Fierce Contemporary Reads / Diverse + Beautiful + My New Favorites

I’ve been reading SO MUCH contemporary lately!? Normally I wait for spring to start really reading contemporary but this year I’ve just swept up in contemporary reads. And it’s been great! Most of the books I’ve read lately have been super lovely. Even captivating. 

And in another surprise twist, all of the books in today’s mini-reviews, I read via audiobook! That’s very unusual for me, as I tend to love reading more than listening. But second semester senior year is BUSY and finding time to sit and read is next to impossible. Hurrah for audiobooks! 

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.

Okay, this book was very different from most books I’ve read lately. It’s narrated by a pretty moody teenage boy who is mostly funny and sometimes very obnoxious. And it’s very YA! I mean, it just feels so teenagery with complaints about rules and absent dads and first girlfriends.

I loved all the religious rep – I mean there’s Catholic school and a very passionate Catholic girl, a Pagan worshipper, a Gay Jewish boy, and an atheist. SO MANY DIFFERENT FAITHS AND IDEAS! Also, with all those varying lifestyles, there’s arguments and amazing discussions. Talks about colonialism, and family, and privilege and how we treat each other. LOVED IT.

There’s also some fantastic family dynamics and great explorations of personal pain and how it affects the way we treat others. Family is important and I love a great YA book that really delves into messy families and hard topics with a sense of grace.

Did I mention how funny this book is??? I actually laughed out loud SEVERAL times while is kind of rare, to be honest, when I’m reading. But this book is just super funny. 

All those fantastic elements PLUS a really engaging plot make a pretty great contemporary. 10/10 recommend. 

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. 

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I think it was a great exploration of a Bangladeshi-American teenager’s life, as well as a great way to highlight muslim faith and LGBTQ issues.

The characters felt well developed, the plot kept me on my toes, and I liked the ending. I also think the author did a fantastic job of showing how some people are mistreated and misconceptions about other people’s cultures. It’s a great diverse book. 

So why not five stars? Mainly because this book is hard and dealt with so many really bad life things. Not as in bad writing, but bad stuff that happened to characters that weighed my heart down.

Triggers and spoiler warnings now

This story is about a Bangladeshi Muslim American teenager, Rukhsana. Rukhsana is brilliant, has a full ride scholarship to CalTech and has a girlfriend. When her parents find out, they drag her to Bangladesh and try to force her into a marriage.

I liked the story but the stuff that happened in Bangladesh was just too much. I know people do horrible things to LGBTQ people around the world. Knowing and reading a fictionalized account is very different. It’s just more emotionally hard and intense. I also felt like the characters who initiated these horrible things didn’t really come to terms with their actions? Yes they stopped, but it felt like gay characters paid the price more than the oppressors?

End of spoilers/triggers

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone’s who is in a healthy place emotionally. The cultural rep is AMAZING and now I’d really like to makes some authentic chai. 

Also, I listened to the audiobook and I loved how it’s read!

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her Mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

I literally do not have words to describe the beauty that is this book. It’s lyrical and well written and utterly gripping. 

It’s very difficult for me to describe this book because I loved it so, so much.

This is a story about Xiomara  and her struggle to find her voice in a very strict, religious household in Harlem. While people hurl sexist insults at her, Xiomara has learned to stand up for herself at school. She shoves aside prickish boys, and tries to protect her feelings from getting smashed. Even then, she finds herself falling for a sweet boy.

But while Xiomara tries to work out her feelings, her mother insists she go to confirmation classes. And erase all thoughts about boys. Xiomara has questions about church, mixed up feelings about her mom, and dreams of kisses and love.

I LOVE XIOMARA’S VOICE! This book is written in spoken word poetry, and if you listen to the audio book, it’s read by the author. Friends, you should really consider listening to this book. It’s beautifully read and so powerful.

I can’t really say TOO much more without spoilers, but this book make me happy, and cry, and all the feelings. My new favorite book.

pretend I’m not listening to Jonas Bros new Sucker and actually listening to an audiobook. Thanks. 

Well, that’s my reviews for today! I think my 2019 reads have been SO LOVELY and I’m thankful for all my blogging friends. Because I would never have discovered these reads without all my fellow bloggers recommendations!

lets chatHave you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? Do you like books that talk about characters religious experiences? Have you listened to spoken word poetry? 

What books have you read because of other bloggers recommendations? Have you read a book because I’ve recommended it? (that would make me feel really great, btw 😊)

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5 Comments

  1. March 7, 2019 / 9:13 am

    I’m very curiois about the first two books. I don’t know much of the second but I read the first is very well reviewd and… I still donìt see it getting hyped around? I literally found it by mistake and I think that just one of the blog I follow, talked about it.

    I’m pretty sure it will be deep for me, the reading I mean because I live in a country where religion and what can be define as “anti religion” discussion always get very strong, because of oppression and other stuffs.

  2. March 7, 2019 / 12:48 pm

    Great reviews! I read and LOVED The Poet X, but I definitely want to pick up the audiobook now.

  3. March 10, 2019 / 2:10 pm

    Ahh I SO want to read The Poet X, I’ve heard so many incredible things about this book. I kind of want to give the audiobook a try, but I’ve never really tried out audiobooks before… maybe that one would be a great place to start, since it has so much praise? 🙂
    Wonderful reviews! <3
    (and I approve you listening to Sucker, I'm slightly obsesseeeed hahaha)

  4. March 14, 2019 / 12:37 pm

    I read The Poet X for work recently and LOVED it. I thought it was just such an amazing book. I’ve read quite a few verse novels but this one is definitely my new favorite and I’m definitely planning to read Elizabeth Acevedo’s new book coming out, With the Fire on High, this spring. I’m so happy you liked this one 🙂

  5. March 14, 2019 / 10:43 pm

    I have Heretics on my TBR, it just sounds really good and unique! Plus, with all different religions the characters have, the book bounds to have some interesting discussion 🙂 Great review!

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