There's Brooke the popular, "It" girl of her high school. Almost anyone does her bidding. And she hates it. All she really wants to do is use her sing...moreThere's Brooke the popular, "It" girl of her high school. Almost anyone does her bidding. And she hates it. All she really wants to do is use her singing voice to get herself back to New York--where her family lived before her father left her family for a male movie star.
Then there's Kathryn who's been a social outcast ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. Kathryn the overachiever--who's family has very little money--is also counting on her singing to get her out of their tiny Minnesota town, to college.
Brooke and Kathryn might rivals now but they used to be friends . . .
Tiny Lake Champion, Minnesota might not have much to offer two aspiring opera singers, but it does have the prestigious Blackmore competition. With entrants from all over the country and a prize that would bring them both the needed money and prestige to get where they want, Brooke and Kathryn are both looking to the Blackmore to save them.
These two former friends who are not bitter rivals will have to compete against each other on the biggest stage of their lives. And they just might find, again, that friendship they lost so suddenly the year before.
Rival doesn't rely on romance to propel it through to the end. It's not about horribly mean girls (while it does have some pretty mean ones) nor is it about crazy drunken or drug doing teens.
Rival is awesome because it is about two girls who used to be friends until something drove them apart. That something isn't revealed right away, but while the story alternates between Junior and Senior years we see Brooke and Kathryn as they are now and as they were as friends. While Rival does show how cruel girls can be, it's not the sole focus of the story--and it is realistic.
I love how much of the book is about the girls' singing and their ambitions. Anyone who did anything with theatre or chorus, etc in school--or just likes watching Glee!--should love Rival for this aspect alone. I think having the music/singing be so much the focus brings a unique aspect to Rival. Not only does it give the book something very unique, but it gives Brooke and Kathryn something in common and keeps them together throughout the story.
Friendship (or lack thereof) really drives Rival and it was really refreshing to read a book that wasn't about girls going gaga over a boy or debating the best way to get a date. It's not that Rival is innocent . . . it just focuses on a part of life that exists and is important but seems to get overlooked in books.
(There is still some romance in Rival, however, and I absolutely, absolutely love it! Love the main male character, as well.)
Grace Carpenter doesn't find beauty in the Femme Fatale cosmetics her mother sells for a living, she doesn't see it in the pageants her mother enters...moreGrace Carpenter doesn't find beauty in the Femme Fatale cosmetics her mother sells for a living, she doesn't see it in the pageants her mother enters Grace's six-year-old Taffeta in, either, The only beauty fourteen-year-old Grace really sees in windblown Washokey, Wyoming is Mandarin Ramsey.
Seventeen-year-old, Mandarin is Washokey's wild-child - and their favorite source of gossip, as well. Grace doesn't care about all the talk of Mandarin and 'her men' or the other things people say about her, she just knows that Mandarin fascinates her. What Grace wouldn't give to be like Mandarin.
But brilliant Grace, who's been moved up from ninth to tenth grade and Mandarin, a senior who's out of class almost as often as she's in it, have rarely crossed paths before. Until, that is, they're paired up for a project. Soon, Grace and Mandarin begin what might just be a friendship - and Grace is learning more than she ever thought she would about Mandarin Ramsey.
The relationship between Grace and Mandarin in Like Mandarin is unlike one I've read before. Both characters are so incredibly unique - from Grace's pageant past (and less than graceful exit) to her love of rocks and Mandarin's complexities that really come out as the story develops. At first it seems like something very one sided, that Grace really is just fascinated with this much talked about, interesting, older girl. The, though, as the two interact, we get to see how these two, so seemingly different individuals, form a friendship.
I love the way Grace's relationship with her mother and with her sister also grows and develops alongside the events involving her and Mandarin.
As with Wanderlove (which came out second but I read first), Hubbard has an incredible talent for writing settings. Like Mandarin is set in the badlands of Wyoming which might sound less appealing (to some) than Central America (where Wanderlove is) but it comes across no less beautiful and breathtaking.
I'm also starting to think she has an extreme talent for naming characters, first Bria Sandoval and Starling in Wanderlove and now I read this with Mandarin, the appealing, exotic seeming girl and Taffeta, the younger daughter that the mother has all her beauty queen dreams pinned on. Perfect character names!
Fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas isn't talking to her family. Her dad has MS, multiple sclerosis, and while her parents felt it appropriate to tell her...moreFifteen-year-old Payton Gritas isn't talking to her family. Her dad has MS, multiple sclerosis, and while her parents felt it appropriate to tell her years older brothers, they all kept it from her. Until she found out by accident.
Hence her not talking to them.
Now she's been sent to the school guidance counselor, Ms Callahan, so that she will talk to someone and find a way to deal with things.
