American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Inside cover blurb:

“On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?”

from publisher


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This is actually my second encounter with American Street. I started it once, read a few pages, and set it aside in favor of something else. The time was just not right for us.

But I am so, so, so glad I got a second go at it because this might be one of my favorite novels now.

This book has a fantastic ensemble cast: Fabiola’s cousins, the Three B’s, her aunt, Dray, Kasim, and Fabiola herself. Each character is just as strong as the next. And we get a glimpse into each character’s background in between chapters, which adds great dimension to the story.

I love that American Street puts poverty in the spotlight here. Zoboi compares and contrasts American poverty with global poverty in an eye-opening way, in a scene between Fabiola and her cousin. Each describes having known suffering and desperation, but the message is clear that even Detroit is not Haiti.

For me personally, the real winner here is the magical realism. While I loved the story of Fabiola’s experience with American culture, I was captivated by the Papa Legba figure and the mythos of the lwas. Maybe she should write their story next…? Pretty please?

Plus: Magical realism, plot twists that I DID NOT SEE COMING, Haitian culture and voodoo, Detroit culture…for me, the list goes on. This book has a lot to offer. So just read it!

Minus: I wish this book had a sequel, but it definitely stands on its own. The only thing I can hope for then is more from Ibi Zoboi!

If you like this book, try:

Something in Between

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz- Also a narrative about the immigrant experience, but from the perspective of a character who has grown up here in the States.

NEW FEATURE: Serial Rewind- Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

You know that feeling you get when you start reading the brand new installment of one of your fave series…only to come to a screeching halt because you forgot what the hell was going on??

This weekend I started reading Lord of Shadows, the second book in Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices series. And I was lost from page 1.

So this experience, combined with an idea dreamt up long ago with the help of a super librarian I know, has inspired me to introduce a new type of post here on The (Not Quite) Librarian:

Serial Rewind!

Serial Rewind is a feature in which I do just that: take a step back and remind readers what exactly happened last time we all met these characters.

Just so we’re clear, the point of these posts are to SPOIL EVERYTHING- read at your own risk!

What better place to start than with Book 1 of The Dark Artifices series, Lady Midnight.

Setting: Los Angeles Institute, 5 years since the events at the end of The Mortal Instruments series.

Main Characters:

Emma Carstairs- Her parents were murdered and now she’s out for revenge because what else is a well-adjusted Shadowhunter to do…? She’s parabatai with Julian Blackthorn and an unofficial member of the Blackthorn clan.

Julian Blackthorn- Basically in charge of running the LA Institute because his uncle lost his mind after being tortured by fairies. He also looks after the rest of the Blackthorn brood: Ty, Livvy, Dru, Tavvy. There are a few older siblings as well, but they don’t live at the Institute.

Mark Blackthorn- Julian’s older brother who was kidnapped by fairies five years previously. He is restored to the Blackthorn family after living with the Wild Hunt so he’s a bit of a weirdo now.

Cristina Mendoza-Rosales- A Shadowhunter from Mexico who becomes friends with Emma. She has feelings for Diego, but also has a connection with Mark.

Perfect Diego- A Centurion (formally trained scholar Shadowhunter?) with a past connection to Cristina and is all-around pretty annoying.

Kit Herondale- We’re led to believe that he’s a mundane named Kit Rook for the majority of the book. Turns out that he’s really a lost Herondale, discovered by Jem Carstairs and Tessa Grey (who you might remember from The Infernal Devices).

Basic Plot:

Humans and faeries start turning up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were murdered years ago and the young Shadowhunters forge an alliance with the faeries by promising to stop the murders in exchange for Mark’s return. Not really sure how this is plausible in any way, but just go with it because Cassandra Clare.

Mark struggles to find his place in the Shadowhunter world after living with the fairies for five years (and he is also part fairy by birth). He has a complicated relationship with a fairy named Kieran, a son of the Unseelie King, who took Mark under his wing (if you know what I mean) in the Wild Hunt.

Emma and Julian’s relationship goes much deeper than parabatai ties are intended- they’re actually in love with each other but that’s forbidden because apparently people go mad from it. Don’t know if we should really believe the Clave on this one, they’ve never been the most trustworthy….

The End:

The murderer turns out to be Malcom Fade, a warlock the kids believed to be their friend.

Lady Midnight refers to Annabel Blackthorn, a Shadowhunter famous for having a scandalous relationship with a warlock (none other than Malcom Fade). Her family was ashamed of her so they quite naturally entombed her alive in a cave under the sea.

