Tag: Book reviews

Stargirl: You’re Your Best You

I want to first start this review by thanking my mother. As mentioned, all of the books featured in the summer reading series were books that I had as required reading when I was in grade school. As such I had read this book only once and shoved it in the back of my bookcase, thinking I’d never read it again. That said, imagine my surprise when I cracked open this book to find a number of sticky notes with my mother’s handwriting, helping me figure out what details, themes, and characters are important. That said, thanks, mom!

A huge part of growing up is about figuring out where you stand in life. Your values, the things you love, who you want to be. It’s difficult but do-able as evidenced by those like myself who have survived middle school, high school, and even those tricky college-aged years. What makes things even more difficult is that everyone around you is simultaneously trying to figure out the same things while trying to adhere to what they understand to be normal.

Long story short: Growing up and being yourself is hard and Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl gives us a fantastic insight into that. While it is a story of a girl, it is told in the point of view of a young man named Leo Borlock. His world is shaken up when the eponymous and previously homeschooled Stargirl arrives at Mica Area High School. While there, she turns heads and raises eyebrows for wearing the clothes she wants, saying hello to people and singing happy birthday. Admittedly it is a little strange that she does insist on bringing her pet rat to school and follows strangers around (this is less than charming, to say the least, and absolutely creepy to say the most).

Despite all her eccentricities, Leo enjoys them… to a point. Throughout the novel, it is very clear that Stargirl is completely comfortable with herself with the exception of Leo. He is her Achilles heel. Somehow, and in some way, Stargirl has fallen in love with Leo and for a while, she sacrifices her happiness for his. When she realizes it doesn’t work, when she realizes that being the MAHS definition of normal doesn’t win the admiration of her cohorts, she chooses to love herself even more. This is a difficult task, even for people who are years her senior.

I can only imagine what this book would have been like if it featured characters of color, and/or characters who are disabled, and/or characters who are part of the LGBT+ community. Members of these communities are still seen to this day as an anomaly in literature, film, and TV. They’re often met with complaints of “why does X need to be Y”. Just imagine, if you would be so kind, an East-Asian or Southeast Asian Stargirl who is beautiful and full of laughter and love for herself. Imagine a dark-skinned Black Stargirl who has natural hair and changes her hairstyle from week to week and wears bright colors. And honestly don’t even get me started about a Stargirl who is a lesbian or bi or trans.

Stargirl is really a fantastic book. It teaches readers, young and old that the best way to be happy is to be yourself. Cheesy, but true. It would just be nice if the wonderfully, happily weird featured more than quirky, cis, straight white girls. You all know the rules here: Great Book – Literally any hit of diversity = 5.

What I’m interested in hearing about is what ways having a different Stargirl would have helped you while growing up. I can only really talk about how amazing a Black Stargirl can be but I really want to know about others so let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading and until next time,

-♥Jq

Sleeping Freshman Never Lie: High School Happiness and Horrors

For me, freshman year was about seven and a half years ago. That’s probably when I first picked up this book at my local Barnes and Noble. I can’t tell you what I thought of it back then but now. Oh boy. Now at the tender age of 22, I found this book to be incredibly enjoyable.

For high school freshman and non- freshman alike, David Lubar’s Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie is a fun and interesting perspective on what it’s like to be a freshman through the main character’s, Scott, eyes. Throughout his year at J. P. Zenger high he comes to terms with the fact that he’s going to become a big brother, tries to get the girl and makes new friends. In order to either cope or pass on some older brother knowledge, he creates a high school survival gui- manual.

While that is basically the plot in a nutshell, the writing was absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed reading it because it made me think back to my own high school experiences. The fear of upperclassmen, the quest to make new friends, falling in love with a certain subject and taking the steps to find out who you want to become. Also Scott’s voice was not only loud and clear but funny too.

Also this book was published at what I believe was the perfect time. A couple of the sensitive issues discussed in this book were reaching national prominence in the years after its publication. Also, like I alluded to earlier, this book came out right around the time that Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide did which added another layer of enjoyment to this book.

All in all, it was the story of a somewhat universal high school experience. Because of that it is pretty unfortunate that there were no explicitly diverse characters. This places readers, and myself, into a pickle. Those vying for representation might see themselves in this book only to be met with violence when they express their thoughts in a public forum.

This book was certainly enjoyable and I would recommend it to my friends but due to the lack of diversity and representation, the most I can give this book is a 5.

 

 

Geek High: A Picture Perfect Story

So this, like a few of the other books I’ve reviewed so far, is a book that I read in my youth. As years go by, one’s understanding and perceptions change. So when I initially read this book in high school, I loved it. I thought it was a cool modern twist on the classic Cinderella story. Now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking.

In Piper Banks’ Geek High our protagonist is Miranda Bloom, also known as The Human Calculator. Her friend makes a blog which in turn gets her into trouble with the school headmaster. Now she has to plan a prom with her worst enemy, all while getting used to living with her dad, step-mother, and step-sister.

