ARC Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A List of CagesA List of Cages by Robin Roe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t let the blurb mislead you.
It makes it sound like the main character is Adam, and he is, but Julian is also the main character. The book follows two points of views but it starts out with Julian’s voice in the first chapter. His personality and voice was easily distinguishable because it is Adam’s foil. They are polar opposites in dispositions, mannerisms, and thought processes. It was at first distracting but I nevertheless powered through because I wanted to see how Julian’s story would unfold. It was quite devastating, to be honest. Events in his life stunted his character development severely and I empathized with his feelings of insecurity, shyness, and fears. So when Adam was introduced, his optimism and all the things that were going well in his life felt like a slap to my face. It was almost like the author was saying ‘How could someone be suffering but elsewhere, others are living carefree lives?’ This made me dislike Adam’s group of friends because they felt contrived solely to represent Adam’s popularity and contentment; was Adam was only friends with them out of convenience? It did not help that the author did not fully flesh out his friend group or provide more insight about their personalities. Aside from Emerald and Charlie, it seemed they were just there because it added numbers to his friends list. Side note: Charlie is practically the MVP of this book, I’m kind of proud but I wish there was more background information about him. He played a pivotal role and I wished he had more screen time since he’s actually important.

“I used to think struggle was what aged you, but if that were the case, Julian should’ve been a hundred years old. Now I wonder if the opposite if true. Maybe instead of accelerating your age, pain won’t let you grow.”

Additionally, this book should come with a trigger warning just in case because I cried a lot. The tears did not come until the last quarter of the book. I was eating dinner while reading and tears were streaming down as I crammed food into my mouth. I SWEAR I’M NOT AN EMOTIONAL EATER. But wow, things escalated quickly and I liked that it was not all fully resolved by the end. The story Roe wants to tell is one that cannot be tied together neatly with a bow. In a way, the story ends with a marked change within Adam and Julian; this is a good place to leave off because they’re still hurt and broken, but they now have each other to lean on and heal together. Although the genre indicates many tragic incidents, this is ultimately a story about courage, support, and friendship.

I would like to thank NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book for my honest opinion.

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Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Becky Albertalli honestly gets kids. She understands us on a deep level and Simon is like my spirit animal. Leah, on the other hand, is my inner fangirl and she’s literally so shameless with her cosplay of Tohru from Fruits Basket and all the anime plushies.


I admit this book is not one I would voluntarily pick up on my own will. The cover doesn’t really scream ‘BUY ME’ and the title is confusing because it gives no hints as to the plott. However, the clothes on the guy is contemporary and that’s a genre I generally steer clear of.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against contemporary YA but I think I’m past my prime because it no longer interests me. I’m not in high school anymore and I can’t seem to get immersed in high school YA nowadays. It was never really my cup of tea because I had always enjoyed the fantasy genre more. Besides, I’ve basically read them all: the cliques, tropes, mysterious guy, gossip, and drama all ensconced within a classroom.

So I’m pleasantly surprised by this book because Simon is a refreshing character with his own unique traits. People have pegged him as the theater geek but he knows he is more than that. He is also more than just a gay character. As a teenager, identity crisis is very real and no one knows it better than Simon. He believes that he is always changing and he’s afraid of who he’s becoming because he doesn’t ‘feel’ the same.

It’s not even about me being gay, because I know deep down that my family would be fine with it. We’re not religious. My parents are Democrats. My dad likes to joke around, and it would definitely be awkward, but I guess I’m lucky. I know they’re not going to disown me. And I’m sure some people in school would give me hell, but my friends would be fine. Leah loves gay guys, so she’d probably be freaking thrilled. But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.

His innate fear of change doesn’t stop him from trying new things aka beer, parties, and making new friends. Simon and his group of friends have the best types of interactions: they’re casual, they talk about everything and nothing, and they bond through their experiences. Ahhh, it reminds me of my happy-go-lucky days.

Since this story takes place in a backwater town in Georgia, Albertalli shines light on relevant issues that exists in such an area. There’s the racism, bigotry, and anti-gay mindset which makes Simon reluctant to reveal his orientation.  Simon has a great support system and he has long come to terms with his sexual preference. He also has a multicultural group of friends. (That’s an A+ in my book for promoting diversity in books!) In that sense, he’s got most of his life figured out but it’s not ideal to come out of the closet in front of his non-progressive town. The plot was character-driven heavily and it was so sweet and cute (YES, IT WAS ADORABLE) to watch Simon grow and experience new things through his snarky, ingenuous perspective. His voice was hilarious and relatable. I really felt like a teenager again.

[Email to Blue:] So, I keep thinking about the idea of secret identities. Do you ever feel locked into yourself? I’m not sure if I’m making sense here. I guess what I mean is that sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me. Okay, I’m glad you mentioned homecoming, because I totally forgot that Spirit Week is this week. Monday is Decades Day, right? I guess I should check online so I can avoid making an ass of myself. Honestly, I can’t believe they schedule Spirit Week right after Halloween. Creekwood really blows its load on costume days all at once. How do you think you’ll dress up for Monday? I know you’re not going to answer that. And I totally figured you’d be ogling the cheerleaders on Friday, because you’re all about the ladies. Me too, Blue. Me too.

Thank you Albertalli for mentioning how hard the job of a teacher is! Yes, teachers get some credit for doing a good job in this book and I’m elated because it gives me hope for positive representation in YA as a future teacher! (Oftentimes, teachers are insignificant and pushed aside in contemporary YA but we want our parts too!) I love the email exchanges between Simon and his secret guy, Blue. They’re very honest and open with each other which is rare because communication is so complicated in the real world right now. People be playing mind games whenever they text each other.

So should you read this book?

LGBTQ is an important topic and I’m glad to read a book that showcases it from a gay teen’s perspective. Sure, you can read books that have gay characters but it’s different when you are involved and reading about a gay main character. So yes, read this book and enjoy it not just as an LGBTQ book but as a book about high school, Oreos, romance, and Oliver! musicals.

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ARC Review: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O'BriensInside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Genova is an excellent writer and if I did not read Still Alice, I would not have known how much style she was able to incorporate into each word. Whereas Still Alice was clean-cut, highly intelligent and talks about a smart upper middle-class family, the O’Briens are old-gen Irish working/middle class. They’re not educated and it just cuts deeper when they are hit heavily by Huntington’s Disease. They’re not as aware of the consequences since they learn about it so late so relations do not go smoothly and many are unable to cope with the fear.

The O’Briens hit rough patches occasionally but this new one that hits Joe, the father, is a make-it-or-break-it kind. It’s something that’s irreparable and I loved watching the intricate emotions that bind each of the family members to each other. Joe has two daughters, Katie and Megan and two sons, JJ and Patrick. They all have a 50/50 chance of getting Huntington’s. It’s truly sad to see how knowing or not knowing if they have it can wreck havoc on their minds and affect their careers. In case you didn’t know, Huntington’s messes with coordination, causes involuntary movements, and slowly causes the victim to lose control of the body over the course of a decade or more. This means the person will be eventually be rendered speechless and helpless to do anything.

It took me a while to realize that Katie was the second protagonist and her life was center focus aside from Joe’s. She needed to make decisions that for her, seemed insurmountably hard to choose between. Once the narrators switched, I felt aggravated by Katie and her indecisiveness which is a major trait that has defined her whole life. I understood the reasons and why Katie is the way she is but it’s just difficult for a reader to sympathize with someone so unlikable. However, the writing was top-notch and the story compelling. The message is clear: this disease causes stages of grief and can break a family down unless they stay resilient and support each other. There were so many great things about the book and it ultimately succeeded in making me care without manipulating my feelings.

Joe is very unique and the style of writing greatly conveys what kind of man he is. He’s caring and deeply loves his wife and children so it’s all the more devastating when he lashes out irrationally (because of the disease) at everyone. It’s a stark portrayal of ‘Life After’ which is can never be the same again. However, I loved that some changes became positive because this family decided to bond and become stronger than they’ve ever been. They took control of their lives and decided to take healthy risks to do what they’ve always wanted to do. Katie stops being an indecisive dumbass and does something good for once. Patrick is still a mess but at least he’s communicating with his family. JJ is finally going to start his family. And Megan is just a strong character that becomes stronger and lives by the motto YOLO.

