All Aboard the ARC: We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for the inclusion of any links for purchase found in this review or on any other page of The Voracious Bibliophile which mentions We Deserve Monuments, its author, or its publisher.***

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review

You know who really deserves a monument? Jas Hammonds, for writing such a breathtaking, heart-stopping, rip-out-your-soul-and-stitch-it-back-together-into-a-magnificent-tapestry gem of a book. I have been struggling for something like a month now to write a review that would do this book justice and you know what? It’s just not possible. So I want you to take me at my word when I tell you that We Deserve Monuments is *the* book you have to read when it comes out later this year. Actually, go ahead and preorder it right now. I’ve already got my copy pre-ordered. It is a testament to Queer Black girls everywhere and a shining example of how love can bring people together, how it can heal the deepest of wounds even when the odds are stacked against them. Rarely does a book contain near-equal doses of mystery, romance, and adventure, but Jas Hammonds understood the assignment and got the mix just right.

Rarely does a book contain near-equal doses of mystery, romance, and adventure, but Jas Hammonds understood the assignment and got the mix just right.

Avery Anderson has a plan. That plan involves staying focused on her studies and getting in and out of her mother’s hometown of Bardell, Georgia as fast as she can. Her plan is to get into Georgetown and study astronomy like her mother, Zora. Moving from Washington, D.C. to Podunk MAGA country at the beginning of her senior year was not in the plan at all, but when her mom receives a letter from her old friend and neighbor Carole that reveals her Mama Letty is dying, the whole Anderson family uproots their lives to go and care for her in her last months.

Avery knows very little about her Mama Letty, especially since her mother never talks about her. Their first meeting doesn’t go very well. When Mama Letty nicknames her Fish after spotting her lip ring and questions whether or not she’s a lesbian now, Avery is ready to run not walk back to D.C. Mama Letty is cantankerous, gruff, and has her walls up so high not even Jericho could compare. How is Avery supposed to get to know someone who won’t even talk to her other than in grunts and monosyllables?

At the same time, Avery was hoping for a break from her old friends Kelsi and Hikari, but she didn’t envision the break being so permanent. Ever since her breakup with Kelsi, fueled by Kelsi’s racist micro-aggressions about Avery being “barely Black” (she’s biracial), things haven’t been the same. Now that she’s in Bardell, D.C. feels like a completely different galaxy. The rules are different. The scenery is different. The people are different. Who will Avery become if she lets all of it in—and who will she become if she doesn’t? The move throws Kelsi and Hikari’s lives into stark contrast compared to her own and there’s nothing that can be said or done to remedy that. And why should she even try to remedy it when they scoffed at her lip ring? When they begged her not to shave her head? When they minimized and tried to erase her Blackness from the equation of her identity? What’s the point of being friends with people who don’t want you to be the most authentic version of yourself possible?

Who will Avery become if she lets all of it in—and who will she become if she doesn’t?

It doesn’t help that something is rotten in the state of Georgia on Sweetness Lane. There’s something that’s being kept from Avery by Zora and Mama Letty, something they don’t talk about but which fuels their arguments and resentments. Avery has vague flashbacks back to when she was little. She can see things being thrown and hear raised voices. She can remember the dissonance of the family fighting while they were supposed to be celebrating Christmas. But neither Zora nor Mama Letty wants to talk about it. No one wants to rip off the bandaid so the wound can heal.

And then there’s Simone, Carole’s daughter. Simone stirs longings in Avery from the first time they meet, but they’re not in Washington, D.C. They’re in Bardell, Georgia, where anti-Black racism and homophobia are alive and well. Thriving, even. Should Avery act on her feelings or tamp them down? Catching feelings for someone new was not part of the plan, but Avery soon discovers that life cares little for our plans.

Catching feelings for someone new was not part of the plan, but Avery soon discovers that life cares little for our plans.

Avery befriends Simone and Simone’s friend Jade. She’s quickly initiated into their friend group and made a part of their rituals. She learns what real friendship looks like, the kind where you don’t have to separate the different parts of yourself out like straining something through a sieve. She also learns that there are weird connections between her family and Jade’s family, who are rich and white and own The Draper Hotel and Spa. In fact, everything in Bardell seems oddly connected to different parts of Avery’s family and their history. Learning hard truths forces Avery to accept that nothing is what it appears to be on the surface and that everyone has something to hide. Will the truths she learns help to heal the fractures in her family, or will Mama Letty die without things being set right? I lost all of my fingernails racing through the pages to find out.

