Review: How it Went Down

howTitle: How it Went Down
Author: Kekla Magoon
Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Review copy: Digital Arc via Netgalley
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Review: A black boy in a hoodie shot by a white man – sound vaguely familiar? How it Went Down is a book that would work well in a book club or discussion group because it is, unfortunately, very relevant. Kekla Magoon tells a story that, while not based on specific people or one event, reflects situations that have occurred in the U.S. in the past few months and years. Fiction is a perfect vehicle for contemplation and discussion of tough subjects. Obviously, race is an issue that is front and center in this book. The dialogues in the book also raise questions about privilege, violence, and responsibility for friends, family and community among other things.

The story occurs over a span of nine days and is told through the voices of a wide variety of people. In some ways this makes the book very powerful since there are so many perspectives represented. It also inspires questions. How can there be so many versions of the same incident? How can two people standing right next to each other see something radically different? The various voices reveal actions, motivations, fears, and beliefs that led up to the shooting. These perspectives add a depth to the narrative, but the large number of voices (more than fifteen) make it challenging to distinguish them in the beginning. It’s also more difficult to connect to characters since the voices change often and are usually speaking briefly. Most of the voices are distinct though, so over time, this becomes less of an issue.

I especially looked forward to the voice of Tina, Tariq’s little sister. She spoke poetically. Her comments were simplistic, but they were also beautiful. She knew what she knew and trusted her brother implicitly.

This wasn’t an easy book to read. There are many moments of pain to be found and experienced. The worst part is that our news headlines contain similar situations. The story seemed all too possible.

Recommendation: Buy it now – especially if realistic fiction is your thing. This is a book that shouldn’t be missed. There is much food for thought and the characters are likely to stay with you for a long time.

Extra: Interview with Kekla Magoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shorter Days Equals Shorter Stories

The days are getting shorter and shorter where Audrey lives, so she thought it would be fun to revisit some great diverse YA anthologies/short story collections:

KaleidoscopeKaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
Twelfth Planet Press

Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy and science fiction stories.

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

open micOpen Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, edited by Mitali Perkins
Candlewick Press

Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute flat, simply by sitting quietly in between two uptight white women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poingnant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.

PrintThere’s a Name For This Feeling: Stories, by Diane Gonzales Bertrand || Spanish-language translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura
Arte Público Press

In the title story, Lucinda hatches a clever plan to get her boyfriend back and is crushed when she ultimately realizes that it’s impossible to force a guy to love you. Like all young people, she ignores the advice of her mom and learns that lesson—and many more—the hard way.

In this bilingual collection of ten short stories for young people, kids deal with both serious and humorous consequences after they ignore their parents’ suggestions and disobey rules. At a friend’s house on New Year’s Eve, Raymond plays with fireworks even though he promised his parents he wouldn’t. Kids on a track team search for a mysterious naked woman with embarrassing results. And two girls in a wax museum are in for a surprise when they ignore the signs about touching the figures.

These short and accessible contemporary stories are alternately amusing and poignant as they explore issues relevant to today’s youth. Teens deal with everything from grandparents suffering from dementia to difficult customers at a first job. And in one story, a young girl grieves the loss of her baby, a miscarriage her mom calls a “blessing.” These stories highlight the emotional tailspins of living in a complicated world.

diverseDiverse Energies, edited by Tobias S. Buckell & Joe Monti
Tu Books

In a world gone wrong, heroes and villains are not always easy to distinguish and every individual has the ability to contribute something powerful.

In this stunning collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the stars are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds. Take a journey through time from a nuclear nightmare of the past to society’s far future beyond Earth with these eleven stories by masters of speculative fiction. Includes stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursula K. Le Guin, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Daniel H. Wilson, and more.

New Releases

This book couldn’t be even more timely. While I haven’t read the book, based on the summary, this would be a good book to put in the hands of students of all colors to help them make sense of all the horrible tragedies taking place in the past few weeks.

howHow It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
Henry Holt and Co.

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: Frozen (Heart of Dread #1)

frozenTitle: Frozen (Heart of Dread #1)
Author: Melissa de la Cruz, Michael Johnston
Genres: fantasy, dystopian
Pages: 336
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Review Copy: the library
Availability: September 17th 2013

Summary:
Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she’s heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Frozen felt like a story of adventure — you know, a ragtag band of youths go travelling. That sort of adventure. Natasha, a blackjack dealer with a past that is a mystery even to herself, wants out of New Vegas. Everywhere is covered in ice and is, essentially, a frozen wasteland — save for the legendary place called “the Blue,” where the tropical waters are (surprise) blue and not frozen.

