REVIEW: Jek/Hyde by Amy Ross

Jek-Hyde 01

Title: Jek/Hyde
Author: Amy Ross
Format: ARC, 329 pages
Publication: October 3rd 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Author (thank you Amy Ross!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Gothic, Mystery, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Retelling, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

Lulu and Jek are science nerds, and have been best friends since they were young . . . or at least they used to be. Lately Jek has been pulling away from Lulu, just as she’s coming to terms with how she really feels about him. Just as she’s ready to see if there could be something more between them.

But Lulu’s thoughts are derailed by a mysterious new guy who’s showing up at local parties. Hyde is the definition of a bad boy, and everybody knows it . . . but no one can seem to resist his charms. Girls can’t stay away from him, and guys all want to be him. And even though Lulu’s heart belongs to Jek, she can’t deny Hyde’s attraction either.

She also knows that there’s something not quite right about Hyde. That the rumors of his backwood parties make them sound a little more dangerous than what any of her friends are accustomed to. And she doesn’t like the fact that Hyde seems to be cozying up to Jek, and that they seem to be intertwined in ways that have Lulu worrying for Jek’s safety.

If Hyde has a dark secret, Lulu is determined to find out what it is, and to help Jek . . . before it’s too late for both of them.

Review

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

Jek/Hyde is more a rehashing and less a retelling.

The book—Ross’ debut in young adult literature—centers on Lupita “Lulu” Gutierrez and Jayesh Emerson “Jek” Kapoor, two science nerds who have been best friends for as long as long as they can remember. But just as Lulu is coming to terms with her more-than-platonic feelings for her best friend, Jek starts distancing himself and spending all his time holed up in his room/lab with his experiments. It doesn’t help that there’s a mysterious—and unmistakably alluring—new guy in town, who is the very definition of a bad boy, and who may or may not have connections with Jek. Confession time: I have not read the Stevenson classic. Nor have I seen any of the bajillion movie adaptations. But I feel like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been so embedded into our collective cultural consciousness that it’s almost as if I have read the book without actually having read it. And Jek/Hyde totally validates my judgment; whatever hope I had of mystery, I went to the wrong party.

“”But sweetheart. . .” He leans in close and takes a deep, slow breath, his eyes slipping half-closed. “No one is good all the time.””

To be fair, the novel kept me relatively entertained ’til the very last page. It took a couple of chapters for the story to find its footing, but find it it did and it maintained a good pacing all through out the book. I also like how the tone and setting effectively conjure a sense of helplessness and perpetual confinement. The book is set in a small town in the Midwestern, and that was executed well. But then we get to the actual narrative and it gets less than stellar. There is little character development, cases of present-but-not-present adults, and underdeveloped subplots, all culminating in a heavily expository conclusion and one that is out of touch with the rest of the main character’s journey.

“I know how it is. You think if you worry enough, if you take care of him and rescue him, that will make him yours. But you’ll never keep a boy like that.”

There’s also a huge disconnect between what the reader is being told versus what he is being shown. Lulu has a tendency to pine for Jek, which is fine, that’s her thing. But not once was I convinced of the friendship—or any sort of connection—between her and Jek she often talks about. He was a jerk to her and when the story reaches the part where certain things happen, it felt forced. And I’m not buying her science nerdiness either. Meanwhile, Jek’s arc had an interesting start. He is biracial; his mother is Indian, his father is black. And there’s a scene where he goes about being the only black person in town, even in his own house. About having “this whole part of [himself] that’s completely cut off from anyone like [him],” and I think that’s a fascinating conversation the author could’ve explored. Just as much as the minor plot line of LondonChem, an agrichemical/pharmaceutical company who may be causing its workers’ unidentified illness. Instead, they became background noises.

“I don’t know whether I’m angrier at the assumption that these two can read everyone’s race and ethnicity perfectly just from looking, or at their surprise that a black person could kick their ass at a science competition, but I can’t point out either one, since they didn’t actually say any of that.”

