Laura Silverman: Girl Out of Water

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

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Spring has arrived! The sun has been out in full force, the grass is starting to turn lush and green, the temperature is rising–it’s time to start picking your summer reads, folks!

I know it is that season, too, because I have DNF two heavier novels this week. I’m too restless to try and sit through them. I needed something fun–and Laura Silverman’s Girl Out of Water was just the ticket to save me from my slump.

The blurb is a little cringey at first glance (Lincoln has a disability, he shouldn’t be defined by it). If I didn’t know anything about the context or author, I might turn away from this one. However, I’ve followed Laura Silverman on Twitter for a long time, and there is no way she would treat someone with a disability with anything but the utmost respect. And she absolutely does. Lincoln is one of the most delightful YA boyfriends that I have read in a long time. His relationship with Anise is adorable, but also respectful–no one is pressuring anyone here, there isn’t any unnecessary sexual drama, and I love that.

There’s a lot of swearing, which…if you have followed me for any amount of time, you know that bothers me not at all. Still, it’s surprising for this style of YA novel. I like that Silverman didn’t hold back, since obviously most people don’t in real life–but I could see it being a problem for some.

“Summer reads” are always pretty fast books for me. I read this in only a few hours. Once I started, it was hard to put down–Silverman’s characters are captivating, and they drive the story. It’s a book full of normal, every day people dealing with normal, every day drama…plus a little extra. Totally one you should add to your beach bag this year. Just maybe leave the banh mi SPAM at home.

DIVERSITYBINGO2017:  MC with an UnderRepresented Body

NetGalley and SourceBooks Fire provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Zoraida Córdova: Labyrinth Lost

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

I’ve seen this book EVERYWHERE lately–it’s touted as the MUST READ for 2016. Now that I’ve read it, I can see why! A multiracial, bisexual main character who is also a witch? YES PLEASE.

There’s no skirting around that bisexuality, either. There are two love interests, though one is certainly stronger than the other, and Alex’s sexuality is never in question. It’s completely normalized and it’s WONDERFUL. More of this please!

The world of Los Lagos is incredibly beautiful–fans of Alice in Wonderland are going to find this book familiar, except instead of a bland British background you’ll see a vibrant canvas reminiscent of Day of the Dead celebrations and Afro-Caribbean influences.  Cordova’s worldbuilding is as magical as the magic of the brujas, which is interwoven through families, and blessed by the gods.

I only have one real criticism of this book. More than once, Alex refers to Nova as having “bipolar eyes.” What do “bipolar eyes” look like? That is not an acceptable descriptor, even if you WERE speaking about someone with a mental illness–and nowhere in the rest of the book, that I could find, is Nova described as having Bipolar Disorder. It shocked me that in a book as amazingly diverse as this, that such a harmful word choice was used.

Aside from that issue, though, I loved the book. Is it enough for me to tell you not to read it? No, definitely not. Labyrinth Lost is an incredible story with incredible diversity. Teens should be able to see this much bisexual representation is EVERY popular YA novel. But it was enough of an issue for me to keep it from my 5 book dragon list MUST READ list. I hope she leaves that descriptor out of the sequel.

DiversityBingo2017:  OV Latinx MC

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Juno Dawson: This Book is Gay

Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This book is for anyone who’s ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU.

There’s a long-running joke that, after “coming out,” a lesbian, gay guy, bisexual, or trans person should receive a membership card and instruction manual. THIS IS THAT INSTRUCTION MANUAL. You’re welcome.

Inside you’ll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask: from sex to politics, hooking up to stereotypes, coming out and more. This candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBT also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention hilarious illustrations.

You will be entertained. You will be informed. But most importantly, you will know that however you identify (or don’t) and whomever you love, you are exceptional. You matter. And so does this book.

WHY THIS BOOK WAS BANNED:

WHILE I COULD NOT FIND ANY SPECIFIC RESOURCES (BESIDES APPEARING ON MULTIPLE CHALLENGE LISTS), I FOUND NEWS ARTICLES LISTING TWO TOWNS TRYING TO REMOVE THIS BOOK FROM THEIR LIBRARY BECAUSE OF THE GAY CONTENT. IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT THIS BOOK WOULD MAKE IT ON TO CHALLENGE LISTS DUE TO THE NATURE OF ITS CONTENT.

Juno Dawson’s book can’t be missed. It’s bright rainbow cover beckons to everyone. And that really is the message she wants to display– “Hello, welcome to our community. We see you, and we are waving the flag for you. Come on in, we have a place at our table. Join us.”

Her book covers every topic in the LGBT* space. (She uses that abbreviation throughout the book, according to him, not to exclude anyone, but for brevity’s sake.) There’s SO much information here from identifying your sexuality, to coming out, to actual gay sex, to activism. She also covers transgender issues in almost every subject.

I think she could have done a better job explaining asexuality and nonbinary topics. She mentions them at the beginning, and talks about asexuality a few other times by definition, but never really goes into details. This book is VERY MUCH about sex. I won’t go so far to say she erased asexuals, but the snub is there. And this book is pretty binary in its discussions.

It isn’t perfect, that is for sure. But Dawson tries really hard to open the doors to the community for young LGBT* people who need guidance. She provides a good deal of information, and then some testimony from people who have lived that situation.

It’s a start. We definitely still need to fill some gaps in other places, but I do think this book is going to help a lot of kids who are desperately needing information that they aren’t getting in school (at least not from their teachers). It’s not perfect. But it does have a lot of really great information that none of us had in book form when we were growing up. And I wonder how many of my classmates’ lives would have been helped by a book like this?

 

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Twisted

Bex is ready to start a new life in foster care. There, she won’t be known as a serial killer’s daughter. Though her father was never tried for the murders attributed to “The Wife Collector,” he disappeared after questioning. And Bex struggles with the guilt that she provided the circumstantial evidence that convicted him in the public’s perception—and drove him to abandon her.

But when a body turns up in her new hometown, all signs point to the Wife Collector. Bex’s old life isn’t ready to let her go. The police want to use Bex to lure in her father. But is she baiting a serial killer or endangering an innocent man?

Ya’ll know I love a good thriller, and Twisted has the very definition of the genre right in the title. I love that I’m starting to see more suspense in YA. (Of course, maybe it has always been there, but I’m just now noticing.)

Twisted will make you turn page after page without stopping, to find out if Bex is safe or not. Her friends and parents are super sweet, and I was so happy for her as she tried so desperately to settle into her new life. It almost makes you skeptical…it seems so easy.

There is a bit of a plot hole there–and maybe it was intentional. But I felt like I needed a bit more background on how Bex became Bex. There’s no real information on the 10 years between when her father disappeared and when she starts her time with Michael and Denise–except for a few brief mentions of Dr. Gold. And Dr. Gold in herself is a mysterious figure. We need a line between point A and point B.

Besides that, though, I enjoyed this one. It goes on my list of “books I had fun reading.” Yes, I do know this book is about a serial killer. I don’t mean “fun” in the balloons and confetti sense, just an entertaining sort of way. If you like thrillers, this is one to pick up for the afternoon.

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NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases July 5.

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