ARC Review of Color Me in by Natasha Diaz

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nevaeh suddenly finds herself living in Harlem with her grandpa, her aunt, her uncle, and her cousins after her mom’s separation from her father. Her mom is struggling with the separation, and because of this move, Nevaeh begins to really wrestle with what it means to be biracial. She’s half-Black and half-Jewish, but because she can pass for white at times, she’s never really considered what it means to be Black. At the same time, she’s never really considered what it means to be Jewish either until her father decides that she’s doing a belated bat mitzvah.

Ultimately, she must wrestle with the tension of what this all means for her and truly find her voice.

Color Me In is an ownvoices novel, and this shows. Nevaeh is a messy character at times, and what she wrestles with means that she messes up along the way. She hurts multiple people in this novel, but she’s not content to stay in that place. She wants to dig in and find out what made her mess up in the first place, and that’s really powerful.

Color Me In is a fantastic YA novel and releases August 20.

ARC Review of I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Campbell doesn’t want to be in Atlanta. Forced to move in with her dad after her mom gets a new job in Venezuela, she’s had to leave her old school in Haverford (New England) to come to the south. Right now, she’s mostly just existing, not really belonging anywhere. But her English teacher convinces her to work concessions one night at the foootball game, a decision that’ll change a lot.

Lena has grown up in Atlanta, and she has a boyfriend Black who she wishes would pay more attention to her. She has plans to meet up with after the football game, after she sees her friends perform at half-time.

But during half-time, after the marching band finishes performing, a fight breaks out that quickly turns into a brawl. Lena finds herself taking shelter in the concession stand with Campbell, and the two unwillingly form a bond to survive this brawl after shots ring out.

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight adds a conversation to the race discussions that are occurring everywhere but also in YA literature. To some extent, this reminds me of All-American Boys in that this important book uses a white author and black author which adds a certain type of nuance. Throughout the book, Campbell becomes more aware of her white privilege while Lena also realizes that while Campbell may have white privilege, she is lacking privilege in other areas such as socioeconomic status.

As a final note, some readers will want to criticize the actions of Lena and Campbell throughout the book. It’s important to remember that these two have been put into the middle of a crisis situation, and while Lena has experienced gun shots before at an event, this is the first time that she’s been really trapped in that situation. People in crisis situations do all sorts of things that may not make sense to someone outside of that situation or even to someone who has been in a crisis situation but responded differently. I found their actions completely believable.

This is definite must-read.

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight releases August 6.


Review of Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley

Pup Flanagan comes from a big family. He’s the youngest of eight kids, and with all of his in-laws, future in-laws, nieces, and nephews, there’s 28 of them.

But one of them is gone. Lost. Dead.

Almost almost three years prior to the start of Sorry For Your Loss, Pup’s brother Patrick died of meningitis. Since then, one of the three beds in the upstairs attic of the Flanagan boys’ room remains empty. Patrick’s picture on the wall has been replaced with a drawing of a cherub instead.

Every Sunday, all the members of the Flanagan family gather for dinner. But still, there’s that missing piece.

Pup finds himself on the verge of failing studio art, a class he needs to graduate next year. Although he doesn’t care much about his grades, he still wants to graduate. Encouraged by his teacher to try photography as a last ditch effort to save his grade, Pup takes a solitary picture of his brother Luke that begins to change his life.

Sorry For Your Loss is much-needed voice in the YA genre. Here’s the thing about grief: you don’t move on. Moving on isn’t possible especially when the loss is so sudden and so horrendous.

And not everyone grieves the same way. There are those that find safe ways to cope and deal with the grief. But others turn to destructive ways.

Because this isn’t a review that will be seen by a publisher, I feel the freedom to share this here. Content warning for infant death and suicidal ideation from this point forward.

4 years ago, my 2.5 month old nephew died unexpectedly. He had a brain tumor, unknown to anyone until those final 36 hours. I remember everything about that final day. There have been nights where it won’t stop playing in my head.

A month after his funeral, I couldn’t stand the grief anymore. Everything was too much. And so I went to figure out how to end my life. THANKFULLY, I was stopped.

