Internment by Samira Ahmed – Incisive, Deliberate, and Unforgettable

Text: Internment, Samira Ahmed. Image: A brown girl wearing a black cap with the word 'RESIST', her face partially concealed by her long hair. An illustration of a barbed wire stone fence is imposed on her shirt
Blurb:

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Joce’s Review:

Samira Ahmed’s INTERNMENT is both dystopian and contemporary, transporting readers into a terrifying alternate reality. One day, suddenly, Layla Amin’s home is stormed and her family is forcibly removed and placed in an internment camp for Muslim-American citizens. There, she forms friendships and alliances in a rebellion, hopeful for freedom. With each act of resistance against the Director and his guards, Layla and her companions become more calculated but also more frantic. They struggle to balance hope with powerlessness, two hugely polarized extremes. No one knows who to trust, and all dialogue feels tense.

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Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds – A Movie-Ready John Green-esque Novel

Text: Opposite of Always, Justin A Reynolds. Image: A black male teen (left), sits across the stairs from a black female teen with natural hair. Above the stairs are the same teens, their legs pressed against each other, the image cut off above their knees.

Blurb:

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.

Joce’s Review:

OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS presents the burning questions of many time travel loop novels: If you had the power to change the past, would you, and how? Jack King took me along his journey through time, revisiting the same incidents again and again, beginning at a party where he meets Kate on the stairs and they share a bowl of cereal. From there, he wrestles with friendships, family relationships, and self-care, and the time loop ends and rewinds upon Kate’s death, totaling a six month span each round.

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – You’ve Heard That This Book is Amazing; You’ve Heard Right

Text: The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo.

When I shared that I was going to be reading The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such uniform choruses of praise and excitement and enthusiasm. So many of my reader and blogging friends, regardless of their distinct reading niche, tastes, and preferences, all agreed on one thing: The Poet X was an incredible book, was absolutely loved, and a favourite among many.

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Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed – A Candid and Eye-Opening Story about the Extremities of Forced Arranged Marriages

Text: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. Image: A brown girl with long dark hair wearing a simple brown and black salwar kameez, looking up into the dark blue night sky.
Blurb:

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

My review:

Note: my review will discuss forced marriages.

I like to think that I have read a lot of books – books that have made me feel an array of things, including shock, anger, and pain. However, Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed may just be one of the most difficult and heart-rending books that I have ever read. It tells the story of Naila, a Pakistani-American teen who, after her parents discover that she has a boyfriend despite their rules against this, is whisked off away to Pakistan for, what is initially assumed to be, a holiday and an opportunity for Naila to connect to her roots and culture – but turns out to be a trip that will change her life forever. Despite that reading this book was incredibly tough for me, this book is so important and should absolutely be read by everyone.

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Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram – A heartfelt and charming story about a teen’s journey to Iran, mental illness, and family

TEXT: Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Adib Khorram. IMAGE: Two boys, one on the left with faded hair and wearing a leather jacket and one on the right with short curly hair wearing a beanie, overlooking Iran. On the top-right, a stamp of Xiaolong the pink axolotl, with the text: REVIEW BY CW, THE QUIET POND.

Summary:

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

My review:

Darius the Great Is Not Okay might have made me weep openly on the bus, but it was also an effortless favourite. I adored this book; adored it for its wonderful and genuine explorations of biracial identity, our bonds with people, and living with mental illness. This character-driven story tells of Darius; a Persian-American teen who follows his family to Iran to visit family that he has only ever met through Skype. There, he navigates unfamiliar familial landscapes, meets the enigmatic and charming Sohrab, and discovers what it means to be Darius and Dariush.

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