Mini Reviews: The City of Brass + Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

MiniI have a set of very different books for you for this round of mini-reviews. These are both titles that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and I’m glad I finally found the time to pick them up. Everyone has been raving about S.A Chakraborty’s The City of Brass and I’m so happy to have finally met these characters. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero has been on my TBR for years. With the start of Latinx Heritage Month coming, I wanted to finally get to this one in early September. I am very disappointed in myself for not picking it up sooner. You can read my thoughts on these two titles a little more in depth below. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy, #1
Pages: 533
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: November 14th 2017 

      “Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
      But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
      In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…”

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“A hot breeze swept past her cheeks, and Nahri lifted her eyes. The cliffs were on fire; the wet trees snapped and cracked as they burned. The air smelled poisonous, hot and seeded with tiny burning embers that swept across the dead landscape and twinkled above the dark river.”

S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass is an all-encompassing fantasy with great characters and a world that’s spellbindingly brilliant. Orphaned and penniless, Nahri has managed to survive on the streets of Cairo, stealing and swindling her marks out of money. When she inadvertently summons a dangerous djinn, Nahri discovers the fantastical stories she grew up hearing are rooted in truth. Chakraborty’s world is deliciously multilayered and I loved that with every page, we discovered something new. Nahri was an easy character to like. She’s cunning and resourceful; she wants more than what life has dealt her and is willing to do what is needed to get it. I really enjoyed Dara, not just because he’s the kind of brooding character I’m immediately drawn to, but because like Nahri, he is also thrown into a world he doesn’t quite understand. The world as Dara left it has shifted. His people are no longer in control of the city of Daevabad; instead, the Qahtani, a djinn family, have taken over. The royal family have tried to find a balance in their city between djinn, daeva, and the shafit (offspring of djinn and humans). Their methods are not always humane. Ali is King Ghassan’s second son, both a scholar and a warrior; his own convictions often pit him against his own father. Ali was often times a frustrating character. I liked that he wanted to be better than the example his father and often his brother gave him, but his self-righteousness and naivete made me want to shake him by the shoulders. Chakraborty does a fantastic job giving voice to every side in this story. The internal conflict in Daevabad is not new and the characters’ decisions have far reaching consequences. The City of Brass is a perfect read for those looking for a dynamic fantasy and complex characters.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Gabi,a Girl in Pieces
Author: Isabel Quintero
Series: N/A
Pages: 284
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Release Date: October 14th 2014

      “Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
      July 24
      My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

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“I felt my head lifted up and my neck bared, somewhere distant between all the pain. Tears streamed down my face and my body twitched uncontrollably. I wondered if this would, at least, put an end to my torture.”

I am mentally kicking myself for not picking up Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces sooner. This contemporary features one of the most genuine voices I’ve come across, handling difficult issues with honesty and care, with representation that spoke directly to this Latina reader. Gabi Hernandez is many things. Best friend. Daughter. Sister. Fat girl. Mexican-American. In her senior year of high school, Gabi is trying to juggle all her different identities while simultaneously not disappointing her mother and not letting her father’s meth addiction take her whole family down with him. Told in diary entries, Quintero’s novel feels intimate and personal. Gabi feels fully-fleshed out; she’s candid, self-depreciating, and had me laughing out loud on several occasions. So many of these characters felt familiar from the eccentric tía to the judgmental mother. The novel addresses teen pregnancy, homophobia, being the child of an addict, and gender roles in the Latinx community. I loved that Gabi found a creative outlet in her poetry and found it really rewarding to see how her poetry matures over the course of the novel. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is the kind of novel I wish I had as a teen as several of Gabi’s hopes and fears felt like my own. TW: homophobia, fatphobia, slut shaming, rape, and drug use.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Author: Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #3
Pages: 336
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 2nd 2017

      “Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.
      Life couldn’t be more perfect!
      At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.
      Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?”

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“Everything is ruined. My chest hurts; it’s hard to breathe. All my plans, everything I was counting on, none of it will come true now.”

Jenny Han bids farewell to her protagonist Lara Jean in the final book in her To All the Boys I Loved Before series. In Always and Forever, Lara Jean the beloved protagonist is on the brink of adulthood as the end of her senior year approaches. The last year of Lara Jean’s life has been a whirlwind of new and exciting events. She’s been dating Peter Kavinsky for a year, her dad has reentered the dating scene, and her college plans are all but set in stone. Then the unthinkable happens and Lara Jean is forced to rethink her entire future. Suddenly things that she was so sure about like her future relationship with Peter and the university she’s going to attend are no longer a guarantee. Lara Jean must decide who she is going to be, how this will affect her decisions for her future, and who she is able to make room for and who she isn’t.

Lara Jean has always been one of my favorite contemporary protagonists. She doesn’t stand out with her bold personality or wow with her unrivaled genius. She enjoys baking, spending time with her family, and volunteering at a local retirement home. As much as I admire ambitious and sometimes over-the-top characters, Lara Jean has always been more my speed. Sometimes she lacks confidence and has to be pushed out if her comfort zone and these two things make her instantly relatable In Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Lara Jean discovers that even the best laid plans cannot account for life just happening. Lara Jean’s greatest comfort is that her life is predictable. When it isn’t, she will grab on to her hobbies like baking and scrap-booking as a way to feel like she’s in control again. I’m so happy that Lara Jean got to a place where she began making decisions based on what was best for her and her own wants rather than what others were pressuring her to do. The decision she ultimately makes might be Lara Jean’s greatest act of courage in the entire trilogy.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean was a bittersweet novel. I’ve come to really love Lara Jean and her entire world. I love how important her family has always been to her. Lara Jean has always presented herself and her family like a package deal. Her father has been raising her and her sisters alone since her mother’s unexpected passing. The biggest constants in her life have been her wise older sister Margot and her rambunctious little sister Kitty. Han not only taken us on Lara Jean’s journey to maturity, but we also got to see her sisters grow up some as well and see the evolution of their sisterly bond. Kitty will always be a favorite if mine with her I-know-what-I-want attitude, but I loved that we got a Margot arc involving the Covey’s expanding family. Ms. Rothschild was a delightful addition to this unit. How each of the girls felt about their father dating again was very faithful to who these characters are at their core.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean unexpectedly hit me with a wave of nostalgia, reminding me of those uncertain and exciting final days of high school. With this final book Jenny Han has solidified Lara Jean and the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before as a character and series that will forever hold a special place in my heart.

4/5

★★★★

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Title: Saints and Misfits
Author: S.K. Ali
Series: N/A
Pages: 325
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 13th 2017

      “There are three kinds of people in my world:
      1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.
      2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.
      Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.
      But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?
      3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.
      Like the monster at my mosque.
      People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask
      Except me.”

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“I wish there was a way to still my heart. It feels like it’s not mine and wants out of my body. I seal it shut with another shrug.”

S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits follows fifteen-year-old Janna as she deals with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted. Janna’s dealing with her first crush on a non-Muslim, navigating a world that isn’t always accepting of a hijabi, and doing her best to find a way to be herself when this huge, traumatic thing is weighing down on her shoulders. Keeping this secret isn’t easy and with her older brother moving back home, forcing her to share a room with her mother, her life grows even more stressful. The end of the year is fast approaching and while final exams should be the only thing she’s stressing about, Janna is juggling her parents’ expectations and being pulled in different directions by her friends. The guilt she’s been carrying around for something that isn’t her fault is slowly chipping away at her, and it isn’t easy to let that guilt go when the person who attempted to rape her walks around like nothing happened.

Ali does a masterful job of dealing with heavy issues in her novel, but also being very aware of who her character is at only fifteen. Janna is an easy character to related to and like. She has a subtle sense of humor that I appreciated and I more than once snorted aloud while reading. There is a constant stream of voices whispering to her what they think and in the midst of all that noise, Janna is just trying to figure out what’s right for her. This isn’t always easy when contrary opinions are coming from people she loves. Janna doesn’t want to disappoint anyone, but it’s what inevitably happens, especially when her divorced parents hold such differing views of her faith and how she chooses to express it. I loved the strong sense of community Janna’s faith provided. She’s very involved with her local mosque which is lead by her uncle. Everyone is very caring and supportive and they felt like an extension of her own family. But for Janna, this puts her in an impossible situation because the person who assaulted her is a valuable member of this community. She’s got that doubt in the back of her mind that if she does speak up, not everyone is going to believe her. Every compliment directed at her assaulter, every time someone tries to talk him up to her is like a knife to the gut. This coupled with her inability to avoid him completely makes the book utterly heartbreaking to read at times.

I empathized with Janna so much when she felt she couldn’t open up to Tats, one of her non-Muslim friends, because of the added pressure of being from a marginalized community. She knows that anything she says negatively about someone in her community can be attributed to everyone. The outside world does not judge you as individuals, but as a group. I loved Janna’s relationship with her brother Muhammad because it felt so authentic. Getting on each other’s nerves, feeling loyal to one parent over the other and having this cause division between the two felt very real. There’s a little resentment when it comes to which parent is playing favorites with whom as well. I loved what Ali did with the romance portion of Janna’s story. I felt her butterflies and anxiousness when it came to her crush, but ultimately appreciated the more subtle development of Janna’ relationship with someone else. It was unexpected and yet felt so right. I loved the pacing of this relationship and how it was rooted in respect and I kind of wish we got a glimpse of what comes of it down the line.

S.K. Ali’s debut Saints and Misfits will make you laugh and cry, it will make you angry and happy, and at the end of the day, you’ll be forever grateful you read it.

5/5

★★★★★

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Monday’s Not Coming
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Series: N/A
Pages: 448
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 22nd 2018

      “Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.
      As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?”

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      “Missing.
      I held my breath until it burned in my chest, the word frightening. Is she missing? Missing from my life, yeah, but is she, like missing for real? She couldn’t be, she has to be home. Right?”

Tiffany D. Jackson’s Monday’s Not Coming is an intricate mystery with characters who come to life and an unforgettable story. Claudia and Monday have been inseparable since they were in first grade. The summer between 7th and 8th grade promises to be agonizing, with Claudia spending the season with her grandma in Georgia and Monday stuck back in D.C. The two girls, however, hatch a plan to stay in touch through letters over the summer. But Claudia doesn’t hear from Monday all summer long. When she gets back home, Monday doesn’t visit. Claudia calls, but Monday’s phone number is disconnected. When the first day of school rolls around, Claudia is sure she’ll see her best friend, but Monday’s not there. Claudia knows something has to be wrong, but as the weeks pass with no Monday in sight, she grows increasingly concerned. Monday’s mother and older sister won’t give Claudia a straight answer and the other adults in her life don’t seem quite as concerned. Claudia will do anything to discover the truth, even if it means putting herself in danger.

Claudia and Monday’s relationship is easily recognizable. It’s the kind of friendship that is all-consuming, in which it feels like your best friend is the most important person in your world. It’s hard to untangle one person’s wants from the other, not just because you’re so in sync, but because having your best friend’s approval is imperative. A single fight can feel devastating one moment and your bond with one another unbreakable the next. Claudia and Monday live very different lives. Claudia has a stable home and loving parents. Monday has always been good at hiding the problems she has at home and perhaps Claudia has always been good at pretending everything was fine with her best friend. For Monday, Claudia and her family are like a refuge from everything that isn’t right at home. For Claudia, Monday is her refuge from everything that isn’t right at school. Both girls are bullied by their peers, on the receiving end of both homophobic and slut-shaming rumors. Claudia feels increasingly isolated at school without Monday and struggles to hide a learning disorder that was always easier to cover up when Monday was around to help her.

Claudia’s story is emotionally charged. It is honest and raw and hard to read at times. Like Claudia, you as a reader can’t help but feel her frustration. The callousness and indifference shown by the adults in her life is hard to swallow, but they are a reflection of how society handles stories like Monday’s. There are some ugly truths to be found in this book including child abuse. And there is a whole lot of culpability to go around. Jackson’s novel is a commentary on the treatment of missing black girls, how easily they are forgotten, sometimes not even acknowledged, and the untold pain their absence leaves behind. Monday’s Not Coming pulls no punches when it points a finger at the community, schools, social workers, and the police. All of whom bear some responsibility when it comes to countless missing children’s stories. Jackson also explores gentrification in her novel, how easy it is for people to take over whole neighborhoods without a second thought because they know these low-income communities do not have the means to fight back, especially financially.

Monday’s Not Coming alternates between different timelines, taking readers on a heartbreaking journey, and whose ending hits you like a freight train.

4/5

★★★★

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Title: The Way You Make Me Feel
Author: Maurene Goo
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux Books
Release Date: May 8th 2018

      “Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?
      With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.”

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“I felt at home here, not only because I’m Korean American, but because it was a blend of old and new L.A. I related to this future version of America that wasn’t tidy but layered, improvised, and complicated.”

Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel is the perfect lighthearted and fun summer read you should be reaching for in the coming months. Clara Shin has cultivated a reputation for trouble and high jinks. Not one to take anything too seriously, Clara loves making a game out of anything. Pissing off Rose Carver, all-around know-it-all and overachiever, is just the icing on the cake. When Clara’s plan to have a little fun at prom ends with her and Rose wrestling over a tiara, resulting in accidental fire, Clara’s dad concocts an plan for the two of them to work on his food truck over the summer to avoid suspension. It’s the worst punishment Clara could ever imagine. But with each passing day, Clara begins to realize there’s more to Rose than the pristine facade she shows everyone. And as Clara begins to take a more serious interest in her dad’s business, Clara begins to realize there may be more to her than her own frivolous facade.

