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Something True with Kieran Scott | #TrueLoveTrilogy

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Whether you love or loathe this holiday, you’re here today because of one common love: reading. We’re thrilled to host Kieran Scott today (you may know her as Kate Brian), who released the final book in the wonderful, charming, funny TRUE LOVE trilogy. Cupid is punished and banished to NJ where she moonlights as True and has no clue how to be a “normal” teenager. True is focused on pairing up meant-to-be couples so she can return to Mt. Olympus (and hopefully fulfill her own love story, which got her in this mess to begin with) so in the spirit of love and fate and all that good stuff, Kieran was kind enough to share her own love story with her husband, Matt.

You are going to love it. Take it away, Kieran!

♥  ♥  ♥

Kieran Scott and the True Love Trilogy

My husband and I never would have met if my best friend’s parents hadn’t gotten divorced. I know, it sounds like bad karma, but let me explain.

My bestKieran Scott, author of True Love trilogyfriend Shira went to one high school all the way through ninth grade, where she was friends with my future husband, Matt. Then, in tenth grade, her mom and her new stepdad decided to move their family, which took her out of Matt’s high school and plopped her down right in front of me in sophomore English. (The first thing I thought about her was “Holy crap, I’d kill for that hair.” It’s the exact opposite of mine.) Now, Shira is one of those people who stays friends with everyone she’s ever met, which turned out to be lucky for me and Matt, because ten years later, we met at Shira’s 25th birthday party, which was packed with her middle school friends, high school friends, Hebrew school friends, college friends, camp friends AND work friends.

Actually, all things considered, how we found each other in the crowd is beyond me. What I do remember is Matt asking me if I wanted the last mozzarella stick instead of just taking it for himself. I remember the fact that he readily admitted to watching Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek. I recall that he mentioned he was going to be exhausted at church in the morning and that he couldn’t talk to me about politics, because, well, most people didn’t agree with him and he didn’t want me to walk away just yet.

We hung out throughout the party and at four in the morning, I was lying awake in my friend Wendy’s roommate’s bed (she was away for the weekend), staring at the ceiling with this huge smile on my face. I knew something big was happening. I just never would have been able to predict how big.

After that party, Matt went away with his friends for a week and I heard nothing. If he wanted to call, he couldn’t have, because he was in Jamaica. So of course, I was obsessing. What was he doing in Jamaica? Was he hooking up? What if he met someone there? I spent that whole week stressing that I was going to miss out on this great guy just because of a previously scheduled vacation. Then, a couple weeks later, I went out to dinner with my three best girlfriends and Shira asked me what I thought of Matt. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. But I didn’t want to give away the farm, so I played it cool and said, “Why do you ask?” She said that she’d spoken to Matt and he’d said, “That Kieran is my kind of girl.”

Oh my God, it sounds so hokey now, but I almost died. We set up a big group date and the rest is history. Over the years we’ve found out that our relationship didn’t exactly begin the night of Shira’s birthday. We’d been at other random parties of hers together over the previous couple of years and whenever he walked into a room I’d ask my friends, “WHO is that again?” And they’d say, “It’s Matt! God, if you think he’s so hot, you could at least remember his name.” I also found out that he’d asked Shira about me once before, but it was when I was in a serious relationship with someone else, so she’d told him I was off the market. We’d been circling each other for years, but that birthday party was the first time we were both single, and both in the mood for mozzarella sticks.

All of this goes to show that you never know. You may have already met the guy you’re destined to be with, but the timing might just be wrong. Or you may have already met the girl who’s eventually going to introduce you to the guy you’re going to be with (don’t even get me started on how Wendy and her husband Barry ended up getting together). So, yes, it was lucky for me that Shira’s parents got divorced (they are both VERY happily remarried, by the way). Otherwise, I might never have met the person I was meant to be with.

P.S. The priest called Shira up at our wedding so everyone could meet our matchmaker. It was so awesome.Kieran Scott (YA author) wedding


Thanks so much for sharing today, Kieran!

The love is not over yet, folks. The great people at Simon Kids are providing one lucky winner with a hardcover set of TRUE LOVE trilogy.

Open to U.S. and Canadian readers. Enter below!

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Add SOMETHING TRUE to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | Kieran Scott

February 20, 2015 - 12:33 am

Natasha - Say Anything.
Thanks for the chance to win!

