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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 2014-06-03 19:32
Emotional story showing a different side to AA female protagonists!YAY!
Pointe - Brandy Colbert

Hmmmm.....where do I start? This book had a lot going on in it. It touched on sooo many topics to be about one person. Eating disorders, Pedophilia, Abduction, Depression, pretty much everything you can go through before you reach the ripe age of 18.

A little history about the books plot. 

The story follows Theo, a high school senior who's only purpose for living is to dance. Her life turns upside down when her childhood best friend returns after being abducted 4 years prior.Or was he? The story revolves around her feelings of everything that lead up to and after that event.

This book managed to tell a very compelling story about a young African American girl where the plot didn't center around her being a black person in America. It might seem like "Oh, what's the big deal?", But a stack of books I've read about black girls almost always centered around them being black, being different or being the "other". That isn't the only story Girls of color have to tell. So this book was a great push in the right direction about a girl going through everyday issues, who just happens to be non white.

Theo was a conflicted character. She was going through a lot of stuff. Reading between the lines, I got the impression that she was insanely insecure. She just didn't understand that people surrounding her used her for her body. I guess I was feeling some type of way because most of them were white guys, in fact all of them were white guys. At first I thought it was cute that this really popular, attractive guy from her school liked her, until i realized her never addressed her by her name. It was always "Legs". By referring to her as a part of her body, it reduced how he saw her as a person, she was her body. Nothing more, and when it comes to racially sensitive people, you really have to tread lightly with that. She was from the suburbs of Chicago, so I can understand that most likely she was surrounded by very little brown or black faces, but still, I've seen other books where there were interracial relationships where the men respected and cherished the girls, so that part really bothered me.

I liked that Theo wasn't as smart as she thought she was. She thought she had it all figured out, but in reality she was a mess. All she was really right about was that she was good at ballet. She was just really confused about everything else, which at 17, she's pretty much allowed to be.

While this isn't the most appropriate of things, i loved how the author showed how realistic teenagers are. I wasn't a big fan of using drugs(in fact i've never gotten high in my life), but the reality was that A LOT of my friends did.I was the exception, I wasn't the rule. A lot of books I read paint girls as bookish hermits who never go to parties but somehow STILL find a way to attract the attention of the most popular, attractive guys in school. In real life that never happens! 

The ending of this book had me singing high notes like Mariah! Something finally got through to Theo. I was so pleased with how she handled herself in the end and it made up for all the mistakes she made in the past.Well maybe not all of them, but it was a start!


Most of my issues with the book are marketing related. Like the cover. I think the cover is nice but what is it like the new whitewashing to blur or shade out a person of color on the cover??? I knew that the main character was African American, in fact that was the main reason I bought it, but had I not have known already that she was black, the cover doesn't do much help at letting me know that. The publishing industry is unfair that way. They won't make it easy for people actually looking for books like this. I've passed up an insane amount of opportunities to read about a dancer in a book, the reason why I never picked one up? Because I thought it was goina be about some white girl from Whiteville, America who's the best at what she does, struggles with the same body issues most dancers do and whines about once again not getting the guy she wants. But Pointe is something I would have sought out!Thanks to Diversity in YA, I was able to discover this book, so sites like Diversity in YA are really beneficial to helping people like me find these types of titles!

Another issue i had was the title. The title leads us to think that the book is ONLY about ballet, but the truth is it centers on a lot of topics, I wanna say with all the stuff Theo was going through, the book could have easily been about something else like teen body issues or centered just around her friends disappearance. It just seemed like she just happened to be a dancer but the title makes it seem like it's a Center Stage-esque story.

How can I say this without sounding like a crab??? I didn't like any of her love interests! Every guy she dealt with didn't really deserve her. Outside of her guy best friends, there wasn't one guy I was sold on. I wish there could have been one guy that treated her the way a girl deserves to be treated. I know that's life, but damn, someone should have redeemed her relationships with guys in this book.

My last issue was the amount of characters she introduced. I know she's in high school so tons of people go to high school, but I don't know, i was just really lost in the vast sea of characters. Especially because there wasn't much time spent on introductions or describing them so I really cared for them even less. I think maybe if it had been like 6-8 regular mentions, I would have been satisfied. But it seemed like every other page she introduced someone new that hardly,if ever, made another appearance in the book.

I think this book was amazing at showing that black teenage girls can have relatable, realistic and raw stories like white teenage girls. We aren't all confident, strong or inferior like the media paints the picture of black women to be. Like I'm a confident person, but when I was younger, I never considered that other black girls weren't as confident as me!


Because many of us aren't raised with the same body issues as our white counterparts, we tend to accept our bodies more so I never considered that black women suffer from eating disorders.Media also doesn't do a justifiable job at showing that black girls/women can be vulnerable. The "Strong Black Woman" is a very hurtful stereotype that paints black women as so strong we are in no need of any help or even deserving of it. Books like this do a real good job at dismantling the ignorance and doubt that I once had and i hope it does the same for many other readers.

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