Anne Bonny #BlogTour #GuestPost by @RuthEstevez2 #Diversity in #YA fiction #NewRelease YA #Literarture Jiddy Vardy @ZunTold #UKYA #JiddyVardy

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Jiddy Vardy by Ruth Estevez
Full review to follow
Synopsis:

Jiddy is a survivor. Rescued at birth, she grows up in Robin Hood’s Bay, a village harbouring a dangerous secret. Just as romance blossoms and Jiddy finally feels like she belongs, figures from the past threaten to tear her world apart… A thrilling tale of one girl’s search for identity and love, set against a backdrop of smuggling and viole.

Guest post:

Diversity in YA Fiction

I believe there are many young people who aren’t reading because they don’t see it as an option. This could be for many reasons, access to books, difficulties reading, economic, it’s not a tradition in a family or environment to read, there are no role models who love reading, or you just can’t find anything you want to read.
Often, you just want to find a book that you relate to but can’t find it. A character with the same name as you can be enough to pick up that particular book. It could be set where you’re from. I picked up The Ballroom by Anna Hope because it was set in an old Victorian Mental Institution, as they were called, near where I used to live. My friend’s mum went in to do the inmates’ hair as they were called then. My friend Andy, used to drive us in his mini into the courtyard and out under the bridge to scare us. From what, I’m not sure, but it was dark at night and it was a thrill. So, to find a story set High Royds, made me want to read it. I picked up Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, Ruth in a second hand bookshop, because well, I’d not seen another book called Ruth and that name’s special to me!
I’d like to think everyone out there could find a book with a name the same as theirs or a friend’s name. Or that it’s set in a place they know. Or it’s about how they are feeling and experiencing the world.
We love to say, ‘Yes! I feel exactly like that!’ It’s important in YA fiction for readers to be able to see characters and scenarios that you are going through so that you can see choices, solutions and how others cope with similar dilemmas.
And for books to be authentic, we need authors from diverse backgrounds, whether that be culturally, economically, socially, gender and sexual orientation, size, shape, skin colour, health-wise, in all ways. Personal experience makes a story ring true.
So…diverse writers need finding and encouraging. And how do we do that? Readers shouting what we want?! Writers writing about what’s important to them? And people in the publishing industry listening to that call.
With The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time all best-sellers, to name a few, and Meredith Rosso’s If I was your Girl, the first book written by a trans-gender author, the diverse stories featuring diverse characters are opening out. There are still many unheard voices out there of course.
I used my own experiences to write my YA novel, Jiddy Vardy, which is about a girl who is a foreigner in a tight knit community. I know my mum felt like this when we moved from the city of Bradford to a small rural village, when I was two. I felt like this when I was the only girl who went from my primary to secondary school. I could translate the feelings I felt to how Jiddy fought to belong.
One of the reasons, one of my main characters in my next book, The Monster Belt, is a redhead is because I am a redhead. Or, I should say, was – because my hair has changed colour, grown darker and duller over time. No actually, I change that back to ‘am.’ I am a redhead because I hold in me as an adult, all that being a redhead as a child and teenager has made me. And I’m not writing about a redhead that I so often see in fiction, plucky and fiery and not much said about her skin. Dee is a redhead who burns in the sun and I’m going to talk about it. And she is a brilliant character though I say so myself! There. Got that off my chest! Everyone needs representing and I have plenty of insider information on redheads. We want writers with plenty of insider information about their specialist subject! Because readers need to see themselves authentically in print.
There is also another reason why we need diversity in YA fiction… ‘no-one is an island.’ (Something my mum used to keep telling my sister and me.)
This can be translated as, we want and need to learn about other ways of being, other places and experiences, so that we can feel connected to everyone else. Reading outside our own experience and comfort zone helps us expand as human beings. We all want to grow and see other worlds, so that we can understand each other, don’t we?
Whichever way you look at it, it’s a win-win situation to have diversity in YA fiction. YA audiences are hungry to read about themselves and about different worlds and lives as well. And we need writers of all diversities to provide readers with that. So, publishers, nourish these writers. Please think long term and help these writers to grow and share their unique voices for all the unique readers out there.
And for those of you who don’t see anything for you right now, take up the challenge, pick up your pen, or start tapping on that keyboard and get writing yourself. There are organisations like We Need Diverse Books and Diversity in YA who work to give opportunities to those interested in publishing from minority backgrounds. Manchester’s new publishing company, ZunTold is engaging with young people through interactive story-telling on their website. Everywhere, there are initiatives. Find them. Let’s really make sure there is something for everyone and so readers can find a book they want to read.

