quotes Elisquared likes

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green




Title: Beating Heart Baby
Author: Lio Min
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook; 352 pgs
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Publisher
PurchaseAmazon - B&N - BAM! - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.  The links above are non-affiliate links; I do not earn anything from them.

The Summary

Lio Min’s Beating Heart Baby is an “achingly romantic” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) love letter to internet friendships, anime, and indie rock.

When artistic and sensitive Santi arrives at his new high school, everyone in the wildly talented marching band welcomes him with open arms. Everyone except for the prickly, proud musical prodigy Suwa, who doesn’t think Santi has what it takes to be in the band.

But Santi and Suwa share painful pasts, and when they open up to each other, a tentative friendship begins. And soon, that friendship turns into something more. . . .

Will their fresh start rip at the seams as Suwa seeks out a solo spotlight, and both boys come to terms with what it'll take, and what they'll have to let go, to realize their dreams?

Praise for Beating Heart Baby:
"This book is alive with ache, grief, hunger, love, pain and awe. . . . It should be read for the reasons all good books should be read: because it’s beautiful and moving, nuanced and humane. Most of all, because it’s fun." —Los Angeles Times

"Min's exploration of coming out and owning your story as an artist is particularly exhilarating and nuanced. . . It's an epic tale of queer validation, filtered through the light of the California sun and Sailor Moon, and an essential read for anyone searching for a blueprint of their soul." —BookPage, starred review

"A lyrical, rhythmic, and promising debut, this queer romance is a hit." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A luminous homage to music, art, and the power of found family. . . This achingly romantic novel features racially diverse and variously queer characters, each of whom is given ample space to develop." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"At times incredibly romantic, at times wildly devastating, this debut about identity, belonging, kinship, fandom, and starting over is one of the best books you'll read all year." —BuzzFeed (Best Book of the Summer)

"There’s a magic to this book I just can’t put into words. . . . If you like angst, pining, anime, music and found family, Beating Heart Baby is the book that will make you cheer, weep, laugh, and pine for your own internet friendship transforming into a happily ever!" —TheNerdDaily.com

"Blistering, deeply emo, and shimmering with the messiness of intimacy, Beating Heart Baby is a dizzying, occasionally infuriating, gleefully sexy, and utterly heartfelt exploration of identity, culture, and finding home within your art and in yourself. Brimming with music, profoundly specific internet, and the magic of cooked food with chosen family, Lio Min’s debut is as much a salve as it is nourishment." —Mary H. K. Choi, author of Yolk

"A stunning heartbreak of a novel that will mean so much to so many. I couldn’t put it down—following the always tender and often romantic journeys of these beautiful boys. A story about how love can shape you and open up the entire world. Lio Min is a superstar to watch." —Maurene Goo, author of Somewhere Only We Know

My Review

Beating Heart Baby is a must-read.  Period.

I had to sit on this review for a bit because, frankly, this book gutted me in all the best possible ways.  There is so much love within the pages of this book: self-love, familial love, platonic love, romantic love.  The depth that Lio Min plunges, that they are able to translate into written words, is masterful.  This is ultimately a story about finding joy in spite of pain, and I fell in love immediately.

This is not only a queer ode, but an ode to music, art, and anime.  Showing the deep connections that people can make even through a computer screen, Min hones into the heartbeat of their main characters, giving the readers a view of events from both Santi and Suwa's experiences. There is a before and a now and an after which circulates throughout the story, highlighting the circular nature of human existence.  

This sounds like a lot for a YA novel, but I would argue that A) the general population consistently underestimates teenagers and B) that the experiences felt and relayed in this book do transcend the YA genre.  This will connect current teen readers, those Gen Z kids, with their Gen Y or Gen X parents.  But this will also tap into the Millennial experience - this generation who started without the internet at their finger tips, but developed the language that Gen Z lives out now.  How disembodied intimacy started in the early chatrooms, LiveJournals, and MySpace forums, and has developed into a way people often connect and create relationships in this vastly digital landscape; where those that search can find connection.

Being a former band kid, the fact that marching band was a big part of this book was so comforting.  The family that is developed in a world where you have to rely on one another to hit your mark, to play you assigned part, to be able to come together to create music, is different than any family you develop in other groups.  Music has a way of bringing people together that not many other art forms contain.  The quote that is at the center of this story, "The worst thing about music is that other people get to hear it", comes from singer Mitski, but in the book comes from a fictional anime, "Mugen Glider", that has large significance to both main characters.  This quote really exposes the fear of creation at the center of this book. While it works to bring people, often strangers, together, music is also deeply personal, exposing all the emotions poured into that act of creation.  Musicians know, whether playing your own original music, or being a conduit for others', that music itself transports you.

Lio Min grabs you and immerses you in this love story that Santi and Suwa are going through.  You feel transported into their minds with each point of view.  The feeling of creation through music and art is titular, and does become the beating heart of this novel.  Again, a must read.  Period. 

Final Rating

About the Author

photo by Bao Ngo

Lio Min has listened to, played and performed, and written about music for most of their life. Their debut novel Beating Heart Baby is about boys, bands, and Los Angeles. They've profiled and interviewed acts including Japanese Breakfast, Rina Sawayama, MUNA, Caroline Polachek, Christine and the Queens, Raveena, Tei Shi, Speedy Ortiz, and Mitski.



I am excited to be a part of the blog tour for Three Drops of Blood by Gretchen McNeil from Rockstar Book Tours.  Check out my review below, and don't forget to enter the giveaway! 

