The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – A book review

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – A book review

What better way to begin a year than a hyped book that recently secured a HBO adaptation deal? Is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett worth all the hype? Read my book review to know more.

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About The Vanishing Half

Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett cover

Book Name: The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett

Genre: Fiction – Historical,

Characters: Desiree and Stella Vignes, Jude, Reese, Kennedy, Early

Setting: Mallard, Louisiana, The USA

Plot Summary of The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett follows the lives of the Vignes twins who decide to run away from their small town at sixteen. The identical twins are so light skinned that they could pass as “White”. When the opportunity presents one of them takes it.

Desiree Vignes always wanted to get away from her town, where skin color is all that mattered. But when she returns years later, with a black skinned kid in tow, she was sure she will get away again.

Stella Vignes did get away from their town once and for all. She has a well settled life and a family that will never know her previous life.

Do either of them regret their choices? Is passing as “White” worth losing your identity and past? Can the lives of these identical sisters ever reunite? Read more about them in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

Book review of The Vanishing Half

I am glad The Vanishing Half was one of the first books I read this year as it set such a positive hope for the year. I loved it and would keep recommending it to anyone who would listen.

Set in the fictional town of Mallard, Louisiana, The Vanishing Half deals with several intense themes like race, class, identity, internalized colorism, abuse, melancholy and motherhood. It made me question the narratives about race and caste passed on over generations by our families.

Despite the heavy themes, the author ensures to present a narration that is so gripping I never put it down once until I finished it. This is will be a wonderful pick for your next book club read!

While we might judge Stella for her internalized racism, bigotry and selfish decisions, it is hard not to sympathize with her loneliness and trying to find an identity for her new self.

What worked for me

  • I loved how the author got me introspecting my own prejudice and issues with generations of conditioning about colorism.
  • The Vanishing Half is not a plot oriented book, but it is just the author’s writing style kept me hooked until the end.
  • I loved how each character was well written and had a part to play. From Early to Reese, I enjoyed the male characters as much as the strong female ones.

What may have been better

  • I wish there were a bit more about Reese’s struggle as a trans guy in transition and passing himself as guy for years. I guess his life was not smooth as a trans man in the LGBTQ – drag circle in 1970s too.
  • The second part moved a bit slower than the first. You might find yourself skipping a paragraphs.
  • If you don’t like books with multiple POV, you might wanna watch out. But it did work spectacularly well for me.

Content warning

Racism (internalized and otherwise), Domestic abuse, colorism, running away from home, gender reassignment surgery.

Bottom line

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a must read historical fiction that deals with intense themes like racism, colorism, abuse and melancholy. Catch this hyped book out without hesitation!

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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – A book review

Ziggy, Stardust and Me – A book review

Once in a while we get to read books that are too difficult to read because they speak of raw and unflinching truths. Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon is one such book. Read on to hear more on my review of Ziggy, Stardust and Me.

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About the book

Ziggy, Stardust and Me Book review

Book Name: Ziggy, Stardust and Me

Author: James Brandon

Genre: Fiction – HistoryYoung adult

Characters: Jonathan Collins, Webster, Starla, Dr Evelyn

Setting: Missouri , The USA

Plot Summary

Jonathan has been waiting for his final “therapy” session so that he can be cured of his “disease” and be the son his father wants.

The sixteen year old is bullied at school and ignored for most of the time by his alcoholic father, who is still mourning his wife’s death. At a time when being gay is considered a mental illness and is punishable, Jonathan just wants to be a boy who is “normal”.

When his only friend Starla, a biracial neighbor leaves the town for the summer, he realizes he is truly alone. Except for Ziggy Stardust. He worships David Bowie and has long (and only) conversations with his dead relatives and Ziggy.

But everything changes when he meets Web, a Native American/ Indian kid in his school. Web is everything he wants to be – fearless and not ashamed of being gay.

What happens when their homophobic neighbours, classmates and mainly families know about his secret forms the rest of Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon.

Book review

For a setting that is inherently doomed and heartbreaking, Ziggy, Stardust and Me surprisingly is not. There are many sweet moments and is full of hope, especially in the end when Jonathan starts accepting who he is gradually.

That being said and given the time it is set in, the book has so many homophobic and racist characters that it broke my heart. Unfortunately not much has changed in the last 50 years or so.

I think it is essential for us to learn from our history to understand how homophobic we have been as a society. Ziggy, Stardust and Me also talks about how internalized homophobia affects people, especially younger ones.

If you like David Bowie, there are so many references to his songs and characters and you will love it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about them and the references flew over the top of my head.

