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Where The Wolves Read

A blog where I review mostly books. I also review, if my appetite allows, movies, music, and video games. Enjoy the feast!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Goodreads

Triggers: Slavery, racism, racial slurs

SynopsisA novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. 

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi's magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.
 

Review: Homegoing was a rather unique story. It doesn't follow a single person, but it follows the bloodlines of two different people. Because of this, Homegoing read more like a set of short stories that go together than a fully cohesive novel. This isn't a bad thing, but it's something to be aware of before you pick this book up. I'm also not going to really make a paragraph talking solely about characters. I found most of the perspectives really interesting to read from, but I probably enjoyed Effia, Esi, and Willa's perspectives the most. I don't have a specific reason for that, but they stood out to me and I still think about those characters. There were a couple of perspectives towards the end of the book that I didn't care for which is why this book wasn't a full 5 star read for me. Another reason why I didn't give this book a perfect rating was because I didn't read it in one sitting. I think that pulled me out of the progression of the stories. This is definitely a book I want to re-read as I get a bit older and I gain some more life perspectives. Overall, Homegoing was fascinating and definitely worth picking up.

4 howls

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Goodreads

Triggers: Gangs, gun violence, racism, abuse


SynopsisSixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Review: The Hate U Give was one of the few books that 100% deserved the hype it got. Starr was incredibly easy to relate to. I especially appreciated how she internalized the change she has to make between school Starr and neighborhood Starr. I feel like that's something people do all the time. If not for physical places, then people change between their online selves and their offline selves. I'm also glad she struggled with whether or not to come forward. It's easy to see situations like this on the news and say, "If I were the witness, I would come forward," but Starr had legitimate concerns that made coming forward one of the most difficult decisions she will ever have to make. The story focused on Starr, but I liked how we got a few different opinions of those around her. The most notable one was of Starr's uncle. I appreciated that he was a cop and the story didn't turn into an "all cops are bad" narrative. All of the side characters were fascinating. Everyone from Starr's parents, to King, to Seven and Sekani. They all felt genuine and fleshed out. Every character was unique with their own flaws. It was refreshing to read such deep characters.

Everything about The Hate U Give was heart-wrenching. I didn't grow up in the "ghetto" but my hometown is far from safe. Some of the situations Starr found herself in, I recognized. One of the things I appreciated the most about the story was the unashamed use of AAVE. Hearing Starr talk with her friends from her neighborhood was like listening to my African-American friends talk together. There was a comfort in that. I'm just saying, if anyone deducts points from this book because of the use of AAVE claiming that it isn't proper grammar, they need to spend time talking to more black folk. I'm gonna just say that and move on. The other thing I liked was how Starr speaking out encouraged change. I'm not going to say in what form because I feel that's one of the strongest parts of this book, but reading the last few chapters was an incredible experience. Another thing this book did extremely well (guys, it was a lot. This book is great.) was handling topics like racism and assumptions. 


I will re-read this book later to make sure I gave this rating fairly and not just because I got caught up in the hype, but for now it is definitely on my list of best books of the year.


5/5 howls

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Goodreads

Triggers: Attempted rape, slurs, domestic abuse, gaslighting

Review: I'm not going to share the synopsis to this book, because it can spoil some of the story. That being said, the synopsis is on Goodreads, so you could always click the link above and read it there. This book hit weirdly close to home for me. I enjoyed getting to know Maya and Ariel. I found both characters to be refreshing and easy to love. I did find Ariel to be more fleshed out than Maya which was a bit of a shame. Understanding how the story played out, it makes sense that Maya would have shorter chapters and she isn't necessarily the focus of the story, but I still wish we got to experience more with her. Though, that could just be me. Maya was actually why I felt so connected to this book. Her story and relationship with Jason was eerily similar to that of one of my friends which freaked me out a bit (in a good way). Even with my personal connection to Maya, I wanted to stay in Ariel's story and see what happened to her. I wanted to experience the moments she shared with her friends. I really appreciated how she struggled with her sexuality, and how her family played a part in that. Some might find her hesitation towards a f/f relationship to be problematic, but I thought it was justified considering how she grew up with her dad. This might also be a personal thing since I was raised in the south and here, if you're anything but straight, you're on a fast train to Hell. It can be scary to see how people judge you when you come out so I completely understood her aversion. I enjoyed getting to know Gabe and Monica as well, but I felt like Hillary, Tati, and Syrah were less important and didn't get quite as fleshed out.

The whole story centers around gaslighting and how this toxic thing can shape humans. This is particularly harmful for children who would not understand what's happening. I found the story to be fascinating and engaging. Anyone sensitive to slurs (particularly LGBTQ+ slurs) might not enjoy this book because of Ariel's dad. Again, coming from the south, I grew up hearing awful things like this so it didn't bother me. If anything, it helped me relate to Ariel. Her dad is a horrific character. All I wanted was to tell Ariel to stay at Monica or Syrah's house and get away from her dad. I did find the ending of the story a wee bit predictable. That could also be because I read the synopsis before I read the book (this is also why I'm not sharing it on here). The way everything played out was still heart-wrenching in the way only Ellen Hopkins can do. Having Ariel's story written in poetry, and having Maya's written in prose, helped to distinguish between the girls. I found myself really enjoying how the book was set up. Overall, this was a solid Ellen Hopkins book. I'm sad it took me so long to get to it, but boy was it worth the wait.

4.5 howls