Review: Nowhere Girls

Review: The Nowhere Girl by Amy Reed

It’s taken a while for me to get my thoughts together about this book. I won’t lie, it’s a lot. This book is emotional and powerful and hopeful and heartbreaking. It’s also so well written and has amazing characters that are so real it’s easy to be immersed in the story. The story centers around rape culture, a specific rape and the group of high school girls attempting to fight back. 
There are several different sets of characters, the actual “Nowhere Girls” start as a threesome of quirky high school girls who don’t fit into any clique or really fit in at all. Grace is a transplant to Oregon from Kentucky where her pastor mother was run out of town for being too open-minded at the altar of their church. Erin has Aspergers and not only defies the wildly inaccurate stereotype that people on the autism spectrum lack empathy, but she is the one who probably has the best handle on her emotional needs. And Rosina is her mother’s oldest (and only) daughter in an extended Hispanic family, where she babysits cousins, works in the family restaurant and defies the family’s expectations because she’s a free spirit and also dates girls. 
The Nowhere girls expand to include a few dozen other students in their high school, all joining together to seek justice for a classmate who was brutally raped the previous year and everyone in town knows who did it. Also included are the girl’s parents, a mixed bag of well-meaning but flawed, teachers and a principal who are definitely part of the
Problem not the solution and the truly despicable boys who perpetrated at least the one rape that everyone knows of, and who write an anonymous, predatory how-to blog encouraging men to take whatever they want from women. 
I found this book nearly impossible to put down and the sensitive and realistic approach to these characters and situations was so well done. There is so much to love and so much to loathe. This book makes me sad yet proud to be a woman, cautiously hopeful but realistically frustrated with our misogynistic culture and it makes me want to raise my sons in a way that they never think it’s OK to be anything at all like the boys in this book. 
This is an excellent read but it’s an emotional ride, and I definitely needed a break to decompress after it was over. 5/5 stars ⭐️ 

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Review: The Eagle Tree

The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes

This is the sweet story of a boy named March who loves trees and his (mis)adventures exploring and climbing them. Last year I created a neurodiveristy reading list to read more books with neurodivergent characters and this was recommended by some other book lists. March is on the Autism Spectrum so he does have some challenges with personal relationships and social thinking, but he’s smart and passionate, he is surrounded by people who care about him and who want to see him thrive. His uncle taught him to climb trees and he hasn’t stopped since. Now he’s 14 and adjusting to his parents separation and moving to a new house, but from this new house he finds The Eagle Tree, a giant old-growth tree, hundreds of years old and unusual for the area, which is slated to be knocked down to make a new home development. He becomes obsessed with the tree and his desire to climb it and it pushes him out of his comfortable routine and he has to face fears and challenges to try to save it.
The author is not on the autism spectrum but said in the afterward that he’s worked several years with kids who are, and I found his portrayal of autism’s quirks to be genuine and not too stereotypical. I truly enjoyed this book and March’s inner dialogue, it is a little heavy on details about trees but I think that perfectly illustrates how unwavering and all-encompassing fixations can be with those on the spectrum. 4.5/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: On the Come Up

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

This month’s pick from Book of the Month — finished the same month it arrived, even! This is Angie Thomas’ much-anticipated followup to the sensational The Hate You Give, same universe but different, unrelated story. Thomas does an amazing job immersing the reader in the world and its characters and illustrating how society is designed to keep some people from succeeding. Systematic racism, poverty, violence, drugs, all work against families who like everyone just want the best for their children.
Like THUG, the main character is a teenage girl, Bri, who is trying to survive and thrive in a neighborhood rife with gangs and drugs and despair. She’s also balancing high-school life at a fancy arts school across town where she and her friends are bussed to increase diversity (and therefore grant money.) Her dream is to be a rapper and make it big to help her family escape the neighborhood that killed her father in a gang-related murder and hooked her mom on drugs.
Her mom Jay is clean and doing her best to provide for Bri with help from her older brother Trey. After Bri is physically detained and thrown to the ground by school security guards, she turns her anger into a song that goes viral in her community. What follows is a series of pretty poor choices on her part in effort to make it big, but she alienates her friends, lies to her family and incites a gang war.
I really enjoyed this book and it’s definitely a world very different from the one I live in. Bri’s
Mom and Brother are the outstanding characters in this book, they both do everything they can to give Bri the best life they can. (Even when she manages to do everything she can to sabotage their hard work.) The family has been through it all and still hold the heads high. All the characters are complex and human trying to make their way in a complex world. 4/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: Scythe

