Mini Reviews #23: OwnVoices

by - 10:47 PM


Unless you've been living under a rock, you've surely heard of #OwnVoices. It's a movement in literature to get people supporting minority authors writing about minority experiences. I must confess to not having read as many #OwnVoices books as I'd like to, but I have read a few great ones. Here are my thoughts on just three of them. 

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

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.


4/5 smol smaugs.

If you know me, you know I'm always interested in retellings that aren't about fairytales. So when I saw that this is a Pride and Prejudice retelling in modern-day Brooklyn with a POC cast, I snatched it up right away. 

Pride was a sweet, thoughtful romance that also integrated educated and empathetic discussion of important issues, like gentrification and the cycle of poverty. The balance between Zuri's own character development + goals (like getting into Howard University), the romance, and these big issues was pretty darn perfect. I'm hesitant to categorize this as a romance novel because the romance doesn't control the storylineIt isn't just a story about flirting and first dates. To me, it's a story about the struggles, dreams, and development of Zuri, an intelligent African-American girl from an impoverished background. The romance was an important catalyst for some of her character development (like learning to be less judgmental of those outside her neighborhood) and a really sweet, cozy element. But Zuri's thoughts and actions in this book weren't solely presented as they related to the existence of Darius Darcy. And I really loved that.

Other things I liked: the sister relationships, especially between Zuri and Janae. I don't have any siblings, so I can't relate to sibling relationships in books. It's rare that one will make me go "awww" and wish for siblings of my own, and this one totally did that. A lot of the characters were compelling, sympathetic, and unique, from Zuri's parents to Madrina. (Although a rare few did feel like cardboard cutouts for most if not all of the book.) And as a lover of poetry and (bad) poet, I also enjoyed the unexpected poetry element.


There were a few elements, particularly in the character area, that felt shallow. Those few cardboard cutout characters I mentioned before (Marisol is the first that comes to mind, but Carrie could also qualify) disappointed me. Also, I felt no chemistry between Darius and Zuri. Yes, they can make small talk and like hanging out. I can feel those "yeah, I'd like spending time with this guy" vibes. But I don't get any charged romantic feelingsIt's not that I don't want them to be together, it's that at no point did I feel any desire for them to be. And that's, uh, probably not ideal.

But overall, Pride was a good read! If you're looking for #ownvoices, sweet romance, unique retellings, or nuanced discussion of important issues, you should definitely consider picking this one up.

OwnVoices rep present: Afro-Latina

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?


4/5 curious pups.

I'm one of the rare reviewers of this book who hasn’t read Everything, Everything, so I can’t speak of The Sun is Also a Star or Nicola Yoon in the context of her entire body of work. Nevertheless, I do recommend TSIAAS to some of those who were skeptical of EE. From what I can tell, the deep topics here – immigration/deportation, race, and parental expectations – are handled much more sensitively than the deeper ideas in EE. I certainly have no complaints about the way big issues were handled in this book, but I am white, so take that with a grain of salt.

One thing that, as far as I can tell, is the same in EE and TSIAAS is the writing style. You either love it or you don’t. I love it. I think it’s beautiful and thought-provoking while still moving quickly and drawing me in. But if Yoon’s style isn’t your cup of tea, that’s cool, too. This book just obviously isn’t for you. Furthermore, I liked how Yoon often delved into the points of view of minor characters. It added a larger dimension/context to the world of Natasha and Daniel and helped me better understand the themes of the book.

I also don’t buy the arguments that Natasha and Daniel’s romance was too insta-lovey. I understand them, but I don’t buy them. For one, it is totally possible to get a crush on someone when you first meet them. You don’t have to have been friends with them forever. It is further possible for the person you like to like you back. There is no universal law saying no crushes can be requited. For two, Natasha took a while to fall for Daniel. She was skeptical of him, then was far more interested in being friends for most of the book. That’s not insta-love. For three, it is also totally possible to click with someone as quickly as Natasha and Daniel did with each other. There have been people throughout my life with whom I’ve formed a connection right away. We’ve started talking, one of us has mentioned a shared interest, and we’ll end up texting or chatting for hours. For four, Natasha and Daniel did not fall in love with their soulmates. They did not end up getting married to someone they fell in love with in a day. They grew apart even when there was ample means for them to communicate. They had a brief thing that eventually faded with time as nearly all high school crushes do. That seems pretty realistic to me.

