review: Love Is the Drug

51lxVTCB9uLtitle: Love is the Drug

author: Alaya Dawn Johnson

date:Arthur A. Levine; September, 2004

main character: Emily Bird

 

Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.

Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.

The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

I can’t give as detailed a review as I’d like to on this one because I read it on NetGalley and it’s no longer available to me to refer to.

I read Johnson’s first YA book, Summer Prince, and was looking forward to whatever she’d write next. She did not disappoint. As with Prince, Johnson writes an intelligent book that places us in the midst of her world rather than step by step building it for us.  He female leads are strong, social issues are real and situations creative yet plausible.

Emily Bird is an upper middle class high school senior with college educated parents and a favorite uncle who is a high school dropout. As the flu epidemic spreads, the haves receive what the have nots don’t. Inequity abounds and is up close in Emily’s family. Sure, we know Emily is Black, but the issues here are about class, not race. What really stood out for me with this one was that no male saved Bird, she was able to save herself in a variety of situations.

This is an intelligent book with a black female lead. She knows about contemporary politicals, will be going to college (but which one??) and despite her teen angst and conflictions, is truly her own person. While there are too, too many black girls clamoring for a book of these sensibilities, Johnson’s world is broad and will appeal to all teens who like thought provoking books.

Honestly, as I listen to reports about ebola and watch as it spreads, I see conspiracies all in this mess, thanks to my reading Love is the Drug.

Johnson actually takes readers to black hair issues, actually writes about hair relaxers! Now, I don’t get why Bird applied/s these caustic chemicals to her head with such a severe gash along her hairline and I don’t know why her hair was nappy afterwards, but to go there! to write about the relaxer was something with which I could really identify. And this is why we need writers of color developing characters and stories for all readers. We need intellectual stories, hi/lo books, humorous, adventurous, romantic, mysterious, sporty books that fully represent the growing number of brown children in America. Here, race is authentic while the story is universal.

Once again, Alaya Dawn Johnson crafts a world with numerous problems. She’s not out to solve them, just to keep us on our toes. And that she does!

New Releases: October

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Complete list of 2014 Releases (more or less)

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan; Algonquin 

“Both personal and universal, this is a compelling story about high school, family and owning up to who you really are. Farizan is just the voice YA needs right now. Trust me, you’ll be glad you listened.” –Sarah Dessen Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. As an Iranian American, she’s different enough; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when beautiful new girl Saskia shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.
On The Other Side of the Bridge by Ray Villareal; Arte Publico Press

Lon Chaney Rodriguez is a typical thirteen-year-old boy. He loves horror movies. His bedroom is a mess. He doesn’t like to read boring books. And he likes to skip church and hang out at Catfish Creek during services. But his life changes completely when his mother is shot and killed at the apartment complex where she worked as a security guard. Life without her is unimaginable, and he’s haunted by the feeling that he let his mom down. He didn’t prioritize his schoolwork, so he’s on the brink of failing. And worse, he lied to her. Why didn’t he tell her the truth? Why didn’t he make better grades and help her more?

Lonnie’s life is turned upside down, both at school and home. The school counselor is determined to get him to talk about his mom, and the preacher’s daughter is insistent that he read scriptures to bring him comfort. His unemployed father turns to drinking excessively. He struggles to pay the bills and put food on the table. It doesn’t seem possible, but … will they really end up on the street like the homeless guy that panhandles at the freeway underpass?

Dreaming in Indian: Contemorary Native American Voices edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale; Annick Press 

A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today.

Truly universal in its themes, Dreaming In Indian will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots,’ ‘Battles,’ ‘Medicines,’ and ‘Dreamcatchers,’ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media.

Emerging and established Native artists, including acclaimed author Joseph Boyden, renowned visual artist Bunky Echo Hawk, and stand-up comedian Ryan McMahon, contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous, expressing them through such mediums as art, food, the written word, sport, dance, and fashion. Renowned chef Aaron Bear Robe, for example, explains how he introduces restaurant customers to his culture by reinventing traditional dishes. And in a dramatic photo spread, model Ashley Callingbull and photographer Thosh Collins reappropriate the trend of wearing ‘Native’ clothing.

Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing hopes for the future, Dreaming In Indian refuses to shy away from difficult topics. Insightful, thought-provoking, and beautifully honest, this book will to appeal to young adult readers. An innovative and captivating design enhances each contribution and makes for a truly unique reading experience.
In the Forbidden City by Chin Kwong-chiu, translated by Ben Want; China Insitute

Serving as the seat of imperial power for six centuries, the Forbidden City is one of China’s most famous and enigmatic landmarks. Accompanied by a mischievous cat, readers will tour this colossal architectural structure, discovering the secrets hidden inside the palace walls. They will encounter the people who have walked through its halls and gardens, including emperors, empresses, and rebel leaders, and hear exciting tales about the power struggles and intrigues of everyday life.

This large format book conveys the grandeur of the Forbidden City through highly detailed line drawings of its buildings, gardens, and courtyards with numerous fold-out spreads. Each page is populated by a large variety of characters and peppered with entertaining anecdotes. Every book includes a plastic magnifying glass for looking at the drawings more closely.
Talon by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen)

In Julie Kagawa’s groundbreaking modern fantasy series, dragons walk among us in human form.

