Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: When She Woke

When She Woke Cover
"She'd crossed into a place where truth, even if it was brutal, was all she had to offer."
-Hillary Jordan, When She Woke

In a not-too-distant future, people who commit crimes are coded by color. In this new America, one of the worst crimes to commit is that of abortion. If you have an abortion, you are dyed red, and considered a murderer. Once you serve out your sentence in prison, you're forced into world, to survive as best you can in your newly acquired skin.

Hannah is a Red--she has been convicted of murder. As she lives out her sentence as a Red best she can, she's forced to re-consider the values she once held true, and navigate her way in a country that politicizes faith.

I originally picked up this book on my trip to London, downloading it on my phone because it sounded similar to The Handmaid's Tale, and I do quite love a good feminist dystopia. I loved the concept of this novel, because it presents a pretty realistic future, and was a somewhat different concept than what I had read before. The idea of chroming (or dying the skin of) people who had committed crimes was interesting, and I wish that the author had delved into more of this particular aspect of the society. We learn about Hannah as a Red, and a few of her other comrades when she's let out, but the colors are never clearly outlined. I feel that if they were, I would have had a better grasp of the society.

Despite the fantastic concept, an issue I had with the text was the pacing. It didn't quite feel even throughout the text, and there were definitely times where the plot slowed way down, almost to the point that it was difficult to keep reading. The ending felt a bit open to me, which I normally don't have a problem with, but in this instance, I felt like there was almost no resolution. It felt like it should lead to something more, like a sequel, but it doesn't seem like that will be happening.

All in all, this is a fascinating concept that I wish was done a bit more cleanly. But, if you're looking for a novel that will make you think about the way we treat criminals, and perhaps the direction our justice system might be going, the core concept is interesting enough that it should drive you through the slow parts of the plot.

3/5 stars

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: Things I Should Have Known

"It's like people have a place in their brain for normal, and they have a place in their brain for something obviously wrong, but they can't deal with something just a little bit different. And that makes them uncomfortable. And when people are uncomfortable, they act like jerks."
-Claire LaZebnik, Things I Should Have Known

Chloe knew that her sister was lonely, and the only way to cure her loneliness was to help her make some friends--maybe even set her up on a date. So, she tries to play matchmaker, setting up Ivy (who is on the autism spectrum) with another boy from her special needs class, Ethan. However, Ivy and Ethan refuse to go out on their own, forcing Chloe to interact with Ethan's brother, David. The four quickly form a bond, making Chloe rethink her own romantic choices and realize it's okay not to follow everyone else's expectations.

Portrayals of autistic characters in YA literature is pretty non-existent--in fact, besides this book, I can't think of a book that has an autistic character off the top of my head. The fact that this book exists does inspire hope for the future, though, and YA fiction is slowly starting to become more inclusive. But that doesn't mean that it still doesn't have a long way to go. 

LaZebnik's creates really realistic characters in her novel, and while it would be even more progressive to have the book narrated by the autistic character, she shows the lengths siblings will go to in order to make their own sisters or brothers feel safe. The character that most intrigued me was David, who had two totally different sides depending on the people he was dealing with. He felt incredibly real to me, and once we learn his backstory, 

There's also a twist in the story that adds even more diversity (one of the characters ends up being gay), and is done in a realistic way. Though stories that deal with this many challenges might become bogged down by the negative aspects of the situation, this story still remains funny, endearing, and hopeful, making it even more true to life. This book definitely deserves more hype than it originally got--and I hope more people are able to discover it.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: We Are Still Tornadoes

We Are Still Tornadoes Cover

"If you can't forgive someone you're close to for making a mistake, then why do apologies even exist?" -Michael Kun and Susan Mullen, We Are Still Tornadoes

As Cath gets ready to leave for college, she promises to stay in touch with her best friend, Scott, as she starts her new adventure. Meanwhile, Scott is trying to get his band off the ground while he stays home and works at his dad's store. Neither of them realize how difficult their first year outside of high school is going to be.

