Book Review: The Hate U Give

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Summary: 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, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. 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 upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Pros:
All the Characters/Even the ones you hate. There are a lot of characters in this book. A LOT. So, I’m not going to do the breakdown like I normally do.
  • Starr Carter is the protagonist of the story, it’s told in her point of view and I think she’s a strong and realistic character. Throughout the story she doesn’t think she’ strong or brave but we have evidence of that throughout the story.
  • Her parents Maverick and Lisa Carter are people who have lived lives that allows them to have wisdom to understand the world around them and to have a view that they hope would help their family and by extension others. Maverick wants to give back to his community and Lisa wants to do that but make her family a priority (not that Mav doesn’t want that too, it just gets lost sometimes).
  • Seven is Starr’s big brother and you’ll learn about her connection to him and her friend Kenya, but I really liked him because he has his own struggles and demons, but he always tries to be there for his sister.
  • Chris is Starr’s boyfriend from her PWI private school and they’re sweet together, he really tries, and I give him props for that especially towards the end of the novel.
  • In her school, there is also Maya and Hailey who are Starr’s best friends and make your own conclusion, but I hated Hailey. I’m surprised Starr held out as long as she did lol. I liked Maya though.
  • Uncle Carlos is a big part of the story where he acted as a second father in ways to Starr. He is a cop so when we first meet him, I was a little skeptical at first but throughout the book he becomes a big ally and he has some awesome moments throughout the story. Great character.
Starr’s perspective. Being that the story is told in Starr’s perspective who was right there when Khalil was murdered, it allows the chance for the story to be told by someone with a firsthand account. She experiences everything and tells it in detail. She is a narrator who lives in the moment and tries to understand what’s happening in the now while also worrying in ways about the future. By giving Starr the perspective and not making it third person, it allows for the chance for the reader to catch a glimpse into the heart and mind of the people who are first hand witnesses and know what it feels to be on the front lines of this situation. Starr is young but her dialogue sounds like a teenager, especially a teenager in her environment. Black people know what it’s like to have to be different people depending on the crowd and how hard and confusing that can be. What it’s like living in a hard and dangerous neighborhood but being able to see the brightness that exists in these places. Seeing the world through Starr’s eyes you feel that emotional confusion, disappointment, love, hope, bravery… all of it. At least I did.
Powerful Story. This story is RELEVANT! I cannot stress this enough. Whether you like the book or not, the story and the message is so important. Starr witnesses something so terrible that it affects her, it affects the people around her and it affected me reading it. We have seen so many deaths of black people, especially unarmed black people within the last few years and it still has an effect today. I think this novel takes something that has been so real and amplifies it and shows that people can have a voice when they feel like they have none. Starr agonizes over what she witnessed and constantly thinks about it to the point where it begins to affect her life at school, at home and she doesn’t know what to do to handle it. As the story goes on, we see her struggle with feeling strong and brave and by the end she has transformed into someone that I think we all want to be when faced with a trial such as this. Powerful journey.
Family Ties. Outside of the story, one of the strongest aspects of this book is the family. All of them. Starr has a great family and they all felt like real people. Her father came off as this big imposing man, but he cared about his wife and kids, he did whatever it took to protect them. Her mother was a protector but also a nurturing woman who knew her kids and who also did whatever it took to make sure her family was safe. Then there’s Seven who is the big brother and he has a lot of demons he must deal with, but he always tried to be there for his siblings, all of them. Sekani is the little brother and he is just like a little brother. We meet Uncle Carlos who is a strong character as well (there are a LOT of adults in this book which is great because for some reason YA books are allergic to caring and present adults lol) and of course Nana and Aunt Pam and then Seven’s other sisters and of course when they accept other people into their family. it’s just a strong bond that is created with all of them.
Real Aspect. I love how real the story is and how relevant it is. I think with a story like this, it could easily become something that feels over dramatic, or feel false but that doesn’t happen here. While I read the book, I truly felt like I was standing right there with Starr, experiencing everything she felt. All her emotions, her thoughts, I was on the sidelines and that is a testament to Angie Thomas and her storytelling abilities.
Thug Life. We learn about this twice in the story. In the beginning, Khalil and Starr have a moment driving where he explains this to her and she takes it in, but I think she really feels it later when she goes over it with her father. I’m not going to tell you what it means if you don’t know already, but it’s so powerfully used in the book that any time it came up, I immediately thought of what it meant for me, or for black people and it’s interwoven so well into the story without even being blatantly referenced that I still kept thinking about it after finishing the novel.
