Thank you so much for your support of Rich in Color! This year turned out to be a very trying one for a lot of the members of our community, but it also provided us with a number of fantastic young adult books by or about people of color and people from First/Native Nations. If you haven’t checked out our 2016 favorites lists yet, you should! (Audrey’s Favorites, Crystal’s Favorites, Jessica’s Favorites, and K. Imani’s Favorites)
As usual, we will be taking a bit of a break in order to spend some time relaxing and recharging for the new year. We will be on hiatus until January 16, 2017.
In the meantime, we have a giveaway to wrap up the year. This year, we have a total of twenty prizes up for grabs: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash, Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung, Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, Playing for the Devil’s Fire by Phillippe Diederich, The Door at the Crossroads by Zetta Elliott, Open Mic edited by Mitali Perkins, X a Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon, Caminar by Skila Brown, The Smoking Mirror by David Bowles, When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters, The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (audiobook), and five Winner’s Choice books.
This giveaway is open to people with U.S. mailing addresses only. See terms and conditions for further details. The giveaway will end at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve (EST), so make sure you enter to win some of our favorite books, both from this year and years before! a Rafflecopter giveaway
May the new year bring you joy–and lots of wonderful books to read!
I gotta admit. I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked in 2016. Nevertheless, I still managed to pick up a few YA books that I truly loved. None of them quite fit the mold of your average YA novel, and they were all the more amazing for it. Here are my top favorites from 2016:
A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.
Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
Mariko Tamaki has created a thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest story about family, religion, ignorance, and other unsolved high school mysteries. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea. But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, a handful of new releases! Here are the YA novels coming out in December and early January. What’s on your to-read list?
The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee Release date: 12/27/2016
An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Ever the Hunted (Clash of the Kingdoms #1) by Erin Summerhill
Release date: 12/27/2016
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple... [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Wayfarer (Passenger #2) by Alexandra Bracken
Release date: 1/3/2017 All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Release date: 1/3/2017 From the backyards of suburban Florida to the parched desert of New Mexico, Because of the Sun explores the complexity of family, the saving grace of friendship, and the healing that can begin when the truth is brought to light. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
Release date: 1/3/2017 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. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber Release date: 1/5/2017
Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Poison’s Kiss (Poison’s Kiss #1) by Breeana Shields Release date: 1/10/2017
A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like– a poison kiss– and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley Release date: 1/10/2017
In order to save her family’s farm, Roshen, sixteen, must leave her rural home to work in a factory in the south of China. There she finds arduous and degrading conditions and contempt for her minority (Uyghur) background. Sustained by her bond with other Uyghur girls, Roshen is resolved to endure all to help her family and ultimately her people. A workplace survival story, this gritty, poignant account focuses on a courageous teen and illuminates the value—and cost—of freedom. [Image and summary via Goodreads]
With the election over, there’s a lot to be done. First and foremost, be sure to take care of yourself and give yourself time to recover. Beyond that, there are plenty of organizations on the local and national level that can use your time and/or money.
We at Rich in Color have put together a list of organizations which will be crucial to protecting vulnerable people in the next four years.
Local organizations do a lot of good work in the community. Ask at your local library or community center, or search online to find out what organizations are doing in your area. #NoDAPL Sacred Stone Camp Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund
OTHER WAYS TO HELP -Get politically involved. Know your city leaders and school board members. Volunteer with the political party you support. Contact your representatives (see: the most effective methods). Turn out for local elections and the big ones. 2018 will be here sooner than you think. –Stay informed and subscribe to a local or national newspaper that you trust. Good journalism and investigative reporting will be crucial in the coming years. -Volunteer with local schools, GED programs, English language programs, and immigration resources. -Speak up when you encounter bigotry or prejudice! This may seem like a small thing, but it never hurts to start with the people around you.
Have any other suggestions? What are the organizations in your community that you plan on supporting? Let us know!
I had planned a wholesome post tonight about the presence of families in YA literature, but like often, I wait until the last minute to work on it. I figured I could knock it out while I watched election results. However, as the returns came out, I found that I couldn’t write a light-hearted post about families and Thanksgiving and love because my heart kept sinking in despair.
