Puddin’ by Julie Murphy – Dumplin’ #2

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

When I first read Dumplin’, I absolutely adored it. It was by far one of my favourite teen books and its focus on body image and body positivity was absolutely fantastic. I was super excited to hear about this novel, which focuses on another character that was featured in Dumplin’ and I’m so glad I got to read an eARC of it! Here are my thoughts:

28269171.jpgSummary (Goodreads): Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.


My Rating: 4 star

Review: If you liked Dumplin’, then you will certainly love this book! It has all of the charm and cuteness of the first book in the series, and a lot of new characters to fall in love with, too!

Like Dumplin’, this novel has a huge focus on body positivity. I think that books that promote love for our body need to be put out there. With so much social media out there, it is easy to feel shame about one’s body or to compare oneself to extreme beauty standards set out by society. Having a book where characters love themselves as they are and aren’t afraid to feel insecure is important for readers out there; it makes you feel less alone and gives you a safe space to feel more positively about yourself. This is one of the things that drew me to Dumplin’ and I’m so glad that it stayed a primary message in this novel.

This novel is also about friendship and identity. We are introduced to a few different characters, all from different backgrounds that have their unique perspectives on the world. I loved how the author managed to incorporate all of these different viewpoints and broaden the reader’s own perspective through them. It really reinforces the idea that there is always more to a person than what meets the eye! I loved how the different characters got to understand one another and form close bonds with each other. It was just so heartwarming to read about it!

This novel was full of cuteness and positivity as these teens maneuvered high school drama and their own internal struggles to become the best versions of themselves. I don’t read many contemporary novels but this is one that I know I will be promoting to everyone I know! I give this book a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

 

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Tradition by Brendan Kiely [BLOG TOUR + GIVEAWAY (US Only)]

Once again, I’m participating in an awesome blog tour, this time hosted by the Fantastic Flying Book Club! I’m so excited to be working with them to bring this awesome book out to everyone!

36373518.jpgBook Title: Tradition

Author: Brendan Kiely

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Release Date: May 1, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Synopsis:

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous. Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us. When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates— and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

BOOK LINKS

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36373518-tradition

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1481480340?tag=simonsayscom

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tradition-brendan-kiely/1127208788?ean=9781481480345&st=AFF&2sid=Simon%20&%20Schuster_7567305_NA&sourceId=AFFSimon%20&%20Schuster

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/tradition-13

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Tradition-Brendan-Kiely/9781481480345?ref=grid-view&qid=1523363168209&sr=1-2

This story is told from dual perspectives, and I really loved this part of the story. Both James and Jules are going through their own struggles at Fullbrook. James is struggling to figure out the nonchalant way people act about wealth and how they use their money to solve all problems. I really liked James’s character, who is slightly timid and is scarred from his own past experiences. He knows better than these privileged students: money can’t solve everything. I didn’t love Jules’s character as much because I found her a little too in-your-face. Of course, I didn’t want her to be someone very submissive, but at times, I found her attitude to be a bit … annoying, and perhaps not the best way to describe a feminist.
I also wish that James and Jules had a stronger friendship. At times, the story felt like it was telling two separate tales – which is really fine, because it would have worked well and connected well at the end. However, the author kept expressing that they were good friends. If this had been established better, I think my rating would have gone up.
I absolutely loved the writing style and flow of this novel. It was tense and engaging and it took the reader to places that could be uncomfortable, but were ultimately necessary in order to shed light on topics like consent, privilege, assault, and respect for others. Yes, there are other books out there that also speak about these issues. But I think that the more books that bring this to the forefront, the better. The novel handles these issues with delicacy and does a fine job of getting people to really understand what it must feel like for those stuck in similar situations to Jules and James.
This is a thought-provoking and gripping tale and I urge everyone to go give it a shot! I’m giving this book a solid 4/5 stars! 4 star.png

Check out these amazing blogs that are also a part of this tour!

Tour Schedule
May 1st
May 2nd

Book Freak Out

The Book Duchesses

May 3rd

We Live and Breathe Books
Living A Hundred Lives
Literary Meanderings

May 4th

Diane’s Book Blog
BookCrushin

May 5th

Blossoms and Bullet Journals
A Dream Within A Dream

May 6th

Confessions of a YA reader
YA/NA Book Divas

May 7th

Camilla Reads
Jill’s Book Blog


And now…. for the GIVEAWAY!

฀Prize: 5 copies of TRADITION by Brendan Kiely (5 winners will be chosen)

฀US Only

฀Starts: 5/1

฀Ends: 5/10

Click here to enter – this is a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all those who enter!

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I rarely read contemporaries. It’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that I love reading fantasy, thrillers, and science fiction books so much that I don’t have time for other genres. However, the cover and description for this book intrigued me enough that I wanted to try it. Here is my review:

35297272Summary (Goodreads): For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


Review: I wasn’t expecting to love this novel as much as I did. But yeah, I loved it! I actually could not pull myself away from this book!

