Compulsively readable debut. Loved the characters and also this whole "what am I really doing once high school is over" Debate subtly going on for the...moreCompulsively readable debut. Loved the characters and also this whole "what am I really doing once high school is over" Debate subtly going on for the main character. Nice balance of friendship family and romance too and the dialogue and actions felt so real. Get your hands on this one!(less)
One of the main things that stuck with me after I finished The Other Way Around was Andrew’s unconventional character growth.
How many people run away from their home and their school and get involved in a road trip with a couple of hippies who are surviving by performing on the streets, stalking the best dumpsters, and, once in awhile, encountering the kindness of strangers? After dealing with so much pressure from his mother and the flakiness of his dad, Andrew has no one patrolling his every move or pushing him into situations that make him feel uncomfortable.
Ah, the sweet smell of freedom.
Well, it’s not actually that sweet since no one is showering regularly and dumpsters don’t exactly smell like flowers. But for the first time, Andrew is hanging out with kids around his age and the world is open to him in a whole different way. He has the space to think about his relationship with his parents and their divorce, and finally make some choices of his own.
This dynamic in young adult is so interesting to me as a reader, because as a teenager, how much control do you have over how your parents treat you? Do you ever get that opportunity to stand up for yourself or will you constantly be dismissed because of your age and lack of life experience?
Andrew’s growing friendship with G, his attraction to Emily, and experiences on the road (this might be strange but I really loved how vivid and descriptive the chicken scene was on their farm stop) all contribute to him opening up, connecting with other people, and learning how to talk to his mom. I liked that Kaufman made Andrew work for his relationships in the van, and didn’t have him totally turn away from his home either.
While it took a little time to get into the swing of The Other Way Around, I really enjoyed this — a fresh male POV, great stops along a road trip, and bravery found in strange places.
Love Letters to the Dead reminded me of why I loved last year’s Wild Awake and classic Perks of B...moreReview originally published on Rather Be Reading Blog
Love Letters to the Dead reminded me of why I loved last year’s Wild Awake and classic Perks of Being a Wallflower so much: the ultimate highs and lows a character experiences while working through the tough stuff and the effort it takes to grow, and move forward. That’s all in Love Letters but despite some similarities, I assure you that this debut stands on its own with unique story structure, fluid writing, and a main character I wanted to shield from her demons and deliver to safety.
This is a difficult book to read, friends. And not for any reasons except it was dark and it was sad and some of it felt very lonely. I pictured Laurel sitting in her room or at school writing letters to Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, or Heath Ledger and it just tore me up inside. Even as she maneuvered new friendships, a possible love connection (the absolutely amazing and mature Sky), and attempts to reconnect with her once jokester father and her runaway mother, everything in Laurel’s life felt so out of control. I wanted to be positive for her but gosh, it was so hard and I wondered when (and if) things would take a turn for the better.
The love Laurel and May had for each other was encompassed by this innocence I loved so much. Even when May started to detach herself from her family, she always came back to Laurel. It was a shame that May’s own distractions kept her from seeing what was going on with her little sister, and heartbreaking (but not unheard of) that Laurel couldn’t be open with her. There were a lot of “coulda shoulda wouldas” and at some point, playing rewind and reliving all of these moments could make someone totally unhinged. Especially if you are keeping it all to yourself. I was curious to see if Laurel would take these missed opportunities and make necessary changes for her future.
I have to take a minute to talk about the supporting characters. Hannah and Natalie, two girls who Laurel makes friends with at school, both have their own separate stories and I liked watching the ebbs of flows of their relationships with one another. Can you truly be friends if you are unable to be honest and open up? What if you can’t accept who you really are? For awhile I wasn’t even sure if Hannah and Natalie would remain friends throughout the book, and I felt a lot of Laurel’s own anxieties about fitting in and finding people who know you. (Especially when people you love have the tendency to leave.)
I also have to give it up for Sky; he’s older and a bit mysterious but I really thought he did good by Laurel even when she might not have seen it that way. He wanted to be her shoulder, he wanted to help her, but how do you help someone who doesn’t want to help herself? Sky felt like an anchor from the moment he and Laurel connected but she had to be her own life preserver for them to work as friends or as more than that. Everything about Sky felt true to Love Letters‘ story.
When I’m reading (and I’m not sure I’m alone), I tend to think about the longevity of a book’s time in my life. Will I read it again? Do I want to own a copy? Is it the kind of book I want to pass on to others? I had my doubts with this one because it was just so very sad. Why would I want to relive it, right? Well, I was so impressed with the beauty of Dellaira’s writing and I found myself berating myself for not taking extensive notes from the very beginning. From the conclusions Laurel would draw about the celebrities she confided in, the music and movies she mentioned, and even what she chose to share with each of these people… there is so much to breakdown and discover. Love Letters is a book that not only deserves your uninterrupted attention, but a spot of honor on your bookshelf.(less)
If you know my reading preferences, you know I love a story told from a male POV. I also love reading books set in another decade. The Scar Boys takes place over the 70s and 80s from the time that Harry is horrifically injured by a lightning bolt at 8 years old until the time he is in high school, on the road with his band (Scar Boys) and telling the entire story in a personal college essay.
The detail that struck me most about this book is Harry. He doesn’t mope, he doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself because he’s different from all the kids around him, he just is. It’s not to say he’s unaffected. Harry knows people look at him strangely, he’s aware that his dad doesn’t treat him as a father should, and it’s not until some assholes come up to him in school that things start to take a turn in his life.
Suddenly, he is best friends with Johnny. Hanging out all the time, jogging together, and even going to parties. Then totally on a whim (and as a way to get over a girl) Johnny suggests they start a band. Johnny and Harry totally immerse themselves in every kind of music available, find other members, write original songs and I was shocked to see — the band becomes pretty successful. Gigs at CGBG’s? Huge deal! So when the idea of touring for the summer materializes (an idea that Johnny takes credit for), a majority of the book becomes about prepping for the tour and all the little conflicts and successes that come along with it.
I loved how Harry gained confidence through music. Even though he was definitely experiencing growth, he still had a ways to go. I had no idea if he could trust Johnny because Johnny seemed like the kind of guy who only felt good when he put others down. He didn’t always play by the rules. This was conflicting for Harry because even though Johnny didn’t act like a good guy a lot of the time… he was the catalyst for Harry’s happiness. He helped Harry find music.
The Scar Boys has absolutely no airs about it. It’s simply the story of a kid coming into his own, facing unique challenges and putting his life into motion. Harry’s narration (especially his observations) reminded me a little of the Jean Shepard narration for A Christmas Story or Daniel Stern’s narration of The Wonder Years. He had already lived the story as he was telling it, but he was able to accurately express his insecurities, the choices he made, and how music became a lifesaver.
This was a really enjoyable debut! Most of all I loved how Harry’s journey to move forward after the lightning strike felt refreshing and new. It never felt forced or over-dramatized, and at points, it was almost like he didn’t realize he hadn’t dealt with the big picture yet and BOOM, there was more work to do.(less)
I've read quite a few books in 2014 where the emotional connection between character and reader fails to materialize. I absolutely understoo...more2.5 stars.
I've read quite a few books in 2014 where the emotional connection between character and reader fails to materialize. I absolutely understood that Alexi was going through a hard time and had to work through what happened to her but I wasn't feeling emotional toward her. It's very hard to explain that and have it make sense. I knew I should feel sad and angry, and I did because what happened to her was horrible but I wasn't feeling like I was in her shoes. There was a level of detachment there.
I did like the chemistry between her and Bodee though. That was apparent from the beginning, and I really liked reading about a mature, high school guy who know about loyalty and patience and space. He was really great.
I'm not sure if shuffling certain scenes would have more of an impact on me, or not. But it was definitely something I thought about as we moved closer to the big reveal. I kind of hated that I was sitting here guessing which of these character did something to hurt Alexi, and I found myself thinking of Desir's Fault Line a lot because it was never about WHO did something but that it happened in the first place.
Also: I disliked Alexi's sister older so much... if I hadn't been reading an eBook copy, I would have thrown my copy against the wall. The fact that their parents used Kayla's boyfriend to "soften" her character and treatment of others was totally infuriating. I know not all older sisters are nice (hello, I am one) but I'm not sure this intense relationship received the attention it deserved. It might have made for a fuller novel.
That being said, I will definitely be curious to see what Stevens writes next. This one just didn't work for me.(less)
The main character might be 14 but I think DISNEYLANDERS is a great example of YA transcending age. If you ever went on a family trip with your family...moreThe main character might be 14 but I think DISNEYLANDERS is a great example of YA transcending age. If you ever went on a family trip with your family, or dealt with a best friend who outgrew you, you will find a lot to relate to in this book. Not to mention, fans of theme parks or people who are so connected to a place they have visited time and time again. Does the magic truly disappear as you grow up? Can you still hold on to it?
I have a lot of love for this book, especially after my second read-through. I know I would love to see a follow up with the main character a bit older and wiser.
Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better book to be released on my birthday.
A main character who is an extreme theater geek (I was dying over all the references from classic Broadway to Troy Bolton a.k.a. Zac Efron), and a story that did an amazing job of balancing the lighthearted moments with the more serious ones?
Devan grew up in a house with a father who didn’t understand her interests or really talk to her and a stepmother who wouldn’t give her the time of day. When she discovered her mom was bestselling author, Reece Malcolm, she began compiling a list of facts about the woman who said very little to the media. So when Devan’s dad dies suddenly and she is sent off to live with Reece in Los Angeles, she’s not exactly sure what to expect. Can things really be worse than the way they were before?
But she does know what she wants. She wants a warm mother who is going to wrap her in her arms and hold her, let her cry about her dad, and apologize as much as she can about never contacting her once in her sixteen years. Instead, Devan gets someone very standoffish, who clearly knows nothing about kids, and who is not going to easily indulge why she’s been so absent or what exactly happened between her and her father all those years ago.
Reece may make fun of Devan and openly admit that it weirds her out how much her boyfriend (Brad) wants to do “family things” with her yet she, no questions asked, gets Reece an audition at a great performing arts high school, takes her on shopping sprees (Devan loves fashion), and is pretty laidback when Devan starts to make plans with new friends. I really liked how atypical their relationship was. Because, gee, there is nothing normal about their situation or their relationship, and I’m glad no one was putting on airs about what their shared DNA should mean.
So on top of this new shiny (and frustrating) home life, Devan is also thrown into a new school. She’s mega-talented and takes this talent really seriously, and while not everyone is very supportive at first, Devan does get folded into a circle of friends (who have layered storylines as well) pretty immediately. (So unlike her last school.) I really liked her weighing how suddenly she should trust new people and let them in. She still had so, much to figure out in her personal life… it wasn’t like she could just confide in anyone immediately. Even with boy situations, the author makes nothing black and white and that was so entirely REAL high school for me.
Amy Spalding writes The Reece Malcolm List in an incredibly intelligent way with flawed characters, intricate details, and a true love for theater. At 16, Devan may not have known everything about life — in fact, she often wavered between incredulous actions and wise observations about the world. Life isn’t always the happy song that musicals portray, not everything falls perfectly into place. And it takes time for people to let their guard down and to understand who they truly are. It’s like this ongoing journey, even for an adult like Reece who is hard to love and hard to get close to.(less)
For any girl who has been forced to reevaluate her feelings for a guy based on their nonsensical an...moreReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
For any girl who has been forced to reevaluate her feelings for a guy based on their nonsensical and asshole-ish behavior, this is the book for you. (Hello every girl in the world.) After Penny makes a horrifying discovery about her childhood love, she decides not to sit around and wallow but to do something about it and forms The Lonely Hearts Club. (She and her family are HUGE Beatles fans.) She vows to remain single for the rest of high school and focus on herself, and after a bit of time she is no longer a club of one.
I instantly clicked with Penny Lane. I’m actually not sure if I’ve connected with a character quite so quickly but I easily related to her being head over heels for a guy she’s known since she was young, a guy that has caused her to fantasize so much about their happily ever after that no one seems to come close. I was also disappointed by that same guy. Not in the way Penny was but it hurt like hell. (And continued to for a long time after.) I loved her go-get-em spirit and the way she took a bad situation and turned it into something bigger. In fact, there were many moments in this book where I wished I had started the same kind of group.
