Wrapping up 2021 with my last few reviews
Feminist AF : A Guide To Crushing Girlhood
Every now and then I will categorize a YA book as ‘a book I wish I had in high school’. I would categorize this non-fiction guide to modern-day feminism as ‘a book I wish I had freshman year of college’. I had a hard time understanding the concept of feminism back then.
This guide is an outstanding introduction to intersectional feminism for young people. It provides a ton of framework and gives readers room to make their own choices on how they want to apply the concepts. This guide is also careful to be gender-inclusive. I think my biggest criticism is that this pointedly inclusive book is subtitled ‘A Guide to Crushing Girlhood. I’m sure it has something to do with marketing but I feel like this will alienate part of the intended audience.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Let me start by saying Joniece Abbott-Pratt deserves all the flowers for the way she nailed the singing in this book. I have NEVER heard a narrator give so much authentic energy and rhythm to verse and poetry while performing. I wonder if she and Ifueko worked it out together.
Raybearer is YA fantasy set in the expansive and diverse Aritsar empire. The vast empire is ruled by the Emperor, who rules with his council of 11—all of whom are connected by the magic of the Ray.
It’s time for the Emperor’s son, Dayo, to find his council of 11 and among them is Tarisai, a girl who knows nothing of her past but is doing everything to fight her destiny—killing Dayo. Ifukeo creates a vast world that is easy to fall into. There are so many intricate details to this story populated by a full cast of characters with their own motivations and secrets. I’ve been following Ifueko on TikTok and I’m a little afraid of the second book because I can tell it’s going to be extremely emotional and she is going to put her characters through it. I don’t read a ton of YA fantasy, so I’m glad this was the one I picked up this year!
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
Tiffany Jackson masters horror and suspense in this terrifying twist on the haunting house tale. Mari’s newly blended family is ready for a fresh start in Cedarville, but the dilapidated community and looming prisons are a far cry from her alternative hippie West Coast lifestyle. Cedarville was a thriving Black neighborhood before until something dark worked its way in and now something wants Mari and her family out. Jackson’s ability to work systemic Black oppression into a haunted house tale gave me serious Joran Peele vibes. Black horror is having a renaissance right now and I feel like teens who are into it will enjoy this book
Mari is a California girl and audiobook narrator Marcella Cox truly embodied that vibe with her easy voice. Mari is one of those “unlikeable” and flawed characters– she’s had issues with anxiety and drugs, and often uses this as an excuse to make selfish decisions. I’m all for a flawed character. I did feel like the setting needed to be a bit more anchored. The history of Cedarville is pivotal to the plot but we don’t get enough of a timeline. I couldn’t tell what decade certain events happened in. This is my first Jackson book and I noticed the book ended abruptly leaving a few loose ends. Is this like a thing she does? Either way I’m more than ready to read more of her books. Jackson dreams up some truly eerie and frightening imagery that was too scary for me!
For All Time by Shanna Miles
Tamar knows her illness is going to overtake her and end her newfound romance with the patient and charming Fayard. But their romance is far from over because Tamar and Fayard have fallen in love across multiple lives and universes.
And all those lives are about to collide.
This was one of those books with a strange but well-executed concept. I thought I knew where this book was going but it takes a hard left turn as we abandon the main plot and explore the couple’s previous lives from Pre-colonial Africa to the far reaches of outer space. I didn’t 100% understand the last few minutes but I liked how creative and experimental it was.
This is a book I think is being slept on because it defies categorization in a time when people seem to want that. This book gets marketed as timeless YA Romance, but I’d say don’t go in expecting a YA romance to take the forefront. Also, I’m sorry, but this is marketed as Outlander meets The Sun is Also A Star…I just don’t think that’s it. I don’t know how Miles came up with this concept but I’m excited to see what else she has in store.