Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

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ARC provided by Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.

“If I wanted to, I could believe it was our colors that decided Blanca would be the gentle sister, pure and obliging, and I would be the cruel one, wicked and difficult. She would be the blessed daughter, the one the swans would spare. And I would be the one the swans would take. But my sister saw our story ending another way.”

Blanca y Roja is the best retelling I’ve ever read in my entire life. The way Anna-Marie McLemore reimagined Snow-White and Rose-Red was perfection in every sense of the word. This story is so beautiful and is a bright shining star in 2018 literature, and now one of my favorite books of all-time. No one weaves words and magic like Anna-Marie, and no other book this year has impacted me the way Blanca y Roja has. Please, friends, pick this masterpiece up upon release.

“There will always be two daughters. But we will always take one back.”

This book stars two sisters, who were born into a family where each generation of women birth two girls, one of which gets taken away by swans after her fifteenth birthday. Many sisters form a rivalry, so that the swan will pick the other one, but these sisters want to trick the swans into not knowing which one to pick, therefore, hopefully picking neither. But this story follows four people, all feeling a little out of place in their own bodies; all for very different reasons.

Blanca – Light skinned, fair hair, soft, sweet, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her sister away.

Page – A transboy, who uses he/she and him/her pronouns, and currently hiding from her family who supports that she’s trans, but can’t understand why she would still like she/her pronouns.

“Him and her, I kinda like getting called both. It’s like all of me gets seen then. Doesn’t usually happen, though. Most people can’t get their head around boy and she at the same time, I guess.”

Roja – Dark skinned, hair so red it looks black, hard, angry, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her away.

Yearling – A boy who has a terrible home-life. He is constantly physically fighting with his cousin, being egged on by his entire family, and because of it he is suffering vision loss in his left eye. Content and trigger warnings for physical abuse. Yearling wants to escape his family, their last name, and a secret that he knows, and he goes into the woods wanting to be something else. And the woods listen.

“The day I went into the woods, it was the story that chose me.”

And these four characters’ paths all cross with one another, and this becomes a story about self-discovery, unconditional love, and sacrifice. And two romances start, and they are both so equally breathtaking. All four of these characters are so expertly created that they all carved out little pieces of home in my heart. And they will live there forever.

Like I said above, this is a reimagining of Snow-White and Rose-Red, but this is Anna-Marie’s ownvoices, Latinx, queer, magical realism version. And it is everything. Everything. This book emphasizes respecting people’s gender and sexuality journeys, because gender and sexuality can both be so very fluid. This book proves how easy, but how important, it is to ask and respect everyone’s pronouns. This book highlights how we don’t have to be what our families, our communities, our world want us to be and that we can break broken and toxic cycles. This book shows how everyone will handle pain, grief, and trauma differently and that it’s okay. This book reminds us how powerful kindness can be and how the bonds of family, both blood and found, can change every story.

“That was the cruelest thing about the señora’s words, the truth it had left us: In my hands, the blue-eyed boy’s heart was currency enough to buy my survival. In Roja’s, it was worth nothing. And now she was the one who held it.”

And this book really is a love letter to the bonds of siblings. And not to make this review about me, but I’m very open about 1.) my brother being my best friend and 2.) me being very white passing. But my brother isn’t white passing in the slightest. Black hair, dark eyes, dark golden skin all year long. I’ve had long-term interactions with people who never knew I was Filipino until they saw my brother. And I will always acknowledge my privilege of my biraciality being white passing, but I will always love and honor my family’s culture and heritage. And like Blanca, I would give, do, and say anything to protect my little brother. Okay, I don’t want to get too sappy. But this book really is about loving all the parts of yourself; not just the physical ones that everyone can see at a glance, or the ones that everyone expects you to love. This book was perfect, but certain aspects of Blanca and certain aspects of Roja just really tugged at all my heartstrings.

“They had seen in me the softest, weakest part of my heart where I held my sister. They knew I would do anything, give up anything, if it meant my sister keeping her own body. And now they wanted me to prove it.”

Overall, no one writes and crafts like Anna-Marie McLemore. Every book I’ve read by her has rendered me speechless. I’ve never closed a book of hers that hasn’t left me with tears streaming down my face because of its beauty. Her words have healing powers, and her books remind me why reading is magical. And her author’s note is a five star read all on its own. I don’t know what the world did to deserve Anna-Marie McLemore, but we are all truly blessed to have her stories, and I’m forever grateful.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with May, Julianna, Courtney, Amy, & Jen! ❤

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

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ARC received via #arcsfortrade on Twitter!
(Thank you so much, Kendice! ❤)

“Love grew such strange things.”

