Book Crafts: Book Cover Coasters

Finished Product!

Things you’ll need:

  1. Pictures of your favorite book covers printed on regular paper or with photo paper
  2. Mod Podge Clear Gloss
  3. Mod Podge Clear Acrylic Sealer
  4. Ceramic tiles 4×4 (found in your local hardware store)
  5. Peel and Stick Felt
  6. Sponge Paint Brush

 

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

First things first: THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I loved this book so much that I ended up dedicating an entire BookTube video to making Strange the Dreamer themed cupcakes while I talked a bit about what I liked so much about the novel.

Check it out below and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more fun videos!

Now, let’s get to the meat of the review.

As I mentioned in the review, I fell in love with Lazlo himself within the first few chapters of this book. How pure and wonderful is my tall crooked-nosed son with his love for reading, learning, and dreaming (see what I did there?)? Lazlo may not have any idea about his heritage, but unlike some book characters, this doesn’t weigh him down with questions of “who am I,” “what is my purpose in life,” etc.  I think his acceptance of that, or even the fact that he doesn’t consider it to be a problem in his life, is what makes him such a humble and caring character that helps those who need it without expecting anything in return.

Speaking of those people who probably should given him something in return, I was extremely irritated by the golden godson and all of his nonsense.  I found myself eye-rolling through a bunch of his scenes, which is exactly what I think Taylor intended, but still. I’d kick him in the shin if I could.  At least he does have intelligence, although we all know that he wouldn’t be able to do anything without help from the best crooked-nose librarian there is (this isn’t spoilery…well, kind of).

I’ve read some reviews where people found the pacing a bit slow at the beginning, but I didn’t find this a problem at all.  I really loved the development of Lazlo as a character, and while I do think it would have been fun to see more of the journey from their home to Weep, I know this wasn’t the point of the novel.  However, the action does pick up significantly after the arrival of Lazlo and the other characters to the mythical Weep, so even if you are struggling to get to that point, push through it! I promise it’s worth it.

Since I was so fond of Lazlo and his character development, I must say that the only one of the Godspawn that I truly felt connected to, and I’m sure this is because Sarai was the other point of view in the novel, was Sarai.  She is such a complex character with an odd gift, to say the least, but it allows her to grow and have empathy for humans in a way the others don’t.  This becomes a major plot point as well.  But the others kind of felt almost like unnecessary background noise (all except Minya, of course), but I anticipate they will play a much larger part in the second book.

I loved this book and I cannot wait to pick it back up again and read carefully for clues about the twist at the end.

5 Bards!

 

Strange the Cupcakes

In honor of finishing and LOVING Laini Taylor’s  Strange the Dreamer, I present to you: STRANGE THE CUPCAKES:

 

Book Tour: A Crown of Wishes

I was lucky enough to get a chance to see the fabulous Roshani Chokshi in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last night, while she wrapped up her tour for A Crown of Wishes (click on the title to see my 4.5 rave review!!)!  It just so happened that I “conveniently” ran into her before her panel and got to ask her 67 bookish questions!

Things I learned:

No more spoilers! Find out more:

 

**Special thanks to Griffin Teen**

New Feature: 67 Questions with @b00kstorebabe

She’s one of Twitter and Tumblr’s most popular book bloggers, and she happens to be a very close friend of mine!

Check out the video of Team Midsummer interviewing Shauna while she finishes up her work day.

Things you’ll learn:

  1. Apparently Shauna can beast anyone in Scrabble (can you teach me? I’ve never understood the strategy of the double word scores, etc!)
  2. Roshani Chokshi’s fictional creations are some of Shauna’s favorites
  3. It’s possible to forget that you have a tattoo until you are explaining them (and also forget one completely)

For more, watch the interview with one of my favorite people:

 

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway

 

Happy Paperback Release day to the fabulous Richelle Mead’s The Glittering Court!

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

To celebrate the release of this novel, PenguinTeen is hosting a giveaway, and you could win 1 of 10 copies of The Glittering Court!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of ten (10) copies of The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead (ARV: $10.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on March 28, 2017 and 12:00 AM on April 5, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about April 7, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

 

Not familiar with Richelle Mead? Well, just look at her fabulousness!

RICHELLE MEAD is the #1 New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Vampire Academy series and its spin-off series, Bloodlines. Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Seattle, Washington.

