Snapshot Review: By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery

Title: By Any Means Necessary
Author: Candice Montgomery
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: October 8th 2019

TW: homophobia, police brutality, drug addiction

      “An honest reflection on cultural identify, class, and gentrification. Fans of Nic Stone and Elizabeth Acevedo will eagerly anticipate Torrey.
    On the day Torrey officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bee farm his beloved uncle Miles left him after his tragic death is being foreclosed on.
      Torrey would love nothing more than to leave behind the family and neighborhood that’s bleeding him dry. But he still feels compelled to care for the project of his uncle’s heart. As the farm heads for auction, Torrey precariously balances choosing a major and texting Gabriel—the first boy he ever kissed—with the fight to stop his uncle’s legacy from being demolished. But as notice letters pile up and lawyers appear at his dorm, dividing himself between family and future becomes impossible unless he sacrifices a part of himself.”

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      “What am I even doing? Everything in my life is falling apart. I swallow repeatedly, hoping I don’t choke on my tongue or something and screw that up, too. I’m not ready. I don’t know how the hell I made it this far, to a university in a city that isn’t the Hills, alone. Who do I even think I am trying to keep my apiary from drowning when I can’t even keep my own head above choppy waters?”

  • Torrey – Torrey is the kind of person who wants to do too much and doesn’t realize until it’s too late that he can’t. Often a ball of anxiety, Torrey internalizes his problems, has a hard time letting go, and places too much on his own shoulders. The bee farm his uncle left for him after he died isn’t a fun hobby he takes care of during his free time, it’s a way to remember Uncle Miles, one last connection he has with the man who gave him so much. Losing the apiary would be like losing Uncle Miles all over again and Torrey isn’t sure he could survive that level of trauma again.
  • The writing – Candice Montgomery’s writing is exemplary. One of the reasons I fell so easily in love with By Any Means Necessary is Torrey’s distinct voice. He’s cynical and sarcastic and funny. He is equal parts strong and vulnerable. Each of these characteristics come through so clearly. I can’t think of a book I read recently whose narrator feels so authentic.
  • Family (both the supportive and the toxic) – Much of Torrey’s motivation for wanting to keep the apiary stems from his relationship with his Uncle Miles, but it also hinders on his relationship with other relatives. His mother is currently in hospice because of her drug addiction and so Miles became his parental figure. Every since he died, Torrey has been under the care of his grandfather Theo and his uncle’s widow, Aunt Lisa. Lisa is one of the few bright spots he has at home, but it is his relationship with his grandfather that has defined much of his teen years. Theo is homophobic and would rather see the apiary go under than make any effort to save it. He represents the parts of home that Torrey would rather leave behind.
  • Friendship – One of my favorite parts about this book is the friend group Torrey ends up forming with a group of young women who are STEM majors. They are a large part of Torrey’s support group that he isn’t used to having. I especially appreciated Torrey’s relationship with Emery, who gives him that extra push he sometimes needs.
  • Romance – Torrey has an unexpected reunion with Gabriel, his first boyfriend in middle school and first kiss. These two made me heart feel so full. Their chemistry is off the charts and you can feel the magnetic pull between the two leap off the pages. Where Torrey is cautious, Gabriel is a free-spirit. They bring a balance to one another that I don’t think either of them knew they needed.
  • College YA – I would love to see more college-set YA. One of the most compelling things about Torrey’s story is his continued struggle to determine whether or not attending college is the right move for him. There are so many things working against him that activitely choosing something like college as a poor student or as a Black student in a largely white town feels like setting himself up for failure one way or another.

  • Nothing to note.


Candice Montgomery’s By Any Means Necessary explores various subjects from gentrification to toxic familial relationships while introducing one of the most memorable main characters I’ve ever come across.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(5/5)

Mini-Reviews: The Sound of Stars & 10 Things I Hate About Pinky

Not me finding five-month-old mini-reviews in my drafts! **insert cringe emoji** Honestly, I was tempted to just delete these instead of editing (they were very messy) and posting it since it’s been so long, but I figured you all need to hear how much I enjoyed these to books even if the reviews are long overdue.

Title: The Sound of Stars
Author:
Alechia Dow
Series: N/A
Pages: 400
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: February 25th 2020

      “Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity?
      Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
      Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
      Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
      Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.”