La Pradera is a magical garden estate, that is curated by a family of women who are unable to ever leave permanently. The Nomeolvides girls are five grandmothers, who had five daughters, who are the mothers of the five young girls, who this story centers around. This land of La Pradera is both blessed and cursed. Blessed, because all of the women can create life in the form of beautiful flowers. Cursed because if they fall in love with someone that doesn’t belong on the land, the land will take them from the women; just vanishing one day.

“There were two kinds of Nomeolvides hearts, ones broken by the vanishings, and ones who counted themselves lucky to have seen the back of their lovers as they left.”

Estrella, Gloria, Dalia, Azalea, and Calla are the youngest generation of Nomeolvides women and, one day, La Pradera gives them back a gift: a boy from the very ground that has taken and given them so much already. A boy, who can’t remember his past, let alone even his name. A boy who all of the girls are scared will steal their hearts, and in return La Pradera will steal back the boy.

“If La Pradera could bring back a boy lost a hundred years ago, maybe it could break this curse they had carried here in their hearts. Maybe it would give them back other vanished lovers. Maybe it would lift the awful legacy from this generation of daughters.”

You guys, this book was nothing short of magnificent. I see reviewers that say this book was slow, but I was teleported and completely captivated from page one. Not only is the writing lush, and lyrical, and whimsical on every single page, but the messages and discussions are important, moving, and life changing. This book is so queer, so brown, and so magical.

“That was the dangerous thing. Not that she and her cousins all spoke the language of loving boys and girls, but that they all shared the legacy of losing them.”

This book heavily talks about immigration and the way we treated, and still treat, immigrants. The unfair work conditions, the prejudices, the blatant racism, the inhumane treatment, the cultural erasure, and how people (even in 2017) want to turn a blind eye and pretend that none of this exists. In America today, we still want to appropriate all the different cultures, but never celebrate them.

This book unapologetically talks about accepting and loving your queerness. There is such a vast array of queerness in this novel, and it is handled very well and very empathetically and there is even a genderqueer side character! This book also has the best representation I’ve ever read surrounding what it is like to be a bisexual female and to be in a relationship with a male. Some like to put levels on queerness, and this book completely abolishes that mindset and made me so very proud and my heart so very full of happiness.

“Because falling in love with a girl who feared nothing in this world had left her ready to love a boy whose heart had been broken before she ever touched him.”

This book actively talks about how your body is your body, and no one ever is owed access to it. I was actually surprised by the amount of feministic elements in this already perfect story. I mean, if I’m not singing this book’s praises loudly enough, maybe this quote will sell you:

“He was a man, and a rich one, and these together made him believe that planets and moons orbited around the single point of his desires.”

This book passionately embraces family, whether it be the blood you share with others or the found family you unconditionally love. This book truly celebrates the idea of family and heritage. The things we are willing to do and sacrifice for the ones we deem are family is something that I will never get sick of reading in books. Yet, this book also celebrates being an individual and having your own identity, separate from your family. Just like flowers, we all bloom differently and at different times.

This book powerfully discusses cultures and the discussion is constant. Probably my favorite thing about this book was seeing the characters not only embrace and accept, but also love where they came from. We could learn so much from people and cultures that are different from us, if only people could check their privilege and see the day to day oppression that people face. If only everyone could open their hearts to learn and to love, instead of to fear and to hate.

Beyond everything else, this story is a love story. It’s a ballad whose prose will make you believe in love again. Love between boys and girls, love between girls and girls, love between boys and boys, love between sisters, and cousins, and nature, and the past, and family. Wild Beauty is one of the best love stories I’ve ever read in my entire life, because it’s the true and realistic love that isn’t sugarcoated, but raw and gritty and never easy, but always worth it.

“Everyone’s broken. The only difference is how.”

Also, I don’t want to throw shade at anyone, but I have to say something, because I also read All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater this month and I really didn’t enjoy it. But I love Wild Beauty, this own voices Latinx magical realism novel, where the culture beautifully bleeds onto the pages seamlessly and unapologetically, and where I actually feel the pain and realness of colonialism. It’s a different experience and it shows, and I couldn’t write this review without mentioning it.

“They would change nothing by picking flowers.
They had to rip out their fate by the roots.”

I truly hope you guys pick this up in October. I really feel like it is a once in a lifetime story that will haunt me for years and years to come, but in the best way possible. Anna-Marie McLemore has made a fan for life. Her writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, her story has completely stolen my heart, and her messages are some that I won’t forget. Thank you, Anna-Marie McLemore, for writing one of the best things 2017 will ever produce.

Estrella and Fel have stolen my heart, and I don’t think I’ll get it back anytime soon.

“Sorrow was a family heirloom, written into their blood like ink of a will.”

 


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with my favorites: Elise! ❤