The Dangerous Art Of Blending In

The Dangerous Art of Blending In

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer. 

Tired, isolated, scared-Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to read this book for about a year now and I’m finally pleased to say that I finished it. I did have high hopes for this book and whilst it wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me, I still thought it was bloomin’ marvellous and a very accomplished debut. I will warn you that there’s some horrifying abuse in this story so beware if that content may upset you.

It centres around 17 year old Evan who is trying to find out where he fits in life. His Greek mother believes he’s a disappointment and regularly beats him. She constantly puts him down and the abuse he goes through is absolutely horrific. Evan’s mum is incredibly religious and uses religion as an excuse to beat her son who she believes God thinks is wicked and sinful. The reason why she feels this way is that she believes that her son could be gay. Evan feels terrible about himself and tries to be the ‘normal’ Greek son, even if it means hiding his true self. Evan’s father pretends the abuse isn’t happening as do others in Evan’s life and it’s absolutely heart-breaking.

Evan is an amazing character. I grew to love him really quickly and I hated to read about the abuse he suffered. His self-worth was obviously so low and I wanted to reach into the book and tell him his worth. I liked how the book showed the effects of his mother’s abuse on Evan. He clearly wasn’t used to nice and when it happened to him, he rejected it. My heart broke once more.

Evan and Henry’s relationship is very cute. It develops from a friendship and that’s my favourite sort. I also appreciated that Henry wasn’t a character to make everything better. Evan had to help himself and I like that. No-one wants to be reliant on another for happiness.

I thought that this book was such a good debut and I look forward to reading more from Angelo Surmelis.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

This book is heavy-going and intense but so beautiful!

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Banned Books #57- Uncle Bobby’s Wedding

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen.

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Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
First published: 2008
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: homosexuality, unsuited to age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: No, no and no some more. I get so wound up when a book as sweet and inoffensive like this is challenged on grounds of homosexuality. I don’t understand it that as recently as ten years ago (which still feels to me like yesterday!) that individuals were challenging books for children because it featured gay characters. I think I would understand (but definitely NOT accept) the challenging if it was in less enlightened times when homosexuality was illegal and a lot of people had a problem with it. But to use it as a reason to restrict access to a book in the 2000’s. Really?

CHRISSI: What Beth said. I actually find it offensive that this book was even challenged! It is such a sweet story and it’s told in such a gentle way. What message does it send young children if a book like this is challenged/banned? That’s it wrong to have a homosexual in your family? Argh, it makes me so cross. I know a lot of children who do have two mothers and my heart hurts to think that they would believe it’s ‘wrong’. Children should see a representation of every type of family to open their minds and address stereotypes.

How about now?

BETH: I think you can already see from my previous answer that I very much disagree. Since 2008, I would have loved to believe we are becoming more accepting of individuals beliefs and desires but sadly, although I think there has been a lot of progress, there is still a lot more work to do. There will always be people who have quite extreme ideas about what is right and what is wrong and they’re entitled to their own opinion but when they use it to try and change other people’s minds/hurt the target individuals that they have a problem with, that’s when I have a problem too.

CHRISSI: I think there’s so much work to be done. Children are so much more accepting than adults and I wonder when that acceptance starts to get lost, or why it gets lost. When is it that we begin to judge so much? I know children don’t. When I get asked why a certain person has two mothers/fathers in class, the children accept it without questioning. Books like this NEED to be about so children know that it’s not abnormal to have a different family set up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I found this book to be a very adorable and informative read, especially for younger children. It’s a fantastic way of introducing children to LGBT issues and the fact that people should be free to love/marry whomever they want. I would be happy to read it with any children I come across and would be delighted to see it in schools, available for children to enjoy.

CHRISSI: It’s adorable and I’d be happy to read it to any child in my school!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #53- King & King

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland.

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Synopsis:

Once there lived a lovelorn prince whose mother decreed that he must marry by the end of the summer. So began the search to find the prince’s perfect match and lo and behold……his name was Lee. You are cordially invited to join the merriest, most unexpected wedding of the year. KING & KING is a contemporary tale about finding true love and living happily ever after, sure to woo readers of any age.

First published: 2000
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: homosexuality

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I was surprised to see there was only a single reason for this book being banned. Not because I think there should be multiple reasons for challenging it but because they normally come up with a few reasons, no matter how ridiculous to back up why it should be removed from a certain surrounding, like a library or a school. Now I could POSSIBLY imagine why homosexuality could be used as a reason one hundred years ago (not that I agree with it!) but to use that as a reason in the year 2000. We certainly do not live in the age of enlightenment.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can see why this book may have banned possibly way back when…but not 2000. That’s only 18 years ago. Why? It actually makes me really cross that this book is challenged. It’s nothing explicit. Just a gentle love story. The fact that it is challenged gives the impression that there’s something wrong with having homosexual characters. No, just no. That’s telling young children that a homosexual relationship is wrong. What if their parents are homosexual? Argh. It just makes me cross.

How about now?

BETH: Sigh. First of all, why are people challenging picture books for children? Like another of the picture books that we have read in our Banned Books series – And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, books set in this format for the younger reader are often hugely helpful in bringing an important message to younger ears in a way they can understand and find fun. So no, I don’t agree with challenging/banning it because of homosexuality either eighteen years ago or right now. Why should sexuality be a reason to ban a book, no matter what age it is aimed at? Surely that’s more likely to enforce prejudices rather than accept the diversity of people?

CHRISSI: Definitely not. I feel so strongly about this book being challenged. 😦 I think it’s sad that in 2018, this book can’t be accepted by all. There’s nothing vulgar or explicit in this story. It’s such a gentle love story. I would have absolutely no problems reading this to young children. I think it explains that love is love no matter who you end up loving.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: As with other picture books I have read, King & King was quick and easy to read and I really appreciated the message it was trying to get across. The art was gorgeous and I found there was so much to look at, I could imagine children staring at the pages for a while, enjoying all the bright colours on offer. It felt for me like a quirky style where you could almost imagine you were seeing different fabrics – newspaper, cotton, silk etc and I can imagine this would be an interesting experience for youngsters too.

CHRISSI: It’s a gorgeous picture book with a wonderful, heart-warming message. I think it’s a lovely book to read to any child.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

The Universe Is Expanding And So Am I (Virginia Shreves #2)

The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I (Virginia Shreves #2)

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things

Synopsis:

Six months ago, Virginia decided to ignore the ‘Fat Girl Code of Conduct’ she used to live by and make her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth official. But now things are getting complicated. She’s not sure she still likes Froggy, her mum has betrayed her to the meanest girl in school, and her brother Byron – she’s not she’ll ever know how to feel about him. And then she meets Sebastian. He funny, sweet and he doesn’t want to talk about family, and Virginia’s fine with that. But then a terrible secret comes out that could ruin everything. 

Thoughts:

I initially read The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things as part of a Banned Books feature that you can read here. I was intrigued to see where the follow up went.

The Universe is Expanding and So Am I follows Virginia and her relationships. Virginia isn’t sure she likes her boyfriend Froggy anymore. She has a difficult relationships with her family and then there’s Sebastian… a boy that intrigues her. Virginia’s family are dealing with the repercussions of what her brother Byron did.  I don’t want to say what he did in case you haven’t read the first book!

I’m not sure what I make of Virginia as a character. I think she’s relatable to many, for sure. I also like how she’s unashamedly herself. She is confident in her appearance even though she’s criticised by others for being curvier than her peers. However, I feel like she does body shame slimmer people and that’s never okay for me.

I do appreciate that this book covers some very important and sensitive topics. I like that it doesn’t shy away from topics that should definitely be discussed in Young Adult literature. I just wish the book was longer so it could have explored them in more depth.

This book is a fast paced read and it is easy to get through due to some light hearted humour alongside the more serious content.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

This book was so easy to read. It’s a balance of serious and light-hearted. A wonderful follow up to The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things.

Far From The Tree

Far from the Tree

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Emmy & Oliver

Synopsis:

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him. 

Thoughts:

I had heard amazing things about Far From The Tree so I was super excited to read it. I’m really glad I made time for it, because it’s a wonderful story about family- both biological family and family you can create.

It centres around Grace, Maya and Joaquin. They are siblings who finally meet after being adopted and fostered. Grace is an only child who was adopted at birth. Maya was also adopted early in life but has a younger sister. Maya’s grown up in a family or red-heads and feels very different to her adoptive family. When she learns about Grace and Joaquin she is desperate to search for traces of her in her biological siblings. Joaquin is their older brother and he was never adopted. He’s spent years in the foster care system and has secrets to hide. When Grace wants to find their biological mother, Maya and Joaquin are not so sure. As they get to know each other better, the secrets/traumas they have experienced start to reveal themselves.

These three characters are simply wonderful. I loved all of them individually. I loved how they grew together over time and slowly got to know one another. It’s too hard to say more about them without giving away their stories. It’s such a lovely story about family. I can see why it’s getting the praise that it is.

I think the representation of adoption is really positive in this story. Grace and Maya are both treated especially well. Joaquin may have been in the foster care system but his experiences are mainly positive. It’s clear that the family he is with during the story clearly love and care for him which is lovely to read.

This book is definitely worth reading if you’re looking for a hopeful story about adoption!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A wonderful story about family! I really enjoyed it. 🙂

Banned Books #50- I Am Jazz

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books feature. This month we read I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

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I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings and Shelagh McNicholas (illustrator)
First published: 2014
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I Am Jazz is quite a new release compared to the books we often discuss, being first published in 2014 a mere four years ago as I write this post. Now I like to think we live in enlightened times and as a result, there will be far fewer recent releases that will be challenged/banned but unfortunately I Am Jazz seems to have the censors all fired up. The reasons as you can see above, make my blood boil. I can’t imagine what it’s like personally to go through the transgender experience but just because you don’t have much personal knowledge on it doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself and that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few years whenever possible i.e. watching documentaries, reading memoirs, discussing the issue with open-minded friends. There ARE individuals out there who feel as if they have been born in the wrong body which quite frankly, must be terrifying and horribly confusing and to have this book challenged/banned is just fanning the flames and the self-righteous attitude of those other people who don’t believe that being transgender is “a thing.” This is particularly true when I consider the reasons – inaccurate and homosexuality. At what point does this book scream inaccurate can I just ask?! That’s a person’s LIFE you’re talking about there. Also, homosexuality which I’ve covered in other banned books posts, which makes me roll my eyes and get a bit cross is NEVER a reason to ban a book. Plus, I don’t believe there was even any mention of homosexuality in this picture book for children anyway. It’s about a little girl who was born in the body of a boy and who is telling us her story of how she longed to be a girl so much, including how there are some people that don’t really understand but how she has super duper supportive parents. Sacrilege! (*in my best sarcastic voice.*)

CHRISSI: The fact that this book is banned is absolutely ridiculous. It really is. I think the most offensive reason for me is inaccurate. INACCURATE? How on Earth can Jazz’s feelings be inaccurate. Only she knows how she feels! As for religious viewpoint? Well… I understand that some religions may not ‘believe’ in people being transgender, but guess what? Some people are. Even if you don’t agree with it, I strongly believe that we need to be more tolerant. There are some parts of other religions that I strongly disagree with, but I’d never slate them for it, because it’s THEIR belief and they’re entitled to it. Much like I Am Jazz deserves a place in the library, in schools and in homes.

How about now?

BETH: As the book was only published about four years ago, I’m sad to say I don’t think attitudes will have changed too much from those who wanted to challenge/ban this book but hopefully we can still encourage people in the community to talk and to better inform those of us who are interested and willing to listen, including myself. As for the final reasons, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group – well, I’m sure you can imagine what I think of those! Firstly, this PICTURE book is written in such a way that makes it suitable for children of any age and it’s certainly very scant on details which make it “sex education” in my eyes. Where was the religious viewpoint? I must have missed that but even if there was, I’ve already gone into detail on other banned books posts about my views on religion and how I enjoy reading about other people’s viewpoints on this, even if they don’t match my own.

CHRISSI: Sadly, I think some people would still have an issue with this book which is worrying. It is certainly not a book offensive to the age in which it is intended for. It’s a picture book with a gentle story that definitely needs to be explored. As a teacher, I would certainly use this in the classroom. I know that there’s a girl that comes to mind that I taught in my first year of teaching that would have loved this book. I’m not saying she’s transgender, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was in the future.  NOTE- This book has been challenged again in 2016… reasons:  because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints and 2017: This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

Urgh. 😦

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This was a very quick, sweet and hopeful read that I think will be very informative for curious children but especially transgender children who it might finally help to realise that they’re not completely alone. I was also thinking it might be a great tool to use for parents at home if children have a transgender member of their class at school to help them understand what their classmate might be going through and to hopefully, iron out those prejudices before they have a chance to develop.

CHRISSI: I thought it was an adorable read. I think it’s important that there are picture books out there aimed at this subject. It’s an educative tool to use in the classroom to help other children to understand. I think this book is needed and the fact that it is challenged upsets me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

I Was Born For This

I Was Born For This

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Solitaire
Radio Silence

Synopsis:

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Thoughts:

I went into this book with very high expectations after particularly enjoying Radio Silence by Alice Oseman previously.

I Was Born For This centres around Angel Rahimi who is a massive fan of the band The Ark. The Ark are three teenage guys who are exploding around the world. Angel is a super fan. She goes to London to meet someone named Juliet who she met online. Angel and Juliet have tickets for a meet and greet and the show. Angel is completely obsessed with the band. They are her reason for living. The meet up/gig doesn’t go as expected and Angel’s perception of the band is completely thrown up into the air.

The story is told through two narratives, Angel’s and Jimmy, a member of The Ark. Jimmy suffers with severe anxiety, having been thrust into the spotlight. He had been outed for being transgender. Although his fans had been incredibly supportive, it still added to his anxieties.

I really enjoyed the story because I’ve been a part of a few fandoms in my time (I sound like a Grandma!) and I could recognise a lot of the behaviours including ‘shipping’ of band members together. That’s such a thing and makes the story utterly relatable. I also really enjoyed how Alice Oseman represented the idea that we think we know someone but until we meet them in person and get to know them, we never truly ‘know’ them.

There are some fantastic characters within these pages. I loved Angel, Juliet, Bliss and the band members. I thought the portrayal of Jimmy’s mental health was incredibly realistic. Alice Oseman writes well from the perspective of a teenager.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

If you’ve ever been part of a fandom, you need to check out this book!