Through their letters, the two are able to support each other through annoying roommates, dumb family drama, and broken hearts; not to mention they have to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. As something more slowly grows between the two friends, are they sure that it's something they want to pursue?

I read this book a few months ago, finishing most of it on the train ride back to Chicago from Michigan. The letter format really helps to bring the characters to life, through their writing quirks, letter lengths, and gaps in writing. Some of the references they use throughout, especially music, help to place the reader more squarely in the time period (the 1980s).

The romance aspect of the book is slightly predictable, but that doesn't take away from the entertainment quality of the book itself. Readers who are fans of romance, especially young adult romance, will find this book endearing. Fans of writers like Sarah Dessen will definitely enjoy Kun and Mullen's writing.

3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: True Letters from a Fictional Life


"I've always wanted to wake up one day in a world where I liked the right people, and they liked me in return. I worry it'll never happen." --Kenneth Logan, True Letters from a Fictional Life

James Liddell's written and actual live are two very different things. To anyone who knows him, James is a well-rounded, well liked athlete, dating the equally well liked Theresa. But when he's alone, he tells a different story--he fills his drawers with letters to people that he never intends to send, about things that he could never say aloud. When these letters mysteriously start getting sent, he grows worried that everyone will find out his darkest secret: that he likes boys. Will James ever get to escape his life of fiction?

This book is much more lighthearted than most LGBTQ fiction that I've read, especially recently. I liked the concept of the story, as using fiction as an escape is a familiar notion for a fellow writer. James uses his letters to say things that he never thought he'd be able to say aloud--but, when they actually get out, they allow him to fully accept who he is.

Though he was the protagonist, James wasn't my favorite character in the book. At times, he felt a little flat to me, despite his vivid inner life shown through his writing. Some of the side characters, like James's love interest (the name is escaping me), I found to be more interesting, adding intrigue to the story.

Overall, I think this is a story that many teens will relate to, with heart-melting romantic moments that will please romance fans.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: The Female of the Species





"You see it in all animals - the female of the species is more deadly than the male." 
-Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species

When Alex's older sister, Anna, was murdered, Alex unleashed what she knows best: violence. She knows how to kill someone. And though she doesn't feel bad about it, as her crime goes unpunished, she quickly folds into the shadows, hiding from her fellow classmates.

At least, so she thinks. Jack and Peekay see her. Jack, the star athlete, the jock that everyone wants, in the running for valedictorian. But all Jack wants is to know Alex. Peekay is the preacher's daughter, which doesn't stop her from acting out once in a while. Peekay and Alex begin working together at the animal shelter, where Peekay sees Alex's protective nature.

Brought together through unlikely circumstances, Alex, Jack, and Peekay navigate the waters of their senior year. Until Alex's true nature breaks out at a party one night, sending the three on a path that's going to change their lives forever.

Though probably not for the squeamish or sensitive, this book is an absolutely important read. Mindy McGinnis exposes rape culture through the story of Alex and her desire to get revenge for her sister. Alex's character in particular points out the flaws of our society when it comes to dealing with rape, especially in the way that we help to perpetuate it with things like "boys will be boys," as Alex points out:

"But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll."

These kinds of statements punctuate the novel, forcing the reader to think about rape culture and gender and how they might contribute to that.

In addition to the morally grey center of the novel, McGinnis also creates realistically complex characters that aid in the exploration of important themes. Told in alternating perspectives from Alex, Jack, and Peekay, the reader gets a glimpse into each one of their characters, each one as complex as the next. The three main characters as supported by an almost equally complex supporting cast, expertly destroying the stereotype that teenagers can't be complex.

Overall, if you can get past some of the descriptions and violence against animals (which I'll admit was difficult for me), this is definitely a must-read. Add it to your TBR shelf immediately.

