My family is definitely geeky by most people’s standards. Anytime there is a new “comic book movie” in the theaters, you can practically guarantee we will be there opening weekend — if not opening night. We have been anxiously awaiting the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and I was really excited to see that there is a Miles Morales novel for teens who might not yet be familiar with his character. I was even more thrilled to see that Jason Reynolds was the author who took on this project. My husband asked me why I thought it was so important to have a notable YA author write a book about Spider-Man, since Spider-Man is a pretty popular character in his own right. And it was kind of hard for me to explain at first; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… But then I realized what it was. Some teens think that comic books are only for the truly geeky people of the world and might have otherwise not even paid attention to this story. Since Jason Reynolds is more known for his contemporary, urban YA fiction, though, I thought he might help attract some readers who wouldn’t ordinarily give this story a chance. And once those readers give this story a chance, they might find that they have more common ground with geeks than they previously realized. I’m not sure many non-geeks realize quite how strong the social justice storylines of comic books are, but there are a lot of examples of superheroes standing up for equality. This Superman comic is one of my favorite examples:
With funny, relatable characters, Jason Reynolds does a fantastic job syncing Spider-Man into contemporary Urban ya fiction. I liked how Miles Morales was not even close to perfect — with his “wrong side of the tracks” family that has a history of trouble with the law, his trouble controlling his own temper, and even his awkwardness with girls — because it can help teens to see that they, too, can make a difference. You don’t have to be a superhero to stand up for yourself and to help people. And that is especially evident in the fact that Miles’ best friend, Ganke, often needs to give Miles a pep talk when he is feeling particularly defeated! I think that fans of Spider-Man/Miles Morales will be pleased with how this story turned out, and I can only hope that the Miles Morales comics will gain a little more traction with the help of this novel and the upcoming movie.
I loved how this story managed to be laugh out loud funny while still driving home a pretty powerful message — just be yourself and stop worrying about what you think other people might think about you! In this day and age, far too many people are worried about having the #PerfectLife and are spending a lot of time trying to compete with everyone else on social media rather than simply being present and enjoying their lives for real. Instead of worrying about which pictures and captions will get the most likes, people need to focus on what brings them actual happiness. Enter, Millie Porter.
Though Millie lived with her mother, she still had frequent contact with her dad. Her parents actually got along quite well, considering the fact that they weren’t together. Her mom, nevertheless, was always the more balanced and rational parental figure. Everyone kind of thought her practicality had “rubbed off on” Millie, too. But even Millie had a streak of teen rebellion brewing. It began when her mom started turning off the WiFi at night so she would not be online too much. Millie’s frustration truly hit the breaking point, though, when her mom got a clean-freak boyfriend whose obsession with cleaning — and specifically his “relationship” with a robotic vacuum, McWhirter — was simply too much for Millie to bear. She decided that she was going to go and live with her dad for a bit, even if he did live with his father and his crazy sister, Teresa. Surely living there would give her more freedom to explore the creation of a new vlog that would aid in her social media competition with Erin Breeler, who is the reigning Instagram queen at their school. Right?!?
If you are a fan of The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson (think Bridget Jones for the younger set), you will definitely want to check this book out when it’s released next week. While you’re at it, you might even want to add the sequel (My Life Gone Viral) to your TBR list for next summer!
Although Sawyer’s family was both rich and well-known, and although they lived less than an hour away, Sawyer had no experience with high-society. Why? Because her mom was kicked out when she got pregnant during her “deb” season. All Sawyer knew of her family was what her mother told her — and that was only when her mom wasn’t busy running off with one man or another. During one of her mother’s sudden departures, Sawyer got a surprise visit from none other than her grandmother… Who came to give Sawyer the offer of a lifetime. In exchange for going to stay with her grandmother and participating in the debutante season, Sawyer would receive $500,000. The money sounded good, but the whole deb thing was less than appealing. And then Sawyer realized this would also afford her the opportunity to try and figure out who her father was.
Despite the appearances they put forth in public, she quickly found out that the debutantes were far from the meek and mild little ladies they pretended to be. They were vindictive, calculating, manipulative, and wild. And before she knew it, Sawyer found herself both making friends and discovering all sorts of secrets about their high-society families. This story goes back and forth in time, alternating between the debs’ landing in jail and how they got there. (Though the story is not the same, it had much the same feel as Paul Rudnick’s It’s All Your Fault.) High-paced action, lots of mystery, and humor that had me actually laughing out loud. I only wish it was coming out this summer because I think it would be a perfect beach read! (Sadly, it’s not due out until November 6th.)
Twinkle 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.
Contrary to popular belief, heroes are not always perfectly behaved and villains are not always evil. In fact, heroes sometimes act out of spite or self-interest, and villains sometimes act selflessly to help other people. In this story, both the Renegades and the Anarchists are comprised of prodigies — people with special powers, much like the X-Men — but their vastly different ideologies have placed them on opposite sides of the hero-villain spectrum. The Anarchists honestly believe that society would fare better without so much governmental oversight and interference, i.e. with anarchy. The Renegades, on the other hand, think that they are doing society a favor by overseeing everyone and bringing back law and order. Though both sides think their way would be best for the greater good, neither side seems capable of seeing the other side’s point of view.
Enter Nova, aka Nightmare.
Nova was raised by her Uncle Ace [the leader of the Anarchists] after the Renegades failed to protect her family. Nova has been consumed by a desire to avenge their deaths for as long as she can remember, but none of her plans seem to work out. Luckily, the Anarchists have an alternate plan that just might work. Because the Renegades don’t know Nightmare’s true identity, the Anarchists decide to send Nova to Renegade try-outs so that they can use her to gather intel and take down the Renegades from the inside. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Nova, who takes on the Renegade name of Insomnia, to start to feel conflicted. Not only does she start to fall for a guy who is a part of the Renegades, but she starts to see *why* the Renegades operate the way they do and that their methods actually have some merit to them. What’s a girl to do?!?
The concept of a “soul mate” has been around for practically forever, but something strange started happening a few years ago. No one knows why, but people started getting names on their chests. Not like a tattoo, per se, since they didn’t choose the name and/or do it themselves. Names just started appearing. Signatures, actually. Though no one knows why or how this started happening, many people honestly believe that the signature belongs to the person they are Meant To Be with (their MTB). People believe in this phenomenon so much, in fact, that there are even services to help you scan in your signature and your MTB’s signature so that you can find each other more quickly. And I guess that is great if you believe in the whole MTB thing, but what if you don’t?
Agatha isn’t so sure about the whole MTB thing. In fact, she prefers to use the term “Empties” (MTs) instead of MTBs. She was probably a little jaded by the fact that her high school boyfriend immediately dumped her and went in search of his MTB when a signature appeared on his chest, but it is more than that. She just doesn’t know how she feels about love and relationships in general. Is there really such a thing as fate and destiny? Could it possibly be that easy to find the person who is right for her? Sadly, her MTB has a very common name, so she doesn’t exactly have an easy time searching for him online to find out more of what he might be like. And then, to complicate things just a bit more, she starts to fall for a guy at work. This witty coming-of-age story is a great blend of humor, romance, and magical realism. Just an FYI, though — based on the mature content, some people might be more comfortable labeling this New Adult rather than YA.
As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home. All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on! I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES. I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school. I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend. It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did. For real… If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!
Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life! Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses. Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling. Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system. When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”
One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children. By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade. So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune. Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS. Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt. When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…
Posted in action/adventure, audiobook, book review, dystopia, GLBTQ, LOL, mystery, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, sports, you think you've got problems?
Tagged Ernest Cline, Ready Player One