Reviews

Solo

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Solo

by Kwame AlexanderMary Rand Hess

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.

This lovely, emotional story follows Blade Morrison, son of a famous rocker, as he leaves high school and is preparing for college. But everything he knows gets turned on it’s head all at once. He finds out he’s adopted after a fight with his sister over their father’s embarrassing antics, he finds out the girl he loves has been cheating on him after he gets her named inked in his skin. He goes on a journey to understand all of this by chasing after his birth mother who is in Ghana. In this journey he learns to forgive his father, learns that he can still love, and that the music he thought dead in him still is very much still alive.

This book is surprisingly unique with it’s story. It tells the story in prose and lyrics, leaving the experience even more beautiful and even more gripping. Blade is unhappy in his life of having lost his mother, having grown up with drug addict of a father, and he wishes simply to be normal. You can feel the pain of the character yourself, of someone who is on the cusp of change, one he thinks he understands only to learn he was completely wrong. It was simply a joy to read and get a better idea of the emotions Blade experiences. The lyrical feel is perfect with how this story is tied in to music so intensely. I don’t think the story would have been such an impactful read without it.

The plot was interesting and a new take in finding one’s self, in my opinion. It’s full of so many twists and turns that you don’t see half of them coming. You go into the story thinking you know what this story is about only for everything to get flipped on it’s head. And it did this well, never just letting one of those plots come up without just forgetting about them. It does leave some questions unanswered, but to me, it felt like it was part of life. Sometimes, you don’t get the answers you want, but it doesn’t mean its not important. Sometimes no answer is answer enough to get an idea of the possibilities. We see the pieces of Blade’s life that leads to this change, we don’t see the aftermath, but that’s okay. This story is about him finding who he really is, even if he doesn’t fully understand who that is fully. We don’t know what happens after Ghana. We leave the story in a heart breaking moment, but one that you know will change more than one character in this story due to the cruel reality of this world.

Do I recommend this? Yes. I think it’s such a brilliant read with such an unique way of telling it. It’s a quick read, one I did a lot quicker than I thought I would. In part, it’s because it’s such an addicting style and the emotions in it make you desperately want to know what happens next. I do warn ahead of time of some triggers: drug use, abusive relationships, implied rape, and death.

Rating: 4 stars 

 

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Noteworthy

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Noteworthy

by Riley Redgate

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.
In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

This book was the perfect read to go from Asian Heritage month to Pride month. The main character is first generation American and find out within this journey of this book that she’s bisexual.

I was in chorus for a good chunk of my early life. Like Jordan, I had a deep voice for a woman. I often sang tenor or alto 2. Like Jordan, it wasn’t a fan of my high school music teacher that kept trying to make me sing higher until my rang was somewhere in the middle but not as great. As you can imagine, that didn’t sit overly well with me when I had worked hard for my range. My love music sort of dried up by that time. So almost right away I related with Jordan’s situation. I admit this book did catch my interest a little, but due to my lack of interest in music drying up, it was only when I heard great reviews from others that I finally put in for this ARC and was approved rather quickly, to my joy.

I found the book really interesting. I think it did a good job with keeping the audience on their toes so that the first half of the book didn’t get boring despite the lack of action to the main plot. However, I did find most of the last part of the book predictable. I knew what relationship Jordan would end up with, how her identity would end up being revealed the way it was. If anything, I don’t believe in a real situation it would have taken so long. I’m really surprised that the teachers didn’t look into the kids trying out for the Sharps before they were let into the group to make sure they’re students at the school. For me, it was the smaller things within the story that was more unpredictable than the main plot lines. I found the rivalry between them and the Minuets was very unpredictable and could have been ugly if Jordan hinted about what she knew about their leader. I would have loved if she used the fact she was a girl that was beat up to throw said leader, but that was just my own opinion. It could have gotten ugly with her threatening to reveal that she knew that the leader was gay, but I think that the book did good by not doing this, which is harmful for any gay person, much more than being beat up. I know a lot of authors would have, I’m just happy that this author learned from her first book how to better write gay characters in a less harmful way. I would have loved for some sort of plot twist though that wasn’t so obvious to see coming.

The writing itself was pretty amazing. I found it really well done and almost lyrical in it’s own right. I didn’t find much to really critique because I was too busy highlighting some of the more beautiful phrases, the end of the book even more so than the rest. I loved the diverse cast of characters, how music could be found in the writing, and the friendship between the characters. The friendship in this book was probably my favourite part. I think it would have been even better without a relationship happening and just kept a good friendship mostly because it would have made this book stand out more than others. I’m still craving a book that chooses friendships over relationships, but alas this only gave me a little of it but added a relationship that I’m only so-so about. I’m also a bit so-so with her figuring out her sexuality but it not really mean anything. She could have not and nothing would have really changed the story. If anything, she could have bonded with the other gay character, but she doesn’t do that. It’s not a coming out story, or really anything with her being bi other than a small mention of it. I think it could have been used to help patch her relationship with her friend because she never lied about not being gay when she’s bi. Instead, she sort of just buries it too. To me, it just doesn’t make sense other than trying to put diversity into a story but not think anymore about it. It might be the only thing in the writing I don’t like, just because it feels sort of half done.

Do I recommend it? I do. I think that if you like music or don’t, there’s things about it that are good and great, some things that are a bit off, but it could have easily been fixed for the final version. This is just a reminder that this is an ARC. If they did fix it and you’ve read it, let me know and I’ll add a note about that. But all in all, I did enjoy this read. It was a really fun contemporary read.

Rating: 4 stars