Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review: Blanca & Roja

Blanca & Roja Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much going on, all good, but so hard to do justice.

Blanca and Roja, the del Cisne sisters, born into a cursed family. Two sisters are born, and one is always turned into a swan. Always.

This is a world set in the present, with cars and ice cream and high school bullies.

It is a world of magical realism, where girls can turn into swans and boys into bears.

It is a retelling of fairy tales: retelling, re-imagination, reinterpretation.

It is a story of families and competition and rivalry, and of love.

It is a world with prejudices and suspicion.

Blanca is fair haired and light skinned; Roja's hair is red and her coloring darker. Blanca is the good girl, the princess; Roja is tougher, the witch. They are close and vow to be the set of sisters who both survive, where neither get taken. But then the swans come and it becomes clear, one must be taken, and will this turn the sisters against each other?

Two local boys disappeared earlier this year: Barclay Holt, from one of the richest families in town. Page Ashby, whose family owns orchards. Best friends. Barclay had a fight with a cousin and went into the woods, became part of the woods, became a bear, and now is back. Page followed into the woods, and also now has returned. Barclay fled his family because of lies and violence. Page because Page isn't seen as they want to be seen: Page is a non-binary trans boy, tired of having to explain, of not being seen.

Blanca is told that she can save them both if a blue eyed boy falls for her. Barclay is blue eyed. But Page, Page is the boy Blanca has been in love with despite never talking, the boy Blanca wants.

And Roja: Roja knew Barclay as a yearling bear, still calls him yearling.

And so much more! How blue eyed is viewed as better than brown. How the sisters are treated in school, how Roja is treated differently than Blanca because she is the darker sister. How they love and compete. How their parents see them, how their town see them.

Can these two girls win? Or will the swans?







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Thursday, November 07, 2019

Review: The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary

The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. I listened to this and man, it was tough at times.

Because Macy.

Macy.

Macy tells her story in a dictionary, starting with "a." She jumps around a bit in time, telling now but also giving glimpses of her past so you understand, a bit more, her now. Now: her father is in prison. Her mother moves from one "Mr. Guest" to another. Macy cannot stand these men, but she doesn't want her father to know. Her brother has been "kidnapped" by child services and Macy wants him back. Her best friend is mad at her because Macy doesn't want to go to her friend's big birthday party.

This is a look at people who have very few resources. Macy's mother became a mother at fifteen; her own mother had abandoned her, and while Macy hates many of the things her mother does, she also knows that her mother had no role model on how to be a mother.

That Macy's life is difficult is an understatement. Which is part of the reason I had a hard time reading it.

Macy's school calls her "disturbed" and they aren't wrong, in that Macy is headstrong, stubborn, often willing to bite off her nose to spite her face, more in the now than the future which means in the future she deals with consequences. She is also loyal, logical, cynical, loving, and smart. She can be her own worst enemy. But it's also clear that from her life, "now" is the only time you can rely on.

This is a snapshot of a year in her life, of what she will do to regain her brother; but also what she will do when her best friend is threatened.

A tough read; yes. But worth it.







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Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Review: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Written by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, a Nigerian journalist, and Vivianna Mazza, an Italian journalist.

We are introduced to the teenage girl narrating this book by what she wants; what her dreams are. A new pair of red shoes. A good harvest. A scholarship to university. Becoming a teacher. Getting married to a good man.

For the first half of this book, we learn of her life, the daily life of her village and family. She has dreams; she loves her family; she has a crush on her boy. She and her family are Christian, but one of her best friends is Muslim. Violence exists elsewhere in their country because of the terrorist group Boko Haram, but in their village, people of different religions get along.

Halfway through the book, Boko Haram attack the village. The narrator and her friends are among a group who are kidnapped. At first, she thinks she is lucky: she is not dead, like the rest of her village. Like some of her family.

The second half is her life as a captive. Boko Haram force all the captives to follow their own radical beliefs. She watches as friends are beaten; her name is changed; she is forced into a marriage. It is heart breaking.

This is a work of fiction, based on the real life kidnappings in Nigeria, and the real stories of some of the girls who have been kidnapped. I fell in love with this girl and her world and her voice, and I hope the world is kind to her.

A note on the violence: yes. It’s there. But it’s not explicit. Don’t get me wrong – it’s horrifying. But it’s the “one sentence” description, not pages of description.






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