Adelaide was looking to escape an arranged marriage to a boring cousin and had her hopes pinned on escaping to the colony of Adoria with a group called the Glittering Court. In fact, Adelaide wasn’t even her real name… just the name she assumed as a part of her scheme. Her lady’s maid, Adelaide, was supposed to go with the Glittering Court since their household was downsizing staff and this arrangement could set her up for a comfortable life in the colonies. The only problem being, of course, that she didn’t want to leave her homeland of Osfrid to move to the New World. Seeing a golden opportunity, the countess helped Adelaide to leave town in order to seek out her family up north — and then assumed her identity. I loved that Adelaide was both headstrong and intelligent; cunning and kind. Such a great role model of female empowerment!
Aside from Adelaide, there were lots of great characters, and even some characters I loved to hate. There were also many reasons, apart from the characters themselves, to like this story. Whether you were drawn in by the glitz and glamour on the cover or by the promise of adventure, scandal, and/or a love story, I am confident that you won’t be disappointed.
Even for people who don’t go to church (or some other house of worship), there is often a place to which they turn for comfort and solace. For me, it’s any quiet place with lots of pillows and a warm blanket. I like to make myself a little “nest” so I can cozy up to refresh my body and mind. My husband recharges his spirit by spending time in nature; most often, the Adirondack Mountains. In this story, the Green Street Cinema is like church to Ethan. Up until his father died, three years prior, the Green Street was where they spent a lot of quality time. Not only did they bond over the movies they watched, but they used their time together to talk about bigger things like “what it means to be human.”
Since his father’s death, Ethan began working at the Green Street — and he even ended up becoming the de facto manager when Randy took off. But the Green Street is in major trouble. Aside from the major debts that can’t be paid off with the minuscule ticket sales to the small group of cinephiles who frequent the theater, there are also some major structural problems and a rat infestation to contend with. All of this is happening, of course, at the same time that his former best friend and crush, Raina, came back to town. This literal girl next door seemed to fall off the face of the Earth when she was “discovered” by an agent and whisked away to make some cheesy blockbuster action/sci-fi movies. Even when Ethan’s father died, she didn’t respond to any of his text messages and emails, so Ethan never expected to hear from her again. But now she is back and seems to need his support to make it through a major breakdown.
I loved the motley crew of workers from the theater — the “Lost Boys” to Ethan’s “Wendy” (the nickname that even appears on his name badge). But, most of all, I really appreciated both Ethan and Raina’s vulnerability and their willingness to admit that they didn’t have all the answers. It sometimes feels like young adult characters have their stuff together all too well and that they have a confidence and direction that don’t feel all too natural. (Or maybe I am just projecting my own uncertainty from my teen years and can’t understand what it would be like to feel so self-assured?!?) Either way, these characters felt very “real,” as did their up-hill battle to save the Green Street from being demolished and replaced with luxury condos.
Princess Mera was the heir to the throne of Xebel, but that didn’t mean much when Xebel was a mere colony of Atlantis. While the Xebellian military was focused on overthrowing their oppressors from Atlantis, Mera had a plan of her own. She was determined to find and assassinate Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman — the long-lost heir to Atlantis. What she didn’t count on, nevertheless, was the fact that Arthur Curry was such a good person. Though she despised the current leaders of Atlantis and the way they had treated her people, she quickly came to realize that Arthur not only didn’t know anything about Atlantis but was raised, by his human father, to be kind and compassionate. And, as if it wasn’t bad enough that she started to doubt her mission to kill Arthur, Mera even started to fall for him. Yeah… There’s plenty of drama for readers who, like me, also enjoy shows like Riverdale!
I am a fan of comic book characters, though I certainly don’t know as much about them as my husband and some of my other more-geeky friends. I am really enjoying how both DC and Marvel are reintroducing their characters with books geared toward young adult readers, though, so I can catch up on all of their back stories! Whether you are a long-time fan who wants to check out the re-boot or a n00b (like me) who mostly knows about these characters because of the popular movie franchises, I am confident that you will enjoy this and other forthcoming graphic novels from DC Ink — like Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle (due out 5/7/19).
I often enjoy reading memoirs because they show some of the most amazing transformations. It’s incredible to read about children who faced terrible odds and still managed to become well-adjusted, functioning, and even happy adults. Not only do these stories help to inspire me to seek out and appreciate the blessings in my own life, but they help me to better empathize with people whose stories were so very different from my own. Meredith May, for instance, was a small child when she moved across the country as a result of her parents’ divorce. While her mother battled mental illness and could barely function, Meredith and her younger brother were cared for by their grandparents. But it wasn’t even her grandparents who made the biggest impact on her life; it was the honey bees that her grandfather kept who taught Meredith the most.
