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review 2016-06-03 18:36
Peas and Carrots by Tanita S. Davis
Peas and Carrots - Tanita S. Davis

I’ve been hearing great things about Tanita Davis’s books ever since her first, Mare’s War, was published. But (confession time!) I haven’t actually read one until now. That will be changing, because I loved Peas & Carrots.


The story is a contemporary YA, set in California. It’s told in alternating chapters between Dess, whose chapters are in first person, and Hope, whose chapters are in third. It took me a little bit to settle into this style, but I think it does a great job of differentiating the two characters and their perspectives.


As the story begins, Dess is being placed with Hope’s family temporarily. They’ve been fostering her younger brother, Austin, and Dess asked to see him. She didn’t expect to leave the group home she was in and go live with this family. Hope, meanwhile, is used to having foster kids in her family, but never one so close to her own age.


Given how many children are part of the foster care system, it seems important to have stories that reflect their realities. There aren’t enough, but this is a wonderful addition. Davis’s family fostered kids when she was young and I think that experience shows in the depth and complexity of the characters she portrays here. This is a story that it would be easy to get offensively wrong, and while I can’t say definitively, it certainly read as a sympathetic and nuanced look at one situation.


I also appreciated that Dess is a character who has a lot of integrity, and yet isn’t perfect. She refused to let her grandmother take her in if she wouldn’t also take in Austin, who’s biracial. And yet, she also judges Hope and her family because they don’t meet her expectations of how African-Americans* should be. We also see her pushing back against assumptions and stereotypes: she’s a good student and gets along well with most people.


Hope was a bit less clear to me as a character, but I also really enjoyed her sections. She’s a bookworm and scifi fan and later we find out that she read and liked The Goblin Emperor (!!!)**. Dess certainly pushes her to face her own assumptions, and to take chances that Hope might otherwise pass by. Mostly I loved seeing the slow growth of a friendship between them, as both girls learn to value each other. This is done subtly, but it’s really effective and I think fits their personalities and situation.


While there definitely is some plot here, this is a book that’s primarily focused on characters, and it really shines in that regard. Even the more minor characters seemed fleshed out and considered. Since I tend to be a character-based reader, this worked really well for me.


All in all, this is a thoughtful, complex book about a subject that needs more reflections in fiction. I’m really glad it exists and that I read it.


Book source: public library

Book information: 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers; contemporary YA


* this the term that’s used throughout the book, so I’m using it here


** Tanita Davis knows all the people I do online, so this isn’t really surprising but it was very fun!

Source: bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/peas-carrots-by-tanita-s-davis
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review 2015-02-11 00:00
A la Carte
A la Carte - Tanita S. Davis I thought that this story told in the first person from Lainey's point of view was very well done. I have been this girl in high school having a crush on someone who was in Lainey's mother's own words 'not worth her at all' and would feel frustrated to the point that I was incapable of much else besides sitting and thinking about them all of the time.

Ms. Davis writes Lainey very well and to me this character sounds like a 17 year old African American teen to me. And she sounds like one that is obsessed with cooking. Ms. Davis obviously did research into the recipes and restaurant industry because everything she wrote and showed at what goes behind the scenes at a restaurant sounds real.

I also liked that she touched upon Lainey's weight troubles and how she was eating healthier throughout the book. Most African American teenagers do tend to be heavier and as Lainey shows in our families, food is love. That was the way it was in our household too. You could run to friends' and relatives homes and there was always a meal waiting for you. I can't count the number of times that I would forage door to door until I saw a meal I actually wanted to eat and then stay put there for dinner. Lucky for me and my brothers we played sports constantly and all were rail thin. It wasn't until I moved to DC and got a desk job I started to gain any weight. Yeah I know you are all coming me a bitch right now lol.

A couple of times I shook my head because as typical with kids that age you listen to Lainey's inner rationalizations about why her used to be best friend Sim has drifted away from her. And I felt badly for her for not realizing that Sim was only around when he did need something from her. I also had male friends like that. Either they are hanging out with you to get some attention from you or they need a 'favor' that they are always promising to return to you soon. However, soon never happens.

It was enjoyable to see Lainey's eye open to the fact that she had opportunities and a dream that she could make into a reality if she would just let go of all of the other things that were holding her back.

I also really liked Lainey's mother and her grandmother in this story. I thought they were drawn very well and I cracked up a few times since I thought for a second Ms. Davis was channeling my mother in a couple of scenes. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The only reason why I gave this book 4.5 stars was that the recipes at the end of the chapter were hard to read on my Kindle. I tried reading this book on my PC at one point to see if the recipes would become more legible and they didn't. I did blow up the text on my Kindle and it made the recipes bigger but blurrier sometimes. I think it was a cute idea to have a recipe at the end of each chapter and have them written on school notebook paper. However, it would be nice to actually be able to read what was written. I am very much interested in vegetarian recipes.
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review 2013-01-20 00:00
Happy Families - Tanita S. Davis Appeal Characteristics: transgendered people, family relationships, sibling relationships, high school, society issues, TRANS-youth, adjustments, coping

There were some things I really loved about this book...and some other writing issues that I didn't. The subject aspect and execution was done well and realistically as these twin siblings struggle through their Dad's transition to be from Chris to Christine. I especially liked the father and son struggle that was highlighted and the other issues such as church, school, friends, and just how out of control children feel. From the adult perspective, I wish we could have had more insight to how the parents will make the marriage work or just more of how the dad felt in coming out and dealing with these issues. He told the therapist and children that he didn't have to reveal much because they were "children" and these were his choices...but still...I would have liked some more insight.

The gripe I had with the book was the children's voices. I'm sure because they were 'twins' the writing style was similar...but I felt it was way to similar. The twins seemed as if their voices were inseparable and could have just been from one sibling...I mean, I'm not sure I felt too connected with Ysabel. I was more into Justin and his struggle to navigate with relationships and his father's identity and his own male or father/son relationship than anything Ysabel had to say. I dunno, she just wasn't well written...I'm not sure but it seemed that not enough depth was put into fleshing out between what was described about her personality and her actual voice.

OH ANOTHER WEIRD THING. Maybe i'm not a twin, so I wouldn't think this was weird...but there was instances that they were like sleeping together. I know it was a comfort mechanism...but I still was like, I think that's a twin thing. I'm not sure if my parents could drop any bombshell on us that I would be like...Oh, Joe, can i sleep on the same bed as you? As high school students. Elementary...cool. High School. Sorta weird? BUT

I did really love how she had this special note in the back updating the correct terms that transgendered people would like you to use. I had no idea that transvestite and hermaphrodite were considered derogatory terms...as they were the terms I was taught through school/life. I'm really glad their are these books putting these messages out there...because how would I know?! I also didn't know (due to all the anime/manga) 'gender bender' classification...that that was a derogatory term either! So I learned a lot!
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review 2012-09-26 00:00
Happy Families
Happy Families - Tanita S. Davis I loved the descriptions of making lampwork beads. I know that's far from the point of this Issue Book, but it was still my favorite part. Solid plotting, interesting story.I got very involved in the story, enough so that I was annoyed with the parents not telling the kids enough. Silly parents. I had some trouble distinguishing the twins' voices.
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review 2012-05-17 00:00
Happy Families - Tanita S. Davis I requested this book for review so long ago that by the time I picked it to read, I had forgotten what it was about. I'm so glad that I read this book. It was an eye opening story about a pair of twins who's lives are turned inside out after their father comes out about being a cross dresser. Their father, Christopher Nicholas likes to dress up as a woman and when he's dressed up as a woman prefers to be called Christine. Reading about Ysabel and Justin coming to terms with what this means for their family, their confusion over what happens from here on out felt totally real and I couldn't put this book down.I thought Davis did a fabulous job of telling this story. We get the story from both Ys and Justin's POV and I thought it was great to get both of their takes on what's going on since all of this affected the both of them. They're both dealing with this differently so it was good to get in the both of their heads.Both Justin and Ysabel are mad, embarrassed and confused as to where to go from here. They know the truth about their father and they're forced to deal with it over Spring Break. They're mad because they're not ready to talk about it. They're not ready to deal with it and I thought Davis did a great job of making the reader see that, understand that and my heart broke a bit while I was reading this book because it's a tough situation to be in and I couldn't imagine having to deal with learning something like that with my own parents.The confusion going on between Justin and Ys was interesting because even though their Dad was still their Dad, they didn't know if he was gay or if they had a Dad anymore since their Dad wanted to be a woman. My eyes ate up every word in this book because I've never been through this and it isn't an easy thing for a teenager to deal with so I'm glad that this book was written, I'm glad that this book was published and I'm glad that even though I don't know anyone who's been through this or been through it myself, that I got a little peek into character's who have gone through this because as they were being educated about all of this, I was too.My heart went out to both Justin and Ysabel. They were characters that were real with real problems and dealt with their issues regarding their Dad and his new lifestyle realistically and I appreciated this book more than I thought I would since this isn't usually the kind of book that I'm interested in reading.It's a good book and a great story. I'm glad that I requested this book for review.This review was originally posted on The Book Scoop by me.
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