 

Author & Event Spotlight

The Event: Nemesis Book Launch

Where: Barnes and Noble at the Arboretum, Charlotte NC
When: Tuesday, March 21
Who: Brendan Reichs and Renée Ahdieh

This was by far one of the most original panel discussions I’ve ever attended for a book launch, and it might be one of my favorites!  Brendan came prepared with a list of random questions for him and Renée to start off the event.  Those in attendance were treated to a lively conversation where we learned that Brendan’s least favorite word is Pamphlet and Renée’s is one that rhymes with “oist,” although I think everyone dislikes that word (not just you, Brad!).  Both authors told about their Hogwarts houses, Brendan apparently tried to rig the quiz to get Gryffindor, but still ended up a Ravenclaw (Yaaaaas!) with an Eagle Owl patronus (#Same).  Renée is a proud Slytherin, who used to lie about being a Gryffindor, apparently a very Slytherin thing to do and the patronus of a rat, which she is fine with because Ratatouille.

My favorite part of this part was that after asking the audience to choose a number between 1 and 50, they took turns reading a small snippet from each other’s newest releases to the crowd. Someone hollered out 23, so I got this part on video for everyone! They then followed up with a brief summary of their inspiration for these books and what they are about. You can definitely tell these two are good friends and are hilarious together.

After asking each other a few rounds of questions about their books, Brendan was equipped with a Polar Express Conductors hat full of random rapid fire questions for himself and Renée, and coincidentally, those of us in the front row. Some of these conductor questions included Magic Wand or Light Saber, Hogwarts Headmaster or Starfleet Captian, Ghost or Ghostbuster, Prehistoric Times or the year 3010, and on and on.  It was pretty fun and I think it allowed the audience to feel more engaged, although I’m a bit partial since I was able to do the participating.

Brendan and Renée then signed books for the crowd (and there was an impressive one!).  Check out more photos below sprinkled between my interview with the star of the evening, Brendan Reichs!

Midsummer Reads (MSNR): Thanks so much for sitting down with me, are you excited?

Brendan Reichs (BR): I’ve very excited, tonight is the first night I’ve ever done a book event for Nemesis, so it’s a big deal.

MSNR: Yes! And it’s in your hometown.

BR: It is, it’s fun to do it at home. It’s actually a little nerve wracking to do it at home just because you know a lot of people in the audience, so it’s not like having that distance you have with a normal crowd, but it’ll be great.

MSNR: Are a lot of people you know coming?

BR: Uh, they better.

MSNR: That’s how I would be; Uh, I’d better see you or someone’s going to get hurt.

BR: I’m taking names.

MSNR: So this book is super complex.

BR: It is.

MSNR: I was reading it and I was like, SO MANY THINGS HAPPENING. Could you describe it in one sentence to a reader?

BR: I actually try. That’s why it was so hard to actually sell the idea because trying to describe it was too crazy to get it into one sentence. Basically…

MSNR (interrupting because I’m rude): You can describe it in a run-on sentence

BR: I would describe Nemesis as Min is a girl at 16 years old and every two years on her birthday she is murdered by the same person except she doesnt die like a normal person, instead she wakes up about a half a mile away without a scratch on her every single time. So on her 16th birthday after she’s been murdered for the 5th time she’s finally had enough and decides she needs to figure this out.  No one is really paying attention to her because there’s this world wide calamity going on where there’s an asteroid heading towards the planet and no one knows when it’s going to hit. And there’s this bit national/international human existence story going on. So there’s very little attention being paid to the trials of a teenager in Idaho.

MSNR (Interrupting, again, because I’m the worst): Right, because no one pays attention to teenagers.

BR: Right, exactly. And there’s another character, and this book has been fun because it’s the first time I’ve written a male point of view in my career, so Noah is having the same things happen to him except that he’s a little bit less stable than Min.  He’s a – kind of one of those guys that on the outside he – he’s a rich kid and she’s a poor kid – he’s trying to keep everything together but really he is a mess. Because he’s been having the same thing happen to him but he doesn’t trust himself to know that it’s even real. So these two things are happening and they eventually decide and they start to investigate that everyone around them starts to be suddenly implicated and you can’t trust anyone. And they find out that they might be at the center of a vast government conspiracy that may implicate all life on Earth.

MSNR: That is a big run on sentence. I’m okay with it.

