Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
Coming of age, families, Mexican Americans, friendship, homosexuality, fiction.
There are things that Dante can do but Ari can’t and vice versa. They are very different yet odds bring them together and they bond over a shared love to help each other out whether it be swimming or understanding the universe. Along the way, they are discovering their true selves and finding a place in the world. When one of them gets into an accident this puts their newly found friendship to the test. As well as one of them moving away. When they reunite, they discover some secrets of the universe and one of them was right in front of them.
This was beautifully written about young teens just trying to find meaning in this chaotic world. I remember when I was a teenager trying to figure out the universe myself. Dante and Ari going through the emotions of ether or not they should be friends or become something more made my heart melt. This novel was written with such simplicity yet the character’s emotions and interactions were so complex as their lives that each of them come from. Dante and Ari get glimpses into each other’s lives to see where they came from which was so surreal. I enjoyed reading this book and I found out that there is a sequel. I’m excited to go find a copy to read.
The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina – Zoraida Cordova
Inheritance, families, magic, fiction.
Orquidea is feeling her end coming and she invites her to her funeral as well as an inheritance to her descendants. Her magic. Those who grew up didn’t take the magic seriously and others were annoyed with it. There were a lot of secrets that the Montoyas kept from each other and all came out when the magic was handed down. There is a force that doesn’t want Montoya’s family line to have magic.
This book recently came out and I was intrigued by the plot. I loved this novel and the cultural lore that was present in this as well as magic. I love novels that have lore and mythical explanations that help understand the novel’s plot more. This also had an interesting family dynamic that is intriguing and satisfying to see the bonds get stronger despite the weak bond at the beginning. The transformation of the Montoyas from the first chapter to the last was certainly so paced that nothing felt rushed. Some flashbacks helped the story along. All in all, this novel was beautifully and magically written.
Tokyo Ever After – Emiko Jean
Japanese Americans, belonging, families, duty, japan, california, princesses, princes, royalty, young adult, fiction,
Izumi always felt like she didn’t fully belong anywhere but she is happily content with her life for the time being. She always had her mother and she is grateful for that. One day upon looking through a book she finds a love poem from her mother’s ex who turns out to be her biological parent. Her mother explains that they had a fling and he left America to go back to Japan. After some digging, Izumi finds out that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan. Within hours she is contacted by one of her father’s staff and is flown out to Japan to meet him. He offers for her to stay and get to know her father’s history and the history of Japan. As she is studying and interacting with the locals and her newly found family members, she realizes that she is far too American and is afraid of being disliked or rejected. Izumi makes it her mission to learn the history and get the best out of the two worlds she was born into.
My heart felt so many feelings when I was reading this novel. I can’t imagine the culture shock and the flood of information that the protagonist got when she found out that her father’s side is royalty to the oldest known monarchy in Japan. This novel points out that Americanization of a culture is destructive to cultures and their traditions. That is what happened with Izumi’s parents; they couldn’t be together since her mother was not only a commoner but American as well, which is a bad mixture. When Izumi learned the history and constitution of Japan as well as how royalty worked, she used her knowledge to impress and give respect to her grandparents.
Overall, I deeply loved the writing of this novel and felt that this was really good. I think the author did a splendid job with descriptive and sensory descriptions. The dialogue felt natural and nothing felt forced. There were references of modern events and going-on of the world that felt even more subversive to the narrative. I simply didn’t want to put down this novel because of how well the plot carried from one point to another. I highly suggest you go borrow or get this book to read because it is so magnificently written. I just love this novel and was so happy to have gotten to read it.
Skye Falling – Mia McKenzie
Queer, families, race, communities, activism, contemporary, fiction.
Skye opts to donate one of her eggs to her best friend who isn’t able to conceive through normal means. Skye doesn’t think much of it until twelve years later a twelve year old girl named Vicky comes knocking on her door telling her that she is Skye’s egg. Skye learns more about her egg that she donated and the woman’s life after that point. Vicky is just like her in every way. As she and Vicky are getting to know each other, Skye realizes that there is a community that she was missing out on and decides to be there for not only Vicky’s sake but her own sake.
I cried when I read this book. I felt so many emotions that one can’t even describe easily. This book was on my TBR pile for a while and I was hesitant to read but I am glad that today I got a chance to read it. I finished it in one sitting because it was just that good. There are themes that can be relatable to current political affairs such as police brutality and LGBTQ+ rights. This book explores the idea of egg donations and whether or not it’s a good idea. I think if one wants to donate an egg to a couple that can’t naturally conceive they should be able to. This book is another type of book that will make you laugh and cry for the characters. Each character feels like someone I personally know in my personal life and I can see this happening in a modern day moment.
Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
Families, Korea, domestic fiction, family life, cultural, heritage, historical, fiction.
Starting with Sunja, the daughter of a crippled fisherman and his wife, she is young and falls in love with a wealthy man. Later she finds out she’s pregnant and he is the father of her unborn child. However, he doesn’t want to marry her because he is already married and with three daughters in Japan. He tries to make right of the situation by offering her a house and funds. She rejects his offer and tells him to go away. While working with her mother at the boarding house, there is a sickly minister who is thankful for Sunja and her mother for caring for him. He asks the mother about Sunja and she tells him she’s pregnant but the father doesn’t want to be involved. Isak offered to marry her and give the child a name. Sunja takes the offer and both get married then leave Korea for Japan. Sunja and Isak stay at his brother’s place and her sister in law takes care of Sunja. When the baby is born, he is named Noa.
Years later Sunja and Isak have their second child, Mozasu, when he ends up in prison thus making life much more difficult for his brother to supply for his wife and his sister in law. He has to make sure that there is enough food on the table and enough money to send both children to school. Noa is happy and content with his life and wants to further his education whereas his brother doesn’t want to further his education. When news of Americans going to bomb Japan’s Nagasaki, they flee where they live into the country with a family who hosts them. They return back to the city and go on with their lives. They all wish that they can go back home to their original country of Korea but life goes on for them and they have to be content that they are alive and healthy.
I had seen and heard about this book for the longest time. I was hesitant to read because I typically don’t read historical fiction. I regret not reading this novel much sooner and I am blown away by the beauty of this novel. This novel took me on a journey through history around the time of 1900 to about 1989ish. Between those years were World War I, World War II, and the Korean War that this family, that was told in four generations, had witnessed over time. Not only that but they were going through their own experiences and trying to survive life that was not safe for them. I really loved the storytelling because this is a different perspective on history through the eyes of those who were deeply impacted by the wars and colonization. Not only that but discriminated against. This novel doesn’t just have discrimination from adults to adults but in the parts that were talking about the children of Sunji in school they too were discriminated against by other children. Discrimination in all types and forms is extremely harmful and mean. I found that this novel was beautifully written. Overall, I really love this novel and the writing is beautiful and I had such a time reading this novel of different feelings and emotions. I deeply recommend this book in any format. Just know it is a very lengthy book but this is worth the read.