Review: Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

  Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherr...

Review: Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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 Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

 
Props to this book because from the description I really didn't think I was going to like it. Full disclosure, I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I know that audio can sway a persons opinion.

Caro is a child of the river, she and her dad live on their wherrie sailing up and down the river on various missions and voyages. But when Carro's father is jailed for smuggling, the only way Carro can free him is to deliver a mysterious box to another land. When Carro opens to the box, the one thing she was told not to do, she discovers a boy with a mission all his own. As Carro and Markos rush to save what is left of Markos' family, they battle pirates, traitors, suspicious family members, and their growing feelings to each other (awwwwwww).

I really liked this book, and I realized I was going to like it when (small spoiler) Markos, tried to kiss Caro like two days after she sprung him from his box. I like it because she called him on his bull. He claimed he thought she wanted him to kiss her, and she promptly fired back (I'm paraphrasing) "why be cause I'm a breathing girl, I don't want you" (yeah heavily paraphrasing but it was something to that effect). Any seasoned reader will know that these two are going to get together at some point, and when they do, Markos makes darn good and sure that he has her consent before doing anything. He repeatedly asks her "yes?" and wont make a move until she verbally responds with a "yes". Thank you Sarah Tolcser.

The wold building in this fantasy was pretty good. Tolcser was able to provide the details of her world by showing us and not always stopping the story for an explanation. It wasn't perfect but I was pleased.

I also liked seeing Caro interact in both of her worlds. The life Caro has when she's with her father (which is most of the time, as a daddy's girl I also liked that), is very different than the life she has with her mother. I don't want to say anything else because it's kind of funny to watch, but I was a fan.

The surprise ending was nicely done. Readers had an inkling that something weird was going on, but when "all was revealed" I actually said out loud "oh, okay." Over all this debut was well executed and well received. I actually can't wait to buy it for my library. The ending also feels like we might be able to expect a sequel. I'm all about it. What can I say, I was a pirate in another life!

3.5 stars... or maybe like 3.75 stars.
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Review: Wildcard by Marie Lu

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

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Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo's new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she's always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo's grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone's put a bounty on Emika's head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn't all that he seems--and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
 
Wildcard, the sequel to Warcoss, was everything a fan could hope for. Wildcard picks up days after the ening of Warcross with Emika Chen trying to decide how she feels about Hideo's warped sense of control and justice and whether or not Zero and his group can be trusted.

The first reason I love this book. In Warcross Emika was an island, a one woman show, but in this book, she truly utilizes her friendships and teammates (and squad that I hope to one day acquire btw).

There's the potential to give away a lot of spoilers in this book, and it's not published yet, so I'm going to keep this review short. Read this book. There are twists, turns, betrayals, redemption, and near misses.

If/ when you begin this book make sure you do it on a day when you don't have anything else to do. You will binge even if you don't mean to. I can't in good conscious say anything else but expect the unexpected.

5 Stars
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My thoughts, They May Change: Which books to review

Monday, September 3, 2018

I have this list of books I've been reading, some of them have been on my TBR list for a while, and others are new to me. I started this blog because I thought I needed some direction with regards to my book reviews and which books I was reviewing. I wanted to choose a platform that was important to me, that had meaning to me. I chose diverse YA and MG books because we are now beginning to see the books I wished were available to me as a child and teen.

That being said, as I've immersed myself into book culture, and as the conversation of diverse books and own voices books have become prevalent, my brain has been doing some work. There was a time, when I didn't care who wrote a book, I could only name like three authors and one of them was Shakespeare. If I saw a book with a brown girl on the cover, I went for it. I didn't care if the book addressed her culture, I didn't care if the book was written by a POC, I didn't care if the book even mentioned that she was brown, the cover of the book gave me all the fulfillment that I could ever hope for.

via GIPHY

That was 12 year old Kym. 23 year old Kym, who had just decided to become a librarian was basically the same. I struggled so hard with my physical identity that I was starving for books with girls who looked like me. To anyone who knows me, it's not a surprise that most of my friends are white, I love them, and I don't care what color their skin is. However, no matter how diverse my friends are in other ways, if those difference aren't on the outside of your body, moving through the world is a little bit different. And, if those differences are on the outside of the body, unless they are genetically permanent (skin color, or other physical difference like scars, birthmarks, or burn scars [I say burn scars because when I was younger I was burned by boiling water all down my back, I'm lucky that you can hardly tell but not every one is so luck. End of random life story]), it's still different. (I hope I didn't lose any of my friends just now, this is just my truth). In a world that "didn't see color" I NEEDED to see color.