February 19, 2015 - 11:56 am

Kimberly V - Tristan and Isolde is my favorite love story.

February 19, 2015 - 10:53 am

Jessica D - Anything by Jane Austen! The end of Persuasion gets me every time…

February 15, 2015 - 2:15 pm

SweetMarie83 - My favourite real life love story is my parents’, and my favourite fictional one is Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. :-)

February 15, 2015 - 12:27 am

Alexa S. - I loved reading Kieran’s love story for this post! It seriously is such a charming tale, and I’m so happy for her <3

February 14, 2015 - 9:32 pm

bn100 - pride and prejudice

February 14, 2015 - 7:49 pm

Cassidy - This book was so sweet and amazing, I couldn’t stop reading it. I read it on my kindle and I’m pretty sure I ruined my eyesight for reading on the screen for hours everyday but I don’t regret it at all!

February 14, 2015 - 1:57 pm

Siobhain - My favorite love story the notebook! Nicholas sparks is so talented and can watch this movie so many times and cry every time

February 14, 2015 - 12:03 pm

Lisa @ Reading, Writing, and Random Musings - As someone who is newly unexpectedly single, I love to hear stories of how you just never know when you will meet the person you are destined to be with! Thanks for sharing such a heart warming story on such a heart warming day!

February 14, 2015 - 11:16 am

Aislyn - This is so sweet!!!

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Little Kids: A Valentine’s Love-Fest

Valentine

Graphic found via Pinterest via this source.

As many of you know, a really sweet day is approaching: Valentine’s Day! And my daughter, Everett, just turned one a week and a half ago. I intended to do a big OMG HOW HAS THIS YEAR FLOWN BY POST, but I kind of got wrapped up in the moment and didn’t share that little tribute like I wanted. I decided I’d sort of combine everything into this great big Little Kids post because I want to focus on books that show our love to the kiddos in our lives.

I’ve listed a few new-to-us titles and a few absolute favorites that are often on repeat over here. One thing they all have in common is they let the reader proclaim, share, or discuss love. I hold and tell Everett that I love her no less than a million times a day. I want it to be engrained in the center of her little core that I love her to the ends of the world. But guess what, sometimes she doesn’t want me squeezing her and hugging her. Sometimes she just wants to sit and read a book, but I can still sneak in the same message.

Here are my recommendations to you for our Valentine’s love-fest / (a belated) celebration of my little girl:

  1. Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You: Oh, be prepared to sob while you read this one. I think about Everett growing up and becoming her own person. I used to read it to our foster daughter and wanted to send along the message that she would always have our love. This book has been a treasured one that’s been soaked with lots of tears and read with much emotion.
  2. I Love You Through and Through: My favorite aspect of this book is that I can point out different body parts, i.e.: “I love your hair and eyes,” but I also really appreciate that it talks about how our littles will have good days and bad days, happy days and sad days, but no matter what, we’re still going to love them just the same. That’s a HUGE lesson for a child to learn.
  3. If I Could Keep You Little: This is another extremely sentimental book because it hits home for us parents that we REALLY want to press the pause button and freeze time because RIGHT NOW IS SO AWESOME … but there are going to be other equally awesome, amazing moments that lie ahead.
  4. The Biggest Kiss: This is a new-to-us book we just picked up from a Barnes & Noble visit a week ago. It’s fun to read aloud and has great illustrations, silly rhymes, and focuses on kisses!
  5. I Love You Night and Day: Another new-to-us book, but with the recurring message of unconditional love with cute graphics, and sweet, sweet words.

Bonus recommendations:

  • On the Night You Were Born: Okay, obviously it’s impossible for me to read this one without sobbing.
  • God Found Us You: This was a staple read when we had our foster daughter; it’s a lovely book about how much the child is wanted and was yearned for. This post should really be titled “Books That Turn Magan Into a Blubbering Mess.”
  • God Gave Us You: This is a companion book to God Found Us You for biological children. Also really sweet and special because it talks about patience and waiting for that special little bundle.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your littles!
Do you have a book you’d recommend we check out to complete our love-fest?

Oh, and who am I kidding? Here’s are two shameless photos of my sweet girl. Happy birthday, Everett!

