After a demanding semester during which many life decisions were made over many cups of coffee, it’s great to be back on the blog 🙂 If you read my previous post Why I’ve Been Blog-Quiet, you’ll know that this book’s review was set for the presses in February (!). Then, the first of many rattling executive orders from the 45th president was announced. The Muslim Ban, targeting Iranian immigrants among others, was scarily relevant to this book’s protagonist. The event rattled me into a long state of pondering and critical evaluation.
Thanks to encouragement from friends, on and outside the blog world, I’ve decided to finally publish the review. As the work from the semester subsides, I am excited to re-start blogging.
With much love, I share with you a wonderful book:
Things my teenage cousin likes:
- reading (her favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye)
- flitting from crush to crush, with 100% sincerity every time
- scarily accurate sarcasm
So it would seem natural that I get this intelligent, kind young woman To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han for her Sweet 16. Like my cousin, protagonist Lara Jean is hapa (that is, half-Asian and half-white). Lara Jean is levelheaded and a bit of a hopeless romantic: She’s written a love letter for every boy she’s ever loved since middle school and keeps them hidden in a hatbox under her bed.
Lara Jean narrates:
They’re not love letters in the strictest sense of the word. My letters are for when I don’t want to be in love anymore. They’re for good-bye.
…at least, they’re supposed to be for good-bye. Then one morning, the unthinkable happens: At the beginning of Lara Jean’s junior year of high school, all of the letters are mysteriously sent. And Lara Jean scrambles to deal with the consequences… which actually turn out to be about a lot more than just boys and love.
Led by an earnest, astute biracial female protagonist, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is sweet without being saccharine. It’s a story that delights beyond the run-of-the-mill rom-com – moreover, it’s a perfect encapsulation of what I think “diverse YA lit” can aspire to.
Story can do many things, but its greatest capacity, particularly in this time of division, is the power to inspire understanding of lives outside our own. Some books are a deeply-felt, resonant encounter with another’s truth.
My first read of 2017 was one such book.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez is told from the alternating perspectives of the working-class residents of an apartment building, all immigrants from Latin America. The principal storyline follows the newest tenants: Alma and her husband Arturo, who seek a better future for their teenage daughter Maribel, who suffered a tragic accident in México. Once they arrive, a bond develops between Maribel and the neighboring family’s teenage son, Mayor – a closeness that skirts a first, blushing romance.
This is a story about the passions, fears, celebrations, and determination of immigrants to the United States.
Today, I am so excited to share a book that instantly spoke to my own life – one of those rare, brilliant shimmers of belonging. You know the feeling. When a book knows you so well, it puts words to your inarticulate emotions. When a book is a beacon light of not-alone-ness.
Full disclosure: Advanced Readers copy obtained as a gift from a friend whose parents own a small bookstore. (I love this friend all the more for bringing this book into my life.)
Growing up, I didn’t think that Filipina girls were important enough to be the heroine. Happily, I was wrong. Read on, and maybe, in ways different from mine, this book will be a light for you, too.
Pull up a chai and get ready for Intrepid’s first book review for Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed!
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (2015)
First things first: The cover is a gem. A teenage girl with long, dark hair looks wistfully up at a crescent moon. She’s bordered by a stunning, jewel-toned blue and purple pointed arch.
“They will accept us one day,” I insist… “One day, we’ll show them there’s another way to look at all of this. I wasn’t exactly planning to fall for you. I just did. It’s going to happen to them too.”
By the end of senior year, 17-year-old narrator Naila has finally convinced her parents to let her go to college and become a doctor. Her parents, conservative Pakistani immigrants, have let their daughter make more or less her own choices, except for one: Years ago, they told Naila that while she could choose her clothes and her career, they would decide on her husband.
The one knot in the plan is that Naila has already fallen in love with Saif, the dreamy boy on the soccer team, and they have been secretly dating for a year.
When the secret gets out (in a spectacularly nasty blowup), Naila’s parents book a last-minute summer vacation to Pakistan. As the summer passes, Naila becomes slowly aware that her parents have an arranged marriage in mind – and that they don’t plan on her leaving Pakistan anytime soon.