Plots

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmad

I was pacing the shelves in my library a few weeks ago, ecstatic to find myself completely alone in the YA section, when I stumbled upon Down and Across. I’d seen this book on a list of YA books by authors of color, and now it’s blue-green spine was staring back at me. I decided to check it out.

Saaket Ferdowsi aka Scott hasn’t been able to stick with much of anything in his life. So, while his parents are in Iran he decides to leave his Philly internship to chase down a D.C. grit professor. What ensues is a lot of growth, some pain, and of course grit. Grit is defined as courage, resolve, and strength of character. My dad had brought up this concept to me a few years ago and recommended I watch a Ted Talk on it so I was familiar with the concept. This book dealt expertly with how grit applies to real life without making it dry or too academic.

Mostly, this was executed by our main character Saaket/Scott. He’s honestly just a normal 16 year old and the first person narrative exemplifies that, we’re in his head. We get to be first hand witnesses to his irritations and excitements. We see the internal struggles he faces as the child of immigrants and his childhood wounds. He’s witty, honest, and sometimes deep.

And it’s not just Saaket, Ahmadi shows expert character building in each member of this cast. Fiora: the fierce female lead with family wounds. Trent: the caring friend with a plot twist. And Cecily Mallard: the transformative Georgetown professor.

The only character I didn’t like was Jeanette. She’s a token Christian girl who’s a complete jerk. As a Christian, I was highly irritated with how one-note she was: racist, homophobic, clingy, irritating, the whole nine yards. I’m wondering if she stemmed from a negative experience the author had with a Christian. I hope not, but if so, I hope he and all his readers understand that not all Christians are jerks like that. Just like everyone else, we hate to be generalized about.

Stepping away from characters, I want to draw attention to a main theme in the book: crossword puzzles. I’m not a fan of crossword puzzles by any means, but I loved Ahmadi’s use of them in this book. They didn’t simply provide an activity for the characters to engage in, but they were symbolic to the narrative. The crosswords represented life and fate, the intersections of people, and the things in life we can’t control. They showed order and creativity, a set of rows and columns but with infinite possibilities.

Truly, this book was a fun read and I’m stoked for Ahmadi’s 2019 release!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Have you read Down & Across? What stereotypical characters irritate you?

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Plots

This or That {Book Edition}

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Hello guys! I was checking my email when I saw this post by Paper Fury and since hers was so good, I decided to jump in. So, here are my picks for these Bookish This or That Tag questions.

1. SERIES OR STANDALONE

Standalone. When I was younger I used to be obsessed with series, but now ya girl has too many things to do to finish a series. Exhibit A: I’ve only read the first Harry Potter book.

2. MAGIC EARNED OR MAGIC BORN

I think I prefer magic born because they have to live with it and figure it out, which causes some interesting plot situations.

3. ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS OR FRIENDS-TO-LOVERS

I actually like somewhere in-between but I guess I’ll choose friends-to-lovers.

4. HILARIOUS BANTER OR EMOTIONAL RUIN

Emotional ruin because I like to die when I read books…

5. LOVE TRIANGLE OR INSTA LOVE

Love triangle! Insta love is irritating to me but I love a good love triangle to divide the fandom.

6. KEYBOARD-SMASH FANTASY NAMES OR ALL NAMES START WITH SAME LETTER

Fantasy names, it makes the book more interesting and more memorable.

7. MEAN PARENTS OR DEAD PARENTS

Dead parents because pain again and also mean parents are usually written in an unrealistically annoying way to me.

8. SUPERMODEL LOOKS OR CONSTANTLY SAYS HOW “PLAIN” THEY ARE

Neither. But since I must choose…supermodel looks because the “plain jane” trope is overused.

9. FACE ON COVER VS TYPOGRAPHY ON COVER

TYPOGRAPHY!!! I absolutely cannot stand a model’s face on the cover of a book aghhhh!

10. VILLAIN TURNING A LITTLE GOOD OR HERO TURNING A LITTLE BAD

Hero turning a little bad. I like blurred lines and it’s interesting when you have to ask whether your heroes are actually “good” anyway.

