Monday, February 18, 2019

#AmReading YA

Watch Us Rise
Renée Watson, Ellen Hagan
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
"This stunning book is the story I've been waiting for my whole life; where girls rise up to claim their space with joy and power.” --Laurie Halse Anderson, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Speak

"An extraordinary story of two indomitable spirits." --Brendan Kiely, New York Times bestselling co-author of All American Boys and Tradition

"Timely, thought-provoking, and powerful." --Julie Murphy, New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin'

Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan in this YA feminist anthem about raising your voice.

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission--they're sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women's Rights Club. They post their work online--poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine's response to the racial microaggressions she experiences--and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices--and those of other young women--to be heard.

These two dynamic, creative young women stand up and speak out in a novel that features their compelling art and poetry along with powerful personal journeys that will inspire readers and budding poets, feminists, and activists.
In three words: Thought-provoking, emotional, inspiring.

Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends attended a very progressive school, which was supposed to focus on social justice.Yet, there were social injustices being committed left and right on school grounds. Instead of giving up, Jasmine and Chelsea formed a club, Write Like a Girl, where they shared stories, poetry, playlists, and information regarding women's issues and information about those, who have been fighting for women.

One of the things I really enjoyed in this book was all the extras we got with the narrative: the illustrations, the poetry, the prose, the op-ed piece, and all the other informative essays. It was brilliant the way Watson and Hagan used these pieces to educate the reader, and they sought to inform without being preachy.

The same cannot be said for Chelsea. I gave her a little leeway, because I understood that she was a very passionate teen, but there were so many times she came across as one of those ranty white women. Her need to stir the pot ALL THE TIME was grating on me. Though, I did appreciate her struggle with her feminist ideals and subscribing to society's beauty standard, and I was proud of a big choice she made during the story as well.

Chelsea was a little bit of a struggle, but you know, who I absolutely adored? Jasmine. I welcomed all her thoughts with open arms. Both Jasmine and Chelsea were frustrated with beauty ideals, but I found Jasmine's emotions so much more relatable. And, my heart broke for her and her family as they watched their father's illness progress. I cried just about every time dad was on page, and not just because it was sad for Jasmine, but because I thought he was pretty incredible. I loved how he supported not only Jasmine's growth, but that of her friends as well, by giving them different "challenges" to complete.

But I didn't just cry for dad. I also cried during the big climax. I am a woman, who attended engineering school and worked in IT in the early 90s. Lots of sexism, and seeing these fictional young women rage for equality put a smile on my face, and made me wish I had half their courage when I was their age.

This book wasn't all BIG issues though. There were also common teen woes and worries in there regarding crushes, friendship, and family, which the authors wove into the story quite well.
Be butterfly stroke in a pool of freestylers.
Overall: A really well written and compelling story of finding and making sure your voice is heard.

Immoral Code
Lillian Clark
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s," it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones," like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT—but the student loan she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father—one Robert Foster—is loaded.

Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals.
After working for years and finally achieving her dream of MIT, Bellamy thought she was shut out, because her estranged father was too wealthy limiting her financial aid, and he had not offered to help with tuition. Nari hoped to right this wrong using her hacking skills, as she and the rest of their friends embarked on this morally grey mission.

I am starting with a warning: This book features five points of view. I see many readers lament about too many POVs, but I thought Clark did a good job keeping them distinct. There was only one chapter, where I thought Reese didn't sound like herself, but other than that, I easily distinguished between each character, and I must say, this was quite an interesting bunch of people.

I loved how they all brought something unique to the table. From a desire to explore space to Olympic dreams, I found myself wanting to learn more about these teens. And, they were also dealing with common issues - divorce, parental expectations, panic about the future, romantic relationships, and such. I liked that these things were included, and felt like they were woven into the overall story quite well.

From the synopsis, you would think this book was all about the Ocean's 11 style heist, and it did occupy quite a bit of the book, but what drew me in and kept me there, was the beautiful friendship shared between them. How many of your friends would commit a felony for you? That's some fierce loyalty.

Another thing I really liked was the outcome of the mission. They went into it, ready to get the MIT money, but each of them gained something intangible as a result of this challenge. All of them changed in some way, and so did the group dynamic, and I think all the changes were very positive.
Now, we're gathered here today in the name of the Family You Choose, to cement this union with the most lasting and strongest of glues, shared guilt and criminal activity.
Overall: A solid debut highlighted by a fierce friendship.

**ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

Do you like mixed format books?
Let us know in the comments!

30 comments:

  1. Immoral code sounds great, will have to pick this up!

    Lotte | www.lottelauv.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. I am always up for a friendship story, and I thought Clark gave us a great one in this book.

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  2. I really need to snag a copy of Immoral Code. That just sounds so good. I'm glad you enjoyed Watch Us Rise too. I thought the poetry included in the book was outstanding.

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    1. I am such a fan of mixed formats, and the authors used it so well in Watch Us Rise. I was definitely a fan of the poetry.

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  3. That first one sounds like a book I would enjoy! I love that it was thought-provoking and the characters were layered. It sounds like it good just the right reaction from you too!

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    1. I definitely was into everything they were saying, even if I found the one character's delivery a tad bit annoying. Lots of food for thought and I absolutely was cheering and feeling a sense of empowerment at the climax of the book.

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  4. Great reviews! The first book sounds like what I see on Twitter every day. I guess it’s a timely book.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. AJ, you never fail to slay me. It's definitely a timely book, and I thought it was done well. I found it quiet inspiring.

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  5. I've been curious about both of these, and I'm happy to see you enjoyed them both! Like AJ said, the first book sounds like it mirrors a lot of what's happening in the world today. As for the second book, I love stories with fierce friendships! Great reviews, Sam!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. Both have friendships at their core, and I loved that, but the girl power of the Watch Us Rise was something special

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  6. I was curioous about Watch US Rise. It sounds inspiring, but I am not thrilled about the character who constantly looks for drama. The second sounds fun, and I don’t mind multiple POVS as long as it is done well.

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    1. Chelsea got on my nerves a little, but overall, the book was very good. I don't mind multiple POVs, but it's a complaint I see often in reviews. I thought Clark did a good job making with her five characters, and I was able to tell them apart rather quickly.

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    1. It was fun, but it also touched upon the idea of the future and other things that teen their age are dealing with.

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  8. Watch Us Rise sounds fantastic. I wonder if they wrote Chelsea that way on purpose. I hope she was called out on the page if that was the case though.

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    1. Chelsea was sort of annoying, but she had some redeeming qualities. Her poetry was great. Other people might not find her as tiresome as I did.

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  9. Immoral Code sounds great, and I love how strong you mention the friendships and loyalties are- and what they learn from their endeavour. Adding this one!

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    1. I liked it. If you are up for a friendship story with a little romance, contemplation of the future, and a bit of a heist thrown in, this could be a great book for you.

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  10. I really enjoyed your reviews and both of these sound like wonderful books.

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    1. Both solid reads reads, which left me with stuff to think about.

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  11. I love love the idea behind Immoral Code, but even more so because the friendship is at the core of it!

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    1. I would definitely classify Code as a friendship story with a little bit of heist and some coming of age too.

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  12. Thanks for sharing some new to me books and authors.

    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. Glad I could introduce you to some new books.

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  13. I really want to read Immortal Code as you know it was one of my CWW. =)
    Glad to hear you liked it.

    Mary

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    1. I went in with no expectations, and I got a great story of friendship, which I always love.

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  14. I have seen a lot of people reading Watch Us Rise as it is one that is great for black history month. I am glad you liked Jasmine's character so much and found it to be so thought provoking. Immoral Code sounds so unique and yay for the representation in that one as well :) I don't mind so many point of views, to be honest.

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    1. Watch Us Rise had a strong feminist focus, but Jasmine's character also touched upon issues of race, especially with respect to the type of roles carved out in the entertainment industry. Multi-POV books are ok with me, as long as each characters' perspective is clearly their's.

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  15. Watch Us Rise sounds amazing, even if you had some issues with the character of Chelsea, it still sounds very inspiring. I love that it's not just feminism but racial issues which are explored. I think the fact the book addresses microaggressions which people experience, that those who do it may not view as being racist, is addressed because those are the things which can impact day to day.

    As for Immoral Code... yeah, as soon as you said 5 pov I was like nope. Not doing that. I hate too many POV and even if it works, I find excuses not to read. I just struggle with that many POV. I get bored of someone and then want to stop reading.

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    1. Overall, Watch Us Rise was fabulous, and I swear, I was super pumped and inspired at the climax and nodding my head with many of the observations made throughout. The book is definitely straight forward and does not tip toe around issues that exist, and I liked the way Jasmine handled it.

      I know there are readers, who are not fans of the multi-POV, that's why I mentioned it.

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