Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 9.28.05 AM

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

This, for me, is a hard review to write. Which is why I need to write it.

What Thomas has created with this book is talking point, a highlight to the divide in society and the racism that still exists. This is what ‘own voices’ books are all about.

Starr is a brilliant character who accurately portrays the struggle to find your place in the world. She’s an easy character to relate to and to cheer on. I loved her voice, I loved watching her grow, and I loved seeing how she faced up to the challenges in her life.

In case you have somehow missed hearing about this book, THUG is about a girl of colour who is raised in the ‘ghetto’ yet attends school with a predominately white population and tries to hide her ‘blackness’ in order to fit in. This book was written by a woman of colour, about a woman of colour, and there is no whitewashing to the story.

Because of this, the book is confronting to someone who usually reads stories through a white lens.

The quiet thought-provoking narrative really makes you question your own bias. It shows how racism isn’t just the intent behind your words, but also how society has conditioned you to subconsciously think. Thomas did such a great job introducing us to Khalil that when he is shot and killed by a police officer you feel it. It’s horrible.

And then the news reports start. Reports we’ve all seen following the shooting of a person of colour. Maybe they were a drug dealer, or had a concealed weapon. Maybe they were portrayed as being a threat. THUG then goes on to show the other side. The caring person who was doing whatever he could to support his family, who was sorely missed by the people left behind.

This mix of real world events and relatable characters force you to question which reaction you would have had under the circumstances.

As amazing as I found THUG, I did feel the beginning ran a little slow. It felt like a long book (I’m used to quick reads I think) up until the grand jury’s decision, but from there I couldn’t put the book down. The ending was so beautifully written I needed a moment to check out of real life once it was finished.

If you haven’t read THUG yet, I suggest getting it on your TBR pile. It’s no surprise it debuted on the NYT Bestseller List.

AOaR_4star (3)

(and a half)

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 9.59.49 PM

Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary and is on a mad dash to edit the crap out of MS 2

Romancing the Reader

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking about romance. I’m a romantic at heart, I love the happy sigh when my couple get together. I love the tension and the payoff. I’d probably see a romance in a book even if there wasn’t one.

But, I think there’s a special romance in reading and that’s between the book/author and the reader.

I’ve felt it myself, for the Harry Potter series for example. I have pop figures and a wand and socks and more because that world holds a romance for me that I’ll never lose. I’ve read criticisms of the books, even agreed with some but it doesn’t change the romance for me.

File 14-6-17, 10 18 39 am

As a reader and writer it makes me wonder what it is that creates the romance.

First there is the courting. The reader needs to be wooed and for that there needs to be an initial attraction. The cover and title help with this. Who hasn’t fallen for a beautiful cover? Then there’s the author themselves. Thanks to the internet a reader can feel they know something about the author, through their social media and also other books they might have read. There’s word of mouth and advertising too.

That’s all well and good to get you on the book date but what keeps you there and gives the reader that love affair with a book?

I think it’s different for everyone but for me it’s a little like a relationship with another human. Keeping me entertained, following through on promises and mixing things up enough I don’t get bored.

Anyone had a great book romance recently?

(you’ll know cos you’ve gushed to your friends and stared lovingly at it more than necessary)

 

 

🙂

Beck

beck nicholas_ bec sampson

I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

Teaching Children The Romance of Reading

This topic has been on my mind a great deal lately. My oldest just finished Kindergarten, so she’s beginning to put words and sentences together as she reads. At times, it’s frustrating as she doesn’t remember words she just read etc. But, she’s catching on, and I work with her to help her fluency.

I think, though, the biggest factor that contributes to my thoughts about this is working at a school. I see kids who are in third grade who haven’t mastered the basics and have little to no interest in reading. It breaks my heart, because to me, they’re missing out on magical worlds, adventures, traveling across time, the world, or the universe to places they would never see in their lifetimes.

These low literacy kids are missing out.

Making sure my kids read has always been a high priority for me, not just because I love to read, but because reading sets them up for life. In fact, many high profile figures attribute their success to their love of reading. Presidents like Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and so many more. In fact, some presidents’ reading habits made up for their lack of formal education, like George Washington!

Other figures include: Lebron James, who read to calm himself before every game. Actresses like Jennifer Lawrence who reads on set, and Emma Watson who took time off acting to focus on personal development through reading! And of course, you cannot forget Oprah Winfrey, who has a rags to riches tale that she accredits to the love of reading her father instilled in her, and now has one of the biggest book clubs in the world where she hopes to influence others to love reading as well.

The love of reading can start at any point, but it needs to start with me. Us. Parents. From the time my girls were babies I’d read from board books to them. They’d look at the pictures and hear me read the words to them. I believe their strong language skill development at early ages has a great deal to do with that. But that time is also mommy time. A time where they can snuggle with me, interact with me, and feel loved by me. I’m focused entirely on them as I read. And so, they associate love and affection with reading.

I have this graph from working as an Usborne consultant that works well to demonstrate the power of reading to your child:

Powerful, right?

Reading is attributed to improving success in life. Reading a book a month, both of fiction and non-fiction,can greatly increase chances of success. It opens the mind, stimulates the imagination, pours in knowledge. I heard a quote somewhere, I don’t know who said it, but it went something like:

“A literate man who doesn’t read is no better off than an illiterate one.”

Phew. Wow.

I think the another thing that has made a big influence on helping my kids love to read, is my own love of reading. They see me with my kindle or a novel all the time. Whether at home, or in my handbag, wherever I am, I always have reading material. Even while driving I play audio books. They see me loving books, and they are influenced by that. As their mother, they look to me for direction and guidance. I hear them repeat things I say, and at times it’s a huge wake up call because I don’t like hearing them talk in ways that I have done. It’s the same with reading.

My last thing that I’ve noticed has helped my oldest is reading scripture together every morning. She gets to read a verse of her own choosing, and I’ve noticed she can read more and more words each time. She loves our scripture reading time too, and when we’re running late, she pouts about missing it in the car.

As time goes by, I hope to really embed in my children the love of reading. Books can open their lives up to so many paths, and I want them to have choices and the freedom to be what they so choose. Which is why teaching the love of reading is one of my top priorities for raising my kids.

Falling For Words

giphy4

For us, the most important part of writing is to make our reader fall in love, and an author can do this in a few ways.

Firstly with a relatable or sympathetic character. This doesn’t necessarily mean a hero, or even a generally nice person, but it is someone who the reader can connect to. For example Myrnin from The Glass House series. Myrnin had his quirks, wore bunny slippers, and was losing his mind; all of these things added to the reader feeling for him and connecting to him. He also killed his former assistant to connect her brain to his computer so that he could try to find a cure for his insanity. Not exactly a hero, but a memorable and favoured character.

giphy3

Then there are high stakes. The higher the better. Putting good characters in bad situations or facing insurmountable odds pushes your reader to root for them, to become invested emotionally in the outcome of the characters you created. For example, Vampire Academy (major spoiler alert) uses high stakes throughout the series to keep the readers on edge but completely invested. The series starts with the Strigoi as the big bad, the stakes escalate when they begin targeting the royal line of vamps–the MC’s best friend is one of these royals. The series builds again when the main love interest is turned into a Strigoi, prompting the MC to hunt the man she loves.

8398761

Another way is to give us an unexpected ending. Turning your reader on their head can leave a lasting impression, especially when that final scene is one of happiness and joy. I do not know anyone who has said, ‘oh that book where the main character dies and the guy she loves is left alone forever, yes that book, I sooo wanna read that again’. Sorry, but give us a struggle and take us to some dark places but you better leave us and the MC in a better place at the end if you want a place in our heart.

606924

Finally, and this could be considered the best way to secure a pace in our heart–Make us swoon. Sweep us off our feet. We need the characters to interact with each other in a way that connects to the reader. Give us the friends to lovers, enemies to friends, friends to enemies to friends to lovers.

giphy2

The books you fall for are the ones you re-read. Rebecca fell for Vampire academy, and fell hardest for Last Sacrifice which she read three times. Heather fell hard for VA too, but also for The Lunar Chronicles and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

What words have you fallen for? What books are forever in your heart?