Magan-and-Everett

Photographs courtesy of Lindsey from The Life You Love Photography

February 23, 2015 - 11:28 am

Magan - Katie, I know RIGHT? More crying books! (Yes, please…) So glad you were interested in a few of these! Hope you love them!

February 23, 2015 - 11:27 am

Magan - Elizabeth, we don’t have the Snuggle Puppy book. I’m adding it to my amazon wishlist right now! Thanks for the heads up! xo

February 23, 2015 - 11:27 am

Magan - Thanks for telling me about your post! Checking it out! And thank you — she’s so sweet and silly. xo

February 23, 2015 - 11:26 am

Magan - Oh me either, Leah. ME EITHER. I sob through a lot of children’s books too. A LOT. (I mean, obviously.)

February 23, 2015 - 11:24 am

Magan - Thanks, Alexa! It was so fun to celebrate her birthday! I can’t believe a YEAR has passed!

February 23, 2015 - 11:19 am

Magan - Brooke: Thank you so much! I absolutely love reading to Everett. Each time we sit down with a book, I think my heart grows a little. :) Thanks so much for the sweet compliments about the photos! xo

February 20, 2015 - 1:50 pm

Brooke - This post is so sweet! One of the things I am looking forward to MOST about having little ones is sharing my love of reading with them…

And OH those pictures of Everett. What a beauty!

February 15, 2015 - 12:25 am

Alexa S. - Loved reading this post, M! And such great recommendations <3 Also, you and E looked so lovely. Happy first birthday, Everett!

February 14, 2015 - 9:34 am

Leah - I know I already mentioned this on twitter, but I seriously cannot believe she’s already a year old! It feels like you just posted your What to Expect.. review, M! A very, very happy birthday to miss Everett (those pictures are beyond adorable – my goodness she has cheeks for days ♥!)

When it comes to kids’ books…I just can’t read anything too emotional. Adult books, sure, bring it on! But storybooks have a way of completely wrecking me and I’m left a sobbing mess. :(

February 13, 2015 - 6:49 pm

Brianna - Valentine’s Day books are so fun. I did a round-up last week with some fun titles.

Your little girl is so cute. I love the photo of her in the tent.

February 13, 2015 - 3:33 pm

Elizabeth - We love to read I Love You Through and Through… my almost 2 yo likes to do the body parts and thinks my mad face and crying face are funny. I think my favorite lovey kid’s book is Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton… we really love all Sandra Boynton, but that one is super cute!

February 13, 2015 - 10:54 am

Katie T - Love this! Just added a few of these to Eli’s wishlist :) Just what I need – more books to make mamma cry! ha

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Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson • Magan Reviews

book cover from goodreads for Cut Me Free by J.R. JohanssonCut Me Free by J.R. Johansson [twitter • website]
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: child abuse, changing identities, escaping abuse, thriller
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Though Charlotte is able to escape her abusers (her parents) and relocate to another city, once she begins to settle she begins receiving mysterious boxes with creepy messages inside. Could her parents have possibly tracked her down or has someone else discovered her secrets?

• • •

How does one review a book that was brilliantly written but scared the bejesus out of them? I felt shaky and scared and angry while I was reading Cut Me Free. I tried to skip to the end to give myself some piece of mind; I hovered over the Goodreads app, contemplating whether or not I should look up spoilers because I was soooo anxious.

That’s a lot of emotions, huh?

Well, it’s all true. Charlotte was raised in the attic of her biological parent’s house. She and her brother’s identity was known to no one other than the two people who abused them and held them hostage. They’re sickening and grotesque and some of the worst people I’ve ever met in my reading life. The good news? Charlotte escapes. She weaves a path far, far away from the detestable souls she was unfortunately born to and tries to start over. She hires Cam to change her identity, provide the necessary official paperwork, and erase her past.

But things don’t come easy for Charlotte. She begins to see a young girl out and about with a fatherly figure who is showing obvious signs of abuse. For reasons I won’t go into, Charlotte feels like she has to save this girl. A whole series of events unfolds that really left me feeling unsettled and on guard. This story, Charlotte’s story, is multi-faceted: It’s her journey to begin anew, but interwoven is a thriller story as she begins to receive mysterious boxes.

