Young Adult Books

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake


This was all kinds of challenging but in an astoundingly beautiful way.  It is full to the brim of triggers so if rape is has a significance for you, it may be taped. I know that statement is true for too many of us.  Which makes this book even more relevant and powerful.

Right before reading it, I happened to see a meme posted on instagram: it showed a girl in the top half of the frame the words read something to the effect of “think of our daughters, sisters, wives…” while the bottom half had a picture of a boy reading “think of our sons, husbands, brothers”.  As if requiring better behavior, sexual responsibility, and respect of men is treating them unfairly or poorly. Yes, it was an infuriating meme and unfortunately reflects a sentiment that is still perversely outweighing victims. This book is that meme in story: it is raw and honest; illuminating all the angles.  It demonstrates the darkside of struggle, blind trust, chosen ignorance, and fear. But it also shares hope, solidarity, and strength. And lots of love both how it can affect justice, but also how it can redeem and save. Summing this book up in one powerful line, “You mean it's not that easy. Because what happened is that simple… It’s a tangled mess of simple facts, a kaleidoscope of right and wrong.  The aftermath --- that's what’s complicated.”

I am so grateful to Ashley Herring Blake for writing such a multiple dimensional novel, it isn’t easy when there’s so much anger and pain but it was necessary.  And we are better people for it.

For Ages: 14 years old and up

For Those That Liked: Picture Us in Light, Speak, The Beauty That Remains

Yoga Pose- Eka Pada Vasisthasana (One-Legged Side Plank Pose):
*Come into Plank Pose, with your shoulders over your wrists. Turn your hands out until your index fingers are parallel to each other.
*Move into Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose) by pressing your inner right hand down, externally rotating your upper right arm as you spin your outer right heel to the floor. Line up the center of your right foot with the center of your right wrist. Stack your left leg on top of your right.  Stretch your left arm straight up. If you feel stable, look up to your left hand. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths.
Next Level:
If you’re stable in and can hold Side Plank Pose for 5 to 8 breaths, externally rotate your left hip, bend your left knee, and rest your big toe above the right knee (Tree Pose).
You May Also:
Hold your big toe or use a strap, and straighten your left leg up while keeping your right side body in a straight diagonal line. Look down at first to help with balance, and then look forward. If your neck feels strain free, turn your head to look up toward your left foot.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan


This novel took my breath away; a magnificent piece.  The story layers, much like the colors and shades of a painting.  Emily X.R. Pan is truly a gifted artist, the composition itself is lyrical.  And then there's the story which reads equal parts hauntingly realistic with a unexpected supernatural component that reminded me quite a bit of The Emperor of Any Place.  Personally, I struggle in the early chapters with this style of writing because my mind wants to keep the realistic pieces together, “this is realistic fiction.” I find myself wondering, Is the character dreaming?  Is this fantasy? When I first read a similar style I would almost say I hated the story until my mind wrapped around that it is a realistic paranormal fiction (if such a genre could exist). After the acceptance, comes awe.  Especially in the case of this novel. It is nothing short of a masterpiece; blending culture, hormones, guilt, familial obligation, curiosity, fear, and forgiveness. If you don’t read any other 2018 YA fiction, please let this be the novel you read!!

For Ages: 14 years old and up

For Those That Liked: The Emperor of Any Place, The Beauty That Remains, The Chaos of Standing Still

Yoga Pose- Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise Pose):
*Begin in Warrior II Pose with left knee bent in front. Inhale and take your arms to shoulder height. Exhale and bring your left arm under the left thigh, and your right arm to the sky, then behind your back. Clasp the left wrist with the right hand. Keep the left leg bent, twist the torso to the sky as you gently press the hips forward into Bound Extended Side Angle Pose.
*Exhale and turn both your feet parallel, carefully start to move them toward one another. Once the legs are close to hip distance, straighten them both while maintaining the bind.  
*Pour all of your weight into your right foot and start to lift your torso, at the same time lifting the left leg off the floor (as you straighten to standing balance on your right foot). Keep the lifted leg bent in this Svarga Dvijasana variation—Bird of Paradise with a bent leg variation.
Next Level:
Straighten and extend the lifted leg to the side, being careful not to swing the supporting hip out to the side. Fix the drishti straight ahead or over the right shoulder and stay for 5–10 deep breaths. Repeat on Opposite side.

