Let’s Talk Bookish – What Makes a Book YA?

Buenos tardes amigos! Hope you’ve had a good week. Welcome back to another Let’s Talk Bookish discussion. Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by me @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts

Today’s topic is: What Makes a Book YA?

This is Dani’s topic and I’m pretty excited to read all the discussion regarding this.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk Bookish – What Makes a Book YA?”

Book Review – The Book Thief

Hey ya’ll!! Welcome back to my first book review of the year (and my first one since November)! I’ve said it a few times now, but I’m going to start working on posting reviews more frequently maybe if I say it enough it’ll become reality. Honestly, I kind of miss writing them, and hopefully I’ll keep it up from here.

Today, I’ll be reviewing one of my favorite books of 2019, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Published: December 18th 2007

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Coming of Age

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Review Summary:

This was a really emotional coming-of-age book set in Nazi Germany during World War II. It has a really unique narrator who follows the life of Liesel, after the death of her little brother, and her placement in a foster home. Originally, it was slow, but towards the second half, I was really attached to all the characters, and I loved the story. The ending hit me so hard even though I knew it was coming.

Quote: “The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.”

*Characters. I love the characters. They were real and so wholesome. Liesel, Rudy, Mama, Papa, the Mayor’s wife, all the characters on Himmel street played a role in making this book what it is. Death as well, was a phenomenal narrator, and it was so interesting seeing the story from his point of view. I loved the relationships between each of the characters, and how they loved each other, despite Mama seeming really harsh. She still loved Liesel so much, and it made me feel so warm and happy to see all of their interactions with one another. Rudy was hilarious, mischievous, and very much a saukerl. Papa was kind, patient, and adoring. Mama was harsh, loud, but still loving underneath. The Mayor’s wife was quiet, kind, and so lonely. All of them supported Liesel in their own way, and I loved reading about their lives.

*Death. Having death as a narrator was different and really interesting. It was sad, it was painful, and I sympathized with him so much. One thing I didn’t expect was for me to like having him as a narrator. He’s not this gloomy cruel thing that loves death. He had feelings. He was real. You could feel the sorrow and sadness coming from him. It made me sad that he had to see so much horror and that he had such a depressing job.

*Story. I like how the story moved through the years, pointing out the big events, and mentioning the small ones as well. It was a coming of age over several years, and even though the pacing was slow to start, I got used to it later on and I didn’t want it to end. I just wanted their story to continue, to see all the mischief and adventures that Rudy and Liesel would have, to see them grow up and grow old. It was so heartfelt and I loved it.

Quote: “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

*Max. Max was really interesting. What happened to him was horrible, but I’m glad that he still survived, that he found a family with the Hubermanns. I’m also glad that he found a way to express himself, and that he became Liesel’s reading companion. There’s so much power and beauty in words, and instead of falling into depression, or chronically over stressing, he wrote his story and stayed the strong despite the bleakness of his situation.

*Books. The book starts off with Liesel stealing a grave digger’s handbook, and it becomes a passion of hers. She has Papa teach her how to read, and as the years pass, she swipes books when she can to read some more. She meets the Mayor’s wife while doing laundry for her, and discovers a library full of so many books. The best thing is that the Mayor’s wife lets her come and read, which makes Liesel’s knowledge and power with words grow. I’m glad that books held such a special place in Liesel’s heart.

*Message. This book has several messages, and all of them are so important. Nazi Germany was a horrible time, and I loved how the Hubermanns, and Liesel, fought Hitler in their own way. They hid a Jew, showed sympathy to other Jews despite the severe consequences, and used Hitler’s own powerful device, words, to fight and tell their own story. This was about giving them a voice, when they didn’t have any. This was about doing what’s right, even when your whole country, your own son, is against you. It also offered a new perspective, because this was the first time that I’ve read a book about a non-Jewish German family hiding a Jew in their own home. It’s about the horrors of war, of the Holocaust, and how it can affect one small family that just wants to stay far away from it. And I absolutely loved it.

*Ending. That ending punched me so. hard. It still hurts to think about it. You know it’s coming, you get warned beforehand, but I still spent a few hours crying, feeling so much pain and sadness for all these amazing characters.

Quote: “Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”

*Slow. Starting out, it was slow, and I was a little impatient because of it. But once I got used to the pacing, and I began to like the characters, I didn’t care that it kind of dragged anymore.

Quote: “He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.”

In the end, I loved this, I would highly recommend it, and I hope you enjoy it if you read it! The characters are so interesting, and it was so heartwarming to read about their lives. The ending shattered me. Great job to Zusak for absolutely destroying my heart.