But for the next year, I spent more time suicidal than not. My mother, she joined grief share groups and became fascinated by butterflies because they reminded her of her grandson. And when the second grandson was born, my father was too afraid at first to get to know this grandchild, afraid that we’d lose him too. As for my sister-in-law and brother, the parents, their grief was private. We said his name. We remembered him. We missed him. But we didn’t talk. The second Thanksgiving without him (despite never having a first Thanksgiving with him), the fractured lines were all over our family. They still are there.

Grief is not linear. It has no end point.

But it is survivable.

And that’s what Sorry For Your Loss does so well. It shows so perfectly what happened within my family, albeit a different story. People grieve in different ways. And sometimes, grief is destructive. But through it all, grief is survivable.

Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley is absolutely wonderful and completely nails it.

Sorry For Your Loss is available now.

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ARC Review of Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

While on spring break in New York City, Aidan finds himself alone in a hotel room, bored and wanting to hook up with a guy. So he does what he’s done before: he downloads an app filled with similar people looking for hook-ups. After his first one goes nowhere, he finds himself on the app again, looking for someone else.

After he goes to this hotel room, he ends up falling asleep with this guy and wakes up to the guy, Benoit, having been shot in the head. Benoit’s phone is ringing, and Aidan answers it. On the other end of the line, the voice tells him that the police are coming for him and that they are coming for him too.

Aidan quickly finds himself on the run from the police and from an organization called the Swans which is a terroristic cult.

Swipe Right for Murder is fast-paced and complex. The story is engaging, and while the plot requires some suspension of disbelief (including the age of the narrator), the “what if” components of the plot still make it grounded in reality.

Swipe Right for Murder comes out August 6.

ARC Review of Postcards for a Songbird by Rebekah Crane

Disclaimer:  I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wren was two when her mother left. Then she lost her best friend. Her friend didn’t die but decided that Wren wasn’t worth it. Then her sister Lizzie left when Wren was 16. And that’s where we begin, just over a month after Lizzie has left.

Wren’s father also known as Chief forces Wren back into the land of the living by signing Wren up for driver’s education class. There she meets Luca who seems to like her, and Wren doesn’t understand how anyone could possibly like her. She finds herself hesitant to get to know him because if she does, she fears that he’ll leave her too just like everyone else has.

While this is happening, a mysterious boy named Wilder moves in next door. Wren and Wilder communicate at first by staring at each other from their windows, but when they exchange numbers, they begin texting with each other. Wilder has some sort of mysterious illness that makes him unable to leave his house.

Wren begins receiving postcards from her sister, and she realizes that she must confront reasons why her mother and her sister left, 14 years apart. She also must decide if it’s worth letting other people in.

I was drawn to the story initially by the publisher’s description because it is an extremely compelling description. However, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The first 30 pages or so leave the reader more confused than not, and a lot of the language is especially flowery at first. This is in contrast to how old Wren actually is. Wren is written as 16, but she feels younger–around 13 or 14.

Additionally, issues of mental health are danced around, and Wren hears a rant from Leia, a girl about her age that she meets at the grocery store, about how anti-depressants are evil. This is not contradicted at all within the rest of the story which I was frustrated by.

The pacing does pick up after the first 30-40 pages, but the ease of understanding the plot doesn’t. When there’s a couple of twists revealed, the reader is left with more questions than answers, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, these are questions that make the plot as a whole difficult to understand.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book.

ARC Review of It’s A Whole Spiel (Anthology)

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It’s a Whole Spiel, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman, is an anthology in which the focus is stories with Jewish representation.

In this anthology, you will find stories that give representation to different types of Judaism and to characters who may be Jewish but don’t practice the religion. The anthology also includes someone whose father is Jewish but the mother is not. (For those unaware, in most sects of Judaism, Judaism is matrilineal.) What you won’t find in here is characters directly impacted by hate which to me is a breath of fresh air. Additionally, we also see Jewish characters in the LGBT+ community as well as those who struggle with mental health (eating disorder, anxiety, OCD).

As with all anthologies, there are some stories that are stronger than others. However, most stories in this anthology are particularly strong. Laura Silverman, Rachel Lynn Solomon, Alex London, Lance Rubin, and Dahlia Adler all offer particularly strong offerings.

For non-Jewish readers, if you are unfamiliar with Jewish customs and the religion, you will struggle to understand some of these stories because those particular stories are written with a Jewish audience in mind. However, this would be a great catalyst for a person to research more into a major world religion.

This is a solid and welcome anthology addition to add to your collection.

It’s a Whole Spiel releases September 17.

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