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Teen SRC 2021 – Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali

TL;DR 8/10. Misfit in Love was a beautiful and heart-warming read that touched on unexpectedly deep topics without ever subtracting from the fun of, as Janna puts it, the “big fat Muslim wedding” at the heart of the story.

Misfit in Love is the sequel to Saints and Misfits written by S.K. Ali, but can also be read as a stand alone. The description of the book can be found here.

Okay, I have to admit that I wasn’t super excited by the premise of the love square/triangle thing. As I’m already not a huge romance fan, a book centered around one girl’s search for love with three possible love interests sounds like the last possible thing I’d read. BUT!! S.K. Ali is a Canadian-Muslim author and being as desperate for good Muslim rep as I am, I simply had to give this a chance. Without getting too serious (this is a summer wedding story after all!!) I have to say that I am always personally disappointed with how Muslims are usually portrayed in fiction, whether it be in books or TV. To see a hijab-wearing MC who loves her religion, who isn’t afraid to quote the Qur’an or practice what she believes in, be the main character of her own story is so refreshing and beautiful to me. Too often Muslims are either vilified or victimized in the media, and that can translate into acts of hatred in real life. Still, Misfit in Love is NOT about Islamophobia–the only time Muslims get to have a voice should not be when they have been attacked. Instead, this book is simply about Muslim characters living their lives as they ought to, eating ice cream, preparing for a wedding, and feeling safe (although a little lovelorn). Simply put (as if I haven’t gone on long enough) the representation in this book is so heart-warming and beautifully integrated that it didn’t feel preachy or informational at all, and instead felt as if S.K. Ali had personally written this book to me.

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Teen Book Review- Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Allegedly - Jackson, Tiffany

TL; DR: This is the first book I am at a loss on how to review. 4 or 9 /10.

So. I don’t know how to start the review for Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson and that’s a first. I usually have a million of things to say (notice the average length of my reviews, hahaha) but for this one, I am still grappling.

Before I go into that, the premise.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say. Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home. There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

Just from that you know that this thriller is going to be intense. And it really was.

First of all, why is this a YA novel? The protag is 16 years old but the topics in here are HEAVY and well… don’t open it expecting your typical YA stuff. Although that isn’t exactly fair either, because it does have a bunch of your typical YA stuff.

To give (some) structure to the review, I’ll break it down like this. Characters: 9/10. The arcs are strong, and the main characters are EXTREMELY complex and well-written. The side characters on the other hand are lacking, and stereotypically so. Writing: 7/10 Some lines catch you off-guard with their beauty but the overall style was just average. Romance: 8/10. I am still iffy about the romance, but oh well, it’s YA! Importance/Issues Discussed: 10/10. Now that’s one thing I can’t criticize Allegedly for. It takes the most uncomfortable, least-discussed, nitty gritty of the world and forces you to grapple with it. Just… astounding.

Notice how I didn’t rate the plot. Because the plot is *continuous screaming*. Without any spoilers, this is my plea to authors everywhere: DO NOT INCLUDE A PLOT TWIST IF THE ONLY THING IT’S ADDING TO THE BOOK IS SHOCK VALUE.

The ending felt incomplete and it was a long way for me to go to end up unsatisfied. I can’t give the book an overall rating because it’s either a 4/10 or a 9/10. Take from this review (which ended up being long despite what I said at the beginning, super sorry!) what you will and go forth with indecisiveness on whether to read Allegedly or not. 🙂 You’re welcome.

Teen SRC 2020 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I originally discovered To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in my sister’s extensive book collection and I decided to finally read it after months of anticipation.

The novel introduces the Finches (Atticus, Jem, and Jean Louise). The Finches are as normal a family as you can find in Maycomb, Alabama. The story follows the Children (Jem and Jean Louise Finch, and sometimes Dill) as they learn about their father’s hopeless struggle to defend a black man accused of rape. The novel also contains a side plot where they learn about Boo Radley, Macyomb’s local mystery.

The novel flows excellently from chapter to chapter and page to page; readers are drawn in by Lee’s incredible storytelling. The novel does a great job of introducing readers and its own characters to racial bias and injustice. With the rise Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and around the world, the morals and message woven into the story are more than relevant. I would wholeheartedly recommend this novel to anyone who wishes to read about racial injustice and rate this an 8.5/10

Teen SRC 2020 – Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Trevor was born from a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time where that could be punishable by law for five years in prison. As he was living evidence of his parents “crime”, he was kept indoors most of his childhood. His mother hid him as well as she could as the government could take him away at any time. Finally when that era ended, did Trevor and his mother able to live freely. And it was then that he had to set foot into the ocean of possibility only made possible have a long struggle. The book takes you through a journey about a imp child who turns into a man in a environment where he wasn’t suppose to even exist. He is accompanied by his fearless, passionately religious mother, who is determined to keep her son safe from the cycle of poverty, cruelty, and brutality of the world.

