Book Review: Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet by Jennifer L. Armentrout et al

 I dislike this cover intensely

I dislike this cover intensely

Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet
By by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Nina LaCour, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee, Kass Morgan, Meredith Russo, Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi, Julie Murphy
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: January 2nd 2018
Rating: All the cutes

I am late on this one. I had it preordered but I only just got around to it. My friend Gabrielle kept texting me about her love for it and reignited my interest in it. Life Hack: become friends with a librarian. 
Also: All women authors and very diverse in terms of race, sexuality, setting, and genre. 

Siege Etiquette By Katie Cotugno

This was one of the more unique stories in the collection. The second person can be really tricky, but I think that it worked here. The main character, Hailey, is sort of a recovering Mean Girl, and the second person narration helps you to immediately place yourself in the shoes of a rather unlikable character and understand her. I am going to be looking for more of Katie Cotugno's writing because this was an excellent first impression.

Print Shop By Nina LeCour

I always have high hopes for Nina LeCours stuff. I am convinced that I will like it. Then I don't. I loved the setting and the secondary characters in this story. The description of the print shop in particular really makes you feel as if you are standing there. The whole premise of a teenager bringing a traditional print shop into the modern world with Twitter is an awesome idea. The romance? Meh. I didn't care. I can see that Nina's writing is strong. It just might not be for me.

Hourglass By Ibi Zoboi

Cherish is trying to recover from breaking up with her best friend and learns to see her own unique beauty. She also happens to be over six foot five and black which makes her stand out more than a little in her very white small town. What I most appreciated about this story is that it is just as much about meeting the best version of yourself as it is about meeting someone in the romantic sense. 

Everyone is always telling my generation that we aren’t going to know how to engage with people. We’re all going to end up with computer chips implanted in our brains and screens stuck in our eyes like contact lenses. But no one gives us any solutions, so I decided to find my own.

Click By Katherine McGee

This might be my favorite story in the whole collection. The concept, as my friend Gabrielle pointed out, is a bit like something out of Black Mirror. It was just an enough of a close and possible future to be both familiar and a bit creepy. Two teenagers meet up for a date set up by an app that matches you 99% to another person but ends up rushing around the city instead. I ship this love story hard. I want a whole book. I have The Thousandth Floor but haven't read it yet, but now that I know what McGee can do I am going to be reading that next(ish). Also more cerebal STEM girls, please.

The Intern By Sara Shepard

A girl whose wealthy father owns a thousand companies decides to intern at his record label where she is put in charge of dealing with a teenage stars whims. This story breaks two hard and fast rules for me: 1) one of the MC is famous 2) one of the main characters is weirdly rich. Having said that Phineas manages to be sweet and quirky enough for me to overlook the fame thing and Clara's father's money doesn't come into the story much. It was cute enough but I had to look back in the book to remember ANYTHING about the story.  Total black. Good but not memorable.

Somewhere That’s Green By Meredith Russo

This story is about a trans girl who is struggling to get the bathroom and changing room accommodations that she needs to participate in school and a girl whose religious parents are heading the ridiculous protests against her. I find Meredith Russo's writing to be a bit rough around the edges, but she brings such a unique voice and perspective to YA that I have and will continue to read and enjoy her stuff. 

The Way We Love Here By Dhonielle Clayton

In the future love is marked on your hands and you spend your time waiting for your match. Viola isn't sure she wants love to happen to her. Dhonielle Clayton is a master of lush descriptive writing. You can feel the sand under your feet, smell the salt of the air, and feel the marks on the characters hands change. Also: yay for an Asian love interest. This was one of the best stories in the book. Points for the Twelfth Night reference.

Oomph by Emery Lord

Am I sucker for a travel love story? Yes. Yes, I am. Cass is returning home after visiting NYU but meets a girl as she is delayed at the airport.  This. This is the adorable f/f love story that I have been looking for. Why is it so hard to find these? I have been rotating f/f into my reading rotation and have been consistently disappointed. So much angst.  But this story was sweet and funny and heartfelt, and I want a thousand more like it.

The Dictionary Of You And Me By Jennifer L. Armentrout

Moss is a library aid who has been calling the same patron every week in an attempt to get one of the libraries dictionaries back from him. Can I have more love stories that revolve around books in some way? Please. This is my personal catnip. It makes me giddy with happiness every time.  To make it even cuter? Christmas themed!  Ermahgerd!