Cons:
Just a bit too long. This is literally my only complaint about the book. I think the story could have been cut down a bit because the stuff with DeVante could have been cut out or at least cut down. *gasps* Blasphemy! lol I get why it was there because it’s another chance… but he could have still been in the story but not an entire side plot. It made the story feel bloated. I had a really hard time thinking why I thought the book might have been too long. I went through a lot of parts of the book in my mind and everything else I could rationalize why it was written the way it was, why it was important but I kept coming back to the DeVante storyline and I kept thinking of ways to make it shorter, or to have moments of it skipped over by still arriving to the same conclusion of the plot and it worked out in my mind. I would also think in the movie, they would either cut it out completely or really file it down for the sake of run time.
Overall, I really really really loved this book. The hype surrounding it very much earned and I see why it’s such a powerful and relevant book for people. It’s important for stories like this to be told because it’s what’s happening in the world today and I think if people dislike this book for telling that kind of story then I’m not sure what to say because it’s real. The book may be a work of fiction but the nature of it is reality. The characters are well written and fully realized, the atmosphere feels real and I feel like I’m there beside Starr while these things are happening. It’s emotional and it is so real. My one complaint is a minor one and it doesn’t affect how I view the story overall. It’s amazing.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I know I had a con, but I think otherwise this book is pretty much perfection. I’m so glad it exists.
I work in the public library and I know this book is challenged by people when it comes to their young ones reading it and I don’t think it’s merited, sure, it does have profanity in it, but I guarantee you your teens curse or have in the company of their peers. You’re afraid that this book is going to taint how teenagers, or people in general, view law enforcement without them having the chance to experience it for themselves? I’m sure they already have by seeing the many videos available for public use of black people being killed. No one has to like the book, that’s fine but I encourage you to read it with the idea that this is black people’s reality, and this is what black people fear probably more than anything else.
Thanks for reading this review. Please leave your thoughts and comments down below if you’d like to start an intelligent dialogue. I’ll be happy to discuss.
Thank you to everyone who has followed me, I really appreciate the love and support and I hope you continue to do so.
Keep an eye out for future book reviews!
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Book Review: Simon vs.the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Summary: 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 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.
Check out my review for Love, Simon here.
Pros:
The Characters. I really like Simon. I think he’s a great kid, he’s funny, witty and quite lovable, my only problem with him is that he doesn’t fight back enough with Martin because you not about to hold anything like that over my head. But anyway, I liked in ways how he looked at the world, all the references, it felt like I was in the head of a teenage boy sometimes (I’ll mention more about this later). I also really liked Abby and Nick. Abby was just this bundle of joy who had a lot of things she kept secret, but she just had a positive outlook in everything and I loved her friendship with Simon. Nick wasn’t as prominent as Abby, but he seemed like a cool guy. I also really liked learning about Blue and later when we meet him, you already like him that when he physically is around, you like him even more.
The friendship. The friendship between Simon, Nick and Abby particularly is some of the best in the story. I don’t mind Leah, but I think I liked her better in the movie than I did in the book, she was too negative for me. But anytime Simon and Nick just hung out, I thought it was handled well and they seemed liked they’d been friends for years and I liked that Abby was just this bundle of light and joy that both Nick and Simon gravitated to without even thinking. I really loved the moment where Simon and Abby talk in the car, it was sweet, and I thought Abby was a great friend in that moment, even if she’d only been around for about four months.
Blue and Jacques. I think one of the best things about this book is the relationship we see develop between Blue and Jacques through the emails. Obviously, Jacques is Simon and we find out who Blue is later, which I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t seen the movie or read the book. but I thought they were super cute and they had a nice little banter. We got to see and learn way more about Blue so in ways you learn to really like him just about as much as you may like Simon. When they finally meet (spoilers? lol) it’s still cute and I have to say they have good chemistry. You get hints throughout the story who Blue might be, you just must pay close attention.
Humor. I have to say this book is funny. I thought the movie was cute and funny but considering how Simon is a little potty mouth, I thought his voice was funny in the book. I laughed quite a bit at some of the things he thought about, or the things he would say aloud. Even his family was a bit ridiculous that I laughed at them. I think if you want some lighthearted humor but also some sardonic humor, this book has it in there just for you.
Cons:
Nothing Really Happens. I didn’t really think about this until after I finished the book, but nothing really happens. Sure, there’s the blackmail and the emails but outside of those things, that aren’t always in the forefront, nothing happens. I wasn’t engaged the entire time. I didn’t want to give this its own point, but I didn’t always buy Simon’s voice. Not always. There are times where I was very aware it was a woman writing him. I don’t think everyone can do voices that aren’t like them consistently.