via GIPHY
Now, Kym is 2 months from being 31 years old, and things have changed. It's not enough for me to give a character brown skin. Does she have natural curly hair, or does she perm it? What do her parents cook for Sunday dinner? Does she put lotion on her dry skin in the winter? What kind of community does she live in? Is she one of the only black kids at school? Is that a problem? Has a boy every told her that he doesn't date black girls? Newsflash, if she grew up in a mostly white community, you bet he did. Or he told his friends. I promise you. Look, funny enough, I kind of hate books that focus primarily on the fact that a character is black, and all of their problem stem because they are black, and people constantly want to remind them that they're black. There is a time and place for books like that. That being said, you can't decide to make a main character a person of color, and just leave it at that. Even doing something as small as having the character tie a scarf around their head when they're going to sleep. Or reminding their white boyfriend, no you can't touch my hair, or pulling it back because the humidity is real, and so if frizz and shrinkage.


via GIPHY
Barry Lyga is darn good at these things. Barry is a white man, and he has a book series called I Hunt Killers. The book is about a white kid, but that white kid has a black girlfriend and she wont let him forget it. He can't touch her braids without permission. She wears a bonnet to bed, and her white boyfriend doesn't freaking care. Her father doesn't like her white boyfriend, not because he's white, but because as a father, he's afraid for her. These are subtle details that don't even BEGIN to make up who this girl is as a person, but those details were slid into the book, and make her a real black character.

So, here's why I'm writing this post. I've recently read some books, one of which I've written the review for and is scheduled to drop next Wednesday September 12. The Book is called Song of the Current and the main character is brown. I think biracial. The only reason we know this is because it's mentioned once, another person mentions how "different" she looks, and she constantly ties up her curly hair in pubic, and pulls on it's strands when she's distracted (totally against the rules of natural hair btw, it's dries the hair out, but anyway). It wasn't enough for me. Look there are no rules for being black. We don't all think the same way and do the same things. But if you're going to make a decision to make your MAIN character a minority, please do something with it. Please have a reason, otherwise just make them white and move on. We won't mad. I still would have read the book and enjoyed it.

I reviewed the book anyway. I didn't even put in my review that our main character was a POC because although she was... there wasn't a whole lot to remind us of it. There are some POC who don't want non POC writing about POC (I just used those letter a lot). I'm not one of them, because I remember 12 year old Kym and 23 year old Kym, and how important just knowing a character was brown was to me. I just want people to make deliberate choices and if you make a choice that involves a characters race, don't forget about that race, once you establish it in the book.

Now look, this book was fantasy. It didn't take place in a wold with the KKK and Roots, so maybe that's why the author didn't address the characters race more than a literal handful of times. And if that's her reason, then that's fine. It's your world, and you can write it however you want. As a woman of color, I just wish there had been more. And I wonder if I do my POC readers (if I even have any) a disservice. Do I do my white readers a disservice by harping on something that was kind of addressed with the hair hiding and curl pulling, and "you don't look like your from here's" that the book did provide. I don't know. I'm still figuring this all out. This has just been pulling on my brain and I can't seem to let it go.


via GIPHY
Thanks for hanging in there readers who may or may not exist. My blog helps me center my brain.
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Readers Advisory: Historical Fiction

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Guy. I'm not even going to lie to you. I'm probably the worst reader of Historical Fiction that I know. I have then mentality that I don't like historical fiction, but then I like just about every historical fiction book that I read. I don't know what my problem is. I will say that I do struggle to read historical fiction with black characters because... well... odds are it wont end well for many involved. That being said, here's what I've got.

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She wanted to stay awake, wanted to see what freedom looked like, felt like at midnight, then at the cusp of dawn.

Freedom. Mariah has barely dared to dream of it her entire life. When General Sherman’s march through Georgia during the Civil War passes the plantation where she is enslaved, her life changes instantly. Joining the march for protection, Mariah heads into the unknown, wondering if she can ever feel safe, if she will ever be able to put the brutalities of slavery behind her.

On the march Mariah meets a young man named Caleb, and a new dream takes root—one of a future with a home of her own and a true love by her side. But hope often comes at a cost. As the treacherous march continues toward the churning waters of Ebenezer Creek, Mariah sees that the harsh realities of her and her peoples’ lives will always haunt them.

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World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

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Scene: Oregon, 1923.

Dramatis personae:

Hanalee Denney, daughter of a white woman and an African American man

Hank Denney, her father—a ghost

Greta Koning, Hanalee’s mother

Clyde Koning, doctor who treated Hank Denney the night he died, now Hanalee’s stepfather

Joe Adder, teenage boy convicted of accidentally killing Hank Denney

Members of the Ku Klux Klan

Townspeople of Elston, Oregon

Question: Was Hank Denney’s death an accident…or was it murder most foul?

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Esperanza thought she'd always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico--she'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances--Mama's life, and her own, depend on it.

