It’s not often I give a book five stars, and I’ve decided that when I do, I want to try my best to get as many people to read it as possible. But not everyone will feel like reading 600+ word review of my gushing about everything I loved about that book, which is fine. That’s why this type of post will be bullet points.
It was easy to come up with ten reasons why I think you should read The Island Of Missing Trees. It truly was a phenomenol read and I just want to share my love for it with as many people as possible.
Here are the ten reasons why I think you should read The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak.
It educates you on Cyrpus’s History
I had no knowledge of the divide in Cyprus that still runs through the country to this day. It taught me about the physical and emotional scars it left on the country as a whole.
The writing was delicious
It’s a book full of metaphor and imagery, and I just found myself continually gushing over it.
It’s anti-war message
This makes it especially poignant of our time.
Explores online bullying and going viral
The internet is a scary place, but Shafak was able to make it look survivable.
The way it talks about refugees
Again, so important for our time. This book may be set in Cyprus, but there are so many countries this could be about.
It teaches about having compassion for living things that aren’t human
I love how empathetic Shafak makes her characters, even in the midst of war.
Explores healing after losing a loved one
It’s never easy to lose a parent, but it’s especially hard for a teenager.
It’s portrayal of father / daughter relationships
I always find this an emotional dynamic and Shafak did it so well!
There’s a talking tree
…sort of. At least, there’s a voice of a tree. A very wise fig tree that is basically a witness to everything that happens to the characters.
Beautifully explains mental health
I’ll just leave you with this quote, where Elif uses a tree to explain mental illness: ‘the tree’s roots are encircling the base of it’s trunk, choking off the water and nutrients. Nobody had realised because it was invisible, below the soil surface. If the encircling roots are not found in time, they can put pressure on the tree and it just becomes too much to bear’.
I hope this post has made you consider picking this book up. I think it’s a special one. A real treat for all readers.
| Released: May 2007 | | Publisher: Bodley Head | | Genre: Fantasy | | Age: Middle Grade | | Length: 416 Pages | | My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |
What Is It About?
This books starts as most children’s books start, with the main character being orphaned. Sam & Martha are in the car with their parents on the way to Martha’s Birthday surprise, when they’re involved in a pretty horrific accident that kills their parents and leaves them with no one but their Aunt who lives in Norway.
They’re forced to go and live with her, and when they arrive there, they’re immediately warned to stay away from the forest that runs along the back of their aunts house. But kids will be kids…
This book and I have a whole lot of history. Back when I was 10, in my sixth and final year of Primary school (I miss those days) we read this as a class for the Smarties Book Award (which it went on to win). I remember the day the box arrived and inside was all the books shortlisted for that years prize.
I remember the teacher calling up names to come and pick out a book, and I remember everyone picked Shadow Forest, and when it was my turn, there was no copies left. So I had to wait until one of my friends finally finished and I could read it for myself, and I fell in love with it.
This was still such a fun read, even as an adult. The writing it so unique as it includes witty little interruptions from Haig where he steps out of the narrative and it’s almost like he’s talking to you. The story is one of magic and mystery and is a real treat for any child (or adult) reader.
How Is It Different From How I Remembered?
I do not remember it being quite so dark as it is. Seriously, what is up with authors killing the parents in children’s books? And the way it happens in this one is particularly gruesome and made worse by Haig’s dark joke in the character profiles that the Dad will be ‘lucky to make it through the first chapter’. Sick. Just sick.
But I did laugh.
When I read this book at 10, I don’t think I ever thought I would still be reading Matt Haig as an adult or that his future books would mean as much to me as they do. It’s funny how some things turn out.
Do you still read any authors you read as a child?
I really leaned on reading to get me through 2020, and I’m so grateful to have something that is so consistant in my life. I read some seriously incredible ones as well, it was hard to chose just 10. But, it’s tradition that I do, so here are the top 10 books I read in 2020.
Interestingly most of these books were published in 2020, but that wasn’t intentional. I guess I just really enjoyed my new releases this year!
For them to have made this list, these books must be books that tugged on my heartstrings, attached itself to my soul and hasn’t let me go, even now.
10. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This is set around Día de Muertos following a trans boy who is trying to prove to his family he’s a brujo, and whilst doing that releases the ghost of another teenage boy who recently died. I was just obsessed with these two characters. Their dynamic and bond stole my heart.
