Mini-Reviews: Pride, Beneath the Sugar Sky, & Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

I hesitated to pick up Pride because of all of the mixed reviews I’d seen when it first came out, but I’m glad that I finally picked it up.

This ended up being a great modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I absolutely loved that it was set in Brooklyn. Pride pretty seamlessly weaves in some commentary on issues like gentrification, class, and the leaking of nudes without coming across like a lecture. It’s easy to see the parallels with the original, but the book still feels like it tells its own story rather than being a direct copy.

As for negatives, I felt that some scenes went on for a little too long and got a little repetitive. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Zuri and Darius’s relationship since it went from hate to love very quickly, but I guess it also does in the original. But those are pretty minor complaints, and overall, I really enjoyed this book.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

As someone who absolutely loves baking, it probably comes as no surprise that my favorite world (so far) in the Wayward Children series is Confection. This nonsense world is filled with whimsical things like a moon made of frosting and a sea made of strawberry rhubarb soda. Not everything is perfect in Confection, though. Like the other worlds, it has its own undercurrent of danger.

Since I loved the world (and the writing) so much, I probably would have given this novella five stars if we’d followed characters from the original book. It is true that Christopher and Kade are here, but our main character is someone entirely new. While this was fine and ended up working out in the end, it did leave me feeling a little disconnected from everything at the beginning.

Overall, though, I’m a big fan of this series and would highly recommend it.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Possibly unpopular opinion time: I don’t think this needed to be a series. I really enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but while the writing was still good in P.S. I Still Love You, I didn’t like the plot and it felt completely unnecessary. I feel the same about Always and Forever, Lara Jean. The writing was good, but let’s be honest. Did this book even have a plot?

This book also uses one of my least favorite tropes:breaking up because a parent tells you to. What a cop-out for drama. I’m still waiting to read a book that features a parent doing this and a main character that stands up to them, because what kind of nonsense is this? It makes me so angry.

In the end, all I can really say is that this is a cute series, but it really could have stopped after the first book.

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

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Book review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: GoodreadsAmazon
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Source: Borrowed

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

Every time Lara Jean wants to get over a boy, she writes him a letter. She fills that letter with everything she wishes she could say to him. Why she fell for him. Why she can no longer have those feelings. It’s therapeutic for her, and when she’s done, she hides them in a hatbox under her bed.

Then, one day, the hatbox disappears. The boys start receiving the letters. Lara Jean is humiliated. Every boy she’s ever had a crush on now knows her true feelings.

The worst of all is her sister’s boyfriend, Josh. Lara Jean’s sister Margot just left for college in Scotland, breaking up with Josh and him heartbroken at home. Josh and Lara Jean have been friends for years, since even before Margot and Josh started dating. Her entire family thinks he’s perfect, but she obviously couldn’t have feelings for her sister’s boyfriend. She wrote him a letter to get him out of her head. She buried her feelings and vowed never to get in the way of Margot’s happiness.

But Josh receives a letter.

Lara Jean tries talking her way out of it. It was written a long time ago, she says. But Josh tells her that she references something that happened pretty recently. She’s so embarrassed, so she does the only thing she can think of. She says she’s dating one of the other boys who got a letter.

Peter Kavinsky is that guy. The most handsome guy in the school. Super popular. Unattainable. Lara Jean had a crush on him in middle school, but those feelings are long gone. Peter’s longtime girlfriend just broke up with him for an older guy. To Lara Jean’s surprise, Peter agrees to be in a fake relationship with her.

As you might expect, the lines get blurred. Lara Jean gets confused about which of these two boys she really wants.

This seems to be a polarizing book. Most of the reviews I’ve seen are either scathing one-stars or raving five-stars. I’m at a solid 3.5, or maybe 4. Is this the deepest book I’ve ever read? Certainly not. Are you going to learn important life lessons? Not likely. But it was sure a lot of fun.

Of all the characters, I think Peter and Lara Jean’s little sister, Kitty, were my favorites. Peter because he’s imperfect and real. Kitty because she’s headstrong and spunky.

I loved the relationships between Lara Jean and her sisters. Margot had always taken care of her two younger sisters, but Lara Jean has to absorb a lot of that responsibility when Margot leaves for college. Her relationship with Kitty is rocky at the beginning of the book, but they are a great team by the end.

There were really only two things I disliked.

First was the love triangle. I never saw Josh as a viable love interest, especially given his history with Margot. It was clear to me from the beginning that despite her feelings for him, Lara Jean was never going to pursue a relationship with her sister’s ex. She loved and respected her sister too much for that. Josh was kind of a jerk for constantly interjecting his opinion about her relationship with Peter and trying to make Peter look bad or feel jealous.

I also didn’t understand the point of Chris, Lara Jean’s best friend. Chris is wild, almost to the point of caricature. She is Lara Jean’s polar opposite. She has no story. She’s just there, and it’s kind of weird.

But overall, I really liked this book. I read it over about three hours on a Friday night, and immediately picked up the sequel (which I’m sure I’ll also read in one sitting).

Definitely recommended for fans of YA romance.

For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #34: a book from the library.