I hope you enjoyed this random little tag, feel free to tell me some of your picks in the comments.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

My Name in Books Tag

img_2766-1Today class was cancelled and I wanted to use this time to write a blog post. But I had no clue what to write about, so I googled book tags and this one seemed fun. rather than just spelling my name I thought that I would explain why I love these books, then I realized that each one of these is special to me in some way. Without further ado let’s get into this tag!

A: Around the World in 80 Days -Jules Verne

A classic, I read this in a book club when I was around 8 years old and looooved it! It’s full of adventure and when I went back to read it later I realized how well written the prose is.

K: Kira-Kira -Cynthia Kadohata

My very first blog post was a book review of this book, you can check it out here. This book gave me an irreplaceable look at Japanese-American culture and experiences in a way that I never thought about before.

I: If you Give a Mouse a Cookie -Laura Numeroff

These picture books are timeless, I still love them. I think this is also one of the books my mom used to teach me how to read.

L: Life in Motion -Misty Copeland

One of my favorite autobiographies ever! I sped through this book in les than 24 hours because it was that amazing. Misty Copeland is such an inspiration and this book is a must read.

A: Anne of Green Gables -L.M. Montgomery

Another classic that I really enjoyed reading. Anne is such an infectious character and the books never bored me.

H: Hush -Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woo is one of my favorite authors and this book was so emotionally moving. She always does an amazing job of talking about huge issues in a personal way, with one character with whom the reader can relate. This book is no exception.

Stay fly,

Akilah

Music · Plots

Hamilton Book Tag

What could be better than history, hip-hop, and books? I’m so excited to be combining these things in the Hamilton Book Tag today. I randomly found it, it’s kinda old, and I wasn’t tagged but we’re gonna do it anyway! Also I don’t know who started this so I apologize for not giving them credit but if you’re reading this and you came up with it thank you. I did however find it on a blog called Cuddle Buggery. One more thing this post contains spoilers for The Hunger Games series.

Hamilton changed my life when I heard the soundtrack and if you haven’t heard it yet you need to give it a listen because ish lit. I admire Lin Manuel Miranda’s creativity and his vision for diversity. Having black and Latina people play the founding fathers is revolutionary and “the world will never be the same”. I could fangirl about Hamilton all day but I digress, let’s get into the tag!

The Room Where It Happens: A book world you would put yourself into

I’m definitely going to say Narnia from The Chronicles of Narnia because living in that magical world, meeting those mythical creatures, and walking with the magnificent Aslan would be amazing.

The Schuyler Sisters: An underrated female character

This book series in underrated as a whole but I think as a character Petra from The Calder Game is underrated, she’s so well developed as a side character and has a distinct personality.

My Shot: A character that goes after what they want and doesn’t let anything stop them

Sophia from Sophia’s War definitely went after what she wanted. That doesn’t mean I always agreed with her though…

Stay Alive: A character you wish was still alive

There are so many characters I wish were still alive but I’d definitely say Rue and Cinna from The Hunger Games. They were my favorite characters in the book and in the movie so I was devastated when they died *cries*.

Burn: The most heartbreaking ending to a relationship you’ve ever read

I have a rather uncoventional answer for this question but I would say the relationships in The Scarlett Letter are so heartbreaking. This is rather expected because the whole book is about adultery and shame but once you read it you’ll realize that it isn’t the relationships you might expect that are most heartbreaking.

You’ll Be Back: The sassiest villain

The Mysterious Benedict Society was one of my favorite series when I was about 11 or 12 (it’s still amazing btw). And the villain is so savage and hillarious, I won’t tell you who it is but if you’ve read the book you know. Everyone in this book is lowkey sassy though which why I love it.

The Reynolds Pamphlet: A book with a twist you didn’t see coming

I’ve read a lot of books with twists but one that definitely stuck out was Traitor’s Gate by Avi, thiisss boooook! It destroyed my life with it’s web of intrigue and lies, so many lies!

Non-Stop: A series you marathoned

I don’t really marathon series anymore but when I was younger I marathoned The Left Behind Kids series (i didn’t finish them though because they’re a lot of them) but I read a good 50-60 of them in about two months.