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold


Have you ever heard of the frog in the boiling pot of water: drop a frog in a pot of boiling water and he’ll immediately hop out.  But drop a frog in cool water and gradually warm it to boil and the unsuspecting frog will cook because it acclimates to each slowly rising degree….until its death.  

I’ve experienced this a few times in my life: in work, with life situations, in relationships.  We as humans can adapt to our deaths. We as women, socially and historically, have been frogs… slowly boiling to death.  

“Holy crap!” - my hand to heart, first thought (and subsequently spoken out loud sentence)  at the end of Damsel. Exquisite. Magnificent. Raw. Our collective fury and sorrow. It’s most breathtaking element is the early stages of the summer; so common it was innocuous.  I didn’t notice the heat turning up… and that was so achingly familiar, it got under my skin. It snaps and crackles as a new folklore for women. Maybe not new, maybe a better word is remembered- lore.  A fairytale that will burn the memory of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and every other “Damsel in distress” we were taught to be, to emulate, to adore...

Damsel is the boiling pot.  However, by the end we are no longer cooked by the fire and heat but warmed through, fired up, and ready to slay this storyline once and for all!!

For Ages: 14 years old and up

For Those That Liked: The Lunar Chronicles, Grim Lovelies, Children of Blood and Bone

Yoga Pose- Komodo Dragon Pose:
*Come into Lizard Pose on the right side (right foot forward, back knee on the mat).
*Lower down to forearms, pressing the right knee into the right arm.
*Begin to work your right shoulder underneath the right thigh; moving the right hand to the outside of the right foot.
*Bend the left knee, lifting the left foot towards the base of the spine.
*Reach the right hand back to grasp the left foot.
*After balancing in this hold; begin to lift the right foot off of the ground while straightening the right leg.
*Remain for several breaths before attempting this pose on the opposite side.

Bring the right foot back to the ground, release the left foot from the hold, move the right hand back to inside the right foot.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi


My family loves to watch the A&E Pride and Prejudice.  The one with Colin Firth and multiple discs, we’ve watched it marathon style several times.  I didn’t read the book for the first time until a few years ago and it didn’t disappoint. Darcy was a snarky conceited jerk and Elizabeth was my first feminist heroine.  All this to say that I was pretty excited for this novel. ZZ is tough, opinionated, and spunky. Almost too much. There were moments when I was annoyed by her views, that she wore so well…. Proudly…. As I typed that final word, I think I just fully realized the brilliance of this novel.   Ibi Zoboi really gets into who these characters would be if they were dropped into modern Bushwick. The novel says a lot about the judgements we make consistently and unconsciously today, which is pretty much the exact same thinking that Jane Austen wrote about years before. The story could have gone off onto a social trajectory (the questions and nudges are there) but Ibi keeps it on track as a romance story.  I sorta loved that. Afterall the original Pride and Prejudice is the same way: you can’t have the story without the money BUT fundamentally Pride and Prejudice is about seeing people for who they are: sometimes straight up scummy liars and sometimes wonderfully beautiful individuals.  

Anyway the story was fun and easy to read, with a whole lot to talk about.  As I said the social questions are still very much present. Pride has done Jane Austen proud; it is masterfully written to bring one of the greatest tales of dating up to date.  Plus I loved Ibi’s perspective, which brought to life a world that I don’t know and for that glimpse I am eternally grateful.

For Ages: 13 years old and up

For Those That Liked: The Poet X, Dread Nation, The Hate U Give

Yoga Pose- Ustrasana  (Camel Pose):
*Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly as you firm your buttocks. Imagine that you're drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
*Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis (bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down).  Inhale and lift your heart.
*ENGAGE YOUR CORE and begin to lean back while keeping your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis.

*Continue to ENGAGE YOUR CORE as you lean further back, while keeping the heart elevated.  Reach the right hand back to touch the right foot and then allow the left hand to follow. (If you're not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and lift your heels.)

Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. When you are ready to exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up.  Rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths.