Friday, June 26, 2020

REVIEW: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Title: If You Come Softly
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Release Date: September 28, 1998
Acquired: Purchased for my collection
Goodreads: ADD

A lyrical story of star-crossed love perfect for readers of The Hate U Give, by National Ambassador for Children's Literature Jacqueline Woodson—now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and including a new preface by the author

Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he's in his own Brooklyn neighborhood. But now he's going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don't exactly fit in there. So it's a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock, and after that they know they fit together—even though she's Jewish and he's black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that's not what matters. Too bad the rest of the world has to get in their way.

Without even meaning to, I read this book in one sitting on my library floor. So many of you who have read this narrative can understand exactly why I couldn't stop. The fact that I picked this up in June of 2020 is extremely important to note, simply because of the unfortunate relevance it's contents has more than 20 years later. I hate that I can draw parallels to our current state of the world, I HATE that that it's not even a current state, that it's BEEN a state for over 400 years. My heart is so heavy, but I am so happy I discovered this book.

Jeremiah (Miah) has just started at Percy, a private school that his famous producer father insisted that he attend. As one of the only few Black students in the body, he can't help but feel different and separate from his peers. When he (literally) bumps into Ellie, a white Jewish girl, in the hall one day, his entire world is changed; his outlook on life brightened. The two quickly fall in love, and the days become a blur; their time spent together never enough. They see the stares, and acknowledge the disapproval of an ignorant world, but that doesn't stop them, and it doesn't deter Ellie from wanting to introduce Miah to her parents. The universe however, seems to have other plans.

I am destroyed. Both by the extreme relevance of this narrative so many years later, and by the words that Woodson has now seared forever on my heart. This was a love story, yes, but it was also a story of acceptance, and questioning, and the constant battle between the two. It was about a girl, who's connection to a boy helped her see the world for what it was. And that boy, who had been taught that the world would always see him that way. Woodson didn't need to write anything longer than the 181 pages she wrote here, this book was powerful in it's message, and poignant in it's heartbreak. I can't wait to read the follow-up!

Read if you like:
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
A Good Neighborhood by Anne Therese Fowler

Key themes: 
love, family, racial profiling, coming-of-age, acceptance, interracial relationship 


credit: goodreads author page

CLICK HERE to read more about Jacqueline on her website's Biography page. There's also an amazing Ted Talk!



Thursday, June 25, 2020

REVIEW: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Title: Cinderella is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling/Continuation
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Acquired: Earc approved via Netgalley
Goodreads: ADD

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew...

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

Can we first just take one whole minute to admire the incredible cover art by Manzi Jackson? It is so incredibly stunning, and personally I would have read this book based on that cover alone! But the synopsis is pretty awesome too, and definitely the main reason why Cinderella is Dead deserves your attention.

It's been 200 years since Cinderella's death. It's also been 200 years of the town of Lille being run by a strict and dehumanizing patriarchal hand. 16-year-old Sophia Grimmins (I see what you did there Kalynn Bayron!), is getting ready to attend the annual ball held by the King, where the town's young women are matched with suitors in true "Happily Ever After" fashion, just like Cinderella. Except there's nothing happy about the ball for Sophia, who is in love with her best friend Erin, and is hell-bent on escaping a fate that seems set in stone. And while she's at it, why not take the whole thing down!?

I. WANT. TO. SHOUT. FROM. MOUNTAINS about how this book pierced my heart. I was transported from the very first page; Bayron crafted a fairytale world that felt so intricately real and so purposefully disheartening. It wasn't just another angsty teen trope where the character is melodramatically angry about her life and her future, this narrative delved into the very real, and very prevalent issue of male dominance. My heart hung heavy the entire time, but was picked up by moments of genuine and heartfelt emotion; each character was written with such care and detail. And OMG THAT SAPPHIC REP, it made my whole being sing, I swear. Sophia is easily one of my new favorite characters, and I cannot WAIT to read whatever Bayron puts out next!

Read if you like:

The Grace Year by Kim Ligget
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

Key themes: 
patriarchal rule, friendship, romance, queer love, family, oppression of women, magic  



Kalynn Bayron is an author and classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family.



Tuesday, June 23, 2020

BLOG TOUR: Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

The Falling in Love Montage
Author: Ciara Smyth
Genre: YA LGBT+ Contemporary/Romance
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Acquired: Earc sent via Netgalley
Goodreads: ADD

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.

But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.
 best friend, forever.

Happy Pride! Not just for the month of June, but every single day, every moment, until the very end of time! I am so happy to be featuring Ciara Smyth's debut YA LGBTQIA young adult contemporary romance The Falling in Love Montage for my tour stop today, but I also wanted to feature some other recent, and older, titles that feature queer characters/narratives.

Here are [10] other great YA titles to check out! (Clicking on the cover will bring you to the book's Goodreads page):

credit: goodreads author page 

Ciara Smyth is a social work student by day,writer by night and cat enthusiast 24/7.

Her first YA novel-about memory, rom-coms and girls who like girls-will be published in Summer 2020 by Andersen Press in the UK and Harper Collins in the US.

She previously worked as a teacher and mental health trainer. She enjoys jigging (verb: to complete a jigsaw) and claims to enjoy yoga in order to cultivate a zen persona that is shattered approximately ten minutes after you meet her.

She is from the south of Ireland but has lived in Belfast for so long that her parents make fun of her Northern accent.