YA Romance

The Summer of Jordi Perez

THE SUMMER OF JORDI PEREZ (AND THE BEST BURGER IN LOS ANGELES) by AMY SPALDING.

Something I guess what I hadn’t forseen about falling in love with someone is how much your heart can ache to take away their pain.’

‘When you’re making your way through the world in a look you feel confident about, everything feels easier’.

Abby and her summer romance tale slayed my life in August. Which is why I’m sharing my thoughts about this highly recommended novel. I read each chapter like one relishing tiny bits of their favourite chocolate bar. Every night after a productive day I’d curl up under my cotton covers and read two to three reward chapters. Initially I was sceptical about this book. It was named after another female character the heroine was competing with but crushing on.  But I now agree with Julie Murphy, this novel is truly a dreamy, queer, fat girl rom-com. I know how many times I have read fat or plus-size heroine chicklit or romance novels which were disappointing. But not with this novel. It’s a witty, young adult, queer romance novel. Genres I love! I read this at a time when I’d just uplifted my body confidence which took a dip. Being a thick babe, I could relate with Abby’s sentiments on full body pictures and her worries about online fat shaming. Amidst her fashion blogging, Abby landed her dream internship. Abbs, career babe, colorful fashionista!

It was comedic. Just when Abby’s worries and observations would scurry around pages. Her goofy friends and plot ironies would lighten the mood. This was my favourite funny conversation;

‘Are you crying?’ Jax asked with a horrified edge to his voice. ‘No!’ I am lying. Lying and crying. He sort of scatters extra napkins near my face, which–despite my tears–makes me burst into laughter. ‘Why are boys so scared of girl feelings? I ask. ‘Abbs, I’m a feminist’, he says. ‘I’m equally scared of all feelings.

I know! Jax and Abby spent the summer eating burgers and reviewing them as part of data collection for his father’s soon to be launched rating app, Best Blank. I mused about having a friend who would pick me up in a fancy car to eat free burgers for research. Then I remembered every other Friday evening my sis and I drive around Ojo to get great shawarma to eat. I am living the life!

Mailah who is Abby’s best friend disappointingly spends most of summer with her boyfriend Trevor. Jordi Perez, the other intern and photographer is an adorable and talent young woman.  All the swimming parties, restaurant hunting, parents avoiding, kissing, photography and fashion aside. I love this fat girl narrative. The writing is simple, clear, witty, reflective, engaging and flows beautifully. Set in Los Angeles, I loved how different characters like Abby’s mother and her health eating business were some form of antagonist contradiction for Abby. Look Jordi, Jax, Abby and Mailah thought me a bunch of lessons about forgiveness and rebuilding trust with effective communication, trying out new things and finding work balance in a romantic relationships or friendship.

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‘And to all the girls who worry they take up too much space: you don’t’.. these are the words Amy Spalding ends her acknowledgement with. Amy lives in Los Angeles and has a B.A in Advertising and Marketing Communications. This is her sixth book. Check out her other novels at her site.  Sky Pony Press, New York published this novel in 2018.

 

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EVERY DAY

EVERYDAY by DAVID LEVITHAN

“It’s as if when you love someone, they become your reason.”

“Kindness connects to who you are, while niceness connects to how you want to be seen.”

“I am always amazed by people who know something is wrong but still insist on ignoring it, as if that will somehow make it go away. They spare themselves the confrontation, but end up boiling in resentment anyway.”

“And once again I think about how people use the devil as an alias for the things they fear. The cause and effect is backward. The devil doesn’t make anyone do anything. People just do things and blame the devil after.”

I found Everyday to be filled with wisdom. A had me living the existence of an intersex teenage soul. I’m yet to a more inclusive first person story. My ebook is littered with highlighted sentences which made me think a lot about my life. The choices I make, my appreciation of my family, friends, lovers, habits and daily routines, my financial status, beliefs and spirituality, my relationship investments and even cybersafety.

“Deep down? That sounds like settling to me. You shouldn’t have to venture deep down in order to get to love.”

I really liked A, the soul character of this novel. Everyday A wakes up in a new teenager’s body and tries to live that person’s life responsibly then leaves. Until A is Justin and falls in love with his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Then it’s everyday in a different body but in love with the same girl. A just don’t stay in love with Rhiannon but finds her everyday in  various bodies to build memories and make her know them. Slowly Rhiannon develops affection for A while enduring her unsatisifying relationship with Justin. I was very happy about their budding romance. There was the monotony of A’s existence which changed to adventure after attending a party in the body of good boy Peter who wanted answers afterwards.  Everyday they and Rhiannon communicated in person or via email was a treat. Their dialogue was honest. 

“Falling in love with someone doesn’t mean you know any better how they feel. It only means you know how you feel.”

A had a lot of wisdom to share with me. I people watch a lot and observe life so I found many realisations true and learnt new things. I agree with writers of other reviews that a major theme of this bestselling novel is identity. Infact, simply reading the novel broadens one’s mind on identity (all its aspects). Almost every reality is reresented through’s A’s journey. From religious teenagers to drug addicted ones to Beyonce-slay, black queen to low-income, buff, white boys and asian teens. Everything—even a Latino gay boyfriend attending pride, menstrual cramping, illegal, immigrant maid and a suicidal girl. It was admirable how responsible A was with each body lived in, sometimes doing something good for the person before midnight. 

