Top Ten Tuesday: Books I want my future children to read

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today’s theme is ten books I want my future children to read and rather than write about the various board books that I’ve read to my nephew and my friends’ children, or write about the middle grade books I loved back in the day, I thought I’d talk about ten issue-driven YA novels that would help expand their horizons without being too preachy.

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: A reminder that something as simple as using the correct pronouns and treating someone like a human being can make all the difference.
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler: A reminder to speak up – especially when it’s hard – if you see something that shouldn’t be happening.
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson: A reminder that not all members of a region or a religion are the same and to keep an open mind.

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The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin: A reminder that it’s okay to fail as long as you pick yourself back up and keep going.
The List by Siobhan Vivian: A reminder that words and jokes can hurt and to be careful with what you say.

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Cherry by Lindsey Rosin: A reminder that it’s okay to do what you want with your own body as long as everything is consensual and you’re being safe.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe: A reminder to always be kind because you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: A reminder that racism is alive and well in this country and it’s up to us to consciously fight it.

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Made You Up by Francesca Zappia: A reminder to actively fight the mental illness stigma rather than feeding into it.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: A reminder that teenage girls are strong and powerful and can do anything that they set their minds to.

If you had to choose ten books that you’d want to pass along to your future children, what would they be?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that are set in high school

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  This week’s theme is a back to school freebie, so I decided to go with ten books that are set in high school.  Have you ever noticed that even when characters are of high school age, we don’t really see them in their natural environment? Books often take place over the summer or on the weekend, or the actual high school experience is just glossed over.  In these ten books, the school itself plays a big role.

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Operation Prom Date by Cindi Madsen
Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Cherry by Lindsey Rosin
Falling For Forever by Melissa Chambers

Joyride by Anna Banks
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What are your favorite books set in high school?

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated or hidden gem books

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  Whether it be higher ratings, more exposure, or just more appreciation, today’s theme is all about those books that just deserved better.  I had to go back to 2015 for this topic since I didn’t read too many underrated books in the last year.

Take a look through my choices and let me know which underrated books you’ve enjoyed recently, or if you disagree with any of my picks.

Sometimes people don’t want to read books because of the themes.  Sometimes they even go so far as to rate them really low without even reading them.  I don’t understand this, but it’s pretty common on Goodreads.  So here are four books about social issues that I think deserve either a much higher average rating or much more exposure.

What We Saw is a retelling of sorts. Much like the Steubenville rape case, the teens in this book have witnessed the sexual assault of their classmate while standing by and doing nothing.  Was it her fault?  She was drinking, after all. She had been flirting with the boys. But she never said yes. The teens in this book dissect the issue of consent in what I think is honestly a brilliant way.

Joyride doesn’t seem like it’s going to be one of those “issue books,” but then it sneaks in there. I think that this book is even more relevant now than it was back when I read it in 2015, with our President-elect’s impending inauguration on Friday.  This book is about two siblings trying to fly under the radar after their parents’ deportation. Although the children are both citizens, without an adult to raise them, they run the risk of being sent to foster care until they’re of age.

It’s pretty common knowledge that a lot of adults are freaked out by the idea of teenagers having sex, even if they themselves had a lot of sex when they were teenagers. The thing is, I think it’s really important to expose teenagers to sex-positive attitudes so they don’t see their feelings as dirty or wrong, and so that they know how to handle them.

Cherry is about four teenage friends who make a pact to lose their virginity.  But that’s not really what it’s about.  It’s more about an open, honest, frank discussion between four girls about consent, masturbation, LGBT relationships, and figuring out when you’re ready for that next step.

Firsts, on the other hand, is about a teenage girl who does her male classmates a “favor” by helping them get over their first, fumbling, awkward time between the sheets, in hopes that they might give their girlfriends a nice first time. This book has a whole discussion of this behavior without ever settling on a position.  Is it good?  Is it bad?  It’s up to the reader to decide.

Originally I was just looking for books with a low average rating, but then I stumbled across some books with despicably low review counts.  I thought I might as well include these obviously hidden gems.

You’re probably really sick of me talking about Seven Ways to Lose Your Heart. I mean, it’s been on like every list I’ve posted for the last two months. (I’m probably exaggerating, but at this point, I’m not even sure.)  I just can’t believe that a book this amazing only has 45 ratings on Goodreads. Please, please, please go read this book. It’s so good!

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things was one of my favorites of 2015. I remember very little of the plot, but I do remember very clearly how it made me feel. More people deserve to feel that way, and I am shocked that this book only has about 2500 ratings on Goodreads.

From the cover, you’d think that The List is one of those stereotypical new adult books in which the girl falls for a dark, daring, mysterious jerk.  It’s really not.  It’s about an extremely sheltered young woman who heads to college and is encouraged by her roommate to try new things. Somehow, less than 300 people have read this gem of a book. I blame the cliched cover.

