Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review of Girls of Paper and Fire

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Nagan (380 pages) is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Laini Taylor, and Leigh Bardugo. Especially if you are looking for some representation within YA books. Nagan’s book does just that, blending cultures of the United Kingdom and Malaysia, China where she grew up. The book also has a lesbian romance as the main romance, and it was great to see the representation. I will put a trigger warning for scenes of sexual violence and assault here but the book also contains this warning but I decided to mention it for anyone thinking of reading the book, just to let you know. The scenes that contain sexual violence and assault are intense but I appreciate Nagan’s rawness in this sense and not trying to shy away from the topics which she writes beautifully. I feel that the book would be so much less if Nagan had tried sugarcoat the sexual violence and assault. But please be aware of this before you read it. Girls of Paper and Fire follows Lei a village girl who is selected for a competition every year in which eight girls, known as paper girls, are chosen to be the King’s concubines. But this year there are nine girls, and as Lei adjusts to life as a paper girl she falls in love. I loved this book because of the main romance and that the author (who is queer herself) chose to portray a lesbian romance, it means so much and also is just some fresh diversity that I needed in YA books and have not seen in a long time or read for that matter. I also loved the female relationships, while the girls struggle with their new life there are many friendships formed that are just very supportive and feel good, the characters are human and make mistakes within their friendships also, but band together within their groups and support each other within tough times. The book was an amazing read for me and opened my eyes to some of the many facets of the world and gave me insight into many topics. Which Nagan brings to life with her lyrical writing and talent. Not only that but I am so happy for the lesbian romance present in this book, the book receives only high reviews from me and I would highly recommend it if you are in the mood for a feminist type of read with a different take on romance.

-Reviewed by Alexi V., Homestead High School Junior

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review of East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

East of Eden , This title is in.East of Eden is, most simply stated, a documentary of two families and their settlement into California's Salinas Valley. It follows the paths of the Hamiltons and Trasks as they explore what it means to be human while their worlds are destroyed and reconstructed again. The reader is offered a window into a 19th century California through the eyes of a marvelously flawed cast, and it is a novel I would definitely recommend. Posted by Helen L., Homestead freshman

Monday, April 1, 2019

Review of Birthmarked, by Caragh M. O'Brien

Click for more information on this titleThis book had a good concept and okay plot. But all in all, if I had to give it a rating, it would be a 3/5. The book was not short on action, but the plot was thin and the characters were slightly dull. Instead of enjoying the book, I trudged through it, wanting to see the ending more than anything. I wasn't committed to Gaia, the main character, or her cause. And to top it all off, the book ended on a cliff hanger because it is part of a series.
The book focuses on Gaia, a midwife in a future dystopian society. Every month, she has to give up newborns to the richer population of the city, but without knowing why. Everyone follows orders, and serves their society. Gaia's parents are arrested, and she spends the rest of the book trying to figure out a code her mother left her and get her parents back.

~ Posted by a Homestead freshman

Monday, March 25, 2019

Review of An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (with his writing style clearly shown throughout the novel) is a cute love story that's not quite focused on the romance. The story follows a child prodigy, a senior in high school, as he explores the algorithm of love while also discovering his own love of the small town he landed in.

~ Posted by a Homestead sophomore

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Warcross and Wildcard: In which Marie Lu does YA dystopian right

About four years ago, I read Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy and it was utterly unremarkable. I’m sure I thought it was okay at the time, but the fact remains that I don’t remember a single plot point or character from any of the three books. The one thing I can recall is that I couldn’t tell what gender the romantic interest was for the entirety of the first book, and that I was shocked to learn that he was male.

With this in mind, I had no expectations when I picked Warcross up off a desolate, 80’s-sci-fi-populated shelf in a health center lobby. It was simply the only book that appealed to me at face value, and as many people do, I judged it based on the cover.

Warcross centers on Emika Chen, a teenage, rainbow-haired hacker from NYC who can’t pay her rent and instead resorts to work as a bounty hunter, tracking down those who choose to gamble on worldwide sensation and household-name VR video game Warcross. Looking for more cash, Emika accidentally glitches herself into the opening night of the Warcross Championships (think a crossover between competitive gaming and the Olympics, and with more futuristic virtual reality). Fearing punishment, she ends up being sent to the corporation that produces Warcross, where young CEO (and Emika’s childhood celebrity crush) Hideo Tanaka asks her to find a worm in the championships’ security.

