of their parents and see how those relationships are developed as well.

I liked getting to see Nick and his dad’s relationship develop throughout the course of this book, both as he questions his dad being a cop and also questions his dad keeping things from him. I liked getting to see how their relationship changed throughout time and I just like how casual they are with each other. It very much is a teenage child and parental relationship which is funny at times.

Writing Style: This story is written in third person through the perspective of the main character, Nick. I like that the story is told in third person because you get a glimpse at what the others are doing but you don’t know what’s going on unless Nick is around. I like getting things through Nick’s perspective because it feels like things are all over the place the whole time so you are for sure inside his head.

What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson Book Review

Author Information

Cory was born in Idaho and grew up an outdoor-girl in the rugged Middle Rockies. Her father, a park ranger, encouraged her to explore the woods and find “what beauty there is” in the world. He taught her to camp, and how to survive in the forest in winter. She later learned they didn’t have a lot of money, but as a child she never knew it. She had two best friends: Nature, and books.

All Cory’s life she’s felt the strong bonds of family and siblings. Her writing is based in these close relationships, and in the gritty experience of growing up in the wild Rocky Mountains. 

From an early age, Cory loved books. Her family often visited the library, where she discovered White Fang. Within its pages she learned about courage, and the power of kindness. She read all the time. By seventh grade, she was writing. For years, Cory underlined and dog-eared the pages of books, picking scenes and phrases apart until she could decently put them together again. She became fascinated with the mystery of the Great Story.

 Over time, Cory cultivated a writing style. Chief among them is her love of stark prose, which she attributes to Cormac McCarthy. The Road captivated her for years—and forever, she thinks. There are too many YA authors to mention, but she’s compelled to bring up Laurie Halse Anderson, Madeleine L’Engle, Markus Zusak, Patrick Ness, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Cory started writing What Beauty There Is at a rough time. Her marriage had just ended and she suddenly found herself alone, with a son and daughter to protect. Within a month or so, she had an empty pantry and an eviction notice. She was desperate. The story of Jack and Matty arose out of this grief—and her desire to take care of her children, when she didn’t know if she could.

Ava’s story is also deeply meaningful to Cory. When she was Ava’s age, Cory was assaulted, and for a lot of years she believed a part of her had broken. She thought that she’d developed a cold heart, that she’d lost the ability to love. It took a long time to learn that this wasn’t true. Hard things can hurt us, but it doesn’t mean we’re broken.

Cory now lives in the Wasatch Mountains, where she spends countless hours writing, sometimes in the woods with just a pencil and paper. Always with a full heart.

She hopes you enjoy What Beauty There Is.

Book Description

Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.

Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.

Choices. They come at a price.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group for the advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: This book did take me a while to get into as it does start off slow, I’m glad that I stuck with it though because less than halfway through I didn’t want to put it down. Make sure to look into trigger warnings for this book before you start reading it, there is on page suicide, violence, murder, and abuse in this book.

I really liked how this book introduces you to the Jack and Matty’s story and walks you through moments of their past to explain the present. There are so many moments in this story that I just want to protect these two kids whose circumstances happen due to their parents. This book takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions as you hope for the best possible ending for these characters you can’t help but love.

There’s a point in this book that I just wanted to toss my kindle across the room but I can’t talk about that scene without ruining the whole story. Just know that your heart will be breaking multiple times for the boys.

If any of you read this please message me, that ending has me so confused and I need to discuss it. I don’t know what happened and I know its probably up to the reader but I need to know what others thought. Should I be happy crying or sad crying about that ending?

Characters: In this story you get introduced to a range of characters but our main characters are Jack, Ava, and Matty. I really liked that each of these characters read the age they were. Even though Ava and were going through things that teenagers shouldn’t have to deal with, they still responded to those things in a teenage manner. They handled themselves well and they managed the things happening well but it was done in a way that remained true to their age and experiences.

I enjoyed reading the relationship that develops between Ava and Jack , especially the trust that they establish between themselves. I liked seeing how their past affects the way they respond to others and how they put that aside for each other.

Something else that I enjoyed through this book was the relationship that each character had with Matty. This is one of the characters that you instantly adore because he’s an innocent child and much like everyone else you want to protect him. I liked that he read as a young kid but there were moments that he pointed out to others that he was aware of the things happening around him.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person through a narrator that seems to be watching as the story unfolds. I liked to think of the narrator as the boy’s mother watching them from above and hoping for someone to save her sons. I also liked to think of the narrator as Ava at some times, like was Ava ever real. This book made me question what was real at times because of the italic portions that are included as well as the epilogue.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides Book Review

Author Information

Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient was his first novel and was the biggest-selling debut in the world in 2019. It spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list and sold in a record-breaking forty-nine countries. Alex lives in London.

