Full Pour Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue

I don’t think that I will be able to come up with the right words to describe how wonderful and beautiful this book is. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is a beautifully written YA memoir manifesto that navigates the complexities of identity, specifically being Black and queer. It is a collection of essays that illustrate Johnson’s life from childhood to college and serves as a beautiful exploration of sexuality, identity, race, gender, as well as a constructive analysis of the anti-Black and anti-queer society we desperately need to move away from. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s honest, and it needs to be read by everyone.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.”

I want to begin by saying that George M. Johnson is an incredible storyteller and his storytelling abilities have the power to help and influence so many people. I loved reading his stories about addressing his internalized homophobia head-on and accepting and loving himself as the incredible human he is. I loved reading about the unconditional love and unwavering support provided by his family, especially his beautiful Nanny. I loved the bravery and vulnerability it took to discuss and reflect on the sexual abuse he experienced during such a confusing time in his life, and how this reflection can help protect others and save lives. Simply put, Johnson bared his soul in this book and it is a truly beautiful thing to witness. There isn’t a single book like this out there that can help Black/LGBTQIA+ young adults and the messages in this book must be shared with everyone.

I truly can’t recommend this book enough and if it’s not already on your radar, please add it to your TBR list immediately 💛 All Boys Aren’t Blue will make you cry, ache, laugh, smile, hope and ultimately grow as a person. I know with great certainty that this book will be on my mind for a while.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is best paired with Cobbler: Apricot and Black Currant by Black Flag Brewing Company. This highly delicious fruited sour was brewed with vanilla, cinnamon, milk sugar and 440lbs of apricot and black currant 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Poet X

It’s official- Elizabeth Acevedo is an auto-buy author for me. I was sold on her after reading With The Fire on High, but I’m even more obsessed with her stories after reading this one. I went into The Poet X with very high expectations because of the raving reviews I’ve read on Bookstagram and this book most certainly did not disappoint!

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

First, I absolutely adored Xiomara’s character. She is so fierce, loyal and brave and she was an incredible protagonist. I love how fiercely she loved her family and friends, how she would stand up for herself, how she questioned authority when it was necessary and how she ultimately stopped living her life to satisfy others and fight for what she wanted. Her character serves as a wonderful, strong female lead to young adults. I also loved that she had such a wonderful support system in her brother, best friend, “boyfriend,” and teacher. All of their characters were wonderful supporting roles and helped encourage Xiomara to be unapologetic about who she wanted to be.

Second, I thoroughly enjoyed how this book was written in verse and felt it added an awesome element to the storytelling. I loved how descriptive and immersive the reading felt. It’s not often that you come across books that truly plant you in another world and make you feel apart of the story, but Elizabeth Acevedo seems to consistently excel at doing this effortlessly.

I truly can’t recommend this book enough. If you haven’t already read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, please do yourself a favor and add it to your TBR list 💛

BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is best paired with Habanero Nectar by RAR Brewing. This deliciously smooth IPA is brewed with habaneros, giving it a spicy finish with the perfect kick of heat 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Grace Year

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Due to the rave reviews and recommendations by my girl @kelseyandherbooks, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett has been on my TBR list for a few months now. With the launch of Kelsey and Emma’s book club #EmmaAndKelseyMadeMeDoIt and in honor of their first book selection for July being The Grace Year, there was no better time for me to finally dive into this highly anticipated and incredibly hyped up read 🤗

The Grace Year is set in Garner County, where its residents believe that when girls approach the age of 16, their skin releases a powerful aphrodisiac that lures men from their beds and drives other women crazy with jealousy. For their sixteenth year, they are banished from the county for an entire year (known as the grace year) where they are expected to rid themselves of their powers so that they may return home purified and ready to begin their lives as docile married women. During the grace year, not only are these young girls made to believe that they must suffer, but also that many of them will not make it out alive. As Tierney James enters into her grace year, she dreams of a better life for the girls of Garner County- a life of freedom where they are able to decide their fates, where men don’t control their bodies, where women can befriend one another… and a life without the grace year. Shortly after arriving at the encampment, it doesn’t take long for Tierney to learn that the biggest threat to their safety are not the the brutal elements, the ghosts of prior grace year girls seeking revenge, or even the poachers patiently waiting outside the encampment for the opportunity to skin and gut the grace year girls alive, bottling and selling the essence of their youth in order to feed and take care of their families. It becomes incredibly clear that the greatest threat of all is each other.

The cruelty and horrific acts that these girls succumbed one another to during the grace year was horrible and heart wrenching to read about. However, the book overall is powerful in the way it portrays the beauty in finding your voice, speaking your truth, resisting the patriarchy and being brave enough to pave a new way for future generations. Tierney James is an incredibly strong protagonist who is fiercely brave and risks her life many times during the grace year, as well as public execution once she is home, in order to help lead the changes that are needed to help the girls and women of Garner County have a better life.

I think what makes this book, as well as The Handmaid’s Tale, so intriguing to me is the terrifying idea that dystopian worlds like this could exist. It’s hard to ignore how much these books speak to the time that we are living in. The systemic silencing of women through out this book is absolutely heart wrenching.

While I absolutely enjoyed this story and felt the strength of the underlying messages within it, I didn’t fall in love with it. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read a YA novel in so long, but I felt that the plot fell a little flat for me, especially in comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale, which is obviously not YA. The beginning of the story started off strong, the middle dragged on a bit, and then while the ending picked up and was satisfactory, it felt like it wrapped up a little faster than I wanted and could’ve offered a little more closure. There were also some characters and themes that I wished were more developed throughout the story. At the same time though, this book was still a page turner and I kept wanting to know what was happening next. A lot of people compare this book as a cross between The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale and while I may be one of the rare bookstagrammers on here who have not yet read The Hunger Games, I definitely felt a lot of Mean Girls vibes with Kiersten’s character being Regina George. That being said, this book still receives a solid 4 out of 5 stars from me. Kim Liggett is a beautiful writer and wonderful storyteller and this book left me intrigued to read more of her stories.

If you are a fan of The Hunger Games, Mean Girls and The Handmaid’s Tale, this is definitely a book that you should read! Also, if you have already read it, don’t forget to participate in the book discussion with #EmmaAndKelseyMadeMeDoIt on July 27th at 7pm MST on Instagram! 🤗 For more details, visit Instagram and view the profiles of @emmasfavoritebooks and @kelseyandherbooks.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is best paired with Death by Affogato by Oskar Blues Brewery. This delicious coffee porter is brewed with lactose, cacao, vanilla and espresso beans 🍻