Tag: Realistic FIction

Book Review: This is My America by Kim Johnson

This is My America
Author: Kim Johnson
Published: July 28, 2020

416 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 19-27, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

Jessica’s Review:

I had this novel selected to read for April’s #Diverseathon prompt, which is a character who is not Caucasian. I DID finish it in April, I just did not get the review written by the end of the month.  But it still counts!

This is My America is a novel that was published last year and is very timely with what was going on with our country.  This is My America centers on Tracy and the Beaumont family.  Seven years ago her father was convicted for double murder and sentenced to the death penalty; he is innocent and has only 267 days left, so his time is running out.  Every week Tracy has written to Innocence X to try and receive help in her father’s case to no answer.  Then the unexpected happens, a white girl is killed and Tracy’s brother Jamal is a suspect. And up to this moment he has never been in trouble with the law and had a very promising future.  Jamal is on the run and now Tracy is determined to help both her father and now her brother.

This is My America is Johnson’s debut novel and what a debut it is! It shows how incarnation affects every member of the convicted’s family and the injustices of African Americans.  Johnson also shows us what it is like inside and visiting a convicted inmate in Texas.  It also shows some history into the KKK and how that organization still exists today and what they can do.  Johnson touches on so many important subjects and reaches her readers with very likable and enduring characters that you can’t help but feel emotions for.

Written in short chapters, this is one novel you don’t want to put down as the reader becomes fully invested in the story and is rooting for Tracy to succeed in both her father and now brother’s cases.    Be sure to read the author’s note at the end of the novel.  Though Innocence X is a fictional organization, Johnson mentions actual organizations out there that work to free those wrongly convicted.  I adore Tracy and her bravery at doing everything she can.  She is a character that young girls could look up to. 

This is My America is one that needs to be read by all teens and touches on so many important subjects that our nation is dealing with more every day.  This novel is up there with Dear Martin for me and may in fact even pass it in my reading. I cannot wait to see what Kim Johnson writes next!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Double Book Review: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

Today Kim and I bring you a double review of That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger. We both gave it 5 stars!!!

That’s Not What Happened
Kody Keplinger

Published: August 28, 218
336 Pages

Book Description:

It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story–that she died proclaiming her faith.

But it’s not true.

I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did–and didn’t–happen that day.

Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .

Jessica’s Rating: 5 Stars
Dates Read: March 7-15, 2021
Format Read: Audiobook

Jessica’s Review:

Wow! This is a powerful YA novel that takes place three years after a school shooting.  It is written via letters from the survivors, mainly from Leanne (Lee) Bauer and we also learn about the victims of the shooting. We learn nothing about the shooter who is only referenced as “him”. 

Three years have passed and Lee finds out her best friend Sarah’s parents are writing a book about her. Sarah died proclaiming her faith to the shooter… Or did she? Lee was in the bathroom with Sarah when the shooting happened.  Lee knows the truth, but kept silent.  And now that a book is soon to be published she wants to set the record straight: That was not Sarah’s necklace! Kellie was also in that bathroom and tried to tell the truth when the shooting first occurred, but no one believed the outcast goth girl.

This powerful novel gives you so many things to think about, the main thing being The Truth:  Do we ultimately want the real truth if it differs from what we believe? And how important is a lie that affects the real truth.  And a big question the reader feels is why does Lee feel the need for the truth to be revealed now and not  three years ago when the shooting occurred. So many people believe one version of the story and Sarah has become a martyr… What will the actual truth do to people when and if they find out?  Will people believe the truth or want to keep believing the lie? How much damage can be done to so many people (including Sarah’s parents) when the truth finally be set free?

We do get to meet all of the survivors, one of them being Denny who is blind. I found his story one of the more interesting perspectives. Denny gives you an idea of what it is to be blind and that the blind actually do not have super power hearing that we ‘seeing people’ may think! I would have loved to have more of Denny. 

And yes, we do get the ultimate truth of what happened in that bathroom at the end of the novel in one last thought provoking letter.

I did not read That’s Not What Happened for #Diverseathon2021, but it could have been read for a few prompts. Our narrator Lee is asexual and this lack of sexuality does come into play in the novel.  I wish I had known this prior to listening as I would have saved the novel for that prompt later on in the year.   

That’s Not What Happened is very highly recommended.

Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
Kim’s Review:

This was a great read! I was prepared for lots of politics, but there was very little and I was so glad! This book was not about the shooter or even really about the shooting, but about the aftermath. A lot of psychology, a lot of human behavior, a lot of very true stereotypes. It definitely gave a different perspective and I appreciated it. We are all so sure and dogmatic after school shootings but this book showed a different side. And Keplinger completely understands man’s need to cling to hope, whether that hope is false or not.

I don’t think I’d recommend this to most teens, just because the subject matter is so deep, but I’d recommend it to everyone else! It was easy to read, yet the emotions came through just fine!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Book Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American Boys
Jason Reynolds

Brendan Kiely
Guy Lockhard

Keith Nobbs
Published: September 29, 2015

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: March 16-21, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Rashad is absent again today.

That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…

Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.

And that’s how it started.

And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like “racism” and “police brutality.” Quinn realizes he’s got to understand it, because, bystander or not, he’s a part of history. He just has to figure out what side of history that will be.

Rashad and Quinn—one black, one white, both American—face the unspeakable truth that racism and prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. There’s a future at stake, a future where no one else will have to be absent because of police brutality. They just have to risk everything to change the world.

Cuz that’s how it can end.

Jessica’s Review:

 All American Boys is another powerful novel that deals with racism and police brutality.  Though this novel was written back in 2015, it is even more relevant now.  I was first ‘introduced’ to Jason Reynolds last year with his novel Long Way Down which was my top read of 2020, and I was excited to listen to another of his novels on audiobook.

We have two narrators: Rashad and Quinn. Rashad is black and involved in the school’s ROTC and Quinn is white and on the basketball team.  They go to the same school but do not know each other. Rashad is inside a convenience store when an event happens and an assumption is made and then Rashad becomes a victim to excessive force from a police officer.  Quinn is outside the convenience store and sees the beating, which affects him, especially since he knows the police officer involved who has become a father-like figure to him.

Then as things happen in today’s world, the video goes viral and Rashad finds himself at the center of the news and the town becomes divided. We also see how this one event affects so many in the community. A graffiti tag shows up at Rashad and Quinn’s school and gains momentum.  Students at the school organize a march to protest and Quinn has to decide which side he ultimately chooses.

This is yet another YA novel that leaves the reader with many things to think about.  This is another one that is highly recommended and I look forward to seeing what else Jason Reynolds has written and will write in the future.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK