Monday, June 5, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (49): An Accidental Theme

I couldn't not do it guys! If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Sometimes things have a theme because I'm a dork!

Lumberjanes Volume 5: Band Together by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brook Allen, Carolyn Nowak, and Marta Laiho

Published: December 13th, 2016 by Boom Box (ON MY BIRTHDAY)
Genre: YA Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 112.
Part of a series? This contains Lumberjanes 17-20
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Lumberjanes meet rock n' roll mermaids!

Excited for the annual Bandicoot Bacchanal, Ripley recruits her friends to help her get ready for the dance. But before the Lumberjanes know it, something mysterious begins to bubble to the surface of the lake near camp! Will the Lumberjanes be able to bring peace to the lake in time for the Bacchanal?

Thoughts: This was so good. I've got kind of a giant mermaid thing, and this was really fun for indulging that since I tend to avoid reading things that are about what I'm writing because... well, like the same reason I don't read reviews before writing them. My creative processes are really weird.

(Also, randomly, I have two other books about bands and I think another one coming eventually/soon. Weird trend. I almost put them all in one post.)

Besides the mermaids oh my god I am April mermaids are awesome, I just enjoyed this so, so much. This particular set of issues is a bit of a break from the other plot things that have been going on that are more intense, and it's nice to have something a little lighter. While being a little lighter in tone, it doesn't hesitate or flinch away from some serious topics. There's an on-going plot about your friends having flaws and how to accept those flaws without allowing them to hurt you. It's also about learning how to work with your personality and how to transform what could be flaws into strengths.

The message about forgiveness is beautiful, too. And I absolutely adored the issue about the girls first coming to camp and you get to see their families and learn a little bit more about them. It's so adorable and awesome.

The only other thing I'll say is after the first issue, the artist changes and I'm not in love with this style. It's a little more humourous and goes off-model more than usual. It works in this arc because this arc isn't as serious, but it's not my preference or my favourite.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Published: November 11th, 2010 by Dial Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 338 plus an author's note and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?

Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

Thoughts: I'm not actually that big of a rock person despite what this weird trend of books I'm reading says, but this was interesting. I think overall I have slightly mixed feelings on this one, but pretty positive feelings generally. Let's address this first - this is not an ownvoices book, and if that's a dealbreaker for you, I understand. I'll try and find reviews when I feel better, but for now, here's my opinion and take it for what it is. Honestly, I don't think it rings as authentic as it could have, although the author does probably the best job he could in the situation. I don't think it gets into "Deaf/HoH 101" but there are times where it doesn't ring as true as it could have.

And I think this is true of other things in the book as well, which is one reason why I bring it up. The book is pretty good with its main female characters, but others are constantly reduced to "wannabe supermodels" and treated pretty superficially. When compared to the parts of the book solely about music, these parts are still good, but I at least could tell that it was not the author's experience. I applaud the author for writing outside his comfort zone, though.

Now, things I wasn't real fond of at all. There are no queer people in this book. Like. You have six teenaged main characters and not one of them is even a little bit queer? I don't think I believe you. I also think the book is kind of fatphobic. Apparently calling your mother fat is a giant insult. *eye roll* There are like no really positive fat characters that aren't described in rude, othering ways.

It has also become pretty dated fast. Imagine doing online promotion and using MySpace and not Twitter, let alone any other social network. Everything is pretty much done on MySpace. It's more amusing than anything, but it shows how fast using real social media can date your book.

So, over all, not bad, but I didn't love it. I appreciate the inclusion of several characters of colour and a Deaf MC, but there were a good handful of things that didn't sit right with me. I also wonder how the theme of Piper stating she's not actually disabled would feel to people who don't agree with that distinction. I'm going to leave the job of recommending based on others up to others, but I knock a star or two off for the complete lack of queer people and the fatphobia.

Review from someone else here!

Oh, side note of a thing that amused me. A character dyes their hair Atomic Pink at one point. This is a real hair dye colour. It's actually the base of the purple hair dye I use. I dyed my hair over three months ago and people are asking me when I dyed it pink because it's faded from an incredibly dark purple to an incredibly vibrant pink. YOU WILL NEVER RID YOUR HAIR OF ATOMIC PINK. That just amused me

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

Published: September 2nd, 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 195 plus a smoothie recipe, an author's note and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? I wish! I'd like to read more.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): If Life Was Like a Song

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.

