There’s something almost seductive about the title, isn’t there? It kind of dares you to pick the book up.
Anyway. It all begins when Coach--he who tea...moreThere’s something almost seductive about the title, isn’t there? It kind of dares you to pick the book up.
Anyway. It all begins when Coach--he who teaches biology--forces Nora, a straight-A student, to switch lab partners and she suddenly finds herself opposite of Patch, a mysterious-seeming senior. At the same time, things are going terribly awry. Nora’s sure she’s being followed. Her room’s ransacked. And everywhere she turns, Patch is there, lips tugged in a smile, the face of confidence.
And he seems to know everything about her. At once she doesn’t know if she should succumb to his charms and run into his arms, or listen to her gut and run away from him. Whatever he wants, he’s not telling her. To escape his lure, Nora turns to the other boy vying for her attention, Elliot. But he’s not what he seems either, and the connection between him and Patch runs deeper and deadlier than she could know.
Basically? Nora’s stuck in the middle of a sinister game of revenge. Both Patch and Elliot seem to want something from her, and in a place where sides shift suddenly and unearthing hidden motives gives way to more secrets, Nora’s got some tough soul-searching ahead of her to figure out whom to trust--and not much time to get there.
The first chapter opens in biology class, with a Barbie doll and her Ken counterpart stripped naked and covered with leaves in strategic places. They’re about to start on the reproduction unit. Immature comments are shouted out and upfront and center we meet three integral characters: Nora, Vee (the BFF), and Patch. And so it begins, this journey with them, where at equal parts it feels like we’ve known them our whole lives (they’re well-written) and, especially where Patch is concerned, they keep us at the edge of our seats (again, they’re well written). And they shine.
Oh, but does Patch shine. Here’s your unabashedly cocky (anti?)hero, an absolute ass, and possibly all the more attractive for it. Not one thing that comes out of his mouth is predictable, except maybe predictably swaggering, and it’s that quality and his unwillingness to share part of his past that make him magnetic. It’s hard to say this without giving spoilers, but we see many, many sides of him, most of which are not goody-goody, which serve to make him one of the most complex and interesting characters in the book.
And the plot? What can I say about the plot so as to not give anything away? Well, it’s clever and hides surprises in the folds of its intricacies. Especially when you’ve got the pacing this book does, which makes five pages go by in no time, ten stretch into twenty, and fifty come and go in a snap. There’s actually even a scene at the very, very end where the plot turns in on itself and ties things up in a way I would usually hate but couldn’t here because I thought it was bright and fitting with the story.
Which doesn’t go to say this book is perfect. First up is a classic case of a useless character--in this case a bitchy cheerleader named Marcie--who dropped off the face of the earth and resulted in an unresolved plot thread. Second: For a proclaimed disciplined student, Nora lacked a certain amount of drive. Heroines without it are no-no to me. But, you know, she’s under constant threat. So we may see some redemptive ambition in the sequel. Here’s to hoping. Further, there’s a leap in the progression of the Nora/Patch dynamics that made things feel a bit too sudden and mistimed. (I’ll have more to say after it’s released.) And finally, I hate to be the one to compare yet another book to Twilight, but there were a couple of scenes that brought it to mind. Nothing formulaic or that made Hush, Hush unoriginal, and I’m not sure if the existence of said scenes is necessarily negative, but…I could do without the surges of déjà vu, y’know?
That said, it’s really hard to hold all of that against the book, though, when I recognize that, save for my minor complaints, this is exactly the type of thing I like to and want to read: dark and both relevant and whimsical, with memorable characters, great quotability, and abundant humor. Hush, Hush doesn’t stop at exciting--it was an experience so complete and enjoyable, it tides you over. It’s not hard to picture fandoms being built around it, copious fanfic taking up terabytes of space, or a movie being made. There’s just that special quality that makes it compulsive and turns willing readers loyal. A shoo-in for the best of 2009, obviously. A shoo-in for a lot more, actually, but I’ll stop here and observe how things will unfold.(less)
Henry breaks up with Zoë. Zoë decides that she won’t have it because it was her relationship, too, and it is clearly Her Whole Life, and she should ha...moreHenry breaks up with Zoë. Zoë decides that she won’t have it because it was her relationship, too, and it is clearly Her Whole Life, and she should have some say in its disintegration. So she decides the best way to woo him back is by climbing up a tree right outside his window and slipping a poem she wrote about him in, giving him a collage she made of their Happier Times in plain sight at school, befriending his new love interest so as to further stalk every aspect of his life, and pestering him until you lose all your sense of civilization and wish she were real so you could whack her upside the head with a copy of Twilight.
But then you realize that even if by some miracle characters could come alive, she wouldn’t have enough meat on her to stand up and take the blow because she’s so freaking one-bordering-on-two dimensional. As is every last miserable character in this mess of a novel.
Zoë is a more psychotic Bella, down to the worshipping the ground Henry walks on and the excessively clumsy streak that acts as a catalyst way more times than it ever should, which is precisely zero in any situation.
Her best friends, Shannon and Julia, are either indulging her crap by giving her more ideas out of Stalker Today or acting like the Voices of Reason, which is fancy coming from people who 50% of the time are no better than she is. The chip on Zoë’s shoulder had more personality than the sum of all their parts, not surprisingly.
And the love interests were clearly on a leave of absence because I cannot, for the life of me, remember anything striking about them.
Tying everything up is a heavy-handed message that you shouldn’t use people and you shouldn’t lose your sense of self in a relationship because that’s a Big Turn Off and the guy will lose interest. But it fails on so many levels, none the least in the realistic aspect, where you gotta wonder if something this ridiculous is meant to be funny and if so, whom exactly is the joke on? The only redemptive quality is that the writing flows, but even so, what can you do with that when everything else flakes out on you?
So, really, this is the tale of what a more psychotic Bella would do if Edward had stuck around after the breakup in New Moon. And for just $16 you can be a proud owner.
1 star if I did that kind of rating system. Not sure what grade--D or F? Eh, who cares, bottom line is: no recommendation.(less)
This is more like a 2.5, really, stuck somewhere between "it's okay" and "I liked it". I'd probably like it better if all the recent ro-coms didn't fo...moreThis is more like a 2.5, really, stuck somewhere between "it's okay" and "I liked it". I'd probably like it better if all the recent ro-coms didn't follow the exact same storyline: Girl has cute friend, likes hottie, dates hottie, realizes cute friend likes her and hottie is kind of an ass, and then dumps hottie's ass for a make-out session on the last page with cute friend in proclamation of true love.
I liked them better back when they had started this line. The plots--while not exactly always 100% believable--were imaginative and provided a lot more fun than the transparent plots, characters and writing Simon Pulse has put out as of late.
And for the record, the whole prince charming/naïve "I'm a princess and want twu wuv NOW!" dynamics are getting old fast. 'Love' needs to stop being just another four-letter word. (less)
Scholastic is begging people not to give spoilers, and that wouldn't be my review style anyway, so if you're looking for what happens, you won't find...moreScholastic is begging people not to give spoilers, and that wouldn't be my review style anyway, so if you're looking for what happens, you won't find it here.
Much like the first book, you get hooked pretty much instantly. I was getting a bit restless, however, by page 100 or so because the stellar plotting from the first book just wasn't as prominent. Make no mistake, stuff happens on every page, but it wasn't like the first one where each chapter ended in a cliffhanger and you quite literally could NOT put it down even for a bathroom break.
And then. Page 173 happened and in what I think is the biggest plot twist we've seen yet in the series. (And we've seen many. I'm telling ya, y'all, if you don't sit up and go like, "WHAT? Suzanne Collins, you're a GENIUS" when you get to that page, I'll eat my foot.)
So anyway, any doubts I may have had were completely erased by that point. It's not that I hated everything leading up to it - I quite liked it, in fact - but it just seemed to lack the...spark and immediacy found in The Hunger Games, if you know what I mean.
It hasn't. I think I still like the first book better because that's usually the way things go, but this is a very close contender. As for 'sophomore slumps' or 'doomed sequels' or any such stereotypes, this one breaks 'em. It is GOOD, y'all.