I’ve read in a conversation the author had with Cat Hellisen that the point is to keep the story as close to the original as possible, and I get that. Ross accomplished what she set out to do. But even so, I can’t help feeling cheated on because of how the book is marketed (“an inventive modern retelling”) which couldn’t have been more misleading. Sure, the story is set in modern-day suburban America and it has a racially diverse cast—albeit, the latter struck me as contrived in places. But that’s as modern as it gets. The other half of the equation, forgotten.

“This crazy town. Some guy nearly gets killed right in front of us, and all anyone can think about is where they can go to get fucked-up next.”

Jek/Hyde had potentials. It really did. But with plot holes and character-development inconsistencies that feel quite unresolved even towards the end, it leaves a lot to be desired.

3.0 out of 5

Author

Amy Ross 01

Amy Ross has an MFA from the University of Idaho and a bachelor’s from Brown University. She has lived in upstate New York, Providence, Paris, Chicago, Copenhagen, Kyoto, Idaho and Taiwan, and is currently in Indiana. She likes bad horror flicks, dense critical-theory texts, fomenting revolution, wild bears, cooking and the sublime. She hates everything else.

Twitter | TumblrWebsite

What is your favorite adaptation or retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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

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REVIEW: Warcross by Marie Lu (+ Giveaway)

Warcross Blog Tour Banner

Warcross 02

Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Format: Paperback, 353 pages
Publication: September 12th 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you Penguin Random House and Raf @ The Royal Polar Bear Reads!)
Genre: Fiction—Cyber Thriller, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life.

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Review

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

Welcome to one of the stops on the third day of the Warcross PH Blog Tour!

Deeply immersive and compellingly readable, Marie Lu delivers in her latest book Warcross. Think The Hunger Games meets online RPGs.

The novel, which is first in a planned duology, follows teenage hacker and bounty hunter Emika Chen who is three days away from becoming homeless. With waitressing gigs in decline and a hunt gone awry, she goes for some quick cash and hacks into the opening game of the International Warcross Championships. Except she accidentally glitches herself into the actual game in the process. Now, convinced of an imminent arrest, Emika is nonplussed when she instead receives a call from the game’s creator, young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, who has a job to offer. Then she finds herself in Tokyo, drafted in one of the official teams, and working for her idol. This is my introduction to Marie Lu, and while it didn’t convert me, it has made clear why there’s a massive number of champions (pun definitely intended) of her books: the author does a fantastic job in crafting vivid, nuanced settings and stories that have mass commercial appeal.

Every locked door has a key.
Every problem has a solution.”

Virtual realities aren’t anything new; I can easily cite Ernest Cline’s massive 2011 hit Ready Player One, for instance. But there’s something very seductive about the idea of Warcross and the NeuroLink glasses. Imagine entering the Hunger Games without risking, well, your life or playing Ragnarok where you are your character, avatar and all. Take everyday occurrences, like going to a coffee shop or playing Mario Kart, but with enhanced experience and points to be gained. It actually doesn’t take a bout of imagination, given how much we rely on the internet for almost everything nowadays. Moreover, the novel is incredibly cinematic. I haven’t been to Tokyo, or anywhere else in Japan for that matter, but I grew up consuming enough anime to acquire a certain set of mental images of the city. And Lu’s Tokyo not only captures that, it also improves it. I must say I had issues with the pacing, though, mainly because I feel like it lost its momentum towards the second act. But damn those final chapters. They were pretty intense and I couldn’t read fast enough. And when it’s time for the major plot twist—the major plot twistI was inwardly facepalming myself for believing I had it all figured out.

“It’s too easy to lose yourself in an illusion.”

