Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (Book Review)

Publisher: Little Brown Books
Page Count
: 305

TW: police brutality, murder, violence, racism

Tyler Johnson Was Here was on my TBR before it ever even got released. When I saw the cover and read the blurb, I knew this was yet another very important read. It’s not the first time I am tackling the issue of police brutality through fiction on my blog. The thing is, those reads are never easy (and they’re not supposed to be), but that’s not the reason I hadn’t gotten to Tyler Johnson Was Here earlier. I don’t know why it slipped through my fingers, but the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed in the US and all over the world were a terrible reminder of how this is still very much the reality for Black people and people of color out there. So, I felt more compelled than ever to finally get to this book.

Jay Coles does not shy away from making it very clear that police brutality is a constant companion in some people’s lives. I hate the thought that children who should be carefree and playing with friends have to be educated by their parents about how to behave when the police stops them. How they could have done not even the slightest thing wrong, but everything they say or do could be construed as dangerous at the whim of some stranger. While most of the novels I have read before focus on one specific event of police brutality, Coles shows several incidents, each one shaking you to the core alongside the characters. So, while the main turning point that is mentioned in the blurb “only” occurs at the half-way point, you get this build-up of this constant companion of fear.

The cop yells, “Everybody shut the fuck up.” He looks at the three of us. “You three better get out of here before you’re next.” And now I’m wondering: What does next mean? Next to be treated like a punching bag or an animal? Next to lose my life?

I found myself very quickly attached to Marvin, the main protagonist. He is gentle, kind and smart and has a voice I loved to read about. Tyler is different and similar to him, two sides of the same coin. They were on the verge of growing apart a little bit, but still had that unbreakable bond. Marvin’s sadness was palpable on every single page while reading and I was close to shedding tears more than once. I never doubted that he was stronger than he thought himself capable of (albeit sad he had to be), but he was so incredibly brave towards the end. It was great to see his development throughout the story and see him stand up for what he believes in.

Yes, I’m willing to die for this cause, but the fact that there’s even a chance that I’ll die, become a hashtag, be remembered briefly, and then be completely forgotten and marked as a statistic fucking terrifies me.

I only wish I would have learned as much or at least a bit more about his friends and love interest. I understand that his mind was very much occupied by a traumatic event and I could see how much he cared for and appreciated the people in his life. But still, they fell a bit flat for me in comparison to Marvin, who we got a great feel for! Nonetheless, I enjoyed the focus on community and how it can be a source of strength in such trying times.

Some days, when I do, I just stare at the blackness I see in the mirror hanging on my closet door. I tell myself that I love this skin, that I’ve always loved my blackness, that if the world doesn’t love me, I will love myself for the both of us. After reminding myself that I matter, that I’ve always mattered, that Tyler mattered and still does, I make a promise to myself. I promise to never be silent about things that matter.

I don’t think the story needed a stronger focus on the trial, because the outcome wasn’t what was most important to Marvin in the end. He found his meaning of freedom and what mattered most to him through other means and in honoring his brother in his own way. Still, I’d like to say something: Video evidence should not be necessary to get people heard or to get a conviction or even as much as an arrest. People should not have to be excellent in order to not get killed by the people who were supposed to protect them. It all makes me so very angry, but I’m not surprised anymore. If you are still surprised by any of this, you haven’t been paying attention, because this has been happening for a while now.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Another very important read!

If you want to engage with this topic through fiction some more, here are a couple books I have read and can recommend (as I am sure there are many more that I have not yet read that are really great):

The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give, #1)          Dear Martin (Dear Martin, #1)          All American Boys

Having said all that, I also encourage you to check out some non-fiction books. I have to work harder on that myself, but I found Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (part memoir, part essay) very insightful. I have also heard great things abut Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.

More resources: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/


Have you read Tyler Johnson Was Here? Do you plan on picking it up? Let’s chat!

