The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon

alternating narration, diversity in YA, families, love, Safe Bets

“Do you have idea what it’s like not to fit in anywhere?”  For our characters, they all do.

Natasha is Jamaican and came to America as a child with her family.  Daniel’s family is Korean, but he was born in America.  Both struggle with living in America as outsiders.  For her it’s due to the location of her birth and for him it’s trying to learn how to be both American and Korean.  Life for Natasha is worse than trying to live the American life, she is trying to stay in America.  Natasha’s family is to be deported – tonight – when the story begins.  As a senior in high school who only knows of her life in Brooklyn, Natasha has gone from looking at colleges and planning prom to trying to find a way to remain.

This is more than a YA “meeting a stranger-turned-romance” tale, it shows the depth of families, the struggles when a teenager takes on parental roles, but what makes this second novel by Yoon amazing, and hold up to Everything, Everything is the way she writes of the side characters to show everyone has a story and how lives are connected.  This novel has so much enjoyment to offer from the budding friendship/romance of Natasha and Daniel to the way they spend a day when one is blessed with the freedom of teenagers out of school for a day as they answer questions and experience different parts of Brooklyn and New York City.  Natasha is strong and believes in science.  She values facts over emotion.  When she meets Daniel, who believes in emotions, dreams, poetry, and fate, at first it’s with amusement, but as the day continues, they both begin to understand their view of the world isn’t the only way to view it at all.

The story of these two and their immigration background, family cultures, and day together is a great story on its own, but what I appreciate of this story is that we learn about side characters in alternating narrations, yet characters who seem to have no connection somehow affect each other’s lives.  A side character story line from the security guard to an immigration lawyer having an affair show how people are connected. Yoon also manages to make us see people and circumstances from another view.  As the title suggests, the sun is more than the sun. In a story focused on people coming into a country seeking a home, the real story is the humanity between people – no matter where they are from.

 


Click here for an interview with Nicola Yoon

The Way We Fall (Fallen World, 1) -Megan Crewe

Climate Fiction, death, diversity in YA, families, Series

Kaelyn narrates a virus outbreak through her journal entries intended for her former best friend.  Little did she realize beginning a journal-apology would act as a first hand account to an illness that soon begins killing off her friends and neighbors.

What starts with an itch and a cough leads to a hyper-hallucinating fever, with the end result being death.  Soon school is cancelled, and Kaelyn remains in her house with her family.  While her dad is one of the island’s doctors, he cannot explain what is happening.  When the government and the World Health Organization comes to town searching for answers, Kaelyn and her neighbors are left in the dark.  Things go from odd to worse with eventual Quarantine status for those left on the island.

Even though her current circumstances seem out of the ordinary, her friendship struggles are quite ordinary for teenagers.  Kaelyn’s family moved away years ago and only recently returned.  She tries to make new friendships, but is haunted by one from the past.  Her friend Leo who after being best friends for a decade, had a falling out, and now Kaelyn wants to make amends – only, this virus is keeping her on the island and him off.

Soon it’s been months, the island is still under quarantine, and more have gotten sick.  The Mainland isn’t helping other than drop offs by helicopter, but with a recent rogue gang taking things by force, the humanity of Kaelyn’s neighbors begins to disappear as would happen as fear and death increase while supplies decrease.  There’s also a light romance, but the overall focus is the disease and the island.

Being the beginning of a series, I grew tired of it expecting more action and story line progression. I’m a bit curious how the series moves forward once our characters get off of the island (which is the plot of the second), so I may finish this series eventually.


A great science/virus – apocalyptic plot like Life As We Knew It, The Living, Sweet, and H2O and other ClyFi or science conspiracy books.


Series Continues:

The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler

diversity in YA, families, Favorites, love, mental illness, Safe Bets

Jude Hernandez is 18, the much younger sister of three older sisters who live around the country, and is spending her summer before college in an effort to fix her dad’s old motorcycle.  Why?  Because her dad, Papi, is at the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and Jude sees how each time Papi speaks of his summer riding the motorcycle, he lights up.  The only problem is the 19 year old who is the hired worker to fix the motorcycle is Emilio Vargas – the youngest brother of the Vargas boys who have broken the elder Hernandez sisters’ hearts.

Jude (JuJu) was a 12-year-old preteen when she took the oath to swear off the Vargas family with her older sisters.  Surely now that the eldest sisters are living in different states, and are grown, the juvenile oath doesn’t hold…. the bike can get fixed before the summer and her sisters will never know Emilio Vargas was invited into the Hernandez household.  The only problem is Emilio shares the good looks of the Vargas family, and JuJu not only relies on him to restore the motorcycle, but begins to rely on him during the summer she cares for her ailing dad.

With sisterly humor, family struggles, a light romance, and a daughter’s love wanting to do something for her father who is disappearing from their lives.  Her love for her dad surpasses the sisterly oath.  In a light, entertaining read, this is an entertaining romantic and even silly story of a family and first romance.