Book Information

Title: Three Drops of Blood
Authors(s): Gretchen McNeil
Publication Date: March 21, 2023
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook; 336 pgs
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
SourceRockstar Book Tours
Find ItMajor Retailers
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule
Week One
3/1/2023 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt/IG Post
3/2/2023 - Books and Kats - Excerpt 
3/3/2023 - YA Books Central - Excerpt/IG Post
3/4/2023 - The Momma Spot - Excerpt 

Week Two
3/5/2023 - Forthenovellovers - Review 
3/6/2023 - Thrillersandhistoricalfiction - IG Review
3/7/2023 - The Litt Librarian - Review/IG Post
3/8/2023 - gsreadingspree - IG Review
3/9/2023 - @pages.for.sanity - IG Review/TikTok Post
3/10/2023 - pluvioreads - Review/IG Post
3/11/2023 - onemused - IG Spotlight

Week Three
3/12/2023 - Dreaminginpages - IG Review
3/13/2023 - OneMoreExclamation - Review/IG Post
3/14/2023 - Emily Ashlyn - IG Review/Facebook Post
3/15/2023 - A Dream Within A Dream - Review/IG Post
3/16/2023 - travelersguidetobooks - IG Review
3/17/2023 - @bookishlifeofkels - IG Spotlight
3/18/2023 - Lisa Loves Literature - Review/IG Post

Week Four
3/19/2023 - A Blue Box Full of Books - IG Review/LFL Drop Pic
3/20/2023 - a GREAT read - Review/IG Post
3/21/2023 - Eli to the nth - Review/IG Post
3/22/2023 - Country Mamas With Kids - Review/IG Post
3/23/2023 - @just_another_mother_with_books - IG Review
3/24/2023 - @enjoyingbooksagain - IG Review
3/25/2023 - Just Another Reader - Review/IG Post

Week Five
3/26/2023 - popthebutterfly - Review/IG Post
3/27/2023 - @froggyreadteach - IG Review
3/28/2023 - @drew_ambitious_reading - IG Review/TikTok Post
3/29/2023 - Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer - Review 
3/30/2023 - GryffindorBookishNerd - IG Review
3/31/2023 - Momfluenster - IG Review/Facebook Post

The Summary

A Good Girls Guide to Murder meets Hitchcock in this novel from celebrated author Gretchen McNeil. A mundane office job takes a dark turn when a girl witnesses a double murder through the window.

Being an actress, Kate is no stranger to drama. And when her chance at a leading role gets cancelled, she is willing to do whatever it takes to get her acting career back on track even if that means getting a boring office job at her best friend's father's law firm so she can prove to her parents she can to support herself rather than go back to high school. Now, rather than living life on the big screen, she is stuck filing mundane contracts and watching the people in the office across from hers live their equally boring lives.

But when Kate sees things heat up between a woman and her assistant, her new source of entertainment take a turn for the worse when she witnesses a double murder. Now, she must get anyone to believe her and find out who this mystery woman is to get answers. But as she learns more and more about the circumstances leading to the gruesome act, she begins to realize there is a bigger mystery under the surface...

In this voyeuristic thriller filled with twists and turns, can Kate get anyone to believe her before she becomes the next victim?

My Review

A mix of contemporary and thriller, Three Drops of Blood is the latest book from author Gretchen McNeil.  YA thrillers are McNeil's bread and butter.  What makes Three Drops of Blood interesting is that it starts off reading as very much a contemporary YA.  This kind of threw me, as the cover jacket alludes to this being a thriller from the get.  

The story follows Kate, a teen actress trying to make her big break when things just go to the left.  Her co-star and the showrunner are caught in a scandal, causing the show to be cancelled.  This all leads to her parents firmly trying to squash Kate's dreams of being a full-time actor sans finishing high school or going to college.  They force her to prove to them she is capable of responsibility and making it on her own, so Kate ends up working at her best friend's father's law firm for the summer.  And that's where she witnesses something she never expected to, a woman being murdered in the office across the courtyard.

The pacing of this book is a little disjointed, as like I mentioned, the start reads just like a YA contemporary, chronicling Kate's acting journey and disagreements with her parents on her future.  As we are following Kate live her mundane life (not to say it isn't important), we get thrown into a fantastical story.  This both highlights the disjointed pacing, but also makes sense.  If a normal person witnessed a murder, it would surely fracture their lives. 

Kate tries to tell people, her parents, the police, etc. but no one believes her.  With it being a take on Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, that makes sense, otherwise we wouldn't have this junior sleuth opportunity for Kate. The thriller portion of the book is really what shines, as McNeil is great at crafting twists and anticipation.  I feel like if the life issues Kate experienced were cut a little so readers could get to the murder, this book would've been a solid 4 stars.

Overall, this is a fun, modern update to a classic thriller.  Kate proves herself to be a capable, smart, and strong lead.  While you have to suspend disbelief, I felt it was a fun world to sink into once Kate started her investigation.  McNeil proves herself to still be able to craft an engrossing thriller, and I would recommend this to fans of thrillers and mysteries.

Final Rating



KATE SAT AS STILL AS SHE COULD IN THE FAUX LEATHER ARMCHAIR, sweat pilling up on her forehead and chin beneath the intense heat of the two thousand-Watt open face Tungsten flood lights while Marielle,  her makeup artist, stood at her shoulder, powder brush poised and ready. 

Kate was used to these moments of forced stillness. After three months in production on the Dirty Pretty Teens series, she’d gone from acting novice to seasoned pro, and she’d learned to sit quietly between takes and let the professionals do their jobs. 

At first, she’d wondered why they couldn’t, like, turn off the damn lights so it wasn’t as infernally hot while the actors held in place, but since the rest of the cast—all television veterans—were unfazed by the uncomfortable heat, Kate kept her thoughts to herself. Eventually, she realized that the grips frequently scuttled around resetting and rearranging the entire lighting apparatus during brief interruptions as the A.D. and cinematographer tweaked their setup. These pauses in the action were only a pause for the actors. Everyone else was still in motion. 

