Book Review: Inheritance

inheritanceTitle: Inheritance
Author: Malinda Lo
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Pages: 480
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley
Availability: Releases on Sept. 24

Summary: Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe. (summary from author’s webpage http://www.malindalo.com)

Review: I thought long and hard what to write for this review because there is so much to Malinda Lo’s awesome-sauce speculative fiction novel that I just don’t know where to begin, or to write without giving away spoilers. Inheritance is the sequel to Lo’s third novel, Adaptation, where high school students Reese Holloway and David Li undergo surgery where their bodies are transformed by the Imria. Adaptation is a fast paced novel that explores the changes Reese and David experience, as well as Reese coming to terms with her sexuality when she falls for a girl named Amber Gray. The novel ends right at an intense point, where I could imagine Lo fans screaming in frustration, desiring to know what happens next. Luckily for me, a mere days after I finished Adaptation, the opportunity to read the ARC of Inheritance was presented to me and I jumped at the chance.

 

 
Fans of Adaptation will not be disappointed with the conclusion of Reese’s and Amber’s and David’s story. In fact, the tension in Inheritance becomes even more intense. The conspiracies spin out of control, the danger becomes real as both Reese and David experience violence from extremists on both sides who react exactly as imagined upon learning that beings from another world exist. And the love triangle between Reese, David and Amber is handled with such delicate care that the reader really can’t choose who to root for. Lo resolves the triangle in an unconventional way that will have fans either loving the resolution or hating it. I, in fact, loved it and thought it to be a brave choice by Lo.

 

 
Inheritance begins where Adaptation left off and doesn’t slow down for a minute. While there is less physical action scenes, the novel explores the consequences of what would happen to our society if the notion of aliens visiting our planet turn out to be true. The novel also explores the idea of “fame” and the role the media plays into the daily lives of those who are thrust into the spotlight as Reese and David are. I find that these types of stories are more compelling than your regular action mystery/SciFi novel because it allows us, both the writer and the reader, to look at our society in a unique way and answer the question of “what if”. By playing with these “what if” scenarios through novels like Inheritance, we can be prepared for when the events actually occur.

 

 
I greatly enjoyed Inheritance and while the ending is left on a positive note, and definitely completes the story, there is much more to explore in Reese’s world. I hope Malinda Lo has more planned for Reese, Amber and David, because I’d really like to spend more time with them.

 

 
Recommendation: Get it now! Inheritance comes out on Sept. 24th. If you haven’t read Adaptation, buy it now and then pre-order Inheritance.

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Flashback in Color: Tears of a Tiger

Summer is officially over and all the children are back in school, learning the three R’s and reading, hopefully, diverse literature. In this “Back to School” themed post of Flashback in Color, I’d like to reminisce on the book that opened my eyes to using YA literature in the classroom, Sharon Draper’s first book in the Hazelwood High Trilogy, Tears of a Tiger.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

I was introduced to this book during my first year of teaching when I was struggling with my sophomore students. My principal at the time suggested that instead of using the literature book, which was boring to the students (and to me, I must admit), that why don’t I have them read a novel that will relate to their lives and be of interest of them. He pulled out a copy of the book, handed it to me to read over the weekend, which I actually read in about 2 hours. It was just that intense and such a good read that the minute I put it down, I was already planning how to tie the book to my curriculum. The unit ended up being a success as my boys (I was at an all boys school) connect to the book, loved it in fact, and couldn’t wait to discuss the novel in class. Many students read it all in one sitting. Teaching Tears of a Tiger opened my eyes to Young Adult literature beyond Harry Potter (all I had read at that point) and what a powerful tool YA literature can be in the classroom. Ever since then, I have incorporated YA literature in all of my units, allowing for students to connect to the stories and be able to discuss issues that are important to them. While I have not taught Tears of a Tiger in a number of years, I still recommend it to students, specifically my young men, and actually teach another one of Sharon Draper’s novels.  Her novels accurately portray the teenage voice (Ms. Draper was a teacher herself) and deals with issues that teenagers face in high school. Draper doesn’t sugarcoat the lives of her characters, often being very frank and descriptive in the violence and/or the tragedies they face.

 
Tears of a Tiger is one such book that explores the tragic consequences of drinking and driving. In the novel, Andy Jackson is a star basketball player and one night after a game, he and a few friends decide to drink and drive. They ultimately crash and his best friend Robert is burned alive when the car catches fire. The rest of the novel deals with Andy’s guilt and the effects of the crash in his relationships, school work, and overall outlook on life. Draper uses a variety of methods, from newspaper clippings to school essays, to tell Andy’s story. The novel moves at a fast pace as you read about Andy’s downward spiral into depression. Tears of a Tiger is a touching story that made my heart race at points and brought tears at others. I can tell you that middle school boys and high school sophomores highly recommend this book. Buy one for them, they will thank you for it.

