Two Book Reviews

One good, one not so good. Everybody loves some variety, right?

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Title: How to Be Luminous
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: April 30th
Ratings: ♥♥♥♥♥

Goodreads Summary:

When seventeen-year-old Minnie Sloe’s mother disappears, so does her ability to see color. How can young artist Minnie create when all she sees is black-and-white?

Middle child Minnie and her two sisters have always been able to get through anything together: growing up without fathers, living the eccentric artist lifestyle, and riding out their mother’s mental highs and lows. But when they lose their mother, Minnie wonders if she could lose everything: her family, her future, her first love . . . and maybe even her mind.

This book was beautiful. From start to finish, I was absolutely mesmerized by the language and prose. I was immediately pulled into this whimsical south London town and into the Sloe household. Our main character, Minnie, is struggling with finding her place in her family of artists after the disappearance of their art famous mother, Rachel Sloe. She’s also is hit with one of the worst things that could happen to an artist: she’s lost her ability to see color.

While there are a few other characters in this book, the focus is on the three sisters.  Minnie feels alone in her grief and it’s slowly sucking her further into a depression—into a life with no color. She doesn’t realize that grief manifests in different ways and that her sisters are just as upset and confused as Minnie is.

As she is learning things about her mother that she never noticed before, she sees that maybe her mom’s highs and lows weren’t just a part of her flighty and artistic personality—that something was actually really wrong and maybe Minnie inherited those same symptoms from her mom.

This was a difficult, but stunning read that I recommend to any reader who is a little older and mature.

Trigger warning for suicide, grief, and depression.

I was sent an e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

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Title: Belly Up
Author: Eva Darrows
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: April 30th
Ratings: ♥♥

Goodreads Summary:

When 16 year old Serendipity Rodriguez attends a house party to celebrate the end of sophomore year, she has no intention of getting drunk and hooking up with a guy she’s just met, let alone getting pregnant. To make matters worse, she has no way of contacting the father and she and her mother are about to move to a new town and in with her grandmother.

It’s hard enough to start your junior year as the new kid in school, but at 5-months pregnant it’s even harder. So when Sara meets Leaf, who asks her out and doesn’t seem to care that she’s pregnant, she finds herself falling.

Juggling the realities of a pregnancy with school and a new relationship are hard enough, but when Jack, the father of her baby, turns back up, Sara’s life goes from complicated to a complete mess. With the help of her overbearing mother and grandmother, Sara will learn to navigate life’s challenges and be ready for anything, as she prepares for the birth of her baby

This started out so good and fun, but slowly declined the more I kept reading. It was almost as if chunks of the book were either written by a different person, or not edited as closely. At the end of reading, I didn’t get exactly what the point was of the book—nothing really happened. I could tell the author had a lot of great ideas scrambled all together, but nothing was fleshed out enough to carry that whole book.

It could have been about the struggles of being pregnant in high school—or even pregnancy in general. There was a lot of positive talk and representation of the LGBTQ+ community, but even that felt a little half-assed. Sara makes a remark towards the end about being a questioning bisexual it just came out of nowhere! It could have been really interesting to explore someone questioning their sexuality while young, pregnant, and falling in love with a guy. On the positive side, we get lots of talk of gender politics when it came to the baby, not wanting to assume gender until the kid could decide on their own. There was ace, trans, and queer rep, as well.

One of the things that I immediately loved about the writing was the voice. It was fun and felt really authentic teen voice. However, as the story progressed, that voice sometimes tried too hard to be funny and quirky, especially when it came to Sara’s mom—she sounded more like a teenager than a mother in her late 30’s.

Other things that I felt were really strong were the relationships: between friends, parents, and romantic. The three generational Larssen family was rock solid, taking on this pregnancy as a united front. The tight knit friendship between Sara and her best friend, Devi, was so strong that it transferred over to Sara’s friends at her new school. Even with her baby daddy Jack, they had a connection that clicked from the start and transformed once he popped back into her life. I actually wish he could have appeared earlier in the book so that we could see more of him being a part of pregnancy. I know that the big plot device was to have him find out so late, but once he found out he could have contributed something, and not be so passive.

There were such good intentions, it just didn’t work for me.

I was sent an e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

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