Review: Genesis Begins Again

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Title: Genesis Begins Again
Author: Alicia D. Williams
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Review:

This is an emotional story about a young girl who learns to love herself.

Genesis goes on a journey throughout this book. She starts out with friends who bully her and her family being evicted. She has to learn to love herself, but she makes many mistakes along the way, such as changing her hair, choosing the wrong friends, and even bleaching her skin.

Genesis is also bullied by her father. It was heartbreaking to see how her father yelled at her and put her down because she had his dark skin instead of her mother’s light skin. It was really difficult to read at times. Her strength was put to the test with all of the abuse, and she can’t be blamed for the things she did.

This book really tugged at my heart. It is an emotional, but powerful, story.

What to read next:

Blended by Sharon M. Draper

Tara Takes the Stage by Tamsin Lane

Have you read Genesis Begins Again? What did you think of it?

Review: Sincerely, Harriet

Title: Sincerely, Harriet
Author: Sarah W. Searle
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 1, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Harriet Flores struggles with boredom and an unrequited crush while learning to manage her chronic illness through a long, hot, 1990s summer in Chicago. She uses her imagination to cope, which sometimes gets her into trouble, as she makes up fantastical fibs and wonders if there are ghosts upstairs. One neighbor, Pearl, encourages Harriet to read and write, leading Harriet to have a breakthrough and discover the power of storytelling.

Review:

This story was really emotional. Nothing too dramatic happened, but some of the things that happened were really heartbreaking.

Harriet has Multiple Sclerosis. It isn’t revealed until close to the end of the book, but she has symptoms throughout the story. She drops things and stumbles sometimes, so I knew something was happening with her. She becomes close friends with a neighbour whose son had polio when he was a kid. They bond over this shared history with chronic illness.

One of the saddest parts of the story was when Harriet would send her friends postcards, pretending to do things in the city. She mostly stayed home, but she made it seem like she was doing lots of activities. The girls didn’t return her feelings, and told her to stop sending letters. It was so sad to see her be rejected like that.

This is an important story because it has a main character with a chronic illness, which isn’t common, especially in children’s books.

What to read next:

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

Have you read Sincerely, Harriet? What did you think of it?

Review: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Title: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Olivia Grace Clarisse Harrison has always known she was different. Brought up by her aunt’s family in New Jersey, book-and-music-loving Olivia feels out of place in their life of high fashion and fancy cars. But she never could have imagined how out of place she really was until Mia Thermopolis, Princess of Genovia, pops into her school and announces that Olivia is her long-lost sister. Olivia is a princess. A dream come true, right? But princesses have problems too.

In FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS a new middle grade series, readers will see Genovia, this time through the illustrated diaries of a spunky new heroine, 12 year old Olivia Grace, who happens to be the long lost half-sister of Princess Mia Thermopolis.

Review:

I was curious about this series because it is about the sister of Mia from The Princess Diaries. In this story, Olivia is the daughter of Mia’s father. She is in middle school, and lives with her aunt and uncle. Her mother died when she was a baby, so her aunt had to look after her. However, her mother didn’t want Olivia to be raised as a princess, so it was kept a secret.

Some parts of this book were quite uncomfortable. It made Olivia and Mia’s father look horrible, because he had kept his daughter a secret for all these years. Her aunt and uncle were portrayed in a negative light because they didn’t give Olivia many things. For example, their other children were given new toys and clothes, but Olivia wasn’t given anything. It focused more on material items. They reminded me of the Dursley’s from Harry Potter, but not as obviously abusive.

I think the story would have been better if the main character wasn’t Mia’s sister, but maybe a cousin or perhaps her own daughter. Otherwise, I enjoyed the premise of the story. I liked where it ended, so I will still continue to read the rest of the series.

What to read next:

Royal Wedding Disaster (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #2) by Meg Cabot

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Have you read From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess? What did you think of it?

Review: All’s Faire in Middle School

Title: All’s Faire in Middle School
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Dial Books
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The author of Roller Girl is back with a graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and the Renaissance Faire.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all. 

Review:

This is a great story about fitting in.