Let me begin the review with a note about diversity. While there are characters of color they are either stereotypical, relegated to the background character or both. The two most glaring examples are when Padma Paswan is first introduced and during the first Mu Alpha Theta meeting which Miranda does speak out against, to Banks’ credit.

Also upon rereading Geek High several times over it is clear that Banks is a little shy when it comes to letting bad things happen to Miranda which is incredibly clear in the unbelievably picture-perfect ending. Yes, while she does have to move in with her estranged father, her step-mother, and step-sister the conflict isn’t convincing. She has to plan the Snowflake Gala, her school’s prom, with her worst enemy, but neither one of them really butt heads. Ultimately, all of the conflicts in the book are resolved but not through Miranda’s actions.

Also, it is worth noting that the romance was unconvincing as well. Or rather, it would have been extremely beneficial for Banks to have developed it further. While Miranda and Dex did have a couple of conversations, they were superficial at most and it felt as though Miranda was telling (Zing!) us that she was smitten with Dex as opposed to showing us.

Because of all this, Geek High gets a 4 out of 10 from me. While yes, there were characters of color, I still wouldn’t recommend this book to my friends, nor would I jump at the opportunity to reread it any time soon. That said, I’d love to hear what other people thought about Geek High. I’ll be waiting for you in the comments.

-Jq

Green Angel: Love, Loss and Healing

I want to preface this review by thanking anyone and everyone involved with Scholastic Book fairs. That’s right, I’m reviewing a book I first read in elementary school and it was just as enjoyable my third/fourth time reading it as it was my first. Perhaps even more so now that everything clicked.

Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel is a story about a young girl named Green navigating through her grief and her world after losing her family in a fire in a nearby city. In her sorrow, she becomes Ash, a girl with spikes in her boots and a scarf of thorns.

This book was a pleasant read. Hopefully this isn’t strange to say, but Green’s grief was beautifully written and interesting to see. There were moments that certainly pulled at my heartstrings, especially Green’s relationship with her sister.

Honestly though one of my favorite things about this book was the fairy tale like quality it had which had much to do with its setting. Despite reading it several times over, I wasn’t able to tell what time period it was taking place but I didn’t mind one bit. If anything, it added to the magic of the setting.

In terms of representation, this book, while not amazing, it is pretty good. There are women looking out for and learning from other women. From the first time I read this book, I imagined Green as brown. Heather Jones, one of Green’s former classmates, is coded as Black but she, unfortunately, doesn’t make it to the end of the book. Also, Green’s blindness, if taken literally, is cured at the end of the book.

Rating: 7* out of 10 stars

What did you think about Hoffman’s Green Angel? Do you feel like my review was spot on or did I miss some things? Feel free to tell me in the comments below!

The Selection: Lights, Camera, Romance

I first read Kiera Cass’ The Selection when I was in high school. The cover was gorgeous and the reviews mentioned that it was a cross between The Bachelor and The Hunger Games. Me, a fan of at least one of those things at the time, decided to give it a chance and found it enjoyable.

Years later, I read it again and while it was still interesting I do have a few issues. Long story short, this story is a love roller coaster; not because it had it’s ups and downs but because it’s impossible to describe what sort of love shape* is taking place here.

Let’s just get into it. Whenever the kingdom of Illea (America after two more world wars…jeez ) has a prince who is of marrying age, a Selection, or a televised competition in which 35 women “fight” for his hand, takes place. America Singer (the main character, not the country) enters and as the title and cover suggest, she becomes part of The Selection. Now America has to survive rebel attacks, princess lessons, the other girls, and heartbreak.

An interesting read, yes, but not interesting enough to make me rush to get the second book.

There was a lot going on, which I believe weakened the plot. Here we have this world, our world, however many years in the future, where people are arbitrarily placed into different castes. People are going hungry but everyone is just fine with the Monarchs of a country spending money to house young women for an indefinite amount of time just so the Prince can find a wife. Not to mention the frequent rebel attacks, complete lack of recorded history and the fact that soldiers are given body-altering drugs.

I get that this book is vaguely dystopian but all of these issues were raised and never went anywhere. Yes, the hunger issue was addressed but we, as readers, have yet to see its effect.

I do wonder how it would have changed the book if one of the subplots was removed in exchange for more characterization of some of the selected girls. The one selected girl America became friends with had some decent characterization but other than that it was disappointing to be fed the same beautiful but mean Queen B character.

Also the complete lack of racial diversity was glaringly obvious as the author tried to describe at least fifteen different girls. Aside from America the girls were either blonde or brunette. I do have my fingers crossed that one girl isn’t straight but we’ll have to see. Another young woman canonically has PTSD**. Other than that the characters were all coded as white, straight, neurotypical and able-bodied.

For the sake of completion, I’m probably going to read a few of the other books in this series but there’s nothing in this book that grabbed my attention. Hopefully, the next installments in this series will be more satisfying than this one.

Rating: 5 stars out of 10
Note: I was very tempted to give this book a 4 because of the names but I’m trying to be fair.
*Surprise! It’s a love triangle but for the sake of suspense we’ll just say that it can go any which way.
**It wasn’t explicitly stated in text but she did display a couple of the symptoms