Book Description

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life. 

Review

Thank you to Celadon Books, Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for the advanced reader and advanced listening copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: I rarely read mystery books and I haven’t read many since I was a teenager. I used to love this type of book so I’ve been trying to get into them again. I listened to this one on audiobook and I believe that I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had read the book.

I’m not a big fan of the way that the mystery unravels itself in the end of the book, I was really enjoying it until the last hour of listening. I found that this portion of the book sped up but it also was a little off to me. I found that the book kept speeding up while they were close to figuring things out only to slow back down with filler information. While I like twists and turns in the book, I would like the tension to remain in the story without it feeling like it was gone.

Something that I did enjoy about this book was the way that Greek Mythology was weaved into the murder mystery. While the beginning of this story was slow to start because it had to introduce the murder mystery and the Greek aspects, I found that the best part to read.

Characters: In this book you get to meet a few characters as they are interreacting with Mariana. I liked Mariana as a main character and found that she was easy to follow along with. I liked getting to learn a bit from her past and also see how that past informs the way she investigates this murder.

I also liked the short pieces that we get from the male perspective. I thought those pieces were just the right amount of creepy and the way they are written kind of deter you from figuring out who did it.

I wasn’t really invested in any of the characters throughout this book. I wanted to like Mariana but she was just the character we needed to tell the story to me. I did like Zoe though and really wanted to believe the best of her even as Mariana starts to doubt her. I like the relationship that Mariana has with Zoe and also the relationships we get to see that Mariana has with some of her patients.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person when it is about Mariana and then it switches to first person when it is the male perspective. I thought this was an interesting way to write this because it makes you feel like the male is our narrator for the rest of the story. I wondered if this was the case and someone was watching Mariana’s every move throughout the book. I really liked having the shift in point of view included because it throws you off and it also makes you question the reliability of our narrator.

I liked that the way this book is written makes you question who is believable. I was wondering the whole time if I should believe what Mariana thinks or what those around her are trying to tell her. I liked that Mariana is a therapist because that makes you think that she must be reliable. The way that the book sets up this story makes you believe that she is the only one who is reliable throughout this whole story. It really isn’t until the end of the book that you start to think about how reliable Mariana is.

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons Book Review

Author Information

Isaac Fitzsimons is the author of The Passing Playbook (Dial BFYR/PRH, 2021). He
writes Young Adult fiction featuring intentionally marginalized characters so that every
reader can see themselves reflected in literature.

His background includes performing sketch comedy in college, learning how to play
three songs on the banjo, and, of course, writing.

His dream vacation would be traveling around Europe via sleeper train to see every top-
tier soccer team play a home game. He currently lives outside DC and works for an arts
advocacy nonprofit in the city.

Social Media Links:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/isaacfitzy
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/isaacfitzbooks/

Book Description

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is coming to shelves near you on June 1st.

Thoughts and Themes: I was a bit skeptical about starting this book because I don’t really like sports themed books but I’m glad that I kept reading on. There is so much more to this story than just the sports plot line.

I liked so much about this and my feelings were all over the place as I read this story. There are some heartwarming moments that I was just rooting for Spencer and Justice in, and then there were heart breaking moments too. There were moments in which I was angry along with Spencer but then sad for Justice. I just wanted to protect both of the main characters from enduring any harm, and give them the safe space that they longed for.

I liked how this book has being queer and belonging to a religious family. I thought it was good to see how Justice’s family being religious affected him being out and how that went into his relationship with Spencer. This was such a hard thing to read through and recall how my coming out experience was because of my religious upbringing.

I have so much to say about this book and all of the feelings that I had while reading it. This is definitely going to be added to my list of comfort reads as I loved it so much.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters in their interactions with Spencer. You get to meet the love interest, Justice, the coach, another trans student, Riley, Spencer’s brother, Theo, Spencer’s best friend, Aiden, and several of the soccer team players.

I found each of the characters that you meet through this story to be lovable. I really loved the way the soccer team embraced Spencer when he comes out and how unexpected that is. I like how this shows a different side to sport team members, and how transphobia doesn’t have to exist in that space. I thought that was the most important thing that was shown, the book really shows that transphobia and homophobia have no place in sports, and that they don’t have to exist in sports.

I also really loved how supportive Spencer’s family is of him, I like how even if they struggle with the right thing to say or do they still support him. I liked getting pieces of Spencer’s brother in the story and seeing how Spencer tries to take up less space because of Theo being Autistic. I think seeing Spencer navigate being out and knowing how much attention that would bring to his family was good to see because we see him finally think about himself rather than everyone before him.

