Road Trip Wednesday: Best Book of June

It's been a while since I participated in this but to those who don't know Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival hosted by the lovely bloggers over at YA Highway. Every Wednesday a question is asked and bloggers are invited to answer the question on their own respective blogs. This week's topic:

What was the best book you read in June?

Out of the four books I've read this month, I am going to have to say that I enjoyed This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers the most.

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

I had high hopes for this book.

Having read and loved Courtney Summers' previous novels, I didn't doubt that This Is Not A Test would live up to my expectations. I also wasn't suprised when it exceeded them. There comes a time when you find an author whose books you won't hesitate to buy, and I think Courtney Summers is that author for me.

Everything she writes is so raw, so heartbreakingly honest that you forget that what you're reading is fiction and that the characters aren't real. The same three dimenionsal qualities of Summers' previous main characters exist in Sloane Price. Though there is a special place in my heart for Parker, Regina, and Eddie, Sloane is a character that I won't forget. It's been a few days since I read TINAT, but it's still with me, even now as I'm typing this review. 

This novel was a force. It made my heart explode in the best way possible.

For those of you who don't like reading about the walking dead, don't worry, this book isn't about zombies. If anything, This Is Not A Test is about hope when there isn't any. It's about surviving when you don't really know how. It's about living when you're surrounded by death, and when it all boils down, it's about what happens to six teenagers when they are faced not just with the world but the end of it.

You're not going to want to miss this one.

Thanks for reading! <3

Teaser Tuesday

I'm on a mission to write a collection of short stories.

I have the first one finished.

It's called Glass House.

The house reminded me of a toy chest I had when I was little. It was filled with used trinkets, thingamabobs, thingamajigs, and any kind of thing you can think of. Despite all of the clutter, it was essentially empty just as the wooden box I kept all of my dolls in was. There was no heart, no soul inside of that house. Even when people were still living in it, the place seemed dead, like it was a glass corpse, rotting from the inside out.

I saw the Franklin’s lives unfold every night. Everyone in the neighborhood did. People from neighboring counties and cities came by to take pictures, to ask questions about the famous glass house. One time a kid threw a rock at it, thinking that it would be funny, that even if the house shattered into a million pieces, Mr. Franklin would be able to piece it back together.

Strangely enough, that rock was the beginning of the end.

Mrs. Franklin wanted to move. She was tired of her life being on display for everyone to see. She wanted some privacy; she wanted to be able to eat breakfast without someone staring at her from the other side of the glass. I knew all of this because Jameson told me. He told me everything that went on in that house, because even though you could see everything - you couldn’t hear it. It was like a real-life silent film, only this one was in Technicolor.

Never really understood why Jamie ever told me anything. We hardly spoke to each other in school. He hung out with the artsy types, and though I didn’t like to be - I was a loner. No one wanted anything to do with the girl whose father died in a fire.

A fire everyone thinks I set.

My mother doesn’t even let me near any open flame. She checks my pockets for matches whenever I walk through the door. Sometimes I’m happy my house isn’t made out of glass.

I don’t tell Jamie any of this because even though he’s telling it all, giving me the inside scoop, he doesn’t need to know about the times my mother gets so drunk that she says things she claims she doesn’t mean. Things like I wish it was you instead of him and I wish you were never born. There was a time when she loved me, a time when she didn’t look at me like I was a demon sent from her own personal hell. She still tells me that she loves me but I know she isn’t sincere, that those three words are proof that she’s trying to forgive me for what everyone has made her think I’ve done.

If it weren’t for her and Pa’s religious upbringing I probably would’ve been in some home for troubled teens, or out on the street begging for handouts. She probably would’ve moved so far away that I wouldn’t be able to find her. Not that I would want to anyways. Just because she was trying to forgive me, it didn’t mean that she did, and I didn’t like living with someone who secretly hated me. I’d rather her tell me how she truly felt instead of pretending like we were still the same people we were before.

