Posted in Blog Tour

Review: “Tigers, Not Daughters” by Samantha Mabry

Rating: Highly Recommend

I love a good slow burn character-driven story. And I love something that’s quiet but impactful and elegant but gritty. That’s how I would describe Samantha Mabry’s newest book Tigers, Not Daughters. A contemporary, Latinx King Lear-esque story about all the ways girls are mistreated and misunderstood, a spellbinding tale of the love and turmoil of sisterhood, this is a book that captivated me and has my whole heart.

The book begins with the tragic death of Ana Torres, leaving behind her younger sisters Jessica, Iridian and Rosa to grieve and pick up the pieces of their broken family. Jessica has taken over the responsibility for caring for the family and their broken, abusive father. She is caught in a loveless relationship. Iridian is slowly fading among the pages of her sister’s favorite romance novels and the sheets of her bed. And Rosa thinks that she can speak to animals and is on a mission to find a locally escaped hyena. All of them are grieving and when their dead sister begins to haunt them, they must all reckon with what she might, or might not, be telling them.

I read Tigers, Not Daughters at the beginning of what would become my state’s shelter-in-place order. During those first few uneasy days at home filled with the uncertainty and anxiety of the massive and sudden changes we were experiencing, this story helped me to escape and find some solace. Filled with gorgeous prose and intriguing, complex female protagonists, Mabry’s novel provided an enchanted and disturbing world filled with the ordinary and the extraordinary.

In a book with multiple perspectives, it’s easy to fall in love with one voice and like others less. That wasn’t my experience with this book. I loved the chapters narrated by the meddling boys across the street, which added on a shimmery layer of the outside onto the intense psychological worlds of the sister. They also toyed with the complex gender politics of the novel. This is a world in which the Torres sisters are victims of the well-intentioned kindness, neutrality and malice of those outside their tight-knit bonds.

Each of the sisters felt distinct and I enjoyed each of their voices and stories. I loved Jessica’s resignedness and her quiet fury. I loved Iridian’s quirkiness and her stubbornness. And I loved Rosa’s eccentricity. But most of all, I loved the way the sisters found each other again over the course of this book.

Tigers, Not Daughters is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s intense, deep and suspenseful. It’s also one of the best books I’ve read this year about grief and the way it deeply transforms you. That shower hair scene was disturbing, but I get what it’s like to miss someone so deeply you want them to be a part of you. To miss someone so much you begin competing with the other people who miss them to for even the smallest tangible piece of memory to hold onto. It was so well done, and my heart swelled with every page.

I’m also thrilled that Tigers, Not Daughters is the first in a series. I can’t wait to spend more time with the Torres sisters in the next chapter of their story.

Please note that an e-arc was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Blog Tour

Review: How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian

Rating: Highly Recommend

Nothing makes me happier than books with small but resounding emotional stakes that make me ponder the ways that we connect to other people and find our way, step by step, through what is often an intense and cruel world. And more often than not, my favorite books in this category are young adult novels that explore flash points in the lives of young people. One such book that fits this category is Maria Padian’s latest young adult novel, How to Build a Heart.

Since her dad, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, all Izzy has wanted was a home and some stability. Her mom, little brother and her have been on the move ever since and Izzy is ready to settle down. Completely cut off from her father’s family nearby, Izzy’s family is on their own, especially so after they learn that Habitat for Humanity has selected them as the first family to receive a house on the wealthy side of the town where Izzy lives. Eager to trade in their mobile home for a real house with walls, Izzy is excited and nervous all at the same time, because she doesn’t want any of her friends at her school she attends on scholarship to know that she’s poor. Especially not after she befriends Aubrey, a new girl in their a cappella group. And definitely not after she begins to connect with Aubrey’s older brother Sam. Equally parts poignant romance, heartwarming family drama and a sweet, complicated friendship book, How to Build a Heart is a must read for anyone looking for a great contemporary read about figuring yourself out and learning to trust the people who support you.

I loved Izzy as a character. She felt complicated and real, and I quickly got sucked into the messy dynamics of her story. It’s easy to relate to her complicated feelings toward her neighbor and best friend, Roz, who resents their life in the mobile home and longs to get away from her abusive family to become a stylist. I also related so intensely to Izzy’s shame around having less than her wealthier private school peers, but admired her dedication to her family and ingenuity in juggling all of her responsibilities.

