I’ve got three bite-sized reviews for you today: two YA books and a classic (all with character names in the title)! I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on March 20, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, Violence, Partying and Drug Use)
When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.
The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.
I’d read that this book was a bit grittier than other books with similar storylines, so I was ready for that when I started reading it. I would agree with that assessment, but I don’t think that it necessarily made the MC less relatable. The story is told from the POV of Tyler’s twin brother, Marvin. Marvin realizes his brother has flaws and has gotten himself involved in some things he shouldn’t, but he also knows the person Tyler is—he knows him in a way no one else can. So, when Tyler is killed, Marvin has trouble reconciling people’s reactions—both the people who want to paint Tyler as a thug and people who want to use him as some sort of symbol of oppression. Marvin wants justice for his brother’s death. It’s personal to him, and it changes his whole outlook on life. While I thought that Marvin was a likable and relatable MC, I never really got emotional over the book like I expected to. Still, I flew through the book (which is a plus for me lately, since I feel like some of my reading has been plodding) and I was invested in the story. I enjoyed the romance aspect of the book as well—though the connection was made relatively quickly, I thought that was believable given the high emotional stakes. Sometimes tragedy can bring people together. I think this book is definitely a worthwhile read.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Series: The Adventures of Tom and Huck #1
Published by Puffin Books on 1876
Genres: Young Adult, Classics
My content rating: YA (Some foul language, Some violence)
Tom Sawyer is sure to find trouble wherever the river leads him…
On the banks of the Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer and his friends seek out adventure at every turn. Then one fateful night in the graveyard they witness a murder. The boys make a blood oath never to reveal the secret, and they run away to be pirates in search of hidden treasure. But when Tom gets trapped in a cave with scary Injun Joe, can he escape unharmed?
So, I finally read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I knew going in that the story is sort of meandering. Let’s face it, Twain doesn’t really stick to his plot; instead, he takes us on a fanciful journey through Tom’s boyhood. We read this as a class in my homeschool co-op (and, yes, I did have to address a certain word—without ever actually uttering it, of course. I read a lot of opinions about how to go about doing that, and I think it led to a good discussion). It was interesting to read that many of the events were based on real stories from Twain’s life, and especially fun to talk about the superstitions of the time. And, of course, we were able to talk about many of the satirical aspects of the book—and also comment on some of the areas where society failed in that era. The book isn’t perfect, but I can see why it’s held on over the years.
What Maya Saw: A Tale of Shadows, Secrets, Clues by Shabnam Minwalla
Published by Harper India on December 25th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: The Author
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
Almost from the moment Maya steps into St Paul s College, she is afraid.
Everywhere she goes, she encounters questions and secrets. Not to mention the Shadows a bunch of drop-dead gorgeous students who she realises will do anything to keep their youth and beauty. Even kill.
Maya wants no part in this sinister adventure. She would much rather be shopping for shoes, munching brownies and shedding her geeky image. But the teenager soon finds that she doesn t have a choice.
Only Maya can see the Shadows for what they really are. Only she can unravel the trail of clues laid long ago by a dead priest. Which is why both the forces of good and evil need her so badly.
Unsure about whom she can trust and believe, Maya launches into a clue hunt across Mumbai and in that process, learns about love, friendship and growing up.
When the author contacted me about reviewing What Maya Saw, I was on a bit of an India binge—I think I’d just read four or five books that involved India or Indian culture, and I was excited to read one by an author who actually lives in India (this book was published by Harper India). I think my expectations hurt me a little in this case, though, because I felt like the book was just a little too similar to a lot of other teen paranormal books I’ve read that are set in the US—again, I think this was totally my fault because of my lack of real knowledge of India and a typical Indian teenager—obviously, the author lives there and she set her book in a realistic environment; it wasn’t the author’s writing, but my expectation that the setting would be more “different” that threw me off.
The paranormal aspects of the story were intriguing (and sometimes disturbing—in a good way!). Maya and her friends had to solve a series of puzzles in order to overcome their enemies, and the clues sometimes sent them to interesting places in Mumbai, so I did enjoy that aspect of the story. I also appreciated the strong friendships—Maya’s best friend is a particularly fun and endearing character! I felt like the pacing was a tad bit slow in the middle of the book, but it was an interesting read overall.
As a little bonus, I have an author top ten list for this book as well!
Here are Shabnam Minwalla’s Top Ten Addictions:
— My city — Mumbai
That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?
I’ve never been brave enough to read Tom Sawyer. I read some of Mark Twain’s short stories in college and didn’t understand the appeal of them. I’m glad you mostly liked Tyler Johnson. I’m curious about that one.
I don’t know if I would have gotten around to Tom Sawyer if it wasn’t for my class. I’m glad I chose it, but Twain’s storytelling is a little odd—not what a modern audience would expect.
It’s been so long since I read Tom Sawyer. I should re-read it some day. And that author’s addictions? Air conditioning will always be one of mine! Great reviews!
Air conditioning would definitely qualify as an addiction for most of us, probably! 🙂
I haven’t read Tom Sawyer in SO long, but I have fond recollections of it. Him and Becky Thatcher… I think it would be an interesting book to discuss with young readers, especially given the *ahem* challeneges with some of its language and attitudes.
Yes, it stirred some good conversation in our classroom. We can’t ignore the parts of our history that are unpleasant.
It’s been over 30 years since I read Tom Sawyer. I remembering liking both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and I think it’s for the reason you pointed out, Twain takes you on a journey and my 14 year old self enjoyed that.
I still need to read Huck Finn. Definitely planning on doing that soon!
haha Glad to hear I’m not the only one that has never read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer!
Another one… I’d never heard of Dark Breaks the Dawn before! Glad you enjoyed it despite the slow pace.
Even though I loved THUG for some reason I didn’t feel like reading more on that topic that’s why I never read Tyler Johnson Was Here
I’m surprised we didn’t read Tom Sawyer in school, but I guess we can’t get to ALL the classics.
I’ve never read Tom Sawyer either!
Though I did enjoy an audiobook of Huckleberry Finn and was later underwhelmed by Twain’s account of his European travels.
I should do the audiobook of Huckleberry Finn. I definitely want to read that one too!