Ms Callahan has an idea that Payton's parents probably never thought of when they called, though: a Focus Object. Payton's supposed to find something to focus her emotions on that will help her cope with her family's secret and her father's MS.
Thing is, it's supposed to be an inanimate object and Payton's picked Sean Griswold's head.
Griswold-Gritas. Alphabetically they're been seated together since elementary school so Payton's had a lot of time to stare at Sean Griswold's head.
Except, once she starts focusing on--or stalking Sean---and his head, she realizes she doesn't actually know very much about Sean, at all.
Soon, Sean's working his way into Payton's closely guarded life. And she's going to have to look at herself, to really deal with her feeling on her father's MS.
Sean Griswold's Head is what you should want every book you pick up to be. It's that amazingly perfect.
On one page, it has you grinning, a few pages later it squeezes your heart, and then, then it somehow does both at the same time. Very, very few books--if any, really--are able to do the touching sweet moments as well as the funny ones.
Sean Griswold's Head is somehow, also, a pitch-perfect story of first love while also telling of a story coping with a member who has multiple sclerosis. While each element is separate, they're also not. The love story is stronger because Payton's dealing with her family situation is part of it and her family and friends either directly or indirectly help her romance along. I don't care if you for whatever reason don't like the summary of this book (either mine or the publishers) or are some reason unsure of it, please do read it!! I adore it.
(review copy sent thanks to Kate at Bloomsbury)(less)
Harper Scott's older sister recently - and unexpectedly committed suicide shortly before her high school graduation. . . Just a few more weeks and she...moreHarper Scott's older sister recently - and unexpectedly committed suicide shortly before her high school graduation. . . Just a few more weeks and she would have been June who died in June, Harper thinks. But she didn't make it long. Harper's divorcing parents plan to divide June's ashes.
Harper plans to take them to the only place June ever really wanted to go: California. On a road trip with her best friend Laney and a guy, Jake who has a mysterious connection to June, Harper learns things about herself, June and life.
Saving June is an excellent story with very distinct characters. From Harper to Laney to Jake, each character is most definitely their own and when they're in a group, the novel really comes a live. Each of the characters has their own quirks and traits that make them, them - and different not only from each other but characters in other books.
The road trip of Saving June is, admittedly, not one that everyone reading would want to take. The characters do engage in some activities that are not for everyone. Yet, that's part of what makes it great. Whether you're one of the readers who thinks their trips sounds like the greatest one ever and will spend the book working out way to hide out as a stow-a-way or one who knows right a way it's a trip you would not work out on, it's still a book for you.
Neither Saving June's story nor its characters alienate anyone. Love everything the characters are and do or be incredibly put-off by some of it, it's okay. If you're the latter, you can still enjoy the trip vicariously. Harrington doesn't ask that you be the same as her characters to enjoy her book. The closest I can think to compare it to is I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert (yet much lighter).
All of that is not even talking about the absolute music love that is in Saving June. It's a great book for someone who's always watching Behind the Music but you want them to read a book - because it's almost Behind the Music in book form but with plot and emotion and greatness. (And playlists in the back!)
Saving June is really unlike any book I've read in a long, long while and I absolutely love that - and it.(less)
The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder is a beautiful example of what a YA verse novel can be. Amber wants to spend The Day Before alone, by herself. So she...moreThe Day Before by Lisa Schroeder is a beautiful example of what a YA verse novel can be. Amber wants to spend The Day Before alone, by herself. So she takes off for the beach leaving only notes for her family to tell them that she’ll be back later, in time.
With her life gradually no longer under her control, she wants a day that’s just her. Not a day dictated by the rules or her parents, or by anyone.
But then she meets Cade. With their instant attraction, soon Amber and Cade are spending more and more of the day together.
Deciding to spend a perfect day together: no talk of the past, no regrets, and no fear, the two soon learn things about each other anyway.
And Amber learns that while she’s living for the moment, for the perfect Day Before, Cade’s living each moment like it’s his last—and she’s becoming more and more worried for him.
Told in beautiful verse, The Day Before lets you a little bit more into the characters’ lives with each line.
We might not know what The Day Before is actually the day before for a while, but we gradually learn the situation. And, not knowing the situation, readers connect first with Amber’s reaction to what’s happening and then form their own reaction or opinion to it once they know the facts.
This is a case where not knowing the whole story really brings you closer to the character.
The relationship between the two characters, short though it may be, is just about perfect, too. Each has their own baggage that they bring to the Day making things interesting.
Even with the stories that each character had – both of which could have written to play up the drama, seem unrealistic – the entire novel was incredibly realistic, true to life. This book will leave you wanting to read the rest of Ms Schroeder’s writing if you haven’t aleady.
