Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Girl in Pieces

"That's how hearts get broken, you know. When you believe in promises."
-Kathleen Glasgow, Girl in Pieces

Charlie uses pain in order to forget all of the people that she's lost over time. Her father, to the river. Her best friend. Your mother. Each loss pushes Charlie further to the edge, so she learns how to forget. But as she starts to heal from her trauma, forgetting might push her back to where she began.

This is another book that I listened to on audio, and I think the story worked beautifully in that format. The narrator of the audiobook, Julia Whelan, gives a unique voice to Charlie, while still giving unique voices to the other characters. The subject matter didn't make this the easier book to listen to, but it was still beautiful.

Cutting is a topic that is often covered in young adult literature, but this book felt the most realistic to me (of the ones that I've read). Glasgow has crafted realistic, flawed characters struggling through the act of recovery, struggling through their triggers. This is an important book for many teens to read because of how carefully Glasgow tackles the issue of mental illness, and how realistic it truly is for a lot of the teen population.

The author's note at the end of the book makes the book all the more personal, offering support to girls that may be in the same position. Though this book isn't plot heavy, the characters aptly make up for it. Each character has their own challenges to overcome, but they're not defined by their mental illnesses, which is so important for the book's readers. 

The combination of the characters and the delicacy with which the issues are tackled makes this one of the better young adult books on mental illness. I'd recommend also picking it up on audiobook, if you can. It's definitely worth a listen!

4.5/5 stars

Review: They Both Die at the End

"No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end."
-Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End

Both Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio receive a call from Death-Cast that tells them they're going to die today. They both download the Last Friend app, desperate for a friend on their last day. Together, they're able to conquer their fears and pack a bunch of new adventures into their last day on Earth.

Death was a theme in the books I read this summer, apparently. Adam Silvera is currently the king of writing emotionally devastating books, because every single book he's written makes you feel. He has a way of writing this book that gives you hope that maybe Mateo and Rufus will find a way to defy the Death-Cast call even though you know that that's probably not the case. This is an Adam Silvera book, after all. You often end the book with a lot of different emotions.

The characters in this book are so relatable and well-developed, with characteristics that I think many teens will be drawn to. What's interesting about this book, and connected it to More Happy Than Not, was that we get no explanation as to how we get this technology that predicts death, it's just there. And while that might be frustrating and confusing to some people, I think Silvera's writing allows us to just accept that there's this new technology, and new vocabulary, which allows us to focus on the characters and the story.

Adam Silvera's books are so emotionally driven, and I'll definitely keep reading everything that he puts out. None of his books have disappointed me so far, and I hope that continues to be the case in the future. A beautifully written story about living life to the fullest.

5/5 stars

Review: Scythe

"Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator." 
-Neal Shusterman, Scythe

Humanity has cured every illness--including death. In order to continue to control the population, scythes are the only ones who can bring about death. The wield the most power in this new society, mimicking the nature of death in the best way they can. Rowan and Citra have been chosen to apprentice a scythe, a role that neither of them actually wanted. The apprenticeship quickly turns into a deadly competition, with both of their lives on the line.

The premise of this book was absolutely fascinating, and Shusterman did not disappoint with the plot. The plot took a different turn than I was expecting, and the detail that was put into the entire scythe community was fantastic. Shusterman did everything possible to mimic natural death with the introduction of scythes, and shows very different perspectives on the position: ones that do it for the power, and ones that do it because no one else will.

The multiple perspectives also help in the building of this post-modern world. There's an interesting moral question that sets itself in center of the novel that builds throughout the text, presenting itself differently in each of the scythes that narrates the story. Both Rowan and Citra find themselves thrown into this complex community, navigating it the best they can.

The romance aspect of the story wasn't completely necessary, as the story would have still functioned just as well without it. I was addicted to the story right from the beginning, reading almost the entire book in one sitting. As a fan of young adult dystopia, this book was new and refreshing and I can't want to read the next book in the series. I think more of the "bad" will be expanded on as the corruption within the scythe society is slowly reveal. Definitely a series to keep your eye on!

4.5/5 stars

Review: Our Dark Duet

"I'm willing to walk in the darkness if it keeps the humans in the light." 
-Victoria Schwab, Our Dark Duet

The monsters have taken over Verity. Kate hasn't stopped fighting them--August has finally decided to become one of them. In order to win the fight against the monsters, Kate has to return to Verity once more. To fight the new monster, the monster that feeds on fear and chaos, both Kate and August have to forget the past and create an alliance. But will it be enough to pull Verity into the light?