And you're getting no more out of me for now. Enjoy!(less)
Why doesn't goodreads allow us to do half stars? Seriously, asking this has become a cliché and yet nothing is done to solve it.
Anyway, I'd give this...moreWhy doesn't goodreads allow us to do half stars? Seriously, asking this has become a cliché and yet nothing is done to solve it.
Anyway, I'd give this 3.5 stars (a B-/C+), and I absolutely mean that in a good way because I read this in one sitting and really enjoyed it. I'd give it four stars because up until the ending, I thought it was a very good light romance read with a character who's very aware of herself and THERE, as opposed to being an Everygirl and a developed hero and antihero who were both compelling in their own right.
The ending was a bit too cheesy for a novel that had common tropes like hippie/offbeat parents who name their children strange names and like taking pictures of their auras, not detract from the story. The main character made note of these things in passing, which made it not be a total device. But then we get to the end and it's like all the restraint the book exerted to not be sickly sweet went out the window and it just Had To Express Itself.
Which isn't something I mind myself because I love light, fun, (somewhat exaggerated) romance books. I thought there was a lot of potential for it to stand out from a crowded genre, and that charging $16 to read it is robbery when anyone can get their fix with the Simon Pulse ro-coms for $7 until this is out in paperback. (less)
Woo, long review. Skip first three paragraphs (not counting this one) if you don't want a detailed description.
Nadio and Noelle are twins, but when it comes to their friend Keeley, the trio are more like triplets--inseparable since forever. But then Keeley goes to Oxford with her parents for an entire summer and for some reason, everything between the three changes. Noelle wants nothing to do with Keeley and even though they promised each other they'd talk every day, every time Keeley emailed her, Noelle never replied. The day Keeley comes back from Oxford (which is when the book begins), Noelle isn't there (on purpose) to greet her. She's out with Jessica, her new friend, to a party, where she meets Parker.
Meanwhile, Nadio comes back from his evening run and finds Keeley, who's recently returned from Oxford. He suddenly sees her in a new light, one thing leads to another, and the two end up kissing. This leads to a relationship between them, one that has its own issues, one they keep a secret from the ever-distancing Noelle. Noelle becomes enamored by Parker and he's her primary focus now that she doesn't have her two peers to keep her occupied.
The book unfolds in a way that explores the growing spaces between Nadio and Keeley, and Noelle, and what led them there. Noelle is angry at Keeley for having everything so easy and for complaining that she doesn't want to go to Oxford, that she doesn't want this or that, that she just wants to stay home. Keeley is hiding something that happened in Oxford from the both of them that accounts for the change both notice in her. And Nadio is hiding his inner conflict with his absent father figure: Who is the man and how does he fit into Nadio's life?
I know it doesn't seem like a lot happens in this book, or that it's nothing new. But the way things were spread out made me feel full at the end, like at the end of a satisfying meal. It's not what I would call a fun read, nor a light one. I wouldn't give it to any young readers who read up because this is the type of YA novel I just don't think they would get. And not because they are stupid, because they aren't--it's more that this wouldn't resonate with them, isn't relevant to them.
Nor is it a read for every occasion. I wouldn't recommend reading it at any time you're feeling impulsive or on the go--calmness and patience go a long way into appreciating this. I had a lot of moments when I was nodding along with the narrative, thinking, "That's it. That's totally it." (Although the voice was strange sometimes. Good strange. But strange all the same.) I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to pass this on to older readers and adults who enjoy YA.
That said, this is one of the most offbeat books I've read in a long time. It's written in a way I haven't come across yet in YA--where there are no quotations marks in the dialogue. (Which, no, I didn't have any problems with. I don't mind quirks like this, and the whole textual silence correlated with the theme and accentuated the poignancy of the overall product.) The text is indented when the characters speak, but there's no stylistic divide between what's being said and the tag that follows it. This makes it so I had to really focus to keep up.
Also, the writing just disappeared while I was reading. I don't know why, but there was no barrier between me and the characters and their lives. Seriously, this has never happened to me before, or if it has, I don't remember, which kind of defeats the purpose. I doubt I'll forget this, at any rate.
