When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Just like it’s namesake,When Dimple Met Rishi has all the hallmarks of a 90’s rom-com and so much more. Taking place entirely during a web developer summer program, the plot felt a little claustrophobic at times, but the relationship was developed wonderfully. Both narrators on the audiobook give great performance, though Vikas Adams’ voice for Dimple had a tendency to sound shrill. This book is everything you’ve heard and I want this movie. I want it now. – ★★★★
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
After experiencing a violent encounter with the police, high school senior Justyce McAllister begins writing letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. to unpack his newly developed complex feelings about race and policing. Dear Martin is definitely an important book because so few YA novels are explicitly written and marketed for black teen boys the way this book has been but the story left me wanting more. I was annoyed that the white love interest got to explain the complexities of race in America, the MLK portrayal felt sanitized and Justyce reads as younger and more naive than a 17-year-old from the hood at an elite boarding school about to study policy at Yale. Author Zetta Elliot has made some criticisms of this books portrayal of black women and I agree with a lot of what she says. I think Dear Martin would have made a great middle-grade book, but as a YA it felt like a missed opportunity for a more nuanced discussion. – ★★★ + .5
The popularity of this book seemed to come out of nowhere. I just remember seeing it on an endcap one day in Barnes and Nobles and the next things I knew is was blowing up.
Ember in the Ashes takes place in The Empire, a vaguely middle ages fictional land with some vaguely Arabic influences. Elias (who by the way is 20 years old….which feels oddly old for YA) is a student at Blackcliff, a ruthless academy that trains Masks, the Empire’s deadliest soldiers. Laia is a Scholar, the conquered class, who goes undercover as a slave at Blackcliff for the Resistance to help her brother.
I don’t really have much to say about this book, which is weird since the audiobook is over 15 hours long. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t click with me. I finished this book and I wasn’t amped for the next one. Thinking about the only other YA fantasies I’ve read; Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Young Elites, I think what this book is missing is characters with skin in the game. Elias and Laia are just kind of going with the flow all the time.