I also laud the author for inclusivity. Emika Chen, the plucky, badass heroine, is Chinese American. The captain of one of the Warcross teams is in a wheelchair. Two dudes have a history of hooking up and it was mentioned so casually—like it’s the most natural thing, and it is—and half the cast is non-Caucasian. Hideo Tanaka has his charm, but it often reads as paradigmatic. And I wish we got to see more of Emika interacting with her teammates. Perhaps we’ll see that in the sequel, but I think it’s a missed opportunity to witness an independent female MC have better fleshed out relationships outside of her romantic arc. Which conveniently brings up my next point: the biggest turn off for me, the romance. I was ready to forgive its insta-love nature, YA throws you that every now and then. But I find zero chemistry between Emika and the love interest. None. Where people were freaking out over their ship sailing, I was left with a resounding why? The result is me lowkey cringing over border line cheesy dialogues (and I love cheesy!).

“If I could solve these problems, then I could control something.”

If you are looking for a title that will give you the satisfaction of a good summer blockbuster, look no further.

3.5 out of 5

Author

Marie Lu 01

Marie Lu is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Young Elites, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Facebook | Twitter | TumblrWebsite

You can read Warcross, too! Enter HERE for a chance to win one (1) finished paperback. Entries are limited to the Philippines and will be accepted until 11:59pm (EST), September 21st.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

September 12
Read by Nicka
The Hogsmeader Reader
That Bookshelf Bitch
Amidst the Pages

September 13
The Ultimate Fangirl
Kat Reads PH
Highlit Books
Wanderer in Neverland

September 14
Descendant of Poseidon Reads
The Owl Hoots Loudly
Bookable Reads

September 15
Home of a Book Lover
The Nocturnal Fey
Books and Photographs
The BookDragon

Now tell me: what is your favorite Marie Lu title? 

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

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26 YA Books for Your Fall TBR List

Fall 2017 YA Preview

From virtual realities and teen hackers to fairy courts and prodigious artists. From boys who fall for boys and boys who want revenge to girls who fight back against sexism. Whether it’s a debut or a new John Green title, you’ll find something in this season’s line up of new releases.

NOTE: I didn’t include sequels.

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

They Both Die at the End 01   Autoboyography   Warcross 01

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
September 5, HarperTeen

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
September 12, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Warcross by Marie Lu
September 12, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

You Bring the Distant Near 01   Moxie 01   The Victoria in My Head 01

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
September 12, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.

Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
September 19, Roaring Brook Press

MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes
September 19, Simon Pulse

Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

   An Enchantment of Ravens 01   The Language of Thorns 01   Starfish 01

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
September 26, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
September 26, Imprint

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
September 26, Simon Pulse

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

27 Hours 01   Wild Beauty 01   All the Crooked Saints 01

27 Hours by Tristina Wright
October 3, Entangled Teen

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
October 3, Feiwel and Friends

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
October 10, Scholastic Press

Here is a thing everyone wants:
A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns 01   The Nowhere Girls 01   Turtles All the Way Down 01

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
October 10, Philomel Books

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins—sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
October 10, Simon Pulse

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
October 10, Dutton Books for Young Readers

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

The 57 Bus 01   Dear Martin 01   I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter 01

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
October 17, Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers

One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
October 17, Crown Books for Young Readers

Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
October 17, Knopf Books for Young Readers

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

A Line in the Dark 01   Long Way Down 01   Beasts Made of Night 01   The Wicker King 01

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
October 17, Dutton Books for Young Readers

The line between best friend and something more is a line always crossed in the dark.

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
October 24, Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
October 31, Razorbill

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.

When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
October 31, Imprint

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

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The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves
November 7, HarperTeen

Marcos Rivas wants to find love.

He’s sure as hell not getting it at home, where his mom’s racist boyfriend beats him up. Or from his boys, who aren’t exactly the “hug it out” type. Marcos yearns for love, a working cell phone, and maybe a pair of sneakers that aren’t falling apart. But more than anything, Marcos wants to get out of Maesta, his hood—which seems impossible.