But this hold was different. Instead of the usual flurry of movement, most of the crew was focused on a corner of the coffee shop set where the director and producers were huddled around a small playback screen. 

Even blonde, teen sensation Belle Masterson, the star of Dirty Pretty  Teens who rarely paid attention to anything that wasn’t directly related to Belle Masterson, was interested in this coterie. Sure she’d whipped out her phone the moment the director yelled “cut” and had pretended to swipe through screens to avoid human interaction, but though her chin was tucked down, her pale cheeks had flushed pink and her blue eyes were fixed on the production team. 

Or on Dex Pratt’s ass. 

Which was essentially the same thing. 

Kate was new to the entertainment industry, but she was pretty sure  that seventeen-year-old actresses throwing themselves at their married, thirty-eight-year-old show runners was frowned upon. Not that it stopped Belle. She took every opportunity to touch Dex—a hand on his arm, a  brush against his shoulder, a playful shove like prepubescent kids who were learning that even negative touching was still touching. When Belle wasn’t eliciting skin-to-skin contact with Dex, she was flirting with him  from afar with signals even Kate’s cataract-ridden great-aunt could have spotted from fifty paces. 

That girl was wild bananas. 

Marielle made her finishing touches on Kate’s nose, her eyes straying  to the brain trust in the corner. “They’d better made a decision soon. You’re going to pumpkin at the top of the hour.”

Kate wasn’t supposed to move when getting her face touched up, but she always smiled when someone on set used “pumpkin” as a verb. It meant she, as a minor, was about to hit the end of her work day when the director would lose her for the next twelve hours. She was the only official minor on the production—Belle Masterson had miraculously passed her California High School Proficiency Exam at sixteen which meant she could work on set as “legal eighteen” without fear of pumpkining—and working around Kate’s availability under California labor law was a huge concern for the production. Usually, everyone moved at lightning speed as Kate’s pumpkin hour approached. 

But not today. 

Marielle swept her long jumbo box braids behind one shoulder and stepped back to check her work. “All set.” 

“Thank you!” Kate said, smiling. Marielle had been a huge help to Kate throughout the production, especially the first week on set when she’d offered gentle nudges and suggestions when Kate had no idea what she was supposed to be doing. Kate was pretty sure she’d have been fired if not for the kindness of her makeup artist. 

The scene they’d just shot was a poignant reminder of Kate’s bewildering first day on set. She and Belle—or rather their characters Noelle and Piper—at a coffee shop, arguing over their romantic entanglements, a mirror image of the first scene they’d ever shot together. She and Belle had sat in those same sticky, slick chairs, morphing from near strangers to BFFs the second the cameras started to film. Kate recalled how desperately nervous she’d been sitting across the table from the former Disney Channel star in her form fitting body con mini dress while Kate’s size sixteen curves were camouflaged by an open plaid blazer that couldn’t have buttoned over her ample chest without popping a seam. Even with brand new highlights in her reddish-brown hair and Marielle’s contouring skills, Kate had felt like a double-wide trailer parked beside a Ducati, and she was positive someone would realize she wasn’t actually an actress and that casting her had been a horrific mistake. 

Kate kept trying to remind herself of how awesome this opportunity was—the role of Noelle in the Dirty Pretty Teens books was certainly not written as a plus size person, and how often did actresses who looked like Kate get to indulge in frothy, soapy roles like this? But instead of calming her down, Kate had only increased her stress, feeling the pressure of  representation. She’d been sick to her stomach with it and the only thing that had saved her were her dad’s parting words when he’d dropped her  off that morning: “All the world’s a stage, Katie-Bear,” he’d said in his deep, booming bass-baritone. “When in doubt, look to the Bard.” 

Usually, Kate rolled her eyes at her dad’s insistence that every situation in the entire universe from asking someone on a date to negotiating global disarmament treaties could be solved with a simple “look to the Bard,” as if Shakespeare was a soothsaying prophet like Nostradamus and his plays were merely blueprints for the centuries that followed. Mack Williams— Shakespearean scholar, former amateur actor, and adjunct professor of Jacobean literature—was biased, but that day, his advice had struck a chord with his daughter. As she’d sat nervously at her makeup station, frantically going through the upcoming scene in her head, she’d started to panic. She was dropping words, reciting her lines out of order, forgetting her blocking. What was her motivation? Why was her character doing any of this bullshit in the first place? None of it made sense. When in doubt, look to the Bard. 

Kate had focused on her character Noelle Wagner, spunky best friend of Belle’s Piper Payne. Noelle was trustworthy and brave, though she harbored a secret crush on Piper’s on-again off-again boy toy Sebastian who had once asked Noelle out before falling for Piper. Meanwhile, Wyatt, the guy Piper really wanted, was pretending to be interested in Noelle in order to make Piper jealous, driving a wedge between the two friends that fueled most of the series’ plot points. It was a ridiculous and convoluted soap opera, and Kate was thankful that she’d never read the young adult novels on which the series was based because there was no way she’d have been able to keep a straight face at the audition if she’d known what was coming. 

Still, convoluted or not, the story lines were reminiscent of the four Athenian lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Piper, Sebastian, Wyatt, and Noelle were easily juxtaposed onto Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander,  and Helena. 

Helena, whose boyfriend falls in love with her best friend. Helena, who sees her best friend turn on her after the gods make both of the men lust after her. 

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, 
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. 

In an instant, years of Kate’s dad drilling Shakespeare into her unexpectedly paid off as the entire role of Noelle had come into focus. What she wanted, why she wanted it. For the first time since Kate had been cast, it all made sense. 

Maybe Shakespeare really was a prophet? 


Time and again over the past few months, Kate had returned to  Helena and A Midsummer Night’s Dream when she felt lost. Even now,  on the last day of shooting, in this final scene, a pivotal confrontation between best friends, Helena was a beacon. 

