This week’s mini review round-up includes 1 graphic novel, 1 nonfiction novel, 1 poetry collection, and 1 fiction novel!
TITLE: The Breakaways
AUTHOR: Cathy G. Johnson
RELEASES: March 5th, 2019
AGE RANGE: MG
This was one of the cutest middle grade graphic novels ever. It was so fluffy, and had so many heartwarming moments, and an incredibly diverse cast of characters! It follows this young girl, Faith, who’s been convinced to join her school’s soccer team by a popular girl she wants to impress. The team is broken up into a few cliques, and there are some characters who seem to fit certain stereotypes (like the hot girly girls, or the punk band girls, etc.), but we’re given tiny windows into their lives to see what makes them the way they are, or the battles they’re quietly fighting (like the glimpse into the “mean girl”‘s average morning that showcases loud, emotionally neglectful parents).
On top of how lovely the story line is and how well it reminds the reader to not judge based on appearances and to give everyone a fair chance, it also has so much rep it’s incredible. There are characters of all sizes and skin colors (including a few fat girls and a hijabi, 2 reps we don’t see much of in GNs!), and there’s a ton of queer rep—Faith is questioning, a few girls are openly queer, and one character even comes out as trans during the events unfolding.
The whole book was absolutely precious and lovable, and I know this is one I’ll be recommending for a long time to come.
Thank you so much to First Second for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
TITLE: Tarot Elements: Five Readings to Reset Your Life
AUTHOR: Melissa Cynova
RELEASES: March 8th, 2019
AGE RANGE: Adult
Having read (most of) Cynova’s Kitchen Table Tarot, I was pretty excited to have the chance to read this new release of hers, but I have to say I didn’t love it quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great guide to some really cool tarot spreads, and I loved the whole idea behind focusing on your energy and all in certain levels related to the elements, but the writing itself didn’t pull me in as well. I think my biggest complaint was that it felt like this book would’ve benefited tremendously from being a lot shorter. It felt like Cynova spent a pretty solid portion of the book bulking up the page count with repetitive anecdotes, and at times I started skimming for pages on end because it was just kind of like, Okay, I get the point, can we move on to the next thing?
That said, this is still a solidly cool and unique look at using tarot readings to improve your life, and I will absolutely be taking away some exercises and spreads to use in my own daily life—starting with the ‘Earth’ spreads and exercises to get my home in order for the first time in far too long!
Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
TITLE: Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience
EDITORS: Patrice Vecchione & Alyssa Raymond
RELEASES: March 12th, 2019
AGE RANGE: YA
And what they think is rebellion is, in truth, survival. Because if you stay silent one second longer, the anger surging through your blood will engulf you in flames.
I was immediately intrigued when I heard of Ink Knows No Borders. It’s a collection of own-voice poetry by immigrants and children of immigrants, tackling their experiences, their family’s experiences, diaspora, and more.
I’ll never stop stealing back what’s mine.
I promise: I won’t forget again.
There are so many absolute gems in this collection, and if you enjoy poetry as a whole, I definitely recommend picking up a copy—especially if you enjoy reading about immigration experiences, whether you’re looking to see yourself reflected in what you read, or looking for a window into a life you’ll never know firsthand but want to empathize with better. I feel like there are things in this collection that I never considered being such massive obstacles, and it was beyond heart-breaking at times.
I am watching the road unravel
behind us like a ribbon of dust.
If I were to pick favorites, I think they would be ‘Frank’s Nursery and Crafts’ by Bao Phi, ‘Mama’ by Emtithal Mahmoud, and ‘Ethnic Studies’ by Terisa Siagatonu, but these are frankly just scratching the surface. That said, there are definitely a handful of poems included that I didn’t enjoy (and didn’t understand how they were relevant to the topic?), which is the only reason I’m giving this 4 stars rather than 5.
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to 7 Stories Press for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
TITLE: The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away
AUTHOR: Ronald L. Smith
RELEASES: February 19th, 2019
AGE RANGE: MG
Grays. Just saying it freaks me out. It’s such a simple word. A color. Not black or white. But something in between. Something unknowable. Something that makes me not want to sleep.
I’d never read anything by Ronald L. Smith before, but when I first heard this middle grade sci-fi/horror was releasing, I got so excited! I was terrified of aliens as a kid, so naturally, I’m totally fascinated by the whole idea of them (and abduction stories) as an adult. Plus, aliens + owls? Major Fourth Kind vibes (not that the film is where the idea originated, but still), so altogether, I was super stoked to read this! On top of everything else, a biracial kid with asthma as a main character, and a book that takes the time to seriously tackle toxic masculinity? There’s just so much good stuff going on here, y’all.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good: the writing is okay, but not my favorite, and there are some issues that never get addressed, like Simon’s father’s total absence most of the time (and his emotionally abusive nature when he is around), or Simon’s paralyzing fear of mental health professionals and medications (which could be great if he grew to learn that they are super helpful for some people, but instead, they’re vilified to the end). I know some books are just for fun, and that’s great for a lot of readers, but as a mom and children’s librarian, it’s hard to watch an author sail right past these opportunities to shed light on some really heavy (and important!) topics for kids while telling the story.
The other issue — and this was the biggest reason my rating isn’t particularly high — is that Simon is writing a fantasy novel, and we’re periodically forced to sift through a chapter at a time of that. This is a totally personal issue, but I hate the “books inside of books” trope, especially when the inner-layer “book” is COMPLETELY UNRELATED to the story we signed up to read. It just comes off as pointless filler and it’s frustrating and disjointed.
All in all, not my favorite MG horror by any means, but it had its fun moments and I flew through it. I’m not sure it’s the first thing I’ll be recommending to kids based on the problems that aren’t ever addressed, but with the right reader, I could see this being a world of fun and creepiness.
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Clarion Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!