Pa always preached that forgiveness was the key to living a good life, and that grudges never got anyone anywhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to forgive him.

I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

Sometimes I think Jamie wants to ask me about him, but he doesn’t. It’s like he knows that I don’t want to talk about it, that I won’t talk about it. Not even with him, the boy who has eyes that are so empty they almost seem to be made out of glass too.

There is always something for him to tell me. It’s like he wants his lungs to be empty of all of the secrets of the glass house. He tells me how his parents always argue, over the miscarriage, over him, over their marriage, the house, anything he can think of really. He tells me they never have time for anything he does, and are always telling him he couldn’t survive on his art alone, that he needed to do something practical with his life after high school.

“They’re all about keeping up appearances,” he says, and I nod like I understand, because in a way, I do. I guess.

“It wouldn’t be like that,” he continues. “If our house wasn’t fucking made out of glass.”

And I want to tell him that yes it would still be like that. I know this, I want to tell him, because my mother tries to make it seem like we have a loving, healthy relationship. She tries to pretend that Pa’s death only brought us closer together so people can think that we’re on the road to recovery even though we both know that road is miles and miles away.

But my mouth stays sealed shut, like a vault. Soon Jamie has told it all and we’re sitting underneath the old oak tree that separates our houses. Usually after he’s finished he thanks me for listening to him, like I’m his shrink or something, and slips back inside his house before his parents can notice he’s gone, but this time he stays. The air is congested, heavy, like soon something somewhere is going to explode. But the world stands still for a few moments. The crickets chirp. The cicadas hum. Then he’s kissing me. I don’t know how or why but I don’t protest. I let it happen because my body has been keeping a secret of its own all this time. It wanted this to happen. For Jamie to lean over and kiss me. All the times I sat out here and listened to Jameson Franklin talk about what it’s like to live in a glass house with a family that was just as breakable as the glass tomb he lived in, I wanted him to – my body wanted him to – kiss me. That makes sense.

It has to because I don’t break away. I lean into his kiss, let his palm rest against my cheek. I taste the beer on his lips. He offered me a taste plenty of times but I refused. If only he knew that my mother was a drunk, then he would understand. Then maybe…he wouldn’t have left.

I have a hard time telling people things. I’m not see-through so no one ever knows what’s going on inside of me. When I didn’t cry at my father’s funeral, everyone thought maybe I was heartless, that I was hollow, just like the glass house is now that the Franklins are gone. But the truth is I was cluttered. I was alive. I was more alive than I ever felt since my father died. He lit the match himself. He kept telling me he was sorry, and that the only way he could forgive himself is if he burned in hell. Maybe things would’ve been different if he wasn’t drunk. Maybe he wouldn’t have tried to…

I can’t think about it.

Not now.

My mother still hates me silently. She still drinks and yells and says that she wishes I hadn’t been born. She still apologizes and checks my pockets, making sure that there aren’t any lighters or matches. I’m always clean when she checks me but that doesn’t stop her from seeing for herself.
We never know what to say to each other so we don’t speak actual words, unless she’s screaming, and that doesn’t count because she’s drunk and even though you can understand what she’s saying her words are born from an alphabet that I haven’t learned yet.

Jamie still hasn’t returned my call. Calls. I called him more than once. Not that I’m desperate or anything, I just want to know why he left, why he unloaded all of his burdens on my shoulder, kissed me and left. It wasn’t like he had to go. He was eighteen, an adult. If his parents wanted to leave, fine, but that didn’t mean he had to go. Jamie was the only person who didn’t make me feel invisible.
Now that he’s gone I really do feel like that glass house.

When his letter arrives a few months later, I almost throw it away. But then I don’t. I open the envelope carefully, as if I’m holding a bomb that’s getting ready to detonate. I unfold the paper, and let the words he wrote explode in my face:

I thought maybe it was best to leave you alone. You’re stronger than I am. You’re not made out of glass; you’re not something that can easily break. I envy you for that, but I also know that your ability to keep things bottled up inside, means that you are dealing with something far more heavy than anything I have had to deal with. You never told me what it was and I kept hoping that you would, when you were ready. Then I kissed you and I thought maybe everything between us would be ruined. You’re the only person I can talk to, the only person who will listen, and I kiss you like you just being there isn’t enough, like I need to somehow become one with you to make myself feel whole again. That’s why I left. You’re strong – you’re made out of brick and stone. I am weak. I am glass. I hated that house so much because it was me, it was my parents. We were fragile and see-through and eventually we broke, we shattered. The truth is, I guess, is that I wanted to feel something other than that and when I kissed you I did feel something. I felt everything. You pieced me back together every moment that you were there for me. Part of me was hoping that I could break you apart, see the stuff that you were made of, so that I could somehow become like you, but then I realized that your strength is an art, one that I have to master on my own. Maybe one day we’ll see each other again. We only moved across town, so I’m not that far away. My aunt and uncle took us in. Their house isn't made out of glass.

Tell me what you guys think. I'm currently writing the next story in the series. It's called Seven and it's about a girl on the run. Might post it next Tuesday, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading! <3

Why identity is important when writing a POC

I'm black.

Though most people would say that I'm African American.

Because of me being AA - I am a minority.

But are those three things - me being black, African American, and a minority apart of my identity?

Identity n.

The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.

Notice the parts that I underlined. This wasn't the first definition that I found for identity, but I thought it was the most accurate one. That is not to say everyone will agree with this meaning, it's just that as a whole...people often tend to group people together by both personal characteristics (what they look like) and behavorial ones (how they act). As a result of that - stereotypes come into play.

I'm sure everyone is aware of the tv show on HBO called Girls. I never watched the show but every article I read about it mentions that the show centers around the lives of a group of girls in their early 20s. When it first aired, a lot of people were angry because the majority of the cast was white, and since it takes place in New York, an extremely diverse city (from what I've heard), you would think that there would be a little more diversity in the cast.

Getting to the point, the writer of the show, Lesley Arfin tweeted this a few months ago:

“What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.”

She has long since removed the tweet but many bloggers have seen it, many have taken it apart, analyzed it, and often called Arfin racist for tweeting it.

I'm not going to go into what I think of what she said because there really isn't a point, and to be completely honest, I haven't seen Precious. I might watch it one day but judging from the clips I've seen onYouTube, and the descriptions of both the book (Push) and the movie that I've read, I can honestly say that there isn't any "representation of ME" either. Sure I'm black...but does that really count as representation?

I never really understand that. When people throw POCs in a book or movie they expect POCs to relate to those characters just because they are POCs. That may not be true of everyone, and it might not be true at all but...if that weren't the case, then what exactly is the point of tokens?

Whenever I read articles about race and the media, I look at the comments. I try to read all of them because I want to know what other people are thinking. Some people agree that there is a huge discorrelation between race and media (this includes books and movies) but others don't understand why there needs to be a large representation of minorities in any media since America is comprised of mostly white people. On a side note, I think that is completely inaccurate. In all my eighteen years of living, I've never had someone come knock on the door to take a census. I don't even know how they perfrom censuses nowadays, but it seems to me that unless each and every door to each and every house and homeless shelter in America was knocked on, the percentages of each group living in this country is wrong. Maybe not but whatever.

Why does it even matter?

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic wrote  “We exist — whether HBO adapts our stories or not.” He was referring again to the tv show Girls but I think that quote can be applied to every show, movie, book or what have you. We do exist. POCs do live in America (and in other countries around the world), and regardless of the number, there is no denying that we're here and that we deserve a fair representation in media.

