Girl: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Karen Rayne

girlI don’t review non-fiction as often as fiction on my blog, but I had to be sure to include this book because it is both well-written and important on a number of levels. Not only does it promote body positivity and access to non-biased, factual information, but it does so while being inclusive of *all* people who self-identify as a girl. #WeNeedDiverseBooks in YA non-fiction too!

Rayne very openly and honestly discusses topics like gender identity, sexual orientation, dating and relationships, masturbation, and sex. I especially appreciated her non-judgmental tone and how she made it a point to include different points of view [via diary entries from multiple women] so that girls who read this book will be more likely to find someone to whom they could relate. Because this book covers such a wide range of topics, I think it’s awesome that Rayne provides resources for readers who are interested in delving more deeply. Aside from presenting factual information, though, I think it was helpful that Rayne provided questions for self-reflection. It’s important for girls to consider who they are and how they feel before they can move forward with their evolution into becoming the women they wish to be.

Happy Reading!


All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

All-American-BoysReynolds and Kiely have written a fantastic primer and conversation starter for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  By alternating between two perspectives — Rashad, a victim of police brutality, and Quinn, who was both a witness and a close family friend of the officer involved — they even helped to address the #BlueLivesMatter rebuttal.

Rashad was a good kid.  He did well in school, was in JROTC, and generally stayed out of trouble.  All it took was one moment of confusion in a corner store for a police officer to think he was a thief and a punk who may have attacked an innocent woman.  The next thing he knew, he was pinned to the sidewalk and getting pummeled.  Mind blown and body battered, Rashad had to face both his physical recovery and his awakening to the racism that still existed within his country and even his own community.

Despite having witnessed the arrest/beating and [later] the videos that other people had captured, it was still very difficult for Quinn to process.  He had always thought of Paul as a good guy.  He knew that what he saw went over the line…  And yet, how cold he turn his back on someone who had helped him so much when his own father died?  With friends and family pressuring him to side with the officer and his conscience begging him to side with the victim, Quinn had some very tough decisions to make.  Would he join the protest march?  And could he live with himself if he didn’t?

After finishing Long Way Down, I knew that I had to read something else by Jason Reynolds, and the cover of this book jumped right out at me.  I definitely wasn’t disappointed.  I look forward to reading more from both of these great authors.  After all, what’s a few more books added to my never-ending TBR list?!?  😉

Happy Reading!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

long-way-downWith a gun tucked into the waistband of his pants, Will gets into the elevator of his apartment building and heads down to go and get his revenge.  On whom?  The person who murdered his brother, Shawn, of course.  He knows the rules of the hood.  “No crying. No snitching. Revenge.”  So that is what he sets out to do.  But, he doesn’t take the ride alone.  At each floor, the elevator stops and a ghost gets on to ride along with him.  As each ghost enters, they share their own story and how it relates to Shawn’s death.  These stories help to provide a wider picture of how the cycle of violence in their neighborhood has been perpetuated thus far and, much like the computer’s epiphany in War Games, that the only way to win is not to play this game.  But will this elevator ride be enough to change the heart and mind of a boy who has never known any other way?

Timely, thought provoking, and powerful.  It’s no wonder this book has received so many awards.  

Happy Reading!

The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

the-beauty-that-remainsTRIGGER WARNING!
Autumn’s best friend, Tavia, died in a car accident. Shay lost her twin sister, Sasha, to a long battle with leukemia. And Logan’s ex-boyfriend, Bram, died by suicide. If you have lost someone close to you, this book is very likely to re-open your own emotional wounds. What may simply have been a “tear jerker” for other readers actually brought me back to my decades-ago loss of my own best friend and the guilt I felt long after her passing. I think that, perhaps, Ashley Woodfolk was a little too good at depicting heartache and grief that come with such a loss. /sigh

Though the three of them lost people in very different ways have different aspects of their identities that set them apart — Autumn is adopted and Korean-American, Shay is black, and Logan is gay — their lives are similarly torn apart by both grief and guilt. They think back about the things they regret saying, the things they regret doing or not doing, and all of the “what ifs” eat at them as they struggle to move on with their own lives. As the story progresses, the characters’ stories begins to overlap and, not surprisingly, come together.  Not only does this book do a fantastic job of showcasing the realities of living through grief, but it does so with a diverse cast of characters.  I look forward to seeing what else this debut author will write in the future.