Clara is the kind of character who might rub some readers the wrong way, but I loved her nonetheless. This is a novel for those of us who will never be mistaken for being the nice one. For those more comfortable making snarky comments than accepting compliments. Clara has no problem letting people know what she thinks. She terrible when it comes to taking responsibility for her actions. Clara thrives off of attention and is the kind of teen that thinks caring too much would make her uncool. She’s stubborn and difficult and sometimes obnoxious. There were moments where I though Clara was being a real brat, but I was less interested in this and more invested in her growth over the course of the summer. I loved seeing a female friendship blossom and grow. Though Clara and Rose could not be more different, they eventually manage to find common ground. They find something in each other that they never had in another female friend. Their rivalry has always brought the worst out in each other, but their friendship ends up allowing each girl to mature and embrace a different side of herself.

I loved Clara’s budding romance with Hamlet, who is very different from Clara, but whose geekiness she finds nonetheless endearing. Hamlet was thoughtful and sincere; unlike Clara, he was all in from the beginning and his warm personality made it hard for her to resist for long. While I enjoyed both these relationships, the highlight of the novel is Clara’s relationship with her father. Their rapport is sweet and genuine. Clara is used to her dad being easy-going with her, so when he buckles down after her prank, it throws the harmony between the two out of sync. They eventually find their footing again with one another. Clara begins to understand how important a step her dad’s food truck is in his dream to eventual run a restaurant. Clara comes to appreciate just how much he cares about her and to recognize the small sacrifices he’s made to make her happy.

The Way You Make Me Feel a fun, quick read that is undeniable adorable and may have you unexpectedly tearing up at its warmhearted ending.

4/5

★★★★

Mini Reviews: The Fifth Season + The Poet X

MiniThis week’s set of mini-reviews are two of the most impressive reads I’ve picked up this year. N.K. Jemisin astounds me with her world-building and Elizabeth Acevedo punched me in the gut with her poetry. If you have not picked up either of these authors, you must do so immediately. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Fifth Season
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Series: The Broken Earth, #1
Pages: 468
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: August 4th 2015 

      “THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.
      Three terrible things happen in a single day.
      Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
      But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.
      She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.”

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“You aren’t just inflicting death on your fellow villagers, of course. A bird perched on a nearby fence falls over frozen, too. The grass crisps, the ground grows hard, and the air hisses and howls as moisture and density is snatched from its substance…but no one has ever mourned earthworms.”

N.K. Jemisin’s first novel, The Fifth Season, in The Broken Earth series is an example of masterful and innovative storytelling that spellbinds readers from start to finish. This is the first time that I’ve read a book where a substantial portion of the novel is written in second person. While I wasn’t sure this would work, especially considering the other two perspectives included in the novel are told in third person, I quickly fell in step with this point of view. Jemisin has a way of weaving all three perspectives into one cohestive story that had me wanting to turn back to the beginning and experience the whole thing over again. Jemisin’s world is complex and I’m in awe of how much information she is able to provide the reader in this first book without it feeling overwhelming. Essun is the first character we are introduced to and we’re immediately put in her shoes as a mother who has just discovered her child has been killed. The young Damaya offers a more naive perspective and through her chapters, her and readers’ disillusionment about the world is shattered. Syenite puts readers right in the middle of a powerful, but troubling institution and it is here where readers learn the full scope of terror for people living in this world. I loved how there are different types of people and beings (for lack of a better term) in this world that all have distinct functions and whose relationships with one another help shape this world. The Fifth Season launches readers into a world that is both fascinating and frightening with characters that are impossible to forget. Special shout out to Annemieke @ A Dance With Books for the great buddy read.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Series: N/A
Pages: 357
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 6th 2018

      “A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
      Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
      But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
      So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
       Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

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“Late into the night I write and
the pages of my notebook swell
from all the words I’ve pressed onto them.
It almost feels like
the more I bruise the page
the quicker something inside me heals.”

Elizabeth Acevedo stuns with her debut novel The Poet X. Xiomara is easily one of the most relatable protagonists I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. For fifteen-year old Xiomara, having strangers and most especially men, draw conclusions about her based on her body is nothing new. She’s developed a thick skin because she knows the only one who will fight for her is herself. Hardly one to express herself openly, Xiomara is just beginning to find her voice in the poetry she writes. Her relationship with her parents is complicated. There is unspoken resentment and anger. Xiomara is trying to discover who she is and what she believes while also trying to please her devout mother. Her father is physically present, but emotionally distant. Her twin, Xavier, whom she’s always been closed to, is slowly pulling away, dealing with his own battles. Acedvedo’s writing is honest and poignant. With each page turned, I grew more and more invested in Xiomara’s story. Her journey to find her voice in a world that wishes to suppress it is both beautiful and devastating. Acevedo’s novel in verse put me through a range of emotions from happiness to heartbreak and in the end left me feeling deeply moved.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★