Marvel Avengers Assembly: Orientation by Preeti Chhibber, Ill. by James Lancett

Marvel Avengers Assembly Orientation

Information

Goodreads: Orientation
Series: None
Source: Marvel: Avengers Assembly #1
Published: 2020

Summary

After she ruins a few buildings during some superhero fights in Jersey City, middle schooler Ms. Marvel is invited by her idol, Carol Danvers, to train at the Avengers Institute. There she teams up with new best friends Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and Squirrel Girl. But can they learn to work together to pass the decathlon at the end of the semester?

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Review

Avengers Assembly: Orientation imagines popular new heroes like Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, and Miles Morales as middle school students who need to train at a special institute to develop their superhero skills. It is told in a multimedia format, with chapters switching among blog posts, diary entries, fan fiction, text messages, and comic strips. The concept will likely appeal to comic book lovers and reluctant readers. However, the multimedia format is not used to great advantage and the story line ultimately falls flat. I wanted to love Orientation because it features so many of my favorite heroes, but the book is simply not well executed.

One of my main critiques with the book may admittedly not be shared by young readers: the book makes very little sense. The multimedia format means that Kamala Khan and her friends are constantly sharing top-secret information about their identities and their superheroing over unsecure sites. They text openly about their secret identities, keep details of fights online (on “private” blogs that could easily be hacked), and publicly share videos of mistakes they have made like recognizing their best (non-superhero) friends in the middle of a battle. Apparently Kamala and her friends are extremely naive about online privacy. Maybe their new institute should address that?

Even if readers are also unconcerned about online privacy, however, the story line is rather lackluster. Most of the book is really just Kamala attending a new school and making friends. [Spoilers] But there is sort of side plot involving a truly ill-conceived plan to harm another student so a villain can time travel. The plot is purposely ridiculous and even the other villains do not understand it. The plan is so poorly designed that it never takes place. The villains are basically foiled within two pages by their own incompetence. Exciting? Not really. The whole thing feels like a slapdash attempt to add something more to a book that would otherwise just be Ms. Marvel attending school, but the concept is never properly integrated into the story.

Avengers Assembly: Orientation stars with an exciting concept of having beloved heroes all attend school together. But the plot is not well executed and the story ultimately fails to deliver. I had looked forward to this new release, but I, unfortunately, am not impressed.

3 Stars

10 of My Favorite Classics

My Top Ten Favorite Classic Books

I’ve read a lot of classics, and for the most part I can find something interesting in just about any of them! Here, however, is a list of some of my favorites. With the exception of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Middlemarch, these are all stories I’ve read multiple times–and I hope to reread them all again in the future! For the sake of variety, I also listed only one book by each author.

What are some of your favorite classics?

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1

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

I must have read Anne of Green Gables at least 20 times, and it has lived up to my expectations with every single reading. L. M. Montgomery is such a skillful writer and such a keen observer of both human nature and the natural world that her stories are poignant and immersive. Her books also always make me think the world is an immensely beautiful place.

Take our quiz to find out which of Anne Shirley’s friends YOU are!

2

Beowulf by Anonymous

Boys of Blue and Beowulf

“And a young prince must be prudent like that,
giving freely while his father lives
so that afterwards, in age when fighting starts
steadfast companions will stand by him
and hold the line.”

― Seamus Heaney, translator

Beowulf is a powerful and sweeping story about a man who vanquishes monsters that no one else can. But it is also a story of loss and changing times. The writing, even in translation, is beautiful, and I find myself with new questions to ponder and new dreams to imagine every time I read the story.

Read my full reflection “Beowulf: Epic Adventure or Tale of Loss?”

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo cover

“How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.”

I first read The Count of Monte Cristo in eighth grade, and I devoured the book, unabridged. I was swept into the life of Edmund Dantes who so justly deserved revenge and so cleverly executed it– even when I didn’t agree with every action he took. If you want a book with twists and intrigue, look no farther!

Read about how The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the books that made me fall in love with reading!

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The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

If you read this blog at all, you know The Lord of the Rings is my very favorite book– and it’s often difficult to explain exactly what is so wonderful about it. It is not, in my opinion, the action or adventure or even fantasy aspect; it’s that it’s thoughtful and beautiful and makes me wish our world were as deep and wise and wonderful as Middle-earth and its inhabitants seem to be.

Read why I think the “slow” opening of The Lord of the Rings is so valuable!

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Middlemarch cover

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

Middlemarch is an intricate and complex novel that weaves together the lives of multiple characters while keeping readers invested in Dorothea, the protagonist. It is remarkable for both its scope and its focus on the details that make us human.

Read our discussion post on whether Dorothea lives up to feminist ideals.

My Name Is Asher Lev

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

“I do not know what evil is when it comes to art. I only know what is good art and what is bad art.”

My Name Is Asher Lev offers a thoughtful and moving look at art, sacrifice, and being true to yourself vs. staying connected with your roots and your community. It’s a book I return to frequently to reread.

7

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

A Separate Peace cover

“As I said, this was my sarcastic summer. It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.”

A Separate Peace is both heartbreaking and a bit horrifying, as it forces readers to look inside Gene’s soul– and then possibly their own. I’m not sure every sentence is as wise as I thought it was when I was younger, but the book always makes me think.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous

The Green Knight on the ground now gets himself ready,
leaning a little with the head he lays bare the flesh,
and his locks long and lovely his lifts over his crown,
letting the naked neck as was needed appear.

― JRR Tolkien, translator

This is one of the stories that helped me fall in love with medieval literature. It’s magical but also firmly grounded in reality, addressing questions of honor, temptation, bravery, and more. I’ve read it multiple times, in multiple translations, and always come away with something to think about.

Read my reflections on rereading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

nine

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Tenant of Wildfell Hall

“You may think it all very fine, Mr. Huntingdon, to amuse yourself with rousing my jealousy; but take care you don’t rouse my hate instead. And when you have once extinguished my love, you will find it no easy matter to kindle it again.”

The remarkable insight that Anne Brontë offers into protagonist Helen Graham’s psyche, however, as well as the unflinching portrayals of men giving into different temptations and debaucheries to the suffering of the women around them make The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a masterpiece I am sorry I did not read sooner.

Read why The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is Krysta’s favorite work by one of the Brontë sisters.

The Wanderer by Anonymous

“Often alone, every daybreak, I must
bewail my cares. There is now no one living
to whom I dare articulate my mind’s grasp.
I know as truth that it is a noble custom
for a man to enchain his spirit’s close,
to hold his hoarded coffer, think what he will.”

Translation

An alliterative poem in Old English that recounts the past happy days of one who once served his lord but now lives in exile. Like Beowulf, this poem is powerfully moving, and it demonstrates that emotions can speak across centuries.

A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe (Briana’s Review)

A Golden Fury Instagram photo

Information

Goodreads: A Golden Fury
Series: None
Source: ARC borrowed from Krysta
Published: October 13, 2020

Official Summary

In her debut novel A Golden Fury, Samantha Cohoe weaves a story of magic and danger, where the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of a revolution looming, Thea is sent to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

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Review

When I first started reading A Golden Fury, I had no idea what to expect. Krysta loaned me her ARC because she’d liked it, but I can’t say I have any particular burning interest in stories about alchemists, and I get frustrated easily by historical fiction (historical fantasy in this case) where the author gets more caught up in pointing out sexism than in telling a story. Yet A Golden Fury ended up blowing me away. It has a strong, intelligent female protagonist who knows her own worth and is also willing to give up everything to help the people she loves. It’s a story about science and magic but also strength and sacrifice, and it kept me reading late into the night.

There are nods to the difficulties women faced historically here, as Thea knows full well her alchemical achievements can be easily by men and as she acknowledges that even if alchemy were to be given a department in places like Oxford University–instead of considered charlatanry–it would have no benefit to her, as she would not be allowed to enroll to study it. However, the story doesn’t dwell on what women don’t have and it doesn’t go overboard pointing out how Thea is so different and better than the “usual” stifled women of her era. It simply assumes female strength and celebrates it, starting with Thea’s mother (who is brilliant if cold) and extending even to the side characters and women readers never officially meet on the page.

Thea herself is the one who will truly steal readers’ hearts, of course. She’s a master alchemist, not afraid to to say she’s as good as if not better than her much-celebrated mother, but she’s also kind and brave and loyal. She makes mistakes–and she knows it–but she also wants to become the best person she can be. My favorite parts of the book, however, are when she questions herself and her beliefs. When she is confronted with new people or new information, she wonders how she can take the best parts of them and make them her own. How can she be a good person and emulate the good she sees in others?

All that said, the book is not solely character-driven; it also has an exciting plot. I kept turning the pages because I simply had to know what would happen next. There are a couple mysteries. Who is Thea’s father? Are Thea’s friends hiding something? What are the consequences of making the Philosopher’s Stone? And I had to find the answers to them all. I also, honestly, was a little bit scared of the evil, the curse, that Thea has to encounter while working on the Stone; the book had been looking fitfully into corners of my room!

A Golden Fury is just so immensely engaging on every level, from the characters to the plot to the questions it asks about science, magic, and humanity. I will definitely be looking into whatever Cohoe decides to publish next!

Briana
5 stars

How to Support Your Local Public Library During the Pandemic

8 Ways to Support Your Public Library During the Pandemic

We’ve written a lot on how you can support your local library. But what can you do when the library may be closed? Here are a few ways you can continue to support your public library during the pandemic.

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Check out books.

Libraries rely on statistics such as books checked out to justify their existence and ask for more funding. Libraries that are closed to the public, however, may see decreased circulation numbers. Do the library a favor and check out some books via curbside pickup! Or check out some e-books!

Attend a virtual program.

As with books, libraries track their program statistics to justify their existence and ask for more funding. Show what kinds of programs you are interested in by attending some!

Provide feedback.

Does your library have a comment form? A survey? Show some library love by telling the staff what you like about the library and what you would love to see in future! This makes the library feel good because people are engaged, and it gives them something to point towards when writing grant proposals or otherwise trying to demonstrate their value for the community.

Donate.

Libraries, like everyone else, are financially hurting right now. If you can, consider making a monetary donation. You may also consider donating books, but be aware that many libraries are not currently accepting books during the pandemic.

Share programs and updates via social media.

Even if you can’t attend a program, you can help spread awareness about programs and other library services on social media. If you aren’t already, consider following your library on the platform of your choice. Then “like” posts and share them with interested friends to help increase the library’s reach.

Share your library books, crafts, and more with your library on social media.

You don’t just have to share posts made by your library. If you made a pickup craft, asked for a blind book bundle, or participated in a virtual program, consider taking a picture of the results and then tagging your library. They’d probably be happy to share it!

Follow the rules.

If your library is open or partially open, follow any mask or social distancing rules they may have in place. The staff are just trying to keep the community safe and they would prefer to spend their time helping people find resources, rather than arguing with rule breakers. And, if you are sick, stay home! It’s tempting to want to borrow something to keep yourself occupied, but maybe you can send a friend instead?

Be kind!

Again, new library rules and restrictions may be annoying, but the staff on the floor didn’t write them. They are just the unlucky ones who have to enforce them. You may be upset that your library is still closed or that they are requiring masks or that they have browsing time limits. It would help everyone, however, if you could try to accept the rules with grace and, if necessary, complain politely to the relevant channels, rather than yelling at the staff on the floor.

10 Interesting Posts You May Have Missed in October 2020

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Aria looks at what some of her favorite characters were doing when they were around her age.
  2. The Orangutan Librarian reviews The Once and Future Witches.
  3. Margaret gathers bloggers’ best (fiction) writing advice.
  4. Amanda recommends spooky October reads.
  5. Interesting Literature shares a summary and analysis of The Merchant of Venice.
  6. Laura asks if book blogging is dead.
  7. Tess asks how many books you should read at once.
  8. Mel discusses why they thinks some people don’t appreciate book bloggers.
  9. The Bargain Book Sleuth reviews Nancy Drew, Girl Detective Ghost Stories.
  10. Anna shares books with fall vibes.
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Highlights at Pages Unbound

Haunting at the Hotel (Case Closed #3) by Lauren Magaziner

Information

Goodreads: Haunting at the Hotel
Series: Case Closed #3
Source: Purchased
Published: August 11, 2020

Official Summary

Pick-your-own-path and puzzle-packed mystery collide in the third book in Lauren Magaziner’s hilarious and interactive middle grade series in which the reader must help Carlos and his friends hunt ghosts at a haunted hotel.

In this wildly entertaining adventure, YOU pick which suspects to interview, which questions to ask, and which clues to follow. You pick the path—you crack the case!

Carlos Serrano is now officially an apprentice detective at Las Pistas Detective Agency. He finally earned his mom’s trust, but his next case will be his most difficult one yet. Guests at a creepy mountain hotel are complaining of weird disturbances, threatening messages, and hair-raising howls!

Carlos, along with his best friend, Eliza, and her wacky little brother, Frank, arrive on the scene to investigate a . . . ghost? What secrets is this haunted hotel hiding? With tricky puzzles, ghoulish secrets, ectoplasmic enemies, and dozens of impossible choices, these junior detectives need your sleuthing skills!

Can you help Carlos and his friends unravel the mystery before it’s too late? Or will it be case closed?

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Review

Looking for an only slightly spooky read for autumn or Halloween? A fun interactive book that lets YOU solve the mystery? A story with little bit of quirkiness to lighten the book? Look no further than Haunting at the Hotel, technically book three in Lauren Magaziner’s pick-your-path middle grade mystery series, though it can be read as a standalone.