Also, my favorite part of the book was her friendship with Aubrey, and how that connection became the first domino in a chain of events that changed how Izzy saw herself, her family and her situation. In close second for my favorite part of the book was Izzy’s relationship to her father’s family and how that changed and evolved over the course of the book. I loved that a big part of this book was about second chances and learning how to let people in, to let people show you that they’ve changed or that they’re not who you thought they were.

Izzy’s dynamic with the Habitat for Humanity workers was also great. Habitat is an organization that I’ve of course heard of and there have been builds over the years in my area. However, I didn’t know much about the details of it, from the application process to how the builds were completed and what an emotionally and physically taxing process it can be for everyone involved.

The writing itself had such an incredibly and strong voice. Izzy’s thoughts and feelings leaped off the page. The writing is gritty, emotionally intense and lyrical all at the same time. This book would make a perfect weekend read under a pile of blankets or the perfect beach and poolside read once summer, finally, rolls around. Unless you live somewhere warm, now. Then please read this book on the beach for me. 😉

Posted in Shattering Stigmas

Why I Stepped Away by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

Today I am so excited to bring Shannon, who is the lovely and hardworking founder of Shattering Stigmas. I am so happy she let me have a chance to continue this amazing event and even more thrilled to give her a space to still contribute to her baby this year. When she’s not doing Shattering Stigmas-related shenanigans, you can find Shannon on Twitter and on her blog, It Starts at Midnight

So, it’s a little weird to be writing a guest post instead of actually hosting Shattering Stigmas, but here we are. First, I want to give a huge thanks to Taylor and the other hosts. Handing over your baby to someone else is hard, but I have complete faith that it’s in the best hands possible.

You might be wondering why I have stepped back this year, and that’s fair. I’ll give you guys a little synopsis: I was dragging my feet because as much as I wanted to get the event organized, I had no energy to do so and it was daunting. When Taylor reached out, Holly @ The Fox’s Hideaway (who’s been a co-host in past years too!) gently reminded me that I could let Taylor take over this year. And after a little soul searching, I did. For two reasons: one, I knew it was the right thing to do for the event. It’s important, and I wanted it to go on with or without me; and two, I knew it was the right thing to do for myself, too.

Which brings me to the meat of this post: the reasons why. The short answer, of course, is that life is messy at the moment. And in order to take care of myself, I need to not be in charge of a huge blog event. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story I have been embarrassed to tell.  A story that only a very, very small handful of people know. I think, though, part of healing and moving forward is acceptance. And self-kindness. My therapist says (frequently) that she wants me to frame my views of my situation differently: instead of beating myself up, worrying about what I could have done differently, I should look at it as though a friend were telling me the story. What would I say to them? What advice would I give? Would I be judgmental and harsh, as I am with myself? Or rather, would I be kind, loving, and accepting? Obviously, it’s the latter. So in the spirit of moving forward, here we go.

A little over a year ago, I reached a huge turning point in my personal journey. Though I’d known in my mind that my marriage had been over for many years, I was finally able to admit it out loud to friends and family, and eventually to my ex-husband. It was such a huge breakthrough for me, and while it was hard, I felt an enormous weight lifted. Because my daughter had just started school, we agreed to wait for a few months to go through the formal divorce proceedings, sell the house, etc. She has a hard time with change and we didn’t want to overwhelm her. (Like mother, like daughter, I suppose.) I had hoped we could do mediation, come to a nice, healthy, civil agreement that would benefit everyone as much as possible.

All that changed in December. My ex-husband showed up early at home, saying that he’d been put on leave from his job as a counselor. And that was the beginning of a nightmare that I don’t even have words for, but I am going to try. He was subsequently terminated, though at the time I had no idea why. He refused to tell me, and it wasn’t exactly like we were on good terms, so. As a stay-at-home mom for almost the past decade, we now had no income mere weeks before Christmas. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, for several months into 2018, he was arrested. And I finally found out what he was terminated for: An inappropriate relationship with a fifteen year old transgender client. Basically, the most vulnerable of victims.

It’s the kind of moment where everything you think you know drops out from under you. For while I knew I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him, I had never thought of him as a bad person, never knew he could be a predator. He, of course, denied this. Of course, my “proof” was circumstantial. For awhile. He’d been out on bail, under a strict no-contact order in regards to the victim, of course. And I really never thought he would break that, especially because I really thought he cared about his kids. Then the bottom really fell out. My kids told me (and this is the very short version) that my ex had brought this person into my home while I was in New York with my parents. That they were “boyfriends” and had “tickle fights.”  And, that they were never supposed to tell me. I don’t know how I made it through the night until I could go, with my parents’ support, to the police station to file a report and then to get an order of protection for myself and the children.

