Archives

L = Laila and her lingering FINAL DRAFT worries, by Riley Redgate (YA book review)

book cover of Final Draft, by Riley Redgate. Published by Amulet Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

“So talented!”
“Derivative and unimaginative.”
Did both read the same short story?!

Mr. Madison has told Laila all through high school to be proud of her writing style, but now a renowned novelist substitute teaching that creative writing class says the New York City teen’s work is more sci-fi fanfic than true storytelling. Ouch.

Urged by Nazarenko to get out of her comfort zone, Laila timidly goes to a club with her friends for the first time, meets lovely Hannah, and tries flirting, kissing, escaping her Ecuadorian father’s curfew demands.

Laila’s admission to Bowdoin’s prestigious writing program hinges on this final creative writing grade. May inspiration from Hannah and the city night sky be enough!

When have you decided to move from draft to publicly seen work?
**kmm

Book info: Final Draft / Riley Redgate. Amulet Books, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

K is for Kiki, overwhelmed in STARFISH, by Akemi Bowman (YA book review)

book cover of Starfish, by Akemi Dawn Bowman, published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Divorced parents,
everything is always about Mom-
where do Kiko and her brothers fit in?

Not accepted by art school, constantly belittled by her white mother for having her Japanese father’s appearance, and now her creepy uncle is moving in?

Thankful for Jamie coming back into her life and taking her far, far away from the chaos…Kiko has to find her place and make her art.

Family drama sent you on a new path?
**kmm

Book info: Starfish / Akemi Dawn Bowman. Simon Pulse, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Starting her life anew at Prism will take Kiko far from disdainful Mom and abusive Uncle Max in Nebraska, but the New York art school’s rejection shatters her plans.

When long-lost childhood friend Jamie offers to take her to California to tour art schools, she jumps at the chance to be with her brother’s friend whom she’s adored for years…and to get away from Uncle Max.

Half-Japanese and all confused.
Self-absorbed Mom sucks all the joy out of life for Kiko and her brothers.
Away, away, just get away and make her art…

“We all start at the same place, but you’re completely in charge of where you finish,” says noted artist Hiroshi when Kiko visits his art gallery with Jamie (p. 191) – and he wants to see her portfolio, maybe write a recommendation for someday-art-school!

J is Japan and MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE, by Rachel Cohn (YA book review)

book cover of My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life, by Rachel Cohn. Published by Disney/Hyperion | recommended on BooksYALove.com

From nice house to shabby apartment,
apartment to terrible foster homes,
foster care to luxury hotel?!

Elle is stunned when ‘Uncle’ Masa arrives at her latest foster home (showers allowed once a week) with her new passport and an invitation from her biological father in Japan – happy 16th birthday after all.

Being so obviously hafu (half-Japanese) and gaijin (foreigner) is no big deal at her prestigious new school attended by kids of diplomats and business people from all over the world, but utterly scandalous to Elle’s new grandmother (no wonder Kenji was forbidden to marry her Native American/ African American mom).

Not sure she’s willing to believe all the gossip about Ryuu’s past or her dad’s convoluted business dealings

When have you been suddenly the outsider?
**kmm

Book info: My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life / Rachel Cohn. Disney Book Group, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy from the library; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Swept from foster care in Maryland to a Tokyo highrise, sixteen-year-old Elle must figure out where she fits in her biological father’s family and the social order at an elite international school.

Once the painkillers hooked Mom after that car wreck, drugs took their house, Elle’s security, and put Mom in jail.

When her never-seen dad offers Elle a home in Japan with him, she’s wary but goes along – to an amazing apartment in his skyscraper hotel with 24-hour room service…and his displeased mother and sister nearby.

Elle has to work hard at school to catch up, wondering why fellow swimmer Ryuu is shunned by the popular Ex-Brat crowd who inexplicably adopted her.

Will she always see her father by appointment only?
Can her new grandmother accept Elle’s mixed-race maternal heritage?
What happens if things don’t work out with her family in Tokyo?

As Elle and Ryuu get to know each other at swim practice, some Ex-Brats go beyond pushy, and business pressures are affecting her dad, badly.

E = EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, by Christina June (YA book review)

book cover of Everywhere You Want to Be, by Christina June. Published by BlinkYA | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Be a dancer? No, go to college!
Who will get the lead role? Watch your back!
Play it safe with her heart? Take a chance, Tilly!

It may be her last opportunity to dance, so she’s working hard with the troupe, refining her technique, hoping her mother will relent and allow Tilly to keep dancing, instead of immediately attending Mama’s dream college.

A backstabbing troupe member, an old friend who may become a new love, late-night stress baking, all of New York City to explore in this too-short summer!

You might have met Tilly earlier in her stepsister Tatum’s story, It Started With Goodbye (I recommended it here), and their abuela and Paolo, too.

And check out Tilly’s guide to New York on the publisher’s website here.

When do you know which dreams are uniquely yours?
**kmm

Book info: Everywhere You Want to Be / Christina June. Blink YA, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: From her quiet DC suburb to New York City’s clamor, Tilly is thrilled to be with a summer dance troupe, but competition for roles gets vicious!

Their choreographer/director is a genius, telling them that ‘slaying the dragon’ will center their dance in a stunning performance space to end the summer.

What a summer! Grueling and rewarding rehearsals, exploring the city with her roommate, increasingly irksome pranks, and trying to undo the way she ended things at home with musician Paolo.

Scouts from major ballet companies will be at their performance. Their families and friends will be there. Will the saboteur strike there, too?

One final summer to dance, to pray that Mama won’t force her to attend college, to dream that her future is all dance (and some Paolo, too) – too much to ask?

D = difficult choices IN A PERFECT WORLD, by Trish Doller (YA book review)

book cover of In a Perfect World / Trish Dollar. Published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

From Ohio to Egypt,
Far from friends and soccer camp,
To an old land and new understandings.

At least Carrie has time to get adjusted to life in Cairo before school starts, with the help of Adam who drives and explains customs and culture and religion and is distractingly cute.

Moving for a parent’s job (story of my life) can be challenging, rewarding, frustrating, amazing, and temporary – just like Carrie and Adam’s friendship?

Also by this author: Where the Stars Still Shine, which I featured in another A2Z year here.

What unexpected joy have you found in a new place?
**kmm

Book info: In a Perfect World / Trish Dollar. Simon Pulse, 2017. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: In Egypt for Mom’s new job, Carrie decides that exploring Cairo will ease her homesickness for Ohio, but cultural expectations collide when their driver’s teen son must take the wheel.

Adam must give up his restaurant job when his father falls ill, now driving Carrie around her new city in the summer before her senior year – so much for her to see and learn…with such a nice young man.

The charity eye clinic must hire a male doctor to assist Mom because most Egyptian men won’t allow her to treat them.

Carrie is Catholic, Adam is Muslim.
He’s Egyptian, she’s American.
She’s in Cairo for a year, he’ll probably never leave.
Tourism fuels both their hometowns, but foreigners aren’t welcome.

Their budding relationship? Haram, forbidden – but in a perfect world…

In wartime, love is written WITHIN THESE LINES, by Stephanie Morrill (YA book review)

book cover of Within These Lines, by Stephanie Morrill. Published by BlinkYA | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Pearl Harbor,
Evacuations and preparations,
American citizens sent to concentration camps.

Yes, Manzanar, Heart Mountain, and the other ‘relocation camps’ where Japanese-Americans were sent – with only the suitcases they could carry – were concentration camps.

Trusting neighbors to safeguard their houses, selling cars and business equipment for pennies on the dollar, Japanese-Americans on the West Coast hoped to return home soon…

Parents and neighbors wouldn’t approve of their relationship, but after his family is sent to Manzanar, Taichi and Evalina write letter after letter, daring to plan a future together.

Happy book birthday on March 5th to Within These Lines!

Would you speak out against popular opinion in stressful times, as Evalina did?
**kmm

Book info: Within These Lines / Stephanie Morrill. Blink YA Books, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The budding romance between Evalina and Taichi becomes a long-distance correspondence when his family is ‘evacuated’ to Manzanar concentration camp in the California desert after Pearl Harbor.

Many disagree that Japanese-Americans are true citizens of this country during World War II, but Italian-American Evalina will keep writing persuasive letters to San Francisco newspapers and arguing with her political science professor.

With blankets for apartment walls and dust blowing like despair through any crevice at Manzanar, Taichi will stand against the pro-Japan Black Dragon gang to protect his family.

Even though mixed-race marriage is illegal in their home state, it’s worth dreaming of a future together…right?

Letter by letter, thought by thought, Evalina and Taichi are separated by many valleys and mountains, held together by hope.

Time for rebellion! WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE, by Tehlor Kay Mejia (YA book review)

book cover of We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Meija. Published by Katherine Tegen Books/HMH | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Analytical, the planner – Primera.
Sensual, the mother – Segunda.
Two wives – harmony or life-long tension?

Because one god couldn’t choose between the two women he loved, now all men of Medio’s ruling class live in luxury with two wives, while the poor of the divided island have too little, and revolutionaries are determined to change that imbalance, whatever the cost.

Dani and Carmen have been groomed for years to take their respective places as Primera and Segunda in prominent households, secure in the gated compound far above the salt-soaked lands of the poor, but their roles quickly become masks hiding their true selves and forbidden affections.

Happy February 26th book birthday to Meija’s debut novel! Her short stories have been published in collections including Toil & Trouble, which I recommended earlier this year.

When marriage is a political business, where is love?
**kmm

Book info: We Set the Dark on Fire / Tehlor Kay Meija. Katherine Tegen Books (HMH), 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: On their divided tropical island, the rich get richer, the poor are brutalized, and revolution is snaking through the land, even into the mansion that Dani and Carmen share with their new husband and perilous secrets!

As Primera, Daniela rules her emotions and every aspect of their husband’s household; as Segunda, Carmen will be adored as mother of his children. But the teens soon realize that Mateo is planning violence to keep the poor at bay and that their own secrets endanger them as well.

