Mini-Reviews: Clap When You Land, Time of Our Lives, & Ramona Blue

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Source: Borrowed

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Elizabeth Acevedo is really good at writing books that pull a lot of emotions out of the reader. The Poet X hit me hard, and With the Fire On High was so good too. With Clap When You Land, she tackles a plane crash and its aftermath on two different girls.

While I did enjoy this book, I didn’t like it nearly as much as The Poet X. It’s written in verse and told in two different perspectives, and I had a lot of trouble distinguishing Yahaira’s chapters from Camino’s. Because of that, I don’t think I connected with either character as much as I’ve connected with her characters in the past.

But this book was still good. It tells an interesting, intense story about family dynamics, grief, and betrayal. It’s definitely worth the read and I look forward to reading whatever Acevedo publishes next.


Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
Source: Borrowed

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.

These authors have been kind of a mixed bag for me. It’s clear that they can write a good story, but is that kind of story necessarily the kind of thing I want to read? Not always. While I loved If I’m Being Honest, I was really disappointed by how strongly cheating factored into Always Never Yours. I’d say that Time of Our Lives falls somewhere in the middle of that.

I’m really conflicted in my opinions about this book because, like I said, the writing was really good. But the plot? I’m just not sure. It felt really rushed to me, and just so unrealistic. I did like Fitz’s obsession with words, and as someone who majored in Linguistics in college, it made me really happy that he was considering it for himself!

All in all, this definitely wasn’t my favorite book by these authors, but I’ll still be reading whatever they publish next.


Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

I did not know that Ramona Blue caused such a stir until I started reading the reviews. My goodness, there’s some controversy. As a straight woman, I don’t think I’m really qualified to comment on the bisexual representation here, but I will say that I thought Julie Murphy wrote a very good book and I don’t think there was any malicious intent.

I really liked all of the characters, although Ramona could be a little… strong-willed at times. There’s not really a ton of plot here aside from the romance. Instead, we’re kind of just following Ramona and her family and friends around through their daily lives. What we do have is well-written, though, and it’s a little bit heartbreaking.

Ramona Blue hasn’t overtaken Dumplin‘ as my favorite book by Julie Murphy, but it was still really good!


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Mini-Reviews: Pet, Symptoms of Being Human, and With the Fire on High

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question-How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

I’m not sure the last time I finished a book feeling so confused as when finishing Pet, but at least I knew that I liked it. The thing about this book is that the writing style feels very middle grade, but the subject matter is very much not.

My favorite thing about this book was the representation. Jam is a trans black girl, and it’s not the focus of the story or really relevant to the plot in any way, it’s just who Jam is. I think this is the best kind of representation to have.

The book has an important, if maybe heavy-handed message, that just because we don’t expect people to be evil doesn’t mean that they’re not. In Jam’s world, evil has supposedly been eradicated, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not lurking where we’d least expect it. Her journey, along with her best friend Redemption and the monstrous-looking (but not actually monstrous) Pet, to find out what’s been going on with someone they both care about, is absolutely heartbreaking.

In the end, I would recommend this book as long as you’re okay with the fairly obvious way the message is delivered.

Content warnings
  • child abuse/molestation
  • fairly graphic vigilante justice
  • (accidental) self harm with razor blades

#wian20: 4 letters or less


Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Borrowed

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

We’re all taught from a young age that there are only two choices: pink or blue, Bratz or Power Rangers, cheerleading or football. We see gender in two dimensions because that’s what society has taught us from birth. But, are you ready for a shocking revelation? SOCIETY NEEDS TO CHANGE.

I’d had Symptoms of Being Human on my TBR for a while, but I still went in with no expectations. The reviews are pretty mixed, with most people agreeing that it has great genderqueer representation but very little plot. I guess I can see that.

The story revolves around Riley, who identifies as genderqueer. Riley’s parents don’t really understand. Riley’s classmates don’t really understand. So Riley starts a blog and finds some people to talk to about life. That’s really about it, and I’ll agree that it’s not much of a plot to go on, but it did hold my interest.

I will say that this book made me angry, though. I don’t have any children, but I hope to never make my future child feel like they’re not good enough the way they are, like they have to stuff themselves into a suffocating box to make me happy. I hope it made other people angry too.

Overall, I think the characters really carry the story here, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.


With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source: Borrowed

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free. 

After really loving The Poet X, I decided to give another of Acevedo’s books a try and read With the Fire on High. I didn’t love it quite as much but it was still really, really good.

I loved Emoni. She was such a strong character and she was truly just trying to do her best with the circumstances in her life. I loved the relationship she had with her abuela. I loved her cooking and just wish that I could taste some of those recipes! There’s even a little touch of magical realism, which I thought was great.

As for why four stars and not five, I felt like, though the overall writing was very good, it did have some awkward parts. (I rolled my eyes every time Emoni let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding.) I also didn’t understand what purpose there was to all of the drama with Pretty Leslie, though it does get resolved nicely in the end.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. But if you have to pick one of Acevedo’s books to start with, I’d recommend The Poet X.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

I tend to avoid hyped books like the plague. Show me a book with 33,760 ratings and a 4.43 star Goodreads average and I will probably be very apprehensive about reading it. When averages are that good, I get scared away. What if I’m the only person on the entire planet who dislikes it?

Well, that fear is what happened with The Poet X. I knew it was supposed to be amazing. I’d read countless reviews saying so. So, naturally, I didn’t read it for a good year and a half. And then the mood struck, and I checked out the audiobook, which is narrated by the author and is absolutely incredible.

I am blown away. I loved this so much.

Xiomara’s struggle with religion really reminded me of my own feelings when I was her age. I’d been raised in a religious family, I’d gone to 13 years of Catholic school, and all of a sudden it was like these things I’d grown up taking as fact were now questions in my mind. I think this is a 100% normal and healthy thing that happens in your late teenage years and it was so nice to see that struggle showcased in such a well-written book.

Another thing that I thought the book addressed well was sexism and underlying misogyny. I appreciated that, more than anyone else in her life, it was Xiomara’s mother who perpetuated the idea that women needed to be pure and perfect in order to be desirable for marriage. (Because, of course, heterosexual marriage is The Most Important.) Even seemingly innocuous things that Xiomara does, like using a tampon instead of a pad, cause issues. And when she’s caught kissing a boy? Oh no.

I can really go either way with books that are written in verse. A lot of the time, it just feels like sentences broken up into several lines, but it really, really worked here. The emotion was right there, in every word, and Xiomara just felt so real. I already have a hold on With the Fire on High and can’t wait until I have the chance to experience that book too.


Have you read The Poet X? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’