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review 2014-06-19 15:45
A Bronx Tale without Sonny and Deniro, lol.
A Song for Bijou - Josh Farrar

First of all, I have to say if it hadn't been for the #WEneeddiversebooks hashtag, I would have never found about this adorable book. One of the whole points about the #Weneeddiversebooks hashtag was so that people like me could be introduced to more books that feature diverse characters beyond the "default". So wonderful authors like My fave author Ellen Oh and some new favorites like Lamar Giles, made the visibility of this type of awareness possible.

Where do I begin? First off, it's not really second nature for me to pick up Middle Grade books. I'm always afraid that the protagonists aren't written intelligent enough for kids to learn something, or better yet for me to learn something.Luckily, This wasn't one of those books.

The story revolves around two seventh graders, Alex and Bijou. Alex is born and bred in Brooklyn, NY, whereas Bijou is from Haiti. I guess you can say this book is one of those first love books because the story centers on the friendship between two kids who can grow to be something more.

The POV switched from both characters, which I loved!!!!I loved hearing from both Bijou and Alex. I was worried it would only be from the boys POV. But seeing as though I've read very few POV's from boys so far, Alex might just be my favorite.The author choose to spend the first 50 pages introducing Alex and the next 50 introducing Bijou. After that it alternates depending on the situation. But I loved how Bijou and Alex's POV's weren't dumbed down for who this book is marketed at, for readers between the ages of 8-12. Sometimes I even forgot that i was reading from the POV of 2 12 year olds.

I really loved that this wasn't a "race"book. Alex loved him some Bijou. I like how he didn't try to exoticize her, even though some of the boys tried to. He just liked her because she was a girl, a very pretty girl. Minorities, we hate the whole West Side Story-story, where people can't be together because of their races. It gets tiring! I don't think we live in a so called Post Racial Society like everyone thinks, but I do think race is a silly thing to keep people apart these days. I'm glad that was left out! This story was really about two friends who are probably falling in love for the first time. 

I reallllllly related to Bijou in terms of culture. My parents are from the Caribbean(Cuba) so I know how Caribbean culture can seem really foreign to American kids. I think what made me pick up the book in the first place, ya know other than the cover, was that I haven't read many books featuring black girls that didn't have American parents. I feel extremely close to Haitian culture because my boyfriend of 7 years is Half Colombian/Half Haitian, so part of me picked this book up thinking, this author is probably goina get Haitian girls all wrong. But this book really impressed me. Bijou was so confident and didn't let anyone get her down even though many girls tried to.

And Alex, he was so rad. Here comes this young white boy who knows nothing about Haitian culture, He even made the mistake of calling her "Asian", which I've heard sooooo many people do growing up, who falls head over heels for this amazing Haitian girl. Alex just reminded me of a real twelve year old boy, he wasn't worried about sex.All he wanted to do was be friends with Bijou, be close to Bijou, be with Bijou. It was nice for a change to read about a girl crazy boy instead of a boy crazy girl. His voice was really realistic but I think the thing I liked most about him was his interest in her culture. Sometimes when you date inter-culturally, you find some people don't really care about the great things you grew up with because they never had customs like that of their own. So culture isn't a big deal to some Americans, because they solely identify with being American. I've dated many guys who weren't interested in my culture and guess what? We didn't work out because my culture is everything to me so if someone can't take an interest in that, how are you ever going to work as a couple?

I liked how diverse this book was, i mean it was set in Brooklyn, so it better have been diverse! Most of Alex's friends were people of color, which i thought was really cute. It made Alex seem really unknowledgeable about her culture because they seemed to know a little bit about it. His best friends were Japanese American(and thank god he didn't fit the stereotype of young asian boys) and Dominican American, which i was surprised about because I hardly read any Dominican characters in books.Just Mexican, which i don't have a problem with but Latino isn't an umbrella term for Mexican. And then one of the popular girls at their sister school(they went to a religious private school)was a black Dominican, cool right? This book scored really well in terms of diversity for me. If the market for this book is 5th through 8th graders, I'm glad to know that a young kid would read it seeing the world how it should appear to the whole world, Diverse.

