I am finally catching up on book reviews. These books were all read between July and this week. If you’re a fan of young adult literature and looking for a new book to read, you may find one for you here!
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
During my senior year of college, I completed an extensive research project about LGBTQ young adult literature written post-2004, and I really wish this book had been published when I was doing that project because it would have been a perfect addition. Maybe I’ll revisit that project sometime and add this text!
Here’s the plot summary, courtesy of goodreads:
“Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”
And a quote from the book that I enjoyed:
“I renamed myself Ari.
If I switched the letter, my name was Air.
I thought it might be a great thing to be the air.
I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.”
My rating: 5/5 stars. I loved this book. I thought it was well-written, I enjoyed the characters and the story, I appreciated its diversity; although LGBTQ+ characters are becoming more common in young adult texts, I have read very few texts including Mexican-American characters. (In fact, my friend, who is Mexican, said she loved this book because she rarely saw characters she could identify with in that way in other books.) The cover art is beautiful. I recommend this book to everyone, particularly fans of young adult literature and books with LGBTQ+ themes.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
I actually finished this book several months ago, but I am just now getting around to the review. I feel strange reviewing this book in light of recent gun violence events, but I suppose given the frequency of these events in our society this strangeness would exist regardless of when I was reviewing the book.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a young adult novel about a high school student named Leonard Peacock who plans on killing his former best friend and then himself. (Going into this book I mistakenly thought it would be about a school shooting, but the act is actually planned for outside of school.) Prior to the act, Leonard plans on giving four people who he believes made his life a little better a gift. It’s hard to review this book without giving too much away, but this is a dark, yet powerful, book about the impacts abuse and mental health can have on a person.
My rating: 4/5 stars. Darker books aren’t something I typically shy away from (actually, I tend to embrace them), and I really enjoyed this one. I think one reason I enjoyed it so much is because it ended up being a lot different than I anticipated. I came into the book thinking I knew what it was about and what was going to happen, and my predictions were pretty wrong. The only problem I really had in the book were the sections that served as excerpts of Leonard’s imaginary dream future. They seemed to start abruptly, and I found them confusing—even texting my friend to ask her what was going on. Overall, I liked this book, and it serves as a reminder to be kind to people because everyone is fighting his or her own battle. I would recommend this book to fans of young adult literature, particularly that with a darker side.
Legend, Prodigy, and Champion by Marie Lu
I read this entire series back-to-back, so I am going to review all three books as one. This series was recommended to me by a friend who claimed that these books were just as good, if not better, than Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events. I wouldn’t make claims that high, but I did really enjoy this series and would rank it as my third favorite young adult dystopian series (behind The Hunger Games and Divergent).
The Legend series takes place in the future, where a civil war caused by climate change induced flooding has split the United States in half: the west is now the Republic and the east is the Colonies. June and Day, the two main characters, live very different lives in the Republic. June is a prodigy, a wealthy orphan who lives with her older brother and scored perfectly on the Republic’s Trials. Day, however, has escaped the punishment for failing the trials (death) and now lives in poverty and as an outlaw who has committed several crimes against the Republic. A series of events leads to June being tasked with finding Day, and the two become united in ways that the Republic did not intend.
My rating: 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed this series, particularly the way it presented its dystopian world. How the world operates isn’t entirely clear in the first book, but the first and second books do a nice job of clarifying it. The society in Antarctica is particularly interesting to me. The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because I thought the last book was weaker than the others. I did read these books back-to-back, so it could have just been that I was tired of the story and ready to move on. I was honestly more interested in the world that was created than the romance plot, but I think the last book focused more on the romance. Regardless, I did really enjoy these books and I would recommend them to fans of dystopia!
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
Sometimes I choose a book based on its cover. This was one of the books. The cover art is cool. The rest of the book was okay.
We All Looked Up is a pre-apocalypse novel. According to astronomers, there is an asteroid heading for Earth, and they have two months until it hits. Once this news gets out, the chaos one would expect ensues. The story follows a group of teenagers based in Seattle, each fitting in with a different label: the jock, the slacker, the overachiever, etc. As the date of the asteroid strike gets closer, this group navigates how they define themselves and what it means to really live.
My rating: 2/5 stars. I didn’t love this book (or really like it much). I didn’t feel very strongly for any of the characters, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the plots regarding love. This book was predictable, and I don’t think it added anything new to the genre of texts working with similar plots. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, either. With the number of what are, in my opinion, more interesting young adult books out there, I wouldn’t really recommend this book. However, there are a lot of positive reviews on goodreads so to each their own!