Rummanah Aasi
Description: One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep--and doesn't wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster. Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams--but of what?

Review: I loved Walker's imaginative debut novel The Age of Miracles and was looking forward to reading more from her. Her latest, The Dreamers, has same atmospheric and philosophical musings like her debut novel. The Dreamers begins in a college dorm in an isolated town in the hills of Southern California, where a freshman thinks she is coming down with the flu. In fact, she has a mysterious disease that causes its victims to fall into a deep, dream-laden sleep from which they cannot be woken, and which sometimes leads to death. The disease spreads slowly at first, then more rapidly, and soon the whole town is under a quarantine.
  The story is told from multiple perspectives ranging from Mei, a lonely college freshman; 12-year-old Sara, who copes with an unhinged survivalist father; Sara's neighbors, a faculty couple with a newborn baby; and aging biology professor Nathaniel. Unfortunately we do not get a chance to spend time and learn more about these characters besides a touch and go as they deal with the disease. I would have much rather proffered if we had one character to explore, but the large number of characters does add to the sense of suspense and urgency to find a cure to this mysterious disease. Walker gives us a lot to think about when it comes to human nature, the state of dreaming and of consciousness, and the nature of epidemics. The text is sparse but beautifully written. It's not a book filled with action nor character-driven but I found it thoroughly fascinating.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Sexual situations, child abandonment, and some minor language are in the book. Recommended for adults and older teens.

If you like this book try: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King
Rummanah Aasi
Description: When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.
   So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter's promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?

Review: Part historical fiction and part suspenseful mystery, The Parker Inheritance is an absorbing read and does not sugar coat a town's struggle with hatred and racism. Candice and her mother have moved temporarily from Washington, D.C., to her mother's hometown in Lambert, SC, while her parents finalize the plans of their amicable divorce. Candice is miserable until she meets Brandon and finds an old letter addressed to her from her deceased grandmother with a puzzle enclosed. Twenty years prior, her grandmother had tried unsuccessfully to solve the puzzle that would yield a great deal of money to the town and the person who solved it. Candice's grandmother's attempts to solve the puzzle have been ridiculed, but Candice thinks she can solve it but will need some help. Wanting to escape ennui, Candice and Brandon make their own attempt.
  The plot moves along quickly and seamlessly between the past and present. Candice and Brandon follow clues and use their critical analysis skills to pursue leads. The characters are varied, authentic, and well developed. I was interested in both time periods. I also enjoyed seeing Candice and Brandon's friendship grow and develop. There is a lot to unpack in this book, but it would a great supplemental and personal link to social studies curriculum surrounding race relations in the United States for younger readers. Appended author notes offer additional context.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: A brutal beating as a hate crime is mentioned in the book without being overly graphic. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Breakout by Kate Messmer, Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.
  But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

Review: Like many first generation of American immigrant teens Rukhsana is straddling two cultures-her Bengali culture and her American culture. The push and pull of pleasing her conservative parents and following her individual desires of pursuing college of Caltech and no longer hiding her girlfriend, Ariana is exhausting and hard. Rukhsana is a relatable character and who is a glimmer of a reflection rather than a clear mirror. This is mainly due to the debut author pitfalls in this book. We are told about Rukhsana's struggles with her Bengali culture, in particular with making her girlfriend and her friends understand why is it not easy for her to come out to her parents. Similarly, we are told how Rukhsana's family would be ostracized by their community if Rukhsana came out. I wished both of these important topics were fleshed out because they serve as the driving source for the novel. I also wanted to explore more of the Bengali culture besides the overdone gender double standards as well as the girl marries as soon as she is college bound cliche.
   The plot also meanders. The first three quarters of the book follow Rukhsana hiding her sexuality until she is caught making out with her girlfriend at home. Soon she is whisked away to Bangladesh under false pretenses to get married to a boy and attempts at exorcism of a jinn who is responsible for her homosexuality. In the last quarter we get backstories of Rukhsana's maternal grandmother who endured a child marriage, rape and physical abuse from her husband while being helpless in watching her daughter (Rukhsana's mother) be sexually abused. This attempt to ground the story and perhaps give context to the conservative upbringing are clunky because readers are not given a sufficient, balanced overview of the culture as a whole. What really left a bad impression on me is how an LGBTQ+ character's death served as a plot device and allowed Rukhsana's parents to do a complete three hundred and sixty degrees in accepting their daughter's love and life choice. Again there is an attempt to tell readers the dangers of being LGBTQ+ individual in Bangladesh rather than showing it.
  While I am beyond thrilled that more Muslim voices are being written and some even feature LGBTQ+ characters, I am still looking for a great title to support. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali fails to fully explore the entire intersectionality of its main character. It might be great to have now, but we definitely need better.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of homophobic and Islamophobic comments, language, and underage drinking, rape, and sexual abuse. Recommended for Grades 9 and up

