Review: Bannerless Doesn’t Live Up to its Premise

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

BannerlessFormat/Source: eBook/Netgalley
Published: 11 July 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Post-apocalypse/Mystery
Rating:
GoodReads Indigo | IndieBound | Wordery
I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Decades after economic and environmental collapse destroys much of civilization in the United States, the Coast Road region isn’t just surviving but thriving by some accounts, building something new on the ruins of what came before. A culture of population control has developed in which people, organized into households, must earn the children they bear by proving they can take care of them and are awarded symbolic banners to demonstrate this privilege. In the meantime, birth control is mandatory.  Enid of Haven is an Investigator, called on to mediate disputes and examine transgressions against the community. She’s young for the job and hasn’t yet handled a serious case. Now, though, a suspicious death requires her attention. The victim was an outcast, but might someone have taken dislike a step further and murdered him?  In a world defined by the disasters that happened a century before, the past is always present. But this investigation may reveal the cracks in Enid’s world and make her question what she really stands for.

I went into this book hoping for some clever literary fiction exploring questions of population management, bodily autonomy, and maybe some critiquing of environmental and economic policies. I hoped the murder mystery would take a back seat, functioning as frame for those questions. Unfortunately, Bannerless falls short in all those areas. Bannerless instead tells a simple coming of age tale and murder mystery, neither of which are particularly compelling.

The first thing about this book that stood out to me was the repetitive and self-explanatory prose. One aspect that particularly grated on me was the hammering on about how investigators are feared, terrible, powerful. Their brown uniforms symbolize of something awful, but who knows what. We’re told numerous times that the average person disdains investigators, yet the narration never shows why. I don’t like being told something over and over with no evidence. Perhaps its because investigators enforce rules that people don’t like? But we’re never shown effects of that – the system that most people live by functions well and we don’t see or hear about an investigator ruining someone’s life. (One person has an outburst about a household that was split up because an investigator discovered they were doing something illegal, but that has no connection to this story.)

Another related issue I had with the prose is that many sentences felt unnecessary, in that they told me something I could have inferred from the dialogue. It was an odd case of telling instead of showing – at times, the telling happened in addition to the showing. One chapter contains five instances of glaring, by the same two characters. In general, the prose reads amateurish and undeveloped.

This critique about the investigators ties into my main issue with the novel. Where is the dystopia? How does the investigation “reveal the cracks in Enid’s world and make her question what she really stands for”? Enid doesn’t seem to question her role as the blurb hints. The story doesn’t convincingly portray birth/population control as a negative thing, which, given the book’s dystopic tropes, I would assume is the goal. There’s talk of how children born bannerless (i.e. their parents didn’t have a banner and thus shouldn’t have had a child) are discriminated against. Enid encounters people living outside the households and banners structure, but they live desperate lives which enforces Enid’s belief in the banner system (not that she ever questioned the system). Based on what happens in the novel, I support the banner system, which ensures  if you can support a child, then you can have one. Wouldn’t that be the case in an ideal world? That everyone who has a child can support that child? Of course, that’s a simplistic view that should open the door for a more complex exploration of bodily autonomy and other concepts, but Bannerless makes no room for such an exploration.

It occurs to me now perhaps the story is more complex than I’m giving it credit for. Maybe it really is advocating this method of population control, or just trying to start that discussion by showing a positive side of population control. Yet I still feel that the story would have been improved by a more nuanced exploration of the various sides of that discussion. Plus, the book is being marketed as a dystopia so I’m not sure what what Enid was supposed to discover as she investigated the murder.

The story follows two threads – Enid as a teen travelling with musician Dak and Enid as a twenty-something investigating a murder. The murder mystery itself is simple and predictable, and thus pretty boring. The investigation is blah. Enid tries to talk to people, they don’t want to talk to her. She eventually figures it out. Hooray. I did like teen Enid, despite her slow story. She follows her own path. She makes the decision to travel with Dak and she makes the decision to leave him.

The Bottom Line:

Bannerless has the premise of a fascinating story, but the weak plot and dull storytelling make Bannerless one you can skip.

Further Reading:

Jenna's signature

Exploring Biracial Identity in The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

The Blossoming Universe of Violet DiamondFormat/Source: Hardcover/Library
Published: January 2014
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Contemporary middle grade
Rating: ★★★★
GoodReads Indigo | IndieBound Wordery

Violet is a smart, funny, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl in a family of blonds. Her mom is white, and her dad, who died before she was born, was black. She attends a mostly white school where she sometimes feels like a brown leaf on a pile of snow. She’s tired of people asking if she’s adopted. Now that Violet’s eleven, she decides it’s time to learn about her African American heritage. And despite getting off to a rocky start trying to reclaim her dad’s side of the family, she can feel her confidence growing as the puzzle pieces of her life finally start coming together. Readers will cheer for Violet, sharing her joy as she discovers her roots.

Earlier this year, my mom and I read Black Berry, Sweet Juice by Lawrence Hill, a non-fiction book which profiles the experiences of biracial Black Canadians. That book opened my eyes to the unique challenges biracial people can face. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond explores those challenges from a middle-grade perspective.

This book focuses on Violet finding her space within both her White family and her Black family. There are brief yet important discussions about race. For example, when Violet mentions her Greek friend’s grandmother’s belief that ‘there is no race, just the human race’ and Violet’s grandmother responds, “It’s not so simple, Violet. White folks made the race laws in the first place, and our history is complicated” (pg. 165). Violet’s grandmother’s initial negative attitude to her son marrying a White woman is also addressed. There are other places that allude to debated issues on racial identity, but as Violet is just 11 years old and learning for the first time about what it means to be Black and biracial. She isn’t drowned in too much information and neither is the reader.

Early in the book (around page 50), Violet learns about the circumstances of her father’s death, which explains why Violet’s paternal grandmother doesn’t like Violet’s mother. In two short sentences, Woods reveals the awful truth. Violet yelling at her mother caused me to cringe. I can’t imagine what it would be like to learn that about your parent’s past. The backstory is pretty intense way explain the disconnect between Violet and her father’s family.

I think this would be a good book to ease kids into the concept of and challenges surrounding what it means to be biracial, as well as to start a discussion about coming to terms with a particular identity. A young adult novel featuring Violet as a teen would make an excellent follow-up, giving the opportunity to delve further into ideas that Woods briefly introduces in this book.

The Bottom Line

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond features a spunky protagonist who learns what it means to be biracial. The book can serve as a good introduction to discussion about race and identity for younger readers.

Further Reading

Jenna's signature

The 50 Books I’ve Read So Far in 2017

My mid-year check in is still coming on 5 July, but I decided I also wanted to do this post as a way to:

  1. remind myself of all the great books I’ve read this year
  2. easily share my reviews thus far
  3. offer a brief thought on books I won’t be reviewing (some books will still receive a review later on)

Links to my reviews where applicable. Since it’s 🇨🇦 Canada Day 🇨🇦 : books in red = Canadian author, books in orange = Indigenous author.