When I read the first Case Closed mystery, Mystery in the Mansion, I enjoyed it, but the level of quirkiness wasn’t quite to my taste (I’m not really a quirky person, ok?) because while giant ball pits and alligators in mysterious mansions are fun, they’re also pretty random. Thus, I enjoyed book two, Stolen from the Studio even more because the fun and glamour came pretty naturally from the setting: the set of a popular TV series! The same is true for Haunting at the Hotel: the premise provides some naturally spooky and crazy plot lines because someone (or something!) is haunting an isolated lodge, and they are pulling all the stops to scare the guests away! I’m a scaredy-cat, so I loved that I was only a bit creeped out even as the characters (and I) were being chased, haunted, threatened, etc.

I also really liked the selection of paths and plot lines in this installment. All the books in the series seem to start the same way, where you are offered two choices (say, talk to Character A or talk to Character B) but you actually get to do BOTH of these things no matter what you choose. Do not be fooled by that and think that there are not a wide variety of paths and endings in Haunting at the Hotel; there are! I (implied?) died a couple of times, or just flat-out failed, but I also read through three different final endings of solving the case, and all were really interesting. (There may be more, but I can’t read this book forever!)

I also quite liked the interactive puzzles in this one. Some are quite easy (it’s a middle grade book, after all), but some took me a bit of work even though I’m not the target audience, and you can ask one of the characters for clues if you’re stuck (or, uh, just kind of lazy). I did need to break out a pencil a few times, which was also true for the first two books. These come in e-books, and I’ve read them that way, but I highly recommend buying a paper version so you don’t have to copy out the puzzles onto a separate piece of paper (also true if you borrow this from a library…I wonder how many library copies have actually been written on).

Overall, great book. Fun series. It’s pretty self-evident who I’d recommend this to: people who think a pick-your-path mystery with actual puzzles to solve sounds like a good time!

Briana
4 stars

What Classic Should You Read Next? (Flow Chart)

More About These Classics

*Click the book titles to read full reviews.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

I’m sure someone will come along and tell me that Excellent Women “isn’t that obscure,” but I’m trying to walk the line here between recommending something many people haven’t read or really even heard of and something that actually counts as a classic.

Barbara Pym has apparently been called the “20th century Jane Austen,” so if you’re looking for great characterization and social commentary in a more modern package, check out Excellent Women!

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Shirley by Charlotte Brontë 

One of my college professors recommended this book as “one of the most romantic novels she’d ever read,” and it’s so true and so overlooked due to most people’s focus on Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I do think the book opens a bit slowly, but once it gets going, it’s immersive. It would also pair well with reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, due to the focus on the mill and labor issues (still romantic, though!).

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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

So many people have called this book “life-changing,” and it’s so short, that it’s basically begging you to give it a chance and read it!

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Silas Marner by George Eliot

Eliot is probably best known for her incredibly long novel Middlemarch, but Silas Marner is short and sweet and a masterpiece in its own right, a story about family and what is most important in life.

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo is long, very long, but also very worth reading all the way through in its unabridged glory! (I did this when I was in eighth grade, so I trust you can get through it all, too!). There’s a bit of mystery, a lot of drama, heaps of revenge. It will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next!

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Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

Also an epic story grounded in history, the Romance of Three Kingdoms has action, myth, and more. Wikipedia claims there are more than 1000 dramatic characters, and what could be more sweepingly epic than that?

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Inheritance Games book cover

Information

Goodreads: The Inheritance Games
Series: The Inheritance Games #1
Source: Review Copy
Published: September 1, 2020

Official Summary

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

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Review

The Inheritance Games has the kind of premise that hooks readers before they even open the book: a girl with nothing suddenly and mysteriously inherits billions– and ends up playing a game of riddles with a family of talented and attractive boys in attempt to figure out why. Even better, the book lives up to that premise. The Inheritance Games has it all: mystery, romance, danger, bantering boys, steadfast sisters, secrets, and scones. Jennifer Lynn Barnes kept me turning page after page.

The glue that holds together is the essential question of why a man she had never met would leave Avery Kylie Grambs nearly his entire estate, while leaving his family next to nothing. (Though “nothing” is relatively when you’re bequeathing billions. I’d love to inherit a mere million or so!) Readers get to puzzle it out alongside Avery and the Hawthornes, following the clues that were left and delving into secrets of the past. I did have my guesses about some things, and some of them were right, but the book was definitely twisty enough to keep me on my toes!

