Book Review: Hope and Other Punchlines

Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.

Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.

Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers? 

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2019
  • Sold by: Random House LLC

What did I think?

I think that it’s about time that we got some historical fiction set on and around 9/11. It is after all, a point in history that changed everything for the world. Although, there were many understandably sad parts I loved getting to know Abby, Noah and Jack. I’m going to add it to our history reading list.

Book Review: The Oracle Code

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp (This Is Where It Ends) and artist Manuel Preitano unveil a graphic novel that explores the dark corridors of Barbara Gordon’s first mystery: herself.

After a gunshot leaves her paralyzed, Barbara Gordon enters the Arkham Center for Independence, where Gotham’s teens undergo physical and mental rehabilitation. Now using a wheelchair, Barbara must adapt to a new normal, but she cannot shake the feeling that something is dangerously amiss. Within these walls, strange sounds escape at night; patients go missing; and Barbara begins to put together pieces of what she believes to be a larger puzzle.

But is this suspicion simply a result of her trauma? Fellow patients try to connect with Barbara, but she pushes them away, and she’d rather spend time with ghost stories than participate in her daily exercises. Even Barbara’s own judgment is in question.

In The Oracle Code, universal truths cannot be escaped, and Barbara Gordon must battle the phantoms of her past before they swarm her future.

Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by DC Comics

What did I think?

I had to read this on my phone as I didn’t have a hard copy, and it wasn’t available in kindle format. The fact that I powered through- pinching and zooming should prove my zealous love/ determination to read this new graphic novel!
I loved this backstory of Barbara Gordon of the Batman Universe. She suffers significantly after a gunshot wound, with both physical and mental injuries, and I loved that lesson that disabilities are not something that needs to be healed or fixed. It is such a fantastic and robust message to have in YA books, graphic novels, and the DC universe. The reader gets the whole story of how she became the oracle. At first, she pushes everyone away, and her story into her full potential as the oracle was great to see. I also loved the art style in this all-new graphic novel. I’m a late adopter of graphic novels, and now I can’t get enough of them.
More importantly, teens today have so many great choices in fiction. This could have been awesome as a prequel showing how Barbara Gordon became the oracle, and that would have been great. Instead, it was that along with the message that disabilities are not something that needs to be fixed.
I’m looking forward to more art and story from the dynamic duo of Nijkamp and Preitano.

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Book Review: Yes No Maybe So

This is a teen Rom-Com type book with an unusually meaningful plot. Jamie and Maya start out canvassing for a political race mostly for something to do. I thought this would sort of a light novel full of funny situations and teen shenanigans. Instead, I found it to be realistic and relevant to our current political situation in the United States today.

Jamie (a Jewish American) and Maya (a Muslim American) used to play together as toddlers, and now their Moms’ encourage them to canvas for a local political race. There is a special election coming up for the state’s house. If they can get the democrat to win, they flip the house. The chapters are in an alternating viewpoint, beginning at the start of Ramadan, which is their first misunderstanding. Jamie is used to fasting for one day, and he doesn’t realize Maya can’t eat anything- not even goldfish crackers.

Maya is told that if she canvasses with Jamie, she’ll earn a car at the end of the Summer. Her parents are recently separated, and she is unsettled in general. In the end, she really cares about the policies and the car becomes a non issue. Awkward Target loving Jamie wants to volunteer as long as it is behind the scenes. He does want to be a politician someday, and so when called upon to go door to door, he does it, knowing it will help him in the long run. His Grandma is a social media enthusiast, and her handle is InstaGramm! I loved how she breaks the older people hate technology stereotype.

This story also spotlights how much teens (and adults) don’t know about different religious belief systems. The characters suffer from discrimination, particularly Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, that is ever-present in America today. The romance between Jamie and Maya is sweet, but seeing two young become educated and involved in how our country works was satisfying on a whole other level.

There is plenty of representation of all ages, religions, political parties, and even a bit of LGBTQ rep to round things out. A couple things that could be improved- it’s a long book. I almost started skimming towards the end. You don’t find out if Maya’s parents get back together. 😦

If you thought Red White and Royal Blue is a bit too mature for your 12-13-year-old reader, this book is the perfect substitute. It contains all of the political setting, discussion fodder, and a bit of light romance. I may buy a finished copy for our shelves.

