The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I buddy read this with the Dragons and Tea Bookclub and completely fell in love with this story! This book was so much more than what I had expected. I went into this anticipating a fluffy YA contemporary with a really sweet sapphic romance. But this book also delivered a serious punch.
This follows Nishat, a 16 year old Bangladeshi girl living in Ireland as she tries to navigate high school, coming out & homophobia, familial expectations, her culture, and racism from her peers. So much is thrown at Nishat throughout this book and she hands it like a true 16 year old – sometimes with grace and sometimes she missteps. Her character was so well written and developed.
This book beautiful tackles the discussion of microaggressions and cultural appropriation. Adiba Jaigirdar blew me away with ability to discuss and highlight these topics without necessarily writing it all out on the page for the reader – it was an absolutely perfect example of showing rather than telling. And overall I was blown away by Jaigirdar’s writing. Not only in the themes, but also character development and style. This book was so readable I never wanted to put it down.
But I think my absolute favorite of this book was the sister relationship. Nishat and her sister Priti had one of the most amazing sisterly bonds I think ever read. They loved and supported each other so fiercely – even when mistakes were made.
The only thing that kept this from a full 5 star for me, was I wanted more from the romance portion. I didn’t think Flavia got quite enough page time to be fully developed. The little time we got with her was wonderful, and loved the dynamic between her and Nishat, but I wanted a little more. Especially with how Flavia hurt Nishat. Nishat was very quick to forgive and I just wanted a little more time fleshing out their reconciliation.
Overall, I absolutely adored this YA contemporary. It had amazing characters, a sweet romance, timely and well handled themes, and wonderful sister relationship. Adiba Jaigirdar is definitely an author I want to read more from and I can’t wait for their follow up novel Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie ⭐⭐⭐
This was really fun paranormal middle grade! It’s the perfect atmospheric and spooky read for anyone who wants spooky vibes without being out right scary!
This entire book was really fun and mysterious. I loved the main character and following her through her struggles to adapt to not only a new city and house – but a haunted one! This book has all the haunted house vibes and pretty creepy scenes! But it also has amazing friendships and family dynamics. This mixed with the chilly Chicago setting, make it a perfect fall/Halloween read!
I also loved that this was a mix of paranormal and mystery. I was definitely invested in figuring out who the ghost was and why they were haunting the house. Overall this was just a really fun middle grade! I highly recommend picking this up during the fall/spooky season!
3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Definitely one the creepiest middle grade I’ve read! Something about Neil Gaiman’s writing is just so captivating and atmospheric. I was completely drawn into the magical, spooky world.
I knew the story of Coraline (I’ve seen the movie dozens of times) but I had never read the original story. This book is full of whimsy, eclectic characters, and creepy elements. This would the perfect book for anyone who wants to read something this fall with a creepy vibe that won’t out right scare them. And if you can get your hands on this edition illustrated by Chris Ridell, I highly recommend it! There are the most terrifying drawings at the beginning of each chapter and I loved it.
I loved all the characters, the cat, the adventure scenes, and the really creepy elements throughout this. The Other Mother is one of the creepiest villains ever. I adored this and really recommend it for the upcoming fall/spooky season!