pop culture readathon wrap-up!

Hello, friends!

This July, I participated in the Pop Culture Readathon and somehow managed to read all the books in my TBR! I surprised myself just because the beginning of the month was SO busy and I really didn’t think I would be able to get to all books. But it turned out to be a great reading month.

Since the readathon’s round was inspired by D-COMS, I decided to also watch and rewatch some of my favorites and I’ll be reviewing them as well at the end of this post.

STARSTRUCK

Read a celebrity romance

IMG_4648 2Initially, I was very excited about the idea of this book, but ultimately I found this installment to be just… okay. There was a lot of potential for angst – this one is an arranged marriage romance where eventually the reason why the characters agreed to get married is no longer a problem, which is a great scenario for pining where the heroes feel like they’ve lost their purpose to one another. But things are very easily resolved and there’s basically no pining whatsoever. The characters also have sex by like page 3, and while I looked forwared to the idea of the characters engaging in intercourse simply because it was expected of them to and then move into being more romantic as they fall in love, that never happens and left me with sex scenes that were incredibly boring to read.

 

 

GIRL VS. MONSTER

Read a book with a haunted house aesthetic

IMG_4650I do think Tripping Arcadia had some interesting elements to it: the writing was interesting and I was definitely devoted to the characters. However, I found that the main character would make and unmake some pretty serious decisions very fast, in a way that just wasn’t really realistic. I also hated the fact that the rich characters were given somewhat of a redemption arc at the end, and the blame was put in the “poor dude” who was too greedy. (Not “eat the rich” enough tbh). The ending in general was confusing and I was left frustrated that the protagonist’s family plot was never given a conclusion to.

 

 

CAMP ROCK 2: THE FINAL JAM

Read the final book in a series

IMG_4651 2As I looked back on my thoughts in this series, I realized that I picked up the WRONG BOOK. I wanted to read book three in the series, but ended up picking book four, because apparently I have no brain cells! And reading this definitely did not help – it felt like I was watching an endless Abercrombie ad. First, the plot is a mess and convoluted for no reason, with side plots such as the heroine literally donating a kidney to the hero’s dad. I wish I was joking, but I am not. Then, there’s all the overprotectiveness coming from all the guys in the heroine’s life. She had shitty parents, but her dad was excused of all his actions, while her mom was only further villainized, which didn’t help when she was the only female character in the book outside of the heroine. I’m not even mad that this didn’t pass The Bechdel Tast – I am mostly mad I had to read about so many MEN. The cherry on top was the fact the smut was the most uncomfortable and awkward I’ve ever read. Remind me to never pick up new adult again, please!

SPIN

Read by an Indian or Indian-diaspora author

IMG_4647 2I read two books dealing with matchmaking apps this month and it was very interesting. I like how Match Made in Mehendi stars a heroine that doesn’t really want to be a matchmaker, but seems to always be accidentally matching couples together. When she puts that knowledge into an app to hopefully propel her and her best friend into high school popularity, things get quite messy. I liked the side characters a lot – including the best friend, Noah, and her brother, Navdeep – and was very happy to see the heroine’s mom standing up for her at the end. However, the “mean girl” trope was a bit overdone here and I always find that the resolution to “let’s record that person and catch her in the act!” is overused in fiction, but I’ve never actually seen happening in real life, so it always makes me eye roll a little bit.

 

TEEN BEACH MOVIE

Grab a beach read

IMG_4649I can’t believe I was actually quite intimidated by this book, because it was just so much fun! The romance was underwhelming and didn’t really have to be there, to be honest, but everything else? Iconic! The aunties were hilarious and the plot was so ridiculous, with every twist making things even more absurd. It was so funny to listen to the audiobook and the narrator did such a good job. I hope this gets turned into a movie, because it definitely has the potential to be a comfort comedy with great representation. I will most certainly be picking up Jesse Q. Sutanto’s newest release!

 

 

HOW TO BUILD A BETTER BOY

Read a book with a tech/computer geek character

IMG_4652 2While I don’t think Love, Decoded should be marketed as a YA novel, I did have fun with it! It does read more middle grade than YA, with the characters, dialogue and writing feeling quite childish at times. I was particularly bothered by the lack of inner monologue, especially during the first 40% of the book, with the writing being just descriptions of what the characters were doing, but no insight on what the protagonist was thinking as that happened. The writing in general was overly detailed in moments when it absolutely did not have to be. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun drawing parallels between the book and Emma – which it is a re-telling of – and the relationship drama was very entertaining to follow.

 

 

SHARPAY’S FABULOUS ADVENTURE

Read a book with a pink cover

IMG_4657I was really happy to re-read Loveless as it was a really interesting read back in 2021. I still enjoyed it a lot this time around and overall, I think I was better able to understand the parallels the author was trying to draw between Rooney and Georgia, our main characters. Georgia experiences a lot of loneliness, which she believes to be tied with her being aro-ace, but we see how Rooney also feels incredibly lonely, even when she’s surrounded by people. There’s also this really toxic biphobic idea that bi or pan people are more likely to “date around” and cheat or mess with people’s feelings, but we see that Georgia, not being bi or pan, also does a lot of not so great things in the process of figuring her own sexuality out. I think it was important to show that there’s a lot more in common between their experiences than we might originally think and to bring them closer too.

LET IT SHINE

Read a book written in verse

IMG_4646 2Possibly the most surprising of my reads this month, I picked up Apple not even remembering why I wanted to read this one that much. It is a memoir in verse and recounts the author’s memories while drawing inspiration from The Beatles’ discography. The fact the sections are all inspired by different albums by the band is only revealed during the author’s note at the end of the book, and the second I read that, I wanted to re-read the whole book as I think drawing these parallels myself would be so cool. This was incredibly interesting, moving and smart. While I don’t think everyone will love the free verse format, I really loved reading about Gansworth’s family history and heritage and certain parts made me quite emotional.

 

LEMONADE MOUTH

Read a book with a musically inclined plot

IMG_4655 2Perhaps if you’re not a fan of Emma Mills, you’ll enjoy this one better than I did. But in comparison to her other books, I didn’t find this one as amazing. First, the protagonist felt and read exactly like the other Emma Mills’ protagonists I’ve read before – her biggest flaw was that she was too kind and too nice. I also found that the side characters, including the protagonist’s best friend and love interest were cut too much slack for the amount of shitty decisions they make. Ultimately, the resolution of the main conflict was also underwhelming and completely based on coincidences and conveniences. It isn’t a bad book by any means, but knowing what this author can do, I was left disappointed by this one.

 

 


MOVIES I WATCHED

LEMONADE MOUTH. Like expected, this was beautiful, fantastic, show-stopping and absolutely made me cry. I love my little communist band with all my heart. Also, Wen saying to Olivia: “We believe in you. [whispers] I believe in you” from the other side of a bathroom stall… is something that can be so personal.

Z-O-M-B-I-E-S. I had never seen this one before and personally it was not for me. The plot was pretty much the exact same as Descendants and yet lacked all the charisma that Descendants had. I found Zed, especially, to be such a dull protagonist, with the acting being particularly bad there. Someday really was the only song I cared about and I was left very confused at the random “breaking-the-fourth-wall” moments.

CAMP ROCK. My rewatch of this one solidified that it does not matter how many years pass and how much more of an adult I become, I’ll still cringe too much to watch the scene when everyone on camp learns Mitchie has been lying about her mom. I have to skip it every time.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2. Since the new season of HSMTMTS dropped, I’ve turned back to a HSM stan and I was feeling particularly nostalgic. It was tons of fun, and I realized how in this installment Sharpay really is treated awfully, though she also treats everyone terribly, making it quite hard for me to feel truly bad for her.

LET IT SHINE. It was also my first time watching this one and it was so good! The outfits were hideous, it’s true, and I do wish it had been less focused on the potential of romance between Kris and Roxie and more on Kris having a dream to be a rapper, but still, it was really great. The soundtrack was fantastic and I was surprised at the conversation on “no music genre makes you more or less worthy of respect”.

SNEAKERELLA. I am incredibly mad at myself for not watching Sneakerella sooner. This movie was SO GOOD. It’s a gender-bent re-telling of Cinderella and it has a great soundtrack, diverse characters and really good acting. I don’t know much about sneakers, but I still loved how this was incorporated into the story and how well done it was, with the amount of animations and fun transitions. Please, go watch it!

What is the best book you read in July? Have you watched any of these movies or read any of these books? If so, what are your thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments!

book review: boys of the beast by monica zepeda

Thank you Skyscape for providing me with an E-ARC of this book

IMG_2507Three cousins. Four days. One car. This smart and fearless road-trip novel is perfect for fans of David Levithan, Benjamin Alire Saenz, or Meg Medina.