I don't have much to say about Hideo. Didn't really care for him. Like, okay, you're hot, rich, and you have a dog. So? reads my Goodreads review for Warcross, and I can’t say that my opinion has changed, two books and way too many chapters later. Though it also deals with the moral crisis of what it means to be truly “good”, Warcross is, at its heart, a love story, which honestly kind of sucks. Warcross and its sequel Wildcard’s fatal flaws rest in the fact that the supporting cast are just so much more interesting than the main characters. While Emika’s internal issues are tiring and even boring to listen to at some times (“I like this guy but I don’t like what he’s doing! Oh no, he has immense political power!”, over and over again), the colourful side characters provide a look into how insanely good this duology could have been. I enjoyed every look into the lives of Emika’s championships team and other members of the secondary cast (special shoutout to her competitive rival Tremaine Blackbourne for being the most complex and interesting character in this world full of utterly uninteresting personalities).

Now that I’ve trashed what I hated for a whole paragraph, let’s get on to what makes this book one of my favourite dystopians - the actual plot presented and the world-building had me excitedly anticipating the release of Wildcard. Too often dystopian plots boil down to “main character works for government, realizes they’re corrupt, rebels against them” (off the top of my head, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner all fit this description to a T). Though some of these same tropes are present, more importantly, Warcross presents a conflict based in the influence of technology on our lives, and how free will moulds our perspectives and identities. The world-building Lu does is phenomenal as well - throughout the novel, as Emika goes through levels of the game, Lu’s vivid setting descriptions provide wonderful and imaginative imagery.

Wildcard I can’t say much about without spoiling Warcross, as the story relies heavily on the events of the first book, but I will say that it was my favourite of the two. The plot and character developments made in it were everything I wanted Lu to give me (more Tremaine included), and that she did. Many YA dystopians are stretched into trilogies for monetary reasons or movie adaption purposes and end up being weirdly paced, a problem Lu does not have. The Warcross duology combines fast-paced action scenes and internal stream-of-consciousness monologues to paint a compelling narrative of what makes us truly independent and human.

At face value, the Warcross duology presents a dull and uninteresting main romance, but just behind the curtain is a riveting tale of moral complexity with an interesting, captivating set of supporting characters and subplots.

A similar book you might enjoy if you liked Warcross is the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi - another unique take on the YA dystopian trope with complex character motivations and subversions on typical tropes.

- By Ari Vishin, Homestead junior

Review of A Very Large Expanse of Sea, by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea, written by Tahereh Mafi, is a novel that displays the strong effects of racism and stereotyping on one's life. Shirin is a Muslim girl who has moved and switched schools countless times. Every day in high school, she must endure the racist comments and cold glances from other students. Shirin concludes that it is all a result of her clothing, race, and religion. The time period is also the year after 9/11, which makes the people in her life believe that she is extremely dangerous and causes them to judge her even more. The only thing that keeps Shirin going in her life is music, and the new breakdancing club her brother created. However, when Shirin meets a guy named Ocean James at her new school, her whole life turns upside down. Ocean seems to be the only person who wants to understand and is willing to get to know her better. Shirin has been keeping a barrier between her and everyone else for such a long time, so she feels confused on how she will face him and everybody else. This book is one of the best books I've ever read in a long time. I was wandering through the shelves and my eyes flew right onto it. I finished it the day I borrowed it and read it multiple times after that. This book was so intriguing and fascinating, and it opened my eyes to the ongoing problems in the world and around me. I recommend this book to anyone out there that is looking for a page-turner and something that can cause them to reflect on themselves, the world, and life itself. Five out of five stars, no doubt.

~ Posted by Jessica L., Homestead freshman

Monday, March 11, 2019

Review of Modern HerStory

Image result for modern herstoryModern HerStory by Blair Imani, (195 pages) is an anthology of trailblazing women that is worth reading if you are a feminist, an ally, a supporter, a woman, a man, queer, or just a history lover. I read this book cover to cover in three days and it was so worth it. First off if you do not read this then promise me you flip through for the art. (I give anyone permission to stop reading my review and flip though the art or if this is on the library blog look at the amazon page). If the cover does not draw you in then I understand but trust me the art is so amazing! The artist Monique is committed to diverse representation in her art with all colors and is again so amazing! As an artist myself I love the art and appreciate Monique’s dedication to representation and using many colors. The author Blair Imani is so inspiring as a person and just like the amazing women featured in Modern HerStory. The book was so diverse and such a learning experience for me and I found some more role models and fantastic women to look up to and research. Imani’s dedication shines though in telling the stories of all of these women and they were so easy to read and understand. This book includes a table of contents which summarizes all of the chapters and makes the individual pages very easy to find, it also includes a glossary and index in the back of the book. Reading this book was such a blast and I would recommend this book to all my friends. Modern HerStory gets only high reviews from me!
~ Reviewed by Alexi V., Homestead junior