Review: The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Title: The Closest I’ve Come

Author: Fred Aceves

Pub. Date: November 7th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction

Trigger warning: Alcoholism, Physical Abuse, Racism

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 320

Format: eGalley/Edelweiss

   

Marcos Rivas wants to find love.
He’s sure as hell not getting it at home, where his mom’s racist boyfriend beats him up. Or from his boys, who aren’t exactly the “hug it out” type. Marcos yearns for love, a working cell phone, and maybe a pair of sneakers that aren’t falling apart. But more than anything, Marcos wants to get out of Maesta, his hood—which seems impossible.
When Marcos is placed in a new after-school program for troubled teens with potential, he meets Zach, a theater geek whose life seems great on the surface, and Amy, a punk girl who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. These new friendships inspire Marcos to open up to his Maesta crew, too, and along the way, Marcos starts to think more about his future and what he has to fight for. Marcos ultimately learns that bravery isn’t about acting tough and being macho; it’s about being true to yourself.

The Closest I’ve come follows Marcos Rivas’ life course in a rough neighborhood /violent household & the motivation he finds to want to get out. For Marcos, the daily grind is made up of getting up for school & hanging out with his boys after school to avoid having to go home. Life at home isn’t easy & he is met with either his mothers silence and closed doors or her boyfriends fists. Mentally checked-out, Marcos’ mother is a alcoholic who doesn’t really have much of any relationship with him. Marcos himself would love to play the role of over protective son however, the truth is that internally, more than anything he wishes she would show any signs of caring for him. Life outside his home isn’t exactly the best either but in his community he has developed friendships that have become a safe place to turn to. Academics have never really been Marcos’ main focus & with no one in his corner rooting and or encouraging him to apply himself, he hasn’t given much thought to life after High School. He believes that Maesta is the end all be all for him and many other teens like him. We come across teachers who provide Marcos with the confidence he needs & who most of all, believe in him.

At times, The Closest I’ve Come was difficult to read because of the violence Marcos experiences at the hands of his mothers boyfriend. It seemed like all the odds are set against this kid & with nothing really inspiring him & his own home being so volatile, I wondered when he would catch a break. With little to no money whatsoever, we see our MC try to earn cash the right way by cleaning parking lots but we also see one of his friends who is a straight A student go about it illegally by delivering drugs. Having myself lived in for many years what was considered a “ghetto” neighborhood, the reality is that too many bright futures are dimmed before they even get a chance to begin. There were so many tough themes in this book paired with positive reinforcement from Marcos’ educators that I found myself rooting him on in realizing that he is valued.

We see a tremendous amount of character growth take place within our MC Marcos which is perhaps the strongest aspect of The Closest I’ve Come. Aceves wrote Marcos’ character in first Person POV which allows the reader to really get into his thought process. From the way he views his barely existent relationship with his mother to how he handles rejection, Marcos isn’t a confidant cocky teenage boy. His physical appearance is something he is always hyper aware of because he lacks funds to buy clothes or pay for grooming. Something as simple as a haircut could boost his confidence briefly & a lot of the time he didn’t get the end result he was seeking but the effort was there. I LOVED this character & how humble he is the core, he definitely had me in his corner the whole way through. We meet some of his friends from around his neighborhood, mostly through visits to the courtyard to shoot hoops. There’s a sense of loyalty from these guys that I’ve seen for myself in neighborhoods where most don’t have it to make ends meet. I enjoyed one particular scene where one of the guys sets up shop on his stoop to cut hair for a couple of dollars, very much like a brotherhood. Although we meet many of Marcos’ acquaintances, they aren’t as fleshed out as our MC but nonetheless they serve their purpose in giving the reader a picture of what Marcos has in his life. The friends he has don’t really know how bad his home life is but I was glad to see them rise to the occasion when he really needed them.

Told in first person POV, The Closest I’ve Come is raw & uncensored giving Marcos’ voice & narrative life. Own Voices Latinx author Fred Aceves was raised in a poor working class neighborhood just like the one he brings to life in this book. From the dialogue between Marcos and his friends in the streets to his stream of consciousness on life after High School, our MC is raw & uncut just like the world he lives in. Many who come from similar backgrounds will find this book to be very relatable. To those who don’t, The Closest I’ve Come is a insiders look to a reality that exists in our real world. Not only do we get POC representation but we also see socioeconomic diversity when Marco meets & befriends a HS student from a wealthy background. The challenges Marco has in his life are going to resonate with others & that is one of the biggest reasons I am happy to see this narrative hit the shelves.

*HUGE thanks to HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Fred Aceves for the eGalley copy of The Closest I’ve Come in exchange for an honest review.

Happy Monday Bookworms! hope you all had a wonderful weekend & managed to squeeze in some good books. With so many diverse reads coming our way, which ones are you looking forward to? any Own Voices on your 2018 TBR?


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Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: April 11th 2017

Genre: YA Contemp/LGBTQIA/Diverse

Pages: 338 pgs

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Becky Albertalli for the eGalley of The Upside of Unrequited in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Honestly, a more Feel Good plot I have NOT come across! Molly Peskin-Suso is many things: a fraternal twin to Cassie, prone to harboring a high # of secret crushes, a DIY Queen, Pinterest aficionado, and baker who also happens to be plus size. Molly’s best friend is her twin sister Cassie, they are inseparable & with their twin bond, they hold no secrets from each other. When Molly introduces Cassie to a girl she meets in the bathroom; who she thinks would make a perfect match for Cassie…she never would’ve guessed they’d fall in love. Both Molly & Cassie see their relationship shifting and with it comes a fear of losing their bond. Cassie tries to play match maker in hopes that it will help Molly feel less lonely. The issue with this is that although Molly has had plenty of crushes, she hasn’t actually dated or kissed anyone. In fact, for Molly it’s all about that feeling that you get when you have a crush…

“And it’s a little different with every guy, so it’s kind of hard to generalize—but if I had to describe the feeling of a crush, I’d say this: you just finished running a mile, and you have to throw up, and you’re starving, but no food seems appealing, and your brain becomes fog, and you also have to pee. It’s this close to intolerable. But I like it.”
Becky Albertalli, The Upside of Unrequited

Ok so I’m just going to start off by saying I was Molly Peskin-Suso sans her craftiness lol. I too carried on way too many crushes & gave them all pseudonyms for easy recollection lol. That new crush feeling she describes? yea all too familiar smh, and I also never found the courage to say anything to said crushes *awkwardly looks away from screen* lol. Molly’s character brought back some fun memories and as a plus size gal myself, I found I could relate to her even as a grown adult. Her honesty about the feelings she has rang true to me. Molly has moments where she doesn’t feel comfortable with her weight, she doesn’t want to be just “the girl with the very pretty face”. At the same time, she has moments of empowerment & never once feels the need to be thin just to get a boyfriend. Molly has the same thoughts we’ve all had about our bodies & her inner monologues mirrored my own at that age. Needless to say, I LOVED Molly! I also really enjoyed reading her twin sister Cassie who is the complete opposite of Molly. Cassie & Molly have a great sibling relationship & because they’re twins (same age haha) they have the same circle of friends. Cassie is the extroverted twin, described by Molly as being very attractive & also happens to like girls. Seeing Cassie fall in love while still trying to be there for Molly and even play match maker was super cute. Molly and Cassie also spend time with their cousins (same age) over Skype videos & YAY for female friendships and seeing more of that in our books! *whoop whoop*  

I realize this is getting lengthy but Albertalli really knows how to make you fall head over heels with all of her characters. Last but not least are the AMAZING parentals! Molly’s moms are in tune with their kids and by no means are they your traditional types. I loved seeing their genuine interest in seeing their kids happy. They aren’t holding tight leashes on their kids but instead trust them enough to right. Some may think they were a bit too understanding but when it mattered they stepped in. Also loved seeing each mom’s personality pop on the page. They weren’t just background characters, their own experiences are woven into the story which gives you a more well rounded look at this family.

This is my 1st Albertalli book & I’m quickly making her an auto-buy author. I have Simon waiting for me on ibooks & can’t wait to see what the buzz is with that guy. Simon does do a cameo in this book & that Becky knew what she was doing! I need to know more about Simon!!! haha! this was a fun feel good contemporary. I smiled from start to finish and loved all of the diversity and plus size representation in Upside. Also in the mix, Albertalli found a way to include a quick conversation between Molly, Cassie, & friends on a comment made by another and how it is considered problematic. This then led to a healthy discussion and I found it refreshing to see how it was handled. Upside of Unrequited is now a top 2017 fave & will probably make the cut at the end of year for top 10. I can’t recommend this book enough! PLEASE BUY IT. PLEASE READ IT. PLEASE LOVE IT. 😉