I still doubted myself. What if I had made a mistake? My actual rocks, Val, Rashika, and Holly gently but firmly pointed out all the recent shady behavior, and I knew deep down that he wasn’t innocent. I found out later that he was caught with the victim in a hotel (that incidentally, he paid for by wiping out my bank account after I’d taken the order of protection out). Bail revoked, he was taken into custody. And I found myself a 100% single parent, no source of income, closest source of support an hour away.

In the aftermath, my feelings have been all over. I feel angry at myself for even worrying about my problems when there is a victim out there. I feel selfish for even thinking about me when I know my kids’ worlds were turned upside down. I feel at fault for not somehow noticing this sooner, for not being able to stop it somehow. And I feel mad, frankly, that this is what my life has evolved into. And sure, there are days that I feel grateful that I have my lovely kids, my friends, my parents, that there was an end put to this, and that my divorce should be final any day now.

Now, I must move forward, blindly. I am terrified of what comes next. My daughter is in counseling, but she isn’t doing well. I am taking a crappy job that I had over a decade ago and hated, just because I can’t find anything else. I have to move, and soon.  I may end up having to declare bankruptcy, since I have gotten so far behind in trying to deal with the financial strain. I am trying hard to not die of embarrassment as I write this, because I know I didn’t cause it. But like all stigmas, this is one society has ingrained in me.

At the end of the day, I need to be kinder to myself. I am going to do so right now: No one could have predicted ten years ago that I’d be here now. Even the red flags I did see amounted to cheating at best, and since we were divorcing, it wasn’t like I cared. Never in my wildest nightmares would I have imagined this. And that’s okay! Hell, that’s normal, because I am not a monster. It’s okay to fall apart a little, too.

So, my message to you all is this: you can, you will beat whatever monster you’re dealing with. It won’t be easy. Treat yourselves like you would a friend. Because we all love you, and we’re here for you. And we know you deserve it. You deserve the world. We won’t let the stigma beat us down.

Next year, I hope to be back on the #ShatteringStigmas team. And I hope to be moving forward with life, too. How, you ask?


(And you know, therapy and support and such. But mostly being awesome. You’re welcome for The 100 reference, it would not be a Shannon Post™ without it, let’s be real.)

Enter our *international* giveaway for a mental health read of your choice!

Interested in more Shattering Stigmas posts? Check out this post that Ben, another of our amazing co-hosts, put together listing every single Shattering Stigmas guest post and giveaway so you don’t miss a thing!

Posted in Book Review

Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers


Sadie by Courtney Summers, Wednesday Books, 320 pp., On Sale September 4, 2018

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

CW: Murder, blood/gore, violence, child pornography, child sexual abuse, extreme poverty, drug use/addiction

Representation: MC has a stutter

If I was being totally honest, this review would just be me mashing my keyboard and screaming and then driving to the houses of everyone I know in the middle of the night and throwing a copy of this gorgeous, masterful book at them. But that’s not a way to write a review and I can’t drive, so I’m going to have to do this the old-fashioned way. Courtney Summers’ new novel Sadie is amazing. The hype is real. The hype is deserved. This book is everything.

I have a lot of friends who love True Crime and detective stories. If that’s you, why are you still here? You’re going to love Sadie, hands down. This is the feminist, voicey, twisty book of your dreams, the book you’ve practically been waiting for. Go buy this book now from IndieBound, Amazon or Barnes & Noble right now. You’ll thank me later.

If you’re still here because you need a little more convincing, let me tell you about this lovely freaking book: it starts with a dead girl. Thirteen-year-old Mattie is found murdered and her nineteen-year-old sister, Sadie, takes off in a beat-up car and a few belongings, thirsty for revenge. The whole plot is framed and paralleled by a podcast called The Girls, in which a reluctant journalist tries to unearth the truth of what happened to Sadie and track her down. Fun fact: Macmillan is producing a real version of The Girls, all about YA thrillers, and you can find more info about that here.

