A Week of Reading #6 [February 5th – February 11th] // Weekly 2020 Book Reviews

As mentioned in A Week of Reading #1, this series is a weekly wrap-up series of the books I’m reading and finishing each week. Each post will pick up where the last one left off, in terms of the number book I’m on for the year.

Book Nineteen: The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, #5) by Rick Riordan (5/5 stars)

I don’t cry with books…ever. So I was completely SHOOK when I started crying during the last bit of The Last Olympian. It’s almost impossible to put how I feel about this book, about this entire series, into words. This is my first time re-reading it since I was in middle school over a decade ago, and I now know why this series is one of my favorites of all time. The plot, the humor, but also just the sheer heart of this book and all the characters in it. This was an incredible journey to take again, and I definitely won’t wait another decade to re-read my favorite series. This is the book in the series that has pushed me to do a full series review, and that blog post will be coming very, very soon! The Last Olympian is definitely my new favorite of the series, with The Battle of The Labyrinth being a very close second.

Book Twenty: A Blade So Black (The Nightmare-verse, #1) by L.L. McKinney

In A Blade So Black, we follow Alice, who at the top of the book, has just lost her father to cancer. She is attacked by a beast from another world, something we learn later on is called a Nightmare. The thing about Alice is she is a special type of human, one that can see the strange and fantastical beasts and creatures of Wonderland. So she’s trained to defeat the Nightmares, as only a human can. This is a solid fantasy that is dubbed a retelling, but is so much more. Yes, our protagonist is named Alice. Yes, she ventures into Wonderland. But our Alice comes many years after the Alice we all know from the picture books; this is an Alice who fights Nightmares while also struggling with her everyday demons (grief, racism and systemic oppression, romantic feelings, etc). The pacing could have definitely picked up at some points, and I wish we had gotten more of Alice’s two bestie characters Court and Chess. Also, the remnants of the original Alice In Wonderland story are cleverly and skillfully woven into the story. I will be continuing on with the series. In fact, I already have A Dream So Dark sitting on my desk!

Book Twenty-One: BINTI: Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (4.5/5 stars)

WOW. A stunning conclusion to a stunning trilogy. Binti’s character development throughout this book alone is impeccable, and the characters of Okwu and Mwinyi really grew on me throughout the novella. I definitely want to inhale anything and everything Nnedi Okorafor writes; she has become an auto-buy/read author for me.

Book Twenty-Two: Shuri, Vol. 2: 24/7 Vibranium by Nnedi Okorafor & Vita Ayala and illustrated by Rachel Scott & Paul Davidson (3.5/5)

The first two issues in this collection (written by Vita Ayala and illustrated by Paul Davidson) were bleh — I didn’t like the writing nor the illustration style. Shuri was illustrated to look way older than her actual age and how we meet her in Vol. 1, and all of the wittiness and heart and complexity that we get from Nnedi Okorafor’s rendition of her in the first volume was completely gone; she was too technical and impersonal, and it truly felt that Shuri was a visiting side character in her own storyline. The last three issues, however, are chefs kiss. Okorafor’s fast-paced, complex writing style is back and breathes life back into Shuri and the other characters. Plus, the illustration (done by Rachel Scott) is on point and in line with what we get in Vol. 1. Okorafor truly knows how to tell a story and deliver so much world-building, character development, and wittiness into a short amount of story. I’m sad that we won’t be getting more of Okorafor’s Shuri for a while, but I will definitely be picking up these volumes to re-read in the future.

Book Twenty-Three: Take The Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance by Bethany C. Morrow (editor) (5/5 stars)

Edited by Bethany C. Morrow, Take The Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance is a collection of YA short stories about ordinary teens from marginalized communities resisting their oppression everyday. What drew me to this anthology, and what Morrow explains in her Introduction, is the importance of validating the “smaller,” everyday instances of oppression that we face on the daily basis and the times we can fight back against them. What I also loved in Morrow’s Introduction is the danger of telling young people that the only way they can resist is by putting their bodies physically in danger.

This anthology is a collection of stories about teens who are reclaiming their power and right to exist. This anthology is a must-read, and I read this entire thing in one sitting. The short stories, poems, and comic strips are engaging and fast-paced and just make you want to see what the next one has to hold. There is a multitude of rep for different races and ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and gender identities, and more. I am truly glad that I decided to buy this and add it to my collection, and I’m confident that I will pick it up for a re-read in the near future.

Book Twenty-Four: Anger Is A Gift by Mark Oshiro (4.5/5 stars)

Anger Is A Gift follows Moss, a black teenager living in Oakland whose school is under attack by the local police and administration. After a student is brutalized at his high school by the school’s security officer, police presence is amplified and metal detectors are added. Learning how to use his anger and desire for change, Moss embarks on a emotional journey and even falls in love. This is truly a book full of heart, quality representation, and an important lesson about embracing one’s anger in a healthy way instead of shying away from it. Moss is such a lovable character who cares so intensely about the people around him. I really enjoyed the representation (queer, disabled, kids of color, family structure, etc), and it doesn’t feel forced — these are deep characters with backgrounds. It is very clear that the author didn’t just plop these characters in for the sake of it; I feel like I know these characters in people I know. There are definite trigger warnings for police brutality against Black and Latinx people, disabled people, and trans people.

While I think this book is great and definitely has great representation, I want to also mention that the book takes place from the perspective of a young queer black man, but the author is a queer Latinx (white passing) man. Going into the book with that knowledge, I was a bit hesitant. There is a history of non-black authors attempting to write black main characters who deal heavily with their identity and blackness and tragically messing it up. I was high on alert for some absolute racist or stereotypical nonsense for the entirety of the novel, and I found no such nonsense.

Book Twenty-Five: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder (5/5 stars)

The whole premise of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is awesome. We have Lunella Lafayette, a black fourth grade super genius who also happens to have the Inhuman gene. The catch is, Lunella doesn’t want to be go through a transformation and being Inhuman. When we meet her, she is trying desperately to figure out a way to stop the transformation and protect herself.

This comic does a great job portraying a fourth grade girl and it deals greatly with the idea of growing up and being scared of changes within our bodies. While Lunella’s fear is of transforming into something unknown, a connection can be made to greater symbolism: fear of kids, especially little girls, knowing that a change in their body is coming and resisting this because it’s unknown, but also because no one in their life knows how to talk to them about this impending change. While Lunella’s parents acknowledge the fact that she has the gene, they are unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with this impending change. Their focus is on making sure Lunella is “normal,” especially since Lunella is also a super genius. Throughout this entire first volume, we see Lunella pushing back against everyone’s insistence that she “being” normal, as if she doesn’t want to be normal herself, and we see how angry and desperate she becomes when everyone in her life is simply invalidating her fears and concerns.

What’s incredible about this comic is we see fear, desperation, anxiety, and anger from the perspective of a fourth grade girl who simply does not want her body to change in scary and unknown ways. Her connection with Devil Dinosaur lies in the fact that 1) it can’t talk, so it can’t tell her to be normal or invalidate her lol; 2) they are both misunderstood in a world that sees them as other and deserving of being controlled; and 3) they protect each other with a fierceness, no questions asked.

That’s it for this Week of Reading! Look out for my next one, which will be posted sometime next week! Let me know in the comments what books you read in the sixth week of 2020!

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