RE
Ruth Estevez
Twitter
Website
ZunTold  – TwitterWebsite

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
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Anne Bonny #YA #BookReview I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter #NewRelease YA @simonschusterUK ‘Dark themes, haunting characters and beautiful writing’

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I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter
My own copy from TBR pile
Synopsis:

“Caleb led me into the party. He’d invited me because he could. He’d kissed me because he could. Just like his dad, Caleb lived in a world of could and we drifted from room to room on the privilege of it.”

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, she begins her freshman year with new clothes, new hair, and a plan: she doesn’t need to be popular, she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

It’s a lonely existence, but at least no one’s tripping her in the halls. In fact, no one notices her at all. Until Caleb Breward, tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it.

Ellie loves Caleb, but sometimes she doesn’t like him that much – his awkward smile, the possessive way he touches her, the tone he uses, how he ignores her one minute and can’t get enough the next. And on one black night, she discovers the monster her boyfriend really is. Ellie wasn’t the first victim, but now, trapped, she has to watch it happen again and again. She tries to hold onto her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

But no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

My Review:

This is very much a Lovely Bones for the YA generation. There is some extremely beautiful writing, despite the dark subject matter. The protagonist Ellie Frias is unusual in that Ellie is a murdered teen, watching over the aftermath of her brutal rape and murder. She is from a small town named Hollow Oaks in New York, which she describes rather poetically.

‘I suppose this is a fitting place for a girl like me. I disappeared before I actually did. And now, I’m trapped here. Forgotten.’
‘This whole town is full of ghosts’ – Ellie

We Later learn that Hollow Oaks is a town facing economical destabilisation. With most of the factories closed. Families have lost everything including their homes. The downturn enables one wealthy family to buy up all the real estate and effectively own the town. Hollow Oaks sounds like a miserable place to live and an even worse place to die.

‘I hate the way these unseen things damage us in secret’ – Ellie

The novel opens with Ellie in ghost form witnessing an assault on a new victim. This is taking place at the same run-down house where Ellie’s assault took place. The current victim is pleading to be let go. Ellie remarks on how there has been seven victims, since she was brought to the abandoned house.

‘He looks for the young ones, the pretty ones.
The weak ones’ – Ellie

We learn Ellie’s background, raised by a single father, she is a social outcast as school. Having recently transferred schools, she wasn’t struggling to fit in, she simply didn’t exist. The novel also reflects quite deeply on the power of words and in particular the word ‘pretty’. As Beyonce says ‘Pretty Hurts’. The term pretty and to be defined as or as not pretty can have a huge impact on a young girls psychology. Their self-esteem can be exceptionally fragile in an Instagram society, where we are judged by out snaps alone. Ellie words this so much better than I ever could. But as the mother to a teenage daughter, it gave me much food for thought.

Eventually someone shows an interest in Ellie, a young boy by the name of Caleb. Only what Ellie doesn’t know, is the meeting of Caleb will be the very undoing of her. But still he persists to ask her out on Friday night. . .
“Why not? What’s the worst that can happen? I’m a nice guy – Caleb

“You can’t imagine the things I think about doing with you” – Caleb

Reading on, as Ellie reflects upon meeting Caleb and the clever way in which he groomed her and broken her down slowly by building her up with words, brought tears to my eyes.

