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Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: Updating the A. S. King Reviews Edition with Dig and The Year We Fell from Space

You can find The Teen’s previous reviews of A. S. King individual books at this post. And you can read in her own words why she loves the works of A. S. King as a whole here. Today we’re updating her A. S. King book reviews by sharing her thoughts on Dig, which came out earlier this year, and The Year We Fell From Space, which is King’s second middle grade book that comes out in October of this year. I got The Teen a signed ARC at TLA earlier this year.

Dig by A. S. King

Publisher’s Book Description

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family’s maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they’ve declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children.

“Because we want them to thrive,” Marla always says. 

What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby’s drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamiaca between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a doublewide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest. 

As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

Kicky’s Post It Note Review:

Simply Perfect. It all comes together.

Karen’s Note:

The Teen likes this book so much she gave a copy to her best friend, who is not as big of a reader and she actually is reading it right now while on a cruise to Alaska!

The Year We Fell from Space by A. S. King

Publisher’s Book Description:

The deeply affecting next book from acclaimed author Amy Sarig King.
Liberty Johansen is going to change the way we look at the night sky. Most people see the old constellations, the things they’ve been told to see. But Liberty sees new patterns, pictures, and possibilities. She’s an exception. 

Some other exceptions:

Her dad, who gave her the stars. Who moved out months ago and hasn’t talked to her since.

Her mom, who’s happier since he left, even though everyone thinks she should be sad and lonely.

And her sister, who won’t go outside their house. 

Liberty feels like her whole world is falling from space. Can she map a new life for herself and her family before they spin too far out of reach? 

Kicky’s Post It Note Review:

Cute and full of hope.

Karen’s Notes:

As you can tell, The Teen is much more efficient with words than I am. This is Amy Sarig King’s second middle grade book and as I mentioned in the intro above, I got The Teen a signed copy at TLA. For those keeping score at home, yes I did in fact cry again while meeting A. S. King and yes The Teen did in fact make fun of me again for crying while meeting A. S. King. I look forward to the day that I don’t cry while meeting A. S. King in person, but The Teen is pretty sure it will never happen. But back to the book. The Teen has a tendency to read a lot of dark stuff, but on occasion she comes to me asking for something light and fluffy because she needs a palette cleanser. When I brought this to her she was excited to read it and it came at just the perfect time because, as she mentions above, it is a hopeful read and it was something she needed to read at the time.

What A. S. King Means to Me, a guest post by The Teen

Today, The Teen is joining us to write her first full length post here at TLT and her topic of choice is author A. S. King. The Teen has always been a prolific reader, but she is starting to really delve into the idea of writing. Today, she is putting both interests together. I do have a funny story to tell you about this post. She came out on Sunday morning and told me I would be so proud because she had given her post a title. When I asked her what that title was she proclaimed: A. S. King. “That’s not really a title,” I explained. Our bff Mary Hinson, who works with teens at a nearby library and blogs at Mary Had a Little Book Blog, came over later and they came up with the title you see above. You can read her reviews on all the A. S. King books here.

I don’t remember the order that I read the A.S. King books in, but that doesn’t change the fact that I loved them all. Her books aren’t like any books that I’ve ever read before. These books require you to think and make connections. You have to read every word and remember the little details. A lot of the time, there is something that won’t many sense until the very end. I think that’s why I enjoy them so much, that sense of not knowing. I have never liked reading books where I could guess the ending, but I’ve never had to worry about that with A.S. King’s books. Also, I like that a lot of the time you get to add your own interpretation to pieces of the story because she doesn’t come right out and set her meaning behind something in stone. There probably is an intended meaning, but I think she allows you to see what you want to see. There’s a kind of chaotic beauty to it all. You’ll feel like you know nothing at all and that this story will never come together, but then it will suddenly make perfect sense. They’re just fascinating pieces of writing, and if you enjoy surreal fiction then you should read her books.

About our Teen Blogger

The Teen is a proud feminist and prolific reader who loves all things YA, though she especially mysteries, fantasy and things where people die. She is also a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe. She likes to write, play tennis, and do theater. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is currently working on getting her second degree. This year she will be a junior in high school and the current plan is that she would like to attend Berkley to major in psychology and be a counselor.

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: In which a teen reader tells us what they think about several new books including Girls of July, Hot Dog Girl, Poet X, 10 Blind Dates, Stepsister and The Serpent King

It’s summer break, which means The Teen has been reading A LOT! As she reads she shares her quick reviews with us via a Post It Note. Here’s what she has had to say about some of the recent books she has read.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Four girls. One unforgettable July.

Britta is the bubbly drama queen. She needs to get away—and a peaceful cabin in the woods sounds like the perfect escape.

Meredith is the overachiever. She’s spent her entire life preparing for college, but at what cost? Now she’s wondering if that’s all there is.