Finally, here are four books that deserve much better average ratings than they have.  I think this is the true spirit of today’s topic, but I haven’t read too many books recently that I thought deserved much higher ratings than they got.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World is a great story of a town that floods and how its teenage residents deal with it.  When I read this ARC, it seemed like everybody was hyping it up.  I thought the book was amazing, but somehow it only has 1700 ratings and a paltry 3.4 average on Goodreads. It deserves better.

Clearly, the problem with Armada is that everybody expected and anticipated a sequel to Ready Player One. And I get that, I really do.  But Cline made it clear that Armada was its own story, and I think that a lot of people were disappointed by that.  Yes, RPO was great. But so is Armada, in its own way.  It’s certainly better than its 3.4 average rating would have you believe.

And, lastly, we have You Know Me Well.  One of my favorites of 2016, it’s about a teenage boy and girl near the end of their high school experience who unexpectedly meet up over a weekend and find they have much more in common than they would have thought. And it’s not a romance! I just can’t believe that a book by an author as well-known as David Levithan only has 4700 ratings.  And not only that, but also that a book this great doesn’t have at least a 4-star average.

Book review: Cherry by Lindsey Rosin

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Layla, Alex, Emma, and Zoe are going into their senior year of high school, and they’ve made a pact to all lose their virginity by the end of the school year.  And that’s it, really.  That’s the plot.  Four teenage girls talking openly and honestly about sex.

This book could have been terrible.  It could have been raunchy and unrealistic.  It could have been preachy and awkward.  But it wasn’t.  It was actually really refreshing to read a book where teenage girls aren’t one of two stereotypes: virginal angels who’ve never had a sexual thought in their lives, or sex goddesses who rival even porn stars.  There never seems to be anything in between, and so I was happy to read a book about normal girls.

I wish I would have had a book like this when I was a teenager.

I went to a small Catholic high school, and there were a lot of conflicting messages about sex.  On the one hand, I had my religion teachers telling me that if I had premarital sex, I’d go straight to hell.  We were assigned homework about the various ways to say no.  (It was never discussed that there might come a time when we would want to say yes.)  We signed contracts in which we agreed to save ourselves for our future spouses.  I very clearly remember an exercise in which the teacher made us all line up, and those of us who wanted to save ourselves for marriage were instructed to go to one side of the room, and those of us who didn’t were sent to the other side of the room.  Why?  So we could judge each other based on how we chose to handle our own sexuality?  So much emphasis was placed on what I wanted to do with my own body.  I remained a virgin through high school (due mostly to my social awkwardness rather than any pressure from my teachers), but constantly felt that I was one step away from eternal damnation.

But then, on the other hand, I had classmates talking about who they hooked up with over the weekend.  One time, when our math teacher had to leave the room for a moment, the boy behind me started talking about how it only took three months to convince his girlfriend to have sex with him.  In science class, I overheard my classmates discussing how someone was such a slut for having three boyfriends over the last year.  In gym class, one of the girls was lamenting that her boyfriend was getting bored with her.  She was promptly advised to “do something between hand holding and sex, like maybe a blowjob.”  I remember when one of my friends told me she was “mostly a virgin” because she’d done “almost everything” with her (much older) boyfriend.  Another friend confessed to me that she’d had a miscarriage after being in a car accident.  At that point in my life, I hadn’t even kissed a boy, and here was my friend not only telling me that she’d had sex, but that she’d gotten pregnant and lost the baby.

To say that I was confused about what was normal for a girl my age would be an understatement.  And that’s not even taking into account the media’s influence.

A book like this wouldn’t have made me throw myself at every boy I thought was cute.  But it would have cleared up a lot of preconceptions about Girls Who Have Sex™ vs. Girls Who Don’t™.  This book is open and honest about not only m/f sex, but also f/f relationships, masturbation, orgasms, blowjobs, consent, protection, and, above all, doing what makes you happy.

This book does not encourage girls to throw away their innocence.  It doesn’t encourage them to have experiences they aren’t ready for with people they don’t really like.  The reviews that mention how the girls are forced into having sex because of this pact actually make me really angry because that is not what I got out of this book at all.  Every girl is different.  Every girl does what she’s comfortable with.  If one of the girls had decided she didn’t want to have sex, the other girls wouldn’t have minded.  Because their friendship wasn’t like that. It was about encouraging each other to step a little bit out of their comfort zones and do something they’d been wanting to do anyway.

This book is a lot of fun. The pages seem to fly by, and Rosin never comes across as preachy.  Everything is written in an age-appropriate way, and I loved it so much.  I loved the friendship between the four girls.  I loved that they never shamed each other for having questions, for wanting to do things (and doing them), or NOT wanting to do things (and NOT doing them).  Their friendship is the definition of healthy.

I will happily recommend this book.

Final rating: ★★★★☆