I was also reminded of Kody Keplinger’s book, Shut Out. Girls forming unexpected friendships when they band together for the same cause. But Eulberg took the club and the characters to new heights. They were dimensional, so far from cliche and their mission felt relatable. I could SEE girls in my high school (unlike in Shut Out) concocting this crazy plan. And it was crazy. It’s apparent once the rules are set in stone and their group gains notoriety that something’s going to blow up and go wrong. But that was a lesson these girls needed to learn for themselves. They were hurt and created something with zero flexibility to stop that hurt from happening again. They needed to get to the point where they were ready and willing to take a chance in a new relationship.
Because *newsflash* despite the duds, there were nice guys out there.
Penny is enthusiastic, strong, and brave, and I think she discovered a lot about herself once she establishes TLHC. She is able to reconnect with her ex-best friend, who had become one of those girls we hate — so into her boyfriend she loses her identity and drops her old friends. I say BRAVO to Eulberg for including this character. Because this trap that Diane fell into is JUST SO COMMON (hey, I did it too) so I’m happy to see awareness brought to this kind of issue. Diane actually turned into one of my favorite characters. While it’s important to understand a main character, I love with an author takes the time to create supporting characters who are able to leave an important impact on the reader as well. Eulberg did this many times over.
There were also a multitude of great guy characters in this book (the villainous and the good). Undoubtedly, Ryan, the ex-boyfriend of Diane and one of Penny’s good friends, is swoon worthy and epic amongst potential love interests. I don’t want to give too much away but I loved how Eulberg was able to introduce Ryan and each time it felt like a bread crumb leading to a more significant occasion.
I could probably gush about this book forever. I thought it was a true depiction of high school with characters who were so like the ones I spent my school years with. In fact, I had a huge yearning to go back to those days of planning and getting ready for dances with my girlfriends. Those were just the best times and I think The Lonely Hearts Club captured what is so important and amazing about the friendships of women. They require forgiveness, flexibility, understanding, and most of all, support.(less)
Magan: Hey, E! So for this month’s Book Report, we chose a book that’s a few years old,...moreMy joint book review with Magan over at Rather Be Reading Blog:
Magan: Hey, E! So for this month’s Book Report, we chose a book that’s a few years old, The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. (She has a sequel The Rivals that piqued our interest that was released in February 2012.) I’m so excited to talk about this book with you!
Estelle: Me too! Not only is it one of the older (ha) books we’ve discussed but a book with the most serious subject matter.
M: Yep! It’s a book about a girl named Alex who is date raped. She calls on the Mockingbirds to protect her and bring about justice because she’s too scared to go to the police. What did you think of the Mockingbirds (the team, not the book overall…yet)?
E: I think it’s hard to talk about the Mockingbirds as a group without getting into the overall environment of this boarding school. I liked how Alex called it a “Candy Land of a school”. The institution believed that because they were churning out future world leaders and successful human beings… nothing bad ever went on there. No bullying, no drama, nothing. It’s just so crazy to me. So the fact that Alex’s oldest sister took it upon herself to create this group to help students who find themselves in horrendous situations with literally NO support from the school was just appalling and amazing to me at the same time.
M: I guess I was a little taken aback by Alex’s fear of going to the police and seeking adult help. It was explained very well why she chose not to, but it was definitely sickening that the school leaders would have turned their heads at the situation. I think this is also a really common occurence for people who are date raped – they feel so terrible that something so bad could happen to them and they’re caught up in not being sure what to do because all they want is to forget.
E: In Alex’s situation, though, she had been drinking a lot. She was underage. And she couldn’t remember anything, which was terrifying.
M: Oh, yeah – that was a big part of her story as well. I was so thankful she had her sister and her best friend, T.S., to really encourage her to take action. They let her know that even though she was drinking, Carter had no right to do what he did. I loved that Whitney really explained that no answer does not equal or imply a yes.
