Stef Soto, Taco Queen

Finished Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres. 

Stef Soto’s dad owns and operates a taco truck. When she was little, it made her fairly popular. Now, though, the real popular kids make fun of her. It’s not like she’s ashamed of it, exactly, but she hates when he picks her up from school in it…which he usually does. 

I really enjoyed this charming novel. It’s pretty fluffy but also has a lot of depth to it. The immigrant experience runs through the story, as well as the typical teen girl experience of finding parents embarrassing. (Especially Stef’s parents, who redefine overprotective.)

It’s a debut novel and I am excited to see what Jennifer Torres does next. 

Midnight Without a Moon

Finished Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson. 

Rose and her younger brother live with their grandparents (their mom and stepfather are raising his children, not hers, because four kids are too much for her mom to handle). It’s 1955 Mississippi and all Rose wants is to escape. She doesn’t know where and she doesn’t care, but 1955 Mississippi is no place to be unless you’re white. Her grandparents are more go along to get along, but her best friend Hallelujah is more inclined to fight for change. And seeing as how this is set during the summer of Emmett Till, change is coming no matter if they want it or not. 

First, I love Rose. I love the way she really grapples with whether or not she should stay in Mississippi. The theme of whether you have a responsibility to stay and change an unfair place or if your responsibility is to yourself and staying alive keeps recurring. 

I think there’s a lot in this book that may make people uncomfortable, but this all really happened. And it happened fairly recently. I wasn’t alive yet but my parents were, and odds are the intended audience (this is MG) would have grandparents that may remember Emmett Till. 

Highly recommended. 

Out of My Mind

Finished Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. 

Melody is essentially trapped in her own mind. She has cerebral palsy and is unable to move or talk. It’s even harder because she is really smart and has a photographic memory, but everyone (except for her parents and best friend/next door neighbor) assumes she’s stupid. When she’s in fifth grade, her special education classes start to integrate with regular classes and for the first time, she can make friends. (And also deal with some awful kids.)

This is a really good book (and perfect for kids who loved Wonder by RJ Palacio). It’s hard to imagine Melody’s life, and it’s even harder to imagine what it would be like to be almost completely unable to communicate. (She ultimately gets a computer like Stephen Hawking’s that allows her to communicate and yes, I cried.)

I love this book. You would, too. Highly recommended. 

Stella By Starlight

Finished Stella By Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. 

Stella lives with her parents and little brother in a small Southern town in 1932. The town is pretty segregated but some white folks are nice (like the woman who runs the candy store) and some are not (like the doctor). It’s not great but it’s how things are–until the Klan makes a sudden reappearance. 

This book is excellent. It doesn’t gloss over evil parts in our country’s history but it also doesn’t emphasize them. I especially love Stella, who tries to chronicle the events she’s witnessing even though she’s not very comfortable as a writer. (She’s drawn to words, but she can’t always think of the right ones. And she’s not very good with spelling.)

I definitely want to read more books by this author. Recommended. 

The Disenchantments

Finished The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. 

Colby and his friends Alexa, Meg and his best friend/crush Bev are on tour (the girls are in an all-girl band; Colby is like the plus one). It’s the summer after high school, and after the tour, Colby and Bev are going to Europe for a year. Except Bev has decided to go to college instead. 

This book is perfect. Even without Bev’s college bombshell, it captures the feeling of impending change after you graduate. Yes, you may keep in touch with your high school friends, but it’ll never be the same. 

I love Nina LaCour’s books so much. Each one feels like this amazing gift. I want to re-read Hold Still (her first) but that may never happen. 

At any rate, this is highly recommended. 

Hidden Figures

Read Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. 

This is the book on which the Oscar-nominated movie was based. It tells the story of the African-American women mathematicians at NASA. While the movie focuses on the space race almost exclusively, the book covers almost 30 years of their lives/careers. 

This is a really interesting story, one that is inspiring and infuriating in equal measure. (Really, you can trust them to help put astronauts in space but outside NASA, God help them if they sit in the wrong seat on a bus.) 

If you are not really, REALLY interested in this subject, watch the movie. The book is exhaustive and if you aren’t super into this story, you won’t like it. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Finished I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. 

Jake and his girlfriend are on a road trip to visit his parents. It’s her first time meeting them and she’s a little nervous (both because of that and because she’s considering breaking up with Jake). 

There is no real reason this book should creep the reader out and yet it does. I started feeling uneasy almost immediately, well before I had any reason to. Two people in car isn’t unsettling, right? And yet here, somehow, it was. 

This book, guys. I feel a little bit infected. And maybe, like The Ring, you should read it so that I get better. ;)

(Either way, it’s excellent and highly recommended.)

Never Let You Go

Finished Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens. I received a copy for review. 

Lindsey wants to leave her husband Andrew. He’s emotionally abusive (sometimes physically, when he drinks) and is definitely manipulative. Her young daughter Sophie still loves him (he’s a good dad) but still. This situation cannot last for much longer. She hatches a plan but things go wrong–so wrong, in fact that Andrew is sent to prison. Fast forward about a decade later, and he’s about to be released. And Lindsey knows he’ll be coming for her (and Sophie). 

This book is insanely suspenseful. This is not at all surprising; this is what Chevy Stevens does best of all. 

It’s also really creepy! I read it during a rain-and-windstorm, and the noises from outside sounded not unlike someone trying to break in–a little too atmospheric, thanks. 

If you love thrillers, check this out. You will love it! Recommended. 

Hello, Universe

Finished Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. I received a copy for review. 

This is a middlegrade novel about five people: Virgil (a bullied kid), Valencia (the girl Virgil likes), Kaori (Virgil’s friend and psychic consultant), Gen (Kaori’s sister) and Chet (kid who bullies Virgil). This is super simplified, but this is a book that should get to reveal its secrets in its own time. 

I love Erin Entrada Kelly’s novels. They are realistic but they also have a sense of magic. Everything feels possible. 

Her characters also feel fully realized. Even the characters I don’t like (that’s you, Chet) have a sense of sympathy to them. It doesn’t make it any easier to like them, but it’s easy to see why they are the way they are. 

This is an excellent novel, one that should be read aloud. (So, basically, perfect for classrooms.) Recommended. 

The Fall of Lisa Bellow

Finished The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo. I received a copy for review. 

Meredith and her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, are both at a Wawa-style convenience store when it’s robbed. The armed robber takes Lisa with him, leaving Meredith behind. 

This is such an interesting book but first a caveat: there is no resolution. We don’t know what happened to Lisa. And we don’t know for sure that Meredith will ever be OK again. 

I loved this book. I think it’d be easy for other people to not love it (lack of resolution; weird aspects of the plot) but if you’re comfortable with ambiguity, this is totally the book for you. 

Recommended.