I admire the way Cut Me Free made me feel, but maybe I walked away a little more paranoid than I began. There were times when, sure, this story really had things that may not have seemed plausible — for instance, how does a girl who has no education and socialization skills logically escape and instinctually know how to flee across the country — but ultimately, knowing whether or not Charlotte was going to be okay far outweighed the practical side of me that questions things. (And I think that’s a pretty big deal.)

As far as thrillers go, I was positively hooked. I really try to focus on my job during the day and taking care of my daughter when she’s awake, but by golly, I wanted to hire a babysitter and play hooky. I feel it’s my responsibility to admit the following to you: If you are really sensitive to abuse and neglect, I caution you to tread lightly with Cut Me Free. My anger was through the roof and Foster Mama Magan wanted to rip someone to shreds for not intervening here. (I actually read a few reviews that said the details weren’t graphic enough and my jaw couldn’t have dropped further because yes, things are told in a careful manner, but you’re quite capable of putting all the details together.)

Cut Me Free was an extremely intense story told quite well; it took me on an emotional, heart-pounding journey. I hope you’ll consider giving it a go, too.

**Sidebar: Have any of you read Room? Those same intense, crazy feelings I had while reading Room are what reappeared while reading Cut Me Free.

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February 23, 2015 - 11:29 am

Magan - Yay, Lori! I’m so glad you’re interested. It’s insane and I think as a parent, it makes it even more intense to read. I hope you enjoy it!

February 23, 2015 - 11:29 am

Magan - Emma, yes! Definitely keep an eye out for more work from here. I checked out her author page on Goodreads and she seems to write a LOT of thriller/mystery. I will check out more of her work for sure. ;)

February 23, 2015 - 11:26 am

Magan - Brianna, you don’t have to love the writing of Room to love Cut Me Free. The same intensity, however, is what made me make the comparison. Emma Donoghue didn’t write Cut Me Free so I think that change alone would make CMF more appealing to you. :)

February 23, 2015 - 11:24 am

Magan - Alexa, uncomfortable to the MAX. I seriously wanted to just skip to the end so bad. (In fact: I don’t know how I had enough willpower to NOT.) I hope you give it a go. :)

February 15, 2015 - 12:24 am

Alexa S. - Oh man, oh man. Cut Me Free sounds so intense! It would be a read that would make me uncomfortable, but I also wouldn’t be able to stop myself from finding out what happens next. I feel like it would definitely make me think about a lot of things, and I can only imagine how you felt reading it!

February 14, 2015 - 1:54 pm

Brianna - I read Room, but didn’t love it. The premise was compelling, but I’m not a fan of Emma Donoghue’s writing. She mostly writes lesbian fiction, which is fine, but she’s got a very slow, slogging writing style, in my opinion.

February 12, 2015 - 1:23 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - Ah! This sounds way too intense for me (as I think maybe we discussed on Twitter?) but I’m glad it was worth the stressing for you. It sounds like this author is definitely one to keep my eye on.

February 12, 2015 - 12:15 pm

Lori - This is new to me! I’m adding it on Goodreads right now because you definitely have me intrigued!

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We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg • Estelle Reviews

We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth EulbergWe Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 1/27/2015
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: friendship, romance, organizing a club, Beatles
Format read: Purchased.

Summary: Penny Lane is dating Ryan and running the Lonely Hearts Club but as things get more serious with Ryan and the club begins to grow beyond their high school, Penny finds herself in a predicament. As great as all of this is, she cannot seem to find a fair balance between the two.

When it was announced that we would be getting another book about Penny and her Lonely Hearts Club, I couldn’t be more ecstatic. My warm feelings for the original book all stem from the fact that the characters felt like girls I went to high school with and I couldn’t wait to experience that again. I’m very happy to say that We Can Work It Out did not disappoint. Here are a few reasons why you should pick it up:

  • When two people start dating, there is always so much thought about how much time she is spending with her significant other (mostly too much) but I love how Elizabeth Eulberg turns this on its head. In We Can Work It Out, Penny is spending less time with Ryan because of her allegiance to the club and also because she doesn’t want to turn into the girl who ditches her gal pals for her boyfriend. It’s so important to be aware of this infraction but when it’s starting to become a problem in your new relationship… it’s time to rethink things.
  • Penny is tense about PDA in the halls and isn’t great about letting Ryan in as much as she lets in the members of the Lonely Hearts Club. I remember feeling weird about kissing my boyfriend in public when I was a sophomore and struggling to feel comfortable with other people undoubtably catching us together. For those reasons, I’m glad it was touched upon in this book because going from liking someone to being naturally physical is not so seamless.
  • I couldn’t have been prouder of all the girls in the Club. It may have started as a tactic to grow stronger after some jerky guys broke their hearts but the focus has totally turned to being there for your girlfriends through thick and thin — for those you know and those you don’t. Their commitment to one another was lovely, and, most importantly, they were able to widen their views when it came to “the rules”. Eulberg shows how these girls are truly in flux, feeling out who they are, and accepting that they don’t have all of the answers. I wish girls showed each other this kind of love and understanding all the time.
  • Penny and her parents are as hilarious as ever with their devotion to the Beatles. I love how the Blooms are such supportive and awesome parents (in fact most of the Lonely Club parents are) and I could not but smile when they pulled out tribute after tribute to those four boys from Liverpool.

We Can Work It Out was like hanging out with your best girlfriends at the diner, you haven’t checked your phone or watch once, and the cheesy fries just keep on coming. It’s a feel-good hooray for the ladies read that understands what makes ladies tick and why friendship is so important.

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Previous review of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB

February 15, 2015 - 12:22 am

Alexa S. - We Can Work It Out was definitely fun to read! I love that you’ve basically narrowed it down to the awesome things it includes in your review. So happy that we had more time with Penny and the rest of the gals – and Ryan too!

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Religion in YA Books • Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Each Sunday, I found myself driving down the back roads of our small town with my grandparents, headed to our tiny Catholic church. I was baptized there and participated as a reader, attended Sunday school, and in high school was confirmed, too. I didn’t really know anything other than Catholicism until my sophomore year in high school when my best friend began asking me to attend her Wednesday night youth group at her Baptist church. The differences between her church and mine were night and day: there weren’t nearly as many rituals at hers, people talked a lot more openly about things like sin, sexuality, and who God is. It was then that I realized that not all churches are the same. I guess hypothetically I had known that before, but until I saw it in action, I didn’t know there could be something different.

[Full disclosure: I began going with Leslie because there was a cute boy involved.]

The summer after my Sophomore year, I went to a church camp in Glorieta, NM with Leslie’s youth group. I went hoping that I’d sit next to that cute boy on the way there and that sometime over that week he would FINALLY ask me to be his girlfriend. Spoiler alert: his dad was our bus driver to New Mexico and made a bet with him to see how many girls’ phone numbers he could get while he was there. We pulled into the camp and my heart was just crushed. Thank goodness I found out before all the festivities began because I think my sole focus would have remained pursuing him if I hadn’t found out the truth early on. Instead, I tried to ignore him and threw myself into bonding with my group and being active.

And it’s there that my heart really seemed to change and this whole idea of Christianity really became something more. It was more than just a proclamation. It was more than just attending church on Sundays. Sure I had a lot of questions and things I just didn’t know the answer to, but I felt anxious to seek out those answers and to explore religion in a whole new way.

This little piece of my history is something that still impacts my day-to-day life and it’s something I am searching for when I’m reading: What do the characters believe? Are they searching like I was (still am)?

I think at our core we’re curious humans and we like to test the waters. We don’t easily accept things at face value or believe things necessarily because we’re told to. There have been a few standout books for me that really reflected how it felt for me to question and seek those answers:

stealing parker, small town sinners, things i can

Stealing Parker, Small Town Sinners, and Things I Can’t Forget have given me characters that aren’t always right, don’t know all the ins and outs of their beliefs, want to learn more, are flawed and imperfect, and they all struggle. Gosh, even as a nearly 30 year old woman (say WHAT?!) I still feel this way. I don’t always know what’s right or what I’m supposed to do. These books extend this amazing olive branch that say, “IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW!”

Perhaps what I’ve felt lately in a lot of my reading has been that there’s either a strong believe or a great nonchalance. In two books I recently read (The Last Time We Say Goodbye and Since You’ve Been Gone), the main characters both admit to having no faith as they’re going through these GIANT life changing events; the conversation stops there and once they’ve said, “I don’t know what to believe” that’s it. But I’ve also noticed that aside from Christianity, I’m not seeing a whole lot of exploration of other religions. Perhaps those with Christianity stand out to me because that’s what I identify with the most, but ideally, I’d really love to be able to update this post with a long list of books that explore other faiths. Religion and beliefs are just one of the multitude of things that make us diverse, and I’d love to see this tackled more in what I’m reading. I want to know my character’s struggles and strongholds.