I think that the characters in this book were absolutely brilliant. I loved that our protagonists were so different from others, and yet, were easy for the reader to relate to. Their way of thinking isn’t something that is so out of the ordinary, it’s just the way they express themselves that is so unique. I loved how these two got closer to each other and I liked that the author used text messages as the main platform for their communication; any time an author uses a different medium and structures passages from their books in that format, I love it.

This novel didn’t have a super speedy plot. It was definitely a slow burner but that meant there was plenty of time for the relationship to develop between Penny and Sam. I think that in order for the romance, which is the main focus of the story, to develop properly, it needed to take as much time as it did to be successful. So I really didn’t mind the slower plot. And it honestly didn’t feel that slow to me! I chalk it up to the really great writing and the way that the author allows the readers to connect with the different characters; I was too invested to care about how slow the story was moving!

However, there were certain things about this book that weren’t handled as well. The author creates two characters that have a whole bunch of other issues and traumas in their life. Slowly, we find out what these traumatic incidents/issues are … but they don’t get properly addressed or resolved. They are put in there to explain certain aspects of behaviour, but are easily dismissed or “fixed”. This annoyed me a bit because it’s a very unrealistic portrayal of how people cope and change over time. If this had been properly executed, I would probably have given a higher rating. Better yet, why even include those aspects if they don’t play a central role to the story or won’t be addressed properly? The story wouldn’t have suffered without their inclusion, and I really don’t get why so many authors feel the need to introduce traumatic pasts into their characters’ lives.

Despite this last issue, I still really enjoyed this novel. It exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways and it was an engrossing story. I fell for the characters and their romance, so for those reasons, I’m giving this a 4/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Since you all know me and my tendencies to read hyped books, you know why I read this book. No need to give any further commentary than that. So let’s just move on to the review:

19547856Summary (Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.


Review: I’m a little scared to write my review. I liked this novel and found it a very fast and good read. But I didn’t love it.

I don’t read many contemporary books, especially not cute ones. This is definitely a cute novel, and it had me smiling quite a lot. Simon is a very sassy character and I love all of the craziness he gets involved in. I absolutely adored the email correspondences because they were so genuine.

But I didn’t like Simon himself. I’m not saying that Simon has to be a perfect character; I love when the authors make their characters flawed. But Simon was a little too obnoxious and mean for me to like at times. I don’t think he was ever a good friend. And that bothered me a lot. The author gives Simon such an amazing support system with his family members and friends. But he is kind of an asshole and he’s also fickle. And every time he did something or said/thought something that wasn’t so nice, it made me distance myself from him. Even once he recognized he was wrong, there wasn’t really any remorse from him, and I think this bothered me more. I mean, if we’re gonna go cutesy, you might as well go all the way and make him a more caring person at the end of it all.

However, I think this novel raises some very important issues regarding sexual orientation. And I think the story handles it very well and presents these ideas to the public in a way that will make everyone understand what it feels like to be something other than heterosexual. Ultimately, this story is upbeat and full of hope and positivity, and I came out of this novel feeling happy. For once, the romance is amazingly realistic and sweet and it made me feel the emotions. To me, these are the things that make this book so great.

I finished this novel with a smile on my face, and with a better understanding about the struggles of the lgbtqia+ community (and everyone can always do with understanding more about this). For those reasons, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars, rounded to 4.

Happy reading ~

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

28096541

I started reading this book with no real expectations about it. And then IT BLEW MY MIND.


Synopsis (Goodreads): Who are the Nowhere Girls? They’re every girl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.


Review: This book is by far one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. It is a book that deals with so many different issues like rape and rape culture, sex positivity and choosing to be sexually active or not, sexual identity, ableism, racial discrimination, and biased school systems – and these are just a few!

The story is told mainly from the perspective of 3 girls: Grace, Rosina, and Erin. But there are also sections of the story called “Us” and they are from the perspective of various female characters in the book, that remain unnamed. I absolutely loved this approach. Not only did the author give us central characters to focus on and form connections with, she was also able to showcase various other perspectives. By creating anonymity through these voiceless other girls, she allowed other readers to put themselves in their place. It worked for me on so many levels, and gave me the chance to see so many different outlooks on various topics.

The main characters themselves were perfect choices for the story. Grace comes from a religious background, what with her mother being a pastor, and her views were about how her faith influences her choices. I really loved this angle and the way that the author developed Grace; she doesn’t blindly accept beliefs but tries to question them and analyze them so that they are relevant to her current life. These are things that I try to do daily with regards to my own religious views, and it was heartening to see an open-minded and faith-oriented character. I also loved that Grace, while being considered “fat”, never focused on her body issues. Her body did not become the main focal point, and that gave room for the reader to focus on her personality and thoughts.