Going back to Precious not being a "representation of ME" thing. It's not a representation of me. I can't relate to being illiterate. I can't relate to being a young mother...I can't relate to living in a bad neighborhood...I can't relate to being abused by my mother... so therefore I'm not represented either. Push and it's movie, does however, represent many young girls around the world regardless of who they are, and what language they speak. Not all teen mothers are black. Not all young black girls are illiterate. A lot of people experience abuse, and grow up in rough neighborhoods.

These are all universal issues.

I can't really say if that is what the movie or book is about but...what I can say is that the book covers issues that go beyond something as insignificant as skin color. Because that's all race is. You can disagree with me, but race is a concept. It's a social construct and it's used to separate people and group those who 'look alike' together. Because of this construct, people lose sight of the fact that we are all human, and that we all, no matter what we look like, have a story to tell, one that someone who may be different from us can relate to if they look beyond the supposed 'identity' of the character.

So...why is identity important when writing a POC?

Well, because, the identity has nothing to do with the POC being of color. It has nothing to do with any outside characteristic, but is has everything to do with the individual, and how they identify themselves. I'm black but that has nothing to do with the way that I act, it doesn't affect my decisions nor does it decide who I hang out with, or the way I view life.

I also don't like being called black because technically I'm brown (never really understood the whole white and black thing). But then I also don't consider myself African American. Because I'm not. People have argued with me back and forth saying things like 'well your ancestors came from Africa' and 'you're dark-skinned which means you're of African descent'.

Just like America - Africa is comprised of many different cultures and people. A Nigerian is not the same as an Egyptian. Both places are in Africa, yes, but they are completely different. You don't have to take a trip to Egypt or Nigeria to know that.

Also, the key word is culture. I'm more American than I am African. I think it's offensive to say that a whole group of people who were born and raised in America are African, when Africans and 'African Americans' are nothing alike. Charlize Theron is more African than I am. She's from South Africa and she's white...so I rest my case.

Really, it's just my personal opinion. But at the end of the day being black or African American has nothing to do with who I am. Being American has nothing to do with who I am. I am an individual. I have my own mind, my own thoughts, my own likes and dislikes. Those among many other things are what make up my identity.

I'm tired of being seen as a color. I'm tired of seeing stereotypes in both books and on screen. I'm tired because none of it is...a representation of me.

When I'm reading a book or watching a movie with a POC I don't want it to be about what it's like to be a POC because there's no such thing as a 'minority experience'. Everyone who is of color doesn't go through the same trials and tribulations. Some don't even encounter racism and aren't struggling with being of color. Our skin color doesn't govern our lives, and so it shouldn't in media. Sure racism exists and there are people who deal with it everyday but...there is so much more to people of color than having to deal with something, as I said, as insignificant as skin.

C. S. Lewis once said "You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." I'm not sure what he meant when he said (or wrote) that but... to me that quote means that we are more than just the outer shell. Sure we have a body that makes up our physical selves but who we are on the inside is much more important, much more significant than who we are on the outside.

Now there are people who would say after reading this post...what's the point of putting more POCs in media if we aren't our outer appearance, if we can all essentially relate to each other? Well, this might not be the best answer to that question but...why not? If we can all essentially relate to each other, why not have a show with four Hispanic girls living in New York City, why not have an Asian woman play the female version of Dr. Watson (okay...there already is. Is anyone else excited for Elemental?) Why not have post-apocalyptic shows with more than one black person on it?

Why can't diversity and media walk hand in hand with other?

I don't care if the majority of people in America were purple...people read books and watch movies to escape from the world around them. Even if the world around them isn't diverse, that doesn't mean media shouldn't promote diversity. Let's face it...the reason for racial profiling and animosity between races is partly because people depend on stereotypes instead of actually talking to a person and forming their own opinions about them.

Those stereotypes came (partly) from media, so if there were more accurate representations of POCs in media (books and movies included), I'm not saying that it would change the world, but it would get people to see that everyone...no matter what color they are...is human; that diversity isn't a bad word.

You guys should check out this post YA Author Sumayyah Daud posted on Tumblr, if you haven't seen it already.

Thanks for reading.

In which I talk about THINGS LEFT UNSAID and how it feels to be a high school graduate

I graduated last Friday.

I meant to do a blog about it but every time I sat down to type it, I got this extremely giddy feeling and decided to break out into dance instead. That isn't something you guys would want to see, because I am a HORRIBLE dancer, but that's how happy I was. There were a few tears of joy along the way but guys....I'M A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE. That alone is something I'm proud of, not because I didn't think I would graduate, but because I made it through a really tough year.

Some people are lucky enough to have wonderful senior years in which they get to spend time partying with their friends and making so their schedules are similar and all of that kind of fun stuff while people like me...aren't so lucky. The school that I spent my freshman, sophomore, and junior year at closed. It hurt to see my school die...because if a building could actually die...that one did. All of the life, all of the hope drained out of it, once everyone heard we weren't going to make it another year. I remember my ninth grade year...there were so many people there, and it actually felt like a high school. As the years went on, we lost teachers, book supplies, and kids started doing poorly on their test.

There were a lot of meetings, in which my principal called me and a few other high-achieving students down to her office to talk to members of the school board. They kept asking us how we were getting good grades, how we were doing so well in a school that...sucked. That wasn't their word choice but the school, even though I loved my teachers and my friends, did suck. When your English teacher in ninth grade tells you that she can't teach you, then you know something is wrong. Well, anyways, we couldn't give any of the adults who were asking us questions any answer. For me, I can't not (excuse the double negative) do well. I want to be a lawyer. I want to make the Dean's list, get impeccably good grades, and go to a prestigious law school...which means I can't slack. Ever. It's just the way I'm wired, and I can't help that. I'm not the smartest person in the world...don't get me wrong, but I do work hard at everything I do, even if I fail, I keep working hard. So that's what I told them, and even though it wasn't something they wanted to hear, even though they were hoping to get a formula or some secret recipe to make other students in the school do better, they didn't get it.

And then people started leaving. You might ask why I didn't leave, and to tell you the truth...I did. My mom wanted to put me into another school, but with the way the school system is here (not sure about other cities) you have to go to your neighborhood school, even if it's bad and you're not learning anything, you have to go. So, I was stuck for three years, in a school that I liked but didn't enjoy. I made a lot of friends, however, and met people that accepted me for who I was, which isn't something you find everywhere. When the last day of junior year came...it hit me, just before I was getting ready leave that building for the last time in my life. Tears of anger and sadness and so many other emotions that weren't really positive started streaming down my face, and I didn't know what was going to happen to me senior year. I didn't know where I was going to go, because now there were two high schools on the side of town that I lived in, and neither of them were better schools than the one I had went to. So...that summer, my mom searched around for places to live. And at the last minute, someone finally called her back.

We moved.

I don't like my new neighborhood at all. People here are mean and we get looked at funny everywhere we go, but I got a chance to go to a school that got way more funding than my old school did. A school where the kids didn't have to worry about closings, or losing teachers or not having clubs...they had SO MANY of them. It took awhile for me to fit in, because I'm so shy and people there weren't really looking for a new friend, so...I can honestly say I only know 10 people out of the 342 seniors that I graduated with. So it wasn't the best year of my life, but I made it, guys. Some people might not see a high school diploma as something amazing, but I have to appreciate it more with all that I had to do just so I could get it.

Now, in a few months, I'll be a college freshman. Yesterday, I went up to my university (I have to get into the habit of calling it that) to put together my schedule and it is the BEST SCHEDULE OF ALL SCHEDULES. I have a Creative Writing class (squee), two Psych classes, a Film & Arts class that is supposed to go in depth in how both affect people, a Stats class, and there is another class that I have that I can't remember...but I AM SO excited. I'm a little sad because I will be leaving home, scared because I don't know who my roommate is yet, and I don't know if it'll be anyone who will know how to take my geekiness. If they're not a Doctor Who fan then we're going to have some serious problems.