So here you have it, my great question to you guys: Where is religion in young adult books? What books have you read that have done a really nice job exploring religion? 


 

Thanks for joining the discussion for this month’s Dive Into Diversity! Don’t forget to link-up with you diverse posts below. Rebecca, Estelle, and I cannot wait to read them and check out your blogs! If you haven’t had a chance to join the DID reading challenge, feel free to visit the intro post and use #DiversityDive on Twitter & Instagram!



February 23, 2015 - 11:32 am

Magan - Jamie, thanks SO much for sharing your story and the great recommendations. I haven’t read either of the books you’ve mentioned so I’ll be adding them to my TBR right now. I’m so glad you shared! xoxox

February 23, 2015 - 11:31 am

Magan - Elizabeth, you know what — you’re so right. I definitely haven’t read a lot of books with Jehovah’s Witness. THANK YOU for letting us know about Brown Girl Dreaming! I enjoy how trilogies can explore religion by really making up their own as well. I think it’s a good way to get people thinking about things without being so explicit.

February 23, 2015 - 11:23 am

Magan - Katie, I SO hope you check out the books! And I’m so thankful for your recommendation too. Going to head to Goodreads to check it out! I just don’t understand why there aren’t a ton of religious exploration books out there. I know a lot of teens are questioning this. It felt like SUCH a big deal to me in high school.

February 16, 2015 - 10:03 pm

Katie @ Bookish Illuminations - Magan,

I love this post! This is exactly the kind of discussion I love–religion and spirituality in literature, especially children’s and YA. I agree with you–there isn’t as much religion in YA as I think there should be, and I hope that publishing trend changes in the near future.

I haven’t read any of these books you mentioned, but knowing that they focus on characters struggling with questions of faith and religion makes me me want to check them out. I think being curious about these issues is healthy and reflects a more authentic spirituality.

I would so welcome more YA novels that reflected characters expressing their spirituality/religion or struggling with those big questions in life that we often associate with religion and spirituality.

I always try to tease out any spiritual dimensions I find in the books I review–in a very broad sense–but it’s rare that I find books engaging with religion and spirituality in a more specific way. One book that comes to mind with a clear spiritual dimension and that does engage with religion in a refreshing way is The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis. It’s not YA, but I think YA readers who are mature could read it.

February 15, 2015 - 12:20 am

Alexa S. - Honestly, I love reading about characters who have strong ideals or struggles with religion. It’s a quest that every individual goes through on their own at some point, trying to make sense of things and decide what to believe in. The books you’ve included, particularly Kenneally’s novels, are great examples of books that tackle religion in a way that feels organic, thoughtful and interesting. Would be awesome to read more books featuring all sorts of religion!

February 10, 2015 - 3:46 pm

Elizabeth - This is only fresh on my mind because I just finished Brown Girl Dreaming last night, but she talks a bit about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, which is something that I have not ever read about anywhere. It was an experience I appreciated reading about, even though I’m not particularly religious myself. I also enjoyed the role of religion in a couple of fantasy trilogies I’ve read– The Girl of Fire and Thorns series and His Fair Assassin series both features fairly pious main characters, though those religions were fictional ones. But on the whole, religion or spirituality are not very prominent in the books I read.

February 10, 2015 - 3:38 pm

Jamie - I grew up only going to church on Christmas and Easter and sometimes to sunday school with my neighbors and VBS in the summer. Then in 8th grade I started going to youth group at a baptist church with a friend (because of a boy and all the boys certainly made me keep going haha). I stayed and got really involved and then made the decision to go to a Christian college. Between my mom passing away and just my experience AT that college I walked away more confused than ever. So I love seeing religion explored in a way that isn’t like Christian fiction or trying to convert someone. Like truly I feel like wrestling with what you believe in or don’t believe in is a huge part of one’s life experience. Especially in the face of death when you really look at like “hey what do I believe in…will I see them again? Is there nothing after death??” I mean, I get panicky at night STILL wrestling with these things.