5/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts


"Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved."
-M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

Melanie is brought to a school room everyday at gunpoint, wheeled into a room with other kids that are just like her. They're all under heavy guard, strapped into their chairs, and surrounded by a constant chemical smell. But, they just might be the answer to saving humanity.

I think this book has been out long enough that this isn't a spoiler--Melanie is a zombie. A virus/fungus has taken over the Earth, turning everyone into zombies, and the base that Melanie lives at is one of the last strongholds of humans. At the military base, Dr. Caldwell is studying Melanie and the other children to find a cure for the virus. Because the novel is narrated by multiple points of view, the way morality and the survival of humanity is presented is fascinating.

This definitely isn't your typical zombie novel, and it isn't for the faint of heart. There were passages that I had to skip over because they were simply too graphic for me--and some of the science explanations went over my head. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book; the writing was sound and the world created was intricate and well-thought out.

Overall, in my knowledge and reading of dystopia, this one definitely rates at the top of the list!

4/5 stars

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: History Is All You Left Me

History Is All You Left Me Cover
"History is nothing. It can be recycled or thrown away completely. It isn't this sacred treasure chest I mistook it to be. We were something, but history isn't enough to keep something alive forever."
-Adam Silvera, History Is All You Left Me

Griffin doesn't know how to cope with his best friend and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dying in a tragic drowning accident. Though Griffin hasn't seen much of Theo since he moved to California for school and started dating Jackson, he believed that they would one day find their way back to each other. Now, that future has gone far off course and Griffin is quickly falling into a downward spiral. His obsessions are getting worse and he is lashing out at people that truly care. In order for Griffin to finally move passed Theo's death, he must confront their history and everything that's tearing him apart.

Adam Silvera has done it again. Though I didn't review it (apparently), More Happy Than Not was heartbreaking and beautiful and this book was no different. Silvera has a gift in writing raw teenage emotion, fully encompassing pain so well that it makes your heart hurt. The story feels effortless, and Silvera has created characters in Griffin, Theo, Jackson, and Wade that drive it forward, drawing you in deeper and deeper as you go. 

The complexity of the characters and the reality of their stories is what makes this novel, I think. Though none of the characters were particularly likable, with Wade as a possible exception, you still become invested in their stories and want them to turn out okay in the end. This is what makes them the most realistic, adding to the realism of the story as a whole.

All in all, this novel is absolutely heartbreaking, much like Silvera's other work as well. A bonus was the portrayal of OCD in the novel, which felt real to me and was something that Griffin always had to deal with. He couldn't just turn it on and off when he wanted, like is portrayed in some young adult literature. History Is All You Left Me feels real, which is essential for young adult literature.

P.S. What is with the theme of friends dying in young adult lit lately? I feel like I've read quite a few books like that recently, more so than usual. 

5/5 stars

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days Cover

"For the most part, you don't hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone."
-Goodbye Days, Jeff Zentner

Carver Briggs believes that he is the cause of the death of his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. He was the one who sent Mars the text that he was responding to when they got into a car accident, after all. And now Mars' father, a judge, is trying to pursue a criminal investigation against him. 

Through it all, Carver does have some allies: his sister, Eli's girlfriend, and even Blake's grandma, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her, honoring Blake's memory. Soon, the other families are asking to do the same, all in the hope of finding some peace within the tragedy of loss.

This is Jeff Zentner's second novel, and I am yet again blown away by his ability to write emotions. The Serpent King (which I read last fall, but apparently didn't write a review for) slowly sunk its claws into you and grabbed hold, one of those books where you keep thinking about it for days after. Goodbye Days was no different. You start in the middle of Carver's tragedy, attending the last of the three funerals for his best friends, and are taken along with Carver as he experiences his grief throughout the novel.

Zentner's writing also realistically encapsulates anxiety and mental illness, especially with his descriptions of panic attacks. The way he introduces Carver to therapy is also a positive experience: Carver is hesitant at first, not believing that therapy will help. As they continue sessions, Carver realizes how helpful therapy can be, perhaps helping readers who might also be hesitant to see how helpful it can be as well.

Overall, I know that anytime Zentner publishes anything new, I will read it ASAP. He's definitely one to watch.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star Cover
"We're kindling amid lightning strikes, a lit match and dry wood, fire danger signs and a forest waiting to be burned."
-Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star

Natasha is a scientist. She has always believed in facts and figures, not in fate and destiny. And definitely not in love. Especially when her family is about to be deported to Jamaica. Daniel is a poet and a dreamer, though he puts aside his desires in order to be the good son, the son that his parents are proud of. But all of that changes when he meets Natasha. The two meet one fateful day in New York City--will the universe allow them to be together?

I've never really been one to believe in fate, in destiny, in love at first sight. To me, it's always been something that exists in books, that people read about in order to escape the harshness of reality. But this book made me want to believe in the power of fate and destiny. Nicola Yoon has crafted an exquisitely beautiful story about human nature, about why things happen the way that they do. I found myself completely lost in the story, desperate to know whether Natasha and Daniel make it.

Yoon also uses the point of view of other characters that Natasha and Daniel interact with in order to give us a more complete version of the story. Not only do we get depth in the two main characters, but we get depth in the background characters, showing that humanity is more intertwined than we might originally think.

Not only does Yoon craft a romantic love story, she also addresses issues like race, immigration, and family expectations. It delves deeper than the romance, and that's part of what made me love it so much.

A beautifully romantic exploration of fate and destiny.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give Cover
"Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right." 
-Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

Starr Carter is situated between two different worlds: the prep school she attends and the poor neighborhood she lives in, overrun by gangs. The two worlds collide when Starr is the only witness of a police shooting in her neighborhood, killing her childhood best friend, Khalil. His death quickly becomes national news, and Starr must decide if she's going to stay in the sidelines or take a stand against the injustice.

This is probably one of the most important books that I've read so far this year, and will probably remain in that spot until the end of the year. Angie Thomas wrote this book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and it shows through every aspect of the novel. The injustice that seeps out of this book is an injustice that a lot of people live with every single day, and this novel (and the eventual movie) will help to bring it to light even more than before.

Thomas's prose is exquisitely written, making the reader feel like they are actually there, creating immersive scenes and crafting well-rounded characters that you become invested in the moment that you meet them. In an industry that has often been criticized for its lack of diversity, The Hate U Give shows that hopefully, the young adult literature realm is moving in the right direction.

As Thomas's debut novel, I think we can surely expect more great things from her as the future comes. I will absolutely recommend this to everyone, as I think it's an important glimpse into the way race works in our society.

5/5 stars

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review: At the Edge of the Universe

At the Edge of the Universe Cover

"You can choose to be happy with what life gives you...or spend your life miserable. I choose happiness. It’s really that simple."
-Shaun David Hutchinson, At the Edge of the Universe

Tommy and Ozzie have been basically inseparable since elementary school, always dreaming about their escape from their small town in Florida. Suddenly--Tommy disappears, and is erased from everyone's memories. Everyone's except Ozzie, that is.

When Ozzie is paired with Calvin for a science project, he thinks Calvin might know more about Tommy's disappearance than he's letting on. As the two begin to spend more time together, Ozzie can't deny that he's developing feelings for Calvin, even though he's adamant about still loving Tommy.  And since the universe is shrinking, Ozzie is running out of time to figure out what exactly what happened to Tommy--and where he wants to go with Calvin.

Ever since I read We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson has been on my radar. Though these are the only two books that I've read by him, he has a knack for creating rounded characters that completely immerse the reader in the story. Hutchinson does the same thing in At the Edge of the Universe. They're unique and diverse, and I became intimately involved in their lives.

Told from the point of view of Ozzie, readers are just as perplexed at things that keep disappearing as Ozzie is; things like the moon, stars, other parts of the United States. While I thought this was an interesting and unique way to tell the story, but the end of the book I felt slightly frustrated. I am one that enjoys open-ended books, but it felt like this one didn't have much resolution. Though I think this was intentional, as we're supposed to wonder what was real and what wasn't (much like We Are the Ants), I didn't think it was as well executed as his previous book. I was left wanting more resolution at the end of the novel.

Despite this flaw, the diversity and execution of the characters made up for the flaws of the plot.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: Holding Up the Universe

"We can't fight another person's battle, no matter how much we want to."
-Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout and Jack Masselin. No one takes the time to see past Libby's weight, and Jack puts up a facade that allows him to fit in, hiding his biggest secret: he can't recognize faces. After an incident at school, Libby and Jack become unlikely friends. They find that the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. 

Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places is one of my favorite young adult novels, so I was excited to finally get to read her latest novel. And I wasn't disappointed. Niven has a knack for creating complex characters that have more to them than meets the eye. Libby and Jack are both dealing with difficult things. However, it does represent a somewhat unfortunate trend in young adult literature that in order for the adolescent protagonists to feel accepted and wanted, they have to be in a romantic relationship. Nowadays, it's almost impossible to find a young adult novel in which the main characters do not end up together (except This Savage Song, which gets bonus points!).

Despite my annoyance at the romantic relationship, I really did enjoy this book overall, especially for the message that it sent: "You are wanted." Many teens need to hear that message, and I thought it was well done. Despite my views of it, this novel has apparently been getting a lot of bad press and reviews because some reviewers are saying that Niven uses her characters insecurities in order to create an angsty romance; that Libby doesn't wholly accept herself until she is with Jack. While yes, the romance aspect of the book wasn't necessarily my favorite, I don't think that this is the case. Libby stands up for herself when her and Jack aren't together, and I don't think she needs him to feel whole. 

Overall, the message of this book is powerful, but I do think it could have done without the romance. Not every novel needs to end in a relationship these days.

4/5 stars

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: The Great American Whatever

The Great American Whatever Cover

"That's actually the most confusing part about being alive without knowing the end of your own hero's journey. You never know if it's time to go home or head into battle. You never know if you've already faced your biggest monster." -Tim Federle, The Great American Whatever

Quinn Roberts has spent the last six months in hibernation; after the accident, he didn't think he could ever face the world again. Enter: Geoff. Quinn's best friend. One haircut later and Quinn is on his way to his first ever college party. Where he meets a guy. The week that follows has Quinn imagining all sorts of scenarios until he can finally take the reigns back and control his own life story.

This book was given to me by a friend for Christmas, and it was thoroughly enjoyable! Quinn's witty, sarcastic take on life shines through the text and hooks the reader right from the beginning. But it isn't pushed to the extent that Quinn feels fake--in fact, they almost make Quinn feel more real, using his sarcasm and humor to hide his true feelings. They make him more rounded, and they make the book difficult to put down.

None of the characters in this story are flat--they all have their quirks that together, create a cast of characters that you wish could be your friends. Federle is able to write with such an authentic teen voice that this book will be sure to remain in your thoughts long after you finish it.

For a YA debut, Federle has definitely hit it out of the park.

5/5 stars

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: This Savage Song

This Savage Song book cover
"He wasn't made of flesh and bone, or starlight. He was made of darkness." 
--Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song

In the city of Verity, violence has begun to breed monsters, monsters that lurk in the shadows. Kate Harker's father made a truce with the monsters, making certain areas of the city safe. Kate wants to live up to her father's ruthlessness, and is willing to go to any lengths to do so. August Flynn wants the opposite--born into a family of monsters, all August wants to be human. August goes undercover in order to spy on Kate, but when things go terribly wrong, the two must run for their lives.

Let me start out by saying--this book was dark. And violent. But so well written. Schwab created a whole atmosphere in This Savage Song that envelopes you right from the beginning. Verity is a city where you have to constantly look behind your shoulder wherever you go, and Schwab keeps up this suspense throughout the entire novel, through the unique voices of Kate and August.

I was also intrigued by the kinds of monsters that Schwab created, specifically the Sunai. The Sunai feed on people by stealing their souls through playing music, which is one of the things that August struggles with throughout the novel. He loves his violin, but is deeply tortured by the fact that playing his music can take the life of a human being.

These themes of struggling with what you're supposed to be are woven throughout the story, as Kate is desperately trying to gain the acceptance of her father, desperately trying to be what she thinks he wants her to be. This is what draws August and Kate together--but there's no romance! Gasp! I find that these days, it's extremely rare to find a YA novel that doesn't feature a romance, and it's extremely refreshing to find one that doesn't. Sure, there are hints of something between Kate and August at times, but instead of focusing on a blooming relationship, the novel is able to focus on their struggles as individual characters.

The only reason this book didn't receive 5 stars is because it took me a bit to get into it. Sure, the beginning scene with Kate setting a church on fire was captivating--but it took me a bit to figure out Verity and all its quirks. But once I did--I was hooked.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Review: Spontaneous

Spontaneous Cover

"And as long as the world spins on, we can still dance. No matter who we are, we can always dance."
-Aaron Starmer, Spontaneous

Imagine your senior year, saying goodbye to all of your friends, not knowing when you'll see them again--but then add in the suspense of not knowing who will actually make it through senior year. This becomes reality for Mara Carlyle when her fellow classmates begin to spontaneously combust, quickly drawing national attention. But Mara isn't going to let the impending doom of spontaneous combustion get her down. She lives her senior year to the fullest, falling in love, attending crazy parties, and organizing events so she gets to experience her senior year like every other senior in the country. 

I first heard about this book when John Green posted about it on Facebook, and it sounded hilarious and fantastic, and out of the box from what I've been reading lately. I was definitely not disappointed; I was drawn into Mara's narration right from the beginning. She's funny and witty and wildly sarcastic. Maybe she's not always likable, but you can always count on her to be honest and real. The story itself is unique and not something I've seen done before, and it was refreshing to read. The narration sucks you into the suspense of wondering who is going to combust next, and it's that aspect that really drives the plot forward.

However. Yes, there is a "however." Towards the end of the novel, some of the plot seems to fall apart, probably about the last 50ish pages or so. Mara goes off the deep end, and the explanations for the spontaneous combustion just get more and more ridiculous, in my opinion. I'm not sure how I wanted this novel to end, but it just kind of--ended. Normally, I'm a fan of open-ended stories, because it makes you continue to think about the story once it's finished, but this one just felt unfinished, leaving me confused more than anything else. I just wanted a bit more, and I wanted Mara to remain true to her character until the very end.

Despite the plot failings at the end, I still really enjoyed this book, and if you're looking for a fun, humorous read, definitely pick this one up!

4/5 stars

Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: A World Without You

A World Without You Cover

"You never know all of a person; you only know them in a specific moment of time."
-Beth Revis, A World Without You

Now that the holiday season is pretty much over, my life as a retail worker has calmed down a bit and I finally have a moment to write! I've still read quite a few books between the last post and now, so I'll do my best to catch up on reviews.

I finished A World Without You by Beth Revis sometime last week, and it's taken me a bit to process it. A World Without You follows the story of Bo, who believes he has the ability to travel through time. He attends Berkshire Academy, which on the outside is a school for troubled youth, but Bo knows that it's really a cover up for the truth: Berkshire is a place for kids who have superpowers.

After Bo's love, Sofia, commits suicide, Bo has difficulty believing that she's really gone. Instead, he believes that she's trapped somewhere in the past, and that only he as the ability to save her. As Bo gets deeper into his mission to save Sofia, Bo's reality gets more and more muddled until he is no longer sure what is real and what isn't.