Is all the counsel that we two have shared, 
The sisters’ vows, the hours that we have spent
When we have chid the hasty-footed time 
For parting us? Oh, is all forgot? 

“Act three, scene two,” she said under her breath. 

“What?” Belle turned to her sharply, eyes narrowed, as if she’d caught Kate talking shit behind her back. 

“Oh, um, nothing.” 

“Did you say something about my acting?” 

Not everything is about you. “I was quoting Shakespeare.” “Why?” 

As someone who didn’t care how the sausage was made, the word “why” never came out of Belle’s mouth. Kate was momentarily thrown. Most of their interactions had been Belle monologuing about herself or giving unsolicited advice to her co-star, neither of which required much of a response. Which was fine. When Kate wasn’t sure how to respond,  she usually stayed quiet, and that seemed to be what Belle wanted most of the time anyway. 

Now Belle was looking at her intently, eyes pinched with suspicion, waiting for an answer. 

“I just...I use Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as inspiration for Noelle.” She paused, wondering why she felt the need to explain herself, but couldn’t stop talking. “My dad says you can solve almost any problem by looking to the Bard.” 

It sounded super corny when she said it out loud. 

Belle was silent for a moment, eyes still locked on Kate. “Hot or not?” “Shakespeare?” 

“The chick. Helen.” 

Belle’s priorities were so out of whack. “I guess Helena’s hot?” “You guess.” Belle dropped her phone to her lap, suddenly interested. “And who am I?”

That was a loaded question, but Kate decided to stick with Shakespeare. “I suppose that makes you Hermia.” 

“Awful name,” Belle said, wrinkling her upper lip. “Is she hot?” Kate needed to extricate herself from this conversation before her brain exploded. “Well, she has two different guys in love with her at the beginning of the play.” 

Belle gasped. “That sounds just like me!” Then she picked up her phone and went back to watching Dex while pretending to swipe. And I have to shoot a whole second season with her...
Movement and raised voices from the corner of the coffee shop forced everyone to attention. Dex shook hands with the A.D. then slapped the director on the back before turning around to address the entire room. He smiled broadly, an unfamiliar expression and one that made his overly tanned face seem more cheerful than shrewd. For half a second, Kate got what Belle saw in him. He was handsome—sure, like, whatever. This was L.A. Everyone was hot. And Dex’s brand of hot was “white frat boy” laced with a privileged douchebaggery which negated the hotness. But his authoritarian power on the set was, at the very least, arresting, and paired  with a cheerful smile, Kate kinda sorta understood the appeal. 

Except, no, ew. He was, like, almost as old as her dad. 

“Well—” Dex began, then paused dramatically, stretching his arms wide, holding everyone’s attention in his embrace. “That’s a wrap on season one!” 

Belle bolted to her feet, rapidly clapping her dainty hands like a mad pair of hummingbird wings, and let out a high-pitched cheer. It was the signal to celebrate, and the rest of the crew hugged and high-fived on a job well done. 

Dex made his way through a shallow sea of assistants and technicians, shaking hands and slapping people on their backs as if they were all his close, personal friends. He caught Kate’s eye and made a beeline for her. “Excellent job, Kate,” he said, flashing that Hollywood smile—dazzlingly white teeth against overly tanned skin. 

“Thank you.” 

He opened his arms, inviting a hug. “Bring it in.” 

That’s a first. Dex usually kept his cast at arm’s length, which was fine because Kate wasn’t exactly the touchy-feely type, and as he squeezed her shoulders, she felt her body tense. 

“I, uh, can’t believe it’s over,” she said awkwardly. 

“Only season one!” Dex lingered, holding Kate in place long after  she’d have been comfortable pulling away. “I get the pleasure of seeing you again in just a few months.” 

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Belle snarl. 

Dex tugged on her shoulders, pulling her body into his. A fatherly gesture, but Kate didn’t love how her double d’s smushed into his abs. “I’m so glad your friend dragged you to that audition.” 

“Uh, me too.” 

“So. Glad.” He tightened his embrace with each word, his arm dropping from her shoulders to her waist. 

Kate tried to express “I’m stuck here against my will” with just her face, but Belle was all daggers as she rounded the small table that buffered  Kate from her rage. 

“Are you done?” Belle practically spit out the words. 

Kate wasn’t sure if they were meant for Dex or herself, but Dex took  his time releasing Kate from the forced embrace, slowly letting his arms fall away. She scampered aside, smoothing down the lines of her shirt.  “Thanks, Mr. Pratt,” she said, intentionally formal. “I appreciate all of  your guidance.”

Belle stepped between them, honed on Kate like a cheetah on a wildebeest. “I’m sure you do.” 

“You’re very welcome,” Dex said, ignoring the starlet’s jealousy. “See you at the wrap party tomorrow, yes?” 

“Of course.” Suddenly, the Dirty Pretty Teens wrap party was the last place on the planet Kate wanted to be, but she couldn’t no show. She’d promised to take Rowan as her plus one and her best friend would never forgive her if she backed out. “See you then.” 

Dex opened his mouth to respond, but Belle tugged on his arm, shutting him up. Kate headed for her trailer, her actor’s high from shooting the final scene of the season dimming as she struggled with the weirdness of her encounter with Dex and Belle. 

She ventured a glance back at them as she slipped through the door into the tepid February sunshine. Belle was still pouting, hands crossed over her chest like a toddler on the brink of a meltdown. Dex leaned down, whispering, his lips close to her ear. Then just as he was about to pull away, Dex paused. 

And Kate thought she saw him plant a kiss on the arch of Belle’s porcelain neck.

