Book Review: Clues to the Universe by Christina Li – A Quiet Middle-Grade about Science, Grief, and Searching For Lost Fathers

Clues to the Universe byC
Blurb:

This #ownvoices debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.

Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?

As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

I was provided an eARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.

I’ve always loved ‘quiet YA’ – young adult stories that aren’t about saving the world but are about the mundane yet meaningful low stakes that focus on the growth and emotional journeys of its characters. Well, if you love quiet YA just as much as I do, may I propose ‘quiet MG’? Though a lot of contemporary MG feels like quiet MG – stories about a young person’s growth as they overcome an everyday conflict that leads them to learn something about themselves – there’s something about Clues to the Universe, the debut middle-grade book by Christina Li, that feels like your quintessential quiet MG. And friends, I adored Clues to the Universe, and I’m excited to tell you why.

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[Blog Tour] Five Reasons To Read: FORESHADOW, edited by Emily X.R. Pan & Nova Ren Suma – The Best YA Anthology of This Age

Summary:

Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers.

Featured in print for the first time, the thirteen stories anthologized here were originally released via the buzzed-about online platform Foreshadow. Ranging from contemporary romance to mind-bending fantasy, the Foreshadow stories showcase underrepresented voices and highlight the beauty and power of YA fiction. Each piece is selected and introduced by a YA luminary, among them Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, and Sabaa Tahir.

What makes these memorable stories tick? What sparked them? How do authors build a world or refine a voice or weave in that deliciously creepy atmosphere to bring their writing to the next level? Addressing these questions and many more are essays and discussions on craft and process by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X. R. Pan.

This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults.

Skye’s review:

FORESHADOW, when it was first announced, was a limited-run publishing project spearheaded by Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma. It featured short YA stories across a variety of genres, with monthly issues releasing throughout the entire year of 2019. Each issue had three stories—titled after a single phrase, “foreshadowing” the story that was to come—one of which would also be penned by a new writer, voices hand-selected by renowned authors such as Sabaa Tahir and Nicola Yoon.

Today, the thirteen handpicked stories are published in a wonderful anthology that I have the privilege of introducing here on the blog today after reading an early copy. And friends, friends, please trust me when I say this, and know that I do not mean it lightly: this anthology is everything I crave in a book, and it contains the best short YA fiction I have ever read in my entire life.

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Our Friend is Here! Pride Month Edition – An Interview with Michelle Kan, Author of the Tales of the Thread Series; On Writing Aromantic Stories, Chinese Fairytales, and Subverting Popular Tropes

Our Friend is Here! Pride Month Edition - An Interview with Michelle Kan, Author of the Tales of the Thread Series; On Writing Aromantic Stories, Chinese Fairytales, and Subverting Popular Tropes. An illustration of Xiaolong the axolotl, with her arms spread out wide like she is showing off someone, with Michelle as a welcome swallow with a scroll attached to their leg.

An illustration of Xiaolong the axolotl, waving her hand and winking at you while holding up a flag with the inclusive Pride flag - horizontal stripes of black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.

All of you know how much I love queer stories. In particular, I love stories that take classic stories or common tropes and subvert them with a queer retelling. I love the idea that beloved stories and tropes can be told in a new way – from a fresher perspective, new lens, and introduce readers to a new kind of home.
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Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition – An Interview with Henry Lien, Author of Peasprout Chen; On Immigrant Stories, Asian Speculative Fiction, and Celebrating Enthusiasm

Our Friend is Here, Asian Heritage edition. author interview with Henry Lien, author of the peasprout chen series, on immigrant stories, asian speculative fiction, and celebrating enthusiasm. illustration of cuddle the otter, holding her arms out wide like she is showing off something, with henry lien as an unimpressed monkey, pointing at the reader while holding a cleaver.

Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)

With the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, I have been leaning on my love for figure skating and gymnastics to fill the void. I realized that both of these sports celebrate (as Henry says later on) girl power and kid power, in that they favor skill sets and centers of gravity more privy to both. They also both emphasize an artistic quality, which is the perfect backdrop on which to craft an Asian speculative fiction story based on figure skating and martial arts.

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Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition – An Interview with Xiran Jay Zhao, Author of Iron Widow; On Feminist Fantasy, Giant Robots, & Diaspora Worldbuilding

Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition: Author Interview with Xiran Jay Zhao, author of Iron Widow, on feminist fantasy, giant robots, and diaspora worldbuilding. illustration is of sprout the sparrow, their wings wide like they are showing off something, with xiran as a yellow cat, wearing a black dress with red lace, and wearing a cow hoodie.

Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)

When I saw the pitch for Xiran Jay Zhao’s upcoming book Iron Widow, I was immediately taken aback by how unabashedly anime-inspired it felt, from its fundamental premise (hello, giant mechas) to its hints at deeper underlying themes—themes like teenage angst, sexuality, and the messy reality of coming of age. I think some of the most moving stories today are best told through—have been told through—the medium of animation, and I’m beyond excited to be able to talk to a writer today on the blog who also harbors the same fondness I do for stories that use grand worldbuilding to tell stories that hit close to the heart.

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