MINI-REVIEWS: Stargazing, All Boys Aren’t Blue, & Salt to the Sea

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Title: Stargazing
Author: Jen Wang
Pages: 224
Release Date: September 10 2019
Publisher: First Second
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
Goodreads Rating:  4.20 (of 3281 ratings)

representation: Chinese main characters, Buddhist main character
content warnings: brain tumor

I really loved Jen Wang’s The Prince & The Dressmaker, so I was so eager to devour this one. The art is still the shining gem. Everything about it is so vivid and full of life. I enjoyed it so much, and I will forever love Wang’s style.

The story was decent. I thought it had great coming of age moments and the girls definitely learned and grew throughout the story. I really enjoyed Moon and Christine’s friendship as well. They had a few growing pains, but it was a really nice friendship. I totally felt Christine at times, and Moon really felt quite detailed. 

JasmineOverall, it was a good story. I just didn’t feel a major connection with it. It was good, the art was good, but I just never felt the big impact with it. I kept reading it, but it doesn’t seem like it will leave a super lasting impression on me. A Jasmine Rating!

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Title: All Boys Aren’t Blue
Author: George M. Johnson
Pages: 320
Release Date: April 28th 2020
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Goodreads Rating:  4.28 (of 25 ratings)

representation: black, queer, sexual abuse survivor
content warnings: sexual abuse, use of n-word, use of f-word, death

While I enjoy a good collection of short biographies on people, I was a bit apprehensive of taking on a full memoir of someone that I hadn’t heard of before. The only real memoir that I have read is Wesley from The Princess Bride, and it was only really focused on the making of the movie. However, this book certainly changed my mind on that.

Johnson’s memoir didn’t involve a large series of crazy things happen to him, but instead, it focuses on many of the emotional journeys that he goes through and discovering who he is as a person. It’s the perfect coming of age story that teens need to read. While not all teens will resonate with all of his specific struggles, they will certainly relate with the struggles of trying to find just who they are and trying to feel secure enough to share it with the world. Johnson’s words are powerful and strong – they are messages that everyone needs to hear. This is a memoir, but it’s also a manifesto, so Johnson makes points of being queer, being black, and more in society.

As usual with nonfiction stories, my interest at times did dwindle a bit. This novel did a wonderful job at keeping me interested; however, this medium, I think, will always be a struggle for me to keep fully captivated in. Johnson’s writing does invoke investment, interest, and more – even for those that aren’t as interested in nonfiction. Johnson’s voice is energetic, open, and honest throughout the story, and you can feel it coming out the page – it honestly read more like we were having a conversation than reading a book.

Overall, I’m still not the biggest fan of nonfiction memoirs, but this book certainly did change my mind a bit. Johnson created a piece of work where he bared his soul, and you could feel it throughout the pages. This is definitely a book to pick up if you’re looking for an open voice and a coming of age story that focuses on the black, queer experience but still can resonate with others. 

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Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 393
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating:  4.36 (of 103,189 ratings)

representation: pregnant/teen mother, rape survivor, blind side character
content warnings: death, war, gore, rape

Wow. Wow. This book officially dragged me out of my reading slump and slapped me around. This book was 390 pages of feels and captivation. I knew there was tragedy coming, but this story immerses you in atmosphere of horror and sadness in a historical event that I knew nothing about. Sepetys is a master of historical fiction, and she certainly showcases it in this novel.

Sepetys did well with both plot and characterization. You feel (well, understand – sort of – for Alfred since there’s no understanding for some of his thoughts) for the characters and you dive into their brain. Sepetys artfully makes their journeys – mentally, emotionally, and physically – the real star of the show while infusing the real horrific historical elements into the story. This book is the perfect combo of intense character-driven plot lines while infusing action. 

The biggest issue that I had with this novel is the writing format. I didn’t like how short the chapters were. At the end of the novel, it worked quite well, but in the beginning parts of the story, it was quite abrupt. I was trying to get to know our four characters, but it was hard because I was constantly being pulled out of their voices to head straight into a new character’s story. I think they just needed to be a bit longer in the beginning. I also had a bit of an issue with the romance – it seemed forced. With so much going on in the story and especially in the time frame/everything that they are going through, it seemed a bit inorganic. anna

Overall, this was an incredible read, and I’m horrified yet again with the evilness that humans can create. An Anna Rating!

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What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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8 thoughts on “MINI-REVIEWS: Stargazing, All Boys Aren’t Blue, & Salt to the Sea

  1. These all sound like such different books, in such different genres! I’m glad you enjoyed them all for the most part! I’ve actually read Stargazing, and I thought it was a pretty cute graphic novel. I really loved reading the author’s note at the end. I definitely had a deeper appreciation for the book after I realized that it was such a personal story.

    Liked by 1 person

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