Will the truths she learns help to heal the fractures in her family, or will Mama Letty die without things being set right? I lost all of my fingernails racing through the pages to find out.

It’s so hard for me not to give up too many of the plot details but I just want you to know that I will be talking about this book until it comes out and harassing everyone I know to read it when it finally does.

We Deserve Monuments is due to be released by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group on November 29th, 2022 and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Author) and Lisa Sterle (Illustrator)

Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Author) and Lisa Sterle (Illustrator)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Greenwillow Books in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for the inclusion of any links found in this review or on any other page of The Voracious Bibliophile which mentions Squad, its creators, or its publisher.***

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Blurb: Maggie Tokuda-Hall takes everything you think you know about werewolves and their lore and gives it a feminist (and sapphic) bent. The result is a graphic novel that’s just a lot of fun to read (and talk about with your squad—no incels allowed, unless of course they’re on the menu).

Review

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Squad is a perfect blend of horror, suspense, and believe it or not, romance. It’s sort of like if Mean Girls had a baby with Teen Wolf that grew up to be super freaking gay and not a little sarcastic. Combine that with Lisa Sterle’s vibrant art style reminiscent of the best of the Archie Comics and what you have is a delightful romp just ripe for adaptation. Does anyone have Netflix’s number?

It’s [Squad] sort of like if Mean Girls had a baby with Teen Wolf that grew up to be super freaking gay and not a little sarcastic.

It all starts when Becca moves with her mom from LA to Piedmont in her junior year of high school. Becca has always wanted to fit in, so when a clique of popular girls takes her in, she feels like she has a place for the first time in her life. It turns out though that Becca’s new squad is less of a clique and more of a pack. Of werewolves, that is, with bites far worse than their barks. These werewolves don’t hunt the innocent, though. Their prey are the predators. Sleazy boys oozing generational wealth and privilege who take advantage of girls at parties. Boys who know history and the law is on their side telling them they’ll get away with it because most of the time they do.

Their prey are the predators.

Becca discovers her friends’ secret at a party outside underneath a full moon. A skinny incel named Bart O’Kavanaugh (Tokuda-Hall’s character naming is very tongue in cheek) gets Becca away from the larger group and tries to assault her. Their exchange really is rape culture in a nutshell:

Bart: You’re hella pretty.

Becca: Okay.

Bart moves in to kiss her and Becca squirms away from him.

Bart: Don’t make it weird.

Becca: Don’t make it rapey.

Bart: Why’d you even come with me then?

Becca: Boredom? I don’t know why I even believed you when you said you were gonna show me something cool.

Bart: Yeah, my dick!

Becca tries to turn away from him.

Becca: Let’s go back to the party.

Bart puts his hand on Becca’s shoulder.

Bart: I can tell you want it.

Becca turns again, trying to dislodge his hand off her shoulder, and Bart violently grabs her by the arm while she tries to free herself. She smacks him in the face, tearing up.

Becca: Let me go, dude!

Bart grabs Becca once again and tears are streaming down her face.

Bart: Jesus, don’t be such a bitch!

There’s a rustling nearby. Suddenly Arianna, Marley, and Mandy step into view.

Marley: You know, you gotta be careful around bitches.

The three girls start transforming into wolves, growing fangs, claws, and fur, tongues lolling in anticipation.

Marley: We roll in packs.

You know, you gotta be careful around bitches. We roll in packs.

If that scene isn’t the most patriarchy-toppling in any piece of media ever, I don’t know what is. There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing boys with names like O’Kavanaugh and Weinstein get eaten by girls-turned-werewolves. After they rescue her from Bart, Becca joins the girls’ pack and has to learn to cope with this new aspect of her identity and all it encompasses. Along with being a newly-turned werewolf, Becca also has another secret to keep that’s gurgling just beneath the surface. When you’re young, or any age, really, having to hide part of yourself to stay safe does damage that takes a long time to heal. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s true for gay people, women, and werewolves.

When you’re young, or any age, really, having to hide part of yourself to stay safe does damage that takes a long time to heal. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s true for gay people, women, and werewolves.

Fear not, though, dear readers—Squad doesn’t disappoint and isn’t a tragedy by any stretch of the imagination. In this hybrid horror-romance story, the girls get mad, the boys get eaten, and love triumphs over all. And if only for a moment, everyone who’s ever had to say #MeToo feels just a little bit better.

Squad was released by Greenwillow Books on October 5th, 2021 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.