A Romeo & Juliet for the modern American scene… without the daggers and poison of course.

 

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Something In Between, by Melissa de la Cruz (2016)

Opening line: “First you have to hollow out.”

Jasmine is starting her senior year and things are working out perfectly. She’s captain of the cheer team, she’s on the road to valedictorian, she met a cute boy at the hospital where she volunteers, and her school counselor just gave her the best news ever: she’s won a highly prestigious award, the National Scholarship Program, which will pay for her entire college career at any school of her choice. She can’t wait to get home to tell her parents, but when she does, they don’t react the way she expects. After all, she didn’t expect them to have even bigger news.

Jasmine isn’t going to be able to accept the scholarship, her parents tell her, because she doesn’t have the necessary documents. In fact, she doesn’t have any documents. The green cards Jasmine believed her family had are fictitious. Jasmine’s family moved to America from the Philippines when she was nine, and California is the only home she really remembers. But after their temporary work visas ran out and their green cards fell through, they’ve been secretly flying under the radar. With Jasmine starting to apply to colleges, though, under the radar isn’t going to be an option too much longer. Now what?

To add to the stress level, enter in Royce Blakely, aforementioned cute boy, who Jasmine quickly falls head over heels for. The sweetness and kissing in their romance is definitely swoonworthy and sent my old-married-lady heart a twittering. The only problem is, Royce is the son of Senator Blakely, the California congressman who is leading the crusade against the new immigration bill that would allow her family to reapply for green cards and, eventually, citizenship. The Blakelys represent everything her family is not: wealthy, well-connected, blonde Americans. Jas is sure their relationship — and likely her future as an American citizen — is doomed.

I loved the complexity the author brings to what might otherwise be a sweet, light-hearted teen romance. She’s definitely brought the romance — mild enough for middle school libraries, but knee-weakening enough for YA romance fans — and there is so much MORE to dig into as well. The story of the undocumented immigrant family is relevant and timely and offers a very different picture of what that means than many readers may be familiar with. Additionally, the relationships Jasmine has with her family is fantastic. I LOVE the dialogue that happens in Jasmine’s house, particularly with Jasmine’s father. His one-liners had me cracking up! (In fact, these family relationships reminded me of the ones in The Hate U Giveanother one I loved this year.)

Finally, I loved all the quotes de la Cruz provided at the beginning of each chapter to kind of set the tone. I was amazed at how apt they all seemed to be, and have added some new favorites to my list.

2.5 stars.

 

Andrew’s chapter titles are WAY better than my post titles. Proof.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews (2012)

I don’t know what it is about my spring reading habits, but so far this season I’ve read two YA novels that are simultaneously about a girl dying of cancer and laugh-out-loud funny (Mr. Green’s The Fault in Our Stars being the first one, of course).

Greg Gaines is entering his senior year of high school, otherwise known as his fourth year of attempting to be invisible in the eyes of the student body. His low-key friendliness and self-deprecating humor have allowed him to ease through the school hallways without attracting much attention. Instead of joining any clubs or teams, he directs and stars in super-secret remakes of his favorite films with his short, angry partner-in-crime, Earl. Things are running smoothly, until, of course, Greg’s mom forces him to hang out with a girl from school who is dying. And how does an awkward teenage boy react to that situation? Needless to say, not well.

Greg narrates this tale of his downward-spiraling senior year interspersed with lists, script dialogue (there’s a word for that in film-lingo, isn’t there? Clearly I’m a film dunce), asides to the reader, and lots of bad language (which I find particularly amusing).

Here’s what made this book so great: It felt more real than anything I’ve read in a long time. I mean, I loved TFiOS as much as the next book blogger, but… it had the magical fiction glow. You know. The perfect lines, the honorable intentions, the nice bow ending. Me and Earl, on the other hand, didn’t…. glow, per se. In fact, in many places Greg acknowledges what would have happened in the “fictional” version of this story and points out that those things did not happen in this story. Instead, Greg says the stupid things. He has opinions and reactions that are far from honorable. And the ending lacks a bow. It’s fresh, invigorating, and WILL make you laugh.

Also, every page that includes Earl is a good one. Thank goodness he’s on many of them.

2.5 stars, mostly for Earl. Favorite debut so far.

The Absolutely Hilarious Diary of a Heartbreaking Life

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (2007)

I just love this book. So so so much. This is my second time reading it (this time for class) and I love it just as much as last time.

As the title implies, Sherman Alexie’s first young adult novel is written as a diary of freshman high schooler Arnold “Junior” Spirit, extra-weird kid on the Spokane Reservation. After a conversation with one of his teachers, decides to leave the Rez, where Junior realizes he will die a quick death if he doesn’t escape,  for an all-white school 22 miles away. Suddenly he is thrust into a completely different world where he is either ignored or stared at, and loses his best friend in the world, who feels like Junior deserted him.

Junior’s hilarious observations make his heartbreaking tale one that I will not forget for years to come. Alexie’s novel had me laughing out loud and tearing up at the same time, an emotion that is hard to come by (unless I’m watching Steel Magnolias, of course).

3 stars, 100%.

PS I apologize for the short review, but I just feel like there’s not much to say except READ IT NOW!!!