Posts By: Rashika

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Gender-Swapped Mean Girls: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

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A Gender-Swapped Mean Girls: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
Ben Philippe
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: January 8th, 2019
by Balzer & Bray

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Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet, against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris. Be it loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. He even starts playing actual hockey with these Texans.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.
-A copy was provided by Balzer + Bray for review-

I don’t think this book has actually been pitched this way but when I finished the book, I couldn’t help but think of Mean Girls. The Field Guide to a North American Teenager, while not a perfect fit, read to me, like a gender-swapped Mean Girls.

Norris Kaplan is the new kid in town. Although he feels incredibly out of place, he does somehow immediately capture the attention of several people who are taken in by his snark. He writes in his journal, trying to categorize and group every individual and HS trope-y student he comes across in an attempt to other them and to distance himself. Somehow though, he finds himself mingling with the very cheerleaders and the jocks he loves to snark about. Combined with a new, cute love interest he is doing his best to court, Norris Kaplan, against all odds, ends up fitting into his new high school and having a nice, trope-y high school existence. He also ends up doing several jerk-y things that hurt almost everyone he likes.

Does that not sound pretty much like Mean Girls??? If it doesn’t, its probably because I suck at writing words but the book itself does have that distinct feel, IMHO.

ANYWAY. SO. YES. This book is such a feel-good contemporary and I cannot. I love that we have a black mc navigating the trope-y high school experience in this book and I LOVE Philippe’s twist on those tropes. I especially love the discussion in this book about how being black paints that trope-y experience. This is such a light hearted book but those discussions are still so important and OMG, there is this one scene towards the end that was so beautifully written. I want everyone to read the book so we can scream together about that scene.

Norris, by virtue of occasionally being a self-obsessed dick, isn’t the most likable character in the world. BUT THATS OKAY. He experiences growth and development. He learns from his mistakes and has moments of reflection. Norris is also funny as fuck. Exhibit A:

“You’re very rude for a basic white girl.”

I want that quote on a t-shirt. 

I do feel like it is important for me to point out that it seemed like some details regarding the LI (who is Indian) were half-assed? For example, when the Norris enters Aarti’s (the LI’s) house, he first says that “some Hindi language on the television or on the radio.” Hindi is a language? And not all Indian languages are related to Hindi? There are some that don’t share the same alphabet and are also not related to the larger Indo-European language group. Also, Aarti’s family is from West Bengal but they speak Hindi rather than Bengali?? NOT THAT THIS ISN’T POSSIBLE and doesn’t happen but this seemed less intentional and more just a general overlooking of basics. Another weird thing was when Norris was over at the Puri’s, Mrs. Puri assumed that Norris had never heard of Chicken Tikka Masala even though every Indian person knows that that is the one thing every non-Indian associates with Indian cuisine. Also, let me be perfectly clear. I don’t think these issues are a reason to not read the book or even make it inherently problematic (although a little more research would have been nice.) I just wanted to set the record straight so when people do read they book, and they 100% should, they are aware of these things.

MOVING ON. I also wish that this book had been a little less about Norris and involved all the secondary characters a bit more because they are all fabulous. I would have loved more conversations between Norris and his mom, Norris and his new friends, Norris and Eric, etc. 

No book is perfect though and even with its imperfections, The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is an absolute delight to read. It is smart, snarky and flips so many tropes on their head which allows the reader to experience them in a new way. While some might claim that by being trope-y, a book will be inherently unoriginal but to those, I say, PICK UP A BOOK THAT EMPLOYS tropes well because The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is a perfect example of a book that is wonderfully trope-y and wonderfully original. Please read it. 

3.5 Stars
3.5 Hot Espressos

Chef Heroes & Road Trips: Three Little Words by Jenny Holiday

Chef Heroes & Road Trips: Three Little Words by Jenny Holiday

Posted by on 01/18/2019 • 1 Comment

Trigger Warning for eating disorders, drug abuse in the past

I had not read a single book by Jenny Holiday in the past (including the two other books that precede Three Little Words) but when I saw Nick shouting about it, I AM INTRIGUED. Chef heroes own my soul. Nick, who has known me long enough to know I am super picky with contemporary romances, said I would at the very least like Three Little Words SO of course I had to read it because CHEF HEROES.  So, I went in expecting to like it since Nick said I would but I ended up completely engrossed in the lives of these characters and finding a new author to binge. Three Little Words takes you on quite the journey – quite literally because…

Why Marie Kondo Doesn’t Actually Want You To Throw Out All Your Books

Why Marie Kondo Doesn’t Actually Want You To Throw Out All Your Books

Posted by on 01/16/2019 • 2 Comments

Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her ‘revolutionary’ tidying up ideas with her bestselling books. On January 1st, Netflix decided to drop “The Art of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” bringing even more people on board the KonMari train but also causing many people to lose their minds when Marie Kondo ‘made’ people get rid of their books in an effort to clean up and take back their living spaces. 