The Unlikely Likelihood Of Falling In Love By Jocelyn Davies

Samara takes on love at first sight on the NYC subways system as her statistic project with adorable results. This was a complete surprise. I have never heard of Jocelyn Davies, and I just looked up her books on Goodreads, and I haven't ever even seen their covers before. This is not something that happens to me often, and the fact that this was one of the most delightful stories of the collection made the surprise all the sweeter. 

259 Million Miles By Kass Morgan

Two teens meet while interviewing for the chance to colonize Mars. I swear I have read this before. Or something else with a weirdly similar premise? I, of course, was completely distracted by that thought throughout the story so I was never able to get entirely into it. And sci-fi isn't my favorite. Nothing wrong with the story or the writing just personal preference.

Something Real By Julie Murphy

June is a normal girl who just happened to have started a fansite about a pop star and somehow ends up completing on reality television for a date with him. She is against another girl, the adorable Martha and things get strange. I'm sorry, Julie Murphy but you had me at matte coral blush. There is something about the sharp and ever so slightly mean-spirited characters that she writes. I am not sure that I would want to be friends with them, but I definitely enjoy reading about them. Reality TV creeps me out, and this story in no way helped me get over that. Much cute though and I love how it managed to subvert my expectations.

Say Everything By Huntley Fitzpatrick

Emma is waitressing when a regular customer (who happens to be a teenage boy) offers to take her out with unexpected results.  I love the delicacy and softness of Huntley Fitzpatrick's writing. She is so good at writing that dreamy and emotional place that feels like the platonic ideal of Young Love. So many emotions! The use of second-person narration makes this story very intimate.

The Department Of Dead Love by Nocola Yoon

I am not going to say too much about the plot because I don't want to give too much away. Thomas is looking for answers about the end of his relationship in what is basically a futuristic DMV of emotions. The premise sounds a bit silly but feels anything but. This is one of the more emotional stories in the collection. 

I loved this book. I want more. There needs to be a second, third, fourth version... Things better be in the works because I have book needs!

From Goodreads:

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 

Readers will experience Nina LaCour's beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard's glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon's imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno's story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick's charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants. 

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

Book Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

 even the coer causes me pain

even the coer causes me pain


A Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: No, thank God.
Published: March 10th 2015
Rating: hold me

He now viewed a successful relationship as one in which both people had recognized the best of what the other person had to offer and had chosen to value it as well.

I think that this book needs a trigger warning for pretty much everything ever. You might think that I am facetious.  I am not. If books trigger you DO NOT READ THIS.  I don't have triggers, and it made me feel sick and generally unsettled.

This book is 720 pages long, and that, combined with the difficult and intense subject matter makes it painful to read for long periods of time.  It took me a week to get through. But anytime that I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it.  I swear I have been DREAMING about this book.  I feel a little bit as if I am not okay. The longer I read the book, the more I fixated on it, the more I had this feeling of being crushed very slowly by a large, heavy, weight. I am also very angry. It probably says something about me that I was so anxious 1.) about a fictional character and 2.) about my inability to help said fictional character. 

Also, I hate Caleb. And Brother Luke. And that evil frickin' doctor. Let's just make the blanket statement that I hate with the fire of a thousand suns every person that Jude came in contact with before the age of 15. And I am mad at his friends, and his doctor, and Andy because they don't force him to get help. They overlook how damaged he is because they can't find the way to fight with him. This is not okay.  This is not what you do when someone is in your care.  This isn't what you do when you care for someone. EVERY SINGLE HUMAN THAT JUDE HAS EVER COME ACROSS HAS FAILED HIM IN THIS SIMPLE WAY. For decades.

I read something about this being "the great gay novel" which I can't say I agree with. Yes, there are a lot of gay characters. And characters who aren't straight but maybe aren't 100% gay (I mean, is anyone really 100% one or the other) But shouldn't the definitivly gay novel celebrate that?  The stable  (although perhaps uninteresting) relationships in this novel all seem to be heterosexual.  The most antagonistic and selfish of the friends, JB, is the only one of them to only identify himself as a gay man.  The main villain of Jude's adult life is gay. While I support the idea that gay characters should not have to be paragons, I also think that if we talk about a book as the definitive work portraying gay men in novels, it should at least have some glimmer of hope to it.  This is not a hopeful book.  This is, in fact, the opposite of a hopeful book. It takes hopes about life that you didn't know you had and dashed them to the ground and then kicks them a few times to make sure that they are dead.  It makes me sad because it rehashes the idea that to be gay somehow fates you to a life without joy or hope. That somehow you will never learn to love.