The Blackmail story line. I didn’t like it in the movie and I don’t like it in the book. It was an addition that wasn’t needed, and I think it was mean spirited. I get the whole “Martin took away Simon’s choice to come out when he was ready” but that didn’t sit well with me at all. It just seemed like something that the author felt would make Simon seem like a victim. He was already struggling enough with wanting to tell his friends and family about his sexuality, it could have just been a journey like that instead of making it worse by taking the choice away from him. It really bothered me. Plus, the fact that Simon went along with it, you have a choice. No one had to know what the emails were about, he could have told someone and said, “this kid is trying to post my personal emails out for everyone to see if I don’t help him date my friend.” Sure drama, but I don’t like it. Not to mention, he starts to see Martin like a friend and then later even kind of agonizes over the fact that Martin could be Blue. Just… ugh. I hated all of it.
Martin Addison. I HATE this kid. In the movie, he was kind of likable because the actor made him likable, but I hate him, and it really bothered me how easily Simon just fell into this trap with him. I think the story could have still happened without his whole side plot, it was just extra drama that I think was unnecessary. He kept bringing up for Simon to meet his brother, who he said was also gay, and he would ask Simon who Blue was, and he wanted Simon to pair him up with Abby, but it was obvious that Abby did not like him that way. Later, when he gets mad at Simon for not “doing his job” or that he thinks Abby and Simon have a thing and he’s being played and retaliates in such an awful way. Ugh, awful character. AWFUL! What makes it worse is that it seemed like the author tried to make him likable because Simon would rationalize things about Martin, and I just… ugh, awful! I don’t care about his apology AT ALL.
Overall, I quite enjoyed myself reading this book. I think it’s a fun and quick read and the characters for the most part are likable people, especially Simon, Nick and Abby and of course Blue. I think the book is funny as Simon is quite the potty mouth and his reactions to things cause for a lot of humor. I also really love the friendship that Simon has with his friends and the romance that we see grow between Blue and Simon is also handled well. However, I do really dislike the blackmail story line of the book, I think it’s mean spirited and unnecessary. I also HATE Martin Addison, ugh what a terrible character, I felt like the author tried to make him likable and endearing and it did not work for me. But I still enjoyed the book overall.
Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda? What did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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Book Review: Long Way Down

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Summary: A story that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother. Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.
Pros:
Characters. Will is the main character and it’s told through his POV and we really get to see and understand him as a person. He’s a fifteen-year-old who is upset and wants revenge for his brother dying because of the unspoken rules. He’s a good kid but he’s distraught but he gets to experience different people who were directly connected to him and his brother. I can’t go into too much detail about him without spoiling the story but he was great. The other characters were also great to know and understand and to see their purpose.
The Story. Without going into too much detail Will’s brother Shawn was killed and he think he knows who killed him. So according to the rules, you don’t cry, you don’t snitch and you get revenge and he just needs to continue following that last rules. So, while he’s on the elevator, each floor he meets someone different who has something to say to him, to explain and all of that. Amazing. It reminded me a bit of A Christmas Carol in ways just without the whole Christmas spirit and what not. But so good.
Jason Reynolds is a WORDSMITH! Let me say this RIGHT NOW! This man can write a story and he can do it by putting some words together that are KILLER. I mean, I would stop and reread lines just because it was so powerful. I mean wow. There’s a particular line where Will says something about how his mother had to realize that once his older brother Shawn turned 18, she had to take her hands off of him and put them together to pray. I was like WHATTTT. I mean, that’s amazing. There’s another line about God in there that was great. Nothing was wasted.
Emotional. I didn’t cry or anything but I could feel all of the panic, anger and confusion that Will felt throughout the story. Most of the book takes place in the minute it takes to ride the elevator. We meet several different people who had some kind of connection to Shawn and Will and every person had something to say that needed to be listened to and I felt everything. Plus, the use of words
The Ending. Okay so throughout the book, Will is in the elevator and each person he’s talking to gives him a story about what happened to them and when they finally reach the lobby, they all leave and the last person turns back to him and says “You coming?” which leaves the ending open ended which in ways is great because it allows the reader to make their own ending. I mean what do you think Will did? I think he didn’t follow them.
Cons:
The Ending!? This isn’t a con because it’s negative but it made me UPSET! When it ended, I was like REALLY?! REALLY!!!! That’s how it ends? Man, I love open endings sometimes but sometimes GIVE ME AN ENDING SO I CAN FEEL HAPPY ABOUT THE RESOLUTION! So, upset.
Overall, I very much-LOVED Long Way Down because it was such a real story but it was contained. It was a minute and so much happened. I loved meeting all of the characters, I loved how Will would react to things and how the other characters would speak with him, show him love, even if they weren’t necessarily close to him. I loved the emotional aspect of the story, as well as the writing because Jason Reynolds is a wordsmith. A WORDSMITH! The ending was also phenomenal but of course the ending was also soooo annoying because it was OPEN ENDED! *sighs* Short review but I can’t go into too much without telling the story, just know it was really good.