Thoughts: Well now this was really cute. It's a short, quick read and not too deep, but it's a lot of fun and a nice light read that's a bit fluffy but doesn't erase the realities of a pretty serious situation. I honestly think this is great for the age range. It was still a lot of fun for me as an adult, but it reminds me so much of books I read as a kid. It's just sweet and fun and not too heavy.

The author has a child with allergies and I think reading it as an adult it does come across more as written from that experience than from someone's personal experience (but I could be wrong here). In a YA that would probably bother a little more, but in MG I think it's fine. In this especially, it allows for a little more opportunity to show a parent's perspective that a child in this age range might not know, like how scary it is for a parent. The book keeps a really good balance, though, in not allowing the story to ever become all about how Nina's parents feel or their experience, and also letting her share funny and "normal" moments with them that aren't just about allergies.

I also really liked the whole friendship plot. It's a good message. All in all, I like the story in this one, and I think everything is handled well. It's mostly white with only a couple characters of colour, and suepr duper straight, and no disabilities besides allergies are mentioned which I think is a bit of a missed opportunity. I also wish there had been some fat characters, but I can say there wasn't any body shaming or fat jokes. I finished with positive feelings and I think this is a sweet, fun middle grade book. Cute cover, too. I like that the girl on the cover actually looks twelve.

This Song is (Not) for You by Laura Nowlin

Published: January 1st, 2016 by Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 230 plus acknowledgments
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Bandmate, best friend or boyfriend? For Ramona, one choice could mean losing them all.

Ramona and Sam are best friends. She fell for him the moment they met, but their friendship is just too important for her to mess up. Sam loves Ramona, but he would never expect her to feel the same way--she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Together, they have a band, and put all of their feelings for each other into music.

Then Ramona and Sam meet Tom. He's their band's missing piece, and before Ramona knows it, she's falling for him. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.

How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

Thoughts: I've got mixed feelings on this one. Let's address the elephant in the room first, I guess - I ordered this for my free space for book bingo because I heard it had an asexual character. And that rep is... not so amazing. The asexual character is Tom. He is never labelled asexual. The closest the book gets is mentions "sites about other people like me". His asexuality is linked solely to him not wanting to have sex, and lacking, in his words, "sexual desire". While I liked that he stated that he wasn't straight, at one point he says, "I don't have a sexuality." This... kind of sucks. I have a sexuality. Asexual is a sexuality.

If you're going to make a character asexual, label them. So few people know what asexuality is. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't label your ace characters, especially when you're writing for teens. Also if you're going to write an asexual character, maybe include a little nuance about the difference between sexual attraction and sexual desire. This is not very nuanced. There's also absolutely no mention of aromanticism at all, and "just friends" is used, which is arophobic. It isn't deconstructed or addressed, either.

Honestly, I'm kind of at "an attempt was made". I like the character, but the representation leaves me wanting more. I hate that there's no asexual label, I'm not fond of the way it's represented without nuance, and I would be wary to recommend this to my aro friends because this could hurt them. Trigger warnings for the arophobic language, and also for acephobia from Tom's ex-girlfriend, by the way.

Now, the rest of the stuff in the book - I think it's great there was polyam rep. That's not my thing (romance in general is not my thing, lol) so I can't speak to how it's done, but I think in general they are adorable and I liked that there was no real jealousy or slutshaming towards Ramona or other grossness. I think we should do more of this in YA. I would wonder, though, that it might have similar problems to the ace rep - it's not labelled ever. If you're polyam and you've read this, tell me what you thought.

There are also like no other queer characters besides Tom (who's, again, not labelled as such) and this is a super-de-duper white book. Ramona has dyslexia, but there's no other disability rep, and to be honest it doesn't really come up often. And there are like no fat characters at all. So intersectionality is not good. There's a bit of ableism, as well, some girl hate, and a crack about strippers that I thought was highly unnecessary.

Half my notes are me calling this book some variety of hipster, and the characters really are. I wouldn't exactly call Ramona a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she has some of those traits, and everyone is just super... hipster. It's not bad, but I spent most of the book feeling incredibly old. Mostly the book is cute. I was sitting there calling them adorable and just wanting them to be a happy little triad forever. But I hate that the ace rep wasn't labelled, and that kind of ruins the book for me. I'm honestly wondering if people who don't know what asexuality is would even understand that the character is, and if I have to ask that, I think it fails as ace rep.

I loved seeing a polyamorous relationship in YA, and the book being a little weird and hipster didn't throw me off, but the ace rep just disappointed me. I don't think I could recommend this one, at least not as an ace book.

Well, disappointing end to this post!

What have you guys been reading lately?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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