I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Two sisters separated as children switch lives not only to escape the stresses of their own lives, but to reconnect with the parent they never had a chance to know in author Christine Riccio’s “Better Together”.
Freaky Friday meets The Parent Trap in this sparkling and heartfelt story about sisters, second chances, finding romance, and finding yourself.
Jamie’s an aspiring standup comic in Los Angeles with a growing case of stage anxiety.
Siri’s a stunning ballerina from New Jersey nursing a career-changing injury.
They’ve both signed up for the same session at an off the grid Re-Discover Yourself Retreat in Colorado. When they run into each other, their worlds turn upside down.
Jamie and Siri are sisters, torn apart at a young age by their parent’s volatile divorce. They’ve grown up living completely separate lives: Jamie with their Dad and Siri with their Mom. Now, reunited after over a decade apart, they hatch a plot to switch places. It’s time they get to know and confront each of their estranged parents.
With an accidental assist from some fortuitous magic, Jamie arrives in New Jersey, looking to all the world like Siri, and Siri steps off her flight sporting a Jamie glamour.
The sisters unexpectedly find themselves stuck living in each other’s shoes. Soon Siri’s crushing on Jamie’s best friend Dawn. Jamie’s falling for the handsome New Yorker she keeps running into, Zarar. Alongside a parade of hijinks and budding romance, both girls work to navigate their broken family life and the stresses of impending adulthood.
This was the modern retelling of The Parent Trap that YA fans never knew they needed. A wonderful blend of classic twin-switching storytelling with more modern and emotionally driven character arcs that speak to many of the issues facing young adults these days. The author perfectly captures the raw pain and emotions between siblings, especially when faced with such heartbreaking circumstances as being separated from one another through a painful divorce or discovering one’s place in the world when you’ve felt incomplete for such a long time.
What really stood out to me in this book was the depth to which the author explored these characters. The concept of relationships was truly the key to this narrative, from the relationship each sister had with one another after all those years spent apart to the conflicted relationship they had with each of their parents, to the romantic moment each share with a new friend in their crisscrossed lives as the story progresses. The author does an incredible job of setting up just the right pace that highlights the rising emotional struggle these characters are forced to endure, and the theme of finding strength within the bonds of the family makes this story shine as the perfect summer YA read.
A masterful, emotionally-driven and engaging YA read, author Christine Riccio’s “Better Together” is a brilliant story and one of 2021’s “Best YA” contenders. With the balance of YA contemporary romance and a hint of magic, the story also has a wonderfully beautiful and heartfelt LGBTQ romance story that is the perfect read to begin PRIDE month. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
Christine Riccio is the New York Times best selling author of Again, But Better. She’s been on a quest to encourage more humans to read since the third grade. No one really listened until she started making videos about books on Youtube in 2010. Now her channel PolandbananasBOOKS has over 400,000 book-loving subscribers. She makes comedic book reviews, vlogs, sketches, and writing videos chronicling the creation of her own novels. She’s also one of the three YouTubers behind BOOKSPLOSION- youtube’s longest running book club. Originally from New Jersey, Christine graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in Film and TV and now lives in Los Angeles, CA.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Two sisters work to honor the life of their fallen sister in the hopes that not only will she be remembered not for what people perceived her to be but who she was completely, but to showcase that everyone deserves to be remembered, not just the “good ones”, in authors Maika and Maritza Moulite’s “One of the Good Ones”.
A shockingly powerful exploration of the lasting impact of prejudice and the indomitable spirit of sisterhood that will have readers questioning what it truly means to be an ally, from sister-writer duo Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.
ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.
One of the good ones.
Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.
This was such an emotional and impactful read. The authors did an incredible job of not only world-building and character growth, but of really infusing a much-needed theme into the narrative while also keeping an air of mystery. Immediately the story hits an emotional chord, focusing on the impact the loss of a family member to senseless violence and police brutality has on their loved ones. The narrative also takes unique and important steps to establish multiple-perspective chapters, not only for the various members of the family but the several others who have had to endure prejudice, racism, and violence as well over the course of several decades.
The authors pack a lot of genres and themes into this one narrative, and yet it never feels over-complicated or mishandled. Instead, the narrative feels layered and engaging, exploring themes of racism, violence, sexuality, family, and in many ways a mystery. The book will leave readers shocked and on the edge of their seat, as the narrative takes a massive turn towards the climax of the narrative that they won’t see coming.
