Four New Books For You

We have four books on our radar this week–which ones are you interested in?

the-hate-u-giveThe Hate U Give by A.C. Thomas
Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty.

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.

The Ship Beyond Time (The Girl from Everywhere #2) by Heidi Heilig
Greenwillow Books

The breathtaking sequel to the acclaimed The Girl from Everywhere. Nix has escaped her past, but when the person she loves most is at risk, even the daughter of a time traveler may not be able to outrun her fate—no matter where she goes. Fans of Rae Carson, Alexandra Bracken, and Outlander will fall hard for Heidi Heilig’s sweeping fantasy.

Nix has spent her whole life journeying to places both real and imagined aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. And now it’s finally time for her to take the helm. Her father has given up his obsession to save her mother—and possibly erase Nix’s existence—and Nix’s future lies bright before her. Until she learns that she is destined to lose the one she loves. But her relationship with Kash—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—is only just beginning. How can she bear to lose him? How can she bear to become as adrift and alone as her father?

Desperate to change her fate, Nix takes her crew to a mythical utopia to meet another Navigator who promises to teach her how to manipulate time. But everything in this utopia is constantly changing, and nothing is what it seems—not even her relationship with Kash. Nix must grapple with whether anyone can escape her destiny, her history, her choices. Heidi Heilig weaves fantasy, history, and romance together to tackle questions of free will, fate, and what it means to love another person. But at the center of this adventure are the extraordinary, multifaceted, and multicultural characters that leap off the page, and an intricate, recognizable world that has no bounds. The sequel—and conclusion—to the indie darling The Girl from Everywhere will be devoured by fans of Rachel Hartman and Maggie Stiefvater. Includes black-and-white maps.

Rebels like Us by Liz Reinhardt
Harlequin Teen

“It’s not like I never thought about being mixed race. I guess it was just that, in Brooklyn, everyone was competing to be exotic or surprising. By comparison, I was boring, seriously. Really boring.”

Culture shock knocks city girl Agnes “Nes” Murphy-Pujols off-kilter when she’s transplanted mid–senior year from Brooklyn to a small Southern town after her mother’s relationship with a coworker self-destructs. On top of the move, Nes is nursing a broken heart and severe homesickness, so her plan is simple: keep her head down, graduate and get out. Too bad that flies out the window on day one, when she opens her smart mouth and pits herself against the school’s reigning belle and the principal.

Her rebellious streak attracts the attention of local golden boy Doyle Rahn, who teaches Nes the ropes at Ebenezer. As her friendship with Doyle sizzles into something more, Nes discovers the town she’s learning to like has an insidious undercurrent of racism. The color of her skin was never something she thought about in Brooklyn, but after a frightening traffic stop on an isolated road, Nes starts to see signs everywhere—including at her own high school where, she learns, they hold proms. Two of them. One black, one white.

Nes and Doyle band together with a ragtag team of classmates to plan an alternate prom. But when a lit cross is left burning in Nes’s yard, the alterna-prommers realize that bucking tradition comes at a price. Maybe, though, that makes taking a stand more important than anything.

Future Threat (Future Shock #2) by Elizabeth Briggs
AW Teen

Six months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information–but not everyone made it back to the present alive. Now Elena’s dealing with her survivor’s guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she’s done with time travel and Aether Corporation.

But Aether’s not done with her–or Adam, or fellow survivor Chris. The travelers on Aether’s latest mission to the future have gone missing, and Elena and her friends are drafted into the rescue effort. They arrive in a future that’s amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation’s reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events.

But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost–or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything–including their relationship–to save their friends.

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Review: Exo by Fonda Lee

Title: Exo
Author: Fonda Lee
Genres: Science-fiction
Pages: 384
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Copy: eARC received via Edelweiss
Availability: Available now

Summary: It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

Review: It has been a while since I’ve read any science fiction, and Exo reminded me of several of my favorite aspects of the genre: aliens, moral quandaries, and cool technology.

Unlike a lot of my favorite science fiction, the aliens that Fonda Lee has created for Exo are very un-human-like, what with their mushroom-like bodies with six legs, six eyes, fins, and armor. The scattered information we got about the War Era and the conquering of earth—a billion people dead, the reshaping of political boundaries, a new social system—was intriguing. Occasionally, I felt like the world of Exo was too wide for just Donovan’s point of view and wished to see it from inside someone else’s head. Particularly someone from a less privileged life.

