Rummanah Aasi
Description: Keah Brown loves herself, but that hadn’t always been the case. Born with cerebral palsy, her greatest desire used to be normalcy and refuge from the steady stream of self-hate society strengthened inside her. But after years of introspection and reaching out to others in her community, she has reclaimed herself and changed her perspective.
   In The Pretty One, Brown gives a contemporary and relatable voice to the disabled—so often portrayed as mute, weak, or isolated. With clear, fresh, and light-hearted prose, these essays explore everything from her relationship with her able-bodied identical twin (called “the pretty one” by friends) to navigating romance; her deep affinity for all things pop culture—and her disappointment with the media’s distorted view of disability; and her declaration of self-love with the viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute.

Review: The Pretty One is an entertaining, informative, and candid collection of essays on the intersectionality of race, gender, and disability. Keah Brown is an activist for disabled representation in media and the creator of the viral campaign #DisabledAndCute, which empowers people with disabilities to own their cuteness and fight back against the daily able bodied microaggressions they face daily.
  Brown's tone is welcoming and her essays honestly reveal her own insecurities, shortcomings, and her strengths. Her desire to be beautiful, her angst about not yet knowing romantic love, and her longing for designer clothes are interwoven with stark realities of living with cerebral palsy. While reading these essays I was constantly reminded of my own abled bodied privileges that I took for granted. I was also taken aback about the lack of representation by disabled people by the media and even if they are present, almost all of them are acted by abled bodied people who act as if they had the disability (i.e. Glee, Daredevil). By discussing pop cultural alongside experiences of physical pain and encounters with the world's disregard for her disabled body, Brown presents herself as a complex person who is not defined by her labels. By far my favorite aspect of this collection of essays is Brown's insistence that she is continuing on her journey of self-love and it is not easy. There is much to love and learn in this memoir. I highly recommend it to readers who are looking to further their knowledge of social justice, disability rights, or simply want to read a story featuring a strong, beautiful young woman who wants to change the world for all of us.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of an eating disorder, mental illness, self harm, and suicidal thoughts. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Being Heumann by Judith Heumann, Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride by Nadina LaSpina
Rummanah Aasi
Description: The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe.

When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow and other things too scary to mention.

Featuring eight interconnected stories and sixteen hauntingly beautiful illustrations,Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night.

Review: Young readers who like scary stories without the blood and gore will love Scary Stories for Young Foxes. The book begins as seven fox kits are eager to hear some scary stories. For “a story so frightening it will put the white in your tail,” their mother sends them to “the old storyteller,” an elderly fox in a cavern, who proceeds to spin a tale of vulpine horror. At first the stories seem unrelated and anti-climatic to the kits considering the warning the adults give them; Mia is separated from her loving family, while Uly is exiled. Soon the kits’ stories intertwine as the horrors they survive increase and multiply.
  The book moved slowly for me at first as the narratives and its characters found their footing, but soon the stories begin to pick up. These scary stories are definitely creepy and are borderline disturbing. The menacing tone and horror ratchets up with each story and the author does not spare its characters. There are domestic horror stories in which Mia barely survives an encounter with her beloved teacher, who’s gone rabid, and Uly is terrorized by his sisters and father because he’s disabled. The most menacing story that gave me goose bumps is when Mia is trapped by Beatrix Potter, who murders animals after using them as inspiration for her stories, which gave me flashbacks to button eyes in Neil Gaiman's Coraline. There are sixteen, beautiful and gothic sketches that add to the atmosphere, with appealing fox kits set against menacing backgrounds. The stomach-clenching fear and suspense are resolved by a happy ending, but this might be a hard read for sensitive readers, especially those who are animal lovers. Definitely a must read for budding horror fans.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images such as the process of taxidermy and cruelty to animals. Bullying and references to domestic abuse are also mentioned in the stories. Recommended for strong Grade 4 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson
Rummanah Aasi
Description: When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s why Frankie's not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket.
Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.
   And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she's able to carve out will be enough.

Review:  Laura Ruby's latest is an ambitious historical fantasy that tackles the cruelty and injustices in American history witnessed by the eyes of its female characters. The story is narrated by a ghost and it seems to mainly follow the story of Frankie, a girl who is placed in a Catholic Orphanage because her father could not afford to take care of her and her siblings after her mother allegedly tries to harm her family during the Great Depression. When her father remarries, Frankie realizes the real truth, she and her sister and brother are abandoned. Frankie suffers under the nuns' strict regime, but she also makes friends, grows up, and, eventually, falls into forbidden, passionate relationship that is tested by America's entry into World War II. As Frankie's story is well underway our ghostly narrator imbues her own ongoings as she floats, haunts around Chicago, and unveils her own story.
 The book's narrative structure will be the deciding point on whether or not you will enjoy this book. While I liked how the story was told through the ghost's omnipresent voice, it did lack consistency. If the ghost seems to only haunt Chicago, then why does it have world weary knowledge outside of the city such as the atomic bomb and the Nazi death camps. The narrative structure also distracted me from Frankie's story just when I got invested in it and wanted to know more. Though I was also curious with the ghost's identity and its past, I did not think it was well developed as Frankie's story. There is a lot important themes packed into this book such as misogyny, racism, and socio-economic inequities many of them remain surface level. I wanted the book to dig a little deeper than it did. Despite these issues, I did enjoy reading about the history of Chicago that was not about crime and the mob. Ruby is a skillful writer and she clearly shows us that the issues we are dealing with today about social injustices are not new, but have been part of American history for a really long time.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of sexual content including pregnancy, attempt of sexual assault, violence and some disturbing images in the book. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (for omnipresent narrator structure), Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Rummanah Aasi
Description: What does it mean to lose your roots—within your culture, within your family—and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from—she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.

Review: All You Can Ever Know is a candid and insightful memoir about growing up as a transracial adoptee. Chung writes about identity, race, motherhood, and her journey to find her true self. Chung writes openly about constantly felt like an impostor both within or outside her family. She ruminates how she had to learn how to defend herself against racial microaggressions from a very young age that her white family will never face. Chung also has felt no ties to her Korean heritage either since she can not speak the language or had no references to it in her predominately white suburb. Until her own pregnancy, Chung has debated on whether or not to find out about her birth family. Would finally getting her questions answered be worth it if the answer is that her birth parents simply did not want her? The book digs deeper as Chung takes the leap in finding out about her birth family which sometimes unveils difficult and hard topics. I also appreciated that Chung does not show her adopted parents as villains but as humans who also had flaws. 
  As someone who is constantly trying to identity herself, I found much to enjoy in All You Can Ever Know. The racial microaggressions felt familiar and I, too, lacked the language to deal with it. Though the answer to "who am I?" might not be answered fully, Chung has a better understand of herself and the book ends on a hopeful note. I would recommend this memoir to readers who enjoy stories that intersect race, gender, and motherhood.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Racial microagressions, including racial slurs, are addressed in the book and mentions of physical abuse. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Not Quite White by Sharmila Sen
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test — middle school!
   Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

Review: When Lucy was struck by lightning at age eight, her brain was damaged, resulting in her acquired savant syndrome. She becomes a mathematical genius and develops obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has been homeschooled ever since the accident. Though Lucy feels safe at home with her uncle and grandmother and wants to enroll in college math courses, her grandmother wants Lucy to get real life experience such as having a real friend, participate in one new activity, and read a book that isn't about math. With all of this in mind, her grandmother enrolls her in seventh grade, but fails to prepare her about the growing pains of middle school and about bullying in particular. Lucy hides her math abilities to blend in by making answering a certain number of questions wrong on her tests, and she's bullied by popular girl Maddie, who dubs her "cleaning lady" because of Lucy's obsessive-compulsive need for cleanliness, but when she and another student, Windy, team up with classmate Levi for a community service project, a true friendship grows.
  The three help out at the Pet Hut, a no-kill shelter where Lucy, who has never liked animals, bonds with a dog named Cutie Pi. After Cutie Pi is diagnosed with cancer-which means that she will likely be transferred to a state shelter and put down-and Windy betrays Lucy by revealing a secret, Lucy must learn how to solve problems of the heart. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a quick read that manages to realistically portray Lucy's OCD and her struggles in middle school. Lucy's voice rings true, highlighting her own insecurities and strengths. I loved watching Lucy embrace her strengths, stand up for herself, and realize that she is worthy to have friends. Her journey is full of hope, wisdom, and even a love for math which is rarely seen in literature.

