Recommended For You by Laura Silverman

Recommended For You by Laura Silverman makes for a light, easy read that is difficult to put down. I found myself devouring the book from start to finish in a mere matter of hours. Silverman’s plot, characters, and descriptive dialogue all make for an exciting and humorous ride.

Shoshanna Greenberg has always found peace and solace working at her favorite bookstore, Once Upon, but she finds her world disrupted with the hire of a cute, but aggravating new employee: Jake Kaplan. They find themselves pitted against each other in a war to sell the most books and receive the holiday bonus. However, with the potential closure of Once Upon, coupled with troubles in Shoshanna’s personal life, Jake may be the only person who understands. Who knew a bookstore could be so exciting?

The story itself is original and fun, with new twists around every corner. The characters as well I can’t help but fall in love with. Each has their own quirky and unique personality such as Geraldine’s dream of becoming a beauty youtuber, or Jake’s love for baking. With witty commentary, lots of fluff, and descriptive imagery, this book is definitely “recommended for you”.

For me, this book served as a reminder that reading doesn’t always have to be complex and thought provoking. Sometimes all we need is a book that makes us smile, which this definitely did. Take a break from required textbook reading or English literary books and just read for fun! I highly recommend for anyone who wants a quick read, guaranteed to lift your spirits and make you smile.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

To some, this might be just another book about racism, but that’s just not true. Every one of the stories in these brutal and sad books tells a different story, and each one is meaningful and heartbreaking in their own ways. This particular story tells of the experiences of Ashley, a Black highschooler in a mostly white private school, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. It’s a melody of racial confusion, from the point of view of someone confused as to where they belong. Part love story, part drama, this book is for anyone who enjoyed The Hate U Give and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Overall, a lovely book.Oliver W.

Your Heart, My Sky by Margarita Engle

Liana and Amado are two teens living in Cuba during the el perìdo especial en tiempos de paz (the special period in times of peace) in the 1990s. Their story is told by Margarita Engle in her poetry book, Your Heart, My Sky. During this time period in Cuba, many citizen’s basic freedoms were withheld by the government. Cuban natives, like Liana and Amado had very little food. Liana and Amado fall in love while trying to find creative ways to feed themselves, their families, and Liana’s special companion, her dog. Many of their acquaintances choose to attempt a treacherous and extremely dangerous escape to Florida by boat. Liana and Amado must decide whether they should risk it all for a better life or continue to starve and live off of each other’s love and faded dreams. 

I thought the descriptive phrases and figurative language that Engle used in this book made the story more engaging. It also helped me to better imagine what living in Cuba would be like during this tumultuous period. Usually I find poetry books to be slow and not worthwhile. Fortunately, this was not the case with this particular work. The story was conveyed in a way that was both descriptive yet appropriately paced. 

This book was incredibly moving. It made me very grateful for the life that I live and the food that I eat. I would recommend this book to any poetry lovers. 

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman is a novel with moving themes of strength and family. Mateo Garcia is a Mexican-American living in New York City. He enjoys acting and hanging out with his friends and works at the store his family owns. His life is turned upside down one day when ICE agents arrest his parents because they traveled to the United States without correct registration. Suddenly he must single-handedly care for his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, while he lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his uncle, aunt, and cousin. At the same time, he is managing the family store, keeping his grades up, and navigating his first relationship. Most importantly, he is trying to get his family together again, as his mother is in a detention center and his father is in jail. Will the Garcia family ever reunite?
I thought this was book was very good. It was incredibly moving and heartbreaking that a child would have to go through so much. Mateo had a relatable voice and the plot kept me glued to the book’s pages the entire time. 
I would recommend this book to anyone. It is very relevant to events occurring right now. It gives an inside look into what many teens’ lives in this country look like, which is important. 

Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

“Once upon a time, there was a sign.

Three, actually. Too bad Mami missed them all.”

Talk about grabbing attention from the get go. This book was extremely difficult to put down from start to finish. An emotional rollercoaster in the best way possible, it had me alternating between laughter and tears (and alternatively, excitement and anger) practically every chapter. What stuck out to me most, however, was the bare honesty of the protagonist; the story felt achingly real and vivid. And, of course, the author’s use of humorous dialogue and witty sarcasm was wonderfully entertaining.  

The book follows the story of an (almost) graduated high school senior who attempts to complete her last graduation requirement with a summer work-study. Somehow in the process she becomes entrenched in years-old family and romantic drama, all circulating around a sequence of disastrous quinceñeras. I would (and am planning on) reading it again.

Fix by J. Albert Mann

There’s no better word for this story than addictive. Fix by J. Albert Mann tells the story of Eve, a girl who’s had her body, quite literally, ripped apart and then stapled shut again. She’s suffered with sever scoliosis all her life, her spine slowly curving, until one day she decides to have the surgery that will correct her spine and allow her to stand up tall. Months later, as she struggles with physical and emotional pain, she can’t help but wonder if she made the wrong decision. The only thing that allows her some peace of mind is her Roxy, an opioid drug originally prescribed to manage her pain. Her growing reliance on Roxy leads to more pain and suffering as she struggles with mind over matter.

Fixed is a story about addiction, broken friendship, regret, and hope. Told in a mixture of verse and prose, Mann paints a chilling picture of the physical and mental torment Eve experiences after surgery. From start to finish I couldn’t put it down. Mann holds a perfect balance of dark, depressing subjects with light, supportive characters. Throughout the book you follow Eve’s rollercoaster, feeing the grief and loss over her best friend, but also the joy and excitement over the boy next door. Mann uses descriptive, strategic language to connect reader to character. 

