Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Off Book: SURRENDER YOUR SONS by Adam Sass

Summary from author's site:

SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a YA mystery set on an island—like LOST but very, very queer. A gay teen named Connor finds his summer vacation interrupted by a group of masked men who abduct him and deliver him to a conversion therapy camp on a desolate Pacific island. Connor’s religious zealot family arranged this for him, but he has no intention of staying. 
Connor then teams up with the other kidnapped LGBTQ+ teens to uncover the camp’s dark secrets and take the whole place down.


I have been hearing about this book for so long, and then I read it and it was beyond anything I had imagined. Yes, it's like LOST or LORD OF THE FLIES but queer, but it's anything but derivative. This book takes so many literary conventions and busts them apart, then crafts them into something utterly new. I loved the daring nonlinear unraveling of the timeline and mystery, which goes so much deeper than expected. I loved how unflinchingly the book examines the messy reality of queer life, and all the places the queer community builds family and strength for themselves. This isn't a book written for someone who wants a smoothed-over image of queer experiences, you can tell this comes deeply from a real OwnVoices perspective. It's for the young people who need to hear that voice, their voice, and see both the struggles more inescapable than an isolated island and triumphs possible. The presentation of queerness was so good (including a model of how to handle pronouns for trans characters through a character's POV). Connor is a voice that's going to stick in my head for a long time. The story is a wild adventure, but by the end I was a crying mess, holding my breath as I turned the final pages.

Off Book: WENCH by Maxine Kaplan

Summary from author's site:
Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.


WENCH was a fun romp with admirably strong female characters--strong in all different ways! The world building will greatly appeal to the Minecraft/gaming crowd. As the magic system was explored and developed into more intricate systems, I kept thinking of all my students who would would be totally entranced by this story. It's a little episodic--the main focus throughout sits squarely on the stout, capable shoulders of the title wench, Tanya, as she goes in search of the one thing she wants and ends up exploring farther out into the world and into herself than she planned. The larger cast of characters are fun, especially Jana. The body positive rep/exploration (for female and male characters) is another plus.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Off Book: LITTLE CREEPING THINGS by Chelsea Ichaso

I'm SO excited to share my review of LITTLE CREEPING THINGS, a book I've been looking forward to reading since I first read the pitch, and which comes out June 2nd.

Blurb from Barnes & Noble:
As a child, Cassidy Pratt accidentally started a fire that killed her neighbor. At least, that's what she's been told. She can't remember anything from that day. She's pretty sure she didn't mean to do it. She's a victim too. But her town's bullies, particularly the cruel and beautiful Melody Davenport, have never let her live it down. In Melody's eyes, Cassidy is a murderer and always will be.
When Cassidy overhears what sounded like an abduction and Melody goes missing, Cassidy knows she should go to the cops, but... She recently joked about how much she'd like to get rid of Melody. She even planned out the perfect way to do it. It's up to Cassidy to figure out what really happened, because if she comes forward without a suspect, she knows people will point fingers at her. Again. And she can't let that happen.
But the truth behind Melody's disappearance will set the whole town ablaze.

My Review:

I found this thriller to be compulsively readable, which is what I'm always looking for when I pick up a thriller. It also totally did that (rare) thing where it had me questioning and suspecting EVERYONE. It reminded me of TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET in that way. The tension was deliciously taut as I could see the mystery going in any number of ways, and also couldn't quite figure out how it would unravel, until it did, in its very satisfying conclusion. There was a fair amount of relationship drama woven into the mystery, too, so teens who are looking for that will be happy. The characters are likable and well-drawn, the voice strong and engaging. Overall, this was a compelling and satisfying read--with an unsettling edge.