Lovers of sweet romances and light-hearted reads will enjoy this book thoroughly. People who dislike those things will not. The Sun is Also a Star certainly isn't for everyone, but I liked it so much I have to recommend you give it a shot all the same.  

OwnVoices rep present: Jamaican

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness


What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions...
 


3/5 high-functioning sociopaths.

MY FIRST PATRICK NESS BOOK. After years of hearing hype around him, I finally tried one of his novels. And I liked it, I guess. It was enjoyable. But to be honest, I probably wouldn't have remembered it today if it weren't for everyone else talking about him.

Let's start with what I liked. Ness is definitely a skilled writer. I just kept turning and turning the pages, unable to stop. And I normally dislike sci-fi, but I LOVED how he incorporated it in a way that made fun of its tropes. The whole concept--writing about the lives of the background, everyday citizens in a superhero/fantasy book--was unique and well-executed. Nathan, Jared, and Mikey were also great characters.

So what didn't I like? Nothing, but I didn't adore anything, either. There was nothing wrong with this book, but there was nothing that punched me in the gut, ripped my heart in two, or blew my mind. It was just . . . a good book. No pizzaz, no wow factor. Just a solidly enjoyable read.

If you like contemporary YA, you'll probably enjoy this more than I did. I still liked it, though, and I definitely plan to read more Ness in the future.

OwnVoices rep present: OCD and homosexuality

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But wait! There's more! I wrote a fourth review for this post, but it got a lil long, so I posted it separately here. If you're interested in political fantasy or aro + ace rep, you should consider checking it out. :)

All right, I think that's all I have to say! Talk to me: Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What are some of your favorite OwnVoices books? Comment below, and have a lovely day. <3

Namàrië,
Eleanor

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12 Comments

  1. I've only read The Sun is Also a Star, but these all look amazing!

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  2. I've been meaning to read The Rest of Us Just Live Here since way before it came out! I've tried to read from Patrick Ness before, but I didn't enjoy his writing style and fear that it's what'll get me disconnected to this one. I'm sorry you didn't really find something to ~love~ about it. Fantastic review, though!

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

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    1. Thank you! I've been wanting to read Chaos Walking for forEVER. If you end up picking this one up, I hope you enjoy it!

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  3. All right, your review of The Sun is Also a Star convinced me to add it to my ever-growing TBR list! I read Everything, Everything, but only liked it okay. I didn't agree with some of the characters' actions and the plot felt unrealistic. But that book sounds way better! I did like her writing style; everything she wrote was very addictive.

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    1. Ahhh, I'm glad! I hope you like it <3 me too!

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  4. Wowzers, I LOVE your blog, Eleanor! Your Agnostic Reviews Christian Fiction series is especially awesome, though I've really enjoyed all the posts I've read on here. And these mini reviews were sooooo fun and interesting to read! I'll have to look into Pride. :D

    Lila @ The Red-Hooded Writer

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  5. I love your rating scale, Ellie :D Also, I really want to read The Rest of Us Just Live Here finally. I've had it on my TBR for literally ever and I can't believe that I haven't picked it up yet. Same goes for The Sun is Also a Star. I'm so behind oh no...

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    1. Haha, thanks! GIRL ME TOO. I think you'd like it and especially get a kick out of the sci-fi parody aspect. :)

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  6. I love love LOVE The Rest of Us Just Live Here! I read it ages ago, but ever since the Chaos Walking trilogy I've loved Patrick Ness.

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    1. I've wanted to read Chaos Walking for so long! Hopefully, I'll get around to it soon.

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