The only complaint I have about this book is the seemingly sudden ending. Unlike most novels, Mann doesn’t tie up any ends, only faintly implying that Eve is willing to fight her drug addiction. We’re left forever wondering what happened to Eve and her fractured relationships, hoping she found a way to fix them, and herself. 

All around I’d recommend Fix to anyone looking for a good, quick read. While the subject matter can be a little dark, Mann does a great job of switching gears before anything too heavy. The writing is great, and the storyline intriguing, I highly recommend.

Bruised by Tanya Boteju

Bruised by Tanya Boteju is above all a story about growth. DayaWijesinghe is a teenager who bottles up her emotions and screws the cap on tight. After losing both her parents in a tragic car accident, bruises are the only way she feels in control. And roller-derby, well, that’s a whole lot of bruising. After joining the team she feels her walls begin to crack as she forms deep connections and relationships with figures on and off the rink. Roller-derby evolves from simply being a pain-fest, to becoming something much more. Throughout the book Daya experiences dramatic change in acceptance, love, and healing. 

While the book itself doesn’t necessarily stand out as a clear winner, with the writing being average and the plot not especially intriguing, I’m pleased with the amount of representation from LGBTQ+ characters. Too often our literature excludes characters like this from novels, or reduces them to nothing more than their sexual orientation or gender identity. Boteju includes a wide range of LGBTQ+ characters that have more traits and personality than simply being “gay.” Although Daya becomes romantically involved with Shanti, their relationship does not supersede all aspects of Daya’s personality and thoughts. 

I didn’t find this book to be a fan favorite, but I recommend Bruisedto anyone seeking more LGBTQ+ representation in novels, or interested in roller-derby!

We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian

We Are The Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian is a book about a varsity girls field hockey team and their toxic, controlling coach. It takes place over the 24 hours leading up to their first match of the season, as we see their bonds strengthen. Personally having played on a great deal of high school sports teams, I was truly able to relate to these girls. This novel brought me back to all of the team bonding and sleepovers, as well as to my own experiences with toxic coaches. The varying perspectives were a nice addition as well, allowing the reader to relate to a senior trying to come off an injury, a leader carrying the weight of her team on her shoulders, the freshman with the pressure of proving herself, a misfit trying to find her place, etc. In my opinion, these varying, relatable perspectives mean allow this story to become accessible to any reader, not just someone who has played sports. Although some aspects of the story are a little out there, this was all in all a very enjoyable story of strength and resilience which I would definitely recommend to anyone, but especially to women athletes of the past or present.

Faith Taking Flight by Julie Murphy

A lot of people have told me over this quarantine that they’ve gotten into things that they previously weren’t as interested in. Whether said interest was a new Netflix show, virtual yoga, or becoming a less-than-expert chef, the common theme seems to be that people are trying something new. And as I am no exception, my “new thing” during this pandemic has been superheroes. I was always more of a fantasy person, but recently I’ve become obsessed with these heroic stories. However, as I watched every Marvel movie available and read every comic strip in the house, I noticed something common about every hero pictured in these stories. Almost every single one of them seemed to be straight, white, and thin. And that’s where Faith Taking Flight comes in. 

“Faith Taking Flight” by Julie Murphy is the first in a duology that tells the origin story of superhero Zephyr from the Valient Comics universe. Faith is a pretty average 16 year old, who spends her time volunteering at the local animal shelter, writing for her school’s journalism club, and hanging out with her two best friends, Ches and Matt. However, she has a secret, and it’s a pretty big one- she recently discovered she is able to fly. Throughout the story, Faith must learn to control her newfound powers in order to save everyone she loves from a mysterious group wreaking havoc on her town. 

Faith is a hilarious and witty protagonist, and in addition to her charming personality, she’s also plus-size and queer, two things that are scarce in the superhero realm. And the best part is that these two traits aren’t the main focus of the book. It was really refreshing to see a story about an LGBTQ person where their sexuality isn’t the main focus. Murphy did a great job of making sure readers would see representation, while also making it clear that Faith’s weight and sexuality doesn’t define her. And it makes for some pretty cute LGBTQ romance, too!

Although the beginning of the book was a bit confusing, I really enjoyed Faith’s story. It is rich with suspense, mystery, and action, and although the plot twists were slightly predictable, I appreciated them all the same. I personally can’t see myself rereading this book, but I really liked the diversity and charm it brings to the superhero world. And I really hope to see most superheroes like Faith in the future!


We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia

We Are Totally Normal” by Rahul Kanakia is a snapshot of Nandan’s life in high school. He begins to question his sexuality after breaking up with his girlfriend, Avani, and hooking up with his peer, Dave. Even though he feels happy with Dave, he misses Avani and is confused about what being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community could mean for him.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I think it is essential to have diverse characters in books (especially YA and children’s books) so that many different types of readers can see themselves in the narrative and relate to the story. The main character is Indian-American and also under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. That said, I feel as though Dave was not a very likable character. He took his labels and other people and used them to his advantage. Although I didn’t like Dave, the story did keep me engaged.

I’m not sure I would recommend this book, but maybe those looking for romance and realistic fiction will enjoy it more than I did.