Donovan was an engaging character, and it was easy to root for him even when I didn’t think he was making the right choices. Watching him start to question the way of life he was raised in—while simultaneously criticizing opposing views—was a satisfying character arc, though it doesn’t feel complete. (But I suppose that’s what sequels are for.) While I wanted to see more of his life not centered around his job, I have to admit that there were several riveting action scenes because of it. Lee did a great job with her action scenes and in creating the tension- and dread-filled scenes leading up to them.

Perhaps my most significant complaint about Exo is the limited development of several significant side characters, most notably Anya and Donovan’s father. While we were told some formative parts of Anya’s backstory, even Donovan had a throwaway line about how little he really knew her and speculation that his attraction to her was more the result of trauma and loneliness than anything else. Considering the great personal risks he takes for her in the climax, I wish that Anya—and her relationship to Donovan—had been more fleshed out. Similarly, I don’t feel as if we ever got to know Donovan’s father very well on an intimate level, which was a shame, considering how important he was within the story.

I also noticed something that concerned me: the use of Native American imagery. Saul Strong Winter is the name of the Sapience cell leader in the Black Hills, so I presume he is of Native descent, but we are never given a specific tribe or nation for him. A “Native American eagle” design is a symbol of Sapience, referred to as a symbol of freedom, but it gets put on bumper stickers, and features in a tattoo (by a character I believe is non-Native) that turns out to be an important clue for Donovan later on. I don’t know enough about Native American representation to talk about this further, but I would appreciate hearing from any Native American readers about their thoughts on this book.

EDIT (2/20/17): I have been informed by the author that she and her editor made changes to the book prior to printing regarding this imagery. While an eagle tattoo still features in the plot, it is no longer a Native American design. They realized that Sapience’s use of a Native American design would be problematic and corrected that for the print version of the book.

Recommendation: Get it soon, if alien conquests in science fiction are your thing. While Exo isn’t without problems, it is a fun, fast read with some interesting world building. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Extras
Interview with Fonda Lee at Rich in Color

Excerpt of Exo

Shades of Grey – Developing Unique Characters That are a Blend of Evil and Good by Fonda Lee

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8 YA Books for #BlackHistoryMonth

In honor of Black History Month, we here at Rich in Color compiled a short list of eight YA books to celebrate!

suitThe Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

Love Is the DrugLove is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books

Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.

Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.

The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

MarchMarch by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Artist)
Top Shelf Productions

MARCH is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights (including his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March), meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation.

In MARCH, a true American icon teams up with one of America’s most acclaimed graphic novelists. Together, they bring to life one of our nation’s most historic moments, a period both shameful and inspiring, and a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

promisePromise of Shadows by Justina Ireland
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin.

But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate. Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything.

flygirlFlygirl by Sherri L. Smith
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.

Perfect LiarsPerfect Liars by Kimberly Reid
Tu Books

In this YA heist novel, a society girl with a sketchy past leads a crew of juvie kids in using their criminal skills for good.

Andrea Faraday is junior class valedictorian at the exclusive Woodruff School, where she was voted Most Likely to Do Everything Right. But looks can be deceiving. When her parents disappear, her life—and her Perfect Girl charade—begins to crumble, and her scheme to put things right just takes the situation from bad to so much worse. Pretty soon she’s struck up the world’s least likely friendship with the juvenile delinquents at Justice Academy, the last exit on the road to jail—and the first stop on the way out.

If she were telling it straight, friendship might not be the right word to describe their alliance, since Drea and her new associates could not be more different. She’s rich and privileged; they’re broke and, well, criminal. But Drea’s got a secret: she has more in common with the juvie kids than they’d ever suspect. When it turns out they share a common enemy, Drea suggests they join forces to set things right. Sometimes, to save the day, a good girl’s gotta be bad.

MonsterMonster: A Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers and Guy A. Sims, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
Amistad

A stunning black-and-white graphic novel adaptation of Walter Dean Myers’s Michael L. Printz Award winner and New York Times bestseller Monster, adapted by Guy Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Monster is a multi-award-winning, provocative coming-of-age story about Steve Harmon, a teenager awaiting trial for a murder and robbery. As Steve acclimates to juvenile detention and goes to trial, he envisions the ordeal as a movie. Monster was the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award recipient, an ALA Best Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor selection, and a National Book Award finalist.

Now Monster has been adapted into a graphic novel by Guy Sims, with stunning black-and-white art from Dawud Anyabwile, Guy’s brother.

Fans of Monster and of the work of Walter Dean Myers—and even kids who think they don’t like to read—will devour this graphic adaptation.

wishA Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot

Genna Colon desperately wants to escape from a drug-infested world of poverty, and every day she wishes for a different life. One day Genna’s wish is granted and she is instantly transported back to Civil War-era Brooklyn.


