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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. 





Written by Serena Zola

September 21, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Thoughts On Writing: What I’ve Learned From YA Fiction

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Ten years ago, I re-read The Outsiders for the third or fourth time and decided I wanted to be writer. Since then, I’ve read a lot of YA fiction and done some serious thinking about what kind of books I wanted to write. Now, I’m looking at what I’ve learned so far as an aspiring YA author.

  1. YA fiction is one of the best genres ever. There’s great books from the past and the present, a lot of sub genres, cool writing styles and formats, etc. For more on what I’ve learned about the genre, check out this Buzzfeed post I just posted using my real name: 14 Reasons YA Fiction is One Of The Best Genres Ever.
  2. It taught me that I love characters. Whenever I think about The Outsiders or any other YA book that I like, the characters are the first thing that comes to mind. Reading about memorable characters have helped me learn how to create my own.
  3. I don’t have to write what’s popular in YA fiction. Whenever I look at the best-selling and free Kindle books for teen fiction, they are almost always paranormal novels. I always wonder if these authors are jumping on the bandwagon or writing what they love. As for me, I’m going to stick with contemporary teen fiction because it is the sub-genre most dear to me. If my stuff becomes a best-seller someday, then that’s just a bonus reward.
  4. I don’t have to rush to be a best-selling author. S.E. Hinton got The Outsiders published when she graduated high school. I used to fantasize about doing something similar to her in high school or college, but now I see that just puts too much pressure on myself as a writer. I can’t be S.E. Hinton; I can only write like me.
  5. I don’t have to write a story like a standard story. It took me forever to realize this, but I hate writing stories in standard paragraph form. After I finish this prose story I’ve been putting off and working on forever, I’m going to learn how to write stories in verse. I love writing poetry and have completed a lot more poems than I have stories in prose. Hopefully this will be more exciting than hard!

Written by Serena Zola

January 27, 2014 at 5:46 PM

Top Five Outsider Books for Teens and Adults

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As a teen, I felt like an outsider in more ways than one. One thing that helped was reading books that featured fellow outsiders.

As I started college, I still felt out of place and found more books for comfort.  Some of these books helped me realize that even if you still feel like an outsider as an adult, you don’t have to be ashamed of it.  Here are my top five outsider books for teens and adults.

My Top Five Outsider Books for Teens and Adults

  1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton– This book changed my life and made me see people differently. The fact that the author was a teen herself when she wrote it is a bonus.
  2. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky- I read this book two years before the film adaptation came out and it resonated with me as much as The Outsiders did. It does a fantastic job of including various books, music, and movies into a teen’s life. This is important because these things can keep an outsider alive and sane.
  3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson- While outcasthood isn’t the main subject of this book, it is realistically portrayed in the main character of the book, Melinda. This ended up being the first teen book I’ve read where the main character has no friends all throughout the book.
  4. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz If it’s one thing I learned from this book is that being an immigrant and a geek can suck. Big time. Despite all the bad crap that happens, it is still an honest and wonderful read.
  5. Geektastic by various authors- Whether you are geeky and proud or geeky and insecure, you’ll love this book. It features geeky stories by young adult authors such as Libba Bray, John Green, and David Leviathan.


Written by Serena Zola

March 15, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Why I Read YA Books

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I read this article about why YA books appeal to adults when it was first published and found it amusing, deciding to bookmark it for a future blog post. Today, I decided to compile a list of reasons about why I read YA books and ask my readers and fellow bloggers, “Why do you read YA Books?” I understand this question might not apply to everybody, but I’m asking out of curiosity because I have a feeling that some of the reasons listed on the article don’t apply.

Here are my reasons in no particular order:

1. As an aspiring young adult author, YA books are my inspiration

For the most part, I read contemporary YA books because that is the exact YA genre I want to write books for. Sometimes, if ideas aren’t coming or I’m frustrated, thinking “Why am I doing this again?” I reread the book that inspired me to write for teens in the first place: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

2.  To remember the comfort received as a teen

A quote from S.E. Hinton about her enjoyment of reading goes, “The act of reading was so pleasurable for me. For an introverted kid, it’s a means of communication, because you interact with the author even if you aren’t sitting there conversing with her.” This sums up perfectly what YA books meant to me as a teen. I didn’t have a lot of close friendships and relationships, so sometimes books and their authors were my closest confidants. They made me experience a wide range of emotions that sometimes matched my own, creating an amazing feeling of empathy. As a result, a very important message was communicated to me: “You are not alone.”

3. To keep up with what everybody (or at least some people)  read

I might not like some of the trends in YA books **coughs** vampires **coughs**, but I like to think that one unlikable trend is connected to a likeable one. For instance, if I had turned my back on the whole paranormal trend completely, I would not have discovered that I enjoy a book from the Riders of the Apocalypse series.

There you have it. Does anybody have the same reasons for reading YA books as I do? Also, what do think of the article I linked to; do you agree with it? Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting!