Rosina comes from an immigrant family and struggles with her sexual orientation. Her worries that her mother will not accept that Rosina has feelings for women is a concern that I think many teens can face. Through her character, we get a glimpse of what it feels like to be marginalized, not only for your sexual preference but also for your race and immigration status.

Erin has Asperger’s Syndrome and her character deals with the struggles that come with being labelled. She has feelings, she has thoughts, and she wants to be able to show that Asperger’s in no ways limits her as a person. I loved how defiant she was about this label, how strongly she would say that this is a part of her that she would never change. There are plenty of times when someone says “I’m so sorry” when they hear about a child who has autism or Asperger’s and it bothers me a lot, because there is nothing to be sorry about. This person is still a person, who has wonderful gifts to offer the world, just like every other human being. Erin embodies this sentiment, and her experiences show that she is just like everyone else – and deserves to be treated that way.

I don’t want to speak too much since I don’t want to ruin this story, but it is an absolutely stunning read. Amy Reed is not afraid to pack the punches and this book has so many of them. I think that everything that this novel covers is relevant to people today – not just girls – and I would want everyone to read this. It’s a near perfect book for me, and I’m giving this a 5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

The first thing that caught my attention with this book was its title. If you have ever watched or read The Princess Bride, then you know EXACTLY what I’m referencing! I for sure thought the author would put that in somewhere in the story. But the story itself is very interesting, and that’s what made me decide to read this book. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.

Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.


One of the first things I want to say is that the cover I have uploaded is very different than the final cover of the book. While I loved this cover on the ARC, I completely understand why the author changed the final design; the newer look is more relevant to the story. Also, there was no reference to The Princess Bride, which made me sad. But that’s not what the story was about in the first place so I can’t really be upset about it, can I?

Now, onto the story itself. The premise was certainly interesting. Who hasn’t thought about what they would wish for if they could? I certainly have, and I could really understand why Eldon struggled with the anxiety of making the perfect wish. The story is all about Eldon’s journey as the date to his wish day looms closer, and how he tries to figure out what is the right wish for him. Through his experience, the reader gets to hear about others’ wishes, including the reasons behind those wishes and the outcomes.

I think my issue with the novel was Eldon. He is a self-proclaimed jerk and all of his actions show that he lives up to the title. Everyone thinks he’s a jerk, and he certainly acts like one. I thought that the reason for making him like this was so that he would change at the end…. but he doesn’t. He stays a jerk until the very end, and only then does he show that he may finally be trying to change. It was very difficult for me to feel sympathy for him because of his attitude, and his lack of growth. There were times when I felt sorry for him because of what happened with his sister, and there were times when I could understand how his anger and anxiety caused him to behave in a certain way. But overall? I really couldn’t connect with him or like him enough to care. He’s also very judgmental about everyone and it started to grate on my nerves.

There is also no real plot to this story. The same concept is touted throughout the entire book. People make wishes. People aren’t happy with them. Some of the wish stories that are told are a little bit too far-fetched for me, like the one about wishing one’s gayness away and never being able to feel emotions again. What?! How does that even happen?! I get that this story was all about decisions and living with regret, but there was just so much of that and little of anything else. It got tedious.

Ultimately, this novel was trying too hard to be a lot of things, ending with it just not living up to anything. It sounded like an awesome magical realism story, but the writing style, lack of plot and growth, and bad main character bogged the story down. I finished it feeling disappointed, which is a shame because the novel really had a lot of potential. I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp  

When I read the premise of this novel, it sounded like a mystery/thriller to me. After reading it, I have to say that it definitely doesn’t fit that category – at least, not in the conventional way.

Synopsis (Goodreads): Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter..


My thoughts on this novel are mixed. I don’t think I loved this novel as there were a lot of features that really bothered me or weren’t done well, but the story itself – well, it had me hooked.

One of the things that was severely lacking in this story was character development. There was none. Corey started off feeling guilty and angry, and she left that way. She maintained her pigheadedness and her insistence that the town was to blame for Kyra’s death right to the end. It didn’t help that the only way we got to know Kyra was through Corey’s interactions with others in the town, as well as Corey’s own memories; it made Kyra a very one-dimensional character, although the author did try to fix that by including letters that Kyra wrote to Corey. But even those letters didn’t have much substance to them so I couldn’t get a good feel for Kyra.

What I found weird about the novel was the writing style. There are moments taking place in the present, followed by memories from the past, and then random excerpts that read like a script from a play or a phone call, and then diary entries/unsent letters from Kyra to Corey. It affected the flow of the novel a lot. While the author may have been trying to use these different mediums to give the reader a more rounded picture of the scene, it failed in that attempt.

While the plot was intriguing, I wish there had been more of a build-up there. What were the crowning instances that caused the town to change their attitude to Kyra? How did they get to that frenzy point that tipped Kyra off the edge? These were things that were never really addressed. If it had been, I feel like the story would have been better developed and more intriguing and the suspense would have been better. As it were, there was no real mystery to it; everything becomes clear in a short while and there is nothing to really change it up. There were also a lot of details in the story that were mentioned but never reconciled, and this really bothered me. Why mention Corey hearing voices or seeing things if you aren’t going to do anything about it?

My general feelings for this novel are still mixed. There were a lot of things that could have been improved and that would have made this story so much better, because the concept behind this novel was actually really intriguing. It was just the execution that suffered. I’m giving this a 2.5 stars rounded to 3.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Synopsis (Goodreads): Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.


This was a really great YA novel about what it means to have grit! The book was funny, and sweet, and all about coming into one’s identity.

Scott is a teenager who just doesn’t know what he wants to do and feels the pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately, this pressure causes him to give up quite easily – until he decides to become a “grittier” individual. I really connected a lot with Scott’s character – I know what it’s like to be lost and not know what you want to do with life. This confusion and struggle was depicted in a wonderfully humorous context that kept me interested the entire way. I wanted to know Scott would rise up to the occasion and how his encounter with Fiora would change him.

While I loved Scott’s character, Fiora was a bit too eccentric for me. I definitely understand why the author made her the way he did, and I have no problems with her being crazy and zany…. but there were times when her behaviour really confused me and just wasn’t necessary. I did love her addiction to crossword puzzles; that was a really unique feature of the story and I enjoyed reading about Fiora and Scott bonding through them. I also thought it was awesome that the author made a crossword at the end of the book for the reader to solve!

Overall, this was a really nice coming-of-age story about identity, motivation, and grit! I’m giving it a solid 4/5 stars!

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Merry Christmas! To celebrate this festive holiday, here is a novel that is all about the Christmas spirit! Here is my review:

5 years ago on Christmas Eve, Holly was visited by 3 ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she was to try to get her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

To atone, Holly now works for Project Scrooge, a top-secret company committed to save a miserly grouch every year. Holly’s role? The Ghost of Christmas Past. Holly has stayed frozen at 17, playing this role every year, while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change.

This is a modern twist on the Scrooge story. If you’ve ever read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens or watched any of the movies based off of this story, you have a pretty good idea of what this book will be like. I thought this book had a really interesting premise: what happens when someone refuses to change? What would have happened if Scrooge woke up and didn’t change his ways? I thought this story was really sweet and heartwarming. It is not meant to be something difficult to comprehend or difficult to predict. It’s just meant to bring some Christmas cheer – and it definitely delivers that! I am a sucker for cheesy and happy Christmas movies and this novel was just the right thing for me! It was a great story with good characters that really grew and changed. This novel makes you think a lot about second chances and what you would do if you could get one. Suffice to say, this was an enjoyable read and perfect for Christmas! I’m giving it a 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

Green by Sam Graham-Felsen

The year is almost ending, and Christmas is approaching, and I have soooo many books I want to finish!! I’m home right now with my family, which is great because I can spend some quality time with them, but not so great in terms of getting through my book list. However, I’m going to do my best to keep reading and writing posts. Starting with this one:

Boston, 1992. David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King Middle School. He has no friends, and he struggles to fit in because his hippie parents refuse to buy him anything dope. Unless he tests into the city’s best public high school, he’ll be friendless for the foreseeable future. But when Marlon Wellings sticks up for Dave in the cafeteria, Dave thinks that maybe his luck has changed for the better. Mar’s a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave’s own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave’s assumptions about black culture: he’s nerdy, obsessed with the Celtics, and not down to show off like all the other black kids. Together, the two boys are able to resist the contradictory personas forced on them by the outside world, and before long, Mar’s coming over to Dave’s house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar’s. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he’s been given–and that Mar has not.

I thought that this was a very interesting coming-of-age story that deals with some very difficult issues involving race and religion, but not in a heavy-handed way. I liked that the author maintained the slang and vocabulary from the 1990s and made references to what was hip back then; it made the story relevant and also gave me some insight to what was going on back in those days. I also really liked Dave and Mar’s friendship. Their characters were really well developed and their camaraderie was sweet to see. The story is told entirely from Dave’s perspective, and I liked that a lot because it allowed the reader to see the growth and change in Dave as he witnesses events happening to him and to Mar. However, I found the plot to be a little slow. There was no variety to the events and it seemed that a lot of repetitive instances had to take place before the author decided that he had made his point and could move on. This was really one of the main reasons why it was hard for me to get through the novel. But I think that the entire story was really well-written and had great characters. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars and would recommend this to anyone who likes coming-of-age books that look at divisions of race and class.

Thanks to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~