Even though this book is a Middle Grade book, anyone who likes a cute love story especially an interracial story would really enjoy this book.If you saw A Bronx Tale and liked that movie, You would love A Song for Bijou.

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review 2014-04-08 16:25
A 3 Dimensional story featuring a Multicultural set of characters
Farsighted (Farsighted 1) - Emlyn Chand

Actual score 4.5


Every once in a while, I buy tons of books with particular themes. A handful featuring Latino/a protagonists. 4 or so featuring Black main characters. This was part of the fleet i bought including disabled lead protagonists.


If I'm to be honest, this sat on my shelf for a few months. I'm always afraid of how authors will portray disabilities in books. Usually it find fall under the trope where somehow the disability can be "fixed" and the protagonist will live out the rest of their days able bodied. So soooo happy this wasn't one of them!


The story follows Alex Kosmitoras, an unpopular misfit, who just wants to be normal. It's hard being normal when every chance you get, there's a run in with the school bully, your parents don't have the money to buy you the things you need and oh yea how could I forget, you're BLIND. Fill in the blanks there's a chance you might just be psychic and you're in for some crazy things to happen.


At first, I thought that I would feel sorry for Alex. He was born blind and has never had the privilege of ever seeing things. I thought this would be a story highlighting what some people see as disadvantages that come along with having a disability. Alex however, made me forget sometimes that he had a disability. He was written multi faceted, engaging, charming and just about as snarky as any other teenage boy in a YA novel. Yea, he did certain things much different, but he really made his disability work for him. He wasn't moping around being sad about being blind. He had typical thoughts of teenage boy. He strived to do well in school, he wanted to make friends and he fantasized about having a girlfriend. Doesn't get any much normal than that.


So where does the paranormal element come in? Glad you would ask!

Alex is one of many who have psychic abilities. His power? He can see the present and possibly the future. I'm sure his abilities grow in the series as they seemed to grow in this book and it was interesting how this power played out in this particular book. He sees visions how he's always seem them. They're not clear images but they are very real and could possibly happen. I don't think this is the most unique ability but in this particular book, "The Gifted" as they're called, seem to have abilities that are based on the mind. That was really interesting. I loved how it worked in this book.


The plot centered around Alex "seeing" one of his friends die by the hands of a crazy person. He must somehow use his abilities to figure out whether it's a future that is going to happen anyways or one that can be prevented. I enjoyed seeing Alex gradually coming into his abilities. Sometimes the lead protagonist get "gets" it and those are the ones i relate less to. The world of psychics seemed very real in this book and It was really nice to see a disabled character written as clever. He figured most things out on his own and when he couldn't he had help from the people that supported him. He had two very present parents, and that's what's missing a lot on YA novels. The parents are just non-existent but here were Alex's parents seeing him through this war with his abilities. I think I appreciated that aspect of it the most!


When it came to the side characters in the book, I was pleased to know that both of his friends were Women of Color. Simmi was Indian and Shapri appeared in my mind as African American. Since Alex is blind, he can't really explain what they look like but there are clues that link to this. Simmi constantly mentioned things in her culture, she spoke with a singsong accent(Indian women tend to) and she didn't eat meat. Shapri talked with a slight Southern accent, She moved to Grandon because her family was affected by Katrina and she had sharpness that was undeniably "Sista"like. This fact made me really happy because all three main characters came from marginalized groups. Oh and i think Simmi is plus sized!Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy!!!


Nothing about the diverse set of characters the author chose to write about seemed forced or fake. It was a genuine story featuring a multicultural set of people. This is the kind of book I always ask for, but writers never seem to listen to my silent pleas. If there are characters that aren't white, it's usually one out of like 5. The fact that the 3 main characters are from marginalized groups makes me feel stupid for not picking up a little sooner.


My only complaint was I would have liked to know more about the history of "The Gifted Ones".


I really loved the title and the cover made it easy to see Alex as handsome. I'm not sure if he really looks like that but that's how I envisioned him. The guy on the cover "appears"to be blind and has brown skin like most people of Greek ancestry(if you couldn't tell by his last name). I also liked how he described people by their scents since he couldn't physically describe them. So many descriptions are based on looks that we forget that we have 4 other useful senses.

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