When Marcos is placed in a new after-school program for troubled teens with potential, he meets Zach, a theater geek whose life seems great on the surface, and Amy, a punk girl who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. These new friendships inspire Marcos to open up to his Maesta crew, too, and along the way, Marcos starts to think more about his future and what he has to fight for. Marcos ultimately learns that bravery isn’t about acting tough and being macho; it’s about being true to yourself.

Here We are Now by Jasmine Warga
November 7, Balzer and Bray

Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense—kinda—because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.

Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father—her grandfather—who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.

With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer
November 7, Feiwel and Freinds

Secret Identities.
Extraordinary Powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis
November 7, Sky Pony Press

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

What is your most anticipated fall new release(s)?

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REVIEW: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Format: ARC, 389 pages
Publication: May 30th 2017 by Greenwillow Books
Source: Won from a giveaway contest (thank you Precious @ Fragments of Life!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, Young Adult

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Synopsis

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the webcomic Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans, Eliza’s persona is popular, and she can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then a key member of the fandom, Wallace Warland, transfers to her school and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s identity is accidentally revealed, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Review
Eliza and Her Monsters is at once a love letter to fandom and a touching portrayal of depression and anxiety.

The book is about the shy, awkward teenage Eliza Mirk who would rather spend her time in front of the computer screen or work on her art. She is the person behind LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the widely popular webcomic Monstrous Sea, a secret only her immediate family and two online friends are privy to. If things go according to plan, she will finish both her comic and high school under the radar. But things rarely go according to plan. She befriends the new guy, Wallace Warland, who turns out to be not only a hardcore Monstrous Sea fan but also a fan fiction writer and Eliza begins to wonder if perhaps life outside her room and the digital community is not so bad. Then, by some earnest mistake, she is outed, painfully and publicly. What’s striking about Eliza and Her Monsters is not how it looks at mental health with unflinching resolve, although that comes really close. It is how Zappia writes with lightness and empathy without ever treating lightly her dark subject.

“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt.
The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”

I want to commend the author for capturing the joys and complexities of family, all the while celebrating online friendships as well. Eliza’s family is incredibly well written. Peter and Anna Mirk are two very involved parents who care about their children but don’t always understand things. As a result, they are constantly on Eliza, nagging her to get her nose off her phone or otherwise hounding her to do outdoorsy stuff or hang out with “actual” people. They have zero grasp on the notion of internet-only friends and this is the ultimate source of antagonism between them and their daughter. I am a millennial okay, and there was a time in my college years when I would spend all my time in Tumblr, and I think Zappia gets that. Gets it a lot. Next are Sully and Church, Eliza’s younger siblings. They are equal parts annoying (for our MC at least) and endearing and I wish we got to spend more time with them, albeit I can see how that’s unnecessary. Then we have the online friends Max and Emmy. They only appear through group chats—and not too frequently either—but I kid you not, those are some of my favorite scenes. Because how many friends do I have, that I’ve met through the internet, that I talk to on a daily basis? The dynamics between the three just feels organic and the easy banters are exceedingly enjoyable. Even the friendships Eliza form with Wallace’s friends, founded on a shared love for Monstrous Sea, do not for once ring hollow. Now, have you met Wallace Warland? Because I swear you want to meet him. If my Goodreads updates are any indication, I was all heart-eyes emojis as soon as he steps into the campus.

“I do have friends. Maybe they live hundreds of miles away from me, and maybe I can only talk to them through a screen, but they’re still my friends.”

I absolutely adore the romance between Eliza and Wallace. Gosh, they were super awkward! #awkwardisforever Especially with Wallace not speaking out loud. So they converse with handwritten notes instead, and a I think that’s old-school romantic and b something I relate with. There were and are times when I would leave someone a note or text rather than talk to him in person. You know, how it sometimes seems like what you want to say doesn’t translate well to what you actually say. This isn’t the basis for Eliza and Wallace’s notes conversations of course, but I thought the author did a nuanced exploration of that nevertheless. The romance also isn’t some instalove business, which I appreciate. The two became friends then lovers. But more importantly, it didn’t free Eliza from her monsters. Romance isn’t the thing that saved her and tied everything neatly in a bow.

