The Hate U Give-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Contemporary Fiction/Realistic Fiction

Rating: 5/5

This was a heart-pounding, stunning debut novel by Angie Thomas. I had seen it everywhere before finally deciding to pick it up. Literally a week after I bought it, one of my university professors said I have to read it, as I am an educator as well as a lover of young adult books. Thus, I started reading it a bit sooner than planned, and I am bummed that I did not pick it up much, much sooner.

This story is told from the perspective of a Black sixteen-year-old girl whole is living two different lives, that of the ghetto in Garden Heights, and that of the high style of Williamson. In Garden Heights, there are gangbangers, drug deals, people get shot too often, and the education system is lacking, which is why Starr’s parents send her the hour drive to Williamson, a school in the suburbs that can offer her the education and socialization she needs away from Garden Heights. When she is in Garden Heights, she keeps to her Black friends and speaks often in slang that shows she is from the ghetto, but at Williamson, being one of the only Black students at the school there, she keeps her Garden Heights life pretty secretive and speaks properly, accepted by the White population there, not to mention her White boyfriend, Chris.

At the very beginning of the story, Starr goes to a Garden Heights party consisting mostly of Black people, but with a light skinned person here or there. When she has a run-in with her childhood friend, Khalil, the two begin to catch up after not seeing each other for months, but of course, shots are fired at the party. Khalil and Starr rush out to avoid the bullets. When they have a great evening catching up with each other in Khalil’s car as he aims to drop Starr off at home, a police officer pulls the two over. The officer is not very understanding and shows aggression, in which Khalil questions the officers motives. When Khalil asks why the officer pulled him over, the officer does not give a reply. Eventually Khalil complies. While the officer is checking Khalil’s information, he is toled by the officer to stand still, but Khalil aims to check on Starr, who seems scared. When he leans in to asks if she is okay, BLAM, BLAM, BLAM, BLAM. Khalil is shot dead by the officer, an event that drives the whole rest of the novel. This is not spoilers, for it is within the first 25 pages, and it is heart-stopping. The drive for justice keeps the reader going, wondering if Khalil’s death will be justified.

All Starr has to go on is the officer’s number: One-Fifteen. Until she finds out his name is officer Cruise, she uses this number to identify him. When first asked to tell the police what happened, those interrogating Starr twist the questions from the officer to Khalil: was he in a gang? Was he a drug dealer? Did he have drugs on him? This is not why Starr chose to share about what happened. Of course, the officers make Khalil into a negative criminal to justify the officer’s actions, when to Starr and her community, this is a hate crime and comes down to simple color: Black and White.

Eventually a group called Just Us for Justice seeks out Starr to represent her in a court of law and help her justify Khalil’s murder by speaking out against officer Cruise. Starr prepares to share with a judge and jury, hoping that the officer will be convicted.

Starr becomes an activist for social change as she joins members of her community to fight for Black justice and to clear out the gangs and drug dealers in her community that are sending the wrong message to the world, that are adding truth to stereotype, when it is only a few, and not the many, who are as such.

This book was so great at showing the Black perspective and breaking down racial stereotypes. This book I recommend for all young readers to gain a better understanding of a perspective that either relates to them, or that they may not understand and need to see the other side. I highly recommend this book to educators and encourage reading and writing about social change as it pertains to this novel. One of the best things about this novel is that it is contemporary, revolving around issues that we still have in our society today, issues that some people may be ignorant about or may just want to ignore, issues that reflect our nation’s past and demonstrate a fight that is still being fought, the fight for equality.

 

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The Indigo Spell-Should You Read It?

Image result for the indigo spell Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

Rating: 4/5

As the Bloodlines series continues, more and more magic becomes involved with Sydney Sage and her history teacher, Mrs. Terwiliger.

This is the third book in the series, and it opens up with Mrs. Terwiliger asking Sidney to help her out with the spell, a spell that only a virgin can do. This spell is a type of scrying spell that allows the caster to see another person wherever they are. It turns out that Mrs. Terwiliger’s sister might be sucking magic away from other young which is and killing them to stay youthful, and she wants Sydney’s help with this problem. Of course Sydney complies, but she has a number of other things that she’s dealing with the same time, between her unspoken affections for Adrian Ivashkov and her duty to the Alchemists.

Sydney is invited to Sonya and Mikhail’s wedding, a vampire wedding in which a few Alchemists are invited to keep the peace and develop a relationship between the two groups. To aid in keeping the peace, Sidney is asked to dance with Adrian when he approaches her with an open hand. With a look of fame discussed, Sydney complies, showing both the Alchemists and the vampires that they can work together under various circumstances.

At the same time, Sidney questions the goals of the alchemists, as evidenced in the events of The Golden Lily, in which Sydney was captured by a group of vampire hunters, and the name Marcus enters her thoughts. From the vampire hunters, Sydney previously found out that a man named Marcus left the Alchemists, but the problem is, nobody leaves the Alchemists-they are not permitted to do so. With this name of her lips, Sydney aims to find Marcus between trips with Adrian to attempt to save young witched from Mrs. Terwiliger’s sister.

Eventually, Sydney does find Marcus, but they start off on awkward terms with a fight insuring, Marcus thinking that the Alchemists have found him. When Sydney shares her hope of leaving the Alchemists, Marcus explains that a special ink is used to break the vampire compulsion used in the golden lily tattoos that keep the Alchemists from saying things they shouldn’t or from stepping out of line.

When Sydney’s life is threatened by the opposing witch, she learns that it was not her teacher’s sister at all, but someone else who had been seeking power, and Sydney must practice her magic to face this powerful witch.

Safe and sound, Sydney is becoming more comfortable with using magic, but she is also learning that her feelings for Adrian might be effecting her life choices as well. When asked to go to Mexico with Marcus to get her tattoo broken, Sydney at first complies, but later chooses to stay with Adrian and admit her feelings for him, even though they come to the conclusion that they would have to hide their relationship, especially when Sydney’s sister is added to the on-duty Alchemists in Palm Springs.

I really enjoyed this book and as the series progresses, the stakes get higher and higher, and the intensity is escalated. Now that Adrian and Sydney choose to be together, they must hide from the vampires and the Alchemists, otherwise Sydney might get caught and taken to the Reeducation that seems so torturous by the alchemists. This was a fantastic read and I am looking forward to the next installment to see how Sydney balances her relationships between her sister and Adrian, as well as with Mrs. Terwiliger. It will be interesting to see how the Alchemists handle the situation. Overall a great series that I would continue to recommend to readers in their later teens, especially females because the romance in the story heightens the anxiety of separation and the eagerness to find out what will happen next!

The Mortal Instruments (The Graphic Novel)-Should You Read It?

Image result for mortal instruments graphic novelGenre: Manga/Young Adult Fiction/Paranormal

Rating: 5/5

First of all, I call this a manga rather than a graphic novel because 1) graphic novels are usually in color or printed on a shiny paper and 2) this was published by Yen Press, a well-known manga publisher in North America. I have reviews for: Lady Midnight, Lord of Shadows, and a special spotlight review on Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy as well, all of which likewise feature some of Cassandra Jean’s artwork.

Maybe I am biased (I try not to be), but this is one of my few 5/5 star ratings. It is an amazing adaptation of the first part (about half) of Cassandra Clare’s novel, City of Bones. Also, the art was done by Cassandra Jean, one of my personal favorite artists. All the work she does for the Shadowhunter novels is absolutely spot-on when it comes to what I, as a reader, think the characters look like. I even have the Shadowhunter Illustrated History with her artwork, the Mortal Instruments Coloring Book, and the tarot cards, all with Cassandra Jean’s work. If it hadn’t been for her beauty with Shadowhunter’s, I never would have found some of her other original work, such as Reindeer Boy (which is officially one of my favorites, also a manga published by Yen Press).

With all this fin stuff in mind, perhaps I should talk a bit about the story and to what extent it follows the novel. It has been about ten years since I first read City of Bones, and I am still a major Shadowhunter fan. This adaptation was not only done with beautiful art, but adapting the story was done well also. This first volume Introduces the reader to Clary Fray, a girl who enjoys a normal life with her friend, Simon. All that turns around when she witnesses a murder in the Pandemonium club.

Little did she know that it was a demon being murdered, and that Shadowhunters are meant to protect the mundane (human) world. When Jace Wayland discovers that Clary has the sight, he aims to bring her into the world of Shadowhunters, even though she does not want that…at first.

The three mortal instruments, the cup, the sword, and the mirror, are first described in this volume, and some of the history and lore of the Shadowhunters is introduced. The reader is also given some backstory by Jace, and the volume ends after Magnus’s party, when he warns Clary that her mother was hiding her from the terror of the Shadowhunter world.

I absolutely loved this adaptation; the art adds a different perspective when reading, in that I notice physical character interactions in a way that I did not notice when reading the novel originally. This is only volume one, and with the title being The Mortal Instruments, I will be assuming (and hoping) that it will cover the six books in the original story arc.

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On another note, on the same day as this manga, the 10th anniversary edition of City of Bones was released, and it is one of the most beautiful books I have ever purchased. There is a number of colored interior art by Cassandra Jean both within the pages as well as the interior covers. There are also a number of black and white pieces of art added into various places, which will really add to the reading experience and has me greatly looking forward to reading the novel again and starting my Shadowhunter journey from where it all began over ten years ago. There are also added files from the Clave, which is an interesting part of this edition as well, and the binding is like that of an old book, giving it a chic feel of value.

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The Ones-Should You Read It?

Image result for the ones bookGenre: Near-Future Fiction/Young Adult

Rating: 4/5

The opening to this book is interesting and strong, dropping the readier into a closed space with phrases such as “You are a terrorist,” making the reader feel as if they were in the predicament of the character. The story then moves to a few weeks prior to that scene and feels almost too normal, but it has its twist, and that is what makes this book interesting.

This Summary/Review contains MANY SPOILERS

Relative to genetic engineering and science today, The Ones features Cody and James, two of the Ones, children out of 1% of the population who were genetically engineered before birth to be superb physically and academically, but a person cannot tell who is a One just by looking; they look just like everyone else, except maybe with sharper features. Despite this, it is impossible to tell if someone was born with natural physique or talent, or if they were genetically modified.

When a new law passes that allows discrimination against Ones, Cody and James have a hard time at school, especially when a list of names comes out that has every One on it. Cody finds that she must fight for the rights of the Ones and finds herself being recruited to a group who aims to rise up and fight the discrimination by whatever means necessary…but when they find out Cody’s name is not on the list of One’s, they think that she is a spy, and everything she knows in her whole life is turned around.

Determined to stick with fighting for equality, despite not being a One, Cody aims to have a small rebellion at her own school, where the students fight for the rights of the One’s by not letting any of the staff out until their rights to sports and academics are returned. When what was meant to be benign turns into something deadly and unexpected, Cody is determined to be a terrorist and takes the blame to save James and those aiming to maintain the rights of the Ones.

Cody finds herself being tortured in a place she does not know. Tortured is a strong word, but basically she is being waterboarded, a form of torture that is very controversial in the United States today. In the meantime, James tried to get Cody out through the influence of his father, a man who is establishing a vaccine for those who have been genetically altered.

One free, Cody joins Kai with the New Weathermen, the group that fights for the Ones, and aims to destroy James’ father’s lab late at night with no casualties. Kai will do whatever it takes for the survival of the One’s, and when the premature destruction of the lab warrants a late-night visitor, Cody must choose.

When society has nearly completely turned against the Ones, Cody follows the New Weathermen to the caves on the outskirts of her hometown, but the law enforcement who aim to put them into internment camps find them. James to the rescue cuts off their path with fire and saves Cody and the New Weathermen, at his own expense.

While this story seemed a bit too “normie” in its high school setting, it picked up once the politics and the fight between society and the Ones became intense. The torture scenes relate back to the opening chapter (I love when books go full circle in that way, it is an effective strategy to draw the reader in), and are also vivid and may be a bit too strong of imagery for people who view waterboarding negatively (I am neutral and have no argument on it, although it seems very in humane and scary).

I also enjoyed how the stakes really heightened in the end, with the death of James’ father as well as his sacrifice in the end. As the reader, it is undetermined what happens to him, but there is a second book, and I cannot wait to see what happens with James, Cody, and Kai as their fight for their rights concludes in The Equals.

I would suggest this book for a slightly older group, possibly age 16+, and I can see this book highly appealing to both genders. It is also an interesting read for those interested in genetic sciences as well as equality and political movements in today’s world, because many of the ideas and concepts in this book reflect many of the things we see today. All-in-all I would say this book is a YES, you should read it; I will be reading the second one very soon, and can’t wait to see what the characters to to fight for their freedoms and become equals!

Before I Fall-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 4/5

After reading Delirium, I wanted to check out something else by Lauren Oliver. I have seen this book everywhere and have heard that is is good. Well, it was definitely interesting. It has more positives then negatives in terms of craft and plot, and there is a moral that the reader can come away with to really think about how they treat other people, how others might view them, and how to just be a decent human being.

This story is about Sam Kingston, a senior in high school who is telling the story from her perspective, but different aspect of the telling seem to come from a place beyond the events of the novel. No spoilers here when the narrator dies in a car crash after a party and wakes up on the same day of the party once again. Thinking it all a dream at first, Sam goes about the day, knowing what everyone around her is already going to do or say. When she notices the time after the party, she dies again in the car crash.

Living the same day over and over again, Sam aims to find some way to switch the outcome, realizing that her fate is stuck in time with the fate of Juliet Sykes, a girl who is teased and tormented by Sam’s circle of friends. Every night at the party, Juliet shows up to call Sam and her friends a “bitch,” one by one. The people of the party toss beer on to Juliet and call her “psycho.” Sam begins to realize this torment of Juliet is an occurrence that directly involves her, even though she may have felt like she did not do anything to Juliet previously.

As Sam begins to make these connections, she realizes she needs to do something to prevent Juliet from being humiliated at the party, because no matter what happens,  in the loop that Sam is stuck in, Juliet kills herself every time. Sam realizes she must find a way to stop Juliet from doing this, and she comes up with a number of ideas, from sending roses to directly speaking to Juliet, only to find that nothing can console the years of bullying that have built up on Juliet.

With the key realization on how to end the once never-ending cycle of living the same day over and over again, Sam finds her conclusion by making the ultimate sacrifice.

For a debut novel, this was a pretty darn good read and well-written work. The idea of living the same day over and over again is not exactly a new idea, but it was attempted in a different way, sending a message to young people to be conscious about how they treat other people and how even small actions or lies can shape and twist a person in such negative ways.

The time loop is what makes this novel interesting and the fact that Sam must come up with some way to prevent Juliet from committing suicide to end the loop, but the day-to-day basics of the plot are similar to the generic high school drama and fiction that many writers write about, somewhat drawing away from making this novel unique.

On another positive note, the fact that Lauren Oliver pulled off the time loop without the story being too repetitive is a plus. While the first two repeats are similar, as Sam continues to find ways to alter the outcome of the day, the reader sees many different forms of the same day, avoiding being too repetitive. The reader also gets to understand the same thing Sam does: this day will never end, so why not be a rebel and do what you want when there is no tomorrow?

All-in-all a fantastic book for young readers, a stand-alone novel that I would strongly recommend to readers ages 14-18 for the insight that it brings to being a person of that age group, not to mention a great way to introduce oneself to the works of Lauren Oliver.

 

The Outsiders-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 4/5

This is a very well-known novel and has even become a required read in many middle/junior high schools across the United States. This story has a minor aspect of American history to it, and it has a number of key ideas such as friendship bridging the gap between rich and poor, honor can be found among the lawless, and that one’s identity must be found outside the influence of friends and family.

Interestingly enough, S.E. Hinton is a woman who published her debut novel under the guise of a man. In the 1960’s, women were still seen as unequal to men, especially in the great literary canon of American writers. Obviously, her novel transcends time and has become a great classic for young readers today.

Although never explicitly stated, this novel takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1965. In this coming-of-age novel, two rival groups, the Greasers and the Socs (So-sheh-s, short for Socials) are two rival groups divided by their socioeconomic status (the place/location they live in and the income their families have).

The conflict of status between the Socs and the Greasers is long running, and when Ponyboy, the main character (and yes, that is his real name), is jumped by some of the Socs after a movie, his older brother and friend come to his aid. The conflict continues when Ponyboy and fellow Greaser Johnny, come face-to-face with the Socs in a park in the middle of the night. After some snide remarks, Ponyboy spits at the Socs, egging them to try and drown him. Seeing that his friend is drowning, Johnny stabs one of the boys in order to save his friend, honor among the lawless.

Even though he was saving his friend, Johnny committed murder. Ponyboy, present for the death of the Soc, runs to his brother for help and advice. Together, Ponyboy and Johnny hop a train to a few towns away and find solace in a church for a few days. When Dally, one of the Greasers, comes to tell he boys that tensions are even higher after the murder of Bob the Soc, Johnny decides that perhaps things would be best if he just turns himself in.