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Thanks to the polar vortex and temperatures colder than, oh, everywhere, I hunkered down and finished this in 3 days. It was long but moved at a good pace, I think. I’m not sure this would have ever landed on my TBR list if not for my YA book club. It’s dystopian/sci-fi ish and the first of a series, which isn’t my usual thing.
The Scythe are a select group in the post-mortality world where humans no longer die naturally, who are tasked with culling the population by randomly selecting people to kill. There was a lot of great writing and the characters were deep and complex. I can’t say I 100 percent buy the concept of the future where all the world problems are solved and managed by the cloud, which has evolved to contain all human knowledge and allegedly maximized efficiency of all resources. Except of course, the Scythe, who function on the outside of the society with their own rules.
The main plot involves two teenage apprentices as they complete the year-long training and transformation to scythedom. There are likable and loathsome characters and plot twists, and it t kept my interest to the very end. I enjoyed it but I don’t know if I will continue the series, I liked the ending but don’t feel drawn to continue the story. 4/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Review I feel like this is a book that everyone has already read and I missed it somehow. I picked up a copy last month and devoured it in a weekend. I truly enjoyed the story and the author captured the rigidity, repetition and quirkiness of Autism in a realistic and relatable way. Having only read the blurb on the back and seeing it on lists of books with neurodiverse characters I expected it to be more of a detective-with-autism caper than a heartfelt, emotional story of a boy, his world and his place in his family. I truly enjoyed this book and the sweet, sad, innocent and vulnerable Christopher. 5/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: We Are Okay

Photo: Amazon.com

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

This book is a short, quick read that contains so much depth and emotion it’s hard to believe it is all contained in so few pages. This is a story of grief, trauma, identity, friendship and love. Marin left out the side door of her life and moved across the country to start new. When her best friend comes to visit, she must make peace with abandoning her old life, face her past and figure out whether she is okay. This is a brilliant YA book that is emotional and heartfelt from the first page to the last. 4/5 stars

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Review: The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

This has been in my TBR pile for a while so I made it my pick for my moms’ book club this month. It was a slow start, I feel like it took about 100 pages to get to the action but it picked up. I did enjoy the intertwined and twisted classic fairytales and was rooting for David but there were definitely some parts that were very dark and graphically violent. It’s classified as young adult but I wouldn’t recommend it for the younger end of that audience or anyone who is averse to gratuitous violence, torture or brutality.
Despite the icky parts and the slow beginning, I did enjoy the book and thought it was well-written with interesting characters and stories. 4/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: Stardust

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is a lovely story with incredible details, daring adventures and heartwarming characters. I listened to the audiobook version read by the author and it was a wonderful way to spend 6 hours.
Stardust is a fairytale about a man who sees a falling star and promises to bring it to the girl he loves. His search leads him through a wall to another world where he finds what he seeks and much more. 5/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: Miles Morales Spiderman

Miles Morales Spiderman by Jason Reynolds

I’ve never been big into comic books or graphic novels so most of my love of Marvel comes from the MCU movies and the tv shows. This book showed up in my recommendation list around the time my kids were playing the Spider-Man video game non-stop, so I figured I could learn more about Miles Morales. (Then my husband told me there are a bunch of different MM storylines and universes…)
Anyway, I enjoyed this book, it’s a novelization, not a comic or even illustrated, which is more my thing. If you’re looking for graphic novels this isn’t it. Miles Morales was bitten by a spider, like the previous Spider-Man Peter Parker, but he doesn’t have the same catalyst to be the hero Peter did. He has two parents who are happily married and love him, he goes to a fancy private school (on a scholarship) and while he does use his Spider-Man powers, the book starts at a time when he’s been suspended from school for trying to follow his spider-sense so he’s hung up his mask and wants to quit.
His roommate/best friend Ganke is a wonderful character who provides humor and support to Miles throughout the story.
I found the book a bit slow in the middle, not unbearably so, but on the whole, a solid story. It does make me want to look into the authors other books and I’ll definitely join the kids at the Spiderverse movie coming out in December. 3.5/5 stars ⭐️

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Review: The Hate You Give

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

I finished this book last night and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I’ve read nothing but accolades for this book but I’ll be honest, I didn’t love it. I had big expectations based on all the buzz surrounding it, and it was gritty, emotional, thought-provoking, uncomfortable and uplifting. The story and the character experience is important and relevant. The main character Starr is two characters really, she’s the daughter of an ex-con, former gang member who lives in a neighborhood of gang affiliation and drug violence and she’s a smart, shy high school student in a private school far from her neighborhood where she’s one of the only black students and has to assimilate and hide her other self. As the book starts, she sees her unarmed best friend shot by a police officer at a traffic stop and the book is her POV of the weeks that follow as her family, her neighborhood, and the community react. She lives in her two worlds and tries to not fall apart from the trauma of losing her friend while she tries to find her voice to speak out against injustice and systematic racism. Starr finds her voice is the best tool she has for change. The complexities of race, poverty, community, belonging, fear, anger and growing up form the central message of this book and it’s well done. That said, I had a hard time getting through the book for other reasons. I feel like it dragged in spots and it was repetitive and the language and structure seemed like a 16-year-old writer. I think it was intentional, not bad writing, but I’ve read plenty of other YA books with teen narrative that didn’t read like 16-year-olds wrote it. 4/5 stars

Items mentioned in this post may contain affiliate links which means if you click and make a purchase, I will receive referral compensation at no additional cost to you. And let’s be honest, I will use to buy more books.