Squad Goals – Erica J. Kendrick

Magic’s family members are all a bunch of athletes… and she’s not. She’d like dearly to be able to follow in her mom, sister and grandma’s footsteps and become a kickass cheerleader, but alas she falls more than she claps. Yet she isn’t one to quit, and this summer she’s aiming high: become a HoneyBee cheerleader and prove to everyone, most important her family and herself, that she hasn’t skipped the athlete gene.

Sometimes, as a reader, I was unsure if she was doing all of this to make her family proud or if she really had an actual passion and deep interest for dancing and cheering people up. Her family’s opinion obviously means the world to her and she certainly does not want to disappoint them. Regardless, it’s good to try things that we’re not necessarily automatically good at, and Magic is certainly here to prove that hard work and dedication, with time, show beautiful results. Slow and steady wins the race, right? She’s not one to quit after the first or second or third failed attempt at a cheer move.

Although, Magic is doing more than just try to achieve a dream of joining her school’s cheer squad, which her family shares. She’s also dealing with friendship drama—navigating between her best friend and new friends—, a new crush that totally seems out of her league, bullying from the other participants at the cheer camp and her own insecurities. Luckily, Magic is not alone to deal with all of this and she can count on her grandma’s ‘‘magic’’ pom-poms to give her strength, courage and remind her of her goals whenever she loses sight of them.

I think this is a cute and well-executed story. It has a lot of expected elements in a middle grade story, as you may have noticed already, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable read that one can finish in a quiet afternoon. I enjoyed spending time with Magic and doing my best to cheer her on from the sidelines. I’m also just generally entertained by stories involving sports. I do admit that I’m conflicted about whether it’s a good idea to feature the idea of ‘‘getting even’’ in such a story, as opposed to exploring the concept of ‘‘turning the other cheek’’ or ‘‘responding to hate with kindness.’’ As seen in the story, responding to embarrassment and humiliation with more embarrassment and humiliation leads to more embarrassment and humiliation, yet I’m not sure that Magic herself understood that. Overall, though, this was a relatively solid debut novel and I hope for more in the future from this author.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

Made in Korea – Sarah Suk

Love the colours.

Let me just start by saying that I would have loved to have gone to Valerie and Wes’s high school, which is so delightfully pro-entrepreneurship. At their high school, students are encouraged to start and promote their own businesses, with approval from appropriate staff members and an assigned mentor of course. Valerie shares a Korean beauty business with her cousin Charlie, and so far, they are running the school. Everyone loves their products, including me to be honest.

But Wes, the new kid, is starting a beauty business of his own, which proves to be quite exciting for their high school population, so much so that Valerie’s sales are quickly dwindling. Yet Valerie can’t afford to lose customers because she has a very specific goal she is trying to accomplish and she won’t allow anything or anyone to make her lose sight of her goal. Wes, too, has a plan for the money he is quickly accumulating, and soon enough, the two of them become fierce competitors. Enemies, even, depending on who you’re asking.  

This would make for a good Netflix movie. No doubt about that. It’s fast, it’s focused, it’s developed in a coherent way and, most important of all, it’s quite cute and romantic at times. There are some cheesy scenes, like being stuck in a room with your crush or seeing them through an empty book spot at the library that made me feel like the author could have been more unique. However, overall, I had an enjoyable time with Valerie and Wes. If you are the type to become completely enraged by miscommunication, you might want to keep this book a mystery forever. Otherwise, have fun!

Thank you Simon & Schuster for the free copy in exchange for an honest review. MADE IN KOREA will be out on May 18th, 2021! 

Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous – Suzanne Park

I want to officially start this review by disclaiming that, as a general rule, I adore summer camps, whatever the type. Very fortunately, SUNNY SONG WILL NEVER BE FAMOUS was not an exception to this little rule of mine.

I do admit that I’d never read a summer camp story that featured a rehab-type of setting before, where characters are meant to detox from something. But you know what, it worked quite well. Sunny Song, like many young people in this heavily digital age, is addicted to her phone, her social accounts and the internet in general.

