Mini-Reviews: Running + Punching the Air

I have quite the backlog of reviews in my drafts right now. I am actually still formatting reviews for the month of October. And while I actually like having at least one or two reviews in my drafts (I always like having them for rainy days if I don’t have any other posts planned) having more than four makes me feel very behind. One day I will learn to go with the flow, but for now, I will stress about this little thing.

Title: Running Author: Natalia Sylvester Series: N/A Pages: 328 Publisher: Clarion Books Release Date: July 14th 2020

TW: sexual harassment

"When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching. In this thoughtful, authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was. But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?"

Natalia Sylvester delivers a pertinent novel for our time with her newest YA, Running. Cuban-American teen, Mariana Ruiz, has her world irrevocably altered when her father decides to run for president. Though her father has been involved in politics for as long as she can remember, now that she is older, Mariana is beginning to understand the toll his career has been taking on his family. More than this, Mariana’s own views of the world are beginning to take shape and many of them stand in direct opposition to her father’s. She must decide if she is willing to use her voice and newfound platform to speak up for what she believes. Mariana is a fairly young teen. At fifteen her view of the world is changing and with it, her view of her father. Mariana begins to realize the inconsistency in what her father says versus what he does. When she meets Jackie, an activist and classmate, she is further challenged to confront her ignorance. Speaking up is equal parts empowering as it is terrifying, especially for someone who has stage fright and has spent the majority of her father’s campaign wishing she could stay out of the spotlight. Running is perfect for teen readers who are just beginning to discover the power of their voices in shaping the political world.

★ ★ ★ ★

Title: Punching the Air Author: Ibi Zoboi Series: N/A Pages: 400 Publisher: Balzer + Bray Release Date: September 1st 2020

TW: racism including slurs, assault, incarceration

"From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo. The story that I thought was my life didn’t start on the day I was born Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white. The story that I think will be my life starts today Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both."

Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam’s Punching the Air tells the story of how hope survives even in the most dire of circumstances. When Amal Shahid is wrongfully convicted of the brutal beating of a white boy, his world is shattered. Sent to a juvenile detention center, Amal’s spirit is crushed again and again. His only refuge is a poetry class, a place where the words that have been simmering inside him can finally break free. As a Black teen, Amal has spent his whole life boxed in. Though labeled disruptive in school, Amal is a sponge, desperately craving knowledge. He is an artist who wants nothing more than to express himself and be seen. His incarceration is a cruelty that he can barely endure, the dehumanization just another reminder that the world does not see him. Despite this, Amal finds a tiny sliver of hope, claws his way to it, and grabs hold. Punching the Air is an emotional journey, gut-wrenching but beautifully written, haunting and hopeful all at once.

★ ★ ★ ★

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