Of course, I did not miss how detailed and well-informed the author was when she started describing the Boston Red Sox games and also went through Joe’s police officer day regime and routine. She manages to integrate these details and make them essential in the storytelling and normalize it as a part of the O’Brien’s everyday life. I loved that the conflict was different for each character despite the fact that they were linked together. The disease was not overblown and used to manipulate our emotions. Things still happen outside of that spectrum and in short, life goes on whether or not you want it to.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of Inside the O’Briens in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
This book will be published in August 4, 2015.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’m sure we’ve all dealt with book hangovers at one point in our life. You know that feeling when you miss a particular style of writing or an author’s quirks? It’s not even about hating that a book ended or having an empty feeling in our guts. I guess this is why I had highly anticipated reading Rebecca Stead’s newest book. When I read her Newbery Medal book, I felt emotionally drained from the ending and how bittersweet it was. Fear not, Stead fan!! Goodbye Stranger is a welcome home party with a new set of quirky characters and challenges!
I didn’t think much of middle school because it’s such a bad stage and kids are going through puberty so hormones are flying like crazy and people are plain mean to each other for no reason. Rebecca Stead understands that perfectly. The whole ‘awkward silence’ and painful moments of social humiliation and ‘uncool moves.’

The voice of our protagonist Bridge resonated with me because we all have that one friend (Em) who grew up too fast and is now part of the cool crowd. In its barest bones, this is about everyday life and navigating the social perils of seventh grade. That’s the year that means you’re not the top of the pile but neither are you the fresh-faced newbies. Stead gets it. Seventh grade is just plain grueling and making friends outside of your grade is even more difficult especially (for Em) if your crush runs in an 8th grade friend circle. Lucky for her, she’s in JV soccer and she’s good at it so up she goes to joined multiple friend groups. There’s a lot of hidden moments that boast of independence. Little actions that speak louder than words. The friendship between the trio is like super-glue strong and I loved how the author didn’t have to say it but instead showed it in each and every interactions. I believe that different people can become great friends and although it usually starts with similarities, it’s not what holds a bond together. I can attest through my 19 years of socializing and I can see that although I align myself with people like me, I enjoy making friends who are the complete opposite from me.

Some of the best epiphanies that Stead writes about is the time Bridge spends with Sherm. She says it should be awkward and I agree because they barely know each other and to more stress on it, conversation is two-way. It’s always safer to carry on a conversation with 3 or more people because that means there’s an extra person to continuously stimulate and extend a conversation. Bridge, luckily, instantly connects with Sherm and their conversations are easy and flow naturally. This, THIS is what I’ve been trying to find and it’s a rare occurrence that I can talk so comfortably with another person without feeling the need to come up with ‘topic-starters’. I’m not an awkward person but it just so happens that I get off on a rough start with strangers because I feel pressure to grill them about their life histories. I loved that Bridge and Sherm share a laidback relationship. Those are usually hard-won and come only after long periods of association.

Although Bridge is the main character, the drama mostly revolves around Emily and her encounters with peer pressure and double standards. The blurb says double standards and damn right, there is! Tab, the other best friend in the trio, is highly involved in feminism and learns a lot about the portrayals and reactions towards girls and boys. Girls can easily be labeled as a slut, whore, skank, but boys just downright get off the hook. I liked that there was lots of girl power and emphasis on the fact that clothing does not define a girl. I remember one passage in which Em complained why it was only okay if a girl took pictures in her bikini at a beach. Anywhere else entails baggage and judgment from others.

Schools need more books like this rather than The Scarlet Letter because people can actually relate to it and understand how messed up society is. It easily pertains to today’s curriculum and comparisons can be made to incidents of double standards. What a girl can wear to school is severely limited compared to a boy. It’s been unfair on so many levels and tell me why is it that a girl can’t wear shorts/skirts above the knees while guys strut around with their pants sagging and half their butts hanging out?