Except she didn’t???

I haven’t finished watching the series nor have I had the privilege of reading any of her books but based on what I have seen and what I know about her books, nowhere does she explicitly state you should get rid of your books and everything else you love.

I am a lover of reality…

The Heist Novel We Need: Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

The Heist Novel We Need: Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

Posted by on 01/14/2019 • 1 Comment

In 2019 and we’re finally getting all the heist/thief books we deserve. Death Prefers Blondes is one such heist book and IT IS AMAZING. Maybe you’ve read Caleb Roehrig before or maybe you’re drawn by the fantastic premise and gorgeous gover. Regardless, this book is both quintessentially Roehrig and also different from what he has written before. His previous books are more on the fun end of the spectrum (WHICH IS NOT A BAD THING. I love fun books!) and while Death Prefers Blondes is incredibly fun, it also has a tendency to punch you in the guts. TO SAY EVEN MORE because I clearly cannot shut up, Death Prefers Blondes is not a short book but it FLIES by. It was so well written and visuals/imagery were done so…

Amazing Friendships: Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Amazing Friendships: Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Posted by on 01/11/2019 • 0 Comments

I slept on Emma Mills for AGES but with a little peer pressure, I finally binge read all of her published books last year. I can honestly say that it was life changing. Not necessarily because her books in of themselves changed my life but they were so good and I was so happy to finally have them in my life. WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY is that if you still have not read a single Emma Mills novel in your life, you need to fix that. If you have, then I am guessing you’re gonna pick this book up regardless of anything I have to say so hope you have a nice life. Here, have some cookies on your way out! I made them myself!

Lately, I feel…

And That’s a Wrap: 2018 Edition

And That’s a Wrap: 2018 Edition

Posted by on 12/31/2018 • 2 Comments

Last year, I just did a general roundup trying to include best books and all that jazz but this year I wanted to do a more detailed book roundup. I wasn’t sure if I should do a personal roundup too but its such a good way for me to reflect on the year and figure out what I want from the next one SO HERE WE ARE!

– I survived???? I really haven’t accomplished much this year but with the amount of turmoil I’ve experienced, I feel like surviving is a huge feat. *gently pats self on back*

-I also baked a lot this year and I stepped outside of my comfort zone! I made pain au chocolat, made the perfect batch of cookies, a good scone, biscuits (I…

Xpresso Reads’ Best Books of 2018

Xpresso Reads’ Best Books of 2018

Posted by on 12/28/2018 • 3 Comments

Wow. I genuinely cannot believe the end of the year is here???? And I have to pick favorite books I’ve read?? (EVEN THOUGH I HAVE A COUPLE MORE I WANT TO READ) Ugh. I decided to bring back this format from 2016 because it is way more fun then just listing a bunch of books I liked.

A book with a title that SCREAMS ‘read me’

Yes. I am secretly 10. I mostly read this book because this title made me feel like I was going to dive into a cute read but holy fuck, Death by Toilet Paper hit all the right emotional notes. This book is funny but more than that, its actually heart breaking????? I did not expect a book with a title like this to actually…

Twelve 2019 Books I Am Most Looking Forward To

Twelve 2019 Books I Am Most Looking Forward To

Posted by on 12/27/2018 • 6 Comments

I’ve been so bad with new releases this year that I am not sure I even deserve to do a post about 2019 books I am most looking forward to but you know… every year is a good year for books and 2019 is no different!!! These occur in no particular order and there are tons I haven’t mentioned but I wanted to keep this as short as possible. 

1. What Lies Between You In Me by Courtney Milan

Its funny because I mentioned this last year as a sequel I was looking forward to in 2018 but 2018 has passed and I am still waiting. I JUST WANT TO BE REUNITED WITH MY 55 yo son. 

2. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki