Book Review: Shadowshaper

shadowTitle: Shadowshaper
Author: Daniel Jose Older
Genres:  Urban Fantasy
Pages: 297
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: Available June 30

Summary: Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: It’s been a while since I’ve last read an urban fantasy novel, so I was looking forward to reading Daniel Jose Older’s debut YA novel. Older also attended the same MFA program as I did, so I expected the writing to be top notch. I had high expectations for Shadowshaper and I have to say that they were met. You all know that I have a bad habit of sacrificing sleep in order to finish a novel and well, I sacrificed sleep because Shadowshaper was just that intense.

Most urban fantasy novels that I’ve read dealt with vampires, werewolves and ghosts, so the mythology that Older creates in Shadowshaper is fresh and unique. The magic that Sierra learns, and eventually uses, is rooted in spiritual magic which is an aspect of Afro-American & Afro-Caribbean culture. The Shadowshapers are essentially conduits for the spirits to enter and bring to life the artwork that Sierra creates. This creates a more cooperative relationship with the sprits instead of an adversarial one. However, depending on what the Shadowshaper wishes the spirit to do, the spirit could be malicious, such as the creepy zombie creatures that the antagonist Dr. Wick creates. Really, those things are scary.

While the mythology Older created was a highlight of the novel, Sierra Santiago was the absolute best part. I loved her! Sierra is a terrific artist who has been tasked with creating a mural on a mysterious tower. The way Older describes her artwork, I could picture in my head and what I imagined is amazing. While her artwork is how her Shadowshaper magic works, Sierra is curious and unafraid to take risks as she attempts to discover why elder members of her community are disappearing. She is the one who takes charge of solving the mystery, instead of “falling” into the mystery as many protagonists of urban fantasy stories do. Sierra is the one who is deciding of her fate, even as she learns of her importance to the Shadowshapers. Sierra is truly a leader among her friends, and even when she meets Robbie, who helps her learn her Shadowshaping abilities, he doesn’t overpower her and follows her lead.  She is a character that a reader can instantly connect to and root for, even when she makes some not so smart decisions (as a teenager is apt to do).  Sierra Santiago is a character that has been badly needed on the YA/Urban Fantasy scene.

The writing in Shadowshaper is full of Brooklyn flavor that gave this California girl a real sense of what life in New York is like. The story moves at a good pace, revealing its secrets slowly (almost too slowly for this impatient reader) that when a lovely plot twist is revealed, it turns Sierra and the book in a wonderful new direction. I greatly enjoyed the mystery of tracking down Dr. Wick and his unnatural creations as well as learning about the Shadowshapers and the impact they have had on Sierra’s life. My only wish is that I was able to spend more time with Sierra and the world of the Shadowshapers, but hopefully there will be a sequel as Older created a fun, unique world that readers will want to revisit again and again.

Recommendation: If you want to be in the know, you better get this book.

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Mini Review: The Game of Love & Death

Love & DeathTitle: The Game of Love & Death
Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Genres:  Historical, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Review Copy: My local library
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now… Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget. – image & summary from Goodreads

Review: This lovely book fell into my hands at just the right time. I was wanting something with a sweet, romantic storyline, and also a bit of fantasy. I do enjoy historical fiction, but to find this beautiful novel with everything I was craving for was heaven. And I feel in love with Flora, Henry, Death and Love. In fact, it’s been a few days since I finished the book and all four characters are still with me. I hadn’t intended to write a review about this novel, but halfway through I thought, “I must tell everyone about this novel!”

Set in Seattle in 1937, just as the United States is beginning to recover from the Great Depression, the novel follows Flora and Henry as they begin, unwittingly, to play Love & Death’s game. The game that Love & Death have created, so to speak, is more of a bet of trying to put two people from different worlds together. If the lovers chose to be together, Love wins; if not, Death takes them. Unfortunately, Death is on a serious winning streak and Love is hoping that Henry will be the player to finally give him the win. And here’s the thing that Brockenbrough does so well. Readers of romance expect the “happy ever after”, but the way Brockenbrough crafts the obstacles Henry and Flora face, I wasn’t really sure the “HEA” was going to happen. I wanted to be comfortable in my assurance of the HEA, and that all would work out well for Henry and Flora, but Death is a mean, err a very strategic, player and I was kept guessing the entire way. I like an unpredictable novel and “Game of Love and Death” is definitely not predictable. Brockenbrough really puts Henry and Flora through the wringer, that tests their resolve to even attempt to form a relationship. While their attraction to each other is definitely swoon worthy, their budding friendship brings a much richer, much warmer feeling to the story.