Untwine: A Novel – Edwidge Danticat

Books Worth Crying Over, death, diversity in YA, families, Read-a-Likes

Identical twin sisters Isabelle and Giselle are born into this world holding hands – and are holding hands when a car wreck takes Isabelle out of this world.   The description of “untwine” sort of breaks your heart in the first chapter.

Haitian parents who have announced their divorce to their teenage daughters and then a car crash all within the first chapter – it’s another death story, but the twin aspect is new.  There are very detailed descriptions of the car crash that nearly destroys this family.   While Giselle is in the hospital unconscious, she hears her visitors and is trying to will her body to wake up.  Finally she does wake to the realization that her sister is dead.  The rest of the story is showing the family trying to cope and move on.  When the police come to question the family stating the accident is under investigation because they do not think the driver who ran into the family’s car (another high school student) was an accident, Giselle starts to investigate this theory.  What would a new student have against her family or her sister?

This is a heartbreaking story as we witness this family try to physically heal from horrific injuries to emotionally heal with the loss of a sister, daughter, niece, and granddaughter.  Giselle narrates the first part of the book from within a coma and tries to focus on visiting family members and doctors.  She can’t stay awake long enough to learn of her injuries or her sister’s.  Once she is released from the hospital, she must begin living her life minus her other half.  This is a lovely story of friendship, love, and having to start over.  There’s a little mystery thrown in, but the beauty in Untwine is the way in which love and heartache are portrayed from everyone from a boyfriend to a parent  Throughout the novel there are flashbacks and stories to exhibit the family dynamics, the tradition of Haitian culture, and Giz still manages to find a few teenage secrets her twin kept to herself.

You’ll cry.  You’ll feel love and hope, but you’ll cry.  Danticat writes of how the sisters are entwined, they were holding hands when they entered the world and they held hands in the backseat of the crash, which eventually was their final separation: their untwine. As Giz slowly accepts Isabelle’s death, she realizes the rest of her family survived.  One decision, to remove her seat belt for a  moment, changed everything, but she and her family will survive this.  She questions how even though some goodness came with closure (remember, it’s a bit of a mystery so I’m not going to give that away), her sister is still gone, and pain is still felt.  In her sixteen year old logic seeking brain, she believes that maybe her family had just had too much joy, it was time for something bad to happen, and others needed some joy.  Giz questions the idea of why bad things happen and feels the loss of not only her sister, but of her best friend and now has no one to be other other half to whom she talks too.

In a touching scene late at night, on the kitchen floor, her aunt says she will become that person for Giz.  I sort of want to be adopted into this family.   This is a beautiful multi-generational family who come together in the worst moment of their lives and support one another in order to try and heal.  Very touching family moments and a good tear-jerker well worth shedding a few tears.

Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) – Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston

Uncategorized

frozen

In the future, the Earth is a frozen wasteland.  New Vegas still runs on casinos and crime, but is covered in ice.  Power is no longer held by politicians and government, but by criminals and underground markets.  Natasha (Nat) hides her power for fear of persecution like all the others who are marked with special abilities.  She must rely on others to flee New Vegas she comes across a team, the Runners, willing to smuggle her out – at a cost.

Wes, the team’s leader, doesn’t know that Nat is stronger and smarter than just a basic blackjack dealer when he agrees to take this job.  He is out of heat credits and running low on food and has his team to think of so once again he takes the job of as a Runner and tries to find the mysterious Blue.  Nat was given a necklace that seems to be the key to the Blue – both an oasis for those with special powers and also an environmental oasis away from the frozen land.  As the crew begins their journey, Nat’s secret is exposed causing division among Wes’ group.  Soon old members are gone and new ones join the ship.  With the addition of a woman with supernatural powers and a homosexual little person couple the crew is a bunch of misfits unlike the trained soldiers Wes is used to dealing with.

Wes’ past continues to haunt him both with internal guilt he can never let go and in everyday life as he runs into military officials and other seamen breaking laws.  Nat’s search for an oasis and Wes’ struggle with survival soon brings them together when Nat realizes their pasts are intertwined. Soon the slavers get a hold of the newly formed crew and though they are separated, our characters remain strong.

As the climax begins we learn Nat is much more powerful than even she knew.  We learn the answer to what the voice is in her head and how she has been able to survive extreme circumstances.  Though she finds answers to why she was used as a weapon in her past, the realization brings more questions about her future.


I think the authors set up a good premise for the second book, but I’m doubtful I will continue with this series.  The action did increase with the battles against the slave ships and the realization of Nat’s powers, but it’s not enough to keep me reading the second installment….. maybe.  Some quotes I find are building up Nat’s strength ….and I always like a Kick-Awesome YA female character.

Heart of Dread on Tumbler

Still, for readers who like fantasy and those especially who like adventures at sea it could be a good series.  Not a lot of romance in this one even though it’s a plot point so it’s (so far) safe for the younger YA readers – though the types of torture are a bit intense and the Flesh Markets are dark. I also give props for sneaking in the homosexual couple to a YA book.


Series continuation with Stolen and Golden.