A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

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This was a charming friendship-and-family based story with a central magic-realist premise and bonus elements of natural history and music.

Kai and Leila are different girls from different parts of the USA. Kai has recently discovered that she will never achieve her dream of becoming a concert violinist and Leila’s perfect sister Nadia has usurped her place in her erstwhile best friend’s affections. Leila is on vacation in Pakistan (where her father’s from) while Kai spends the summer with a distant great-aunt she’s never met. Both girls find a copy of a book named the Exquisite Corpse on the shelf of their holiday home and begin to read the tale which appears in it page by page. Leila’s story feels somewhat underwritten compared with Kai’s–perhaps because the magical tale told by the book is more closely connected with Kai’s own story. Nevertheless this is a cute, fun, magical read featuring a middle-class Pakistani family and a mixed-race girl as one of the protagonists and how often do we get to experience that? 8+

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

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Genie Lo is a sixteen year old who just wants to get into a great college and escape from the Bay area where she’s lived in her whole life with her estranged parents. But a cute but weird new kid called Quentin Sun shows up and messes up Genie’s study plan. And when it turns out Quentin is none other than Sun Wukong, the infamous Monkey King from the Chinese mythology that Genie shelved unread AND he needs her help dealing with an outbreak of demons from hell in her hometown…

Things turn very strange indeed.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a high energy romp through Chinese mythology grounded with the reality of Genie’s second generation Chinese-American life (try explaining to your mother you’re late home saving the Bay Area from a fire-shooting fallen boy-god). Great fun for adventure, manga and martial-arts loving kids from 11+

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The Three Body Problem

This Hugo-award winner is utterly absorbing science fiction set against the final insanities of the Cultural Revolution and modern China. Secret projects in China’s isolated countryside, theoretical physicists gone rogue and video games all combine to make this powerful first-contact story. Awesome. Though marketed for adults, would also be a wonderful read for older teens with a sci-fi bent. 14+

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Asian Lit Bingo

 

If you haven’t seen the #Asian Lit Bingo on Twitter, the general idea is this:asianlitbingo.png

Sadly I’m far too behind on EVERYTHING to participate–but I do have suggestions:

And though I’m aware May is nearly over,these great books are worth reading all year round:

East Asian MC:

Asian Refugee MC:unknown-12

Asian Immigrant MC:

Asian Muslim MC:

SFF with Asian MC:

Contemporary with Asian MC:

South Asian MC:

Non fiction Asian MC:51g6tg0eapl-_sx350_bo1204203200_

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The Pocket Guide to Being an Indian Girl

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Indian girls only make the front page of the Dudley News if they’ve landed a role in an Indian flick, had a forced marriage or run away. I had apparently done the last.

In retrospect, the era when I came of age, bookended roughly by the Gurinder Chadha films Bhaji on the Beach (1993) and Bend it Like Beckham (2002) seems a vision of post-racial multicultural harmony. Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha even got to number one in the pop charts, a thing I’d never imagined possible watching TOTP during my 1970s childhood. But all that’s over now, shattered by Brexit.

The Pocket Guide to Being an Indian Girl by B.K. Mahal (2004, now out of print) came in on the end of the wave. I don’t think a book like this would be published today –it’s bawdy, funny, peppered with Punjabi slang and Bollywood in-jokes, the narrative  has odd changes of tone and a disjointed plot.

I loved it.

I loved our heroine Susham (Sushi), big sister Kully who’s about to get hitched to the scion of a Brummie Asian mafioso, little sister Kiz & her Bollywood dreams, and their put-upon mother. Their father has been sectioned for manic depression, absconds from hospital and hides out in Dudley allotments–but only Sushi seems to care.

I loved the way the book skewers stereotypes of Brit Asian culture: big weddings, overachieving children, food, romance and Bollywood, adds gritty reality (financial struggles, mental health issues, a patriarchal culture, never losing face ‘in the community’) and manages to be both very very funny and completely real. Yet, as far as I can tell, the author never wrote another YA book.

Diversity is having a ‘moment’ again  in kids and YA spurred on by the We Need Diverse Books non-profit in the U.S. Let’s hope it sticks around for good, this time. Teens 12+

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The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give has deservedly gathered a bundle of stunning reviews.  Thomas begins with a story every teenager can relate to: a party where things get out of hand. The cause of this (a fight which leads to gunshots being exchanged) leads to teenage Starr sensibly getting out of there fast, with an old  friend Khalil she hasn’t seen for a while. They get pulled over because of a broken tail light-what follows is a shocking plunge into the violence so much a part of Starr’s  existence.

Starr’s father is himself an ex-gang member who has served time and has sent her and her siblings to a private school in a better neighbourhood after another childhood friend was shot dead in a drive-by. But when Khalil is shot and killed by a policeman, the line Starr has drawn between her school life and home life begins to dissolve.

Despite Starr exposing herself and her family to scrutiny by testifying, she holds little hope that justice will be served–in the meantime tensions between rival gangs in the neighbourhood worsen and threaten to drag her father back to something he no longer wants any part of.

Starr has a great, dry, funny teen voice: the warmth of her home life and depiction of the dilemmas she faces make this book one any teen will relate to. Most of all, despite its length this is a very readable account of a too familiar tragedy, where every character feels truly real and alive. 14+

 

 

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Out of Heart

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Out of Heart is a story about Adam, whose family home is an unhappy place of silence and secrets. Yasmin, his Mum, has escaped from an abusive relationship, his sister Farah doesn’t speak any more and Adam himself doodles and writes obsessively in his notebook rather than trying to talk to Laila, the girl he has a thing for. When his grandfather who lived with them chooses to donate his heart to a stranger and the stranger turns up at their door, everything begins to break apart.

William, the recipient of the donated heart has had a hard, lonely life and finds new meaning in the family that adopt him. But people in their neighbourhood disapprove and Adam’s estranged violent father begins to cause trouble. There are no easy answers in this book and Adam has to deal with more than anyone, young or old should have to deal with before he finds any.

This is a  painfully real account of one boy’s struggle with and against family and community in order to find his place in the world. The  urban setting and cultural  context of Adam’s Muslim faith are vividly and sympathetically brought to life in a way not often seen in UKYA. 12+

 

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