“I have to try. I have to try, because I’m doing it again—I’m shutting everything out because I’m frustrated and tired and because the real world is difficult and I’d rather live in one of my own making. But I can’t. I am here, and I have to try.”

One of the many themes of the novel is mental health. Eliza, aside from being introverted, is an intensely anxious person and she tends to fold into herself when situations get uncomfortable. Her favorite book series, Children of Hypnos, deals heavily on depression and her webcomic Monstrous Sea is a metaphor for it. Wallace is equally in need of help, if for different reasons. And there are thoughts and (arguably) one act of suicide. But Zappia handles the material with sensitivity, never romanticizing nor trivializing any of it, and the effect is often raw and moving. As intriguing as the panels and excerpts interspersed through out the story are, which make for an interesting format. As spot on as the depiction of craft and the creative life is. Really, the one problem I had with this book is a scene I don’t buy and which I will not spoil you with. It happens towards the latter part and, while it serves the plot, I believe it’s a little bit out of touch with the character.

“Broken people don’t hide from their monsters. Broken people let themselves be eaten.”

Eliza and Her Monsters is my first Francesca Zappia title but it will definitely not be the last. If you’ve enjoyed Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell or My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga, you might want to check this one out. Or vice versa.

4.0 out of 5

Author

Francesca Zappia 01

Francesca Zappia lives in central Indiana and is the author of Made You Up.

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Have you read this one yet? Have I convinced you to? What are some of your favorite books that feature a character(s) with mental health illness? What are you currently reading? Come now, sound off in the comments below!

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REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Format: Paperback, 247 pages
Publication: May 1st 2007 by Square Fish (first published January 1st 1962 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Source: Borrowed from the library (Kumon Angeles City)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

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Synopsis

It was a dark and stormy night.

Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure—one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

Review

NOTE: The fifth paragraph is slightly spoilery. Thread with caution.

Human fallibility and the capacity for deep connection are at the center of A Wrinkle in Time, a Newbery Medal-winning, universe-hopping sci-fi fantasy novel.

The first title in a quintet, it chronicles Meg Murry’s quest to save her father. From who or what she has no idea. But she has her brother Charles Wallace, a boy named Calvin O’Keefe, and three mysterious ladies—Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which—to accompany her. I’ve read somewhere that there are two types of children: those who read Madeleine L’Engle and those who don’t. I’d like to believe I would’ve been the former had I stumbled upon A Wrinkle in Time in my younger years. Or, that is, had I had the love of reading I now have. I could just picture myself freaking out over a girl I can identify with who goes to this thrilling and dangerous and awe-inspiring journey through the cosmos. Who embraced her flaws to battle the bad guys. That being said, I was still able to appreciate and take pleasure in the story, even if the final act felt rushed.

“I’ve never even seen your house, and I have the funniest feeling that for the first time in my life I’m going home!”

For whatever reason, I somehow thought this beloved L’Engle classic is going to be a family drama. This is prior to seeing the trailer for the DuVernay/Disney adaptation of course. And in a lot of ways it is a family drama. But it also is so much more than that; it has beautiful, past-the-Greek-centaur creatures for one. It’s about good vs. evil. It’s about friendship. It’s scientific and it’s fantastical. It braids together quantum physics, Einstein’s theory on relativity and Christianity. It has a strong opinion on communism. One might even argue that the book is too on the nose in those front. In fact, I’m curious to know if the author wouldn’t have a hard time securing a publisher now as much as she had in 1960s. But ultimately, it’s about a girl trying to get to her father.

“Don’t be afraid to be afraid.”