One thing that's been bugging me, though, is this: Nadio and Noelle both had their own POVs, but what we saw of Keeley was only through the both of them. This didn't hinder her development, don't get me wrong, but it struck me odd when this was essentially their--the three of theirs--story. One possible explanation is this:
Nadio and Noelle were conceived in Italy when their parents were seventeen and subsequently abandoned by their father. Their mom--Lace, as they call her--is supportive and present in their lives. Keeley's parents are scholars who place their academic life more than before her. In many ways, she felt like an antithesis to Nadio and Noelle; her and their lives were inversely proportional to each other. Where she has a lot of money, they had none. Where they have only one parent who goes the extra mile to fill empty paternal voids twice, she has two parents who are never there. Where they are twins, she is an only child . At one point Nadio refers to her as the sister without any siblings. So, maybe this was another one of the things one didn't have that the other two compensated for.
In any rate, a most unusual novel. Literary, maybe, in a way. I have a feeling it'll stick with me.(less)
Auden is your classic overachiever: she’s studious and entirely too serious. What’s more, she deprived herself of a...moreCross-posted from my blog review.
Auden is your classic overachiever: she’s studious and entirely too serious. What’s more, she deprived herself of a normal high school experience—one with friends and fun—opting instead for the academic route. Which did indeed work, because she got into a great university, the one she’d be attending come August. In the meantime, there is the whole summer stretching before her, and suddenly, spending it at home with her holier-than-thou, my-feminism-is-better-than-yours, literary professor of a mother and her revolving door of grad student flirts, dinner parties and drinking isn’t cutting it. So, Auden decides to spend summer in Colby (this isn’t set in Lakeview!) with her father, her stepmother Heidi (whom her mother deems a waste of space because of her girly tendencies), and their newborn Thisbe (her father is also a literary snob).
She isn’t sure exactly what to expect in Colby, but it’s definitely not what she finds: a hookup she stupidly stumbled upon, her father immersed in his novel and not paying any heed to Heidi and the ever-crying Thisbe, Heidi’s imminent breakdown, or the job she inadvertently falls into, keeping the books for Heidi’s shop, Clementine’s. With the job come three girls—the other employees—who’re everything her mother stands against: girly and frivolous. Set in her snobby (and shy) ways, Auden secludes herself from the group and works diligently in the back room.
However, she can’t keep hiding away forever. She doesn’t sleep at night, and neither does this strange guy Eli she keeps seeing around. One thing—Eli’s help in placating Thisbe in the middle of the night while Heidi catches up on some sleep—leads to another—seeing Eli at a party—and they become night buddies, embarked in a quest to give Auden a second chance at the childhood she never had, one food fight at a time.
As the summer progresses, Auden aggregates herself to the trio from Clementine’s, faces the errors of her prejudice toward people influenced by her mother, and basically examines her entire life up to that point. The summer is, quite simply, a Renaissance.
Auden’s character resonated with me. Like her, I’ve changed school multiple times (seven, if memory serves) and that’s made me feel like I’ve missed some crucial school experiences and rendered me socially retarded. Granted, I hide it a lot better than she does (seriously), but the underlying insecurity is much the same. Also, her prejudice toward “fluffy” girls is something I’ve faced as well, as was her discovery of substance beyond the pink exterior. This is terribly realistic stuff for us self-absorbed teens who figure we know everything and are always the smartest in the room.
Which brings me to the characterization: Sarah Dessen is quite accomplished at possibly every facet of writing and storytelling, but I believe her true forte is her characters. Even Thisbe, Auden’s newborn half-sister, had personality. I loved how all important characters had layers upon layers that continuously surprised me, the reader. Reading this book was a peeling-the-onion experience, to be sure.
Another thing I love in Sarah is that she doesn’t write about foreign—futuristic or fantastical—worlds but rather about the one in which I reside, and yet her world building is so adept, rich, filled with detail, that I can’t help but lose myself in it. In the hands of another writer, her books would probably be half their size and probably still be good (I love her familiar-yet-foreign approach to plotting universal situations in an unique way), but wouldn’t come alive as they do with her mastery of setting me in the mood and atmosphere.
