I wanted to like this one. For the most part, I was engaged with The Serpent King (still thought it had some flaws, though), so I expected to feel theI wanted to like this one. For the most part, I was engaged with The Serpent King (still thought it had some flaws, though), so I expected to feel the same way about Goodbye Days. Unfortunately, the flaws in this were to immense for me to give this a high rating.
The Good: I liked the friendship between Carver, Blake, Mars, and Eli. I was concerned that their friendship would be somewhat brushed off seeing as how Goodbye Days starts with Carver's best friends already dead. I was worried that it would focus so much on how Carver deals with it that I wouldn't get any inkling as to why these characters were friends. Fortunately, Zentner includes flashbacks that detail how Carver met each of his best friends and how they functioned as a group. I also really liked the relationship with Carver and Georgia. I thought it was sweet.
The Eh: One problem that I had with The Serpent King was that I had to suspend belief multiple times. This happened to me with Goodbye Days. I just don't see the whole "Is Carver culpable for the death of his friends" arc going as far as it did in real life than it did in the book. And I get that Zentner was trying to say, "Wait, this can happen because look at that girl in Massachusetts who's being charged for the suicide of her friend", but those are two entirely different circumstances. Carver wasn't actively goading his friends to answer his text message in hopes that they would all die in a car crash. That girl in Mass was continuously telling her friend to commit suicide and kept telling him to get back in the car when he expressed doubts. So, one is culpable, one is not. And again, I don't the circumstances in the book playing out that way in real life.
More Eh: I never really warmed to Carver. Sure, he wasn't responsible for his friends' deaths, but he still seemed like kind of a tool. He was sexist. And sure he acknowledged his sexism from time to time, but that doesn't automatically erase the fact that it exists within him. One thing that left a bad taste in my mouth has to do with how the parents of the deceased are portrayed. I was so disheartened to realize that the black character was the one parent who decided to inflict some violence, but the other parents are shown as more "respectable". Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but that upset me and is a big reason why this book went from three stars to two.
In the end, I wasn't a fan of Goodbye Days. The main character wasn't likable and the whole court aspect of this book seemed like a stretch. I think The Serpent King is a way better read and that one actually made me cry, while this one just made me go "Eh."...more
I so, so wanted You're Welcome, Universe to live up to its awesome, swoon-worthy, beautiful cover and it did! Seriously, You're Welcome, Universe wasI so, so wanted You're Welcome, Universe to live up to its awesome, swoon-worthy, beautiful cover and it did! Seriously, You're Welcome, Universe was pretty damn great.
I really liked Julia. She was tough as nails, snarky, funny, and she made not-so-great decisions. All of these things served to make Julia a flawed human being. All good points in my book. I also adored her relationship with YP. I'm a sucker for a good female friendship, particularly because it tends to be rare in YA books where the heroines are more focused on romance than anything else. You know what's also rare in YA? A book that has very little romance. And BAM! You're Welcome, Universe has virtually no romance. The whole focus of the book is Julia and her art, as well as her navigation of a "mainstream" school.
More Good: I expected a book with a Deaf MC to be told the way books with a non-Deaf MC are told, but it wasn't and I loved that about it. I particularly liked how when Julia was lip-reading, there were some words missing in the book because she wasn't catching every word the person was saying. You can just tell that this book was meticulously researched and that sensitivity readers were used (which is a must if you're writing about a culture you don't personally belong to).
The teeny tiny Eh: The reason that You're Welcome, Universe isn't getting five stars (other than the fact that I'm insanely stingy with them) is that some of the adult supporting characters weren't fleshed out as much. I say some because Mr. Katz (whom I loved and adored) and Casey were plenty fleshed out, but Julia's parents were non-entities for the most part. We get to know some of Mee, but I would have loved it if the author explored Julia and Ma's relationship a little bit more.
