It Takes Two– A Pride Month Themed Book Review

alisa-anton-632369-unsplashI promised you a Bookworms post today didn’t I?

So here I am, with two YA books for you that each touch on LGBT topics and a bigger picture of love or adjusting to who we are that tie them both together.

As two very different novels, I chose these because one was about something I know almost nothing of and the other was something that I think could be relatable for anyone, whether or not you identify with the community.

They’re about growing up and living live as we are, after all, I think that’s something we’ve all gone through. So without further ado, here we go.


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe–  Benjamin Alire Sáenz

diego-duarte-cereceda-714994-unsplash.jpgThis book is full of tender moments that still surprise me to be pulled into through the pages. Aristotle watches his life move around him, his parents changing while his own perspectives do, as he figures out who they are alongside himself.

We watch him grow up as the story plays out and his story is wonderfully written.

One line stuck with me that I believe sums up the novel quite well, something I think many people have thought before:

“When do we start feeling like the world belongs to us?

I used to wonder this myself, now questioning whether or not it ever will. Dante and Aristotle both explore this as their friendship changes throughout the chapters. Even more than a book about sexuality or growing up, it’s a story about love and adapting to change. Each relationship is no longer what it began as, exploring what it means to be a parent or a friend and what that looks like from the outside. redd-angelo-11901-unsplash

Aristotle’s character goes through a lot, from the anger and the loss he feels to the disconnection and anticipation within his own life. Add these feelings in with the violence he experiences toward the LGBT community, the kind that many people forget truly happens, and we realize just how hard it can be to sometimes accept who we are. Especially when other people don’t.

That is the journey of this book.

Through intensely real characters, a strongly interwoven Latino culture, and the mind of a boy who’s just trying to understand it all along the way, it’s about love just as much as it’s about trying to hold the world in your hands when it never quite seems to fit right.

It’s about trying to discover the secrets of the universe.

The Symptoms of Being Human– Jeff Garvin

scott-webb-270034-unsplash.jpgFirst of all, there’s a Bratz doll that comes up in this book and when I read those pages, I could feel that same doll in my 7 year old hands. Talk about nostalgia. This book is the epitome of high school drama surrounded by the confusion of growing up feeling misunderstood. You’ve got classic lunch scenes, the misfits, the popular people so clearly in the wrong, and teachers that never see anything.

Maybe it’s a cliche— maybe it’s also true.

What struck me about this book is how closely Riley’s struggles could relate to thousands of young people while at the same time, be so specific to one experience that it goes both ways. Because part of me understands exactly what the character was going through, a lot of it happens to all of us in some shape or form. The bullying, the distance from people we love, the adolescent angst, the list goes on.

The other part of me was thrown into a world where gender fluidity is more real than it ever has been. I personally have never experienced it nor do I have any close friends that openly identify with it, so if anything this book was an inside look into a life that I’ve never had. And I can empathize with Riley’s struggles.erol-ahmed-255854-unsplash

Because growing up, things get pretty confusing pretty quickly. We all get that. Especially in high school, everything is always changing. But through Riley, Solo, and several other characters, their personalities were there along with a whole lot of information about something most people don’t understand.

What this book lacked was a solid foundation for a plot. If you want a good story with a solid plot that isn’t too predictable, this might not be what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking for a little more understanding of gender fluidity and the possibilities of what that can mean, this is a good place to start. As long as you don’t stop here.

For we’ve all got a whole lot to learn in today’s world. Thanks to the internet, now we can.

Also, if anyone has read this, did you hear catch Folsom Prison reference in chapter 6? Classic, all we need is a Johnny Cash mention and my little hometown is on the map.


So thanks for sticking around for these two books and if you check them out, let me know what you think! I’ll see you all on Friday.

The Perks of Being A Bibliophile

freestocks-org-89185-unsplashAs much as I hate to say it, I haven’t had much time to read this past month. After going through two books in April and watching the time go by, somehow it’s already week three of May and well, welcome to another Bookworms post.

