I accidentally had a little hiatus in April, but I figured better late than never!! So here’s my very belated April wrap-up, as I would still love to share my favourite (4 and 5 star) reads of the month with you 🙂
Sabina Khan – The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
Wow. I didn’t expect this to be an easy read, but it definitely was a lot heavier than I expected. It started off slow enough, but to say it packed a punch is putting it mildly. This book was very difficult to read at times, and it made me feel so much. Mostly anger and frustration, but hope as well. Sabina Khan didn’t hold back at all. And rightfully so. I think that makes this a must read. (Although I would urge you to read the trigger warnings below and put your own safety first!) I really loved how the main themes in the novel were handled, because it was so realistic and there was so much nuance. My favourite aspects of the book were the family relationships between Rukhsana and her brother, her cousin and her grandmother.
My only criticism is that the writing was somewhat lacking at times. Some of the dialogue tended to be a tad too simplistic, which gave it an unnecessarily juvenile tone. This sometimes distracted from the story, which is a shame, as the way this book discusses its main themes is definitely its strong suit.
I’m definitely curious to read this author’s next books!
Rep: lesbian Bengali main character, lesbian love interest, gay brown/Bengali side characters, multiple brown/Bengali side characters.
CWs: Please be aware that this book contains graphic descriptions of rape, emotional and physical (child) abuse, murder of a gay man, violence and blood. Other trigger warnings include: extreme homophobia (mainly from a religious viewpoint), colorism/racism, islamophobia, drugging, forced marriage. All of these issues get addressed within the book, but they are explicitly present.
Christina Lauren – Autoboyography
This was a reread for me. I listened to the audiobook this time, and I still enjoyed it just as much, maybe even more. I think this is one of my favourite romances I’ve read about, mainly because there is so much mutual respect. Because these boys come from very different backgrounds, but they never try to force their own opinions on each other.
Rep: bisexual MC with a Jewish father, gay love interest.
CWs: religious homophobia, biphobia.
Bianca Toeps – Maar je ziet er helemaal niet autistisch uit
If you’re Dutch, I would really recommend checking this book out! You may have already read my review that I wrote in April – which was Autistic Acceptance Month, after all! – but if not, you can read it here!
Molly Brooks – Sanity & Tallullah
What’s better than graphic novels, you ask? Well, middlegrade graphic novels!!
I had so much fun reading this! Not only was it an exciting space adventure, it’s a great read for young girls as well, as it has two absolutely badass main characters, one of whom is a super smart aspiring scientist. I just loved the family dynamics as well, especially Tallulah’s mum was really amazing.
Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu – The Red Scrolls of Magic
I could write an elaborate review about this, but I’m not even going to try. I just loved this a whole lot. As well as the feeling of being this excited for a new release in general, which is something I’ve really missed. I started the audiobook the morning the book was released and pretty much listened to all of it on double speed in one sitting.
What I will say, is just that I’m so so happy that Magnus and Alec, but especially Magnus, finally got their own series. Magnus has been such a constant, he’s always been one of my favourite characters, and he really deserved to be more fleshed out. On top of that, this book was so full of love, and it really warmed my cold, dead heart.
Shelby Eileen – soft in the middle
It’s safe to say I loved this. Some of these poems were so incredibly relatable!
I picked it up intending to read a few poems but I ended up reading everything in one sitting. I marked my favourite phrases as well, which I don’t usually do but seemed like a nice way to personalize my copy.
Em Ali – Graham’s Delicacies
When my copy of this book arrived, Em said they hoped it would make me smile at least once. And l can only say this first story already succeeded in that multiple times. It was so funny and so sweet, and I loved how domestic the bakery setting was.
Rep: black bisexual MC with anxiety, fat non-binary love interest with anxiety.
James was such a lovable main character. He’s such a disaster, but in the best way possible. I loved his relationship with Sam, but I did think the story was a little rushed. I think I’d have enjoyed it even more if it had been a little more fleshed out.
Rep: gay half Latinx MC, gay black love interest.
Alex was my favourite main character out of all three of these stories. And this story was my favourite as well, because the pacing was really great. I loved how there was a bit of an enemies to lovers trope, but in a pretty mild way.
I kind of read Alex as being autistic because I found them very relatable, and they had a lot of traits that I felt made sense for an autistic character. But that’s probably just my own interpretation!
Rep: Persian bisexual non-binary MC with anxiety, Korean gay love interest.
I already quite enjoyed Soft on Soft, but it’s safe to say Graham’s Delicacies is better. It’s great to see Em’s development as a writer, as especially their writing style has really improved.
The epilogue was a nice way to tie the stories together, and I really loved the coworker dynamics. There’s a lot of banter and mutual love and appreciation, despite the vastly different personalities. Combined with it being “queer AF”, as Em writes themself in the third story, this book made for a great feelgood read.
S.A. Chakraborty – The City of Brass
As I finally wanted to read The Kingdom of Copper, I just had to reread this first, and I loved it just as much as the first time around! The characters are just so amazing, and I especially love Ali.
Shelby Eileen – sunfish
This was the only poetry collection by Shelby Eileen that I hadn’t read yet, and I once again really loved it! Personally, this was the one I could relate to the least. But every single one of the poems was so beautiful and touching, and everything was so honest, that this really didn’t matter. On top of that, I think this collection was my favourite stylistically.
Samira Ahmed – Internment
I actually got to meet Samira Ahmed after reading this, and I got my copy of Internment signed and personalized!
“…every Muslim understands the hypocrisy of right-wing xenophobes. They’re all terrified of a word they don’t understand, scared that religious law is going to infiltrate the land, but meanwhile they support the death penalty, are anti-choice, and think creationism should be taught in schools because of… wait for it… religion.”
As a book, Internment is almost more of a pamphlet than a novel. As such, it is quite difficult to review, because aspects like character development and writing style are very much secondary to the clear purpose of the book as a call for political change. And in that sense, it’s exactly what it strived to be: a timely story that’s much closer to reality than is comfortable for anyone to read. And that’s exactly what makes it so important.
The strongest part is, I think, the introspection that especially the first part of the book offers. I kept feeling like I’d read this book before, and I have, as it’s eerily similar to the Holocaust books I’ve read.
However, I do think this book could have been even more powerful had the pacing been more consistent. The middle part of the book was quite slow, whereas the ending was wrapped up rather quickly.
Rep: Indian Muslim MC, Brown Jewish love interest, multiple Muslim side characters of colour.
CWs: death, internment, islamophobia, racism, fascism, violence/assault.
Laura Kate Dale – Uncomfortable Labels
Once again, this is a book I read and reviewed for Autism Acceptance Month. You may have already read my review here!
Marieke Nijkamp – Before I Let Go
“Stories remind me of heroes and possibilities. Stories remind me that I’m not the only one to deal with this. Stories make me feel less alone.”
This book centers Corey’s best friend Kyra, who dies under mysterious circumstances. Corey is determined to figure out what’s happened.
Ultimately, this book is about the way people sometimes tend to romanticize mental illness, and how dehumanizing that is. Kyra has bipolar disorder and makes paintings as a coping mechanism, and her small town, and even her parents, start to value her paintings more than Kyra as a human being. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of story discussed in YA, yet it’s such an important topic to talk about.
I expected this to be a thriller, and it is, but in a quiet, eerie way. This made it a beautiful story to read.
Rep: asexual MC, pansexual side character with bipolar disorder
CWs: ableism, suicide, violence
V.E. Schwab – The Steel Prince
I really loved the Shades of Magic series, but for some reason, I had very low expectations of this graphic novel. I think because Maxim didn’t appeal to me much as a character. But I actually really enjoyed this! It was a quick, action-paced read, and I loved Isha.
Mai K. Nguyen – Pilu of the Woods
This book offered exactly the quiet comfort nature does. It’s one of the most beautiful (middlegrade) graphic novels I’ve ever read, because of its calm way of discussing some very heavy topics, like the loss of a parent, and feeling lonely and unwanted.
The art style is so beautiful, and I absolutely loved the soft, muted colours. This really matched and enhanced the story itself, just like the art work should in a graphic novel.
This is Nguyen’s debut, and I’m very much looking forward to any graphic novels she might write next.
CWs: death of a parent, grief, bullying
Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera – What If It’s Us
This was another reread for me. I listened to the audiobook this time, and it was amazing!! I loved the book just as much, and the narrators really suited Ben and Arthur.
Rima Orie – De zwendelprins
This month, I read another Dutch book that I would highly recommend! So here’s my review (you can just skip over it if you don’t speak Dutch!):
Ik keek erg uit naar dit boek, want er zijn maar zo weinig Nederlandstalige YA fantasyboeken, en al helemaal weinig met diversiteit. Ik had dan ook hoge verwachtingen van dit boek, en ik ben zeker niet teleurgesteld. Ik heb het bijna in één ruk uitgelezen! Het verhaal begon meteen sterk, Simran was een geweldige hoofdpersoon, en ik vond het een erg sfeervol fantasyverhaal. Ik kan alleen maar zeggen dat ik graag meer over deze wereld en personages zou willen lezen.
Fun fact: I saw that the publisher quoted my Goodreads review on social media!!
Amy Spalding – The Summer of Jordi Perez
If you’re looking for the perfect contemporary to read this summer, pick up this one. I started the audiobook today because I was in the mood for a sweet, funny contemporary that was low on angst or conflict, and I finished it in one sitting.
I especially loved the fat rep in this book, because it was so relatable when it comes to how confident and how insecure Abby was at the same time. My only regret is that the storyline with Abby’s awfully fatphobic mother wasn’t resolved more. I also would have liked to see less of a focus on the “but at least I’m healthy” argument. At times, it felt a little like Abby’s fatness was justified by her being healthy/working out and dressing well.
However, I did love how the novel was not only centered around fashion, but around food as well, and this made it such a fun summer read (even if it’s not exactly summer yet). I also absolutely loved the platonic relationships.
Rep: fat lesbian main character, Mexican lesbian love interest, black side character.
CWs: (internalized) fatphobia, and there’s a lot of talk about healthy food that could be triggering if you have an eating disorder.