Dear Martin by Nic Stone | 1 Minute Reviews

Sometimes, I pick up a book and instantly get a good feeling from it. It’s a specific sort of hum, as though the book is whispering that yes, you should absolutely read me.

I got this feeling from Dear Martin, a book which went on to completely exceeded all my expectations.

Dear Martin cover final

Dear Martin opens with Justyce McAllister, a teenage honour student and debate team champion, finding his on-and-off girlfriend indisposed and tries to help. Of course, none of his credentials matters to the white police officer who sees a young black man with a white woman, finding Justyce in handcuffs.

Frustrated with endemic racism in society and racial profiling by the police, Justyce looks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers, choosing to write him letters that pepper the book.

But this first brush with the law is not the last, and when Justyce goes driving one day with his best friend Manny, they find their lives threatened by a white off-duty cop.

I read Dear Martin in one sitting, only stopping briefly to get a drink. It is a powerhouse of a novel; do not be fooled by its diminutive stature. From the get-go, my heart raced along with this furious book. Dear Martin illustrates how small decisions can later haunt you, especially when you are a young black man living in the America of today.

Justyce himself is a compelling, charming character, easy to support even when you can see he is making potentially dangerous choices. The rest of the cast are believable and interesting characters, resolving for a great and heartbreaking story.

The book is split up into multiple narrative structures — from the straight prose, to play script style narrative particularly during classroom discussions and the aforementioned letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This mix of style is really interesting, and from an educational point of view, represents a great opportunity to introduce young people to a varied narrative, along with such a politically timely, important story.

Where The Hate U Give followed Starr as she started a movement, Dear Martin follows Justyce as he desperately tries to get by and deal with the dangers life keeps throwing at him. Both are essential reading and compliment each other well.

If you want to know more about Dear Martin from Nic Stone herself, check out this video below from Adam Silvera’s YouTube Channel:

On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Nic Stone also gave the following talk at a Community College in America, which I think is a great introduction to her as an author and the political background of black rights that feeds into Dear Martin.

Mark out a few hours, sit yourself down and prepare for an intense reading experience.  Dear Martin is a poignant, politically charged, heart racing novel that is an absolute must read for 2018.

And, if you head over to my Twitter, you’ll find me giving a copy away!

Get your copy here:

UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Nic Stone and the team at Simon & Schuster Kids for sending a copy to me, and allowing me on the Dear Martin blog tour. Go check out some of the other stops on the tour!

Dear Martin Blog Tour Banner

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven | 1 Minute Reviews

You know when you read a book and can recognise it’s going to be a big deal to its intended audience? Yep. That.

Laura Steven‘s debut novel The Exact Opposite of Okay is a furiously frank, funny and feminist novel following teenager Izzy O’Neill, whose life is changed dramatically when someone posts explicit photos of her having sex online. Desperately trying to keep things together, Izzy also has to cope with her over-worked grandmother, her best friend Danny’s strange new behaviour, her other best friend’s new mate, her potential love-life and the fallout from being caught with a politician’s son.

9781405288446

The Exact Opposite of Okay focusses in on the cruelty of revenge porn, a subject very much in the limelight at the moment as YouTuber Chrissy Chambers recently won her lengthy legal battle against her former boyfriend. I found it very refreshing that Steven’s characters repeatedly affirm that there is nothing wrong with sending a cheeky consensual nude; the issues arise when people betray that trust.

This book happily sits alongside the wave of feminist young adult contemporary novels we’ve been blessed with in the last few years — the Spinster Trilogy by Holly BourneMoxie by Jennifer Mathieu, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart all immediately spring to mind. Izzy herself, with all her swagger, wit and unwillingness to be shamed for enjoying sex, conjures Hannah from Non Pratt’s Trouble and Emma from Editing Emma by Chloe Seager, both voices I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading of recent.

