“Shame the Stars” Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Rated 5 stars ***** Tu Books (Lee & Low). 2016. 288 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note”, “Book Recommendations”, “Newspaper Clipping Sources,” and a “Glossary.”)

shamethestarsBefore Texas became a territory and then a state, it was part of Mexico. As happened when European immigrants took control of land occupied by its original inhabitants, the Anglo American colonists who settled in Tejas, Mexico in the early 1800’s decided they wanted the land upon which they had settled, and fought to get it from Mexico. Ultimately the land they conquered became the state of Texas. Just as Native Americans had their lands stolen from them, so too did the Mexicans who had originally lived and farmed their own lands in Tejas for generations.

“Shame the Stars” is set in 1915, and tells the story of Tejano families struggling to understand and survive brutalities inflicted upon them by the Texas Rangers (a group of “lawmen” who randomly killed and raped Mexican Americans, imprisoning them without trial, and stealing their land.)

Joaquín Del Toro and Dulceña Villa are teenagers in love during this tumultuous time in the fictitious city of Monteseco. Though suffering from the devastation brought upon them and others by the Rangers, they refuse to keep their heads bowed low in servitude. They, and many others, determine to make a difference for their people and stand for their rights. “Shame the Stars” is their story.

This book is marketed as a “rich reimagining of Romeo and Juliet,” but I feel this simplistic overview is a disservice to McCall. “Shame the Stars” is so much more than this, as the author’s rich and powerful narrative opens the eyes of her readers to an atrocious chapter in the history of the United States that had been a secret for many years. It is closer to the history of Segregation and the crimes committed by segregationists than it is to Romeo and Juliet.

The “Refusing to Forget” Project, started in 2013, created an exhibit of this time period called “Life and Death on the Border 1910-1920.” It was on view in Austin, Texas from Jan. 23-April 3, and was a visual complement to the events in the book.

I sincerely hope McCall’s excellently written and researched book will win an award of some type at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in January, as it deserves a place in every high school and public library. McCall is a previous winner of the Pura Belpré award however, since “Shame the Stars” is intended for a much older audience, my fingers are crossed that it will receive a Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from YALSA.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received a copy of this book from Lee & Low in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Three truths and a lie” Brent Hartinger

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published August 2, 2016. Simon Pulse.

ThreeTruthsAndALieRob, his boyfriend Liam, their friend Mia and her boyfriend Galen decide to spend a fun weekend at Mia’s parent’s cabin. Located in the middle of a partly denuded rainforest in Washington State, the four friends expect to have a great time at the cabin’s lake telling truth and lie games and hanging out.

Within just a few short hours of arriving, the satellite phone they need to communicate in case of an emergency winds up missing. It doesn’t take long before a series of other unfortunate events turns the fun they’d anticipated having into terror, as it seems like someone doesn’t want them to leave. As the horror escalates, their reality becomes someone’s lie leaving it up to the reader to distinguish between the two.

I thought “Three truths and a lie” was interesting though some of the events seemed rather far fetched. It reminded me of what always happens to those who don’t pay attention in creepy 1960’s “B” slasher movies, and I will admit that the ending left me very surprised.

It’s because of Hartinger’s ability to deceive that I recommend his book for ages 16 and older.

“Last seen leaving” Caleb Roehrig

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Feiwel and Friends. To be published October 4, 2016.

LastSeenLeavingFlynn is devastated to find out his girlfriend, January, had been reported missing. Prying questions from the police triggered a secret he had been hiding from everyone, and his vague answers only served to convince them of his guilt. Determined to prove his innocence he starts to dig deeper into January’s disappearance but, as he reflects on their relationship, floodgates open to his own secret that will forever change his life.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers are drawn into Flynn and January’s lives as the author did a good job implicating various characters in the crime. I thought I knew who was guilty, but was fooled many different times.

Despite good clues in the whodunit portion, I found inconsistencies that were problematic. Would a 19-year-old be able to date a 15-year-old without anyone blinking an eye? Would the two of them be able to wander in and around a rich, private school without any kind of security system? It was these and other inconsistencies that made the story much less believable, and caused me to drop its rating down to 3 stars.

Despite my questions I will recommend “Last seen leaving” for ages 14 and older because Roehrig did a good job stringing along the reader in making several characters appear to be the “bad guy.”

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Dangerous Lies” Becca Fitzpatrick

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. 2015.

DangerousLiesEstella Goodwinn returns home late one night to find her mother in a drugged stupor alongside a dead body. She accuses Danny Balando, her mother’s dealer and leader of a local Philadelphia drug cartel, of the murder. With her life threatened, she is forced to leave behind her boyfriend Reed, given a new identity, and sent to live in Nebraska under the Witness Protection Program.

