YA CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL FICTION: July 2020 Mini Reviews

My summer reading mood is definitely on, which means I have a lot of reviews coming! Today I’ll be talking about a few of my reads from June & July, focusing on some diverse YA contemporary and historical fiction.

Clap When You Land  by Elizabeth Acevedo 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

51VlHTCDDkLElizabeth Acevedo has always been one of those authors whose books I’ve been meaning to read for what feels like forever. Everyone’s love and praise for her latest release, Clap When You Land, made me pick this one up ASAP – it was actually the first book that I’ve read on my Kindle! Written in verse, Clap When You Land is told from the perspectives of sisters Camino and Yahaira, who don’t know they’re sisters until the father dies in a tragic plane crash. I love YA books that highlight events that are often forgotten in public memory. I had never heard of flight AA587, so it was really interesting reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s inspired story.

The novel really works up to the moment to when Camino and Yahaira discover that they’re sisters, with the novel focusing on their individual grief over their father’s death, the struggles they experience at home, and both of their attempts to untangle the meaning of family. Camino and Yahaira experience drastically differently lives, Camino having grown up in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira in New York. While dual narratives can be hit or miss for me, I really appreciated having both sisters’ narration in Clap When You Land. Although their daily lives are very different, the girls do have a lot in common and it was interesting to read their different reactions to finding about one another. Throughout, the story maintains its focus on family and sisterhood. While yahaira does have a girlfriend, it was really refreshing to have a story that is truly about a pair of sisters and the family and secrets they share.

Books written in verse aren’t exactly my favorite, but Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing was just so rich and lyrical. It makes me so excited to pick up The Poet X soon! I don’t think I had the same emotional reaction as other readers did, but nevertheless, I enjoyed Clap When You Land, and I’m glad I picked it up for its unique story and focus on family.

Slay by Brittney Morris 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

43723509Slay is a book that I should’ve read a while ago, but I think I read it at the right time, considering the protests and conversations surrounding race and inequality in the United States. Brittney Morris’ debut novel follows Kiera, a black teenager and creator of an online virtual-reality, role-playing card game, SLAY. SLAY is only intended for individuals who identify as black. Kiera’s friends, boyfriends, and family don’t know about SLAY, but when a teen dies over a dispute in the SLAY world, news coverage and attention to the game threaten to unveil Kiera’s secret, especially when an anonymous troll threatens to sue Kiera over discrimination.

Slay was such a timely read. Kiera provides commentary on many issues facing the black community in the United States, including many topics now being discussed each day. It was really interesting to hear the different perspectives from Kiera and her sister, Stephanie.  They definitely have one of the best sister dynamics in YA! I haven’t read too many books with video games, especially VR, at the forefront. Tosay the least, SLAY felt so unique. Although I had trouble following the action of the game sometimes, there were so many details and I loved learning about each card. While the book mainly follows Kiera’s perspective, I also really enjoyed the chapters told from other SLAY player’s point of view. I love how they all added up by the end. I really hope more readers pick up Slay – it’s definitely a book I encourage you to pick up if you’re looking to diversify your reading!

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

41PpvuUQ46LThirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All had been on my TBR since the fall. Not too many of my blogging friends have read it, but I had seen it on a few best YA books of 2019 lists. It was also a National Book Award Finalist Nominee for Young People’s Literature in 2019. After reading it, I definitely see why it’s received so much critical praise! 

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All is quite different from most  of the YA fiction taking place during World War II that I’ve read. The book follows Frankie’s life at a Chicago orphanage over the years of the war and is narrated by a ghost around Frankie’s own age, with plenty of secrets and tragedy in her own life. The only title I can think to compare Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All  to is Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which ironically is read by one of Frankie’s friends!). Inspired by a true story, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All uncovers an often neglected reality from World War II. The book reveals how many children were given to orphanages during the war because their families struggled to be able to provide for them. Frankie and her siblings are left in the care of the orphanage run by Catholic nuns for a long time, as her father re-marries and resettles in another part of the country with his new family. It was really hard to read Frankie’s story, as she faces much physical and emotional punishment from the nuns. I enjoyed seeing Frankie grow up, and always found myself holding out hope for her. 

The ghost’s narration and perspective was interesting and held its own mystery, but I admit that I would have preferred if the book had entirely focused on Frankie. Most of the chapters began with the ghost’s interaction with other ghosts and provided details that later added up revelations within her own tragedy. While I liked how the ghost interacted in Frankie’s own life, I think the story could have been strong enough without. 

Overall, I do think Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All is worth checking out, especially if you’re a historical fiction fan looking for some untold stories. 

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Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recommendations for me based on them? Share in the comments!

4 thoughts on “YA CONTEMPORARY & HISTORICAL FICTION: July 2020 Mini Reviews

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