Book Review: Simone Breaks All the Rules by Debbie Rigaud – A Joyous Love Letter to Teens with Strict Parents, Forging Your Own Path and Happiness, and Haitian Culture

Simone Breaks All the Rules by Debbie Rigaud. Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond.
Synopsis:

Simone Thibodeaux’s life is sealed in a boy-proof container.

Her strict Haitian immigrant parents enforce no-dating rules and curfews, and send Simone to an all-girls school. As for prom? Simone is allowed to go on one condition: her parents will select her date (a boy from a nice Haitian immigrant family, obviously).

Simone is desperate to avoid the humiliation of the set up — especially since she’s crushing on a boy she knows her parents wouldn’t approve of. With senior year coming to a close, Simone makes a decision. She and her fellow late-bloomer friends will create a Senior Year Bucket List of all the things they haven’t had a chance to do. On the list: kissing a boy, sneaking out of the house, skipping class (gasp!), and, oh yeah — choosing your own prom date.

But as the list takes on a life of its own, things get more complicated than Simone expected. She’ll have to discover which rules are worth breaking, and which will save her from heartbreak.

I have remembered every time I have felt seen by a book, where it felt like the book was a mirror into my life. I picked up Simone Breaks All the Rules because it sounded delightful – a teen rebels against her strict parents’ plan to set her up with a prom date of their choosing and decides to reclaim her senior year by doing all the things that she’s always wanted to do: kiss a boy, sneak out, skip class, and yes! choose her own prom date. Turns out, I did indeed get the delightful book that I had wanted – but I also got more. I also got a book that really understands what it’s like to live with strict parents. I felt seen by this book and I’ll love this book forever more for it.

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Five Reasons to Read: Keeping It Real by Paula Chase – Hip Hop Fashion, Family, Fitting In and Privilege Collide In This MG/YA Contemporary

Synopsis:

Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees–and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight.

As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.

Paula Chase explores complex themes centering on friendships, family, and what it means to conform to fit in. Keeping It Real is also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from. Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story touches on creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience. 

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced story about hip hop fashion and friendship as well as a story that explores the complex intersections of Black identity and class, then Keeping It Real by Paula Chase is a great choice, and will certainly engage young readers and will resonate with Black readers.

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Five Reasons to Read: Partly Cloudy by Tanita S. Davis – A Slice of Life MG Novel about Loneliness, Starting Over, and Extended Family

Synopsis:

Lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it? After a terrible year, Madalyn needs clear skies desperately. Moving in with her great-uncle, Papa Lobo, and switching to a new school is just the first step.

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, though. Madalyn discovers she’s the only Black girl in her class, and while most of her classmates are friendly, assumptions lead to some serious storms.

Papa Lobo’s long-running feud with neighbor Mrs. Baylor brings wild weather of its own, and Madalyn wonders just how far things will go. But when fire threatens the community, Madalyn discovers that truly being neighborly means more than just staying on your side of the street— it means weathering tough conversations—and finding that together a family can pull through anything.

Cuddle's review:

The end of summer is a time filled with transitions, especially for kids and teens who are returning back to school. For Madalyn, a Black seventh grade girl, there are even more transitions, as she moves in with her great-uncle, Papa Lobo, as her parents who are geographically separated are doing their best to provide for their family. She starts at a new school where she is the only Black student in her class, has to become reacquainted with Papa Lobo and his neighbors, and fears the wildfires that threaten the landscape of the Pacific Northwest yearly.

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Book Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn – A Captivating and Terrifying Gothic Fantasy with Eldritch Horrors, Rage, and Revenge

Synopsis:

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.

Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek. 

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Flowers for the Sea feels like falling into a nightmare beyond my wildest imagination; a story that makes you feel alone, struggling with a trauma etched upon your bones and grappling with a horror growing inside you. When I finished reading this novella, I felt like I was coming out of a stupor – dazed, ill at ease, yet utterly captivated by the storytelling that feels, all at once, like poetry and a tale of visceral anger.

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Book Review: Off the Record by Camryn Garrett – Exposing Sexual Violence In Vein of the #MeToo Movement, and a Heartfelt Portrayal of Being a Black Fat Teen

Synopsis:

Ever since seventeen-year-old Josie Wright can remember, writing has been her identity, the thing that grounds her when everything else is a garbage fire. So when she wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine, she’s equal parts excited and scared, but also ready. She’s got this.

Soon Josie is jetting off on a multi-city tour, rubbing elbows with sparkly celebrities, frenetic handlers, stone-faced producers, and eccentric stylists. She even finds herself catching feelings for the subject of her profile, dazzling young newcomer Marius Canet. Josie’s world is expanding so rapidly, she doesn’t know whether she’s flying or falling. But when a young actress lets her in on a terrible secret, the answer is clear: she’s in over her head.

One woman’s account leads to another and another. Josie wants to expose the man responsible, but she’s reluctant to speak up, unsure if this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if this ends her writing career before it even begins? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?

If you know me, then you will know that one of my favourite books of all time is Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, a story about a Black teen living with HIV+ and how she navigates first love. From there, I vowed that I would read any book by Camryn – and knew that I would love whatever she wrote. It came to no surprise to me, then, that her sophomore novel, Off the Record, would effortlessly find its place in my top reads of 2021. I adore this book with my whole heart, and it is a timely, relevant, and searing piece of contemporary fiction that pays a victim-centered tribute to the power of necessity of the #MeToo movement that started in 2006 with Tarana Burke and re-emerged with force in 2017.

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