Dani’s parents escaped over the wall into Medio and sacrificed everything to get her into the Academy where society’s daughters train to become co-wives in ruling class households, where Carmen and friends teased her mercilessly for five years, where the La Voz revolution saves her from being found out and imprisoned.

With Carmen in the same household, how can Dani help La Voz?
Her training decrees that Primeras don’t love – what is Dani feeling now?
Her training decrees that a Segunda keeps her husband happy – why is Carmen so torn?

Fearing their husband, loving each other, Dani and Carmen may have to follow La Voz despite the dangers.

Sister’s big wedding! SAVE THE DATE, by Morgan Matson (book review)

book cover of Save the Date, by Morgan Matson. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Wedding on the horizon!
Family all here again!
well, almost everyone…

Charlie misses the days when her older siblings were all home, when Mom’s cartooning career really took off, but not when the comic made her brother so very angry.

Surely Mike will be here for Linnie’s wedding and his best friend will conveniently forget Charlie’s crush and the grumpiest neighbor ever will decide to act neighborly for once, right?

From the author of The Unexpected Everything (my review here), Second Chance Summer (ditto), and Since You’ve Been Gone (here too).

What would the award-winning comic strip based on your family be like?!
**kmm

Book info: Save the Date / Morgan Matson. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Charlie is delighted that all her siblings will be home for her sister’s wedding, but how many things can go wrong before everything falls apart?

Lots of changes coming – Mom and Dad selling the house, Mom ending the 25-year-long run of “Grant Central Station” comic featuring their family, Charlie graduating soon (but maybe staying here in Connecticut for college?).

Then it gets crazy – their wedding planner suddenly vanishes, the house alarm system goes bonkers, and their neighbor is calling the cops about the delivery vans.

Deep breaths everyone – more drama than usual in the groom’s family, brother Mike still isn’t here as the wedding hour approaches, the Good Morning America crew is on the way, and Charlie’s crush shows up.

What now?! The groom’s suit goes missing at the cleaners, a stray dog is suddenly underfoot, and the new wedding assistant is efficient and charming… very charming.

The more that Charlie wants things to be the way they used to be for her family, the more they’re not!

Art school or her traveling family? Your Destination is on the Left, by Lauren Spieller (book review)

book cover of Your Destination is on the Left, by Lauren Spieller. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Art school!
Real teachers instead of online videos,
real money her family doesn’t have,
really not surprised to be rejected…

Self-confidence is hard for Dessa, and when she freezes with sketchpad in hand, it will take something special to help her get it back.

Maybe not paint now, maybe she should try found art like her mentor, maybe…

How do you make a dream denied become merely dream deferred?
**kmm

Book info: Your Destination is on the Left / Lauren Spieller. Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The nomadic life that her parents chose was fun back when Dessa was twelve, but now the 17 year old wants more – art school, life with other students, a home without wheels.

Best-best-ever Cy sent in her portfolio for the internship she knew she wouldn’t get, and now she will be working all summer with her favorite living artist in New Mexico – as long as Fiona thinks Dess is “college-bound” instead of turned down by every art school she applied for.

The families who travel together across the US are sure she’ll rejoin them and Cy on the road once summer is over – can she squeeze her expanded views back into that tiny RV with her parents and little brother?

Staying with her Greek grandmother (in a house!) near Santa Fe, helping Fiona prepare for a big exhibition of her found art pieces, trying to get up the courage to break free with her own art…and tell the truth about art school – what a summer!

But after the internship and the gallery show and no art school for fall – are Cy’s traveling dreams big enough for both of them?

And she sings… Freedom’s Just Another Word, by Carolyn Stellings (book review)

book cover of Freedom's Just Another Word, by Caroline Stellings. Published by Second Story Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Famous musicians!
Her chance to perform…
and get out of town for good.

Easy doesn’t fit in – a half-Black girl in this Canadian prairie city, raised on zydeco music and working in her dad’s garage.

Then Janis Joplin‘s tour train stops nearby, and Easy’s future path becomes clear… to a certain extent of uncertainty.

Questions, secrets, and such a 1970 roadtrip!

How far have you gone to see someone perform?
**kmm

Book info: Freedom’s Just Another Word / Caroline Stellings. Second Story Press, 2016. [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Easy absolutely must find a way to get from Saskatoon to Texas so she can sing with Janis Joplin!

The Canadian prairie is as far from the segregated South as her black parents could get after the war, then a scandalous affair produced biracial Louisiana who’s done with high school and past ready to get out of town.

Between 1970 concerts, Janis Joplin’s train will stop here, and Easy is determined to sing the blues for her idol.

Through her drunken haze, Joplin recognizes Easy’s talent and invites her to Texas so they can sing together!

Hmmm…on the way to Austin, Easy can return some WWII medals to the mother of the man who was injured saving her father’s life at Pearl Harbor…

A road trip with two nuns, a stopover on Route 66, secrets whispered, secrets unleashed.