‘It takes a lot of things to make a girl, but breaking her? it only takes a few pretty words and a crooked smile’ – Ellie

Ellie is forced to witness victim after victim, be brought to the abandoned property. To witness their assaults. Until one victim named Gretchen decides to fight back! It is Gretchen’s refusal to be a victim and determination to find Ellie that unravels the entire plot.

The chapters are reflective and cover previously to the attack, after the attack itself on Ellie and subsequent attacks on other young girls. Ellie is able to watch over not only her killer but the police dealing with her case and her grieving father. The novel has some powerful writing as mentioned and quoted above. It really is written from the soul.

There are various topics that would make for great debate among book groups and young people. The arrogance and sexual entitlement of some young males and their disregard for the women they abuse and manipulate.
But also when we think of grooming itself, we don’t necessarily think of teenage boys. I know I didn’t, yet when I thought back that is exactly what Caleb did. I guess this novel serves as a stark reminder that teenage boys can groom their victims too.

‘Nobody every wants to be inconvenienced by all the things that happen to girls’

The theme of victimhood amongst teenage girls is also explored, as more and more young women eventually come forward. It concerns me that now we seem to see cases where a rapist needs multiple victims for the victims to be believed.

Dark themes, haunting characters and beautiful writing 4*

T.E. Carter
Website

Anne Bonny #YA #BookReview Children Of Blood And Bone by @tomi_adeyemi 5* Genius #LegacyOfOrisha @MacmillanKidsUK #Zelie #Magic #Diviner

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Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Synopsis:

Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

My Review:

I have never been so concerned with the future of magic, in my entire life! I am a huge YA fan, but will admit I don’t read many novels with the theme of magic. I decided to change that and bought my copy of Children Of Blood And Bone.
I am so glad that I did.

There is powerful writing before you even get to the first page. The writing is absolutely beautiful, and I instantly developed a huge respect for the author.

‘The incantations that spewed from her mouth like lava. The magic of dead that led her astray’

The writing is emotionally charged and if you read between the lines, you can see reflections to American black history.

‘I think about the way her corpse hung from that tree. I think about the king who took her away’

The novel is fiction/fantasy. Yet the historical and modern-day references are there. The theme of those whom wield all the power and their abuses over those who do not. Diverse literature is important in EVERY genre of fiction. But I would say most definitely in the YA genre. The younger generation want to read literature that represents the world they live in. Culture and race play a huge part of that world.

The story opens with our heroine and protagonist Zelie, she is a diviner. She is taking part in a sparing session with Mama Agba. When the guards arrive to collect ‘diviner tax’. A tax that is hugely inflated and used to oppress and enslave the diviner members of society. This is enforced by King Saran, who led the genocide against the diviners.

‘It’s not bad enough for the king to keep the diviners down. He has to break anyone who tries to help us’

Zelie notices the guard’s sword, which is a black blade made of majacite, created to weaken magic and burn the flesh. Zelie is also exposed to sexual threats and unwanted advances. Which she must tolerate against her will. . .

‘Keep my mouth shut, swallow my rage – Live to see another day’

Zelie despises the way she is treated, and she riles against this oppressive regime. But those around her, warn her such rage risks her own life and that of those she loves.

‘They don’t hate you my child. They hate what you were meant to become’ – Mama Agba

As the novel unfolds we learn the history of the diviners. The differing ten clans and their unique abilities. How the chosen children have the mark of white hair. The history of the diviners is incredibly moving, with Zelie having experienced the loss of her own mother at such a young age.

Love – Fear – Hate – Violence

11yrs previously the Maji People used their powers in defence and their magic disappeared. The power of the magic is in direct relation to their gods and the Maji people have no idea why they have been forsaken.

‘The gods died with our magic’

Zelie is surrounded by people that have no magic (kosidan). This includes her father Baba and brother Tzain. Which also means they do not experience the same level of hate/violence that she is herself at risk from. Zelie is surrounded by people yet feels alone in the world.

‘One look at my white hair, and people avoid me like I’m an infectious plaque’

Nailah is a lionaire that Zelie has raised from a cub,
at times she feels Nailah is her only friend.

With taxes being raised to levels of extortion. Zelie and Tzain must leave and head to Lagos to raise some money. Money that will ensure Zelie stays free from the ‘stocks’. The stocks being the Maji forced labour camp, where death is highly likely. On the journey, she reflects upon her memories, from when she was just a little girl of 6yrs old.

‘That was the night things got bad. The night King Saran hung my people for the world to see, declaring war against the Maji or today and tomorrow. The night magic died’

The novel jumps between various points of view, with the most prominent being Zelie. But the other two narratives, give you an insight into life on the other side of this divided society. Amari and Inan are King Saran’s children.

Amari is a royal princess, who tires of her role and constant attention and appeasing in a male dominated society. Her only friend is Binta, her diviner chambermaid and confidante. When Binta is summoned by the king, Amari is consumed by fear. Why would her father summon Binta? What use for a diviner, can her father have?

‘Our female nobility paste on smiles, though I know they whisper about us behind our backs’

Amari sneaks into her father’s offices and becomes aware of a secret not meant for her ears. . .

‘Your highness. The diviners became Maji’ – Commander Kaea

Inan is the youngest captain in history. He is loyal to his father and aware that he is next in line to the throne. He has the same devout beliefs about the Maji people and diviners and like his father would like to see their eradication.
But fate has a surprise for Inan.

‘Gods are nothing without fools to believe in them’ – King saran

After witnessing the spoken secret and death of Binta. Amari becomes enraged. She flees the palace taking with her the scroll.
A scroll that can bring back the magic!

In the city of Lagos the lives of Zelie, Amari and Inan will collide and their futures will change forever. Their core beliefs are challenged in ways they’ve never known before.
Zelie must find her inner strength and on this journey, she becomes an instant hero of mine.

‘We don’t need to fear magic we only need each other’

There are so many powerful themes within this novel. But to include all the details is to simply spoil the magic for others. It is one of the most powerful books, I have read this year and I urge you to buy it. Buy it for the young people, children and teens that you love. Or simply buy it for yourself, for some pure escapism.
5* Genius

‘You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back’ – Zelie

TA
Tomi Adeyemi
Website
Twitter

#Review 5* Dear Martin by @getnicced Nic Stone #YA @randomhousekids @CrownPublishing #NewRelease

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Synopsis:
Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League–but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up–way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack

My Review:

Nic Stone may write fiction, but she certainly tells no lies! This is a powerful debut novel! The author holds nothing back and the novel offers you the opportunity to see life, through the lies of another, and that person is protagonist Justyce Mcallister!

As a white British woman of 34 years old. It is difficult to imagine the daily life and struggles of a 17-year-old African American teen. When you factor in the racial tensions, constantly bubbling in America and the case after case of police brutality. It becomes quite clear that Justyce and I lead very different lives.
But that is the hidden beauty of this novel, it enables the reader to walk in Justyce’s shoes.
Even if it is for just 200 pages.

The novel opens with Justyce and his ex-girlfriend Melo Taylor, as Justyce attempts to prevent her from drink driving. Melo is of mixed race heritage, but due to her mother’s Norwegian pale skin tone, can easily pass as white. When an officer of the law arrives at the scene, he is promptly judge, jury and executer of his own brand of justice.
Justyce finds himself cuffed, manhandled and treated with zero respect and dignity. But it is only when I read his thoughts as the scene unfounded, that I fully understood life from Justyce’s perspective……………….

Be respectful; keep the anger in check; make sure the police can see your hands.

Justyce is eventually cleared of all wrong-doing, but with no apology, the experience has planted a seed of how Justyce’s feel he is perceived in the world. Do people see a thug when they see him? Does his skin colour automatically, make him a likely criminal? Is he expected to be one of the many cases of young black men shot dead unlawfully?

The self-questioning and doubt lead Justyce to begin a diary to Dr Martin Luther King. It is in these letters entitled ‘Dear Martin’ that Justyce pours out his heart and soul!
The letters are incredibly moving and the writing profound. Justyce is an intelligent young man, but he also has an emotional maturity, that we see develop throughout the novel.

