We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia – A Messy, Complex & Powerful Exploration of What It Means To Question Yourself

review_totallynormal

Summary:

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?

CW’s review:

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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If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann – A Little Disorganized, but a Lot of Heart

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann.

Blurb:

High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.”

Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?

Joce’s review:

Claire Kann’s sophomore young adult contemporary novel features our protagonist Winnie, a queer, Black, self-proclaimed fat teenage girl who is enjoying her summer before she begins college. She is balancing working at her Grandma’s diner, Goldeen’s (yes, named after the Pokemon!), talking to a boy named Dallas she’s in a love-hate relationship with, navigating her queerplatonic relationship (QPR) with her “ungirlfriend” Kara, and thinking about entering a televised cooking competition to make extra money.

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Five Reasons To Read: A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – A Wholesome Story About Matchmaking, Desi Identity, and Friendship

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai.

Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

CW’s review:

When I learned about A Match Made in Mehendi earlier this year, learned that it was about an Indian-American teen and that the story would be about matchmaking and love? I knew I had to read it. And after reading a string of fantastic diverse young-adult contemporaries, I’ve unofficially dubbed this year as ‘The Year of Diverse YA Contemporaries’ – and A Match Made in Mehendi is perhaps the hidden gem in YA contemporary.

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Frankly in Love by David Yoon – More Than Just Fake-Dating; A Story About The Intersections of Family, Identity, and Love

David Yoon. Frankly in Love. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.
Blurb:

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

CW’s review:

Thank you to Penguin NZ for providing me an ARC in exchange for a review; this does not affect my opinions of the book.

Frankly in Love is not at all what I expected – and in retrospect, I am perfectly okay with that. In fact, I’m glad. Frankly in Love by David Yoon follows Korean-American teen Frank, whose strict and traditional Korean parents prohibit him from dating a non-Korean girl. So when he falls hard and fast for Britt Means, who is pointedly not Korean, Frank devises a scheme with his childhood (and Korean) friend, Joy, to pretend to date to allude their parents’ judgement – only to fall for each other in the process.

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Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno – A Wonderful Contemporary About Family, Diasporic Latinx Identity, and Life

Don't Date Rosa Santos, Nina Moreno

Blurb:

Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

CW’s review:

A few months ago when Don’t Date Rosa Santos was released, a few wonderful Latinx book bloggers organised for people in the book community to post a photo of themselves wearing yellow to celebrate the release of Don’t Date Rosa Santos. (Yellow is one of my favourite colours to wear, so naturally I was more than excited to participate!) And I think that sort of thing perfectly encapsulates the story in Don’t Date Rosa Santos: communities coming together to do something great and celebrating all things yellow – sun, summer, and sunny people. Read More »