Hello everybody. Today I’m sharing my non-spoiler reviews for some of the books released in April, May and June of 2020 that I have read and really enjoyed. What are some of your favorite new book releases? Leave a comment below and let me know ^^
You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson
Publication date: June 2nd 2020
Official synopsis: Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed Midwestern town. But it’s okay – Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor. But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down…until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington. The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams…or make them come true?
My thoughts: This book was so much fun! At first, I was a little worried that the whole ‘campaigning for prom queen’ thing would be a little too youngish for me, but as soon as I started the book, I was immediately sucked into the story. Liz is an amazing main character. I found her very relatable in that although she is very mature and studious, she also makes mistakes, just like any other teenager. Aside from the high school and prom queen storyline, a great chunk of the book also looks at Liz having to come to terms with her sexuality. Although her inner circle knows that she is queer, Liz has not yet done her coming out. But with the spotlight suddenly on her due to the prom queen campaign, and with her growing attraction to fellow prom queen contestant Mack, it soon becomes clear that it might no longer be possible to keep the truth about her sexuality hidden from everyone else. The book dealt with this storyline very well. At times nerve-wracking and at times absolutely heartwarming, the discussion of Liz’s sexuality, as well as the portrayal of her relationships with Mack, her friends and her family, were done beautifully. This book has romance, fun prom drama, amazing queer rep, a wonderful black leading lady and great writing. I cannot recommend this enough!
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication date: June 2nd 2020
Official synopsis: Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.
My thoughts: Although it took me a few chapters to get into the story, once I got past the first part of the book where we are introduced to the world and where we first meet the characters, I started to really enjoy the story. The book takes place in a world similar to our own, except that in this world, there are magical creatures such as sirens and elokos living among humans. Despite the fantasy elements, this book is very relevant to our current times because it heavily features the Black Lives Matter movement and discusses things such as what it’s like to be black in America in today’s society and police brutality. I also really liked both our main characters, Effie and Tavia. I really enjoyed the sisterly bond they share and I thought the author did a great job developing this relationship.
By The Book by Amanda Sellet
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Publication date: May 12th 2020
Official synopsis: As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.
My thoughts: This book was so fun and romantic! I really liked our leading lady Mary. She absolutely loves classics and because of this, she tends to view the world a little differently from most young people her age. She tends to speak in a bit of a flowery way and often voices out her thoughts by blurting out book quotes. She may come off as a little haughty at times to some readers, but as an introvert and a book lover myself, I found her to be actually really endearing. I also really liked Alex, our designated love interest. I very much enjoyed the banter between Mary and Alex and it was really fun to see their relationship develop.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: May 5th 2020
Official synopsis: Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people… In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
My thoughts: This book is written in verse, which I really enjoyed. Not only is Acevedo’s writing absolutely stunning, but her vivid descriptions and meticulously crafted lines really bring the story to life in a way that’s both powerful and touching. The book follows the story of two sisters as they first come to know of each other’s existence following the death of their father. The author did a great job giving each sister a distinctive voice and both of their characters were very well fleshed out. I honestly can’t say which POV was my favorite because both sisters demonstrate incredible strength of character throughout the book as they grapple to deal with their grief and their newfound sisterhood. The book also beautifully depicts the Dominican and Afro-Latinx cultural heritage of both girls. It also features some wonderful queer rep, with one of sisters being shown as having a girlfriend, and I really appreciated that.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Publication date: April 28th 2020
Official synopsis: In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys. Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
Note: The author has recently come out as non-binary, following which I updated the review below to reflect the pronouns that they now prefer to use. However, the above official synopsis reflects the pronouns that the author used to use at the time of this book’s publication. If a new, updated edition of the book comes out, the synopsis will be updated accordingly.
My thoughts: This book was incredibly emotional and powerful. It’s a memoir written in verse and the author really pulls no punches in sharing with us their story. Their words are raw and honest. At times heartwarming, at times hard-hitting, this book depicts the reality of a young queer black teenager as they navigate their first sexual relationships, as well as the difficulties of growing up in a society that today still marginalizes black people. The book also looks at family and the strong bonds that the author has with their beloved grandmother. If you get the chance to listen to the audiobook, I highly recommend you do so because Johnson themself narrates it and I just think that it makes the experience even more impactful.
The Forest God by Jamie Lackey
Publisher: Air and Nothingness Press
Publication date: June 5th 2020
Official synopsis: The Forest God, incarnated into the body of hare, ready to die and live again. The Apprentice Witch, outcast and unwanted, unsure of her path. The Young Lord, frivolous and rootless, inconsiderate of his duties. Their three souls should be bound to a cycle of death and sacrifice, responsibility and rebirth. But the bonds lie broken and shrouded in mystery. The wood remains in precarious balance for now, but the village withers. Only together, can they set things right.
My thoughts: You might not know this about me, but I’m actually quite stingy with my 5 star ratings. Usually, if I really enjoy a book, I will rate it 4 stars on Goodreads. For me, 5 star ratings are reserved for books that manage to really hit me in the feels, which does not actually happen very often. So far this year, I’ve only rated two books 5 stars on Goodreads. The first book was House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (which might not be to everyone’s taste, which is perfectly fine). The second book was this one, The Forest God, by Jamie Lackey.
This is probably my biggest surprise of the year so far! I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book and ended up completely falling in love with it. The book is very much structured like a folktale. We follow a young prince, an apprentice witch and a god of the forest who has been newly reincarnated in the body of a hare, as their paths one day come to cross. I can’t say too much because the book is actually quite short, but I absolutely loved the story. It’s full of magic and tenderness and I really enjoyed the relationships that develop between the characters. The book was at times also really funny and wholesome, and honestly made me so happy. There is also romance in this book and I really enjoyed that as well. The romance was done so well and I actually found myself getting a little teary-eyed at the end. If you enjoy stories inspired by fairy tales and folktales and you like your stories with a dash of humour and romance, then you’ll really enjoy this book.