Rummanah Aasi

Description: When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime. You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything? Actually, a lot.

Thanks to "the incident" (don't ask), I'm spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a "spring volunteer immersion project." It's definitely no vacation. I'm toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own...and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks...like flirting with Tati's distractedly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I'm even exploring my family's history--which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse. You know, typical drama. But it's nothing I can't handle.

Review: Alaine Beauparlant is an ambitious, driven Haitian American senior living in Miami with her divorced psychiatrist father. Alaine has her sights set on following the footsteps of her renowned journalist mother by majoring in journalism at Columbia. With mere months to go before graduation, Alaine’s world starts unraveling as mother has a meltdown live on-air and becomes the talk of the town. To make things even worse, Alaine royally messes up a school presentation that leave her on the verge of expulsion. Alaine 's punishment is to go to Haiti for two months, volunteer to work for her aunt's charity that provides financial help to Haitian children in need, and write a report about what she has learned. Alaine wants to go to Haiti to learn more about her own roots, but would rather it be on her own terms. During her time in Haiti, Alaine’s life is transformed as she unearths family histories and secrets that allow her to get to know the ailing mother, who has been absent from a large part of her life.  In the process, she discovers an even deeper love for the ancestral homeland that she had only known from afar.
   I really liked Alaine as a character. She is incredibly sharp and witty, but under her tough exterior she really wants a normal, healthy relationship with her mother. Alaine admires her mother's tenacity and hard work that led her to be a leading news anchor for a popular politics show, but at the same time Alaine feels as if she is always on the low priority list for her mother. When she receives heartbreaking news about her mother's health, Alaine hopes to use her time to not resent her mother but to get to know her as a person.
  Before Dear Haiti, Love Alaine I did not know much about the Haitian culture, but I learned a lot from reading this book. The book addresses the fact that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, but also demystifies some of the common untruths about the country. I appreciated Alaine becoming aware of her own privileges as she meets other people in Haiti. I also found Alaine's dark family history to be a fascinating part of this book and I really liked how the authors used the concept of a family curse as a way to infuse a light thread of magical realism into this otherwise realistic fiction book.
  The book has a nice balance between humor and seriousness. The varied formats, such as emails, texts, and letters, add interest and serve to make the story feel modern and make Alaine's voice seem more intimate. The various formats did not disrupt the follow of the book, but rather kept the plot moving at a brisk pace. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a delightful story of family and finding one's roots.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusions to rape and sex, and underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali, American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Rummanah Aasi

Description: When Moon’s family moves in next door to Christine’s, Moon goes from unlikely friend to best friend―maybe even the perfect friend. The girls share their favorite music videos, paint their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around, and make plans to enter the school talent show together. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she sometimes has visions of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs. But when they’re least expecting it, catastrophe strikes. After relying on Moon for everything, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend Moon needs?

Review: Stargazing is a sweet and insightful graphic novel about friendship and identity. Christine is a traditional Chinese American girl. She lives in a suburb with her conservative parents and her focus is solely on her music and grade school work. Christine sees a different way of life when her parents offer the extra unit of of Christine's family house to a struggling Chinese American single mother and her daughter, Moon, from church. Moon is the complete opposite of Christine. Moon is loud, artistic, a vegetarian, a Buddhist, and even rumored to beat kids up. Moon's mother does not have a strict curfew nor requires Moon to attend Chinese school. Moon is certainly “not Asian” according to Christine’s standards. Despite their differences, however, the two become fast friends, stretching each other’s interests with K-pop and art. Moon later shares a deep secret with Christine: She receives visions from celestial beings that tell her she belongs with them. The girls' friendship is tested by jealousy, resentment of following social expectations, and devastating medical news for Moon.
  The illustrations are wonderful and show cases body diversity, nostalgia, and diversity without being overt about it. There is a balance of quiet moments and active moments that sharpen emotional impact and highlights the inner turmoil Christine feels as her friendship with Moon shifts. The dialogue rings true and the characters feel authentic.


Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Real Friends by Shannon Hale
Rummanah Aasi
Description: The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.


Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow is an immersive historical fantasy set in the Jazz Age and is steeped in Mayan mythology. Casiopea Tun and her mother are treated horribly by their more wealthy relations. They work as servants rather than being acknowledged as part of the family. Casiopea has large dreams of following the stars like her namesake, but any dreams that she had has been dashed by her grandfather's demands. She has been his maid ever since they returned to their small village after her father's death. As a small act of rebellion, Casiopea opens her grandfather's secret chest, releases the injured and imprisoned Mayan death god, Hun-Kamé, Supreme Lord of Xibalba, and inexorably binds her to his quest to regain his underworld throne. Casiopea's journey with Hun-Kamé's not only changes her fortunes but also has a largely consequence on the fate of the world.
  I really enjoyed the blend of historical fiction along with learning new things about Mayan mythology. The world building is done well and is not too out there for reluctant fantasy readers. It was fascinating to read about Mexican life during the Jazz Age. I liked watching Casiopea go on a self discovery journey to learn about herself and become an advocate for herself. Similarly, her interactions with Hun-Kamé allows him to become much more than an avengeful god and be humanized by addressing his own fears and vulnerabilities. I also enjoyed their slow burn romance. The plot moves quickly as we follow two parallel journies of  Hun-Kamé and Casiopeia's cross-country adventure-from the Yucatán to Mexico City, Arizona, and more-in search of his missing body parts, which his twin brother and rival has scattered among demons, sorcerers, and others; and Vucub-Kamé's, Hun-Kamé's ambitious twin brother, plot to undermine his brother and is assisted reluctantly by Casopeia's narcassitic cousin Martín who also has an inferiority complex. I would recommend this book to readers who are interested in learning more about Mexican folklore as well as those who enjoy reading fairy tales with complex characters and slow burn romance. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Bear and Nightingale by Katherine Arden, Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Rummanah Aasi
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! There are so many new releases in October that I can not wait to read. I had a hard time narrowing it down. This week I am eagerly awaiting for the release of Leigh Bardugo's adult debut novel Ninth House and The Athena Protocol by . Both books will be released on October 8th.



Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Publish date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Flat Iron Books/Macmillan

  I'm really curious how Bardugo incorporates fantasy, paranormal, murder, and secret societies at her alma mater.  The book has been getting a lot of press and positive buzz ever since it was announced.
 
 Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.




The Athena Protocol by Shamim Sarif
Publish date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen

  I'm always on the lookout for diverse thrillers to recommend to my students. When I read the book's description about an all female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world I knew I had to add it to my tbr asap.  
 
 Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.

Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.

Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.
Rummanah Aasi
Description: It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her. It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
  But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


Review: Wilder Girls is part survival thriller, part dystopian, and part horror. It manages to do justice to all of these genres, but it still felt unfinished to me. The book is often marketed as a feminist retelling of William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies and while it does share similar themes to that dystopian classic, Wilder Girls holds its own.
  It's been a year and a half since the Raxter School for Girls was ravaged by the Tox, a mysterious sickness that crept in slowly through the woods, distorting the properties and bodies of anything in its path. The teachers' and students' bodies have been changed in vicious ways, ranging from new body parts to skin changing into scales for those who survive and those who don't suffer an excruciating death as they wilt and their bodies blackened as the Tox eats away at them. Left with the promise of a cure, the quarantined girls watch out for one another. That's precisely what Hetty is doing when her friend Byatt disappears, and together with her friend Reese, she breaks quarantine to penetrate the wild beyond the fence to find her.
   Wilder Girls has a very creepy atmospheric quality to the story that hovers around our main characters rather than the traditional jump scares. For much of the story, the reader and the girls do not know much of what is happening but we are enraptured by this twisted tale by the little hints of a backstory dropped throughout the book and effective foreshadowing done by the author. The elements of body horror is quite striking throughout the novel with the graphic mentions of a stitched-up eye with something lurking underneath, a second protruding spine, animals growing three times their size. There is a connection between the Tox and the female physical development which I found to be fascinating and wanted to learn more about.
  The story is divided into mainly two narratives of Hetty and Byatt and it is Hetty's fierce loyalty which drives the story. Unlike Lord of the Flies, in which their isolation catalyzes their social hierarchy and eventually makes the characters turn on one another, Wilder Girls has the complete opposite result. The girls' solidarity and their relationships help foster their survival. While there are clear differences as to who holds power, the story does not focus on the girls tearing each other down, which I really appreciated. I also appreciated that our main characters all fall in the spectrum of LGBTQ+ and their sexual identities are not a big deal. There is a hint of romance or perhaps two are that are brewing in the background, but it is not the main part of the story. Overall I really loved the themes of the story and the representation of the characters, but I wished I had gotten a few solid details of the Tox and I did not care for the open ending. I would recommend this book to readers who are looking for a unique horror book that moves beyond the scares. I am looking forward to see what the author does next.


Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, scenes of self harm, gory violence, and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Fever by Megan Abbott, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, Quaratine series by Lex Thomas
Related Posts with Thumbnails