“Self-preservation isn’t worth it if you can’t live with the self you’re preserving.”

This novel was character dense. Its Chapters written in number of days, eg. Chapter 5999. All these were tools used by the author to address issues of gender, identity, soulful love,finance and tech, humanity and societal rules.  The narrative was in simple English, honest tone and thought provoking. Written in stream of consciousness and first person point of view, it was intimate and emotional. I really recommend this book which now has a movie adaptation. It was set in various homes across Maryland in the US. Rhiannon’s house was a focal point A and their bodies kept charting to each day. I was upset about the end of the novel but A, always being fair left Rhiannon with a kind of lover she needed while going to find themselves. This amazing read gets four fireworks. if you’d like to know answers to what makes us human and how to live consciously daily. 

“I don’t have the heart to tell him that’s the wrong way to think about the world. There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.”

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE BY TOMI ADEYEMI

“I teach you to be warriors in the garden so you will never be gardeners in the war. I give you the strength to fight, but you all must learn the strength of restraint.”

“When your opponent has no honor, you must fight in different ways, smarter ways.”

Many bookstagram reviews of this international bestselling YA Fantasy all put the first quote without its accompanying second sentence on strength. This sentence cautions restraint, without it things can go wrong. Gosh! I’m enchanted by this novel. The last time I read fantasy that resonated this much with me was with Georgina Kincaid and her Succubus series by Richelle Mead and Carter and Sade Kane of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan  I dropped reading A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Meet Cute (Young Adult Fiction collections) to read Children of Blood and Bone during the last week of July. I’d wanted to read some different after a long stressful day.

If you peer closely you’ll see small drops of ogogoro in my mini mug. I sipped that shot like Zelie in celebration of the victorious last sentences.

A world of magical wonders and brutal realities..Orisha. The narrative introduces one to the new Orisha where magic is missing and Zelie’s biggest worries include passing initiation and taxes. The old Orisha had Majis who were white-haired, Orisha Mama’s magic blessed, children of blood and bone. It’s amazing the fantasy woven around the Orisha gods was inspired by Yoruba deities. I kept nodding to the various magical powers each maji clan possessed from their sister goddesses and brother gods. Reapers who summoned souls, Tiders and Yemoja, Burners who blazed fiery, Healers and Cancer, and Seers. When various characters touch with a magic scroll it sparks magic in Divîners and Kosidans alike. You can take a quiz to find out which clan you belong to here.

This heroine’s narrations are shadowed by fearful memories of her mother’s execution and past beauties of magical Orisha. I was always pulled away from these to her meagre existence. Yet Zelie had a strong drive for survival and freedom. Zelie is impulsive, silver-eyed beauty, gifted Reaper, smart, seasoned trader, skilled fighter, leader and compassionate heroine. Amari and Inan, both children of the tyrant king narrate the plot with Zelie on a quest to return magic to Orisha. One of the beautiful things about these characters describing the plot and other characters were their unique personas. Growth of Zelie, Amari and Inan occurred slowly throughout the novel. Amari, the scared Princess grew bravely to be the Lionaire. Inan, Little Prince who sacrificed everything to be everything his cruel father wanted. He struggled with his sense of duty and being himself. Tzain, Mama Agba, Kaea, Nailah, Zu, Baba, Roën and other minor characters play huge supporting roles in this tumultuous quest. I was sad that Amari and Tzain’s budding romance was halted while Zelie and Inan’s passionate one was fervently frustrated. But I remain a hopeful romantic while waiting for a sequel. 

Children of Blood and Bone mirrors a lot of real life issues we face in our societies like police brutality, racial or ethnic discrimination, gradual loss of culture, poverty and political tyranny. This mirror holds the themes and lessons one can learn from the novel. It’s robust plot was hijacked by plot twists, suspense and intrigue. CBB is written in simple English with Yoruba phrases and coined terms. Irony was one of literary techniques expertly utilised in this fantasy. Flashback and character dialogues were used to fill in the plot. Simile and imagery are two literary techniques artistically employed in this novel, (eg. the light’s voice is smooth like silk, soft like velvet. It wraps itself around my form, drawing me to it’s warmth). I found it ironic the King destroyed other families and his children while avenging his dead family. Another major irony was that Zelie hungered for change but was afraid of the possibilities magic could create. Out of the Eighty-five chapters my favourite chapter was Fifty-seven (plus the Epilogue of course). This chapter’s festivities and pet Lionaire Nailah inspired by book photo. Coincidentally it’s the author’s favourite chapter.

Landscape and animals in Orisha are nothing like anything I’ve read. Blue whisked bee-eaters, large panthonaires, snow leopanaires, stalking hyenaire. A map of Orisha is presented before the first chapter began. I enjoyed that the plot took us around that map and Orisha’s interesting landscape. It’s a highly recommended African Fantasy and YA Fiction book. For its plot twists resolutions and unexpected end of the last battle, four and a half fireworks! Did they succeed in bringing back magic? Did tyrant King Saran and his reign end? You’ll have to read to find out. To see more gorgeous book pictures or fan art click #childrenofbloodandbone.

 

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Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian American writer and creative writing coach. Children of Blood and Bone is her first novel. Published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company, a trademark of Macmillian Publishing Group LLC.

*this is a Flashback Friday Fiction feature review.*