E: She definitely kept bringing that up in one way or another and I absolutely loved that. Her message wasn’t after school special like or annoying… it was just so true. And I think Alex was the perfect character to sort of bring light to a message like that. Especially using her strong connection with music to show how this one night sort of overflows into her passions, her daily life, and possible future.
M: The music aspect was a really awesome parallel. Probably one of my favorite subplots. It really showed me what life can be like for someone who has gone through this – how it infiltrates your everything.
E: I also think Whitney did a great job with this constant teetering Alex experienced with her emotions. Deciding to talk to the Mockingbirds, running into Carter, certain experiences bringing back memories from that night… she was sometimes feeling confident in her decision to talk to the Mockingbirds and sometimes shying away from her life. It was a very realistic account of someone in this situation, and it also really helped me connect with her. Even if I wasn’t sure what she was going to be feeling from one day to the next.
M: YES! And throughout the time she’s enlisting the help of the Mockingbirds, she realizes a friend, Martin, is involved with them. How did you feel about this boy and the role he played?
E: My God, I loved him. When he first showed up in the book, I wrote his name in my notes. I just felt like he would play some kind of important role in the book. And he was sort of like this geeky and supportive friend that she never paid much attention too. I liked how his character slowly became more complex as the book came on. I’m a huge Martin supporter. (Even if he was a science geek.)
M: Science geek aspiring to be a future doctor.I’d go for that. All joking aside, I really liked the look into what it’s like to try to start a new relationship and how conflicting those emotions can be when you’ve been so emotionally damaged and physically taken advantage of. I had no clue.
E: I feel like no stone went uncovered when it came dissecting this particular situation. How it affected her physically, mentally, emotionally, her relationships with her friends, her sisters, the other kids in school, and then of course, Martin. Whitney never made the book feel preachy or over dramatic, and I think there’s definitely a fine line when it comes to a subject matter like this. With kids who are pretty young.
M: I think that’s mostly in part to Daisy experiencing this when she was in college. When I read that in the author’s notes at the end, I realized why I connected with the story so much – there was so much truth. In the beginning of the book, things were a little slow-going for me (because she was struggling with remembering and making a decision about what to do), but once the Mockingbirds (and Martin!) were introduced, I was hooked.
E: I agree. This is definitely a situation where the author’s own experience brought a stark and frightening authenticity to the book. I wasn’t expecting to feel so attached to these characters and this story for some reason. I’m not sure why. Maybe just because the plot is so different than most of the other books I read. But I literally felt like I was transported into another world pretty much from the moment I opened to the first page. Especially once the story moves along and the Mockingbirds take over, wow. I wished I had another 45 minutes in my train ride or I could successful read while walking because I didn’t want to press pause on this book.
M: The Mockingbirds kicked ass. I was impressed by how well this part of the story was developed. This is where Whitney’s imagination came into play and she did a really great job of building this team of students. I liked the pacing and how they took their time investigating to set up their next move. Nothing felt rushed or irrational to me.
E: I wrote “intricate machine” in my notes. I was also amazed by this world and organization she created. I admit. I had my doubts. Why would students listen to a student run organization? Maybe I’m jaded. But they seriously had their ways.
M: So there’s a scene where the trial is finally happening. I don’t want to say more than that, but this was probably one of my very favorite parts of the story. I loved how things unraveled, and even that Whitney didn’t set the trial up to be easy. There were complexities because, afterall, Alex was drinking. What stands out most to you as being a favorite part of the story?
E: I feel like everything I want to say is spoilerish. How about this — there are at least three discoveries that occur throughout the book that I loved and were very helpful to Alex coming to terms with what happened to her. That’s really unspecific, I know. But I think once you pick up this book, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
M: So the question is, will you read The Rivals – the sequel to The Mockingbirds?
E: I immediately requested it from my library once I finished The Mockingbirds. So the answer is a big fast yes. I’m interested to see how Alex’s world continues.
M: So am I! I hope my library has it since it just came out. If not, I’m adding it to their wishlist of books to buy!
E: We can only hope that everyone who stumbles upon this Book Report is interested to pick up The Mockingbirds if they haven’t already. It’s definitely worth moving up your TBR list! (And if you’ve read it already, we’d love to hear your reactions in the comments as well!)(less)