moxie novel

Moxie is an Absolute Must

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Published by Roaring Book Press, September 2017

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Pages: 326

Hi! Well. I have taken quite the hiatus. Incredibly necessary, but I’m back! And I could NOT be more pleased than to come back with THIS book!

Y’ALL. Moxie is a game-changer. A life-changer. I have never, EVER had a book so clearly portray what it is like to be a girl, and ultimately a woman, in America (obviously experiences differ). The beauty and excitement and the sometimes seeming fucking futility in fighting against a system that, quite frankly, blows.

Let’s get into it!

moxie

All the Wrong Chords Book

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Moxie. I’m ECSTATIC when a YA book even positively mentions feminism. And thrilled when a YA book has feminist ideals without directly referencing it. But I LOVED the idea of a YA book ABOUT feminism. About a girl fighting back WITH feminism. I could not have been more excited.

Add to that the history with Viv’s mom having been a Riot Grrrl, awesome references to girl power punk bands like Bikini Kill, and girl friendships?! I was IN. And I was not let down.

The Writing

The writing is incredibly fun and fast-paced, zero lag throughout the story. I could not wait to get on to the next page and the next, sometimes shaking waiting for another of Viv’s Moxie zines to come out.

The plot is what really shines. It is just. So. Relatable. Moxie is set in small town Texas, but there wasn’t a single thing in it that I didn’t go through in LA. I think most girls/women who read it will either have gone through or had someone very close to them go through every single thing Viv fights against. Dress code violations that focus solely on girls. Hallway groping that goes ignored by school staff. Money shoved into the budget for football but rarely girl’s sports or even textbooks written in the last three decades. It’s all just so very important. And Moxie opens up a dialogue.

Summer Unscripted by Jen Klein

Viv is ABSOLUTE MAGIC and here’s why. She’s scared as fuck. She knows what needs to be done and she does it, but it is scary for her the entire time. A lot of the time we think we need “strong female characters” (gag, first of all) to be strong and only strong and never break down and if they have sword-wielding skills that’s really going to be best okay. Viv is a normal girl. Viv is a normal girl who is sick and fucking tired of what is happening at her school. She is smart and tough and interesting but very real and human and just so easy to love.

We also get this amazing ensemble girl cast. Lucy, the new girl in school who is and has been a mega feminist. Claudia, Viv’s long-time best friend who is not about it. Kiera, Viv’s friend who reminds her that feminism can’t just be white feminism. These relationships are so varied and dynamic and I adored them all for different reasons.

Of course we have a grip of people we love to hate, starting with some dudes on the football team and the school’s principal.

And we have Seth, the male lead. There’s a lot that is great here, but two things stand out to me. Seth is a great kid, but he’s also a great way to point out a lot of the areas where even great men go wrong. “Not all men” and “but do you think she’s telling the truth?” can come out of the most progressive mouths, and male allies have to learn the harm in these statements. Seth is so supportive of Viv and their romance is swoony af and it’s awesome.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Y’all I SOBBED reading this book. I happy cried, sad cried, angry cried. I did crying I’m not even sure can be described with a particular emotion. I have never had a book make me feel quite the way Moxie does. I’m reading it again already with my son, who is loving it.

I cannot stress this enough. YOU NEED MOXIE IN YOUR LIFE.

Not Now Not Ever

Not Now, Not Ever is a Quick, Delightfully Nerdy Read

Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Published by Wednesday Books: scheduled for Nov. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Pages: 330

Y’all! This book is so. Effing. Fun.

I won the ARC in a Goodreads Giveaway and I could not have been more thrilled! It’s so unbelievably nerdy, every chapter having nerd references that make it that much more fun, if you’re into that (which I most definitely am).

I somehow missed that this is a sequel! So I have not read the first book, but I have now purchased it and can’t wait. And I don’t think anything was ruined for me. I enjoyed this book very much as a standalone.

Not Now Not Ever

All the Wrong Chords Book

Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer. 

1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mother’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

This summer’s going to be great.

The Writing

The writing here is so fun! Very quick-paced, easy to get through. Had I had the time, this is exactly the kind of book I love to read in an afternoon!

The pacing is spot on. No parts of the book lag at all.

This is one of my favorite kinds of stories. I adore books that are easygoing, fun, and not too serious. This is exactly what I was in the mood for. I LOVE books about summer, with cute little romances and there’s just something about going away to camp that I die for. So this, where Ever goes to what is basically a nerdy summer camp (though at a college) was right up my alley.

If you like books like When Dimple Met Rishi or Summer Unscripted, this is exactly the kind of book for you.

Summer Unscripted by Jen Klein

The characters here are what really make this so worth it! We have a pretty decent-sized ensemble cast, most of whom are distinct characters and easy to keep straight. Some we don’t get to know as well, and that’s how it should be, given the camp situation. But the counselors are fun, and the other kids competing with Ever are really great.