 

Four Times I Got on the Wrong Ship (aka Unlucky in Love Triangles)

Featured image source: Shutterstock

Ship noun (in fanfic) 1. a relationship.
— verb (t) (shipped, shipping
2. to create a relationship between two characters in a work of fiction, as in the genre fanfic.
[shortened form of relationship]

— Macquarie Dictionary

Love triangles* are one of the biggest tropes in modern YA and in speculative fiction more broadly, usually of the two-guys-one-girl variety.

(The geometry nerd in me has to point out that it usually isn’t a triangle but two lines with one connecting point. Gale never snogged Peeta in The Hunger Games … though it’d be the work of a few seconds to turn up a fanfic where he did. Anyway, moving on…)

For a writer, they are loads of fun and a great source of romantic and dramatic tension. For a reader, love triangles can be the ultimate in wish fulfilment. But I have another game that I play when I read books with a love triangle, which is “pick my favourite love interest and watch them lose”. If love triangles are a race between the (usually) two guys for the (usually) one girl, don’t back my bet, people. I almost always get on the wrong ship. Part of that is because I tend to go for the best friend character, the boy next door, rather than the brooding and enigmatic one, and in urban fantasy (my favourite genre) Mr Enigma always wins. 

Four times I got on the wrong ship

Katniss, Peeta and Gale (The Hunger Games) — I was pro-Gale in the beginning, though I did have a soft spot for Peeta (as the boy next door) as well. It just seemed obvious to me that Katniss was hung up on Gale from the start. Of course, then she got broken and he couldn’t deal. By halfway through the third book I had changed ships, but for the first two? I got it totally wrong. 

Hermione, Ron and Harry (Harry Potter) — It’s been a while since I read the books, but I don’t remember JK Rowling inserting much in the way of a love triangle into them. It was more that I was on the Harry ship from the start, and I could never quite deal with the whole Ron thing. Sorry, Ron. 

Clary, Jace and Simon (The Mortal Instruments) — This was a textbook case of me liking the nerdy, normal best friend over the brooding and arrogant Mr Enigma. Given the allegations that Simon is based off Harry from Cassandra Clare’s fanfic-writing days (and Jace is Draco), that shouldn’t be a surprise. At least I’m consistent!

Alyssa, Jeb and Morpheus (Splintered) — This was a race to the bottom between the boys for me. Jeb was the literal boy next door but I hated his domineering attitude even more than I hated Morpheus’s manipulations. At least Morpheus had playfulness going for him, but I wanted neither of them to end up with Alyssa — which, again, was the opposite of what happened. (I only read the first two Twilight books, but I felt the same way about Edward and Jacob. Hard pass on both.) 

Do you play the “who will win” game when you read books with love triangles? Are you better at picking the ship that wins out in the end? Or do you go your own way, fanfic style, and create a ship outside the parameters of the original story — such as Draco and Harry, or McGonnagall and Snape? Leave a comment telling us about your favourite ship!


Cassandra PageCassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer who has used used love triangles a couple of times, in her Isla’s Inheritance YA urban fantasy trilogy and her Lucid Dreaming adult urban fantasy duology (the second book of which comes out later this year). Mmm, triangle-y. 

 

The Best Aussie (YA/NA) Romance Reads

We’re talking about romancing the reader this month and today I want to mention some swoonworthy Aussie books that well and truely romanced me.

Summer Skins (Kirsty Eager) — the best traditionally published aussie NA I’ve read. Set on campus at an aussie uni, it’s a boys vs girls prank-fest and so much fun.  Get on it!

Words in Deep Blue (Cath Cowley) — so much more than a YA romance. This book is emotion and feeling and friendship and grief all rolled into a ball that isn’t contained nor repaired by love. Just beautiful.