It is the development of the 4 characters that is really the strength of the novel. Love is a charming old soul, while Death is a woman who finds no more pleasure in her job, but does it anyways. Henry is the boy who is willing to sacrifice his own personal freedom in order to please his adoptive parents, and Flora is a young woman who intends to defy the odds. Combined, the relationships the characters create among each other (yes Love & Death interact with Henry & Flora in unique ways) allows each of the characters to learn and grow from each other. While Love & Death are the ones who set the game in motion, both are changed by their players as their players are changed by the game. All four are truly relatable, and you root for all four to win, which in a game where two could potentially die, is a testament to the strength of Brockenbrough’s writing.

Speaking of Brockenbrough’s writing, it is just gorgeous. It is clear that she did her homework with researching the novel and what 1937 Seattle would feel like. Having been to Seattle a number of times, I could picture many of the places in my head, but imagine them as they were 80 years ago. She used slang of the time and even included real world events (such as the growing tension in Europe) to fully ground the novel. She also didn’t hesitate to include the racial tension that existed in Seattle back then, even though Seattle was a multi-cultural city during the Depression. Brockenbrough’s world felt real, felt right, and I loved it.

Recommendation: I got the book from the library, but I loved it so much that I intend on buying it and you should too.

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New Releases

Just in time for summer, a whole slew of great new diverse reads. One of which is the sequel to last summer’s best seller, “To All the Boys I Loved” and another book that has received tons of buzz finally arrives. You can read my review for Tiny Pretty Things here.

tinyTiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
HarperTeen

TINY PRETTY THINGS digs beneath the practiced poise of a cutthroat Manhattan ballet academy, where three young protagonists all fight for prima position while navigating secrets, lies, and the pressure that comes with being prodigies.

Free-spirited new girl Giselle just wants to dance – but the very act might kill her. Upper East Side-bred Bette lives in the all-encompassing shadow of her ballet star sister, but the weight of family expectations brings out a dangerous edge in her. Perfectionist June forever stands in the wings as an understudy, but now she’s willing to do whatever it takes – even push someone out the way – to take the stage.

In a world where every other dancer is both friend and foe, the girls have formed the tenuous bond that comes with being the best of the best. But when New York City Ballet Conservatory newbie Giselle is cast as the lead in The Nutcracker – opposite Bette’s longtime love Alec – the competition turns deadly.

 

psP.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Love Before, #2) by Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of makes it so amazing. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

reyesEmancipated by M.G. Reyes
Katherine Tegen Books

The good girl, the bad boy, the diva, the hustler, the rock star, and the nerd. Six teens legally liberated from parental control for six different reasons, all with one thing in common: something to hide.

Now they’re sharing a house in Venice Beach, acting like a family, and living their lies. No parents. No limits. No alibis. One witnessed a crime, another might be a murderer—and one’s been spying on them all.

As they cling to a fantasy of freedom and slowly let down their guards, the past creeps up on them. And when one of them gets arrested, everyone’s carefully constructed facade comes crumbling down.

In this steamy, drama-filled series, relationships are tested and secrets revealed as lies threaten to destroy their perfect setup. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

thievesThe Tenderness of Thieves Donna Freitas
Philomel Books

A summer romance filled with danger and lies

Jane is ready for a fantastic summer. In fact, she’s pretty sure the universe owes her one.

This past winter, Jane was held at knifepoint during an armed robbery and the specter of that night still haunts her. A summer romance with one of the town bad boys — sexy Handel Davies, who takes her breath away and makes her feel like a bolder version of herself — seems like the universe’s way of paying her back.

But bad boys always have secrets, and Handel’s secret just might shatter Jane completely.

This suspense novel marries psychological thriller with summer romance and is perfect for teen fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

truthThe Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Books

The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can’t have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

vesselVessel by Lisa Cresswell
Month9Books

The sun exploded on April 18, 2112. It exploded in a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen.

They had nineteen minutes.

Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, every satellite in their sky.

Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew, forever, and to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun.

Generations after solar storms have destroyed nearly all human technology on Earth and humans have reverted to a middle ages like existence, all knowledge of the remaining technology is kept hidden by a privileged few called the Reticents and books are burned as heresy.