Now known as Stella, she angrily refuses to settle into her strange new life in Thunder Basin. Knowing she only has to wait a few months until she turns 18 and can leave, she spends days plotting her escape. Carmina, the long suffering retired cop who took her in, and Chet Falconer, the good looking neighbor boy, begin to whittle away at the bricks of pain, loneliness and confusion she’d built around her heart. As Stella begins to feel a pull towards Chet and life in Thunder Basin, she gets a reminder from her old life that will forever shake up her life.

Fitzgerald did a good job describing the witness protection program, but Stella’s bratty behavior towards Carmina, and her constant neediness for Reed was a little over the top. Her up and down emotions towards her mother and Chet was another downer, which is why I only gave it 3 stars.

Despite these bad spots, “Dangerous Lies” is a good read, and I will recommend it for ages 16 and older.

I received an electronic copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“The alienation of Courtney Hoffman” Brady Stefani

Rated 1 star * ARC. Published June 7, 2016. SparkPress.

TheAlienationOfCourtneyHoffmanCourtney used to love being with her grandfather, listening to his strange stories about aliens visiting Earth, until he tried to drown her when she was just a little girl. Now that she’s 15 years old, she still hasn’t come to grips with the traumatic events of that day.

When her childhood imaginary friend reappears in her mind, and aliens begin to constantly attempt to communicate, Courtney is sure she’s going insane. A new friend convinces her to visit a doctor who understands aliens and who will solve her problems. Before she knows it, Courtney is involved in a race to help the aliens save the world from destroying itself.

Courtney was so immature. I lost count of how many times she pulled her hair in frustration, and I don’t know any 15 year olds who pull their hair. Her friend Agatha was 19 years old and her vocabulary, which consisted of saying the word “dude” in every sentence, was grating and just as bad.

Courtney is 15, has a 19-year-old friend, says bad words, and has a mother who doesn’t listen to anything she says. That means it has to be a YA book. Right? Wrong! The storyline was boring and not believable, the characters were flat and immature, and it could have easily passed for a lower middle grade book. I was looking for an interesting YA book, but this was not that book. A sequel is planned, but I won’t be reading it. I’m sorry I read this one.

I didn’t like it, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Perdita” Faith Gardner

3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. 2015. Merit Press.

PerditaArielle and her sister Casey have never gotten along, but she adores her sister’s best friend Perdita who always has time to talk. The last time Arielle saw her, she had gotten into an argument with Casey and slammed out of the house. The next time she saw Perdita, she was dead.

With Casey now off at college and her best friend Chloe off with a new boyfriend, Arielle feels at odds with everything. Since Perdita’s drowning death, she keeps revisiting the emotions of having seen her own brother drown 10 years earlier when she was only 6 years old. She even begins to feel as if she can see ghosts – especially Perdita’s. The only bright light in her life is Tex, Perdita’s brother. She and Tex are in theater class together, but even their relationship seems strange. When she finds out Perdita was murdered, she realizes her ghost has been trying to tell her something. Arielle is afraid to listen, but even more afraid of not listening.

I liked the storyline, but felt it took too long for something “ghostlike” to actually happen. I also didn’t like that Chloe’s relationship with her overly possessive boyfriend was never explored, which made me feel that the author missed an opportunity to let readers know it is not okay to become a completely different person for the sake of a boyfriend. Chloe was a robot to her boyfriend’s whims, and the only one who knew this was Arielle. I think Arielle should have confronted her about it.

I thought the book was ok, but because of the dragging storyline and the Chloe issue I could only give it 3 stars.

Recommended for 14 and older.

 

“What you left behind” Samantha Hayes

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. DCI Lorraine Fisher #2. 2015. Crown (Random House.)

WhatYouLeftBehindDetective Inspector Lorraine Fisher planned to have a nice vacation with her sister Jo and nephew Freddie in her childhood country home. Though surprised to find Freddie moody and uncommunicative, she brushes off Jo’s concern he might be suicidal because their neighbor Simon and 5 others killed themselves 18 months earlier. Jo is certain the recent suicide of Dean, a homeless teen motorcyclist, would lead to more suicides.

When an autistic neighbor shows her a drawing he made of the accident, showing there had been two people on the motorcycle when Dean died, Lorraine’s interest is piqued. Soon Lenny, another homeless teen, commits suicide and Freddie disappears, leaving Lorraine to find out what happened. What she doesn’t know is that someone has been very clever and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep secrets hidden that will turn the town upside down.

This whodunit kept me biting my nails and sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation as Hayes cleverly dropped clues about various key characters. Just when I was convinced I knew what happened, she threw a very clever curveball that left me scratching my head in disbelief. Hayes is an author who does not disappoint, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Though this book was the second in a series about Detective Lorraine Fisher, it stands alone as each book has its own storyline.

Highly recommended for Adults.