Curriculum Connection: Math, STEM

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are scenes of bullying and talks of pets being put down to sleep. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Each Tiny Spark by Paolo Cartaya, Roll with it by Jamie Sumner, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, Rules by Cythnia Lord
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colors of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can't give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you.

Review: Reiko seems to have it all: she is popular, pretty, smart, and comes from an affluent family. Reiko also secretly hides her grief for her lost beloved sister Mika and still has frequent imagined conversations with her. Reiko has a hard time talking to anyone else about her loss and the idea of going back to the ocean where Mika died is unbearable.
  Reiko is haunted by survivor's guilt and tries to live her life for both Mika and herself, but is failing to do so. She tries to fill this emotional void by starting a secret relationship with Seth, a poor boy live in a trailer from her school who she has never really noticed before. Reiko claims that her rationale for keeping a secret relationship has to do with her uncertainty of being a romantic relationship rather than being unsure about how to handle their very different social and class statuses. As Seth's social status at school rises due to Reiko's association,  Reiko feels more uncertain about her own position and privilege.
 The publisher has marketed this book as a story of grief and romance, but Reiko's grief provides the emotional backbone for this uneven novel. The author does a good job in showcasing Reiko's journey of grief; however, I wanted the epiphany moment to be much stronger and personal. It is actually Reiko's best friend, Dre, who makes the discovery instead of Reiko. I also had issues with Reiko who comes across as conceited and self absorbed. The author mentions that Reiko is biracial-her mom is white and her father is Japanese, but this adds nothing to her character and comes across as a diversity checklist.
  Readers who might pick this book up in hopes of a sweet romance will be disappointed. The romance is non-existent. Seth teeters on the verge of being an abusive boyfriend who pouts and whines when Reiko wants to spend her time with her friends though he does have a point in being used by her. Similarly, Reiko also uses Seth as an emotional band-aid. One can argue that the lack of romance emphasizes the point of the author: nothing can fix you unless you fix yourself. I agree with that statement, but I think book would have been more efficient and stronger if this book centered on a full character arc of self-discovery without the romance subplot.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language, scenes of underage drinking, and a scene of making out that goes too far. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss―a striving wannabe A-lister―who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss's methods are a little shady and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can't be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval.

Review: Megan Angelo's clever dystopian debut novel, Followers, is a social and cultural analysis on how and why we use social media. Followers has elements of the film Truman Show and George Orwell's classic dystopian 1984, but it manages to stand on its own. In alternating narratives beginning in 2015 and 2051, she creates two chilling versions of celebrity culture entrenched with technology.
  In 2015 staff blogger Orla Cadden writes for a website called Lady-ish , an online version of tabloids meets Cosmo. Orla is an aspiring and talented writer who is stuck at a dead end, soul sucking job unless she can catch a break and possibly land a literary agent. Unlike Orla, her roommate Florence "Floss" does not want to take the winded road in showcasing her talent as a singer and is willing to do anything to become a famous Kardasian type celebrity. Orla and Floss combines each others strengths (Orla's writing and social media skills and Floss's physical beauty) to create a public profile for Floss which is kicked off by a post titled “Sooo What Does The World’s Most Expensive Brow Gel Actually Do? One Instagram It Girl Finds Out” in which a Maybelline mascara tube is scrubbed off for the photo shoot. The post goes viral and soon Orla and Floss become overnight celebrity names.
   In the 2051 plot, we meet Marlow, a young wife in Constellation, California, a closed town populated with government-selected celebrities devoted entirely to the production of a reality show watched by everyone who does not live there. Marlow's story line is the most disturbing of the two as her privacy and freedom are stripped away and technology is literally embedded into people's bodies. Everything is either scripted or sponsored and all actions are curated to maintain the optimum numbers of followers.
  Both the 2015 and 2051 plots revolve around a mysterious event called the Spill, which was bit vague considering its buildup and characters' reaction to it. The alternating timelines show a cause and effect of the main characters' decisions and actions. I was less interested in the reality tv aspects of the story and more interested in the character arcs. The book is highly readable and fast paced with short chapters. This is a smart dystopian novel that asks us how addicted are we to social media, fame, and attention and to what lengths are we willing to go in order to uphold them.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusions to sexual situations, and a suicide is mentioned. Though it is an 'adult' book, it is has massive crossover teen appeal and is suitable for advanced high school readers.