When Malcom found out, he decided that the best plan of action was clearly to raise her from the dead. The ritual required a sacrifice of Blackthorn blood, so he kidnapped Tavvy, the youngest Blackthorn, and attempted the ritual. Emma killed Fade before he could fully complete the spell. Fade’s corpse and the Black Volume of the Dead (a magical book that will apparently be important in the future) were lost to the ocean. At the end of the book, we find out that Annabel has been (somewhat?) resurrected.

After killing Malcom, the runes that had been protecting the Rook household fail. Demons kill Johnny Rook, Kit is saved by Emma and the gang, and they take him back to the Institute where he proceeds to resent his lineage.

Emma asks Mark to pretend to be her boyfriend because she thinks this will destroy Julian’s feelings for her. Instead, she pretty much just makes everything more awkward….

And this is where Lord of Shadows picks up! Hopefully I’ve prepared you to dive back into The Dark Artifices. Happy reading 🙂

Flame in the Mist by Reneé Ahdieh

Inside cover blurb:

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.


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Yeahhh so this is very similar to a Japanese version of Mulan…but I think it’s still worth your time.

The main character, Mariko, is different than Mulan in important ways- she doesn’t embark on her quest out of love for her family (though that theme is present throughout the book), but for herself, to prove that she is worth more than a pawn to be married away.

She also comes from a place of privilege and is confronted with things that open her eyes to the cruelty and injustice of the system her family has benefited from.

The overall plot is gripping and fast-paced and I was actually rooting for Mariko-Okami. Can I just say how glad I am that there weren’t any love triangles? I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending…but just because I have so many questions!! I’m very interested to see where the story goes from here!

Plus: There aren’t a lot of Asian main characters in books, so yay for visibility! Mariko is also just a fantastic main character, regardless. It has been a long time since I actually cared about shipping couples in YA books, but this one brought me back to the feels.

Minus: You’re gonna talk about cool mystical powers and give me NOTHING about them??? That had better be explained in book 2.

If you like this book, try:

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Reneé Ahdieh- Same author, but this one is actually based on A Thousand and One Nights.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Inside cover blurb:

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?


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Goodbye Days was good, but a little underwhelming.

I didn’t even realize the whole concept of the book was the actual “Goodbye Days” until I was about 100 pages from the end….and it’s the title too. Oops.

My attention definitely waned midway through the book and it could probably stand to be shorter- it’s 400 pages. In the end, I’m glad I kept going with it. There’s no real resolution to the book, which is fitting because there’s never real resolution with grief.

The real hero here is definitely Carver’s therapist. Can he get his own story?

Plus: Zentner does a great job of setting a scene. I really felt the atmosphere of suspense and tension and I was anxious to know what punishment Carver would face.

Minus: Some YA books kind of feel like the author isn’t even trying to create realistic teen dialogue and this is one of those books. But once I ignored that, I really did enjoy the writing.

If you like this book, try:

Bang by Barry Lyga- Also about a boy dealing with extreme guilt from an accident that can’t be undone.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Inside cover blurb:

“Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.”

-from publisher


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I do not have enough positive words in my vocabulary to accurately represent how I feel about this book!

To be honest, I first heard about Ramona Blue due to the many negative reactions it was getting on Goodreads…from people who hadn’t even read it yet! People argued that the story is about a gay girl turning straight.

But as someone who actually took the time to read it, I can say that this book is not even primarily about sexual identity. Anyone who claims otherwise is doing this story a disservice.

Ramona Blue is about a teenage girl who feels responsible for her family’s well-being, who can’t imagine her life ever being any different than what she knows. It tackles so many issues from race to poverty and it does it well.

For me, Ramona Blue is a lesson in dreaming and rising above your circumstances. I think that deserves nothing less than an enthusiastic five star review.

Plus: The entire cast is so well done. There really is no such thing as a supporting character in Julie Murphy’s writing and I love that! She also has an incredible talent for highlighting her settings, essentially turning them into a character all their own.

Minus: This book is flat out great. Don’t listen to the haters- just read it and judge for yourself 🙂

If you like this book, try:

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo– I try not to recommend things I’ve already reviewed on my blog because I want to highlight as many books as possible. But If I Was Your Girl is such an incredibly powerful LGBT story that I would re-recommend it a 100 times. It is much less rom-com than Ramona Blue and much more about real-life consequences of society’s harmful norms, so be prepared for a challenging read.