Have any of you wonderful bookish peeps read The Upside of Unrequited? fave character? quote? I mean Molly did have quite a few good lines lol…



Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: January 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 Stars)

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

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Hunted is the story of Yeva aka Beauty and her love for the hunt & desire for more than court life (reminds me of one of my fave protogs Freya from Long May She Reign). Yeva has only known the wealthy aristocratic life keeping the baronessa company which she finds boring & constricting. She is the youngest of 3 girls and lives with her father who is known as a wealthy business merchant. It is a business deal with good intentions-gone wrong that throws Yeva and her family into poverty. Forced to sell their home & live in their father’s cabin in the forest, their lives drastically changed. The shame & disappointment of it all proves to be too much for Yeva’s father. The Goodreads synopsis sums up the events that transpire following their misfortune. On the surface Hunted is a re-telling that runs parallel with the original classic Beauty & the Beast. However, besides the similarities this story is also about want & greed and the consequences of never being sated. Starting with a father who wanting more for his village, went as far as staking his entire mass fortune. We see Yeva abandon her home where her sisters depend on her hunting skills for their livelihood, in search of their father who’s gone missing. The thrill of the hunt has always called to Yeva who like her father, has a natural skill for it. The Beast also has his story but revealing that here would be a spoiler so i’ll keep that one to myself lol. Just as in the original, the Beast is cursed and is in need of rescuing…I think this is what I love most of this tale, that the Beauty or princess isn’t in need of rescuing. 

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I love seeing YA Fantasy turn the tables on the outdated trope of the princess needs saving & so it’s no wonder why I end up loving the Yeva’s & Freya’s of YA Fantasy. I enjoyed Yeva as a character because of her flaws, she isn’t Belle from BATB although they do share similarities. We see Yeva make questionable decisions and ultimately also be affected by her unquenchable desire for more. When I got to thinking about Yeva, I realized this made her all the more human to me. We also meet her two older sisters Lena and Asenka, & I liked them alright as supporting characters. Asenka has a physical disability that she hides and like Lena focuses on keeping the house maintained. Asenka is a giver she will sacrifice it all for her family & I rooted for hers all through the end. Lena wasn’t all too fleshed out but what I saw of her, I liked enough. Now, the real show stopper award goes to Doe-Eyes, Yeva’s hunting dog who previously hunted with her father. From what I could gather, Doe-Eyes is a female dog (I may be wrong but this is what i’m going with lol) & very loyal. Wherever Yeva went, Doe-Eyes would follow no matter how impossible this feat may have seemed. To say that I fell in love with this dog is an understatement, Doe-Eyes was spunky & lively, she wasn’t getting left behind from all the action. I couldn’t get enough of her whenever she showed up unexpectedly (Yay for dogs in YA!). Last but not least we have the Beast (I promise I did not intend for that to rhyme -_-) who just as in the original, we get brief glimpses of. What I loved about Beast? the fact that we see him warring with the human nature he carries within. We also get to know his backstory of how he came to be cursed which unlike the original, actually has some meat to it. Besides his backstory, everything else about Beast is pretty similar to the original & I appreciated Spooner staying close to the original while still making him her own.

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 Hunted is my very first read by Meagan Spooner & I’m officially a fan! this book gave me such Bear and the Nightingale (LOVED!) feels with its use of Russian Folklore. The story telling was on point. I’m always weary when picking up a re-telling of a childhood favorite but Spooner pulled it off with Hunted. Maybe it was the mixture of similarities to the original & her own take on it but…I felt like I got a piece of my childhood back, a very nostalgic reading experience. I especially enjoyed the chapter “enders” (made this word up) where we were given the Beast’s inner monologue as the human inside him wars against the beast he’s become. The pacing is a bit on the slower side but I’m the type of bookworm that doesn’t mind the slow build-up. I don’t however think that it’s so slow that it drags or bores, it felt like I was being read a fairy tale which is what I wanted. To date, this is my favorite Beauty and the Beast re-telling. It has me listening to the original soundtrack & watching the original just to stay a little longer with this tale as old as time…

*Thank you HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Meagan Spooner for the eGalley of Hunted in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

Photo credit: Crushermyheart https://crushermyheart.tumblr.com/

Have any of my bookish peeps read Hunted? thoughts? did you enjoy the similarities? are any of you watching Beauty and the Beast? I know I’ll be watching it next wknd & attempting my 1st movie review 😉