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Long Way Down? If not, what’s wrong with you? Read it. Right now. If you’ve read anything else by Jason Reynolds, then read this book. Read it.
Let me know your thoughts down below and be sure to like and follow this blog for more reviews!

Book Review: To All the Boys I Loved Before

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I know there’s a movie on Netflix that I will watch and review soon. I wanted to read the book first and it prompted me to want to watch the movie more, which is a good thing.
Summary: What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Pros:
The Characters. I liked all the characters, the main ones for the most part. I think Margot and Josh were probably a little lower on the list for me, but they weren’t unlikable. I understood them, but they weren’t that important to me. Honestly, the ones I’m going to mention are the main two of the story.
  • Lara Jean Song Covey. She’s the kind of character that I think some people would find annoying and there were times where I would roll my eyes at her, but I overall enjoyed her. I thought she was a quirky, kind, humorous leading character and I thought she was very likable. Ironically, she reminds me of an anime character, which is something she references in the book about how people always think she’s dressing up as some anime character for Halloween, but her energy and how she reacts to things makes me picture how over dramatic the anime characters can be when something happens. While she’s clumsy and a bit over dramatic, she’s endearing and strong and she loves her family. Cute character.
  • Peter Kavinsky. Peter is like the cool guy at school, everyone likes him, and he’s swoon worthy. When we first meet him, he’s being helpful to LJ, but she also reminisces about him which gives us a little more insight about him through her eyes. Once he approaches her about the letter, I thought he was going to be a jerk about it and what not since he’s the cool guy and Lara Jean isn’t popular or anything like that, but he turned out to be just that but with a heart and kindness in him. I really ended up liking him. Alright, he’s not so much a jerk but he had jerk tendencies. I really liked how he related to Lara Jean’s family and how he seemed to care about her in ways that were probably a surprise to him. I’m interested in reading the other books just to see what happened with him.
Family dynamic. I really liked the Covey family. They had a realistic dynamic. Being a younger sister but also an older sister, I understand the feeling of having the responsibility fall to you when the oldest moves on to college. I liked that the sisters were close that they would sleep together just to share the closeness before Margot left for school. Even though Kitty was a little brat sometimes, I liked her relationship with LJ and of course their dad wins the award for “Trying His Best”. You get a real sense that they had a tragedy in their lives and while it was still sore, they tried to work together like a family. They weren’t perfect, but it worked.
The Un-Romance. So, Lara Jean and Peter make a contract to pretend to date for various reasons. LJ had a little crush on Peter after he kissed her in the seventh grade. From the moment he stopped to help her when she got into her car accident, I knew from that moment on there might be a little something between them and I liked it. I quite surprised at how much I liked it lol. It wasn’t really a romance throughout, it was a pretend one, but they worked. I liked how Peter got close to her younger sister and even her father. I thought it was cute how he wrote the letters throughout the day even though half the time, they were things like “You look nice” or “Meet me here…” but it was endearing.
The Writing Style. I really liked Lara Jean’s voice, she was sweet and quirky, and I really enjoyed seeing things from her perspective. I think she could be a bit long winded in how things were talked about or addressed, but I liked how the story just flowed without feeling weird and just caught up in her mind, since it’s told in first person. It was thoughtful, and I liked how Lara Jean viewed things around her.
The Story Idea. The idea of past crushes receiving letters written about them is enough to give pause. I think it’s cool that LJ would write letters to help herself move on and then keep the letters hidden. It’s a mystery as to how they got sent out because she is in utter shock when Peter comes up to her talking about her letter and she has no idea what he’s talking about. I thought that idea was cute. It was everything else afterwards, like the pretend to date thing that I thought was familiar.
Cons:
Josh/Love Triangle. I really dislike love triangles. If they’re done well with interesting characters and serve a point for the story then okay, but I don’t think it was all that necessary here. I mean, Lara Jean liked Josh before and because of the whole letter fiasco, she and Peter made an agreement to work together to keep Josh from bothering her and to help Peter make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Josh of course doesn’t like this. So, throughout the book, whenever he gets the chance, he brings up how he doesn’t think Peter is good enough for her, she’s innocent and what not and to an extent I get what he was saying and trying to do, but not only did he come off rude, but the love triangle just annoyed me. It was just the Josh part of the equation that was just ugh. I didn’t mind Josh, I was indifferent to him, but I felt like he was unnecessarily… kind of a jerk for the sake of a triangle.
Cliché and predictable. Don’t get me wrong it’s super cute, but super cliché and predictable. I knew how it was going to end, I knew what was going to happen almost like clockwork throughout the story. There may have been a few character moments that might have surprised me but in terms of the plot points, I pretty much called all of them because it’s a formula and this book followed the formula. The idea was a bit different, but the execution turned out to be familiar.
