Tag Archives: YA

Review of Kill Me Now, by Timmy Reed

I won a copy of Timmy Reed‘s Kill Me Now though Goodreads.

Miles Lover is an imaginative but insecure adolescent skateboarder with an unfortunate nickname, about to face his first semester of high school in the fall. In Kill Me Now, Miles exists in a liminal space―between junior high and high school, and between three houses: his mother’s, his father’s, and the now vacant house his family used to call home in a leafy, green neighborhood of north Baltimore. Miles struggles against his parents, his younger identical twin sisters, his probation officer, his old friends, his summer reading list, and his personal essay assignment (having to keep a journal). More than anything, though, he wrestles with himself and the fears that come with growing up.

It’s not until Miles begins a mutually beneficial friendship with a new elderly neighbor―whom his sisters spy on and suspect of murder―that he begins to find some understanding of lives different than his own, of the plain acceptance of true friends, and, maybe, just a little of himself in time to start a whole new year. When you’re green, you grow, he learns. But when you’re ripe, you rot.

Being a 14-year-old boy must suck. Being a 14-year-old girl had it’s challenges, being 14 in general does, but being a 14-year-old boy sounds like the pits. Such were my thoughts while reading Kill Me Now.

I liked this more than I expected. It reminded me A LOT of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Though TPoBaWF has a certain gentleness that this lacks, there are a lot of similarities. Miles Lover isn’t quite as cerebral as Charlie Scorsoni, but he engages in  the same kind of stream of consciousness writing to an unknown reader. He is the same kind of socially awkward that leaves you wondering if he’s on the spectrum somewhere. And Kill Me Now puts a 14-year-old, not a child/not an adult into the same situations that people (and therefore their media) pretends they don’t engage in—drugs, alcohol, sex, casual cruelty, etc. And like The Perks of Being a Wallflower this challenging of the national script is what I appreciated most about the book. Because I have never known youths to be as pure as people like to insist they are.

I was uncomfortable with the casual racism, repeated use of Retard as a nickname, and the overt sexualization of prepubescent girls. (This one bothered me a lot more than the 14-year-old giving Miles a BJ or the rumors that his 13-year-old sisters had done the same to someone else.) I understand Reed probably included these for a reason. But I don’t know what it was. To showcase the poor decision-making of Miles and his friends, teens in general, maybe?

All in all, I think if you liked Chbosky’s wallflower, you’ll like this grittier version of the same idea. But if you didn’t like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I feel confident saying you won’t like Kill Me Now either.

Review of Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older

I bought a copy of Daniel José Older‘s Shadowshaper.

Description from Goodreads:
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.

First off, that cover is beyond beautiful, just stunning!

Second, I love that the main character’s heritage is from a Puerto Rico, but her friends and other characters are Haitian, Cuban, and from Montinique. It reminds readers that black and brown culture is a varied and important as white cultures.

Third, the narration and dialogue is wonderfully realistic. No one really speaks in fully formed, proper English all the time. Especially not those from communities where English isn’t the only language spoken. I really appreciated this.

Fourth, as a prior anthropology student, I cringed to see the antagonist abusing the study as badly as they did. But the fact that what they were engaging in was basically the ultimate act of appropriation was not missed by me.

I truly enjoyed this book. However, I also found the plot moved too fast. Especially in the beginning, when Sierra accepted and acted on very little information. Additionally, there’s a bit of a deus ex machina climax. But overall it’s a win and I’ll be passing the book to my daughter.

Review of Hullmetal Girls, by Emily Skrutskie

I won a signed copy of Hullmetal Girls, by Emily Skrutskie though Goodreads.

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

This was so much better than I expected. I’m just so jaded on YA lit, but this gave me hope for the genre. These girls face some real challenges and succeed through perseverance and determination, every times. Plus, the book is full of diversity and calmly breaks patriarchal norms all over the place. There are people who look different from one another and economic/class distinctions. There’s an aroace character, a pansexual character, someone who isn’t sure, a heterosexual character (they have a conversation, sexuality isn’t a big thing in the book). A gay couple adopts a child because a woman loves her child but isn’t maternal or want to be a mother and that’s ok. One of the main characters is religious and wears a head scarf. All the people in positions of power are female (even God) and no one tries to explain it away or excuse it. Romance or being slighted by a man isn’t a motivating force for anyone. Of the only significant male characters, one is inept and clumsy and one is a support worker. There is just so much to love about it.

I did think the story was dependent on the characters being given leeway that didn’t make sense and I wasn’t entirely sure what actually happened with Key at the end. It didn’t seem to fit the science of the eco rigs, as explained. But these are small complaints on the whole, I really enjoyed the book and look forward to more of Skrutskie’s writing.