Monday, July 13, 2020

All American Boys - Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Title: All American Boys
Authors: Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely 
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 Stars 

I've tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but a few things have slipped in. Read at your own caution.
Rashad is absent again today.

That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…

Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.

And that’s how it started.

And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like “racism” and “police brutality.” Quinn realizes he’s got to understand it, because, bystander or not, he’s a part of history. He just has to figure out what side of history that will be.

Rashad and Quinn—one black, one white, both American—face the unspeakable truth that racism and prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. There’s a future at stake, a future where no one else will have to be absent because of police brutality. They just have to risk everything to change the world.

Cuz that’s how it can end.

All American Boys is THE BOOK you all need to be reading right now.  Put it on your list right beside The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, because those books are both so powerful and so relevant to where we still are in the US right now.  

This book is a powerhouse of a book that will keep you hooked from the very first page. It explores the dynamics of race and the tension between black and white people, and black people and cops so, so well. 

You've read the summary above. Perhaps you've even read this book. So I won't go into more detail about what this book is about.  Let's just jump right in to my review.  

I feel like I don't even know where to start with this book. I loved every single second of this book. Every. Single. Second.  Wait - that's a small lie. I really hated that we never find out what happened to Paul at the end.  I didn't like that part.  And while I may not have loved the way that Rashad's dad treated Rashad throughout this book, I loved watching the dad's character development right up to the end where he finally, finally realized his son's were standing up for the right thing.  

I was absolutely heartbroken for Rashad reading about what Paul did to him, and I am heartbroken for every single person who has to be hurt and many times killed because of police brutality.  It breaks my heart that Rashad and his friends live a time when police brutality not only still exists but is getting worse.  It breaks my heart that these kids are surrounded by people who think that "not all cops" do this stuff, and that "not all cops" are bad cops.  Not review related at all: My thoughts on that sentiment are: If you claim to be a good cop, but you let police brutality for any reason slide, you are not a good cop.  Stand up and do the right thing!

I really loved watching the development of these characters. I feel like the authors nailed what it's like to be a black kid living in fear every single day, and to be that white kid on the other side growing and realizing that the treatment of black people at the hands of police and other people is not okay.  Rashad really seemed to struggle at the beginning with whether or not he wanted to march with his friends and brother when he got out of the hospital, but it just took a small amount of persuasion to convince him to march.  And thank goodness he did. It was just so amazing to watch him go from this uncertain kid who hated the cop but wasn't sure what to do about it, to this strong kid who stood up for himself and others in the best way!

Quinn's story as well was amazing. Quinn is a white kid that goes to Rashad's school and plays on a basketball team with a bunch of people who happen to be friends with Rashad.  Quinn's friend Guzo is also on the team and his Guzo's brother just happens to be Paul the bastard cop.  Quinn and Guzo have been friends for so long that everyone in their families considers each other part of their own families.  They do so much together, and everyone just assumes that when Paul beats the shit out of Rashad, that Quinn will stand for it.  At first Quinn think he might, but you can see little cracks in his thinking, you can see the way he looks at Paul, you can feel his anger and frustration at what Paul did.  He ends up doing the right thing. He stands up to Paul, Guzo, and everyone else supporting Paul.  I think that shows that he grew during the short time of this book and that he has incredible character.  

This whole story, from the very first page, was amazing and heartbreaking. Every single second of this story flowed together and worked together to create a book that is, hands down, THE BEST BOOK I've read this year.  It beats out Scythe.  I loved this book more than Scythe.The story was amazing, the characters were so well written and well developed, and even though the book was shorter (just over 6 hours for the audiobook) it packed such a punch. Every second of this book worked well together, everything made sense, all the characters fit well with one another and each character had a very obvious place in the story. 

If the only other book you read this year is All American Boys, you won't be disappointed.  

Now, go do the important things. Spread the word about the BLM movement, stand up and be vocal against systemic racism, call out people, and READ THIS BOOK! 




Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Diviners - Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners 
Author: Libba Bray
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5 Stars 

SOMETHING DARK AND EVIL HAS AWAKENED… Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries her uncle will discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

This is a book I have been meaning to read for a long time, and once I actually got into it, I fell in love!  This whole book just speaks to me.

There was so much to this story, from the struggle of these young people living in 1920's New York City WITH SPECIAL POWERS, to the fact that they were trying to stop a murderer, and just so much more.  

I loved the way this story was written, I loved the way each chapter flowed together so well and added so much to each other part of the book, I loved all the characters, even the ones that were a bit...dippy (Evie.)  

I admit I do agree that Evie seems a bit surface level and seems like she doesn't really care about anyone else other than herself. That's obvious. But I think she does grow toward the end, I really do, and I think she can see that she needs to start being more open and receptive to other people.  I think she starts to realize and learn that life isn't always going to revolve around her.  Also, something to keep in mind is that this girl is 17 - she's still a teenager, and it's really in a teenagers psychology to have this sort of attitude that the world is all about them. Luckily most teens grow out of that and learn to evolve and think more about others as well. 

The other characters were just - wow. I literally couldn't think of a single character in this book that I didn't like.  Well, okay, Naughty John was, you know, the literal worst, but other than that I loved every single character. I do believe my favorites were Theta and Memphis.  They were just amazing.  I loved the growth, development, and evolution of all the characters. I loved the way the characters meshed so well together and added so much to the flow of the story.  There wasn't any single character who didn't fit in here, and who didn't add their own thing to this book. 

The whole story flowed well together, each chapter adding more and more depth to what was happening throughout this book.  The writing kept me hooked and made me want to finish.  It was definitely a YA book, but the author did a good job of writing it in a way that I could easily forget that the main characters are much younger than me.  

There was also some surprise and intrigue throughout this story as well that kept me going - I was not expecting to learn what I did about Jericho, for example.  I feel like the author didn't overuse the element of surprise - there was enough surprise in the book to move the story along and keep you hooked, but not so much that it felt tired.  

I think the author did a great job if including some accuracy with the story.  She did have to take some dramatic liberties of course, but even with that, I think you can definitely get the feel of 1920's New York in this story, from the way they talked, to the places they visited, to the clothing they wore.

All in all, if you are looking for a wonderful historical mystery with plenty of flair, read this book now!