THE ROUTE. Seventeen hundred miles from Portland, Oregon, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

THE BEAST.Grandma Lupe’s 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.

THE BOYS.Three strangers who also happen to be cousins:

Matt.Evangelical Christian. Earnest. Film nerd. Carrying a dream to make movies–despite the future his father has planned for him.

Ethan.Jewish. Gay. Sci-fi nerd. Carrying a phone that contains his entire relationship with Levi–unless they finally get to meet IRL on this trip.

Oscar.Stoner. Smartass. Too cool to be a nerd. Carrying a letter that haunts him–no matter how hard he tries to escape it.

THE END …just might be a new beginning.

This powerful voyage in three voices marks the brilliant debut of Monica Zepeda.

Hello, friends!

It’s been a long time since I last reviewed a book in this blog, but I really wanted to write a full review for Boys of the Beast. I got an unsolicited ARC of this one and it was the first time I had heard of it, but I am so thankful I learned about it! It’s a road trip book about family bonding between these three cousins after the death of their abuela.

I definitely enjoyed it a lot, and completely inhale read it, lol. In two days, I had finished the book and it was a great ride from start to finish.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: death of a parent, references to school shooting, religious trauma and religious conversations, homophobia

COISAS BOAS novo

  1. The mental health rep! Not only this book had great exploration of trauma, with Oscar confronting and healing from this traumatic situation that happened in his past, but it also offers great representation of how to handle mental health issues. I find that in teen fiction, it’s very common for characters to help each other out because they’re all struggling through something similar, and the fact this book hammered down how that is not enough and you should reach out to a medical professional instead was *chef’s kiss*.
  2. Family bonding. That was what I wanted to see the most in the book from the premise and it certainly delivered! I particularly loved the dynamic between Ethan and Oscar. At the beginning of the book, you can see Ethan really doesn’t like Oscar and sees him just as nothing but a stoner. To see how their dynamic evolves and how they end up is quite emotional. I also really appreciated how the story acknowledged that Matt wasn’t as close as the other two had become but it didn’t mean they hadn’t bonded in their own way.
  3. Oscar! But Ethan and Matt as well. Look, Oscar was just such a gem. He definitely has a bad reputation and got himself kicked out of so many schools. Yet, he’s very kind and sweet when you strip off those layers. I also love his journey to self-forgiveness so much. Ethan was also an incredibly supportive friend and I loved how he tries to communicate in a healthy way with all the people around him. And while Matt was my least favorite character, just because his religion made him come across as a bit tone deaf at times, I grew to like him at the end.
  4. The discussions on religion. Religion is a big theme of this book, which I didn’t expect. If you have experienced religious trauma, then maybe this one is not for you, as there are multiple instances of Matt saying he’ll use this road trip experience to preach for his cousins – which he does. However, I think the author was still able to show religion as this nuanced topic. Because of what Oscar has been through, he struggles to believe that bad things only happen to bad people and if you’re good, nothing bad will happen to you. However, for Matt, having that belief that God is taking him to wherever he needs to be gives him certainty and confidence. As someone who isn’t personally religious, I was still able to understand the characters very deeply.

COISAS RUINSNOVO

  1. The road trip made no sense. OK, let’s start with the pettiest thing first, shall we? Look, the road trip made negative sense. It is what it is. Matt is the one who needs to take the car from Oregon to Albuquerque, where he lives. Ethan lives in Vegas and Oscar in Phoenix. If you know where these places are located in the US, then you know that what would make sense would be for Matt to drop off Ethan in Vegas and Oscar in Phoenix as then complete the last leg to Albuquerque alone. However, that’s not the plan. The plan is all three of them will ride to Albuquerque alone and then get a plane back home. How does it make sense that the road trip will drive them further away from home than closer??? The logistics gave me a headache. If Oscar and Ethan lived in Florida or Texas, then sure that would make sense for them to complete the trip by plane. But as it stands, I was just confused and wondering why their parents had agreed to such a terrible plan, lol.
  2. It could’ve been more Latine.While I do understand that books can just be about characters going through something and not necessarily focus on their marginalizations, the book lacked, for me, on more Latinx vibes. Even the parents are surprisingly chill about the fact their 16 year olds are staying in hotels alone and never calling. Ethan and Oscar text their parents like once during this 3 day trip. The most strict parents are Matt’s and his dad is white. If you ever interacted with any Latino parent, then you know that would never happen.
  3. The writing (at times). I did like most of the writing, because the chapters were short and it was easy to fly through it. However, at times this didn’t help the book, because the characters would jump into actions that were very OOC for them so abruptly it would give me whiplash. For example: at one point, they want to secure this parking space and Matt simply jumps out the car and goes to lie down on the street. Matt is this ultra religious, strict, shy kid randomly decides to lay down in the pavement of Los Angeles to secure a parking spot. This is very unlike him and yet the narration just has him do that as if it was nothing, which didn’t make sense.

4 ESTRELASNOVO

IMG_2512Overall, I did enjoy this one a lot, even if the writing wasn’t perfect. I am not sure if this is Monica Zepeda’s debut, but the problems I found with the writing weren’t major in any way. I think there’s a lot of potential in this author’s writing, for sure!

I also really appreciated seeing family dynamics at the forefront of a YA novel, that is typically populated by love or friendship stories. This is definitely something I want to see more often!

 

 

 

Are you interested in reading Boys of the Beast? Whar are some of your favorite YA contemporaries featuring male protagonists? Let me know in the comments!

my favorite books of 2021!

a 2021 overview.

Hello, friends!

It is finally that time of the year again: 2021 is coming to an end and I can finally share with you my favorite books I read all year.

2021 was a pretty good reading year for me; certainly better than 2020. While I still had just a handful of 5 star reads, most books that I read were positive experiences and I felt myself venturing out of my comfort zone more often this year. I will be sharing my 2022 reading goals in a future post, but that’s definitely one thing I’ll for sure want to keep in the new year.

MOST EPIC SERIES FINALE

I actually did finish a couple series this year, but Tower of Nero was probably one of the best series finales I’ve read in years. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye to the Percy Jackson universe, and it made me shed more than a few tears.

IMG_8729 4This conclusion obviously wraps up Apollo’s journey and we learn, once in for all, if he’ll be able to conclude his mission on Earth and return to be a God, or if he will perish. I stand by the fact that, while the plot is interesting, and seeing other characters from the Riordanverse throughout this series definitely brings a sense of warmth and nostalgia, the true reason why this series rocks is because of Apollo.

His growth, from the self-absorbed and arrogant god of the first book to the selfless, loving human of the last is… Remarkable. Beautiful. Moving. All the possible adjectives. I love his dynamic with Meg the most and their friendship is so adorable and real. They definitely push each other to be their best selves, while also having this sibling-like banter that is hilarious to read.

Like I said, approaching the end of the Percy Jackson universe (or at least the stories by Rick Riordan, as Mark Oshiro recently shared he’ll be writing a Nico&Will adventure soon!) was a pretty emotional ride, and I already feel the urge to re-read all books immediately.

BEST ADULT ROMANCE

IMG_8346Boyfriend Material could also get the title for funniest book I read all year, because it certainly would get that prize too. This is a fake-dating romance, perfect for fans of Bridget Jones, as it follows the hot-mess-express Luc who has to find a respectable boyfriend to help him repair his reputation.

Luc and Oliver had such a great dynamic. I loved how we start out the book seeing Luc as this really messy and flawed character, and while his growth is undeniable, it was interesting seeing how Oliver also wasn’t this flawless protagonist either.

The dialogues in this book are laugh-out-loud funny and the side characters were just as great. I do think you need to have a certain type of humor in order to really enjoy this one, and if you’re hyper sensitive (and does not take well veganism jokes lol), then it might not be for you, but I think Alexis Hall really was able to get in my mind and write the type of banter I love to read the most. I’d definitely consider reading more by them!

YA TROPES ARE VALID

IMG_8361I know that when it comes to tropes in YA fiction, people definitely feel some type of way. I am a believer that it’s more down to the execution than to the tropes itself, and I think She Drives Me Crazy is a perfect example of clichés done well.

In this one, we follow Scottie, who wants to make her ex girlfriend jealous by paying her own nemesis to date her. Sounds just like a teen-com you’ve probably watched before and, yet, this book is so much more than that. It is entertaining from beginning to end, doesn’t shy away from addressing homophobia and sexism, but remains a positive and light-hearted read, and has supportive and amazing side-characters all-around.

I loved the discussions this book had: the importance of being okay with yourself first, before getting into a new relationship; that effort and commitment are what make someone an athlete, more than what sport they play; and that you can always count on the people who love you the most to be brutally honest, but also to see you for who you truly are.

While this was filled with clichés, it was never boring and too predictable. I loved the characters Kelly Quindlen creates and will for sure be re-reading this one for years to come.

BEST RE-READ

Hi, hello, yes, you are looking right now at one of my favorite books to exist. Nice to meet you.

IMG_1749I read Only Mostly for the first time last year and I enjoyed it a lot, but it was a bit overshadowed by my read of Call It What You Want, that consumed all my thoughts back in 2020. The distance between that and my re-read, this March, was just what I needed, as this one quickly became a favorite as soon as I finished it. (As soon as I got to the jacket scene tbh).

Only Mostly Devastated is a gay Grease re-telling, which is pretty much all you need to know. I love the Grease references, the overdramatic narration (seriously, Ollie is such a relatable main), the secret romance, the fleshed out side characters, the refreshing and unique family dynamics… I could go on and on.

I’m pretty sure this will be one of those books that I will re-read without a fault every year, because it puts me in such a good mood everytime.

BY A FAVORITE AUTHOR

This is me putting Gayle Forman as the author that never fails as if just last year one of her books wasn’t in my most disappointing reads of the year list. It’s fine. I can tell that was just a fluke.

IMG_1747When I learned that Gayle Forman was writing a new book, I immediately added to my TBR, as I am a huge fan of her If I Stay and Just One Day duologies. This one follows Aaron, whose parents owe a failing bookstore, and who has just made a deal to sell it behind their backs. This book focuses a lot in the importance of community, which was incredibly heart-warming to read, especially after a year like 2020 when we really faced the hardships of being away from our own communities.

We Are Inevitable isn’t as angsty as some other works by this author – in fact, it’s pretty funny and I found myself laughing out loud with the audiobook multiple times -, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold an impact. I was surprised by the phenomenal character development, the great friendships Aaron makes, the sweet romance, the book and music references and that cameo at the end that made me legit shed a tear or two.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

IMG_8354

This one entails as a surprise because I had no idea I was getting an arc of this book. I didn’t sing up for any book tours, obviously I can’t use Netgalley as an international reviewer and I didn’t participate in any giveaways either. Yet, one day, when I opened up my e-mail, there it was! And I am SO glad I had the opportunity to read Fifteen Hundred Miles.

Jonny Garza Villa was amazing in balancing a story with its hardship moments, but overall still deliver a story that was light-hearted, warm and hopeful. I loved the dynamic between Jules and his friend group, as well as sister and grandparents, and their found family antics were so lovely to read about.

When I got to the end of this book and realized I was going to have to say goodbye to these characters, I flat out teared up. I had grown so attached to them and had really loved seeing an entire all-latinx cast being so great, supportive and hilarious together.

It was also my first time reading about a long distance relationship and I really loved how the author made that so cinematic. I hope to see more by this author in the future!

FAVORITE NEW RELEASE

IMG_8889

Ace of Spades was a 2021 release that I found to be absolutely deserving of all the hype. Following the only two black characters in this prep school who both become victims of this anonymous gossip account called The Aces, this book delivers a fantastic twist in the “dark-academia trope”.

While dark academia is mostly known for being predominantly white – white characters and white authors – Ace of Spades showed how much the creepy, uncomfortable and unsettling atmosphere of these novels is sometimes inherent to the academic experience of people of color.

I really loved both protagonists, because even though they were so different, the author still managed to write both perspectives well enough and in a balanced way where I never wanted to be reading more from one or the other. I felt very intensely about everything – like the way I was screaming at Jamie’s character and had to actually pause the audiobook for a second to gasp out loud, lol – and it was a really great reading experience too.

BEST WRITTEN

IMG_8357

As a huge Nic Stone fan, it is honestly hard to say she has one specific book that outdoes all the others. But Dear Justyce was absolutely just that.

This book follows Quan, who we know from the first book, as he writes letters to Justyce – protagonist in Dear Martin – from prison. I loved this novel’s message on the human need of a support system and to have someone who believes in you, in order for you to believe in yourself too.

I think it was also so interesting how the author developed Quan’s mental health issues and how that would bleed into the narration too. Quan deals with a lot of anxiety and PTSD and, unlike a lot of fantasy novels, where the authors make it so the characters’ trauma make them act older, here we see an authentic perspective of Quan holding on to childhood memories exactly because of his trauma.

Overall, this one made me tear up quite a lot and I do believe it’s Nic Stone’s best to date.

DESERVING OF MORE HYPE

IMG_9894I swear to God, I may have put The Great Unknowable End in at least three separate TBRs throughout the year before finally committing and reading it. And I am so glad I did, as this book turned out to be one of those I still think about to this day.

This one is set in the 1970s and we follow two perspectives – Galliard, who lives in a hippie commune and Stella, whose brother moved to the commune and whose family hasn’t been the same since. This book also has some magical realism elements, with events such as a gigantic countdown to nobody-knows-what and pink lightning striking their town.

I don’t consider this book to be perfect, as I found numerous progression issues with it. But the story is so easy to get involved in, the characters so fantastic and the setting so unique, it was one that I struggled to get over. I felt the urge to re-read the book as soon as I finished it, which hardly ever happens.

This book has one of the most intense and unique protagonist’s developments I’ve ever read. The characters we start out reading about are nothing like the ones we finish the book with, and I absolutely loved that.

BEST BOOK OF 2021

IMG_1751I did talk *a lot* about this book in my blog, so I don’t think it comes as a surprise it is my favorite book of the year. Funnily enough, this was the first 5-stars I gave in the year, and nothing was able to top it.

Concrete Rose is such an interesting book. A prequel to The Hate U Give, this one follows Maverick, Starr’s dad, as a seventeen-year-old teen dad trying to figure out life. I loved following Mave, as he’s an easily relatable and charismatic character, who’s really just doing his best. I think the title of this book is so fitting, as Maverick really is a rose blossoming from the concrete – a guy trying to work in a world that thrives on his failure.

While in THUG, we see Starr being divided between her predominantly-white school and her predominantly-black neighborhood, Maverick’s life revolves 100% around Garden Heights and I love the sense of community in this book. The side characters: Dre, Mr. Wyatt, Lisa, Mave’s mom, they were all amazing and added so much to the story.

This book is quite different from The Hate U Give, but I think the perspective it gives on race and what is it like being a black man in America was refreshing and great to read about. It is also EXTREMELY funny, which was pretty awesome too.

What was the best book you read in 2021? Your biggest surprise? Did you re-read at all this year, and if you did, was there one re-read that was the best you did all year? Let’s chat in the comments!

five diverse YA contemporaries with dual perspectives that are absolutely worth your time

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

After a couple of months, I am finally writing a new recommendations post! Yay! I am excited because a lot of these books have been recent reads that I hadn’t had the chance to talk about yet and they’re all so good!

THE GREAT UNKNOWABLE END BY KATHRYN ORMSBEE

IMG_9894This one is set in the 1970s and we follow Stella and Galliard. Galliard has Tourettes and has lived his whole life in this hippie commune in Kansas. Stella’s brother moved to the commune and her family hasn’t been the same since. The story also has some magical realism elements, such as this countdown that shows up in the town hall and no one knows what is it counting down to, or red rain that no one can explain.

This was one of those books that stayed with me for weeks after I’d finished it. It has one of the most intense character developments I’ve ever read about, and if anything, the magical realism elements are mostly tied to the protagonist’s journey than a mystery to be resolved.

I loved the 70s setting so much. It’s pretty palpable and the author was able to intertwine a lot of different historical events within the actual plot. While I can’t say whether or not the disability representation was well done or not, I did appreciate the author for not sugarcoating the awkwardness/uncomfortableness between the protagonists because of Galliard’s Tourettes.

This one doesn’t have the happy ending you might expect, but I think I liked it even more because of that.

HANI AND ISHU’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING BY ADIBA JARIGDAR

Like the name suggests, we follow Hani and Ishu in this one, both Bangladeshi girls who go to the same school in Ireland. I think the author did an amazing job at developing both characters with an unique voice and it was important to show that, despite sharing a similar background, Hani and Ishu couldn’t be more different.

IMG_9897Ishu is “intense”, she’s competitive and strongminded and doesn’t have many friends at all. I loved the development in the relationship she has with her older sister – it’s a very different dynamic from the one we see Jarigdar’s debut, The Henna Wars, but it was done well nonetheless.

As for Hani, she has a very supportive family, which was lovely to read about, especially when we consider her very toxic and awful group of friends. Hani is kind, sweet and struggles with standing up to herself. I really liked watching her growth, and especially how her warmth would rub off in Ishu as well.

By far, the most interesting layer for me in this book, was how much it challenged me. I felt like with this one and The Henna Wars, the ending wasn’t satisfying because the white characters didn’t seem to fully learn and understand why the things they did were hurtful. However, what I noticed, was that I should not be expecting a white-person’s redemption in order to have a happy ending.

WILD AND CROOKED BY LEAH THOMAS

I think Leah Thomas really is amazing at writing double perspectives, because her character’s voices are always so different in the most effortless way.

IMG_9892In this one, we follow Kalyn and Gus: Gus’ dad was murdered before he was even born, but he feels the ghost of him everywhere he goes. Kalyn’s dad is in prison – for the murder of Gus’ dad. However, none of the two know about that when they strike a friendship. (Also: Gus has cerebral palsy so another one with disability rep!)

I absolutely love non-romantic love stories and this one is definitely that. Kalyn and Gus have so much love for one another, and it’s platonic, beautiful and absolutely life-altering. It’s that love that is able to repair the years of bad blood between their families.

I also have to shoutout Phil, as the added perspective by the half-way point that was just as lovely to read about. This story challenges our perception of loyalty so well and I really like how alive the characters felt, like they could jump off the page at any time.

ACE OF SPADES BY FARIDAH ABÍKÉ-ÍYÍMÍDÉ

IMG_8889Like with Hani and Ishu, I think it’s so remarkable what the author of Ace of Spades was able to do here. Following the two black students in this private school, Devon and Chiamaka couldn’t be more different from one another. Despite that, both perspectives are incredibly well written and easy to connect with.

Chiamaka is your Blair Waldorf – queen bee, popular and cunning. It was easy for me to fall in love with her, but Devon was not left behind. I also appreciated a lot how hesitant their friendship was at the beginning and the development of their support to each other.

This book also offers one of the best twists to the dark academia trope, talking about how, for people of color, academia has been historically an eerie, uncomfortable setting, that is not made to accommodate them at all. The atmosphere in this book matches that feeling so well and it’s definitely a creepy, slow buildup that ends up in the most epic conclusion.

VERONA COMICS BY JENNIFER DUGAN

IMG_9890This hybrid re-telling of You’ve Got Mail and Romeo and Juliet was honestly a lot more intense than I imagined. Jubilee and Ridley meet at a convention and hit it off right away. However, Ridley soon finds out Jubilee is the heir to the small comic store that his dad’s chain plans to buy.

I really liked how the author developed Ridley’s anxiety and depression. His mental health issues are very much tied to his parents’ – his abusive dad and neglectful mom – and I appreciated how that was balanced with Jubilee’s supportive family/friend group. It not only made more palpable how undeserving Ridley was of that, but gave him a second support system that made his dad’s decision even more complex to him.

It was also pretty important how this book discussed the idea of codependent relationships. Despite the amount of love these characters had for one another, they had to be okay by themselves first. I really wish this was a message that more YA books would prioritize!

Have you read any of these books? What’s your favorite book that has double perspectives? What do you think makes a book with two perspectives stand out? Let’s discuss in the comments!

21 of my favorite books of all times in honor of turning 21

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Hello, friends!

Today, I turn 21 years old. I honestly feel like I’m still 15 and haven’t aged a single year since that, but unfortunately, I have. Unlike most people, I actually really dislike my birthday, which is why writing posts like these is an attempt to make this day a bit more fun & reflective for me, instead of all the negative vibes that hit as soon as the clock turns midnight.

For this year, I decided to compile 21 of my favorite YA contemporary titles. YA contemporary is my favorite genre, so it just felt fitting to choose this one. It’s going to be a long post, so bear with me!

21 IS FOR THE WICKER KING, BY K. ANCRUM

He would crave the burn until he was dead.

33158541I remember reading this book while in Math class, back in high school. The story was twisting my insides and making me feel so sad, and I still could not put the book down. K. Ancrum creates such amazing characters with an unique writing to show a relationship that is imperfect, but still so so so compelling.

☔️ rep: m/m romance, neurodiverse protagonist
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: toxic relationship, codependency, parental neglect, anxiety and panic attacks, use of ableist language

 

20 IS FOR SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY, BY KELLY QUINDLEN

I had yet to learn that being a nobody is supposed to bother me.

52516406. sy475 On a completely different vibe from the last book which is tragic and gritty, She Drives Me Crazy is the F/F romcom of my dreams. With the same vibes to 10 Things I Hate About You, this book touched on so many different topics, of friendship, family, sexuality, being an athlete and misogyny, while still being a fun and light-hearted story full of teen-com tropes.

☔️ rep: lesbian MC, indian-american love interest, f/f romance
🌈 own-voices: yes for the queer rep
🌪 trigger warnings: bullying and homophobia

 

19 IS FOR DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, BY ADIB KHORRAM

Everyone wants you here. We have a saying in Farsi. It translates ‘your place was empty.’ We say it when we miss somebody. Your place was empty before. But this is your family. You belong here.

44139389This book was able to deliver *so* much and make a story that is, objectively, quite far from my reality, feel relatable. Darius The Great tackles mostly identity and our protagonist learning more about his Persian roots, but even as someone who couldn’t see herself in that part of the story, the way the book tackles fatphobia inside your own family and the approach of mental health resonated with me very deeply.

☔️ rep: clinical depression, gay MC, fat rep and persian rep
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: fatphobia, bullying, depression, suicidal ideation, terminal ilness

 

18 IS FOR WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI

You are beautiful. Lajawab. My only worry is that I might not be able to do you justice.

28458598I recently re-read this book and it was such a great experience. While I was able to notice a lot more of its flaws (such as the slut-shaming, internalized misogyny and the lack of actual plot), I still stand by the fact that Dimple and Rishi are one of the best couples I’ve ever read in YA. They push each other to be the best, truer versions of themselves and their interactions are always so mature, with great communication and support.

☔️ rep: indian-american protagonists, latinx side character
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: misogyny, racism and bullying

 

17 IS FOR BIRTHDAY, BY MEREDITH RUSSO

We’ll always be Eric and Morgan. Nothing is ever going to change that.

39863399This is another one that I can definitely say has its flaws, but it’s one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever read. It’s extremely intense, and heartbreaking, and even though it is written in such an unique format, where you’re only spending one day each year with these characters, it’s so easy to connect and feel for them. It’s childhood-friends-to-lovers excellence and so, so, so well-written.

☔️ rep: trans protagonist
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: domestic abuse, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, internalized transphobia, homophobia, bullying, death of a parent

 

16 IS FOR HERETICS ANONYMOUS, BY KATIE HENRY

Aren’t most wonderful things a little bit strange?

34659293. sy475 I do need to re-read this book urgently, yes. But I can only recall the good vibes I felt when reading this story. I love the representation, the dialogues, the humor, and our protagonist. Michael is not likable and he can come across as a privileged douche sometimes, but I really appreciate how the story did not deny that and yet acknowledged that his problems were also still valid.

☔️ rep: colombian-american side character, gay Jewish side character.
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: slut-shaming and homophobia

 

15 IS FOR DEAR JUSTYCE, BY NIC STONE

We find the families we were desperate for and learn different ways of going about things. Ways that sometimes land us in places/positions we don’t really wanna be in.

37829267This won’t be the last Nic Stone you see in this list, because I do love this author more than life sometimes. Dear Justyce is what I consider to be her best work: it tackles anxiety, PTSD and being in the prison system at a young age in a way that is so honest and raw, and yet so poetic and lyrical and absolutely beautiful. I love how Nic Stone allows her characters to be imperfect and most importantly to *grow*.

☔️ rep: black MC and side characters, PTSD
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: PTSD and anxiety attacks, domestic violence, child abuse, gun violence, murder and incarceration

 

14 IS FOR CAMP, BY L.C ROSEN

I rock a tiara — but I can do anything he can do and be a princess while doing it.

52880287. sx318 sy475 I am still amazed by how this book was able to blow me away. I expected to enjoy it, but it was so refreshing to read a book that empowers queer people in a way that goes against everything the internet and pop culture have tried to tell me: there’s no one way to be queer and queerness can mean whatever it means *to you*.

☔️ rep: gay Jewish MC, gay korean-american love interest, asexual side character, genderqueer side character
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: internalized homophobia, sexual content, toxic masculinity, homophobic slurs (challenged)

13 IS FOR LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, BY STEPHANIE PERKINS

I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.

22247695I’m pretty sure I’ve forced every single one of my friends to read this book at one point. I love it so much, I can’t help but want to spread its word. It has the most perfect pacing of any romance I’ve ever read – the perfect amount of sexual tension and slow burn. It also has amazing family dynamics, laugh-out-loud writing and unique characters that you would never see in real life, which I actually love.

☔️ rep: MC is adopted and has two gay dads
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: N/A

 

12 IS FOR RADIO SILENCE, BY ALICE OSEMAN

Everyone’s different inside their head.

30653843. sy475 I think it’s remarkable how Alice Oseman is able to write a story that is so deep going from a plot that is so basic: two best friends making a podcast together. If you have read Radio Silence, though, you know how it’s so much more than that. This book makes me wish for a friendship like Frances and Aled’s so bad. I love how their relationship is this safe space where they get to be the most authentic version of themselves.

☔️ rep: biracial queer MC, demisexual gay MC, depression
🌈 own-voices: N/A
🌪 trigger warnings: parental abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, animal cruelty

 

11 IS FOR AMERICAN PANDA, BY GLORIA CHAO

I couldn’t go through life as a shadow.

35297380. sy475 Another book I need to re-read so bad. American Panda is one of those books where I fell in love with our main character so fast and just wanted to wrap her in a blanket forever. Mei is figuring out so much about herself and her future, and her journey to live as her true self is quite lonely. I really just wanted to become her best friend. I also adore the romance and the complex family dynamics that Gloria Chao creates here.

☔️ rep: taiwanese-american MC with OCD, japanese-american love interest
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: toxic family relationship, OCD, discussions on STDS and mentions of suicide

 

10 IS FOR CONCRETE ROSE, BY ANGIE ROSE

I like to be reminded that beauty can come from much of nothing. To me that’s the whole point of flowers.

52822210I finished this book back in January and is one I’m still thinking about. Not only was this hilarious, but it also brings such an authentic perspective of being a black man in America. Maverick really is a rose trying to bloom from the concrete, trying to make the best decisions he can in a world that thrives on his failure. The sense of community also makes my heart so warm.

☔️ rep: black cast of characters, bisexual side character
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: mentions of parental incarceration, death of a loved one, gang violence, gun violence, drug dealing, racism

9 IS FOR I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, BY JANDY NELSON

We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.

20820994This! freaking! book! Since the first time I read it, it’s one I still think about. I’ll Give You The Sun is an amazing story of characters that are incredibly flawed, but that you simply can’t help but root for. The way this book discusses family is so well done and how all characters are fated to be in each other’s life is absolutely beautiful. It also made me think a lot about the importance of art.

☔️ rep: gay MC, m/m relationship
🌈 own-voices: N/A
🌪 trigger warnings: death of a loved one, grief, sexual assault, bullying, discussions of addiction

8 IS FOR FAR FROM THE TREE, BY ROBIN BENWAY

They catch you before you fall. That’s what family is.

33830437. sy475 Another one that discusses family so well is Far From the Tree. The themes of this book are so incredibly well done: what family really means, how you can build a future without knowing about your past, how pregnancy changes a person and the importance of having a place where you know you belong. I cried quite a bit with this one too.

☔️ rep: mexican-american MC, lesbian MC
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: teen pregnancy, adoption, discussions of alcoholism, foster system

 

7 IS FOR TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, BY JENNY HAN

Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That’s the part of the risk. I don’t want to be scared anymore.

15749186Duh. Of course this one had to be on the list. I’m choosing the first one, even if it isn’t my favorite in the trilogy, because it is the one that starts it all. I’ll never shut up about how Jenny Han knows exactly how to use teen-com tropes and create stories that feel authentic and romantic at the same time. While the family in here is absolutely amazing, my favorite thing will forever be how great characters Lara Jean and Peter K are.

☔️ rep: korean-american MC
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: N/A

 

6 IS FOR FURIA, BY YAMILE SAIED MÉNDEZ

I’d leave this house the first chance I got, but not by chasing after a boy. I’d do it on my own terms, following my dreams, not someone else’s.

49150990. sy475 I had to include this book in the list, as it was one of the first ones I could 100% see myself in. Camila is a much stronger and badass protagonist than I’ll ever be, but the way Furia tackles misogyny and the numerous times women have to endure things in order to stay *safe*, was so heart-wrenching to read about. I also loved the romance and the setting of Rosario, which felt so relatable as well.

☔️ rep: argentinian cast
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: domestic abuse, allusions to femicide and violence against women, misogyny

 

5 IS FOR DEAR MARTIN, BY NIC STONE

If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?

24974996I said this wasn’t the last time Nic Stone would show up in the list. This was the first book I read by her and I love it so much. The writing is so interesting, but most of all, this book has really tough conversations about how black people are perceived, no matter who they are. The main friendship at the center of the story is also so sweet and Justyce is a phenomenal protagonist that I connected with so easily.

☔️ rep: black MC and side characters, jewish love interest
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: death of a loved one, gun violence, police brutality, racism

 

4 IS FOR WHERE SHE WENT, BY GAYLE FORMAN

I find the need to remind myself of the temporariness of a day, to reassure myself that I got through yesterday, I’ll get through today.

8492825The amount of times I talk about this book is honestly worrisome. I can’t help but love it so much! I adore how much of an angsty narrator Adam is, how he feels things so intensely all the time, and how much music works in his life as a way to channel all these emotions. His growth is also so stunning to watch and, for one set in 24h, the development does not feel rushed at all.

☔️ rep: anxiety
🌈 own-voices: N/A
🌪 trigger warnings: anxiety and panic attacks, mentions of car accidents and grief

 

3 IS FOR ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED, BY SOPHIE GONZALES

Here walks Ollie Di Fiore. Master of his feelings, expert detacher, only mostly devastated.

45046743This book just makes me so effing happy. Honestly. It’s serotonin bottled in 300 pages. I never knew I needed a Grease re-telling, with a chaotic main character and a deeply relatable family dynamic, but here we are. I can see this becoming another one of those books I re-read every year just because I know it will never fail to put me in a good mood.

☔️ rep: gay MC, bisexual latinx love interest, wlw side character
🌈 own-voices: yes for the bi rep
🌪 trigger warnings: cancer, grief, bullying and internalized homophobia

 

2 IS FOR CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT, BY BRIGID KEMMERER

One choice doesn’t determine your whole future.

45164092Look, I didn’t mean to make this book my whole entire brand, but oh well. For a book I had no expectations when going into it, Call It What You Want most certainly made a number on me. I adore how the novel discusses morality: what does it mean to do a bad thing for a good reason, what is the line between good and evil, how do our actions define us. All that in an addictive, compelling story with an A+ romance. Brigid Kemmerer really did that.

☔️ rep: black gay side character
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: discussions of suicide attempt and abortion, student/teacher relationship (challenged)

1 IS FOR ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, BY BENJAMIN ALIRE SÁENZ

The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.

12000020Lmao. I feel like at this point, every single one of my posts mention this book. I’m sorry, I’m a basic girl. Ari & Dante is another book I pushed every single one of my friends to read because I just had to make sure everyone I knew was familiar with this masterpiece. I don’t think I’ll ever relate to anyone as much as I relate to Ari and I love him so much for that.

☔️ rep: gay and latinx main characters
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: homophobia, assault, mentions of a transphobic hate crime, car accident

 

Friends: let me know in the comments, do you have one favorite YA contemporary of all times? Is it a part of my list as well?

olympic games readathon wrap-up!

Hello, friends!

This July, I took part in the Olympic Games Readathon & I was competing for Team Apollo. I had 9 books in my TBR, and I was able to complete 8, which I think is a good enough result. Here are all the books I read and my ratings for them:

 

APOLLO’S PROMPTS

Music to my ear: Listen to an audiobook.

IMG_8890
★★★★☆

I am happy to report the Ace of Spades audiobook is actually amazing – and so is the novel. The hype around this one was big, but it for sure lived up to it. While I started the book liking Chiamaka the most – she’s the perfect queen bee and has major Blair Waldorf vibes -, Devon quickly grew on me. Both of these characters have very different backgrounds and perspectives, but I loved the development of their friendship. This book tackles a lot of significant issues of white supremacy and instutionalized racism, and both characters are also queer. I did think some things towards the end felt a bit too convenient and rushed, though, and I would’ve liked a proper conclusion to some plotlines.

Read a graphic novel.

IMG_8886
★★★★☆

I picked up the third volume of Fence and I have to say, this is probably my least-favorite so far. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still good, but I feel like some things were just wayyy too convenient and they could’ve been dealt with better. Like, I don’t mind watching some characters lose if it makes sense for the plot, and I feel like in an attempt to make everyone happy, they ended up sacrificing realism. I still am invested and I hope to see the Harvard/Aiden ship sail soon!

 

 

As the god of the prophecy, Apollo can predict the future. Read a 5-star prediction.

IMG_8725 2
★★★☆☆

I was very excited to read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, but unfortunately, it didn’t end up being a 5 star read. I think the book had an interesting concept, but I was far more interested in the sci-fi elements and learning the history behind Carl, than April May’s endeavours with fame. I also didn’t think the cast of side characters was that interesting and I didn’t care much for them. I’d still consider reading the sequel, though, especially because there really aren’t that many answers by the end of this one.

 

 

Apollo is considered one of the most beautiful gods. Read a book with a beautiful cover.

IMG_8726 2
★★★☆☆

Winterwood has a beautiful cover and is such a good wintery read. I went into this one with the right expectations and found myself satisfied at the end. The journey is a bit predictable and the characters are quite surface-level, but nonetheless, it was a great story to read during winter. Shea Earnshaw’s writing is atmospheric and beautiful, and I really enjoyed the earth-witch powers she incorporates throughout the story.

 

 

Read a well known and well-liked book.

IMG_6631
★★★★☆

I ended up re-reading The Bromance Book Club, by Lyssa Kay Adams. I realized in this re-read this book has a lot more issues than I remembered. Like, the miscommunication is off the roof, there’s *a lot* of childish walking-out-of-the-room-to-avoid-a-conversation and for a book that is trying to be feminist, it seems to have missed the first class of Feminism 101: all women are in fact, NOT, the same. Yet, the book is impossible to put down. The writing is so good, the dialogues are fantastic, I love both the protagonists and the side characters and I found that the author dealt with the conflict in a way that was realistic, and still romantic and exciting to read about. It’s not one I’d recommend to everyone, but I still enjoy it.

 

BONUS PROMPTS

CANOEING: a book that takes place on or near a body of water

IMG_8884
★★★☆☆

Shipped is the perfect combination of The Unhoneymooners and The Hating Game and I did enjoy the romance for the most part. I wouldn’t say it’s as much hate to love, but more like mild-annoyance-to-love. I liked the backdrop of the cruise and the personal journey the protagonist goes through, in terms of being able to set work boundaries and standing up for herself. However, around the 80% mark, the author adds a subplot related to a side character being in an abusive relationship that was just so disconnected from the rest of the plot, as well as the tone from the book, that had been so fun and lighthearted. I didn’t think that was dealt with appropriately, which is why I ultimately settled for the 3 star rating.

 

CLIMBING WALL: the next book in a series

IMG_8729 2
★★★★★

I absolutely did not expect to cry with Tower of Nero as much as I did. This book is fantastic: it was a satisfying conclusion to the series and had all the high stakes and good action sequences that Rick Riordan writes so well. I was so impressed by Apollo’s development and I do think that, along with his and Meg’s friendship, it is what makes the series worth reading. I also loved seeing how the other characters are doing and it made me very emotional to think this is the last novel I have to read from the Percy Jackson universe. I miss all of them already.

 

 

CAPTURE THE FLAG: one of your most anticipated releases

IMG_8888
★★☆☆☆

While I was highly anticipating the conclusion to the Simon Snow trilogy, Any Way the Wind Blows turned out to be a disappointment. I loved reading about Simon and Baz and their relationship brings me life, it’s true. But so much happened in this book that just didn’t feel necessary at all. I hate how the author kept adding more characters and more plotlines instead of resolving the one thing that should’ve been resolved since the ending of book 1. And even when she does *that*, it feels half-assed and incomplete. It was so frustrating to waste time between books 2 and 3, with all these plotlines that don’t feel relevant and don’t really accomplish much, for the one plotline I actually wanted to read about be so rushed. As much as I like Simon and Baz as character, I’m very sad with what the series has become and would’ve honestly preferred had it never been a follow-up to Carry On.

Have you participated in the readathon? What books have you read recently that you really loved? And what is your latest book disappointment? Let’s chat in the comments!

i read ace by angela chen and i am now a new person (a review & discussion)

discussionsnovo

Hello, friends!

52128695. sx318 sy475 So, back in April, I read Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society and the Meaning of Sex, written by Angela Chen. I had seen this book being mentioned before, when people were discussing asexuality, and it felt like a good place to learn more about it, as a label I gravitate more and more towards.

Disclaimer: this post is going to be super personal. If you don’t care about it, and just want to know my thoughts on the book: I loved it & I encourage anyone – ace or not – to read it.

THE PROBLEM WITH LABELS

The one thing that always stopped me from using “ace” as a label was the fact that I could change my mind about it. How to know if I’m asexual if no one ever actually had an interest in me either? The phrase “Am I ace or just ugly?” is written in my journal at least 400 times.

And that’s, already, the first thing I loved about the book: the way the author acknowledges that it’s okay to change your mind, and therefore, find a better label out there that suits you best.

IMG_5867Especially when we’re talking about communities, it’s impossible not to feel like an imposter, like if I join and leave, then my presence there was less relevant. And it’s fascinating how this book actually made me realize that so many people go through this journey as well and seeing how normal it was for them, made me realize it could be a normal process for me too. I have joined communities and left them before – the number of fandoms I was once a part of is literally too many to count – and that doesn’t mean they didn’t matter to me at the time when I joined them. And when it comes to labels, so many people grow up thinking they’re straight, just to realize they’re actually not. Some think they’re gay and then realize they’re actually bi, or pan, or trans. Labels are not written in blood or ink, and it’s okay for them to change.

Not only that, but it’s also okay not to know one thing or the other. Like, I may never know if I’m asexual because I’m ace or because I’m just not desirable. And it felt, for the longest time, like the answer to one would cancel out the other, as if I couldn’t just be both or neither.

INTERSECTIONALITY

The book touches a lot in the intersectionality of asexuality and race, as well as asexuality and disability. And that was the part that impacted me the most, as these are two almost opposing communities and living in that intersection is like being rejected by both sides. The ace community wants to prove that asexuality is NOT a disability. The disabled community wants to prove that being disabled doesn’t automatically make you ace. So it must absolutely suck to be both.

But what I was able to apply to my experience was what one of the interviewed – Cara – discussed: the fact that she doesn’t know if she is actually asexual or if she is disabled, and therefore, by our society ableist standards, undesirable. And there’s no way of her knowing, because she’ll never get to just *stop* being disabled. So the answer becomes irrelevant. It doesn’t matter which one causes the other, because you can’t strip someone out of their disability, to figure out how different their sexuality would be. We’re all MORE THAN ONE THING and they’re all intertwined. Her disability might affect her asexuality, and that’s how things *are* supposed to work. Again, it made me feel a bit ridiculous that I for some reason thought things could be different.

It’s the same thing when it comes to sexual assault victims. The ace community strives to prove that asexuality has nothing to do with trauma, but that lowkey invalidates sexual assault victims who ALSO choose to label themselves as asexual. Again, you can’t know what that person would choose as a label if they hadn’t gone through that, because you can’t take their trauma back. One thing may affect the other and it doesn’t invalidate their experience as ace in the slightest.

WHY I ONLY WRITE THE GOLD-STAR ACE

I hadn’t even realized just how many prejudices I had internalized by trying to affirm asexuality as a valid identity. One of them was the aiming of the “gold star ace”.

IMG_6229I hadn’t realized it then, but I started writing ace characters when I was 13, in my first ever writing project. I have no idea when I first heard the word “asexual”, but I was already familiar with it at the point, and wanted to write about an ace character. This character was: white, blonde, tall, and a MASSIVE celebrity. Like, Ariana Grande level of celebrity. And her biggest “scandal” was the fact she never dated. She was never seen with anyone, never had hook ups or rumors or flings, or any of that. And people were constantly pressuring her to get a boyfriend.

I did envision her to get one by the end, so I imagine she was more demi than ace, but nonetheless, I’d wanted to write about a character who was, in every sense of the word, a desirable person, and that still CHOSE not to have sex. It wasn’t because no one else wanted them, it was because they didn’t want anyone else.

And I loved how Angela Chen made me question that. Why was that identity the one I was striving for? Why was *that* person going to finally validate asexuality as a real thing? If my character had been disabled, fat, neurodivergent and not-white, then they wouldn’t be the “perfect ace”, because all of these other labels would become things for others to point: *this* is why you’re not having sex. Not because you’re ace, but because ___, ____, ____.

And that is simply *not* true. It’s honestly a bit ridiculous to expect that the “gold star ace” exists and only if they do is that our existence will be validated. We are ALREADY existing. People ALREADY feel like they’re ace. It’s not a matter of whether to not we’re “allowed” to exist, because we already do.

THINGS I LEARNED WITH ‘ACE’

Besides everything I talked about that the book helped me change my perspective on, I also love how “Ace” taught me about a lot of topics I didn’t know enough about.

One of them was the idea of “rape is not sex”. When I started reading this segment, I vehemently disagreed with the author, just because the phrase “rape is not sex” is something I’d heard being repeated so often, in contexts where I generally agreed with people who used them (feminist segments, defending victims of sexual assault, talking about rape culture, etc), but the more she talked about it, the more it became clear that statements like that just help perpetuate even further an idea that sex should always be something good. And sex doesn’t have to be all that.

I also had never given much thought about how asexuality is perceived in relationships, especially with allosexual partners. Mostly because I am aromatic, so the thought of navigating asexuality in a relationship just didn’t feel worth having. But throughout the book, Chen goes in depth about sexual enhancement products and how they not only have side effects that disproportionately affect women, but how their use is recommended without considering the societal pressure where people are expected to always want to have sex, and how THAT is what we should be treating.

It was definitely a learning experience, as I previously knew close to nothing about these practices and it made me not only more aware, but more critical of them too.

WHAT I THOUGHT WAS LACKING

While the book was amazing and one of the easiest 5-stars I gave all year, I did think it was lacking in some aspects.

IMG_6255One thing I found weird was how much the author went on about how the feminist movement hardly ever welcomes asexual women or just women who simply don’t want to have sex. I understood her point but I feel like it’s something already discussed a lot in feminism – how moving towards more forward thinking and the embracing of women who are open about their sexuality should not mean the shaming and the “leaving behind” of women who choose celibacy. It’s a similar concept to the feminist view of motherhood: no woman should be shamed into becoming a mom, but no woman should be shamed for genuinely wanting to either. I thought these were old news, but if just yesterday, I had to listen to my college professor, well-versed in feminism, shaming his own cousin because she used “mom” to define herself, then it might indeed not be as “common knowledge” as some may think.

I also wish the author had touched more on the place of aces within the queer community. While she’s very open throughout the book about seeing asexuals as part of the community, we all know they’re not as easily welcomed. Every Pride Month I feel like we witness the same conversation happening on Twitter – whether or not aces are allowed to celebrate Pride & whether or not they are *really queer*. I’d have liked to listen to experiences of people who felt like they were not exactly welcomed by the queer community and had to build their own.

There also weren’t a lot of people being interviewed who define themselves as aromantic and asexual, which was something I missed, especially because society pressures us into romance even more than it pressures us into sex. While sex is, in some cultures and for some demographics, considered something too “vulgar” to be talking about, you hear stories of romantic love from as early as a toddler, when you watch Cinderella for the first time. I wish there had been a broader conversation on aromanticism and its differences and similarities with asexuality.

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This turned into a whole fucking essay, so I apologize. Let me know if you’ve read Ace, your thoughts & what was a book that you read recently that changed your life!

five YA contemporaries with ~unlikable characters~ because we’re all trash after all

Hello, friends!

And welcome to a recommendation post where I talk about messy characters, AGAIN. I love them, ok?

And I don’t know if it’s because of spending too much time on Tik Tok, which just feels a bit like Tumblr amped by 10 and appropriated by Gen Z, but OH MY GOD, have we normalized the word toxic to be used in every single scenario. I think people have come to forget that humans are HUMANS. And, by default, imperfect. Which doesn’t make every single one of them toxic.

BUT, if you’d rather see it this way, then here’s a list of toxic books that I absolutely love and that you should too:

CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT

Not me still talking about Call It What You Want.

I feel like, at this point, I’ve already made this book my brand, which is a bit embarrassing, considering I’ve only actually read it once and it’s possible that in revisiting it, I find out that it actually sucks. It’s pretty unlikely, though, because I went into this one with zero expectations and it blew me away.

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Call It What You Want explores the different lives of these two “high school social pariahs” – Rob, whose dad was caught in a major financial scandal that the town believes Rob knew of; and Meghan, who got caught cheating in her SATs and had everyone’s scores canceled because of it.

These characters are assigned a Math project together and the rest is history.

This book is fantastic at developing every single character and giving them a beautiful, satisfying arc. Not only the dynamic between Rob and Meghan is amazing, but all the other ones between them and the side characters are equally fleshed out and feel realistic.

It also explores morality and what does it mean to do a bad thing for a good reason impeccably well. I don’t have enough good things to say about it, except like, read it, for the 800th time.

SUMMER BIRD BLUE

When I first picked up Summer Bird Blue, I had no idea it would actually break my heart as much as it did, even though everyone says it’s a tear-jerker. I thought I was too much of a hard soul to crack, but… yeah, they were correct.

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Summer Bird Blue explores so many great topics, I might as well write a list:

  • Grief & regret. Our protagonist has just lost her sister and feels a lot of very complicated feelings over it.
  • Pretty much all the teenagers in this book are mixed, including our protagonist – half-white and half-Japanese/Hawaiian.
  • Rumi is also aro-ace!
  • There’s also an adorable platonic relationship between the MC and the bubbly boy next door and a hilarious, heartwarming friendship with the grumpy grandpa of the neighborhood.
  • Music. Is a huge part of the story and will make you cry.
  • The writing is simple, yet so stunning.
  • Rumi’s mom leaves her with her aunt after the loss of her sister and the exploration of abandonment from the two perspectives is so complicated it hurts.

Basically: this book will make you see grief in one of the most vulnerable and honest ways I’ve ever read. It’s not an easy one, but it’s rewarding.

ODD ONE OUT

I know a lot of people say there are certain tropes they are 100% done with, and I respect that. BUT, I am one of those that likes to think there are still interesting and entertaining ways to write every single trope, including the one feared the most by everyone who survived this trope’s epidemic during the early 2010s. Yes, I’m talking about him:

LOVE TRIANGLES.

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But hear me out: Odd One Out actually plays with love triangles but in a way in which EVERY PART OF THE TRIANGLE IS IN LOVE WITH THE OTHER. You can imagine how messy this is and that’s why is in list list.

These characters don’t make the right choices, for themselves or for each other. They pretty much give mixed signals and play with the other person’s feeling simply because they can (and also because they’re trying to figure their sexualities out, which is a pretty complicated and messy process inherently).

I don’t *love* this book, but I still think there are great discussions here. There’s also like a side mystery plot line where two of the characters team up to find this “missing TV show host” that was actually pretty cool.

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN

Spot me talking about a 2014 book like a full on #BookToker.

Also, a fun fact for all of you that complain that BookTok is only filled with early 2010s titles: do y’all know that books DON’T actually have expiration dates and they can still be meaningful even YEARS after their release? I know, shocking!

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I’ll Give You The Sun is fantastic and if for some reason you haven’t read yet, I’m telling you: YOU CAN. Just because it’s a backlist novel it doesn’t mean is bad or aged or any of the sorts. It’s pretty great to this day (I can say because I re-read it like in 2019 and it still held up significantly well. Except for this one age-gap relationship that you CAN have issues with, and trust me, that’s part of the book’s experience. We’re talking about messy people here, after all!)

This book focuses so well on characters making bad decisions in name of *very* human reasons: anger, jealousy, resentment. Noah and Jude, our protagonists, are far from perfect, and yet you can’t help but understand and root for them nonetheless.

It also deals with art a whole lot: mostly paintings and sculptures and it’s impossible not to fall in love with Jandy Nelson’s writing.

FELIX EVER AFTER

If you’re one of those that I constantly see on Twitter asking for more messy queer stories: read Felix Ever After. I’m sure you already have if you’re a fan of this, but READ IT AGAIN THEN.

I don’t know exactly where I stand in the “messy queer media” debacle (because like, on one hand, yes queer people aren’t unicorn rainbow creatures, they mess up and they’re just as problematic as straights, but also isn’t that the way queer people have been represented in media for YEARS by straight writers?)

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Anyway. This is too much of a complicated debate and we’re here to talk about Felix Ever After.

Starring: Felix, cunning and low-key evil, Felix. Who gets a gallery made of his old, pre-transition pictures and also starts being harassed online and decides to end whoever did that. He suspects is this one mean preppy guy from his school, so he starts essentially cat fishing him, hoping to get a secret just to expose him later. Yes, very ~healthy behavior~.

I appreciated so much how this book allowed Felix to be messy and flawed and to discover himself and learn from his mistakes. His arc was SO deep, because a lot of this book is also about Felix questioning his gender and labels and also confronting his family’s past.

