Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

By Susan Kuklin
Published on February 11 2014
Published by Candelwick Press
Source: Netgally
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.

I think this a really important book for teens (and adults) to read, whether or not they have someone in their lives who is transgender. I appreciated that the book is a series of conversations with six different transgender teens. Hearing their experiences in their own words was enlightening and really showed the kind of struggles they faced. Family photographs also added a nice touch.

However, it was hard for me to finish the book because of its narrative style. I got bored easily because all the stories sounded the same. "I grew up in New York City, I didn't like the things other girls did. I played soccer instead of playing with dolls. I knew that I was really a boy. Now I am happy and have a girlfriend. . ."  etc. If I as an adult had a hard time finishing it, I'm sure there are many teens who who know nothing about the subject who might have found it dull as well. I'm left wondering if there isn't a more teen-friendly approach the author could have taken.

I would like to see a similar book with a more diverse population: more minorities, teens from conservative small towns (not NYC), etc. This really is an important subject for everyone to become educated on in 2014, and I hope there are more, similar books to follow.

Jaime's Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Who Stole My Heart



This is not a complete list of my heart stealing characters, not by far... I will make it up to the rest of them, eventually!

Riley and Beck from The Demon Trapper's series 
by Jana Oliver

Emma, Gretchen and Penelope from A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy #1) 
by Alyxandra Harvey

Karou, Akiva,  Zuz, Brimstone, Issa and the rest of the Chimaera from Daughter of Smoke & Bone series
by Laini Taylor

Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid and their friends, family and professors, in the Harry Potter series
by J.K Rowliing

Ismae and Duval from Grave Mercy 
by Robin LaFevers

Perry, Dex, Ada and Rebecca from the Experiments in Terror series
by Karina Halle

Xandy, Vex and William from the Immortal Empire series
by Kate Locke

Scarlet, Rob, John and Much, the gang from the Scarlet series
by A.C Gaughen

Sybella and Beast from Dark Triumph 
by Robin LaFevers

(Annith, You will most definitely be a part of this list as soon as I have the chance to read your story!)

Kami and Jared (special shout out to Kami's dad!) from the Lynburn Legacy series
by Sarah Rees Brennan










Drama Queens in the House

By Julie Williams
Published on March 25 2014
Published by Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)
Source: Publisher
All of Jessie's world is a stage, and she's determined to become a player, in Drama Queens in the House by Julie Williams.

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Jasper Lewis doesn’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t surrounded by method actors, bright spotlights, and feather boas. Her parents started the Jumble Players Theater together, and theater is the glue that holds her crazy family together. But when she discovers that her father’s cheating on her mother with a man, Jessie feels like her world is toppling over. And on top of everything else, she has to deal with a delusional aunt who is predicting the end of the world. Jessie certainly doesn’t feel ready to be center stage in the production that is her family. But where does she belong in all of this chaos?
Dear reader, I'm sorry to say that I had to DNF this one about half-way through. We all know how much I hate to DNF books. I tried. I really did. At 426 pages long, this one is at least 150 pages TOO long. It's a jumble of characters (literally, the Jumble Players) and a story line that went nowhere. I just couldn't relate to, or sympathize with, Jessie.

Jessie's family is a mix of cartoonish characters: the stereotypical, gay cousin (I think he was a cousin), the dramatic, emotional mother, the rock star aunt, the other aunt, who is a religious fanatic, and, best of all, the father who decides he is gay and leaves his wife for another man who works in the theater. Not one of them felt real to me. And then there's Jessie, who for some reason decides she wants to take a break from the theater even though it's all she's known her entire life. In over 200 pages, Jessie didn't grow or change, for the better or for the worse, because of her dad coming out of the closet OR her decision to take a leave of absence from the theater. . .

 Which makes me wonder what the story line of this novel is supposed to be. I suppose it could be considered a "coming of age" story, but I just couldn't relate to Jessie enough to stick around, waiting for her to discover who she truly is.

Sorry, Jessie. Maybe I'll come back to you some day when I don't have a thousand other books to read. I really hate DNF-ing anything, but I didn't want to be stuck on a book for so long that it prevented me from reading others.

The Here and Now

By Ann Brashares
Published on April 8, 2014
Published by Delacorte Press
Source: eARC from Netgalley
An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. 

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.
  My feelings for this story are so conflicted, I am not sure where to even start. Maybe starting with my initial reaction will get this review rolling... When I started The Here and Now, I was pulled into the story fairly quickly. I enjoyed learning about Prenna's community, and their rules, where they came from and why they left. I enjoyed her somewhat hesitant friendship with Ethan, and I liked knowing something with Ethan about Prenna that Prenna did not remember in the beginning. The story has a pretty fast moving plot, and it definitely kept me engaged. I liked the running, and chasing down of clues parts. But then, in the middle, the whole tone of the story kinda of shifted. It became more about Prenna and Ethan's burgeoning romance than the fate of the future, and that frustrated me. I got somewhat bored, and things started niggling at my mind. On to that in a minute. 