I really enjoyed Justice as our love interest and as a side character. I thought he was well developed and really liked the complexity he deals with being queer and having religion play a large role in his life. I thought this was really important to see especially as we see that both those identities can coexist, both peacefully but also negatively. I thought it was good to see the contrast between Justice’s families’ beliefs and what he believed. I also really liked how Justice just accepted that Spencer is trans and there was no dilemma with that.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person with a somewhat all knowing narrator. I tend to get frustrated with stories being told in third person but I actually liked this pov for this book. I liked that we got to read about so many different feelings and thoughts. I also liked that we got to follow different characters but I thought it was well done so that it didn’t feel like there was too many things going on.

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan Book Review

Author Information

Jennifer Dugan is a writer, geek, and romantic who writes the kinds of stories she wishes she had growing up. In addition to being a young adult novelist, she is also the writer/creator of two indie comics. She lives in New York with her family, dogs, and an evil cat that is no doubt planning to take over the world.

Book Description

In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Teen for the advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: It took me a bit to really get into this story as I wasn’t really a fan of either of the characters or the plot when I first started reading it. Once I got to about 50% in though I was hooked and needed to know what really would happen to our two main characters, and not just to their relationship.

Something that I really enjoyed in this book is how it explores discovering queerness and being visibly queer. I really enjoyed the nuanced discussions that this book brings up about being out and what that means for different people. I thought it was important that the discussion about what it means to be out, and how being out may do more harm than good happened. I really liked how this book points out that queer people don’t have to be out in order to be valid, and how coming out doesn’t have to be the goal if you are queer.

I really enjoyed reading these characters be teenagers and have some of the typical teenage problems. I liked that we got to see them both in their classroom setting and also in their respective activities. I liked the setting for the story as it made sense to me, but sometimes I did wonder why those around them didn’t get more involved. I did wonder how some of the characters kind of faded into the background as you read on when they were important at the start of the book.

Characters: In this book you are introduced to a bunch of characters, but our main characters are Morgan and Ruby. You also get to meet both of their friends, and get a glimpse into their home lives as well when we meet their family members.

I have mixed feelings about the relationship between Morgan and Ruby, and was not content with the way that the story ended. There were moments that I just kept getting angry with either character as they kept hurting each other, and this doesn’t really solve itself in the end.

On the other hand, I thought that the two characters had great chemistry with each other and really enjoyed reading as they figured out their feelings for each other. I think their relationship with each other is so nuanced because of outside things that impact how they interact with each other. Morgan is so stuck on not wanting to have to hide her queerness and her belief that no queer person should be in the closet, that she doesn’t really see beyond that. Ruby is scared of what others would think if she pursues a relationship with a girl, and also knows what her mother’s reaction would be so she holds herself back from pursuing what she wants.

When it comes to the family units in this book, I couldn’t stand Ruby’s mother. She just was looking out for herself and blamed Ruby for so many of her shortcomings. I thought it was so sad that Ruby felt that she was living for someone else rather than for herself. I really did enjoy the relationship that Ruby has with Billy though and how supportive he is of her through the whole book. I liked that his support was more silent than vocal but he made it known that he loved her.

I really liked reading about Morgan’s family and seeing the contrast of her family and Rubys. I think this also really added to the complexity of their relationship and it was something that Morgan never really acknowledges. Morgan has parents and a brother who support her being queer and also are able to financially provide for her. I think it was important to see the divide between Morgan and Ruby when it came to socioeconomic status and how this also plays into the dynamics of their relationship.

Writing Style: This book is told in first person through dual perspective which I love. I can never decide if I prefer one POV or multiple POV because I think both work. I think that each book really calls for different styles and dual POV works for this book. I liked getting to see both of their perspectives of different events.

If this book did not include dual perspectives it would be really easy for you to sympathize with only one character and really hate the other. The way it is written, you start to sympathize with one as you read their section but then you get the other’s POV and realize that they both have their flaws. I think this was one of my favorite things in this book, neither of our main characters is perfect.

May 2021 TBR

I actually finished one of these at the end of April but I thought that I wouldn’t be able to finish it. After making this post I realized that there is a lot more on my May TBR than I had actually accounted for. Library holds came in, physical books arrive, and libro.fm ALCs came into my inbox. We’ll see what I ended up reading at the end of May. All links go to Goodreads.

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver 

When Liam Cooper’s older brother Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run, Liam has to not only learn to face the world without one of the people he loved the most, but also face the fading relationship with his two best friends.