“Dear Martin, there are people that don’t see a man with rights when they look at me”

Justyce begins to explore other people’s attitudes and approaches to debates of race/culture. This includes class mates, teachers, best friend Manny and debate partner SJ (Sarah Jane).
SJ is quite an interesting character herself, a young white Jewish girl. Who is wise beyond her years! SJ has opinions on race/identity/privilege, that could put world leaders to shame!

There is a wide mixture of teens from all walks of life, included within the novel. Which is what makes the novel so great! Nic Stone hasn’t just considered one voice; she has written a magnitude of voices to be heard.
At times the novel made for uncomfortable reading. But so it should, racism is uncomfortable for everybody it makes a victim of. This novel could be an extremely useful tool within educational settings. To allow young adults to debate the themes within the novel and maybe learn a little of their own inner hidden prejudices!

“People often learn more from getting an undeserved free pass than they would from being punished”

I don’t want to review the novel too much and risk ruining this thought-provoking novel. At just 200 pages it is an easy read for young adults. I think the topic of BAME youth in education settings is at crisis point and this novel can shine a light on the how/why this situation developed in the first place.

“If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?”

I cannot speak on the race issue, from personal experience. But as a mother of two sons and as a fellow human. I am horrified at seeing young men either growing up way too soon, or being the victims of police brutality and even murder!
A compelling read by a very talented writer, who has a bright future ahead of her! 5*

ns
Nic Stone
Author Bio:
Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her husband and sons on most social media platforms as @getnicced.

Authors links:
Website: http://www.nicstone.info/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/getnicced

New release, review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier 4*

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New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

The synopsis:

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s’ suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practise a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Watching over the shoulders of four 11-year-olds – Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi – Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

My review:

This novel is listed on Netgalley as general adult fiction; I think it could be easily incorporated into the YA genre also. It could actually prove very educational to young adults to the dangers of racism, bullying and prejudice. It would also highlight to the younger generation, how far we have come in terms of, the socially acceptable racism of the past etc.

This an interpretation of Othello, set in 1970’s suburban Washington DC. It centres around several students, as they ‘welcome’ new boy Osei Kokote. Osei aka O (Osie meaning Noble) is a young student whose father is an international diplomat. He is starting his 4th school in 6 years, due to moving around various locations. Despite being born in the 1980’s myself, I felt the novel had a very childhood feel to it. Young people, coming of age that was until the plot becomes more and more established.

Osei, Dee, Ian and Mimi are young students, trying to make sense of teir lives and the hierarchy of the education system. It is only Osei as the only black student at the school who is exposed to prejudice, casual racist comments and assumptions due to the colour of his skin. The assumptions really hit home to me. The assumption that he is poor as he is from Ghana; not only is Ghana the second wealthiest country in Africa, it is rich, in terms of culture. Also the age old typical stereotype that a young black man is essentially a criminal or violent in some way! With all this stacked against him, Osei has quite the first day to navigate!

Dee however is quite sweet on Osei and asks about Ghana out of genuine interest. She enjoys and embraces Osei regardless of his colour or heritage. However, a casual moment of affection is misinterpreted by a teacher whom assumes that Dee needs ‘saving’ from Osei. This scene really upset me; the assumption that a young black man is a terrible danger to a young white woman was reminiscent of the Emmett Till case. The racism that a young black male ‘must know his place’ is possibly one of thee, single most damaging attitudes and has impacted young black men to the present day!

One young man not happy with the alliance and blossoming romance between Dee and Osei is Ian. Ian is a scheming bully who sets in turn a motion of events with the intention to break up Dee and Osei. Fuelled by jealousy and set on a path, Ian manipulates all the students; building to a catastrophic ending!

Hugely recommend this novel to young adults and adults. I hope this novel is able to gain some support from education settings. It would be very beneficial to young minds and a great source of debate and discussion. 4*

New Boy is released today, 11th May 2017 🙂

*I received an Ebook arce via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.