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After inheriting her uncle's homesteading claim in Montana, 16-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks travels from Iowa in 1917 to make a home for herself and encounters some unexpected problems related to the war being fought in Europe.


Here they are! Hattie Big Sky is way better than the description makes it sound FYI. Hopefully one day, I'll talk my brain into realizing that I probably do really like Historical Fiction and to read more of it. We'll see. 

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Review: So Done by Paula Chase

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

So Done

When best friends Tai and Mila are reunited after a summer apart, their friendship threatens to combust from the pressure of secrets, middle school, and the looming dance auditions for a new talented-and-gifted program.

Fans of RenĂ©e Watson’s Piecing Me Together will love this memorable story about a complex friendship between two very different African American girls—and the importance of speaking up.

Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers, having grown up across the street from each other in Pirates Cove, a low-income housing project. As summer comes to an end, Tai can’t wait for Mila to return from spending a month with her aunt in the suburbs. But both girls are grappling with secrets, and when Mila returns she’s more focused on her upcoming dance auditions than hanging out with Tai.

Paula Chase explores complex issues that affect many young teens, and So Done offers a powerful message about speaking up. Full of ballet, basketball, family, and daily life in Pirates Cove, this memorable novel is for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Jason Reynolds’s Ghost. 

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

If you go back and look at some of my past reviews, I allude to the fact that there was a time when you could find books with black characters, and the black culture was basically ignored. The character might run his hands through his "curly" hair, or you might find a mention of mocha or camel skin, but there was nothing of the culture that came with that hair and skin. Then you might have the polar opposite. There were books that were full of brown skin, guns, drugs, gangs, sex, and there was one character fighting to get away from the horrors of his community.

Those books tells the stories of some black experiences, but not all of them. 

Mila and Tai live in the Pirates Cove. In Pirates Cove there are rules to be followed. Tai loves her community and she loves the rules. If you step to her she'll step to you. Always have your girls at your back, and walk with your head held high. There's an intricate dance to managing Pirates Cove and Tai is the 8th grade queen of it all. 

Mila, although Tai's best friend, is quite the opposite. She's just come back from a Summer with her Aunt and all she wants is to go back. She's hates the song and dance that's required with living in the cove. She hates the rules of her friend circle, and more importantly, she no longer feels safe in her neighborhood, but no for the reasons you may think.

This book alternates between Mila's point of view and Tai's point of view., and I'm glad it does. We, the readers, are able to see two very different perspectives on the same urban community. Tai's glad to have her best friend back, the peanut butter to her jelly, her second banana, her silent backup. Mila is ready for a change, she's shedding her nickname, moving up a level in her ballet class, and contemplating her friendship with Tai, her best friend who's house she can't bare to look at. Her best friend who talks over her and puts her down around other kids in the neighborhood, her best friend who pushes, prods, and nags, until she gets her way. The one person who Mila is just beginning to stand up against. 

As Mila begins to figure out who she is, as opposed to who the hood wants her to be, Tai is hurt and confused. Tai and Mila have been best friends forever, the summer has been torture without Mila. When Mila comes back and doesn't want to be called by her nick name, pulls away and makes new friends, doesn't back Tai up in conversation, and starts arguments when they're around other people Tai is flabbergasted. It's like Bean (Mila's nick name) left for the summer and a complete stranger came back in her place.

Unlike Mila's loving, close knit family (shout out to JJ and Jeremy, Mila's brothers. I loved them!) Tai's is a bit of a mess. Tai lives with her grandmother, she's never met her mother, and her father is constantly high and only shows up when he needs, food, money, or a place to stay, and months earlier, he did something so unthinkable, the only response Tai could manage was to pretend like it hadn't happened. But unfortunately Mila can't forget, and it's driving a wedge between them.

I loved seeing Pirates Cove through the eyes of Tai and Mila. If we're being honest with ourselves, we can all be made to feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar communities, particularly underprivileged ones. If Pirates Cover were real, I wouldn't know about the phenomenal dance school and all of the girls, like Mila, who were benefiting from it. I wouldn't know about the TAG program, that (while we never actually see it) may change the lives of these young people. We wouldn't know about people like  Mila's dad who bend over backwards to keep drugs off the streets. The media has taught us that nothing good can come from a neighborhood like Tai and Mila's, they taught us that kids like Tai and Mila are doomed from the start, they taught us that fathers leave their children, and they've taught us that no one cares. SO Done has shown us, that the media has it wrong.

