From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

from-twinkle-with-loveTwinkle Mehra has big plans.  She’s not hoping to make it as an actress or a singer, though.  She wants to work *behind* the camera.  Via letters to her favorite female filmmakers, Twinkle explains how she plans to change the world by presenting fresh new ideas from the perspective of a female, Indian-American film director.  #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and we need diverse movies too!  Not only does Twinkle get a big break by being invited to participate in a local summer film festival, but she breaks out of her wallflower status when her casting calls generate a lot of buzz.  Twinkle is amazed to see that even the cool kids listen when she is directing and she begins to wonder whether this means she will finally get noticed by the über-popular Neil — especially since she is spending so much time with her producer, Sahil, who just so happens to be Neil’s twin brother…

Not only does Menon do a great job of writing authentic and relatable characters with fresh new story lines, but she manages to do so while subtly expanding her readers’ cultural knowledge.  This story doesn’t get as far in to Indian culture as When Dimple Met Rishi, but it definitely gives readers a crash course in female movie directors and working to smash the patriarchy!  Even if you don’t recognize all of the filmmakers and/or get all of the film references, which I am fairly certain *I* didn’t, it was a very fun read.  Grab this book when it’s released next week and put it on the top of your #SummerReading pile.

Happy Reading!

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Finding You by Lydia Albano

finding-youIsla was only trying to say goodbye to Tam. She just wanted to see him one more time before he went off to join the army.  But, while she was calling out to Tam on that crowded platform, she was kidnapped.  After being trafficked out of the city from which she was stolen, she and the other girls who had been taken were stripped, cleaned, and given new clothing.  Uncertain of if and when she would ever see Tam again, Isla made every effort to hide and protect the locket he had given her and stuffed it into her mouth.  And it was a good thing she was able to keep it hidden, since that locket provided a modicum of comfort and the strength she needed to survive the harrowing ordeal.

Although Isla was held captive with a bunch of other girls, that did not bring her any comfort.  They were all just as scared as she was, if not more.  And aside from being trapped in the small cell of a dungeon with awful slop for food, they were also very aware of the fact that they had been kidnapped and sold in order to be “used” by a rich man and his guests.  No one really knew what happened to the girls after they were taken away and “used,” but it was easy enough to see that their numbers were dwindling.  Isla would have to come up with some sort of a plan if she ever planned to escape — and she would have to do it sooner rather than later if she wanted to save the other girls, too.

I would recommend this book to fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and the Chemical Garden Trilogy.

Happy Reading!

Tradition by Brendan Kiely

traditionFullbrook Academy was an elite prep school known for opening doors to the best colleges and beyond.  And though the students at the Fullbrook Academy knew that life there was pretty far removed from the idyllic images provided in all the brochures, everyone seemed happy enough with the way things had always been.  Well…  Mostly everyone.  Jules really would have liked to break some glass ceilings and to challenge the general feeling that Fullbrook is a boys school that girls are allowed to attend, but pressure from both friends and family kept Jules from raging against the machine too loudly. And then Bax showed up.  Bax, who was on a hockey scholarship (and never could have afforded the $50,000 tuition).  Bax, who was just as horrified as Jules when he witnessed the toxic masculinity of his hockey teammates who didn’t seem to see much difference between scoring in a hockey game and “stacking up pucks” in their dorm room windows.  Bax, who seemed to see past the rumors and the reputations people had been assigned in order to judge them by their character.  Bax, who gave Jules hope that things could change.  But, how could a few students make a difference when so many others, including the teachers and administration, were willing to excuse horrible “traditions” and turn a blind eye?

After finishing All American Boys, I said that I was looking forward to reading more by Brendan Kiely.  I was super excited, then, to get my hands on this ARC when I won a raffle basket at the NYLA YSS Spring Conference!  While All American Boys focused primarily on race relations, discrimination, and prejudice in America today, Tradition was more focused on issues surrounding extreme wealth/privilege and misogyny.  Aside from aiding in discussions on wealth and privilege, I think this book would be an excellent conversation starter for discussions on both feminism and consent as well.

Happy Reading!

