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 Upside of Unrequited


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genres: Young Adult
Read: July 2017

 

This was a cute book and it definitely surpassed my expectations. I thought it sounded a bit juvenile when I read the synopsis, but it was just so relatable! I have almost nothing in common with Molly, who is a twin, has two moms, a bi-racial family, and is fat, and yet I could totally remember what it was like being a teenager and thinking everyone has grown up and left you behind.

Molly’s the only one in her friend group who has never kissed anyone, but it never really bothered her until her twin sister, Cassie, gets her first girlfriend and Molly begins to feel like she’s been left behind. She’s had dozens of crushes over the years and Molly desperately wants a boyfriend, but she’s afraid to put herself out there and what people might think of her.

Every little thing matters when you’re a teenager. Your friends are your lifeline and the most important people in the world to you. But teenagers are really bad at balancing friends and boyfriends/girlfriends and I could absolutely relate to Molly’s fears that she was slowly losing her sister. Your romantic partner does eventually become the most important person in your life, but when only half of a friendship is having the experience of falling in love, it can be really hard to watch and it can make you feel really lonely.

It can also make you feel really uncomfortable when the people around you are having their first sexual experiences and you can’t relate with them. I liked that Albertalli addressed that a lot of teenagers exaggerate their sexual experiences to try and fit in. Molly felt so out of her depth when her friends started talking about sex and Reid expresses that he thinks half of them are just making things up to fit in. Molly is surprised to learn later that even though Cassie’s girlfriend Mina talked a big game, Cassie was the first person she had ever had any kind of romantic relationship with.

There was a lot going on in this novel and the sister relationship reminded me a little of Fangirl, but healthier. It’s a quick read and I enjoyed watching Molly grow and how her relationships changed. I could see people being upset that she ultimately resolves her issues by finding love (why couldn’t she just love herself?), but I thought that Molly actually did love herself already and that she needed to believe that other people could love her too. There was no antagonizing over how she was fat and trying to lose weight – she loved to eat and generally seemed happy with her body. It was more that she was worried that society tells us that fat girls are unlovable and that boys wouldn’t be able to see beyond her weight to who she actually is.

Side note, I also loved that Molly took medication for anxiety, but that it wasn’t part of the story. There wasn’t a sub-plot about her overcoming anxiety, she just takes medication and that helps her, end of story. Overall, I thought this was a sweet, coming-of-age story that had a ton of diversity! I know everyone is obsessed with Albertalli’s other book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but I actually found that one a little heavy handed and preferred the Upside of Unrequited!