Been listening to a lot of great audiobooks lately, so it’s time for more mini reviews!
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA novels, indeed, I rarely read contemporary novels of any kind. I’m just a sci-fi/fantasy kind of reader.
But having heard so much about it through the YA community on social media, I could not resist reading Angie Thomas’ extraordinary debut novel. It features a young African American girl named Starr Carter, who is swept up in the Black Lives Matter movement when she witnesses a cop shoot her friend Khalil.
I’m even LESS into “issues” themed books, but that would be a very unfair assessment of this novel. This is not a didactic screed, but on the other hand it also does not present easy, comforting solutions to racial issues. The Hate U Give is a compelling story about a young woman who has to navigate two different worlds on a regular basis. She lives in a black neighborhood, but she and her brother attend a fancy, nearly all-white private school. Her boyfriend and many of her friends are white. She speaks of being two different Starrs—the one with her family and neighborhood friends, and the other with her schoolmates.
The success of the book hinges on its main character, and Starr is a magnificent one—not perfect, not a “chosen one”—simply funny, real, and honest, trying to do what’s right in a world that makes that a very difficult choice.
Superb on every level. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth Series) by N.K. Jemisin
I’d been searching for fantasy novels that were based on something other than medieval European societies, and was very happy when I found this series by N.K. Jemisin.
This is a fantasy/sci-fi/post-post-POST-apocalyptic hybrid, and it is absolutely fantastic.
A supercontinent called The Stillness periodically goes through a “season.” This is when there is a catastrophic climate change brought on by an unstable geology. A season can last a few years, decades, or millennia. There are some people who are “Orogenes”—who have the ability to control energy and can both cause or prevent earthquakes. Because of their potential power to cause destruction, Orgenes are outcasts in most communities.
I don’t want to give too much away because in the first book there’s a whopping big twist that it would be a shame to spoil. Jemisin experiments with non-linear storytelling and point of view, but both are much more than literary conceits. I was completely swept up in this world, this story, and the main characters. Can’t wait for the final book in the series, The Stone Sky, which will be released later this year.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This is a fantasy novel set in an alternative version of Amsterdam, though much later than the medieval period.
Six of Crows is a heist story, with a gang of teen criminals brought together to kidnap a scientist from an impenetrable palace called the Ice Court.
This is an off-shoot of Bardugo’s Grisha fantasy series. You do not have to have read the Grisha books first; this book stands just fine on its own. It’s a hugely popular book, and it’s not hard to see why: heist stories are inherently compelling, and the added fantasy elements give it even more oomph.
This is a very enjoyable book, with a diverse cast of characters and an excellent use of multiple point of view. There is a sequel in the works called The Crooked Kingdom, and I will definitely be buying it when it’s released.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
I had heard great things about this book (with many comparisons to Firefly, one of my favorite TV series) but have to confess I was mildly disappointed in it.
A space opera featuring the crew of the Wayfarer, who open up hyperspace lanes to allow space travel and communications, my problem with it is it spends way too much time on worldbuilding, and very little time on actual storytelling. While the characters are all interesting, I would have preferred less time on details of the various species’ social constructs and much more time spent on a strong narrative.
If you don’t mind episodic storytelling and like that kind of detail, then check it out. As I said, I was only mildly disappointed in it. It has its moments and I certainly was interested enough to read it to the end.
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
Denise and her mother are assigned a temporary shelter before a comet hits the earth, but on the way they stop to help her teacher get to her shelter, which turns out to be a generational spaceship scheduled to leave Earth permanently. Terrified of having to survive the world outside the ship, Denise tries to find a way to get her, her mother, and her missing sister Iris passage on the ship before it leaves. Complicating matters are the facts that Denise is autistic and her mother is an addict.
On the Edge of Gone crushes the notion that a sci-fi or fantasy book can’t be credibly lead by a disabled character. Her autism is one of many serious issues Denise has to deal with on her journey, but only one.
This book is engrossing from beginning to end, and brings in some neat twists to the post-apocalyptic genre aside from Denise’s autism. Can’t wait to read more by Duyvis.