Friday, 21 June 2019

Mini Reviews // The Boy Who Steals Houses + Proud + Summer Bird Blue + King of Fools + If I Was Your Girl

Time for some more mini reviews! This post was edited on 21/06/2019 to include an additional two reviews for a couple more excellent books that I read in the time since this was originally posted. These are all lovely contemporaries, with the added bonus of King of Fools, a fantasy novel and one of my most anticipated sequels of the year 💙

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews
This was such a lovely read! I was obsessed with C.G. Drew's debut A Thousand Perfect Notes, and her second book did not disappoint. The Boy Who Steals Houses is all about families and how they can be both broken and loving. I loved the relationship Sam had with his brother Avery, and how the two of them searched for a place where they could be loved. These boys are tragic and broken but their bond is so sweet, as is the dynamic of the wonderfully chaotic De Lainey family.
Diversity note: Avery is autistic
Warnings: child abuse, physical violence, ableism, anxiety attacks

Proud by Juno Dawson
Proud is the best anthology I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Every story in this collection captures a different aspect of the queer experience in a way that is genuine and validating. Some stories are sad, some are hilarious, but absolutely all of them are gorgeous. Even the pieces that weren't totally for me (I have never been big on poetry) had lines that felt incredibly powerful. What felt especially important is that many of these stories address the difficult parts of the queer experience in a variety of ways, from the pressure to explain or justify your identity to not having the finances to transition to fighting for marriage equality when love sometimes feels impermanent. A few of my personal favourites were 'Penguins', 'The Phoenix's Fault' and 'Love Poems to the City' (I'd list more if I could!) but even the ones that didn't speak to me felt incredibly real and so very filled with hope. This book needs to be in the hands of every queer teen.
Diversity note: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Non-Binary, and Questioning protagonists
Warnings: death, loss, homophobia, transphobia

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
This was beautiful. Summer Bird Blue is an emotional yet heartwarming contemporary novel about a girl trying to find her way back to music in the aftermath of her sister's death. Sent to Hawaii by her mother and alone in the grieving process, Rumi's journey intertwines past memories with her present, leading her to a friendship with the cheerful Kai and the grumpy and still grieving elderly neighbour Mr Watanabe, who unknowingly help her navigate her loss.
The intense experience of losing someone is difficult to process, but Akemi Dawn Bowman writes it faultlessly. Rumi struggles to find meaning and purpose in life after losing Lea, but over the course of the novel, she learns to heal through the very thing that brought them together: music.
The Aromantic Asexual representation in this book is wonderful, with Rumi slowly learning to understand her identity throughout the course of the story. What felt so important about this story was that even though Rumi doesn't experience romantic or sexual love, there is so much love in her heart. For her friends. For her sister. For music. This book tears apart every negative stereotype about people on the ace spectrum, whilst also exploring the struggle that is coming to terms with that identity. Alice Oseman writes a perfect review regarding this. We need more stories like this. Young people need to feel validated by seeing themselves on the page.
Another powerful and poignant story by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Like her debut novel, Starfish, Summer Bird Blue is about looking to the future with hope, even when the present feels bleak.
Diversity note: Rumi is multiracial (Japanese, Hawaiian, and white) and Aromantic Asexual
Warnings: car accident, death, grief, loss

King of Fools by Amanda Foody
This was a super exciting read! I adored the dark world of Ace of Shades, and it felt brilliant to revisit that in King of Fools.
The characters continue to be my favourite thing about this series. The first book revealed that neither Enne or Levi were what they appeared to be on the surface, and this sequel really develops their complex relationships with morality. The pair make some really brutal and selfish decisions, but Foody is able to create characters that are likeable despite their flaws, and I still found myself rooting for them. This sequel also introduced Jac's perspective which I possibly enjoyed the most out of the three. I was thrilled to learn more about him and his motivations, and I'm so glad we got to see more of his relationships explored.
I admit I liked this book a tiny bit less than it's predecessor. The pacing is a little slower and I had hoped to see a bit more magic and political development. However, King of Fools is still a thoroughly enjoyable sequel, and I am eager to see how everything unfolds in the finale.
Diversity note: Levi is black and bisexual
Warnings: past drug addiction, past drug overdose, murder, death, gore, struggling with sobriety, torture, attempted forced drug use

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
This was a really sweet story, and I can't believe it wasn't on my radar sooner! If I Was Your Girl tells the story of Amanda, a trans girl who moves in with her dad in an attempt to have a fresh start at a new school, and it is a heartwarming read.
The writing wasn't perfect, but listening to the audiobook really helped me engage more - and I'm so glad I did because the themes in this book were so important. Hearing Amanda's excitement when she first gets prescribed her hormones made me so happy, and I love that her experience was normalised without ignoring the struggles that young trans people face.
The novel addresses issues regarding gender in a wider sense as well; Amanda and the other female characters experience comments and abuse that the male characters do not, and the novel also deals with toxic masculinity within the male characters when they feel their own gender identity is threatened, highlighting the many messy layers of the topic of gender inequality.
The novel also features supportive female friendships and parents who grow to understand their daughter and love her regardless. Even though there are sad moments, If I Was Your Girl is such a hopeful story, for queer and trans teens especially, and it was a joy to read.
Diversity note: Amanda is a trans girl
Warnings: transphobia, mentions of past attempted suicide, drug overdose, physical abuse, mention of rape, public outing, sexual assault, sexual harassment

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

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