Satisfied: Favorite book with multiple POVs

Satisfied is one of favorite Hamilton songs and one of my favorite books with multiple points of view is Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper. This story is beautiful and shows how two seemingly different lives have parallels.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: A book/series you feel like will be remembered throughout history

Little Women is such a timeless story and it already showed it’s longevity by lastng this long. I think the sisterhood between the March sisters will never expire.

Helpless: A relationship you were pulling for from the very start

I was definitley rooted for Matt and Love from The Boy in the Black Suit from the very beginning, they have such a sweet relationship and this book is funny but also deep.

Ten Duel Commandments: Favorite fight scene

I honestly don’t really like reading fight scenes, they usually seem to drag and the descriptions never quite thrill me but I did like a scene in The False Prince (series) it was quite dramatic.

Say No To This: A guilty pleasure read

I don’t have one because all books/articles/etc that I feel like I shouldn’t read I don’t.

What Comes Next: A book/series you wish had more books

I would love it if The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Fraizer had a sequel because I’d love to see the main characters in another setting after the duration of the book.

Right Hand Man: BroTP

A BroTP is a spin on OTP (one true pairing or a relationship you root for) only this time it’s not a romantic relationship. I’d say Logan and Philip from CandyMakers for this one because they were hilarious.

What’d I Miss: A book/series you were late to reading

Ummm Harry Potter because I’ve only readl the first one…

Wait For It: A book that was worth waiting for

I’m gonna change this up a bit and say a book that I currently can’t wait for and that is Dear Martin by Nic Stone. It’s been hyped by my favorite authors and the synopsis sounds amazing. It comes out in October and “I’m gonna wait for it, I’m willing to wait for it.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

What book are you currently waiting for!


Plots

In Which a Ghost Runs From Himself

“And it felt good to feel like one of the teammates. Like I was there-really there-as me, but without so much scream inside.”

Castle Cranshaw, a.k.a. Ghost, can run. It’s something he’s been doing for much of his life, but now that he’s joined a track team it’s not just about running anymore. Can he let go of his anger and his past enough to be a part of the team?

Ghost is the first book in the new Track series by Jason Reynolds. Jason Reynolds is one of my favorite authors so I was excited to read this book. I haven’t reviewed any if his books on the blog yet, but my favorites are coming soon, I decided to start with this one as it was the most recent one I’ve read.

Let’s talk aesthetics first: if you’ve read any of my other book reviews then you know that I love minimalist cover designs. This yellow background with the black lettering looks so sleek. Plus, I love the rippled effect of the letters as Ghost runs by.

Written in first person point of view, this book allowed me to easily connect with Ghost’s voice. He’s hilarious, blunt, and reminds me of people I know. I definitely cringed many times because he would do stupid things, but that was part of his character arc and made for a satisfying ending.

Another character I appreciated was the coach known as…Coach. He genuinely cared about Ghost not only as a runner but as a person. Ghost’s “squad” also cared about him, their relationship started out rocky but they grew closer, and I’m hoping that in the next book there will be more of them together.

I wish there would have been more scenes with Ghost and his mom, we heard about their relationship but didn’t see much of it. A tragic event led them closer together and I would’ve loved to see the effects of it further explored. This narrative was well-written and the cast of characters were the standout piece.

Ghost’s life events are quite complicated, he often feels less than because of where he lives, who he is, and what he’s been through. Thus, this book explores whether the end justifies the means in certain scenarios in Ghost’s life. It asks hard questions about whether the wrong thing is still wrong even if the motives were right. Personally, I don’t identify with the “end justifies the means” perspective. Sin is sin and what’s illegal is illegal, end of story. Most times when we’re being honest with ourselves, the right reason we have for doing wrong can be achieved by doing right. This was the case with Ghost, as you’ll find when you read the book. I was quite satisfied with the resolution and the overall story. I definitely recommend it.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

If you liked Ghost you might like:

 

Plots

The Hate U Give ~Angie Thomas

“The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen -people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.” ~The Hate U Give

I’ve been waiting for so long to read this book. It’s one of the most hyped books of 2017 and shocker its a hyped YA contemporary that I actually wanted to read. The premise sounded interesting, I’m always searching for more “YA of color”, and Jason Reynolds, one of my favorite authors, acclaimed it, so it was a perfect fit. 