More than that — and light spoilers ahead friends — Steven dives deep in to the murky realm of the Nice Guys and the Friend Zone, monikers for men and a fictional space they inhabit where women refuse to have sex with them because they’re “too nice”. As a teen (and even during adulthood!), I had a few friends hit me with this card. It was extremely refreshing to see Izzy deal with this slyly-sinister behaviour openly, with Steven clearly orienting it as something to watch out for and avoid. I know that it’s going to help a lot of young people identify problematic relationships in their midst.

The Exact Opposite of Okay is not just an enjoyable read, but I firmly believe it is a book that will influence, console and help a whole generation of teenagers.  I very much look forward to what comes next from Laura Steven, another fantastic 2018 debut author.

Get it here: UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Electric Monkey for doing a proof giveaway at YALC where absolute angel Jim from Ya Yeah Yeah won a copy just for me.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw | 1 Minute Reviews

What a pleasantly macabre novel this is.

As a former teen witch wannabe from watching The Craft too many times, I have an innate weakness for literary witches. The Wicked Deep had been on my radar for this exact reason, so I was very pleased when Simon and Schuster offered to send me a copy of the UK paperback.

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 11.19.49

Marguerite, Aurora and Hazel Swan were drowned in the town of Sparrow’s harbour, accused of witchcraft and seduction. But their souls could not be contained by their aquatic prison. Every summer the sisters return to land, inhabiting the bodies of local girls, luring boys and men to their deaths in the harbour that claimed them 200 years ago.

Penny Talbot has been watching the Swan Season from the sidelines for years, too superstitious to take part in the town’s Swan-themed parties and celebrations, too wary to celebrate an annual slaughter. When a tourist named Bo blows into town looking for work, Penny finds herself drawn to him, offering him work in the lighthouse she lives in. But when Bo catches the attention of the Swan sisters, Penny must fight to keep him safe.

9781481497343
Can we pause a moment to admire the USA cover? What a beaut!

Where The Graces has all the sex and swagger of The Craft, The Wicked Deep has all the darker sides of Practical Magic — a small town utterly linked to one family of women and its curse.

I enjoyed reading the burgeoning relationship between Penny and Bo — there’s nothing like a bit of jeopardy and a 200 year old curse to bring a couple together.

Shea Ernshaw‘s debut novel demonstrates that she is an author to watch out for, providing the reader with an engaging (and often unreliable) narrator in Penny, a complex set of relatable villains, and a small town with a blood-curdling history.

Inspired by the Salem Witch trials, this is a fantastic novel of revenge, curses and murder set against a backdrop of the salt-sprayed Oregon coast.

Get it here: UK (Hive) // UK Paperback and USA Hardback (Book Depository)

What to read next:

Thank you to the lovely team at Simon and Schuster for sending me not just a copy of the book but the delicious smelling Sparrow candle from Meraki Candles.

Want to learn more about trans people? Suggestions from a non-binary babe

Two important non-fiction books have come across my desk in the last few months and I felt it was a great opportunity to share my take on them together.

I’m non-binary (or genderqueer). I have never felt wholly woman or wholly man, and is something I’ve felt but not quite understood for my entire life. I’ve explored various transitioning options, but right now I’m happy with a binder on my dysphoric days and people not referring to me as a lady/girl/woman, though I’m fine with she pronouns. Important aside note: this varies with every single person, so be sure to ask them!

The last few years have been a very interesting time for trans rights. You may remember a few years ago Laverne Cox graced the front cover of Time magazine, with the phrase “The Transgender Tipping Point” alongside her. This was 2014; Cox was a trans woman playing a trans character on Orange is the New Black and Caitlin Jenner had just announced that she would be transitioning. This was a time of hope, of visibility.

laverne.PNG

In the last twelve months, it has felt like acceptable discrimination towards trans women in particular has escalated in the UK. It has felt, in watching from the sidelines, that much of the trans-exclusionary discourse has been allowed to continue as though it was a legitimate topic of discussion, as though debating someone’s personhood is okay. I’m not going to link to the fundraiser by disgraced former Labour Party members, but this article goes into a little detail of what’s been happening, for example, within a political party that is support to stand up for the oppressed. Meanwhile, the media has continued to pit trans exclusionary feminists against trans women on talk shows in some misguided and dangerous effort for the sake of balance. Paris Lees refers to the current wave of violence towards trans people as an epidemic.

