24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Month: January 2018

Abby Reads: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse, 2017, 384 pages
YA Fiction

In When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, readers are introduced to gutsy Dimple and amorous Rishi. The summer before she’s to go to college, Dimple packs her bags for a computer coding camp where she expects to work hard to earn the prize of working with her idol and developing an app28458598 which will help her father and thousands of others. What she doesn’t expect is to meet her future husband, Rishi. Enamored by Dimple and her drive, Rishi is hardly deterred by her naturally horrified response to the rude realization that her and Rishi’s parents have conspired to put the two teens together. When Dimple and Rishi are paired together for their coding project, Dimple is hesitant at best. But perhaps Rishi has more to offer than what Dimple wants to believe.

Young Adult fiction publishers seem to finally be getting the message that we need more diverse books. This is only the very beginning, but with a publication date that quickly followed the final installment of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, When Dimple Met Rishi came at the perfect time. The buzz around the novel is well-deserved. Because the novel is written by a woman who can racially and ethnically identify with her characters, stereotypes are nonexistent or, in the cases where they do appear, are explained to inform the reader and flesh out the stereotype that is actually a cultural feature or, an unconnected individual quirk.

Not to continue comparing Menon to Han, but another fantastic similarity between the two is the novels’ abilities to take a fairly slow, everyday plot without outrageous dips, dives, and heights and maintain a high level of interest in readers. Characters in the novel experience everyday problems with loved ones and friends, many of which readers might recognize from their own lives. However, these conflicts are rarely yawn-inducing. Instead, Menon props up the novel with characters who are well-developed and emotive. With such a high level of development, managing chemistry between characters might seem like a stiff challenge, but Menon proves her skill again in helping readers become invested in Dimple and Rishi’s end with the considerable gravitation between the two characters.

Menon’s setting of a pre-college camp for computer programmers is also highly interesting, and a bold thing to actually show a young woman entering. For all the talk we have around girls in computer sciences, it seems rare to see such a person reflected in fiction and even rarer to see it done well and realistically. Dimple meets plenty of detractors when it comes to her love of coding, but perhaps what really sets this environment apart from similar locations is that Dimple’s coding camp is full of all kinds. While some of Menon’s secondary and tertiary characters become caricaturistic, the presence of those characters at all (such as the stereotypical Mean Girls) assist in creating realism.

Some reviewers had problems with examples of Dimple’s physical abuse of Rishi. I’m not one to believe that characters must be nice or likable to be interesting or worth reading about, but the abuse, particularly as something that was never resolved as a character trait, felt out of place in When Dimple Met Rishi. These instances might have informed readers of Dimple’s character, but given that she never seems to outgrow the behavior, its existence in the novel is troubling.

Finally, When Dimple Met Rishi did run a little long for my tastes. A particular beat of the romance plot toward the end might have been left off for a read that felt a little snappier, which likely would have suited the experience better. However, When Dimple Met Rishi is, overall, almost as good as the hype and certainly worth the time to read. Even aside from being an important novel due to its status as a “diverse” novel (scare quotes because we shouldn’t need novels featuring non-white characters as direly as we do, and yet here we are), When Dimple Met Rishi is worth it simply for the pleasure.

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: First & Then by Emma Mills

First & Then  by Emma Mills
Henry Holt and Co., 2015, 272 pages
YA Fiction

Obsessed with Jane Austen and dealing with the new presence of her cousin in her home, Devon of Emma Mills’s First & Then doesn’t want a whole lot to do with anyone. With her cousin Foster comes local superstar football player Ezra, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be out of her life anytime soon, no matter 23310751how much she may want him out. But Ezra perhaps does not have the perfect life everyone believes he does.

With a plot and structure that mimics Austen to some degree, First & Then follows Devon and her mild obsession around the famous author. Mills struggles to define Devon, however — for all of Devon saying she loves Austen, it’s rarely demonstrated in action and the origins of her interest are never explained. It feels, instead, like a symbolic character trait: Devon loves Austen, so her story — at least in this novel — will be one about love and commentary on societal contentions. You know, like an Austen novel.