Natasha has a magical secret and dark voices in her head — a few of the many things about herself that she doesn’t understand. What she does know is that her secrets — betrayed by her colorful eyes — are dangerous to her. To avoid persecution and gain her freedom, she must flee New Vegas and search out the mythical Blue with the help of a band of boys lead by the oh-so-mysterious-and-hot Ryan Wesson, he of the tragic backstory.

While the worldbuilding and characters had a lot of potential, there was little to no follow through. The imagery of the frozen world was vivid and fascinating, but there was barely any explanation as to how the world had ended up frozen. There was only a cursory explanation about why magical beings were hated and hunted. Aside from the prologue, there is very little set-up or foundation for a lot of the elements in the story — magical marks, colorful eyes, frozen lands, and so on.

The romantic subplot was, unfortunately, the usual fare… dangerous, heterosexual longing, overlaid with a heavy sense of doom. Similarly, the ‘colorful eyes equals special and different’ device was also one that was all too familiar. Though Frozen is set in a frozen world vastly different from the settings of most YA lit, I still felt like this book was treading very, very familiar ground.

While the book was a fun read, it was hard to get away from the feeling that I had dropped into the middle of a book series by accident… even though I was reading the first book in a series. While the world and characters of Frozen are intriguing, the lack of explanation or follow-through made it difficult to fully enjoy the book.

Frozen is a great book for anyone who is looking for an adventure story with an interesting post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland setting.

Recommendation: Borrow it someday

Finding Diverse Lit

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Diverse Lit is Out There

Last month, René Saldaña, Jr. wrote a guest post over at Latin@s in Kid Lit that sparked some excellent conversation around the availability and purchasing of diverse lit. If you missed it, the title does give a pretty good hint at the topic – “Forgive Me My Bluntness: I’m a Writer of Color and I’m Right Here In Front of You: I’m the One Sitting Alone at the Table.” He made some pretty clear statements and this stuck with me, “The books are there. All you have to do is look for them.” This wasn’t something entirely new either. Back in January of 2013, Shelley Diaz wrote “Librarians Sound Off: Not a Lack of Latino Lit for Kids, But a Lack of Awareness.”

I am all for the creation of a larger number of diverse books given the statistics that CCBC provides, but I would agree that librarians, teachers, readers, and others who make book purchases, may not be finding the diverse books that already exist.

Where to Find It

To help fulfill our mission to promote diverse young adult lit, we have a release calendar up in the menu bar along with our resource page and review archive. In addition, we post many book lists. Beyond the resources here at Rich in Color, there have also been some posts and lists published around the Internet in the past year that you can access for more titles:

Where Can I Find Great Diverse Children’s Books? (Lee & Low)

Embracing Diversity in YA Lit (Shelley Diaz – scroll down for the resources)

Resources Generated by CCBC-Net Discussion (Edi Campbell)

We Need Diverse Books Campaign – full of reading suggestions and resources

Reading Challenges – these challenges supply suggested titles and participants may provide reviews of the books they read

If we want a greater volume of diverse books in the market going forward, we need to buy and promote the ones that are already here. Many people are talking about the need for diverse literature. Talking about it is a step forward, but to make real change happen, we need to act.

Two Books This Week

We found two books for our release calendar this week. You should check them out!

mortalMortal Gods (Goddess War, #2) by Kendare Blake
Tor Teen

Ares, God of War, is leading the other dying gods into battle. Which is just fine with Athena. She’s ready to wage a war of her own, and she’s never liked him anyway. If Athena is lucky, the winning gods will have their immortality restored. If not, at least she’ll have killed the bloody lot of them, and she and Hermes can die in peace.

Cassandra Weaver is a weapon of fate. The girl who kills gods. But all she wants is for the god she loved and lost to return to life. If she can’t have that, then the other gods will burn, starting with his murderer, Aphrodite.

The alliance between Cassandra and Athena is fragile. Cassandra suspects Athena lacks the will to truly kill her own family. And Athena fears that Cassandra’s hate will get them ALL killed.

The war takes them across the globe, searching for lost gods, old enemies, and Achilles, the greatest warrior the world has ever seen. As the struggle escalates, Athena and Cassandra must find a way to work together. Because if they can’t, fates far worse than death await.

taking flightTaking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela & Elaine Deprince
Knopf Books for Young Readers

The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.

Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is now the youngest principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She has appeared in the ballet documentary First Position, as well as on Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America, and Nightline.

In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet’s most exciting rising stars.