The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos (Carolrhoda Lab 2019)
Reviewed by Kathryn Leonard-Peck
In this hybrid review, Leonard-Peck combines poetry and critical reading to map the emotional landscape of this stunning YA novel, which as a 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection and a 2018 New York Public Library Best Book for Teens. For more reviews that challenge the form, click here.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Gallery/Scout Press 2019)
Reviewed by Amy Spaughton
With a global pandemic and lock-down looming, I, like many others right now, depend on books to take me elsewhere. Anywhere will do; the past, the future, a completely new world… Books that travel through time and space allow us to understand our current world from a safe distance. Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie, however, shows us that escapism is not the only way out. This book follows Queenie, a young Black woman in present day South London, as she navigates her relationships to love, race, and mental health.
I’ll admit, I was initially resistant. Being brought firmly back to my hometown of South London and to this particular reality felt harsh. But then the protagonist, Queenie, mentions things like Tumblr and Twix bars and it’s oddly comforting. It feels like reading a diary. Her unyielding and often comic honesty is as refreshing as it is poignant. In honour of this intimacy, I have decided to present my review as a diary.
I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi (Harper perennial 2019)
Reviewed by by Michele Matrisciani
There is an entire library full of memoirs, one that grows greater every day, concerning issues surrounding mental health. Over the course of my twenty years in nonfiction book publishing, I’ve acquired, edited, and ghostwritten numerous such books, all of which I hope have contributed to the robust dialogue and much-needed de-stigmatization of this topic. Nothing I have worked on or read over the years has accomplished in quite the same way what Bassey Ikpi does in her memoir essay collection, I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying: Essays.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Make Me a World 2019)
Reviewed by Robert Drinkwater
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi is set in a utopian city, Lucille, where evil people, also called “monsters” no longer exist, but have been replaced by “angels”, good people who try to establish justice and peace. Pet explores a world which may look peaceful and perfect on the outside, but is in fact full of monsters. In many ways, the book mirrors the systemic racism and issues of justice that characterize the current political situation in the United States.
Written by Eliana Perozo
I’ve only ever had two lovers. I think people have loved me in between, and if it were up to me, I’d count my mother and father as lovers as well. Theirs has been the most torturous, beautiful, love of them all. But we are not counting mothers and fathers.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (Akashic: New York 2017)
Reviewed by Tracy Vasquez
Rivers Solomon’s science-fiction novel An Unkindness of Ghosts is masked in a pain. The point of writing on the pain of others is to expose the reader to a point of view; in this instance, Solomon writes from the perspective of Aster, who identifies as gender fluid. Aster is searching for a consistent path in the uncertainty of the cosmos. “She craved clarity, transparency and answers.” (169) She longs for answers from her mother, who died when she was a baby; yet, a mapping of sorts leads her on a path set by her mother. Cutting out the contrivances, we see Aster through her history of loss and survival on the vessel Matilda.
The White Card by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf 2019)
Reviewed by Olivia Cyr
There is perhaps no better political climate in which to revel in a book that explores race in America than the one the country is in now. As both a self-proclaimed feminist with a background in black women’s studies, and a white woman, I find that I am both well-versed on current conversations about race and women and where those intertwine, and also, admittedly, still terribly conditioned to accept and lean on my own white privilege. While I do follow much of the debate on abortion, women’s rights in the workplace, intersectionality, police brutality, immigration, and the unfair treatment of black people, there is still so much I do not know. I wonder often if my own whiteness does not allow for me to see the whole picture. I think many white folks in this country try, as Claudia Rankine’s characters Virginia and Charles appear to do, and think we are doing as much as we can with the resources available. But Rankine makes it apparent that we aren’t, simply because we are white.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett (Knopf Books for Young Readers 2019)
Reviewed by Kelly Dasta
Full Disclosure is an intersectional young adult novel that fosters sex-positivity and works to break the stigma surrounding HIV—a prime example of how diversity and inclusion are becoming more pervasive within the YA genre. Written by New York University film student, Camryn Garrett, the novel details the story of Simone Garcia-Hampton who hopes to keep her HIV positive diagnosis under-wraps upon transferring to a new high school. However, she soon develops feelings for a charming boy named Miles, which means if she wishes to pursue a relationship with him, she’ll have to tell him about her diagnosis eventually. To make matters worse, one day she receives a note in her locker, threatening that she either tell Miles about her diagnosis, or the note-writer will tell the whole school. Her first reaction is to hide the truth, but “as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on.”