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YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in Love

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve had a crazy, busy week and I’m behind on pretty much everything, which means you get mini reviews for my latest reads.  Just because the reviews are mini doesn’t means the books aren’t fabulous though.  I’ve got three great YA reads to share my thoughts on today.

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveInstructions for Dancing Goodreads

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Nicola Yoon’s new novel Instructions for Dancing follows Evie Thomas, a senior in high school, whose world has been rocked because she walked in on her dad cheating on her mother.  Her utter disappointment in her dad, coupled with her parents’ divorce, has left Evie feeling like there’s no point in falling in love if it’s just going to end in misery.  Evie is so off the whole idea of love at this point, she takes all of her old romance novels to donate to a Little Free Library. An elderly woman there encourages Evie to take a book as well and gives her a book called Instructions for Dancing. Evie doesn’t want to be rude so she takes it and when she sees an address on the back for a local dance studio, she decides to check out the studio and while there, she meets ‘X’ (short for Xavier).  They bond immediately as they begin taking dance lessons together and as they grow closer and closer, Evie starts to wonder if she’s wrong about love being a waste of time…

I don’t want to give away any further details about the story, so that teaser about how Evie’s emotional journey begins is all I’m giving you.  Her path is a beautiful one, although painful at times. If you have parents who are divorced, you will relate very strongly to where Evie is emotionally. I know I did.  As Evie finds, it can be hard to open yourself up to love when you know there’s the possibility you could get hurt. The message of this book though is that it’s not about how that love might end in heartbreak. Instead it’s about the journey of falling in love so deeply that when you do loose them, it crushes you, and the idea that we should all hope to be lucky enough to experience a love that deep.  I thought this was such a powerful and important message both for Evie and for all of us and I loved how this beautiful sentiment, which reduced me to tears several times, balances out with some of the lighter and more fun elements of the story.

Oh yes, it’s not all doom and gloom by any stretch.  Evie’s group of friends is a lot of fun and so are the people Evie meets at the dance studio.  There’s intense training for a dance competition that brings Evie and X even closer together, as well as lots of dates for them as their instructor forces them to get to know each other better so that they have better chemistry on the dance floor.

Instructions for Dancing is a story that will tug at your heartstrings and make you believe that no matter what, love is always worth it.  As the old Dr. Seuss quote says, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  4.5 STARS

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveCool for the Summer Goodreads

Author: Dahlia Adler

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

When Larissa arrives to school on the first day of her senior year, everyone can tell there’s something different about her and it’s not just the new haircut and blond highlights.  It’s more that she has a new attitude, a certain confidence she didn’t have before.  Whatever it is, it has gotten the attention of her forever-crush Chase Harding and now he has gone from barely acknowledging her existence to blatantly flirting with her.  Chase Harding is everything Larissa has ever wanted, and between him, her close-knit friend group, and a fantastic job, Larissa is sure her senior year is going to be incredible…until Jasmine walks through the door.  Jasmine, the girl Larissa met and had a summer romance with when she traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with her mom.  What is Jasmine doing here in New York, at Larissa’s school?  And the bigger question, why is she now ignoring Larissa and pretending they don’t know each other? Was their romance just a summer fling or could it be more than that?

I really enjoyed the way the author lets this story unfold through a dual timeline, with the first timeline set in the present as Larissa and Jasmine try to navigate getting to know one another in a completely different environment from where they first met. The second timeline takes place in the Outer Banks over the summer and shows us how Jasmine and Larissa meet.  Larissa had no idea she was possibly bisexual until she met Jasmine and I thought the author did a wonderful job of showing Larissa exploring this newly discovered aspect of her sexuality in a positive light. There is of course a bit of a love triangle in the present-day timeline and even though I’m not usually a fan of those, it works here because the triangle reflects how Larissa finds herself torn between the person she used to be and the person she has grown into since meeting Jasmine.  She has some big decisions to make and doesn’t want to hurt anyone or get hurt in the process.  Larissa’s journey is somewhat painful at times as she attempts to navigate this awkward terrain, but I really enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story. Cool for the Summer is a satisfying coming of age story that left me feeling nostalgic for my own summer romances from years gone by. 4 STARS

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveMisfit in Love Goodreads

Author: S.K. Ali

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I loved S.K. Ali’s debut novel Saints & Misfits when I read it a couple of years ago so I was beyond excited to hear that we would be returning to that world with Ali’s latest novel, Misfit in Love.  I adored Janna, the protagonist from both books, just as much this time around.  She’s a little older now and will be off to college soon, but before that, she has a big family wedding to attend.  Her beloved brother Muhammad is getting married, which means that Janna will soon be surrounded by family and friends, including Nuah. The last time she saw Nuah, Janna had told him she wasn’t ready to start a relationship, but now that she’s about to see him again, she thinks she has changed her mind and hopes he’s still interested even though he has been away at college.

There’s so much to love about Misfit in Love.  I really enjoyed reading about all of the wedding traditions as well as the preparations and, of course, the fun shenanigans, as well as some of the drama between Muhammad’s family and his bride’s family. It was also so much fun to see old friends from Ali’s first two books.  I was especially excited to see Adam and Zayneb from Love from A to Z as wedding attendees.  I would love to revisit their world with another book at some point too. They’re just so sweet together. In addition to the fun surrounding the wedding, I also enjoyed watching Janna continue to grow and mature.  She is still somewhat of a misfit when it comes to love and relationships but she’s finding her way, and I was especially proud of her when she has a very difficult conversation with her father about his racism. She makes a statement that many of us should take to heart.  If you see someone being racist and hateful, you can’t just sit there passively.  If anything is ever going to change, you have to speak out against the hate.  Misfit in Love might be a light summer read about a wedding and falling in love, but it also packs a strong punch with that message from Janna.  I don’t want to say anything else because of spoilers, I think fans of Ali’s other books will adore this one too and I’ll be sitting here hoping that we get another book that follows Janna when she goes off to college. 🙂  4 STARS.

Review: LOVE FROM A TO Z by S.K. Ali

Review:  LOVE FROM A TO Z by S.K. AliLove from A to Z by S.K. Ali
Also by this author: Saints and Misfits
five-stars
Published by Salaam Reads on April 30, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 
 

 

 

 

LOVE FROM A TO Z Review

 

S.K. Ali’s Love From A to Z is an incredibly moving story that just had so many emotions running through my head the entire time I was reading.  Sometimes it made me sad, sometimes it made me angry and frustrated, but at times, it also made me smile.  I love that Ali’s storytelling is so powerful and authentic that it can evoke so many emotions.  Love From A to Z was such a great read for me because the story just has so many layers, each one equally meaningful and compelling.  It features a blossoming friendship between the main characters, Adam and Zayneb, but then it also tackles weighty topics such as Islamophobia. Finally, it features a character who is trying to cope with the life changing diagnosis of multiple sclerosis he has just received.

I became attached to Adam and Zayneb right away.  They’re both such great kids, but they each have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  Adam has just been diagnosed with MS, the disease that took his mother’s life.  Adam remembers how crushed his father was when she died, so now he’s afraid to tell his father that he now has the same disease.  I loved that he wanted to protect his father so badly, but my heart just broke for Adam thinking about him trying to keep such a huge thing secret.

Zayneb tugged at my heartstrings too.  As the only Muslim student in her class, she is a target of blatant Islamophobia, especially from the supposed authority figures in the school.  I hated that it kept happening, but I was in constant admiration of Zayneb because she refused to just sit there and take it. Instead, she is fierce and brave, standing up for herself and speaking out against the hatred that keeps getting thrown in her face.  The situation at school is especially frustrating though because every time she stands up for herself, she somehow ends up being the one to get in trouble, while the bigot gets off scot free.  When Zayneb actually gets suspended from school for sticking up for herself, her parents send her to stay with her aunt in Qatar for a while to cool off and to try to come up with ways to fight Islamophobia without doing things that could negatively impact her own future.

Adam and Zayneb meet on the plane to Qatar, and the chemistry was instant. I was immediately rooting for them to become friends (and hopefully more than friends) because I loved both characters so much and they just seemed like they would be perfect for each other.  I was also rooting for them to deepen their connection because they each just needed someone in their corner so badly.

Aside from these two characters and their moving journeys, I was also a huge fan of the way the story was formatted.  Inspired by famous art entitled Marvels and Oddities, both Adam and Zayneb keep journals where they record marvels and oddities they encounter in their lives every day.  The story unfolds through these journal entries, which just makes Adam and Zayneb’s journeys all the more intimate and personal as they each battle the demons they’re facing.

S.K. Ali’s Love From A to Z is a book that I’d love to recommend to everyone.  It’s a beautiful story about family, friendship, love, and support, as well as a hard-hitting story that strikes a powerful blow against Islamophobia.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

five-stars

About S.K. Ali

S. K. Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits. She lives in Toronto with her family, which includes a very vocal cat named Yeti. Her second novel, LOVE FROM A TO Z, a story about finding love in the time of Islamophobia, will be published on April 30, 2019 by Simon & Schuster. She also has a picture book co-authored with Team USA Olympic Medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad, THE PROUDEST BLUE releasing on October 22, 2019, published by Little, Brown. Find her on twitter at https://twitter.com/SajidahWrites, on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/skalibooks/ and on her website at https://skalibooks.com/.