Can anyone reading this review not relate to that? Yes, alright, maybe you’re not checking your phone every minute, seeing if you have a text or comment, but it’s such an addictive thing if you do own a phone and love to engage with people who don’t live right next to you. All that to say that I found Sunny Song’s addiction completely believable and was excited to see what would come out of this camp for her.

The camp itself is pretty interesting. There are various fun activities that are meant to engage the campers in real life more than in a virtual one. Phones are not allowed. You want to connect with others outside the camp? How about sending a good old letter? Sunny Song is not exactly taking this (huge) rule very seriously, seeing as she is part of a big competition that could boost her social platforms’ popularity and she has her best friend back home helping her go around the rules here at camp.

There’s romance, too, and rivalry, and friendship, and growth. Overall, it’s simply an entertaining, fast-paced summer story that I encourage you to read while on a stationary bicycle at the gym. The fast-pacing of the story motivated me personally to cycle faster. So once it’s out, I encourage you to give Sunny Song a chance.

Thank you Raincoast Books for the free copy in exchange for an honest review. SUNNY SONG WILL NEVER BE FAMOUS will be out on June 1st, 2021!  

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and YouStamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received: HBG Canada
Published: March 10th, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Non-Fiction, History, Racism


REVIEW:

Wait, it’s over already? But it just started… How can that be? This is probably the best not-history history book I have read in my short life. It spans hundreds of years, and yet it feels very linear, no disruptions. It’s a ‘‘story’’ with a beginning and middle, but no end… Continue reading

The Screaming Staircase – Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming StaircaseThe Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: HBG Canada
Published: 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Mystery, Ghosts, Friendship


REVIEW:

I feel different when I read stories that involve ghosts than when I read stories that involve other supernatural or paranormal beings.

I guess it’s because I actually do believe in ghosts and spirits, whereas I don’t, for example, believe in vampires, werewolves, witches (although I’d love to be able to say that I do) or fairies. Continue reading

Camp – Lev A.C. Rosen

CampCamp by Lev A.C. Rosen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: May 26th, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+. Summer Camps, Inclusivity, Romance, Theatre, Masculinity


REVIEW:

I am jealous. I want to go to this queer camp so badly. I did go to day camp when I was 9, which feels like a lifetime ago, but it was nothing – nothing – like Camp Outland. You know, I do really hope that camps like this one exist, because they seem to provide a much needed safe haven for teens and adolescence is not an easy period. Just knowing that there’s a beautiful environment with incredibly open people waiting for you during summer can be what gets you through your school year. Continue reading

Jacky Ha-Ha – James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

28096546. sx318 Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: 2016
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Humor, Performance, Siblings, Family


REVIEW:

Jacky is an amazingly funny and hot celebrity, and she’s looking back to her childhood period to show us how she overcame many obstacles and precarious situations to become the insanely talented actor she is today. Continue reading

The Only Black Girls in Town – Brandy Colbert

The Only Black Girls in TownThe Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: March 10th, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 10+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Family, Friendship, Racial Relations, LGBTQIA+


REVIEW:

I love it. I just love it when authors branch out. I have read YA Fiction from Brandy Colbert and now I’ve had the chance to read Middle Grade. Believe it or not, some authors don’t transition from one to the other smoothly. I think that to write a well-told story in any category, one must study the category beforehand very well and understand its audience. Brandy Colbert has managed that quite nicely. Continue reading

When You Get the Chance – Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson

53005757. sx318 sy475 When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Family, Mystery, Romance, Identity, Road Trip


REVIEW:

I am always a little surprised when I enjoy books like this one, the kinds of books that don’t have memorable characters or original plotlines or even incredibly skilful writing styles; the kinds of books that you read and forget, and yet the in-between parts are quite enjoyable. Continue reading

The Phantom Twin – Lisa Brown

44280834The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Ghosts, Siblings, Historical Fiction, Romance


REVIEW:

This is sad. It has its beautiful moments but there is so much misfortune, more than necessary, I think. It has a melancholy atmosphere from start to finish that, I admit, calmed me quite a bit. Its illustrations are detailed but kid-friendly, and so colourful and soft that I felt no spookiness whatsoever, even if the story should have naturally created some. Continue reading