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New Releases

One new release for the end of August and end of summer. I have not read any of the previous books in the trilogy, but I am a lover of series, so the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, now that it is finished, is added to my already long reading list.

BitterThe Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson

Greenwillow Books

The third book in Rae Carson’s award-winning The Girl of Fire and Thorns fantasy trilogy. Elisa, the seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen, will travel into an unknown enemy’s realm to win back her true love, save her kingdom, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and George R. R. Martin’s style of sweeping and deeply satisfying epic fantasy, the third and final book in the trilogy takes the young queen on a journey more dangerous than any she has faced before. Elisa will stand before the gate of the enemy. And she must rise up as champion—even to those who have hated her—or her kingdom will fall. Full of sorcery, adventure, sizzling romance, and secrets that challenge everything she believes, this is a bold and powerful conclusion to an extraordinary trilogy.

(Image & summary via Amazon)

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No More “Surpise! It’s Diversity!”

Contrary to the title of this post, I like surprises, especially plot twists. I like a surprise where I can scream then giggle like a little girl and surprises where my heart flutters in joy. The surprise I’d like to stop having is the “Novel Diversity Surprise.” Now, you might be thinking, isn’t that a good thing? No, it’s not. Here’s why.

My good friend Haneen surprised at a book's diversity.

My good friend Haneen surprised at a book’s diversity.

Earlier this summer Lee & Low Books, in connection with the Cooperative Children’s Book Center released a graphic of the dismal diversity in children’s literature. That conversation is still going some 2 months later. Clearly, most children and young adult literature reflects the dominant culture, with characters of color (both main characters and secondary characters) practically non-existent. In last month’s essay, I noted that authors need to also create diverse worlds as that is the nature of the world we are living in. Here is where the “Novel Diversity Surprise” comes into play. As an avid reader, I constantly read books that do not reflect the world I’m accustomed to and am used to accepting the “default” – that of the dominant culture – that when I read a book that has an actual diverse world, I’m surprised.

I’m surprised to see a Black character, a Latino character, and Asian character in a novel where I wasn’t expecting them to be. A thrill runs through my body when I see characters that look like me or people I know in a novel where I wasn’t expecting them to be. I am thankful for the author to include characters of color in a novel where I wasn’t expecting them to be. Do you see a theme occurring here? I’m reading a book, expecting to find only one hue color and instead find a variety. Yay! Let’s do the happy dance! *Sarcasm*

But no. See, the thing is, if publishers, book sellers, etc. encouraged the selling of books with diverse casts, and if more writers from the dominant culture wrote books that reflected their diverse world, I shouldn’t be surprised when I read the book. Diversity in literature should be the norm, not the exception to the rule. Many writers of color often write books where diversity is represented, because that is how we experience the world, but many writers from the dominant culture fail in this arena. And when writers from the dominant culture include diversity in their books, it’s is seen as a novelty, something special. A surprise gift.

This surprise gift needs to come to an end. Having a diverse world (shoot even diverse universe for the SciFi/Fantasy people) should not be seen as unique and special; it should be seen as the norm. No, not seen as the norm; it needs to become the norm. Until such time, I’ll continue to be on the hunt for books that reflect diversity in all forms and raise my eyebrows in surprise when it comes.

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Book Review: Long Division

long divisinoTitle: Long Division
Author: Keise Laymon
Genres: Literature/Contemporary
Pages: 267
Publisher: Bolden
Review Copy: Purchased from Amazon
Availability: On shelves now

 
I’m a Doctor Who fan, but I will admit that the timey-wimey stuff often gets me confused. I loved time-travel stories but I’m usually left scratching my head at the end because I just can’t make it work the linear way my mind wants me to. This feeling, this confusion, is what I had at the end of Keise Laymon’s debut novel. This is not a reflection on him as a writer, but everything on me as the reader.

 
While I was reading the novel, I enjoyed the adventures of the two main characters, both named City Coldson, but divided by 28 years. Long Division is a novel within a novel, and I wondered at the end if 1985 City was real, and not a character in a novel, or if 2013 City was real and not a character in a novel. I really hope that sentence makes sense, but if it doesn’t, that’s the complexity that is Long Division. The ending is a bit vague with the answers, leaving the reader to make up their own minds. I’d like to think both City Coldsons were real, but that would mean…oh my…*scratches head*

 
Moving on, Long Division is a novel about teenagers making sense of the racial inequalities in their world, as well as learning to be responsible for one’s actions, both positive and negative. Because it is a novel with time travel in it, the reader experiences life in 1964, 1985, and 2013. Making each of these time periods distinct, and the characters interactions during each of the time periods, is what Laymon does best. For example, I was a tween in 1985, therefore a number of the references 1985 City makes, how he speaks, is very true to the time period. Conversely, 2013 City reads just like one of my students. Laymon does a good job capturing the myriad of thoughts teenagers will have in a given moment.  This oftentimes led to some hilarious inner monologues and exchanges from both of the young men. Both 1985 City’s and 2013 City’s section are given to the reader in first person, so we are privy to the boys mixture of deep and mundane thoughts. And just like regular teens, these thoughts can go from deep to mundane in the blink of an eye. It was usually at those moments that I laughed the most.

 
The novel takes place over a series of days, but both 1985 City and 2013 City make the transition from boys to men in that short period of time, coming to understand the complexity of the effects of one’s decision and how it can have a lasting impact. I won’t give it away, but there is a moment towards the end where 1985 City has to make a decision that no adult would want, but he handles it with a maturity and grace that is absolutely beautiful.

 
Lastly, Long Division is not a novel where you can sit back and relax. You have to pay attention; notice the social commentary that Laymon drops subtly all throughout the novel. It is a very different type of Young Adult novel, but is one that teens are capable of finding, discussing, and examining the deeper meanings behind the words presented on the page. It is a novel that respects the teenage mind, while challenging them at the same time.

 

Recommendation: Get It Soon

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New Releases

July was a slow month for new releases, but makes up for the lack of diverse books by publishing 4 in the last few days. Plus, a new one from one of my favorite authors, Walter Dean Myers!!

 

everIf I Ever Get Out of Here, By Eric Gansworth

Arthur A. Levine Books

Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?

Acclaimed adult author Eric Gansworth makes his YA debut with this wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll. –Cover image and summary from Goodreads

dramaWay Too Much Drama, By Earl Sewell

Harlequin Kimani Tru

The toughest lessons aren’t always taught in the classroom… Maya is ready to put the fabulous back into her life—and that means getting her manipulative cousin, Viviana, out of it. Bad enough that Viviana is living under the same roof and tried to claim Maya’s boyfriend, Misalo, for herself. Now she’s going to Maya’s high school and she’s part of the quiz team competing on a TV show…alongside Maya, Keysha and Misalo. 

Maya has no sympathy when Viviana finally starts to feel the pressure of fitting in to her new world. That’s until her cousin does something drastic…and dangerous. Maybe Viviana isn’t as tough as everyone thought. Maya could be the only person who can help bring her back safely. Question is…does she want to?

cruisersThe Cruisers: Oh Snap!, By Walter Dean Myers

Scholastic

The Cruisers are in trouble — again. The freedom of expression they’ve enjoyed by publishing their own school newspaper, THE CRUISER, has spread all the way to England, where kids from a school “across the pond” are now contributors to their own school’s most talked-about publication. When photos start to go alongside the articles written by kids, things get suspicious. Zander, Kambui, LaShonda, Bobbi — and a bunch of students from Harlem’s DaVinci Academy and London’s Phoenix School — come to learn that words and pictures in a newspaper don’t always tell the whole story.

With his signature on-point pacing and whip-smart characters, award-winning author Walter Dean Myers delivers another awesome book about the Cruisers, a group of middle-school misfits who are becoming the coolest kids in the city. — image and summary from Amazon

 

star powerStar Power, By Kelli London

K-Teen

Charly St. James takes on her biggest challenge yet when her television show goes for a ratings sweep by making over the life of a not-so-willing small-town teen with a big secret. . .

Charly St. James is on top, and she’s determined to keep it that way. That’s why she and the producers have come up with a plan to take The Extreme Dream Team to the next level–by turning loners into VIPs. After all, how can you enjoy your new digs if your life is jacked up?

But when Charly meets her first makeover, Nia, she knows she’ll have to do more than dress her up and boost her self-esteem. Nia is living in the shade of her twin sister, who is luxuriating in a major case of pretty girl syndrome. And the more Charly tries to get Nia to shine, the more her twin sabotages her mission. Good thing Charly loves a challenge, ’cause these twins’ troubles are more than skin deep. . . — Cover image an summary from publisher’s website

 

 

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