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Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars is a fun sci-fi adventure with two likable leads on an against-all-odds mission to save the world. Ellie has spent the last two years imprisoned by the Ilori, the alien race who invaded earth. One of the few things that bring her joy is the underground library she runs. Books have always been a refuge for Ellie and she knows people more than ever need a momentary respite from the world. When one of her books goes missing, Ellie meets M0Rr1s, a labmade Ilori, who is a little too human for her liking. Despite being from opposite sides of an intergalactic war, Ellie and Morris find a rare connection with one another. Ellie is a Black teen with an anxiety disorder that she has had to find ways to deal with without medication ever since the invasion. While the story does not focus on race, racism has still played a part in Ellie’s life. She understands that humanity isn’t necessarily worth saving because of its prejudices and in many ways humankind hasn’t necessarily earned its salvation. I loved the deep love shown to art in The Sound of Stars. For Ellie, it’s books that have helped her find who she is. For Morris, it’s his love of music that has moved him. I loved the affection these two characters have for one other. At its core The Sound of Stars is a celebration of the human spirit and the power of stories. I was pleasantly surprised to find how much these characters wormed their way into my heart by the end.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)


Title: 10 Things I Hate About Pinky
Author: Sandhya Menon
Series: Dimple and Rishi, #3
Pages: 368
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: July 21st 2020

      “The follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie follows Pinky and Samir as they pretend to date—with disastrous and hilarious results.
    Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny-tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.
      Samir Jha might have a few . . . quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady…
      Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions (aka boyfriends) she’s made, she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy, Samir—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer. As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.”

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Sandhya Menon delivers her most enjoyable novel since When Dimple Met Rishi with this companion novel 10 Things I Hate About Pinky. Readers were first introduced to characters Pinky and Samir in There’s Something About Sweetie. Pinky Kumar has embraced the fact that she will never be the kind of goody-two-shoes daughter her parents hoped for. But she knows who she is and knows that standing up for what she believes is more important than having your entire future planned out. Samir Jha likes predictability, in fact, he thrives off of knowing what to expect at all times. When a summer internship falls through, leaving Samir desperate for another opportunity, Pinky proposes an arrangement. Be her fake boyfriend for the summer and prove to her parents she isn’t as irresponsible as they think and she’ll help him land a new internship. But the more Pinky and Samir spend time together, the animosity they once felt begins turning into something more like attraction. Though much of the novel focuses on the potential romance between these very different characters, it’s Pinky’s tumultuous relationship with her mother that drives the story. Pinky isn’t always great at communication but it’s easy to see how desperate she is for her mother’s approval. Samir makes an fantastic foil to Pinky, especially as an ally. He challenges her and isn’t afraid to call her out. He is secure in who he is and finds it far easier than Pinky to admit how he feels. Also worth noting is Pinky’s relationship with her cousin Dolly, who her mother always seems to praise compared to herself. I loved that neither of these characters fell into a rivalry with one another. They were always supportive and saw the best in each other. Fans of the fake dating and hate-to-love tropes, rejoice! Sandhya Menon’s latest, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky was written for you.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Series: N/A
Pages: 432
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: May 5th 2020

TW: death of a parent, sexual assault, mentions of sex trafficking

      “In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
    Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
      In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
      Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
      And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.”

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“Neighbors pour into the house
like our grief is a bottomless thirst
& God has tipped this pitcher of people to fill us up.”

Elizabeth Acevedo delivers her most emotionally-charged novel with Clap When You Land, chronicling the grief of two sisters who discover one another’s existence only after the death of their father. Every summer Camino’s father visits her in the Dominican Republic where she lives with her aunt since her mother’s passing a decade earlier. And at the end of every summer when he leaves for the States, she wishes she could go with him. Yahaira’s relationship with her father has been strained since she learned of a secret he’s been keeping. Her resentment has built up in silence as she’s never found the courage to confront him. Just when she thinks she’s found the words, he has to leave for work like he does every summer in the Dominican Republic. As Camino awaits her father’s arrival and Yahaira says goodbye to him for the summer, the unthinkable happens. Their father’s plane crashes, leaving no survivors. What follows is a heartbreaking story of two girls picking up the pieces of their lives in the midst of loss, discovering that neither of them knew their father completely, and figuring out if there is a way to move forward with the wounds their father left behind.

