The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Published: June 2, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 11-24, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
**Unpopular opinion alert**
Everyone seems to be raving about The Vanishing Half, but this is one novel that did not really work for me and I am still not sure why almost a month later. It has an interesting premise: The novel starts out in the 1950s and we have twin girls (Desiree and Stella), both black, but one can pass as white, and she does. But keeping this secret from everyone, including her husband seems to damage Stella. The novel ends in the 1990s with their daughters and lives intersecting.
To see twins live totally different lives despite being the same race during a time of racial changes and the effects of their decisions change everything including their daughters’ lives.
The storyline I was most interested is not even mentioned in the book description, so it came off as a surprise: It dealt with Jude (Desiree’s daughter) and her relationship with Reese, a transgender man. This relationship almost did not make sense with some of the activities they participated in, as the LGBTQ community has not always coincided well/ been inclusive together in the past especially during this time in the past that the novel is based.
Overall, this is one that had promise, but maybe I just listened to the audiobook at the wrong time. Maybe it was the fact that I listened to the audiobook. Some books don’t translate well to audio. I know it has been optioned for TV/Film, so I would give that a try and see what I think.
Burn Our Bodies Down
Author: Rory Power
Published: July 7, 2020
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
I loved Wilder Girls. This one, not so much. While a lot seemed to happen, I felt like I couldn’t get into it. I kept getting distracted by everything else that was happening around me. I didn’t feel very connected to Margot. I really didn’t like her mom. I get that the emotions were supposed to be high and strained, but I felt uncomfortable and exhausted after reading one conversation between Margot and her mom. Normally I like all those raging feelings, but in this case, it wasn’t pleasant at all. While the mystery of the Nielsen family was kinda intriguing, I didn’t like that I didn’t learn really anything until the very end. Normally a mystery will give you little bits as you go along, but this one didn’t. I did guess a part of the resolution, but even then, the ending wasn’t very satisfying. I liked how most of the plot was tied up and explained, it just felt like such a struggle to get there!
I think I would only recommend this book to certain people, but unfortunately, I can’t really recommend it to the general public. I wanted so badly to love this book, I just didn’t.
The Rise of Drohlo
Series: Book one in a Trilogy
Author: Taylor Saville
Published: June 10, 2020
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
Aurlinia Verana can no longer remember the sensation of sunlight, the sway of the golden aspens, or the crash of ocean waves on the shoreline of her ancient, fallen homeland of Lineastear. From early childhood, she spends her life underground, deep within the labyrinth of caves that become both her curse and her cage. Though when a violent invasion threatens the lives of everyone on the continent of Runahn, her world changes forever. She abandons the safety of the underworld city of Vaulok to find her courage, her purpose, and herself. In a miraculous stroke of fate, she becomes aware of her unprecedented power as the only living healer of the mysterious, sentient creatures known as the tiloque. This power earns her the respect and adulation of the only tiloque strong enough to rekindle the dying hope… and unite an entire world.
I really loved Taylor’s first book, Jagged Mind, so much. I wish I could say the same for this book. While her imagination is crazy good, this book read like a soap opera, trying to be Shakespeare, but actually like a high school creative writing essay that got a C+. Unfortunately, because all of the fantasy came straight from her brain with no existing precedent, I got confused and overwhelmed very quickly. This book would have automatically been better if there had been a character list, with a pronunciation guide, and a map.
The plot, which has a lot of potential, was burdened down with a whole lot of useless middle school romance between children that obviously need to grow up. I hate to say it because I love romance in stories, but the one genuine relationship was ruined by immature pandering. Everything was so “instinctual” and that was nice and comforting for the first half of the quest, but then got annoying and overbearing real quick. I definitely want to know more about Drohlo and his kind. He was the one truly unique element, but he didn’t even show up until the last quarter.
She also had the same writing issue that she did with Jagged Mind. She jumped between characters’ perspectives and thoughts so quickly that it got confusing. I never knew who was talking. In Jagged Mind, I liked it because I wanted to see what was in each person’s head. It didn’t work in The Rise of Drohlo. At this point, I can’t decide if I want to continue reading the next book when it comes out. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but Jagged Mind set such a high standard and The Rise of Drohlo is not even close to meeting that standard.