Monday, May 20, 2019

Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ward's lyrical novel chronicles multiple generations of one family through its highs and lows. Told primarily through the voices of thirteen-year-old Jojo and his mother, Leonie, their story is filled with hope and heartbreak.

Jojo is on the cusp of manhood, and in looking at the male figures in his life, he is confused about what comes next. His black grandfather, Pop, is his stability in life. While his absent white father, Michael, has spent the last few years in prison and even before that was more focused on himself and Jojo's mother Leonie.

Leonie, who is so focused on her own problems that her children are secondary to most of her decisions, is in continual turmoil. As a black woman involved with a white man in the deep south, she knows life will never be easy. Drugs are often her escape, but also her torment, as when she's high she is often visited by the ghost of her dead brother.

When the family makes the trip to Parchman prison to pick up Michael, conflicts, past and present, arise to force each of them to face a truth. For Jojo - it's the truth of the violence of the past and just how far love will push a person. Leonie's truth is in knowing that she's failed her children, and the legacy that her dying mother has tried to pass on to her.

This is a powerful and difficult read that will leave readers exhausted from the journey.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: Blended

Blended Blended by Sharon M. Draper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mom's week / Dad's week
Izzy / Isabella
Mixed / Black

11 year old Isabella has to switch homes (and identities) every week as she goes back and forth between her divorced parents' homes. She makes it work, they love here deeply, and so do each of their new partners, but as Isabella becomes more aware of the world around her, she sees that being blended isn't as simple as she once thought. Life is just different when she's with her white mom versus when she's with her black dad. Sometimes it feels like she's being torn in half, but when a catastrophic event happens, she soon realizes that blended doesn't have to mean divided.

Draper deals with mature and complicated themes through the innocent eyes of a young girl. A great way to launch some difficult conversations.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 22, 2019

Review: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After Leigh's mother dies by suicide, she and her father are left in the aftermath. As she drowns in her grief, Leigh is at last exposed to her Taiwanese ancestry, and through episodes of magical realism interspersed with memories of her mother, she at last is able to find her footing and begin healing on her own terms with the support of her family, her friends, and her art.

Pan's novel is a heart-wrenching exploration of grief and the toll that mental illness can take on a family.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Cicada

Cicada Cicada by Shaun Tan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tan's simple but thought-provoking picture book chronicles the life of a hardworking insect who toils each day in an office where he is unappreciated and bullied because he is different. A great title for classroom discussion.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 8, 2019

Review: Shout

Shout Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than 20 years after the publication of Speak , Anderson continues to advocate for the voiceless and victimized. Through free-verse poetry, Anderson tells her powerful and courageous story. It's a story of consent, rape, pain, victimization, recovery, and activism. Her honest and gritty words speak truth to the cultural failures that are far too prevalent in our world. Anderson's story serves as a call to action for readers to stop ignoring the hate and violence we experience so often each and every day.

View all my reviews

Review: Time Bomb

Time Bomb Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Diana: The congressman's perfect daughter - smiles when she's supposed to, wears the right clothes, does the right things.

Rashid: The dutiful son and Muslim - trying to follow the rules, but wanting to be seen for who he is rather than the stereotypes his religion brings upon him.

Z: The orphaned and angry rebel - struggling to survive after cancer robbed him of his mother and rage has gotten the best of him.

Tad: The recently "out" football player - trying to come to terms with who he is in a world where not even his family understands.

Cas: The bullied new-girl - working to make everyone else happy at the cost of her own self-worth.

Frankie: The star quarterback with secrets - always expected to be a winner, out to please everyone who expects anything from him.

These six high schoolers have little to nothing in common, but as they set out on their individual missions for the last days of summer, they find themselves trapped in a burning and crumbling school that's been rocked by a series of bombs. Struggling to survive, each of their stories slowly unfolds as readers try to figure out who the bomber really is and what could motivate someone to take such drastic measures.

This is a coming-of-age story that we wish didn't have to be written, but unfortunately is far to common. Charbonneau tells an honest, emotional, tragic, and timely story.

View all my reviews

Review: There There

There There There There by Tommy Orange
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twelve stories - intertwined - chronicling a history of today's urban Indian. Each of these unique characters tells his/her story of coming of age as a native in Oakland, CA. Their lives collide at the big Oakland Powwow as their histories of abuse, addiction, suicide, and spirituality converge on one fateful day.

This is a powerful novel that exposes a segment of America that is seldom seen.

View all my reviews