One way you can support trans people is through buying work from trans creators, but also by reading about them, educating yourselves on their lives and the issues they face daily. For this, I would immediately direct your attention to two books: Trans Like Me by CN Lester and Trans Britain edited by Christine Burns.

9780349008608

Trans Like Me is a mixture of memoir and writing about the current climate around trans people. Lester, who is non-binary, has created an informative introduction to issues surrounding trans people without ever being patronising. While trans people may be familiar with much of the introductory topics Lester provides, I suspect that much of the information about current issues for trans people will be new to many cis people.

As a non-binary person, I found reading Lester’s struggles with presentation and their frustrations at the limitations of hormonal therapy — to be personal here, a major factor in not taking hormones for me was wanting to maintain my singing voice, the same as Lester.

It is an affirming, emotional book that made me cry multiple times.

9781783524716

Trans Britain is a very different but complementary book to Trans Like Me; a historical anthology, including essays from individual people telling their own story within the major eras of trans history in the UK. Burns sets the scene by dividing the book into three distinct sections, and introducing them to the climate of that era, providing a reader with an overview that places the following essays within a clear cultural context.

The chapter on non-binary people was an essential learning process for me, seeing how we fit into the historical trans movement. I’ve only really began to understand myself as non-binary, knowing that I’ve always been “other” than the binary gender options, and this chapter in particular made me feel so much more connected to myself.

This is a book of mini-memoirs, and the story of a history that is still unfolding.

Trans Like Me: UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

Trans Britain: UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

These are both a great place to start. This thread I did for Trans Day of Remembrance has a number of recommendations from genres beyond non-fiction, so no matter what your reading style is there’s something for you to read. If young adult fiction is a favourite of yours, there are a number of trans main characters in the novels reference in this list.

Have you read either of these books? Do you have any recommendations? Tell me in the comments!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi | 1 Minute Reviews

This is hands down going to be one of the best novels you’re going to read this year. I’m that confident. Yes, art is subjective, but honestly, this is a furious, brutal riot of a book and I think any fans of Sabaa Tahir, Nnedi Okorafor, Leigh Bardugo and Alwyn Hamilton are going to be extremely pleased with this book. This is easily a personal favourite of 2018, and is going to be absolutely huge — already evidenced by its competitive publishing auction and already snapped up film rights.

Inspired by Yoruban folklore, Children of Blood and Bone is the first novel in the next big fantasy epic series, and  follows three Orïshan teenagers whose lives are changed forever when they discover a way to return magic to their world.

9781509871353

Zélie is a Magi, easily identified by her sheer white hair, who has been training to fight in secret with Mama Agba. Even though magic has been struck from their lands, Magi still live as second class citizens, punished and forced further into poverty routinely by the cruel King Saran. Meanwhile, Princess Amari witnesses the murder of her Magi best friend at the hands of her father, understanding the part of a mysterious scroll in it all, which she steals from the palace.

Drawn together at a market, the two girls work together to flee not just Amari’s father but her intense brother Inan. When Mama Agba reveals to the girls that the scroll presents an opportunity to restore magic to Orïsha, the girls and Zélie’s brother Tzain set off on an adventure across the country.

 

I completely fell in love with this novel, a slow burn you can’t turn your head from. It hooks you in deep and I’d find myself having to return to my daily life wondering what would befall the characters next. I particularly enjoyed the eerie connection between Inan and Zélie, an intense connection on a semi-psychic level they cannot escape, somewhat like that of Rey and Kylo-Ren.

