When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.
Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…
After reading Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan back in 2017, I vowed to myself that if Hena -Khan wrote more middle-grade novels, I would read it in an instant. Fortunately, I came across Hena’s latest middle-grade book, More to the Story, by chance – and I am so so happy that I read it!
More to the Story is a middle-grade retelling of Little Women and centers on four Muslim Pakistani-American sisters who live in Georgia. The story follows Jameela “Jam” Mirza, an aspiring journalist and writer at her middle school newspaper, and her four sisters. When the girls discover that their father has to move away for work for awhile, she decides to write an article that will make her father proud. But when her younger sister becomes gravely ill, Jam’s world is turned upside down.
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At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.
The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune seemed like it had the recipe of an instant favourite: A story about a Chinese-American woman who returns home to face her demons, explores and celebrates the importance and power of food, and has themes of family, specifically generations of strong and fierce Chinese woman. To my immense disappointment, Natalie Tan has its heart in the right place but was, unfortunately and ultimately, an incredibly frustrating book to read.
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Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.
Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.
But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?
I received an ARC from the author. This does not influence my opinions of the book review in any way.
In the Author’s Note of We Are Totally Normal, Rahul Kanakia, who is a trans queer woman, talks about how the book is one that’s deeply personal, one so “deeply rooted in [her] own shame and confusion and embarrassment over [her] own sexuality”.
If you plan to read We Are Totally Normal, or recently decided not to read it, you should understand this: We Are Totally Normal is not a cute YA romance. We Are Totally Normal is a story about the messiness of fluid identity, navigating high school social dynamics and hierarchies, and how labels can be overwhelming and shape our experiences – and not always in an affirming way.
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Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.
Have you ever read a book that made you wish, so deeply, that it had existed just a little bit earlier so that it could have helped you go through a tough part in your life? This Time Will Be Different is definitely that book for me. Specifically, I wish that this book had existed when I was a teenager – when I was grappling with the big questions that all teens face: Where is my place in the world? What do I care about so deeply that I can dedicate myself to? And when I see something that doesn’t sound right, how do I speak up?
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I am firmly of the belief that Thanksgiving is the green light to put my Christmas tree and lights up, and bust out the Michael Buble, which of course is the perfect soundtrack to holiday themed books!
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