If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
This debut novel from an Iranian-American author takes a look at what it is like to be a teen lesbian in Iran. Sahar loves her friend Nasrin intensely. They have been friends since childhood and Sahar has loved her since she was six. They steal kisses when their parents are not around and long to be able to plan their lives together. But in a country where women can be arrested and beaten for showing their elbows in public, their love is not allowed. When Nasrin is betrothed to a young doctor, Sahar desperately looks for a solution that would allow them to be together. She discovers that in Iran, you can have a sex change if you declare yourself to be transgendered and be considered fully the opposite sex. So Sahar sets out to do just that, become a man so that she can marry Nasrin. As Sahar’s plan develops, she has to make some serious choices, ones that will affect her for the rest of her life.
Farizan’s writing is clear and beautiful. She adroitly shows the society of Iran, its treatment of women, the fear of the police, and the danger that the characters are living with. The portrayal of their love is tender and exploratory, as it begins to crumble, one can see Sahar’s love for Nasrin remain even when their closeness begins to evaporate under the stress of the upcoming wedding and Sahar’s desperation to find a solution.
Throughout the book, there is a sense of longing, of yearning for freedom, for love, for one another. It is a book filled with choices where nothing is right due to the society around them. Yet through it all, Sahar shines. She is a wonderful character who is strong, smart and unstoppable.
This book depicts in life in Iran but also offers a diverse look at GLBTQ issues in the Middle East. With a piercingly strong heroine, it is a powerful pick for public library collections. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Algonquin Young Readers.
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
Goat is disgruntled. Everything was going just fine and then Unicorn came along. Goat rides his bike proudly until Unicorn actually flies by. Goat brought treats for the class and then Unicorn made it rain cupcakes. Goat was doing great at the dance but Unicorn won first prize. Goat does some simple magic coin tricks and Unicorn turns things to gold. It just is not fair. So Goat is not ready for Unicorn to come up to him when he’s having lunch and talk about how much he loves goat cheese, how he adores cloven hooves, and how jealous he is of Goat’s curved horns. The book ends with the two deciding to be friends and imagining what they would look like as a superhero team.
Shea always does comedic writing very nicely with a great sense of timing and books that are ideal for reading aloud thanks to the strong character voices. Here Goat steals the show despite Unicorn’s more flashy attitude. His dour attitude is nicely enlivened with humor and his own wry take on life.
Shea’s art is done in his signature simple yet rather zany style. Unicorn’s magical traits are portrayed in a flashy, wild way that makes them all the more funny and impressive. With only a few lines, the mood of both Unicorn and Goat are clearly shown.
Funny and wild, this book proves that the cupcake is always fresher on the other side of the rainbow. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Here are my top picks for books I read and reviewed in 2008! I reviewed two Margarita Engle books and two Shaun Tan books in 2008 and had to pick just one from each. That was just the start of the difficult choices to get to this list. Look what a year it was for teen novels!
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (reviewed February 8, 2008)
Beware of the Frog by William Bee (reviewed July 18, 2008)
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, illustrated by Rosana Faria (reviewed September 23, 2008)
Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri (reviewed January 24, 2008)
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (reviewed March 17, 2008)
Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers (reviewed February 29, 2008)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (reviewed March 19, 2008)
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (reviewed January 17, 2008)
Guardian by Julius Lester (reviewed August 8, 2008)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reviewed July 8, 2008)
Impossible by Nancy Werlin (reviewed July 8, 2008)
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (reviewed September 17, 2008)
Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan (reviewed January 18, 2008)
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (reviewed October 22, 2008)
Manfish by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Eric Puybaret (reviewed June 4, 2008)
Monkey with a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe (reviewed June 6, 2008)
Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper (reviewed June 10, 2008)
Paper Towns by John Green (reviewed August 6, 2008)
Planting the Trees of Kenya by Clair A. Nivola (reviewed May 16, 2008)
The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner (reviewed June 3, 2008)
The Savage by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean (reviewed December 11, 2008)
Skim by Mariko Tamaki, drawings by Jillian Tamaki (reviewed December 23, 2008)
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (reviewed February 19, 2008)
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (reviewed September 22, 2008)
Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt (reviewed February 19. 2008)
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (reviewed June 5, 2008)
Unwind by Neal Shuterman (reviewed June 18, 2008)
A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (reviewed March 18, 2008)
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (reviewed February 18, 2008)
Wave by Suzy Lee (reviewed October 27, 2008)