BR: Yes, it is.

MSNR: So when I was reading it, I found it to be kind of a commentary on human emotion and the way that human nature really plays into the certain aspects of the two characters, specifically, and how they react to this outside force that’s coming onto them.  Very much like Lord of the Flies, like, they are put in this situation, how are they going to react?

BR: That is an essential influence, and I think the publisher likes to use the tagline of “Orphan Black meets Lord of the Flies,” which is an interesting combination, but there’s no good parallel anyway. But that’s what you want and I appreciate that you say that, because you want the story to be about the characters. Ultimately there’s a lot of plot going on in this book and if you stick with it it will all unwind itself, but it winds up pretty heavily at the beginning where you’re not really supposed to know what the hell is going on for a large portion of the book, and then it’s really good that it’s supposed to be centered on the characters because ultimately that’s where every story either fails or survives is on how good the characters are, because the best plot in the world doesn’t survive if you don’t care what happens. So I spent a lot of time trying to put the characters together, I hate the term strong female protagonist because that implies that your female antagonist has to be masculine or different in a way, you know, I just like to think of her as a strong person, and it shouldn’t be noteworthy that she is female, and it was interesting to get to write a male character’s perspective, although I’ve not read the entire breadth of YA, but I’d never read a YA where the male lead was basically kind of a mess.

(Literally this whole time I’m nodding my head and agreeing, because Brendan has taken over the interview **in a good way**) 

BR (continued): So i thought that would be fun because that’s normally assigned to a female character, so you get to overcome their internal difficulties, which can be boring, but what if this is a 15 to 16 year old boy who is putting the good face out there but doesn’t really have an idea of what he is doing with his life. I mean what is happening to him and stuff. So that was the motivation for that. If you like the characters then that’s exactly what I’m about.

MSNR: I actually assigned them songs: Um, I put Min as being very much like Titanium by David Guetta and Sia.

BR: That’s very good.

MSNR: And then I put Noah as more of the Bleachers, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, um, Jack Antonoff, and it’s called I Wanna Get Better. It’s about mental health and screaming at himself “I wanna get better,” I want to be better than this, and that’s kind of exactly how I see Noah.

BR: Somewhere in the blogosphere (*waves* hey everyone!) there’s a, and I believe it’s for YA Highway, I’d have to look it up, but I did make two playlists. On the Min Playlist, the first song is a Halsey song, because when I listened to her album that just clicked to me, I was like, this is that kind of angry but not a pushover type vibe that I was getting. Like she was pissed off and isolated, but she’s also not asking for favors.

MSNR: Which I really like. Because sometimes girls are perceived as being, you know, weak and asking for help a lot. At least in the South, which is what I grew up with.

BR: And there’s some great YA being written right now with female lead characters, so this is in no way sort of any genre defining effort, just that in the beginning the came fully formed to me, and that she would be isolated and damaged by what had happened to her, but NEVER broken by it. Just that she’s a fighter and she stays that way even though it does have it’s affects. YOu know she acts like she has no friends..

MSNR: Awe, but I like Tack though. Even though he never knows when to shut up.

BR: No, he doesn’t And Tack is sort of my character, and every one of my books that I write, there’s basically one character that’s sort of me talking through the book, you know what I would say in each situation, because I’m kind of a smart ass that doesn’t know when to be quiet either, and that’s sort of Tack in this book.  He’s basically saying the things that I would be saying when I shouldn’t be, you know, running my mouth.

MSNR: Honestly there’s a little bit of all of us in Tack, probably, especially when we were teenagers and never knowing quite when to be quiet.

THIS IS THE SPOT WHERE WE TALK ABOUT SPOILERY THINGS. 

PROMISED BRENDAN IT WOULD BE OFF THE RECORD *SINGS* LALALALALALA

BR: This was the last piece that fell into place for the book. I’m a big planner and when you write books like this that are so plot oriented they have to make sense and you have to keep track of what’s happening.

Matchy-matchy!

MSNR: So let’s just refer to it as “The Twist,” so where you plotting the book and then “the twist,” fell in or you were influenced by outside research?

