Now, the last time I posted a #YARC2019 update wasn’t all that great since I basically admitted that I almost forgot about this reading challenge. However, this time I come bearing good news. For me, at least. The past month or so have been pretty great in terms of reading books by Asian authors and/or starring Asian leads. In fact, my recent streak of 5-star reads were all penned by Asian authors – two of which were Filipino!
Instead of compiling all 6 books here, I’m gonna be splitting this update post in half. If all goes well, I’ll be posting the second update later this week. Though, to be honest, I’m actually leaving out two books – Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi and My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail Villanueva – because I already talked about the former in a blog tour post and the latter I’ll be reviewing for a blog tour in the near future.
Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung
Last April I went on a book buying frenzy when National Bookstore had their ridiculous sale and I was blessed enough to get my hands on this gem of a book. I had never heard of it but I liked the cover and the title and the Amy Tan blurb so I figured I had to get it. And am I glad I did.
Lucy and Linh is a story about an Asian girl, Lucy, getting a scholarship in a prestigious all-girls’ school, a whole different universe from her previous school. When the Cabinet – the school’s most favored girls and unofficial student heads – take a special interest in her, unsure Lucy finds herself lost in a world of secrets and deceptions, one that’s hostile to outsiders and dissenters – two things Lucy is. A starred review described this book as Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies and, honestly, that’s the best way to describe it.
Alice Pung did a fantastic job in showing us just how terrifying a rich prep school can be and how insidious microaggressions are. If you’re looking to pick up a prep school drama, choose Lucy and Linh because I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Thanks to the literal angel and multi-platform book queen, Kate (from Your Tita Kate), I managed to get my hands on this beloved Malaysian YA book.
The Weight of Our Sky tells the story of young Melati who finds herself caught in between the historic race riots of 1969. Desperately needing to find her mother who she is convinced is dead, Melati must navigate the dangerous streets of her hometown, all the while fighting the malicious djinn inside her head. Now, If i had a checklist for surefire ways a story can make me cry, it would go something like this: a lost child determined to survive, friendship saving the day, and a close mother-daughter bond – this book had all this and more so it’s a miracle how my book wasn’t drenched in tears by the end.
Despite The Weight of Our Sky‘s dark setting and disturbing visuals, this book is actually very uplifting and inspiring. Melati encountered plenty of dangerous people in the story but she was also helped by an astounding number of good people – which, I think, is an important message to tell in this day and age. It’s easy to close yourself off from the world when there’s so much hate and violence but, if you do, if you let yourself be swallowed up into the darkness, you’ll find nothing but ruin. Considering the political turmoil in my country (and the overall dumpster fire state of the world), being reminded not to give in to hate was much needed.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
This book has been sitting on my shelf for literal years now so I’m glad to have finally read it. However… I can’t really say that the wait was worth it.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a short story anthology by the literary superstar Haruki Murakami. I’ve only read three of Murakami’s books – one a non-fiction essay collection, the other two were novels – but I’ve yet to actually read a short story by the guy. I didn’t know what to expect but I definitely didn’t expect to be more than just a little bit let down. Unlike Stephen King, Murakami, in my own humble opinion, doesn’t seem to have a knack for telling a fully formed story in just a handful of pages.
His distinct dream-like prose and magical realism elements don’t fare well in short story form. I sort of had a suspicion that this was going to be the case because Murakami’s books are notorious for slowly drawing you in. While that type of writing worked in novels, it doesn’t with short stories. The vignettes (because that’s what they mostly seemed like) in this anthology nearly always felt lacking. The story’s barely gotten traction before it abruptly ends. Now, that might have been the point but, honestly, it just isn’t satisfying. I found myself uninterested and disconnected from any of the short stories.
I would not recommend this book to anyone who’s ever wondered what the fuss is all about with Murakami. It’s not the best way to be introduced to him, I feel.