Sunday, 20 September 2020

REVIEW: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Release Date: August 4th 2020
TW: Police brutality, Racism
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family faรงade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
This story follows Ashley in the run up to leaving high school and takes place during the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, which began after the police who brutally beat Rodney King were acquitted. Up until this point, Ashley has remained in the safety of the bubble her lifestyle has created for her, In which she doesn’t join in with the other black kids in the school, she doesn’t stand up for change like her sister, and she doesn’t call out the words of her white friends.

At the start of this story, it’s fair to say Ashley is not a likeable character. With the friends she’s surrounded herself with and the blind eye she turns to the problems of others, she is a privileged teenager in a private school that her parents worked so very hard to get her into. The story is not just about the events that occurred that year, it’s also about how they changed people like Ashley for ever. Though she’s experienced racism before, it’s the riots that make her want to change things for herself and the people she cares about.

Who I love most in this story is Ashley’s sister, Jo, and I wish we’d have gotten to know more about her world. She’s separated herself from the lifestyle she grew up in and decided she can’t stand by and do nothing. Her attitude and determination is one of the most powerful parts of this book.

  • Learning about real historical events. As a kid in Britain, I wasn’t taught things like this in high school. It shouldn’t have to be the responsibility of authors to teach us about these events, but I’m so grateful to the writers who do incorporate real history into their books. It taught me a lot and encouraged me to do further reading once I’d put the book down.  
  • The writing style. I loved how the story went from Ashley’s present day to her recalling stories from the past. It was a perfect way to help us learn more about the side characters, like Lucia and Jo. At times, it could feel a little messy, but it worked well for the story.
  • Dropping toxic friendships and finding places to feel comfortable. We see examples of the everyday racism that Ashley faces from even people she considers friends. It’s inspiring to see her slowly realise that she doesn’t need all of these people in her life, and she is able to branch out and find people who respect her.

People will always need to read books like this. It’s not supposed to be comfortable; it’s here to make you listen and think. The Black Kids reminds us that we still need change. The real-life events in this story took place in 1992, and yet it’s eerily similar to what we’ve witnessed this year alone. We need to do more

Royal Rating:

Sunday, 6 September 2020

REVIEW: Loveless by Alice Oseman

Pages: 435
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: July 9th 2020
Buy the Book: Book Depository


Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.

As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.

But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?


As someone who is constantly calling out for books with asexual and aromantic rep, Loveless was easily one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Following new university student Georgia as she goes on a quest to fall in love, she slowly starts to realise that the romance she reads about in fanfiction might not be what she wants for herself. After several failed attempts at trying to prove that she can be attracted to someone, she must come to terms with the fact that her future is not going to look how she always thought it would.
 

 

When I say Georgia’s thoughts and feelings really hit home for me, I do mean it. She is everything I’ve needed as a character for a long time. Her journey is such an incredibly important one, especially as a character who discovers what asexuality is throughout the course of the book. It’s a reminder that there are so many people out there who might have heard the term in passing, but still don’t know anything about it. I’m so grateful to books like this for not only allowing asexuals to see themselves represented, but to educate people who might be confused about the label.


The friendship group in this book is WONDERFUL. A mix of different personalities, some who’ve been friends for years and others who’ve only just met, thrown together in the chaos of university, and it makes for such an entertaining story. Their relationships with each other tangle and get messy along the way, but it helps them to face the issues that have been tugging at them.


The bond that grows between Georgia and Rooney is much appreciated. To have completely different characters share a room and grow closer despite not having a whole lot in common is something I always enjoy reading about.

  • ASEXUAL & AROMANTIC REP. I mean it’s pretty obvious, but god did we need this book. Loveless seamlessly weaves important information into a gorgeous, character-driven story. I also adored how the book demonstrated that a person can be both aroace, but there is no ‘one size fits all rule’.
  • SETTING. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Durham through the eyes of Georgia. As someone who loves the aesthetic of old universities, I was all about this location. It did make me wish I was a uni student again though…
  • OLD & NEW FRIENDSHIPS. I enjoyed the mix of Georgia’s childhood friends and new people she meets at uni. Too often we see YA characters trade old friends for new ones in coming-of-age stories, so I appreciated how this story simply worked new friends into the current group. Yes, there’s drama, but the characters are able to work through it. 
  • RODERICK. Best fictional plant.



Easily one of my favourites from this year, Loveless delivers an adorable cast of diverse characters to root for whilst teaching us some important lessons along the way. Alice Oseman does a perfect job of making sure readers feel included and understood.


Royal Rating:


Thursday, 6 August 2020

REVIEW: Heartbreak Boys by Simon James Green

Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: August 6th 2020
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Faking the best summer ever is a lot harder than it looks...
At the start of summer, Jack and Nate find themselves dumped as their respective exes, Dylan and Tariq, start up a new relationship together. Not only that, their exes start posting pics on social media, showing the whole world how fabulous their new life together is!

Jack and Nate are reeling. Not to be outdone, they decide to create their own 'highlights reel' and show their exes that they're having an even better time.

But between the depressing motorway service station motels, damp campsites, and an ultimate showdown with the exes, something epic really is happening: Jack and Nate are learning to get over their heartache and open themselves up to new possibilities for love.
WHERE DO I EVEN START? As someone who is constantly yelling, both online and in person, about my love for the stories of Simon James Green, Heartbreak Boys was always going to be one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. And as predicted, I was in for an absolute treat.

This story alternates between Jack and Nate, former friends who end up reuniting after their relationships with their boyfriends come to a screeching halt. Despite not having spoken to each other in years, Jack ends up joining Nate and his family on a road trip around Britain, all for the sake of documenting their summer on Instagram to prove that they've happily moved on in life.

