Review: Shadow Girl

Shadow Girl by Liana LiuTitle: Shadow Girl
Author: Liana Liu
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Availability: Available now!

Summary: The house on Arrow Island is full of mystery. Yet when Mei arrives, she can’t help feeling relieved. She’s happy to spend the summer in an actual mansion tutoring a rich man’s daughter if it means a break from her normal life—her needy mother, her delinquent brother, their tiny apartment in the city. And Ella Morison seems like an easy charge, sweet and well behaved.

What Mei doesn’t know is that something is very wrong in the Morison household. Though she tries to focus on her duties, Mei becomes increasingly distracted by the family’s problems and her own complicated feelings for Ella’s brother, Henry. But most disturbing of all are the unexplained noises she hears at night—the howling and thumping and cries.

Mei is a sensible girl. She isn’t superstitious; she doesn’t believe in ghosts. Yet she can’t shake her fear that there is danger lurking in the shadows of this beautiful house, a darkness that could destroy the family inside and out… and Mei along with them. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: It’s only January right now, and I’ve found one of my favorite books of the year. For reference, my favorite last year was a belated reading of Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung. Like Lucy and Linh, Liana Liu’s Shadow Girl is another incredible read with a heroine from a low-income Asian immigrant background and strong narrative thread focusing on family. I read Shadow Girl in one sitting, staying up past 2 in the morning — which was not the greatest idea, considering it’s quite the spooky story.

What struck me right away was how real Mei felt as a character. Her inner life and voice, and the mix of guilt and protectiveness she felt for her mother were all too familiar to me. To top it all off, part of my Chinese name is Mei and like the heroine, I used to do tutoring as a high schooler to help pay the bills. The familiarity of Mei’s life made the paranormal aspects of Shadow Girl all the more scary.

Admittedly, I have a pretty low bar for scary. I skirt any piece of media that feels even the teensiest bit stressful, and I’m not a fan of ghost stories. But the cover and the Asian protagonist were a strong draw for me, so I gave this book a try, and I’m so glad I did. While people made of sterner stuff may not find the paranormal element as scary as they’d like, the suspense that builds from the shadows within the majestic mansion that Mei goes to tutor in and the Morison family tensions were enough to keep me up through the night.

Mei’s relationship with her mother and brother, and her struggle to understand herself and discover the freedom to pursue her dreams, are what make this book. This may be a fraction of the plot — most of it is devoted to Mei’s time spent at the Morison’s mansion and the slowly building mystery of its shadowy past — but it’s what makes this so worth a read. I loved the little details — Mei listening through the walls to her mother vacuuming around their small apartment, how Mei navigates a world of racist comments and wealthy, petty parents who want to hire her as a tutor, and the list goes on.

Finally, this is a small detail, but shoutout to how spoken Chinese is handled in this book. Mei’s mother speaks wholly in Chinese, and it’s done in a way that isn’t exoticized or whitewashed over. No clumsy attempts at incorporating translations through awkward clues, or tacky imitations of Chenglish, or randomly shoehorned-in lone Chinese words. Mei’s mother speaks Chinese, and it’s translated in a straightforward way, no decoration or smoothing over. It’s just there. And I loved it.

If you’re looking for a suspenseful, spooky story, or you just want to see some high quality Asian representation in YA lit (of course you do!), buy this now. I’m so happy I read this book, even if it kind of wrecked my sleep schedule. Totally worth it.

Recommendation: Buy it now!

Coming Soon – Group Discussion of Love, Hate & Other Filters

We’re excited to announce a group discussion for next month. We’ll be reading Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed.

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz can’t wait to graduate from her small town high school. She dreams of studying film in New York City and kissing a boy (or, maybe two). Her parents forbid both. While she wrestles with parental expectations and her own desires, Maya’s world is rocked by a horrifying act of domestic terrorism that ignites an outbreak of Islamophobia that threatens to alter the course of her life forever.

If you want to hear more about the book straight from the author, here is an interview with Bookstr from the day after the book was released.

We’ll post our discussion on February 21st. Pick up a copy and read along. We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Interview with Claire Kann – LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE

Everyone, please welcome Claire Kann to Rich in Color! Claire’s debut novel, LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE, is out in the world today. I’ve been looking forward to the book ever since it was first announced, and we’re excited to have Claire here to talk about it:

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

I absolutely love the cover of LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE, and I’m delighted that Alice is black, biromantic, and asexual. Can you tell us more about Alice and what’s going on in her life at the start of the novel?

Alice is probably the most overdramatic character I’ve ever written, and I love her. She loves Netflix, eating, and living the sloth life; is funny, joyful, and caring; possesses an unfiltered and raw honesty when it comes to all of her feelings–good, bad, and the murky middle. She doesn’t hold back. At all.

LTAL takes place during Alice’s tumultuous summer between freshman and sophomore year of college as she redefines what different kinds of love mean to her–platonic, familial, and romantic–and the ways they are present in her life. She’s experiencing severe growing pains with her best friends, dealing with the fallout of a terrible breakup and the start of a new relationship she isn’t sure she’s ready for, and arguing with her parents about law school because while she doesn’t know what she wants to do, it’s certainly not that.

