Happy release week to this young adult title! Thanks to the publisher for the free review copy. All opinions belong to our reviewers.
ANYTHING BUT OKAY – by Sarah Darer Littman
(Scholastic Press ~ October 9th 2018)
Review and photo by Jay and Meg @bibliophilebesties on Instagram
Stella is a junior in high school, but her older brother just came back from his second tour in Afghanistan. He came back a completely different person, angry and moody, but none of the adults in her family want to talk to Stella about it. Meanwhile, Stella also has to worry running for junior class president. Her friend, Farida, wanted to run, but her parents had convinced her not to because of the political climate in the town at that time (Farida’s family are Iraqi-Muslims who moved to the United States). One day, Stella’s older brother, Rob, loses control and punches someone, getting arrested. This leads to rumors of “terrorist sympathizer” and “violent vet”. The entire school (and town) takes sides and all of Stella’s relationships are suffering.
I really liked this novel. Although I don’t have any close personal connections to any veterans, from an outside perspective I think that Sarah Darer Littman did a good job at portraying what it’s like to come home different than how you left. She points us into important conversations about how we treat our veterans, even after everything they’ve done for us. The author shows us how hard high school can be on its own and then how adding in racism and politics can make it worse.
My one complaint is Stella’s friend, Farida. She does her best to try to show Stella where she experiences white privilege and why her life is different just because of where her family came from. However, it doesn’t always sound like it’s coming from a friend/educational standpoint. Sometimes she seems very rude about it, even though Stella is supposed to be her best friend and just doesn’t know any better. But either way, having her character there leads us to that important conversation too, so I suppose it’s for the best. 🙂 This title releases October 9, 2018.
Review and photo by Paige @popthebutterfly on Instagram
Publication Date: October 9th, 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Recommended Age: 14+ (PTSD, racism, violence, mature scenes)
Synopsis: Stella and Farida have been best friends forever, but lately things have been tense. It all started when Stella’s brother came home from his latest tour with the US Marines in Afghanistan paranoid and angry. But Stella won’t talk about it, and Farida can tell she’s keeping something from her.
Desperate to help Rob, Stella thinks she just needs to get him out of the house. She definitely didn’t expect going to the movies to end with Rob in handcuffs for assaulting one of her classmates after his anger spiraled out of control.
When a video of the fight goes viral, everyone has an opinion of Stella and her “violent vet” brother.
The entire school takes sides, the media labels Rob a terrorist sympathizer, and even Farida is dragged into the mess despite not being there. As the story continues trending, Stella will have to decide just how far she’s willing to go for the truth, even if it means admitting her own failures.
I thought this book did really good with showing PTSD, how vets are different when they come home, and racism, although I’m not a person who experiences either so please don’t take my statement as fact and seek out reviewers who do experience these things. I also thought the character development, plot, and writing were all really well done.
However, I do feel that the pacing was a bit slow at times and I felt a disconnection between the relationship of the two friends Stella and Farida. It didn’t really feel like two teen girls and their relationship just felt off to me.
Verdict: A great story with some tough topics.
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