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)

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: Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez [Snapshot ARC Review]

Thank you, Algonquin Young Readers, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour for Yamile Saied Méndez’s YA debut, Furia. I was in awe of Camila’s spirit and her unwavering determination. I hope you all have a chance to meet Camila and be inspired by her the way I was.

Title: Furia
Author: Yamile Saied Méndez
Series: N/A
Pages: 368
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: September 15th 2020

**Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review**

TW: domestic abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, homophobia, femicide

      “An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.
    In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.
      At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.
      On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.
      But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.”

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Camila – Camila is very aware of how society sees girls and women. She understands that she will always be undervalued, more of a burden to her family than an asset. It’s why she has kept her fútbol playing a secret. But there is a fire deep inside her that won’t let her let go of her dreams of playing professionally. When she becomes La Furia on the field, she feels unstoppable, a contrast to how she feels in the real world. Whether it’s keeping secrets from those closest to her or holding her tongue when she wants to lash out at her domineering father, the fútbol field is the only place that she feels where she can be entirely herself.

Argentine Setting – I love reading about the Latinx diaspora in the US, but am so glad to see a Latinx story take place in Latin America. Yamile Saied Méndez transports readers to Camila’s city of Rosario. Camila is very aware of the beauty of her city and her people, but she is also conscious of the ugly parts as well. I appreciated the honesty in Camila’s POV, who doesn’t romanticize her home, but who also very much loves it. Camila is also biracial, her heritage includes Afro-Latinx and Palestinian grandparents. This is personally the first time I’ve seen an Arab-Latinx character in a YA book which is something I would like to see more of.

Female sports – I would love to see more books that focus on girls in sports. We know female sports are not given the same kind of reverence as men’s sports. Camila has to jump through so many hurdles before she is taken seriously. Various players on her team are forced to leave for reasons that have nothing to do with their hard work and talent and everything to do with misogyny. The only way for someone like Camila to succeed is if she does not waver in her faith in herself. And even then, the odds are always stacked against her.

Discussions of feminism and femicide – Ni Una Menos, a Latin-American feminist movement is part of the backdrop of Camila’s world. Furia also touches on femicide and domestic violence as symptoms of a patriarchal society who views girls and women as expendable.

Camila and her mother – When Furia first opens, Camila’s mother is just as much a hurdle toward her dreams as her father. Camila does not want to get stuck in the same situation as her mother, who had to put away any childhood dreams she may have had and be tied down to a man who does not love her. Both Camila and her mother have to learn to see each other differently before they are able to have any kind of positive relationship.

Nothing to note.

Yamile Saied Méndez’s Furia is as fierce as its title suggests with a protagonist who is unwavering in her ambition. Despite the many people telling her she can’t, she proves again and again that she can.

★ ★ ★ ★

(4/5)



About the Author:
      Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine American who loves meteor showers, summer, astrology, and pizza. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs, and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s a graduate of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) and the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Méndez is also part of Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle grade and young adult authors. Furia is her first novel for young adult readers.

Follow Yamile: Website, Twitter, Instagram

Click here to order your copy of Furia now!

Mini-Reviews [ARC Edition]: Land of the Cranes + Each of Us a Desert

How about another quick round of mini-reviews? I managed to get through all the ARCs I needed to get through (I only have two ARCs after this and I don’t know what I will do with myself when I finish those), but it would not have been possible without these mini-review posts. Both of these are out tomorrow, so if you are able, please preorder!

Title: Land of the Cranes
Author: Aida Salazar
Series: N/A
Pages: 256
Publisher: Scholastic/Levine
Release Date: September 15th 2020

**Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author, which does not influence my review**

TW: deportation, psychological and physical abuse, mention of miscarriage, child molestation

      “From the prolific author of The Moon Within comes the heart-wrenchingly beautiful story in verse of a young Latinx girl who learns to hold on to hope and love even in the darkest of places: a family detention center for migrants and refugees.
      Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.
      Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?”

swirl (2)Aida Salazar’s newest middle grade novel-in-verse, Land of the Cranes, shines a spotlight on the cruelty surrounding immigration laws and their enforcement in this county. Betita has a passion for poetry, she loves words and expresses herself though picture poetry. She and her family are also undocumented. When he father fails to pick her up from school one afternoon, the world as she knows it, irrevocably alters. Her pregnant mother and herself end up in a detention center and Betita’s once bright world grows more and more dim. Betita grew up on her father’s stories, believing that she is descended from cranes destined to soar and find freedom. The detention center where Betita and her mother are imprisoned contain unspeakable horrors and it’s where Betita learns that hope isn’t just something that can fade, it’s also something that can be taken from you, one cruel act at a time. Told through the eyes of a nine-year-old protagonist, Land of the Cranes does not hold back as it describes the inhumane ways migrants are treated. It isn’t an easy read and is made less easy by the fact that as a reader you know these stories have happened and are happening to thousands of people. It initially made me sad, but in the end, I ended up extremely angry. Land of the Cranes is the kind of book that should only exist as a work of dystopian fiction. It should not have to exist in order for people to condemn the treatment of undocumented immigrants. It should not exist in order to get people to pay attention and care. And yet, here we are.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)


Title: Each of Us a Desert
Author: Mark Oshiro
Series: N/A
Pages: 432
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: September 15th 2020

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

TW: body horror, gore

      “From the award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life.
    Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.
      Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.
      One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.”

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Mark Oshiro’s Each of Us a Desert is one of the most unique novels I have ever read with writing that will have readers pausing to bask in its beauty. Xochitl has been her village’s cuentista since she was a child. Her gift enables her to take the confessions of her people, freeing them of their guilt. In turn, Xochitl gives up these stories, forgetting their confessions and returning them to Solís, a deity who watches over them. When Xochitl learns of a frightening secret, she is forced to set off on a journey to find answers. But the desert is an unforgiving place where travelers are confronted by dangers both external and internal. As Xochitl crosses paths with others and finds an unexpected companion in the unscrupulous Emilia, she discovers that the world is bigger and more complicated than she could ever imagine. Each of Us a Desert is more character-driven than plot-driven. Oshiro’s writing shines in their descriptions of the land, but also in the way they write Xochitl’s inner conflicts as she claws her way out of loneliness, grapples with her belief system, and finds solace in another. If you are looking for an introspective novel that will very quietly burrow its way into your heart, Each of Us a Desert is the one to reach for.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)