Camino has aspirations that have always felt far reaching but still possible. Having assisted her Tía Solana with her work as a curandera, Camino wants to become a doctor. Her father’s financial support has provided her with an education that not many young people in her county have. When he dies, her whole world feels like it’s flipped upside down. The stability he provided is gone and her future suddenly becomes muddled. Finding out that she has a sister that lives in the States feels like a blow when she’s never been allowed to live with her father and when at the end of every summer, he left her to return to his other daughter who will never know the struggles she has had. The Dominican Republic has been exploited and its goods used to fill the pockets of foreigners, meanwhile its people are barely getting by. To Camino, Yahaira represents the life she should have had, but will probably never get to with her father’s passing.

Yahaira had already began to grapple with the fact that her father wasn’t the person she thought he was. They had been growing apart and she never was able to forgive him for the secret she discovered before his passing. When he dies, she regrets not confronting him but also doesn’t know what to do with the anger she still feels toward him or how to go about forgiving someone who is no longer alive. Her mother comes apart with the news of her husband’s passing and Yahaira does her best to keep them both afloat. Yahaira’s girlfriend Dre is the one person she feels she can be vulnerable around. Their relationship offers some of the sweetest moments in the novel. When Yahaira meets Camino, she cannot help but feel inadequate in comparison. She’s grapples with being a part of the diaspora and not feeling like she is Dominican enough to belong to this country.

Clap When You Land demonstates Acevedo’s gift of storytelling through her latest novel-in-verse. Poetry is the chosen medium used to convey the depth of emotion the two POV characters experience throughout the story. Acevedo writing is succinct but no less powerful and wrought with emotion. Grief is present in every interaction Camino and Yahaira have with other people and with each other. Both characters go through stages of shock, denial, acceptance. Acevedo captures the trauma of losing someone, how this life-altering devastation affects you physically, emotionally, and psychologically. For Camino and Yahaira, the discovery that there is someone out there who understands exactly what they are feeling is marred by the fact that the person they are mourning lied to them their whole lives.

Clap When You Land explores how complicated grief can be, how it can unravel your entire world, but how it can also forge unbreakable bonds. Acevedo’s latest is a somber read but still makes room for light in the darkest of places.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(5/5)

Blog Tour: Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore

Thank you to Hear Our Voices for having me for this blog tour. Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore is one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. I have been a fan of both of these authors and have spent the last month and a half rereading books by both authors for the #MeteorShowerReadathon. They both create such wonderful characters, so it was no surprise that with Miss Meteor, Mejia and McLemore have created such memorable and enjoyable characters with Lita and Chicky. I hope you have the pleasure of meeting these two soon.

Title: Miss Meteor
Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 22nd 2020

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC from the publisher which does not influence my review.

TW: bullying, homophobia, fatphobia, transphobia, xenophobia

      “There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.
      Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.”

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Lita – Lita Perez isn’t like other people, technically she isn’t a person at all. She wasn’t born on earth, but materialized from stardust from a meteorite that struck her small town. Lita knows she is different and in a place like Meteor, New Mexico, she sticks out like a sore thumb. Still, she loves this town and the few people who accept her for who she is, like her adopted mother, Bruja Lupe, and Cole, the boy, who despite his popularity, always makes Lita feel seen. Her one quiet dream is to be Miss Meteor in her town’s regional pageant, even though she knows girls like her, who are too short, too brown, and too fat don’t usually win. Lita has the biggest heart. Even when she and her former best friend, Chicky, aren’t on the best terms, Lita is always thinking about her and taking that extra step to nudge her in the right direction. Lita thinks her quest to become Miss Meteor is all about finding a way to stay in the only place she’s called home when it really is about her declaring herself to the world and taking her fate into her own hands.

Chicky – Chicky Quintanilla does not like the spotlight, in fact, there are times when she wishes she could just disappear. The youngest of four sisters, Chicky, short for Chiquita, is used to being overshadowed. There aren’t too many people in her life who get to see the real her and that’s partially her own fault. If Chicky is good at anything, she’s good at running away. It’s what happened with her and her former best friend Lita. It’s what’s happening with her current best friend, Junior Cortes. It’s easier to run away than to come out as pansexual in a town that might praise her family one minute for coming to this country the “right way” but will still look at them like they aren’t worth their time. Chicky’s journey isn’t just about gaining confidence, but about learning to be vulnerable with those closest to her.