It can be difficult to find your place in middle school, but it’s even harder when you’ve been homeschooled all of your life. Imogene grew up at the renaissance fair where her family works, but she decides she wants go to public school for middle school. She faces problems that she has never encountered before.

Imogene wants to fit in with the other kids in her class, but she has a very different family life from theirs. The popular girls won’t let her associate with the one other student who goes to the renaissance fair. Imogene has to deal with all of the typical problems of peer pressure and pressure to get good grades, while hiding the truth about her family’s background.

The renaissance fair looks like so much fun! This is a great story with a medieval twist.

What to read next:

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Have you read All’s Faire in Middle School? What did you think of it?

Review: If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses #1)

Title: If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses #1)
Author: Susan Maupin Schmid
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Format: Paperback
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Inside an enchanted castle, there’s a closet—a closet with one hundred dresses that nobody ever wears. Dresses like those need a good trying-on, and Darling Dimple is just the girl to do it. When she tries on Dress Number Eleven, something unbelievable happens. She transforms into the castle’s Head Scrubber! It turns out that each dress can disguise her as someone else. And Darling is about to have an adventure that calls for a disguise or two…or a hundred. 

Review:

I loved this unique fairytale!

In this story, Darling Dimple is an orphan who works as a servant in Princess Mariposa’s castle. Darling loses her job as a scrubber and has to work as a presser. There she discovers a closet full of magical dresses. She has to use the dresses to unlock the magic of the castle and ultimately save the Princess and her kingdom.

Darling Dimple started out as a shy girl, but her confidence grew when she wore the different magical dresses. Each dress turned her into a different person in the castle, from the head of the staff to aristocratic ladies. This was a great way of showing the parts of the story for both the castle staff and the royals.

I love reading retellings of fairytales and original ones. This one was so much fun. There was some foreshadowing at the end, which I think points to the next book in the series being about Darling Dimple’s biological parents.

What to read next:

Ghost of a Chance (100 Dresses #2) by Susan Maupin Schmid

Fairest of All (Whatever After #2) by Sarah Mlynowski

Have you read If the Magic Fits? What did you think of it?

Review: Roller Girl

Title: Roller Girl
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Dial Books
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a heartwarming graphic novel about friendship and surviving junior high through the power of roller derby. 

Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole…and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl. 

Review:

I learned a lot about roller skating from this book. I’ve read books with girls who play in a roller derby, but I didn’t actually know the rules of the game. It was fascinating, but I would be too scared of all the shoving and falling to play it myself.

Astrid is facing a difficult time in her life with her friends. Her best friend and her are growing apart. They have different interests and go to different camps for the summer. Astrid also has to learn how to be open with her mother when she is caught in some lies. She grows as a character through the story.

I really enjoyed this book about teamwork and friendship.

What to read next:

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Kate’s Really Good at Hockey by Christina Frey and Howard Shapiro

Have you read Roller Girl? What did you think of it?

Review: Kate’s Really Good at Hockey

Title: Kate’s Really Good at Hockey
Author: Christina Frey, Howard Shapiro
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Best. Summer. Ever. At least it was supposed to be.

Kate can’t wait to attend the elite girls’ hockey camp in Denver and go up against some of the best players from around the world. But then Mom says Kate has to stay with her grandma in Denver, who doesn’t care about Kate’s hockey dreams at all. And two players at the camp have it in for Kate both on and off the ice. Toss in a tough-as-nails coach and a huge family secret, and Kate’s perfect summer isn’t turning out quite like she planned.

Kate’s Really Good at Hockey is a story about family, friendship, and doing what it takes to follow your dreams.

Review:

I loved this book! This story doesn’t shy away from the hard parts about sports. Kate has a difficult coach at camp who criticizes her game. Sometimes tough coaches and teachers are great because they push you to be your best, but other times it can be frustrating and make you want to quit. However, not every teacher is like that. Kate has to go outside of her comfort zone when she stays with her grandmother instead of in the dorms with the other girls. Her mom insisted she stay with her grandmother, and it turned out to be a great situation. This is a great book for young athletes.

What to read next:

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Have you read Kate’s Really Good at Hockey? What did you think of it?