A Little Life was powerful, well written and  I know that it is going to stay with me for a long time. But I don't think that I will ever want to delve into this world again.  I need a shower, a drink, and a hug.

From Goodreads:

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. 

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

 The cover. I cannot with it even. 

The cover. I cannot with it even. 

Tyler Johnson Was Here
by Jay Coles 
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: March 20th, 2018
Rating: What am I doing to change things?

This is again one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. I have been impatient to get my hands on this for more than a year from when the deal was first announced. I preordered this book the moment that it was available for the following reasons:
1. The cover- holy crap
2. I follow the Jay Coles on twitter and like him.
3. It seems like a great follow up to THUG, Dear Martin, What Went Down, and All American Boys
4. Kind of embarrassing but true: This is a book about a brother named Tyler. I have a brother named Tyler. #relate

Yeah. I had expectations.

Tyler Johnson Was Here is an #ownvoices story of Marvin Johnson, a high school student in Alabama, who is dealing with the disappearance of his twin brother Tyler. 

I have said it before, and I will say it again. If you write your character as a geek of any kind or a lover of books and I am INSTANTLY going to relate to them. I can't help it. I am cheap like that. Marvin is not only a geek he also has this touching vulnerability that made me want to find my way into the book so that I could protect him. One thing that I appreciated was Marvin as a "soft" black boy. Black men and boys are so often portrayed as tough that Marvin's sensitivity and determination seems that much more extraordinary.

Twins are like synonyms that know each other through and through, like the moon complements the stars through a life sentence, like a set of infinite entities who’ve seen the world together, experienced its pain and oppression, but I can’t help but feel, in this moment, like my world is ending over and over again, like time moves backward, like the world flashes between black and white and grainy and clear.

Marvin is growing up in a difficult situation. There are gunshots on the first page of the book. It would be understandable if he became tough and numbed to his experiences. The world tells these people over and over that they are criminals and unable to fit into "real" society and at some point, they start to believe it. The character of Johntae in many ways encapsulates this.  There is a moving passage about the difference between a strong man and a good man.

Marvin is clearly a gifted student. Unfortunately, he is surrounded by terrible teachers and administrators at his school. Which, as a teacher, is rage inducing. THAT IS NOT HOW YOU PEDAGOGY!!! Deep breath. Not taking it personally as unfortunately, Marvin is living the same reality as millions of other students.  Over the course of the book, he comes in contact with so many people, most significantly police officers, who don't see him or his brother as a people but as a problem. It illustrated over and over how frightening and dangerous every encounter with the police has the potential to be especially to a young black man. It also made me think about the strength that is must take black boys and girls to swim against those tides of expectations and hopelessness in order to reach their potential.

Just to clarify that I am not black, a man, or living in the United States (and when I lived in the US I lived in a very white suburb and very white rural areas).  This is where I read from.  It also why it took me a few pages in to adjust to the use of AAVE in the narration. The book is in the first person, so it makes complete sense that that is how it is written. It is hardly noticeable (it is phrasing rather than spelling or adding an "accent" to words) aside from more fully grounding Marvin in reality. I own the audiobook as well, and when the book is performed, there is no awkwardness at all which tells me that my noticing in the first pages was due to the narrator in my head rather than the book.

Reading this book did make me realize that as much as I am trying to pay attention to who I am reading, I still read very few books by black men.  I am having a hard time thinking of an author who is a black man that I have read in the last year aside from Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers. I am not displeased with my choices but really?  I read more than 300 books a year, and that is all I have?  I need to make more of an effort because I know I am missing out.

I sometimes feel as if my love for a book can best be measured by how quickly after reading it I send a copy to my mother. If that is true, then it should be telling that I bought her a copy halfway through page three. Anyway, all of this to say, Tyler Johnson was Here is a great follow up to THUG, All American Boys, Dear Martin, What Went Down, and others. It also stands out on its own with a gripping story, three-dimensional characters, and writing that can make you laugh, cry, and most of all feel. I am glad this book is in the world.

From Goodreads:

When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.