Brown Girl Dreaming

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genres: Poetry, Young Adult, Childrens
Pub Date: Jan. 2014 (Read April 2018)

Thanks for sticking around everyone! I’ve been travelling around Vietnam for the past 3 weeks, so my book reading has been a little slow, but I have several books to update you on now!

I did accomplish my April Reading Challenge, which was to read 3 award winning books. Brown Girl Dreaming was the last book I read right before I went on holiday, but I didn’t get a chance to write a review before I left, so please forgive me for already starting to forget a bit about this book, but I’ll do my best to review!

I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought this was a fictional book about growing up in the south (written in prose), but I was excited to discover its actually a non-fictional account of the authors childhood! I’m sure some is partially fabricated and written through other people’s memories (the author is very young for some of the experiences). But it is indeed written in prose and it was a joy to read.

Jacqueline Woodson was born in Ohio, spent several years living with her mom and grandparents in South Carolina, before her mother moved her and her siblings to New York. Brown Girl Dreaming tells of her childhood and her relationships with her mother, grandparents, and siblings. Her older sister was a voracious reader who did very well in school, while Jacqueline struggled in school but discovered a deep love of writing and storytelling. As a child she is frustrated by the injustices she sees around her and develops a hunger to see and create change.

It’s not really the story I was expecting, but I really liked the way it was told. I’ve been reading more prose and poetry lately and I thought this was a fantastic medium through which to tell her story. It’s a quick read, but wonderful!

The Authentics

Rating: ⭐⭐
Author: Abdi Nazemian
Narrator: Kyla Garcia
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Pub Date: Aug. 2017 (Read Mar. 2018 as an Audiobook)

I am tearing it up with audiobooks this month! Granted this one was half the length of the audiobooks I usually listen to, but still.

I admit, after listening to I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, I totally did a search on the narrator Kyla Garcia and found that she’d narrated another book on my TBR, which is the main reason why I decided to read The Authentics. Garcia did a fantastic job narrating this book as well, but sadly this was not on the same level as I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

This is young adult literature that definitely reads like young adult. I usually don’t have any trouble reading YA because there are some really great YA authors out there who tells stories that have a lot of depth and themes that are applicable to everyone, not just teenagers. This book definitely still had themes that anyone could enjoy, but the story felt pretty juvenille. It actually has a pretty surprising twist early in the novel that I would have been completely pissed about if I was Daria, but in my opinion this book was missing the emotion. It lacked tension and grit and I feel like the author was afraid to go there and instead wrote more of a “feel-good” family novel. There’s nothing wrong with “feel-good”, but I thought this story had a lot of potential and it just lacked impact and execution.

Daria is a 15 year old Iranian-American teenager. She was born in America and has never been to Iran, but she is very proud of her culture and her and her friends, who come from very diverse backgrounds, do their best to always “be authentic”. This all changes when their English teacher challenges them to do a presentation about their heritage and Daria learns something shocking about her family’s past. Daria begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself and her parents and finds it increasingly difficult to be authentic.

I don’t want to give anything more away about the story. There’s several different plots throughout the novel between Daria’s feud with her former best friend, her conflict with her family, and a new love interest, but I thought they were all mediocre and pretty surface level. Maybe I’m out of touch, but I like to give teenagers a bit more credit than I think the author does in this book. Everything about Daria’s fight with Heidi felt childish and the romantic relationship made me cringe. Teenagers have more depth than this and the whole thing just felt lacking.

That said, I really did enjoy the opportunity to read about Iranian culture and I do believe that diverse stories like this need to be told and are incredibly important. I just really wanted more from this. It may be unfair to keep comparing it to I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, but it’s hard not to when they deal with a lot of similar themes (the daughter that can’t live up to their immigrant mother’s expectations) and the latter was so much better written and had so much more depth.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: 
Author: Kim Fu
Genres: Fiction
Read: Mar. 2018

Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was a really interesting read. The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore just came out in February and it already has a bit of a lowish rating on goodreads, which is usually a deterrent for me, but I’m obsessed with camping and I was really intrigued by the premise, so I decided to go ahead with it anyways.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore tells the story of 5 girls around ages 10-12 who attend a sleep-away camp in Washington State. The girls are from all over the region, including British Columbia. The highlight of the camp is supposed to be an overnight kayaking trip to a remote island, but this kayak trip goes horribly awry and leaves the girls stranded on an island. The book tells the story of what happened to the girls, while simultaneously flashing forward in each of the girls lives to see how they later fared.