BR: Most of the time the best ideas that come to me when I’m writing come to me about 2/3rds of the way through the first draft. This is when I’ve been living with the idea for about two months, and I’ll wake up one day, and typically in the shower, it will come to me and will have connected overnight. And this was one of the last pieces to come in and it was really three book ideas that all really came together in this crazy boo, which is why it’s so overbaked in terms of that there’s so much in it and because I had all this stuff and I managed to slot it all in together.

MSNR: I know, but I like that it has so much in it because it keeps you on your toes. I literally had to put it down to go to sleep, and I was so concerned about trying to figure out what was happening!

BR: And this is the stuff that I like to read…

Renée Ahdieh (RA)  shows up being adorable: Totally crashing!

MSNR: Hi, how are you!

RA: Good, how are you?

MSNR: Good!

RA (to BR): What’s up, how are you feeling?

BR: Good, good.

MSNR: This is weird, but you smell really good. (I still think this is weird but I had to keep this in haha)

BR: She always smells good, it’s a signature.

RA (wanders away, being fabulous): *laughing at us* I do like that.

MSNR: So, I’m not going to lie. The guy in the black suit? I totally pictured him as Agent Smith from the Matrix the whole time, and maybe that’s because I grew up with the Matrix, but yeah.

BR: No, that’s fair. And for our generation it would be an Agent Smith type- I mean- for me he looks a little different. Although for me, and this is probably not something I should admit to an audience, but I find the way the character looks, and in the book I’m consistent in the way the character looks but in my head that’s never how the character looks.  it’s just a weird dissonance that no one’s ever called out before because no one knows what things look like in my head.

MSNR: In my head he looked like Agent Smith.

BR: Right, for me he’s more of a Guy Pierce, but yeah you know it’s like a flat hair, flat face individual. And I just finished drafting the second draft of the sequel…

MSNR: So we are going to learn more about the project?

BR: It gets darker and deeper and a lot of the Lord of the Flies aspects are really going to come to the fore, because one of the questions I was dealing with was, the main premise, which was that I wanted to fight the finality of death, and what if death was not final; but not in like a zombie way or a ghost way or a resurrection way, but legitimately if it just didn’t work. Like, you died but you didn’t.

MSNR: As long as Tack isn’t Piggy the whole time.

BR: Right. Well, there’s a lot of, and you know I read Lord of the Flies, and you realize only two people die in that.

MSNR: Yes, but you get it.

BR: But they played it and it’s so beautifully written and you get their dissent. And with my book, I’m hoping to get that same thing, but also that a lot of people die. Because you know with Min’s experience in this book, death has not been permanent and that is such a central question. How would you deal with that? How do you deal with the idea that something that you know should be the end of something isnt? And you can’t really control it?

MSNR: I think the last question I have for you, because I don’t want to keep you too long, is that why you decided to do it on their birthdays, and you know not on…

BR: That is a question that will be revealed, and there’s a lot of little detail strings that are still out there and that’s because you don’t really know at the end of Nemesis, what is next. This book leads you to a point, but it doesn’t take you past that.  And a careful reader would ask themselves, “wait, why was this happening,” but I haven’t gotten to that yet.  That’s a great answer. You know if I didn’t answer it, “Oh, it’s in book 2!” And then I’m like, will you write that down and send it to me? Just in case I made a mistake.

MSNR: When can we expect book two?

BR: Uh, it should be a year. I mean I’m putting in the drafts now so I expect roughly the same time next year.  You know, we don’t have much say. I really like Spring releases, which you never know, but I assume it would be next spring.

MSNR: Well, thank you so much for talking with me!

BR: No, thank you so much.

MSNR: It was so good to meet you in person!

BR: Good to meet you too, and I’ll see you..

MSNR: Yep, you’ll see me in a few minutes!

 

A huge and special thanks to Brendan Reichs, Penguin Teen, and Renée Ahdieh for the event on March 21.

Nemesis is available NOW! Go pick up a copy.

 

 

Book Review: Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Holy hell, I don’t even know where to start.

There is SO MUCH HAPPENING in this book.  Let’s see, if you came here looking for a book about a serial killer, you found it.  If you came here looking for a post-apocalyptic book, you found it.  If you were looking for a government conspiracy novel, you found it. I went into this book woefully unprepared for the story I got, but in a good way.  I love it when a book takes me by surprise and keeps me on my toes.  Honestly, I could have read this book in one sitting if it wasn’t for the pesky thing called work that gets in my way most days.

