Archive for April, 2023

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Salahudin and Noor were best friends growing up, but when Noor expressed an interest in pursuing a romantic relationship things took a bad turn and they haven’t spoken much since. Salahudin’s mother has missed having Noor around and has been trying to get them to reconcile ever since. Salahudin’s mom is very sick and his dad is an alcoholic, which makes running their small hotel a challenge. When Noor relents and goes to visit Sal’s mom she is shocked to find her health has declined rapidly. She accompanies her to the hospital and fears the worst. Meanwhile, Noor is expected to work every hour she’s not at school at her uncle’s convenience store. He is not kind to her and blames her for the fact he had to quit college and raise her when her family was killed in an earthquake in Pakistan. He wants her to work at the store after high school so he can go back to college, but Noor wants more for her future even though she feels she does owe him for taking her in. The death of Sal’s mom brings him and Noor back together and Sal starts to realize that Noor is dealing with a lot at home and he isn’t sure how to help her. He’s also terrified they are going to lose the family business and contemplates taking some ill advised measures in order to keep that from happening. As Sal and Noor grow closer it becomes apparent that both of them are keeping secrets from the other and when they all come spilling out they are forced to deal with the terrible aftermath. Can they find a way to be together after everything that has happened? Can they make peace with a future they didn’t expect or plan?

This story connects the characters to the reader in a way that many readers will not expect. It’s easy to sympathize with the situations both Sal and Noor find themselves in and it’s easy to see why they would make questionable decisions based on the reality they have to deal with every day. Both characters want a good future for themselves, but also care about those around them which makes them very likable and believable high school students. Forgiveness is an important element as well because it’s the only way to relieve some of the anger and rage they have been dealing with due to their overall frustrations with their difficult lives. Poverty is another theme that is prevalent throughout and is written in a way that shows many of the myths about poverty are simply not true and it can happen to hardworking people who are trying their best. Finally, there are some great cultural references to the Pakistani community living in California and some of the challenges that brings. This is an Iowa High School Award Winner for 2023-24 and is highly recommended.

Stardust in their Veins by Laura Sebastian

Genre: Fantasy

This sequel to Castles In Their Bones follows the two remaining sisters, Daphne and Beatriz in the wake of Sophronia’s death. Daphne is still in denial that their mother could have had anything to do with her sister’s death and partly blames Sophronia for failing in the mission they have been trained to do since birth. Beatriz, meanwhile, has been imprisoned along with her husband for treason. Luckily, there are people willing to risk everything in order to help these sisters avenge Sophie and they do not want those efforts to be in vain. As Beatriz starts to explore the real possibility that she is an emphyrea she quickly learns that whatever her magical strength is is not a common one. Daphne is determined to find out exactly what happened to Sophie while also taking everything with a grain of salt, because up until now she has never had any reason to question what her mother tells her and it feels unnatural to stop trusting her now. As the stakes get higher, both sisters must choose where their loyalties lay in order to make the tough decisions they know are ahead. Can they get to the truth about their mother’s plan for them? How do the circumstances surrounding their birth explain their paths in life? Will they ever feel whole again without Sophie?

This was one of the most satisfying sequels that has been published in a while and fans will clamor for another installment. The plight of Beatriz and Daphne is so real and carefully created so that the reader cannot help but feel their anger, desperation, and pain as the true actions of their mother come to light. The action is so vivid that it’s easy to get caught up with both of their stories as the chapters switch between them. The characters are all really well described and despite how many there are, it’s easy to really become engrossed with what is happening with the supporting characters as well as the sisters. Highly Recommended.

Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver

Genre: Mystery

Summer Cartwright is a very powerful social media influencer who has gathered secrets about those closest to her including her best friend, Grace, her ex-boyfriend, Adam, her former camp mate, Laney, and a sophomore who aspires to be just like her, Cora. Everyone has heard the news that Summer has secured a book deal and plans to release ALL of the secrets she has on everyone else. Therefore, everyone feels they need to be especially nice and accommodating so that she might change her mind. Summer is planning the biggest, splashiest Halloween party and insists these four come. However, shortly after everyone arrives they receive a strange text message that Summer will be dead in five minutes. The party guests assume it’s a murder mystery party and start looking for clues…but then Grace, Cora, Laney, and Adam stumble upon Summer’s body and they know it was all too real and that they will all be prime suspects. Who would kill Summer at her own party? How did they do it? Is there a way for them to clear their names before it’s too late?

This story covers a lot of issues including parental abuse, academic pressures, plagiarism, the dangers of social media, and even teen dating. Many readers will find something they can commiserate with as they get to know these characters. It’s told in alternating chapters so you get to see how each one of them feels about Summer and her murder, but it takes awhile before all of the secrets spill out and it becomes clear who the killer is. The ending is exciting and satisfying and will leave readers wanting to know more about these characters. Recommended for anyone who enjoyed One of Us is Lying.