All American Boys By Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely


I have not read a book that has impacted me as much as this one in a long time. I was shaken while reading this book, shaken to my core. This novel by Reynolds and Kiely is powerful, raw, eye-opening, and thought-provoking. The novel is written from two perspectives, Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins, a black teen and white teen respectively. Rashad is a high schooler, a part of R.O.T.C. because of an obligation to his father. He’s your average student and has a passion for creating comics. He’s also violently beaten by a trigger-happy cop who assumes he’s shoplifting. The reader is able to experience the beating and subsequent arrest with Rashad as it happens. Then they’re offered Quinn’s experience as he witnesses the violent act. Quinn, who is a family friend of the arresting officer and has grown up with this man as a father figure in his life. The novel switches between the two boy’s perspectives as they try and process what has happened. Both must learn to live with this new reality and decide how they want to act moving forward.

I am a young white woman. I openly acknowledge that I have white privilege. I don’t get to control how others treat me because my skin is pale in complexion. What I can control is how I decide to live my life. Do I stand by and watch as those around me are oppressed and treated differently because of their skin color? Or do I speak up and advocate for all to receive equal treatment? These are the questions that plague Quinn after he witnessed Rashad’s beating. Unlike me, Quinn is not only white, but a white male, therefore increasing the innate privilege bestowed upon him by U.S. society. I was able to relate to Quinn because we’re both white. I haven’t seen police violence in person and seeing Quinn’s internal struggle over what to do in this situation is overwhelming. It’s hard not to feel judgmental of him for not instantly reporting what he saw, yet at the same time, you feel bad for his internal conflict. What I loved most about Quinn’s perspective was how he grew by the end of the novel. It gives people like me, who were born with privilege, ideas on how to combat this privilege. Just because I have it, doesn’t mean I can’t fight for others and stand up against it.

We’ve heard their names all over the news and even though it’s only recently that they’ve received national attention, people of color have been victims of racial profiling and wrongful shootings for a long time. Rashad’s beating may be fictional, but his story and experience rings with truth and realism. Reading Rashad’s perspective is hard. If you’re an empathetic person like me, you feel anger, outrage, sympathy, and pride for him. It allowed me insight into something I will never experience. I am not black. I will never know what it’s like to be treated like Rashad, but reading his perspective was a small window into what it must be like. I cried during this book. I cried a lot. This book is so powerful and educational for everyone from all walks of life, white or black. This novel is especially pertinent in our current political atmosphere and after the recent attack in Charlottesville, North Carolina. Just to give you a taste of this novel, here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“As I heard them, my mind sort of split in two – one part listening, and the other picking up the ideas I’d been kicking around in my head all day: Would I need to witness a violence like they knew again just to remember how I felt this week? Had our hearts really become some numb that we needed dead bodies in order to feel the beat of compassion in our cheats? Who am I if I need to be shocked into my best self?”

                                                                                          (pg.296, All American Boys)

All American Boys is a novel that everyone could benefit from reading no matter what age, race, or positionality. This novel is a modern, realistic, and impactful tale that is extremely relevant to today. If you read this novel and love it as much as I do, come out to the Texas Teen Book Festival at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX on October 7th, 2017!!! Jason Reynolds is this year’s keynote speaker along with Marie Lu. I’ll be there and excited to see these amazing authors; I hope you will be there too!!



Everything, Everything By Nicola Yoon




Spoiler alert: This isn’t John Green’s A Fault in Our Stars — no one unexpected dies.

            Second spoiler alert: This book is amazing, read it. Don’t just watch the movie.

            SCID – Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. If you were diagnosed with SCID tomorrow it would mean you’re basically “allergic to the world” in the words of Madeline Whittier. In other words, you don’t get to interact with said world. Nicola Yoon weaves a realistic, quirky, and heart wrenching story centered around Madeline Whitter, a young girl with SCID, in her novel Everything, Everything. You are exposed to Madeline’s: day to day routine, her medical test results, online shopping orders, spoiler book reviews, and so much more.

When I say you’re exposed to these things, I literally mean exposed because they’re printed on the page. There are endless graphics, designs, and artwork throughout the short novel. The interspersion of the graphics/artwork amongst the regular text of the novel allows the reader to fly through story at an alarming rate, or at least I did and I openly acknowledge that I am a slow reader. The art work doesn’t only break up the text and allow for diversity in form but it’s also extremely realistic of a 21st century high school girl. There are text exchanges, emails, and notebook entries; all exposing the raw and unfiltered thoughts of a teenage girl who has been quarantined in her own home for the majority of her life. Of course it’s not a real depiction of a teenage girl’s life unless a boy is involved and what could be better than the boy next door?

