The Hate U Give may be categorized as a fiction novel but make no mistake, there is nothing fictional about it. Yes, Starr, Khalil, Seven, Maya, Devante, Big Mav, Lisa and Kenya don’t actually exist but their story does. Starr is a sixteen year old girl who lives in the hood but goes to school in private school in the suburbs. Her worlds could not be different. Over Spring Break, her best friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police office during a routine traffic stop and Starr is the only witness. Starr must reconcile her own feelings about what she witnessed and the realities that come with it while also coming to grips how it effects her two different worlds. It gets thrown into sharp relief how her family and neighbors think what happens versus what her friends at school do. Starr grapples with her own fears and find her own voice to stand up for what rights, stand up to the authorities and her own friends too. This book is heartbreaking because it’s a story that we have seen played out too many times in the last couple of years. Khalil was unarmed when he was killed. Yes, he did sell drugs and had involvement with gangs but none of those facts should be justification for what this officer did. You could replace Khalil’s name with Michael, Philandro, Tamir, Tayvon or any other young black men unjustly killed by law enforcement and you would go through the same emotions. Angie Thomas does a brilliant job of outlining all the many view points about this issue. From Starr’s father, a former gang member and ex-con who is far to aware of how the justice system works to Hailey, Starr’s rich white friend who is willing to protest only because it got her out of class for a day. As the reader, we see what happened and how it happened at the beginning of the book. We know it was unjust but since the other characters weren’t there, we get to see how they process it through how they relate to Starr. They accept or deny it depends mostly on their own socioeconomic background and yes race plays apart of it too. Starr’s family of course understand immediately that Khalil did nothing wrong and that Starr did nothing wrong. They also know that because of the neighborhood that they live in it could be dangerous for Starr to speak out even if can help bring him justice. Whatever her decision, they always have her back. The first thing that really struck me was when Starr and Khalil were pulled over, Starr goes over in her head how she is supposed to act when interacting with cops. She says when she was 12 her father told her to do as the officer says, don’t talk unless spoken to and keep your hands visible. She was told this at twelve. Meaning that her parents thought, even as young as twelve years old she could be in danger. I tried to think if my parents and I ever had a talk about what to do if I got pulled over and I don’t think we ever did. Why would we? We are white, there is no reason for cops to look at me or my sister and assume we were up to no good. That we were criminals. That we could be dangerous but Starr’s parents and many black parents have to worry about that for their kids. That is truly heartbreaking. Two of the most interesting characters, okay maybe not the most interesting are Chris and Hailey. Chris and Hailey are both white, privileged and rich. Chris is Starr’s boyfriend. They share a love for sneakers, basketball and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He at times is completely oblivious to their differences. He doesn’t notice or bother him that people stare at them when they walk down the hallway. He wouldn’t say he was racists and most people would agree with him but because of his own privilege, without even realizing it he sometimes falls into the insensitive thinking. He doesn’t understand why Starr is so upset with him or just in general but when she tells him he does try to understand. He wants to be supportive to Starr and that means challenging his own misconceptions and that’s what makes a good ally. Hailey also wouldn’t call herself a racist either. She would be one of those people who says, “I’m not a racists have a black and Asian friend.” Throughout the book she makes insensitive comments and try to pass them off as jokes. When she gets called out on she gets defensive. “It was a joke” “I didn’t mean anything by it” “I can’t believe you would think I’m a racist” Even demands for Starr to apologize to her. She makes absolutely no effort to see Starr’s point of view or acknowledge that what she said hurt her feelings. When she does apologize, it isn’t because she sees what she did or said was wrong it’s that she wants things to go back to what they were before. Since I assume there are going to be a lot of young white readers of this book, Chris and Hailey are important because they may not be able to relate with Starr and her family but they probably can relate to either Chris or Hailey, whether they want to admit it or not. I hope they take a hard and close look at both of those characters and ask themselves some uncomfortable questions. Are they more like Chris or like Hailey? This novel really should be required school reading. Not just because it was well written but also because it does outline all the point of views and how much it should be it’s not just black and white but shades of gray. Only be listening and understanding what people of color and marginalized communities are saying and owning up to our prejudices will we able to end this. So one day, we won’t have to teach our children how to act in police presence and police won’t make snap judgments about civilians based on skin color.