If you like this book try: The Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, The Circle by Dave Eggers, Sociable by Rebecca Harrington, Attention: a love story by Casey Schwartz
Rummanah Aasi
Description: The Black Death has returned to London, spreading disease and fear through town. A mysterious prophet predicts the city’s ultimate doom—until an unknown apothecary arrives with a cure that actually works. Christopher’s Blackthorn shop is chosen to prepare the remedy. But when an assassin threatens the apothecary’s life, Christopher and his faithful friend Tom are back to hunting down the truth, risking their lives to untangle the heart of a dark conspiracy. And as the sickness strikes close to home, the stakes are higher than ever before.

Review: I really enjoyed Kevin Sand's debut novel, The Blackthorn Key, which mixes historical fiction and mystery into a fun, action-packed story. Mark of the Plague is the second book in the series which technically could be read independently, but why would you?
  In this equally delightful sequel Sand mixes hysteria, history, science, and humor. It is 1665, and the plague has arrived in London, bringing with it prophets of doom and unscrupulous swindlers hoping to prey upon the fears of the desperate citizens. Christopher, former apprentice to the late apothecary Benedict Blackthorn, finds himself at the center of a conspiracy that will end in either a cure for the Black Death or the destruction of society. Melchior, a charismatic prophet, draws followers by predicting where the plague will strike next. The arrival of an unknown apothecary who claims to have the cure increases the frenzy. It is up to Christopher and Tom, the baker’s son and Christopher's best friend, to solve the mystery swirling around both men.
  Sands does not offer a sanitized version of history to his young readers. London here is gritty, dirty, mesmerizing, and often terrifying in the treatment of lower classes. Desperate poverty, magical thinking, and a complete disregard for life are everyday realities for those living during the Great Plague of London. Along with mysteries and action that will hold the reader's attention throughout, I love the genuine friendship between Christopher and Tom and their earnest desire to help others. This book also provides us an addition to the duo in the fearless, street-savy and smart Sally who provides the perfect balance for the loyal friends. The villains of this story are really clever and villainous and not cartoon-y by any means. If you enjoy history, puzzles, action, and a little fantasy I would highly suggest picking up the Blackthorn Key series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: The Assassin's Curse by Kevin Sands (The Blackthorn Key #3), York series by Laura Ruby, The Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Rummanah Aasi
Description: The Larkin family isn't just lucky-they persevere. At least that's what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn't drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer. But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can't stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
  Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family's missing piece-the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
  She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.

