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.
About The Vanishing Half
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.
Racism (internalized and otherwise), Domestic abuse, colorism, running away from home, gender reassignment surgery.
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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Have you read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett? How did it fare for you? What are the other recent historical fiction that you liked? Let us talk.
It has been a hot minute since I read Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson during our staycation last month. But I have been avoiding to pen down my review/thoughts for a while because I was not sure if I could ever do it some justice. Finally I braved to get on with it and here is my review of Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson!
About the book
Book Name: Red at the Bone
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genre: Fiction – Drama, Young Adult
Characters: Iris, Aubrey, Melody, Sabe, Po’Boy
Setting: Brooklyn, New Jersey, The USA
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson begins with the sixteen year old Melody getting ready for her coming out party and fighting with her mother on the song that she chose.
Seeing her walk down the stairs in a dress her mother missed out on wearing stirs up emotions and memories for the whole family, which the reader gets to know from the number of alternating point of views.
Melody grew up largely as a motherless child with a doting father and supportive maternal grandparents. Her relationship with her mother Iris was turbulent at best.
Red at the Bone is an intergenerational family drama, that involves several intense themes like teenage pregnancy, motherhood, fatherhood, grief, ambition, classism, sexism, poverty and racism.
It walks us through the aftermaths of an unexpected teenage pregnancy in an African American family and the costs of the choices that each one of them makes.
And Woodson does a phenomenal job in keeping the readers on toes with her lyrical writing and acute observation of complex human emotions. Alternating between a number of point of views might seem overwhelming for a few but it worked so brilliantly for me.
I knew Red at the Bone had raving reviews but I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming emotions that swept me off as I began connecting to each character and the choices they make. And the fact that I could feel all these in just 200 pages is just mind blowing.
Initially I was not sure why Melody was so cold to Iris and later, about how Iris could treat Aubrey the way she did. But just within a chapter or two, I found myself thinking “maybe, that’s what I would have done too”. And that is a win for the writer on my books.
Red at the Bone is a powerful book that talks about the invisible threads of misery, secrets and anger that holds the family together.
What worked for me
- To just say I loved the author’s writing style and her powerful words would be unjust. She is phenomenal.
- Each and every character is etched to perfection. Sabe and Po’Boy’ were my favorites.
What may have been better
- If you are not a fan of multiple POVs, watch out. Red at the Bone has five POVs (though very well done).
- This is definitely not a plot intensive drama.
While this poignant story may not be entirely new or memorable, it is the impact of the lyrical writing and the emotions that the author packed into her words that makes Red at the Bone so powerful and popular.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson is worth all the hype it gets and pick up this short book if you are into literary fiction.
Have you read Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson? What other hyped books that have lived up to your expectations in the recent past? And which ones dropped the balls? Let us talk.
Remember a few weeks ago, I was on a reading spree? Yup, the rare occasion. So I picked up How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian on Netgalley and even I was surprised that I finished it so fast. But was it good enough? Read ahead to know more.
About the book
Book Name: How to Build a Heart
Author: Maria Padian
Genre: Fiction – Romance
Characters: Isabella (Izzy) and Jack Crawford, Mami, Roz Jenkins, Sam and Aubrey Shackelton,
Setting: Virginia, The United States of America
All her life Izzy Crawford has been moving between cities and she can’t wait to settle down at a house that she can call hers, with her hard working mother and younger brother. She has not still learned to process the grief over her father’s death in the Marines and moving away from his side of the family doesn’t help.
But her life is finally coming together. Izzy has made some new friends in her Catholic school, finds herself a spot in a cappella group and a hot and popular boy friend, Sam. Just one minor problem, none of them knows that she lives in a trailer park.
Her best friend Roz, who also happens to be her neighbour in the trailer park, is the only one who understands her but Izzy’s mom doesn’t approve of her. And she has had a long time crush on Sam, which Izzy had known right from the beginning.
So when the Habitat for Humanity offers to help them to build a house, she has a chance to make everything better. But that comes up with strings. You will have to read How to Build a Heart to know more about Izzy and her house building project.
My initial thoughts
I was glad that romance was not the main focus of How to Build a Heart, even though it was a romance book. It is a family drama/reunion story, and I loved it as much. I liked the older females in the book and Izzy’s relationship with her newfound cousin.
