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Book Review: The Fight (Drama High Book 1) by L. Divine

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Drama High The Fight

Source: Goodreads

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon)Jayd just wants to start her Junior year of high school drama free. But wanting ain’t getting, especially at a place like Drama High, a predominately white high school in a wealthy part of Los Angeles, where Jayd and 30 other Compton kids get bussed to daily. Saying race relations aren’t what they should be would be putting it mildly, and that’s just the beginning of the drama. Jayd’s first day back to school, KJ’s new girlfriend, Trecee, steps to her wanting to fight. Egged on by Misty, Jayd’s former best friend-turned-nemesis, Trecee wants to make Jayd understand that KJ is off-limits–even if she has to do it with her fists. With the fight set for Friday, and the sistah drama at an all time high, Jayd is about to learn who’s really got her back and more importantly, when she’s got to watch it. But at least she can always count on Mama, and her mystical bag of tricks.

My Review:  One of the best things about this book is its main character, Jayd Jackson. She’s street smart because she lives in Compton and deals with drive by-shootings and people repeatedly breaking into her mom’s car. Yet, she is also book-smart because she is on the AP track at school, knowledgeable about Black history, and is able to debate about past and present issues affecting black people. One of the best chapters of the book is when she engages in discussion with a guy about the connection between sex and material things and how it impacts young girls and guys.

In addition, the author does a good job with weaving together Jayd’s magical life with her grandmother and her life with her mom and friends. It allows the reader to relate to Jayd’s experiences with boys, friends, and clique drama while hinting that they can be more than they realize. The reader may not have special abilities like Jayd, but they can be someone like Jayd by learning from their elders and their past and being themselves.

Besides the main character, some of the supporting characters are memorable. Surrounding Jayd is a good circle of family and friends. Her mother is a independent woman who is raising Jayd with Jayd’s grandmother, who is known as Mama. Mama is a wise, mystical woman who guides Jayd using Jayd’s connection to Yoruba deities and African culture. Jayd’s uncle Bryan is a DJ who has shown Jayd the musical roots of black people while listening to her problems.

When it comes to Jayd’s friends, they are diverse. Jayd belongs to the Drama club clique and has white friends from there, she also has friends in the black clique called South Central and the Hispanic clique called The Barrio.  Although it is the Drama club clique and the South Central clique that is the most prominently featured, the friends that Jayd has from both are loyal and fun.

Another notable aspect of the book is the realistic interactions with Jayd and her classmates. A memorable scene is a flashback to when Jayd was first introduced to South Central and was told “You should sound like us” because they found out she was book smart. Also, the contrast between Jayd and some of her classmates is very striking. While Jayd uses her outspokeness to debate about important issues and stand up for herself, characters like Misty and Trecee use their outspokenness to cause trouble.

The only flaw in the book is Jayd’s magical roots. While it is cool that Jayd has psychic visions with hot flashes and connections to African culture and deities through her grandmother, the author doesn’t explain why. As a result, the reader is forced to go with the flow and make their own assumptions.

Overall, this was a great start to The Drama High series. I recommend it to young black readers looking for something different from the typical inner city teen book. I also recommend it to fans of the television show That’s So Raven. 

 

 

 

 

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Written by Serena Zola

September 21, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

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Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clarke

Source: Goodreads

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon):  From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy‘s razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this book is the characters. Brendan’s struggle to understand his sexual identity is realistic and raw. Also, the fact that he is also a great big brother to his little sister, put down by his wrestling coach, and doesn’t get along with his stepfather makes him even more sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Angel’s character shows what its like for transgender people who love and accept themselves, but still struggle with their past and everyday prejudice.  Like Brendan, her point of view is raw and she has qualities that make her sympathetic. She is caring and motherly to her loved ones.

Finally, Vanessa is a character that urges the reader to discuss gender norms and how they relate to gender identity. Even though she is straight, she is still called a “dyke” because she is the only girl on the wrestling team. Anyone who doesn’t fit the standard for what it means to be male or female can relate to her.

Besides the characters, the author does a great job writing three points-of-view in verse. She uses different poetry styles and creates powerful metaphors in order to convey thoughts and emotions. In addition, the way certain words and poems are structured is very creative.

The only criticism I have of the book is its ending, particularly with Brendan’s point-of-view. The end of Brendan’s story felt too ambiguous. While it is understandable that his story doesn’t have an easy outcome, the author could have shown that it is possible for Brendan to have a good future.

Overall, this book was a poignant glimpse into the lives of gender queer and transgender people and how gender norms affect everyone. I recommend it to everyone who doesn’t fit gender norms. I also recommend it to anyone who works with transgender and gender queer youth and anyone who has enjoyed the work of YA author Ellen Hopkins.

Written by Serena Zola

September 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Book Review: Blackanese Boy by Ramon Calhoun

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Blackanese Boy, Ramon Calhoun

Source: Amazon

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): BLACKANESE BOY, set primarily in San Francisco in the 1970s and early 1980s, follows the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, of Rafael Halifax, as he negotiates the complex dance of being mixed-race in a race conscious society. A coming of age novel, BLACKANESE BOY explores the issues and complexities, the pain and joy, of being both black and Japanese-American, for one American boy. 

My Review: One of the best things about this book is how realistic the experience of being bi-racial is. Since the author is black and Japanese himself, certain experiences like being mistaken for a Mexican because of his skin tone and being stared at by other Japanese people rang sincere.

In addition, there are certain events that are universal for anyone who has a personality that doesn’t fit the stereotype of their skin color. For instance, some Asian people in the book expected Rafael to know everything about hip-hop because he was black.

Besides the experience of being bi-racial, the cultural setting of the book was very interesting. There are certain events like the atomic bomb scare and the birth of hip-hop culture that make the book seem like historical fiction rather than a typical coming-of-age story.

Also, the way the author included Japanese,  black, Hispanic, Arabic, Muslim, and white people was a good way for the reader to experience different cultures and encounters through Rafael’s eyes.

Furthermore, the author did a good job showing that no group is exempt from being prejudiced or racist, even if they are your own ethnic group.

When it comes to the book’s flaws, the only one was the story’s ending. For a coming-of-age story, it was too ambiguous. By the end, it felt like Rafael got older, but not wiser.

Overall, the book was good, but Rafael’s character could have been developed better. However, I still recommend this book because any mixed race black person and any blasian (black and asian) person will relate to it.

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

June 26, 2014 at 8:52 PM

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Source: Rainbow Rowell’s website

Plot Summary: Cath Avery is a huge Simon Snow fan. She writes lots of Simon Snow fan-fiction and has the Simon Snow book series and lots of Simon Snow memorabilia. She’s also a twin and a fresh-out-of-the-box college freshman. Suddenly, things are changing.

Cath’s twin sister Wren is also a huge Simon Snow fan, but is pulling away from Cathy and from the Simon Snow fandom. Cathy now has to deal with an irritable roommate with a nice boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who doesn’t understand fan fiction, a  new writing partner, and a mentally vulnerable Dad who’s never been alone.  Cath must learn to come out of her shell and live her life without sacrificing what is important to her.

My Review: One of the best thing about this book are the characters. The main characters and secondary characters each have a personality that brings something different to the story. They also develop by themselves and with each other gradually.

In addition,  the author did a good job of showing how almost anyone can be geeky, not just one type of person. Furthermore, the tougher topics sprinkled in the book (mental illness, learning disabilities, drinking dangers, and divorce) are handled in a realistic and non-preachy manner with the characters they are associated with.

Besides the characters, the author’s writing style is great. Some lines of dialogue are hilarious. A favorite is, “But it’s like John Lennon writing with… Taylor Swift instead of Paul McCartney.” says Nick. “Get over yourself,” Cath said. “You’re not half as pretty as Taylor Swift.”

Other lines are thoughtful and touching. There are several lines about writing fiction that may spark some ideas or thoughts in readers who are also writers. Also, the author has a way of describing Cath’s feelings in a way that makes you feel them on a deeper level. An example of this are the lines, “She just needed to settle her nerves. To take the anxiety she felt like black static behind her eyes and an extra heart in her stomach where it belonged- where she could at least tie it into a nice knot and work around it.”

In addition, the lines that appear when Cath finds the boyfriend she loves are adorkable. Some favorite line are, “In the right light, you are such a nerd.” and “You’re magic.”

Furthermore, the author’s treatment of fan-fiction was respectful and well-rounded. Cath writes slash (gay coupling) fan fiction. Bits of Simon Snow fan fiction that are written by Wren and Cath on a fictional fan fiction site under clever pen names are at the end of each chapter.

Also, the author sums up the meaning of fan fiction with one sentence, “The whole point of fan fiction is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them.” Lastly, she shows what it is like to read fan fiction through more than one character. A favorite is a conversation between Cath and a random Simon Snow fan who is a fan of Cathy’s fan fiction.

The only flaw I had with the book was the pacing. At times, the book could be too slow. Even though this was good for the character development, there were times the author should have cut some months out.

Overall, this book was fantastic (no pun intended). I recommend it to anyone who reads or writes fan fiction, anyone who has a geeky hobby, and anyone looking for an adorkable story.

Post Review Authoress Notes: I am so happy I finally got this book; I’ve been wanting to read it all freaking year! I used to write fan fiction in high school and while I don’t write it anymore, I still read it. I’m also sad that the book is over and find it cool that I finished it on the last day of 2013.

Furthermore, I’m also happy The Outsiders (my favorite teen fiction book ever) was mentioned in the book… although I don’t like the way the author spoiled it a little.

I wish I could tell a certain character from Fangirl that yes, there is Outsiders fan fiction. I personally think the amount of Outsiders fan fiction increases every year. I’m not sure because I don’t read that particular fan fiction anymore, but the fact that it has thousands of fan fics is great because the book is a timeless classic.

Lastly, I loved the way the author parodied the Harry Potter fandom, especially at the very end of the book. It reminded me how I felt when I got the last Harry Potter book and turned the final page.

Written by Serena Zola

December 31, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Book Review: Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry

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Pushing The Limits, Katie McGarryPlot Summary (Taken from Amazon): No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can PUSH THE LIMITS and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her HOW TO LOVE AGAIN.

My  Review: One of the best things about this book is how the author weaves in many different issues including foster homes, mental illness, repressed memories, abuse, and death. Without these issues, the main characters would have been cardboard cutouts and impossible to care for. In addition, all of these issues were realistically portrayed.

Another thing that was great about the book was its main characters and some of its supporting characters. Echo and Noah seem like clichés but they aren’t. Echo is very damaged emotionally and physically, but she is also talented and funny. Watching her grow into a resilient, assertive, and sympathetic person is poignant. Noah is also very damaged, but also caring and protective. When it came to Echo, he was also respectable.

Meanwhile, the best supporting character was Noah’s guy friend Isaiah. He was an honest and funny guy. The most surprising supporting characters were Echo’s parents, Noah’s family, and some of Echo’s friends. The surprises with these characters were shocking, sad, and touching.

Besides the issues and characters, the romance was very well done. It is very slow and realistic. When it finally does happen, it turns sexy, but also responsible, respectable, and poignant.

The only flaw in this book was the profanity, which was a bit too much at times.

Overall, this book was great. If you like The Sea of Tranquility or edgy contemporary romance, then read this book.

Written by Serena Zola

November 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Book Review: Shrapnel by Stephanie Lawton

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Plot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): It’s been six years since Dylanie and her family visited a Civil War site and the place came alive with cannon fire. Problem was, no one could hear it but her.

Now she’s sixteen, her dad’s moved out, her mom’s come out of the closet and Dylan’s got a spot on Paranormal Teen, a reality TV show filming at historic Oakleigh Mansion. She’ll spend a weekend with two other psychic teens—Jake and Ashley—learning how to control her abilities.

None of them realized how much their emotional baggage would put them at the mercy of Oakleigh’s resident spirits, or that they’d find themselves pawns in the 150-year-old battle for the South’s legendary Confederate gold. Each must conquer their personal ghosts to face down Jackson, a seductive spirit who will do anything to protect the gold’s current location and avenge a heinous attack that destroyed his family.

My Review: One of the best things about this book is the characters. Dylanie is a kick-butt and sassy girl with cool powers.  Jake is funny and also has cool powers. Ashley is a diamond in the rough who really comes through during the climax of the book.  Also, the emotional baggage they have made them relatable.

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was how the author weaved in difficult issues into the plot, especially in Dylan’s case. There is not a lot of teen fiction with the personal issues Dylan has and the author handled them very realistically.

In addition, the paranormal aspect to the book made it a page-turner. The fact that the author chose different psychic abilities for each character made the book unique. Also, weaving in history to the storyline made it seem almost real.

The only flaw in the book is the character Jackson and his interactions with Dylan.  Given what his character is, his interactions with Dylan didn’t make sense and should have been explained.

Overall, this was a great book. If you want a creative paranormal story with good characters, this is the book for you.

Written by Serena Zola

October 11, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Book Review: Rogue by Lyn Miller- Lachmann

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Rogue by Lyn Milller-LachmannPlot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hard for her to make friends. So whenever her world doesn’t make sense—which is often—she relies on Mr. Internet for answers. But there are some questions he can’t answer, like why she always gets into trouble, and how do kids with Asperger’s syndrome make friends? Kiara has a difficult time with other kids. They taunt her and she fights back. Now she’s been kicked out of school. She wishes she could be like her hero Rogue—a misunderstood X-Men mutant who used to hurt anyone she touched until she learned how to control her special power.

When Chad moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is more complicated than Mr. Internet could ever explain, and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power.

My Review:

One of the best things about this book are its characters. Kiara is a protagonist worth caring about because she is more than just a person with a disability. Chad, Kiara’s potential friend, is like an onion. You gradually learn to sympathize with him as you learn more about him.  When it comes to the supporting characters, they were well-done because they gave a spark to Kiara’s personality and life. It was creative how the author gave some of the characters traits that were similar to some of the X-Men.

Another thing that was interesting was the treatment of Asperger’s syndrome, broken families, drugs and alcohol, and friendship. The author did a good job of informing outsiders about Asperger’s syndrome. Although the author has it herself, she portrayed it fairly by showing how it affects the person who has it and people around the person who has it.

In addition, Lachmann weaved in other issues into the story well. It realistically shows how complicated life can be for young people. The only downside was that linking a couple of these issues to one of the characters created a too ambiguous ending for that character.

All in all, this was a great book. Anyone who works with young people with disabilities should read this. Due to the drug and alcohol content, I also recommend that only upper-level middle school students and above read this book.

Related Book Review:

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Written by Serena Zola

September 13, 2013 at 11:55 AM

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