When Rashad walks into the corner store for a bag of chips, he doesn’t think that the consequences of this action will result in anything more than “chip-breath,” so he plans on buying a pack of gum, too. After all, he can’t have chip-breath when he dances with his crush at a party later that night. But Rashad doesn’t make it to the party. A suspicious store-owner, a klutzy lady, and a fist-happy cop land Rashad in the hospital with a broken nose, broken ribs, and internal bleeding.
Quinn, a white teen who goes to school and plays basketball with Rashad, witnesses his friend’s brother, police officer Paul Galuzzi, dragging Rashad out of the corner store and wailing on him, despite the fact that Rashad is already handcuffed. Unable to look away, yet unable to do anything to stop the violence, Quinn watches helplessly as Paul hits Rashad again and again.
Now, Rashad is in the hospital, wondering why he was never allowed to explain that he wasn’t trying to steal a bag of chips and trying to figure out how he’s going to move forward. Quinn is confused about where his allegiances lie, as Paul helped raise him and the Galuzzis are like family, but he’s sure that Rashad would never do anything to deserve a beat-down like the one Paul gave him. The basketball team is splitting along color lines as the students of color side with Rashad and the white students side with Paul – or decide not to take a stance at all. Their whole town is starting to take sides when a video of Rashad’s arrest ends up online and the hashtag #RashadIsAbsentToday goes viral.
At the center of it all, in alternating chapters, Rashad and Quinn struggle with the ultimate question: what now? How can these two teens, so alike and yet so different, come to terms with what happened? How can they possibly make a difference? Who is the “All-American Boy?” Who can you trust, if not the police? What does racism look like in America today? Are you guilty if you do nothing to help?
This book is perfect in every way. By telling the story from Rashad’s and Quinn’s points of view, it allows the reader to approach the problem of police brutality and racism from two sides: the victim and the bystander. When it comes down to it, don’t most of us fall into one of these two camps? This is a question that authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely raise with this novel: if you are not one of the oppressed, and you do nothing to help those who are oppressed, does that mean that you are on the side of the oppressor? While this book may be difficult for some people to read, it is well worth the sadness and pain in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This book is timely, well-written, and will surely ignite the necessary discussions that we must have in order to address the national epidemic of racial profiling and police brutality. I would highly suggest this book to anyone, especially those who are struggling to understand their place in the national conversation about police brutality.
Volume IV of the Literary Magazine was a little tardy this year, but it’s more beautiful than ever! Trivium: Journeys is now available in print and digital formats for your enjoyment. If you find yourself at the school, drop by the front office or the library for your very own copy of the Lit Mag. If you just can’t wait to get your hands on a print copy, check out our digital Lit Mag by clicking HERE!
In the land of Gorred, dragons walk among humans in human-like bodies as scholars and dignitaries. Though humans and dragons live together, their uneasy relationship persists as the memory of the dragon wars lives on. Dragons – logical, intelligent, skilled and engineering and technology – are the opposites of the Luddite Gorredis, who value art, emotion, and religion. Stuck somewhere in the middle is Seraphina Dombegh, newly appointed assistant composer at the court of Gorred, who must hide the terrible secret of her existence: she is half-human, half-dragon. Seraphina lives in constant fear of her true identity as the daughter of a dragon being discovered, even as she makes a name for herself as a talented musician and close confidant of the Princess Glisselda and her cousin/fiancee, Prince Lucian Kiggs. When a member of the royal family is killed in decidedly draconian fashion, Seraphina finds herself mixed up in the investigation, which leads her deeper into the realm of human-dragon politics, uneasy peace, and a fell plot to derail the treaty between the human and dragon worlds. While she struggles to puzzle out the meaning of the Crown Prince’s death, Seraphina also grapples with her inner-demons – a “mind-garden” of grotesques that, if not tended through meditation, will cause her to suffer fits, visions, and fainting spells.
This duology is a beautifully written, fully-fleshed, and engaging high fantasy that any LotR, HP, or Eragon fan would love. While magic is clearly present, issues of faith versus reason, love and loyalty, and self-acceptance take center stage in this series. Hartman’s characters are all three-dimensional, complicated, and entirely believable (in a fantasy, no less!). Though the first book is over 400 pages long, the plot never drags. Hartman’s story-telling is well-executed and her prose is beautiful and sophisticated.
If you are looking for a fantasy series that will challenge your beliefs, raise philosophical questions, make you feel smarter, AND entertain you in the best way, check out Seraphina and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman today!
Karou is no ordinary teenager. She lives alone in Prague, is a prodigious artist, has shocking blue hair and arms covered in tattoos, wears a necklace of wishes, collects teeth all over the world, and…she was raised by monsters. Friendly monsters known as chimera, but monsters nonetheless. Apart from her strange guardians, Karou knows only a vague emptiness in her otherwise exciting and mysterious life. Why does she need to collect teeth for Brimstone, her ram-headed father-figure? What’s with the eye-tattoos on her palms? Where did she come from? Karou doesn’t have any answers for her questions, and more questions keep piling up when she encounters what appears to be an angel in Morocco. Though she and the seraph are immediately at odds, somehow the winged hottie, Akiva, cannot seem to deliver the killing blow. As Karou and Akiva get closer, Karou begins to understand more about her chimera family and the dangerous war that is being waged in their neighboring world. What follows in the next three books (totaling more than 1500 pages), is an epic fantasy that spans universes, encompasses scores of races, and thrills with romance and action. As Stefon would say, this series has EVERYTHING…
…kindly monsters, evil angels, hands that burn, forbidden love, Shadows that Live, characters inspired by world mythologies, rabid fairies, sinister fake-grandmas, exotic locations, hidden past lives, and really excellent writing. This is not your run-of-the-mill human-falls-for-angel story. Oh, no. This series is something much more special. If you’re in the mood to be swept up and away on a grand adventure and you don’t mind spending hours with your nose in a book, this is the series for you. Fans of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Barduga, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, and The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan will surely love this series.
Bonus! This series actually has a little bit of diversity among the characters and shows an understanding of world cultures. Sure, Karou might be a typical skin-as-white-as-snow heroine, but her male counterpart, Akiva, is dark-skinned, and there’s a black angel who throws everyone for a loop. Among the chimera, there is a pecking order that dictates that creatures with more human features are held in higher regard than those with, for example, the faces of animals. This little detail creates interesting tensions between characters in the series. Madrigal, a key character with a mysterious link to Karou, is described as “beautiful, though she made as little as possible of her beauty, keeping her dark hair short as fur and wearing no paint or ornament” (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, pgs. 319-320). Here’s an AMAZING fanart image of Karou and Madrigal togther, by my favorite illustrator/comic, Lucy Knisley:
Super bonus! The rights to the story have already been purchased and, eventually, this series will become a movie franchise that I’m sure could compete with The Hunger Games. I hope that they give directorial control to someone like Guillermo del Torro or Bill Condon.
Have you read this series yet? If so, have you checked out Laini Taylor’s newest installment in the series, Nights of Cake & Puppets? It’s a novella told from Zuzana’s point of view! Let me know what you think in the comments!