Kate is the reluctant socialite. She’s searching for a reason to begin again after fleeing her small Georgia town—and a shameful family secret.

Spider is the quiet intellectual. She’s struggling with pain that has isolated her from her peers for much of her life.

When these four very different young women stay together for a month in the mountains, they discover that sometimes getting away from it all can only bring you back to who you really are.

The Teen’s Post It Note Review:

Technically, I didn’t get a Post It Note review for this title, but a verbal one. I actually won a signed copy of this book on Twitter and the book came signed to The Teen. She read it pretty quickly and she said that it was overall a pretty good book. She liked that this group of girls came together and learned that they could help each other with their problems and that they didn’t have to be alone.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places. 

Post It Note Review: This book was cute and it had a nice story.

Publisher’s Book Description:

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Post It Note Review: I really enjoyed this book and I think it has some very good messages.

Side Note: The Teen and two of her friends decided to create their own informal book discussion group. This was the first book that they chose to read and then they talked about it via a group text.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?

Post It Note Review: This book was very cute but you could kind of guess the end.

Side Note: This book comes out in October of 2019. The Teen came to me after reading a couple of dark books and said she needed something light to read and I handed her this. She has read it twice now when she needed a break from the dark books she typically likes to read.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Post It Note Review: I liked this take on the fairytale, very optimistic and fun.

Prince Charming AKA Charm

Side Note: At the age of 4, The Teen was obsessed with Cinderella. Our dog is named Charm, short for Prince Charming. She was Cinderella 3 Halloween’s in a row and her room was decked out all in Cinderella. So I was curious as to what she would and her self proclaimed black heart would think of this book.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past. 

Post It Note Review: This book is spectacular; I think it addresses many important issues.

Side Note: The Teen read this book because a friend recommended it to her. Sure, her mom who is a YA librarian had recommended it to her several times, but when one of her besties recommended it to her she finally read it. I’m not bitter. But I am glad that she loved it. And for the record, this is one of the dark books she read and then asked me for a light, fluffy read to cleanse her palette.

Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Publisher’s Book Description:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Karen and The Teen’s Thoughts:

This was the first time that The Teen and I read the same book at the same time but not together. I started it and then a few days later she started it and then we were racing to see who would finish it first. It’s been two weeks since we have finished reading it and we still come together and talk about it. There’s a lot to unpack and talk about in this dystopian tale.

Let me start by saying this: We both LOVED and highly recommend this book. We found it interesting, compelling, thoughtful and very discussable. I thought the middle part dragged a bit, but she did not. At the end, we both agreed it is one of our top 10 YA reads for 2019 so far.

I am a person who likes to collect quotes and for me, there were a lot of spot on quotes about feminism, how we think about and treat women, and the importance of coming into your own. There were sentences and phrases that just jumped off the page and spoke to me.

This is also a story that very much demonstrates how religion, tradition, laws and control of information can be used to hold a person or people group in subjugation. Though this may be a made up dystopian world with rules that we think could never happen, the truth is that it felt all too real. In fact, given the current political climate, the essence of this story didn’t feel that impossible at all, which made it all the more terrifying.

The heart of this story is Tierney, who is a flawed but fierce main character who knows a lot, but doesn’t know as much as she think she knows. She is surrounded by a variety of characters who help her, hurt her, surprise her, terrify her, disappoint her and challenge her in ways that often surprise the reader as well.

Some of the characters could have been fleshed out a tad more and I thought the middle section could have been condensed a bit, but this was a book that I picked up and couldn’t stop reading. The same is true for The Teen, who picked it up late one evening and had finished it the following afternoon.

I’ve read many books that claimed to be feminist reads this year that I found lacking, but this book is fiercely feminist and challenging and The Teen and I highly recommend it.

The Grace Year doesn’t come out until October of 2019 but I hope everyone will be reading and talking about this book.


Book Review: Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E Pitman

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal

Gr 6–9—A thorough if somewhat disjointed examination of the events before, during, and in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots gives young readers an overview of the LGBTQ+ activism of the 1950s and 1960s. Pitman traces meeting places, social clubs, and the rise of organizations and activist groups as well as the many police raids of gay establishments, focusing on the June 28, 1969, raid on the mob-owned Stonewall Inn. Due to a lack of documented accounts, use of pseudonyms, and conflicting reports, controversies remain over the actuality of events at Stonewall. Post-Stonewall, readers learn about the increase in radical groups and visibility that challenged negative attitudes and discrimination. Pitman occasionally expands the narrative focus to examine what was happening in various places around the country and to consider other issues and movements of the time, including weaknesses and missteps in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights. The unique approach of using various objects (matchbooks, leaflets, buttons, arrest records, photographs, and more, with many reproductions too small or low resolution to read) to guide, inform, and reconstruct the story of the riots prevents a smooth narrative flow and makes the text feel repetitive as it moves back and forth in time. Back matter includes a time line, notes, bibliography, and an index. 

VERDICT An important look at a major moment in American history. Readers will come to understand why the iconic Stonewall Inn is now on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic Landmark, and a National Monument.

ISBN-13: 9781419737206
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 05/14/2019

Book Review: Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

Publisher’s description

A hilarious, snarky, and utterly addicting #ownvoices debut that explores friendship, sexual orientation, mental health, and falling in love (even if things might be falling apart around you).

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .

Amanda’s thoughts

You know how I’m always going on and on about how what I really want is just a book of endless dialogue because that’s what I like—strong characters just talking? Well, with this book, I get that. The entire novel is told through texts between Martin and Haley. It was supremely satisfying to me, a character-driven reader who always just really wants people plopped down in a space and talking. This review is going to be really short, which isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the book (I did! So much!), but because there isn’t a ton to say other than “I really liked this book!” I like that it’s people who get to know each other through texts and that we only see their story that way. I like that it’s about mistaken identity. I like that the characters have interesting, complicated families and friendships. I like that Martin is bi and Haley is demisexual. I like that the two develop a quick banter with instant little inside jokes. This is a cute and fun story that’s a perfect summer read (it’s also summer in the book). One of my very favorite hobbies is eavesdropping, and reading this book gave me that giddy feeling of getting to spy on someone and also knowing things they don’t know. Hand this to readers who like different formats and their romances more on the cerebral side. Good fun.

ISBN-13: 9781338335460
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 06/25/2019

Book Review: Rules for Vanishing

Publisher’s Book Description:
In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side. 

Karen’s Thoughts:

You may have seen some of my recent reviews and noticed that I am going through a bit of a YA thriller reading streak. The Rules for Vanishing takes readers on a journey down a ghost road in order to find a missing sister and friend, with mixed results.

I love a good town with creepy legends story. Here we have a ghost, a ghost road and a missing sister who vanished a year ago trying to find said ghost. It’s a fantastic set up. Unfortunately, what happens on the ghost road gets a bit predictable. You see, along the road the group of teens have to pass through several gates and it is clearly established that once they get through each gate, something awful is going to happen. What that awful looks like is different each time, but there is a bit of built in predictability that I feel hampers the tension in the story. There is a rhtymn established: gate, conflict, brief moment of respite to process what just happened, gate, conflict, brief moment of respite . . . As a reader, I wish that this pattern wasn’t so clearly established.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few twists and turns along the way. But one of the earlier twists unfortunately undermines the final twist a bit because in some ways, it was already done and far more eerily earlier in the novel.

What this book serves up well is a reflection on family, identity and friendship, all of which have been broken in various ways by the vanishing that occurred a year earlier. Here we see teens wrestling with the after effects of not just loss, but loss without any sense of closure because no one is really sure what happened a year ago. It is this part of the story that feels more fleshed out and compelling.

Overall, I feel that this is an optional purchase. Many teens will be interested in reading it and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but it has a predictability about it that may turn some readers off.

Book Review: Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Two high school seniors find their voices and first love in this enemies-to-lovers story told from dual perspectives. Brusque and controlling filmmaker Rachel Recht, a Jewish scholarship student at the prestigious Royce School, wants nothing to do with Sana Khan, cheerleading captain and model human being. But when a literal run-in forces them to work together on a film, their tense relationship morphs into something beautiful and unexpected. As they collaborate, they begin to share their most private feelings. Sana, who is Muslim, reveals that she’s been having a crisis about her future, hasn’t sent her down payment to Princeton, and has secretly applied to a fellowship. Rachel knows she’s NYU-bound if the scholarship funds come through, but her future is in jeopardy if she can’t get this last film finished. Working together on this project about a woman forging her own path could be transformative for both, if only they could stop arguing and misjudging each other’s intentions. Determined to find success on their own terms, the ambitious girls learn to stand up for themselves as they challenge, support, and infuriate each other. Immensely readable with strong characters and quick, clever dialogue, this romance has real depth. Though there is no question that the girls will end up together, it’s a joy to watch them fumble toward their eventual happy ending. As much about finding yourself as it is about finding love, this smart, feminist story shows that expectations shouldn’t dictate the future. 

VERDICT This well-written and supremely satisfying romance should be in all collections

ISBN-13: 9781250299482
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 06/11/2019

Book Review: The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—A desperate search for the truth leaves 16-year-old Ruby Chernyavsky with more questions than answers as she untangles years of family lore and begins to understand that stories have more than one side. Ruby knows that the women in her family, long removed from their ancestral home in the woods in Russia, once possessed powerful magic. Ruby and her sisters grew up steeped in the family lore, stories of this magic, and the reminder to stay hidden and safe. Once in their lifetimes, the women in her family travel ahead to be in the body of their future selves at whatever age they will die. This is called their Time, and whatever they see is inevitable. But when Great-Aunt Polina dies, Ruby and her relatives learn that Polina’s vision was wrong. Ruby, who has seen her Time, must know: Can she alter her fate? When she falls for a boy with family secrets of his own and begins to confide in her long-absent mother, the stories and folklore become even more complicated. Ruby questions who the real villains are in these passed-down tales. Suddenly everything becomes about finding the courage to determine her own story and what she is willing to lose as she balances choices, consequences, and risks. Podos weaves an intricate plot full of mystery and folklore that will make readers race toward the satisfying but not-yet-tied up conclusion. 

VERDICT A beautifully rendered story about sacrifice, vengeance, survival, secrets, and lies. Recommended for all collections.

ISBN-13: 9780062699022
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 05/28/2019

Book Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

Publisher’s description

It’s just three words: I am nonbinary. But that’s all it takes to change everything.

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Amanda’s thoughts

Go order this book now. Request it from your library, buy it from your local bookstore, order it FOR your library, email your media specialist to make sure they know about it, just go. I’ll wait.

Did you do it? I really hope you did, because this is an Important Book. There are not a ton of nonbinary teens yet in YA books. This fact alone makes this book noteworthy. But it’s the fact that Ben’s story is so complex and emotional and that the writing is SO GOOD that really makes this book one that you need.

This is not always an easy book to read, but just know that it gets easier and has a happy ending. And that’s not a spoiler—I think it’s important to know that this book about a nonbinary teen kicked out of their home isn’t a story just full of misery and betrayal. That’s certainly part of the story, and not an unimportant part, but Ben’s story is so much deeper than that. And, thankfully, it’s so much more joy-filled than just that.

Ben’s parents kick them out when they come out as nonbinary. Ben (they/them) feels like they are living a lie and that their parents don’t actually know them. Their parents’ reaction is, obviously, not positive. Ben’s mother says this isn’t what God wants and Ben’s father is totally unwilling to even entertain this as an idea that exists. Thankfully, Ben’s sister, Hannah, takes them in, but it’s been a decade since Ben saw her and, while so grateful to her and her husband, Thomas, Ben still has complicated feelings about how she left the family. Hannah and Thomas are great. They get Ben set up with school, new clothes, a supportive and affirming home, and do their best to use the right pronouns. They are learning, but they are working hard to do so. Hannah also gets Ben set up with a therapist, so they can talk about what went on at home. It is during these sessions that Ben also is able to address and start to understand their depression and anxiety with panic attacks. This system of support that is being built around Ben is SO important.

Ben also finds unexpected support through new friends at school, including Nathan. Ben isn’t out as nonbinary at school and is worried what Nathan may think, especially as they grow closer. (Readers probably won’t worry what Nathan will think—he’s such a wonderful, sweet, charming character and it was nice to not feel like this is just someone else who will judge or hurt Ben.) Ben begins to thrive in their new life, painting, slowly making friends, feeling safer, and starting to think about the future. Used to being a loner and seen as “that weird kid,” Ben still has trouble trusting people and feeling secure, but they are surrounded by people who show them that this is okay.

Another wonderful source of support for Ben is Miriam, who is nonbinary and has a popular YouTube channel. From Bahrain, Miriam is Shi’a Muslim and immigrated to the US. Now in California (Ben is in North Carolina), the two connected online and have a strong bond. Miriam says they are Ben’s “enby mama” and helps to guide Ben through this time in their life. Miriam’s role as a mentor, friend, confidant, and example of a nonbinary person happy and successful is so important for Ben.

Could I use the word “important” more in this review? I’ll try.

The not easy to read parts include Ben constantly being misgendered. Remember, they are not out to anyone beyond their family, Miriam, and their therapist. An unknowing Nathan refers to Ben as he/him, boy, Mr, prince, and dude. These all hurt Ben, but they are not yet ready to come out. Ben’s parents are really just so awful, even when they allegedly try to make some amends. As a parent of an almost-teen myself, they are what most infuriated me and ate away at me while I read. I cannot imagine not accepting anything to do with my child’s identity. Of course, I know plenty of young people who have been exactly where Ben is—they come out and are kicked out. Thank goodness for Hannah and Thomas. Thank goodness for all the love, support, and kindness that surrounds Ben. This is such a shining example of the family that can form around you and hold you up when the people who SHOULD always be there for you refuse to. Shall I tell you that it’s an IMPORTANT message? Because it is.

This heartfelt story will empower readers. Ben’s journey is not always easy, but it is full of love, affirmation, and eventual happiness. And have I mentioned that all of this is so important? I can’t say that word enough (though you may argue otherwise at this point). This story, this representation, this example is so needed. Get this on your shelves and into readers’ hands.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781338306125
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 05/14/2019