126 The Hate U Give

hateugiveby Angie Thomas, 2017

Starr Carter is sixteen years old when she witnesses the police shooting of her friend Khalil. Pulled over for a seemingly routine traffic violation, things quickly go south when Khalil demands to know why he was stopped, is frisked, and returns to the car to ask Starr if she’s okay. There appeared to be a gun in the car, they say of the hairbrush sticking out of a pocket in the door. He was dealing drugs, they say with no evidence of such in the car. One more gangbanger out of the way, they say, while knowing nothing about Khalil and the life he led. It’s a sad day when a book like this is necessary and, yet, here we are, and this book is so very necessary.

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123 Beasts of No Nation

beastsby Uzodinma Iweala, 2005

Some books exist to give insight into another part of the world. Some books exist to give insight into another culture. Some books exist to give insight into another way of life. Beasts of No Nation exists for all three, but mostly it exists to tell the horrifying story of a young boy caught up in the middle of a war.

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122 The Mothers

mothersby Brit Bennett, 2016

Nadia Turner is just seventeen when she becomes pregnant with 21-year-old Luke Turner’s child. As the son of the town pastor, Luke has kept their relationship a secret and it’s only when the pregnancy arises that he must confess his sins to his parents. Nadia is on the verge of leaving Oceanside, CA, where she lives with her father, the two of them alone after her mother’s suicide. Determined not to let anything keep her from fulfilling her dreams, Nadia takes the only route she feels is available to her and terminates the pregnancy. These are not spoilers, as these events occur in the very opening pages of the book, but they are the impetus of Bennett’s astute exploration of motherhood in the pages that follow.

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120 Everything I Never Told You

everythingby Celeste Ng, 2014

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when a book or a movie screams out, “This is important! Important subjects discussed here!” I thought this in particular about the movie Crash which, for all its good intent, wanted to ensure the audience know that this was a movie about Race and subsequently beat us over the head with it. It’s much rarer when a story can tackle these big ticket items with grace and subtlety, simultaneously acknowledging their presence while not tiring the audience with its cries. Yet, this is exactly what Everything I Never Told You does, in beautiful prose, in a story just sad enough to feel true.

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113 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

aristotledanteby Benjamin Alire Sáenz, 2012

There is always the risk when reading immensely popular books of your expectations exceeding the book’s reality. I was prepared for this to be the case when I finally got around to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a much lauded book online and on BookTube for its depiction of a relationship between two teenage boys. Young adult novels positively depicting gay relationships are still something of a novelty, so we’re in a place where most books that do this, regardless of the quality of the writing, get a pass simply because they address a subject that is marginalized and, in some cultures, taboo. In some ways I believe Aristotle and Dante is getting that pass, but I was pleased to find that, in other ways, it is wholly deserving of the attention it has received.

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