Okay, time for some mini reviews of six books I’ve read recently! Most of these were wonderful, including a new favorite. Let’s get into it!
Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey and Book 2: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu
This graphic novel duology follows Eric “Bitty” Bittle during his four years at Samwell University, where he plays hockey, bakes pies, finds a family, and falls in love.
I read Check, Please! as a webcomic for a while, so much of this was technically a reread for me. But most of Bitty’s senior year was new to me, and it’s very different to read the story all at once rather than in episodic updates.
And, well, this series is absolutely going to be a comfort read for me that I return to again and again. Bitty is one of the sweetest characters you will ever meet — a pie-loving Southern boy who somehow finds his place among bro-y hockey culture — and the friendships and relationships that form between all of these characters is so heartwarming.
In some ways, I think this series almost works better as a webcomic than a published book, since it is quite episodic (especially the first book), but it’s just a different style of storytelling. Nonetheless, I read both of these in a single sitting each and regret absolutely nothing. Bitty and Jack make my heart go:
Content warnings: homophobia, panic attacks
Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby
Fig and her dad have always taken care of each other, but these days it seems like Fig is doing most of the caring as her dad, a brilliant pianist who hasn’t written a song in years, struggles with bipolar disorder. As Fig tries to keep their little family together, she starts reading about Vincent van Gogh and, seeing similarities between him and her father, hopes that she can finally understand her father.
Allow me to introduce you to one of my new favorite middle grade books! I cannot tell you how happy this little book made me. I cried multiple times — both sad cries and happy cries — and my heart was full of love and butterflies throughout the entire thing.
This is a middle grade book that, in my opinion, can be read by anyone of any age, since it deals with serious topics like mental illness and coming out while not talking down to its reader in any way. Fig’s struggle is written in such a way that a kid can understand while also being relatable to me as a 22 year old. Nicole Melleby’s writing is absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to read more from her!
The highlight of this book is its characters, especially Fig, who is brave and selfless and loving and so, so strong. I want to give her a hug and protect her forever. The relationship between her and her dad was at the heart of the story and it was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read. I cannot urge you strongly enough to give this book a try; it will not disappoint.
Content warnings: depictions of bipolar disorder
The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos
“Sometimes, Sam, we fight with people because we care about them too much to give up on them.”
Sam and his two best friends have always been close as the only three members of their high school’s magic club, but things start to fall apart as one of them accidentally gets involved with a local magical cult.
Starting out, I really enjoyed this book — the narrator has an entertaining voice and I was intrigued by the concept of magic in our everyday world. But the further I read, the more disappointed I got.
First of all, and most frustrating to me, was the lack of worldbuilding. The magic system was never explained, leaving me unsure on the rules and even who in this world could use magic. I don’t think it was explored as fully as it could have been; there was some discussion on how magic and the church interact with each other, but besides that I had little to no sense of how this world was different than ours because magic was a part of daily life.
Even though the author gave me a strong sense of the characters starting out, they began to act in ways that didn’t make sense for their previous characterization. And there were times that I just couldn’t figure out how the author wanted me to feel about certain characters or relationships, which confused me. Plus, the ending was unsatisfying to the point that I thought there must be a sequel coming… but nope, that was just the end. Overall, this book felt like it had a lot of potential that it unfortunately didn’t really live up to for me.
Content warnings: homophobia
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
“If you live in this system of white supremacy, you are either fighting the system of you are complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice, it is not something you can just opt out of.”
Ironically for a book that’s all about how to talk about things, I have no idea how to write a review for this book. I got this audiobook because, well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there are Some Things happening in the world right now. And even though many of these concepts weren’t new to me, this book gave me an even more thorough understanding of them as well as tools for discussing them.
Ijeoma Oluo covers topics such as intersectionality, systemic oppression, privilege, cultural appropriation, and so much more, using personal anecdotes on top of statistics and facts. I think this is a wonderful book for people who need a “Racial Equality 101” as well as people more familiar with these issues, as it’s written in a way that’s accessible and incredibly informative. While this book is written mainly for a white audience, I think it would also be beneficial for people of color, as it gives ways to confront everyday microaggressions or decide when is or isn’t the time to start a conversation about race. Either way, I think this is a must-read for everyone right now. And I highly recommend the audiobook!
Content warnings: discussions of racism, racial slurs
Peter Darling by Austin Chant
“That’s the trick of growing up. Nothing stays the same.”
In this retelling/sequel of Peter Pan, Peter returns to Neverland after spending a decade away, grown up and but desperate to return to the life of adventure that he once had. But memories of his previous life as Wendy Darling keep resurfacing, and he learns that his perception of Neverland is different from the reality.
I absolutely loved what this novella did with the familiar mythos surrounding Peter Pan, taking characters and stories that we all know and making something new that I’ve never seen before. Peter Pan as trans makes so much sense, especially given the history of the part being played by women on stage. It already feels like an inherently trans story, and Austin Chant explored that aspect of it so well.
Peter’s characterization was one of my favorite parts, as his recklessness and aggression feel like the natural progression from his years spent stuck in childhood and his desperation to escape his past. I loved it!
My only complaint is that I would have liked a little more time developing the relationship between Peter and Hook, and it shifted more quickly than I could completely believe. Because of this, the pacing felt slightly rushed. But overall, this is a short but very well written story that I definitely recommend!
Content warnings: transphobia
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What have you read recently?