I can’t believe that I haven’t written about this series yet. It’s one of my favorite series to go back and read. In particular, it’s my go-to series when I’ve finished one book but the book I want to read next is coming in a couple of days. (Like for instance, I’ve finished My Lady Jane but A Court of Wings and Ruin, The Dark Prophecy and Always and Forever, Lara Jean comes out of Tuesday) I usually don’t want to start a new book that I might not finish before they come out so Unearthly or one if it’s sequels, Hallowed or Boundless because I’ve read them so many times, I can skip over parts or not feel bad if I don’t finish. It’s a romance, it’s a comedy. It has some action! and it has one of the most swoon worthy love interest of any teen novel. Unearthly is about Clara, a half human half angel, who moves with her family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to fulfill her purpose. All Angelbloods, as they are known, are put on this earth to carry out some divine purpose. For Clara it starts when she starts having visions about meeting a boy her age in the woods during a forest fire and wouldn’t you know that guy is super dreamy too. Christian is the guy in high school that every girl has a crush on and every boy wants to be. However, he’s the guy that makes me swoon. That title guys to the other love interest. Tucker Avery. Tucker Avery is a cowboy. He wears cowboy boots and hat. He rides in rodeos and is very outdoorsy. He would be the perfect boyfriend. They relationship starts off in the stereotypical bickering back and forth before they realize how much they love each other. Aww.
I would say the real theme of the series is fate and destiny and how much control do we have over our future. Clara is not your normal teenager. She has Angel blood in her and because of that is she expected to carry out her purpose. At first she is all about it. If it means getting to know Christian, the hot boy is school, she is all for it but what does divine really want from her. Is she only supposed to save Christian from the forest fire? Are they supposed to be a couple? Is God trying to set her up on a date? She discovers that finding out her purpose in life is not that easy and only gets more complicated when a.) she starts to fall in love with Tucker and b.) she finds out that she has more in common with Christian then she thought. How much about her future does she get the decide and how much of it has already been planned for her. She is impulsively drawn to Christian but is that because she is supposed to because of her purpose or does she really have feelings for him and him for her? And if she is supposed to be with Christian then why does she fall in love with Tucker. (because he’s perfect! but I digress)
All the while she’s trying to find out why she was put on this earth and fighting evil Angels, she still has to dodge of the landmines of attending high school. Taking test, finding new friends and keeping them. Going to Prom. It’s not easy but an Angelblood in high school. Clara is able to navigate all of these things thanks to other awesome character, Angela, another Angelblood. Together help each other to figure out each other purposes and the other mysteries of being half angel. Their friendship is one of those great but sadly rare in fiction, solid friendships between two girls. They truly love and support each other throughout the everything. Yes, they have their disagreements but when it matters, they are there for each other. They push each other to be better. Challenge each other to learn and know more about who they are and what they are supposed to. There really should be more relationships like this featured in YA novels. Too often female friendships get pushed aside once the heroine starts a relationship. But then again, Angela is not someone who would ever let a boy become between her and her best friend. So yes, go read this series. It’s the perfect weekend getaway book. Just don’t let the cheesy covers scare you away.
April 2016 was our most successful month page views wise. We had 589 views, which beat our previous record of 552 in December 2015. It made me wonder what were we writing about a year ago to get so much traffic. Well, The Raven Cycle and Maggie Stiefvater. It’s hard to believe that the The Raven King came out a year ago. That it has been a year since we found out if Gansey, Blue, Ronan and Adam would find the sleeping Welsh King and If Blue and Gansey would kiss and if Gansey would die. Those mysteries have been solved. Thankfully, we know that we haven’t read the last of the Gang as Maggie is working on a trilogy about Ronan. Whee!!!
My editor is going to hate me, but I just outlined three books for a Ronan-centered trilogy.
— Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater) August 7, 2016
And we have another Maggie book coming in October. So we have a lot to look forward to but let’s take a moment, in honor of the 1 year anniversary of the release of The Raven King and the end of the The Raven Cycle, to look at everything we have ever written about the series.
**Spoilers I was lucky enough to receive a Advance Copy back in September. There will be Spoilers**
It was worth the wait. I really love Lish McBride’s writing. It’s fast paced and full of humor and just so wonderful. Pyromantic begins a month or two after Firebug ended. Ava and Cade are trying to figure out their relationship now that they know they are daughter and father. Ava is still smarting from turning down Lock for a date. Ava is still coterie but she can’t quite figure out her new boss, Alistair. Like, when is he going to start killing people for no reason because that’s what Coterie does, right? Let’s just say there is a lot to get used to. That’s when this strange and unpredictable things start happening that Ava, Lock, Ezra, Sid and Bianca now must investigate.
I love Ava. She’s funny, sarcastic and a little cynical. She is full of insecurities and considering everything that she has been through it’s not surprising. She lost her Mom after years of being on the run. She is forced to work for Venus and the Coterie like an indentured servant. She doesn’t have many friends outside of her team Lock and Ezra and Sylvie, who works at Cade’s bookstore. When Lock asks Ava out it throws her off. What if they break up? How will that effect that their friendship? So she avoids them both Lock and Ezra. When the strange a disease ravages the area they are forced to work together. After all the twists turn it makes for a great book. It’s so different. I mean who doesn’t love Kelpies who wear sweaters? Or Werehares who knit and in a biker gang? I love it all. But most of all I love the friendship between Lock, Ezra and Ava. They is a true sense of family with them. They love each other and they are there for each other. They tolerate each other faults and support each other when they are down. I’m also loving the friendship of Ava and Sylvie. They are both polar opposites. Sylvie is all sunshine and rainbows and Ava is just fire but it works. I’m know vague on the plot points but this was a wonderful sequel to a great book. I really hope you all go out and support Lish because she really writes some amazing stories that are weird and funny. I’m not sure what else to say but go read!
I’m prepping for the release of Pyromantic by going back and rereading the first book in the series, Firebug. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you do!
This February Beth and I are going to be doing something we’ve talked about but haven’t yet done. We’re going to be reading a book together (or, three books as the case may be). Starting February 1st, we will be reading March by John Lewis. This award winning book tells the story of Congressman John Lewis’s coming of age in the Civil Rights movement. We invite you to join us in this reading. As we read, we will be posting our thoughts and open-ended questions. We hope that you will join us for the reading and some discussion.
Friends, oh my god this book. It deserves all of the praise and all of the awards. And, it did win the National Book Award for Fiction! You should read it. As soon as possible. This book.
This is the story of Cora, a slave who runs away and escapes from the South on the underground railroad. Whitehead weaves a tale here that is smart and funny and makes so much of America’s history real. Cora starts by telling you of her Grandmother Ajarry and how she was taken from her village in Africa, put on ship and bought and sold in America. Cora then tells us about her Mother, the only slave to runaway from Randall plantation to never be caught. Then, she tells us her story. The narrative from the start makes plain that even “good slave owners” were not good by contrasting Cora’s owner with his brother. Yes, her owner doesn’t go in for harsh punishments or random beatings. But, he’s still indifferent to the plight of the humans who live around him (And, he still owns people, which, I hope we can all agree, is fundamentally wrong). Cora and Caesar make a plan to runaway from the plantation and to take the underground railroad. This is a bit of genius on the part of Whitehead; in this novel, the underground railroad is a literal railroad with station masters, conductors, trains, the whole lot. This gave the novel that magical realist feel. It also gave the story some mystery and gave me, and Cora, something to think about. “Who built this?” she asks. And, person after person says to her, “Who do you think?”
Caesar and Cora’s first stop on the railroad is South Carolina, which Whitehead has set up as a place where former slaves are slowly integrated into society. As part of the integration into society, everyone is required to have regular health checks. Some of the former slaves in town have “blood disorders” and have to come in for regular check ups. But, do they have blood disorders? Or, is something more sinister going on. If you know your American history, you can guess probably guess that something more sinister is going on and what that something might be. Additionally in this part of the story, Cora works in a museum, which allows Whitehead to compare the narrative of American history with the lived experiences of Cora and other slaves and former slaves in the story.
From here Cora moves onto North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana, all while being pursued by the slave catcher Ridgeway. This gives the novel some tension while also pointing out how society put a wedge between lower income whites and slaves by making catching slaves a lucrative business.
From reading other reviews on Amazon, it seems like people either other or hate this book. (I’m obviously in the love category). One other reviewer said that “there was nothing new here, we know all of this from history.” I feel like this misses the point. Yes, Whitehead has incorporated a lot of American history into this novel. But, he’s done it in a way that his interesting and shocking and he’s given us characters we can sympathize with. This is a book that dramatizes some of America’s racist past and that gives us room to think about and interrogate our understanding of that past and our feelings about it.
I listened to this book on audio. The narration was done by Bahni Turpin and she gave the characters life and personality. I really enjoyed the work she did on this.
I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries.
I will say this about 2016, I read a lot of good books this year. It was hard to narrow it down to just 10. So without further ado and in no particular order.
- Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan – So it was hard to pick between this one and his other book Riordan wrote, The Hidden Oracle, but I choose this one because of the characters. I love that Rick has added diverse characters to his worlds. Not to mention his characters get sassier with every book.
- A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – A cross between historical fiction and dystopian novel. It’s quite a thrill ride and it left a real cliffhanger as to how the series is going to end.
- A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – After a so-so first book this one was a real game changer for the series as a hole. It delved into matters trauma and emotional abuse but still keep the story flowing.
- The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater – It’s Maggie and It’s Gansey, Blue, Ronan, Adam and Noah. It’s the perfect ending to a perfect story.
- Half Lost by Sally Green – It was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. Nate didn’t have an easy life and nothing about this book was easy too. It was very true to life. It doesn’t always turn out the way you expect and in war there are always painful loses.
- Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – Now this is a fun series. It’s a dystopian fantasy with X-Men qualities. Mare is not perfect. She’s complicated and conflicting but she means well and the writing only gets better with each book.
- Pyromantic by Lish McBride – This book doesn’t actually come out until next year so I’ll wait to tell you about it but let’s just say you are going to love it.
- Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – It’s a crime caper and a fantasy. You root for the the thieves and the con men to win. It’s wonderful.
- Ms. Marvel No Normal by G. Willow Wilson – likable and charming, Kamala Khan is worthy addition to the Avengers. She proves that it doesn’t matter where you come from and what you believe, you can still be a superhero.
- The Midnight Star by Marie Lu – Another great ending to well thought out series. I may have qualms about who the real villain was but I think it was heartbreaking as it was beautiful.
2016 was a mix bag of a year but let’s focus on the positives,shall we? This year was a banner year for us at Stacks. In the last weeks of the year we are going to take a look back of some of our highlights. So here are our most viewed posts of the past year.
- Review: Half Lost by Sally Green Who knew this was going to be such big crowd pleaser? This book really broke my heart. The ending was so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I originally reviewed this back in January but we are still getting views.
- Preview of the Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan So this post is originally from 2015 but the excitement over Riordan’s new book carried over into 2016. It’s views more then doubled my review of the book. I’ll try not to read too much into that. 😉
- Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 1 My excitement over the The Raven King was subtle. Okay, not so subtle. This was the first of a week long celebration of Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series. I examined different aspects of the series and tried to predict what was going to happen in the final book.
- Review: Endure by Sara B. Larson Another surprising addition to the list. This review from January about the final book in Sara B. Larson’s book was a pretty good series.
- Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 2 and rounding out our top five is Part 2 of my The Raven Cycle love fest.
With Halloween just a few days away, I thought I would revisit some of the more scarier and spookier books I’ve read. For all the books that I read that have vampires, witches and werewolves in them, not many fall under the horror genre. So some of my picks don’t really fall into the typical Halloween fare but they are scary nonetheless.
Scowler does fall in the horror category as it was super suspenseful and scary. I picked this book up because I knew that Daniel Kraus was working with Guillermo Del Toro on Trollhunters. The fact it takes place in Iowa an added bonus. Ry and his mother and sister are barely scraping by on their farm and Ry is doing everything to distract him from the pain of the physical and emotional abuse of his imprisoned father. Everything starts to fall apart when a meteorite falls and his father returns to the farm. Ry must defeat his father with the help of his imaginary childhood friends, including Scowler. This book is super super creepy. With a scene at the end that still sort of haunts me when I thing about it. It’s not just a great scary read but also delves into the effects of abuse has on it’s victims. The fear of facing is ones abuser maybe as terrifying as taking on a monster but being able to face that fear takes real strength.
I admit that I still have nightmares from this series. Particularly since I live in New York City and ride the subway through many of the same stations that they talk about in this book and I can’t help but wonder if they are vampires down there. You may have seen the show. I haven’t so I don’t know how it compares but I can’t imagine it as scary or creepy as the book because I’m pretty sure most of the book is not cable ready material. New York because the epicenter of a virus that turns people into vampires. Instead of the traditional being bite on the neck by a vampire to be turned, people are turned by little worm like things. Gross. Eph and his team at the CDC investigate several mysterious illnesses only to find themselves in the middle of a epidemic that deals with ancient vampires. As they try to stay alive and figure out what’s going on and how to stay alive and not to mention dealing with family drama. It’s the perfect scary series to read for Halloween. The ending of the series is truly heartbreaking.
Holly Black is one of my favorite authors. She’s never boring. Her books are never the same and truly original. In the The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, whole cities have been quarantined off because of vampires. Vampires have let’s say got out of control and in these Coldtowns vampires and humans leave together. Some humans more willing then others as some had the misfortune of getting stuck inside when the walls went up. Tana’s mother was bitten by a vampire and later died. After a wild party, Tana wakes to find that only she, her ex-boyfriend and a tied up vampire are alive. The vampire virus takes a couple of days before it takes hold and Tana is determined to save herself and her companions by going to one of the Coldtowns away from her family. It’s not your typical vampire story. It was truly refreshing read and Gavriel is a vampire worth crushing on.
Ok, so this is scary or spooky as the others but the make no mistake the story of the Baudelaire siblings is truly terrifying. When their parents tragically die and they are sent to live with Count Olaf. Things get worse from there. A Series of Unfortunate Events is truly an understatement as the unfortunate events are usually the faults of the adults they are put in the care of. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are put in one bad situation after another from the very first book when Count Olaf tries to marry 13 year old to get a hold of their fortune. Is there really anything more horrifying then that? The first couple of books are a little formulaic but once you get to book five things really start to pick up and things get really scary.
What are your favorite Scary or Spooky books to read?