Schwab doesn't disappoint in this second book of the Monsters of Verity duology. She somehow makes the tone darker and grittier in this book than the first book, with both Kate and August battling demons that threaten to overtake them. The world of Verity is dark and menacing, and crafted beautifully.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this series was that while there was definitely chemistry between Kate and August, it never evolved into a full-fledged relationship. It was mostly left to the reader's imagination, leaving Kate and August to fight the darkness of Verity together. Because the vast majority of young adult texts feature a romantic relationship of some sort, the lack of one in this story is a breath of fresh air. Not to mention each of their characters are beautifully constructed.

Overall, I'm glad that I received the first book, This Savage Song, in an Uppercase box. Schwab is not afraid to play with the emotions of her readers, gorgeously crafting a dark, twisty world, underscored by the light of hope. The plot is fast-paced, accented with new, unique monsters that haunt the night. If you're looking for a book that doesn't back down, this one is definitely for you.

5/5 stars

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: One of Us Is Lying

"Some people are too toxic to live. They just are."
-Karen M. McManus, One of Us Is Lying

Five unlikely students go into detention: Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Simon. Simon, the creator of the school's most popular gossip app, doesn't make it out alive. Word on the street is that the day after he died, he was going to post juicy secrets about each of his four fellow classmates in detention, secrets that would shatter each of their reputations. Their secrets make them suspects in his murder. Or are they being framed? As police dig more into Simon's death, one thing's for sure: who would go the furthest to protect their secret?

I listened to this book on audio, and I actually really enjoyed it in that format. There were four different speakers for each of the narrators, making it easy to tell who's story you were on. Listening to it on audio also helped to build the suspense--who really did it?

The suspense was built really well with the plot, intertwined with plot twists and red herrings that drew your attention away from who the real killer was. At the surface, the characters seem to be just portrayals of typical high school stereotypes: the nerd (Bronwyn), the popular girl (Addy), the bad boy (Nate), the jock (Cooper), and the outcast (Simon). But as we learn the secrets each character is hiding, we learn there's more to their story than meets the eye. McManus artfully reveals each of her characters while the suspense is unfolding.

McManus's book is a bit like a modern day Breakfast Club with a murder mystery thrown in. If you're a fan of the show Riverdale and are looking for a twisty, high school mystery, this is definitely the book for you.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review: Middlesex

Middlesex cover

"Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind."
-Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Calliope Stephanides has an intricate and complex family history, traveling from Mount Olympus in Greece to Detroit during the prohibition. The key to Calliope's identity is hidden deep within their family history, a secret that leads to a genetic defect that causes Calliope to question her own identity. Told in alternating narratives between the past and the present, readers get the full scope of Calliope's family history, and a deeper understanding of her transformation into Cal.

This is a book that has been on my to-read list for a long time, mostly because I've always been interested in gender analysis, and this book does fascinating things with gender. While it took me a bit to get into the story, once I started to see how everything was connected I couldn't put it down. The story was intricate and detailed, the family history finally unfolding into everything in the very end.

Not only was Calliope's/Cal's story extremely fascinating, but Eugenides is able to accurately capture the various time periods as well. They're described in immense detail, immersing the reader completely in the time period and the story. This is one of those books that makes you keep thinking once it's finished, and it is a wonderfully crafted piece of literature.

4.5/5 stars

Monday, October 23, 2017

Character Playlist: Alaska Young

Looking for Alaska Quote

Though I don't yet have my copy of John Green's new book, Turtles All the Way Down, I thought that this week, my playlist could honor one of my favorite books of his: Looking for Alaska. I think this book will always hold a special place in my heart. Thus, this week's playlist will be dedicated to Alaska Young.

"Flowers in Your Hair" by The Lumineers

"Believer" by Imagine Dragons

"About Today" by The National

"Lonesome Dreams" by Lord Huron

"The Mess" by the Naked and the Famous

"Youth" by Daughter

"Oblivion" by Bastille

"Ghosts That We Knew" by Mumford & Sons

"Kitchen Sink" by Twenty One Pilots

"Shake It Out" by Florence + the Machine

A playlist about living life and the tragedy of losing someone too soon. Moody and dark, just how I like my music.