Pieces of Sky (Trinity Doyle) — another book about grief and friendship and love and loss. This book is an amazing aussie YA with a gorgeous aussie beach setting.

On the Jellicoe Road (Melina Marcetta) — My goodness. Perfect is one word I’d use to describe this read. It moved me in ways that no other book has. It’s a romance and a mystery and so well written I had writer-envy.

Grafitti Moon (Cath Crowley) — It’s quirky, it’s gritty, it all takes place in one single night. And it’s home to amazingly unique characters that I just want to befriend.

 

The AO&R crew have also written some Aussie romance. Check out the Our Books tab or Goodreads list for more details. I’d suggest Lauren’s Emerald Cove Series, Stacey’s Oxley College Saga, Beck’s Fake, Kaz’s Reluctant Jillaroo, Sharon’s Open Heart Series, Cass’s Lucid Dreaming, or Katie’s Cadence. All are vastly different, yet common in that they hold a romance and an Aussie setting. The rest of the crew have their debut books releasing soon!

What’s your favourite Aussie YA/NA romance read?


Stacey Nash writes aussie YA / NA. Her Oxley College Saga is a series of romances based in the fictional Oxley College on a university campus.To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries not to only romance), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

Save

Save

What is the appropriate heat level for YA romance?

We’re loving the monthly themes here at AO&R and we really hope you are too. If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like us to cover, please suggest away in the comments or on our facebook page. We’re always open to ideas. Anyways, the month of June is all about romance. So hold on tight so as not to get swept away in the swoon-fest!

It’s a widely known fact that many readers of YA are more ‘young at heart’ than actual young adults. Not speaking for myself of course … 😛 Okay, okay, so I’m totally a mum to one, almost two, real young adults. My little bookworms’ emergence into teenhood has brought with it an unexpected element and a new way of looking at YA books. Where I once devoured anything with so much as a sniff of romance, turning pages until I reached that happily ever after, I often now evaluate as I read. Thinking about books in terms of heat levels and other age appropriate issues. I know, I know. It totally ruins the reading experience.

Many people (including some parents) don’t see the sexiness of a book as an issue when it comes to young readers. In fact, they don’t know that there are different heat levels. They believe that if the book is in the YA section of a bookstore or library then it’s suitable. But as a reader / writer of this category I’ve realised that there is a rather large heat difference between publishers, individual libraries, and especially online bookstore categories (think Amazon and iBooks). Not easy for the cautious parent to navigate.

My teen is thirteen, the other twelve, and although they both know all about the birds and the bees, reading about it in a novel setting is a whole other thing. Neither of them are ready for that. One isn’t even ready to read a make out scene. Eww — girls. 😛  You see, when we read an image plays out in our heads, and it often has more impact than watching a scene that is ‘told’ via a screen. This is because we create the visual, using pictures familiar to us and becoming the main character. Essentially living the scene with them. So, these images are lasting and on a developing brain can have a psychological impact.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I guess that is why most traditional publishers recommend YA for 12+ and most have restrictions on levels of sexiness within their books.

I’ll never forget the first sex scene I read. I was sixteen. It was in John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began and barely lasted a few paragraphs. At the time I felt so naughty and grown up, but looking back now those scenes are very tame and very age appropriate. That book was written before YA was a thing, but it still holds the familiar depth of romance we see in many traditionally published books for the young adult market.

Since becoming an author I’ve learned that most of the big 5 publishers love romance in their YA books, but their kissing and make out scenes are restricted to far less detail than we’d find in a new adult or an adult book. Sex scenes, likewise are okay, but generally not in a blow by blow account. As a parent, this is a relief. It sure makes vetting appropriate books far easier.

I know not all children are the same and some may not need censoring, but my precious, empathetic souls do. Being advanced readers doesn’t make it easy to choose books, but we’re stumbling through this together.

Stay tuned for part two — a more in depth look at YA in libraries — coming up later this month.

What about you — what heat level to you think is appropriate in YA books?

Stacey Nash writes YA and some sexier books that fall under the NA banner. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries not to only romance), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

 

Save

Save