Overall, I really enjoyed You're Welcome, Universe. Julia was a great main character, the supporting characters were awesome, the book seems to be meticulously researched. The art was also stunning and I'm hoping the finished copy of this book has these amazing drawings in color (cause that would be insanely pretty). Highly recommended!...more
Lately, I have been singing the praises of YA contemporary fiction. My last two contemporary YA books were damn impressive, so I thought "Maybe I don'Lately, I have been singing the praises of YA contemporary fiction. My last two contemporary YA books were damn impressive, so I thought "Maybe I don't need to love YA fantasy, cause I have these!" Well, after reading The Loose Ends List, I decided that my next read needs to be a fantasy so that I could wipe the stench that this book left within me. Cause frankly, this book sucked.
Getting right to it: Maddie sucked. She was a horrible main character. I get that the author wanted her to be this popular girl who's amazing, yet insecure, who's funny and deep. Yeah, well, that failed. Maddie was shallow, judgmental, and her supposed moments of empathy rang entirely insincere. She starts off the book by stating what a shame it is that a hot guy got the diseased gene, while his ugly brother got the healthy gene. What even? This chick judges everyone. Her grandmother's lawyer is bald, so naturally that makes Maddie and Janie (her equally shallow cousin) think "Eww, gross!" She goes on to wonder who's the terminally ill one in a couple: either the really skinny one or the overweight one.
More: She's surprised that a hot girl with a surfboard and big breasts is a botanist because y'know hot and chesty = dumb. Then she says this little nugget, "I don't think I can eat next to someone in a wheelchair." Really? WTF! Last time I checked, people in wheelchairs were still...y'know PEOPLE! And she was never redeemed. There was never that lightbulb moment where she thought "Huh. I'm shallow and judgmental. Maybe I should change." Nope. She just stays horrible. Of course, why would she change when everyone around her is telling her how magnificent she is?
She's not the only shallow character in this book. Again, Janie is just as shallow. You think she might be a little bit better than Maddie because she shows some moments of empathy. But all that goes to hell when she's in Brazil and states, "That's a lot of blonde people for Brazil." Because, of course, Brazil means dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair, right? I'm trying so hard to not say that that's kinda racist, but what it is is really fucking stereotypical. Maybe the author thought that she was being funny by making fun of people with different nationalities, different looks, different religions (because a German guy in Brazil means Nazi and Nazi's and the Holocaust are funny, right? HA HA). It doesn't come across as funny. It comes across as offensive.
The Loose Ends List was not funny in the slightest, even when you take away the offensive "jokes." This book comes across as trying desperately hard to be funny, but failing at every turn. The grandmother? A caricature. Also, what was with her honking her granddaughter's breast? What was with Janie looking at Maddie (her COUSIN!) and saying "I'd do you"? I have never, not once, looked at a family member who was dressed nicely and said, "Nice. I'd do you" because that would be really fucking weird.
Overall, I intensely disliked The Loose Ends List. It wasn't funny, the "jokes" were offensive, it was boring, and it had insta-love. This book caused numerous eye-rolls and was just a bad book. I say skip it....more
Okay, so Nina LaCour and I have a complicated relationship. And by that I mean that I once read one of her books (The Disenchantments), really didn'tOkay, so Nina LaCour and I have a complicated relationship. And by that I mean that I once read one of her books (The Disenchantments), really didn't like it, and have held it against her ever since. And this is totally unfair because prior to not liking The Disenchantments, I really loved Hold Still. But The Disenchantments soured me away from LaCour's books. Of course, that was until I found out that Everything Leads to You featured GLBT characters. So, I read that one. Really liked it. Read Summer Days and Summer Nights. LOVED LaCour's short story in it. Yet, despite all this, every single time I pick up a LaCour book, I hesitate. Well, after reading We Are Okay, I will hesitate no longer.
I frigging LOVED this book. There's just something about the way LaCour writes about grief that hits you in the gut and makes you feel active pain for what her characters are going through. I felt in Hold Still. I felt it doubly in We Are Okay. Marin's emotions (particularly her loneliness) just leapt off the page. So much that towards the end of it, I was just a massive puddle of tears.
So, we have tons (TONS!) of gorgeous writing and an immense amount of grief in We Are Okay. What else? Well, the relationship between Marin and Mable is so, so understated. At first, I was a bit put off (because HELLO! I came here for the GLBT relationship), but this book is primarily a book about a character attempting to deal with grief. Everything else is in the background. But that background relationship was so beautiful in its simplicity. And everything between Marin and her grandfather, extra double punch in the gut due to pain.
All of this rambling is just to say pick up this book! Seriously, everything about We Are Okay is awe-inspiring: from the cover (because OH MY GOD! is this cover the most stunning thing you've ever seen?), to the characters, to the overall writing of it. It has made its way to my favorites shelf and has just single handedly made sure that I never again hesitate to pick up a Nina LaCour book. We Are Okay is highly, highly recommended!...more
Huh. Because of the Sun was kind of a weird book. And my feelings on weird tend to be all over the place, so I wasn't fully on board with this one.
TheHuh. Because of the Sun was kind of a weird book. And my feelings on weird tend to be all over the place, so I wasn't fully on board with this one.
The Good: I loved the relationship between Shelly and Dani. It was new, awkward, angsty, and pretty much how I love all of my book familial relationships to be. I liked that this was the main relationship in the book and how it focused on how these two people so full to the brim with pain could co-exist with each other. Shelly, just as a whole, was such a great character that I definitely wanted to know more about. We do get to see a bit of how she grew up, seeing as how she narrates Part Two of the book (which was my favorite part), but still I wanted to know more about her upbringing.
The Eh: I was never quite enamored with Dani. The problem for me is that when a book deals heavily with a character that has disconnected (as Dani has), it's very hard for me to connect with that character. Dani was no exception. I found her rather aloof and while it's obviously understandable seeing as how she's dealing with her grief, again, I wasn't enamored with her (the stealing did have a lot to do with it, too). The romance also left me flat. I'm not a huge romance fan to begin with and don't tend to mind when it's not at the forefront of a book (in fact, I tend to prefer it), but this one definitely needed more fleshing out for me to buy it.
More Eh: The flashback scenes in Because of the Sun were all sorts of confusing. There's no way to tell what's happening now, what's just in Dani's head as a manifestation of her grief, or what's happening in the past. It was never really clear and the constant back and forth gave me a slight headache. However, I did read an advanced reader's copy of this book, so maybe that's something that'll be more clear in the finished copy.
Overall, I thought Because of the Sun was okay. I really liked Shelly and honestly, would have preferred if the book was about her upbringing as opposed to Dani's because she just seemed like a more intriguing character. Still, this was a quick (but an extremely depressing, there's absolutely no fluff here) read that I don't regret reading....more
I have very little appreciation for art in its purest form. And by that I mean that art tends to go over my head and/or I tend to get bored by it. So,I have very little appreciation for art in its purest form. And by that I mean that art tends to go over my head and/or I tend to get bored by it. So, I was a bit ambivalent as to how much I was going to like The Animators because it seemed like art was going to feature pretty heavily in it. Imagine my surprise when the art aspect of this book was more intriguing than most anything else in it.
The Good: The first half of The Animators was pretty damn great. Again, you get a heavy dose of how Sharon and Mel create their cartoons and that was kind of fascinating to me. Sharon and Mel also start out really interesting and I was really digging their friendship and how they worked as a team even though they seemed so different from one another. The first half of this book was also a bit of a page-turner. So, all good things
The Eh: The Animators sort of fell apart for me in the second half. Mainly because that's when I started realizing that this book wasn't all that plot-heavy. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the crap out of character study kind of books and tend not to mind when there's very little plot to be found. But for me to get the full enjoyment out of a character study, I have to actually be intrigued by the characters and after the halfway point, I realized that I mostly wasn't.
Mel wasn't the problem. Sure, Mel was a hot ass mess, but she was entertaining and endearing most of the time. However, Sharon just became more and more pathetic as The Animators went on. There's absolutely no redeeming quality in her. She's obsessed with men more than she is with her work or her family or her friends and that's pretty much the only thing that gives her validation. Her relationships later in the novel just prove that. She was bratty, immature, and just not a character I wanted to keep reading about. Now, that's a problem when the whole book is about her. I also thought that this book started veering way into melodrama/Lifetime movie of the week towards the second half and I'm not a fan of melodrama.
In the end, I wasn't a huge fan of The Animators. I found the first half to be great, but the second half was kind of a slog to get through and made me thoroughly roll my eyes more than once. If you plan to read this, just know what you're getting into: a book that has very little plot, but is very much about a vapid, self-absorbed main character....more
I was interested in Holding Up the Universe AFTER the synopsis for it had already changed, so the whole original synopsis hoopla has nothing to do witI was interested in Holding Up the Universe AFTER the synopsis for it had already changed, so the whole original synopsis hoopla has nothing to do with why I was less than enamored with Holding Up the Universe. Oh, I also haven't read All the Bright Places, so that also didn't affect my feelings on this book, either.
This might be because I'm still suffering from the after effects of a brutal reading slump, but I didn't particularly love Holding Up the Universe. The main characters were somewhat interesting, the supporting characters even more so, and all of the adults in this book all but rocked (except for the slightly crappy one). Yet, this book left me cold. I was never offended by it (which seems to be the case for some people who weren't enamored with it), I was just so underwhelmed. The pacing in Holding Up the Universe is all off. It's just one of those books that feels so long and when I put it down, I had no particular inclination to pick it back up. It was a slog at times. I felt like nothing interesting happened for a big chunk of the book.
I also found the ending a bit too saccharine for me. It was the only time in this book that I felt like it was unrealistic (Spoilers Below):
So, I'm supposed to believe that this guy has prosopagnosia for everyone but the person he's in love with? He's so in love with her that he can see her without the identifiers, but he can't recognize the people he's known for years? Uh, no. I call BS.
End of Spoilers.
Overall, I felt that Holding Up the Universe was underwhelming. I don't regret reading it, but it's just one of those books that I felt was highly forgettable.
And once again, here's a YA book that people seem to love (if the 4-5 star ratings on Goodreads and Amazon are anything to go by) and that I think wasAnd once again, here's a YA book that people seem to love (if the 4-5 star ratings on Goodreads and Amazon are anything to go by) and that I think was just okay.
I loved Girl in Pieces when I started it. It reminded me a bit of Girl, Interrupted with a bit of The Bell Jar thrown in (just not as amazing). You got to find out a little bit about all of the amazing different characters in the clinic, both patients and staff. They were all so engaging. I also loved the way the first part was written. I found the little snippets interesting and they never became too poetic and flowery. However, once Part I was over and Charlie left the clinic, this formerly interesting and unique YA novel became so very generic.
The minute Charlie leaves the clinic, she starts obsessing. I would expect her to obsess over her scars, over her past, over what happened both at the clinic and before the clinic, but no. Charlie starts obsessing over a guy. And the biggest emotion Charlie feels in this book is jealousy. Jealousy because this guy from her past has a girlfriend. Then, she starts obsessing over this other guy. And she starts acting extremely pathetic to get and to keep his attention. Oh, of course, she's still jealous at this stage. She's jealous because the new guy had previous relationships with people that weren't her. She's also still jealous about the fact that the old guy she liked still has a girlfriend. So, she just wants all male attention to go her way...or at least that's what I'm deducing from the fact that she does absolutely nothing in the book but obsess over guys. That makes her boring, in my book. In fact, it seems that all of the other patients from the beginning might've had more interesting post-clinic lives than Charlie. Would've loved to read more in-depth about them.
In the end, I was a bit disappointed in Girl in Pieces. There was an interesting story to tell (particularly the one with the patients in the clinic). Too bad the author got too bogged down with the "romance" and the feelings involved in this "romance" to tell that interesting story. I did think that it was somewhat engaging and it did pick up again a bit in Part III. But the slog that was Part II is a little hard to get over....more