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.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2016

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  It’s already the last one of 2016!  Today’s theme is the best of 2016.  I read a lot of great books this year, so rather than agonize over which ones to include, I’m using this as a general overview of my favorites.  In early 2017, I’ll have a more detailed list available for you, broken down by genre.

Below are Goodreads links for all titles included in the graphics:

[since you’ve been gone] [koreatown] [are you there god? it’s me margaret]
[what we saw] [the unexpected everything] [lured in] [you know me well]
[me before you] [some kind of perfect] [made you up]

What were your favorites of 2016?

   Goodreads   Amazon

Nothing is exactly as it appears.
The closer you look, the more you see.

This is a difficult book to read.  And by that, I don’t mean that it’s poorly written, or full of cliches, or actually hard to read at all.  What I mean is that this is a book about the rape of a young woman, and how a town responds to it.  This is a book that puts a new spin on the Steubenville High School rape case from a few years ago.

In case you don’t remember, in Steubenville, a young girl was sexually assaulted at a party by several of her classmates.  She was drunk.  She was dressed provocatively.  Witnesses says she had been flirting with the guys earlier that night.  The perpetrators were members of the school’s star football team, young men who had a bright future ahead of them.  They might have gotten full scholarships to good colleges if they hadn’t decided to rape their classmate.  On camera.  And distribute it for the world to see.  In the Steubenville case, the town labeled the girl the villain. If she hadn’t been at that party, nothing would have happened.  These boys would still have those bright futures ahead of them.  It certainly wasn’t the fault of those who raped her.  It was her fault for daring to go to a party.

Hartzler takes a good, hard look at that mentality in this book.

Stacey Stallard was just another girl at Coral Sands High School.  A girl from the wrong side of town who had little parental supervision.  She was known to flirt with lots of boys, and sometimes dated more than one boy at a time.  She went to a lot of parties.  Some students say she was an alcoholic.  On the night in question, she’d been flirting with the boys from the basketball team.  She’d come to the party wearing revealing clothes, and after a few drinks, she’d lost her top.  When she passed out, she was taken down to the basement, where a number of boys on the basketball team raped her.  The incident was filmed, photographed, and widely distributed throughout the school.  Stacey filed charges against the boys, igniting a controversy in the town.

The book is narrated by Kate, a student at the high school who, back in middle school, was a friend of Stacey’s.  But as time went on, and Kate joined the soccer team while Stacey joined the drill team, the two grew apart. Kate’s perspective is unique not only as a former friend of Stacey’s, but also because she is close friends with the boys.  Her boyfriend is on the basketball team.  She was at the party.

At times, it seems that Kate is the only person who really cares what happened that night.  Most of the town blindly accepts the word of the boys.  Those who don’t refuse to cause trouble by looking into it.  Kate, though, can’t shake the feeling that something awful happened.  That it could have happened to her or one of her friends.  That a girl shouldn’t have to worry about being raped if she passes out at a friend’s party in the company of people she’s known her entire life.

This book opens a discussion into victim blaming, slut shaming, and misogyny:

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” says Christy. “It’s Stacey’s word against theirs. She’s accusing them.” … “Look, this is not rocket science.  It’s common sense. If you don’t want to work a guy into a lather, keep your cooch covered up.”

“Why would Deacon and Dooney rape anybody?” he asks. “They can both have any girl they want.  You saw Stacey hanging all over them at the party.”

“You heard Rachel’s ‘rules.’ If you learn what we learn here–that Dooney and all those guys are entitled to tell you if you’re pretty or not, that it’s up to you to make sure you don’t give boys a reason to hurt you? Then you don’t think it was a crime. You think what happened to Stacey was fair game. It was boys being boys. Just a trashy girl learning the hard way what can happen when she drinks too much and wears a short skirt.”

And it also opens a discussion into consent:

“What if she didn’t tell them no because she couldn’t?” Lindsey asks quietly. “What if she was too drunk to say anything?”

What does it mean to say yes? To consent to a kiss? To a touch? To more than that?

“Words have meanings. When we call something a theory in science, it means something. Reggie, when you say that you ‘can’t help yourself’ if a girl is wasted, that means something, too. You’re saying that our natural state as men is ‘rapist.’ That’s not okay with me, Reggie.  That’s not okay with the rest of this class, either.”

This is a very important book that I think all teenagers should read.  It forces you to examine your own opinions, your own biases, your own reactions to the news.  Do we believe the victim?  Do we side with the accused?  Is a rapist innocent until proven guilty?  Should we need to see video of the assault to believe that it happened?

Come to think of it, I think everybody should read this book.  Not just teenagers.  I think we could all stand to have our worldview challenged every once in a while.

Final rating: 

★★★★★