5 Stars.

Read it if you're in middle school, read it if you're in high school, read it if you've never lived anywhere but Greenwich, Connecticut. This is a book for all ages, all races, and all economic backgrounds. 
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Readers Advisory: Contemporary

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Here we are again folk. I'm just kind of having fun putting these together. I mean, eventually I'm probably going to start repeating genres but this has been a fun exercise. So this week we're just going to do all encompassing contemporary novels. I get asked for a lot of "normal every day " books by kids. Sometimes they don't know if they want mysteries, romance, coming of age, then only know they don't like dragons (I had someone tell me that once). The book world is doing a better job of providing us with diverse contemporary novels. It's not quite perfect yet, especially with regards to books that portray black girls, but I've seen definite progress, which is always a good thing!

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In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

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Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?
 

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When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.
 

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Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

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“This is my spot,” Naomi said. “You can’t help but dream up here. I’m going to take my baby sis up here when she’s older so she can dream, too. You can see the whole world from up here.”

I could only see Naomi.


Walter Wilcox has never been in love. He just wants to finish high school under the radar with his 2.5 friends and zero drama. And then there’s Naomi Mills, an adorably awkward harpist with a habit of saying the wrong thing at the right time.

It’s inevitable that they’re going to get together…but they’re also on the unavoidable path to being torn apart.



A lot of these books have a romance angle, some have an LGBT angle, cultural differences, and that's what I love about the contemporary category. Aside from a lack of dragons (as one kid put it) contemporary books are almost limitless!!


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Review: Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Monday's Not Coming

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

I fell in love with Tiffany Jackson when I read Allegedly. This book was... man where do I start. First, think about all the people in your life, are you lucky enough to have a friend like Claudia, someone who wont take no for an answer, someone who'll go to teachers, police officers, counselors, siblings, parents (theirs and yours), librarians, and basically every one in the city to look for you. If so, you're the luckiest person in the world. 

Claudia and Monday have been friends for YEARS. They have a routine. The spend holidays together, days together, weekends together. They're planning to go to the same High School together.  Every summer Claudia leaves to visit her grandmother and Monday's waiting for her except this year. This year Monday doesn't visit Claudia. Claudia can't reach her on the phone, and when Monday shows up for school (without her braids for the first time) Monday isn't there. Teachers aren't looking for Monday, the counselors aren't looking for Monday, Monday's sister is lying about where Monday is and the mother... well clearly she isn't be trusted. 

Claudia does her best to move on with her life which is difficult because Monday was her only friend, and they were both bullied. Claudia tries her hardest to hold on to her passion and talent for dance, her new friendship with church friend Michael, and her close relationship with her parents.

I liked this book. I really did, but I was confused by the time I reached the end. I can't say much more with some spoilers. A savvy reader will be able to guess how this all ends, and they actually tell you about half way through, but you're been warned from here on out, there will be some spoilers.

So, Monday is dead. Somewhere between Claudia realizing that Monday's sister, Tuesday, is lying about when Monday went, and when we as the readers meet Monday's mom, we pretty much know that Monday is dead, we just aren't sure what happened to her. I get lost when we get to the end. We find out that not only is Monday dead. but she's been dead for two years. This is Claudia's second "episode" where she forgets about her friends death and kind of relives it over again. It gets confusing. At the end, Claudia's parents and boyfriend explain that she's forgotten about two years of her life... temporarily? The book isn't broken into typical chapters, they're split into Months (September, October), The Before, One Year Before the Before, The After,  and I think there's one or two Two Years Before the Before.  The book is suppose to be broken up into Today (I think the months are today I really don't know), When Claudia came back from summer vacation and realized Monday was gone, The Year Before Monday went missing, The time when you were the only one who didn't realize that two year have actually passed since your friend died (I think that's After, I really can't tell. ugh), and one or two Two years before Monday went missing. 

 The twist in this book wasn't necessarily that Monday was dead, it was that Claudia was the only one who didn't know that Monday was dead, and instead of telling her, her family let her work it out on her own. (They never fully explain why they do that by the way.) I think there were three sets of flashbacks in this book, and two sets of present POV. I finished this book two days ago and I'm just beginning to TRULY get it. 

Now, my qualms with this book does not mean that I didn't like it. I honestly did. I haven't read many books with a dyslexic character and I especially haven't read a book with a black dyslexic character. We're still in this world where black characters (particularly women) are suppose to be fierce, strong, and sassy. We hardly ever see them and demure or struggling with real educational disabilities. 

I loved that Claudia was a child. From our flashbacks we could see that Claudia and Monday were actually beginning to grow apart as many girls do around this age. Monday was interested in boys and popularity, and Claudia still wanted to have sleepovers and pain nails.  It was nice to see a little girl, who was still a little girl. I also loved that we saw so much family interaction. When Claudia was worried about Monday she went to her parents. Did she also go behind their back the way any child would? Obviously. But when she was scared, she went to her parents and I loved seeing that. 

This book was really good and worth a read. There is some pretty strong language at times, so I would be careful about giving this to young readers, but over all, two thumbs up.

4 stars. 
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