Book Review | Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt

rebels like usAgnes Murphy-Pujols has just been uprooted from her active life in Brooklyn halfway through her senior year in high school to move with her Irish mother to a small town in Georgia while her brother attends the Sorbonne and lives with their Dominican father in Paris. Feeling like she got the raw end of the deal, Agnes is equally pissed at her mother for “cheating on” her father, despite their separation, and stressed out at having to deal with fitting in at a new school. Luckily, her looks and fiery personality draw the interest of ultra-popular Doyle and they flirt their way through the semester. The book’s focus becomes more racial when Agnes finds out about her new school’s tradition of segregated proms and tries to create change.

At nearly 500 pages, Rebels Like Us is one of the longest YA books I’ve encountered. The writing is solid and the characters well developed. It’s likely to please those interested in a romance novel with a few tangents. While the book bills itself as focusing on racial issues, those really take a backseat to the relationship between Agnes and Doyle. That said, their courtship does not seem to be given adequate attention as an inter-racial relationship. Some important issues are broached, which could serve as a catalyst for thought in some young minds, but nothing new or earth shattering is really presented. A shorter length may have worked better for this piece, which is a bit slow to get going and does seem to go on for a while. The novel could actually work well as the basis for a film. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Rebels Like Us, you may be interested in The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras (2016).

Film Review | Contracorriente (Undertow) by Javier Fuentes-Leon

film poster for undertow contracorrienteSet in a Peruvian fishing village, Contracorriente tells the story of Miguel, a beautiful man with a wife and child on the way and how he deals with the abrupt death of his secret lover Santiago. Miguel is a local with family ties who works on a fishing boat. Santiago is an artist who lives temporarily in the village and is a societal outcast because of his lifestyle. The two meet only in secret and no one knows of their relationship. After a fight, something unexpected happens, which causes Miguel to reevaluate his choices and values.

This film was the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time. I wasn’t expecting the depth and emotional waves that came. If you’re willing to relate to the characters, have a handkerchief nearby. The acting was top notch and the story was completely realistic. I didn’t want this movie to end. It’s no surprise that this film was featured at multiple film festivals and won the 2010 Sundance World Cinema Audience Award. If you loved Julian Schnabel’s film Before Night Falls based on the novel by Reinaldo Arenas, this movie is worth buying. If you want to try it out first, check a library near you. The trailer is also available on the film’s website.

Book Review | Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

book cover Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas ButlerBeing a Wisconsin native, I was looking forward to Shotgun Lovesongs, a book taking place in Wisconsin, written by a fellow Wisconsinite and alum of my alma mater. Truth be told, having grown up in Milwaukee I couldn’t relate to this small town tale and at page 65 I was trying to decide whether to continue reading or quit the book. I kept reading and the book did get a bit more interesting. The book focuses on a group of friends who grew up together in a small town south of Eau Claire. After high school they went their own ways – one took over the family farm, one a traveling rodeo star, a mainstream musician, a big city broker, and the lovely girl next door. The book begins as the characters drift back to their hometown and experience challenges of adulthood – marriage, money troubles, divorce, and bites from the past.

Other readers have praised the big heart and love that shines through in the text. Sure the love does show among these tight knit friends, but the book just wasn’t that special. That said, Butler does paint a positive picture of small town Wisconsin and I do think this book would be very appealing to readers from small towns who can relate better to a small cast of characters. The struggles do seem realistic, but in a way they are all glazed over since the book seems to be more about the big picture. If you’re still interested in this homegrown Wisconsin novel, give your local library’s copy a try. By the way, the musician character is loosely based on Bon Iver.