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.

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!

 

 

 

 

Starswept by Mary Fan

Starswept

Starswept by Mary Fan

Published by Snowy Wings; Scheduled for August 29th

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

Pages: 400

I just realized the irony of this: the last two books I read were called Starswept and Starfish, both with Asian MC’s! How coincidental. I love it.

Starswept by Mary Fan

All the Wrong Chords Book

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Starswept by Mary Fan

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Starswept. I honestly went into it expecting to love it more than I did. But there is a lot to love here, and the premise is a huge part of that.

First, there’s a lot going on. It’s dystopian, there are aliens, there’s this whole music school element. It doesn’t seem like it should all mesh but it does, very well for me.

The music school where we start is great because it feels almost commonplace, though it’s run, to a degree, by aliens and holograms. There’s so much pressure, so much realistic detail of band kids, and I really enjoyed that. The descriptions of the school, the performances, are all beautiful to me.

I found the dystopian aspect of this fascinating, though for the most part I’m burnt out on that. I love that this is an entirely new take on that. Aliens that could easily have taken over Earth don’t, because they’re so intrigued by human art. Instead they “sponsor” humans they like, and bring them to their planet. Meanwhile, everyone on Earth has it pretty terrible.

I like the aliens, too. I think their powers are fun and interesting, and the way they’ve chosen to interact with Earthlings is very cool.

So, overall, I like the story very much. I will say I’m confused because as far as I’m aware, this isn’t part of a series? Or at least it wasn’t introduced to me that way. If this is a stand alone book, the entire world remains unresolved at the end. That may seem like a spoiler, but I think it’s important to know because I would have liked to have known. I am left feeling distinctly unfulfilled because the parts with closure weren’t the parts I cared about.

The Characters

Our narrator, Iris, I have mixed feelings on. I think she could be a little boring at times, but I did root for her, which is mostly what I’m looking for. The problem for me is that I’m mostly interested in the story, the world that has been built, but the big focus is on Iris and Damiul, and I couldn’t really get invested in either of them.

Damiul is the alien that Iris meets. I wanted to like this so much, I am SUCH a sucker for interstellar love. This was a little too insta-love for me. There was a lot going on behind the scenes that we didn’t see, we saw few of their meetings. But they were short and Damiul had to keep so much from Iris that their love didn’t excite me, it confused me. I can understand how it happened, when we have a girl so obsessed with finding “her prince,” but I couldn’t connect with their love story.

My two favorite characters are side characters, and both are only around for one half of the book or the other. I love Milo, Iris’s best friend on Earth. He’s fun, and considerably less naive. Then, on Adryil, we meet Cara, whom I also adore.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Overall, I liked it. The descriptions were beautiful. The world-building, especially during the second half, are phenomenal.

There are some pacing issues, and I think that’s the biggest problem I’m having overall. Some parts moved quickly and were really fascinating, some parts were too slow and it was hard to stay engrossed in the world.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Is that I would have LOVED for this to be split into two books. I think if the story between Iris and Damiul had been given more time to develop, I could have been on board with them. And I will be very disappointed if there is no closure for the world itself.

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

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish: You Have to Read It

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Published by Simon Pulse: scheduled for Sept. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 320

OH MY GOD. I’m honestly still freaking out. I love this book so. Effing. Much. There are hardly words to describe how much it means to me, so let’s get started and I hope I can do it justice.

Starfish Novel

All the Wrong Chords Book

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

The Characters

I could write an entire essay just on how much I love Kiko, our narrator. But let’s start with those around her.

For a little while, we get a really great female friendship between Kiko and her best friend, Emery. I love it for a lot of reasons, but especially because though Kiko has issues with her own appearance, she never takes it out on Emery. It’s so, SO rare that I see a book with two female characters where “I’m mad because she’s prettier than me” isn’t a main plot point. None of that here, though. Their friendship is so loving and beautiful.

Jamie, Kiko’s other best friend, is so wonderful. He’s such a perfect example of how a guy can be supportive and helpful and still incredibly sexy, no “boring nice guy” trope here.

Hiroshi, Kiko’s mentor, is AMAZING. I love his whole family. I love young girl – old man friendship, and I am obsessed with this one. They made me cry more than once.

And then there’s Kiko’s family. I cannot describe to you how happy it makes me when I thoroughly despise a character. There’s nothing I hate more than a lackluster antagonist. Kiko’s mom kills me, because she is so awful and so perfectly well-written that you can’t help but loathe her. I won’t ruin it, but I bawled my eyes out when I read the starfish metaphor, because EVERYONE HAS A FUCKING STARFISH IN THEIR LIFE. You will feel it so hard.

And then we have Kiko! I love Kiko. I love her so much. I love her art, I love her character. I even love her inability to stand up for herself because I completely get it. Kiko’s journey as an artist and a victim and a Japanese woman is so gorgeous. I cried so many times watching her grow, and that is the best compliment I could ever give. I can, occasionally, find timidity exhausting, but I understand and empathize with Kiko at every step though we couldn’t be more different.

The Writing

Is gorgeous! The pacing is on point, I was never bored for even a second. I love contemporary that keeps you going as easily as a suspense does. The tension is so palpable, and I had to know what would happen to Kiko. I had to keep reading.

I’m a painter, so I may be biased, but I LOVE the art in this! I’ve read stories about painters where we know the character is an artist but we don’t see or feel it. We feel Kiko’s art. We know exactly how she feels, we’re tuned into her drawings and paintings and I just adore that art is such a major part of this.

I don’t know Akemi, the author, but I’d be willing to bet she’s a feminist. And I love that. I love YA with feminist ideas peppered throughout; we need young people to see it.

So here’s what I thought about the representation in it:

We get this amazing story about a half-Japanese girl whose (white) mother seemingly hates the Asian parts of her. She doesn’t know a lot about her culture, she’s upset about not fitting in, not looking like the people around her, etc. I think this is beautiful, SO great for young Asian people to see the progression in Kiko, and any mixed-race people can, I believe, empathize. It is so hard to not feel like part of any culture.

Miss Akemi is on Twitter and you should most definitely follow her <3

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