Despite Devon being somewhat bare bones in the personality department, her love interest is rather interesting. Genuinely mature (as opposed to the fake mature that you often see in YA literature — Edward in Twilight comes to mind first: seemingly mature and experienced, but really just brooding and quite emotionally immature when it comes down to it), the character provides a refreshing example. Though a revealing detail (see more on that at the end of the review, if you don’t mind major spoilers)* ends up being half-baked and underdeveloped, the character overall is fascinating as an individual.

Other folks in Devon’s life make the novel a touch crowded. Too many characters come in and out, which is a mark of real life, but ultimately makes First & Then harder to follow, canceling out any of the realism this aspect provides. Meanwhile, Mills’s plot is a bit slow and subtle, which adds to the vague lack of readability. Furthermore, if you’re not a fan of football and know nothing about it, several football-heavy scenes will again make this book a bit more of a chore than you might expect.

Finally, Devon’s tendency to call other girls at her school “prostitots,” or “PTs” for short, is a frustrating one. She never grows out of this, which I found disconcerting for a number of reasons. While main characters need not be perfect by any stretch, there seemed no real reason for this inclusion, except perhaps some dislike of girls typically deemed as pretty, popular, and perhaps promiscuous (alliteration unintended) by the author in her high school years.

First & Then is not something I’d go out of my way to read. It needed a bit more polishing and a stronger structure to hold my attention. While the prose style was sufficient, the overall concept was in places too subtle or otherwise underdeveloped to be gripping.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

Ultimately, the love interest holds a secret to avoid attention he doesn’t want. This “secret” is that his younger brother died in a car crash. This felt terribly gimmicky and, from someone who lost a brother to fatal injuries in a car crash, I was mildly insulted. The love interest never even gives his brother a name, suggesting that the crash only matters in so much as it is connected to the love interest and his life, as opposed to just being an important event on its own. Though everyone grieves differently, I found this portrayal strange, off-putting, and generally tone deaf to what it’s actually like.

❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Storytimes for Everyone! by Saroj Ghoting

Storytimes for Everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy  by Saroj Ghoting
American Library Association Editions, 2013, 296 pages
Nonfiction

When I learned I was going to be hired as a Children’s Librarian, I panicked. My Library and Information Science program focused on adult and young adult services. At the time, my goal was to be a Young Adult Librarian and, if I had been required to list, in order, in which positions I was interested, Children’s Librarian would have been last. So, I needed something that would be a crash course in one of the main pillars of children’s librarianship and I needed something that would make me excited about the job. (As an aside, since I started a several months ago, I’ve found I enjoy children’s librarianship after all!)

This, anyway, is the story of how I came to read Saroj Ghoting’s Storytimes for Everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy. This text was, first and foremost, incredibly practical and easy to implement. With sample storytime plans and a complete explanation of the leading early literacy theories, Ghoting prepared me well for my introduction to storytime. With lots and lots of repetition, Ghoting drills in the main components of early literacy. This might make for somewhat dry reading for those looking for something more casual, but I found this style extra helpful for my needs.

Ghoting is clearly an expert in the field and, if her catalog doesn’t show it, her adeptness at describing these concepts does. The complete clarity she writes with shows a deep level of skill and knowledge while making the book and its concepts super accessible for even the most beginner of novices. Ghoting also supplements her writing with plenty of resources and examples, some of which are available free online.

I checked this one out from the library, but I’ve since considered purchasing it. With lots of storytime plans at the end of the book paired with plenty of instructional materials at the beginning, Storytimes for Everyone is incredibly useful and great to have on-hand. Whether you’re a total newbie to storytime and early literacy or you’re a long-time pro, there’s something for everyone in Ghoting’s text.

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero

In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero
Henry Holt and Co., 2016, 272 pages
Memoir

In Diane Guerrero’s memoir In the Country We Love, the actress recounts her life from her earliest memories to the present. Guerrero, an advocate for immigration reform, relives some of her most difficult moments, including the process with a lawyer who promised citizen status but stole thousands from her parents, and the eventual deportation of her family. While she bounced around friends’ homes and eventually In the Country We Lovefound her way into acting, Guerrero never forgot the struggles of her family and continues to fight for immigration reform today. In an updated edition of her memoir, Guerrero wonders about the impact of America’s 45th president with a renewed dedication to her cause with an added afterword.

The prose in Guerrero’s memoir is fantastically eloquent. Despite taking on a challenging and complicated topic — and one which many people feel strongly about and, even further, strongly against Guerrero — her arguments are always clear and made simple to follow. Though immigration reform is likely a difficult topic for Guerrero to write about at length, she always makes social issues easy to understand and visceral, for readers who are more removed from the challenges wrapped up in immigration. It is her ability to make these challenges real and immediate that sets her arguments apart. The February 2017 addition to the book makes this even more evident with words and ideas that are both powerful and unapologetic. From her discussion around immigration to her descriptions of more light-hearted topics, Guerrero paints a clear and vivid picture without fail, making In the Country We Love an enjoyable read.

Toward the earlier pages of the book, Guerrero admits the memoir will be difficult to get to for her. She acknowledges that talking about immigration and her own story will be personally emotionally challenging. Despite this, she says, it’s important to her that the book is written: she felt alone when her parents were deported, and she feels a responsibility to let other young people in her position know they are not alone. Guerrero certainly gets the job done as she is painfully honest in her storytelling. This means she not only lets others know they are not alone, but lets those who have not been in her position in on the reality of it, perhaps to the benefit of swaying them to her “side” if they aren’t already there. This goal is incredibly admirable, given that this story is one that is, often, incredibly personal.

But Guerrero’s memoir is not all hard edges and realities. She’s endlessly funny and finds humor in dark places. With optimism and lightness of heart, Guerrero makes her otherwise heart-rending work one that is a breeze. In the Country We Love is fantastically readable and a breeze to move through, despite its heaviness. Her sense of humor combined with her determination and interesting story propels the reader through to the end quickly. Yet In the Country We Love is not strictly brain candy — with her calls to action and explanation of social issues, Guerrero easily leaves her readers feeling as if they’ve learned something and are empowered to act.

Though Guerrero does not go into extreme detail on her work with Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, she provides enough information that most readers will be satisfied. More interesting, perhaps, is Guerrero’s journey to her life as an actress. Her skill as an actress is especially highlighted not in her descriptions of her work, but rather the vivid images she provides of people in her life. Her deep understanding and sketches of these people make it clear how she is able to so exactly bring her characters to life in her various acting jobs.

Whether you’re interested in Guerrero as a celebrity or interested in opinions on immigration reform, In the Country We Love is a heartbreaking and heartwarming tribute to life as a new American and living in immigrant families.

I read this book as part of Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge, fulfilling challenge #5, “Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative,” and I leave it behind with four-and-a-half hearts.

❤❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt and Co., 2015, 480 pages
Fantasy

Offered the opportunity of a lifetime, Kaz Brekker knows he has to pull together the best possible team to pull of the most ridiculous heist ever attempted. It’s hard enough with antagonists after the team left and right, but with a team that can’t get along with itself, the caper is even more difficult. Six of Crows by Leigh BardugoRelationships old and new appear in Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, set in a world familiar to readers of her other books.

Okay — let me be completely honest: I didn’t really know what was going on for 90% of this book. It’s a hefty object in hardcover, though I was surprised to find it was only 480 pages when I checked for the data above. It felt like at least 600. Six of Crows has an interesting premise and its fans love the characters and root for their favorite couples. I would, too, I think, if it weren’t for the fact that it was like walking through molasses mixed with superglue to read. Six of Crows is especially slow at the beginning as Bardugo introduces readers to her main characters and their motivations. When the group finally gets together, they are rarely all present on the same page, making it difficult to see how they really operate as a team.

The plot is burdened not only by its slow pace, but by its seeming lack of stakes. Though Kaz and his crew are clearly motivated to receive their rewards for the heist (which I’m still not clear on the details for), the stakes never felt particularly high or driving. This lack of drive might come from the lack of clarity I struggled with so much, but regardless, it had a serious impact on how interesting I found the book.

