Mini Reviews: KARMA, MAY B, THE DEATH OF JAYSON PORTER, ALL THE BROKEN PIECES and UNDER THE MESQUITE

KARMA by Cathy Ostlere. I really adored this verse novel about a young indo-Canadian girl getting caught up in the unrest in India after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. This is both everything that a verse novel should be – poetic, visual, emotional and lyrical – as well as everything that a novel about a non-white/mainstream culture CAN be; it feels very universal. The protagonist and narrator, 16 year old Maya, starts out naïve and innocent but when thrust into unimaginable danger doesn’t suddenly become Katniss Everdeen. Her reactions and struggles are realistic and not idealized. I loved how romantic this book is too. Buy KARMA here.

ALL THE BROKEN PIECES by Ann E Burg. This verse novel made me cry, which rarely happens. The story of Matt Pin,  a Vietnamese boy who is airlifted after the fall of Saigon the story deals with his coming to terms with all that he lost in the family and life he left behind in Vietnam.  This is an emotionally impactful book that uses baseball as a kind panacea, a typically American idea, but one that works superbly well in this instance. A quick but far from easy read, but also another great one for mature younger readers. Buy ALL THE BROKEN PIECES here.

MAY B  by Caroline Starr Rose is everything a verse novel should be. Beautiful verse, a dramatic and captivating story line, a richly drawn setting and a strong lovable protagonist. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while and I was not disappointed. This would appeal to readers of all ages but is especially suited to younger readers, particularly fans of historical books such as LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE but also survival books such as HATCHET. Buy MAY B here.

THE DEATH OF JAYSON PORTER by Jaime Adoff. Took me a few pages but then I got very caught up in this desolate and sad story. Jayson felt very real as did his friends and family. Maybe the villains are a bit stereotyped but we are seeing them through Jayson’s eyes so it makes sense. Although this book is classified as a verse novel its form varies from more prose-ish parts to very spare verse. It’s a dark, dark, book that would appeal to angsty teens and would be a great introduction to verse novels for boys. Buy THE DEATH OF JAYSON PORTER here.

UNDER THE MESQUITE by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Some beautiful poetry in this rather bleak book. To me, the references to Mexican culture and language felt a little jarring, but I’m sure this would be appealing and seem more integral to readers more familiar with that culture (I’m Canadian!). A quick read I knocked off in about two hours. Certainly to be recommended for those interested in exploring this cultural milieu and those who appreciate carefully honed verse. Buy UNDER THE MESQUITE here.

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