These two books were very similar in theme and both #ownvoices** reads, so I decided to go ahead and review them together! Both books feature POC** main characters—Margot is Puerto Rican and Starr is black. Ironically, both Margot and Starr’s dads own grocery stores in an inner city area and the girls both attend private schools outside of the city. Both of them struggle with identity issues because of this—that balance between fitting in and holding onto your culture and your identity. Both of them also have to deal with their old friends (in their neighborhoods) feeling like they’re “selling out.”
That’s where the similarities pretty much end. The Hate U Give has a little more serious take on the subject—it features serious gang violence and a police shooting. The Education of Margot Sanchez is more of a romance at heart and focuses more strongly on Margot’s struggle between her two lives. Both books are fantastic reads!
** If you aren’t sure what the terms #ownvoices and POC mean, check out my Book Blogger’s Guide to Acronyms, Terms and Slang
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
on February 28th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: Mature YA (Gang violence, Death, Drug use and other serious themes addressed; Also a decent amount of swearing)
Sixteen-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, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. 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 destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.
This is the type of book that I think everyone needs to read (especially in our current political climate) because it deals with so many incredibly important issues. Thomas does a fantastic job of writing a book that a broad range of people can relate to. Starr acts as a bridge between two worlds—both for the people in her life and for a diverse set of readers. I have to confess that I might feel intimidated to read a book written completely in the voice of an inner city character. As it is, some of Starr’s thoughts and dialogue seem foreign to me—but it’s tempered by the fact that she has adapted to a sort of “private school persona,” so we get a bit of both shining through in her voice. It’s a unique blend and it works well to bring a wider audience to the book.
Some other things the fed my fiction addiction:
- Starr’s struggle to be “herself” in an environment that she doesn’t feel would completely accept her. This is a major thread throughout the book. Starr feels like her boyfriend Chris is the only person who can appreciate both sides of her (but then she struggles with the fact that she’s dating a white guy). Starr doesn’t feel like she completely fits into either of her worlds, and she feels like she has to hide pieces of herself no matter where she is.
- The #BlackLivesMatter movement. This book brought me a much deeper understanding of what the movement is all about and how we have a skewed perception of the value of a human life. Khalil was a good guy at heart who was pushed into making some bad choices. But the question is presented: What if Khalil had been a gangbanging, drug dealing “thug”? Would it have been okay that he was killed in that instance? Even though he wasn’t doing anything that warranted the police’s reaction? Would people mourn his death differently? Or not at all? The unfairness of the way that the police handle Khalil’s death made me incredibly angry—but this representation is all-too real, unfortunately.
- Strong family connections. It’s easy for me to relate to a close-knit family living in the suburbs, but what about an inner city family where the dad’s been in prison, has a kid from when he cheated on his wife, and used to be a gang leader? It would be easy to look at this type of family and just feel like I have nothing in common with them—that I can’t understand their dynamic. But that’s one of the beautiful things about books: you can see other viewpoints and understand the hearts and souls of people you might not otherwise relate to. Starr’s family isn’t perfect, but they love each other with a fierceness that transcends circumstance. They are a fantastic example of a family that sticks together and fights through incredibly difficult circumstances together. Starr’s dad’s struggle with how to keep his family safe without feeling like he’s abandoning his community is also riveting.
I will say that there were a few times when I didn’t 100% understand or stand behind some of the decisions that were made (the ones that put Starr and her friends in danger), BUT I could see why the characters made those decisions. Again, this is one of those cases where a character might not choose the way I would, and my world is enriched by seeing this other perspective.
I highly recommend this book! I give it 5/5 Stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Published by Simon & Schuster on February 21st 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: Mature YA (Characters have sex, Some drug use and drinking, Swearing)
Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.
THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:
Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
After “borrowing” her father's credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.
With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…
Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.
Margot has remade herself so that she can fit in at her boarding school. She feels like she has to follow the lead of the popular (and rich) girls, and that has led her to make some incredibly poor decisions. When she steals her father’s credit card and charges $600 worth of clothes to it, she’s forced to spend the summer working at her father’s store to pay him back. While she’s there, her two worlds collide and she can’t seem to get them to mesh. She falls for a boy named Moises—a community activist who’s trying to prevent families from getting kicked out of their building, but she struggles with admitting her feelings for a boy who she knows her friends at school wouldn’t approve of. She feels disconnected from her best friend who has moved on without her (just as Margot has moved on), and her family and the family business both seem to be floundering—and she finds out that her family is actually falling apart in more ways than she ever imagined.
This book centers on identity. How Margot struggles to be the girl everyone else expects her to be. Her friends at school, her parents, her old neighborhood friends, the boy she wants to impress, the boy she’s slowly falling for: She can’t seem to live up to any of their expectations, and she can’t find herself in all the mess. While I wasn’t a fan of many of Margot’s decisions, I felt for her in her struggle to bring both sides of her life together and find the real Margot—and be true to her.
While I don’t think that the messages in this book are earth-shattering, Margot’s unique perspective gives food for thought and introduces us to a few heavier topics (sex, drug use, etc) without making the book feel like “heavy” book. I didn’t always love Margot, but I felt like she grew by the end of the book, and I learned from her. I give this one 3.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***