"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, July 17, 2017

Catching Up on YA book reviews: three short ones

With the end of the school year, retirement, and just-plain-life I got knocked off schedule for writing book reviews. In an effort to catch up, these reviews will be shorter than usual. The following books were all YA books published in 2017, making them eligible for the Printz and/or several other books awards given out by ALA and the Youth Media Awards committees. These books came to my attention because of their starred reviews from publications like School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.

Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson---
Summary:
Mary Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. Even though she was a child herself, she was convicted in the court of general opinion before the courts also found her guilty. The whole time Mary never spoke up in her defense. But now that she has "graduated" from baby jail to a group home, Mary finally thinks it is time to speak in her own defense because she has Ted and is pregnant with a baby herself.
Review:
There were so many irritating things about this novel. Mary was never completely forthcoming with the information about the murder of the baby. Mary's mother is obviously a nut-job and the group home adults are horrible. And yet, there is something about the way the book is written that pulled me along and sucked me in. The word "allegedly" plays an important role in the plot and is used at crucial points in the plot. Just when you, the reader, think you know something, you will be given another piece of information that allegedly proves something else. The plot-twists in this book kept me interested and rooting for the protagonist. Or should I say the "alleged protagonist." This is Ms. Jackosn's first YA novel, making it eligible for the Morris Award.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Professional reviews with starred ratings: Booklist, Kirkus Review, Publisher's Weekly, and School Library Journal. The reviewer at Booklist had this to say about the book: "Suspenseful without being emotionally manipulative, compelling without resorting to shock value, this is a tightly spun debut that wrestles with many intense ideas and ends with a knife twist that will send readers racing back to the beginning again."

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson---
Summary:
When Tina is quite young, she and her mother escape as refuges from the Congo to Sangui City, Kenya. Her mother finds a job working as a maid for the Greyhills, a rich family. Tina grows up playing with the Greyhill's son, even though it was frowned upon by both mothers. At some point Tina overhears her mother and Mr. Greyhill fighting and when her mother is murdered, Tina figures it must have been his doing. For four years she lives on the streets of Sangui City, working with a local gang, plotting her revenge. But when it looks like revenge is within her grasp, Tina learns new information which makes her question her old suspicions as she meets back up with her old playmate.
Review:
This is an action, mystery novel with a decidedly African twist, where the landscape, animals, and local politics play a roll in the plot. Though a fictional book, Anderson based the story of actual stories of corruption in the mining industry in the Congo and her use of Swahili words sprinkled throughout the story lend it even more credibility. This is a hang-on-to-your-horses kind of story---with lots of action coming at the reader in a nonstop barrage of events. I enjoyed it a lot. Even if this book doesn't win a Printz Award it will be eligible for a Morris Award since it is Anderson's first YA novel.
Rating: 4.5 our of 5
Professional starred reviews (4) from: Booklist; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; Publisher's Weekly; and School Library Journal. The New York Times book reviewer said this about the book: ... a twisty-turny, chock-full-of-secrets, so-exciting-you-have-to-force-yourself-to-take-breaks-and-breathe kind of novel." 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour---
Summary:
Marin's mother died when she was young from a surfing accident. The only family she has ever known, really, is her grandfather. They live together in a small house close to the ocean. In a lot of ways they live separate, quiet lives. Her grandfather gives her plenty of room to be a teenager, and space to discover herself. When she falls in love with her best friend Mabel, Marin thinks her life is fairly perfect. Then grandpa dies and she discovers that he is not the man she thought he was. She leaves town without so much as a goodbye to her friends and tries to outrun her grief and loneliness. When Mabel visits her at college over Christmas break, Marin is forced to finally stop running and to face her life.
Review:
I really liked LaCour's book Hold Still, so I was excited to pick up this book to see if I was a fan or not. Unfortunately, I thought the book tried to do too much: only child issues; grief over death, loss of trust, and loss of friendship; beginning college; loneliness; LGBT issues; acceptance and belonging. It was overwhelming actually to try to wade through all the issues this book brought up. The writing was strong, but the story line was packed with too may issues while not developing the characters as much as I hoped.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Professional starred reviews (4) from: Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal. These reviewers disagreed with me, as evidence by this comment:  "LaCour paints a captivating depiction of loss, bewilderment, and emotional paralysis . . . raw and beautiful." --Booklist, starred review

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Please leave a comment below.

8 comments:

  1. I'm glad you liked City of Thieves; I also thought it was well done

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    1. City of Saints fit in the corruption of the mining but it didn't dominate the story. I was just glad to have a novel set in Africa which dealt with a topic other than war and famine and disease.

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  2. I enjoyed all of them but I have to say that out of these three "Allegedly" is my favorite. There were just so many layers to the story. I did like City of Saints and Thieves but it was a bit too slow for me.

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    1. I was surprised by both Allegedly and City of Saints at how much I liked them. Allegedly was especially surprising with it's plot twists.

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  3. I've not read any of these but they all sound very interesting. What a shame that the last author felt they had to shoehorn in All The Issues, as it sounds like a good book packed with just too much.

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  4. Ooh...I haven't read any of these 3 yet - they all sound intriguing, though in very different ways. I especially like the Congo setting, as I recently read a debut novel set in Uganda and Congo that was riveting.

    Glad you are enjoying retirement so far!

    Sue

    2017 Big Book Summer Challenge

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  5. I love books with unreliable narrators, so Allegedly was right up my alley. I'm glad to hear it sucked you in despite the aspects of it you didn't enjoy. Gosh that book packed a punch.

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  6. Great reviews! I'm planning on reading all of these! :)

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