About the Author

About the Author:
Gretchen McNeil is the author of #MurderTrending, #MurderFunding, #NoEscape, I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Possess, 3:59, Relic, and Ten, which was adapted as the Lifetime original movie Ten: Murder Island in 2017, as well as Get Even and Get Dirty, adapted as the series "Get Even" which is currently streaming worldwide on BBC iPlayer and Netflix.  You can find her online at www.GretchenMcNeil.com, on Instagram @Gretchen_McNeil, and on Twitter @GretchenMcNeil.

1 winner will receive a finished copy of THREE DROPS OF BLOOD, US Only.

Ends April 7th, midnight EST.




I am thrilled to be hosting a spotlight stop on the There Goes the Neighborhood by Jade Adia Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post for an excerpt, and make sure to enter the giveaway! 

Book Information

Title: There Goes the Neighborhood
Authors(s): Jade Adia
Publication Date: March 7, 2023
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook; 432 pgs
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
SourceRockstar Book Tours
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for a spotlight stop.  Any future reviews contain my own thoughts and opinions.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule

Week One
3/1/2023 - #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog - Excerpt/IG Post
3/2/2023 - YA Books Central - Excerpt/IG Post
3/3/2023 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt/IG Post
3/4/2023 - Two Chicks on Books - Excerpt/IG Post

Week Two
3/5/2023 - A Dream Within A Dream - Excerpt
3/6/2023 - @ugcbyabby - IG Review/TikTok Post
3/7/2023 - Kim"s Book Reviews and Writing Aha's - Review/IG Post
3/8/2023 - Lifestyle of Me - Review 
3/9/2023 - Lisa Loves Literature - Review/IG Post
3/10/2023 - gsreadingspree - IG Review
3/11/2023 - Emily Ashlyn - IG Review/Facebook Post

Week Three
3/12/2023 - Brandi Danielle Davis - IG Review/TikTok Post
3/13/2023 - onemused - IG Spotlight
3/14/2023 - Eli to the nth - Excerpt
3/15/2023 - Review Thick And Thin - Review/IG Post
3/16/2023 - A Blue Box Full of Books - IG Review/LFL Drop Pic
3/17/2023 - Author Z. Knight's Guild - Review 
3/18/2023 - travelersguidetobooks - IG Review

Week Four
3/19/2023 - Country Mamas With Kids - Review/IG Post
3/20/2023 - @froggyreadteach - IG Review
3/21/2023 - OneMoreExclamation - Review/IG Post
3/22/2023 - @carlysunshinebooks - IG Review/LFL Drop Pic
3/23/2023 - The Litt Librarian - Review/IG Post
3/24/2023 - I'm Into Books - Excerpt
3/25/2023 - popthebutterfly - Review/IG Post

Week Five
3/26/2023 - Cara North - Review/IG Post
3/27/2023 - Two Points of Interest - Review
3/28/2023 - @evergirl200 - IG Review
3/29/2023 - @drew_ambitious_reading - IG Review/TikTok Post
3/30/2023 - More Books Please blog - Review/IG Post
3/31/2023 - Books with Brandie Shanae - YouTube Review/IG Post

The Summary

A raised fist against the destructive forces of gentrification and a love letter to communities of color everywhere, Jade Adia's unforgettable debut tells the darkly hilarious story of three best friends willing to do whatever it takes to stay together.

The gang is fake, but the fear is real.

Rhea’s neighborhood is fading away―the mom-and-pop shops of her childhood forced out to make space for an artisanal kombucha brewery here, a hot yoga studio there. And everywhere, the feeling that this place is no longer meant for her. Because while their little corner of South L.A. isn’t perfect, to Rhea and her two best friends, it’s something even more important―it’s home. And it’s worth protecting.

But as more white people flock to their latest edgy, urban paradise for its cheap rent and sparkling new Whole Foods, more of Rhea’s friends and family are pushed out. Until Rhea decides it’s time to push back. Armed with their cellphones and a bag of firecrackers, the friends manipulate social media to create the illusion of gang violence in their neighborhood. All Rhea wanted to do was protect her community. Her friends. Herself. No one was supposed to get hurt. No one was supposed to die.

But is anyone ever really safe when you’re fighting power with fear?


"Equally strong in its magnetic messiness and potent candor, the novel plunges into discussions of youth activism, capitalism-fueled displacement, and racism’s myriad forms with fierce vision and conviction. A robust cast of characters diverse across various dimensions gives voice to contemporary perspectives on community-oriented social justice and performative wokeness . . . this one’s a much-needed read. Plain terrific."--Kirkus Reviews

"In this riveting portrait of community care, debut author Adia paints the pain, danger, and consequences of gentrification with visceral clarity, highlighting changes such as displacement and fractured families via Rhea’s biting and witty voice and her unwavering loyalty to her hometown."--Publishers Weekly


PART one

“Swear to god if this happens again, I’m gunna scream.” I pull  my forehead back from the glass and use my fist to wipe away  the condensation. 

“Yeah, I’ll walk straight to the mayor’s mansion, and he  better be ready to catch these hands,” Zeke says. He forms  two fists and throws a couple of fake punches in the air. 

Malachi laughs, gripping the number on his classic Kobe  jersey. “Bruh, you’re not gunna fight anyone.” 

This much is obvious to me and anyone who knows Zeke.  The boy once told me that he could never imagine himself fighting someone, unless it was in space and he had a  lightsaber. 

“Okay, fine,” Zeke relents. “But I will send a strongly  worded email. And write a bad Yelp review.” 

“I don’t think you can write Yelp reviews for the City of Los  Angeles,” I mumble. It’s only July 1, but when I try to count  up the number of mom-and-pop shops to bite it this summer  alone, I give up after ten. Jugos Azteca was the last place in  the neighborhood where you could still get a giant thirty-two ounce Styrofoam cup of agua fresca at any hour for only $2. 

But now it’s gone too. 