When the three boys aim to head back to Tulsa, they notice that the church is on fire, and children on a field trip are trapped inside. Perhaps it is his guilt of murder, or perhaps is was the boy’s fault that the church caught fire in the first place, but some impulse drives Johnny to save the children, risking his own life for their own.

With Johnny’s sacrifice, he may not make it, and the tensions continue to boil between the two social gangs. Ponyboy not only loses more than one friend, but he gains numerous injuries from the planned brawl between the gangs. When his grades begin to fall, he finds solace in Gone With the Wind and the theme of death, and the purpose of life and doing something honorable.

Overall, the writing style is sophisticated in the writing itself, but it is also written to fit the attitudes of the characters, which makes the novel feel real. This book, being one of the required reads in many schools, demonstrates a number of social and global issues that we still have today, such as discrimination due to socioeconomic status and gang violence. These concepts are important for young people to have an understanding of so that they can form their own opinions and arguments with these issues as seen in contemporary society. Whether you are in 8th grade, college, or retired, I would say this book is worth the read, becoming one of the great pieces of the American literary canon.

The Circle-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Near-future Fiction

Rating: 3/5

I was recommended this book at a dystopian literature conference, among other books. After reading, I wouldn’t categorize the novel as young adult (which some say it is), because the protagonist is a college age girl (early or mid twenties). There are also a lot of adult inferences and the language is more complex than that of a young adult novel.

So what is The Circle about? Well, it is about The Circle! The Circle is a major Internet-based company founded and run by the “Three Wise Men,” men who believe technology and being connected through social media is of dire need and importance to society. Mae Holland, a recent college graduate, finds her way to a job at The Circle through her long-time friend Annie. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity appears to be fantastic, but the longer Mae stays with The Circle, the more she questions the company, society, and herself.

The Circle is a technology-based company, and one of their newer creations is SeeChange. These small SeeChange cameras are placed anywhere and everywhere, including around peoples necks. With this technology, everything is known at all times, and ideally, if people know they are always on camera, crime rates would essentially go down and people would think things through more thoroughly before acting upon committing a crime of any kind, or doing anything that society as a whole might look down upon.

When Mae goes kayaking without any SeeChange cameras around, she is not only reprimanded for her risky actions, but also for the fact that she took no pictures or video footage to share her experiences with the word, for The Circle believes all information should be shared. The Circle also has its 10,000+ employees competing with their social media interaction on a daily basis. Who tweeted the most? Who posted the most comments? Who gave the most likes? Each inference of social media participation increases Circle member’s rank, and when Mae’s low rank causes alarm for some of the higher-ups, she begins to rethink how often she comments, likes, and interacts with others’ social media pages.

When Mae seems to be thinking The Circle might be on the wrong path, one of the wise men has her go onto the path of “transparency,” something many global politicians are doing. Basically, those who are transparent wear SeeChange cameras 24/7 and their interactions and everything they do for the day can be seen and heard by viewers (with the exception of using the restroom, in which case the video still plays, but the audio may be turned off for up to three minutes). This controlling aspect of society seems odd at first, but Mae falls right into the swing of being transparent.

Her parents, on the other hand, want nothing to do with technology, and neither does her childhood friend (and ex-boyfriend). When her involvement in The Circle affects her parents daily lives, as well as her friend, the three of them relocate without a word of where they are going. 

With the power of The Circle, Mae is able to have all people on a global scale find her friend, but the technology drives him to the limit. When The Circle discusses the idea of everyone having to vote through their company, to make voting required by all people and to be able to see everyone’s votes, one of the three wise men seems to think The Circle is about to be complete, but in a very dangerous way that was not his initial intent.

This sounds like a good story, no? Why did I give it a three you ask? Here’s the thing. While the novel has a very interesting, near-future concept, there is a lot of exposition on some of the technology that makes the story drag on. The writing style is fine, it’s really just that there is too much time spend on extra, unnecessary information to the story itself, which takes away from the thrill of technology being the most important thing in one’s life. I feel like it would have been a much better and faster read without all the extra exposition. This book took me eight months to finally finish (among other books of course), but pushing myself to finish was very challenging, since the incentive and draw to read was so low. I would definitely not recommend this book to everyone, but for those who are interested in technology, how it affects people’s lives, and how our future might just turn out, take a crack at this book.