What worked for me

  • Ziggy, Stardust and Me is a must read to learn about our mistakes in terms of understanding homosexuality. And it is definitely a hard to swallow pill.
  • Despite the gloomy background, there were several sweet and romantic moments between the main characters.
  • The book also talks of music and music icons can play a huge role in saving people from trauma and from others.
  • While I can’t speak for its accuracy, I loved Web and his Native American (Lakota) representation.

What may have been better

  • I didn’t get or connect with Jonathan’s monologue, in this first person narration. And that bothered me quite a bit.
  • I hate the closeted homophobic bully trope. It is a personal thing for me, and I am getting tired of this trope of “oh the homophobes are all secretly gay themselves“.

Content warning:

conversion therapy, (internalized) homophobia, electroshock therapy, homophobic slurs, suicidal thoughts, Bullying, hate crimes, racism, racist slurs, past death of a parent, alcoholism, mentions of drug use, sexual assault,

Bottom line

Ziggy, Stardust and Me is an essential read to understand what the LGBTQA+ community had to overcome to just exists. It is a harsh, intense and raw book that is worth reading.

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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – A book review

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – A book review

It has been a while that I read a book that has opened my eyes on a few issues. And this book did that exactly, without cutting the entertainment factor. Let us get on to the book review of I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, shall we?

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About the book

I Wish You All the Best Book cover

Book Name: I Wish You All the Best

Author: Mason Deaver

Genre: Fiction – Romance, Young adult

Characters: Ben De Backer, Nathan Allen, Hannah and Thomas, Mariam

Setting: Raleigh, North Carolina , The USA

Plot Summary

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as a nonbinary, it doesn’t go well with them. They are thrown out of their house and is forced to reach out to their estranged sister Hannah and her husband, Thomas.

Thomas and Hannah let Ben to stay with them and help them join a new school. Ben comes out only to them and their therapist and wants to keep a very low profile at their new school.

But when Nathan Allan, a charismatic student, decides to befriend them and to include them in their gang, Ben’s plan fails spectacularly.

What does Ben actually want? Is it okay if they were actually attracted to Nathan? Read I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver to know more!

Book review

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver is probably the first book I have read with a nonbinary/enby lead and honestly, I have learned a lot from it. Yet educating the readers about nonbinaries is not the main motive the book.

The book is filled with sadness and poignancy due to the plot. And at the same time, I Wish You All the Best makes sure there is hope and a chance for happiness.

I love the fact that the romance was not an end or to cure all the mental health issues. While I am all fluffy rom-com books, I somehow love the fact that I Wish You All the Best was not one of them, mainly because the topic is very important. And kudos to the #ownVoice author to have handled it so well.

If I had to complain about just one thing: I wish we had heard a little more about their relationship with Nathan, after the big reveal. You know, sorta acceptance or them dealing the issues together as a couple etc. Of course, that I Wish You All the Best didn’t do that doesn’t reduce it for me in any way.

What worked for me

  • I loved how I Wish You All the Best deals with anxiety and mental health as a part of identity crisis and then its acceptance.
  • Romance takes a backseat to themes like identity and friendship.
  • I really liked the friendship between the two main characters and adored Nathan.

What may have been better

  • I wish the big reveal to Nathan happened a little bit earlier.

Content warning:

Disowning parents, Kicked out of the house, panic attacks and depression, peer pressure into drinking, constant misgendering, stressful coming out.

Bottom line

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver is an emotional and heart wrenching book that will not just educate the readers but also an entertaining read. Kudos to the author in maintaining that delicate balance.

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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – A book review

The Extraordinaries by T J Klune – A book review

Who among us would not love reading about superheroes? Well, that was rhetorical! I love superheroes and so does our protagonist Nick Bell. Let’s talk more about The Extraordinaries by T J Klune in my review below.

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About the book

The Extraordinaries by T J Klune Cover

Book Name: The Extraordinaries

Author: T J Klune

Genre: Fiction – Romance, Young Adult

Characters: Nicholas (Nick) and Aaron Bell, Seth Gray, Lola (Gabby) Gibson, Jasmine (Jazz), Oliver Burke, Shadow Star, Pyro Storm.

Setting: Nova City

Plot Summary

Nicholas Bell has the biggest crush on Shadowstar and his long running fanfiction is a proof of that. Shadowstar is one of The Extraordinaries from Nova City who keeps the city safe from his arch nemesis Pyro Storm.

Nick is just an ordinary high school student living with his father who is a cop. In order to gain the attention and respect from his crush, Nick decides that he should become an extraordinary himself, with the help of his reluctant but supportive friends.

Does this doomed plan ever take off? How long would it take for Nick to see the truth forms the rest of the story in The Extraordinaries by T J Klune.