The Hate U Give is about sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses her best friend Khalil get murdered by police. I’m ecstatic that a book about hard topics like police brutality and race relations by a debut woman of color author is getting buzz. I hope that this will lead to more  authors of color getting the recognition they deserve, especially in YA. Also, as there’s a movie in the future (with the great Amandla Stenberg I might add) I hope that the movie will do it justice and expand the platform even further.

I love the cover, first of all. My book cover aesthetic is very clean and minimal and I love the white, black, red, and brown color scheme. I appreciate that it isn’t a photo, as I’m not a fan of photos on book covers, but that it features a WOC on the front (representation matters).

Starr is a wonderful character, multi-faceted and imperfect. Her obsession with Jordan’s and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air make her quite endearing. On a side-note I loved the descriptions of shoes in the book and hearing which J’s are Starr’s favorite.

Family is also a major part of this book, Starr’s parents and siblings are developed in a satisfying way and add to the book. Seven, Starr’s older brother is the epitome of cool and her younger brother Sekani adds bits of humor to the family. I also love how strong  her parent’s relationship is, even after a messy past. Starr’s Uncle Carlos is a police officer, which adds an interesting dynamic to this issue of police brutality, making her perception of police complex.

As far as friendships, Angie Thomas uses Starr’s relationships with her friends to deal with deeper issues, which is perfect. Also I admire her friend Maya, I would definitely hang out with her in real life. The only person close to Starr I did not like is her boyfriend Chris. I understand what Angie Thomas was trying to do with exploring interracial relationships (Chris is white) but I didn’t like his character. Their relationship seemed unnessecary and I wish I could just cut out his scenes.

I would love less Chris and more Khalil. I knew going in that Khalil was going to die, yet I still let myself love him so much. Why do I do myself like this?? I cried, physical tears when he was shot (and at other times during the book) because he was just so kind, funny, and he loved Starr. They grew up together and I would love to see a prequel of their childhood. Also, his love for his momma and grandma is so sweet, Angie Thomas did a fantastic job of revealing his character even after his death. Starr’s character development also continues throughout the whole book. It was amazing to see her growth over the course of the story.

My only other complaint aside from Chris is the language in this book. It’s like a PG-13 movie, but I find language even more bothersome in books. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under 13, it also can be a little intense at times so be aware.

This book was bomb, and I’m glad it’s getting so much acclaim and I hope the movie delivers like the book did.

Stay fly

~Akilah

What did you think of The Hate U Give?

If you liked T.H.U.G. you might like…

  • When I Was the Greatest ~Jason Reynolds
  • Piecing Me Together ~Renee Watson
  • Scorpions ~Walter Dean Myers
  • Maizon At Blue Hill ~Jacqueline Woodson
Plots

Shooting From the Free Verse Line

“See when I play ball,

I’m on fire.

When I shoot,

I inspire.

The hoop’s for sale,

And I’m the buyer.”

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is an epic mash-up of free verse and hip-hop poetry which creatively tells the story of Josh Bell, young basketball prodigy. The narrative revolves around Josh and his twin brother Jordan as they rule the court, but also as their relationship evolves.

I was tempted to title this post “Love and Basketball” but I’ll refrain since I haven’t seen the movie. Anyway, I enjoy watching basketball, and reading books about it so when I saw this book I was intrigued. Then, I found out it was written in verse and I couldn’t wait to read it.

The mixture of free verse, rhyming hip-hop poetry, and play-by-plays by Josh immediately hooked me. There are also short pieces called “Basketball Rules” which are similar to proverbs or life advice. All these pieces are organized into sections named with basketball terminology (1st quarter, overtime etc.) which I found very creative.

Sometimes in novels written in verse it becomes harder to connect with the characters, but in this story I immediately felt connected to the characters, especially Josh. His personality was quite distinct from Jordan’s and his voice came through clearly. I also loved his parents, instead of being faceless like in some books, they had personality and a real relationship.

Plot-wise this book was amazing, there’s an unexpected twist at the end, so definitely read it!

Stay fly

~Akilah