Review of ‘Never Have I Ever’, by Mary Jayne Baker
It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the idea of falling for one twin and then, the other. But other than that, this book was a fun, easy, and funny read, featuring a cast of lovable characters and a well-paced plot. While I liked the absence of long-winding introspective chapters, I did have a bit of trouble following how Robyn and Will’s love for one another bloomed (no pun intended) (Robyn’s family name it Bloom). By now, readers of my reviews know that I love books that sharing something insightful about the human psyche; I didn’t feel anything really was to be taken away from this read other than it was well-written and fun—so a good escape for anyone not really wanting to think (which yes, even I can admit that it’s good, sometimes, not to think).
Review of ‘Shine’, by Jessica Jung
There are two aspects to this review. The first is about the book itself. It was really well-written, engaging and gripping, well-paced, engrossing—basically I lost sleep over it. The author obviously knows both the K-Pop world extremely well (no surprise there!) and knows how to craft a story. The morale was a little depressing—trust no one, everyone will backstab you in order to get to the top, the more talent you have and the kinder you are, the least friends you have—which brings me to the second aspect of this review: the world of K-Pop sounds horribly toxic and something we should really not feed into. The idea of girls as young as 12 basically being emotionally and mentally abused into becoming the head company’s idea of a perfect star is horrifying. And let us, North Americans, not delude ourselves that it’s something that happens only in Korean popular culture. We have, quite unfortunately, a dearth of dead or quasi-dead entertainers who basically demonstrate that we are just as bad. This book really makes me reconsider—again—the music that I listen to.
Review of ‘Historically Inaccurate’, by Shay Bravo
How utterly and amazingly refreshing it is to have a well-grounded and well-rounded yet anxious and under pressure main character in the lovely Soledad? And how amazing that so many amazing points are made—about growing up, about maturity, about introspection, about deportations as carried out in the last 3-4 years—with not a drop of belaboring? Shay Bravo needs to continue writing because this is one powerful read. First and foremost because it is delightful. Soledad Gutierrez is the girl readers will want to be friends with. Second because it delves into the aftermaths of a traumatic event—a car accident and the subsequent deportation of her “illegal” mother. While the consequences of that event are visible in every aspect of Soledad’s life, there is a lovely maturity and grit that makes this difficult story uplifting and inspiring to read. Similarly, the romance between Soledad and Ethan is simple and uncomplicated, even as the two of them deal with situations that are complex and complicated. Bravo, Shay, really—this is a relaxing yet insightful must-read, well worth picking up and recommending to young readers.
Review of ‘A Song For You’, by Robyn Crawford
Grief fills my heart when I think of Whitney Houston. Her voice is my favorite, and I remember as a kid hearing about her Faith in Jesus Christ. As a Bahá’í child who from a very young age dreamed of being a big, internationally known author, it made me feel closer to this amazing woman. The documentary Whitney broke my heart into a million pieces and so did this book. I don’t know everything that happened, of course, but it astounds me how a multi-million dollar record label couldn’t do more to nurture such a big star, instead allowing her to produce back-to-back albums and go on grueling tour after tour. The commodification of talent is a loss for everyone. I believe that music is a ladder for the soul; treating a talent like Whitney Houston as a commodity contributed to her burnout and robbed us of music that could have uplifted us. I hope readers of this book will be inspired to do their best to stop contributing to this industry—not buying tabloids, not visiting tabloids’ websites, making the effort to discover indie music, amongst others—to prevent the loss of such talent in the future.
Review of ‘Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved my Life’, by Christie Tate
I feel like the power of storytelling is coming through with books like this one and some previous favorites in the same vein that I’ve reviewed here before (Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb and Good Morning Monster by Catherine Gildner). If I hadn’t known it was a memoir, it read a lot like a really good Jenifer Weiner book, a dramatic yet introspective, charming, heartwarming, and ultimately uplifting read that stays with the reader for a long time. It’s the kind of read that I feel will help everyone who picks it up, even if they don’t have the same challenges that the author faced through group therapy. The most important takeaway from this book, in my opinion, is that the work involved with making your life better take time and is painful. Tate manages to really reflect these two important concepts very naturally—through the telling of her story in a way that delves into the right things at the right times and draw the line through all the work, as well as the up and downs, of the almost decade-long process that this book covers. Be warned: You might have the urge to go to Chicago to try finding Tate to take her out for coffee after reading this one.
Review of ‘Even If We Break’, by Marieke Nijkamp
Just like with her previous books, I felt like Even If We Break was a thrilling read that kept me guessing while also not going quite as deep as it could have, missing on an opportunity to pass across some points vitally important to the main intended audience. The author is clearly a solid writer and a great storyteller; maybe I am just expecting too much from my books. For readers who are looking for a thrilling read, the combination of a haunted mountain, a high-tech cabin full of traps, and a stormy night that starts with a lot of blood will be more than satisfying. I also really liked the natural inclusion of characters who are not part of the majoritarian storylines of today, in this case, not straight. And while no fuss was made about their identities, the current reality of misunderstanding, bullying, and abuse that transgenders face was weaved seamlessly, as seamlessly as I hope everyone in society will be integrated into mainstream life.
Review of ‘If We Were Us’, by K. L. Walther
“If We Were Us” is an exploration of how the coming experience can be like for a white upper class (financially) male. It’s relatively tidy and clean, but still hard. Well written and engaging with a cast of compelling characters, what marked me the most about this book was the rather refreshing maturity of Sage, who put her friendship before herself by keeping Charlie’s truth to herself at the cost of her own well-being. She struggled and suffered but most of all, she pushed through. I was a little annoyed at what I perceived as Charlie’s immaturity, then checked myself and tried to see it in a different angle – the difficulties related to coming out that unfortunately still exist in 2020. I didn’t resonate with the overall school experience—basically rich kids with little diversity—but it was still both eye-opening and sweet to read.