Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down my local library, I had to stock up on another batch of young adult titles! This time, I was (apparently) in the mood for magical realism and just really incredible writing; I was happy to pick up A.S. King’s latest, a real mind-bender, as well as Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning magical realism debut and Elizabeth Acevedo’s award-winning THE POET X, a novel written in verse.
DIG by A.S. King
I don’t know what I just read but I know I liked it! A.S. King is one of my favorite young adult writers, and after DIG won the Printz award in January, I was even more excited to read it! King writes with a certain level of surrealism that never fails to make me question what is real and what is magical; with DIG, it is exceptionally effective in delivering her message on race, privilege, and family ties. DIG follows five seemingly unrelated teenagers in Pennsylvania, all struggling with their own challenges and angst, and each with their own distinct narrative voice. I went into DIG completely blind and it worked out well for me, so I’ll try not to give too much away in terms of plot, but I’ll say the ending had me reeling–this book is truly incredible, and totally deserving of all the praise! DIG is great read for teens and adults who don’t mind a little magical realism, just bear in mind it’s not a comfortable read by any means.
THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER by Emily X.R. Pan
Emily X.R. Pan is one of the best young adult writers I’ve ever read; THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER is technically and thematically strong, and simply gorgeously written. Like DIG, Pan’s novel heavily relies on magical realism (apparently I was in ~the mood~). ASTONISHING COLOR follows Leigh, a half-white, half-Taiwanese girl who travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time after her mother commits suicide. Leigh, believing her mother transformed into a bird upon her death, begins to work through her guilt and grief by reliving her memories, forging a relationship with her grandparents, and attempting to track down the bird she believes is her mother. It’s a heartbreaking, cathartic, stunning book about love, loss, and the importance of family.
THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo
I don’t remember the last time I read a novel in verse, so I was really looking forward to Elizabeth Acevdeo’s THE POET X, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint! THE POET X is a really quick read, and definitely more engrossing than I expected. Acevedo’s poetry is not too stylized and easily manages to tell Xiomara’s story. Xiomara, a.k.a. The Poet X, struggles to feel seen by her family- her strict Catholic mother, who forbids her from having a boyfriend and forces her to be confirmed, her father, who is always around but never fully present, and her twin brother, who is dealing with an identity crisis of his own. Through the encouragement of her English teacher, Xiomara turns to slam poetry to express herself (and she does a damn good job of it too). Acevedo’s novel is endearing, beautifully written, and 100% worth the read.