The Hawthornes themselves are also a huge draw. The story builds them up as magnetic, enough so that one almost starts to wonder if there’s something unnatural or magical going on in the family. In actuality, it’s a great commentary on wealth, one that permeates the story but is never thrown into readers’ faces: the Hawthorne boys are amazing because they have been given everything that money and opportunity can buy. They’re confident, handsome, smart, and talented; patents, paintings, piano playing, and more are all fair game. They have and can do anything because money has bought them networks and lessons in anything they’ve ever had the whim to pursue. That doesn’t make it less attractive, of course, to anyone who knows them.

Barnes does an excellent job portraying each brother and their complicated relationships with each other, as well. The love triangle is a bit awkward (who really wants to find themselves deciding between two brothers?), but it does represent something about Avery– whether she wants to fall in love with someone driven and adventurous or someone more organized whose mind seems to work like hers. In the end, however, I almost wanted to know more about the two brothers not in the love triangle, and I hope that comes to fruition in the next books!

There are a few loose ends in The Inheritance Games, not necessarily in terms of plot, but rather in terms of philosophy or general questions I wish had been addressed. Overall, however, the story is immersive, and I’m looking forward to reading more by the author.

Briana
4 stars

Book Blogger Stats Survey 2020: Invitation to Participate

In 2016 and 2018, I (Briana) conducted a blogger stats survey to help shed some transparency on what stats are “normal” in book blogging. I personally found it helpful because many people seemed to assume that their own stats were significantly lower than other bloggers’, when that often was not the case. It’s been two years since the last survey, so I thought it would be interesting to get some updated results for 2020, particularly as focus in the book community so often seems to be on Booktube, Bookstagram, and now BookTok.

Participation is anonymous, so please participate if this is a project that interests you. Also feel free to share, as the stats will be better if there are more data points (in 2016, I received about 70 responses; in 2018, I received 107). The 2016 survey results are here. The 2018 survey results are here.

I’ve kept the questions about stats the same as in 2018, in order to compare across years, but I eliminated the questions about predicting the stats of other blogs. With two surveys already done, I imagine people would just look at the past results to guess, which wouldn’t result in any interesting data.

* Note that by “blogger,” I mean someone who runs a blog, not someone running a Booktube channel, Bookstagram.  (You can do both, but you should have an actual blog.)

If you can’t see the survey embedded below, you can fill it out by clicking here.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Poet X Cover

Information

Goodreads: The Poet X
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2018

Summary

Xiomara Batista no longer knows where she belongs. She wants to date, to write poetry, to do all the things her Mami believes are wrong. But is it really so wrong to want to kiss a boy? Is wrong to want your voice to be heard? A novel-in-verse.

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Review

“I will never let anyone see my full heart and destroy it.”

Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X is a powerful story about finding one’s voice, and finding one’s place in the world. Xiomara Batista has been struggling to embrace herself ever since she grew into curves. The boys at school assume she’s easy, ask for pictures, and help themselves to a grab. Her Mami keeps praying that the evil inside her body will not prevail. And the Catholic Church? Well, going to Mass and attending to Confirmation class just reaffirms to Xiomara that women are bad, and so is her body. Xiomara can’t help but wonder–is it really so wrong to be interested in boys? To want her first kiss? Is she really wrong, just for existing? Poetry helps her find her way through the muddle of high school. But Xiomara is convinced no one is listening–not to her poetry, not to her words, not to her. A novel-in-verse, The Poet X will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong.

Not every author is adept at capturing what it feels like to be growing up, what it feels like to be a teen, in high school, to have a changing body, to wonder where you belong if the places you used to belong no longer welcome you. But Elizabeth Acevedo has a created a protagonist who feels like she could be real, so vividly does she capture all of Xiomara’s hopes and fears and dreams and struggles. Xiomara has questions, but she does not have anyone she trusts to answer them. And so, she tries to figure out what it means to be in transition–no longer a child but not yet an adult–all by herself. Her story is heartbreaking.

Xiomara’s story touches on so many important issues: bodily autonomy and rape culture, the tension between parental expectations and the teenage desire for independence, the ability to question religion and one’s worldview, the universal longing to be seen and to be heard. Trying to embrace so many themes could potentially be overwhelming, but Acevedo deftly weaves them into an interlocking whole, all told in her signature powerful verse. In her verse, we hear Xiomara roar.

Elizabeth Acevedo is a rising star in the YA world, and The Poet X shows off her talent with verse, as well as her ability to create a compelling storyline led by a teenage protagonist, beautiful in all her messy humanity. Anyone looking for an unforgettable read, a powerful contemporary YA, or a novel-in-verse with expressive, vivid poetry will love The Poet X.

5 stars