I loved Sadie as a character. Her voice is so strong and so complex. She’s the kind of character that makes shitty choice after shitty choice but every feeling she has jumps off the page and you feel it all alongside her. She also has a severe stutter, which is shown in the dialogue throughout the book and influences how Sadie sees herself and how others loved her.

Sadie is a gritty book that tackles issues like addiction, child sexual abuse, child pornography and emotional abuse with the compassion they deserve and the empathy crucial to showing how these issues psychologically affect an individual. This is a book about the destructive power of the love we have for family and about the strength of girls to get what they want. It’s about the deterioration of families and the impact of abuse on the teen psyche. It’s simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking. I couldn’t put it down.

If I had to describe this book in one word, I would call it multifaceted. This book honestly has so many different sides to it and it’s told in a non-linear format that is nothing short of a masterful display of craft and form. I’ve heard such wonderful things about Courney Summers’ books, but you don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve read one. They are masterpieces.

Posted in Book Review

Review: If Only by Jennifer Gilmore

If Only by Jennifer Gilmore, HarperTeen, 288 pp.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

CW: birth/babies

Representation: adoption 

A new trend I’ve noticed in YA books that are told from a dual perspective where one thread is told in the past, the other told in the present and they connect in some way. It’s a neat narrative tool when it’s done well. One new book where such is the case is If Only by Jennifer Gilmore.

This poignant novel traces the parallel stories of a first mother, Bridget, and Ivy, the daughter Brigitte had at sixteen and gave up for adoption. Bridget’s story takes place in 2000 when she is sixteen and Ivy’s story is told in 2017 when she is the same age. The novel is a story about a mother making the toughest and best choice for her child when she’s just a kid and the magnetic pull that exists between them years later.

What I loved most about this book is how the two plot lines complemented each other. I love that Gilmore chose to set the book at points where the mother and daughter are the same age and showing their parallel journeys that they undergo at the same age. This narrative format made the story more interesting and also created interesting similarities and differences between mother and daughter that were subtle, but lovely.

In terms of form, I loved the “If Only” chapters. Interspersed throughout the book, there are chapters that show alternative lives that Ivy might have lived if Bridget had chosen a different adoptive family for her daughter. What’s most extraordinary about these chapters is the way in which Gilmore then weaves the characters in these chapters elsewhere in the story so they still exist in the world of the narrative and not just in these “what if?” moments.

I also loved the beautiful and poetic writing. I cried many tears reading this book, as so many of the scenes are poignantly tender or utterly heartbreaking. The writing is so rich, too. This is definitely one of those books you can pick up on a Saturday afternoon and get lost in. Overall, If Only was a quick, sweet read about adoption, friendship and what it means to find your family. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Posted in Shattering Stigmas

Q&A with Akemi Dawn Bowman

15068129Hello everyone! I am so pleased and excited to have Akemi Dawn Bowman, the debut author of Starfish, to talk about her book and mental health representation in YA! Starfish is a contemporary YA novel about Kiko, a half-Japanese girl whose rejection from her top art school sends her on an unexpected journey to come to terms with herself, her history and her family. The novel features on-the-page representation of anxiety in various forms. You can find Akemi on Twitter and her website.

So Akemi, my first question is where did this story about a girl struggling with abuse and anxiety come from? Did you know going into the writing of it that you would be tackling these topics or did they emerge as you were writing?

I guess the simple answer is that Starfish is the book I needed most as a teen. I wrote it knowing exactly what topics it would tackle and how it would end. A lot of writers say they pour their heart into their work, but I think I might’ve left a few pieces of mine on the pages. My biggest hope is that Starfish will reach the people who need it most, and that they’ll read Kiko’s story and find a mirror. And I hope that mirror will help them feel not so alone.

29456598The representation of mental health and illness in Starfish deals with the intersection of mental health with other parts of Kiko’s identity and her experiences, from her Japanese heritage to her family to abuse. How did you go about crafting this intersectionality and how important was it for you to show the intersectionality of mental health in the book?

Very important! Similar to Kiko, I am biracial and have social anxiety, so crafting her identity and experiences felt very natural to me in some ways. Creating a story that pulls from lived experiences is very different than writing something completely from a person’s imagination. Because there are nuances that aren’t easily picked up on by people who’ve never lived that experience. And also, these experiences can vary so much when you take into account the other parts of a person’s identity. Kiko, for example, is a survivor of abuse, lives with social anxiety, and is half-Japanese/half-white, but raised by her white mother in a predominantly white town. Her anxiety is a part of her, but it’s also hugely shaped by her environment and the many layers that make up her identity. All of these different parts of Kiko overlap and intertwine—they affect one another. Being biracial alters how connected she feels to her Japanese identity. Having anxiety changes her perception of her emotionally abusive mother. Being a biracial teen girl with social anxiety in a white town gives her a different experience to someone who might’ve lived in LA, for example. I tried to show the complexity of these layers while also making sure it felt organic to the story.

You mentioned on Twitter that you edited out instances of the words “crazy” and “insane” from the book in between the printings of the arcs and the final copies. Thank you so much for doing that and being so candid about it. What led you to that decision and what has the reaction to that decision been like?

All the credit goes to my amazing editor, Jen. She’s the absolute best, and I’m lucky to be on the same team as her. She pointed the words out to me during a round of edits because she wanted Starfish to be as inclusive as possible. I hadn’t known those words were offensive, and I immediately panicked and deleted every single one of them. I have a very deep fear of upsetting people, so I spent a few months being really embarrassed and terrified I was going to unintentionally hurt someone. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it would be better to just admit my mistake and put it out in the world, because maybe the admission would prevent someone from being hurt. I haven’t really noticed a reaction to it, really, but it honestly wasn’t about getting a reaction. I don’t need a cookie or anything like that—I just wanted to prevent readers from getting hurt, and tell the ones who were hurt that I’m sorry and that the words had been removed from the final copy.

One of the goals of Shattering Stigmas is to dismantle the stigma against mental illness by creating a safe space for people to discuss these issues and raise awareness about mental health via their favorite mental health reads and personal experiences. How important is mental health awareness to you and has writing Starfish impacted that in any way?

I LOVE that this is one of your goals! It’s so important and something near and dear to my heart. People shouldn’t be afraid, embarrassed, or ashamed to talk about their mental health. It’s so important to speak up if you’re not feeling okay, and to seek help or medication if you need it. It took me years until I finally sought help because I thought what I was feeling made me weak. I worried people would think I was complaining or exaggerating, because I’d never had the support of people who were very knowledgeable or understanding about mental health.

When I was a teen and in my early twenties, I was horribly afraid to leave my house. I was fine going to and from work, because that felt like someone else was depending on me and I hated letting people down. But if it was just me, I didn’t like to go anywhere. I always thought everyone was staring at me, even if I was just driving around in my car. Sometimes I’d have to loop around a parking lot several times, and then sit in the car for an hour before I could manage to walk inside the grocery store. And there were other things too, like how I’d only take the trash cans down to the curb once the sun went down, because I didn’t want anyone to see me. It would take hours (sometimes days) to make a phone call because I was terrified of having to speak to anyone. And if someone knocked on the door without calling or giving me at least a few hours to prepare, I’d freeze up and not answer. And then I’d end up sitting at home having an anxiety attack because I was so afraid they were going to come back.

But then I sought out a therapist, and that’s how I learned what social anxiety was, and how it was affecting me. Therapy wasn’t a cure, but having a term for what I was feeling has helped me to cope so much better. And I live with it now, in a way that isn’t quite as restrictive as it used to be.

So yes, mental health awareness is very important to me, and Starfish was therapeutic in a lot of ways. I was able to channel my anxiety into another character, and then give her a hopeful, triumphant story to show how anxiety can be dealt with in a healthy way (especially when you have supportive friends and/or family!).

What are some of your recommendations for great mental health representation in YA? 

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera does a wonderful job of portraying OCD. And I’ve heard incredible things about Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, which deals with bipolar disorder, and Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, which has anxiety and depression rep.

Are there any mental health issues you wish were more widely represented in YA?

I wish there were more books with characters who have depression but don’t also have suicidal thoughts. Because the two don’t always go together. And it would be great to see books with characters who deal with mental health issues, but where the main plot doesn’t revolve around this. For example, Kaz Brekker in Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo has PTSD, but it wasn’t a book about PTSD. It was a fantasy world, but the rep felt realistic, because that’s how real life is. Many of us have mental health issues, but they don’t necessarily define us, and they certainly aren’t all that we are.

Do you have any self-care tips, tricks or secrets you’d like to share?

I wish I had more, to be honest! I used to draw a lot, and I found that relaxing. My three-year-old has one of those watercolor books where the paint is already in the page so you just have to add water. It’s so therapeutic. For me, it’s finding distractions to keep my mind and hands busy at the same time. And a lot of deep breaths and imagining all of my bad thoughts are literally drifting away from me. Sometimes it helps!

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Akemi! It has been such a joy to host you on my blog for Shattering Stigmas.  

Thank you so much for having me!

Reminder to Enter Our Mental Health Book Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review

Review: Water in May by Ismée Williams

Water in May by Ismée Williams, Amulet Books, 320 pp.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2

Content Warnings: Doctors’ offices, scenes in hospitals and intensive care units, pregnancy & birth, violence, infant death.

Every once in  a while, I read a story that’s truly special because it exposes the best of humanity in the worst and unfairest situations. One such novel is Ismée Williams’ debut Water in May, out today from Amulet. Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols is pregnant with the baby who thinks will save her family and change her future. Then she finds out that the baby has a severe and potentially fatal heart defect. Suddenly, Mari must make tough choices about her baby and her future in this riveting tale of family, friendship, motherhood and resilience.

I first want to acknowledge that I love this is a book written by a former pediatric cardiologist and a WoC that features a Latina protagonist. The book features a list of Dominican slang in the front and the language and culture of Mari’s Dominican family and group of friends shines through the pages of this book. If you are looking to read more diverse books, I highly recommend this beautifully written novel that shows the experiences of a WoC and inner city teen life.

My favorite part of this book was Mari and her voice. The writing was so rich and descriptive. I loved how there was both strength and vulnerability in her voice. Mari is a fighter with a past criminal history and a complicated family history. Her mom is an addict, her dad is in prison and she has a fraught relationship with her abuela. I found myself rooting for Mari from the first page.

I also loved her three friends (Yaz, Teri and Heavenly) and the ways that the four girls loved and supported one another. If you are looking for a book about girl power and strong female relationships, then Water in May is the book for you. I even liked the depiction of Mari’s relationship with her baby’s father, Bertie, and found the way their relationship changed to be one of the most tearjerking parts of this emotional read. The parts that take place in the NICU are also particularly emotional, but William’s description of procedures and nurses and the overall environment is spot-on.

The storytelling and pacing is also spot on. Williams did a great job juggling all of the subplots in this book. The descriptions are great. The dialog is spot-on. There are twists and turns you won’t see coming. I also loved how at the core of this story is a doctor, Dr. Love, who fights for his patient and a mother who fights for her child against all odds. If I am going to read a book that I know will be emotionally taxing, I like it to be full of hope and inner strength. Water in May did not disappoint. It exceeded all my expectations and left me in tears. I hope it’ll leave you teary-eyed as well, with joy and a little bit of sadness. There are more moments I loved in this book that I would love to gush about, but read this book first and then find me and we can gush together. This is the kind of book I don’t want to spoil. I want you all to take this intense and powerful storytelling journey and enjoy it as much as I did.

Posted in Book Review

Review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

27 Hours by Tristina Wright, EntangledTeen, 400 pp. 

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Content Warnings: Colonialism, violence, death

This review doesn’t need a hook because I’m just going to say it: Tristina Wright’s novel 27 Hours is my overall top pick of 2017. Keep in mind that I read this book in June and I know I’m not going to change my mind. This book stole my heart in the best way and if you are reading this, I hope you are either requesting, buying or begging your friend to loan you a copy of this book ASAP.

Pitched as “queer kids in space” (there are no allo cishet MC’s and it’s AMAZING), 27 Hours is a stunning, high concept sci-fi novel about a mismatched band of teens who must save the human population on their alien moon in the course of a single night. The narrative structure of this novel, told hour by hour, kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. I’m not usually a science fiction reader, but this book literally made me want to go out and read every good science fiction book I could get my hands on. I still haven’t totally ruled that out.

Let’s talk about the characters because I love each and every one of them. If you’re a fan of Six of Crows or novels with big casts that have characters with lots of personality, then you are going to LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. Rumor is arguable the main main character of this book. After watching his dad sacrifice himself to monsters, he escapes his city on a mission to save his moon. He’s so full of angst and broodiness. So much love for him! And then there’s Jude, a book who has lived among the chimera in the trees. He’s soft and amazing and adorable. There’s Trick, who’s protective and adorable.