Alana, a disfigured slave girl, and Recks, a traveling minstrel and sometimes-thief, join forces to bring knowledge and books back to the human race. But when Alana is chosen against her will to be the Vessel, the living repository for all human knowledge, she must find the strength to be what the world needs. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

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Book Review: Tiny Pretty Things

tinyTitle: Tiny Pretty Things
Author: Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Genres:  Contemporary, Realistic
Pages: 448
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: On shelves May 26th

Summary: Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Review:  I haven’t seen or read Pretty Little Liars, but have seen Black Swan so I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Tiny Pretty Things. I remembered the intensity of the ballet company in Black Swan, so I imagined that the competition between the three lead characters in Tiny Pretty Things would be intense. What I didn’t expect, because I was Pretty Little Liars ignorant, would be the level of “mean girlness” that existed by a few members of the ballet academy. Either way, I was so involved with the story that I sacrificed sleep to finish it. And then…that ending! Thank goodness there is a sequel because that ending was just cruel to readers with such a cliffhanger.  But I digress…

Tiny Pretty Things just killed me – in a good way. Seriously. It’s been a bit since I read it and  Gigi, Bette and June are still with me. I was so into the world that Ms. Charaipotra and Ms. Clayton created that during some true OMG moments, I had to remind myself that it was a novel. That some of the characters really wouldn’t behave that way in real life. That ballet academies are not as cut-throat as what is depicted in movies such as Black Swan and in the novel (at least I hope). But, at no time did I ever want to put the book down and take a break from all of the backstabbing and manipulation that was going on. No, I was intrigued to find out what would happen next and try to figure out which character really did what. I do love that I could never figure it out, and as one who loves to solve a mystery but is disappointed once I figure out before the characters do, I was glad that I was continually kept guessing. In fact, in reference to the cliffhanger, I still have no idea what happened. When I read the last page, I was irritated because I wanted the second book already. I needed to know what happened next. I wasn’t actually ready to leave Gigi, Bette and June behind. And that is the hallmark of a great, fun novel.

Within the YA sphere there has been discussion about creating unlikable characters, especially female unlikeable characters, and whether or not the readers will connect with said character. In Tiny Pretty Things, there are a number of female characters that the reader just loves to hate! These characters are not one dimensional, mustache twirly villains, they are complex characters whose reasons for doing the bad things they do make sense to them. Even though the characters are unlikeable, and people I really would not want to be around in person, I was still able to feel for them, connect with them because Ms. Charaipotra and Ms. Clayton, made me understand them and even empathize them. I am of the camp that YA writers should write unlikeable female characters because unlikeable girls/women do exist, but also for readers to allow themselves to stretch their compassion muscles and understand people for both the good and the bad decision they make. I salute Ms. Charaipotra and Ms. Clayton for not holding back in their creations of Gigi, Bette and June because if all three girls were sweet, model perfect ballerinas the story would have been very boring. Instead Gigi, Bette and June are interesting characters that made me feel for them all sorts of feelings – compassion, joy, anger, hate. But most of all I saw them as distinct young women each trying their hardest to achieve their dream of becoming a prima ballerina. Those three characters make Tiny Pretty Things the amazing, intense novel that it is and why I’m anxiously waiting for the sequel.

Recommendation: You best buy it on May 26th. Make Tiny Pretty Things a best seller please!

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Diverse Series You Need to Read

I’ve been a fan of novel series since I was a child starting with “Cat in the Hat”. I eventually graduated to the Ramona series, then Anne of Green Gables, and V.C. Andrews. I don’t know why, but I just love being with a character, lost in the world an author creates for more than just one book. Reading the YA explosion of series has been heaven, and a whole ton of fun. A few weeks ago I finished Ellen Oh’s masterpiece Prophecy series and thought to myself, “what is the next series I could get into?” Luckily, there is no shortage of YA series with characters of color and/or by authors of color that are being released, so I am one happy camper and thought I’d share just a few of my findings. Excuse my fan-girling for the next few minutes.