One sentence summary: A heartbreaking and important historical fiction novel with amazing characters and books.

Overall, 5 shining stars.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

That’s it for today! I’m working on my Monthly Wrap-Up post, so you can expect that either tomorrow or Thursday.

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think? Am I the only one who fell in love with Mama as the story progressed? What are some of your favorite World War II books? Chat with me in the comments below!!

Diversity and Representation in YA feat. a rant about ‘Americanism’ – Discussion

Welcome everyone! Today, I want to talk about a very sensitive yet important issue in the world of Young Adult books: diversity and representation. This is very sensitive and has been the subject of many controversies in the YA community. I’ll also be venting my anger about what I’m dubbing, ‘Americanism’. It means people seeing everything through an American POV.

Recently, there has been a progressive movement to diversify the world of literature. To change the narrative that we all grew up reading about (or at least that I did). To represent the diverse group of readers who read books. To change the stories and to include the true nature of this world’s population.

To change racism.

To include other voices, those of Asians, Africans, Europeans (from countries that aren’t predominantly English) and people who aren’t ‘Western’.

To show the reality of this world, not just show what ‘the Westerners’ want us to show.

Let’s take a quick dive into history.

Books, especially classics, in general were written by white men, back in the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th century. Why? Because women weren’t really educated at the time, therefore they didn’t read these stories. Other men read these stories. And even those women who began to slowly change this idea, who broke from formation and wrote books, they sometimes wrote them under male pen names. Why? Because what man in his right mind would read a book written by a woman in the 18th century?

Take Charlotte Bronte and her sisters for instance. They published their poems under the pen names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Why? Because no one would take them seriously if they published as women.

Thankfully, that has changed.

And now, the bookish community’s focus is to integrate minorities, POC, the LGBT community, and to fight all the prejudices by creating literature that accepts this and makes it all okay.

But there’s a problem.

You say: What problem? We’re changing things for the better! We’re creating characters who are Black, characters who are gay, characters who aren’t skinny and pretty, but curvy and beautiful. More women are authors – actually, it’s relatively hard to find male authors in YA. Things are getting better J, what are you yapping about?

This is all great. This is amazing. But there is this still small part of us that is human. There is this small part of us that is still resisting, still fighting this change, even if we want it or not.

We have this issue in YA where a certain group takes offense when an author who isn’t from that group writes a book about that group.

Example:

If a white person, or maybe even a half white-half black person, were to write a book with a black main character, the black community would go through hell and back to attack this author for not writing about what they know and can relate to. For writing about a black person when they aren’t one.

Yet, these very same people, will come back tomorrow to complain that there aren’t enough YA books with black MC’s. Yesterday, they attacked someone who tried to change this, yet today they complain that there isn’t enough.

It is very very wrong. Why? Because we all sit and attack others for writing about something that we, personally, don’t think they should write about it. We don’t think that they should write about Asian characters because they aren’t Asian. We don’t think that they should talk about depression and anxiety because they haven’t suffered from it. We don’t think they’ve suffered true racism, so they can’t write a book that talks about it.

Do we live in their shoes? Have we experienced life like they have? We visit their profile, and see a white person, or a person who isn’t gay, or a person who isn’t physically or mentally suffering from an illness and then see that they wrote a book with a black main character, or a gay character, or a person who suffers from a physical or mental illness and we go through the roof in anger and frustration that this ‘imposter’ has dared to pretend to be us. But, we don’t know the whole story. We haven’t seen what they did, who they spoke to, how they came to write this book.

We haven’t seen their mothers who they had to sit with in the middle of the night while she suffered from suicidal thoughts.

We haven’t seen the brother who was paralyzed from his youth and depended on them through-out their lives.

We haven’t seen them comforting their friends who are black and have been called racial slurs and humiliated because of their race.

We haven’t seen them taking care of their bi-polar wives/husbands and autistic children.

We see a white person, or a not gay person, or a not physically or mentally ill person, who wrote about these issues, and we decide that there must be something wrong with it because of that. That it isn’t going to be authentic, or it will be racist, or anti-gay, or degrading/making fun of physically and mentally ill people. All because the author doesn’t look like it.

Looks can be very deceiving.

And who are we, anyway, to judge?


Another issue that angers me: When Americans think that they are the only ones in the world.