And *happy sigh*, there’s Braeden, who’s smol and bighearted and so, so, so freaking ace. I read this book after two books with ace rep that disappointed me and hurt me in ways that I didn’t even know were possible. One of them made me feel the worst about my orientation that I have ever felt in my entire life and this book, and Braeden’s rep in particular, validated me and healed me ways that I vitally needed. Legit, he fiddles with his black ace ring in the fourth paragraph of his first chapter and I had to throw the book down because I do that ALL the time and I never expected to see it represented in a book. I was in actual happy tears. I can’t tell you all how much it means for me that Braeden exists as a character. He was the kind of ace rep I’ve always wanted and needed.

Moving on…….Dahlia is a black trans girl who is sweet and kind and I had so much love for her. Nyx is a pansexual Deaf girl who can hear the moon speak to her. She was my second favorite character in this book and from her love for Dahlia to her friendship with Braeden, I just couldn’t. It was all so good.

I am in awe and admiration at how Tristina pulled all the elements of this plot together. It is so intricate and complicated with interwoven subplots. Seriously, just based on power of storytelling, this book is a masterpiece.

I also loved the setting. I’m not usually a fan of books that are set in space, but this one just left me wanting more and more and more of this world. From the forest people to the colonies to the HUB’s, it was all so vivid and beautiful. I’m really, really looking forward to more books set in this world. Plus the writing is amazing. Seriously.

In terms of my critique, the only critique I had about this book was that while Braeden is clearly identified as asexual, it feels like he is aromantic as well and that’s never mentioned in the text. I wish that his romantic orientation was clarified in the book because if is aroace, aroace readers deserve that explicit identification.

Additionally, Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks wrote an amazing and nuanced review that critiques the race rep in this book that I think everyone who reads 27 Hours should read because it raises some really crucial issues.

Overall, my heart is bursting with love for this book. While it’s not perfect (and no book is), this is the book that was clearly written with the intent of inclusivity and damn good storytelling. It’s the kind of book that so, so, so many different kinds of teens will be able to find themselves in. If you want a book about love, friendship, family or fighting for what’s right, this book is for you. Also a note that I look forward to whatever Tristina has out next, because I know I’m going to be reading it.

27 Hours is out October 3, but you can pre-order now it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local indie!

Posted in Book Review

Review: Ultimatum by K.M. Walton

Ultimatum by K.M. Walton, Sourcebooks Fire, 320 pp.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2

Content Warnings: alcoholism, grief, hospice care, violence

I love reading books that I know will emotionally gut me from start to finish. I love stories about siblings even though I’m an only child (Literally, any stories about brothers just….*grabby hands*). I love stories bursting the page with hope (*super grabby hands*). And if you’re a weirdo like me that loves all of the above, then you are going to love K.M. Walton’s YA contemporary novel Ultimatum

Ultimatum is about teenage brothers, Oscar and Vance, who struggle to cope with the inevitability of becoming orphans as their father dies in hospice from liver failure. Oscar is a quiet music nerd with a talent for drawing and Vance is the athlete who loves to party and always seems to get the girl. The book is told in alternating chapters, with Oscar narrating the present as their dad passes away and Vance narrates the past leading up to the brother’s present. Masterfully told and beautifully written, this is a story about the growth that can emerge from loss and what it really means to be a family. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone in the mood for something dark with lots of hope and tender moments mixed in.

The best part of this book are the characters and the way that Walton reveals them to us bit by bit throughout the novel. I loved reading about Oscar’s love for music. His fear and nervousness was relatable, as someone who’s dealt with a close relative in hospice care. I also loved Vance. Walton takes the archetype of the irresponsible, partying Jock and plays with it in really interesting ways that were surprising and heart wrenching. Walton  crafts equally intriguing secondary characters, from Oscar and Vance’s parents to the nurses. Every character was clearly created with care.

I also thought that the representation of the highs and lows and long days of hospice car was done really, really well. As someone who’s been there with several relatives, it was sometimes tough to read, but oddly comforting as well. Walton captures every moment of it with precision.

This book also does a great job of discussing the issues of family, from cheating to alcoholism to sibling rivalries. Reading about how this family fell apart was kind of uncomfortable, because you know how it ends and just have to go along for the ride. It’s a read packed with emotion and I was on the edge of my seat towards the end of the book, when the boys have to make a tough decision.

Overall, I loved this book. I look forward to reading other books by Walton and I hope some of you will add this book to your TBR. It’s a quiet, poignant masterpiece. This is such a lovely, lovely underrated book that will break your heart and then put it back together. You don’t want to miss it.