Overall, I very enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I thought it was cute and it felt like a very energetic person was telling me the story. I liked all the characters for the most part, particularly Peter and Lara Jean. They really had a relationship that played well and didn’t feel forced or trying to hard. I thought the whole idea of it was cute and I really enjoyed the writing style as Lara Jean had a voice that kept me engaged. The Covey’s were also a great family. My main negatives are the fact that the love triangle was unnecessary and while I see the point, it made a character who didn’t have to be a negative become a negative. I also thought it was cliché and predictable once the plot gets moving. Otherwise, great read and I read it quickly. It’s fun. I feel like I said “cute” a lot in this review lol.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Have you read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Did you like it? How does it compare to the Netflix movie?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to like and follow this blog for more book reviews!

Book Review: Ghost Boys (2018)

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Summary: Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
This is a quick review.
Pros:
Characters. We meet a lot of characters in this story, with Jerome’s family and Carlos, even the bullies and the leader of the Ghost Boys, but I’m going to only focus on Jerome because he is who the story follows.
  • Jerome is the main character. We see the story through his eyes and the good thing is, is that while he’s a ghost (which isn’t a good thing), he gets to be everywhere. He’s a smart kid, kind, but he has a system, when he goes to school he’s really bullied by these kids and he’s used to it, but he has ways to avoid it. It’s sad really but understandable. When Carlos is introduced, no one reacts to be his friend, so Jerome does, and even when he doesn’t want to have Carlos around to make the bullying worse for him, he does. Later, when he meets Sarah and she can see him, he finds a bit of comfort in her even though they argued a lot at first since her dad was the officer that killed him. As the reader, you’ll feel bad for him because he was 12 and he had a life ahead of him, a life full of love and he has to watch his family suffer. His character feels like a real kid.
Story Importance. There is a lot going on in this book. Not a lot of action or anything, but a lot to think about. Characters deal with death, racism, bullying life after death, cultural traditions and it’s just so current that I think anyone can read this and completely identify with some aspect of Jerome’s life.
Emotional. I legit teared up twice and I think I kind of cried. Not sure. But it’s a very emotional story. In the first part, you learn about his death, there’s no easing into it, but when you get to meet Jerome before his death, meet his family and his relationship with them, it’s sad. Plus, Carlos feels this heavy guilt about Jerome’s death and when he talks with the grandmother at the end, it was a really moving moment. Also, Jerome can see into Emmett’s past, so his story is told again and that’s always sad and it makes me emotional regardless. Even if there aren’t any tears, I think readers would be moved.
Historical Connections. Being that the story is about the death of black boys at the hands of police, or violence, the inclusion of Emmett Till really helps put things into perspective. When Jerome first sees Emmett, we have no idea who he is, but he was my first thought (I didn’t really read the synopsis, so I didn’t realize Emmett Till was going to be in the story). There are also mentions of Tamir Rice and I think Jerome also sees Trayvon Martin’s ghost walking listening to music or something. In ways, it’s eerie because we know about these deaths but because Jerome was a victim of police brutality and racism, his story is connected to so many who came before him. I thought that was unique and it also gave Jerome things to consider and think about instead of just watching his family grieve for him.
Cons:
Heavy Handed. This was the only thing I could really think of when it came to what I might think would be a “negative”. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but I can imagine some people feeling too “pushed down” by the story. It’s an important story, but I think with what Jerome goes through, what Sarah deals with and what he learns from Emmett, that it could feel preachy.
Overall, while it took me a while to finish the book, I think it’s a great story for young readers to read and even understand what’s going on in the world today. I think the story is handled well and that the author doesn’t shy away from talking about grief, but also including how different cultures honor the dead. I think Jerome, being a young boy, gives the perspective of someone different as compared to teenagers or parents like in the other books of this nature. The story is importance, and I think the story is handled well. It’s emotional and holds historical importance. I can understand why someone might find it heavy-handed in the topic, and while I agree to a small extent, I think the author finds a balance.
Rating: 4 out 5 stars.
Check out Ghost Boys if you haven’t. It’s a powerful story told through the lens of a young kid. Give your young readers something to relate to but also understand the tragedy in the world today.
Next Book: I don’t know lol, I have a ton of things to read on my nightstand.

Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here (2018)

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Summary: When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.
The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.
Pros:
Colorful Characters. We meet a lot of characters in this story. They all stand out on their own I think, with their own usefulness, nicknames and what they mean in Marvin’s, and by extension, Tyler’s life.
