Contemporary

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

I started this for the “Religious MC” square on my #AsianLitBingo, but now I’m not sure if it really counts, because the MC did not consider herself religious. In fact, I think most of the people I know IRL would consider this – and several other books I’ve read featuring American Muslim characters –  a “bad” representation of Muslims. I do not share this opinion. In fact, I found myself completely in love with this book, despite the fact that I think the cover’s kind of unfortunate. I don’t like real people on covers, and this particular cover makes this book look like it’s a depressing tragedy, rather than the amazing coming-of-age book that it is.

I love that this book shows that there are different kinds of Muslims, that some may be more religious than others, and that some may interpret things differently from others. Maybe it’s the fact that I spent most of my younger days feeling the way Shabnam did about religion. I live in a Muslim country, and while we have our share of liberals, the majority are the type to judge others on their decision not to wear the hijab, who think nothing of policies that discriminate against non-Muslims, who uphold cultural misogyny and racism and homophobia in the name of religion. Continue reading “That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim”

Contemporary · Romance

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Sophia had lived in Tokyo for four years with her mother and sister, but at the beginning of this novel, she had precisely seven days left in the city. She planned to spend her remaining days ignoring the fact that she was leaving her two best friends for a place where she doubted she would be able to make new friends. And, to make matters worse, Jamie Foster-Collins moved back to the city. Sophia and Jame did not part in good circumstances, and she thought that his arrival ruined her last week in Tokyo, but of course, this being a contemporary romance, they fall in love instead.

Okay. I love my contemporary romances, but I could have easily passed on this one if it wasn’t for the setting. When was the last time I read a contemporary YA set in Japan? Um, never, I think. And so, despite having my doubts (it’s still a white-people-falling-in-love-in-Japan story, after all) I put this high up on my TBR list. Continue reading “Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse”

Contemporary

The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne

insideofoutA major reason I wanted to read this book was because of the cover, and the fact that it has an Asian girl as one of the three characters depicted on it. Oh, and rainbow colours, implying that it’s quiltbag YA. Which it is… and yet, it’s written from the point of view of the straight best friend. I have to admit, there were a lot of moments that made me want to read this book from Hannah’s point of view instead of Daisy’s, but the point is that – Daisy is the straight best friend who made Hannah’s queerness all about herself, instead.

The thing about Daisy is that she is annoying and selfish and insensitive and she totally appropriates asexuality to further her own cause. However, like I expected her to, and hoped she would, she does grow as a person throughout the story. I think I would’ve been fine even if she didn’t, because (1) I appreciate the fact that Jenn Marie Thorne didn’t shy away from writing an unlikable character, and (2) her character helps drive home the message about different kinds of privilege, and straight privilege in particular. Continue reading “The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne”

Contemporary · Romance

Been Here All Along & No Holding Back

These were originally from my zine, where I wrote quick first impressions on all the recent(ish) YA I’ve been reading. I probably would end up posting more of those in this blog, too, since these days it’s harder to find the time to… take my time. Ha. I wish I’m back in college sometimes. Who would’ve guessed that having to read 3 novels, 1 play and 10 short stories, memorize a monologue, and write a bunch of essays in the same week, as the good old days of “having free time”?

Anyway, I’ve been interested in the YA romance imprint Swoon Reads for awhile, and am currently highlighting them at the store. These are two of the more interesting ones by them I’ve read recently! Continue reading “Been Here All Along & No Holding Back”

Contemporary

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

fansoftheimpossiblelifeMuch like Cut Both Ways, which I had read around the same time as this book, I found the synopsis rather misleading. But unlike Cut Both Ways, I really enjoyed Fans of the Impossible Life, and think I would’ve been in love with the book had I read it as a teen. The initial synopsis for this book was something like, “this is a book about a girl, her gay best friend, and the boy in love with both of them.” So it sounds like “bisexual love triangle”, but it isn’t. It really isn’t.

What it is, instead, is a lovely read for fans of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Because it has Perks‘ slow pace and beautiful, pensive tone, and utterly likable protagonists. The main difference is that in this book, everyone is pretty screwed up, more so than any of the characters in Perks. Because there’s Mira, whose suicide attempt lands her in a hospital. At the hospital she meets Sebby, who tried to kill himself after he was beaten up for being gay.

They become very close friends, and about a year later they meet Jeremy, a painfully shy artist in Mira’s English class, and decided to befriend him. Jeremy begins falling for Sebby, but is hesitant to get drawn into their lives, because caring for others means that it’s harder to keep oneself safe. Overall, this is a lovely book with complicated, vulnerable friendships/relationships that reminded me way too much of high school, (another thing it shares with Perks of Being a Wallflower) and the only thing that I don’t feel satisfied about is how it ends, which I have to admit is more realistic than the end I would have wanted.

Comics · Contemporary

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

awkwardThe categorizations at the store where I work are a little weird – I’m the YA buyer, which includes middle grade fiction but does not include any comics or graphic novels for YA/MG/Children’s. I’m also the (adult) Comics buyer now, which I guess makes things even more confusing. Sometimes titles like this come my way because it’s an intersection between my categories, and I’m glad when they do, because I don’t pick up YA/MG comics enough. I really should read more of them, because they are usually pretty awesome.

In Awkward, Peppi starts at her new school with two rules – one, to avoid getting noticed by the mean kids; and two, to seek out a group with similar interests to join. She manages to join the art club, but when she trips into Jaime Thompson, school nerd, she breaks the first rule. The mean kids called her the “nerder girlfriend”, causing her to panic, shoving Jaime away and telling him to leave her alone before running away.

As she concentrates on art club, Peppi starts to make her own friends, but she’s still guilt-ridden for how she treated Jaime. But then she finds out that he’s a member of the science club, the natural enemy of her new group. The school’s limited resources lead the two clubs to war, but after spending time together Peppi and Jaime realise that art and science may not be so different after all.

The story and message may not be new, but I adore Peppi, and the mix of great characters and storytelling makes it awesome. This is basically a cute, funny, and FUN graphic novel perfect for all ages, but especially middle schoolers that are just getting into comics. Oh, and also fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Contemporary

Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian

cutbothwaysThis book taught me a very important lesson, one that I have to relearn every time I forget: do not judge a book by its cover. Or it’s synopsis, really. See, it’s supposed to be about Will Caynes who likes girls but somehow gets into a drunken make-out session with his best friend Angus, and finds he likes it. So he thinks he might be gay, but then he meets Brandy, a hot sophomore, and finds that he’s totally into her, as well.

My expectations: I thought this would be a good book featuring a bisexual teen, finally. While I liked Pink by Lili Wilkinson, there’s still something lacking about it to me, and there still aren’t enough books out there to represent bisexuality. So that’s what I wanted, something more positive about bisexuality, something that doesn’t portray it as something it isn’t.

Reality: all this book does is reinforce negative stereotypes about bisexual people – Will is indecisive and lazy/cowardly and selfish. He continues fooling around with both Brandy and Angus without considering that he’s being unfair to either of them. And when he realises which of the two he actually has feelings for, he doesn’t stop fooling around with the other person. It’s just so terrible, and it doesn’t help that the story doesn’t really properly address the issues he’s facing with his family, and why he never even considers the fact that he might be bisexual (he acts like he only has one choice, to be either gay or straight), and – just, everything I can think of when I remember this book makes me want to go, ugh.  I gave this book three stars on GoodReads, so I did enjoy certain aspects of it, but every time I think back on the book all I remember are the things I didn’t like.