Ever, our narrator, is awesome. She’s such an amazing main character for a lot of reasons. She’s brilliant, funny, a bona fide genius. She’s not extremely girly, opting for running clothes, but she’s also not the typical archetypal character we see. Whenever I read a story about a girl like Ever, there’s a distinct “I’m not like other girls” quality. (For instance, my only problem with WDMR is that Dimple puts down on traditionally girly girls.) We don’t get that with Ever. There’s no jealousy issues, there’s no “I’m not girly so I must not be pretty.” She’s a confident, kickass chick and I love her.

Brandon, our romantic interest for Ever, is awesome. He’s nerdy af, like, so nerdy. He uses a typewriter, for crying out loud. But I think this is super healthy, because here we have another nerdy, nice, decent guy, who is also sexy and whom you’re excited about. I too often see the “bad boy” thing in YA, and I love leading men who break that role.

I also want to say I believe the romance between Ever and Brandon is incredibly realistic and very healthy for teens. It’s not love at first sight; it’s given healthy and real time to develop and that’s so important to me.

We get a couple of really great things, here!

Ever is black, so we get a brilliant, genius black girl as our main character, which is phenomenal. No stereotyping. She’s also quick to call out racism/talk about it in a way that’s not alienating and I think it’s really healthy for any young people reading.

Ever wears her hair natural, she has a full afro, which I love to see! Great shot of this on the cover, too.

We also get an interracial relationship, between her and Brandon, which is awesome (especially because neither make this a big deal, as it shouldn’t be).

And a greatly diverse cast among the side characters, also!

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is that this is a fun, easy read that will most definitely tug at your heartstrings!

The Lost Causes novel

A Taxonomy of Love is Something Really Special

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

Published by Amulet Books: scheduled for Jan. 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Pages: 336

A Taxonomy of Love caught my attention right away! First, the title. I love it. The cover is adorable, and so apt. And the description of Spencer, our narrator, who has Tourette Syndrome (something I hadn’t seen in a book, and certainly not like this), and who is obsessed with the idea of classifications and taxonomies. I knew I would love it, and I did.

A Taxonomy of Love

All the Wrong Chords Book

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

The Writing

The writing here pulls off something I think can be super difficult, which is that through the one book the kids age quite a bit. At the start, Spencer and Hope are just thirteen. Their crushes are very indicative of children that age. By the end, they’re nineteen! It’s a huge leap. The story takes place in separate parts for each age, and it does mean we miss a lot. For instance, we leave one year with Spencer and Hope not having spoken for a while, and when the next part starts, they’re friends again. This can be SO incredibly hard to pull off, and it is done so well here. The kids genuinely feel like they age without becoming whole new people, and it doesn’t feel rushed.

There’s also just a lot here that’s special. Most of our chapters are from Spencer’s point of view, first person present-tense narration. We also get some instant message (is this antiquated phraseology? Am I showing my age?) conversation between Hope and her sister, Janie. As well as letters from Hope to Janie. Interspersed throughout are little taxonomies, written out by Spencer, and they are so fun.

The Characters

This is so special to me, because the characters and my opinions of them changed quite a bit!

First, we have Spencer. He is just such a wonderful kid. We watch him go through so much. Not only his interest in girls starting to peak, but his life with Tourette Syndrome, his relationship with his brother (always perceived as perfect), the abandonment of his mother, his relationship with his father and stepdad. There is A LOT here, and I rooted for him the entire time. He’s also just such a good guy. Given his relationship with Hope, I was genuinely amazed and thrilled that the phrase “friend zone” was never thrown around.

Hope goes through her own arc, and thank fuck, right? Because how often do we see these stories from boys points of view where they chase their manic pixie dream girl around and we have no idea about what’s even going on with her. Hope is a person. She’s flawed, she deals with her own grief, and she’s not always entirely likable. I think it’s perfect, necessary that she’s like this. Her grief is so realistic to me, and I definitely felt for her even when I didn’t really like her.

The side characters are fun. Spencer eventually has some great friends. His brother and father also both go through incredible transitions.

As I mentioned earlier, I’d never read a story about someone with TS! And definitely, absolutely not like this. I hadn’t seen one as the main protagonist. And when I have seen them, they’re often in movies to be laughed at (think Duece Bigalow: Male Gigalo, if you’re old enough). This is an honest depiction of a kid trying to have a normal life with tics, and it’s so great.

Spencer also has an interracial relationship at one point, and they’re not shy to talk about the issues. They live in Georgia, and he talks a lot about being both proud and embarrassed of where he’s from. His girlfriend isn’t cast in a play because the male lead is white and they don’t want them to kiss on stage. They discuss the removal of the Confederate flag from the school, and how the kids are no longer allowed to wear it, and we get to see some interesting growth from Spencer’s brother and dad over it. The discussion about race playing a decent size while not being what the story is about is a huge deal to me.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is that this is a fun, easy read that will most definitely tug at your heartstrings!

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

The Hollow Girl

The Hollow Girl Will Give You All The Feelings

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

Published by Delacorte Press: scheduled for Oct. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Pages: 272

WOW! So I didn’t know what to think going into this. I almost didn’t request it, because it seemed just on the border of something I’d be comfortable reading. I am still honestly so confused about my thoughts. Which I think is natural, given the situation. The author wrote both an amazing forward and an end note, and in the end note she explained that her editor said she loved and hated the book equally, which I think sums up my feelings nicely.

