Rummanah Aasi

Description: Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.
  When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.


Review: Sadie is a powerful, gut wrenching, thriller that will elicit strong emotions from you as you read it. The book has a very simple plot, Sadie Hunter is going to kill the man who murdered her 13-year-old sister, Mattie, but its execution sets it apart from other thrillers. The story alternates between Sadie's first-person point of view as she makes her way across Colorado in search of Keith, who sexually abused her when he dated her mother and who she believes murdered Mattie, and the transcript of a serialized podcast called The Girls by a well established journalist West McCray who is both drawn and repelled by Sadie's and Maddie's story. His interviews with her family and those who crossed her path provide an outsider's perspective to Sadie's actions and interior monologue and always remains painstakingly close to Sadie's present story. The podcast makes the story come alive and expands on book's themes of revenge, ineffective policing, poverty, and addiction and its impact on parenting. 
  Sadie is a precocious survivor. Her mother, Claire, is a drug-addicted, single mother. When Mattie was born Sadie became a de facto parent at the age of 6. Though both sisters had different fathers, Sadie was determined to never let Mattie feel unloved. Her baby sister’s love filled a hole in Sadie’s fiercely protective heart and quickly became her world. Claire favored Mattie, who remained attached to her long after Claire disappeared from their grim, trailer-park home in rural Colorado. Sadie believes that Mattie’s determination to find Claire led to her brutal murder. Without Mattie Sadie has lost her anchor, but her drive for justice, revenge, and hope of preventing other girls like Mattie from abuse and murder propels her into action.
  Sadie is an extraordinary female heroine that I have not seen in a long time in YA thrillers. She is smart, observant, tough, and at times heartrendingly vulnerable. Sadie exempts no one, not even herself, from her unsparing judgment. It broke my heart several times when Sadie immediately questioned a person's kindness, though she was almost always right, but it made me feel incredibly uneasy.
  The book set me on edge and I had to put it aside a few times because of its intensity, but I did feel compelled to find out what happened next. Summers does a fantastic job in not reveling in shocking the reader with graphic and gratuitous detail of the abuse that Sadie encountered, but just the right amount that we can connect the dots. I am still unsure of how I feel about the open ending, perhaps it is selfish of me for wanting a glimmer of hope for Sadie but she really deserves one.
  Sadie is a very timely book especially at a time where female survivors of sexual assault and abuse are being silenced and doubted. This will make an excellent book club discussion and the format lends itself to also be a fantastic audiobook if done well. Unforgettable and one of the best thrillers I have read in a very long time.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, allusions to sexual abuse and attempted rape, pedophilia, drug abuse, and parental neglect. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess, All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Only the very brave or the very desperate dare enter the Spill Zone—Addison Merritt is a little of both. In exchange for a suitcase full of cash, she made one last to the Zone. She survived the encounter, but came back changed. Addison is not alone. In a remote village in North Korea, a young man named Jae was touched by the unholy fire of the Spill Zone. He made it out alive—alive, but also changed.
  Now bestowed with uncanny powers, Addison and Jae may be the only ones strong enough to face a new threat that has risen in the Spill Zone. This deadly entity is searching for his runaway bride—and his hunt is bringing him closer and closer to Addison and her little sister.


Review: The Broken Vow immediately picks up where the first volume ended. Addison has returned from a quest in the Spill Zone and has new abilities while being in contact with dust in the danger zone. Soon is she able to hear the voice of her sister's doll, Vespertine, who is possessed by a being whose past is intertwined with the Spill's origins. Meanwhile, the North Korean Spill site has given a young man named Don Jae powers. When the sinister connection among Vespertine, the Spill, and Don Jae's abilities is revealed, Addison must fight for her sister's life and avenge their parents.
  The second (and maybe last volume?) of Spill Zone is full of non-stop action. We are given answers to our questions that were unresolved in the first volume. Many of the plot threads close and increase the speed of the climax of the graphic novel. The art is consistently bright and unsettling, perfectly matching the graphic novel's creepy atmosphere. Unfortunately, I found the climax anticlimactic and was left unsatisfied and rushed. Addison's story seems to have wrapped up but there are lots of opportunities for this author and artist duo to tell more stories in this world.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and violence throughout the book. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Junior Brave of the Apocalypse series by Greg Smith, Warrior Smart by Jonathan Maberry
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love ?

Review: Marketed as a "Muslim Bridge Jones Diary", I took a chance on reading Sofia Khan is Not Obliged. While it is a romantic comedy and it is narrated via a blog/diary format, Sofia Khan is far from Bridget Jones and thank goodness for that. Sofia is a wickedly funny and smart first generation Pakistani Muslim hijabi living in London and working in the book publishing industry. Just bouncing back from a broken engagement with a man, Sofia is ready to swear off men except, she accidentally pitches a book about Muslims "dating" to her publicity director. Suddenly she has a book deal and is frantically trying to pull it off. The book is much more than a romantic comedy as it tackles many of the stereotypical and preconceived notions others may have about Muslims and our cultures and is presented in such a funny way. I loved the constant sarcastic dialogue, how the cultural aspects were infused and how Malik gave insight into a genuine Muslim family.

  Sofia is an observant Muslim who chooses to wear the hijab, prays five times a day (even during work), but she is not angelic. She swears and smokes. She is also very stubborn and often makes poor decisions with good intentions. She's independent, witty and an incredible friend. Most importantly, she's human.
  Malik captures the Pakistani culture beautifully from capturing the right accent of her Punjabi speaking family and relatives and by fleshing out Sofia's family. There were may laugh out loud moments that I found in this book in particularly how her parents bickered with one another and all the craziness of family. Sofia also has a great solid group of friends from different backgrounds that also provide a glimpse on how others live their lives.
  The romance part of the book was not as well developed as Sofia and her family and friends. The potential love interests were distinct and had my interest, but I wanted to know more about the guy she chose at the end of the book.
This is a solid start for a romantic comedy featuring Muslim characters and I really hope more books like this will get published and are available.

Rating: 4 stars


Words of Caution: There is some language and sexual situations. Recommended for teens and adults.


If you like this book try: The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Kamran Smith has it all. He’s the star of the football team, dates the most popular girl, and can’t wait to enlist in the army like his big brother, Darius. Although Kamran’s mother is from Iran, Kamran has always felt 100% American. Accepted. And then everything implodes. Darius is accused of being a terrorist. Kamran refuses to believe it. But Darius has been filmed making threats against his country, hinting at an upcoming deadly attack. Suddenly, everyone in Kamran’s life turns against him and his family. Kamran knows it’s up to him to clear his brother’s name. In a race against time, Kamran must piece together a series of clues and codes that will lead him to Darius—and the truth. But is it a truth Kamran is ready to face? And is he putting his own life at risk?

Review: I was hesitant in picking up Code of Honor due to its cover and the subject of terrorism and featuring a Muslim teen. Thankfully, the book avoids stereotypes and is a fast paced spy thriller. Kamran is an Iranian American teen who has always considered himself "fully American". He is dating one of the most popular girls in school, a star athlete, and a homecoming king contender. He plans to follow his older brother and idol, Darius, and attend West Point for college. All of this changes when authorities identify his brother as a deserter and terrorist, responsible for the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Turkey and the deaths of 53 people.
  Suddenly, Kamran is ostracized by his friends, girlfriend, and classmates. He is labeled a terrorist and then taken into custody and held as a prisoner by the U.S. government. Despite days of questioning and watching videos of Darius, the teen refuses to acknowledge that his brother is a terrorist. As he pays closer attention to the videos, he realizes that his brother is trying to give him information about terrorist plans by using scenarios from games the two used to play and the Code of Honor they signed when they were children. With help from surprising sources, Kamran escapes and heads out to find his sibling.
  Gratz has managed to take a ripped from the headlines plot and add layers of suspense, intrigue, and danger into the scene. Since this is a middle grade/YA novel, you will have to suspend your disbelief in how Kamran manages to stay ahead and survive dangerous incidents. There are lots of action scenes and close calls that will keep readers turning the page to see what is next. Kamran and Darius are both well developed characters. Kamran's wide range of emotions such as anger, doubt, rage, and faith in his brother feel authentic. I also like that the story addresses questions about patriotism, loyalty, and trust.

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence and minor language. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.


If you like this book try: First Strike by Jack Higgins, Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
Rummanah Aasi

Description: When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid. The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here is another debut novel that tackles the timely topic of police brutality. Marvin and Tyler Johnson are twin high school seniors at a crossroads. Marvin is on the road to attend college while Tyler finds himself involved in gang life. When a police officer shoots Tyler dead after he attends a questionable neighborhood party, Marvin's life is thrown off track. Unfortunately, this is not the first time nor the last that Marvin and his friends have witnessed police violence. They’ve seen officers lift firearms at children, slam them to the ground, and verbally abuse them, with no consequences. Deep down, Marvin knows that he cannot become the hate that he senses in the world around him. He and his family struggle to find justice, peace, and justice.
  Cole's debut novel effectively shows the human experience and ethical questions that drive the Black Lives Matter movement. The book does have flaws such as lack of character development in particular of the relationship between Marvin and Tyler. I did not have a good grasp on what their relationship was like and Tyler was not given enough time to develop into a three dimensional character when he was tragically killed. I also felt like Marvin was a passive character and his decision about his future did not make sense to me. Similarly, Marvin's friends and love interest were very one-dimensional. The added romance was completely unnecessary in the book and did not add any importance to the story. Despite these flaws, Tyler Johnson Was Here adds another voice and shines more light on an important and often misunderstood movement.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language throughout the book, allusions to sex, drug use, and gang violence. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
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