From the excerpts I’ve read, Alice has a very distinct (and fun!) voice. What was it like to craft her character?

In a word: hellish. Because of Alice’s aforementioned honesty, I knew every aspect of who she was before I began writing. Personalities like hers are fun to read, but not to write for me.

Ultimately, when she was the narrator, the scenes became chaotic, and large chunks of the text had to get cut. I don’t like to waste words or my time, so I had to switch the narrative to third person. At the same time, I didn’t want to override her voice with my own. It took quite a bit of time to figure out the best way to tell this story, and I ended up settling on and abusing parenthetical asides.

Has she changed much between when she first popped up in your head and the final version of the book?

Nope. Alice is the same. The only thing I did do was purposefully omit a lot of her reactions. For example, she cried a lot more on the page in initial drafts. Through several rounds of edits and bouts of writer doubt, Alice remained the only constant I could hold on to.

I loved the description of Takumi as a “knight with a shiny library-employee badge.” Tell us more about him and why he catches Alice’s eye.

Initially, Takumi catches Alice’s eye for purely aesthetic reasons. He’s extremely beautiful to her, which she begins to resent and it causes some problems between them. He loves to laugh but isn’t funny himself, is a low-key adrenaline junkie and very outdoorsy, he’s also older than Alice–already graduated from college–and is preparing to start his dream job as a teacher in the fall. Alice also resents that he appears to have his life together and all figured out, while she very much doesn’t. Keyword there is “appears.”

Very few of the YA books I’ve read have the characters already in college. Why did you choose to set the story then instead of high school?

I believe there is a difference between Teen and Young Adult books. At nineteen and in college, Alice is still a young adult figuring things out. There’s this pervasive idea that once someone turns eighteen, they’re adults and expected to act as such, including having their career path figured out. They should have spent the past four years of high school preparing for college and selected a college major that would put them on the right track to said career. I really wanted to write a story with a main character who didn’t know any of that. Alice followed her friends to college because it was the easy choice, and a year later at nineteen, still had no idea what kind of career path she wanted.

Why is it important to you to write about marginalized characters falling in love and having cute romances?

Because it’s real! It happens! Readers deserve a chance to see it, let it touch their hearts, and give them hope.

YA has systemic problem of not allowing those relationships to exist on the page. Five years ago, a book like LTAL would have had a tremendously hard time getting published, if it even got out of the query trenches. I know because I queried different books and have the detailed rejections to prove it. But YA books like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, When Dimple Met Rishi, Everything Everything, and Simon Vs.  prove that readers are not only hungry for these kind of stories, but are also willing to support them.

A cute romance can be the plot now for us. It’s finally enough.

What can you tell us about your next projects?

Right now, I’m working on my next book with my publisher, Swoon Reads. I also consider myself an online storyteller and regularly post new stories to Wattpad (@ClaireKann). There, you can find stories about everything from a teenage vampire falling in love with his fat girlfriend who can also use magic to college kids with severe god complexes. Lots of fun to be had by all.

What 2018 books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to reading? Which ones would you recommend to our followers?

Upcoming Releases:
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, 02/06/2018
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, 04/03/2018
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, 05/08/2018
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, 06/26/2018

Pointe by Brandy Colbert
I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows
Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE?

I think both the book and I would like to say thank you. Writing LTAL was a labor of hope, frustration, and fear. It means so much to me that readers can connect with Alice and her story the way they have. The support its received so far has genuinely been a transformative experience for me. I’m so happy this little book about love is allowed to exist in the world.

Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather is regrettably not nearly as temperate as it used to be. She has a BA in English/Creative Writing from Sonoma State University, works for a nonprofit that you may have heard of where she daydreams like she’s paid to do it. A sucker for instant gratification, she posts new stories regularly to Wattpad, including her novels THE SCAVENGER HUNT, which won the 2016 Watty Award:HQ Love, and #FAT GIRL MAGIC, which won the 2017 Watty Award: Riveting Reads and ranked #1 in the Paranormal category.

LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE is her debut novel, publishing in 2018 with Swoon Reads/Macmillan.

Four books for you this week

It’s good to be back! We’ve got four books on our radar this week–are any of them on your TBR? I’m personally excited for Let’s Talk About Love.

Let’s  Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Swoon Reads

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Markswoman (Asiana #1) by Rati Mehrotra
Harper Voyager

Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, a highly trained sisterhood of elite warriors armed with telepathic blades. Guided by a strict code of conduct, Kyra and the other Orders are sworn to protect the people of Asiana. But to be a Markswoman, an acolyte must repudiate her former life completely. Kyra has pledged to do so, yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her dead family.

When Kyra’s beloved mentor dies in mysterious circumstances, and Tamsyn, the powerful, dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. Using one of the strange Transport Hubs that are remnants of Asiana’s long-lost past, she finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a young, disillusioned Marksman whom she soon befriends.