Feeling more alone and isolated than ever, Liam finds themself sharing time with Marcus, Ethan’s best friend, and through Marcus, Liam finds the one person that seems to know exactly what they’re going through, for the better, and the worse.

This book is about grief. But it’s also about why we live. Why we have to keep moving on, and why we should.

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan 

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston 

Set on a family-run interstellar freighter called the Harland and a mysterious remote space station, E. K. Johnston’s latest is story of survival and self-determination.

Pendt Harland’s family sees her as a waste of food on their long-haul space cruiser when her genes reveal an undesirable mutation. But if she plays her cards right she might have a chance to do much more than survive. During a space-station layover, Pendt escapes and forms a lucky bond with the Brannick twins, the teenage heirs of the powerful family that owns the station. Against all odds, the trio hatches a long-shot scheme to take over the station and thwart the destinies they never wished for.

All Kinds of Other by James Sie 

In this tender, nuanced coming-of-age love story, two boys—one who is cis and one who is trans—have been guarding their hearts to protect themselves, until their feelings for each other give them a reason to stand up to their fears.

Two boys are starting at a new school.

Jules is just figuring out what it means to be gay and hasn’t totally decided whether he wants to be out at his new school. His parents and friends have all kinds of opinions, but for his part, Jules just wants to make the basketball team and keep his head down.

Jack is trying to start over after a best friend break-up. He followed his actor father clear across the country to LA, but he’s also totally ready to leave his past behind. Maybe this new school where no one knows him is exactly what he needs.

When the two boys meet, the sparks are undeniable. But then a video surfaces linking Jack to a pair of popular transgender vloggers, and the revelations about Jack’s past thrust both Jack and Jules into the spotlight they’ve been trying to avoid. Suddenly both boys have a choice to make—between lying low where it’s easier or following their hearts.

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone 

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom. 

What’s Not To Love by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka Book Review

Author Information

mily Wibberley grew up in Southern California, but instead of working on her nonexistent tan at the beach, she spent her time reading, making music and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Shortly after falling for her best friend, Austin Siegemund-Broka, she attended Princeton University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2014 with a degree in Psychology. She and Austin now live and write YA contemporary together. Their debut, Always Never Yours, will be published by Penguin Books in Summer 2018.

Visit her website at www.emilywibberley.com and sign up for her mailing list to hear about exclusive giveaways and YA book news.

Also check out Emily’s and Austin’s new website at www.emilyandaustinwrite.com.

Austin Siegemund-Broka cowrites YA contemporary with Emily Wibberley. His debut with Wibberley, ALWAYS NEVER YOURS, publishes from Puffin/Speak in 2018.

A former journalist in the entertainment industry, where he covered the courts and, yes, met a couple celebrities, he graduated from Harvard in 2014 with a degree in English and a focus on Shakespeare. When he’s not writing (or reading) YA, he enjoys combing every corner of contemporary music and watching Buffy with Emily.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Book Description

An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead.

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: I was actually pretty surprised with how much I enjoyed reading this one. I was a little concerned going in to this book because from the look at the cover it isn’t something that I typically read. I’m glad that I gave it a try though because I enjoyed remembering what it is like to be in high school.

Right from the start of this book you get the enemies to lovers story of our two main characters which is great. I really liked the competition between these two characters and how realistic it was. I liked how there was no outside pressure on these two students to be exceptional so it was was their own choice to do this.

I also liked how things didn’t quickly progress into these two characters being in love with each other. I liked how this was complicated for them to navigate and they struggled with these new feelings. I liked watching them not know how to interact with each other when it wasn’t something they were used to.

There were so many moments that I thought were hilarious and it really reminded me of watching people in my high school courses. I remember being in the school for advanced studies and watching everything be a competition for people. I remember the teachers fueling this competition so I really liked how this story made it so that the teachers and other students were frustrated by the competition.

Characters: In this story you are introduced to a few characters through the perspective of Alison. You get to meet Dylan, who is Alison’s best friend, and Ethan, who is Alison’s rival. I really liked the friendship that you see between Dylan and Alison and also liked how Dylan’s relationship with Olivia affects this. When I was reading this book it really made me want to hand it to my best friend as a like I’m sorry for the person I became when I was dating in high school. I liked how we see Dylan on her own and then Dylan with Olivia to point out the big difference there is.

I also liked watching the relationship that Alison and Ethan have with each other and how it affects those around them. I really thought it was hilarious to watch Alison’s parents mock her about Ethan and insist that something was there between them. I liked watching how those around them such as teachers and class mates got frustrated with the constant feuding.