Release date- February 4, 2020

Book Review: Don’t Read The Comments

Don’t Read The Comments is a YA gaming centered novel. Most teens online game in some way or another, and they will relate to both the fun and hassles involved navigating both online friendships and harassment.

I liked both Divya and Aaron and loved the dynamics that each of them had with their families. The story is told in alternate POV chapters and you’d think that the author is female, because Eric captured the fear that women feel when being challenged online very well.

This was a quick read for me and I loved being entrenched in the gamer girl world. I think you could hand this to kids as young as thirteen with no problem. If they’ve gamed online there isn’t anything in this story that they don’t know.

It was super well done. I’m recommending it to my own gaming teen reader.

Publication date- January 28, 2020

Book Review: Keystone

This story should be a classified dystopia, but we’re on our way to it being our legit reality.
You’ve heard of “influencers,” well, imagine being accountable to your investors, every minute of every day of your life. Yeah. Ella’s Mom and Dad are full-time influencers after giving up acting for this new, more profitable career.

They adopt Ella in secret to boost their numbers and so she grows up in the spotlight. She wears a Life Stream device at all times. Now that Ella’s a teen, they expect her to pull her weight and increase her demand on the Social Stock Exchange. She hates it, and after an attempt on her life at her birthday party, (she wonders if her parents are behind it?) she joins a group called Keystone.

This is where it gets Black Mirrorish- and I am all there for that. A warning that you may need to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Keystone changes her name to Elisa Dewitt. Because the people at Keystone are all Disconnected from the world. Meaning they intentionally cover and mark their faces so that facial recognition doesn’t catch them.

Their primary mission is to steal analog history to preserve the truth corporations and governments are trying to hide or alter forever. Ella/Elisa turns out to be a natural thief, and soon she’s entirely at home there. I loved the schoolish atmosphere and the way the book is like a journal. I definitely got Hogwarts vibes.

You’ll be happy to know that after the cliffhanger at the end, there will be two more books in this series. I’m a little late in posting January reviews, and this book is available now.

Book Review: Tweet Cute

This contemporary YA novel is also told in alternating points of view. It seems to be a 2020 trend. Anyway, I’m all there for it.

This cute story has the two main characters in a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks You’ve Got Mail type situation. The twist is that their parents each own a competing burger joint in NYC. They are chatting together on a school-based app, neither knowing the other IRL or that they are both in an Epic Twitter War of tweets and memes against each other at night while attending school together all day.

I’d be shocked if someone doesn’t option this for a movie, it’s so adorable.
I gave it five stars on Goodreads. Publication date: January 21, 2020

Book Review: The Night Country

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Here we are back in The Hinterland universe.

Little mouse

Scratch scratch

Hasten to your home

Lock and latch, do up the catch

And pray that you’re alone…

The Night Country

Delightfully ominous, the prose creeps up on you until you aren’t sure whether to be proud of Alice or scared for her. There is no build-up in this book. It is gory and dark, and the action begins right away. You can imagine all of the violence without effort, and it is gorily realistic in tone.
After The Hinterland becomes unbound, the ex-Stories are now refugees in New York. They range from weird and creepy to sociopaths. They don’t know what to do with themselves. The kids are more on the odd side, and I am all in for fairy tale weirdness. It isn’t a good time to be Alice at all, she doesn’t have any real friends in this world, and she’s being held responsible for everything that is coming apart. I can’t wait to see where the next book brings them all.
I’d put this book at 14 and up- and this story won’t be for everyone.
You’ll need to have read and enjoyed The Hazel Wood before you pick up this treasure. I began reading this book and had to put it down until I had a chance to breeze through The Hazel Wood for a refresher on where we left off. It’s not a stand-alone in any way. If you like Grimm’s fairy tales and want a modern take on a dark gothic world- I will encourage you to jump right in.

Publication date: January 7, 2020