It is 11pm in California as I write this and as of right now America does not know who our next president will be. But what we do know is that many of us tonight are terrified for our lives. We are terrified of our country taking a gigantic step backward and all the progress we have made in this country to be open to people of all backgrounds, disabilities and LGBT-ness, will be gone because of one power hungry, egotistical man. I am near tears because I think about my students, many who are immigrants themselves or children of immigrants and who are fearful of what a Trump administration will bring. I am in tears because my sister-in-law asked this evening, “What type of future will I have for my children?”. I am in tears because I think of my Muslim friends who might face all sorts of violence just because of how they worship, and I think of my fellow African-Americans who have been gunned down, and could be gunned down by police. I think of all the people in my life whose very lives are in danger because of this man and I am in despair.
However, I can’t seem to break myself away from social media and am now seeing calls to fight, to stand up for justice, to fight for all the gains we have earned. And I so agree! Tonight, we mourn and then tomorrow we get ready to fight. We continue the work we’re doing to diversity YA & kidlit because education is one of the best ways to create empathy for other people. We also push harder on editors, publishers, book buyers, to publish #ownvoices authors and to market those books like they market white authors. We also take to the streets and do what we can to make sure our rights are not trampled on. We have to gather and work together to show that we will not allow for the destruction of the country that we love. This is our home and we must fight for it.
Summary: When Rani’s father leaves her mother for another woman, Rani shaves her head in mourning. The visibility of her act of rebellion propels her onto the stage as a hip-hop performer and into a romantic relationship with a man who is much older. The whirlwind romance, coming on the heels of her father’s abandonment, make her begin to understand how her father’s sexual abuse wounded her in deeper ways than she, or her mother, have ever been able to acknowledge.
Meanwhile, she seeks solace in making lyrics and performing as well as in her boyfriend’s arms. Rani’s friends warn her about him but she fails to listen, feeling as though she finally has something and somebody that makes her feel good about herself—not recognizing that her own talent in hip-hop makes her feel secure, smart, and confident in ways her boyfriend does not. Indeed, as the relationship continues, Rani discovers her boyfriend’s drug use and falls victim to his abuse. Losing herself just as she finds herself, Rani discovers her need to speak out against those who would silence her—no matter the personal danger it leads her into.
Review: Rani is a Gujarati teen living in Hawaii and she’s struggling. She’s an outsider at school for the most part, but home is even worse. She feels abandoned by her father and shut out by her mother. One way Rani deals with the pain is through writing raps. When she’s rapping as MC Sutra, she has confidence and even though she’s pretending, Rani convinces herself along with everyone else. She explains it this way:
It’s the me
I want to be
the large and in charge person
I want the world to see
So I MC, and throw down
my self-confidence decree
and strive to be
my own queen bee
In her day-to-day life, Rani cannot see her own value. She’s unable to understand her worth without her father’s attention. For years she had measured her self-worth by his actions and words. When he not only leaves, but lavishes his attention on someone else, Rani is devastated. This is not a book filled with sweetness and light. Rani is violated, thrown aside and left wounded. There are some very raw scenes to get through, but readers also get to see Rani step out in powerful ways as she learns about herself and her strengths.
Her emotional journey is compelling. Rani survived abuse at the hands of her father and is working to change her patterns of behavior. She doesn’t want to seek his approval anymore. With him in another relationship, that becomes easier to a certain degree, but she falls into the same habits with her new, much older boyfriend.
During this trying time, Rani is not only moving away from her father, she’s attempting to close the gap with her mother. She wants love, comfort and support from her mother, but these things aren’t often given. The years of isolation have put a wedge between the two and change is slow to come. Rani has complex emotions. She feels a sense of guilt because of her relationship with her father and feels sorry for her mother. She also can’t help but be angry that her mother didn’t keep her safe over the years whether that was through ignorance, fear, or something more deliberate. I found their changing relationship intriguing. I was a little surprised at how quickly some things resolved, but thought things developed in a logical way.
Rani has very few friends, but the ones she has are extremely supportive. They’re close, but they are hiding several things from her. She has a much older boyfriend, but one of her friends is also someone she fantasizes about so those relationships get complicated.
Aside from the abusive relationship, mother/daughter issues, friends, boyfriends, and hip hop music there was another added layer – activism. This is extremely timely with the issues surrounding the Dakota Access pipeline. Rani, her father and many other people are working to protect the water supply on their island home which involves a fight against a proposed pipeline. Native Hawaiian sovereignty is also part of the discussion. I appreciated the inclusion of the activism because it added depth to the characters and the story line. This may be one layer too many for some readers, but I’m glad it’s part of the story.
Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you enjoy references to 90s hip hop. I think I missed the effect of some of those references, but Rani Patel’s story still spoke to me with power and intensity. I felt Rani’s pain, but also her energy, determination and her hope for healing.