(read thanks to GalleyGrab)
soundtrack: Glitter In The Air by P!nk (kind of need to own/have this to listen to for reading The Day Before)(less)
Micol Ostow's family is loosely based on the Manson Family murders (and Charles Manson's cult) of 1969. family's main character (and narrator) is seve...moreMicol Ostow's family is loosely based on the Manson Family murders (and Charles Manson's cult) of 1969. family's main character (and narrator) is seventeen-year-old Melinda Jensen a girl who's run away to escape abuse when she meets Henry (the stand-in for Manson). Told in free verse poetry, familychooses to examine Mel's past as well as her introduction to and life in Henry's 'family.'
The 'family' lives together, sleeps together, eats together and shares everything. They gather food for their meals, wash the clothes, everyone has a chore, something to do.
To really be a part of her new family--and succeed at leaving the old one behind--Mel has to take part in everything Henry and his 'family' have to offer.
No matter how far they might go . . . or what she Mel might be called to do in the name of the family.
Because family is told through Mel, we only get her perspective on things. She usually feels . . . disconnected or removed from everything, including that which is happening in her life. It's easy to see why a girl who had suffered abuse like Mel and left to be free, would fall in with Henry.
Mel's disconnection from things makes sense given the situation, but at times it keeps the reader from really connecting with the story. We never quite get why Henry is so enigmatic and attractive to all of these people. Why it is that everyone's so willing to do what he says.
family is more a look at a girl in Henry's family than it is a look at Henry's (re Manson's) family. Readers do understand how (if not why) things operate in the group and the poetry gives a real sense of who Melinda is--and how she got that way, though. The glimpses into the way that the family operates, do give the reader the opportunity to see the little ways (that are not so little in the end) that members are controlled--the girls especially. It's Melinda's immersion in the family--and therefore her lack of reaction to most of these things--that while sometimes give them more impact, also the reader from finding out more.
Those looking for a true telling of the Manson murders--or the people involved--via YA fiction, might be slightly disappointed. But if you go into family realizing how much of it is a story about a girl who thought Henry was going to save her . . . and then found the dark side to everything, it's a great read.
MIcol Ostow's poetry is beautiful (and capitalization choices that I love). Even if you aren't one to normally read verse novels (YA or otherwise), do give family a chance.
thank you to Jennifer and EgmontUSA for my advance copy of this book.(less)
Sharks and Boys by Kristen Tracy shows us somewhere even crazier that a relationship on a ‘break’ can lead than ‘Friends’ did. When the book first sta...moreSharks and Boys by Kristen Tracy shows us somewhere even crazier that a relationship on a ‘break’ can lead than ‘Friends’ did. When the book first stars Enid Calhoun and her boyfriend Wick Jarboe are together – making marzipan sea creatures for a wedding cake, no less –but before their afternoon is over, Wick lets Enid know he thinks they should take a break.
The break, of course, leads Enid to think Wick wants to be with another girl – or girls. So, while she’s with her mother delivering the wedding cake (the one with the sea creatures), she does a very irresponsible, un-Enid like think: she takes off. Not just to anywhere, though. To Maryland.
The boys, including her twin brother Landon and Wick are having a party and Enid is sure Wick is going to use the opportunity to cheat on her. So she’s going to use the opportunity (that she’s made) to spy on him and find out.
Only things go terribly wrong when the party moves to a boat and the boat moves to sea . . . and a hurricane comes. Shipwrecked miles from shore with sharks surrounding them, the teens will have to confront their fears and problems with each other if they hope to survive.
And even then it’s only a hope.
When I first began reading Sharks and Boys I forgot the summary and thought that the sharks on the cover were just referencing the marzipan sea animals and that I’d gotten the real shark/survival part wrong. I was glad to know I had not made it up. (Not because I’m some crazy person who wants teens eaten by sharks but because it had the possibility to make a much different tale.)
Having eight teenagers stuck in the ocean for almost all of a novel is definitely different and very interesting. I really liked the issues that arose due to the circumstances. There was thought put into how they would have to survive, what they would have to do – it wasn’t just used to get them away from civilization and then they were floating pleasantly along.
The characters names were a little distracting, however. Usually I like different names, I think this time because it was only the characters for so much of the book, I just kept wondering why their names were what they were. (Some of them were explained towards the end of the book and maybe if they were explained earlier on, it would have been easier.)
Because the majority of the book is the characters on the water, you really have to like the characters (Enid especially) to love this book. I didn’t dislike the characters, per se, but I did not love them either. I could understand why Enid and Wick were on a break, they didn’t seem to be these to people that should be together. The characters all had quite a few issues (family wise, etc) but I never quite connected with them.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my eGalley of this title. (less)