I have always has a thing for bees, personally, and that is a large part of why this book cover caught my attention. My mom thinks it might be because of the bee toy that adorned my crib, though I guess we will never know for sure. What I do know for certain, though, is that bees spark joy for me. While some people see a bee and instantly jump to the fear of being stung, I tend to simply associate bees with honey and flowers. I know bees would rather not sting me, since that is a last-resort form of protection, and I am perfectly content to sit and watch a bee fly from flower to flower. On our yearly pilgrimage to our local apple orchard, I enjoy spending some time watching the bees through the glass enclosure in the little country store. Perhaps it is the OCD part of my brain that takes such comfort in the uniformity of the hexagonal cells within which they work. Perhaps it is because I find it so amazing how they instinctively know all of the smaller jobs that need to be done in order to keep the hive thriving and to actually make their honey. Either way, I completely understand how it is that Meredith can find such comfort in knowing that every bee in the hive has a place and a job and that such order can surely be transferred to the larger world around us. After all, if even one tiny bee can make a difference, there’s surely something I can do to impact the world around me.
Darius might not be okay, but this book was fantastic! Aside from Darius’ humor-filled blunt honesty, I loved that his story taught me so much about Iranian/Persian culture without being didactic. I was particularly intrigued by the celebration of Nowruz — the Iranian/Persian New Year — which just so happened to be this week. I thought it was interesting that they visited and tended the graves of the dead, went on picnics, did “spoon banging” for treats, and jumped over fires/had fireworks on the holiday eve. It was like Memorial Day, 4th of July, Halloween, and Dia de los Muertos all rolled into one!
Aside from the cultural education, I appreciated the way Khorram presented Darius’ depression so realistically. It is important for readers who don’t have depression to understand that there isn’t always a huge inciting event that triggers a depression. A simple chemical imbalance can be all it takes for a person to retreat inside him/herself. And though taking medication for brain health should be no different than taking medication to assist any other organ, like using an inhaler for asthma, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health.
This book is so much more than a primer on Iranian/Persian culture and depression, though, so I would hate for people to walk away from my review with that impression. Regardless of their heritage and mental health status, I think plenty of readers will be able to relate to Darius. Some readers might relate to Darius on account of his geeky obsessions (most notably Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings). Others will surely see themselves in his struggle to find his place, both within his peer group and in his family. There are also some very subtle hints about Darius questioning his sexual identity, but nothing overtly sexual, so I am not sure if it even warrants the GLBTQ category but am checking it off just to be thorough. No matter the reason you choose to read this book, nevertheless, I have full confidence that Darius will teach you that it’s okay to not always be okay and that admitting you aren’t okay is the first step to getting better.
One of the first books I read in my YA Literature class was Speak. It is, perhaps, the best known of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books. Sadly, that is likely because it has touched the hearts and lives of so many rape victims, many of whom have reached out to let her know that they found solace in reading her book and knowing they were not alone. Though *I’ve* never been raped, I know girls and women who lived this horrible nightmare. And one of the worst parts of their experience, in my opinion, was that most of them were afraid or ashamed to speak up and speak out about what happened to them. Because, far too often, rape victims are blamed and shamed for what was done to them — saying they had not dressed “modestly” enough, or that it was their fault for getting drunk, etc, etc, etc. After all… It’s much easier to blame the victims than to admit that this could happen to any of us at any given time, right?!?
Well, this book is an answer to the victim-blaming and the other aspects of rape culture that perpetuate the problem. It is a reminder that we have to teach our children about consent — spoken, enthusiastic consent — and how necessary it is to seek and continue to reaffirm consent before any and all sexual activities. It is a reminder that staying silent helps no one but the rapists. And it is a call for all victims to not only speak but to SHOUT about what has happened to them.
I really appreciated how Laurie opened up about her own rape, why she stayed silent for so long, and how so much of her life (particularly her adolescence) was impacted by her rape. I think Shout will not only help a lot of victims to see how she found the strength to get past her trauma but also help *everyone* who reads the book to take a deeper look at what we can and must do, as a society, to end rape culture.
Shane Burcaw entered my radar when I read his first book, Laughing at My Nightmare, which introduced readers who were not already aware of his blog [http://laughingatmynightmare.tumblr.com] to his unique life circumstances. Living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy means that he doesn’t have enough strength to tend to even his most basic needs, like bathing and getting dressed. As Shane gets older and his muscles continue to deteriorate, he loses more and more muscle function — even in the muscles that help him to chew his food and talk. Armed with a positive outlook, adaptive technology, and assistance from the people around him, though, he manages to live a very complete and fulfilling life. Rather than feeling sorry for himself for the things he will never have, he focuses on his blessings and how he can help others.
By infusing humor and wit into even the most embarrassing stories, he makes it easier for readers to delve into the realities of life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The title of this book, by the way, comes directly from real life experiences in which servers at restaurants have simply assumed that he wasn’t on a date. Because they didn’t realize a guy in in a wheelchair could go on a date? Because his girlfriend was “too beautiful” to be with him?!? Crazy! Shane caught on at a very early age that many people think his mere existence is a downer, but this collection of essays is proof that he still believes, more than ever, that a twisted sense of humor and a determination to live his life to the fullest can help him conquer the anxiety from within and the negativity from others.