Five Reasons To Read: Final Draft by Riley Redgate – The Epitome of ‘Quiet YA’

Text: Final Draft, a novel. Riley Redgate.

Final Draft is one of the most evocative and most powerfully quiet books I have had the pleasure to read in a long, long time. Picking this up, I never expected this book to burrow deep into my skin, find a place in my soul, and would just… understand me and who I am on a fundamental human level.

The book follows Laila, a teen who, following the hospitalisation of her supportive and encouraging mentor, has to grapple with the challenging and confronting criticisms of her new mentor, an award-winning author who is as hard-ass and sardonic as they come.

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Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – The 2020 Presidency We All Need

Text: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Image: on the left, a man with light-brown skin with brown hair, wearing a white shirt and blue slacks crossing his arms and leaning to his right; on the right, a white man with light brown hair, wearing a red and royal military uniform, and black slacks, crossing his arms and leaning to the left.
Blurb:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

Joce’s Review:

RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE takes place in a United States, where, following Obama’s presidency, Ellen Claremont, a Democrat and a woman, has been elected to be president and is running for a second term in 2020. The First Son of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, is forced to spend time with Prince Henry of England for reparations’ sake after a very public disaster of epic proportions worth $75,000 in cake and frosting, and a romance blossoms.

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On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis – [DNF] A Thoughtful and Diverse Sci-Fi That Was A Bit Too Slow For Me

Text in the center: On the Edge of Gone, Corinne Duyvis. Image: Depicts a girl wearing a jacket and a sling bag, on a dilapidated road, facing a city skyline, with spaceships flying up horizontally. Bottom right corner: Xiaolong the pink axolotl with an upside down flower hat at the center of a stamp, with the text "Review by CW, The Quiet Pond" around it
Summary:

January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

My review:

It is with mixed feelings that I share with you my DNF review of On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis – a book that I was really looking forward to reading ever since I had heard about it but unfortunately did not gel with my tastes in pacing.

Set in 2035, On the Edge of Gone follows biracial and autistic teen Denise on the day the comet is scheduled to hit the earth. Separated from her sister, stuck with her drug-addicted mother, and, by chance, is given respite in a ship intended to colonise other planets, full of passengers with skills that give them a place on the ship. Denise, who is autistic, fears that she will never secure a place – and thus may face the harsh landscape of a post-apocalyptic earth.

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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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The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – An Evocative Story of Biraciality, Mental Illness & Family

A white bird against a red-purple background, with the text THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, Emily X.R. Pan, a novel in its center.
Summary:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My review:

Note: The following review will discuss depression and suicide.

The Astonishing Colour of After is a poignant and evocative story about mental illness, family, identity, and grief. It tells of a biracial teenage, Leigh, and her search for her mother, who Leigh believes has transformed into red bird following her suicide. And thus she follows her mother’s feathers to Taiwan where, there, she not only meets her estranged grandparents but also discovers her family history, the secrets, and the truths about her mother.

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