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord (Book Review)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count
: 368

I can’t believe I read this brand new 2020 release, but it was one of the easiest tasks ever to convince me to pick it up! Twitter wars, teen banter, copious amounts of Gossip Girl and Mean Girls references, grilled cheese and all the sweet goods one could imagine as well as the enemies-to-lovers trope – this book basically consisted of all the things I love and adore.

When you go into Tweet Cute, I feel like you very much know what to expect and that’s not a bad thing at all, because the execution is what matters. I went into it having quite a lot of the story elements that would be used in mind already, but I was still surprised when some of them were used. Sometimes a certain plot point would arrive much sooner and I’d be surprised by how much of the story was still left. Nonetheless, I never felt like the story was dragging on or stretching out parts of it too much, everything flowed nicely and made sense in the grand scheme of things.

This won’t be a very long review in total, just because there is very little to say other than my utter adoration for Tweet Cute. The characters were fun, the setting was cool (I like some preppy uptown New York academy), the banter was hilarious, but what I loved the most was the complex family dynamic. The pressure you sometimes get from wanting to please your parents, the rivalry that can ensue with a sibling because of different treatment and the fierce loyalty one might still feel, even when things are not at their best at the moment. All those things make a story feel real and relatable.

Now, can someone please make me a grilled cheese?? I am hungry!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Such good fun! (Caution: Do not read while hungry or craving food!)

Have you read this book also? Have you seen it swarm around the blogosphere as much as I have? Let’s chat!

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (Book Review)

Publisher: HarperCollins
Page Count
: 310

Tahereh Mafi is one of my all-time favourite authors. I haven’t read everything by her, however, most of what I have read was more in the dystopian (??? gosh, I am terrible with genres) category, whereas A Very Large Expanse of Sea is Mafi’s first YA contemporary! I wasn’t sure how her writing style would translate to this genre, but it was a truly amazing read!

Where to even start? Set one year after the terrible events of 9/11, it chronicles a particularly memorable time for Muslim teenager Shirin. You can immediately tell that it is a very personal story and while I don’t know all the specifics that went into this book, I am certain that Tahereh drew some parts of it from her own experiences. Even though I can’t say I was really a teen in 2002 just yet myself, I was slowly getting there, and it instantly brought back some memories from that peculiar time. I remember the news reports and the fear and all that even though I was living on an entirely different continent. But I also associate those years with a certain kind of nostalgia, when everything was getting more digitalised while not quite being there yet.

Aside from a setting I could easily wrap my head around, I was most enamored with the characters. Shirin is a no-bullshit kind of narrator and a really smart one at that. She manages to paint a picture of all the people in her life in a way that makes them seem real, even if you only meet them briefly on the page. Her growing relationship to Ocean was exactly how I picture teens in love for the first time. Everything happened fast but at the same time with caution and the awareness that the other person might just have the power to break their heart.

The entire story tackled so many different topics. This isn’t just a love story, although there certainly is a focus on it, but also a tale about family, friendship, finding your passions and having to handle racism and Islamophobia. It hurts deeply to know that there are such vastly ignorant and hateful people out there. I always wished that those parts of the story were fiction only, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

Lastly, Tahereh Mafi finished the story off in the most bittersweet way. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I am not going to go into the details here, but it felt right to end it in that certain way, while you also wanted so much more afterwards.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! This book was packed with so much in such few pages in comparison.

Have you read A Very Large Expanse of Sea? Is it something you’d be interested in? How did you feel about Tahereh writing in another genre? Let’s talk about it!

How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras (Book Review)

23368740An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.
Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

I was kindly provided with an eArc by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Disclaimer: This book includes teenagers consuming alcohol and drugs!

I don’t even know where to start. I should have read the book and written the review more than a week ago, but NaNoWriMo got in the way. I was really excited to read it, because it seemed to touch upon topics that I care about, but all it did in the end was make me angry. To better express how I feel about How to Be Brave, I separated the review in two parts:

What I Liked About It

  • Throughout the book I saw real development in the main character Georgia. She learned from her mother’s mistakes, became bolder and felt comfortable with her body and herself as a person. Also, she chose a healthier life style, actually wanting to change things without being unrealistic concerning the results that were actually achievable. I can respect and admire resolutions like that!
  • This book was more about friendship and family than about romantic love (even though it is part of it) and I appreciated that.
  • Also, it is the second book in a row that mentions Chicago, Oregon and California. I see that as a sign right there!

What I Didn’t Like About It

  • First, I want to talk about Georgia’s body image issues. She’s a size 16 (US, I think) and while that is overweight, it is far from being huge or obese. So, I want to express my thoughts on the cover. It’s pretty! There is no way denying that, but is the girl on the cover supposed to be Georgia? If so, that is not a correct representation of an overweight girl and I don’t think it sends the right message to people who are actually struggling with their weight.
  • I had really big troubles keeping track of time as there were sometimes weeks or months passing in between chapters.
  • The book wanted to teach the readers a lesson, that everyone has flaws. There’s nothing wrong with that as it is, but I don’t like how it was delivered and resolved. Georgia gets into a fight with her friends (after doing something legitimately stupid), but the way they make up wasn’t okay with me. Yes, we all struggle, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to be mean. Also, there is a fine line between being honest or cruel and Liss really shocked me when it came to Evelyn. I definitely felt like her betrayal was way bigger than Georgia’s.
  • I don’t know anything about poetry, but there were different parts written in prose and it didn’t really get to me. Those parts almost always connected with Georgia’s memories and thoughts about her mother, but somehow they just didn’t captivate me.

I think it was obvious that I struggled with the story. I had issues connecting with Georgia, but I don’t think that there aren’t any good messages to take away. In fact, some of the lessons are really great, I just don’t like how we arrived at their conclusions.

Fazit: 3/5 stars!

I am so happy to finally check off a book from my November TBR. Have any of you read the book? Did you like it?

Until Friday Night Book Review

Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines came in the mail today and I finished it within a couple of hours. Another book to cross off my September TBR! It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, but I am getting ahead of myself.

fridayTo everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god. But on the inside he’s grief-stricken – his father is dying and he hasn’t told anyone because he can’t face the truth. Now, as his pain grows unbearable, West finally decides he needs to talk to someone about his dad. So in the dark shadows of a party, he tells the one girl who doesn’t speak everything he can’t tell anyone else. West expected to feel relief, a flood of emotions – but what he didn’t expect was for Maggie Carleton to reply. For her to reveal a pain even deeper than his own. And, for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go.
(source: Goodreads)

Disclaimer: There are a few minor Spoilers, but nothing that would really ruin the story in my opinion. (Also the book includes a bit of swearing, didn’t mind it but thought you should know.)

Sooo, where to start? I have never read any of Glines books before, therefore I have no idea if it’s similar to her other work. However, I am a bit torn about this book. I expected something along the lines of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry but it didn’t really compare emotionally.

West Ashby (whom I only ever call Wes in my head for some weird reason) is an extremely handsome jock with personal problems, which he doesn’t feel like he can talk about with anyone he knows. Enter Maggie. She is a gorgeous, innocent creature and every guy is instantly smitten with her (seriously EVERYONE is hitting on her and someone even said that she’s hot and mute, therefore the perfect woman) but she has even bigger problems than West.

There were a couple of issues I had with the book and a couple of things I liked. Here are my thoughts:

  • Everyone is extremely handsome and gorgeous, especially our main protagonists. The entire football team consists of good-looking guys that flirt shamelessly but are good at heart. The rest of the girls at school (and apparently the “average” girl doesn’t exist because they are never mentioned) are all spiteful bitches. Really?
  • West and Maggie have a bad case of insta-love going on. I kind of understand their bond on some level, but let’s face it they are all pretty superficial and it started because he thought she was smoking hot.
  • I get frustrated when people are obviously meant to be with each other but their thoughts only consist of the following sentences: “He/She will only ever see me as a friend” or “He never looks at me that way.” Why do they need so long until they realise that they belong together? Everyone else already knows …
  • There was some emotional trauma and I think it was handled well in the case of West, but not so much with Maggie. She barely dealt with her stuff and her conclusion felt really rushed in the end. Despite what I just said, there were some really emotional scenes, but I just feel like Glines could have dug deeper.
  • West is handsome and basically a good guy but if I were Maggie I would have felt a little suffocated.
  • I actually would have liked to see more of Nash because he seemed like an interesting character. Maybe that will happen somewhere further along the series. Also, I wanted to know what was going on with Gunner and that girl they ran out of town.
  • I really enjoyed the Brady and Maggie dynamic and him stepping up as a sort of big brother for her.
  • There were some seriously funny scenes in there and you just know that you read a contemporary novel when there’s a sentence like “I’ll be Instagraming that shit.” in the book.

