I am pretty sure by now all of you have heard of, watched or read the transcript of the horrid anti-diversity video that was making its rounds a couple of weeks ago. If you by chance haven’t seen it, count your blessings. Anyway, from the ashes that was that train wreck of a video arose the first ever #Diverseathon, a week long discussion and celebration of diverse authors, novels and readers (you can find out more about the readathon and it’s creators here). I am so glad I made the last-minute decision to join because I ended up reading some truly awesome books, being part of some amazing conversations and, of course, adding heaps of new diverse recommendations to my TBR!
I think the best part of this readathon was that everyone came out of it having learnt something, and I was no exception. The main thing that stood out to me this week was how many books on my TBR I could not read during the readathon week for the sole reason that they lacked diversity. It is so easy for us as readers to put the blame solely on authors and publishers for not publishing and promoting diverse material. While this is still a major problem, I think we sometimes fail to acknowledge that we perpetuate the problem as well. In order to read diversity, we need to read diversely, seeking out diverse works and making an active effort to support marginalised voices, something I realised I was not doing enough. Pray for my wallet because this readathon has given me so many new recommendations that I can’t wait to get into!
Anyway, onto the reviews!
T H E S T A R - T O U C H E D Q U E E N
The Star – Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Genre: YA fantasy, retelling
Publisher: Harlequin Teen Australia
(I was graciously sent an unsolicited ARC by Harlequin Teen Australia, which in no way influences my review)
It may seem impossible to reimagine Greek Mythology in an Indian setting (with elements of Hindu mythology thrown in as well) but Roshani Chokshi managed to do it wonderfully. The Hindu elements were woven in wonderfully with the overarching Hades and Persephone retelling and the writing is absolutely beautiful, with the dialogue between Maya and Amar really making the characters come to life. The world building was as equally beautiful – it is so vivid and mystical and has the sort of ingrained magic that elevates this novel into an epic tale. The romance between Maya and Amar added to the magic and the journey they go on together was really lovely to read and experience.
Although the story was a little difficult to get into at first, it is so worth it when you do and the writing really made the book stand out. Whilst this book is a standalone, there is a companion novel coming out next year revolving around Gauri, Maya’s younger sister so I really excited to get my hands on that!
T H E R E B E L O F T H E S A N D S
The Rebel of the Sands by Alywn Hamiliton
Series: Book 1 of The Rebel of the Sands Trilogy
Genre: YA Fantasy, Western
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
This book has so many mixed reviews that I was not sure how I was going to feel about it but in the end, it was one that I really enjoyed. The main characters, Amani and Jin, are extremely well-written and dimensional and were definitely signficant in giving this book such a high rating. The story is completely character driven, relying on our two main protagonists and the handful of side characters to keep you enthralled and entertained – and boy, does it work. I absolutely ADORED the romance in this book, it was done fantastically with just the right about of sizzle, swoon and sweet mixed together and the friendships that developed were just as interesting to read about.
However, although the character driven aspects of the story are done really well, there is very little of anything else. The overarching plot for the trilogy was only introduced in the last third of the book, with the first two-thirds focusing mainly on our two main characters. Although the characters do make up for this, it would have been nice to have more purpose early on. Similarly, the world-building is practically non-existent, which is disappointing because the author had the vast and multi-cultural setting of the Middle East to work with and instead, we are basically just surrounded by miles of desert for the majority of the book.
I will definitely be picking up the sequel to see where this story goes! (Also they just did the cover reveal and the cover is BEAUTIFUL).
Y O U K N O W M E W E L L
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Genre: YA Contemporary
I really should stop saying that I don’t enjoy contemporaries because this book was SO. DAMN. CUTE. (and a little heart-breaky – but in a good way, I promise!). I think I might be the only person in the universe that hasn’t read a David Levithan book before and after this, I will definitely be picking up more of his work because he manages to break your heart and make you happy that he’s doing it.
This book discusses the blooming friendship between our gay male lead, Mark and our lesbian female protagonist, Kate. It was quite amazing on two levels. Firstly, this book focuses on protagonists that are very comfortable with their sexual orientation, a deviation from the usual “coming out” story line prevalent in YA fiction and honestly, it was a breath of fresh air. Secondly, the story puts the main emphasis on the friendship between the two (although their respective romances do make a large appearance in the book) and it was nice to read about them finding each other and being better off because of it.
The book was quite short and there were jumps in the narrative that I wish were explained a little better but overall is was a really enjoyable read! Definitely a good pick-me-up on days were you just want a light, fluffy book to speed through.
S I X O F C R O W S
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Book 1 in the Six of Crows Duology
Genre: YA Fantasy, Heist
So I decided to cap off this wonderful week by rereading Six of Crows, one of my all time favourite books. Although I don’t necessarily need a reason to reread this book because I just love it so much, I specifically decided to reread it now because Crooked Kingdom (the sequel) is coming in less than 2 weeks (I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT) and I wanted to be touch base with all the characters before I read it. Also this book is just a thing of beauty and deserves to be savoured at all times.
Any author that is having difficulty including diversity in their novels should really read Six of Crows and use it as an example. Leigh Bardugo includes wonderfully diverse characters into the story without making it about their diversity. It exemplifies what so many people in the marginalised communities are saying – diverse characters can do whatever White, cishet, able-bodied characters can do. If you haven’t done so already, READ THIS BOOK! It features so many diverse characters (including PoC and LGBTQ characters as well as a disabled MC) and the plot and the world building are fantastic too. Also, you get the opportunity to meet Inej i.e. the love of my life, so that’s a plus as well. I have a full review for this book up on my blog already and you can find that here!
How did your #DiverseAThon go? If you have any diverse recommendations of your own (especially if they are Own Voices stores), make sure to leave them in the comments!
Until next time friends,