So, I feel great about being a high school graduate. There are buttload of other words I could use, but I think this smile pretty much sums it up:

Now to talk about Things Left Unsaid. I started this project last summer and gave up on it after not knowing where to go with it. I also thought that it was sucky and that I should just scrap it. Then I told myself, hey, you're almost finished with this thing...SO FINISH IT. And that's what I'm going to do this summer. I reached 40K two days and so I have 15,000 words to write. I have no idea how I'm going to end it, or if I'll go over my goal, but I can't wait to type THE END. Once I do that, then I will have finished my first project and I will have proven to myself that I can do this writing thing. I can. I can. I can.

Though sometimes I feel like I can't do it, and when I feel like that I contemplate writing a werewolf into the story just so it can eat all the characters a la Little Red Riding Hood and be done with it that way, but I talked myself out of doing that...even though I was tempted to do it. Wouldn't that make a great ending though? You have to admit it would be unexpected. Like...all of a sudden people are arguing in the kitchen, throwing flour at each other, and then a werewolf jumps through the window like that scene in the one episode of Vampire Diaries, gobbles them up, transforms into a human, goes on with his life until the super hot painter guy in the story reveals that he's vampire who eats red paint so that he doesn't have to drink blood.

Okay, okay. I'm kidding.

I just can't wait to be done with it. It needs to go through some extreme revisions before I beg people to beta-read it for me. And if I'm lucky, I might get to query on my 40th birthday.

Here's the cover I made for it a long time ago:

So wish me luck. I am definitely going to need it to finish TLU. And my birthday is next Thursday (I'm going to be 18...yikes). So expect a post from me then.

Thanks for reading! <3


Music Monday + Teaser


Sorry about the all-caps but I am super excited about almost being done with high school FOREVER. I'm going to college in the Fall and I just really can't wait to see what the world has to offer. Don't know when I'll blog next, but I just wanted to tell you guys that I decided that I need to stop chickening out when I get so close to finishing my wips. I'm going back to my YA Contemporary novel Things Left Unsaid which is currently at 33.1K. My intended goal is 55K, so I'm going to try to reach that this month because...I just really want to finish SOMETHING. At this point I don't care what it is. I don't know if I'll query TLU but the way I see it...this wip is a stepping stone. If I finish this one, then it's proof that I can finish anything!
The song for today is the first song on TLU's playlist.

Since tomorrow is Teaser Tuesday and I might forget to post tomorrow, here's an excerpt from the middle of chapter one:

“How about Randolf? The last time I checked he was single.”

“Isn't he into guys?"

“No, no. Everyone thinks that. He just isn’t good with the ladies.”

I’m sitting here thinking did he just say ‘good with the ladies’ when a boy looks my way. He’s sitting in a booth on the other side of the room and in the neon lights flashing above our heads I can see his crescent-shaped dimples, curly black hair, and electric blue eyes.

 This is not just any boy. This is Denise’s boyfriend.  Err…was Denise’s boyfriend. Even though they didn’t break up per se, they were obviously broken up. There was no way their relationship could continue unless he was secretly into necrophilia.

I highly doubted he was, though.

He didn’t seem like the type. Then again, how could you possibly tell? People who are attracted to dead bodies don’t just walk around telling people that they’re attracted to dead bodies.

“Do you know that guy coming towards us?” Danny asked, kicking me in my shin.

I managed to let out an “ouch” before I realized that the boy was in fact making his way over to our table, and he would be here any second. The closer he got the more not me I felt. What was I supposed to say to him? What was he going to say to me?

If there was a book about how to talk to your dead sister’s boyfriend, I needed it quick fast and – he was standing beside the table now, his lips pulled up at the corners in a polite smile, but I could see it in his eyes, he was just as hurt and confused as I was.

“I know you,” I said, lamely.

“I know you too.” He chuckled nervously and I wanted to hug him because finally here was someone who understood what I was going through.


Thanks for reading! <3