So yeah I really love seeing it! And not just Christianity. I love seeing all faiths though obviously Christianity is what I’m most familiar with and can relate to.

I recently read No Parking In The End Times and I thought it dealt with wrestling with your faith really well. The girl believes in God and grew up in the church and then her dad gets involved with this cult-like end time group and through this experience she really reevaluates her beliefs and struggles with if she believes in God at all. It was really thought-provoking though I think if people don’t like reading about people who have faith and are wrestling with it probably won’t enjoy it.

I also read Like No Other by Una LaMarche and that was SUCH a good book and the main character was a Hasidic Jew and I loved how it looked at her religion and her culture and how an event really made her question things!

February 10, 2015 - 1:35 pm

Magan - Valeria, every question you posed in your comment is EXAXTLY what I was thinking here. You are spot on. I really feel like I’m missing out on culturizing myself by not seeing this in my reading. It makes the books less unique, I think, and all of the characters a greater melting pot. I want to learn and grow and be pushed to encounter differences. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

February 10, 2015 - 1:30 pm

Magan - Thank you, Andi! I haven’t read that one by Terra, but fully intend to ass it to my TBR list! Thanks so much for contributing!

February 10, 2015 - 1:29 pm

Magan - Thanks for your comment, Jen! I agree – in mainstream YA I’m not seeing a lot of exploration of other faiths. I don’t temd to read actual targeted Christian fiction from a store like Lifeway. I guess I’m pretty surprised that religion is really skipped over in our young adult books. Even if it’s not the primary focus, couldn’t it play a minor role? I haven’t read those books you listed but I am so intrigued! Thanks for sharing!

February 10, 2015 - 1:25 pm

Magan - Bruna, that’s my point – I’m not seeing a lot of those other cultures and religions well-represented at all. I do understand your point of this not being in every book because some people just really don’t want to read about it. Out of curiosity, have you read any books with any religion aspects you’ve found did a good job incorporating it as part of the discussion without it being the sole focus?

February 10, 2015 - 1:20 pm

Magan - Rachel, you’re so right about HOW TO LOVE. I has forgotten that. Subtle, yes, but still a part of the story. Coming from a catholic background, I fully understood how she would have felt being pregnant and her parents reactions. The story would have felt less complete without that i think. Also, thanks for the sweet comment. I’m really glad you found this interesting!

February 10, 2015 - 1:18 pm

Magan - It really seems to be lacking, Brianna. You bring up a great point about the Holocaust. I haven’t read a book focusing on that time with a religious aspect either.

February 10, 2015 - 11:56 am

Brianna - I can’t think of a single book off the top of my head, YA or otherwise, where religion plays a prominent role (other than memoir). Even Holocaust literature doesn’t really talk about the religious aspects of those peoples’ lives.

February 10, 2015 - 11:55 am

Rachel @ Hello, Chelly - Magan, I love that you wrote about this! I was at a similar crossroads during college (I was brought up Catholic but some of my relatives belonged to a Baptist church). I agree this topic isn’t explored enough in books but I would like to see more of it. One book that did come to mind is HOW TO LOVE by Katie Cotugno. Religion/Catholicism plays a role but a subtle one. But I always find myself thinking of it when I look back on that book (which happens to be one of my all-time favorites). Great post!

February 10, 2015 - 11:30 am

Bruna - Interesting discussion. Religion is not something I see a lot in the books I read, and to be honest, I don’t think is something I would normally seek out. I have struggles with what I actually do believe in and I am already so surrounded by people in real life wanting to push their religions on me that I feel that books are a way to scape that. If is something completely different from my culture, like Islam or other non-Western religions I might be interested; or discussions on atheism or agnosticism. But as far catholicism goes, I just rather do without it.

February 10, 2015 - 10:28 am

Jen Ellision - I wish I had some from other faiths to add, but the only books I can think of that explore faith are of a Christian slant.

I read it a while ago and I believe it’s Christian fiction YA, but if I recall the Lisa Tawn Bergren’s River of Time series had some good exploration on faith… not heavy-handed at all, which has been my problem with some Christian fiction. Plus the series is adorable time travel historical romance YA.