Pros and cons of small towns – Many looking from the outside would call Meteor, New Mexico a quaint place to live with such staples like Selena’s Diner, Chicky’s family’s business, or the upcoming Fiftieth-Annual Meteor Regional Pageant and Talent Competition. But the truth is, for people like Lita and Chicky, their small town isn’t always the most welcoming of places. There is a clear divide between the well-off white residents and the brown residents who work for them. There is also a lot of hypocrisy and surfaces-level acceptance of those belonging to the queer community. Cole, a trans boy, for example, knows acceptance by his peers is conditional. While he often challenges their bigoted views, he knows he is only allowed to go so far before they turn on him.

Friendship – The heart of Miss Meteor is friendship. Lita and Chicky used to be inseparable until Chicky pulled away. With Lita running for Miss Meteor and Chicky assisting her, the two find each other again. Lita needs someone to believe in her, someone who will be in her corner and push her when it feels easier to give up. For Chicky, she needs someone to listen to her and have patience with her. I love that these two become each other’s safe spaces and how they extend this to include characters like Cole and Junior.

Nothing to note.

With a little bit of magical stardust, Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore deliver an empowering story of friendship and belonging in their first collaborated work, Miss Meteor.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

(5/5)

#OwnVoices Reflection:

While reading Miss Meteor, I could not help but see myself in both Lita and Chicky. While Lita’s origins are something out of this world, her heritage is a grounding force. When she enters the Fiftieth -Annual Meteor Regional Pageant and Talent Competition, she has no idea what her talent will be. After a few mishaps, she ends up on stage making tamales for a largely non-Latinx crowd. I have been here. I was here in fourth grade, trying to explain to a room full of mostly non-Latinx classmates how to make tortillas. It is awkward sharing a part of your heritage with a room full of people who will probably never understand all the history behind these traditions. Chicky’s family is often held up as the “right” kind of immigrants, the kind that came to this country the “right” way. Reading her story and how the townsfolk treated her family reminded me of the time we were assigned to make family trees. We were instructed to ask about our family history. I will never forget that I never got the full story of one of my family member’s history of immigration because they were too afraid to share. Because in this country, not all immigrants are accepted. It’s something I understood early on and something that unfortunately continues to be true.

I can’t tell you what it means to me to see these two Mexican-American authors finding success. Anna-Marie McLemore was one of the first authors I came across in YA who wrote about characters with family histories like mine. Tehlor Kay Mejia’s debut We Set the Dark on Fire was one of the first fantasy books I read with Latinx characters. We don’t see a lot of these books, but I am hopeful that publishing has taken notice of the love so many readers have for the ones we do have. And hopefully, Miss Meteor will not be the last time these two collaborate.

About the Author:

      TEHLOR KAY MEJIA is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult fantasy novel WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE, as well as several forthcoming young adult and middle grade novels (WE UNLEASH THE MERCILESS STORM – Katherine Tegen Books, MISS METEOR (co-written with National Book Award nominee Anna-Marie McLemore) – HarperTeen, PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE RIVER OF TEARS + PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE FOREST OF NIGHTMARES – Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion).
      Her debut novel received six starred reviews, and was chosen as an Indie’s Next Pick and a Junior Library Guild selection, as well as being an Indiebound bestseller in the Pacific Northwest region. It was featured in Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and O by Oprah Magazine’s best books of 2019 lists, as well as being a book of the year selection by Kirkus and School Library Journal.
      Tehlor lives in Oregon with her daughter, two very small dogs, and several rescued houseplants.

Follow Tehlor Kay Mejia: Website, Twitter, Instagram

About the Author:

¡Bienvenidos! I’m Anna-Marie, author of fairy tales that are as queer, Latinx, and nonbinary as I am. My books include THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist best book of 2017; BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Books Review Editors’ Choice; DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a Winter 2020 Indie Next List selection; and the forthcoming THE MIRROR SEASON.

Follow Anna-Marie McLemore: Website & Twitter

Click here to preorder Miss Meteor today!