I wasn’t a fan of the sequel, but I can’t let that cloud how much I loved Vicious. I read this almost straight after watching the X-Men series for the first time and this was just what I needed to fill that hole in my life once I’d finished. I just love that this book doesn’t really have a hero. Everyone in it has a pretty messed up agenda which definitely made it a whole lot more interesting.
I’m shocked that a non-fiction book is making my top 10. But I feel I’ve found the type of non-fiction I actually enjoy. Historical and about women. I also really loved Alison Weir’s writing and will definitely be reading more by her.
If someone told me I would one day have a horror book on my top 10 of the year list, I would have laughed in their face. Okay so for some people this probably isn’t super horror like, but this scared me into sleeping with my light on for a brief period. And I loved it.
5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
I mean, whose ‘Favourites of 2020’ list didn’t this make? And that’s probably only because they didn’t get to reading it. I loved this story. It’s just the type of sci-fi/fantasy I love. Slow, character driven and full of intrigue. I will definitely be rereading it soon.
This is just the type of book I love to read in the warm sun. A tension filled romance with a great cast of characters who have great banter. This follows two authors who are kind of rivals, and I loved the writing aspect involved in it. That’s definitely what upped it from a typical romance to something I will return to.
Another one I’m sure will be on a lot of peoples lists this year. It’s just so good and completely gripped me. Felix is a trans teenage boy who is still exploring his identity whilst being targeted by a anunymous, transphobic bully.
Can you believe that when I first wrote this list, I completely forgot this book exhisted. The second I did remember however I knew what spot it deserved. And that’s because of what this book means to me. I’d recommend this to everyone but TW for mental health.
Growing up I had three small bookshelves which held probably 30-40 books. I now own 2 full size bookshelves, another bookshelf the length of a wall, books in my wardrobe and another full bookshelf in the garage. All of that amounts to around 300+ books (possibly more. I haven’t counted recently).
I’ve always wondered what I would do if I had to downsize and go back to the amount I had as a kid. Then I decided to make this challenge even harder for myself and go with 20 books for 2020.
I feel like there are actually a lot of books I own that I’m not attatched to at all and just hold on to for the sake of it. But I also know I’m so overly sentimental about way more than just 20 of them, so this will be tough.
These are the 20 books I own and could never, ever let go of.
1.The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I do technically own two copies of this, so I would choose the blue one as that is my annotated copy. I have scribbled and doodled and highlighted in this copy. It’s very personal and I treat it like a diary. Nobody is allowed to look in it.
I think this book is so special to me because of what it meant to me as a teenager. I first read it when I was 16 and despite the fact it was written 20 years before, it still has such a timeless feel. It’s the book that made me feel seen and understood. I’d never be able to part with it.
2. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This is a bit more of a random one. It’s a more recent read so it hasn’t got that attatchemen from being a kid/teenager. I think the reason I feel so sentimental about is because of the emotions it brought out in me, which was pretty much every emotion under the sun.
3. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Another pretty recent one. This only came out a couple of months ago, but already means so much to me. This is about a woman who suffers with depression and it takes a sci-fi look at regrets and how that effects out mental health. She’s given the opportunity to see how her life would have turned out had things gone differently. It has a very powerful and positive message.
4. Shadow Forest by Matt Haig
This is a book from my childhood which comes attached with a lot of good memories. I first read it when I was 10 at school and I feel like it was the first time the whole class looked forward to reading. It’s a nice way to remember my final year at Primary school.
5. Simon Vs The Homo Sapians Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I would keep this as it’s a book that never fails to put a smile on my face. I love the characters and their funny interactions with one another. I think I would miss them too much if I had to give this book up. There’s also just such cute moments between Simon and Blue, I feel gushy just thinking about them.
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anna Barrows
This book just never fails to put me in a good mood. It’s a real book lovers treat but it’s also got a lot of importance to it as it does tell the story of Guernsey whilst it was occupied in WWII. But it really captures the resilience of the people who lived their. I just think this book is so wonderfully British.