Let’s talk about the characters. Meg, the protagonist and whom the novel follows, is outrageously plain. She has your basic government issued descriptors: she wears glasses and has teeth covered with braces and mouse-brown hair that stood wildly on end. She doesn’t understand the concept of emotional inhibition quite yet and thinks school is all wrong. She’s practically an oddball and she hates it. And these are what makes Meg so relatable. Because what 12-year-old doesn’t feel ordinary? What 12-year-old isn’t governed strongly by emotion? Meg may not have the language for what she feels all the time but she knows this: she just wants to be like the other kids. And didn’t we all want that at one point? Next up is her younger brother Charles Wallace. He is five years old, speaks complete sentences—with a set of vocabulary that includes “inadvertently” and “compulsion”—and prepares sandwiches for his family—not just PBJ mind you. But possibly the most remarkable thing about Charles Wallace is that he is not a parody. For all his precociousness, he is still liable to err. Plus, his exchanges with Mrs Whatsit are endlessly entertaining. There’s also Calvin O’Keefe. Can I hug this fella? I want to hug this fella. His experience, both at home and in school, is so disparate from Meg’s but his friendship offers nothing but comfort and support. Then there are the three Mrs, these very strange old ladies. They reminded me of the Greek gods who always ask mortals to do their bidding, except one of the Mrs casually tosses phrases in French and German and quotes Dante and Cervantes.

“”I like to understand things,” Meg said.
“We all do. But it isn’t always possible.””

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time yet and wish to proceed unspoiled, you can skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise, carry on. There is a part in the book where Meg realizes her father isn’t omnipotent and that he may well be as lost as her, and I think the author did a fine job there. I’m infinitely fascinated by narratives where the young character becomes aware that her parents are also people, existing outside the realm of parenthood, capable of misjudgments and not without their own faults. Because I think it is as much a part of growing up, no matter how baffling. By the time Meg comes to this realization, it is a powerful scene. And Meg you know to be operating in extreme ends of the emotional spectrum.

“”But I wanted to do it for you,” Mr. Murry said. “That’s what every parent wants.””

At once imaginative and touching, A Wrinkle in Time teaches us courage and the importance of familial ties. Definitely recommended for fans of Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

4.0 out of 5

Author

Madeleine L'Engle 01

Madeleine L’Engle was an American writer best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regeneration in The Arm of the Starfish, and so forth.

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Have you read this beloved classic? Do you agree that the final act felt rushed? What do you think of the three Mrs? How do you feel about the DuVernay/Disney adaptation? Also, are you a child who read Madeleine L’Engle? Sound off in the comments below!

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Unmissable Weekly: August 13, 2017

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.

SLJ's Top 100 Must-Have YA Booksvia

Studies in the past have found that children’s books are dominated by male characters, that history books are overrun by male authors writing about male figures, and that literary fiction is less likely to win a prize if it focuses on a female character.

A new wave of books aimed at children might just be doing its small bit to change that. Thousands of little girls – boys as well, but likely mainly girls – will be settling down for bed this evening with a new kind of bedtime story, one in which the heroines are not fictional, but real. From Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, sales of books about inspirational women have boomed this year – and look set to grow.

Who run the world? GIRLS!

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Nick Jonas will star with Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland in Lionsgate’s post-apocalyptic thriller Chaos Walking.

Mads Mikkelsen also stars in the film, playing a villain, and Demian Bichir and Kurt Sutter recently joined the project.

Heads up, Patrick Ness fans! You have your Davy Prentiss Jr., as well as the Mayor himself and Ben and Cillian.

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“There are a lot more stories to be told, and we’re ready to tell them,” Lionsgate CEO says of their golden goose-franchises Twilight and The Hunger Games.

Ummmmmmmmmm…

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While two of the top 10 titles can be considered “diverse” (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Eleanor & Park), only a total of seven books in the top 50 feature protagonists or subjects from marginalized cultures. Even though the We Need Diverse Books movement was already in full swing by the time this poll was posted, the majority of responders didn’t include diverse titles in their top 100 picks. Diaz has written a follow-up piece to address this gap.

