ARC Review of Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

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

Dragon Hoops is a true story about Bishop O’Dowd High School’s 2014-2015 basketball season. Yang was a teacher at Bishop O’Dowd High School, and upon being stuck about what story to tell next, he turned to the famed basketball team. While the basketball team had made state several times, the state title remained elusive. While Yang didn’t quite know what the outcome would be for that season, he decided that this story needed to be told.

Yang tells of current coach Lou Richie, Coach Mike Phelps (retired), and the teens on the team that season. He effortlessly weaves together basketball history along with the history of basketball at Bishop O’Dowd High School.

Essentially, Yang manages to tell a story through a graphic novel that can be fairly compared to Friday Night Lights.

This will appeal to all readers, especially those who love basketball.

Dragon Hoops releases March 17, 2020.

ARC Review of In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

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

Brie loves soap operas. It’s been a way for her to bond with her mom for years. But now Brie has a secret. She googled Kelly Monaco’s name (a soap opera star) and found topless photos. And thing is: Brie likes them.

Her mom walked in on Brie discovering this, but Brie slammed the laptop shut quickly before her mom could realize it. In attempts to distract her mom, she told her that she was picked to crown Mary, a big deal at her Catholic school. But it’s not even true.

Brie quickly begins her mission to earn to that top spot, becoming a better student than she ever has before. As she begins this mission though, she struggles as her mom takes on more hours at work, as she continues to hide that she likes girls, and as she tries to earn that spot to crown Mary.

This book can be a little bit tough at times to read. [Spoiler] Brie is outed to her mom, and her mom doesn’t respond that well. It’s heartbreaking to read, even though it’s realistic for many people.

But the book is beautiful. It takes you in to the story quickly, and you will root for Brie throughout the whole story.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens releases April 21, 2020.

ARC Review of All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

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

While boarding a plane to visit Dallas, Allie’s father begins to be harassed for speaking Arabic on the phone. Allie, Muslim herself but white-passing, calms down the situation, something that she’s used to doing. But that incident along with visiting her family in Dallas sparks a change in Allie. She’s never really explored her own religion, and for the first time, she wants to.

But at the same time, none of her friends at her newest school know that she’s Muslim. As she begins to see the world through a different lens, she begins confronting what it means to be a Muslim in America, to be white-passing, and to stay silent or speak up in the face of oppression. Add to the mix a boyfriend whose father has made a career out of hating Muslims, and Allie’s life becomes even more complicated.

This is an #ownvoices novel that explores deeply the idea of being Muslim in America and what it means to take ownership over who you really are. While this is a bit on the lengthier side, it’s a pretty fast-paced read, and it’s extremely high quality.

It’s one that so many people need to read.

All-American Muslim Girl releases November 12.

ARC Review of Stargazing by Jen Wang

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

When Moon moves into the guest house in Christine’s backyard, the two quickly become friends. Moon challenges Christine to see more to life than studying and striving for perfection, and for a while, Christine enjoys that new life. But when a bad grade on a math test happens, Christine starts pulling away from Moon.

Stargazing is a delightful middle grade graphic novel that also packs a powerful emotional punch. The art is gorgeous throughout, and the story is extremely compelling. This is the perfect addition to the excellent contemporary MG novels that are out there.

Stargazing releases September 10.

ARC Review of Only Mostly Devastated by Sophia Gonzales

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

Ollie was in North Carolina, just for the summer, spending time with his aunt who has cancer and helping to watch his cousins. This was the perfect time to start a summer fling with a boy named Will. What Ollie didn’t plan on was his parents springing the news on him that they were staying in North Carolina for now because his aunt’s cancer is progressing.

And what Ollie definitely didn’t expect was for Will to be attending his new high school.

However, school year Will is quite different. He ignores Ollie, and Ollie is left to try to forge his own path while trying to figure out what happened with this summer romance.

Despite being labeled as a rom-com in the author’s bio, this is NOT a rom-com. I found this to be an immensely heavy book, dealing with homophobia, the fear of coming out, the fear of leaving friends behind/calling them out if they are homophobic, and dealing the impending loss of a family member. And while there are some lighter moments within this book, the majority of it really does deal with all of that.

Overall, I felt a bit let down because I went expecting one thing and got something quite different.

DRC Review of The Map From Here to There by Emery Lord

Disclaimer: I received an DRC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The Map From Here to There serves as a sequel to Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You. While it would be better to have read the first book first, it’s not actually a complete requirement to enjoy this one.