  • Marvin Johnson. He is our narrator and he’s just a regular teenager in Alabama. He’s considered an “oatmeal creme pie” because he’s black but “acts white”, whatever that means lol, along with his two best friends. He’s smart, but unlike his brother, he’s the less popular one and maybe more awkward. Marvin wants to go to MIT, he knows that life is challenging due to the color of his skin and he tries to make sure he’s never in the position where his life is threatened, sometimes it just happens. When they have an encounter with an officer in the beginning, he watches his twin become increasingly distant and he worries. He often thinks he should do or say more than what he does, so when Tyler dies, he feels a tremendous guilt that he should have done something to help Tyler. As the book continues, we learn more about his anger, his extreme pain as he feels like his life has been taken away from him because his brother was taken away from him. Marvin is likable, and you really feel for him, but you also root for him to find peace. The fact that the book is told in his point of view, really allows for an up-close and personal look.
  • Tyler Johnson. Yes, he does die, but in the beginning of the book, we get to meet him and love him, and feel conflicted the same way Marvin does. Tyler and Marvin are close, but after an encounter with an officer in the beginning, Tyler becomes distant and we learn that he gets involved with a group of kids who he really shouldn’t. He says that it’s because he wants to help their mother out more around the house, but I think, that he was doing it because he wanted to feel safe or feel that he could protect himself if the time came down to it with another encounter. We don’t really know for sure, but I feel like, from what we’re told about him, that I really do like this kid and I wished he could have lived to live out his life.
  • Mama Johnson. You really feel for their mother. I believe they live in Alabama so she’s constantly worried that something will happen to her two black sons. When Tyler first “goes missing” she believes Marvin’s lie that he was at a friend’s house, and she’s hopeful, especially with the nonsense that happened at the party that everyone heard about. She breaks when Tyler’s body is discovered, and you really hope that she doesn’t remain broken throughout because Marvin needs her as much as she needs him. It’s sad watching her through Marvin’s eyes and how he feels like he can’t do anything for her, but she remains a strong presence for him, especially at the end.
  • Ivy & G-Mo. I put them together, but they are Marvin’s best friends and they complete the “Oatmeal Creme Pie Group”. They are ride or die friends, no matter how much Marvin might push them away in the story, they understand which I liked. They didn’t turn on him in his time of need which showed the strength of their friendship. Anytime Marvin called them and needed them, they answered and came. It was really sweet. Plus, whenever all three of them together, know there might be some corniness going on.
  • Faith. She starts out at this mysterious girl Marvin sees at the party. I at first thought, she was just going to serve a purpose and never show up again, but she becomes a large part of Marvin’s life. She starts out affiliated with Johntae (the gang member Tyler started hanging around) and Marvin goes to her for help, she at first refuses, but his persistency causes her to get more involved. She becomes another lifeline for Marvin and she’s really sweet to him. I wouldn’t have minded if she wasn’t in the story, but I saw the purpose she served, she was someone who entered his life because of the tragedy and remained.
The Story. The idea of a teenaged black boy being killed by a police officer is unfortunately nothing new, especially now. This book is very relevant considering its nature and I think that’s what makes it so powerful and emotional. It’s told from Marvin’s point of view, and we get to see him experience atrocities such as having guns pointed at him, dealing with his wrongfully incarcerated father, his brother who he feels pulling away from, not to mention his brother missing for a large chunk of the book, and worrying about where his life will head next. I think all of this is something that most people, especially young black people will experience and relate to. The principal in the school was absolutely ridiculous and I think people experience that in real life. I just think the story, at its core will hit very close to home.
Powerful Message. The book talks a lot about grief, loss, police brutality, blackness, among other things. I don’t think it rushes past anything, I think the grief is handled as realistically as possible. Marvin is in pain from losing his brother, but he feels a strong guilt as well that he should have done something. Justice, hatred and racism is a large part of the story as well, and Marvin gets to experience it first-hand. Just be prepared to go through a lot during this book, but it’s not preachy. It doesn’t feel heavy handed.
Realistic/Emotional. I teared up in quite a few places while reading. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record in the nature of the book, but I think it’s imperative to know that this isn’t an easy book to read. I mean, what it’s talking about should be something that’s acknowledged and talked about in society period, and Marvin often shares his feelings, I mean it’s in his point of view, but he doesn’t shy away from his anger, confusion or frustration. Reading about him watching his mother fall apart, or reading Marvin trying to make sense of his feelings, or his reaction when he finally sees the video of Tyler’s final moments. It’s pretty heartbreaking.
The Ending. So, I’m going to kind of mention this later, but the actual ending of the book was beautiful. I know what it’s like to have to spread ashes of a family member, it’s kind of weird experience, so I can relate to Marvin in that way. However, while there are still a few things that need to be tidied up, we get a sense of “moving on” for everyone, even Tyler.