The novel is separated into parts, but the most interesting part isn’t necessarily the rotating narration between Min and Noah, but the different structure that their narration takes individually. Both are being treated by a psychiatrist for their condition (not even sure if that is an appropriate way to describe being murdered on your birthday, but I’ll go with it for now), but Min’s story is filled with italicized flashbacks to her traumatic experiences, while Noah’s includes a transcript from his sessions with their psychologist.  Personally, I really liked the addition of the transcripts because it gave a really eye catching change to the novel.  But the whole structure was well done.

I can understand why this book was compared to Lord of the Flies, but only in the sense that it really showcases the different ways humans can act during times of distress.  Although I will say that Tack was by far the best secondary character in this book and I can tell you exactly why: one of my best guy friends in high school was totally the same.  Always mouthing off when it wasn’t necessary, but in a witty and sardonic way that begged attention.  He was a very good comedic relief in a lot of ways for this book, as it’s pretty heavy and his humor is welcome levity.
Freaking never-see-it-coming twist at the end, Batman!

Seriously.

You will not see this coming. I’m still coming to terms with it.  I think readers will be pleasantly surprised that they were duped the whole time, I certainly was, especially if they read a lot of books, this twist was never something I’d considered or seen before.

I don’t even know how to talk about it without giving any of it away, so I’m just going to say I had the chance to ask Reichs about it during our interview (which is below), but it was off the record because SPOILERS.

There are still a lot of questions to be answered and waiting the next year for the sequel will be almost unbearable because I NEED TO KNOW.

Overall, I’m giving Brendan Reich 4 Bards! Look for my coverage of his Launch event with Renée Ahdieh and our interview, coming up in a few minutes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi


The Author: 

Roshani Chokshi is a fabulous human.  (Okay I added that part of this bio)

Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

The Book: 

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes – a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels. Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Release Date: March 28, 2017 

As much as I loved the lush and floral narrative descriptions in The Star-Touched Queen, I’d have to say that I find A Crown of Wishes to be my favorite of the two.  Not only has Chokshi one-upped herself, but she has created two snarky characters that leaped off the page and into my heart. Seriously, the banter in this book is spot on.  I’ve always wanted to be around people who could give me a verbal sparring match much like Vikram and Gauri have.  Plus, who doesn’t love a slow burn romance where the two characters start off with a rocky relationship and end up having feelings for one another? Seriously, that is one of my favorite book tropes and it will never cease to make me happy.

I’d love to pick Chokshi’s brain about all the glorious settings and where she got the idea for the Tournament of Wishes, well, if I’m being honest, the whole story here.  It’s delightfully complex and it unfolds in such an organic way that it keeps the reader on their toes.  Chokshi also does an excellent job of tying Guari’s story to her sister Maya’s without it being too heavy handed.  We are reminded of Maya frequently and how Guari’s sense of self-preservation and determination comes from her relationship with her “lost” sister.  Guari is a fierce female bad ass.  In a culture where women resided in harams and were regarded largely as property or things to be bartered, it is so awesome that Guari has carved her own lot in life and has grown to be a warrior who loves her country fiercely, she grows so much as a character throughout the novel that I’d have to say she’s my absolute favorite aspect of this story.

Be prepared to have a new book boyfriend, everyone, because Vikram is dreamy, witty, a bit of a hopeless romantic, and loves his kingdom as much as Guari loves Bharata. He has a tragic past but has persevered to become a strong person in his own right. Also, his father has a soft spot for injured and damaged animals, which I think is adorable and such a wonderful detail.

I could continue to gush, but let me leave you with some of my favorite quotes:

“A story could break its bones, grow wings, soar out of reach and dive out of sight in the time it took just to draw breath.  It meant we were’t walking a cut path. We carved it into existence with every step.”

“Fear was a key that fit every person’s hollow spaces – those things that kept us cold at night and that place where we retreated when no one was looking – and all it could do was unlock what was already there.”

“You could carry a story inside you and hold it up to the light when you needed it the most. You could peer through it, like a fram, and see how it changed your view when you looked out onto the world.”

4.5 Bards to Roshani Chokshi’s sophomore novel, A Crown of Wishes.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

Whenever I start hearing some buzz about a new YA novel I tend to be intrigued but skeptical. In the case of The Hate U Give this was emphasized by the fact that every review I saw trickle in seemed to open with “Believe the hype!” But I started listening to the audio version because the book’s premise seemed timely and I was hoping beyond hope that the book could live up to the talk surrounding it. So…

Believe the hype.

