Rummanah Aasi
 Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Review: White Ivy is a captivating coming of story that has light elements of a thriller that takes a critical look at race, class, and privilege. First generation Chinese American Ivy Lin has learned from a very young age to fend for herself by any means necessary. She was trained by her grandmother to become a a prolific petty thief who used the model minority stereotype to her advantage. As Ivy grows up she has yearned to achieve whiteness and everything that comes with it: privilege, class, wealth, and reputation. No matter how hard she tried to assimilate to her white suburban environment, she never fit in. She fantasized about her future and the American Dream which to her meant married to a wealthy white man and by proxy be embraced in the 'acceptable society'. 
  Presently Ivy is a decidedly unfulfilled first grade teacher in Boston. When she happens to run into Sylvia Speyer, the sister of her childhood crush, Gideon, Ivy is given an opportunity to achieve her dream once again. She worms her way into the orbit of Gideon’s wealthy family and schemes her way into Gideon’s heart. Her dreams are coming to fruition though there is friction as Gideon begins to pull away from Ivy, but Ivy does not mind as long as she gets the happy ending that she wants. Her security is however threatened when a man from her past, Roux Roman, resurfaces and threatens to air her dirty secrets. 
   White Ivy grabbed my attention right from the start. Though far from a likable character, Ivy shatters the model minority stereotype and is unabashedly ambitious. Her tenacity to claw her way into Gideon's social circle is mesmerizing and in a way admirable. She really reminded me of a blend between Jay Gatsby and Becky Sharp. Like Gatsby, Ivy despised her impoverish upbringing and always aspired to become the upper class. Though Gatsby pursued a persona and fought his way to try to win back an old flame, Ivy really does not care about her actual relationship with Gideon, but rather she is obsessed with what he represents (one can argue that Gatsby does the same). Like Becky Sharp, she has no qualms about what actions she must take to secure her future and her moral compass is always askew. The discussion of the complexities of class and privilege will hold the reader's attention as will the array of secondary characters that come and go in the book, most notably Roux who presents as a foil to Ivy. There are also sly comments about race that are read in between the lines of the story, though I wished they were a bit more prominent. Readers intrigued by the promise of the thriller aspects mentioned in the plot may be slightly disappointed as the elements are light and not the main focus of the story, but if you love complex character driven coming of age stories definitely give this debut a try. 

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan, The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Rummanah Aasi
Description: In this moving picture book, author Hena Khan shares her wishes for her children: With vibrant illustrations and prose inspired by the Qur'an, this charming picture book is a heartfelt and universal celebration of a parent's unconditional love.

Review: I have read and enjoyed several picture books and middle grades by Hena Khan. Her latest picture book, Like the Moon Loves the Sky, is equally enjoyable. The concept of this book is very simple: a mother's universal well wishing of happiness, security, love, and simply the best for her child. The book reads like a prayer with the repetitive word of "InshaAllah" an Arabic word that I have used all of my life. InshaAllah translates to "God Willing" and it is implied for the future. Although the specific word is in Arabic, many other languages and cultures have their own word to express this common theme. The book begins with the child as an infant and as the story progresses so does the child who is always surrounded by friends and family. 
  While the picture book's concept is simple, it manages to do so much more. It normalizes a word that all Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs use. It also showcases the universality of a parent's love for their child while also celebrating diversity and ones own culture. There is no hidden agenda. The palate of orange, blue, and yellow are bright and vivid, but also an extension of the character's skin tone and clothes. Familiar Arabic words are seen in the background. Like the Moon Loves the Sky is a beautiful, heartfelt story that will serve both as a mirror and a window.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for PreK-Grade 1.

If you like this book try: In My Anaana's Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok

 No matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone is welcome here. From grandmothers reading lines of the Qur’an and the imam telling stories of living as one, to meeting new friends and learning to help others, mosques are centers for friendship, community, and love. M. O. Yuksel’s beautiful text celebrates the joys and traditions found in every mosque around the world and is brought to life with stunning artwork by New York Times bestselling illustrator Hatem Aly.

Review: For Muslims around the world the mosque is much more than a place for worship. It is a place where a community is created, a gathering place for social and educational events, a place where issues are discussed and resolved, and where Muslim traditions are upheld and celebrated. No matter where the mosque is located in the world, it serves these purposes globally. 
  In My Mosque provides readers who are unfamiliar a peek into what is often and mistakenly perceived as mysterious and exclusive. In simple text and beautiful illustrations the author and the illustrator shows the diversity and commonalities of different mosques around the world. There are a variety of mosques that are used as inspiration for the book and the illustrator perfectly captures the gorgeous Islamic artwork and geometrical designs, highlighting its uniqueness along with similarities. A chorus of diverse abilities, age, skin tones, and sizes joyously describe their mosque and what it means to them.  Though the mosques aren't labeled in the book, they are identified in the back matter along with more information on mosques, a glossary, and an author's note. This book brought me so much joy and I'm so happy that it exists.   