The structure of this story was really interesting. Throughout the main story of what happened at Camp Forevermore, we get a short story for each of the girls future lives. These stories don’t really reference what happened at camp and in my opinion could each be viewed as separate short stories, but generally examine how they might have been affected by what happened on that fateful kayaking trip.

Because of this, the novel read more like a collection of short stories to me, but I didn’t mind it because each sub-story felt fully formed and realized and the writing was really beautiful. It didn’t deliver on what I was expecting from this book, but it was still a really nice piece of writing, so I didn’t mind. I think Kim Fu got the atmosphere of the story just right and I think the cover perfectly reflects that atmosphere too.

My complaint would be that it was a bit short. I was really into the main story at Forevermore and I would have liked to see this part of the novel developed a little more. It had a bit of a Lord of the Flies vibe and explored how children act and develop when left alone in stressful situations without adult support and I would have liked to see these themes explored in a little more depth and a bit better tied in with the futures of each girl. I also thought it was a weird choice to tell Kayla’s story instead of Andee’s. Andee is one of the 5 girls on the island, why tell her sister’s story instead of hers? I didn’t really get why the author choose to do this and was one of the reasons I thought the flash forwards could also work as short stories, since some of them seemed to have very little to do with what actually happened at camp.

Overall though, I did really like this, which goes to show you can’t always trust the goodreads ratings. I thought the writing was strong and the story was beautifully told. It’s a bit of a slow-burn novel, but it worked in this context. Plus I love supporting Canadian authors!

Looking for Alibrandi

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Read: Jan. 2018

This is a tough one to review because I’m not quite sure how I felt about this book. Looking for Alibrandi was Melina Marchetta’s first book and it’s been on my TBR for a very long time. On the Jellicoe Road is the first Marchetta book I read and it still remains my favourite of her books (and one of my favourite books of all time). I keep hoping that one of her other books will be better than Jellicoe Road, but they never are.

This was a fun book. I really liked Josie. She was spunky and I laughed out loud at her more than once. I haven’t read a YA book like this one in a while and sinking into Marchetta’s writing is like sinking into a hot bath. It feels so nice and comforting. I didn’t love Looking for Alibrandi and I did take issue with the main romantic relationship in the novel, but I also appreciate what Melina did with this book.

Josephine Alibrandi is in her final year of high school and she’s determined to do well on her HSC exams so that she can become a barrister (it’s set in Australia). Josie has never quite taken herself seriously and sees herself as an outcast because of her heritage. Her grandparents moved to Australia from Italy in the 1940’s and she’s been raised heavily Italian. Her mom became pregnant with her at 17, alienating herself from her family, and raised Josie on her own, without any support from Josie’s father.

Josie struggles to belong because of her heritage and because she goes to a catholic high school, she is largely shamed because of her single mother. She’s had a crush on do-gooder John Barton for years, but she finds herself enamoured with the rough-around-the-edges Jacob Coote after she meets him at a regional school event. To top things off, when her father unexpectedly shows up in Sydney, she knows she’s in for a whirlwind senior year.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book, the biggest of which was the insight Marchetta provides into race relationships in Australia. Many of the Australians are actively racist against the families that immigrated from Italy and Greece in the 1940’s and 1950’s and there’s an interesting dynamic between Josie and some of her classmates. I enjoyed when Josie learned about her Italian heritage and how she learned to accept it and appreciate it.