A memorable, heartbreaking, and valuable YA contemporary mystery and thriller, authors Maika and Maritza Moulite’s “One of the Good Ones” is a must-read novel of 2021. The authors have created a book that will leave readers talking long after they’ve turned the final page, and the important messages the authors convey about relevant topics in 2021 throughout the narrative make this a true must-read novel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Authors
MAIKA MOULITE is a Miami native and the daughter of Haitian immigrants. She earned a bachelor’s in marketing from Florida State University and an MBA from the University of Miami. When she’s not using her digital prowess to help nonprofits and major organizations tell their stories online, she’s sharpening her skills as a PhD student at Howard University’s Communication, Culture and Media Studies program. Her research focuses on representation in media and its impact on marginalized groups. She’s the eldest of four sisters and loves young adult novels, fierce female leads, and laughing.
MARITZA MOULITE graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in women’s studies and the University of Southern California with a master’s in journalism. She’s worked in various capacities for NBC News, CNN, and USA TODAY. Maritza is a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania exploring ways to improve literacy in under-resourced communities after being inspired to study education from her time as a literacy tutor and pre-k teacher assistant. Her favorite song is “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
Monday, April 16—1 Day Before the Arrest Los Angeles, California
I must have died and gone to hell.
Because why else would I have heard that outrageous bleat- ing from my alarm at 5:30 (in the morning!) and chosen to wake up? It was mid-April of twelfth grade. I should have been suffering from a severe case of senioritis that could be cured only by sleeping in. But there I was, doing my Mon- day morning countdown to study.
I yanked the covers shielding my head down to my waist and leapt out of bed before the just-right firmness of my mat-
24 MAIKA MOULITE AND MARITZA MOULITE
tress and perfectly f luffed pillows could lure me back into their warm nest.
Bang bang bang.
Couldn’t even blame her. I dragged my feet over to the wall I shared with my baby sister, Happi, and knocked twice. Two syllables. Sor-ry. (For counting so loudly that I woke you up while I was trying to wake myself up.)
I slipped on cozy padded knee socks and plodded to my desk, where my notes were spread neatly across my laptop, right where I’d left them the night before. Mr. Bamhauer, my AP US History teacher and the miserable Miss Trunchbull to my precocious Matilda, was a stickler for the “old way” of doing things and insisted our notes be handwritten on wide- ruled paper so that the letters were big enough for him to see without his glasses while grading.
I skimmed over the major moments of the Civil Rights Movement that I knew the Advanced Placement test makers were likely to ask about when I sat for the exam in less than a month: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Emmett Till. The March on Washington. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Voting Rights Act of 1965. Each bullet point was like a twist unscrew- ing the faucet of my brain, f looding my skull with facts. To me, Brown v. Board of Education wasn’t just some case. It was the rebuttal to Plessy v. Ferguson, the racist court decision that dictated the “separate but equal” ideology. It was one of many nails in the giant coffin of Jim Crow laws and had ushered in the legacy of the Little Rock Nine. But before the Nine, we’d had students like Linda Brown, the Topeka One. Mr. Bamhauer lectured about the past, of course…but he made it stale and removed. To him, the people involved in all this
ONE OF THE GOOD ONES 25
world-changing were just names and dates in a book. Noth- ing more. They hadn’t had souls. Or dreams.
Brown v. Board of Education propelled my thoughts directly to that little girl. I envisioned how Linda Brown must have felt when she’d learned at nine years old that she couldn’t go to the school down the road, the one her white friends in the neighborhood attended, just because of her skin color. I felt her heart hammering when she saw how shaken up her daddy was on the walk home after his talk with the school principal. I imagined the hushed conversations Oliver and Leola Brown had over the kitchen table when they decided to move for- ward with the case, knowing what it would mean. I thought of all the parents hunched over in exasperation, fear, and de- termination, the folks in Delaware, Washington DC, South Carolina, and Virginia, who decided they could no longer accept segregation either.
I drank in American history, in all its problematic glory, like water. It was mine after all. My dad’s grandmother Eve- lyn had embarked on the Great Migration to California after her husband was killed overseas in World War II. He died for a country that didn’t think he deserved to call it home. My mom’s grandfather Joseph had been killed right here in America’s Jim Crow South. And their tales were just the fam- ily history that had been passed down.