The global spice mart was the first to go. Some corporate stooges bought it last year and turned it into a boutique  Pilates studio. And the Liquor Bank where we used to buy  sour belts and chile mango pops? That was shut down for a  health code violation, and now there’s an artisan coffee shop  where you can paint a ceramic mug while you wait. Last year,  someone took over the fish fry restaurant next to that, and  now there’s a goddamn taco shop run by a couple of white  boys, and their only salsa option is pico de gallo. Pico-de fucking-gallo. Not a bottle of Valentina or Yucateco in sight.  Not even any Tapatio or weak-ass Cholula. We went there  once to see what the deal was, but between the three of us, we only had enough cash for one taco to split. When the corny  dude brought it over to us, we asked for hot sauce and he  gave us SRIRACHA. Fuck outta here with that ketchup shit.  That would never have happened back in the day. 

So yeah, things in South LA are changing, to say the least. “We could walk on Western Avenue until we find the elote  guy?” I suggest, more so as an excuse to get as far away as  possible from this depressing-ass empty storefront than out  of an actual craving for street corn. 

“Rhea, it’s too hot to walk. Like Mad Max slash Dune slash  that Star Trek episode when Kirk fights that desert lizard  level hot.” Zeke uses the seam of his graphic tee to wipe a  line of sweat from underneath his sheepdog haircut. 

“Well, unless you magically learn to drive, I don’t know  what our other option is,” I say. I’m usually the one good for  thinking of the plan for the day, but between the heat and yet  another spot biting the dust, I got nothing. 

“When I get my permit, I’ll be charging y’all for rides,”  Malachi says proudly.

“Boy, please.” I bop the back of his head. “As if you can  even buy a car.” At fifteen, the three of us can barely afford  snacks, let alone a whole-ass vehicle. 

The sun kicks it up a notch. Trippy waves of gas rising  from the steaming concrete do a little dance for me before  melting away. Across the street, something catches my eye. If  this looks like what I think it does . . . I fight the urge to gag. 

“Wait, guys, hold up,” I say, holding a hand above my eyes  to block out the sun. 

For the past six months, the city’s been building this high speed Metro rail to slice through our neighborhood. The construction site is almost always empty, but today, it looks like  there’s a “special” new addition. 

Cars honk as I dodge traffic, but I couldn’t care less. When  I hit the other side of the street, I lace my fingers around the  wire of the chain link fence to get a better look. You’ve got to be kidding me. 

Zeke catches up and puts on his CNN newscaster voice to  read the brand-new billboard staring at us. “Kofa Park: Los  Angeles’s Newest Up-and-Coming Hot Spot!” 

I roll my eyes. “Gimme your backpack,” I say to Malachi. “Why?” He pulls the straps of his space-themed JanSport  close to his chest. 

“You don’t trust me?” 

“Hell no!” He backs away all dramatic at first, but there’s a  faint trace of a smile beneath it all. I lunge forward to snatch  it but miss. He laughs and tosses me the backpack. 

I snag a Sharpie from the front pocket. “Watch out for a  security guard, aight?” I dig the rubber toes of my Converse  into the gaps of the fence and climb over. My shoes hit the  concrete with a sting.

The marker squeaks as I rub its felt tip against the  Plexiglas. The future train stop shelter has two side panels, so I hit those real quick before focusing on the backside,  which is the most important because this is what faces the  street. 

This is the shit that people see. 

We’ve had bullshit billboards like this popping up all over  South LA for the past couple of years, so normally I wouldn’t  have even noticed. But something about this particular one  caught my eye: All the people in the ads are white. 

Well, at least they were until a minute ago.
I use the brown Sharpie to fill in one last face. 

The guys hop the fence to join me on the forbidden side.  Malachi with his long legs does so much easier than Zeke,  who sort of half scrambles, half falls his way over. 

The hood of the train stop structure casts a thin strip of  futile shade covering only half of the metal bench, which by  now has already absorbed hours’ worth of summer heat, so  it’s way too hot to sit on. But that doesn’t stop Zeke from trying. Twice. 

“Rheaaaa,” Zeke complains to me after burning his ass  once again. He rubs the seat of his jeans. “Can you just let  this go?” 

“No.” As a Black girl, I know how shit works: we’re either  hypervisible or invisible. I’m not gonna pretend that I personally don’t fall in that second category, but I don’t need a  goddamn billboard rubbing it in my face. Let alone erasing  the entire hood into obscurity along with me. 

My hand cramps and I accidentally color outside of  the line.

“I’m too young and too cute to get a rap for breaking and  entering,” Zeke complains. 

On the other side of the fence, a white twentysomething  woman with a cat on a bedazzled leash crosses the street to  avoid walking past us. She clutches her phone all dramatic,  the panic button locked and loaded as if we’ve been lurking  here waiting to mug her. She avoids my eye contact as I stare  her down. 

Apparently, we don’t look very young to her. 

I ignore Zeke and keep coloring. He groans and grabs  the cluster of neon-yellow caution tape from the floor, walking over to Malachi. Even while leaning against the fence,  Malachi towers over Zeke, so Zeke has to rise up on his toes  to wrap the “Do Not Enter” tape around Malachi’s neck. Zeke  arranges the makeshift boa and smiles. “You look fabulous.” 

“Y’all play too much,” Malachi says, hiding a smirk. He  adjusts the caution tape scarf and takes the wave brush from  the back pocket of his jeans, compulsively rubbing it across  his head, fresh from the barber with a new fade. The new cut  works for him. A little too well. I’ve seen the way that other  girls have started to look at him this summer. He’s all height,  glowing brown skin, and perfect teeth since the braces came  off. Not like that’s any of my business—how other girls look  at him, I mean. As his oldest friend, I try not to notice the  changes. Plus, it’s not like I’ve glowed up in any way to match. 

Zeke, Malachi, and I have been best friends since Pampers.  Our moms became tight when they’d volunteer at our day  care together. As we got older, that turned into waiting for us  at the bus stop after school, which was always late because  we’d mess with the driver so much that he’d have to pull over  to yell at us to stay in our seats and shit. So our moms had 
plenty of time to bond and gossip about the other parents.  Eventually, the three of us became accustomed to impromptu  playdates on the patch of grass at the street corner while our  moms kept raising their gelled nails at us, telling us to chill  out for “five more minutes.” And let me tell you, when Black  and Latina moms get into full-on chisme mode, you know  for damn sure that they ain’t gonna be just “five minutes.”  

So, Zeke, Malachi, and I leaned into our crew. We gradually  transitioned from school friends, to bus friends, to friends friends. 

These days, my mom doesn’t hang out with the others anymore. Or anyone, really, except her newest husband.  Even I didn’t make the cut. So Zeke and Malachi aren’t just  my best friends, they’re my tethers—the ones who keep me  from feeling like I could drift away at any moment without  anyone noticing, the ones who make me feel at home in the  world. Not like I’d ever straight up tell Zeke’s sentimental ass  or Malachi’s smug self how much they mean to me, but what ever, they know. And the fact that they ride-or-die so hard  with me, hopping a fence to watch my back, no questions  asked, means it’s mutual. 

“Incoming security guard.” Malachi tilts forward like he’s  ready to bolt. Little diamond-shaped impressions run down  his spine where he had been leaning against the fence. “You  done yet?” 

“Nah, hold on.” The guys hover over my shoulders, but I  cover my work. “I said I’m not done yet.” 

Malachi sucks his teeth. “C’mon, let us see.” 

“It’s not finished.” 

“Sis, relax,” Zeke says. He swats away my hand and takes  a sharp inhale.

Malachi doubles over in laughter. “They look like they’re in blackface!” 

“No, they don’t!” I protest. I take a step back but realize  that they low-key do. 

Not my best work. 

“This somehow feels even more racist than the original ad,”  Zeke cackles. 

“Ay, yo, STOP!” On the opposite side of the track, a skinny  security guard pulls up on some bootleg Mall Cop bullshit.  He leans over the handlebars of his bicycle, but his helmet is  slightly too big, so it sags to the side, making him look even  younger than he is. I recognize him because he works the  night shift at Wing Stop. It’s probably just in my head, but  swear to god, I can smell the lemon pepper seasoning lingering on his uniform from over here. 

“The penalties for a conviction of misdemeanor graffiti are  up to 364 days in county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both,” the  guard shouts, tryna make his voice big. The dark skin of his  chicken legs glisten with sweat and cocoa butter. 

“And what’s the penalty for rockin’ shorts that tight on a Wednesday afternoon?” Malachi clowns as he hops the fence  back to the street. I take the moment of distraction to add my  final touch: I scratch out the “newest up-and-coming” part of  the ad. 

“You know what?” The skinny guard whips out his busted  Android with a screen crack deeper than the San Andreas  fault. “Names and addresses! I got y’all on tape!” 

With that, Zeke and I catapult ourselves over the fence.  I kick out a kink in my leg from the fall as we watch the goofy Mall Cop nigga round the corner, pedaling straight  toward us.

Malachi’s big brown eyes go wide as he claps in my face.  “Yo, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” 

We sprint by the men in suits who hand out copies of the  local paper every afternoon and the mural of the dark woman  whose afro holds a spaceship above the words “Free Your  Mind.” A group of girls, maybe four or five years younger than  us, Double Dutch in the empty parking lot where a woman selling tamales laughs with a customer who hangs out of their  car window, delicately grasping a plastic bag steaming from  the heat of the corn husks. I can smell the masa even after  we dip into the alley, leaping over empty boxes of backwoods  and lost wads of braiding hair from the salon above the black and-gray-style tattoo parlor. 

Our sprint slows to a jog, which slows to a walk. We  emerge on the other end and lose the guard at last. “Your bad attitude is gunna screw us all over,” Malachi  says between deep gasps for breath. “I’m cutting off your  Sharpie supply, Rhea.” 

Recently, there’s been something about the way he says  my name that makes my stomach do a slow somersault. I  clock the feeling but push it aside. “Whatever, bighead,” I  reply, knocking my sandal against his Jordans, but being  careful not to scuff them up. 

The heat catches up to us, so we practically crawl the final two blocks to Zeke’s apartment, which is where we hang most  of the time because his mom, Lupe, keeps the fridge stocked  with hella snacks. Within minutes of piling inside, the three  of us are arguing over who gets the last cheese-and-loroco pupusa when Lupe comes in. 

She’s crying. 

“Ma?” Zeke asks softly, relinquishing the tiny bowl of curtido that he had been threatening to withhold if we didn’t share  with him. 

“Can you get this out of the way, please?” she asks me,  pointing at a chair that we had knocked over earlier. I stand  and move it to its proper place at the table so that she can move her wheelchair around our mess. We all stare at the  open envelope and crinkled letter lying facedown in her lap, but none of us dare to ask about it. She shuts her bedroom  door gently and Zeke sinks back down onto the carpet. “What do you think that’s about?” Zeke asks, clenching his hands together. 

“I don’t know.” I tread carefully, because Zeke’s one of  those real sensitive, empathetic guys.

He’s the type who’ll get  choked up by those corny commercials where someone earns  their degree from an online university and their kids try on  the graduation cap. When things get dark for real, he can  fall apart easily. I never really cry on my own, but with Zeke,  his tears are annoyingly infectious. Once he gets started, it’s  Game Over for me—straight kryptonite.
Unlike Zeke, though,  I’d rather keep the feels to a minimum, so I throw myself into  ‘Operation: Zeke Cry Prevention’ at all costs. 