Written by Serena Zola

January 6, 2013 at 7:37 PM

Op-Ed: Should YA Books Have Movie-Style Ratings??

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Normally, I don’t post twice in one week but when something gets me fired up I have an urge to write. Earlier this afternoon, I was on the Huffington Post when I came across this article entitled, “Should YA Books Be Given Ratings?

As a former grade school student and an aspiring YA author, I am against these proposed ratings. One important reason is that YA books are in schools for required reading and pleasure reading. One example is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

When I first read this book, I was in 7th grade. I can remember reaching the climax of the book. Suddenly, my teacher said, “Ok class, we’ll stop here.” I could feel the disappointment all around me. I was feeling it inside me too. “Can we read one more chapter?” a voice asked. It reminded me of a little kid asking a mom for another treat.

Then I, along with the rest of the class, spoke our support as one. “Can we please?” Please?!” We were so ecstatic about the book, we were almost hopping like kangaroos. My teacher just smiled, laughed, and said, “Okay.” The class and I cheered and we resumed reading.

Two years after that memorable moment, I started high school. From then on, there were no more memorable moments because we were no longer reading material that engaged us and related to us.  Instead of reading young adult books, we were reading classic works like Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby.

The only bright side for me and some of my classmates came when we had to do book reports. During this time, I explored the YA section of the school library. Not all of the books I chose to read were good, but there were a few I enjoyed. Some of these books included the Hazelwood High Trilogy and the fantasy series the Daughters of the Moon.

At this point, I was aspiring to become a YA author. By the time I graduated, I had read plenty of YA books. As time passed, I started to hear about banned YA books and learned that YA writers target certain age groups when they write their works. It is for this reason that I understand why people would want these ratings. After all, a book written with sixteen year old situations would not be appropriate for a thirteen year old.

However, ratings shouldn’t be used to guide pubescent and adolescents. This is something parents should do. If it concerns them, then they should ask their kid why they want to read the book. If the reason is valid, then parents should say, “Let me read the book with you.” or “I’ll read the book, too.” If you need an excuse, say something along the lines of, “If you find it interesting, maybe I will too.” By reading what their kid reads, the parent can discuss the book with their kid as they read and provide guidance if necessary.

As previously stated, kids are exposed to YA books as early as middle school. This is also the point where kids pull away from their parents and start searching for who they are. With a parent’s a loose yet firm grip, the kids will be fine.

Written by Serena Zola

May 24, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Book Review: Geektastic

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  Geektastic: Stories from The Nerd Herd is a collection of geeky short stories by some of today’s most prominent young adult authors. Some of them include John Green, Sara Zarr, David Leviathan, and Holly Black. A sample of story topics include Star Wars versus Star Trek, RPGs, and comics.

One of the best things about this book is how the stories go beyond the geeky passions and go into the personal lives of the characters. A good example from the book is “The Truth About Dino Girl” by Barry Lyga. In the story, a geeky girl has a crush on a popular guy. At the same time, she wants to be the world’s greatest paleontologist. Yet past memories and an uncertain future make Dino Girl feel alone and like nothing.

Another good thing about this book is the comic illustrations in between the stories. Done by Brian Lee O’ Malley (creator of the comic Scott Pilgrim VS The World that the movie is based on) and Hope Larson, these comics are funny and geeky. They catch the eye with headlines like “How to Look Cool and Not Drool in Front of Your Favorite Author”.

In the end, it all depends on personal taste. If you are a geek and a certain type of geek, then you will enjoy these stories. Even if you aren’t a geek, you might know someone who is and so will be able to understand them better if you read a story or two. Either way, this book is worth reading.

Written by Serena Zola

May 3, 2012 at 9:17 PM

8 Things to Save a Life Part 2

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In honor of Jonah Mowry as well as all the victims of bullycide, I have created a two-part post featuring songs and books that can be used to comfort any suicidal or bullied person. However, these posts are especially for children and teens.

Since part one featured the songs, this second part will feature the books.

The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins

Many teens are bullied because they are different from most of their classmates. Some of them resort to suicide because they believe they will suffer the same treatment all throughout their life. With this non-fiction book, the author presents what she calls “the quirk theory”, which states that the things that cause them to be bullied in high school will be the things that people appreciate later in life. To support this theory, the author follows several real characters that are ostracized for being different and issues them a challenge to change their situation without changing who they are. In addition, the author features celebrities that were outcasts in high school before they were famous.

On the Fringe edited by Donald R. Gallo

This book features several stories by many prominent young adult authors. These stories tell what it is like to be an outcast, to be excluded for being different. Some of these stories are hopeful, while others are shocking, but all of them have a lesson to be learned.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan

This fiction book tells the story of one gay teen and one straight teen who share the same name and what happens when they meet. A humorous yet serious story featuring love and friendship, this is a great book for anyone.