Which ones have you read? What books are on your Black History Month reading list? Let us know!

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Interview with Fonda Lee

Everyone, please welcome Fonda Lee to Rich in Color! Fonda’s new sci-fi book, EXO, is out today, and we’re thrilled to be part of her book tour. (You can find all the other stops on the tour–including other interviews, reviews, excerpts, and a guest post–by checking out the tour schedule at the end of the post.) There’s also a U.S. only giveaway for the book, which you can enter through the widget at the end of the interview.

If you love science fiction, you should consider adding EXO to your reading list! Here’s the summary:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

Find it: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksGoodreads

Now on to the interview!


Tell us more about the aliens you created for EXO and your world-building process for a conquered Earth.

The aliens in Exo are called the zhree. I wanted them to be very different from humans in appearance yet enough like humans in character that it was eminently plausible that the two species could work together. So I decided they needed to be land dwelling, highly social creatures with vocal language and dexterous appendages. Everything else was left up to my imagination. The zhree (or “shrooms” as some humans call them) have dome-shaped torsos, six limbs, six eyes, fins, and super strong flexible armor over their bodies.

In creating the world of Exo, I thought a lot about how Earth might have changed in the aftermath of alien arrival and global war. In movies, aliens often arrive over New York or another big city, but why would new explorers set down somewhere already densely infested with natives? I set the alien cities in sparsely populated places: Mongolia, Patagonia, the Australian outback, and here in North America, smack on the prairie on the border of Wyoming and Nebraska. And then I imagined how, over the course of a hundred years, war refugees and those privileged enough to work with the new governors would all flock to those sites and the world would be drastically reshaped by alien presence.

What can you tell us about the main character (Donovan) and his exocel?

Donovan is a young man with a tough job, who genuinely wants to do the right thing—he just isn’t always sure what that is. And navigating the moral dilemmas of the world he lives in just gets harder and harder for him. Donovan’s been raised to have a strong sense of duty and responsibility, but he’s also aware of the fact that he’s part of a privileged class. At a young age, he was Hardened—he went through a dangerous procedure that endowed him with an exocel, an alien biotechnology that gives his body a flexible, invulnerable armor that makes him stronger and much longer-lived. His status as an exo and as the son of a powerful political figure mean that he’s very much invested in the alien-governed world, but he’s also forced to come to grips with the violence, inequity, and problems associated with it.

Donovan has a conflicted identity: the aliens see him as human, but other humans see him as alien. My editor pointed out that his situation is in many ways a metaphor for mixed-race or second generation kids. I had no idea I was doing that, but given my own identity as the child of immigrants, I realized that she was right: my own experience had seeped into my protagonist’s character.

Your bio says that you have black belts in karate and kung fu. There were several great fight scenes in your previous book, Zeroboxer–can we expect intense fight scenes in EXO, too?

I promise Exo is just as action-packed, but in a different way. Zeroboxer is full of hand-to-hand combat, so in writing it, I relied heavily on my own martial arts background and watched an awful lot of UFC. Exo has a much more military sensibility, with firearms and dangerous missions and explosions. I’m neither a soldier nor a firearms expert myself, so I read a lot of military memoir, went to gun demonstrations, and did research. I enjoy all sorts of fight scenes; writing them is always a pleasure for me.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing EXO? What has the most rewarding part been?

The most difficult aspect of writing Exo was setting it up as the first book in a potential series while still delivering a story that was entirely satisfying on its own. My first book, Zeroboxer, was a standalone, so I hadn’t faced this challenge before. At the time, I didn’t know if my publisher would want a sequel to Exo so I needed to lay the foundation and keep that door open without leaving readers hanging at the end. It took quite a bit of revision for me to nail that balance to my and my editor’s satisfaction.

The most rewarding part of writing Exo has been, honestly, confirming that I can do this writing thing as a career. It’s difficult to write and publish a book; it’s more difficult to sit down and do it again. And again. And again. If you can still love writing and be motivated after the debut process, I think that says something. The second book is hard; writing Exo gave me confidence I have lots more books in me.

Both EXO and Zeroboxer are science fiction. What draws you to tell science fiction stories? Are there other genres you’d like to explore soon?

I’ve loved science fiction ever since I was a kid. I can blame my dad—he told me that he used to hold me in his lap as a baby while watching Star Trek original series reruns. Science fiction can be a very fun, entertaining genre full of cool futuristic gadgets and rollicking adventure, but it’s also, I would argue, the absolute best genre for exploring ideas about our world and society. The potential to both thrill readers and make them think is what draws me so strongly to the genre over and over again.

That said, I’m a fantasy writer as well so you’ll see me cross between science fiction and fantasy, YA and adult. I have no desire to write in any other genre; I have too many sci-fi and fantasy ideas already!

Why is diversity in young adult fiction important to you?

It’s more realistic. I know that sounds like a particularly blunt and unsentimental reason, but it’s true. Our society is diverse and growing more so. Fiction reflects truth; fiction should reflect diversity. As a science fiction writer, it’s my job to look at the world as it is and make plausible extrapolations into the future. Imaginary worlds are mirrors into our own. So, to me, it’s especially important to champion diversity in genre fiction because all people need to be able to see themselves as protagonists.

What books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to this year?

I’ve got my eyes on Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien, Want by Cindy Pon, Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh, and Warcross by Marie Lu.

What’s ahead for you? Are you able to share anything you’re currently writing/revising?

I’m hard at work on Exo 2, which will be out in the summer of 2018!

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive a finished copy of EXO, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. Her debut novel, Zeroboxer was an Andre Norton Award finalist, Jr. Library Guild Selection, ALA Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Oregon Book Award finalist, and Oregon Spirit Book Award winner. Her second novel, Exo, releases from Scholastic in February 2017.

Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever.

Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Facebook | Goodreads

Tour Schedule:

Week One:
1/23/2017- Tales of the Ravenous Reader Interview
1/24/2017- Bibliobibuli YA– Review
1/25/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Excerpt\
1/26/2017- The Forest of Words and Pages– Review
1/27/2017- Novel Novice– Excerpt

Week Two:
1/30/2017- Omg Books and More Books– Review
1/31/2017- Rich in Color– Interview
2/1/2017- Nerdophiles– Review
2/2/2017-Fantasy Book Critic– Guest Post
2/3/2017- Such a Novel Idea– Review

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One sci-fi book this week!

We have one science-fiction book on our radar this week–and make sure to come back tomorrow, when we’ll be posting an interview with the author!

exoExo by Fonda Lee
Scholastic

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

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Review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories

Title: Flying Lessons & Other Stories
Editor & Authors: Ellen Oh (Editor), Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander, Walter Dean Myers, Meg Medina, Tim Tingle, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, and Grace Lin
Genres: Anthology
Pages: 216
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now

Summary: Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.

From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

Review: Technically, Flying Lessons is a middle grade book, not young adult, but my love for these stories overruled small technicalities like that. I was so excited when I first heard that this anthology was coming out, and I’m happy to say that Flying Lessons more than lived up to my expectations.

Flying Lessons featured stories about a wide variety of racially diverse characters and included LGBTQ characters and disabled characters as well. The characters also filled a variety of socioeconomic levels, from a family wealthy enough that the grandmother could take a child away on a several-week traipse through Europe to a family that ended up homeless. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy, and maybe even see themselves in, in this collection. (However, I will note that I was surprised and disappointed that the titular story “Flying Lessons” by Soman Chainani included the slurs g*psy–“g*ypsy bangles”–and lame–“so he doesn’t think I’m lame.”)

My favorite stories were “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium” by Matt de la Peña (a thoughtful account of a summer at a new basketball court and the lessons learned there), “The Difficult Path” by Grace Lin (a fun story starring a servant girl who has an encounter with famous pirates—I’d love a full book on this one), and “Secret Samantha” by Tim Federle (one of the cutest first crush stories I’ve read in ages). The other seven stories are also very good, and they span a wide range of topics, styles, and tones. Some stories are more serious (dealing with the death of a parent or trying to navigate some nasty microagressions), while others are more lighthearted (a story-within-a-story about a family’s encounter with the Naloosha Chitto, the Choctaw equivalent of Bigfoot).

While I love “The Difficult Path,” it does feel strikingly out of place as the only story in this anthology that wasn’t set in the present day. Since it was the second story in the book, it made me think we were going to get more non-present-day stories (e.g., historical, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), but I was disappointed when that never happened. I would love to see another anthology like this with more non-contemporary titles and with even more kinds of representation.

Recommendation: Get it soon, particularly if you enjoy middle grade fiction! Flying Lessons is a thoughtfully compiled anthology that strove to be as inclusive as possible, and it mostly achieved its goal to celebrate diverse voices.

Extras
“‘We need diverse books,’ they said. And now a group’s dream is coming to fruition.”

“‘Flying Lessons’ Is The Short Story Collection Every Child Needs To Read In 2017.”

“A Collection of Tales That Bind.”

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