Tournament of Books, Round Two: Long Way Down vs The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee are both unique Young Adult novels that capture diverse cultures.  Set in the San Francisco area, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is full of Chinese mythology, comic dialogue, high school humor and features a strong Chinese American female protagonist. Long Way Down is a verse novel that deals with gun violence in the African American community.


In Long Way Down, the beauty of the poetry, the placement of words upon each page and the gray graphics present a work of art.  The character of Will comes alive as the elevator descends and a ghost enters on each floor. Once I started reading I could not put the novel down. It was hard for me to get through The Epic Crush of Genie Lo since I found the characters annoying.

The words in Long Way Down flow smoothly which showed a lot of effort on the part of the author. Writing poetry and causing an emotional response is not an easy task. I found the writing in The Epic Crush of Genie Lo jarring and disjointed.

The moods of both books are a study in contrasting tones. Although Genie and Quentin must battle ferocious demons the plot is spiced with humor and outrageous situations and the readers leaves with a feeling of lightness. Long Way Down slams the reader with its gritty realism and senseless violence. The ending took my breath away and left me with strong motivation to discuss the book with teen readers.

And the winner is…


Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

The writing, style of presentation and impact are the factors that influence my choice of Long Way Down as the winner.  Long Way Down will stand the test of time as an outstanding work of Young Adult fiction.


Back to Round Two, Bracket Four

Onto Round Two, Bracket Six


Tournament of Books, Round Two: One of Us Is Lying vs Strange the Dreamer

OK, so this was a tough one.  It couldn’t be an easy decision where one book is definitely superior than the other.  But I guess that’s the woes of a round 2 reviewer. I won’t go into a long summary as you’ve already read through those in round 1.  I’ll just throw a few thoughts at you.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus

51BgoE+i2UL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Let’s start with One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus.  First of all, I love that this book is a mystery/thriller type of story.  This is such an underrepresented genre in teen books. So right away, I was excited that I got to read this book.  Even more exciting is that is was great. I kept seeing reviewers describe this as a Breakfast Club-esqe book.  Let me stop you all right there.  Yes, the drama starts in detention.  Yes, the characters are pretty much your basic teen trope templates.  Simon, the victim, even mentions that the four fit into the predictable character categories of most teen movies.  But aside from those two similarities, this book is absolutely nothing like The Breakfast Club.  Throughout the investigation of Simon’s death, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy have the suspect light put on them for a variety of reasons, mostly circumstantial.  McManus manages to create a feeling of confidence and predictability that is shattered with each new piece of evidence. It’s an interesting feeling know that only the killer knows what truly happened.  The rest of the cast of characters are in the dark, same as you. There are some secondary plot points like trauma-fueled romances and unnecessary family drama that feel like filler and don’t really add much to the story.  I took another arbitrary point off for the nice, neat ending. McManus really wrapped this story up with a super shiny bow. I expected more devastation and destruction after such an intense investigation.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

strange the dreamerMoving on to Stranger the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.  This one has a bit of bias attached to it as I adore Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” series.  Before getting into the plot details and the like, I will say that Strange the Dreamer has a more much literary writing style.  When comparing the two books, One of Us is Lying feels more like a mainstream psychological thriller while Strange the Dreamer is more like something that would get an Oscar nod and have a limited theater release.  Taylor writes very lyrically. Very rarely is she simply telling something. Her words paint a clear picture of this fantastical world.  Taylor also utilizes a few fantasy trope characters like McManus and her high school students. Lazlo is the outsider who is given a hero’s chance to save the day. Sarai is the beautiful outcast struggling with her identity that history states should be evil.  The book starts on the slow side, but eventually gains some momentum. There are also some predictable twists that astute readers can pick up on earlier than Taylor’s intention. A big plus for Taylor is that unlike McManus, she has a book 2 coming up so she didn’t need to create a tidy ending.  The ending of Strange the Dreamer is probably the most exciting part of the book, seeing how everything has come together to one point.  

And the winner is…

strange the dreamer

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

This was more difficult than I expected as these books are so different from each other.  When I’m not sure about how much I liked a book, I always ask myself if I would read the book a second time.  I think that One of Us is Lying is a one and done type of book.  I can see myself reading Strange the Dreamer multiple times and discovering new things about the story each time.  For that reason, I must choose Strange the Dreamer.

Brandi Smits is the Youth Services Manager at the Orland Park Public Library.  You can often find Brandi on Wednesdays dominating the bar trivia world. Most other days, she is engaging in fascinating book dates or working on cross-stitch projects.


Back to Round Two, Bracket Two

Onto Round Two, Bracket Four

Tournament of Books, Round One: Little & Lion vs One of Us Is Lying

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

51hlMpLreZLLittle & Lion is the journey of Suzette and her brother Lionel. Lionel has bipolar disorder and has been struggling with recovery without Suzette. After Lionel was diagnosed, Suzette’s parents decided to send her to boarding school in New England, thousands of miles away from her home in Los Angeles. Suzette and Lionel are part of a blended family, Suzette’s mom being African American and Lionel’s dad being Jewish. Throughout the novel, Suzette is asked to keep a secret that could destroy her brother’s health but also their relationship. Additionally, she struggles with her sexuality as she forms a relationship with a boy in her neighborhood but also feels guilty about abandoning a relationship with her former roommate at boarding school. She also has a crush on a girl that her brother ends up dating.

Overall, I felt that this book had too much going on without a lot of plot development. The character development was strong, the sibling relationship was relatable and loveable, but there wasn’t too much happening.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

51BgoE+i2UL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_One of Us is Lying is an investigation into a death at Bayview High. Bronwyn is Yale bound and has a clean record, Addy is known for her beauty and popularity, Cooper is a jock who is being scouted by colleges, and even the minor leagues, Nate already has a criminal record for dealing drugs, and Simon is a loner who created the popular Bayview High gossip app About That. This novel follows first person perspective of each of these characters in suspect of Simon’s death. Each person was in detention that afternoon, and they were the only people who were the last to see and witness everything. When the police discover evidence that his death could not have been accidental, the students become suspects in an investigation. They all had a motive for wanting him dead, since he was planning on posting secrets about every person on his app.

One of Us is Lying was a fast and intense read. The novel follows each student and their relationships with each other and old friends  as they morphe as they go through a criminal investigation. I enjoyed the individual perspectives of each student, their family lives, and how the world moved differently through each person. Although predictable, it was a good read.

And the winner is…


One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus will be moving forward in the tournament. It’s a nail biter that keeps you hanging on until the last page. Even throughout the actual investigation, there manages to be school drama, love stories, and maturity of characters that is all artfully written.

Bio: Caitlin is an avid techie and maker in the library industry. In her free time, she enjoys writing, snuggling with her pug Butch, and avocado toast. Follow her on Twitter: @femme_b0t

Back to Round One, Bracket Five

Onto Round One, Bracket Seven