I didn’t like the main friendship in How to Build a Heart so much that I ended up not liking both Izzy and Roz. Izzy doesnt tell Roz anything and made it a point to keep Roz away from her life. And Roz in other hand was always mean to Izzy and literally threw a stone at her over a boy. Whoa!
And they got over their fight so easily? Well, I didn’t buy that one at all. Despite not loving the characters, I loved the writing style which was compelling and fast flowing.
Things that worked for me
- The writing was perfect and I didn’t put the book down even once.
- How to Build a Heart deals with difficult topics like poverty, racism, and grief and did a great job at it.
- I love a book with a good family reunion and How to Build a Heart has one!
Things that didn’t work for me
- Izzy and Roz were both difficult to like right from the beginning. And it got only tougher.
- I found it was difficult to adore Izzy and same, as Izzy had nothing in common with Sam.
How to Build a Heart is a coming of age tale of a Latin American girl that discusses economic inequity, racism, friendship and of course love. I will definitely look out for more from the author.
Let us chat
Have you read this one? Are there books that you liked event though you didn’t like their characters at all? And what have you been reading these days? Let us talk.
I am sure no one would be unaware of the police brutality against black and the massive movement about #BlackLivesMatter in 2017. The Hate U Give could be easily one of those books that everyone, irrespective of the age group, should be reading if at all you want to be a part of the change or at least to know how these things happen and affect people.
About The Hate U Give
Book Name: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Fiction – YA
Characters: Starr Carter, Big Mav, Lisa, Seven, Khalil
Setting: The USA
Plot Summary of The Hate U Give
Starr, a 16-year-old African American kid, is stuck between two worlds. She lives at Garden Heights, a ghetto with gangsters and drug pushers. Her father Big Mav is a former gangster who took a blame and chose to go to prison so that he could get out of the system and lead a normal gang-free life. He wants their ghetto to be better and a safe haven for his kids.
She is one of the two black kids in her rich and predominantly white, prep school. She falls for a white boy, whom she has to hide from her father because he is ‘white’ and has two white best friends. Her mother is a nurse who wants to save her children from the ghetto life by taking them away.
Stuck between the two worlds and parents who have different views about their lives, Starr feels an outsider in both places. Starr understands her lives are universes apart and has never had to choose between them – until the fateful night, her unarmed friend Khalil gets shot by a cop in front of her eyes.
Should she remain silent, as her mother and uncle want her to be, and save herself from the wrath of the public and her own peers at school? Or should she put her life in danger, give a voice to the cause that may lead nowhere?
What do you do when your best friend is being a bully and a racist, intentionally or not? Do you confront her, putting your entire friendship jeopardy or pretend it was unintentional and you are just overreacting? How long can one hide a white boyfriend from your father?
Book review of The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give is essentially a coming of age story in the present American scenario, dealing with racism, bullying and violence. It is inspired by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, obviously but is much more than that. It is an honest account of a strong black family that has nothing to do with the gangs or drugs but is put to trial because of their skin colour. I do not want to spoil your reading experience by giving out any spoilers.
It is not just the strong storyline that made The Hate U Give the NY! bestseller but the well-written characters and a sprinkle of humour that made the story all the more fun to read. The writing is just perfect for YA, not becoming too political, yet talking about all the main themes like a true social commentary.
Yes, there are few characters that were flat and the ending with the perfect boyfriend was just too good to be true. But hey, those did not seem to be a big issue to me, all things considered. It is, after all, a young adult book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
As a person who is not living in the USA, I may not have faced such an incident in my real life, but violence and prejudice against colour, cast and creed are no different in any other country. That is one of the things that makes The Hate U Give close to my heart. As someone who doesn’t want to be an unintentional racist or offend anyone without meaning to, this book is an eye-opener. It made me think about my stand and actions on certain topics which is exactly what was expected of this book.
The Hate U Give is surely one of the best books I have read this year. Books like this and Feel me fall makes me gain more faith in the YA genre. I have not stopped raving about this book to anyone I know even though I read this book about a month back. I can not recommend this book enough. READ THIS BOOK.
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Let us talk
Have you read The hate you give by Angie Thomas? What are your favorite young adult books? Do you read young adult books? Let’s chat.