  1. * You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris – Incredibly moving, carefully written account of the days after the Bataclan attacks in which Leiris’ wife died
  2. Beast by Brie Spangler – Transgirl love interest helps cismale narrator overcome his transphobia (though I liked Jamie and thought she was well-written as a trans character, she’s something of a manic pixie dream girl). Dylan’s an unlikable guy but I liked that he had his own body image challenges.
  3. Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Danielle Martin – A balanced look at practical ways we might improve our health care system, Martin presents her ideas in an easy to read and understand manner. The ideas still seem like distant dreams rather than possible realities, however.
  4. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley – I gave this book four stars but I’m not sure why? Changing to three. Looking back, it was a quiet yet gripping story. If you like slow paced thrillers, you might enjoy this.
  5. Beowulf by Anonymous, translated by Seamus Heaney – Easier to read than I expected! Still enjoyable even when you know the whole story. Now that I’ve finally got a basic translation under my belt, I can tackle Tolkien’s Beowulf.
  6. Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada by Lawrence Hill – Drawing on interviews from over 30 biracial Black Canadians, Hill paints a comprehensive picture of the varied experiences these Canadians have had because of their racial identity. This book also got me thinking a lot about my own White privilege.
  7. The Girl Who Beat ISIS by Farida Khalaf – An intense read, this first person account of a young Yazidi woman persecuted by ISIS gave me a personal look into some of the atrocities happening today.
  8. The Wizard’s Dog by Eric Kahn Gale – I thought this book was going to be too silly for me, but it was a lot of fun. Cute premise. The illustrations are a bonus.
  9. When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin – Probably the most gorgeous book I will read this year. This is the kind of middle grade fantasy I could read all day.
  10. Neverhome by Laird Hunt – I liked the narrative style. The plot started off interesting but couldn’t keep up steam for me.
  11. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett – A fluffy little story about the Queen’s evolution from non-reader to writer.
  12. Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson – the first volume in a trilogy, Robinson has written a unique story about an Indigenous teen (the titular son of a trickster) that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking.
  13. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older – This is a very cool book about some very cool kids. A YA urban fantasy that even those who avoid the genre can enjoy.
  14. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – A wonderful read for a cozy winter evening. Looking forward to the sequel.
  15. Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin – A much longer book than I usually prefer…the intertwining of a number of historical Arctic (and one Antarctic) expeditions make this an intriguing read.
  16. Tolkien in Translation edited by Thomas Honegger –  Lots of great essays that got me thinking about the topics. Must read if you’re interested in Tolkien or translation.
  17. Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell – Fun middle-grade fantasy, just the sort I would have liked as a kid (even if there weren’t as many dragons as expected).
  18. The Hate U Give by Thomas Angie – Lives up to the hype. Not good just because it tackles an important topic, but also an overall excellent YA novel.
  19. A Secret Vice by J.R.R. Tolkien – A great companion to On Fairy Stories. The work by the editors enhances the text by giving it both context within Tolkien’s personal live and historical context.
  20. Mad Richard by Lesley Krueger – Not the sort of book I’d usually enjoy. Still readable if dry at times. Probably good for historical fiction fans.
  21. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa – Family Reads discussion coming 18 August…forgot to publish it in June!
  22. The Plants of Middle-earth: Botany and Sub-creation by Dinah Hazell – Another lovely physical book, I enjoyed this slim volume for its look at the philosophical implications of grand tale via its plant life.
  23. Sputnik’s Children by Terri Favro – I felt like I was taking a gamble when I requested this book for review. That gamble paid off in this 1970s alternate universe coming of age tale.
  24. Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: A Book Lover Bridges the Digital Divide by Merilyn Simonds – A reflective memoir about what makes a book. I liked following Simonds’ steps as she created a beautiful book of her poetry, with every aesthetic aspect of both the physical and digital book considered.
  25. Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner – Another haunting yet vivid tale. The characters all found their way to my heart (erm, I don’t want to sound mushy but that pretty much covers it).
  26. The Break by Katherena Vermette – Speaking of haunting tales…this novel, about a family of Indigenous women that’s set in my hometown and written by a local Métis woman, cuts deep. I’m still trying to find the words to review it. I wish I could get this book into more people’s hands.
  27. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller – A fluffy tale that was less piratey than I hoped, but still fun. I’ll probably read the sequel.
  28. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – I finally read this book…it’s definitely good, but it’s too bad he seems to think he’s the only Indigenous author of note out there.
  29. Ten Degrees of Reckoning: The True Story of a Family’s Love and the Will to Survive by Hester Rumberg – Possibly the most devastating experience I’ve ever read about (considering both fiction and non-fiction). I picked this up yesterday when I had time to kill at the library and blazed through it. I actually like that Judy herself didn’t write the book. That would have been too close, too intimate, too intense. Hester writes with sensitivity. She creates a respectful sense of Judy’s life, before, during and after the incident, without going into too much detail (unlike with other memoirs/biographies, though, I didn’t feel that she left out key details to be ‘polite’.)
  30.  The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Gaskell – A new-to-me author that I picked up for the first time for a reading event. Her writing has a very particular style – old fashioned in a way that I sometimes get in the mood for. The unicorn’s minor role was a bit disappointing, but other story elements made up for it.
  31. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – Another classic I hadn’t heard of before I started book blogging. I loved the New York setting, as many readers before me have. I wish I had this book as a kid. I might have identified with Claudia.
  32. Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George – Finally read the follow up to Tuesdays in the Castle, two years later! Just as fun as the first. I will continue with the series.
  33. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan – The book description gets it pretty spot on: “brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other”. I especially liked the relationships Amina has with her friends and family.
  34. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab – Oof. Well. Wasn’t sure what to expect with the conclusion of this trilogy but I suppose it was alright.
  35. The Luck of the Karluk: Shipwrecked in the Arctic by L.D. Cross – Great introduction to the tale of the Karluk for those who haven’t heard of it.
  36. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo – An own voices YA novel about a transgirl protagonist, post-transition. Just as good as you would hope it to be.
  37. Icemen by Mick Conefrey – I liked learning about different Arctic adventures I had never heard about before. Lots of fascinating stories in this one.
  38. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman – This may be my new favourite contemporary YA ever? Excellent novel with bi and ace rep.
  39. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel – Should be required reading for all Canadians.
  40. Drift & Dagger by Kendall Kulper – I loved reading my annotated copy of this book. I think I liked it better than the first book!
  41. In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle – My second novel by Beagle. Another unicorn story, but a very different one. I loved the fairy tale atmosphere of the real world setting.
  42. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera – A difficult read that wasn’t to my taste.
  43. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods – A great contemporary middle grade novel race and identity, especially Black biracial identity.
  44. The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell – Another Haskell book! I enjoyed this one a bit more than Handbook, because I didn’t have any expectations of dragons. I liked the unique setting and the role of religion.
  45. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – VanderMeer did not disappoint in his first book since The Southern Reach trilogy.
  46. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild – A mind-blowing eyeopener. I learnt so much about right wing America.
  47. Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell – A historical middle-grade novel that had been on my TBR for a long time. I will be reading more of Rundell in the future.
  48. Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa – Spotted this book at the library. Read it as a bedtime story. Giraffe is bored so he writes a letter as far away as possible. Penguin gets his letter and writes back. Cute premise, cute illustrations, fun story.
  49. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – One of my favourite books this year. Somehow, it was a beautiful as everyone has said. (And the romance is on fire too!)
  50. Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee – Contemporary MG novel about a girl realizing she’s bi. Somehow pulls off having a Shakespeare centered plot. Great conclusion.