Jackson Pearce’s Purity may have had a little exploration too, but I seem to recall it being more about the character’s relationship with her dad than church…

February 10, 2015 - 9:54 am

Andi - I loved reading Small Town Sinner. I was so intrigued by that kind of subject. One that I read that I really enjoyed was Pure by Terra Élan McVoy. Really interesting look at teens with purity rings, waiting until marriage to have sex and what happens when someone goes against that or you yourself thinks about going against it.

Great post Magan.

February 10, 2015 - 9:20 am

Valeria @ A Touch of Book Madness - I love that you raised these questions. I have to agree with you. Other than Christian fiction which, as the genre suggests, deals with a lot of religious issues, I don’t see it anywhere in YA. I would love to see it reflected, and much like you be able to learn about other beliefs and cultures. People tend to focus on other diversity issues, but religion always seems to be pushed aside. Why is that?

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The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds • Estelle Reviews

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason ReynoldsThe Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 1/6/2015
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Pages: 272
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: death, NYC, grief, friendship, romance, jobs
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)

Summary: After his mom dies from breast cancer, Matt discovers comfort at the local funeral home where he gets a job.

Before you read this review, I have to ask: have you read When I Was The Greatest yet? I reviewed it last year, mentioned it everywhere including my End of the Year survey, and, well, I just need you to read it before I can go on. So please buy it, request it from your library, or download it for your eReader.

Done? Okay.

The Boy in the Black Suit had me once again asking myself how Jason Reynolds does it. With a small page count, he brings such emotion and authenticity to his stories, and manages to develop his characters and their plotlines without giving away too much. Here we have Matt, a 17-year old who just lost his mother to cancer. He’s reeling from his own grief (he and his mother were super close) and at the same time, taking on such a grown up role in his household because his dad is not adjusting well to this tragedy. Matt never plans to take a job at the local funeral home, but when the opportunity presents itself, he scoops it up — anxious to keep himself busy somehow. (And after assurance that he would not have to touch dead bodies.)

What Matt does not expect to find is such support in funeral home owner Mr. Ray or comfort in the sadness he sees at these ceremonies. He finds himself seeking out the most upset person in the crowd, and hangs on to it. With the loss of his mom so fresh, he feels a bond with these strangers and relief about his own feelings and the fact that he is not alone. Yes, he has the support of his friend, Chris, and, occasionally, his father, but there’s something about facing these tragedies head on that makes him feel better about listening to Tupac’s “Dear Mama” every night before he goes to sleep. (Full disclosure: totally listened to this while I was reading.)

I’ve been to a lot of funerals (starting at a young age) and Reynolds had me openly weeping at some of the scenes Matt was experiencing. It’s certainly tough to read about them in any context but I guess I hadn’t realized how fresh my own memories of funerals were until I was deep into The Boy in the Black Suit. Personally, I had no idea how Matt handled it but when you are feeling alone and don’t know where to go, we can’t predict what’s going to bring us back and make us stronger. So there’s that.

As Matt deals with his grief, his dad’s ambivalence, and even the fact that he does not feel like cracking open a cookbook (a favorite hobby of his and a love he shared with his mom), a girl named Love comes into his life. As you may have expected, he meets her at a funeral and he is immediately taken by her strength. It’s funny how life works — who you meet and what builds you up when life hits its lowest point. I liked being alongside Matt during this time. He would always miss his mother, sure, but he was gaining the strength to pull through and press on.

Reynolds’s work continues to impress me and I am hoping other readers are going to catch on. In a world where we fight for diverse reads and the underdogs, he deserves our readership. The vulnerability and truth brought to his characters paired with solid dialogue — it’s like he has the secret recipe to a perfectly paced book (rhythmically and emotionally).

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Review of WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST by Jason Reynolds

Dive into Diversity Reading Challenge

February 15, 2015 - 12:18 am

Alexa S. - Wasn’t sure if I wanted to read The Boy in the Black Suit originally, but your review makes me think I should give it a shot! It definitely portrays a different sort of situation, and the main character sounds like a guy I could like. Lovely review, E!

February 9, 2015 - 8:18 pm

Estelle - Bruna, this excites me! I hope you get to read it soon. You have my permission to go book shopping. ;)

February 9, 2015 - 5:21 pm

Bruna - I have read When I Was The Greatest, and really enjoyed it. I think The Boy in the Black Suit sounds even more interesting to me because of the tough subjects (and maybe a little bit because of the possible romance?). Definitely on my to-buy list.

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