I also liked the relationship she built with her father and the dynamic between her and the rest of her family. Her relationship with her mother and grandmother felt very real. At first you wonder if any of them actually like each other and they all seem a bit bipolar in how they treat one another, but when I think of my family and how we can one minute all be screaming at each other and the next minute happily sitting down for dinner, it rings true of that special bond that you can have with your family that I’ve never experienced in any other friendship.

The reason I liked Josie’s relationship with her Dad though is that it was so anti-dramatic. Children finding their birth parents always has a super dramatic and emotional narrative, but I loved that Josie was so secure in herself and her family relationships that meeting her father was just an event that happened to her. She never felt like she was lacking anything and when she finally did meet her father, it was just this interesting opportunity to get to know him. I never felt emotionally manipulated by the author in any of the relationships.

Now, to the part I didn’t like: Jacob Coote. Am I supposed to like this character? He reminded me a little of Rhett Bulter in Gone With the Wind in that he never conformed to what Josie wanted him to be and was the only one her called her out on her bullshit. I feel like we’re supposed to like him for refusing to change himself, but I never liked Rhett and I didn’t like Jacob either. He was just straight up not reasonable and in my opinion, not really respectful either. He gave Josie shit about stuff that I didn’t think was any of his business, like her relationship with John Barton and her opinions of when to have sex. And when he complained about meeting her mom and then kicked up a stink when she didn’t want him to meet her grandmother? Get over yourself Jacob and respect Josie!

Anyways, I was still pretty pleased with how this book went and it’s given me a huge hankering to re-read Jellicoe Road. The Piper’s Son is now the only Marchetta book I haven’t read, so I’ll need to get around to that one too!

My recommendation would be to skip this book and go straight to Jellicoe Road!

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

AKA: One Day This Will Matter
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Scaachi Koul
Genres: Non-fiction, Essays, Memoir
Read: Dec. 2017 on audiobook

 

I listened to this as an audiobook and I loved it! It is narrated by the author and I really enjoyed both her writing and narration.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is a series of essays written by Scaachi Koul, daughter of Indian immigrants who grew up in Calgary. She later moved to Toronto for university and I believe she currently works for Buzzfeed.

I didn’t really know what this was about before I picked it up. I selected it very quickly when I was looking for something to listen to on a run because I had seen some buzz about it and I like non-fiction audiobooks that are narrated by the author. I was thrilled to discover it was written by a Canadian and about her experiences growing up in Canada and the challenges of being the daughter of immigrants.

Scaachi is really funny and she is also very insightful. I can’t believe she is the same age as me, which made this book all the more impressive. Canadians like to be critical of America (especially in the Trump era) and we like to think we’re better and more progressive, but there is definitely still what Scaachi calls “casual racism” happening here. I wouldn’t say this book was necessarily “eye-opening” for me, but it was definitely a perspective I don’t hear very often and I really appreciated Scaachi’s observations.

She talks about what it’s like to grow up female and Indian. How she is envied for her lush, thick indian hair, but at the same time shamed for having hair everywhere else on her body. What it’s like to travel back to India and discover that while you don’t quite fit in Canada, you don’t fit here either and the life your parents so fondly remember doesn’t really exist anymore. How challenging it is to have to hide all your romantic relationships growing up and what it’s like bringing a white boy 10 years your senior home to your parents.

Her parents have had a large influence on her life and it was interesting to learn more about Indian culture – the stereotypes, inequities, and familial importance. I like to think I’ve learned a little bit about Indian culture since moving to Vancouver, but I was really interested in Scaachi’s thoughts on Indian weddings, arranged marriages, and the rites and passages of her culture. She has a contentious relationship with her father that I couldn’t relate to – I found her father very unyielding and sometimes even childish in his reactions – but she still made me like him and helped me to understand a little bit more about Indian families.

I think stories like Scaachi’s are important because they provide perspective and enable you to walk in someone else’s shoes to an extent. It helps when they’re really well written, which this was. Scaachi had a perfect blend of just enough humour to make it fun, but enough perspective to also make her stories meaningful.

It’s a quick read, even as an audiobook, and I would definitely recommend!