Fazit: 3/5 stars. A fun and fast read that could’ve gone deeper. I am not sure I will continue reading this series (The Field Party Series) if or when future books come out.

It’s a fairly new release (I think it came out late August), but have you read this book as well? What are your thoughts?

We All Looked Up Book Review

There’ve been so many great books released this year and We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach is definitely among my favourites! There won’t be any major Spoilers unless noted otherwise!

 

We All Looked Up is a story told from the point of view of four teenagers interconnected with each other, who have to deal with the very real possibility of an asteroid hitting earth and destroying it. With that knowledge, how do you still know what’s important? Does anything matter at all or is everything that you do even more significant now that it could be the last time?

First, let me start by saying that I love the cover. It was one of the things that instantly drew me towards the book, because it was just so simple yet beautiful. But even more importantly, the short description on the back of the book really hit home with me. It’s very Breakfast-Club-esque and I loved that. Stories about putting down labels are always great and it having that unique twist with the asteroid made it even better. I don’t know exactly what genre it is though, maybe pre-apocalyptic? Is that a thing?

Anyway, the four characters played off each other very well, although it sometimes felt very obvious who they were “destined” to be with. Nonetheless, they all had that authentic touch and each had their very own voice. I loved the questions they were confronted with as society began to panic and disintegrate. Everything in this book resonated with me very much and to quote it right there:

“The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world. You’re part of this cosmic community of people who’ve thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be.”

And that’s just exactly how it felt! Everything was connected and even if you didn’t agree with the decisions characters made, you still could empathise with them and that’s the most important thing anyway.

SPOILER AHEAD!!

During the course of the book some people died … actually quite a lot and a main character among them. While I did feel a little sad, I thought there was never actual time to grieve. I am aware that they were all under a lot of pressure and short on time with the asteroid on the way, but those moments always felt so … rushed and unimportant, which I think is a pity.

Also, a lot of people have debated over the ending and of course I have something to say about it as well. I’m a little torn to be honest. On the one hand, it was perfect! It probably couldn’t have ended any other way and by keeping all the possibilities open, it gave the readers even more to think about than the book has already done thus far. Yet, on the other hand, it was also extremely mean. You’ve spent so much time building a relationship with these characters and then you are denied to know their fate. But I know that it wasn’t really possible to tell the story any further. It would’ve ruined the flow.

Fazit: A very engaging read that will give you a lot to think about!

If you’ve read the book as well or have any questions, let’s discuss in the comments! For more details on the book, either go and visit Tommy Wallach‘s website or click on the picture above to get re-directed to goodreads.

 

Half Bad

I am sort of recycling and improving my Goodreads reviews here, but I didn’t want to let you guys wait for another couple of months before I post something new.

Half Bad is the debut novel of Sally Green and the first book in the Half Life Series. The book revolves around Nathan, a male witch who’s mother was a White Witch and who’s father was a Black Witch. Seen as he is now half White and half Black the community or Counsil of the White Witches, as it is called in the book, doesn’t really know how to handle the situation. Usually, you are allowed to kill a Black Witch on sight, but Nathan isn’t entirely Black … you get my point … The way the main character is treated, is really terrible. People aren’t just mean to him, they outright abuse that poor guy for no good reason – it’s like witch racism in a way.

