When Hope Calls by David Lui

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

When Hope Calls: Based on a True Human Trafficking Story by David Lui

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Morris, a humanitarian worker, and the staff of a human rights organization receive a desperate phone call from a girl named Mya, saying she’s been kidnapped. She doesn’t know where she is, but Morris and his team are determined to find and rescue Mya as part of their fight against human trafficking in When Hope Calls by author David Lui.

Although I found this novella (based on a true story) categorized as a kidnapping thriller, the subject didn’t have me expecting thrills, and all things considered, I indeed wouldn’t call this a thrilling read.

It’s suspenseful, but for much of the time, the characters are waiting in dismal silence. Fiction-wise, the plot development suffers from emotional lows that are overwritten and redundant, with the characters sitting in abject despair for hours and spending a good amount of time feeling sorry for themselves and this place in their careers or lives. On a more technical note, there are some missing words and recurring errors in punctuation.

However, sometimes a story’s message and purpose are bigger than the story, and that’s okay. This quick and relevant read serves to raise awareness of a widespread, urgent real-life issue, without sugarcoating it but also without resorting to unnecessary vulgarity. It’s a call to remind humanity that we have to fight against modern-day slavery.

 

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Even if you are completely innocent of a crime or wrongdoing and have nothing to hide, it can be easy (much easier than you probably think) to incriminate yourself when questioned by law enforcement in the United States, especially when a situation arises without warning. American citizens’ Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights exist for important reasons, and knowing just how to exercise those rights without intentionally or unintentionally waiving them is crucial, as author and law professor James Duane illustrates in You Have the Right to Remain Innocent.

This is a fairly short but informative book about why and how to protect oneself in the face/midst of a criminal justice system where, unfortunately, even the innocent can be proven guilty.

Now, the book’s information could have been better organized. The author’s practical advice is scattered through the book without section headings or something that would make for easier reference. It would have been helpful if, after going on about legal case histories, the system’s flaws, and what citizens should not do when questioned by law enforcement, the author had ended the book with a concise summary of his advice, reiterating exactly what to do step by step, along with what one should expect after respectfully declaring, “I want a lawyer.”

Nevertheless, this book should be eye-opening for many everyday citizens and can serve as a foundation for understanding the critical constitutional rights in question.

 

The Privileged by Renata Sterling

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Privileged: A Short Story by Renata Sterling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

In 1940 in the American South, there are privileges seventeen-year-old Helen Davis doesn’t have, due to the “drop or two of African blood” in her veins. But most people looking at her wouldn’t think she’s anything but white. And this winter, Helen wants to get a taste of what it’s like to be one of The Privileged, a short story by author Renata Sterling.

I enjoyed the half-hour or so it took me to read this. The story illustrates how “passing” comes with both advantages and (potentially dire) consequences for people of color whose color isn’t obvious.

While I like short reads, though, it seems this one essentially led me to a dead end, with no real moral to the story or a central message past the surface of the opening line. It’s apparent this isn’t so much a self-contained story but rather a setup for another book. Also, the writing style is a little awkward and simplistic, with minor grammar and punctuation errors.

Nevertheless, this read is about more than just a teenager’s adventure or the thrill of taking a risk. It’s clear that Helen has more to learn, so if I do find a book that continues her story later, I think it’d be interesting to read.

 

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Jordan, a twelve-year-old artist, would love to go to art school, but instead his parents enroll him in a private school with top-notch academics. Jordan finds that he’s one of only a few kids of color in the seventh grade at his new school in New Kid by author Jerry Craft.

Yes. I picked this graphic novel up because of the race/diversity issue it addresses. Yes, it resonated with me in a number of places on that score, such as in a section of Jordan’s sketchbook labeled “Judging Kids by the Covers of Their Books!” Jordan’s view of mainstream books for kids versus African American books for kids—good gravy. He could’ve grabbed that right out of my brain.

Even so, this novel doesn’t get caught up in being so issue-y that it ceases to be entertaining, accessible, and inclusive. It’s a three-dimensional story that takes a look at more than one viewpoint and has much that any “new” or different person can relate to, both within and beyond schooldays and childhood/adolescence.

Jordan’s story strikes a balance between the downright hilarious parts and parts that can prick your heart or make your stomach drop. It packs in both obvious and understated genius, and what it simply leaves up to the reader’s perception and observation is as real as what it says through the characters’ speech and thought bubbles. It’s not a story that magically solves every character’s every problem, but it still wraps up in a way that’s inspiring and satisfying.

And did I mention how hilarious the novel is? I did?

It’d be hard not to take away something awesome from a book like this.