UK readers, do not be put off by the size of the paperback — chapters are relatively short as the narrative flits between Zélie, Amari and Inan, but importantly the book never feels slack, an impressive feat for a debut novel at almost 600 pages. I await the rest of the Legacy of Orisha saga with bated breath, especially after that ending.

This is a novel of rebellion, of uprisings, of fire and might. While the tale may be fantasy, the intense emotion that bleeds through every page is all Adeyemi’s, a literary reaction to the deaths and persecution black people in America (and globally) are experiencing daily.

You may have already come across the author Tomi Adeyemi through this beautiful moment she shared with us all — the day her books arrived. You might not know that her website has a wealth of creative writing tips and lessons, a resource I’m going to be reading all of!

We have been blessed with a wealth of young adult releases this Spring, but if you’re going to pick just one to read, pick this.

Children of Blood and Bone is a passionate epic, an immersive battlecry of a novel, a book that you absolutely must not miss.

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to My Kinda Books and PanMac News for kindly sending a copy over to me.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan | 1 Minute Reviews

I’m going to warn you right now, this is really, really sad.

9781616204556.jpg

If You Could Be Mine follows seventeen year old Sahar and Nasrin, two girls in love in Iran, a country where it is illegal to be gay. When Nasrin announces that her parents have arranged for her to marry a doctor, Sahar becomes determined to find a way they can make their love public without risking their lives. After meeting some openly trans people at one of her cousin Ali’s parties, Sahar realises the answer to all her problems is to transition to be a man as gender reassignment is not illegal in Iran.

This novel is so heartbreaking and painful to read. Sahar is so desperate to be whoever she can to be with Nasrin, and you cannot help but root for her all the way through.

Sara Farizan explains the realities of being queer or trans in Iran, rarely holding back on the difficulties of hiding who you truly are in the country her parents grew up in. Sahar’s interest in transitioning is handled delicately, and at no times did I think that the actual trans people in the book were treated with anything other than respect. This serves to shed light on the difficulties that trans people face around the world, not just in Iran.

This small yet intense novel deals with a lot of large, highly complex issues, alongside a compelling first romance.

Hive // Book Depository

What to read next:

 

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton | 1 Minute Reviews

Stop right there — if you haven’t read Rebel of the Sands, then get your ass out of here because there are spoilers abound!

Everyone says the middle book of a series is the hardest to write, and often where a series can take a downturn. Having decided to binge read the whole Rebel series this month, I can assure you that it does not suffer that fate. Instead, Alwyn Hamilton brings us an intense novel rife with deception.

9780571325412

Traitor to the Throne finds Amani in the middle of the rebellion, attempting to infiltrate the city of Saromatai after a number of their spies have been captured. But shortly after a thrilling escape, Amani is kidnapped and finds herself in the hands of Jin and Ahmed’s father, the Sultan. But what does he want with a demdji, and can Amani escape in one piece?

The adventure of this novel is in some ways in a lower key, but rarely does the tension let up. Hamilton makes it clear that the world of the harem is cut-throat. This is a novel of political machinations, subterfuge and danger at every turn, which makes it quite different from the guns-blazing Wild West of Rebel, but it doesn’t make it any lesser a novel.

Hamilton introduces a whole cast of new characters, and some surprisingly familiar faces (I won’t spoil who!). Luckily, she provides a character list at the very front of the novel so you can remind yourself who everyone is! I particularly loved new character Sam, a mischievous Albish defector with fae ancestry who has been posing as the Blue Eyed Bandit.

Traitor also takes a deeper dive into the mythology of Rebel’s world, bringing the stories of Hawa, The First Hero and the Djinni right to the forefront.

Traitor to the Throne is a tense, immersive novel that builds upon the furious start in Rebel of the Sands and promises an explosive ending in Hero of the Fall.

Hive // Book Depository

What to read next: