Mini Reviews: Teenage MCs

I finally have some reviews for you all!

I’ve been meaning to catch up on my reviews but I always feel like these take me so long to write so it’s hard to find the time and sit down to do them. But I’ve managed! So here are a few recent YA reads, very different stories but something lovely about each.

Book cover for Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. Illustration of a trans teenage boy wearing a low cut tank top showing his surgery scars, and a flower crown on his head.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Genre:
YA Fiction | LGBTQ+
Own voices: Black, queer, trans MC
CWs: transphobia, deadnaming, bullying, alcohol and drug use

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

This book’s been a hit since it came out and as it’s on my yearly TBR, I’m very glad to have gotten to it.

I’ve included the content warnings above because this is a tough book. There is repeated overt and explicit transphobic content that the main character has to deal with that forms most of the major conflict of the book, and while the MC has support and these attacks are called out, it’s quite aggressive so do be aware going in.

With that said, this is a really sweet and touching story and so heartwarming. It took me a bit to get used to the present tense but it was easy to fall in with these characters. This book is all about love and there are some very messy relationships for these teens but it’s fun to be a part of their world for a bit.

I hadn’t known going in that it largely takes place at an art school as Felix is preparing his portfolio, but I absolutely loved the focus on art! Each of Felix’s classmates focus on different mediums in their artwork and the way that the author described the beauty of each was incredible. I’m glad we get a little taste of what some of these works would look like.

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Mini Reviews: Collections

I finally have some reviews to share!

I’ve read a number of collections over the past several months so I’ve gathered a few of them together today. Whether you’re into essay collections, fictional short stories, or some poetry, I think you’ll find something to enjoy here.

Book cover for Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed. Illustration of a Brown girl's face. Her eyes are closed and she has bright pink lipstick. Her face is surrounded by pink, red, and white flowers.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed edited by Saraciea J. Fennell
Genre: Essay Collection

In Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, bestselling and award-winning authors as well as up-and-coming voices interrogate the different myths and stereotypes about the Latinx diaspora. These 15 original pieces delve into everything from ghost stories and superheroes, to memories in the kitchen and travels around the world, to addiction and grief, to identity and anti-Blackness, to finding love and speaking your truth.

This was a really wonderful collection and I was glad to see names I recognized (Mark Oshiro! Elizabeth Acevedo!), some authors whose other books are already on my TBR, and many new-to-me voices I’m now excited to seek out.

These essays and poems are honest and insightful. Some are painful and some humorous, while others are both. There’s a lot to learn from the authors’ personal experiences and much to relate to for readers with similar experiences as part of the Latinx diaspora. I especially liked that there were many essays from authors on being Afro-Latinx as I have read less from this perspective and, based on the authors’ essays, it’s a perspective that’s been left out of many discussions around Latinx identity.

Very glad for the introduction to so many authors and to add their other work to my TBR!

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Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Book cover for Iron Widow. Illustration of a Chinese young woman wearing a fighter suit and looking over her shoulder. She's surrounded by very large red and orange feathers that look metallic.

Title: Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1)
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: September 21, 2021
Format / source: hardcover / prize from publisher
Purchase: Indie Bound
Content warnings: violence, abuse, suicide ideation, discussion of sexual assault, torture, alcoholism, sexism
Rating: ★★★★★

I don’t normally go for sci-fis, especially ones that involve a lot of world-building, but hearing the author talk about their book at a publishing event completely changed my mind and I decided to give this one a read. And I’m so glad I did!

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

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