7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
It’s so hard for me to just pick one Jane Austen book. I love them all so much! But seeing as I can not go a year without rereading P&P, I’d have to keep this one. I do own three copies of it but I think I’d have to keep my first copy of it which I got for Christmas when I was 14. That one is just a little bit more special than the others.
8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Such a cosy and heartwarming book. I fell in love with this the first time I read it and I’ve loved it every time I’ve read it since. I reread it recently and I will say I found it a bit morally heavy than I remember. It was a bit too sentimental. But I’ll always remember how I felt the first time I read it and I seriously love the characters.
9. My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson
Another one I read as a kid. I would call this book the pivotal moment in my reading life. It was the first of many Jacqueline Wilson books and through this I found YA. Most of my Wilson books are in the garage now but this one still has a place on my bookshelf and it always will.
10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett
This book is special because it reminds me of afternoons with my Nan when I was younger. We used to watch the movie together and the first time I read the book I borrowed her copy. It such an old fashioned childrens classic and I’d probably hate it if I didn’t have that nostalgia attatched to it.
11 + 12. The Hunger Games + Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I would not survive without the first two books in the Hunger Games trilogy, but I could happily do without book three. Not because I think it’s bad, but because it hurts too much!
13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I mean, it’s one of the most famous classics for a reason. It’s a captivating plot that never fails to enamour me. I just don’t think I’d ever be able to part with such an amazing crafted story.
14. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I’ve only ever read this once, so I don’t know how I would feel if I reread it now. But I remember the first time I read this, I was so sure I was going to struggle with it because of it’s length and because it’s a translated piece of Russian literature. It just felt so inaccessible. But I ended up flying threw it and loving it.
15. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is one of those stories that really has something to say and it just achieved so much so well. It’s touching, it’s brave, it’s inspiring. I’ll be rereading this book my whole life.
16. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Another book I just can’t pass a year without reading. It’s got the most emotionally complex characters and wonderful parents. Just thinking about this books makes me so emotional!
17. I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
I have a lot of YA on here and I think that’s because the books we read as teenagers are books that will always stay with us. It’s not the easiest time in life, but books really helped me get through it. This book is also just one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.
18. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
This is a quartet so picking just one book is hard, but I think the first book might be my favourite. The whole series follows the friendship of two girls throughout their lives. Book one follows them through adolescence.
19. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Another more recent favourite. I think this book means more to me than others though because it has a book community feel to it. It really feels like everyone I follow has read and loved this book. It also just makes me so emotional, and I do love a book that makes me cry!
20. Harry Potter & The Philosphers Stone
Despite recent events, HP will always mean something to me and I can’t shake that off (I just won’t be buying anything new from her ever again). This was another pivotal moment for me.
Now it’s your turn. What is one book you could never part with. Let me know!
| Published: June 2020 by Dutton Books | | Genre: Horror/Thriller | | Themes: Book Within A Book, Supernatural, Mystery | | Length: 409 Pages | | ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |
Horror, thriller, supernatural, ghosty books are not my usual go to genres. In fact, I normally avoid them like the plague. But for a while now I’ve been wanting to join in with Books and Lala’s ‘Literally Dead’ book club and, seeing as this book club is all about thriller and horror books, that’s going to mean stepping out of my comfort zone just a little bit.
What Is It About?
This book is told from dual perspectives. In present day we follow Maggie who’s just inherited an old house she lived in for a short period as a 5 year old, after her father passes away. This house garnered a reputation after her family left it suddenly and never returned, claiming it was haunted.
Her father wrote a book about it which quickly became popular and really effected Maggie’s life. As Maggie grew up, she began questioning whether the events her father claims are true actually happened.
What Do I Think?
I’m the biggest wuss you will ever meet so don’t take my word for it, but this book is so spooky. I made the very daft decision that I would read the last 1/3 of this book whilst it was dark outside listening to a thunderstorm ‘ambience’ video on youtube because I wanted the full atmosphere.
Big mistake. I swear if that ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’ came up one more time I was going to scream.
I was getting so freaked out and when it came to going to bed that night I was almost too scared to turn my light out. But I kind of loved it as it almost felt like an adrenaline rush. I can see why some people are addicted to horror movies.
I don’t read many thriller/horror novels so this could just be the novelty of it for me, but I had a lot of fun reading this because as I was reading I came up with so many theories (a couple of which were actually quite close to the actual outcome).
The conclusion didn’t really have much of a shock factor for me though. I also felt like there were a couple of things that were left unexplained. But it kept me constantly questioning everything and I wasn’t sure what I should believe so it really sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go until I got to the last page.
After finishing this it has immediately made me want to pick up more books by Riley Sager and I will be doing that very soon. It is spooky season after all!
I’ve said many times in various posts that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of my favourite books of all time. I reread it recently and that statement still stands true, but I realised I’ve never done a review of it.
Seeing as I’ve now read it more times than I can count I felt a bit strange just doing a regular review of it, so I’m going to start a series where I make individuel posts for my FAVOURITE books. Starting with this one!
(Includes minor spoilers!)
What Is It About?
Aristotle and Dante are teenage boys who meet one Summer and bond over swimming lessons. Both of them are different to other boys their age and are kind of loners so they take a lot of comfort in each others company. Their friendship and feelings for each other grows, but all Summers must come to an end.
When Did I First Read This Book?
I first read Aristotle and Dante in 2017. I was a teenager like the characters and I think I loved it so much because I related to their sense of not fitting in.
Since then I’ve read it maybe four or five times. At least every Summer as it is one of those books that just reminds me of the Summer time. It’s about friendship, first love, discovering yourself and coming into your own.
Why Is It A Favourite?
Oh my gosh, where do I start?
The characters. They and their relationships are complex and multi-layered. I felt every emotion they felt. Their anger, their fear, their loneliness, their joy and their sadness. Whilst they’re nothing like me, (they’re teenage boys, Mexican American and living in the 1980’s) I’ve rarely understood characters like I do these and I think that shows the skill of the author. I really sympathised with them which made me that much more invested in their stories.
And the great characterisation doesn’t stop with Ari and Dante. One of my pet peeves is YA books that just don’t feature parents and this book has some of the best parental figures I’ve ever read about. They’re not the best because they’re perfect parents but because they felt like real people. They’re flawed and have their own issues, but they have so much love for Ari and I felt that love radiating off the page.
These characters learn and grow throughout the book. They don’t always make the right decisions and some of them could definitely do with seeing a therapist. But you do see them stumble through these mistakes and learn from them which just makes them feel that much more real.
Ari has a lot of anger and not a lot of self-worth. Dante is his opposite, he’s affectionate and a lot more open. They seem like an unlikely pair but you can just feel how much they care about each other. Seeing their bond grow into more was so beautiful.
The writing as well is so poetic but also quite relatable. It really feels like the character talking and there are these moments where he puts a feeling into words in a way I’d never thought about before.
This time around reading this book something occured to me that hadn’t before. This doesn’t feel like a teenager talking. It also doesn’t feel present. It almost feels like an adult Ari looking back at this time in his life and working through what he was thinking and feeling in these significant moments.
And, I hate to say this, it also feels like Dante maybe isn’t in his life anymore? This book is getting a sequel and so far we know nothing but a maybe title ‘There Will Be Other Summers’. Now I already feellike this sequel isn’t going to be a happily ever afterromance because where they live is extremely homophobic. But what if we also see their relationship end?
I don’t know if I could handle that. In my head they went to college together, became poets and now live in a lakehouse with no light pollution for miles.
Have you read this book? I’d love to discuss it with you if you have!
| Published: 2020 by Penguin | | Genre: YA Contemporary | | Length: 391 Pages: | | Source: Review Copy In Exchange For Honest Review | | Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ | | Themes: Grief, Writing, Romance, Small Town |
I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for this amazing book! It was one of my most highly anticipated releases of the year and it blew my high expectations out of the water!
January has always believed in true love. Her parents strong relationship was proof. It became her source of inspiration in her writing and sucessful romance novels. But when her father unexpectedly passes away and his secret second life was revealed, her faith in true love dies with him.
Now she’s facing bankruptcy, and must shake off the writers block to get a new novel done by the end of the Summer. She moves into her Dads ‘love-shack’ and tries to get to work, but that’s kind of hard when she realises her long-standing rival since college is living opposite her.
When they find that both are struggling to complete their WIP’s they challenge each other to switch genres for the Summer. Gus will write sappy ever-after he’s always poking fun at and January will step into the folds of ‘serious fiction’.