And finally, I love that this is a smart read. Aside from having smart-sounding content (Auden is, after all, an ambulant brain), the book itself is smart in that it’ll probably identify with each person in a different way. I identified with Auden’s alienation and her awakening to the people around her, but with the number of other things going on, I’m sure other parts will speak louder to other people. Her dysfunctional family situation, the unresolved divorces, the overall complicated nature of each troubling aspect of the book… Quite frankly, like with Laurie Halse Anderson, I wonder where Sarah Dessen gets so much experience with such an array of different topics to write about them with such bang. It’s downright formidable, the skill these two possess.
Now, ironically, given the book’s subject matter, I read this one during one of my insomnia episodes. In fact, it’s 7:52 a.m. as of writing this sentence, and I just had breakfast and sat down to write this review. I’ll be going to sleep soon as I finish it, quite satisfied at that, because this book turned an otherwise destined to be useless night, exciting, interesting, and memorable. (Which is more than I can say about all the others, considering I can’t even distinguish one from another…)
I have to say, though—and this is one of my only (minor) objections to something in this book—I’m not sure if insomnia is exactly what Auden has. She has a general discomfort with sleeping at night (explained in the book), but insomnia is the inability to sleep, even if given the opportunity. She just drinks loads of coffee to snap out of it. There’s a difference, and believe me, as an insomniac, I envy the people with the choice.
Sarah Dessen is definitely on an uphill climb of quality. She is one of those authors I am damn near worshiping and would die if I had the opportunity to interview or something. Counting this one, I’ve loved her last three books, each successively more than the other. I didn’t think she’d be able to top Lock and Key—which is second only to This Lullaby, as far as I’m concerned—anytime soon, but she did with this one. Her work—particularly at its best—is the kind that inspires me, moves me, even in the bleakest (or most boring, as was the case) of scenarios. Definitely required reading.(less)
Given the recent wave of people saying how fantastic this book is, I thought I should probably justify the low rating. I thought -- MAYBE some good ca...moreGiven the recent wave of people saying how fantastic this book is, I thought I should probably justify the low rating. I thought -- MAYBE some good can be done with this premise. But then the book itself played on stereotypes, unbelievable situations, and superficial character development AT BEST. The funny bits that everyone seems to be referring to are--what? Todd and Fiona's exchanges? That's the only thing I can kind of see, but even that is that sort of forced humor that, again, plays on unbelievable situations.
When there are so many genuinely funny books, and genuinely feel-good heartfelt novels, I can't in good conscience recommend this. It's far from being even passable, and, frankly, YA has a lot more to offer. (less)
Anna’s love-soaked memories of Matt--of romantic things they did together or flashbacks dating even further back, Bef...moreCross-posted from myblog review
Anna’s love-soaked memories of Matt--of romantic things they did together or flashbacks dating even further back, Before The Kiss, when she was still falling in love with him--are all we have to go on the man itself and yet he’s such a force in this novel. I’m not sure what it takes to make a character of the past have believable influence over the present, to convince us he’s real over such limited glimpses of all he was. But Matt resuscitated in all the passages Anna’s conflicted about all things relating to him, and if nothing else, there’s something really pure in that quality.
Luckily, there’s no need to get on the “if nothing else” optimistic train because there’s so much else. The characters are there, not one of them flawless but every last one real. Even unblemished Matt (don’t speak ill of the dead, eh?) leaves some ambiguity he can’t answer for. Further: At its core, this is a story about love, but not always a love story, and incorporates all manifestations of said love--familial, platonic and romantic. It’s just so well rounded.
But! As much as I’d evidently love to praise this book seven ways way past Sunday, one thing wasn’t… cooked long enough for me. The single most compelling factor herein is Anna’s conflicted feelings about her loyalty to Matt and her attraction to this new summer boy, Sam. While I thought Sam’s character was for all intents and purposes all right, as a reader, after experiencing her emotional rollercoaster in light of every miniscule thing, I couldn’t feel her desire for him. What there was of it paled to her descriptions of how Sam made her feel…I don’t know.