Happy Reading!

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld

spill-zoneOh. Em. Gee!  I didn’t even know this book was out until I saw something about the second book coming out this July.  Even though I am not a huge graphic novel reader, I try to push myself to read at least a couple a year so that I can stay in touch with what it out there for my library patrons who do prefer graphic novels.  Since I am also a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld’s work, especially the Uglies series, I figured it was a good bet that I would enjoy this one.  I am happy to report that reading this was a lot more fun than work!  😉  In fact, I read this entire book in only three sittings because it was so hard to put down.

In Poughkeepsie, NY, there has been a Spill.  No one really seems to know what exactly happened.  They just know that it is no longer safe inside the Spill Zone.  Military personnel guard the perimeter and people don’t tend to go inside except government scientists in hazmat suits.  There are all sorts of weird things happening.  Animals morphing into strange creatures.  Inanimate objects moving around despite a lack of wind.  And, in the words of Addison Merrick, the dead have become “meat puppets.”  Though she was not in town when the Spill happened, he little sister was.  Because they are allowed to stay in their home, which is inside the Spill Zone, Addison has taken to exploring and taking pictures she can sell to support her sister.  But, how long will it be before her explorations take her too far?!?

Happy Reading!

Speaking of Westerfeld’s Uglies series…  Check this out!  (#squeeeeeeee)


Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

gem-and-dixieGem and Dixie have only ever truly had each other.  And, since Gem was the older sister, she has always been more like a mom to Dixie. Their dad left town a long time ago — after their mom finally got sick of his drinking, drugging, and cheating on her and kicked him out.  And though their mom was technically around, her presence didn’t count for much.  She, too, struggled with addiction and rarely spent her wages on necessities like food.  Because Dixie was pretty and popular, she didn’t worry too much about going hungry.  Gem, on the other hand, was socially awkward and often felt the pangs of hunger — both physical and emotional.  Despite the fact that they still needed each other as much as ever, the girls were growing apart.  And then, their dad announced that he would be coming back.  Dixie, who had always been somewhat sheltered from the reality of their situation, was elated to think that her father might come back and make everything better again.  Gem, nevertheless, feared that his return to Seattle would mean nothing but more trouble.

I think this book was great for a couple of different reasons.  One, it was a very realistic portrayal of neglect.  Many people seem to think that neglect it is preferable to other forms of abuse, but I don’t think people realize just how damaging neglect can be.  To read about Gem and Dixie’s experiences without gaining a little empathy would be extremely difficult.  Second, I think this book might provide some much-needed hope to readers who have experienced or are currently experiencing neglect in their own lives.  These kids need to realize that they are not alone AND that there is help out there for them.  Though this book doesn’t play off as “happily ever after,” and perhaps *because* of this imperfect ending, I definitely think this is a good book to add to bibliotherapy lists for teens who are dealing with a history of neglect and/or family members who struggle with addiction.

Happy Reading!

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

run-hide-fight-backWhen a mass shooting breaks out at a Portland mall, the people inside have three choices — run, hide, or fight back…  And, since there are several shooters armed with semi-automatic weapons, the wrong choice will likely lead to death. When Amina decided to shut herself into the store where she worked, hoping that the metal security gate would provide enough protection, she didn’t close herself in alone. There were six teens inside, and they would all have to work together to try and get out alive.

It’s a diverse group of teens, so I thought of this as kind of like The Breakfast Club written as a thriller.  And, I have to admit…  Although I loved how this story kept me on the edge of my seat, I am not sure I will be able to go into a shopping mall for a while.  (I thought No Safetly in Numbers was traumatizing at the time, but this is so much more realistic and terrifying.)

Happy Reading!