Reading BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) books all year round is important for boosting these voices, gaining a different perspective and also supporting these authors. In a publishing industry that is predominantly white, buying, reading & reviewing these books signals to the publishing industry that there is demand for it as well. After all, these books may mean the world to teens who will finally see themselves in their authentic stories for the first time.
I’ve recently picked up three recent YA releases by BIPOC authors, and enjoyed them a lot! Here’s my brief thoughts on them below.
1. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
What a fun twist on the Cinderella story! Cinderella is Dead is set 200 years after the Cinderella story, where teen girls prepare for an Annual ball to be selected by the suitors of the royal court. For 16 year old Sophia, being wed by a husband that abuses her rights and doesn’t appreciate her is the worst – especially when all she wants to do is to run away with fellow teen girl, Erin.
I enjoyed where the story took us, from seeing Sophia helpless at the start of the book to being brave and fighting the patriarchy. The ballgowns and newly reimagined world was also really fascinating.
However, the romance to me wasn’t my favourite – the instant love between Sophia and Constance wasn’t developed very well at all. She was so quick to forget about Erin too – which was why she was fighting the whole system to begin with. There were also some parts of the story that were a bit predictable and offered such a black and white take (ie. being married to a husband is going to result in an abusive, unhappy relationship)! It’s great to see more sapphic romances in YA happen though, and I’m glad to have read Cinderella is Dead.
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a review copy.
Cinderella is Dead is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$15.99 or from The Book Depository.
2. A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Set in an alternate Portland filled with sirens, mermaids and other mystical creatures, A Song Below Water tackles a lot when it comes to being a young Black girl – who is secretly hiding her identity as a siren, a group that is persecuted due to their dangerous power. Tavia has tried to keep her siren voice under wraps for her whole life, for fear of what may happen if people find out – but she’s finding it increasingly hard during racial tensions following the death of yet another Black girl.
Reading this at the time of the Black Lives Matter protests currently happening is kind of eerie, given the relevancy of what the girls face on the page. It describes marginalization at a social and political level, but also how the media and society portray sirens as well as Black people. You can really feel the emotion when the author describes the pain of injustice, and it really comes through. Although sirens, mermaids, gargoyles and other mystical creatures appear in the world, A Song Below Water doesn’t attempt to delve deeper into how they exist and why they are integrated into the world that we live in. The world building is shaky at best.
If you’re looking for a magical realism with a strong sisterhood at its core, with social commentary about racism, police brutality, and about finding your place in the world, A Song Below Water definitely ticks all the boxes. It does cover a lot of ground, which I really enjoyed, despite the lack of world-building or a strong plot. This is a book that hits hard, given the parallels to the real world at present.
Purchase A Song Below Water from Booktopia (AU) or The Book Depository.
3. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
This was such a wholesome book where Liz competes to be prom queen while tackling family, friendship and the girl that she has a crush on.
I listened to the audiobook and I adored Liz’s voice, she’s so caring and matter of fact when it comes to her family and friends. The sapphic relationship was so adorable, especially how it was wholly based on friendship compatibility and I loved hearing how the girls had different perspectives on ‘coming out’. Liz also suffers from anxiety, and I really related to some of her internal monologue when it comes to not being good enough no matter how hard you try. But what’s fantastic about this book is the amount of positive friendships, positivity and joy which is what anyone needs in their life tbh.
Check out Jenna’s full review here!
Purchase You Should See Me in A Crown from Booktopia (AU) or The Book Depository.
Have you enjoyed any of these books recently? What would you like to pick up?
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I keep seeing Cinderella is Dead around and it sounds so good! I love fairytale retellings, so I’m definitely going to have to check that one out soon.
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I’ve heard so many amazing things about You Should See Me In A Crown! Can’t wait to read it (I hope I love it as much as you an Jenna do)
AHH I loved the first two SO much and the third is on my tbr Cinderella Is Dead wasn’t what I thought it was going to be but I still very much enjoyed the feminism bent :’)
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Great snapshot reviews Jeann! I’ve definitely wanted to read Cinderella is dead for awhile now, but you’ve definitely got me on board with A Song Below Water!
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