Also, a bit minor, but I thought Frankie lost a lot of her characterization in the year following Matt’s death. We get to see a ton of Matt and Anna of the past and Frankie is lost in transition. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a crystal (sea glass?) clear picture of her grief painted left and right but…it just would’ve been nice to understand her in such an emotionally-investing novel.
With all this said, though, ya know what? I don’t care. Sam could be an allegory for all future guys in Anna’s life and how she’ll deal with the anxiety that comes with wanting to forget but also remember, and the frustration of not knowing just what was it she lost with Matt and if she’s betraying him. Anna’s exploration of this theme is worth every page.
The writing’s just beautiful and the way Sarah Ockler writes about grief, incorporating a very particular sentimentality to it, is subtle and genuine and inimitable. This lingers. I do recommend this novel, I do I do! B(less)
It must be said I’ve never been much of a Lauren Myracle fan. The Internet Girls series (trilogy?) may be revolutionary to some, but it bugs me on a c...moreIt must be said I’ve never been much of a Lauren Myracle fan. The Internet Girls series (trilogy?) may be revolutionary to some, but it bugs me on a conceptual level. I did try to read the first book and couldn’t get past the first page. Then I tried one of her full length novels, Rhymes With Witches, and while the premise intrigued me, the novel felt like a countdown to self-implode by the last page. Which, I mean, it did. The resolution left me pretty devoid of emotion.
(Trust me, there’s a point to all my negativity.)
Given as this is the prequel to Rhymes With Witches, I didn’t think I’d request it. So why did I? Well, I’d read some encouraging reviews that piqued my interest. Moreover, my friend Book Chic assured me this is Lauren’s best work. It sounded like a new direction for her, too, so why not?
Blah, blah, blah, bottom line, did I like it?
Yup, this worked for me. It worked and then some. I loved the fluidity of the writing, the suspense, and the swift but lingering pace. The way Ms Myracle incorporated the plot within real-life events of ’69 (oo la la, nice number*), I thought, was very convincing. All the pop culture and political references of that time period, like the Charles Manson Family murders, didn’t alienate me and in fact set the scene very competently.
Oh, and I was a big Bliss (title character) fan. She was likable from the get-go and had a very sympathetic voice. I also marveled at the “bad guy” character’s—Sandy’s—development. That sinister work-up was awesome.
Now, to state the obvious: This book is creepy! It’s the exact thing I’d recommend as “horror for people who don’t like/are too scared of category horror novels”. Now, I wouldn’t say it’s horror in the literal sense of the word—genre fanatics might be disappointed—but it’s definitely chilling and gripping. Each chapter is prefaced with a two-page black spread with a quote from a popular show at the time, a Charles Manson Family trial quote, or a Richard Nixon quote—very well packaged and kept the novel moving on and on and on.
For a dose of reality... I wasn’t a big fan of the ending. It was too abrupt, too open ended, and felt like a weak conclusion to such a powerful book. I still have many questions (Did Sarah Lynn have some sort of power? Was the fact she had the same initials as Sandy supposed to make the reader draw conclusions about the two?), and I suppose that’s what the sequel Rhymes With Witches is for, but having read that almost three years ago, I can’t recall much. It would’ve been nice if this could’ve stood alone.
Some of the other reviews complain that there is too much going on here, racism, occultism, murder, etc, etc, etc, and to be honest I didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out. Frankly, this is something that would usually bother me, but in this novel, the only logical response I can muster up for this assessment is, “Who the fuck cares?! Weren’t you caught up in the suspense anyway??”
So, yeah, I’d recommend this one. I was not expecting this at all when I began this book, and this book alone ensures Lauren Myracle is, for the time being, on my radar. I hope she chooses to continue in this path because I for one think it’s a worthwhile one to pursue. It’s definitely one I can work with and get excited about.
While I haven’t read all of Lauren’s work to date, I don’t think Book Chic was exaggerating when he said this is her at her best. Well done, Ms Myracle. Well done.