“Do you think it’s health stuff?” Malachi asks cautiously.  Zeke’s mom has been some type of sick for practically our  entire lives. A few years ago, though, her nervous system  stopped working well, which made it hard for her to walk,  until eventually, she couldn’t walk at all. The doctors never  figured out exactly what happened, but she’s been able to  manage with the chair and hasn’t been to the hospital in over  a year. 

Lupe has one of those wild, uninhibited laughs that makes  it easy to forget that she’s often in pain.

“Nah, man. She was at the doctor last week and everything was chill. They spent most of the appointment talking  about how the doc’s bratty son ruined his niece’s quince photo  shoot.”
“How’d he ruin the photo shoot?” Malachi asks. I flick the  side of his head to remind him to focus on the actual issue  at hand. 

From behind her closed door, Lupe calls out to us. “Why  don’t you all go to Malachi’s house? I need a bit of space to  work this afternoon.” Lupe is the part-time billing manager  for a semiretired dentist, so she’s always contacting some one’s insurance or returning a patient’s phone call. 

“Sure, no problem,” we reply in unison, though the chorus  of our voices comes out more apprehensive than eager. Malachi and I get up, but Zeke’s still glued to the floor.  I reach out my hand. “Just give her a minute, it’s probably  nothing,” I whisper. He grabs my wrist and I pull him up,  careful not to knock over the collection of porcelain crosses  on the bookshelf behind me. 

Zeke locks the door behind us as Malachi and I attempt  to see who can jump high enough to touch the hallway ceiling. I’m centimeters away from swiping the stucco above our  heads when a familiar voice yells at us from down the hall. 

“Cut that shit out!” 

“Not this asshole again,” Malachi murmurs. 

Right on cue, Vic comes waddling down the hall. He’s one  of those short, pudgy white dudes who’s thicc with lower body curves honestly not unlike my grandma. 

“Here comes the Evil Landlord and his signature body odor  fragrance . . .” I say to the guys. We cackle, which only makes  Vic more pissed.

“Hahaha laugh all you want, cretins. In thirty days, I’ll be  the one laughing.” He haphazardly waves a scroll of paper at  our faces like a fire extinguisher. “I’ll never have to see you  three spilling Arizonas and stomping all over my units ever  again.” 

“’Cause you’re gunna kill us?” I chime in with a devious grin. 

“As much pleasure as that would give me, no. I won’t have  to. Didn’t you hear the news?” He runs his french-fry-grease soaked hands across his mouth and nods at Zeke. “Acne ridden wannabe Carlos Vives over here is moving.” Vic makes  his pale fingers into the shape of a gun and pretends to fire it at Zeke’s chest. 

“What are you talking about? We’re not moving,” Zeke  pipes back. 

Oil mixed with sweat glistens above the self-satisfied grin smeared across Vic’s face. “Oh yeah? So, you’re saying that you  personally have the money to afford the sixty percent increase  in rent then?” A fly buzzes through the hallway, filling the  silence that falls between us. Vic moves to swat it. He misses. 

Look, I don’t know how much the rent is, but I got an A in  math last year—a 60 percent increase is no joke. “You see this?” Vic theatrically unrolls the scroll that he’s  been wielding and reveals a set of blueprints. “The shithole that you’re standing in now—which was run into the ground by all of your people—will soon be renovated. Out with the old tenants, and in with the new ones.” I’ve seen enough changes  on the block recently to know what he means. Read: millennials with tech jobs and hipsters with trust funds. “And this  apartment complex”—he knocks on the wall—“is going to  house them.”

“You can’t do that!” Zeke shouts. His voice cracks in a  way that under different circumstances would have been fair  game for ridicule. “We’re under rent control.” 

“News flash: the rent control ordinance expired, kiddo.  And I’ve already got an investor lined up. We’re expected to  close the deal by the end of the month. Now, if you’ll excuse  me.” Vic pushes past a stunned Zeke to start taping notices of  eviction to each of the doors. 

Nuh-uh, fuck that. First they close our shops, now they’re  full-on tryna displace us? I throw my arm in front of the door  that Vic is preparing to plaster. “Do you really think you can  get away with this?” The rage that’s been building inside of  me all afternoon, all summer, pops off. I knock the stack of  eviction notices from his grimy hand. “Well, go ahead. Try it.  I fucking dare you.” I get all up in Vic’s space, so close that I  can feel his soggy fast-food breath soak the air between us.  I lower my voice to a cold whisper. “Because guess what?  When all this shit passes, we’ll be the ones left standing . . .  not you.” 

His beady eyes narrow. “Is that a threat?” 

I cross my arms. “It’s the truth.” 

Vic sneers and gathers the papers from the floor. “Thirty  days. That’s all you got.” 

“Is that a challenge?” I clap back. 

I stare Vic down and he stares right back. No matter where Zeke moves, there’s no way he’d stay nearby—not with  prices surging across the city. He could end up all the way out  in the valley or even the Inland Empire, both of which are far  as hell. Moving out there is practically like going out of state— we’d never see Zeke. 

I break away to look over at Zeke, who’s glued to his door, mist gathering over his eyes. I grab his wrist and pull him  down the hallway with Malachi while the ghost of Vic’s sick  laughter bounces off the concrete walls against our backs.  

“Change is inevitable, kids. Better get used to it now.” The door slams and we’re left standing outside, looking in. “To Live and Die in LA . . .” Zeke says, eyes red. “That was  the plan.” 

I clench my fists until the knuckles crack. Our crew is not  falling apart. Not like this, not on my watch, not ever. We have to stop him. 

“It still is.”

About the Author

About the Author
Born and raised in South LA, Jade Adia writes stories about gentrification, Black teen joy, and the sh*tshow that is capitalism.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Ethnicity, Race & Migration, and a certificate in Human Rights. She recently survived law school, graduating with a specialization in Critical Race Studies. There Goes the Neighborhood is her debut novel.

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