This book was so beautiful and humorous. I have watched his shows before with my family online and its focused on race, police brutality, prejudice, hate speech, and many other important topics that needs to be discussed. He really brought the book to life and the audio book was even better. There is so much dark humor in there and he manages to talk about those topics that usually makes us feel uneasy. And I have to say, I love his mother. She is hilarious as well, strong minded, and basically amazing. She taught him many important lessons and guided him gently along the way through his dark and daunting life.

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Teen SRC 2020- Slay by Brittney Morris

Slay

Kiera Johnson leads a double life. Being one of the few Black girls at her school, she behaves the way she needs to: smart, helpful, and unproblematic. Even Kiera’s family and her boyfriend, Malcolm, expect her to act a certain way. The only time Kiera is truly herself is when she’s Emerald, the queen in a virtual reality game called Slay. Keira made Slay to celebrate Black excellence, and her multitude of players come from across the globe. Of course, no one in Kiera’s real life knows she made the game, or even that she plays it.

But when a Black boy is murdered for game money, for SLAY money, Kiera’s two very separate lives come crashing together. Kiera is filled with guilt for having created a game that took a boy’s life, but she doesn’t have time to grieve. Media outlets, and the internet has pounced on the game, on HER game, calling it racist and exclusionary. Everyone now has an opinion on SLAY, but Kiera doesn’t know what to do. Not saying anything, she might become complacent to the injustice, but speaking up could risk exposing her identity. Worst of all, Kiera now risks losing SLAY to Dred Scott, a racist troll. Emerald would fight for justice, Kiera knows. Emerald wouldn’t bow down to anyone. But will Kiera?

Slay is an absolute masterpiece. I have to admit to having an aversion to video-game related books, but Slay has dispelled that notion. The world-building in this book is amazing, the details exquisite, and I wished I could see a game like SLAY in real life. Kiera is a well-developed character, but some of the side characters are more likable, at least to me. We are also told how SLAY has impacted people’s lives by having a few chapters told in another perspective, a technique I will always love.

Slay by Brittney Morris gets 9/10. The ending was a bit too unrealistic for my taste, and there were some unnecessary scenes. (and i’m sorry, but the cover!! A portrait cover, *sigh*, and far too much pink, which doesn’t match with the story’s vibe.)

Overall, Slay opens up many important discussions about safe spaces for minorities, identity, and what Black excellence looks like at an individual level. That might sound preachy or way too serious, but I promise you, it’s not. The story itself is captivating and there is a mystery aspect to it as well (yayyy!!). Coming from a minority background myself, Slay feels like a hug after a tiring day, a hug that says “I see you and I feel you.” 100% recommend, whoever you are and whatever you like reading.

Teen SRC 2020 – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” – Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is genuinely one of the most influential novels speaking out against racism written in our time. Especially now, in the times of people using their voice to campaign for what’s right, this book brings a whole new light to the controversial issues that have existed for generations.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this novel is about a sixteen-year-old girl named Starr Carter who lives in two different worlds- a poor neighbourhood where she lives, and a fancy prep school she attends. Starr navigates through many feelings of grief after seeing her childhood best friend, Khalil, murdered by the police. When his death makes national headlines, Starr faces a choice that can change the entire community that surrounds her- does she defend her friend when confronted by a horrendous amount of outside pressures?

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Teen SRC 2020 – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give eBook: Thomas, Angie: Amazon.ca: Kindle Store

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas features Starr Carter, an African American teenager who sees her childhood best friend, Khalil Harris, being shot and killed by a police officer after a routine traffic stop escalates into Khalil’s untimely demise. Starr is then forced to decide whether she will adhere to the unspoken laws of her local neighborhood and stay silent about the injustice she had witnessed, or testify in front of a grand jury and join an ongoing movement to end racist/xenophobic violence and police misconduct in communities across her area.

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Teen SRC 2020 – Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes & Friendship by Irene Latham & Charles Waters

This book reflects serious topics like racism, rights and friendship. A lot of adult stuff. This book is written by 2 people with very different perspectives on life. They have reflected on their childhoods and how skin color doesn’t split people into groups. Just because you have a different skin color then someone else, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. This book is great for middle school students and for anyone really. You don’t have to wear a specific type of shoes to “fit in”. Everyone is a person and should be treated like one no matter how different they look. This is a very deep story and great for middle school teaching.

Teen SRC 2020 – Front Desk by Kelly Wang

Front Desk

Front Desk by Kelly Wang

This is such a heartfelt story because Mia [main character] changed everybody lives, and now its her chance to change her own life. Mia was struggling so hard and this book really represents real problems that poor immigrants all face. In so many movies, they make it look like if you immigrate to America you will suddenly be rich, have a penthouse, a pool, and so many other things, Wrong. This is a true story, it does not happen with a snap of your fingers. — Erin S

Teen SRC 2018 – Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden FiguresHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

From World War II through NASA’s golden age, four African-American women confidently and courageously stepped into the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now known as NASA). Their job? To provide the mathematical calculations that would help increase airplane production during wartime and eventually send the United States into space for the very first time.  Hidden Figures follows the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who participated in some of the United States’ greatest aeronautics successes.  These women lived through and persevered against the backdrop of some of the biggest movements ever to shape our nation’s history: the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, and the fight for gender equality.