Together they explore the world of online influencing and find themselves in situations they couldn’t have predicted if they tried. Their contrasting personalities make for an entertaining clash along the way, and the pacing is simply perfect. The best part? It managed to include all of my favourite tropes that I'm weak for no matter how many times I read them.

I ๐Ÿ‘ LOVE ๐Ÿ‘ THESE ๐Ÿ‘ CHARACTERS. When I say I would lay down my life for Jack, I do mean it. He is WONDERFUL. His bubbly and hilarious personality had me warming to him immediately, and even though we learn that he can hide his true feelings behind that bright persona, it only made me love him more.

Then there’s Nate, a Precious Bean™ who must be protected at all costs. His emotions and doubts will definitely be relatable to a lot of readers, which is always an important factor. Nate’s struggle to repair his own flaws and make up for how he treated Jack in the past is told subtly whilst remaining a key part of the story.
  • FEEL GOOD MOMENTS. I could sit here all day and shout about the paragraphs in this book that left me smiling. Jack and Nate had some especially inspiring quotes as we got closer to the end, when they started realising what was truly important.
  • ROAD TRIP. Considering our own summers are likely to be quiet and full of Covid-related worries (yay 2020), it’s a joy to live vicariously through Jack and Nate’s adventures to some…questionable parts of the country.
  • PLENTY OF LAUGHS. As always, Simon James Green is a master of awkward YA comedy that leaves you giggling out loud. From dodgy campsites to unexpected invites, the characters reactions to the situations they end up in are always hilarious.
  • CHARACTERS. There's nothing I love more than a cast of wild and wonderful characters. From Jack's eccentric cousin Elliot to Nate's personality-filled family, they keep us entertained throughout.
Easily one of my favourites from this year, I enjoyed every chapter of Heartbreak Boys. The perfect pick-me-up after a difficult few months, Jack and Nate’s story was full of cheerful goodness, whist giving us a few important reminders about life. Anyone can fake a smile for an Instagram post, but the truly happy memories don’t need a camera to capture it.

Royal Rating:

Thursday, 11 June 2020

5 Books by Black Authors I'm Excited to Read

The past few weeks have made me take a long, hard look at my shelves, and it’s painfully lacking black authors. When it came to choosing my next read, I never usually took into consideration the gender or race of the authors I picked up. If a book sounded good, I wanted to read it, and I didn’t think too much about it. I’ve always been here for good stories, regardless of where they come from. Over the past few years though, thanks to discussions I’ve seen between bloggers and authors alike, I’ve actively sought out more diverse authors and main characters. But I know that it’s still not enough.

This month has made me delve so much deeper into the lack of diversity in the book world. From Black Lives Matter to the Publishing Paid Me tag, I’ve been reading and educating myself. Many of the books on my shelves have been read because of the people I follow. In being a blogger, I love both sharing and discovering recommendations. In looking at my Twitter timeline, my booktube subscriptions, and my Instagram feed, I’ve realised that a lot of the people I follow are white. This isn’t something I’ve thought nearly enough about in the past, so it’s something I’m changing from now on. The predominantly white book community needs to be paying attention to and following black reviewers. Thanks to the wonderful threads and Instagram stories that have been shared lately, I’ve discovered so many incredible new bloggers and booktubers to follow.

When it comes to my shelves, I will be actively searching for more black authors to support. I can’t rely on recommendations all the time. I must be searching for myself to make sure I’m reading and sharing a wider range of books. I will also say that a large amount of the books I read are gifted from publishers, and I know that there is a distinct lack of support for black authors in the publishing world, but that’s a whole other conversation. I’ll definitely be searching for publishing companies and book retailers that amplify black voices in the future.

Since my blog is YA focused, I thought I’d share with you five of the books by black authors on my TBR that I’m most excited to read.


You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson


Liz Lighty has always believed she's too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it's okay -- Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz's plans come crashing down . . . until she's reminded of her school's scholarship for prom king and queen. There's nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she's willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She's smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
HELLO??? RIVALS FOR THE CROWN WHO ARE ALSO LOVERS???? I'm so here for this book. It sounds absolutely adorable and I'm always searching for more wlw stories, so this one already has me hooked.


Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender


Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle....

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Gosh, this one sounds wonderful. I love stories that focus on the importance of learning how to be happy with yourself. Also: that cover is gorgeous!


Odd One Out by Nic Stone


Courtney "Coop" Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn't mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.

Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed "new girl" would be synonymous with "pariah," but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I'm right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.

Jupiter Charity-Sanchez
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .
So this one has been on my shelf for a while but since it focuses on the theme of exploring sexuality, I'd been saving it for Pride Month. I've just started it and I'm very intrigued by both the characters and the plot so far! 
 

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.
I love contemporary stories that have a little fantasy or sci-fi twist, so this sounds exactly like the sort of book I'd devour. Hopefully I'll get my hands on a copy soon!


The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta 


I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen - then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers - to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
I'm always searching for YA books with main characters in university rather than high school because it can be such an important time in a young person's life. This sounds like such an uplifting and empowering read.


There are many more books I've been adding to my TBR lately, but these are the ones I'm hoping to get to as soon as I can. To black bloggers, booktubers, bookstagrammers, content creators in general: please leave me your links and recommendations in either the comments or over on my Twitter page.

Information on what you can do to help Black Lives Matter can be found here, and a list of organisations that help black people in the LGBTQ+ community can be found here.

To white bloggers and creators: keep sharing links, keep signing petitions, do as much as you can and listen to black voices.


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