Olly and his family move into the house next to Madeline and what could be more exciting for someone that’s been confined to the same square footage for nearly 18 years? Olly is more of a surprise than Madeline could have ever expected. His favorite color is black and that’s what he wears every day from head to toe. He runs at walls, chills atop roof tops, and captures Madeline’s attention and heart almost instantly although she tries to deny it. If you’re not someone who enjoys “boy meets girl” stories then this novel might not be for you. What I can say is that it’s not your typical high school romance novel. There are massive plot twists, in depth relationships, and sadly too realistic family scenarios. Olly’s character development is just as intensive as Madeline’s and it’s a joy to read.

I was delighted and engaged throughout the entire read. That being said, I did have an issue with the ending. I won’t give away any spoilers but I will say that the ending comes extremely fast. A major plot point is revealed and less than fifty pages later the novel is finished. Personally I was happy with the ending, but not the way it was written. I needed more finality, more closure. The ending would be great if I knew it was intentionally left vague in order for there to be a sequel but this novel is a standalone. Please comment with what you thought of the ending because I would love to know your thoughts!  I really had the best time reading this novel and recommend it to all who appreciate realistic fiction, teenage love, and the journey of growing up and finding yourself.

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

Rose. Poppy. Violet. Lily. Four exceptionally beautiful, pure, and innocent women. A family cultivated by Clover and seemingly perfect in every way. Excluding the fact that all four of these women were kidnapped, renamed, and are being held by Clover in the cellar beneath his home.


The Cellar by Natasha Preston follows the story of Summer, a feisty sixteen year old who lives in the boring old town of Long Thorpe, England where nothing exciting happens to anyone, until the day it happens to Summer. Violently abducted and shoved into her kidnappers hidden cellar, Summer is forced to become Lily. She’s thrust into Clover’s “family” along with Rose, Poppy, and Violet because in Clover’s mind he is saving his “flowers” from the corruption and filth that taints the world. He is their protector and deserves their gratitude for his noble work.

Preston writes The Cellar from the point of view of Summer, her boyfriend Lewis, and even her abductor Colin, better known as Clover. The change in perspective allows the reader to put themselves in the shoes of all involved, to try and understand each mindset and their emotional journey. The reader experiences the crushing fear and despair that consumes Summer. They experience the manic drive propelling Lewis in his search for the girl he loves. They enter the deranged and distorted reality of Colin and are able to glimpse the rational he uses to commit different actions and why he believes he’s doing the “right” thing. The way Preston switches between characters is masterful and allows the reader a chance to breath. If there weren’t the changes in perspective or flash backs to before Summer was taken, I know I wouldn’t have been able to finish the book. I felt an overwhelming sense of unease and terror as I read through Summer’s point of view. A pressure built up in my chest as I read through Summer’s fears and feared for her myself. The pressure continued building the longer I read and soon I felt like I was suffocating because although this is a fictitious book, it’s a sad reality of our world that things like this actually happen. The segmenting of the book allows for the reader to step back and remember that the book is a work of fiction. It’s okay to breath.

This book is captivating, exhilarating, and impossible to put down. When I did finish The Cellar, I felt very unsatisfied with the ending until I realized that there was going to be a squeal entitled You’ll Always Be Mine which I plan on starting today. This book will keep you with bated breath, wanting to cry and scream at the same time, and riding a wave of anticipation. If you want to be swaddled in rainbows and butterflies, this is not the book for you. If you find yourself horrified yet fascinated by the heinous acts of this world, this is the book for you.     



Who Died?

ocean-of-ink               Goldsburg, Virgina, in 1979, is your typical college town. Small, quaint, and turned into a near ghost town during the summer holidays. Goldsburg is the type of place that only has one movie theater, where the teenagers go hang out at McCoy Falls on the New River, and the locals leave their car doors unlocked; a trusting place. Not the type of place where the local “nice guy” gets murdered, but that’s exactly what happens to Christopher Goodman. Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf is narrated by six strikingly different voices, each adding to the overarching message while offering up individual lessons. Wolf does a beautiful job of keeping the reader intrigued by disrupting the timeline of the story. No character is static and Wolf masterfully uses the “universally assumed” high school stereotypes to surprise the reader. Knowing that the book is based on a true crime adds a scary realism to the book and makes you wonder, could this happen to me? Wolf tackles the idea of tragedy and grief in a true and eye opening way.

I’ve asked, “How could a thing like this happen?” many, many times throughout my life.  I am not a stranger to tragedies or hardship and yet Wolf’s book revealed a whole new perspective to me.

“I’m grieving the loss of what might have been.”

When someone dies, be they young or old, that’s time lost. Time you’ll never get to spend with them.  That’s a story you’ll never get to write together that must now go unfinished.

“But an ocean of ink couldn’t soothe my sadness.” 

I can find no better words than those above to accurately express the heartache I’ve felt when loved ones have passed away in my life. I could not set Wolf’s book down once I started because his words spoke too many truths. His word’s touched me too accurately. Thank you Allan Wolf for showing me new perspectives on life, death, and regret. Thank you for giving me the words to express the sadness that has filled my life at different points.

Who Killed Christopher Goodman? By Allan Wolf is a must read! I recommend it to everyone who has every questioned, “Why did this happen? How could it happen?”