Monthly Bookish Awesomeness: June 2017

In which I recap what went down in the last four weeks here and outside the blog.

Y’all, Bookworms Unite! is returning for its third year in July 16th! Woohoo! One of our lovely hosts, Inah @ The Bibliophile Confessions, shared the deets, with a handy Beginner’s Guide infographic for those of you who are going for the first time. (Because, clearly, I have to say the most virginy thing.)

June had been both slow and fleeting. I turned one month in my new job—working with adorable, brilliant kids is so rewarding! I feel more settled in the blog.  I’ve reconnected with the publishing, no longer unaware of new releases and forthcoming titles. I saw Wonder Woman. And I spent a ridiculous amount of time on Froy’s Instagram one lazy morning.

Books I Read

The Serpent King 01Serafina and the Black Cloak 01Duplicity

Other Stuff I Posted

Book Birthdays

Here Lies Daniel Tate 01   Bad Romance 01   Our Dark Duet 01   The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue 01

Happy book birthday to Here Lies Daniel Tate (Simon & Schuster), Bad Romance (Henry Colt & Co. BFYR), Our Dark Duet (Greenwillow Books), You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir (Little, Brown and Company), and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Katherine Tegen Books), which all found a place in the shelves this month!

Book Radar

Serafina and the Splintered Heart 01   The Art of Starving 01   Because You Love to Hate Me 01

New month. New books. Serafina and the Splintered Heart (4th, Disney Hyperion), The Art of Starving (11th, HarperTeen) (!!!), and Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy (11th, Bloomsbury USA Children’s) will all be out in the wild in July!

Gold Star

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Rainbow everything! This month’s Gold Star goes to all things Pride.

Epic Reads’ 72 must-read YA books featuring gay protagonists 15 creatives on the meaning of pride (“for me ‘Pride’ embodies our defiance of those who seek to shame us”)  25 recent works that have shaped the L.G.B.T.Q. literary genre over the last two decades Caleb Roehrig on writing yourself • 10 swoonworthy YA quotesOn maybe deleting Grindr and joining a book clubFinding queer POC books

Around the Interwebs

What books did you acquire this month? Are there specific titles you’re most looking forward to in July? What was your last read? Any recent discovered gem(s) in the music or film department? Also, WILL I SEE YOU IN JULY 16TH? Grab your favorite cup and let’s talk!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Publication: April 11th 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic, Romance
Other classifications: LGBTQIA, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is.

Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Review

I’ll go ahead and tell you that Becky and I are friends. So you can be all Simon Spier with my judgement and “take [this] with about a million fucking grains of salt.” I mean. I’m just saying. But her sophomore novel is honest and funny and nuanced and charming. There is no way a teenager would pick this up and not see himself somewhere in the pages.

It centers on seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso and the fact that she’s had twenty-six crushes and exactly zero kisses. And how she is possibly losing her twin sister, Cassie, who is falling in love—for the first time—with cute new girl Mina. Enter funny, charismatic Hipster Will, who happens to be Mina’s best friend, and everything should be fine, right? Except there’s also Molly’s coworker Reid—awkward, geeky, Cadbury-mini-egg-loving Reid—who maybe likes her. Okay, I am literally Molly. I’m twenty-four and I’m Molly. I’m a prolific crusher but haven’t actually kissed anyone—at least not kiss kiss. I’m careful. Too careful. Heck, she’s even had more action than me and that’s, well, tragic. But that’s why I connected deeply with her story; that’s why Molly freaking out next to a cute boy or feeling self-conscious next to people she’s known her whole life resonated with me. Because all the crushing, all the wanting, all the unrequited-loving, and suddenly here is an author affirming emotions I’ve been trying to make sense of all these years, and boy was that unraveling.

“But I spend a lot of time thinking about love and kissing and boyfriends and all the other stuff feminists aren’t supposed to care about. And I am a feminist. But I don’t know. I’m seventeen, and I just want to know what it feels like to kiss someone.
I don’t think I’m unlovable. But I keep wondering: what is my glitch?

Like the author’s debut, The Upside of Unrequited captures the immediacy of and renders articulately the teenage experience. How everything feels like it’s either the end of the world or the beginning of it; the elations and heartbreaks of first love; the innate, underlying fear of not mattering. I was an idiot to worry I wouldn’t love this book as much as Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (and in fact, fans of Simon vs would find themselves a treat or two). That’s unfair and unfounded and ultimately, as it turns out, untrue. Both are brimming with heart and humor, because Becky has an acute understanding of voice and how awkward and exciting and scary it is to be a teen. With Upside, as it was with Simon vs, I’m not just reminded how careful and at the same time hopeful I was at seventeen, I am seventeen-year-old me, careful and hopeful.

“”Why are you making zombie faces?” he asks.
“What?”
“Just relax!”
“Zombies are relaxed.””

There is something to be said about how great narratives aren’t always solely about the lead and that is true for Upside too. I’m certain many teens, as well as then-teens, would feel for Molly and her anxieties and journey to self-confidence; it’s both an absolute delight and comfort to follow her but the secondary characters are just as vibrant. Each character is fleshed out, so much so that the reader can easily see the other characters’ stories unfolding outside the curtains. The novel also touches on positive representations of body image—it’s central to how Molly views the world and herself, even if often self-deprecating—and intresectional diversity. Molly is a fat, white, Jewish girl with interracial lesbian and bisexual mothers; there’s a Korean-American pansexual character and there’s a gay couple; and everything feels organic. As organic as Molly and Reid’s chemistry. There’s effortless draw and almost inevitability in the progress of their relationship; it’s warm and fuzzy and at times nauseating. It’s hard not to root for Reid! Plus, without the aid of a spoiler, I like that the author could’ve conveniently gone one way with Molly and This Other Character but didn’t.

“And suddenly, I feel like crying, but not in a bad way. More like in the way you feel when someone gives you a perfect present—something you’d been wanting, but thought you couldn’t ask for. It’s that feeling of someone knowing you in all the ways you needed to be known.”

So, in the parlance of Molly and all of us millennials, my verdict is: ALL THE HEART-EYES EMOJIS.

5.0 out of 5

Author

Becky Albertalli 01

Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. She is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children and teens. Becky now lives with her family in Atlanta, where she spends her days writing fiction for young adults.

Twitter | Tumblr | Website

Have you read this one? Have I convinced you to? Because, really, it’s just such an adorable, smile-inducing read! Also, tell me about your first kiss fictional crushes! Or, you know, your current read(s).

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Title: History is All You Left Me
Author: Adam Silvera
Format: Paperback, 294 pages
Publication: January 17th 2017 by Soho Teen
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, LGBTQIA, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Fully Booked

Synopsis

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Review

In History is All You Left Me, Silvera delivers a surprisingly quiet, thoughtful exploration of friendship, grief, love, and loss.

The book alternates in story lines between ‘History’, where we see Griffin and Theo falling in love and transitioning from best friends to boyfriends, and ‘Today’, where we see Griffin navigating through a Theo-less world. As is the case with More Happy Than Not, the author does what he does best: writing everyday moments with a severe awareness of human connection. It doesn’t matter whether Griffin, Theo, and Wade are browsing the shelves of Barnes & Noble or they’re exchanging gifts or Griffin is talking to Theo’s family, it’s compelling and laced with pockets of emotion. The parents—and all the main characters have parents—are very much a part of the story, to boot, and I like how Silvera doesn’t pull away from the infinite paradoxes of familial love. Sometimes Griffin would adore and hate his parents in one page or he would be annoyed with his dad for being too cold to Jackson but at the same time be annoyed with his mom for being too nice to Jackson or how Mr. and Mrs. Jennings, his parents, only want what’s best for their son but also operate on their own definition of what’s best for him. We still do not often see parent involvement in YA, but I’m glad there are authors like Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli who are gradually taking down the barriers.

“He shrugs, which I know he doesn’t mean as a dismissal. He’s doing that thing I’ve done before where I try to shrink my own feelings, try to make my problems sound smaller to others because sometimes people just don’t get it.”

Two of the many important themes of the book are grief and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I am not personally familiar with the former. The closest to family I’ve lost is my uncle’s wife, and I was eight. But the empathy with which Silvera looks into grief is palpable. You follow Griffin and the messed up things he does and not once do you question if this is uncalled for or unlikely. He is hurt and grieving and confused and lost and seventeen, and this ultimately affects all the relationships he has around him. And then there’s the latter. This, I am not not personally familiar with. I have a self-diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)—yes, those two are different and not by the mere addition of ‘Personality’—and I commend how consistent and consistently woven in the narrative OCD is. It plays a big part in Griffin’s story without ever taking center stage. It isn’t an item the author checked off in his list for inclusivity; it is a constant struggle for the MC and this is reality for people dealing with this mental disorder.

“‘I’m ready,” I lied. I’m hungry, I’m drained, I’m over it all, and I’m not ready.”

However, perhaps my favorite element of the whole novel is the dialogues. I don’t exactly know how to classify Silvera’s writing style. It isn’t lyrical but it also isn’t just straight-cut contemporary; there’s something rhythmic about how he plays at words, a cadence poetic all its own. Here is a person with an utter sense of language. And this is evident with the exchanges between the characters, not just between Griffin and Theo, although those are my favourite scenes. Plus, did I mention this book is filled to the brim with nerdy and pop culture references? You don’t need to be a Star Wars fan or a Potterhead, if you’ve felt passionate about something or someone, you speak Griffin’s and Theo’s language. You speak nerd. Or fanboy. Or whatever you wish to call it.

““You’re not someone that just memorizes facts for exams and forgets them the next day. You don’t just have lucky guesses in pop quizzes. You bring textbooks with you into the shower. Basically, you’re a really weird superhero.”
He forces a smile. “One day, Batman is going to take off his mask and, boom, it’ll be me.””

Silvera’s sophomore novel is quieter than his debut but it is no less vivid and heartrending.

4.0 out of 5

Author

Adam Silvera 02

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, at a literary development company, and as a book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller. He lives in New York City and is tall for no reason.

Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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Ten Upcoming Books That Celebrate Diversity

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which book bloggers list their top ten picks for whatever the current prompt is.

I cannot overstate this: we need diverse books. We need a reality where a queer girl can read her story in books. Where a young Indian (or Filipino or Hispanic) can find heroes that look like him. Where a Muslim is represented regardfully. Where there are published works, both fiction and otherwise, with interracial couples, with parents that are both dads or moms. We need a reality that reflects the reality. Our reality. So it’s on us, readers, to talk about diversity and diverse books. Because by having this conversation, we’re informing publishers and agents that they can actively fish for these stories. That they need to. That they will sell.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday does just that.

The prompt is to list down books that celebrate diversity/diverse characters. But I’m doing a bit of an alteration. Today, you shall have a respite from me gushing over Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda or More Happy Than Not or Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Because although I think one can never talk about books he loves enough, I also think one would benefit from continuously seeking out more. Thus, I’m featuring upcoming titles with a focus on diversity. They are arranged by date of publication.

NOTE: I a opted for books with cover designs and b acknowledge that this list leans on the LGBTQIA+ side. I had a hard time looking for books with racial, socioeconomic and/or religious diversity, which is very telling of the current situation in the industry.

*Click the cover to be directed to the book’s Goodreads page.*

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George by Alex Gino (August 25th, Scholastic Press)
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (October 27th, Harlequin Teen)
Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won’t understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni’s life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

Cam Girl by Leah Raeder (November 3rd, Atria)
Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art, and her best friend and soulmate, Ellis Carraway. Elle and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart.

Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone.

She’s got nothing left to lose.

So when she meets a smooth-talking lothario who offers to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night taking off her clothes on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s all just kinky fun till a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they open up to each other intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. She agrees, because she’s starting to fall for him. And when he asks to meet, she says yes. Because she’s dying to know the real man behind the keyboard.

Even if one of his conditions is to bring Ellis. The girl who wants nothing to do with her anymore.

Now Vada must confront the past she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others, and those she’s been keeping from herself…

Soundless 01   This is Where it Ends 01   We are the Ants 01

Soundless by Richelle Mead (November 10th, Razorbill)
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (January 5th, Sourcebooks Fire)
10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m.
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m.
Someone starts shooting.

We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (January 19th, Simon Pulse)
Henry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

Away We Go 01   Symptoms of Being Human 01   The Great American Whatever 01   Saving Montgomery Sole 01

Away We Go by Emil Ostrovski (February 2nd, Greenwillow Books)
Westing is not your typical school. For starters, you have to have one very important quality in order to be admitted—you have to be dying. Every student at Westing has been diagnosed with PPV, or the Peter Pan Virus. No one is expected to live to graduation.

What do you do when you go to a school where no one has a future? Noah Falls, his girlfriend Alice, and his best friend Marty spend their time drinking, making out, and playing video games on awaywego.com. But when an older boy named Zach (who Noah may or may not be in love with) invites Noah and Marty to join his secret Polo Club, the lives of both boys change as they struggle to find meaning in their shortened existence.

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (February 2nd, Balzer + Bray)
Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (March 29th, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (April 19th, Roaring Brook Press)
Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects.

Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having two moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.

I also want to give shout outs to The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa, Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which I excluded just because they were recently featured in another TTT. I’ve already read Fans and I definitely, definitely recommend it!

What did I miss? Give me all the recs!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

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Title: Fans of the Impossible Life
Author: Kate Scelsa
Format: ARC, 356 pages
Publication: September 8th 2015 by Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen
Source: Gifted by the author (thank you so much Kate!)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, LGBTQIA, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Fully Booked

Synopsis

MIRA is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

JEREMY is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him.

SEBBY, Mira’s gay best friend, seems to carry sunlight around him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

Review

I received a review copy from the author which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

As eloquent as it is heartfelt, Fans of the Impossible Life takes storytelling to a higher class and diversity higher still.

Let me be the first to say that this is a novel—if not the novel—champions of the We Need Diverse Books campaign should be talking about. Scelsa delivers a coming of age at once achingly moving and softly poetic told from the perspectives of her three MCs. Her play at different points of view is nothing short of adroit—Jeremy’s chapters are in first person, Sebby’s in second and Mira’s in third. And it totally works, both in function and aesthetic. It provides a window into the complexities of her characters, and boy are they complex.

“… you lay awake on that night’s floor thinking about what you could have said to them to make them understand. What it felt like to know that the two people who knew you best couldn’t ever really know what your life was like.”

The author also doesn’t shy away from the hard edges of her story. Fans of the Impossible Life covered many important issues without once feeling overwhelming nor romanticized. There’s drug abuse, identity crisis, depression, suicide, bullying, racism—you name it, it’s probably in here. And Scelsa approached these with insight and sensitivity. Just as much as she paid her secondary characters attention. I am particularly impressed by the fact that they have these stuff going on for them. Like, Talia is whatever, I’m incredibly furious at her for what she did in the end BUT she was the one who helped Jeremy through his catastrophic episode, who apologized to him for not speaking up. And there’s Julie, perfect Julie who doesn’t wanna deal with Mira’s drama BUT who shows up, not attending her lecture to be with her as soon as she comes home.

“I had been nothing before that moment and one day I would be nothing again. But there and then my life was real. With his lips, and his lovely mouth.”

Early this year, Malinda Lo wrote an essay on perceptions of diversity in book reviews—in fact it’s just one in a four-part series which you need to read if you care about diversity. In it, she cited a critique that blatantly pronounced ““perfectly ethnically and sexually diverse” cast as “scarcely plausible,”” a suggestion that “this diversity would not have existed naturally; it needed effort.” Okay. Not only do I call total BS on this problematic trade review, I have Fans of the Impossible Life to reinforce my claim. Scelsa’s debut has multiple POC characters and characters representing three (3!) different orientations from the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. But what’s really remarkable is the ease with which the author handled sexual and racial diversity. It doesn’t just look at individual experiences, it’s reflected in the family structures of her main players. One of the leads has two gay dads. Another has interracial parents. They get loads of crap for this and I’m thinking, that’s reality. It feels natural because this happens today, no matter how much we long for the contrary.

“At that point she was keeping the crying hidden. When it first started, she let people see it because she didn’t know what else to do. She thought if they could witness her in the middle of this thing, then they might be able to understand. But they couldn’t. It was exhausting for others to watch. For herself to experience. So she stopped showing them.”

I’m not you, but if I were, I’d be a fan of Fans of the Impossible Life too.

4.5 out of 5

Author

Kate Scelsa

Kate Scelsa has performed in New York and around the world with experimental theater company Elevator Repair Service in their trilogy of works based on great American literature, including an eight-hour-long performance that uses the entire text of The Great Gatsby. Kate lives in Brooklyn with her wife and two black cats.

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Blogger’s note: I buddy-read this book with Wesaun @ Oreo and Books and it is SO GOOD we both finished it in a 24-hour time frame.

Is this on your TBR list? If not, have I convinced you to include it? (Because, really, you definitely should check this out.) Do you think there are such works with “too much issues” or “too diverse”? And what about you, what was the last awesome book you read that celebrates diversity? Or just any solid 5-star read. Let’s talk!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

Unmissable Weekly: July 17, 2015

Bookish and Awesome’s weekly round-up of buzz-worthy news from around the bookternet in bite size. Click on the links to be directed to the full articles.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Deluxe Illustrated Edition 01via

Waddup you fantastic bookworms? Today, I’m introducing a new feature and, as the tag line explains, it’ll be a weekly round-up of bookish news (including ones about movie adaptations) I think you shouldn’t miss. Grab your coffee or tea and let’s get started.

“I can’t say a lot but I am back this season, and it’s going to get particularly interesting with Bran. He has some interesting visions,” [Isaac Hempstead-Wright] teased.

At least there’s one Stark returning on Game of Thrones next season.

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The pages, she said, appear to be the original manuscript of Mockingbird. And Watchman itself, she writes, was sitting “underneath a stack of a significant number of pages of another typed text”.

What now, are we going to have a complete third Harper Lee novel?

