Showing posts with label Young Adult Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Young Adult Literature. Show all posts

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review: Crowns of Croswald

"The village, well, it had a lot of secrets. And its secrets need to be kept safe. So, the town's name was like a key--those who knew the name could find the village. Let's call it The Town."

*I was sent a copy of this in return for my honest review by Stories Untold Press and D.E. Night.* 

All Ivy Lovely has known is the life of working in the kitchen at a castle, sketching and drawing during any free moment that she has. After an incident with the head of the kitchen, she finds herself kicked out of the castle--and finally past the boarder that had been keeping her magical powers at bay. Now, she's thrust into a world that she never thought she would be a part of, desperate to solve the mystery of her past.

Fans of magical boarding schools and mysterious pasts will find The Crowns of Croswald an absolutely magical adventure. Because Ivy is about as much in the dark as we are, we learn about the world of the scriveners at the same time she does. This helps to effectively build the world for the reader, filled with immensely inventive magical artifacts. Night's writing is unique, sucking us into Ivy's world.

Though the pacing felt a bit off at times, Night keeps her reader's interest through the forgetfulness room at the Halls of Ivy. Since Ivy is the only one who remembers, we gather more intrigue as we go further in the novel. Why is Ivy the only one who can remember? What does that mean about her past? With subtle clues throughout the text, intrigue builds, further pulling the reader into Ivy's magical world. To me, it felt a little like Harry Potter and a little like Percy Jackson. But Night puts enough of her own imagination into the story to make it also feel like something new and refreshing.

Filled with quirky characters, a magical school, and lots of mystery, avid fantasy fans will have found a fantastic new series to follow.

4/5 stars 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

10 YA Road Trips to Read This Summer


Road trips are really the epitome of summer. What's better than driving down an open road with your best friends, blasting your favorite music and eating all the junk food? You have the freedom to decide where you're going, and to see all the dumb tourist stops along the way.

It's no surprise that many young adult novels use this idea to parallel the main character's own journey toward something--whether it's acceptance, romance, or the unknown future. We long for the trips of spontaneity that these characters embark on, taking the journey with them through the magic of story.

While you're daydreaming or planning your next road trip getaway, check out these books to inspire your inner vagabond!

1. Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Not only does Mosquitoland feature an epic road trip, the cover itself just screams summer. After being dragged from Ohio to Mississippi by her father, Mim Malone is desperate to get back to her mother. So, she gets on a Greyhound bus, soon to be joined by some unlikely companions. But what was supposed to be an easy trip is soon supplemented by its own twists and turns, forcing Mim to come to terms with challenges from her past. Mim's journey is all about self-discovery and acceptance as she rediscovers things about herself that she had long forgotten.

2. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

One of John Green's lesser known books, An Abundance of Katherines follows Colin Singleton, a boy who has only ever dated girls named Katherine. Nineteen girls named Katherine, actually. After his most recent break up, Colin embarks on a road trip with his best friend in order to prove his Therom of Underlying Katherine Predictability--a therom he's been working on in order to predict the length of any relationship. Drastically different from John Green's successful Looking for Alaska, you'll long to join in the antics of Colin and his friends.

3. Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Loosely based on Don Quixote, Going Bovine finds us face to face with Cameron--a sixteen year old who just wants to make it smoothly through high school. But when Cameron finds out he's deathly ill, his plans quickly change. When Dulcie, a punk/angel hybrid, tells him there's a cure, he'll go to any lengths to get it. So he embarks on a road trip with the most unlikely companions: Dulcie, a dwarf, and a yard gnome. Libba Bray expertly weaves reality and fiction together in Cameron's story, making you question what's real and what isn't.

4. Paper Towns by John Green

Gasp! You put two John Green books on your list? Yes, yes I did because how can you have a road trip list without Paper Towns? Quentin has been in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman, his mystical neighbor, for years. One night, she climbs into his window and takes him on an epic night of adventures. The next day, she disappears. Quentin is desperate to figure out why, following the clues Margo left behind and convinced that it means she finally loves him back. A little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, and a lot of adventure, the perfect combination for summer.

5. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Finch and Violet meet on the bell tower at school, both thinking about jumping off and ending things. After talking each other out of it, the two pair up for a school project where they have to document the natural wonders of their state. The two are only able to be themselves when they're together--but as Violet begins to heal, the darkness keeps closing in on Finch. Punctuated by mini road trips, Niven's book is equal parts hopeful and dark, a perfect supplement for those rainy days.

6. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Ginny embarks on an epic summer adventure all thanks to her aunt--and her thirteen little blue envelopes. The first envelope gives Ginny $1,000 for a plane ticket. The second, instructions to a flat in London. The third simply says: find a starving artist. One by one, Ginny begins to step out of her comfort zone, spurred on by the instructions her aunt gives. Her whirlwind trip throughout Europe is inspiration to make a trip of your own--and to step out of your own comfort zone.

7. Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

Driving together to college orientation sounded like a good idea when Courtney and Jordan were dating. Now that they've broken up? Not so much. It's too late to make changes, so Courtney decides she can suck it up for a few days. After, they can go their separate ways. But Jordan is hiding a secret--he's still in love with Courtney and he can't tell her the real reason that they broke up. Put two exes in a car together and you're sure to get a drama-filled romance, which is exactly what this book is. Romance, road trips, college--the perfect recipe for a summer read!

8. Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

When Kendra, the "perfect child," is caught cheating on a test, her only solution is to run away with her brother Grayson, who was diagnosed with OCD. She figures that once she's put enough distance between her and the problem, she'll be able to figure out where to go next. The only book on the list to feature a pair of siblings on a road trip, you'll see how road trip complications can help strengthen a complex sibling relationship.

9. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson just recently found out that he's the son of Poseidon, propelling him to Camp Half Blood for demigods just like him. But he's quickly thrust into a mystery surrounding Zeus's lightning bolt, and in order to stop a war between the gods, he must travel across the United States to open the gate to the Underworld. The first book in a series of epic stories inspired by Greek mythology, Rick Riordan will make your summer road trips a bit more magical.

10. Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Leila's on a road trip so that she can see the Northern Lights in Alaska. Along the way, she meets four different strangers: Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia. Each of them find a friend in Leila, and each of them are desperately sad when she leaves; she alters something about each of their lives. Leila's own journey shows her things about herself that she could never acknowledge before--and learns that in order to find yourself, sometimes you have to get lost first.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: Brave Enough







Title: Brave Enough

Author: Kati Gardner

Publisher: Flux

Publication Date: 21 August 2018






I received an ARC from Net Galley and Flux in exchange for my complete and honest review.

All her life, the only thing Cason Martin has known is dancing. She's been working toward one goal--becoming a ballerina in a dancing studio in New York. But lately, Cason's been having trouble with her leg, an injury that she's done her best to hide from everyone. When the injury gets to be too much, Cason learns that it was hiding something much more sinister: she has an aggressive form of cancer.

First of all, the cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous. It was one of the reasons I requested it from Net Galley (I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover. But how can you not like this one?). Luckily, the story ends up being just as beautiful as the cover. Throughout the novel, we switch between Cason's and Davis's points of view. Cason is just starting her cancer journey, where Davis is in remission from his, now recovering from a drug addiction. The two meet, and inevitably, romance brews.

Overall, not much plot wise happened in the book; it was a much more character driven story. While I'm all for character driven books, adding a plot point or two would have pushed this book even further. However, Cason's voice in particular felt so authentic that the extra plot wasn't completely necessary.

The author herself is a cancer survivor, and she said that she wanted to write a book that reflected her own experiences. Her book stands out from other cancer young adult texts, especially since it is filled with such hope; hope that is infectious long after the book has ended.

All in all, a deeply character driven book that will tug at your heartstrings the entire time.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

"What happens if the world ends?" Freddie said.
"Maybe it already has," I said, "and this is it. Now we have the opportunity to start over and try to do better this time around."
-Shaun David Hutchinson, The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth, scientifically proven. Despite this fact, she has lived a relatively normal life; at least, until she heals Freddie, her crush, because the Starbucks Siren told her too. Now, voices are telling Elena that she has to keep healing people or the world as she knows it will come to an end. But should Elena have the power to decide who is saved and who isn't?

I've loved everything I've read from Shaun David Hutchinson (including We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe), and I loved this book even more. Elena Mendoza is perhaps one of the most compelling of the characters that Hutchinson has created. She's stuck in an impossible situation; every time she heals someone, hundreds of people disappear. But she's told if she doesn't heal, then the apocalypse will come. Supported by a cast of equally colorful characters, I found myself immediately sucked into Elena's world. 

Not only is the premise of the story unique, but there's a lot of good representation in this book as well. Elena herself is bi, she has a conversation with her friend Fadil about being asexual, they have lots of good discussions about the meaning of mental health, and Elena and Freddie talk a lot about suicide. There are so many good things about this book, in fact, that I'm having difficulty finding flaws at the moment. If you like existential young adult novels, this is definitely a book for you.

One of the things I also love about Hutchinson is the way he includes mentions of characters from his other books within the plot. Elena interacts with both Henry and Tommy on her path to figuring out her own decisions, and those that have read his other books will appreciate the references.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza takes its readers on a crazy ride, leaving them with much to think about along the way.

5/5 stars

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: Shatter Me Series

Shatter Me Series Book Covers
"All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart."
-Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Juliette Ferrars has lived in isolation for the last year, for one main reason: her touch is lethal. All it takes for her to kill someone is to simply let them touch her skin. The Reestablishment locked her up in order to protect her and the rest of humanity. But with the world on the brink of war, they've changed their mind. Maybe Juliette can be a weapon. And Warner is determined to make her one.

I had seen this series everywhere on Instagram, so I finally picked it up from the library. And I was surprised at what a page turner the whole series was! The combination of the characters, the society that Mafi created, and the plot drew me quickly in the story; I was also extremely invested in what was going to happen to the characters. What would happen to Juliette? Would they be successful in their overturn of Supreme Commander Anderson? What happens if they do?

The two most successful aspects of this story are the world-building and the characters. Mafi does an excellent job crafting this futuristic society that you mostly don't realize that it's happening, which makes it easier for the reader to just accept it as reality. Her future is also believable; it was something that I could actually see happening. The world has been irreversibly damaged, and people are suffering the consequences.

Similarly, the characters within the novel feel very realistic. We're able to see all sides of the main characters and the background characters, emphasizing their strengths and their flaws. One of my favorite moments was when Kenji calls out Juliette for being whiny and selfish because I was definitely thinking the same thing. Like, get out of your own world and see the way that you're affecting those around you! The fact that her best friend calls her out feels so realistic, and makes you love Kenji even more (he's fabulous, you should read the book just for him). 

If you're looking for a fast-paced book to read at the beach or on vacation this summer, definitely pick this one up. It has action, adventure, suspense, and romance--everything you want in a summer read! The fact that the majority of characters have superpowers is a bonus. 

An excellent series to dig your claws into, no matter what you typically like to read.

4.5/5 stars

Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Things I'd Rather Do Than Die






Title: Things I'd Rather Do Than Die

Author: Christine Hurley Deriso

Publisher: North Star Editions

Publication Date: 18 September 2018







No regular circumstances would have ever brought Jade and Ethan together. They're at the opposite ends of the social spectrum at school, and before a fateful date at the gym, they never regularly interacted. But after a near-death experience after a gym robbery, the two are on each other's radar. And they might have more in common than they thought.