Rebecca also does this awesome thing called second-person narrative that she did in When You Reach Me and it was so intriguing because I can never resist a little mystery. The identity of the character is unknown because that person is referred to as ‘You’ and it steadily runs on the single day of Valentine’s Day. (Aside from that, the rest of the book progress chronologically.) I spent minutes on end speculating on the tantalizing clues that the author dropped. It didn’t take long for it to click but I still nonetheless relished the chapter of the character reveal to prove that I was correct. I gradually realized that the point of the unknown narrative was simply to show a different social situation apart from what Em, Tab, and Bridge dealt with. Although the Valentine’s Day narrator had a different life completely separate from the middle school, those two somewhat intersected in small unexpected ways. I enjoyed the dichotomy of the narrator’s life from Bridge’s and it made a juxtaposition of two person from diverse walks of life.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it in my When You Reach Me review but race plays a irrelevant factor throughout the book. Since the urban setting of Manhattan means diversity is all around, there’s a lot of holidays that need to be explained. Stead makes the point of bringing up Bridge’s nationality as Armenian and casually inserts a food from the country. I didn’t really pick up on the deliberateness of the situation because it was so tastefully done and the same went for Tab who was Indian. She joined the Hindi Club at school and her mother fasted for a moon holiday. It was actually very interesting and I liked how there was race but it was a thing that just is. Ethnicity is so hard for authors to deal with sometimes because they can either dispose of the whole ‘cultural background’ thing and just label a person and leave it at that. What a lot of people tend to forget is that culture partially defines a person and I, as a Chinese, have received quite a hefty amount of influence from Chinese culture. I admire the author’s tenacity in inclusion of cultural tidbits because sure, Goodbye Stranger, is a coming-of-age novel focused on friendship and love, but it can still incorporate other elements.

This all strengthens the book and I know I didn’t really talk about the plot and I really can’t because it’s something readers have to experience themselves. It’s complicated to explain the plot because it’s comprised of so many different plotlines and there’s so many stories involved that I don’t want to really spoil.

Thank you Wendy Lamb/Random House for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy through Netgalley.

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Lit Circle Journal: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Believe it or not, the simplest stories sometimes turn out to be the most well-known. Not because they’re easy to tell but because everyone can understand it fully. (wow, that rhymed.)

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Instead of the typical review, I’m doing a literature circle journal entry. This is for my Children’s Lit class so I’m treating this as an assignment but also as a blog entry to make it sort of fun. 

WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead

Discussion Points

  1. Why do you think Jack lied to Julian and made fun of August on Halloween?
  2. Why did Miranda’s relationship with Olivia fall apart?
  3. What events in Summer’s life impacted her personality and decision to befriend August?
  4. Explain Charlotte’s precept and its irony throughout the story: “It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”
  5. Can you relate to Summer’s choice in rejecting the ‘popular crowd’ and staying true to your friends?
  6. Auggie did not want to be known as a Star Wars fanatic. Olivia didn’t wants others to know her as the sister to a ‘deformed brother.’ Explain the pivotal role it plays in social interactions and talk of a time when others defined you by something.
  7. Julian secretly taunted Auggie with a Stars Wars reference that only they two understood. How is an indirect insult worse than a public one?
  8. Why did everyone play the Plague?
  9. The introduction of Olivia’s point of view shed light on the family dynamics. How did knowing about her struggles contribute to the overall plot?
  10. Why do you think Julian went out of his way to create malicious rumors about August?
  11. How did socioeconomic status play a role in Jack Will’s social relationships and friendships?
  12. Mr. Browne’s precepts offered a glimpse of people’s personalities. Why do you think the author brought it up multiple times throughout the story?
  13. August won the Henry Ward Beecher medal: “He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts”. Through what actions did you display this quiet strength?
  14. Do you think certain teachers and administrators makes a huge influence on your middle school development?

Passages of Interest

Passage One:

On page 29- “The thing is, when I was little, I never minded meeting new kids because all the kids I met were really little, too. What’s cool about really little kids is that they don’t say stuff to try to hurt your feelings, even though sometimes they do say stuff that hurts your feelings. But they don’t actually know what they’re saying. Big kids, though: they know what they’re saying. And that is definitely not fun for me. One of the reasons I grew my hair long last year was that I like how my bangs cover my eyes: it helps me block out the things I don’t want to see.”

This is a startling/surprising passage because it informs the reader that August is not averse to socializations and that he grew up fine meeting new people. The fact that he has been home-schooled up until then is in part all due to his parents’ overprotectiveness. He’s afraid of the deliberate cruelty and isolation wrought by older kids and it has affected the way he dressed himself. He is so used to hiding like he does with his hair that going to school will be a struggle because it’s too much exposure to vulnerability. So far, his personality has remained intact but going to school might change him profoundly depending on the peer reception to his presence.

Passage Two:

Page 75- I noticed not too long ago that even though people were getting used to me, no one would actually touch me. I didn’t realize this at first because it’s not like kids go around touching each other that much in middle school anyway. But last Thursday in dance class, which is, like, my least favorite class, Mrs. Atanabi, the teacher, tried to make Ximena Chin be my dance partner. Now, I’ve never actually seen someone have a “panic attack” before, but I have heard about it, and I’m pretty sure Ximena had a panic attack at that second. She got really nervous and turned pale and literally broke into a sweat within a minute, and then she came up with some lame excuse about really having to go to the bathroom. Anyway, Mrs. Atanabi let her off the hook, because she ended up not making anyone dance together.