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The Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Deluxe Illustrated Edition will be exclusively available on Bloomsbury.com beginning in November and features a “pull-out double gatefold of Diagon Alley” plus “intricate foiled line art by Jim Kay on a real cloth cover and slipcase; gilt edges on premium grade paper; head and tail bands and two ribbon markers.”

I’m sure everyone’s excited about this BUT there’s one little detail you should know before hitting those pre-order buttons: this Deluxe Edition costs £135 ($210) after Bloomsbury.com’s 10% discount.

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More than 250 Italian authors have written to the mayor of Venice asking him to remove their books from the city, in an act of solidarity with the writers who have seen their picture books about same-sex families pulled from Venice’s schools.

Not only is this incredibly appalling, it is also ignorant.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

REVIEW: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Format: E-ARC
Publication: June 2nd 2015 by Soho Teen
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (thank you Meredith Barnes, Soho Press and Edelweiss!)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary
Other classifications: LGBTQIA, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Fully Booked

Synopsis

The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto—miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron could never forget how he’s grown up poor, how his friends aren’t there for him, or how his father committed suicide in their one-bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Review

I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

More Happy Than Not is a strong debut from YA newcomer Adam Silvera. It is as unrelenting as it is hopeful, as gut-wrenching as it is absorbing.

Set in a Bronx neighborhood that is a character of its own and with a bit of a speculative tinge, Aaron Soto’s story may seem ordinary, another of those teens navigating the firsts—first love, first kiss, first sex. But it’s not before long ’til Silvera starts tearing down expectations, busting one assumption after another. The plot twist sucker-punched me and, just when I thought he’s exhausted his arsenal, he delivers the final blow. He paints the extent to which being gay in a close-minded community may lead to all sorts of horror with severe, and often brutal, honesty. There were multiple instances I had to stop reading because his words cut deep.

“This is one of those times where you swear you have to be sleeping and living a nightmare because it’s so impossible that your life can only be a string of bad things until you’re completely abandoned.”

In More Happy Than Not, the author plays at one of the oldest societal debates: nature vs. nurture. Aaron firmly holds that his being a “dude-liker” is something he didn’t choose but rather something he had to deal with. It’s refreshing to view sexuality through this lens, especially in line with homophobia. And especially considering how this novel wins at diversity. Not only does it have a gay MC, it has a Puerto Rican gay MC. But that’s not all of it. In one scene, Thomas tells Aaron, “I was the only brown Scorpius Hawthorne” and it doesn’t feel forced. I think Silvera’s voice—unabashed and observant as it is—is a promising addition to an important conversation.

“It’s not like my heart is in running or anything like that, but at least I learned that you can’t always choose who you’re going to be. Sometimes you’re fast enough to run track. Sometimes you’re not.”

Then, you have the characterization. One thing that’s remarkable is the chemistry between the characters. They are complicated, thrown in further complicated positions, but Silvera successfully balances the complexity with relatability. He didn’t try to redeem the bad guys (for lack of a better term) and that’s a major score. And there’s family dysfunction. Aaron comes from a poor family (which, I cannot overstate this, is scarce in literature but is a reality) and it’s not an easy household.

“This is the most painfully confusing time in my life and he’s the first person who said all the right words to me and reminds me of the first days of summer where you leave home without jacket, and my favorite songs playing over and over.”

I want to point out, as well, how geeky the book is. There are several pop culture references—leaning heavily on comics—and you don’t need to know that the author is a potterhead to observe the winks and nods to the Harry Potter series. Plus, I really enjoyed moments when Aaron and Genevieve (I’m going to use “the girlfriend” as a descriptor but, trust me, you’d want to get to know her) would hang out or when Aaron and Thomas would and, this is me being nostalgic, I love how street games are a big part of the community Aaron lives in.

“Do you think there’s a chance you were someone really awful in a past life? Like Darth Vader? I feel like you can’t catch a break.”

With characters as unforgettable as the book is unflinching in its portrayal of confusion, love, homophobia, family, friendship and a lot more, Silvera is set to win many, many fans. He’s barely started, too. Readers who adore Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe will come upon another favorite.

4.5 out of 5

Author

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Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx and is tall for no reason. He was a bookseller before shifting to children’s publishing where he worked at a literary development company, a creative writing website for teens, and as a book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He lives in New York City.

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 Have I convinced you to pick up this title when it comes out (2 weeks from today!)? Are you a fan of heartrending coming-of-age stories? And will you take the Leteo procedure if you can? There’s an amazing pool of emerging new voices in the book industry, especially in YA, who are your recent favorites? Tell me in the comments below! I always want to hear from you! Also, while you’re at it, you may want to participate in The “More Happy Than Not” Tag?

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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