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson

all-we-can-do-is-waitPeople tend to take a lot of things for granted.  We assume our parents or siblings will be there for us when we need them.  We assume we will have time to make up with our significant other after a fight.  We assume that the ride home, to school, or to the mall will be only as stressful as traffic makes it…  But Jason, Alexa, Scott, and Skyler learned a very hard lesson about making such assumptions.  When The Tobin Bridge collapsed — as their parents, girlfriend, and sister were driving over it — they discovered how truly unpredictable life can be.  While they waited at Massachussetts General Hospital, these teens bonded over their grief, terror, uncertainty, and helplessness.  Seeing victims come in via ambulance and watching as other people in the waiting room received news about their loved ones was almost too much to bear.

I think Lawson did a wonderful job showcasing the variety of ways people react to a traumatic event.  Though this wasn’t a fast-paced thriller, I still found myself reading with rapt attention.  I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks that helped readers get to know more about the background of these characters and the people about whom they were worried.  I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this new author.

Happy Reading!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

forest-of-a-thousand-lantersnXifeng is a beautiful girl, but she has an ugly secret.  Her aunt has been teaching her dark magic, and she plans to use that magic to fulfill her fate — to become the Empress of Feng Lu.  The only problem is that, while foretold by the cards, this fate is not guaranteed.  Xifeng still has choices to make, and some of those choices are nearly impossible.  Will she be able to sacrifice a relationship with the man she loves in order to become a lady in waiting for the current Empress?  Will she be able to kill people who potentially stand in her way?  This anti-heroine reminds me of Malificent (from Sleeping Beauty) or Queen Levana (from The Lunar Chronicles).  No matter how much I want to detest her, I felt sorry for her because I knew some of her history and how it shaped her to be so cold and calculating.  A marvelous fantasy, but not for the feint of heart.

Happy Reading!

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

down-and-acrossScott’s parents, while very loving and supportive, were driving him crazy.  They basically demanded that he give them the best possible return-on-investment for their efforts to emigrate from Iran to the United States.  They expected nothing but the best grades and that he would choose a career path like doctor or engineer.  To that end, his father even arranged for Scott to have a summer internship in a research lab.  But, Scott had problems following through.  After only one week at the internship, he knew he couldn’t make it all summer.  And since his parents had traveled overseas to visit his ailing grandfather, Scott decided that he would do something daring.  Scott took the money his parents had left him and headed to Washington, DC, to seek out an internship with Professor Cecily Mallard.  Why?  Because she specialized in grit, aka the psychology of success.  Scott was desperate for Professor Mallard to teach him how to better see things through.  And, as it happened, there was a whole summer of craziness awaiting Scott in DC that would most definitely test his dedication to becoming more “gritty.”

I am a big fan of “coming-of-age” YA fiction, and this story did not disappoint.  In a crazy, whirlwind summer, Scott explored finding his own path, making new friends, and falling in love.  While his decisions sometimes had me wishing I could step into the story and give him a little lecture or advice from my mom/adult perspective, I also couldn’t help but feel a little proud of Scott for stepping so far outside of his comfort zone to find a life he could be passionate about.

Happy Reading!

Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly DeVos

fat-girl-on-a-planeCookie Vonn was very into fashion, but she didn’t fit in with most of the fashionista crowd… Literally. Being obese made it impossible for her to purchase the designer duds that she obsessed over. Fortunately, she learned how to make her own clothes and she made them very well. With the help of her grandmother, she created her own wardrobe that showed off her funky sense of style and properly accentuated her figure. While she was still in highschool, Cookie even managed to get a job reporting on fashion for a local blog, and she had high hopes that her work there would help her land a scholarship to her dream school — Parsons. When being too fat to fly required her to scramble for a second plane ticket on her way to an exclusive interview in NYC, though, she began to rethink whether she was truly comfortable in her own skin and if losing some weight might help her in her quest to become a famous fashion designer.

The book jumps back and forth between the old/fat Cookie and the new/skinny Cookie to show how differently she is treated in both the “real world” and the world of fashion design. I hope this book will help people who are struggling with their body image by showing them that outward appearance doesn’t change internal strife and that the people who truly love you do so without conditions.  And, even more than that, I hope it makes ALL people think about the ways in which they might subconsciously treat people differently based on appearance (so that they can work to change their behaviors). Sadly, most of y’all will have to wait until early June for this book, but I think it will be worth the wait.

Happy Reading!