We Are Not From Here

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

2020 Release – May

Pulga has his dreams.

Chico has his grief.

Pequeña has her pride.

And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might delver them to a better life – if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperations drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.

I’m not going to lie, this book wasn’t easy to read. It’s not the cosy happy book to snuggle up with on a rainy day, but it is really important and necessary. As someone who really had no concept of what it is like for immigrants making their way to America, this book really delves into the hardship and struggle they face. It seems almost incomprehensible that people would choose to make such a dangerous journey but I suppose that shows my privilege: I can’t imagine my home being so bad I have no choice but to leave it. I thought the characters Pequena and Pulga were very well written, their emotions just emanated from the page and hit you hard. However I get that Chico is meant to be this big lovable bear of a character but I just could not bring myself to feel for him, even if that makes me cold hearted. I think this is a pretty important read for anyone who has mixed feelings about illegal immigrants. People aren’t coming to steal your jobs or take over your country; the alternative is just really grim. And I don’t think anyone can honestly say that they wouldn’t do the same thing.

Rating: 8/10

More Things to (try to) Binge Watch

Okay one thing about me: I am absolutely terrible at sitting down and watching TV. There are so many shows and movies people have told me to watch, and that I’d like to watch, but I seriously struggle to make myself actually do it. Saying that, there are a couple of bookish viewing options that I have my eye on.

Firstly I have heard quite a bit of buzz about the new Netflix adaptation of The Babysitters Club. I actually managed to watch the first episode and it was really warm and sweet in a ‘I could watch this and enjoy it without having to think too much’ kind of way. It was also really refreshing to see 12 and 13-year-olds in a TV series actually cast using actors that reflect their age. I am going to actually try hard to watch the rest of the season; luckily there aren’t too many episodes and they’re only like 25 minutes each. Totally doable.

I have also heard about something else pretty exciting concerning Netflix: they are making a TV series based on the novel When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon! Coincidentally, this is actually one of the books I’m reading currently. The series was created by Netflix India but should be available on our Netflix by the end of the year. The adaptation is set in India, rather than the US, so keen to see how that plays out.

With so much amazing looking bookish viewing (that was both a rhyme and a tongue twister) available, I solemnly swear to try my very best to make a proper commitment to some Netflix bingeing.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something – but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of – if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Okay so when I heard this was a cult book I was pretty intrigued. And yeah it definitely lived up to expectations with all the crazy cult references you could imagine. It was so much more than that as well though. It addresses big questions about religion, the world and our purpose in it. I never would have though a book about an insane religious cult would actually make me think about how I see the world in a different way, and how it is kind of important to believe in something, whatever that may be. Minnow’s voice is so well developed, and she comes across as incredibly strong but with all the accompanying flaws that we all have. Yes this is a book about a girl who escaped from a cult but it’s also about a girl finding her way in the world, as we all do. And the fact that is was the author’s debut novel is just mind blowing.

Rating: 9/10

Lazy Rainy Reading

Although my last post commented on how slack I have been, I probably have to revisit that. To be fair I have a bit of an excuse, I’ve spent a lovely few nights away with my partner and while I didn’t get much reading done it was a well deserved break from everything. So now I’m trying to knuckle down a little more and I thought I’d write a quick post just to chat about what I’m reading at the moment.

I currently have three books on the go which is a little crazy, even for me, but I’m actually managing them okay. I just finished After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson which was a survival novel set in the Australian outback and it was so nice reading a genre novel by an Australian author set in my own country. Review coming soon. I’m currently reading We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez which was released a couple of months ago I believe and is about three South American teenagers deciding to go on the dangerous journey to escape their dangerous lives and seek refuge in the US. Lastly I am also reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay which is a collection of essays exploring feminism and diversity and I actually got inspired to read it when it was reference in Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno, so really looking forward to digging into that.

Thankfully this dreary, rainy weather is a perfect excuse for reading so hope to catch up a bit in the next few days. Hope you all find your excuse to fit in some more reading too!

Dumplin’

Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1)

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mum) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked… until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant – along with several other unlikely candidates – to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.

Apparently it is possible for a book to be really feel-good as well as kind of heartbreaking. Let me explain: Will really resonated with me as I was also a plus-size teenager that struggled with how people saw me and just wanting to feel comfortable in my skin. So seeing Will struggle with self-esteem issues and worry about being in a relationship with someone who is thin felt pretty real to me. There were so many nice aspects to this book as well though. Like the many Dolly Parton references, drag queens and watching a pretty kickass girl get her confidence back. I think Dumplin’ is for anyone who needs that little boost of confidence and it portrays some pretty important points about body issues. It also highlights the importance of having good friends to support you in everything you do.

Rating: 7/10

July YA New Releases

So I’ll admit I’ve been a bit slack with posts recently, I’ve had a 10 day break from work and somehow this worked to make me less productive rather than more so. I’ve tried to keep up with my reading though and also compiled a list of a few July new releases you can add to your TBR list. Personally I’ve already ordered The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune and Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy, I couldn’t resist!

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give, #1)

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does – or does not – say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

For a debut novel, The Hate U Give had an incredibly powerful voice. Unintentionally I ended up reading this when the riots and black lives matter protests began to appear all over the news. It really resonated with me how depressing it was for people’s rights to be completely ignored like that in this day and age. Starr’s perspective in the book feels so real and at times I almost could have sworn I was witnessing everything right there with her. As heavy as the issues The Hate U Give portrayed are, there are so many well developed and loveable characters that you can’t help but feel a glimmer of hope too. I definitely think this book is a must read for all young people, especially now we start to delve further into the anti-racism movement.

Rating: 10/10

The Paper Girl of Paris

The Paper Girl of Paris

*New release – May 2020*

  Now:

Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked away for more than seventy years.

Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realises there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.

Then:

Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognise Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises – to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.

Starting this book, I thought I wasn’t going to like it. I didn’t understand why it was written in two points of view: Alice seemed so boring and underdeveloped whereas the story really seemed to come alive with Adalyn. It took me about halfway through to understand what the author was getting at. I loved Adalyn’s story and following her through the French resistance against the Nazi’s in Paris. And slowly Alice started to become a bit more interesting as she embarked on solving the mystery of her grandmother’s family as well as a pretty cute romance. So, surprisingly, I found myself actually quite loving this book. It was the author’s debut novel and you did get the sense in parts that is wasn’t as well finished as other books but wow the story is so worth the read, especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction.

Rating: 8/10

Turtles All the Way Down

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Turtles All the Way Down is most definitely recognisable as a John Green book, however it portrayed a voice that I would say is a lot more raw than in some of his other books. Green explores the depths of anxiety and how it can really make you your own worst enemy. Aza’s story feels very real. There’s no magic cure that will make everything okay but there is true power in help from those around you and, most of all, yourself. While it felt like not much really developed in the way of plot, I really liked the insight into what living with life-impacting anxiety looks like. This might not be the right book if you’re looking for a story to dive into and get lost in, but I believe it does explore the important reality of being an adolescent struggling with mental health.