And that’s that! I fudged the list a bit – I left off one book I finished last week so I could use that nice round 50. If you have questions about any of these books, I’d be happy to answer them.

What are some of your favourite books from the first half of 2017? Are there any books you wish you had skipped?

Jenna's signature

Family Reads: Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Family Reads banner

Born out of a desire to get a family of book lovers to connect more over what they’re reading, Family Reads is an occasional feature where my mom, dad or sister and I read and discuss a book.

Why we chose Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne

Borne by jeff Vandermeer

Ash and I read VanderMeer’s Annhiliation  for our first Family Reads together (two years ago tomorrow!). When we heard of Borne, we agreed that we should read and discuss it for Family Reads. Somehow, I didn’t expect our discussion to turn out so similar to our discussion on Annhilation – though I suppose I should have known better given the author and the subject matter! We went back forth and circle around various plot related questions. Because of the nature of our discussion, this was a difficult one for me to hammer into a narrative suitable for a blog post, but I tried, haha. I decided to focus on three topics: the cover and setting, what was revealed in the Company building at the end, and the role of the Magician. (Somehow, we talked for an hour and didn’t even begin to talk about Borne or the environmental implications of the story or Rachel and Wick’s relationship or any of the other interesting bits of the story. There’s a lot going on in this fascinating book!)

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.

“He was born, but I had borne him.”

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.

Our Discussion

You’ll get more out of this discussion if you’ve already read the book (spoilers abound!).

Cover and Location

One of the more superficial things Ash and I loved about the Southern Reach trilogy are the cover designs by Charlotte Strick. Borne also has a striking cover (by Rodrigo Corral) that we loved but we had to ask – did the flower have anything to do with the story? Plant life seemed to play less of a role in Borne than in Annihilation. Perhaps the easiest answer is that the plant represents the general degradation of Rachel and Wick’s world. One theory we came up with about the flower is that maybe it has something to do with Rachel being from a tropical island. Then we had to backtrack and ask, where is Rachel from? Ash imagined Indonesia; I went with Madagascar. (Where do birds of paradise grow? I looked this up after our discussion – native to South Africa, the emblem of Los Angeles…) Now we’re back to the cover. Ash chose Borne as her staff pick at work, so a lot of people have been asking her about the book because it has her name on it and they want to know if the story’s as cool as the cover. She tells them yes.

One last comment: Ash and I have come to enjoy VanderMeer’s books particularly for his world building. We love how he can be so vividly descriptive, yet still leave a lot to the reader’s imagination.

What’s really revealed at the end?

My big question that I wanted to discuss with Ash was what was actually revealed when Rachel and Wick went poking around the Company building. Our discussion wound back and forth as we tried to break things down.

What did Rachel learn at the Company building? Ash said that she learnt her memories weren’t real. Okay, then how much of her memories weren’t real? Did she just forget that blip surrounding her parents death, or could it be everything she remembers from before the city is false?

We didn’t settle on an answer to that question (which of Rachel’s memories are true or false) before moving on to what happened in the Company building when Rachel first arrived, if she and her parents came in crates through some kind of portal? Of course, that led us back to another question – is the city Rachel and Wick inhabitant an alternate reality or the world we know? That’s what I was trying to get at at the beginning of our discussion when I asked what was revealed in the company building. Was the existence of a parallel universe, alternate reality, whatever, established? We agreed that it was (with the caveat that we both blaze through endings too quickly so maybe we missed some nuance). That led us two theories: 1) Rachel’s city is an alternate reality that the Company entered to mess around with biotech or 2) Rachel’s city is in ‘our’ world, the ‘real’ world, and the Company messed it up so bad they went to an alternate reality – the good city viewed in Company building. Our conversation drifted from there – whichever theory might be the right one doesn’t really matter – but we agreed that the big reveal had been the existence of another world/dimension/reality.