The premise of this book sounded awesome to me, which is why I picked it up at the library. Revis drops the reader right in the middle of the action at the beginning of the book, which is a bit disorienting but also mimics the way that Bo must be feeling at the death of Sofia. Revis did an excellent job of constructing well-rounded characters, characters that you become attached to by the end. The portrayal of mental illness here was really strong, giving readers a variety in terms of the way it affects different individuals.

While I think this book is important in the way that it deaths with mental illness, I had issues with the structure of the plot itself. I felt as though there were scenes and parts of the story that weren't needed; eliminating these would have created a more immersive experience for me, as the reader. I also wanted Bo's sister, Phoebe, to take a stronger role in Bo's struggle with mental illness. She was given a strong presence in the book, yet I wasn't exactly sure why, or whether or not her chapters were really necessary. I think the book could have gotten along fine without them.

Overall, if you're looking for an immersive read that positively portrays mental illness, I think I would still recommend this book. Despite the plot flaws (in my opinion), it's super important in terms of the YA mental illness genre.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: We Are the Ants

"Depression isn't a war you win. It's a battle you fight every day. You never stop, never get to rest."
-Shaun David Hutchinson, We Are the Ants

This is another book that I read with my friend Alyssa for a book club that she's doing for one of her classes. It's also a book that I've had my eye on for a while, and I'm glad that I finally got the chance to read it. It definitely didn't disappoint.

Henry Denton has had a rough year. His grandmother's Alzheimer's keeps getting worse, his brother just dropped out of college because his girlfriend is pregnant, his mother is struggling to keep the family together, and his boyfriend committed suicide. Among all of these things, Henry keeps getting abducted by aliens, who have given him the opportunity to save the world from impending disaster. Henry just doesn't know if its worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega.

This story is just heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Shaun David Hutchinson has crafted a story that feels so realistic, yet it is intertwined with all of these theories about how the world is going to end, theories that pull the reader from important points in the story. In fact, these interruptions coincide with Henry's own interruptions from his own life, giving the reader a glimpse into Henry's mind and thought process. 

It's just so real. I can't really think of any other way to describe this book. Hutchinson's prose makes you feel so many emotions from beginning to end that by the time you finish the book, you are exhausted. Major book hangover. It was hard for me to get into my next book because I was still feeling all of these emotions from We Are the Ants

Hutchinson also deals with suicide in a very realistic and important way. He not only shows how suicide affects the friends and family left behind, but he shows that the depression that Henry's boyfriend (I think it was Jesse?) was feeling wasn't something that was just going to "go away;" it was a sickness, an illness that Jesse had to deal with, but in the end, he wasn't able to. I can't really think of any other YA books that deal with suicide in this way that I've read, and I think it's incredibly important that this one does.

This is a complex, insightful, all-encompassing book that will leave you thinking long after it's over. And maybe even prompt you to want to read it again.

5/5 stars

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

Rocks Fall Everyone Dies cover
"But we have one unbreakable rule in the Quick family. We don't steal from one another. We just don't." 
-Lindsay Ribar, Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

One hundred percent, the first thing that caught my attention about this book was the title. This author, Lindsay Ribar, is definitely way better at thinking up titles than I am, as most of mine end up being really long and academic sounding, or waaaay too simple. Like, one word simple. But this title is fantastic and immediately makes you want to know what the book is about.

The Quick family has a magical ability to steal things--memories, emotions, abilities--from other people. They were bestowed this ability in order to keep the town of Three Peaks safe from the doom of the cliff that hangs over their town. Aspen doesn't really think about the effects of his stealing from others, until the events of one particular summer open his eyes to what his abilities and the ritual really mean--and how far his family is willing to go in order to keep their secrets safe.