I’ve got one of my favorite books for you.

I did say I haven’t had much time to read, but lucky enough I’ve had enough to re-read a book that will always have a place in my heart. As mental health awareness month, it definitely gets into that among several other things, but I think one of my favorite parts about the book is that it truly takes a look at who we are as human beings— how we hurt and how we love, how we laugh and how we live… Though I understand it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, this is one of the good ones.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower— Stephen Chbosky

Considering he both directed the movie and wrote the book, I see an incredible amount of talent in Chbosky; I still haven’t decided whether the story was better told on screen or through pages and well, I’ve gone through each multiple times.annie-spratt-648653-unsplash.jpg

What I really love about this narrative is how intimately you can feel each character, from Charlie and Sam to Candace and Patrick, all of them begin to feel real. I think that’s a really important aspect of novels, the characters can make or break the story. But even if you can’t fully relate to the experiences or identities of those in this book, they can still show you things in yourself that you never saw before.

Let’s talk about plot really quickly, this is your classic coming of age angsty teenage boy plot, as Charlie is a freshman in high school just trying to figure himself out, pushing through bullies along the way. But he’s not the only one. We meet Sam who is trying so hard to get into the college she wants while navigating bad relationships along the way, and then there’s Patrick who is dealing with his own sexuality and coming to terms with how that affects those around him. Maybe these ideas are specific to the characters, but all of it becomes universal to the rest of us. Add in the high school troupe and classic feeling of being right back in those halls, there you go. This is a book about life.

heather-emond-313088-unsplashOftentimes I seek literature to get out of my own existence for a while, especially when it comes to re-reading a book that I know will do the trick; this one, however, does so much more than that. This book builds a whole new world for you to fall into that maybe isn’t so far from the one you’re already in and manages to show you something new every time you thumb through its pages. It wakes you up.

There’s one quote in the book, a cheesy one that I’m sure people make fun of, that I like to think about when I think about love: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Because we do, I know a lot of the times when we are treated badly or handed the short end of the stick, we wonder what we did to deserve it or maybe if that’s what we’ve earned. We accept the love we think we deserve, I guess it has to come from us to know we deserve more.

Like I said, this book is full of so many stories and lives that I think it is one anyone who loves books should read— I won’t hold it against you if you don’t like it. The novel is written in the form of letters, addressed to someone we don’t quite know or figure out, as Charlie works through his issues and discovers himself throughout the book. More than a story about people and about the different lives they live, this book can be a reminder to take care of ourselves in our relationships and to remember to look up every now and then.yoann-boyer-185507-unsplash.jpg

You may be missing a moment that just might make you feel infinite.

If you don’t know what that means, go read the book and you will find out. As for the rest of it, take care of yourselves this week and I’ll see you all on Friday! Happy Tuesday everyone.

A Book A Day Keeps the Insanity Away

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Another month has passed and unfortunately, I’ve only had enough time to get my hands on two books to read all the way through. Not that I’m trying to advertise or anything, but for someone doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of time these days, Audible really does come in clutch with fitting time in for books I can’t sit down to read myself.
So what did I read (listen to)?
Well, great question! Both books I read come from very different authors and very different concepts— even the age groups for general interest aren’t close to one another. But each of them held an important story to tell, as all books do, about the human condition itself. So without further ado, here we go:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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As someone who always went straight for the teen fiction section when the Scholastic book fair showed up at school, I have developed quite a habit for the genre itself so this book was more out of my comfort zone. And I loved it.
Now I’ve had my eye on Big Little Lies for a long time now. Back when my book first came out, I used to peruse bookshelves and imagine mine up there next to it. This one caught my eye every time, in my mind I was thinking, “I want it to be right up next to that one.” I’m not sure exactly what about it had my attention, but clearly it was something because this book is worth the read.
Set up as a murder mystery novel shrouded in the drama of parenthood and catfights (mom-fights?), there were a whole lot of twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. As someone who reads a lot and likes to expect a plot, I couldn’t do that with this novel because it was tricky; this book had some real secrets. Dealing with the concepts of domestic violence, broken homes, sexual assault, and the inner workings of families, there was plenty to unpack in this book.