If you haven’t read Susan Ee’s Angelfall series, start now! The last book of the series comes out next week?

angelfallAngelfall by Susan Ee

It’s been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain. Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back…

 

 

 

 

I was able to meet Sabaa Tahir (she’s so pretty) and snag an ARC of her debut novel, Ember in the Ashes. OMG! It was delicious. Made getting stuck in a Chicago snowstorm enjoyable. I cannot wait for the next book!

emberEmber in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.   Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.   It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.   But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.   There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

I’m also a fan of re-tellings, so I was looking forward to Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, and she didn’t disappoint. The first book so much fun filled with all sorts of intrigue. The second book just came out, and while I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I expect it will be just as exciting as the first one.

dorothyDorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling. What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe. My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas. I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I’ve been trained to fight. And I have a mission.

 

Those are the series I have started, but here are some series that are part of the ever-growing stack of “to be read” books that is slowly taking over my living room.

Gates of Thread and StoneGates of Thread & Stone by Lori M. Lee

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe. In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her. Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

talonTalon by Julie Kagawa

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser. Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George. Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

ldsjdTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series. What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once? Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

ExtractionExtraction by Stephanie Diaz

“Welcome to Extraction testing.” Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life. What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too. Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued. With intense action scenes and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game and leave them breathless for more.

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Book Review: None of the Above

NoneTitle: None of the Above
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Genres:  Contemporary, Realistic
Pages: 330
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: In Bookstores now

Summary: What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s world completely unravels. With everything she thought she knew thrown into question, can she come to terms with her new self?

Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

Review:  Not knowing much about people who are intersex, I was very interested in I.W. Gregorio’s novel. Being that she is a doctor, I trusted Gregorio to get everything right and to help the reader learn more about people who are intersex, but I also wondered if the novel could end up being an information dump. Turns out I was very wrong. None of the Above is a compelling novel that moved me, yet informed me at the same time. Not once did I feel like a voyeur, “watching” someone’s life who was very different from me. Instead, I was drawn into Kristin’s story and truly traveled on the emotional roller coaster she was on after she learned about her condition.

As Kristin learns about being intersex, so does the reader, but at no point does it feel like an info dump. We’re with Kristin as her doctor explains her condition, as she finds an online support group, as her father goes research crazy about the condition (what parent wouldn’t), and as she befriends a young woman who is also intersex. The information parts of the novel were spaced out just enough between the narrative bits of Kristin’s story that it didn’t feel burdensome. Gregorio also includes the case of the South African runner, Caster Semenya, to help the reader make a real world connection to what being intersex is. In fact, Semenya’s story helps Kristin figure out her new identity because Kristin is a track athlete herself. The sharing of Semenya’s story is actually a nice moment between Kristin and her father, of how much her father loves her, as he’s spending time researching Semenya and her story, wanting to help his daughter get back on the track team. This scene was a wonderful example of a loving parent-child relationship that is not often shown in YA fiction, and a perfect example of how Gregorio incorporated info about being intersex while still telling Kristin’s story.

The heart of any excellent story is a character that the reader can connect with and I really connected with Kristin. She has what seems like the “perfect” life, when suddenly she is thrown a curveball that essentially gives her an identity crisis. And that is where I felt for Kristin the most. The teenage years are all about self discovery and Kristin thinks she has it almost figured out, then she learns she’s intersex. Imagine having to basically re-think your own identity at the time you are trying to find your true self. How would you deal? And that is what makes Gregorio’s novel so good. Kristin doesn’t deal with it well at all, especially as someone she trusted betrays her and informs the entire school of her condition, but instead of getting it right, they think that she is Trans, so everyone thinks she is a boy trying to pass as a girl. The bullying Kristin receives from that is horrible, but very real. I like that Gregorio didn’t hold back or sugar coat the ugliness that Kristin experiences. It’s hurtful and painful, but very true to the story. Kristin reacts as any person would, which again I liked, because a normal person in Kristin’s situation wouldn’t be one to “fight the power” and rebel against her enemies. Kristin retreats into herself, and takes a medical leave from school. She works at becoming her old self again, and works at healing from the hurt her friends and her classmates caused. By the end, I was rooting for her as she came to understand her condition and tried to form a “revised” identity. She is unfinished at the end, and even though I did want more of the story, I felt like the ending was perfect. Life isn’t always a happy ending, but one where we learn from our troubles and use those as growth as we move through life. Gregorio’s ending was much like real life and I greatly appreciated it. In fact, when I was done, I sat with the book in my hands to stay the in moment of finishing an incredibly moving book.

Recommendation: Get this touching novel now!

Fun Fact: As I was writing this review, my computer kept auto-correcting intersex to interest. Shows how the concept of a person being intersex is not widely known.

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