Though this isn't my favorite teen romance I've ever read, there were aspects of it that felt different and unique. Jade and Ethan are both dealing with their own problems, and because we get both of their points of view, they're both very fleshed out characters. Hearing both of their inner thoughts also gives readers an interesting view of the robbery that happens--and gives us a foundation for the rest of the novel.

The only thing that turned me off about this novel was the pacing. It felt like a lot of the action happened at the very beginning, so aspects of the rest of the plot seemed to drag a bit to me. Sometimes, Ethan's narrative also got a bit preachy, but it was balanced out with Jade's narrative. Overall, an excellent beach read for the summer.

3.5/5 stars

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Review: War Storm

"I am different from what my world demands I be. And I am not worse for it."
-Victoria Aveyard, War Storm

Cal's betrayal of the Red Rebellion for the crown shook everyone in his alliance, but Mare Barrow most of all. Now, to protect herself and her heart, so Mare resolves to eliminate the crown and the kingdom of Norta forever. But in order to do that, she needs Cal's help; mostly, his incredibly strong Silver allies. As the war looms on the horizon, Mare is prepared to do anything in order to grant freedom and equality to her land.

To be honest, I felt a bit lukewarm about this series throughout, but I really wanted to see how Aveyard finished out the story. For the most part, I wasn't disappointed, though I think the book could have been a lot shorter. One of my pet peeves about the series in general was that it changed to multiple narrators halfway through the series. Personally, I think that a series should stay in one narration style throughout, so switching to multiple narrators in the third book really put me off. Why'd you have to do that, Victoria?

As I've mentioned in previous reviews of the series, Mare still rubs me the wrong way in this book, mostly because she feels so dramatic, especially when Cal is concerned. Like, we all know that you'll eventually forgive him, so stop complaining that he chose the crown instead. You still love him, just forgive him already. Evangeline was definitely my favorite aspect of this whole book; she rounds out our view of those with silver blood, and her love for Elane is so apparent. She's willing to throw away the life she knew for a life that she never thought possible, plus she can definitely hold her own in a fight. Evangeline comes out as the star of War Storm, as least in my eyes.

War Storm certainly wraps up the series nicely, but still leaves room for the imagination at the end. Once you're invested in the story, you'll definitely want to keep going in War Storm, even if the length is a bit daunting. Red Queen is still the best book in the series, in my opinion, but this is a worthy follow up.

3.5/5 stars

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Young Adult Books for Your Summer Reading List

Since it's June, I thought it would be fitting to create a summer reading list featuring some of my favorite young adult books! With adventure, whirlwind romances, and quirky characters, these books include anything you're looking for in a perfect summer read. Check them out the next time you're looking for a fantastic beach read!

1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Who doesn't like a book with magical adventures and a heart-melting romance? Rainbow Rowell is accomplished at both, presenting us with Simon and Baz, enemies turned lovers (my favorite kind of romance). While you're at it, you better check out her other books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, as well!






2. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Allbertalli

Leah's voice is the reason to pick up this book. She pretends like she doesn't care what anyone else thinks, but her inner monologue is one everyone feels at one point in their lives. Throw in adorable high school crushes and romance, and you'll devour this one at the beach.






3. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Though it has its funny moments, Goodbye Days might not be the light-hearted book you're looking for. But, it's a fantastic summer read all the same! Filled with lots of emotion and budding friendships, you'll want to jump in and help save Carver from the guilt he feels.





4. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

It wouldn't be a summer reading list without any kind of dystopian fiction book on the list. Scythe is probably my most recent favorite dystopia, though I still need to pick up the second book. Shusterman never disappoints when it comes to interesting futuristic societies.






5. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Definitely not the light-hearted summer romance you're looking for, but a fantastic book all the same. Despite the pretty depressing premise, Silvera is able to weave in incredible amounts of hope, hope that the characters really will make it in the end. Spoiler alert (though it's in the title): they don't.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: Bang


"People can wonder and ponder and imagine all they want. But their curiosity does not entitle them to enter my world."
-Barry Lyga, Bang

When he was four years old, Sebastian accidentally shot and killed his baby sister with his father's gun. He's lived with the guilt since then, tip-toeing around the incident with his mother, hiding from everyone at school that knows his history. When he meets Aneesa, the new girl on the block, he thinks he's finally found a friendship not tainted by his past. But his relationship with Aneesa might not even be enough to save his own life.

Barry Lyga's book takes a different look at gun violence and the way it can destroy a family--and it is very successful. Most young adult books that deal with this topic look at the way that a teen might become a school shooter; the outcast, the kid who is bullied, finds a way to get a gun and violence ensues (a storyline we're becoming much too familiar with). But Lyga's take feels refreshing; Sebastian wasn't old enough to know how dangerous the gun was when he shot his sister, but he lives with this incredible guilt for the rest of his life. You can feel his guilt through the novel, and you desperately want to tell him that it wasn't his fault.

The other topic that this novel deals with gracefully is "the friend zone." Sebastian, inevitably, develops feelings for Aneesa who doesn't develop feelings back. He gets angry at her because he believes that she lead him on, and while her denial drives him to suicide, he's eventually talked down by his father. In the end, he realizes that he was the one who was wrong, and he writes Aneesa a letter about it. This subject is rarely dealt with in young adult fiction, but I think it was appropriate. Especially since Sebastian doesn't take out his anger on other people.

All in all, I picked this book up as a light read and wasn't able to put it down until I was finished. With strong characters and relevant topics, this is a book that more people should be talking about.

4.5/5 stars

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: The Universe is Expanding and So Am I







Title: The Universe is Expanding and So Am I

Author: Carolyn Mackler

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Pub Date: May 29






This book was sent to me by Net Galley for my honest review. Virginia Shreeves is still trying to figure out how to deal with her brother's date rape charge and suspension from Columbia. Meeting Sebastian, a New York tourist/artist, helps a bit--and the two make a pact not to share their personal dramas. But hiding their personal lives starts to take a toll--one that might end their relationship forever.

Virginia's voice feels very realistic throughout the text, from her insecurities to her nerdy love of popular culture. She constantly feels like she doesn't fit in, with her classmates and her own family. Her story is one of triumph, finally finding her voice and that she fits into her family in ways that she never though possible. Virginia's, and her family's, growth within this book is what makes the story most appealing.

Though the romance at the core of the story feels a bit fairy tale-esque, readers will get swept up in the New York adventures that Virginia and Sebastian have. They are scenes almost taken right out of a romantic comedy, which definitely will make this book a fun summer beach read.

4.5/5 stars

Review: Dear Martin

"You can't change how other people think and act, but you're in full control of you."
-Nic Stone, Dear Martin

Despite being at the top of his class and on track to go to Yale in the fall, Justyce McAllister still finds himself in handcuffs when he was just trying to help a drunk girl home safely. He can't escape the implications that come with the neighborhood that he grew up in. So he seeks wisdom from Martin Luther King Jr., but does the wisdom still stand up in present day? And will it help when he's caught in the fury of an off-duty white cop?

In line with authors like Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas, Nic Stone doesn't shy away from the truths that exist within our own society when it comes to race. Justyce's narrative feels real--and gives voice to a population that is still lacking in young adult literature (though not as much as in previous years). Not only will they be able to see themselves within a fictional narrative, but it can also be eye opening to those that don't experience this kind of discrimination.

Parts of the narrative feature letters that Justyce writes to Martin Luther King Jr., trying to figure out exactly what he's supposed to do in reaction to those that treat him as lesser. Ultimately, Dear Martin is about Justyce finding his voice against the injustices he sees and experiences in the world. Lyrical and powerful, this is a book that everyone should read.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: Leah on the Offbeat

"That has to be the best part of being in love--the feeling of having a home in someone else's brain."
-Becky Albertalli, Leah on the Offbeat

Picking up where Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda took off, this time we get to live inside Leah's brain. Generally less privileged than those in her friend group, Leah has yet to gather the courage to come out as bisexual. Which makes her crush on Abby Suso increasingly difficult. As they get closer to graduation, their friend group begins to falter. As relationships start to break, Leah doesn't know whether or not to act on her own feelings.