Even though this novel was long, I wasn’t bored at all— Moriarty found a way to keep my attention all the way through to the ending plot twists. Character wise, I found myself loving parts of them and disliking others, nobody was perfect and I think that’s important in a novel. We have to relate somehow don’t we?
Whether you’re into murder mysteries, romance, comedies, or war stories, Big Little Lies manages to capture it all within its pages and pack a few punches along the way. Though outside my usual realm of books, this book had me thinking that maybe I need to open up my preferences a little bit. Definitely give this one a read.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

With his classics like Looking For Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars, I’ve been reading John Green’s books for years. And while I, to this day, do not see the fascination behind Paper Towns (definitely my least favorite), when people started talking about this bok, I wanted to know why. This month I finally gave in.
Though I would not rank this as one on my top favorites of his books, there were some parts that had me wondering if maybe I should. The way this novel depicted mental

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health was incredible— both in the way it can affect countless relationships to how it can impact day to day life, Green really brought Aza’s character to life in her struggles. He was very real in his depictions of certain situations, such as losing a parent or trying to support someone when you just don’t know what they need, and most people can relate to the second part at least. That’s a pretty big part of life.
Plus, what would a John Green book be without its classic love story— of course this was one of those, though I can’t quite say it was full on classic. Because of the characters’ own issues, the relationships within this story hit a lot of roadblocks and the romantic ones were no exception. But I liked that he made things a little different in this book and to me, it seemed like the focus really wasn’t on their love story but on the life story.
The only reasons this wouldn’t quite make it into my list of favorites from the author, I personally could not get into it. Maybe there was too much going on in my own life to get lost in pages of this one, but I feel like that’s part of the reason I seek out fiction; I need to get lost in drama that does not belong to me. Though the message was there, just the kind of life pertaining and guiding type I like, I had a hard time truly connecting to the story and its characters… While I enjoyed the story, it felt like just another book to me rather than a book that I took a piece of with me after I put it down.

If you’re reading this, I think you at least know the kind of book I’m talking about. And if you’re curious about this book, see for yourself if maybe there was something I missed.


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Liane Moriarty and John Green are both incredible storytellers, I cannot dispute that and neither can their book sales. But one of those books made it onto my (temporary) favorites list, and one of them did not. So if you think maybe I missed the reasons this book should be higher in my list, feel free to tell me why in the comments below; I would truly love to be proven wrong.

Thanks for joining me again in this fine Tuesday. Until Friday, have a great rest of your week!

Another Day Another Book

aaron-burden-243387-unsplashHappy Spring Break for me and Bookworms #2 day for you! With a little more time in the past few days, I have not one, but two books to talk about today. Both of them tie into this idea of adolescence lost; neither quite by choice but in very different ways. Only the second book has been made into an Oscar winning motion picture, but The Hate U Give is not too far behind.

So without further ado, here’s what I’ve got for you.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

With its title taken influenced from Tupac Shakur in his song Thug Life, this book was everything you would expect it to be after reading a summary like this:

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s supposed to. As a politically and emotionally charged novel, her words do more than give you a little insight into what’s behind movements like Black Lives Matter or even more recently, the March for Our Lives. Whether you advocate for more gun control or less, support the movements or couldn’t care less for them, this book is worth the read. Some things are said that needed to be spoken aloud, offensive to some or not. This book is honest, to the pain, the loss, the confusion, and the change that comes with discrimination, gun violence, and most of all, grief.james-motter-516818-unsplash.jpg

As her debut novel, Thomas has some truly incredible moments in her book, from plot twists to candid speeches on police cars. Each character she added allowed us to see a new side of the story, gave us a new set of shoes to step into. From families coming together to youth forced to grow up too quickly, there’s something in here that anyone can relate to— no matter your background or race.

