Book Review: Sophie Someone

Sophie Someone
By Hayley Long

My Edition:
Hardcover, 258 pages
2017, Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763689957

Fourteen-year-old Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for almost as long as she can remember, though she knows her family left England. As the past begins to catch up with them, Sophie starts piecing together details from her past until her family’s terrible secret is revealed and it changes everything she thinks she knows about herself. So Sophie tells her story, but in the only way she feels comfortable – in her own language.

I wasn’t expecting the writing to be so stylized, so right off the bat I was confused. Sure, the back of the book mentions Sophie telling her story in the only way she knows how, but I wasn’t paying attention to the back of the book, was I? (No. No I wasn’t.)

So we have a sort of…modified English where certain words are swapped out for completely different (yet for the most part, essentially similar and mostly coherent) words, creating what appears to be gibberish at first. Examples include “hashtag” for hand, “quibble” for question, “Mambo and Donny” for Mom and Dad, “pigeon” for person, and “supernova” for suitcase. My first thought was that I was just reading a bunch of nonsense and it was frustrating.

However, as I made my way through the book, Sophie’s words, while still silly sounding, started to make a weird sort of sense to me. It’s clear that Long put a lot of thought into her…er…translations. There were still some words that threw me and I did spend the whole book mentally translating each replacement word I encountered. Had I been able to let go of that, I might have had an easier time reading, but I just HAD to know what the words really meant. At times this probably took me away from the story, but that’s just how my mind works.

This is a great story if you can get past the language and Sophie was funny and endearing. This is among the more original contemporary middle-grade novels I’ve encountered and if you’re looking for something different, I highly suggest this.

Also, the cover art is beautiful, see pictures below!

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Hayley is super adorable and has a cute little site.

Mini Review: Mambo in Chinatown

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Mambo in Chinatown
By Jean Kwok

Paperback, 370 pages
2014, Riverhead Books
ISBN: 9781594632006

5/5 stars

I received a free ARC of this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

Charlie Wong  is a twenty-two-year-old, living in a tiny apartment in Chinatown with her father and sister, her mother having died years earlier. She works as a dishwasher at the same restaurant where her father is a noodle-maker and she’s miserable. Then she lands a job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio and discovers a side of herself she never knew; yet she must hide her new job and emerging talents as a dancer from her father. Then her sister starts to become ill and Charlie must try to help her as best she can, while Charlie’s father shuns Western medicine.

I’m doing a mini review on this book because I just don’t have much to say about it – not every book gives me deep thoughts, or lots of talking points when I read it. Yet, I was interested from page one and ended up absolutely loving this book. Charlie is a very likeable character – she’s strong and smart, but stubborn and she can be self-centered too. She, and the rest of the cast, felt very human. I became emotionally invested in her and her sister’s story and I shared Charlie’s hopes for her future. Overall, the story felt  real to me.

I wish I had more to say – but I just find myself wanting to say over and over again, “I loved it!” I read it in just a couple of days and often told myself “just one more chapter” whenever I was trying to put it down. I haven’t read Kwok’s other book, but after finishing Mambo in Chinatown I immediately ordered it from Amazon.

The back of the book says the hardcover will be on sale June 24 – so check it out!