Against all odds, I managed to read four books in March 2021. Was one of them a graphic novel that was 100 pages long? Yes. Was another one of them a book that I started in February? Also yes. But as a news writer now, I would like to take advantage of my (unpaid) job by sharing all these books with the world, and what better way to do that than to write a whole bunch of reviews?
For any books that have not come out yet, I requested from Netgalley, a website where reviewers can request digital copies of books to be released. Many thanks to the publishers of these books for giving me a review copy.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find — Joan He, May 4, 2021
Quick little disclosure: I am a member of He’s street team. What that means is that I help her promote her books, and in exchange, I get free perks like early copies. However, I would absolutely promote the heck out of this book even if I was not.
After Joan He spoke publicly about issues with the publisher of her debut novel, Descendant of the Crane, who had refused to pay her the royalties that she earned, I wondered if her sophomore novel would be overshadowed by the drama of her first book. After reading it, though, I think there is absolutely nothing to be worried about.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find is at once nothing and everything like Descendant of the Crane, taking its setting in a science-fiction world ravaged by climate change instead of a court in a world not unlike imperial China.
The narrators of this story, Celia and Kasey Mizuhara, are sisters — Celia, trapped on a remote island with only a bot as her company, and Kasey, living in a floating city and making strides in the scientific world. Although the dual narration might seem a little strange at first — Celia’s narration in the first person, present tense, and Kasey’s narration in the third person, past tense — it all makes total sense at the end.
If you thought Descendant of the Crane was riddled with plot twists and surprises, you are not ready for The Ones We’re Meant to Find. The buildup may be slow, but by the end, my eyes were practically bugging out of my head as I turned the pages (digitally, since this was on my e-reader). Speaking of — that ending? I have so many questions.
It has been a long time since I’ve read a science fiction novel, and The Ones We’re Meant to Find was actually fairly accessible to someone who almost exclusively reads YA and adult contemporary. I highly recommend you check out this book no matter what genre you usually like to read. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a story of siblinghood and climate change and what it means to be a person, and I cannot wait for it to come out so more people can enjoy this story.
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms — Crystal Frasier (writer) and Val Wise (illustrator), Aug. 10, 2021
A short review for a short book! There are days when I am itching to read something meaningful and literary and groundbreaking, but there are also days when I just want to lose myself in a quick story and just have a bit of fun. Cheer Up is definitely one of those quick stories. As a 100-page comic book, it is just the right length if you have a quick half-hour to spare. I will admit, I read a large part of it during class, but really, isn’t the hallmark of a good book that you would prefer to read rather than pay attention in school?
Openly gay Annie does not want to be perceived by society, but her mom coerces her into joining the high school cheer team to improve her chances at college admissions. The captain of the team? Beatrice, a people-pleasing trans girl who hates to be in the spotlight. You can probably guess what happens next.
I think that YA books, especially graphic novels, are really having a good gay sports moment right now, and I am kind of here for it. Between Cheer Up, the upcoming She Drives Me Crazy and last year’s Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones, there is something for everyone. As a person who plays absolutely no sports, this book was still completely easy to follow and very fun to read.
I Think I Love You — Auriane Desombre, March 2, 2021
Way back in November, I submitted to a writing program that Auriane Desombre was mentoring for, and though I did not get in, I have kept up with her since. I was especially excited to hear about her debut YA novel, a classic enemies-to-lovers summer romance.
Emma and Sophia are both aspiring filmmakers, and when they learn about a high school film festival, they obviously want to participate. Problem is, the two of them have completely opposite opinions on what their movie should look like; Emma wants to make a sapphic romcom, and Sophia prefers an artsy French-inspired short film. And their friends just want them to get along — so, they hatch a plan to get the girls to play it nice.
However, my problem with this book is that I just genuinely could not get attached to the characters. They seemed a little two-dimensional, and frankly, I felt like there were too many side characters for such a short book. The romance was cute, but I was not at all attached to the plot, and I definitely felt at times like the characters were not acting mature enough for their age. Overall, though, I had a pretty decent time reading it! The world needs more cheesy sapphic romcoms.
Cool for the Summer — Dahlia Adler, May 11, 2021
Dahlia Adler has been under my radar for a really long time, with this being the first novel of hers that I have actually read. I had a really good time with it! I basically binged half of it in one day, which is never a good idea when you are a busy college student, and especially not a good idea when you are a busy college student during finals week. Alas, I could not help but read yet another sapphic YA rom-com. I promise this is not all I read. It has just been a tough March.
How do I describe Lara, the protagonist of this book? She is … very horny. I am sorry. I don’t have a nicer word. There is an argument to be made that we need more horny girls in literature, but I think that maybe I am not the right target audience, as the A in LGBTQIA+.
Lara is definitively not the A; in fact, she is a questioning B who has had a summer fling with a girl, Jasmine — only to find that Jasmine has transferred to her high school for senior year, just in time for Lara to start dating Chase, the most popular guy at her high school. But despite finally dating her longtime crush, Lara cannot seem to shake off her feelings for Jasmine no matter how hard she tries.
My main criticisms of this book are in incredibly small details; characters whose physical features are described too much for how little they appear, and scenes that drag on a bit too long. Lara being an aspiring writer is probably very relatable for many YA readers, but I can already name, off the top of my head, another YA protagonist who wants to write romance novels and meets her favorite author in the course of the story. (Rowan from Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Today Tonight Tomorrow, if you’re curious.)
But in general, Cool for the Summer is a delightful little book if you are looking for something easy to read with a happy ending, as long as you are okay with hearing maybe a little too much about how much Lara wants to make out with her love interest.
Overall, I had a good time reading books this month. Here’s to hoping the rest of April will bring me a bit more variety in genres, though.