Here’s the SLJ list of the librarians-voted Top 100 Must-Have YA Books, with the addition of 42 editors-selected diverse titles. No surprises, mate.

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REVIEW: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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Title: The Serpent King
Author: Jeff Zentner
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Publication: March 8th 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic, Southern Gothic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all his venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.

Review

The Serpent King is raw, honest, and heartachingly beautiful . . . a fine debut of a novel.

Dillard “Dill” Early Jr., the only son of an incarcerated snake-handling preacher, tries to escape his name. Lydia Blankenship, a brilliant, offbeat fashion blogger, tries to escape Forrestville. Travis Bohannon, a hardcore fantasy novel fanboy, tries to escape his father. All of them on the precipice of young adulthood. None feels they belong in their rural Tennessee town. And that’s the thing about The Serpent King, the trio’s fears, their battles, wonders, heartbreaks, and at times, triumphs are so incredibly and infinitely familiar you’d feel right at home in a couple of pages.

“”Nothing stops when we’re gone,” Lydia said. “The seasons don’t stop. This river doesn’t stop. Vultures will keep flying in circles. The lives of the people we love won’t stop. Time keeps unspooling. Stories keep getting written.””

Told in the third person, and switching between Dill’s, Lydia’s, and Travis’ points of view, this coming-of-age is vividly written. It has very distinct voices, with an equally striking Southern backdrop, it almost feels like you’re watching three separate short films that share the same universe. And it works. It delivers an unflinching look at the struggles of growing up and finding one’s identity, not pulling punches in its portrayal of religion and poverty. It also touches on mental health in a manner that suggests complete understanding and empathy. It’s poignant, witty, and heartrending, but ultimately hopeful.

And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.

It’s hard not to feel strongly about Zentner’s characters. Lydia is my hero—clever, ambitious, passionate about what she believes in, impossibly young and talented, and quick with words but can be insecure and near-sighted all the same. Dill, with all his dreading and insecurities and the weight of his situation, probably undergoes the most character development. And Travis—large in stature, gentle of heart—I just want to hug Travis. But then you’re hit by the crushing harshness of their circumstances. Dill’s parents are a tag team of guilt trips and extreme faith; Travis’ father is straight up asshole, abusive in all the ways a person can be abusive. Add Lydia’s well-to-do, supportive, loving family into the equation and there’s a stark, often oppressive disparity. And this plays a lot in the dynamics of their friendship. There are easy banters and quips between the three but Dill sometimes lashes out on Lydia, Lydia is sometimes uncharitable with her judgments, and Travis sometimes holds back. In one scene, after a particularly appalling Father Episode, Travis considers his options, “he didn’t think Lydia would understand because her family was so awesome. And he didn’t think Dill would understand because his family was so awful,” further affirming Anna Karenina‘s famous opening line: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Or, you know, each shitty family is shitty in its own way.

“If there was a way I could explode with beautiful heat and light, like a firecracker, that’s what I’d want. I want people to talk about me and remember me when I’m gone. I want to carve my name into the world.”

Then there is Zentner’s writing style. There is a certain pensive beauty to his prose, a saudade quality underlying everything. I found myself, in multiple occasions, sobbing and at the same time thinking, this is a beautiful line or that is a clever play on words. I’m hard-pressed to name a more fitting YA evocative of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming than The Serpent King, in terms, at least, of the way the two made me feel while soaking up on the language. I also haven’t cried—actual tears I had to remove my glasses—over a book in a while. So there’s that.

Hold this moment. Keep it. Until the next train whistle in the distance pierces the stillness.

For fans of David Arnold’s Mosquitoland. Remarkable. Just, remarkable.

4.5 out of 5

Author

Jeff Zentner 01

Jeff Zentner is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who has recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. In addition to writing and recording his own music, Zentner works with young musicians at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp, which inspired him to write for young adults. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son. The Serpent King is his first novel.

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