Something that I wasn’t really a fan of though is how these characters weren’t too developed. I wanted to know more about them beyond their feud. I did wonder if that was intentional though so that we could see that there wasn’t much to them besides that. I really wanted to know if there was more to them than this fighting.

The only thing that I was a bit ehh about was the lack of diversity with out cast of characters. I loved reading them but they did seem like cookie cutter copies of each other.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Alison which I really enjoyed. I like that this story is told through her perspective and we don’t get to see anyone else’s feelings. The fact that the story is told in her perspective keeps it in high school and makes the story feel right for the age it is written. I thought it being in her perspective made it funny when adults would get involved since she insisted she knew better than them. I liked how often people had to remind her to just be a teenager.

What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson Book Review

Author Information

Cory was born in Idaho and grew up an outdoor-girl in the rugged Middle Rockies. Her father, a park ranger, encouraged her to explore the woods and find “what beauty there is” in the world. He taught her to camp, and how to survive in the forest in winter. She later learned they didn’t have a lot of money, but as a child she never knew it. She had two best friends: Nature, and books.

All Cory’s life she’s felt the strong bonds of family and siblings. Her writing is based in these close relationships, and in the gritty experience of growing up in the wild Rocky Mountains. 

From an early age, Cory loved books. Her family often visited the library, where she discovered White Fang. Within its pages she learned about courage, and the power of kindness. She read all the time. By seventh grade, she was writing. For years, Cory underlined and dog-eared the pages of books, picking scenes and phrases apart until she could decently put them together again. She became fascinated with the mystery of the Great Story.

 Over time, Cory cultivated a writing style. Chief among them is her love of stark prose, which she attributes to Cormac McCarthy. The Road captivated her for years—and forever, she thinks. There are too many YA authors to mention, but she’s compelled to bring up Laurie Halse Anderson, Madeleine L’Engle, Markus Zusak, Patrick Ness, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Cory started writing What Beauty There Is at a rough time. Her marriage had just ended and she suddenly found herself alone, with a son and daughter to protect. Within a month or so, she had an empty pantry and an eviction notice. She was desperate. The story of Jack and Matty arose out of this grief—and her desire to take care of her children, when she didn’t know if she could.

Ava’s story is also deeply meaningful to Cory. When she was Ava’s age, Cory was assaulted, and for a lot of years she believed a part of her had broken. She thought that she’d developed a cold heart, that she’d lost the ability to love. It took a long time to learn that this wasn’t true. Hard things can hurt us, but it doesn’t mean we’re broken.

Cory now lives in the Wasatch Mountains, where she spends countless hours writing, sometimes in the woods with just a pencil and paper. Always with a full heart.

She hopes you enjoy What Beauty There Is.

Book Description

Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.

Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.

Choices. They come at a price.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group for the advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: This book did take me a while to get into as it does start off slow, I’m glad that I stuck with it though because less than halfway through I didn’t want to put it down. Make sure to look into trigger warnings for this book before you start reading it, there is on page suicide, violence, murder, and abuse in this book.

I really liked how this book introduces you to the Jack and Matty’s story and walks you through moments of their past to explain the present. There are so many moments in this story that I just want to protect these two kids whose circumstances happen due to their parents. This book takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions as you hope for the best possible ending for these characters you can’t help but love.

There’s a point in this book that I just wanted to toss my kindle across the room but I can’t talk about that scene without ruining the whole story. Just know that your heart will be breaking multiple times for the boys.

If any of you read this please message me, that ending has me so confused and I need to discuss it. I don’t know what happened and I know its probably up to the reader but I need to know what others thought. Should I be happy crying or sad crying about that ending?

Characters: In this story you get introduced to a range of characters but our main characters are Jack, Ava, and Matty. I really liked that each of these characters read the age they were. Even though Ava and were going through things that teenagers shouldn’t have to deal with, they still responded to those things in a teenage manner. They handled themselves well and they managed the things happening well but it was done in a way that remained true to their age and experiences.

I enjoyed reading the relationship that develops between Ava and Jack , especially the trust that they establish between themselves. I liked seeing how their past affects the way they respond to others and how they put that aside for each other.

Something else that I enjoyed through this book was the relationship that each character had with Matty. This is one of the characters that you instantly adore because he’s an innocent child and much like everyone else you want to protect him. I liked that he read as a young kid but there were moments that he pointed out to others that he was aware of the things happening around him.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person through a narrator that seems to be watching as the story unfolds. I liked to think of the narrator as the boy’s mother watching them from above and hoping for someone to save her sons. I also liked to think of the narrator as Ava at some times, like was Ava ever real. This book made me question what was real at times because of the italic portions that are included as well as the epilogue.