If you like this book try: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren, Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn't mean she has to like it--or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina's side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she's ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn't know won't hurt her... As Raina's life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother's dreams

Review: I was hoping for a fun, light, romantic comedy with The Matchmaker's List, but unfortunately I was disappointed by this debut novel. Raina Anand is raised by her Nani, her maternal grandmother, and terrified of not meeting Nani's expectations. Raina Anand isn’t exactly happy that she’s 29 and still single but Nani is scandalized. After getting over a heart wrenching break up, Raina finally agrees to let her nani set her up with a long list of eligible Indian bachelors, none of whom Raina actually likes. As her best friend, Shay, plans a wedding (that, in a terrible coincidence, is happening on Raina’s 30th birthday), the pressure is on for Raina to find a nice man—any nice man—and settle down. After a string of disastrous dates, Raina can’t let go of the one who got away, a dashing charmer named Dev who broke her heart with his inability to commit. Now that Dev’s back in the picture, but just as noncommittal as ever, Raina finds herself unable to stomach the endless list of bachelors. Eager to ease the pressure of being the perfect Indian granddaughter, Raina lets her Nani believe she’s a lesbian. Raina finds temporary relief, but her little white lie threatens most of her relationships.
  The Matchmaker's List is more of a drama than a romantic comedy. The author does a great job in exploring Raina's conflicting views of her culture and family. She wants to be her own person, but Nani's influence and the fear of being like her lost single mother quarantines Raina to her comfort zone. Even as she feels stifled by their expectations and pressure, she loves the strength of her community and how they always support one another through hard times. Raina’s desire to both please her family and stand up for herself is deeply relatable and it was the strongest aspect of the book. I loved watching Raina's character grow and soon realizes that she has never made a decision based on her own individual desires and dreams. Raina's self realization is what kept me reading. I also loved her relationship with Nani who I adored and loved. The romance unfortunately is a big let down. We are told of the romantic tension between Raina and an unexpected love interest, but I wanted it to be shown. I also did not buy her relationship with Dev which developed too quickly and ended abruptly for me. I would have also loved a more developed and nuisanced relationship with Raina and her mother, which was hinted at in the book. Overall a pleasant look at identity and culture, but short on the romance.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, mentions of drug and underage drinking, and sexual situations. Recommended for older teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani, The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem (July 2019)
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Like his fellow lunarnauts—otherwise known as Moonies—living on Moon Base Alpha, twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is famous the world over for being one of the first humans to live on the moon. And he’s bored out of his mind. Kids aren’t allowed on the lunar surface, meaning they’re trapped inside the tiny moon base with next to nothing to occupy their time—and the only other kid Dash’s age spends all his time hooked into virtual reality games.

Then Moon Base Alpha’s top scientist turns up dead. Dash senses there’s foul play afoot, but no one believes him. Everyone agrees Dr. Holtz went onto the lunar surface without his helmet properly affixed, simple as that. But Dr. Holtz was on the verge of an important new discovery, Dash finds out, and it’s a secret that could change everything for the Moonies—a secret someone just might kill to keep.