Review: The Last True Poets of the Sea is a character driven novel that is loosely inspired by Shakespeare's gender bending comedy play Twelfth Night and invokes so many emotions about family, friendship, and mental health. Violet's family splinters after her twin brother Sam's suicide attempt and hospitalization. Violet Larkin reacts by flirting with a man in the waiting room. This last year, her partying has gotten out of control, and bewildered by their fragile son and wild daughter, her parents send her to Lyric, Maine, to stay with her mother's brother Toby. Lyric is significant to Violet's family as legend has it that the town was founded by Violet's great-great-great-grandmother Fidelia, the only passenger aboard the Lyric to survive a shipwreck, and her descendants have disaster in their blood. Violet is determined to find the shipwreck and find a way to reconnect with her family.
  Exiled at Lyric, Violet feels adrift and wrecked with self-guilt and shame. In hopes of finding and anchoring herself, she assumes a new identity, both physically by shaving off her luscious locks and trading her form fitting attire with loose clothing and internally by vowing to change her reckless personality. At first glance Violet comes across as very abrasive and a rebel without a cause. Though she loves her Uncle Toby, she is unable to open up to him and shuts down immediately when asked to talk about her emotions. I loved Violet's humor, her candidness about her sexuality, and her self awareness. As readers get to know her, they realize that Violet's party girl behavior is her cry for emotional intimacy in all of her relationships, whether it is familial, platonic, and romantic. 
   The book is centered on Violet's internal and metaphorical journey of a shipwreck. As she digs deeper into her family history and becomes obsessed with finding the shipwreck, Violet begins to make real friends while she volunteers at the local aquarium with Orion and his group of friends.  Like Shakespeare's play, a complicated love triangle between Violet, Orion, and Liv develops but it is resolved slowly as Orion and Liv begin to develop as three dimensional characters. At first glance Violet is attracted to Orion on a physical basis only, but soon realizes that she is attracted to him because of his soulful connection to music, which also plays a pivotal role in Violet's life. Unlike Orion, Liv and Violet both come from families who are trying and failing to deal with conflict. I really appreciated that this love triangle was not just a typical YA trope in the book, but a literal device in showing both Violet's, Orion's, and Liv's character growths.
     I also really appreciated Drake's handle on familial relationships in this book. Interwoven with Violet's life at Lyric, we also get flashbacks, which are interestingly narrated by an omnipresent third person, on the impact of Sam's mental illness on Violet's family. The book underlines the danger of stigmatizing mental illness as Violet begins to contend with her own anxiety and her near paralyzing fear about her brother’s illness. If you enjoy character driven stories of self-discovery with a hopeful ending that talks candidly about serious issues, I highly suggest picking up The Last True Poets of the Sea

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking, mentions of drug use, a fade to black sex scene, frank discussions of sexuality, and mentions of suicide and self harm. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, and Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Mads is pretty happy with her life. She goes to church with her family, and minor league baseball games with her dad. She goofs off with her best friend Cat, and has thus far managed to avoid getting kissed by Adam, the boy next door. It's everything she hoped high school would be... until all of a sudden, it's not. Her dad is hiding something big--so big it could tear her family apart. And that's just the beginning of her problems: Mads is starting to figure out that she doesn't want to kiss Adam... because the only person she wants to kiss is Cat. Just like that, Mads's tidy little life has gotten epically messy--and epically heartbreaking. And when your heart is broken, it takes more than an awkward, uncomfortable, tooth-clashing, friendship-ending kiss to put things right again. It takes a whole bunch of them.

Review: There is a lot that I liked about the National Book Award graphic novel finalist, Kiss Number 8, specifically its attempt to address transphobia, sexuality, religion, and hypocrisy, but the execution of the story fell flat for me. Amanda lives in a conservative community with her deeply religious parents. Her social circle includes her friends from Catholic school, Cat, Adam, and Laura, but her best friend is her father. After overhearing a phone conversation and a mysterious letter that upsets him, Amanda realizes that he's hiding something and assumes he is having an affair, but her parents refuse to answer her questions, leaving her angry and betrayed. While dealing with the turmoil at home, Amanda also ponders why her first seven kisses, all with boys, aren't as stirring as kiss number eight, with Laura, and why she feels something deeper than friendship for Cat. While both of these subplots occur simultaneously, there is an explosive confrontation with her parents and grandparents lead to a difficult realization, shaking up all of Amanda's familial relationships and friendship.
  I thought the narrative for this graphic novel was a bit convoluted and both subplots seemed underdeveloped to me. The secrets behind Amanda's trans-grandparent was the strongest of the two story lines, but it was resolved too quickly as the characters spend more time proclaiming their trans- and homophobic views and then suddenly changed their way of thinking towards the end. I also was really confused about Amanda's 'crush' on Cat as I didn't see any indication of her questioning her sexuality until it was blatantly expressed by Jess and even then it is still unclear. I also did not appreciate Cat's character as there were strong undertones male characters slut-shaming her and her being a truly awful friend. I liked the art's retro feel and thought it was strong when depicting the contrast between truth and lies, but I was also a bit confused as to the time period of the graphic novel. The earlier panels seem to indicate that the story takes place post 2000, but the characters use IM and old phones. While I appreciated what the graphic novel was trying to do, it felt very surface level to me.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, transphobic and homophobic slurs, crude sexual humor, a brief scene of sex and nudity, undertones of slut shaming, and scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
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