Weeks before the start of her senior year, Paige’s relationship with Max is just beginning. But at the same time, her world that she’s made in Indiana may be coming to an end. Faced with questions about where to go to college, what she wants to major in, changing interests, Paige’s relationship with Max becomes a lot more complicated.

Add into that, Paige’s anxiety, a constant undercurrent to her life, becomes worse after a car accident. Suddenly all the decisions that she’s facing become a lot more complicated. The anxiety representation is completely realistic for me. While Paige had made a lot of progress in the first novel, mental illness doesn’t always have a linear trajection. Sometimes, events happen that cause a worsening mental illness. Sometimes, it just happens. I appreciate the honest look at how just because you get better for a while doesn’t mean you stay better and that it’s okay to get help again.

The Map From Here to There is a very heavily character driven novel where the characters drive the plot instead of the plot driving the characters. Emery Lord pulls this off very well.

The Map From Here to There  releases January 7, 2020.

 

DRC Review of Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson

Disclaimer: I received a DRC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Amara wants to go to Harlem. Her aunt, her cousins, and her grandpa all live there, but she’s all the way in Beaverton, Oregon, and she’s never even met them.

But her parents don’t think she belongs in New York. Amara, however, is relentless, and when her teacher introduces a “suitcase project” to learn more about who she is an individual by learning family stories, she begins to wear down her parents who agree to let her go with her dad to Harlem for her birthday.

Amara quickly discovers that her grandmother died the same day that Amara was born, and Amara’s father hasn’t talked with her grandpa since. She wants to unravel why this happened especially as her mom asks her to try to get them to make up.

Some Places More Than Others is another wonderful middle-grade novel from Renee Watson. The book takes a look at some of the Black history of Harlem and what it means to truly belong in a family where a person defies the expectations that others put on them. Middle grade readers will eat this up.

 

ARC Review of Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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

Simone has always been HIV positive. Now seventeen, she’s starting over at a new school after her ex-girlfriend blasted that info to everyone at the boarding school. Now, she’s more determined to keep her status quiet, but there’s a problem: she cannot stop thinking about someday having sex with someone.

She begins crushing on Miles, and much to her surprise and delight, Miles is interested in her too. But then a note shows up in her locker: break things off with Miles or everyone will know she’s HIV positive.

Full Disclosure is a timely look at both how much progress has been made in the treatment of HIV while also looking at how much prejudice still remains against those who are positive.

 

ARC Review of Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

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

Mooncakes is a gorgeous graphic novel. Nova is a witch who lives with her grandmas as she continues to learn magic with them rather than pursuing an apprenticeship elsewhere. One night, a report of a white wolf and glowing in the forest leads Nova to explore.

She finds her old best friend Tam in battle with a demon possessing a horse, and she helps them get away from the demon possessing horse and takes them back home. With the help of her grandmas, Nova and Tam quickly learn that this demon is one that will need some wolf magic in order to vanquish it–if Tam can figure out how to use their powers.

Mooncakes has gorgeous art throughout, and while the eARC didn’t show all of the final art details in the later chapters, the art work throughout is gorgeous, and no doubt, the final version will be even more gorgeous. The story also shines for the inclusion of a character who is hard-of-hearing and for a character who is non-binary as a part of the story while not making it the story.

Mooncakes will release in October, just in time for a delightful autumn appropriate read. Of course, the read is great any time as well. Check this one out.

ARC Review of The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

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

Esme started a babysitters club with three friends when she was 12. Now 17, she and her friend Janis are the only two left in this club where they mostly use it as an excuse to hang out together while babysitting occasionally instead of getting a traditional job.

Strange things, however, start happening to Esme and Janis while they are babysitting. One charge ends up on the roof with no idea how she got there. And someone breaks into the house another night.

Strange things also begin happening to Esme. She finds that she is able to make things happen by thinking about them, but at first, she’s not sure what’s going on.

Enter Cassandra, new to town, who knows exactly what’s up with Esme. They both have powers.

As alluded to in the official plot description from the publisher, the two of them discover that they have lineage as Sitters who are protectors of the normal world. And something is definitely up in their town, and they may be the only two that can stop it.

The Babysitters Coven is a fun read, a bit like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Hocus Pocus. Stories with a paranormal element aren’t usually my cup of tea, but this made it really fun to read.

As a final note, one of the disappointing things was the use of the word “crazy” thrown around to describe Esme’s mom. Esme tried to say that she was reclaiming the word from all those people who called her mom “crazy,” however, you cannot personally reclaim a word if you aren’t the person directly affected by it.

Overall, a fun read and one to check out when it releases in September 2019.