Kyra is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof. And if she fails to find it, fails in her quest to keep her beloved Order from following Tamsyn down a dark path, it could spell the beginning of the end for Kyra–and for Asiana.

But what she doesn’t realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is razor thin . . . thin as the blade of a knife.

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi
Philomel Books

Narrated by Destiny, this heartbreaking — and timely — story of refugees escaping from war-torn Syria is masterfully told by a foreign news correspondent who experienced the crisis firsthand.

In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s
family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.

Destiny narrates this heartbreaking story of the consequences of war, showing the Syrian conflict as part of a long chain of struggles spanning through time.

An award-winning author and journalist–and a refugee herself–Atia Abawi captures the hope that spurs people forward against all odds and the love that makes that hope grow.

I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
Macmillan Children’s Books

Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem, who dreams of being a writer, struggles with controlling parents who only care about her studying to be a doctor. Forced to move to a new school in South London after her best friend is shamed in a scandal, Muzna realizes that the bullies will follow her wherever she goes. But deciding to stand and face them instead of fighting her instinct to disappear is harder than it looks when there’s prejudice everywhere you turn. Until the gorgeous and confident Arif shows an interest in her, encouraging Muzna to explore her freedom.

But Arif is hiding his own secrets and, along with his brother Jameel, he begins to influence Muzna with their extreme view of the world. As her new freedom starts to disappear, Muzna is forced to question everything around her and make a terrible choice – keep quiet and betray herself, or speak out and betray her heart?

A stunning new YA voice which questions how far you’ll go to protect what you believe in.

Book Review: Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet

Title: Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet
Author: Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi and others
Genres: Short Story Anthology
Pages: 320
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley
Availability: Available Now

Summary: Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

Review: I found the premise of this collection of short stories a fun idea as one of the most intriguing aspects of romance is the fun and unique ways couples meet. Folks always ask couples for their “meet cute” story, so to have a entire short story collection of diverse meet cutes makes for some great winter break reading (at least for me). Not all the stories were sugar sweet; some had some deep questions about identity, fate, the notion of friendships, etc. The genres of the stories were diverse too, as not all stories were contemporary; there were some speculative fiction stories, some fantasy (or felt like fantasy), which I greatly enjoyed as the “meet cute” is a trope that is in all genres. There were a few stories that truly stood out to me, making me invested in the characters so much that I was disappointed that all I got was their meet cute story.

Dhonielle Clayton’s “The Way We Love Here” was a sweet story that challenged the notion of destined lovers. The story is set in a world where people are born with markings on their ring finger which fade as they age and come closer to meeting their beloved. Our two main characters aren’t looking for that day but end up learning what they will mean to each other. Both learn that their future will one they could not have expected, but that they will always be in each other’s lives in some way. I love how this story challenges the concept of “happily ever after” and that the future we believe we dream of when we are children become vastly different than what we could ever imagine.

Another favorite of mine featured a kick ass mathematician who decided to use statistics and probability to determine if she would ever meet the cute guy she had a chance meeting with on the subway. Jocelyn Davies’s “The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love” follows the main character as she decides to write a term paper about the chances of meeting someone twice in New York City. We follow her as she develops her hypothesis, runs her tests, and lastly, her conclusion. It is a fun read as she theorizes about the cute guy and the different results of her tests to see if she would see him again. I loved this story because I loved that the main character was a math whiz and looked at the world very analytically. She was also the only girl in her class, but did not receive any negative push back from her classmates. This story was also fun in a “will she succeed or won’t she” way that made me really question if a meet cute was every going to happen.

Meet Cute is an anthology you must read slowly, taking your time to savor all the different stories and how they incorporate deeper themes all within the fun story of “how did this couple meet.”

We’re on Instagram!

What have we at Rich in Color been up to this winter? First of all, there’s that giveaway we did (thanks to everyone who entered!). Of course, we also curled up with some hot cocoa and a lot of great reads. And finally, we jumped into Instagram! That’s right, we’re on #bookstagram now.

Head on over to for our current reads, library finds, and cups of tea — all centered around YA lit by/about people of color or people from First/Native Nations (with a few non-fiction and non-YA books thrown into the mix!). Give us a follow, chat with us in the comments, and share with us what you’re reading right now! And if you’ve got any #bookstagram tips, let us know! We’re new in the #bookstagram world and still learning.

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ve been up to:

Posting photos turned into a real trip down memory lane! Here’s a #TBT of our contributions to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag back in spring of 2014 when it first launched. Do you remember that? Talk about a throwback!

We Need Diverse Books TBTAnd of course, you can find Rich in Color on Tumblr ( and Twitter ( as well. We post, retweet, and reblog different things on each platform, so pick whichever one suits you the most.

With so many wonderful new YA reads on the horizon, we’re super excited for what’s next both in the YA world, and for this blog right here, Rich in Color. What are YOU excited for in YA lit this year? Share with us!