“Interference” Kay Honeyman

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published September 27, 2016. Arthur A. Levine Books. 340 p.

interferenceKate Hamilton has spent her life walking a tightrope, as she has had to make sure to never bring scandal on the family name because her father is a politician. When he falls behind in the polls because of something her ex boyfriend did to humiliate her, he take Kate and her mother out of D.C. to spend a few months in his Texas hometown to regroup.

In her quest to get a recommendation to art school to study photography and escape politics forever, Kate winds up volunteering at her aunt’s animal shelter where she meets annoying Hunter, the handsome ex-football player. Joining the yearbook staff to use their darkroom introduces her to handsome Kyle, star quarterback, and shy Ana. With football ruling the school, and politics ruling her home, it’s only a matter of time before football and politics lead Kate into making decisions she’ll soon regret.

Recommended for ages 12-17.

 

 

 

“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.

 

“Seeing off the Johns” Rene S. Perez II

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. 2015. Cinco Puntos Press.

seeingoffthejohnsJohn Mejia and John Robison were baseball stars in the small, poor, forgotten town of Greenton, Texas where everyone knew everyone’s name. These two friends, known as The Johns, had gotten a baseball scholarship to the University of Texas and were leaving the town most people knew they would never leave. As such everyone felt an ownership in the boys, feeling their success and exit from the town was everyone’s successful exit.

When the boys died in a car crash just a few hours later, Greenton was devastated. The only one indifferent to the calamity was 17-year-old Concepcion Gonzales, known as Chon. For four years he had hidden his dislike for the John who had stolen Araceli, the love of his life. With that John forever out of the picture, Chon’s days now turned to thoughts of how to methodically woo back the only woman he’d ever loved.

Set against a backdrop of close knit town prejudices and fears, Perez tells the story of a hard working young man struggling to find his own voice amid a life filled with love, heartache, friendship and sorrow. Though the writing is at times introspective and rambling, Chon’s hopes and dreams are real to anyone who has ever loved and lost.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“Black-eyed Susans” Julia Heaerlin

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Ballantine Books (Penguin). Published August 11, 2015.

BlackEyedSusansSixteen-year-old Tessa was lucky to be alive, as a serial killer had left her in a grave with several other bodies and bones for over 32 hours. Because of the flowers scattered around the area the dead girls were nicknamed “Susans,” with Tessa the only survivor.

Now grown with a teenaged daughter of her own, Tessa is unable to forget the terror and horror she felt in that lonely grave. The Susans haunt her, seeking justice, while she tries to force herself to remember what happened the night she was abducted. The killer was arrested back in 1995, but someone has been planting black-eyed susans everywhere she has lived over the years, leading her to believe the serial killer is still alive and that she helped place an innocent man in jail. Will he succeed in what he had failed to do when she was just 16 years old?

Through flashbacks and the present time, Heaerlin lays down a clever plot of betrayal, terror, and fear as readers pry back the layers of time to find out what really happened to Tessa and the Susans. The truth, when it was finally revealed, made me gasp in surprise and shock. “Black-eyed Susans” is a gut-wrenching story of suspense and horror, highly recommended for Adult readers.

“The one that got away” Bethany Chase

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. Ballantine Books (Random House). Published March 31, 2015.

TheOneThatGotAwaySarina Mahler is an accomplished architect in Austin, Texas, dating the man of her dreams for four years, and rooming with her best friend Danny. Despite being in love with Noah and savoring her budding architectural career, she had one small portion of her memory reserved for Eamon Roy; her one true love from 7 years ago. Having been deeply hurt by him she had been unable to forget how he made her feel and now, knowing he was moving back to Austin and she would soon be seeing him again, all those old feelings came rushing back to overwhelm her.

Now working with Eamon as the architect of his new home, she is determined not to let him know the extent of her feelings and to keep Noah in the dark about their past relationship. Despite her best intentions the past has a way of inching into the present and, with everything familiar crumbling before her, Sarina will have to decide if she will hold on to the familiarity and love she feels with Noah or strike out into the untried waters of a relationship with Eamon.

“The one that got away” is brilliantly written, and had me eagerly turning pages. I, of course, have my own “one that got away,” which made me empathize even more with Sarina’s struggles as I wondered about my “one.” Adult readers will find themselves also enjoying Bethany Chase’s debut novel and wishing for more from this talented author. I look forward to reading Chase’s next book.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“The Same Sky” Amanda Eyre Ward

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published January 20, 2015. Ballantine Books (Random House).

TheSameSkyIn five-year-old Carla’s poor and crime riddled village of Tegucigalpa Honduras the only income comes from trying to sell trash from the town dump, so her mother made the dangerous trip to the United States to search for work. Her job enables her grandmother to provide food and clothing for Carla and her two baby brothers.

After a few years her mother saved enough to pay passage for one child to join her but, when her grandmother died a few years later, ten-year-old Carla and her six-year-old brother Junior were left alone. As they slowly began to starve, Carla was desperate to get to her mother in Texas. With nothing but water and a few dollars, she and Junior set out on an almost two thousand mile journey on foot to, hopefully, survive marauding gang members, murderers, rapists and robbers.

Cancer has rendered Alice infertile, and she is desperate to be a mother. She and her husband Jake have tried to adopt for 10 years, but have faced numerous disappointments. Nothing fills the hole of sadness she feels inside and, with bitterness slowly poisoning her marriage, Alice will have to look within to find the true answers to her sorrow.

In alternate voices Carla and Alice tell their stories of sorrow, pain, heartbreak and hope amidst despair. However, despite coming from two different worlds, they manage to leave a stamp on each other’s lives that will never be forgotten.

“The Same Sky” is a touching story of survival and love, shedding light on why so many undocumented workers and unaccompanied minors make the harrowing and incredibly dangerous journey to the United States. Their plight, and the circumstances they go through to get to America, broke my heart and had me reaching for tissues many different times. It will do the same for you.

Mature themes. Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“The Do-Nothing” Brannon Perkison

Rated 2 stars *** ebook. 2014. Rabbitboy Books.

TheDoNothingAfter an argument with his overbearing father, seventeen-year-old John pushes him off the second floor landing of their home. With his father’s sightless eyes burning into his memory, he flees into the darkness of the nearby woods. After crashing his car, he is rescued by a strange, hairy beast – the monster of his childish nightmares, and befriended by a group of ethereal women.

From this inauspicious beginning, John’s story continues to be fraught with a combination of fantasy and realism as he travels the Texas countryside without money or prospects, yet always manages to land on his feet. Readers are constantly overwhelmed with confused thoughts about his father’s death, an obsession with a strange Bigfoot-like creature, and an inability to make a decision without second guessing which was the crux of the problems he had with his father.

Perkison spins a web of deceit, which is obvious to everyone except John, but managed to confuse me with constant references to the bogeyman of John’s imagination. The ending left me scratching my head, asking myself “what just happened??”

I wasn’t happy with “The Do-Nothing,” but will leave it up to you to Decide if You want to Read it or Not.