Though there were some parts of the book that I felt were a little too slow towards the end or suddenly thrown in, I think for the storyline, overall it was a very well-done book and fantastic debut novel for Thomas. If you’ve ever thought about reading this but never got the chance, let me ask you this— if not now, when?

For more about Angie Thomas, check out her website here, and I hope you look into this book the next time you pass by a bookstore.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

montse-monmo-82819-unsplashI watched the movie first for this one, I know I know, I should never do that. But just like some of my favorite books, I can’t find a way to compare the two. Each was their own separate entity and the book was great, despite watching the movie first.

It’s been a while since I’ve read something like this– the movie might have left me feeling too much but the book… The book left me feeling nostalgic for something I’ve never had before.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been waiting to read a book like this for a while.

For the people who don’t want to read anything R-rated, this is not the book for you. Because, let me tell you, if my parents stopped me from watching Grey’s Anatomy at 14, they would never have let me anywhere near Call Me By Your Name.

Yet, the explicit honestly of Aciman made it what it turned out to be. As a coming-of-age novel, he gives you the emotion, turbulence, passion, and devastation of a seventeen year old boy. And he portrayed it beautifully, at least from the perspective of a nineteen year old girl.  If you’ve ever read the Catcher in the Rye, the style of this book is very similar. Through several stream of consciousness riffs and paragraphs that lead you from one to the next, you get inside Elio’s head and ultimately go through his experience with him.

Though this is a love story, a complicated one at that, some people criticized the glorification of pedophilia that many perceive the book to be. Though I’m not sure how I feel about that aspect or whether it was glorified, criticized, or disregarded as a whole, I think the age difference between Elio and summer guest Oliver was part of what added to conflict in Elio’s own head. It gave us the story, through to the very end.

aliis-sinisalu-299299-unsplash.jpgI think the focus wasn’t actually on the love part at all, but on Elio and his need for something more than he had— his need to find himself somewhere in the chaos within the years to come. Whether you like love stories or not, this was about something bigger than that, bigger than what you might think it’s actually about. I hope you read it and see for yourself. Maybe watch the movie too, but second of course.


And thanks for reading my reviews, if there’s any book you want to hear about or anything you would like to see more (or less) of, feel free to let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Bookworms

To finish off Black History Month, I wanted to do something I’ve been looking forward to for a while now:

Welcome to my new page called Bookworms!

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So what is Bookworms you ask? Well, this site is called kwilliamsbooks after all, so I thought it would only be fitting if I started doing book reviews along with what I already do. Every month I will do a book review for you all of one or more books I’ve read that month!

And since this the end of Black History Month, the book I read has everything to do with the theme: Without further ado…

Here is Black No More by George Schuyler

Rating: 7.3/10

Originally published back in 1931, the entirety of the book is bathed in the Harlem Renaissance. Though I usually read fiction, fantasy, or sometimes SiFi, this time I got into something new. Black No More is strictly the satire venue of fiction. Let me explain why.

“What would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white?”

This is the first sentence on the back of the book and if that sounds interesting, trust me, it is. Consider how black people were seen in the 30’s and what was going on back then; this satire addresses the entirety of what people considered to be the black identity and how that identity intersected with racism. When a

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black scientist somehow comprised a way to turn black people white, their society turned inside out.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but let me just say that if you’re looking for someone who critiques the societal norms of black vs white and directly addresses race with a funny, entertaining, to the point, and often sarcastic voice, Schuyler is your guy.

Since this was a new kind of fiction for me to get into, it took me a little time to get into and it wouldn’t be my first choice in a room full of books. But a 7.3/10 isn’t because it wasn’t a good book. It was. In holding so much culture, commentary, and character in each page, it was absolutely worth the read.

If you’re looking for black literature, something new to entertain, or just a quick break, Black No More is a good place to start.

And Welcome to Book Worms; look out for new posts every 4th Tuesday of the month!