The Cover. I mean just look at it. It’s beautiful. I love the flowers and the softness of the black boy. I just like that it’s not aggressive or sensual or any of the typical covers with black teens on the cover. I like that a lot of these young adult covers with black characters are going this route. It shows that our young people can be soft too.
Cons:
Starts off Slow. Because you pretty much know that Tyler dies at some point thanks to the description, you’re waiting for that moment while reading the book. It’s like you’re tense for most of the story, which is a good thing in ways, but it’s also a bad thing, because it takes a while to really gain some traction. I didn’t really get sucked into the story until a bit later, the first few chapters were for setting up, but it did really slowly.
Drawn Out. There are a lot of moments in the book, mostly towards the end, where it felt like it should have concluded many times. There was a part where it was damn near a perfect ending and I don’t think I would have been upset with that being the ending. The actual ending is great, don’t get me wrong, but I got the sense that Jay Coles tried to wrap everything up as best he could, but he could have done it many times.
Overall, I liked Tyler Johnson Was Here, the cover is beautiful, and I wanted to read it from the moment I saw it. I love the cover with the flowers and the soft, handsome black boy on the cover. I like all of the main characters, we definitely get some hated characters like the principal, and Johntae, and of course the police officer, but mostly all of the characters are likable. Especially Marvin and his friends. Marvin is our narrator and he tells the story with an emotional connection that keeps you invested once the story really picks up. It’s a realistic and emotional story that hits close to home with the tragedy of a black boy being murdered by a police officer, not to mention the many encounters of police brutality. I think the dialogue is pretty witty and sounds like black southern teenagers haha, I never felt like they were just characters in a book because some teens talk like that in real life. My only negatives are that the book takes a while to pick up, it starts off with a bang but then it slows down for a while. It kind of does that throughout as it feels like it’s being drawn out, there were many moments where the book should have ended, but it kept going. Don’t get me wrong, the ending was great but there were a lot of moments where it could have ended well. WITH THAT SAID, this is a great read and a great experience. Check it Out.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
What I’m Reading Next:
Scott Pilgrim– Bryan Lee O’Malley (but I’m not going to review these)

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The Last Black Unicorn– Tiffany Haddish (might review this, dunno)

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Book Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now (2018)

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Summary: I’ve got seven days to come clean to my new dad. Seven days to tell the truth…

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Pros:
Characters. We actually met a LOT of characters in this book but I think going through all of them or even mentioning would kind of ruin you getting to know them as Tiffany does so I’m not going to do that.
  • Tiffany Sly. She is our protagonist and our narrator. She just turned 16 and is traveling to California to live with a father she’s never met. In the first chapter, we learn that she is terrified of flying, and also terrified to meet Anthony Stone. She has anxiety and she’s always worried about things that could possibly kill her. Irrational fears and what not. She is very nervous about meeting her father, but she’s also a bit in doubt since not long before she departed, another man came to her home, thinking he might be her father and he wants her to take a DNA test. So she’s thinking about that, plus, the other man is going to serve her father a court order so she has to take a DNA test and she’s thinking about that time frame. Seven days to confirm who might be her father. She marches to the beat of her own drum, she doesn’t conform, at least not completely, she does try not to test the waters, but she can’t help but to speak out against certain things she finds ridiculous that her new family does. She’s easy to befriend Marcus, even though he did come off as weird in the beginning and everyone freaks out about him, but she was pretty easy about it. She’s from Chicago, so she tries really hard not to be a stereotype in this new place, that’s also majority white. I really liked Tiffany, there wasn’t anything about her I didn’t like. She’s super tall, so of course people assume she likes and/or plays a sport but she’s into music. I loved her “nerdiness” and just how it was just natural and a part of her and not something shocking because she’s a black girl into what she’s into.
  • Anthony Stone. He is a potential father for Tiffany, but he is the one she’s going to live with. We don’t really get to meet him until the second or third chapter, and he’s interesting but also seems very detached and I did not like him, mostly in the beginning. I softened up to him more towards the end, but it was a hard journey. I felt like Tiffany when it came to him. She was kind of awkward with him, but unsure if he could be her father, especially once she meets him and sees what he looks like. There are moments where it feels right, where you wonder “Wow, maybe he is her father” but then he does something outrageous and you’re like “NO! He can’t be her dad!” I mean this dude has some pretty ridiculous moments, but he’s also kind of tragic in ways. A lot of things that dealt with him made me cry, especially at the end. Oh man. I had so much whiplash with him but I think Dana L. Davis wrote an interesting man.
  • Marcus McKinney. Definitely my favorite character of the book, he’s definitely a secondary leading character but I loved every bit with him. When we first meet him, I was a little unsure to what he was doing, or what he looked like because of his description but it becomes clear later. It does take a while to learn what is up with him but I think that’s part of his charm as well. He doesn’t care anything about what other people think about him and he just lives his life because it’s his to live. There is something different about him and Tiffany doesn’t really pick up on it until later, but she never makes a big deal about anything. Marcus doesn’t either. He became a great friend for Tiffany and she for him. He wrote a book in the book and I actually want to read his book.
Realistic Dialogue. I definitely have to give Dana L. Davis praise, because the dialogue in this book was very realistic. Especially for the teenage characters. I always complain when I read certain young adult books because it seems like the authors don’t really understand how teenagers respond to things, or how they speak to each other. Sometimes it comes off really pretentious or childlike and just ugh, but Dana L. Davis does it so well. Tiffany sounded like a true 16-year-old teenage African-American girl. The conversations she would have with her grandmother on the phone, with her best friend, even the conversations she would have with London and her other sisters. It just really flowed well and it sounded genuine instead of generic and awkward. I mean outside of Tiffany being awkward in general.
Humorous. I laughed quite a lot reading this book. The dialogue is so funny, and the interactions between characters is always entertaining. The book is told in Tiffany’s point of view, so we get a lot of her inner thoughts and her reactions to things, her irrational fears, her though processes, or her telling us how other characters are looking at her, or reacting was very funny. Also, Marcus being so enigmatic as he was, was also pretty funny too and he did it without trying it was just part of his character. Also, Neveah is maybe where most of the humor comes from when it comes to dialogue. That little girl will say whatever it is she wants and doesn’t find the problem with it.
The Family Dynamic. Tiffany’s mother passed before the events of the book, she is still very hurt from it, but she has hope, since she is going to live with her father in California. She’s never met him so it’s a first anyway, but I think we see of the family is pretty interesting. I don’t necessarily agree with what the Stones do, or even believe in, I think it’s a little extreme, but that’s how it is for some families and I appreciate that the book really touched on that. Their family was dysfunctional and they tried to pretend like they weren’t. I always find that very interesting because there is so many options to explore. Also, when Tiffany gets added to the mix, it’s very weird and awkward at first, but as the book progresses, the women of the family, well some of them, really become a strong lifeline for her, or her for them. It was a great natural progression.
Very emotional. I cried. A lot actually. The book deals with death and grief, and loneliness and family, and abandonment and I can understand a lot of that. I’m definitely not going to get into anything, but I do think if you’ve lost a parent, or someone you were close to, this would really hit home for you. Also, Tiffany has anxiety, among other things and seeing her deal with that, or dealing with her father who doesn’t believe in that kind of stuff, it’s hard and challenging but the way it’s handled is really beautiful. I think the end, the last few chapters are what really got me, especially after the trip in Malibu. Oh man, I can imagine if you don’t cry but don’t be surprised if you do.
Thought provoking. Marcus McKinney is a fantastic character, probably my favorite in the story but he is so smart and his beliefs are truly amazing. I’ve never met anyone like him but I can imagine I’d befriend him as well. He’s a bit odd at first glance, sure, but the way he thinks about God and energy, I was like “he’s legit” and I actually feel the same way in some instances. I talked about it with my coworker the other day and we both were like “so deep”. I mean, I really thought about it while he would explain it to Tiffany. Plus, there was something special about him anyway, so he felt like a pure person.
Cons:
Unfinished Plotlines. I do think there is a lot that happens in this book. We get a lot of information and while I do think the book handles a lot of it really well, I do wish it would have gone a bit deeper, particularly with Pumpkin. She apparently she’s on the spectrum and at first I thought it was just something the mom made up, or they thought because they didn’t know how to really parent her outbursts, but the mom does try but nothing else really comes of that. Not that it had to be a big part of the story, but since it was brought up and since it was something Tiffany was around, I thought we should have seen more of that. Also, with London, there is something that happens with her and it does kind of become a little big something, but it kind of just ends. It was kind of strange to be honest.
Overall, I really loved Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now because it felt like an authentic story. Tiffany was a realistic teenager, she didn’t feel like an adult’s view of a teenager which I appreciated. I loved her interactions with other characters, and how she just marched to the beat of her own drum, she didn’t care because it was who she was. She loved her music, she loved the idea of what a father would be like to her and I think that’s all beautiful and so realistic for a teenage girl whose never had a father. I thought while complicated, Anthony Stone was a great character and someone who I ended up really liking and thinking was tragic by the end. Marcus was my favorite and I just want to sit and speak with him and also read his book. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it made me go “TELL EM AGAIN GIRL” and I finished it in a day so I loved it. My only real negative was that I felt there were a few storylines that didn’t get wrapped up as easily and I thought about it afterwards. But regardless, fantastic story.
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars.
What I’m reading Next:
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

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