My favourite moments in this book was the interactions between Gus and January. I loved that they were snarky and seeing their understanding and respect for each other grow through their Summer writing challenge was so much fun.
But one of the reasons why I gave this book five stars is because every single character stands out on the page. I fell in love with Pete, a gay woman who owns a cafe/bookshop, and Januarys friend Shadi who we only really meet through text conversations, yet she definitely makes a mark.
This book is just a bit of me. From the Taylor Swift references to the realistic writing scenes. It’s not very often a book makes me physically laugh out loud but this one did, much to the annoyance of my parents.
This book is light and fun but also covers some heavier topics, with the death of a parent, cancer, grief, financial issues and loneliness. But I thought the most interesting part was when January was talking about her experience in the publishing industry as a female author. She spoke some hard truths.
I didn’t want to put it down. It was so addictive and I honestly could’ve read this in a day, but I also didn’t want it to be over too quickly! It’s the most perfect Summer book I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
“If you swapped out all my Jessicas for Johns, do you know what you’d get? Fiction. Just fiction. Ready and willing to be read by anyone, but somehow by being a woman who writes about women, I’ve eliminated half the Earth’s population from my potential readers, and you know what? I don’t feel ashamed of that. I feel pissed.”
Would I Read Again? Yes, and I probably will before the end of the Summer Would I Recommend? Yes!
It’s the big post of the year! Probably one of my favourite posts to write. It’s time to look back at the year of reading and choose the 10 books I loved the most.
10. The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
This was one of the first books I read in 2019 so it’s been almost a year and my memory of it is a little hazy. But what I do remember is that this book transported me to 1850’s London with it’s depth-full exploration of Victorian England. It was dark and unsettling and so atmospheric.
This is a book about a girl whose brother is accused of rape. It’s a subject that is unfortunately so current it’s literally in the news right now. It’s message is powerful and impactful and I’m grateful that this book exists.
8. Spring by Ali Smith
Ali’s writing has always impressed, but I think this was the first of her books whose characters and story really impacted me. Like the other books in her seasonal quartet, this follows the themes of events currently impacting our world. In this she explores climate change, brexit, library closures, detention centres and immigration to name a few.
7. Normal People by Sally Rooney
This book has been so popular this year and for good reason. I became so invested in these characters, so much so that I was annoyed when I was forced to put this book down and couldn’t wait until I could pick it back up again. The characters were so vivid and their stories were painfully real. This is why we need more books about University students.
The (half) winner of the Booker prize was always going to be the winner in my eyes no matter what happened. This book tells the stories of a group of connected woman in a unique way. There was a lot of characters but each had their own story that was both diverse and relevant.
Ada had an unconventional childhood with a father who kept a lot of secrets. As his memory deteriorates Ada is determined to find out the truth about her fathers past, and she does so with the help of a computer program her father created. This book is incredibly captivating and moving, but the thing that most struck me about this book was the beautiful writing and intricate characters.
3. The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Set within the span of 24 hours in New York, Danial and Natasha meet and fall in love, even wih the looming knowledge that Natasha will be deported to Jamaica the next day. This book does something that I love to see in a book. It explores multiple characters and has stories relevant and important to society today.
4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Avecedo
This fierce and bravely told story was the first book I ever read written in verse. It’s about a young 16 year old, who is finding her identity doesn’t fit into her Dominican and religious household. She turns to writing to help sort through her feelings, and these are those words. And while they feel personal because it’s essentially her diary, what she’s going through is very much universal and you will sometimes feel as though she is reading your mind.
Set out as though it were an interview, this book tells the story of the glory days of a successful (but very fictional) 70’s band.
Honestly I think I knew this book would make this list even before I read it. Her last book Evelyn Hugo was my favourite of last year and while this book didn’t quite make the top spot I still loved it just as much. I laughed, I cried and I was invested in these characters lives.
I never thought a mystery thriller would make it into my top 10, let alone make it to the number 1 spot. It’s not a genre I usually enjoy but this one completely messed with my mind in the best ways. There’s honestly nothing I would change about this book.
After a tragic accident involving the death of a child, the mother moves to a small coastal town to try and move forward with her life. I won’t tell you any more than that because this book takes so many twists and turns that will leave you gasping out loud.
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Published: March 2019 by Ballantine Books Genre: Historical Fiction Length: 368 Pages Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
They were the new icons of rock and roll, fated to burn bright and not fade away. But on 12 July 1979, it all came crashing down.
There was Daisy, rock and roll force of nature, brilliant songwriter and unapologetic drug addict, the half-feral child who rose to superstardom.
There was Camila, the frontman’s wife, too strong-willed to let the band implode – and all too aware of the electric connection between her husband and Daisy.
There was Karen, ice-cool keyboardist, a ferociously independent woman in a world that wasn’t ready for her.
And there were the men surrounding them: the feuding, egotistical Dunne brothers, the angry guitarist chafing on the sidelines, the drummer binge-drinking on his boat, the bassist trying to start a family amid a hedonistic world tour. They were creative minds striking sparks from each other, ready to go up in flames.
It’s never just about the music…
Reid has done it again. The author of my favourite book of last year, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, has just released a new novel that is a strong contender for this year’s number one spot as well.
In this we follow a band called the Six and a singer called Daisy Jones. We follow how they came to know each other, how they wrote a hit album and how the band eventually split up.
First thing I have to say about this book is it hurt. It hurt my heart and my soul. I was sobbing at the beginning and I was sobbing at the end. It’s an emotional ride and I really got sucked into these fictional characters stories as they felt so real.
Because this is set in 70’s California one of the main topics in this book is drugs and the characters addiction to them. I appreciated how it wasn’t glossed over or romanticised. It was very realistic and made these characters all the more real for me.
This novel is written in a unique way as it’s told through an interview. Similar to Evelyn Hugo, they’re looking back on their wild times in this band and in my mind as I was reading it, it played out like it’s a documentary. It was so interesting to see all of their perspectives and how different they all were.
Because it follows each perspective on the events that went down almost 40 years prior there’s a lot of moments where people remember things differently. Something I noticed though was the impact their words had on one another. Good or bad, those words affected them so much they could recite something word for word because it stayed with them.
The characters I either loved or loved to hate. Each is flawed and has struggles and issues for sure. And those flaws is what made this band feel and seem so real. I wouldn’t be surprised if people left this book trying to find this band and the album they created.
That’s why I can’t wait for the adaptation. One headed by Reese Witherspoon will hopefully be in the works soon and apparently they plan on created the album we hear so much about in this novel.
Like Evelyn Hugo though, I don’t feel this is a flawless novel. There’s a revolution at the end (if you’ve read it you know what I’m talking about) that I personally felt was a little random and unnecessary.
Saying that, I finished this book almost two weeks ago now and every emotion I felt whilst reading this story has stayed with me. Even though it is so painful to remember.
If you’re a fan of music or books set in the 1970’s you should definitely give this a go.
Published: March 2018 by HarperTeen Genre: YA Contemporay/Poetry Source: Audiobook Length: 3 Hours/368 Pages My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
In this we meet Xiomara. She’s on the cusp of 16 and lives in a very religious household. When she starts questioning her faith and experiencing new feelings, she turns to writing and gets all of her feelings out in her notebook.
This book is set out as her journal. We’re reading Xiomara’s words. She writes in verse so structurally this book is very different to any other novel I have read. I was a bit weary about that so I ended up listening to the first half as an audiobook.
It’s not very often I choose to listen to the audiobook rather than read a physical copy, but for this book I don’t know if I would love it as much as I do had it not been for the narrator, who is the author herself. She really brought the character to life for me and captured every single emotion perfectly.
Whilst not all of us can relate to what it’s like growing up in a conservative, religious, Dominican household, some of Xiomara’s experiences are very much universal. One of them being the boys (I refuse to call them men) who taunt her as she walks past. Cat calls and wandering eyes is something most women will experience and I felt like Xiomara was reading my mind as she wrote about it.
Writing has power because it tells stories. Because when you connect with a book or a poem you realise you’re not alone in this world. For a while Xiomara writes for herself. Because she needs to get these confusing feelings and thoughts down on page to try and make sense of them. But when her teacher entices her into joining poetry club she finds her voice. And suddenly she is powerful. Suddenly people listen to her words. And she feels like they matter.
Read her words. Listen to her words. Either way, you need this story in your life.