 

The Magician

The relationship between Rachel and the Magician was one I had lots of questions about. I wondered why she seemed to be an antagonist. Didn’t she just want to get rid of Mord? Why did she have to be awful to Wick and Rachel?  Ash suggested that, since she worked for the Company, maybe she felt guilty for that and wanted to improve the city. I noted that the Magician didn’t know about the wall/portal and Wick did – he was higher ranking than her? (Then there’s that thing about Wick being biotech…) One part that really puzzled me at first was Rachel killing the Magician just like that and commenting that the Magician didn’t have any power over her because she had already read Wick’s letter. Wick’s letter mentions that the Magician acquires Rachel’s memories. Could this mean more than initially thought? Maybe the Magician has absorbed, internalized, all of Rachel’s true memories…maybe the Magician is who Rachel was before.

Final Thoughts

 

 

I thought Borne was a more straightforward book than Annihilation but maybe not, given our discussion! We never really came to conclusions, but we still enjoyed theorizing. I left out a lot of random stuff (about Mord, multiple Bornes, etc.) because this post was getting out of hand.

As we wrapped our discussion, I wondered which I book I enjoyed more – Borne or Annihilation? Just comparing comparing Annihilation (not the entire trilogy) and Borne – ooh, well, I think I prefer Annihilation for the world building and Borne for the characters. When I asked Ash which she preferred, she said the same thing! Though they’re similar in a number of ways, each book has its own strength and we recommend both. Have you read any of Jeff VanderMeer’s works? What are your theories for what was going on in Borne?
Jenna's signature

Diversity Spotlight Thursday #2

Diversity Spotlight Thursday
Hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks

Read and Enjoyed: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Star-Crossed by Barbara DeeMattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Goodreads | Whoohoo,  I finally get to review this book! I had it on hold at the library for sometime before it was released March 14. I felt like I had to wait agggeeees for it to come in. I would have bought it at Chapters but they didn’t have it in store. Anyway. I was able to enjoy the entire book last Sunday while I was out at the lake.

What I love most about Star-Crossed is that it doesn’t complicate Mattie’s feeling. Mattie recently had a crush on a boy, and now she has a crush on a girl. Some of her friends try to comment on that (Can you like boys and girls? Is she gay now?) but Mattie avoids any attempt to label herself. She’s only in grade eight, and all she knows for now is that she has a crush on a girl (and that doesn’t mean she can’t have a crush on a boy). I imagine at that age, when you’re just figuring things out, it’s not necessary to come away with a concrete definition of your sexual or romantic identity.

Mattie does fret a little about what her classmates may think of her. She wonders that while hypothetically her classmates aren’t homophobic, how would they react around a real girl who likes another real girl? The overall arc of the story is less about Mattie coming to terms with her feelings (she likes girls and boys, she knows that) and more about Mattie making her own decisions. The people she comes out to don’t make a big deal about it and are supportive. I cheered for Mattie at the end, which I thought was a perfect conclusion.

The story also feels very realistic and grounded in how Mattie’s crush develops and how she interacts with her friends and classmates. I thought the development of her crush on Gemma in particular was very cute. I recognize myself going through similar motions when I was in middle school!

How Dee incorporated Shakespeare both through the class play and classroom lessons also really impressed me. I actually just saw a production of Romeo and Juliet a few weeks ago, so the play was fresh in my mind. I remember studying the play in high school. My classmates had many similar reactions as Mattie’s classmates. Dee makes Shakespeare intriguing and fun, showing that his work doesn’t have to be indecipherable for young people.

Further reading: Review by Danika @ The Lesbrary | “Please Don’t Talk About Your LGBTQ+ Book”: Barbara Dee on “Star-Crossed” and Her Recent School Visit Experience (interview @ SLJ)

 Released but Not Yet Read: The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

The People of Forever ARe Not AfraidYael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending a high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life. When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain. Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys. Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences. Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day. They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view. They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come. They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

Goodreads | This book has been on my TBR for a veery long time (#78 out of 718). I don’t think I’ve read any novels set in Israel. This own voices book sounds like an intense read.

Not Yet Released: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and GlassAt sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Goodreads | This one popped up in my GoodReads feed just the other day. Sounds like a retelling I can get behind! It’s not clear from the description, but reviewers have been mentioning a relationship between two girls. Look for it on September 5.

What books would you select for Diversity Spotlight Thursday? Leave a link in the comment if you’ve already written about it!
Jenna's signature

Read Diverse 2017
This post counts towards the Read Diverse 2017 reviewing challenge!