The story takes place in modern day Britain, which is an interesting setting I think, and starts out in a very unique POV. It starts out in second person POV; as in “You walk to the sink and pour yourself a glass of water.” It’s very strange at first, but it doesn’t stay that way and you would get used to it eventually. So, I normally really like stories about witches and the whole Good vs. Evil stuff, that’s why I decided to read Half Bad. But let me tell you one thing: White, certainly doesn’t mean good! The lines are very blurred concerning that whole topic – which just makes it that much more intriguing to me.

I have to admit though, that not a lot happens in the first book. To me, it seemed more like a 360-pages-long prequel to the real story that is about to happen in the next books. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, because I definitely felt like it was a quick and gripping read and I can’t wait to read the sequels (the next book will come out sometime next year!). 

Have you heard of this series? Did you like/dislike it? Gimme your thoughts!

My Top 5 Childhood/Young Adult Books

Seen as I have written a lot about TV shows lately, I thought I’d change it up a little and do a post on my favourite childhood/teen books and book series. I absolutely adored (and still do love) all of the following stories and compared everything I read afterwards with them. Before I get all nostalgic, here my list:

  1. The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke)
    The brothers Bo and Prosper are supposed to get seperated after their mother’s death, but Prosper won’t part with his little brother. Together they flee to Venice where they meet the mysterious Lord of Thief who offers them food and shelter. At the same time they have to hide from the private investigator their aunt and uncle hired to find them.
    I love the book as well as the movie that came out in 2006. The film included actors and actresses such as: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jim Carter, Rollo Weeks, George MacKay, Alice Connor, Caroline Goodall, …
    While reading the book I fell in love with Venice, which only made it so much more devastating when the real Venice wasn’t as fascinating and magical as it appeared in the book, but I don’t blame the story for that.
  2. City of Beasts (Isabel Allende)
    City of Beasts is the first installement of a trilogy, the sequels are called Kingdom of the Golden Dragon and Forest of the Pygmies. It revolves around Alex, who has to spend his vacations with his grandmother, an International Geographic reporter. While they are in the Amazon region he meets Nadia, a girl a few years younger than him. They soon discover that they have certain animalistic powers and that is pretty much how they are able to deal with the difficult situations they are confronted with in all three books.
    I especially loved how every book took place on a different continent and how the friendship between Alex and Nadia developed into something more.
  3. Inkheart Trilogy (Cornelia Funke)
    Since I was a child that absolutely loved reading, there couldn’t have been anything more exciting than a book about people who can read characters out of another book. Books all over the place! I think Inkheart was the first book, where I really and wholeheartedly cared about the fate of a fictional character (Dustfinger – for all of you, who know the story). It’s magical and beautiful and I still think it’s one of the best young adult book series out there.
    The first book was made into a movie, featuring Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Eliza Bennett, Andy Serkis, Sienna Guillory and many more, but I didn’t like the adaptation at all.
  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)
    This was probably one of the most depressing and frustrating book series I have ever read, nonetheless it is one I will always remember and charish. The story focuses on the life of the three Baudelaire siblings. After their parents died, they get sent from one strange relative to the next, while making sure they are not killed for their heritage by the evil Count Olaf. The first three books were also made into a fairly decent movie starring Jim Carrey, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Catherine O’Hara, Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Coolidge, Jude Law, …
    I guess the story could be considered quite dark for children, but I still loved it!
  5. Molly Moon’s Incredible Book on Hypnotism (Georgia Byng)
    The first book of the Molly Moon series was published in 2002 and I have to admit I only read four of the existing six, because I kind of grew out of the story by the time the newer ones were published … and I am afraid the stories also weren’t as good as the first ones. Still, I definitely love the first book! It’s about Molly, an orphan, who’s life drastically changes when she masters the art of hypnosis.
    It’s certainly an exciting adventure that also let’s you appreciate what you have in life.

After re-reading the list, I just noticed how many books revolve around the life of orphans. Did you read some of the same books when you were little? Did you like them or would they be on the bottom of the list of your childhood reads?