  Prenna has been in this "present" for four years. When her and her community arrived, rules were made that were meant to protect the community and the ones outside of the community as well. Prenna is a bit of a free-thinker, but she generally follows the big rules to a tee. Until she has a conversation with a homeless man one day, and the rules start getting bent more and more. The fate of the future lies in Prenna's hands, and she has to forget the rules in order to do what was asked of her. It takes some time to kick the habits, though. One of the rules is that the community must never share what they are with an outsider. But as it turns out, Ethan already knows. And Ethan decides to go on this mission with Prenna, to help her in any way that he can. Here is where my issues really started. Once Ethan and Prenna decide to fix this mistake, things kind of.... stopped. The story became more about Prenna opening up to Ethan, and their relationship blossoming into a romance. In general, I do not mind a romance. I like them. BUT I hate it when a book loses its focus because of a romance. Unfortunately that's what happened. Until finally, not far from the end, mission is resumed. The story regained some of its original focus, and some of my focus returned. At the end of the story, we are still left with many questions. The community has been changed completely, the rules rewritten. Prenna won, but she also lost. Ethan as well.
I liked Prenna sometimes, sometimes I did not. I never felt like I really knew who she was. Sometimes brave, sometimes not. Sometimes a leader and rebel, sometimes not so much. I wish that her characterization had been somewhat more consistent. Ethan was a good character for the most part. I feel like he was kind of written as whoever Prenna needed him to be at any point in the story. 

  My biggest complaint is that the whole premise of the story, the reason for the community, was maybe not quite as well researched as I would have liked. I think that the purpose of the story is a smart one, and one that definitely needs to be talked about and put out there in any format that can bring awareness. BUT, make sure the cause of these issues is something that has been well researched. If I can go on the computer and find out there is a cure for the plaque that killed people in your book, it makes the story a lot less plausible and that stinks. 

  Not a bad book, by far, but I definitely had some issues with it. The way it ended makes me think there may be a sequel in the future. I hope so, honestly. I think that with some minor adjustments, this could make for an interesting series and I think I would definitely be willing to give it a shot. 

-3 Stars

Neverwas

By Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, Larkin Reed
Published on January 7th 2014
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic Press
"I was sixteen the second time I had my first kiss...."

At the end of AMBER HOUSE, Sarah made a choice that transformed everything--and now she must choose it all again.

Things are very different--better--for Sarah and her family: her Aunt Maggie grew up; her parents are happily married; her grandmother died after a long, productive and respected life. But other things are different too, and not for the better.

After growing up in the free country of the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Parsons has settled in at Amber House, the stately Maryland home that's been in her family for generations. But the world surrounding the House feels deeply wrong to Sarah. It's a place where the colonists lost the 1776 Insurrection, where the American Confederation of States still struggles with segregation, and where Sarah is haunted by echoes of a better world that she knows never existed.

Her friend Jackson shares these visions of a different world--and together, they manage both to remember the way things ought to be, and to plan a daring mission that will reset the universe once again. Sarah must figure out what has changed, and why, and how she can fix it--how she can find her way to another otherwhen.
Jaime says....

Neverwas was just as amazing, for me, as Amber House. Maybe even more so! I absolutely loved this book! It begins at the exact same place in the story as Amber House began. I know, that sounds strange, but it is true. Except, things are very different. The events at the end of Amber House have changed the world. Have changed history itself. And Sarah does not remember. Not at first. But Sammy and Jackson know that things aren't right.

In this installment, segregation is alive and well. Wars that were won in our history, in Amber House's history, were lost in this history. Many things, politically, are very different. The people are very different. Sarah's parents are together and in love in this story. Her mom and grandma were close and had a loving relationship. Her mom is a good mom, overprotective, kind and nurturing. There are so many things that I could go into with this story, but I feel like it is one that you should read and learn for yourself. This book is special, to me. The relationships are special. The struggles are heartbreaking. The segregation is not an easy thing to read about. But there are so many good things in this story. So many good lessons to learn. It will make your heart swell, and then rip it right back out. One of my favorite parts about this book was seeing the changes in the people involved in the story. How different they were in this reality. And yet, at their core, there were still aspects that were the same. You are you, no matter the circumstance. There are parts of us that are to the core, that are unchanging, no matter what world we come from, no matter our history.

I think the authors truly stepped up their game with this second book, and I could not be more impressed. I can't wait for the final book, especially after that ending. I think that it could be something truly spectacular, and I can't wait to be a part of it. The final thing that I want to say is this: Yes, there is segregation in the story. It is a part of the world they live in. But it is in no way glorified. It is portrayed exactly as it should be. As an awful, horrific part of our history. Something that should be fought against, something that should never be allowed to happen again. Something that should have never been, that should never have been in the pages of our history books to begin with. So, on that note, I hope that you run to the store or Amazon or your local library, and bring this series home and enjoy!

Being Sloan Jacobs

By Lauren Morrill
Published on January 7 2014
Published by Delacorte
Source: Netgalley
Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.
It took me a really long time to get into this book, and I'm not even sure why. I think it suffers from a little bit of a pacing problem, which I've noticed in a lot of books lately. Nothing really happens until suddenly something does, and then, bam! The book is a whirlwind and ends quickly.

My  biggest issue with this book was that it relied on too many coincidences. The fact that Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon even meet is a coincidence, but at least it's needed to set up the plot . There are two or three coincidences after that one. I'm all for suspending belief, but I would have liked to have seen something happen because one of the Sloanes made it happen through her actions, not because it was the convenient thing to make the plot move along.

Overall, this was a cute book. It reminded me of "Freaky Friday" or "Parent Trap," and didn't really offer much else in the way of plot, because the Sloanes spend most of their time hiding from their respective issues while spending time in each other's skates. Also, blurbs about  the novel may make it sound like a romance, but there's very little of that. (In fact, I was surprised that at the end, the girls seem so focused on their potential romantic partners instead of the other changes happening in heir lives.)

Although it started out slow for me, I enjoyed the whirlwind ending that brought everything together and reunited the Sloanes. Morrill did a good job at the alternating viewpoints and I never got confused about who was speaking, even when the girls were speaking face to face. 


Beyond New Eden by H.S. Stone

By H.S. Stone
Published on March 8th 2013
Published by H.S. Stone
Source: Author
Eve 142 has lived her entire life in the domed city of New Eden, home to the only surviving humans after the War. Like all of the inhabitants of New Eden, Eve 142 is a clone. Together with the other clones, dubbed the Adams and the Eves, she leads a safe, predictable existence. However, Eve’s life changes when she causes a tragic accident to befall one of the Adams. As retribution, she and her counterpart, Adam 142, are banished from New Eden.

At first, Eve 142 considers their punishment a death sentence because she grew up believing the world outside the dome was uninhabitable. She is wrong. Forced to live in the Wastelands, Eve and Adam discover many new truths about the outside world and, more importantly, the truths about themselves.

I'm a huge dystopian/post-apocalyptic fan. They are my favorite type of books by far. This was no exception. I read it from start to finish in less than 24 hours. Despite reading nearly every dystopian book I can get my hands on, this was original and much different from anything I've read before.

New Eden is a domed society. It houses the Adams and the Eves - clones. Our two main characters are Eve 142 and Adam 142. Each year the oldest Eve/Adam couple die after living for 75 years, while a newborn couple are brought into the world. That's how it's always been. To start, Eve/Adam 142 have passive, peaceful temperaments, very little emotion, and do not question things. They're simply accepting. This lack of personality sets up the rest of the book as a contrast between life in the dome and outside the dome. At first it was a little jarring, but it's exactly what the story needs. Later on, we do see their personalities come out. They develop opinions and their emotional range widens.

Eve/Adam 142 get banished from New Eden for six months and are forced to go live in what they have been taught is a barren wasteland after The War. They were also taught that they are the only humans left on the planet. The rest of the book is the journey Eve and Adam 142 embark on of survival, discovery, self-discovery, and emotional growth. When their banishment is over, will they return to New Eden? Can they go back to a peaceful society of acceptance with no questions?

Overall, this was an original and exceptional read. The writing was impeccable and the story was fascinating.

A Matter of Souls

By Denise Lewis Patrick
Published on April 1st 2014
Published by Carolrhoda Books
Source: Netgalley
From the shores of Africa to the bowels of a transatlantic ship to a voting booth in Mississippi to the jungles of Vietnam, all human connection is a matter of souls. In this stirring collection of short stories, Denise Lewis Patrick considers the souls of black men and women across centuries and continents. In each, she takes the measure of their dignity, describes their dreams, and catalogs their fears. Brutality, beauty, laughter, rage, and love all take their turns in each story, but the final impression is of indomitable, luminous, and connected souls.
I kind of want everyone to read this book.  It's a collection of short stories, so it goes by very quickly, and the focus is exclusively on people of color throughout history.  Aside from a strong theme of equality and civil rights, each story stands alone, so it's a very easy book to read in bits and pieces, but I read most of it in just a few sittings.

Many of the stories focus on women or families, and each story is poignant.  The author has a wonderful, spellbinding way with words that really draws you in, and sometimes the stories feel just a bit magical, even when they're grounded in reality.  Some are hard to read -- none of them shy away from the brutality that African Americans have faced, and continue to face -- but there is a thread of optimism and perseverance that weaves throughout all of them.

On the author's website, she describes the book as a collection of stories for young adults, and I agree that this would be great for teen readers, especially anyone taking a US history or social studies class.  But I think this book will resonate with readers of all ages, from teenagers to people who lived through the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, and beyond.  It's an important book to read and one that I think everyone should invest a little time in going through.
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