Monday, September 14, 2020

#AmReading YA


Yamile Saied Méndez
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.
Camila's parents wanted her to study hard and become a doctor, but she had her own dreams. She aspired to become a professional soccer player. However, this was not something "good girls" did where she came from, so she had to secretly pursue this dream. With her team earning a spot in an upcoming tournament, Camila could not afford to hide her passion any longer. With so many obstacles, she wondered if her dream was even possible, if her family would not support her. 

This book was so good! First was have Camila, who was simply incredible. Her accomplishments, bravery, and ambition was something to admire given all the barriers put in her path. Aside from the expectations of what was appropriate for a young women, she also battled with an abusive father and constant violence against women in her hometown. I found her so impressive. 

Complicating things further was the return of her first love, Diego. He wanted to "save" her from her home life and Rosario, but Camila wasn't having it. She was determined to "save" herself. She was going to play soccer, get noticed, and earn a spot on an international team all on her own, and I, for one, believed she could make it happen from the very start of the book. She wanted it all - love and success, and I wanted that for her too. 

Her soccer team called her "La Furia", which means the Fury, and it was quite a suitable name for Camila. This was a young woman trying to blaze her own path, but was robbed of her right to do so. This is not an usual story, but it was interesting to see it through a the lens of an Argentinian woman. I appreciated the different point of view and liked learning about the issues women in Argentina struggle with. 

Méndez created a phenomenal and memorable character with Camila. I dare you not to cheer for this young woman as she fights to break the cycle, earn her freedom, and live her dream.

Who I Was With Her

Nita Tyndall
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
There are two things that Corinne Parker knows to be true: that she is in love with Maggie Bailey, the captain of the rival high school’s cross-country team and her secret girlfriend of a year, and that she isn’t ready for anyone to know she’s bisexual.

But then Maggie dies, and Corinne quickly learns that the only thing worse than losing Maggie is being left heartbroken over a relationship no one knows existed. And to make things even more complicated, the only person she can turn to is Elissa — Maggie’s ex and the single person who understands how Corinne is feeling.

As Corinne struggles to make sense of her grief and what she truly wants out of life, she begins to have feelings for the last person she should fall for. But to move forward after losing Maggie, Corinne will have to learn to be honest with the people in her life…starting with herself.
When the person she loved died, Corinne wasn't notified. She overhead people talking about it and saw a story on the nightly news. She couldn't explain why she was sad or seek any comfort, because this relationship was one of her many secrets. 

When I first learned about this book, I immediately knew I had to read it, and then I shed a tear. I couldn't imagine losing someone, who meant so much to me AND having to secretly mourn them. Corinne's pain, sadness, and loneliness was inescapable. It wrapped itself around me and had me hoping that she would tell the truth and get the affection she needed. 

Though her healing journey was not an easy one, Corinne was not made to suffer alone. She found support and comfort in a very unlikely source - her girlfriend's ex, Elissa. I found her to be an interesting ally for Corinne, but I could also understand why she was a good choice. They both shared a past with and loved Maggie. If anyone could understand Corinne's loss, it would be someone who knew Maggie the way she knew Maggie. Elissa also challenged Corinne quite a bit and was an important part of her healing process.

But this book wasn't just about grief and loss. Maggie's death was a catalyst, which forced Corinne to think hard about her present situation, what she wanted in the future, and if she was ready to come out as bisexual. As she grappled with these things and Maggie's passing, she was also dealing with her fractured relationship with her mother, an alcoholic. I felt that Tyndall blended these other issues into the story so well. I especially appreciated Corinne's ambivalence with her life after high school. The conflict between her needs and desires versus everyone else's expectations was great to see. Her whole process was difficult and messy and real. 

I liked that the structure of the book allowed me to get glimpses into Maggie and Corinne's relationship. I saw before and after the accident and felt these peeks into the past were well selected. I will admit, when I got to the final meeting between them, my heart broke a bit more, but all the events were important pieces of the puzzle. Each bit helped me better understand Corinne and her pain. 

I was quite emotional as I read this story. I couldn't imagine how it would feel to not be able to openly grieve a great loss. But this story was about so much more than just love and loss. It was about self acceptance and finding your own path even if it's not what others expect. The story was beautifully told and touched my heart.

**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Do you enjoy soccer?
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