Let me begin with this: Becky Albertalli is one of the best at accurately capturing the voices of teenagers. Leah is snarky and honest and and her voice absolutely carries you through to the very end. The appearance of other characters from Simon help to make the world even stronger and easier to fall into. Those who loved Simon will absolutely love Leah.

Leah on the Offbeat is also packed with a lot of humor and typical high school drama. Leah is desperate to find a relationship like Simon's. Leah is having difficulty learning how to say goodbye to the friends she's surrounded herself with since middle school. Her feelings of being an outsider are extremely relatable as well, and Albertalli also gets props for her portrayal of bisexual characters.

Overall, I blew threw this because I absolutely love Albertalli's writing style and her characters are always well rounded, even the ones included in the background.

4.5/5 stars

Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: Violent Ends

"To realize it's not really about Kirby now, it's about what's left. And if you don't deal with it, it will deal with you."
-Violent Ends

Violent Ends follows the story of a school shooting, covering it from 17 different points of view. Instead of following the shooting itself, the different stories focus on the aftermath and the way that the shooting affects the victims. It only took Kirby Matheson 22 minutes to kill 6 students and injure 5 others before taking his own life. Featuring a variety of well-known young adult authors, all the characters are related through one thing: Kirby Matheson.

I thought the premise of this book was fascinating; having so many points of view gives you a lot of perspectives on one particular situation. It lets you get to know the setting, the high school culture, the other students involved, and the community surrounding the school. Each of the different authors gives all the characters a unique voice following their unique writing style. My favorite aspect of the story was these different voices, reflecting an actual high school community.

Though I liked the anthology aspect of this book, I'm not sure this particular kind of story lends itself to this style of writing. I enjoyed the different voices included, but I didn't feel like I could get invested in any of the characters specifically. Since I'm someone who reads for character, the small snippets didn't allow me to get invested in their story.

The subject matter also felt a bit out of touch to me, especially given how much attention school shootings have gotten in the media lately. It felt as though it lacked diversity, and any characters who were from diverse backgrounds and such are the ones that were killed. 

Overall, I liked some of the chapters, but all together the book didn't quite work for me.

3/5 stars

Monday, May 7, 2018

Character Playlist: Leah Burke


Leah Burke definitely deserves her own playlist (check out my Simon one here!), especially since I just finished Leah on the Offbeat. I'll hopefully get a review out for it by the end of the week, but I absolutely loved Leah after reading this book; I think it'll give me a better appreciation of Leah when re-reading Simon. Which I desperately want to do. Either way, here's a playlist dedicated to Leah and her coming-of-age journey.

"Girls/Girls/Boys" by Panic! at the Disco

"Drumming Song" by Florence + the Machine

"Perfect Places" by Lorde

"Take a Walk" by Passion Pit

"Stubborn Love" by the Lumineers

"Helpless" by Phillipa Soo (Hamilton)

"Dive" by Ed Sheeran

"White Blank Page" by Mumford & Sons

"You Will Be Found" from Dear Evan Hansen

"Flaws" by Bastille

Friday, May 4, 2018

Review: What I Leave Behind






Title: What I Leave Behind

Author: Alison McGhee

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's

Publication Date: May 15, 2018







This book was sent to me through NetGalley from Simon and Schuster in return for an honest review. At first, the format of the book threw me off, but by the end, I was impressed that the author was able to stick to these short bursts of story--and how well they worked together.

Will spends most of his days at his job at Dollar Only with Major Tom, stocking the isles with all sorts of new goodies. At night, he desperately tries to replicate his dad's cornbread recipe, working through his grief after his father's suicide. When he finds out that Playa was raped at a party where he was at, he begins looking for ways for to help her through her trauma as well. Through small acts of kindness to those around him, Will begins to learn how to cope with his own grief.

Told in series of one hundred words, Will's story is presented in a unique way that keeps you reading throughout the entire book. The writing itself almost feels like a graphic novel, without the images supporting the text. However, it didn't feel like the book was missing anything--in fact, the format felt refreshing to me.

The only critique I have of the text is that I could have used a bit more context at the beginning. Though the format makes it difficult to portray any background information, adding a section or two would help the reader to be better oriented right at the beginning of Will's story.

Despite the disorientation, I enjoyed Will's story, especially his desire to reach out to those that seem lost like him. Will's story shows the affects of little acts of kindness--and how much they mean to those that are hurting.

4/5 stars

Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: And She Was


As Dara begins making preparations to pursue her dream of becoming a career tennis player, she goes digging around in her mom's room in order to find her birth certificate to get her passport. But what she finds is something she was never expecting. Her mother, Mellie, is transgender. Feeling betrayed, Dara heads out on a road trip with her best friend in order to find her lost family--a trip where Dara discovers more about herself than she could have ever imagined.

I'm torn about this book. As someone who doesn't identify as transgender, I was curious about what others said about this book online. The reactions to this book are mixed, mostly because there is a lot of transphobia portrayed in this book, especially through Dara's grandparents. I do think this was done in order to illustrate how many people talk about and to transgender people. At times, though, it felt like it was a bit much and definitely could be triggering to people who read it.

The other thing that bothered me about this story was the main character. As soon as Dara finds out about her mom, she becomes incredibly selfish. Literally everything is about her--probably up until the last 20 or so pages of the book. And while I get that this experience was a growing/coming-of-age moment for her, it took her a little too long to get there. Especially if she was as close to her mother as she proclaimed. To me, it felt like it should have been much harder for her to just suddenly up and leave her mother.

What I did like about this book were the secondary characters and the sources provided at the end. It is clear that Verdi did her research about the transgender community, which I appreciated. I also though Mellie's story, told in emails to her daughter, was really compelling. I wanted more from this story--and almost wish the story was focused there.

Overall, a mixed reaction and a mixed review. I do caution those looking to pick up this book if you might be triggered by excessive transphobic language--there is a lot within this story.

3/5 stars

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: The Dangerous Art of Blending In

"I've squeezed as many bookcases in this tiny space as possible. Being surrounded by books and magazines makes me feel calm. It makes the room seemed wrapped in a layer of protection. As if nothing or no one can get to me."
-Angelo Surmelis, The Dangerous Art of Blending In

Evan Panos is constantly seen as a disappointment by his Greek-American mother. His non-confrontational father never steps in and defends him, so Evan spends most of his days trying to be invisible and do the right thing. But hiding is becoming exhausting, especially since Evan kissed a boy over the summer. And his best friend Henry is becoming more and more attractive to him. As the end of high school nears, Evan has to figure out how to live with his own voice.

So I saw this book at work, as well as Jeff Zentner's mention of it on Twitter, and I knew that I had to pick it up. I mean, just look at the cover. It's gorgeous. This is Angelo Surmelis's debut novel, and I'm hoping that this means we'll get more from him. His writing is so emotionally driven, crafting an impressive amount of empathy in the reader. You want good things to happen to Evan, someone who is constantly beaten down by his mother. His story is absolutely heartbreaking; but it is also ultimately a story of hope.

One of the only things that threw me off about this story was the jump in time in the middle. I think it was like three months or something, but the jump in time felt a bit out of place. I wanted to know what bridged this jump into the future. There were also scenes with Evan's mom that were difficult to read, but that was the point, I think. There are many teens that find themselves in these abusive situations because of their sexuality, and it's important that these stories are getting published.

Surmelis's debut is heartbreaking, brutal, and hopeful. It's this thread of hope that is the most important part. Evan has hope, and is eventually able to craft his own family.

4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Love Songs & Other Lies






Title: Love Songs & Other Lies

Author: Jessica Pennington

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Books

Release Date: April 24, 2018







I'm back reviewing books for Net Galley! Honestly, I had forgotten about this website until I saw someone mention it on Instagram, and I immediately went and requested some advanced copies. This is one I got approved for almost instantly, and I was really glad; the synopsis sounded interesting and the musical twist on their relationship grabbed my attention right from the beginning.

Virginia (Vee) Miller is looking forward to her summer on the road with her high school rock band friends, now known as Your Future X. What she doesn't know when she decides to join their tour is that her ex will be there; and those wounds definitely haven't healed yet. Now, Vee and Cam are forced to work through the problems that ended their relationship while the entire world is watching.

The structure of this novel is absolutely what works the best. Told in a then/now format, Pennington slowly reveals the beginnings of Vee and Cam's relationship, switching back to now to create even more intrigue. It made the plot more interesting, making the reader desperate to get to the end to figure out what put an end to what seemed like an incredibly compatible relationship. What may have been a predictable plot in a more straightforward novel becomes more interesting with this structure.

Having two points of view also helps in giving the reader a fuller picture of the relationship; if we got only Cam's or only Vee's point of view, we would be likely to be biased toward one or the other. The inclusion of both their voices makes the reader feel empathy for both sides of the relationship. They both have reasons for doing what they do.

With a cast of extremely relatable characters and an immersive plot structure, fans of summer romance and rock bands will find a home in Pennington's story.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: Speak the Graphic Novel

"When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time."
-Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

Melinda starts out high school as an outcast; she was the one who called the police at the summer's biggest party, and no one is going to forget that. But she's afraid to speak up about the reason why. Her art is the only way she's able to express herself and finally get her story told.

Speak was first published in 1999 and has long been considered a classic of young adult literature. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote about rape before the time of the #MeToo movement, and she did so effectively and accurately. Reading this story, you feel immense empathy for Melinda--you just want her to be able to get the help she so desperately needs. You want her to find friends; you want her to fit in. Anderson creates such emotion with this story, and it's important that everyone reads it.

The graphic novel version just came out this year, and the images compliment the text beautifully. Emily Carroll does an excellent job with her artwork and does justice to the love Melinda has for art in the book. One of the things I liked the most about the art is the way that Carroll plays with shadow throughout. Melinda is haunted by what happened to her at that party, and this is portrayed through the shadow of her attacker. Everything works together really well in order to bring this story to another level.

After reading the graphic novel, I definitely want to revisit the book. I'm interested how close the text is between the both of them. Overall, I absolutely loved this and believe it's a great adaptation of a great book.

5/5 stars

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Review: Otherworld

"My tongue produces words faster than my brain can approve them." 
-Jason Segel, Otherworld

Everyone claims that Otherworld is amazing--it's a video game unlike any other. It's so good, in fact, you'll never want to leave. At first, Simon believed them. But when his best friend is pulled into the dark side of the game, Simon will never see the game the same again.

To be honest, I struggled in reading this book. I picked it up because as I've mentioned before, I'm interested in young adult dystopian texts, but this one just didn't do it for me. It felt very formulaic, not really straying from what you would consider the typical dystopian story line. Nothing about the plot really surprised me.

Additionally, the characters were flat and I couldn't bring myself to really care about what happened to them. I'm all about the characters when I'm reading books--characters are what make me interested in the story. Simon, the main character, was particularly bad for me. He was full of himself, centrally focused on his needs and not really caring about who had to sacrifice in order for him to get what he wanted. He irritated me throughout the whole story, which was a contributing factor into how long it took me to get through this book.

All in all, I definitely won't be reading the second book when it comes out. Simon can finish his adventures without me knowing what happens.

2/5 stars