april reads : aka belated february reads

this one's a few months late, seeing as February is Black History Month and I read these in April, but hey! you can appreciate diversity any time, not just in the appointed month, imho. besides, half of these books weren't published til mid-February and I had very little book money at the time, so I had to wait for my library got them to finally read them (and since they were fairly popular books, I have to wait foreverrrrrrr). anyways...

the hate u give

I read The Hate U Give first. it rode in my backpack when I was studying for midterms and working on big important papers, but luckily, spring break rolled around and I finally got to take this beautiful book out of my bag and envelope myself in it.

now, I'm extremely skeptical of hype. maybe it's because I'm bitter and jaded, but when I see a book talked up by the book community, I get twitchy. *coughs*The Unexpected Everything Hunger Games* so I went into this book with high expectations, and amazingly they were all met, thank goodness. this book made me cry at work, okay? it was that devastating and that amazing. I wish I'd had the time and energy to sit down and write my review immediately after reading it, but I kind of walked around in a literary daze for a while because of how great the writing was, how real the characters were, how crucial the message was. just everything. amazing.

I'm pretty sure everyone in the book community or who happens to read YA knows about this book, but if not, here's a little summary from good ol' goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. it's a story about civil rights, and about family, and about racism. it presented itself in such a "real-life" way that the impact was so strong.

things I loved most about this delightful read? the cover, for one. so minimalist, but it packs a punch--it somehow tells the story through one girl's stance, her expression, and I find that refreshing. most covers with people on them these days are just...*gazes dramatically into the horizon* this one wasn't.

Starr's family was potentially the best thing about this book. the connection, love, and frustration of family was just so perfectly executed. I wish more YA books has this kind of family--parents who love each other but not in  that over the top, cheesy, unrealistic way but who also show that they have issues and are fighting for their family every day. siblings who argue and bicker and yet would still do anything for their brother and sisters. It goes back to the realness of this book--this family was so real they could live next door. (and may I just say I was very impressed that there was no manic pixie dream whatever in this, which I find fairly common family-based contemporary YA books. thank goodness for that).

there's no doubt in my mind that this book is important, especially in the day and age we live in. horrible things happen in our country to people of color, and white people definitely have a tendency to look the other way. this book forces you to face this issue in manner that's funny and heartbreaking and real, and I hope that this book opens once-ignorant eyes to the issues in our country. just read it. you'll understand.

american street

next I read American Street, which ALSO has an absolutely gorgeous cover. I kind of didn't know what to expect from this one--I thought it was multi-narrator for some reason, which kind of made me hesitant--and I was also concerned that it would pale in comparison to THUG. well, I was once against happily surprised. American Street does deal with similar topics to The Hate U Give, but it does so differently--in a different context, in a different style, in a different everything.

American Street tells the story of Fabiola, a Haitian girl come to live in America. her mother was detained at the airport, and Fabiola is doing everything she can do bring her home...but America is so much more different and overwhelming than she originally imagined. This story is also about family, but different than THUG. American Street shows the strong connection of sisters, even if it isn't through blood.

I honestly can't choose between these two as my favourite. I loved them both for very different things. The Hate U Give was personal and real and raw. American Street was foreign (to me at least--Detroit is so different than my own town, while where Starr lived could've been my own town). Both dealt with family, but with different heavy themes. But both showed young women becoming confident and making hard decisions, and I loved that. one thing about American Street that totally shocked me (and made me put the book down for a little while) was HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS Kasim's death. dude. that messed me up. and for a while, I was really puzzled why his shooting affected me more than Khalil in The Hate U Give did, but then I realized that THUG is built around Khalil's death. we knew it was going to happen. in the blurb, it's right there. but Kasim...Kasim happened so fast and so unexpectedly that it was like a slap to the face. I'm still kinda sad about it, because he was such a great character. in Khalil's case, we only got to know him for a few pages and then had to grieve him the rest of the book. in Kasim's case, we fell in love with him and his sassy voice, only for it to be ripped away literally at the very end. and I guess that's another thing both of these books covered very well--death and grief.

the truth of right now

the last book I read for april was The Truth of Right Now, which I actually picked up without realizing that it was written by a woman of color or dealt with any of the topics that these other books did. I was just looking for a little contemporary romance, and well...that's not what I got. I'm not really sure what this book was about. it was pitched as the issue between a black boy dating a white girl, but honestly? that didn't truly get addressed until the very very veeeeeeery end of the book. then I thought it might be about mental illness and sexual abuse, but that didn't get outright addressed at all? and it wasn't in a healthy way either? there was nothing in Lily that showed that she wanted to get better, that she realized how damaging her behavior was, and as much as I desperately wanted to pity her (and to like her), she was a very whiney, entitled person. I get that she had a lot of hard things happen to her, and that her mind wasn't really in a great place, like, ever, but she never had any form of character development. it was always ground zero for her.

and can we please please please please PLEASE stop the whole "I'm mentally ill but maybe a boyfriend and sex will make me feel like more of a person?" trope? because that's not a healthy idea to put into people's heads in the first place, and secondly, it makes a mockery of people who actually do have these kinds of conditions. so just don't do it.

I actually did like Dari. he was the only character that I really felt invested in (although I did feel bad for Amber, because she was just there for Lily to scream at basically). I kind of wish the whole book had been about him? and his life? I feel like that would have been much more interesting than just this convoluted mess. and speaking of convoluted--why would you switch between tenses and persons for your characters? that messed me up so much. so confusing.

finally, I guess the one thing about this book that I did enjoy was the ending, because it was literally so random and so off the wall that it felt like the perfect conclusion to this weird and confusing book. and honestly, Dari was right not to forgive Lily. her entitled and selfish behavior put him in a lot of danger, and that's not something that you can just wake up the day after and forgive. it takes time and a lot of grace, and hopefully some growth on the other person's part.



first of all, I am so for historical graphic novels. I enjoy reading historical non-fiction, but this style of storytelling really add something to the learning process. I felt entertained and involved while learning about this major figure in the civil rights movement, and not once did I feel bored.

second of all, I wish this graphic novel had been out when I was taking modern American history in high school. Yeah, I read all the fiction that addressed the civil rights movement that was available at the time, but I feel like I never really grasped that it wasn't just a story. Seeing it in these beautiful black and white drawings made it come alive in sobering way. And there was a lot shown in this graphic novel that I didn't learn from my high school education--like the thorough rules for peaceful protests. I never knew how in depth the guidelines were. 

The only thing I didn't like about this was the fact that I don't have books 2 and 3 with me, so I'm anxious to hop down to the library and get my hands on the rest of the books. I'm definitely going to recommend these graphic novels to my mom, because I know that my brother is getting ready to go into American history as a high school student, and I want him to have the education/understanding of this serious topic that wasn't available to me when I was in high school.

so yeah. april was interesting month for books--two that I loved, one that was different, and one that was very much mehhhhh. what are your favourite books about social rights/African American rights and lives? I still have one book left to read that I didn't finish in time for this post, but it is How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon. it's got a white male narrator, unlike the majority of the books I read for april, so I'm kind of looking forward to seeing its differences.


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