I wasn’t much of a morning person, but once I rubbed the crust out of my eyes, I couldn’t close them again. Not with all these stories of individuals insisting they be remembered calling out to me at once. I had to listen to them.
After almost an hour of studying, my alarm rang again to drag me out of my bubble. I walked back over to my and Happi’s shared wall and knocked out another syllabic mes- sage: Hap-pi! Wake! Up! Her groan was loud and miserable. I
26 MAIKA MOULITE AND MARITZA MOULITE
chuckled. The only human being on earth less of a morning person than me? Her.
As I waited to shower, I checked the email account I used for my YouTube page, marking off the usual spam, replying to short messages, and noting the invitations and requests I had to think on more and get back to.
But then. I paused.
Oh Kezi. I was reading this ridiculous article about parasocial relationships. It was describing those pathetic people who feel like they know media personalities but don’t. You know, those freaks who get excited when they catch a glimpse of a celeb- rity’s baby or read every interview to see what brand of sham- poo they use. Like that would make them closer. I thought it was fine. But I stayed up all night. All night. All night wondering if you would see me that way too. Like some random weirdo on the internet.
But I told myself over and over, she’s much too good, way too smart, to not realize that some of her subscribers are more special than others. And I’m more than a subscriber. I’m a sup- porter. A lifeline. We get each other. No one understands the struggle and what you’re fighting for like I do. But all night I thought of this. Going insane. Running in circles in my mind until I tripped on something that made me stop. It was some- thing you said, actually.
I tried to swallow but couldn’t get past the sand in my throat. Nausea washed over me in waves, and I clutched my stomach to steady myself.
You said: We’re in this together. You remember that don’t you? It was that youth panel you spoke on two weeks ago at
ONE OF THE GOOD ONES 27
city hall and you made this beautiful, beautiful comment on how to have hope in the face of hopelessness. You promised that “even in the darkest moments, when you feel completely alone, like you’re the only one who cares, just remember that I care. Our community cares. And the people who came be- fore us and behind us and the ones who come up beside us care too. So long as we keep caring and trying, there is hope.” I cried when your words came to me. And I’m going to sleep well tonight knowing that I’m not alone. I’m not hopeless. I
There was a video attached to the email, sent from an ad- dress named mr.no.struggle.no.progress. My eyes widened and my pulse pounded against my ears when I registered whose face was in the thumbnail. Mine. I clicked on the preview button with a shaky hand and watched myself at the event the email sender mentioned. There I was, speaking animatedly and pro- nouncing the very words this stranger had taken the time to transcribe. The camera panned slowly across the room as my voice continued in the background.
I remembered that day. I almost hadn’t made it in time, be- cause Happi’s audition for our school’s Shakespeare play had gone longer than planned. Instead of taking my sister home after her tryout, I had dragged her with me straight to the panel. There she was in the video, seated between Derek and Ximena, who’d also come to show their support. The cus- tomary sounds of an audience wove in and out of the audio, a fussy baby babbling merrily, a chorus of a dozen sheets of paper rustling, a sniff ly man’s sneezes punctuating every few sentences.
The camera continued its survey of the room, and I noticed a group of people standing along the back wall. The space had
28 MAIKA MOULITE AND MARITZA MOULITE
been remarkably packed for a city hall meeting, and I recalled that quite a few members of the audience had come because they were subscribers to my YouTube channel, generationkeZi. When the meeting was adjourned, more than half in atten- dance had made a beeline to where I was seated, to chat. I’d greeted a lot of people, but others had stood on the sidelines and watched from afar, never approaching.
Who was the person who had sent this message? A fan I hadn’t gotten to speak with? The cameraperson? A local citi- zen who was feeling particularly inspired?
The slow creak of the bedroom door opening diverted my attention. I spun in my chair, not even sure when I’d grabbed the silver plaque I’d received from YouTube for reaching one hundred thousand subscribers, noting the instinct I had to hold it in the air menacingly.
“Bathroom’s all yours,” Happi said, pausing midyawn to look at me strangely.
“Thanks, I’ll be right in,” I replied to the back of her head as she stumbled to her room.
Instead, I gripped the plaque in my lap and sat there, frozen. Him again.