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Another thing that teens may resort to when bullied is self-injury. Jonah Mowry did it and so does the main character in this book. After a humiliating bullying incident, Melissa Miller accidentally creates a fatal wound while cutting herself with a razor. However, when Death comes he offers her the chance to become War, a Rider of the Apocalypse. When Melissa Miller takes the job, she slowly learns something that helps her conquer her pain: control.

Written by Serena Zola

December 16, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Book Review: Perfect

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Once again, Ellen Hopkins has written another raw, eye-opening young adult novel. For those who aren’t familiar with her work, Hopkins’ young adult novels are written in verse and their subject is teen issues. With her latest work, Hopkins’ discusses the issue of perfection from the point of view of four teens: Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre. Cara is the twin sister of Conner, a character from Impulse, another young adult novel from Hopkins. Cara is trying to live up to her parents’ high academic expectations until an unexpected love comes along. Kendra is trying to get the perfect body by using self-destructive methods. Sean is trying to have the perfect life, socially and athletically and will do whatever it takes to get it. Andre is trying to live his own perfect dreams, but his ancestors’ desires stand in the way.

One of the notable things about these characters was how they showed duality in the way they saw themselves and how other people saw them. Another appreciative aspect of the book was how the format and font of the verses changed for each character to make them unique. In addition, there is a great promotion of critical thinking in the way that  Hopkins approached the subject of perfection from different points of view. The only thing that may bother readers is how the book ends, especially if they really connect to the characters. All in all, Perfect was practically perfect.

Written by Serena Zola

November 6, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Real Young Adult Literature

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As an aspiring young adult author and a person who is passionate about teen issues, I voraciously read young adult literature. However, most of today’s young adult literature makes me sick! It seems after the Twilight series came out, everyone wants to jump on the paranormal fantasy bandwagon. All I ever see whenever I go to the library or bookstore are romance books about vampires or some similar thing like angels and fairies.  I’m not saying writing about these things are bad, but what vexes me is that these subjects aren’t written about realistically. I know some people will say, “Well duh, it’s a paranormal fantasy, it’s not supposed to be real.” In my opinion, fantasy is just a more creative version of reality. The Harry Potter series had magic and myth in it, but it also had themes of prejudice, friendship, and identity in it.

After I finished reading the Harry Potter series, I started reading the Twilight series because I kept seeing it everywhere in school. At first,  I loved the series like everyone else. Then, I read another vampire series called Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. As soon as I finished the first book, I no longer liked Twilight. Vampire Academy had stronger characters and themes that Twilight lacked. For example, the main character of Twilight, Bella, only seems to care about having a good relationship with boys. Contrastly, Rose, the main character of the Vampire Academy series, cares about more than just her boyfriend. She also cares for her friend Lissa and the politics she is involved in.

Once I finished reading the Vampire Academy series, I looked for paranormal books with similar themes and found very little that satisfied me. The only other series I found that I liked was the Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler. These books feature supernatural elements, but they also feature teen issues such as eating disorders, self-injury, and bullying. I’ve only read one book in the series, Rage, but it turns out that the books can be read as a stand alone book or as a series of books. Rage is a book that features not only the topics of self-injury and bullying, but also the themes of identity and self acceptance. While the book also features some supernatural romance, it doesn’t overshadow the main themes and topics.

The thing that probably annoys me the most about today’s young adult literature is that most teens don’t realize seem to realize that they are reading books that don’t truly represent who they are. They are too caught up in the romance and gorgeous looks of characters that they don’t care about anything else. Today, I looked up a list of books that were voted Teen’s Top Ten on the Young
Adult Library Service’s Association website. The majority of the books are paranormal.

I understand that finding out who you are as a teen is difficult, but that doesn’t mean that we should sugarcoat adolescence with romance and vainness! There are more important things that teens deal with, things that need to be addressed in books and other forms of entertainment.

According to,  1 million children are bullied every week in and outside of school.  In addition, 20 teens commit suicide every year due to bullying.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million women and 1 million men suffer from an eating disorder.

According to the Cornell Research Program on Self Injury, 12 to 24 percent of young people self injure.

If teens aren’t aware of real issues they may encounter, then they will not be prepared for life as adult. They must be educated about them in order to cope with these issues properly and to help others who deal with these issues.  Therefore, here is my own list of  twenty young adult books that deal with the many themes and issues of teens.

  1. The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins
  2. The Freedom Writers’ Diary by Erin Grunwell and The Freedom Writers
  3. Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
  4. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
  5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan
  6. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
  7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  8. Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
  9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  10. Staying Fat For Sarah Byrns by Chris Crutcher
  11. Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
  12. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  13. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
  14. Looking For Alaska by John Green
  15. Paper Towns by John Green
  16. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  17. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  18. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl by Barry Lyga
  19. Fat Kid Rules The World by K.L. Going
  20. The Realm of Possibility by David Leviathan

Written by Serena Zola

October 17, 2011 at 1:50 PM

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