Disclaimer: I don’t mean to offend anyone, I really don’t. I am American, and I am not out to attack or hurt anyone who is American. But I feel like this must be addressed and I hope, that if you’re American, that you understand and agree (or we agree to disagree) with me that this must be spoken about and addressed.

I’m going to share with you guys a story. An author wrote a book set in a fantasy land that was going to deal with slavery. After severe backlash by Twitter influencers, the author pulled the book from publication. Now, 3 months later, she has decided that she will publish this book anyway in November of this year.

I’m pretty sure this story is very familiar. It was one of the hottest controversies on YA twitter and had a lot of opinions from both sides.

This young debut author, is Amélie Wen Zhao.

But what happened? Why did YA Twitter attack her?

They attacked her because certain influential twitter users said she was racist in her book. Her book, which is based on Ms. Zhao’s cultural perspective, is said to have been racist because a character, who is presumed to be black, died to let the white main character live. They were also offended because they didn’t believe that the slavery was portrayed ‘correctly’.

My first issue with this: this character is presumed to be black because she was described as being “bronze” and “tan”. And she also is described as having “aqua marine eyes” and “ocean blue eyes”. It is extremely rare for an African or Black person to have blue eyes, especially when they have no Caucasian ancestry. Have you ever seen or met a black or an African person with blue eyes? Enlighten me, because I’m black, and I haven’t.

Second issue. This isn’t about America’s slavery past. It’s about the author’s cultural perspective on an issue in her home country. Slavery didn’t only exist in America, folks. I know, a shocker!!!! It existed and still exists in other parts of the world. The book is about slavery, not about American slavery, not about America’s history. It’s about slavery in Asia, from the point of view of a person of color.

This also upsets me. The fact that African/Black Americans instantly get defensive and angry, and instantly assume that this is supposed to be about them. It isn’t. Racism exists in other parts of the world. Racism can even be against white people too! It’s not just about you. Books about slavery and racism aren’t just about YOU or your race, it’s about all people who face racism and who are enslaved around the world.

Third of all. This is fiction. I’m probably going to get slammed for this, but I don’t care. It. Is. FICTION. Words that aren’t history, words that are from someone’s imagination and creativity. A story that is even fantasy for that matter. Fiction is according to Wikipedia:

any narrative that is derived from the imagination—in other words, not based strictly on history or fact.

So why are we getting all riled up? Why are we attacking and destroying an author’s dreams and career before it even starts because of fiction? Because of a select few who thought it was racist? A select few who almost deprived the rest of the YA community from deciding for themselves whether or not it is?

This doesn’t mean that the author should be racist. It means that she can choose what she wants to do with certain characters, and portray what she knows however she wants. We shouldn’t make ourselves sick over something that isn’t true. We can’t decide what we want authors to write because everyone has the right to express whatever they want. However, we can be a better person and not drag them through the mud and call them names and be petty. We can give constructive criticism to let the authors know what we think is wrong with their book. We don’t have to announce to the world and humiliate an author because we found a part problematic. I’m going off track here, but I had to point that out.

Back to the main point. Nothing is just about you, America. It’s about other countries, other worlds. They exist and we need to start opening our minds and accepting this. We can’t just have American characters who are black, or LGBT, or people of color. We need British, Romanian, North Korean, Thai, Somali, Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Russian, Brazilian, Argentinean, and every last nationality to be a part of this diverse step forward. We need to stop thinking of everything in our own American POV. We need to open our eyes and see that there is a world out there that is different, that isn’t just us.

I’m so sick and angry and tired of this. A debut author who was probably very excited to release her book for us to read took this book away, because some people were quick to judge and take offense. A book that is supposed to touch on the fact that the author has experienced racism, the fact that she has been branded as an “Other” and a book that is supposed to fight this in it’s own way. A book that’s supposed to fight racism in other parts of the world, not just in America.

The author has asked that no one defend her, and I’m not trying to, even though it may seem like I am. I’m trying to show that this isn’t about Americans only. That racism isn’t only about black people. It’s about the rest of the world, too. Because everyone quickly assumed that this was supposed to be something about racism or anti-blackness, or America’s history with slavery, they attacked it, and destroyed it. But it wasn’t about America. And until a few days ago, we would have never known what this was truly about.

That was much longer than I ever intended for it to be, but I’m so glad that I got to share and vent my frustrations and anger regarding these issues.

Let’s discuss: What do you guys think about representation and diversity in books? Did you hear about the controversy surrounding Ms. Zhao’s novel? What did you think about it? Am I the only one who feels like books and bookish opinions are too “American-centered”? Let’s discuss in the comments below!