Bite-Sized Reviews of Across the Desert, Our Violent Ends, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, and How to Be Ace

Posted January 22, 2022 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Reviews / 9 Comments

Today, I have a MG contemporary, a YA historical fantasy, a MG historical, and a YA graphic novel memoir. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!

Bite-Sized Reviews of Across the Desert, Our Violent Ends, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, and How to Be AceAcross the Desert by Dusti Bowling
Illustrator: Yao Yao Ma Van As
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 12, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: MG (Themes of drug abuse and neglect)
My rating:
4 Stars

One girl sets out on a journey across the treacherous Arizona desert to rescue a young pilot stranded after a plane crash.

Twelve-year-old Jolene spends every day she can at the library watching her favorite livestream: The Desert Aviator, where twelve-year-old “Addie Earhart” shares her adventures flying an ultralight plane over the desert. While watching this daring girl fly through the sky, Jolene can dream of what it would be like to fly with her, far away from her own troubled home life where her mother struggles with a narcotic addiction. And Addie, who is grieving the loss of her father, finds solace in her online conversations with Jolene, her biggest—and only—fan.

Then, one day, it all goes wrong: Addie's engine abruptly stops, and Jolene watches in helpless horror as the ultralight plummets to the ground and the video goes dark. Jolene knows that Addie won’t survive long in the extreme summer desert heat. With no one to turn to for help and armed with only a hand-drawn map and a stolen cell phone, it's up to Jolene to find a way to save the Desert Aviator.


Across the Desert is a captivating survival story about not giving up on someone who needs you. Jolene feels helpless in her home life—ever since a serious accident, she constantly skates the boundaries of a panic attack while her mom grows more and more neglectful and dependent on painkillers. All Jolene can do is try to hold things together well enough so she can hide the fact that her world is on the brink of disaster. The last thing she wants is for social services to take her away like they did her friend. So, when Jolene witnesses another accident and no one seems to believe her, she decides that this time she will take matters into her own hands. She can’t sit still and do nothing. Jolene sets off on a trek across the desert to save her friend—but the journey is fraught with complications and near-disasters. I’ll admit that I sometimes had to let go of the fact that Jolene (and eventually her new friend Marty) make some terrible decisions. It’s easier to understand her choices as the book goes on and you start to understand truly what Jolene is facing at home and what she stands to lose. Kids probably won’t be bothered by this, though, and the overall messages of the book are very positive. Jolene eventually learns that she shouldn’t give up on people, but she can and should get help when she needs it.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of Across the Desert, Our Violent Ends, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, and How to Be AceOur Violent Ends by Chloe Gong
Series: These Violent Delights #2
Also in this series: , These Violent Delights
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on November 16, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 512
Source: NetGalley, The Publisher
Cover Artist: Billelis
My content rating: YA (Some violence; Characters have sex, but it's not shown)
My rating:
4 Stars

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on a mission. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.

Shanghai is under siege in this captivating and searingly romantic sequel to These Violent Delights, which New York Times bestselling author Natasha Ngan calls “deliciously dark.”


Our Violent Ends certainly lives up to its title! If life in Shanghai was dangerous in book one of this duology, it’s gotten even more treacherous in the finale. This book focuses a bit less on the fantastical monsters than it does on the political machinations of the various groups in Shanghai and the ways that the average citizen ends up suffering in the process. (I’ll confess that the political side of fantasy is typically my least favorite aspect, but the fact that it was paired with a lot of character growth for a character I really enjoy helped a whole lot.) And the story culminates in a spectacular showdown. I don’t want to say too much about what happens, but I will just say that this book brings some of the major elements of Romeo and Juliette to life in surprising and satisfying ways.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of Across the Desert, Our Violent Ends, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, and How to Be AceBarefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs
Published by Sourcebooks on September 14, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 288
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: John J. Cabuay
My content rating: MG (Wartime violence)
My rating:
4 Stars

It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna's mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left―her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito―until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns, searching for safe harbor in a world that offers none.

Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: "They're like us barefoot peasants and indios―they're not meant to go far." But Petra refuses to listen. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border―a life where her barefoot dreams could finally become reality.


Set during the Mexican Revolution, this book tells the story of a family torn apart by the ravages of war. Petra has to take charge of her family since her mother died in childbirth and her father has been forced to fight in a war (against the rebels who he would support if given the choice). Her grandmother tries, but caring for three young children at her age—and during a war—is difficult, to say the least. When their village is destroyed, the whole family ends up on a trek to nowhere, searching for any sanctuary they can find. Petra has to find strength and peace within and decide where her loyalties lie. The end of the book really shines as it finds Petra and her family in a historical moment fraught with danger (which is based on the author’s grandmother’s actual experiences). The book will help kids get a glimpse of history they probably know nothing about and will allow them to experience the true resiliency of the human spirit!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the author for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of Across the Desert, Our Violent Ends, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, and How to Be AceHow to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess
Illustrator: Rebecca Burgess
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers on October 21, 2020
Genres: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Source: Library
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Discussions about sex)
My rating:
4 Stars

Brave, witty and empowering, this graphic memoir follows Rebecca as she navigates her asexual identity and mental health in a world obsessed with sex. From school to work to relationships, this book offers an unparalleled insight into asexuality.

'When I was in school, everyone got to a certain age where they became interested in talking about only one thing: boys, girls and sex. Me though? I was only interested in comics.'

Growing up, Rebecca assumes sex is just a scary new thing they will 'grow into' as they get older, but when they leave school, start working and do grow up, they start to wonder why they don't want to have sex with other people.

In this brave, hilarious and empowering graphic memoir, we follow Rebecca as they navigate a culture obsessed with sex—from being bullied at school and trying to fit in with friends, to forcing themself into relationships and experiencing anxiety and OCD—before coming to understand and embrace their asexual identity.


How to Be Ace is an eye-opening graphic novel memoir that focuses on not just asexuality but also on mental health. Illustrated in a colorful manga-esque style, this graphic novel focuses on Burgess’s journey to understand herself when the world around her sometimes seemed indecipherable. Burgess grew up feeling strangely out of place among her boy-crazy classmates, but she didn’t understand why for many years. The book also chronicles Burgess’s struggles with OCD and anxiety and shows how she eventually came to accept herself for who she is and find healthy coping mechanisms. Informative panels about asexuality are peppered occasionally throughout, helping to dispell myths and demystify a sexual orientation that doesn’t get talked about much. The overall effect is both educational and compelling. Definitely a recommended read!

That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?
I wanna know!


9 responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of Across the Desert, Our Violent Ends, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, and How to Be Ace

    • I have Our Violent Ends sitting on my shelf. I will definitely get to it soon, though I don’t want this duology to end. I’m glad you found the ending surprising and satisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what happens.

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