Pretty much all the side characters in this book are queer and they’re problematic AF as well at times. Which is infuriating, but also realistic! And we stan realistic in this household.

If you have more recommendations for this “trope”, I guess, let me know in the comments! And if you’ve read any of these books too and what are your feelings in them!

five YA books set in new york city for when you want to live your devil wears prada dreams

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

So, last year, I wrote a post recommeding books set in California because I was in a Teen Beach Movie mood. Now, we’re going to the opposite coast, as I find myself in a Devil Wears Prada mood. (Not in a romanticizing and glamorizing abusive work environments, but in a Devil Wears Prada mood nonetheless).

Soooooo, to honor that, I shall recommend five YA contemporaries set in NYC – or the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, Blair Waldorf’s reign, etc.

10 pontos no seu currículo que agradam os recrutadores | Prime Cursos

NAOMI & ELY’S NO KISS LIST

IMG_7380This book inspired one of my favorite movies of all times and I haven’t shouted about it not ONCE in this blog???? Unacceptable.

Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List is a multi-perspective novel where we follow, of course, Naomi and Ely – childhood best friends and next-door neighbors. Ely is gay. Naomi is in love with him. It’s complicated and messy and overdramatic and INCREDIBLY EXTRA.

The multi-perspective thing won’t be for everyone, but I love it. It made the read more fun and it allows us to see the Naomi-Ely dynamic from other angles as well.

I adore how this book puts such an emphasis os friendship and how hard it is to face a break-up there too. In the same beat, it develops two cute side relationships and also discusses how not every single change has to be a bad one.

Did I mention there are cupcakes? Because there are!

WE ARE LOST AND FOUND

IMG_5702We Are Lost and Found is set in the 80s and follows Michael, a young boy discovering his sexuality in the midst of the AIDS epidemic in New York. Not the easiest time to be doing that, may I add.

This book is compared a lot to Like a Love Story and I don’t understand why so many reviews tell you to *not* read this book and pick up the other one instead. Like, there’s SPACE IN THE WORLD FOR ALL OF US! I promise! Why are we limiting the number of queer stories out there, especially when they’re discussing something as important as AIDS for the queer community? Big yikes to whoever writes these reviews.

While I wouldn’t say go into it expecting an amazing love story, I actually really enjoyed how this book depicted the relationship between Michael and his older brother, who is gay and was kicked out after coming out to his parents. It definitely makes things more complicated to Michael, since he now knows what his parents are capable of, but it also creates a sense of support and love that wasn’t there when they were kids, which I think is sweet.

CHARMING AS A VERB

IMG_7117This book will ~charm~ its way into your heart. I assure you and not only because of my bad pun.

Charming as Verb focuses on Halti – son of Haitian immigrants who can charm his way out of everything, except when his upstairs neighbor Corinne starts threatening exposing the truth about his dog walking business.

This book is set in NYC but there are also some great scenes in Toronto. The ~big city~ atmosphere is all there. I also love how Columbia is one of Halti’s top schools exactly because the campus is so close to the city.

I talked before about how this book did a great job at showing a different perspective on the common “no-dad-it’s-your-dream” trope. But I also want to highlight how CUTE the romance is, how Corinne is a fantastic female protagonist considering she was written by a man (lol) and the side friendships were also great!

WHERE SHE WENT

IMG_7382Hi, it’s me.

Where She Went’s #1 fan.

Again.

I won’t promise this is the last I’ll talk about this book, because I LOVE IT. I love how Adam is this ball of angst and how his entire narration is about him being this broken-hearted guitar dude.

I also love how this is set in only 24h, but it *works*. It probably works so much because these characters have history and the chapters are also intercalated with flashbacks bridging books 1 and 2 (this is a sequel to If I Stay, in case you didn’t know), but it’s so well done and makes you root for the relationship instantly.

They also go through a lot of landmarks from New York City – like the Brooklyn Bridge and Port Authority – during the early hours of the morning and it’s POETICALLY BEAUTIFUL.

Or maybe it’s just because I love it, lol.

NOW THAT I’VE FOUND YOU

IMG_5704Not only is this book set in New York, but it’s also about movie stars in New York, so it really is the perfect combination between my latest recommendation post of books set in California and this one.

Now That I’ve Found You could be compared to a YA version of Evelyn Hugo. Following Evelyn Conaway’s granddaughter, an aspiring movie star named Evie Jones, Now That I’ve Found You has some cute mystery elements where New York City becomes the backdrop of Evie trying to find her missing grandma and at the same time restore her career.

This book also has the sweetest romance between Evie and Milo, who’s a musician, but not of the angsty type (which was REFERSHING for once). I love how they go through a lot of different places in New York that are important to each one of them – Evelyn, Milo and Evie – and this book’s conversation on fame and expectations are also *so* incredibly relevant!

Let me know if you have any more recommendations of books set in New York & what did you think of mine!

book review: the mary shelley club, by goldy moldavsky

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New York Times-bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror.

When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:

x Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times.

x Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out.”

x If there’s a murderer on the loose, do not make out with anyone.

If only surviving in real life were this easy…

New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring stabby serial killers and homicidal dolls to the bored rich kids of Manhattan Prep…and to certain memories she’d preferred to keep buried.

Then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious society of students who orchestrate Fear Tests, elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and movie tropes. At first, Rachel embraces the power that comes with reckless pranking. But as the Fear Tests escalate, the competition turns deadly, and it’s clear Rachel is playing a game she can’t afford to lose.

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Get to know more about the author!

Goldy Moldavsky was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she lives with her family. She is the New York Times–bestselling author of Kill the Boy Band and No Good Deed. Some of her influences include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the esteemed works of John Irving, and the Mexican telenovelas she grew up watching with her mother.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Hello, friends! I am very excited to be taking part in the book tour for The Mary Shelley Club, as an own-voices reviewer since this book does have South-American rep (yes the one I constantly scream about wanting more of).

Trigger warnings: descriptions of home invasion, gore, violence, murder and stalking

  1. The characters – aka the Mary Shelley Club. I think the characters in here played very well in some well known horror movie tropes – the outsider (Rachel), the smart and cold one (Felicity), the jock (Bram) and his preppy girlfriend (Lux). Still, they had an interesting dynamic and it was very easy to connect with them, mostly because we also want Rachel to have a friend group and something she can be a part of.
  2. The horror elements were on point. This book is SCARY, y’all. In the first chapter, we already have a scene that had me on the edge of my seat, where one of the character keeps telling “scary stories” to others at a party. I did not expect to feel super scared right away, but it happened, and the suspense got more intense as the book went on.
  3. Discussions of economic disparity and trauma. Rachel went through something in her past that still affects her to this day, and I appreciate how the author talked about this as an on-going issue that shows up in the form of nightmares, sometimes visions and intrusive thoughts. Rachel is also not rich like her peers, which made the dynamic between her and Freddie – the only one in the group who’s also Latinx and poor – even more believable because of the way they related to one another and thought of themselves as a “team” amongst the group.

I think my issue with the book turned out to be the pacing. I feel like the middle dragged and I wish the ending had been more fleshed out, but then again, it may be because there’s a sequel on the way. I wouldn’t be opposed to it, as I feel like there’s still a lot to explore within the Mary Shelley Club and what we grow to learn about it by the end of the book.

I also think there was potential for the exploration of grief on top of Rachel’s thrauma.

IMG_7178Overall, I was surprised by how much I was able to take from the story. This reads sometimes as a love letter to horror movies, so if you’re a fan of those, you’ll probably enjoy this one even more than I did, as some references really went over my head, lol.

As far as the Latinx representation, I appreciate how the author touched on it (with the dynamic between Rachel and her mom, as well as Rachel and Freddie being the ‘outcasts’ of the group), but also didn’t make this the only trait of either one of the characters and they had much more to offer.

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Make sure to check out the other stops of the book tour down below! Thank you so much for Colored Pages to offering me an e-ARC of this book!

March 1st

Jainny Reads – Review Only

Unconventional Quirky Bibliophile – Favorite Quotes  

 

March 2nd

Pastel Writer – Review Only

A library of my own – Review Only 

 

March 3rd

Books and Dice – Favorite Quotes

Mel Reads – Reading Vlog 

 

March 4th

A Cup Of Nicole – Reading Vlog 

Bookishplants – Favorite Quotes 

 

March 5th

The Bookish Skies – Review Only 

The Book View – Share an excerpt

 

March 6th

Sanjariti – Favorite Quotes

Loveless Degrees – Book Recommendations Based On Book 

 

March 7th

By My Shelf – Review Only

A Reader’s Reaction – Reading Blog 

Naturemamareads – Mood Board