I believe this to be a crucial part in August’s emotional development. Instead of lashing out in rage and embarrassment, he takes the humiliation in stride and simply recounts the incident matter-of-factly. In the beginning of the year, he has reacted negatively to social rejection and easily went home crying. Although he is helpless in this kind of situation, he has grown independent and resigned to it that he makes the best of what he has. In August’s scenario, taking it to the authorities is the worst case and this forces him to confront the issue. In lieu of completely internalizing the problem, he tells his friends about it but doesn’t let it consume his thoughts.

Passage Three:

Page 271- ““What!” I yelled, touching my ears. The hearing aid band was definitely gone. That’s why I felt like I was underwater! “Oh no!” I said, and that’s when I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Everything that had just happened kind of hit me and I couldn’t help it: I started to cry. Like big crying, what Mom would call “the waterworks.” I was so embarrassed I hid my face in my arm, but I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. The guys were really nice to me, though. They patted me on the back. “You’re okay, dude. It’s okay,” they said. “You’re one brave little dude, you know that?” said Amos, putting his arm around my shoulders. And when I kept on crying, he put both his arms around me like my dad would have done and let me cry.”

August has gone through a harrowing experience so it’s reasonable that he is upset but the reactions of his classmates, some who were former enemies, is appropriate . Their caring and kindness breaks down August when their cruelty had not affected him after extended affliction. This turnabout has shifted the dynamics between the feud and it also shows a new side of people who have always seemed malicious. The character development of Henry and Amos is distinct and they’re no long as 2-dimensional.

Locate three passages of the story that your group should reread, discuss, and think about.

  1. Choose a variety of passages, not all the same type– suggestions: • surprising/startling • confusing (something you wonder if other people “got”) • descriptive writing: figurative language, strong verbs, etc. (identify literary descriptive writing: figurative language, strong verbs, etc. (identify literary devices) • important (maybe a clue?  foreshadowing?) • controversial event (elicits different opinions from group members)

Summary

August Pullman has been hidden away long enough by his parent, not out of shame but out of love. Up until 5th grade, he has been homeschooled by his parents. The final straw was the fact that his mother couldn’t teach fractions well enough and it was nigh on time for August to meet new people his age and interact with him. This book chronicles his struggles integrating into Beecher Prep Middle School, an elite private school filled with mostly rich kids. Upon first glance, children avoided Auggie except for a few select anomalies.

Although popularity was an irony to August, who everyone knows and can point out from a crowd, it is a central theme that effects everyone strongly throughout the story. Those (Summer and Jack Will) who hang out and talk to Auggie are isolated from the popular crowd despite their high potential status. August withstands a lot of social rejection and abuse from bullies like Julian. Despite what everybody thinks of his nerdiness and facial features , his personality is extremely charming and he exerts effort to show it.

 August tentatively forms new friendships, handles academic courseloads, and makes connections through new experiences.

August is not without supporters and there are multiple narratives throughout the story that talk about how their lives affect and are affected by his. Aside from revolving all events around August, these different points of views give insights to personalities and characteristics of the people surrounding him. This is essentially a coming-of-age novel that records how a village of people helped a child develop and mature.


Commentary:

It was inevitable for my paths to cross with this book due to its sheer popularity when it was released. The overwhelming hype actually turned me away from it aside from the sensitive topic it dealt with. AND, this was essentially a middle age book and yet, so many adult readers loved it. I felt that I was too old to read children’s books and I disliked middle school in general which counted heavily against Wonder. I particularly didn’t have a sparkling splendid time in junior high but it really wasn’t that bad now that I read this book and looked back on it.

I just want to say that pretty much everything the kids do in this book has stayed the same throughout the ages. When I went to middle school, they were just as deliberately snobby and mockingly cruel. Their jokes and taunts are overused and your identity becomes formed around one thing. In short, middle school kids are simply terrible little demons. However, that’s not to say that there are redeeming qualities in some of them and their small acts of kindness can mean infinitely to one person. They’re just as capable of being courageous as they are spiteful. I count myself lucky to not have experienced ridicule and social rejection on the same levels that August did. His personality really shined through and I’m glad because that should be the one quality that’s prized above physical appearance.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: Review

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m unable to collect my thoughts coherently enough to express how pleasantly surprised and awed I was by this book. It was so engaging and I literally couldn’t stop reading near the end. It wasn’t super explosive because it’s one of those books that accounts a series of everyday life events. It’s amazingly grounded in reality despite the science fiction element and I loved how invested I was into each character.

Miranda is a stubborn girl and it showed so much through her persistence in rereading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (another great book) and rejecting other books. By now, that should clue you in on what sci-fi genre is incorporated throughout the book. Time travel. I loved that the author didn’t just throw the reader into time travel without explaining some theories surrounding it. Some elementary readers might be perplexed by the ideas because they’re, like Miranda, so immersed in common sense. I always love a good time travel story (ex. All Our Yesterdays, The Time Machine, Hourglass, Harry Potter #3 and I’m about to read Ruby Red) so I’m immensely pleased when the logistics of it and especially the side effects of tessering is talked about. The abstract thoughts of time, relativity, and it being a circle rather than a straight line is hard to digest but I’m glad the author put it in. She does so by generating these discussions between friends and it’s wonderful to see middle schoolers interested in science and architecture. These get the readers to understand that time travel is a possibility and therefore not just used as a simple plot device to drive the story to a convenient ending.

Miranda is very intelligent and perceptive for her age but she’s also has similar worries as any other middle schooler. Her inner thoughts are matter-of-fact and realistic so it’s great for a change when she starts to slowly piece together the clues and figure out and analyze situations.

She shook her head slowly. “I don’t know. I just feel stuck, like I’m afraid to take any steps, in case they’re the wrong ones. I need a little more time to think.” She stood up. “The water’s probably boiling by now. Spaghetti in ten minutes.”
Spaghetti again. We were kind of stuck, I realized. In a lot of ways.

As an advanced reader, I saw several of the plot twists coming but none of it was ruined because I relished how the plot unraveled so naturally. The dialogue between the characters are very casual and easygoing and I loved the themes. There was a lot of conflict in making friendships and doing what is right. The decisions each person made was extremely consequential and unfolded in surprising ways. I always thought of middle school as a tumultuous but necessary self-transformation and priorities change then because kids tend to value certain things over others. A common one is popularity over academics. Sensitive subjects like socioeconomic status and how it affects lives also pervade the story and affect people’s relationships. Certain actions are driven by the need for money, others out of loneliness, some do things out of curiosity, and it ultimately creates a ripple effect. I believe one of the biggest motifs in this book is passivity. People often stand by while the scene unfolds in front of their faces but choose not to intervene. Reasons behind the ‘bystander effect’ are complex and often different for each person but one of the ones that stands out the most is “no obligation”.

“Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean.It’s like how turning on a light makes you realize how dark the room had gotten. And the way you usually act, the things you would have normally done, are like these ghosts that everyone can see but pretends not to.”

Books for middle-age readers are often dumbed down or rather broken down into simpler words and that seriously turns me off. I sometimes love being able to breeze through text easily but I dislike juvenile writing that has so much potential to be better. That’s how I felt when I used to read books such as the Animal Ark series by Ben M. Baglio in which it was strictly plot-driven because the writing was nothing special.

Mr. Tompkin had left a book on my desk. He as always trying to get me to read something new. This one had a picture of a spunky-looking girl on the cover, and some buildings behind her. “

I especially remembered this quote although there’s nothing particularly special about it. However, it rings true in today’s pop culture because it’s so difficult to get people to read books due to the generic cover. The phrase ‘spunky-looking girl on the cover, and some buildings behind her” generates multiple YA books in mind. I would have a nearly impossible time trying to find out the name of the book Mr. Tompkin recommended her. The over-saturation of cliche book covers and of beautiful white girls photoshopped in front of buildings is in actuality a turnoff and does not give off a sense of originality and creativity.

As you can see, When You Reach Me’s cover does not feature a girl but instead, objects inlaid on the map. It looks whimsical and childish but each stroke is deliberate and significant. Yes, there could be a better book cover that can appeal to more readers but the one now pertains to the story and enhances the story. When You Reach Me is a book for all (ages 9 and up?) and for those who believe themselves too old, who are you kidding when you’ve read YA, Dr. Seuss, or picture books?

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