I could not stop listening to this book. I ended up listening to all 11 hours and 40 minutes in roughly 5 days and am already planning to buy copies as gifts and lender copies. It’s that incredible.

While the main plot of the book is the shooting of Khalil, this book manages to be about so much more than police shootings and the protests which many of us are now accustomed to seeing and reading about. It’s hard to think of a way to describe this book other than as a celebration of blackness wrapped up in the all too familiar narrative of a police shooting. It balances depictions of the black community, exposing the realities of life in a low-income neighborhood but embracing the negative and the positive, thereby avoiding stereotypes and creating a narrative which embraces multiple levels of experience. The book also acknowledges and emphasizes a number of black leaders in addition to Martin Luther King Jr. such as Malcolm X and Huey Newton. By including other major figures, the author again shows the diversity of the black community and their actions rather than labeling them as one collective united behind Dr. King.

The main character, Starr, is also used to highlight the disparity between communities. At her predominantly white school, it’s expected that she’ll date the only other black student in her grade. She’s a talented basketball player and has a clear group of friends, but she also has rules. She considers herself an entirely different person at school and to prevent herself from being seen as “ghetto” or as the “Angry Black Woman” doesn’t use slang or create confrontations. The character’s inner conflict as her worlds begin to collide is palpable as she has to make decisions about whether her fellow students are truly her friends or if they are even the “good” people they claim to be. This also plays out in her neighborhood as more people begin to question her motives when she doesn’t speak openly, despite being the only witness. YA is often about finding your identity and Starr’s journey takes her along that familiar path but in the midst of extensive external and internal conflict.

There are so many other amazing things I could talk about: the role of Tupac in the book (he inspired the title), the depictions of a strong family, navigating friendships, nuances of gang life, drug dealers, and drug users. The Hate U Give manages to encompass an incredible number of stories and characters but at no point does this sprawling world feel anything but Real.

That being said, there are a couple of things that I thought could have been improved.

We don’t, as a reader, have a lot of time with Khalil in the present. His death happens early in the book and most of the time we encounter him in the memories of the characters. While the pain and memories are well rendered, if Khalil had been alive for a few more chapters, I think the reader could have formed a better emotional connection to him. I also think that’s sort of the point: we shouldn’t have to have an emotional connection to someone to believe their death is unjustified and horrific.

I’m also not a big fan of Chris, Starr’s boyfriend. He’s not a full blown manic pixie dream boy, which is refreshing, but I found him slightly annoying. Again, that’s fine, I’m not Starr, I don’t have to date him. However, as a character, he plays a major role in the text as a stand in for members of the white community who are willing to learn and become allies, because of this he serves as a direct foil for Hailey (the text’s token white feminist).

Like many other YA books that make a major splash (such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), this book will probably be critiqued for its use of profanity and depictions of sexual encounters (although, for the record, the only sex which occurs in the book is between the adult characters). But Starr’s encounters with Chris and questions about whether she’s ready to have sex also bring a valid voice into the world of YA. She doesn’t romanticize these encounters but, because of her own family’s history with teen pregnancy, is rational and hesitant to embark into situations she may regret. She’s strong and doesn’t allow herself to bow to expectations. And her voice, profanity and all, remains believable.

It’s rare to read a book where even the points which I think fall a bit short also serve such clear narrative purpose.

I haven’t been purposefully vague about any elements of the plot, but the strength of this book is in its reflections of reality, so… the ending won’t surprise you. However, one of the most powerful moments comes in the closing. I played it over and over again:

“Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug. He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember how he died. Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending. It would be easy to quit if it was just about me, Khalil, that night, and that cop. It’s about way more than that though. It’s about Seven, Sekani, Kenya, DeVante. It’s also about Oscar. Aiyana. Trayvon. Rekia. Michael. Eric. Tamir. John. Ezell. Sandra. Freddie. Alton. Philando. It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first. Emmett. The messed up part? There are so many more.”

It’s a call to action and remembrance, solidifying the work as, in its own way, a piece of protest and a call for reform.

I cannot recommend this book enough: Five Bards

 

 

Thanks so much to Midsummer contributor Valerie for submitting this review.

 

 

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