I’ve been fortunate that the last several books that I’ve read in a stretch this year have been among my all-time favorites, and Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give” is no exception to that. Any review that I write really won’t convey the depth of how much I loved and appreciated this book, but nonetheless I’m going to do my best to try and hope that it inspires others to read this undeniably necessary and engrossing book.
Initial reaction: Long review coming probably sometime tomorrow when I can meditate on my end thoughts on the novel, which are complex and conflicted. This…may not be a book for everyone to read.
This book had me emotionally shaken and vexed on so many levels, that I don’t even know where to begin. *sighs* I will say – to the narrative’s credit – that it’s well written, emotionally raw, and Mary’s experiences come across as very true to life experiences for incarcerated minority youth for much of the book (not all of it, but a good portion). Tiffany Jackson gets the emotional intimacy and connection of characterizations for this book spot on. The tension in this book is so palpable that I found myself caught between putting the book down and picking it back up eager to read what happens in Mary’s overarching case. It’s a dark read and thought provoking in many places. At first I thought that this narrative would be something akin to reading the narrative “Push” by Sapphire, because the tone of the narrative felt like that to start (and interestingly enough, the narrative mentions Mary reading it at one point.) The aforementioned book was a rough read for me on its own but I appreciated it because of the real horrors and story told in that vein. This book doesn’t go in that direction, but the emotional/physical abuse and fear that Mary endures in places is rage inducing and makes you feel for the character.
If you’re sensing a lingering “but” to those notations, you would be hitting the needlepoint spot on. I sincerely want to pretend that ending (and certain events close to the ending) doesn’t exist. While I don’t mind having the rug pulled out from under me in an apt mystery/thriller, this didn’t feel like that kind of story for much of the narrative. At the very least, one would think at this ending “Wait…there’s an emotional mismatch here – that really didn’t fit the rest of the tone of the story. Even if there were multiple unreliable characters here (and there are: fair warning without delving into too many spoilers), it doesn’t make sense to go that direction because the story already had a compelling story in one tone. It reveals a pretty gruesome but notable reality for an underrepresented population.”
At worst? This book does need a TW on several counts: several notations of homophobia (though one could argue that its influenced by the prejudices of the observed characters), body/sexual shaming (see previous notation), rape/complicit accessory rape/statutory rape (oh, I have a soapbox coming on this very subject matter on so. many. levels.), animal cruelty and dismemberment (I had to stop reading for a bit after that scene because I wasn’t expecting it), among other things.
So, yeah, complex emotions. 😦
My initial rating upon finishing this book was 4 stars, and looks like I’m going to take it down to 3.5 because…MASSIVE caveats. There are brilliant moments in the narrative that really tugged at my heartstrings. I think the essence of Mary’s story is true to the brutality that many young people of color experience in incarceration, juvenile pregnancy, power and abuse in the correctional system, power and abuse in personal relationships, gaslighting, among other things. It’s true to life on some things, but ultimately not in others, and particularly with the progression up through the ending, this is a mature YA (I question it being YA, but I think teens could still read this and get something out of it) dark horror/thriller.
Quick review for a quick read. Leave it to Nina LaCour to tug at my heartstrings every single time I pick up a book from her. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy “We Are Okay” though it wasn’t as strong for me as some of the author’s other narratives (a.k.a “Hold Still”). It’s the story of a young woman named Marin who escapes her life after a series of tragedies and has to come to terms with them as her best friend reunites with her over Winter Break while she’s in college.
Quick review for a quick read. So I have complicated feelings about this book. I liked it, but that’s not to say that I didn’t feel like there were issues that needed addressing more thoroughly (and the fact it has quite more than enough problematic points to articulate in the mix of things). This book skirts the issues of mental illness as well as having an all consuming rare sickness far too lightly for my liking. I think it needed much more depth to really sell the story and could’ve potentially done so in a much better way than it did, even considering this is written for a teen audience. For a while, despite some cheesiness and some significant plot holes, I was enjoying this novel, enough to rate it at a 3.5 to 4 stars. It’s a story with cute romantic chemistry, easy to read banter, and beautiful illustrations. But then the ending…eh. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Quick review for a prolonged read (I had to recheck this book from the library several times because it kept getting holds placed on it, but I finally found a stretch to read it the whole way through). This is my second narrative experience from Robin Talley. “As I Descended” is touted as a retelling/reimaging of Macbeth, centered on two girls (Maria and Lily) at an elite school who enact upon a dastardly scheme to take a scholarship opportunity from a popular queen bee (Delilah), but their plan goes several steps too far and unleashes a downward spiral involving a haunted campus, vengeful spirits, revenge games, and overarching obsession with power. Added bonus: a diverse cast of characters including characters of color and prominent GLBT relationships at the forefront. By the summary/plot promise itself, I was definitely going to pick this up, even excited to have the opportunity to do so.