I’m so excited to share these mini reviews, because I absolutely loved all of these books! They actually fit together quite well, since all of them are about queer women and have similar themes of family, identity, grief, etc. Not to mention that every single one of them made me cry, or at the very least tear up. So basically what I’m saying is, go read all of these.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
“I will not stand still while the world makes my choices.”
Camino and Yahaira are sisters — one living in New York City and one in the Dominican Republic — but they don’t know about each other until their father dies in a plane crash. Their lives change forever as they uncover family secrets and learn about each other’s existence.
As with The Poet X, I listened to this as an audiobook (partially narrated by the author) and, naturally, cried a fair bit. It’s written in verse and therefore isn’t a particularly long book, but it sure packs an emotional punch.
This book has so much to say about grief, shame, sisterhood, and more, all with Elizabeth Acevedo’s unbearably beautiful writing. I wanted to let every word soak through me. From its very first pages, I was drawn into Camino and Yahaira’s emotional journeys as they struggle not only with their father’s death, but with realizing that he was not the man they thought he was. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time and has one of the most perfect endings I’ve ever read.
Content warnings: parent death, sexual assault
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
“Maybe ‘perfect’ was just another word for belonging. For feeling like yourself. It didn’t mean things weren’t hard. It just meant they were right.”
After her home is destroyed in a tornado, Ivy Aberdeen feels out of place, within her family and her school. Then pages from her missing notebook — where she drew pictures of girls holding hands — start appearing in her locker, forcing Ivy to confront her secret.
Between this and Hurricane Season, queer middle grade books are just out to make me cry, huh?? There’s something about middle grade that can really get me in the heart like nothing else — the innocence and honesty of the narration, the fact that the characters are still so early in the process of figuring out who they are. This book is definitely going among my favorite of that category.
Introspective and beautifully written, this book explores complex family relationships, friendships that change as you get older, identity, belonging, and so much more. It feels like a little piece of the author’s heart, a gift to the reader, a guidebook on how to be comfortable in your skin and write your own letter to the world. Absolutely gorgeous from start to finish.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
“I’m so tired of the way this place treats people who are different, tired of feeling like I exist in the margins of my own life. I deserve better than that.”
When the financial aid that Liz was counting on to attend her dream school doesn’t come through, she reluctantly decides to join the running for prom queen to get the scholarship that comes with it. At her prom-obsessed school, though, this is no small feat, and it becomes even more complicated when she begins to fall for one of her competitors.
Honestly, this book made me nothing but happy. A rom-com starring a queer black girl who gets a happy ending?? YES. I found myself laughing so many times, and I could absolutely picture this as a quirky, hilarious, romantic movie (Netflix I’m begging you).
Not only is Liz a delightful narrator with one of the most entertaining voices I’ve read recently, but all of the characters and relationships are just lovely. I especially appreciated the friendship between Liz and Jordan, her childhood friend who she had a falling out with. Plus, the messages of self-acceptance and pride and bravery?? Absolutely gorgeous!
In conclusion, @ Leah Johnson:
Content warnings: public outing, homophobia
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
“But I want to be more than careful. I want to be happy.”
Marisol and her sister, running from their home in El Salvador, are given an opportunity in exchange for asylum in the US: Marisol will join a brand new experiment that involves transferring grief and trauma from one person to another.
The scary thing about this book is that the most unrealistic aspect is the technology. Everything else — the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers, the unfairness of the entire system, the obstacles that Marisol has to overcome — is completely rooted in reality. Isn’t it great when a dystopian world feels pretty much exactly like our own?
This is an absolutely gutting book, and I mean that in the best way possible. Marisol’s voice is raw and honest and heartbreaking, and the story deals with trauma, abuse, and the nonlinear path of healing in a way that felt so realistic. I felt so many emotions while reading this, and I still feel like I’m kind of processing all of them.
I did wish, though, that there had been 1) a bit more growth with Rey’s character (the girl whose grief Marisol ends up taking on), and 2) just a little more from the ending. But other than that, this was a fantastic and thought-provoking book that did things to my heart.
Content warnings: racism, homophobia, suicide attempt, depression, references to sexual abuse
All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
“You won’t see us in the photographs. The history books. But the landscape remembers.”
When Deena’s sister Mandy disappears, everyone believes that she’s dead. But Deena refuses to believe it. Following letters left behind by Mandy, she begins uncovering a history of their family and the curse that has followed them through generations.
I listened to this audiobook in the course of a single day because I simply could. not. stop. It’s a book full of rage and sorrow and remembrance, about generational trauma and the historical silencing of women, and it is incredibly powerful. There were moments while listening that I had to stop what I was doing, take a deep breath and blink back tears before I could continue.
Moïra Fowley-Doyle is a master of using hints of magic and fabulism to enhance her stories. You never really know how much of what’s happening is real, and the surreal, mystical effect was absolutely incredible. The writing is enchanting, the characters broke my heart, and I think you should go read this immediately.
Content warnings: homophobia, abuse, references to rape and incest
Have you read any of these books? What books have made you cry recently?