Book review

I can’t think of a book that made me chuckle, roll my eyes and laugh as many times as The Extraordinaries by T J Klune did, in the recent past. Nick being “extra” was so endearing and I just wanted him to be an Extraordinary just for his sake (even though I am sure it would be a terrible terrible idea).

I am glad we have moved on forward from making it all his queerness just the main theme of the book. I strongly believe that books need not be written solely to educate people about LGBTQAI+ and The Extraordinaries passes this test colorfully.

Yet, I learned quite a bit about ADHD and Nick’s issues with dealing them. Disclaimer: All I know about it is from the mainstream – I am not the correct person to say if the portrayal was real.

It might be an awful timing like the author explained here, but Nick’s father (who is a cop) punching a guy and still being on the force didn’t sit well with me. We learn that he was just demoted because his buddies “from the force” stood by him and it is so not fair.

And the whole attitude of “good people sometimes do bad things, and that doesn’t make them bad” was off-putting to say the least, given what the police force has been doing in the USA and even India, (and now Chile).

I wish the author and the publishing team had paid a bit more attention to what is happening in the real world. #BlackLivesMatter

What worked for me

  • I loved how well written and colorful the younger characters were. Undoubtedly, Nick is one of the most entertaining protagonists I have read in a while.
  • The writing is witty and engaging. And a special mention to the author’s sense of humor. I would definitely be reading more of Klune’s books.
  • I loved the portrayal of Nick’s ADHD and it helped me appreciate understanding it better. Additionally. Nick’s queerness is not the main focus of the book, which I loved!

What may have been better

  • I sincerely wish the team should have handled the “cops punching people” situation better.
  • While I love the way the younger characters were written, I felt all the adults sounded and behaved the same (Nick’s dad, the captain, his wife, the nurses and even Seth’s guardians). After a minute, I couldn’t stop seeing the pattern between these characters.

Bottom line

The Extraordinaries by T J Klune is one of the most entertaining books that I read recently. I loved reading it and loved the portrayal of characters with ADHD.

Despite all the positives, Klune’s choice to take the police’s side makes it harder for me to recommend the book to everyone. If you are okay with that, please read The Extraordinaries by T J Klune.

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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – A book review

Mrs. Everything – A book review

I picked Mrs. Everything without any idea what the general theme was about and I was pleasantly surprised that it was a historical fiction, a genre I rarely read. Let us see how it turned out for me in my book review, shall we?

Have you read Mrs. Everything? Do you read historical fiction or literary fiction? Have you read any of Jennifer Weiner's other books? Read my book review here. Share on X

About the book

Mrs. Everything book review cover

Book Name: Mrs. Everything

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Genre: Fiction –  HistoricalDrama

Characters: Sarah, Bethie and Jo Kaufman, Harold, Dave, Shelley

Setting: Detroit, MichiganThe United States of America

The plot

Mrs. Everything follows the story of two sisters, Jo and Bethie Kaufman, right from their childhood when they move into Detroit in the 1950s. Jo, the elder one, is quite tomboyish and feels uncomfortable in skirts and frills who Bethie bonds with their mother through the pretty, girlie things. 

Jo grows up edgy, socially aware/woke and outspoken while Bethie loves being the mother’s pet, pliable and the center of attention. Over the years, we see them grow into their rebellious teens alongside the political and societal changes in the USA. 

As more matured adults, their roles reverse. Jo gets into the more traditional mother/wife role and Bethie becomes the free spirit and joins a woman only commune. What does it take for these sisters, and the world, to stick together despite all their flaws forms the rest of Mrs. Everything.

My initial thoughts

Mrs. Everything is pretty predictable and the plot by itself has been told countless times. The lives of Jo and Bethie can be yours, mine or any other woman – it is about the roles we play to keep the world running. It is relatable and has happened to each of us, in pieces at the least, and hence “Mrs. Everything”. 

I have read a few Jennifer Weiner’s books in my late teens. I remember them being lighthearted (I may be remembering it wrong), so I was surprised Mrs. Everything being so intense with multiple themes like civil rights, women rights and LGBTQA. And she has done a great job with it. 

I found Mrs. Everything a bit longer than it could have been. While I loved reading about the sister’s lives, the history part felt longer and repetitive in places. 

Things that worked for me

  • The plot and the characters felt relatable.
  • The author has done a great job handling multiple themes. 

Things that didn’t work for me

  • Mrs. Everything felt a longer than it could have been.
  • The history part felt repetitive in places. 

Bottom-line

Mrs. Everything does a perfect job of interweaving the historical facts with the lives of ordinary women, that are so closer to every other woman. If only it were shorter it would be my go to recommend for woman fiction genre, easily.

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