Adding to the slow pace of the plot is a narration style that is overly stylized. While this might have been appropriate for a shorter work, Six of Crows is already weighed down with a slow plot and a whole lot of world building (not to mention characters who are guarded — I’ll get to that). Although the prose might help suggest the sort-of-steampunk setting, it doesn’t do so enough to warrant how severely entrenched the style is.

Bardugo does produce an interesting round of characters, to some degree. Nina and Matthias, in particular, are both characters who often behave in unexpected ways and play off each other nicely. This is heightened by a fascinating backstory (which is perhaps part of her other series? I’m not familiar and can’t say.) that is touched on here and there throughout Six of Crows. The pair have a realistic and smoldering sort of chemistry, which left me skimming through pages just to reach scenes that featured them together. Meanwhile, Kaz, for all his Tumblr fans, seems awfully simplistic in his jaded ways and, beyond Kaz, Inej, Matthias, and Nina, none of the other characters are terribly memorable (including the two other main characters, Wylan and Jesper, both of whose names I forgot multiple times while reading).

Despite the decided cliffhanger at the end of the novel, Six of Crows didn’t compel me to run out for the next in the series, Crooked Kingdom. While I’d consider returning for the sequel, it’s not at the top of my list and it has some serious redeeming to do for Six of Crows in my book.

I read this book as part of Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge, fulfilling challenge #12, “Read a fantasy novel,” and I leave it behind with two-and-a-half hearts.

❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to Your by Nina LaCour
Speak, 2014, 336 pages
Fiction

A set designer for movies, Emi lives in Los Angeles in Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads to You. With her brother out of the country, she and her best friend move into his empty apartment. Though regular interactions with her ex-girlfriend (and her ex-girlfriend’s current partner) make her uncomfortable, EmiImage result for everything leads to you is determined to make the most of this opportunity and make a break into the behind the scenes of Hollywood. When she discovers a note from a famous actor in an estate sale, Emi is driven to a new mission: find the woman referenced in the note and join the woman with her inheritance. But things are never as they seem in the movies and only sometimes as they seem in real life.

LaCour pieces together a beautiful coming-of-age in Everything Leads to You. Unlike so many other LGBTQIAA+ novels, Everything Leads to You features a young lesbian woman but the story does not revolve around her coming out or around her sexuality at all. While her relationships play a large role in the plot and her sexuality is by no means glossed over, it is not the novel. Coming out novels are, of course, important — but so are celebrations of homosexuality as the everyday. LaCour’s depiction of Emi and her relationships emphasizes the normalcy of it all, which is something sorely missing in most LGBTQIAA+ fiction I’ve encountered.

What’s more, the novel has a totally unique setup, particularly for a young adult cast. Just out of high school, Emi has a job that is unlikely for most people her age, but reasonably realistic all the same. The Los Angeles backdrop makes for an environment that feels new. LaCour’s commitment to the unique location helps to create an atmosphere that is rich and and full of the sort of wonder and style that is only inherent to Hollywood — or, at least, how many of us imagine the area.

LaCour does fall short in prose. While adequate, the sentence structure and vocabulary doesn’t do anything to add to the emotion of the book. It simply tells the story, leaving much of the ambiance up to setting and character actions. Further, Everything Leads to You might be categorized as a sort of light example of literary fiction wherein the focus is on character development over plot, but it remains that the primary conflict simply did not drive the book forward enough. Without a higher level of definition and development, the plot seems more offhand than suits the rest of the novel. This is again emphasized with the lack of chemistry between Emi and the primary love interest.

Everything Leads to You is an important addition to the LGBTQIAA+ fictional catalog, but it has its faults. Like a book in watercolor, it’s a lovely reflection of even the slightly grittier sides of movie making and a tribute to films themselves. A few more rounds of edits might have bumped this one up several notches, but I ultimately finished the novel feeling interested in LaCour’s other works.

I read this book as part of Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge, fulfilling challenge #15, “Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+,” and I leave it behind with three-and-a-half hearts. 

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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