Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Poetry

Book Review: Love in English

Love In English – Maria E. Andreu – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 February 2021

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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

My thoughts

Love in English is a YA contemporary novel about fitting in and finding the words to speak in your own voice to reflect your heart. This book is written by an author who can relate to how hard it is to move to a new country and learn a new language, and how complicated it is to balance trying to fit in with the ‘American’ culture, but also retaining what is special and true about your own culture, self and family. 

When Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she doesn’t expect it to be so hard or so isolating. Her father, having lived in the US for a few years, demands that she and her mother speak only English – a language of which she only knows a little. High school seems in some ways so different and yet so similar to the things she saw in movies. She is a poet and loves learning the strange idiosyncrasies of the English language, but she longs to be able to truly communicate. 

Set against powerful themes of immigration, belonging and challenging the ‘American Dream’, In Love in English Ana has to stand up to her father, to embrace what she is and where she came from, as well as where she is now. This book is about finding out who you truly are, even if that is not as clear or defined as you thought it once was.

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Book Review: The Thing With Feathers

The Thing With Feathers – McCall Hoyle – Blink – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

My thoughts

The Thing With Feathers is a sweet and simple story of new experiences, facing fears, and learning to reach out and trust others.

Emilie Day is beginning her first day at public high school after years of being home schooled. Her mother believes school will be good for Emilie’s emotional and social well being – sure, if you don’t take into account all the things that could go wrong. Emilie is worried that her new classmates will find out about her epilepsy – but worse would be if she has a seizure at school in front of everyone. Determined to keep apart from everyone, Emilie isn’t prepared for her charming classmate Chatham York or the friendly girls from the lit mag. Soon, Emilie will have to chose if hiding her secret is worth risking her new-found friendships.

The Thing With Feathers gives young adults with epilepsy an important voice in this novel. It is wonderful to see it so openly discussed. I can totally understand Emilie’s feelings of fear and her reluctance to disclose her diagnosis to her classmates. High school is brutal. But Emilie’s preconceived ideas that everyone else has the perfect life while she alone is different are quickly challenged. As she opens up to her classmates, she learns that they too face broken families, heartbreak, or other challenges.

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Book Review: The Sun Is Also A Star

the-sun-is-also-a-star

The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon – Delcacorte Press – Published 1 November 2016

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Synopsis

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My thoughts

I chose to read this because of a) that cover and b) so many enthusiastic reviews. Those reviews seemed to be persistent urging to read this wonderful book, just give it a try. I would recommend the same. The Sun Is Also A Star is so very clever, so very cool and so very worth reading.

I found the synopsis vague… purposely so because the less you know the better. The plot points aren’t important – it’s the magic of all the little moments coming together. Natasha has one day left in New York before she and her family are deported back to Jamaica. For Daniel, this day is the last day of his childhood, of following his own dreams before relinquishing them to follow the path set before him by his parents. When the two meet it seems more than happenstance, maybe even meant to be.

I absolutely adore the romance in this book. Insta-love move over because love at first sight (or maybe second sight) is clearly the winner here. Yes, this is a love story told over one day. Skeptical? Fair enough. I’m sure, like me, you’ve read stories where the characters fall head over heels so quickly that it seems more ridiculous than romantic. I had no such problems with The Sun Is Also A Star. Daniel is a dreamer, poet, romantic. He believes in meant-to-be and love. Natasha on the other hand is a scientist, lover of facts and just a little bit cynical. She thinks Daniel’s crazy to believe in love, yet she can’t deny how drawn to him she is.

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Book Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober Bend – Glenda Millard – Allen & Unwin – Published 1 February 2016

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Synopsis

A powerful, captivating story about Alice, who is reaching out to express herself through her beautiful-broken words, and Manny who is running to escape his past. When they meet they find the tender beginnings of love and healing.

Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can’t say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town.

Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.

My thoughts

Sometimes a book will just sweep you away with its light and beauty. Stars at Oktober Bend was a dream to read, surprising, ethereal and consuming, yet grounded in the muddy fields and gum trees of country Australia. Where family and love combine in a story of one girl’s bravery.

This book was suggested to me by a colleague, written by an Australian set in Australia, and promised to be both heartfelt and moving, everything that would draw me to a book. And yet I was surprised by how much I fell in love with this book. It started off slowly, until the pieces of this tale started falling into place and I found myself swept up in this delightful story.

Alice lives with her brother Joey and her Gram in a little stilted house on Oktober Bend. She is a poet and a dreamer. She cannot clearly remember what happened to make her forever twelve or her electrics go crazy. Writing is easier than trying to make her words work and it is much better to stay far away from the people in town who judge and point and do not care to understand. Stars at Oktober Bend is the story of Alice learning to feel fifteen, of Alice meeting Manny, the boy who reads her poetry, and of Alice remembering what happened that night under the Stars at Oktober Bend.      Continue reading

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