Review: It's 2041, and biracial Dash Gibson lives with his family in Moon Base Alpha, the first lunar outpost. Life is mostly dull and monotonous, contrary to the program's advertisements until Ronald Holtz, beloved base physician, dies under suspicious circumstances. Some believe Holtz did not wear his space suit correctly before exiting the spaceship, but Dash believes something more sinister is afoot. Despite warnings from the base's strict commander, Dash continues to investigate the incident as a possible murder despite a threatning warning to do so. The plot is a fun Agatha Christie murder mystery set in space with a  plot from Scooby Doo. The story is fun, fast paced with lots of bathroom humor and space facts that will keep young readers entertained. There are multiple suspects, each with a seemingly plausible motive-the scientist who accuses Dr. Holtz of stealing his brilliant idea; the shoddy psychiatrist whom Holtz tried to keep off of the mission; even Lars Sjoberg, the hapless and arrogant billionaire space tourist. The mystery is solved in the end and the chance encounter of aliens leaves plenty to explore in the next few books of this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some bathroom humor. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Spaced Out by Stuart Gibbs (Moon Base Alpha #2), Masterminds series by Gordon Korman
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.

But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show's guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.

Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he'll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.

As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous...and momentous.

Review: I have been a huge fan of Jeff Zentner since his debut and Morris Award winner novel The Serpent King. His first two novels dealing with grief and complex family dynamics were heavy and thought provoking. His latest novel, Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee is much lighter in comparison though it too has important themes such as mental health, depression, abandonment, and chasing your dreams.
  The story rests on the shoulders of best friends Josie and Delia who dedicate their Friday nights to recording their public access TV show, Midnite Matinee, about old terrible horror movies (think Svengoolie). The tv show means different things for each of the girls. Josie sees it as a stepping stone towards a career in the TV industry while Delia has a more personal connection. Delia views the show as her one last connection to her absentee father. Unlike Josie, Delia simply wants things to remain the same even if that means holding Josie back from her dreams.  Delia sets up a meeting at a horror convention in Florida. Little does she know, the whole future of the TV show rides on this convention.
   Zentner has crafted a female friendship centric book that surprisingly feels authentic and organic as it discusses relationships and the future. Josie and Delia feel real and their deep bond with one another is realistic. Their humor and personalities balance one another and it is evident with how they react to one another even in nonverbal moments. While it did take me some time to understand how their relationship worked, I soon struck a chord with these two young women. Promises, secrets, and betrayals fuel the relationships in this narrative, but they are not of the catty kind which is often associated with women. The girls do want what is best for the other, but there is envy and privilege infused in their relationship. While there is drama and tension in the story it is not overly melodramatic. Josie begins a romantic relationship with Lawson which is incredibly sweet and adorable, but thankfully it does not overtake her existence and you can be relieved to know there is no love triangle. Delia confronts her long-lost father in a heart wrenching moment that reveals how flawed adults can be. Secondary characters are also fleshed out and add depth. If you are looking for a quick read full of humor and depth, be sure to pick up Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, mentions of sexual harassment, and drug abuse. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rummanah Aasi
Description: From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless--an outcast--because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel.

Review: I read Laurie Halse Anderson's debut YA novel, Speak, when I began library school and it has stayed with me ever since. The novel is told from Melinda's point of view and mostly through her inner monologue as she recounts her harrowing freshmen year of high school as a social pariah. We get glimpses of what has happened, mainly from other people's perspectives, that she had called the police in an end-of-summer party and now everyone shuns her. Unable to tell anyone what actually happened at the party, Melinda withdraws more and more into herself. She loses her voice and herself as she ditches classes and spirals downward into apathy and depression. One of the few people to reach her is her art teacher, who helps her express with art what she has so deeply and painfully buried. It is through art that Melinda finds her voice to speak.
  The graphic novel adaptation of Speak highlights the importance of art in the novel. It blends words and images to bring Melinda's story to life. We get a visual survival journey of Melinda as she loses her voice, fights the daily battles she must wage to find it again, and the triumph of finally being able to speak out. Carroll who is known for her horror graphic novels perfectly depicts in gray artwork the starkness of Melinda's depression through strong ink lines and striking panels that rely on pencil and charcoal textural effects for the backgrounds. In the original text Melinda was so removed, regulated to the background as an observer. In this graphic novel we get to be an active part of her story. The graphic novel is a faithful adaptation with the dialogued pulled directly from the novel. Despite some minor changes the graphic novel evokes the style and emotions of the original novel seamlessly. It adds a layer of complexity to the story. It is a timely, haunting, and powerful read that is not to be missed.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There are allusions to sexual assault, underage drinking and partying. Recommended for Grades

If you like this book try: Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Related Posts with Thumbnails