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for PreK-Grade 1

If you like this book try: All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Rummanah Aasi
Danyal Jilani doesn't lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he's funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn't approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal's longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
   When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man--a school-wide academic championship--it's the perfect opportunity to show everyone he's smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her...the more he learns from her...the more he cooks for her...the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

Review: Syed M. Masood's debut novel More than a Pretty Face is an ambitious romantic comedy, coming of age story that bites more than it can chew. Danyal Jilani relies too much on his good looks and charms to breeze through high school by putting in as little effort as possible. He dreams of a future where he is a chef and having the school's most beautiful girl, Kaval Sabsvari, as his wife. Life instead has other plans for Danyal. His confidence is shaken when Danyal is forced to participate in an exclusive, extremely competitive school-wide academic competition called the Renaissance Man competition in which the winner receives $5,000. With his grades suffering and Kaval's attention wavering, Danyal seizes this opportunity to become worthy of her. Since Danyal is 19 years old, marriage is starting to become a consideration, he is introduced to Bisma, an intriguing bridal candidate with a deeply painful past that involves an impulsive decision and a tainted reputation. Danyal and Bisma progress from acquaintances to friends to possibly something more. Along the way Danyal finds out what is important to him including a history lesson that involves the atrocities of the 1943 Bengal Famine and provides a critique of his own community. 
  I mostly enjoyed More than a Pretty Face, but there are blunders that felt clunky and under developed. Some of the jokes in the book verge on insulting such as asking Bisma if she is a porn star when she unveils her painful past. I also found Bisma's extreme, impulsive decision hard to believe though I can try to see how Masood was trying to address how important reputation is a cornerstone in the Pakistani culture along with the hypocrisy within the community though it isn't quite successfully fleshed out in the book. Though it was admirable to showcase a variety of Pakistani Muslim teens who practice their religion on a spectrum, his portrayal of Sohrab veers dangerously and uncomfortably towards the caricature of a budding extremist instead of a teen who is a proudly devout Muslim teen. Similarly, there is a subplot which involves Danyal and his father's tumultuous relationship. Danyal's father is another caricature who has a scowl fixated on his face and disapproves of his culinary pursuits because of its lack of financial security. This plot line is wrapped up too quickly and the moment when Danyal's father shows he is proud of his son does not land as it intends. Despite these setbacks, I did find Danyal endearing and I liked watching his relationship with Bisma blossom. I look forward to reading more from Masood in the future and seeing more books with Pakistani characters in YA.  

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, mentions of underage drinking, sex, and a sex tape. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Frankly in Love by David Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Rummanah Aasi
 A covert team of young women--members of the Curie society, an elite organization dedicated to women in STEM--undertake high-stakes missions to save the world. Created by: Heather Einhorn & Adam Staffaroni; Writer: Janet Harvey; Artist: Sonia Liao; Editor: Joan Hilty An action-adventure original graphic novel, The Curie Society follows a team of young women recruited by an elite secret society--originally founded by Marie Curie--with the mission of supporting the most brilliant female scientists in the world. The heroines of the Curie Society use their smarts, gumption, and cutting-edge technology to protect the world from rogue scientists with nefarious plans. Readers can follow recruits Simone, Taj, and Maya as they decipher secret codes, clone extinct animals, develop autonomous robots, and go on high-stakes missions.

Review: The Curie Society is a fun graphic novel that reminds me of a STEM version of Charlie's Angels. The Curie Society is named after the brilliant Marie Curie who never got her full dues because of sexism. This secret society honors and uplifts women in the STEM fields. We are quickly introduced to our diverse main cast of characters: Simone, Taj, and Maya who are college roommates with distinct and clashing personalities. Overeager Simone, who is African American, started college at 15 and wants to prove she belongs. Rebellious, green-haired Taj, who is brown-skinned but racially ambiguous, prefers robots and circuits to people. Maya, who is cued as Indian American and queer, is math oriented and staggers under the weight of her parents' expectations and grapples with her entitlement. 
  Though the trio don't get along with one another, they must cooperate when they receive a strange invitation; deciphering the code, they find their way to an initiation test for the Curie Society. To succeed, the trio will need to use their scientific prowess, talents, and learn how to work together as a team. The requisite montage scenes of the trio attempting and failing to work together, especially when they find that society is not telling them the full truth are my favorite parts of the graphic novel. Taj and Maya also have their own possible love interests. Along the way cool scientific discoveries are discussed, but at times it feels a bit info-dumpy. The artwork is fun and the layout is easy to read and follow. The ending wraps up neatly while leaving the door open for a possible sequel. There is a useful glossary and a list of biographies of female scientists in the back-matter. Overall The Curie Society is a diverse, fun yet educational, well paced graphic novel that uplifts women. I do hope there is a sequel as I would love to see more female empowering graphic novels about the STEM field.
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is a scene where a female character is getting harassed at a club in the book.  

If you like this book try: Woman Discovers by Marie Moinard
Rummanah Aasi
Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.
  Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Review: When his cousin Miguel is killed for refusing to join the Alphas, a notorious gang, Jaime and his cousin Ángela are targeted as the next recruits. With no other way out, their family decides to risk sending them alone to El Norte (i.e. United States) to live with Jaime’s brother, Tomás. The author does not shy away from the perilous journey from Guatemala; Jaime and Ángela face agonizingly real horrors: the fear of being discovered and deported; being locked in the sweltering heat of a rail car; running out of food and water; crossing paths with other even more dangerous gangs; and everything they might face in an unknown country. 
  The Only Road is a candid yet age appropriate tale about the plight of migrants that they may be hearing of from the news. The narrative is fast-paced with many moments accented by danger and uncertainty on Jaime and Ángela's journey. The story also incorporates Spanish words which lends authenticity to the story as well as remind readers that their is a distinction between how Spanish is spoken throughout Latin America. A glossary offers definitions, as well as pronunciation tips, for non-Spanish speakers. Diaz’s closing author’s note reminds readers that immigrants still endure journeys like Jaime and Ángela’s every day. This heartbreaking story will give readers a human face to an issue that is hotly debated in the news.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence in the book, however, it takes place off the page but the consequences and references to the violence are discussed in the book. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Beast Rider by Tony Johnston 
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