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey—and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him—and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaeline DePrince and Elaine DePrince (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is now the youngest principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She has appeared in the ballet documentary First Position, as well as on Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America, and Nightline.

In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet’s most exciting rising stars.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt)

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Mortal Gods by Kendare Blake (Tor Teens)

As ancient immortals are left reeling, a modern Athena and Hermes search the world for answers inMortal Gods, the second Goddess War novel by Kendare Blake, acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood.

Ares, god of war, is leading the other dying gods into battle. Which is just fine with Athena. She’s ready to wage a war of her own, and she’s never liked him anyway. If Athena is lucky, the winning gods will have their immortality restored. If not, at least she’ll have killed the bloody lot of them, and she and Hermes can die in peace.Cassandra Weaver is a weapon of fate. The girl who kills gods. But all she wants is for the god she loved and lost to return to life. If she can’t have that, then the other gods will burn, starting with his murderer, Aphrodite.

The alliance between Cassandra and Athena is fragile. Cassandra suspects Athena lacks the will to truly kill her own family. And Athena fears that Cassandra’s hate will get them all killed.

The war takes them across the globe, searching for lost gods, old enemies, and Achilles, the greatest warrior the world has ever seen. As the struggle escalates, Athena and Cassandra must find a way to work together. Because if they can’t, fates far worse than death await.

On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni (Skyscrape)

He is in a foreign country, he is alone, and he is just a boy…Abbas Kazerooni is not yet ten, but he’s suddenly forced to leave his parents, his friends—his entire world—and flee Tehran. The Iran-Iraq war is at its bloodiest, and the Ayatollahs who rule Iran have reduced the recruitment age for the army. If Abbas doesn’t escape, it’s almost certain that he will be drafted and die fighting for a regime that has stripped his family of all they have.

On his own in the strange, often frightening city of Istanbul, Abbas grows up fast—with little more than his wits to guide him. He must conquer difficult things: how to live on his own, how to navigate a foreign city and culture when he doesn’t speak the language, and, most importantly, how to judge who is a friend and who is an enemy. Facing the unexpected as well as the everyday challenges of life on his own, Abbas walks a tightrope of survival—yearning to please the demanding father he has left behind, yet relishing his new found independence.

His quick thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, and the kindness of strangers allow him to make the best of his dire situation in surprising ways. Does he have what it takes to not only survive against these challenging odds but achieve his parents’ ultimate dream for him: a visa to England, and the safety it represents?

This compelling true story of one young boy’s courage provides a powerful child’s-eye view of war, political tumult, and survival.

 

Pig Park by Claudia Gaudelupe Martinez (Cinco Puntos Press)

It’s crazy! Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga hauls bricks to help build a giant pyramid in her neighborhood park. Her neighborhood is becoming more of a ghost town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down. Her family’s bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. As a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls into this scheme in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something’s not right about the entrepreneur behind it all. And then there’s the new boy who came to help. The one with the softest of lips. Pig Park is a contemporary Faustian tale that forces us to look at the desperate lengths people will go to in the name of community–and maybe love.

 

 

Book Review: The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan

cover50965-mediumTitle: The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan

Author: Atia Abawi

Date: Penguin; 2014

main character: Fatima

 

synopsis: Fatima is a Hazara girl, raised to be obedient and dutiful. Samiullah is a Pashtun boy raised to defend the traditions of his tribe. They were not meant to fall in love. But they do. And the story that follows shows both the beauty and the violence in current-day Afghanistan as Fatima and Samiullah fight their families, their cultures and the Taliban to stay together. Based on the people Atia Abawi met and the events she covered during her nearly five years in Afghanistan, this stunning novel is a must-read for anyone who has lived during America’s War in Afghanistan.

I have to admit that the beginning of the book felt very much to me like it was written by an outsider looking in; someone who was taking the American notion of romantic love to another country. Abawi was simply pulling my American sensibility into Afghanistan. The story felt soft and sweet, didn’t I know how this was going to end? Then, Fatima over hears her father talking to her mother about war-time atrocities that he committed. This was not going to be an easy read! I had not idea how it was going to end, but I certainly wanted to know!

Abawi writes a story of contemporary Afghanstan, a country caught in crossroads and cross hairs. Abawi writes chapters in alternating voices, disallowing us from conceptualizing a single story for this perplexing country. Abawi develops complex characters that we despise for their actions, yet we know the conflicted rationale that leads them to behave a certain way.

I don’t know the various cultures in Afghanistan, don’t know the rituals of daily life or the nuances of religion and politics. I cannot review the accuracy in that regard. What I do appreciate is that we’re told a story that incorporates multiple perspectives so that readers will not expect those who live in the country to think, behave or live in one certain way. Not many writers would be able to trust their characters to tell this story, but Abawi did. Readers will develop their own judgments about compelling situations, They will approach the book with ideas about social justice, marriage, love and parental rights, yet as Fatima comes of age, the reader will certainly mature along with her. This book is a tough read; I think an important read for teens in our global society. It brings to life the fact that there are no easy answers.

Atia Abawi works as a journalist with CNN. She was stationed in Afghanistan for over 5 years, leaving that position for one in Jerusalem. Abawi was born in Germany and moved to the US when she was one year old. She is still based in the Mideast and The Secret Sky is her first book.