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monohan

All the Wrong Chords Book

Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.

One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.

She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.

The hollow girl

I will say the premise intrigued me while it also had me very concerned. We have a young girl who has been raped, and who now is willing to go to crazy lengths to bring her friend back from the dead. So many trigger warnings, so much that could be done with too little tact, and I almost didn’t request it.

I am glad I did, though. While I will say that the very idea of this is quite obviously not for everyone, I think it does what it sets out to do with incredible grace.

The Writing

Is very interesting! There were aspects of it I really, really enjoyed. Everything scene with magic is written just beautifully. And while there is a definite trigger warning for a rape, the scene itself is mostly off camera and written incredibly tactfully.

I do feel there was a pacing issue. We spend a fair amount of time before the story gets started getting to know Bethan and gran and Martyn, and it’s a bit slow (especially because we’re growing accustomed to the Romani and their ways). And then boom, the inciting incident happens already halfway through, and the rest of the book feels rushed. The horror scenes, the gruesome justice we crave, all happens so quickly that it’s hard to feel particularly excited about the wrongs being righted.

The Characters

This is an interesting one here. I love Bethan’s gran, who teaches her everything and guides her through the aftermath of her assault. She’s such a fun woman, very different from so many warm grandmothers in stories.

Martyn, Bethan’s friend who she is trying to save, is great. I do enjoy that we get to know him fairly well before the incident. He’s very funny, and his dynamic with Bethan is wonderful.

I don’t know if I like Bethan? Which is fine. I do empathize with her, and I care for what happens to her, and I suppose that’s really what’s important.

I also genuinely hate the antagonists, the boys involved in Bethan’s rape (duh, right?), but I mean there was a lot of build up so you hate the boys thoroughly even before that.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I think it’s great that we have a Romani story, especially an own voices one, that tackles such an important issue.

This speaks so much to rape culture. We have boys who actively participate in a rape they don’t agree with, because their friend tells them what to do. It speaks so much to hive mind and how when people aren’t held accountable for their actions, they can go to these horrible lengths to get what they want.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

 

 

 

 

When I cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

When I Cast Your Shadow: The Strangest Read of the Year

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Published by Tor Teen: scheduled for Sept. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal

Pages: 384

OH MY GOD. I’m floored, y’all. This book is so wonderfully fucking weird. The weirdest thing I’ve read all year, and I adored it. I do want to say I think this book is very clearly not for everyone, but I want to lay out why I love it so much so you can see whether it is for you!

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

All the Wrong Chords Book

After her troubled older brother, Dashiell, dies of an overdose, sixteen-year-old Ruby is overcome by grief and longing. What she doesn’t know is that Dashiell’s ghost is using her nightly dreams of him as a way to possess her body and to persuade her twin brother, Everett, to submit to possession as well.

Dashiell tells Everett that he’s returned from the Land of the Dead to tie up loose ends, but he’s actually on the run from forces crueler and more powerful than anything the Bohnacker twins have ever imagined…

The Writing

Is absolutely stunning. It’s first person, present tense, and switches between almost all points of view! That is so, unbelievably hard to pull off, but it works so well in this case. Each character sounds and feels different, and were you to read a chapter at random, having known the characters, I think you would know quite easily whose voice you were reading.

In addition to that, the craft is just beautiful. I was legitimately enamored of Porter’s phrasing throughout. The descriptions of everything are so thorough, while not being distracting. The world-building is insane, especially the parts in a place that is like purgatory? If purgatory were terrible and terrifying. I couldn’t wait for more chapters in this area, just to see how weird and gross it would continue to become.

 

The pacing is perfect for me. Had I had time, I could have easily read this book in one sitting.

The Characters

This is one of those phenomenal books where the characters aren’t likable, but I still care so much about them and what happens to them. MAD props to an author who can make me care about a book with no likable characters.

We have Ruby, one of our narrators. I can honestly say I did not like her for even one second, but I rooted for her and felt for her and wanted the best for her the entire time. Her poor little torn soul is so sad, so overwhelmingly pathetic.

Everett is Ruby’s twin, and the one character I could say I kind of like. He cares so much for Ruby, and tries to do right by her and everyone he meets, really, and he’s just beautiful.

Dashiell is the other main player, and his character is amazing because we see him in so many forms. We see him possessing Ruby, possessing Everett, independent of either, and he is so different in each form while remaining so manipulative and his motives keep us guessing.

The side characters are mostly weird, creepy-as-hell ghosts, and they’re completely, disgustingly delightful.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is this: there’s a lot here that could be really disturbing. We have a very icky brother-sister relationship, we have a lot of family hurt and betrayal, we have a drug overdose/seemingly suicide. If these are triggers for you, you may want to stay away.

I love it for its oddity. This is, for me, such a completely new take on ghosts, which I was ecstatic about. I had never seen a concept even close. I LOVE sibling stories, even when they’re as fucked up as this one. The dynamic here is different and nasty but the whole story really is about these three kids coming to terms with life and death and their relationship.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!