I was a little put off at the beginning of this book, mainly because it is clear that Aspen is so incredibly selfish and lacking in the empathy department. But the good news is that this is definitely a coming-of-age story, meaning that character development is a key element to the story. Thank god. I don't know if I could have kept going if Aspen remained a selfish prick for the entirety of the novel.

I absolutely loved how unique and fresh this story was. Sure, it follows a pretty typical coming-of-age or YA mystery plot, but it's filled with twists and turns that you don't really see coming. The idea of reaching is also fascinating; being able to take the best elements of someone else and use them for your own benefit. It's creative and refreshing, and I absolutely would recommend this to a friend. I think it has something for everyone.

4/5 stars

Friday, November 18, 2016

Review: None of the Above

None of the Above cover
"The biggest difference between boys and girls is how people treat them." 
-I.W. Gregorio, None of the Above

This particular book was on my to-read list for a long time before I actually read it; school mostly got in the way, and then I forgot about it until I wrote an article about gender non-conforming individuals for The Nerdy Book Club (which will be posted on December 3rd). This might be one of the more important books that I've read recently, mostly because of one thing: it features an intersex individual.

Kristin Lattimer was just voted homecoming queen, and it finally feels like her life is going in the direction that she wants it to. The night of the dance, she feels that she's ready to take it to the next step with her boyfriend--but the moment isn't close to what she wanted it to be. Her experience brings her to the doctor, where she learns she is intersex, meaning that though she looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes and some male features. When her identity is outed to the school, Kristin questions her entire identity. Will she be able to continue on the path she was on before, even with everyone knowing the truth?

Aside from the fact that the plot of this novel is a little high school drama-esque, I think everyone should read this book. Intersex individuals are often left out of conversations discussing LGBTQ+ individuals, so most people are very unfamiliar with the identity. Though at times it leans a little more on the medical side, this book is important for teens who possibly find themselves in a similar situation to Kristin and could help them to explain to others exactly what being intersex means. 

I will say that even though I felt bad for the humiliation that Kristin has to endure, at times, she can be a little annoying and whiny. There were a few points in the book where I just wanted to yell "Get over it! You're just making things more difficult for yourself!" It fit the drama-esque tone of the plot, though. 

Overall, despite the flaws in plot, this book is important and shouldn't be left off high school shelves.

4/5 stars

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train cover
"There's nothing so painful, so corrosive, as suspicion."
-Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

I'm not usually one to see the movie before the book, especially if the book is one I've been wanting to read for a while, but this is one time I did things backwards. I saw The Girl on the Train a week or so ago with my mom, and afterward, I was finally able to pick up the book and read it. And let me say, I was not disappointed.

Rachel takes the same train to and from her home every day, fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple that she sees through the window. She thinks about them so much that she almost feels like she knows the couple. Everything seems perfect, until one day Rachel sees something that jolts her fantasy, so much that she goes to the police, but her testimony is unreliable. Rachel quickly becomes entangled in the investigation and the lives of the people involved. Is she really as innocent as she thinks she is?

This book is told from three different perspectives, Rachel, Anna, and Megan. And honestly, none of the characters are all that likable. I couldn't help but cringe at some of the things that these characters did; but that's what makes this book great. Kind of like Gone Girl in that aspect. This kind of portrayal of women, women who have bad intentions, indulge in bad habits, etc., is important because it reflects reality. All women aren't the same, so why should women be portrayed the same in literature?

The format of the narrative also helps to add to the mystery and suspense of the novel. Jumping around in time, place, and narrator leaves it up to the reader to piece together the story in a similar way that Rachel is. And Rachel's unreliability as a character makes you wonder if what she's seeing is really true, if she's someone we can trust to tell us the truth. These elements combined draw you into the story quickly and don't let go until you know the truth of what happened. In fact, this element of truth draws together every piece of the story, much like a running current throughout the book.

Overall, this is an engaging read that fans of Gillian Flynn would definitely enjoy.

5/5 stars