This is one of those near-perfect YA novels. It's got everything: a great narrator "voice", a relateable and loveable heroine, family and friend dramaThis is one of those near-perfect YA novels. It's got everything: a great narrator "voice", a relateable and loveable heroine, family and friend drama, romance, heartbreak, hope, humor, and, above all, an unbelievable warmth. No one is perfect and yet I found myself rooting for everyone. For DJ Schwenk, who is so brave and inspiring, although she doesn't know it yet. For her father, who can be demanding and harsh, but who does his best and obviously loves his family (even when he is incapable of expressing it). For her mother, who plays peacemaker to the extent that she tries to smooth over family troubles instead of fixing them, but who is doing her best to keep her silent and stubborn family together. For her little brother, noticeably quiet even in a family of slow-to-speak and reticent people, who has his own hidden dreams that he's too embarrassed to share. And for Brian Nelson, the quarterback from the rival team, who can be arrogant and thoughtless and is quick to blame others when things go wrong (as D.J. repeatedly notes with disgust) but who is also friendly and with a good sense of humor, who appreciates D.J. for exactly who she is (even if he gets mad at her for becoming his competition).
Can I just repeat how much I love D.J.? She is so different from the typical Y.A. heroine - she does care about boys and is not the best student and all that jazz, but she is also so grounded. Most of her troubles are about the pressure from her family and all the responsibility of basically running the family farm since her dad got hurt and her brothers went off to college. She thinks she's dumb, because she failed English (which was not because she's dumb - it's because she was running an entire farm by herself on top of school work and that's too much for anyone). Like everyone else in the family, D.J. has a killer work ethic - the Schwenk family motto is basically "give it your all and don't complain." So even when things get hard, D.J. gets mad but she doesn't give up. I love that.
And the Brian Nelson/D.J. dynamic was great! They are opposites and kindred spirits and watching them warm up (and fall in love?) to each other was delightful. ...more
This was a brilliant and frustrating book. The brilliance outweighed the frustration in the end, I think, but damn Lockhart,why do you insist on makinThis was a brilliant and frustrating book. The brilliance outweighed the frustration in the end, I think, but damn Lockhart,why do you insist on making the love interests so teeth-grindingly frustrating and the heroines so isolated and with such poor judgment regarding the men in their lives.
First, for the brilliance. I love, love, love criminal geniuses. Usually they're adolescent boys (see Artemis Fowl, White Cat, Evil Genius). The fact that Frankie Landau Banks is a pretty teenage girl at a preppy boarding school is superb. And Lockhart really does have the touch for creating an authentic teenage "voice." I may not like that Frankie sticks in a relationship where the boy is obviously a sucky boyfriend because she's so dazzled by him and his friends - but I can't say that I wouldn't have done the same thing. I mean, Matthew Livingston is on paper the ultimate high school boyfriend: a senior, wealthy, clever, funny, confident, handsome, and part of the in-crowd. The fact that he cares more about his friends than he ever does Frankie, that he treats her like some adorable pet and never takes her seriously, and that his values are so different from Frankie's - she wants to take a passionate stand and make changes, he's content to drift through life in a comfortable blanket of privilege - would not necessarily override his more obvious attributes for a regular teenage girl. Or even an irregular one like Frankie.
Frankie's pranks were brilliant, the story of her development from sheltered girl to criminal genius was exciting, and I'm always up for tales of boarding school life. This book was wry and fun and deliciously wicked. Frankie is a true pranker extraordinaire.
BUT - the ending of this book felt hollow. I really thought that Frankie was going to create her own secret society as a rival to the all-boys’ club one. That way Frankie could form her own friend group instead of forever being a tag-along in her boyfriend's group.
Frankie is fighting and fighting to gain respect and show that she deserves a place and only eventually realizes that no matter how clever and brave and brilliant she is, she will never be let in – these guys only have room for each other and everyone else is Other and not allowed into the inner circle. And instead of being like FUCK YOU I WILL HAVE MY OWN CIRCLE, Frankie is just all sad and alone and still has NO REAL FRIENDS. Because heroines in Lockhart stories aren’t really allowed to have real friends. Until, like, four books and several years later. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be Frankie’s friend? Assholes, that’s the only people who wouldn’t. And yet, I think it’s partly because Frankie both feels that no one’s really good enough (except the people who won’t let her be part of their group) and because she doesn’t feel like anyone would really understand her anyway. It’s an odd mixture of arrogance and self-esteem issues.
There is no alternative secret society. Frankie doesn’t even dream of one. She just lone wolfs it. She can’t seem to figure out who – and what – is truly worthwhile. Or maybe because she is several degrees more amazing than everyone else in the school so no one can be her equal or even her lieutenant.
I feel like this is a book desperately in need of a sequel. I would be fine if this was Part I: Frankie learns she is a fucking badass if there was a Part II: Frankie learns she still needs the power of friendship. I don't think it's a coincidence (although it may be a cliche), that every other teenage criminal genius book involves the hero learning that He Can't Do This Alone and that Friendship is Important and He Needs Friends To Help Him and Ground Him. Frankie, Matthew Livingstone is a self-centered, condescending dick. PLEASE GET REAL FRIENDS. And while your roommate is very, very sweet she obviously is not your true friend because you can't be your evil genius self around her. This school holds someone who can appreciate you, I just know it. Please find them, and hold fast - and keep sticking it to the Old Boy's Club! ...more
I've read a lot of disappointing YA books this year. Sometimes I worry that I'm outgrowing the genre. And then a book like Saving Francesca comes alonI've read a lot of disappointing YA books this year. Sometimes I worry that I'm outgrowing the genre. And then a book like Saving Francesca comes along and I fall in love all over again. THIS is why I read YA. For a wonderful book like this that is romantic and funny and touching and keeps me locked in until it's finish, even if it keeps me up until 3am and I know I'll be getting only 3 hours of sleep and be mainlining coffee the next day. This book is the best YA I read this year and literally made me laugh and cry (and this is not one of those times when a person misuses the word "literally." I ACTUALLY laughed aloud and cried MULTIPLE TIMES. Not that this book is sad/tragic. It's just very emotional and relatable). ...more
So I read the first book in this series a loooooooooooong time ago. Like, several years ago. But I vaguely remember it and I figured it was pulp fictiSo I read the first book in this series a loooooooooooong time ago. Like, several years ago. But I vaguely remember it and I figured it was pulp fiction YA – the author is going to repeat all the necessary information. And she did!
Plus, it’s not a very complicated plot. Girl gets caught up in spyfare, since her mother is ex-CIA and her love interest is on the run from the evil spies. Girl's mistakes move the plot along, but her spunkiness helps outmaneuver evil spies. Girl doesn't get boy quite yet, since this is a trilogy.
It’s a complete thriller – light on character, heavy on action. It flows very well and fast, but as soon as I thought back to what happened in the light of knowing everything (instead of just enough to move the plot along), everything begins to unravel. (view spoiler)[I mean, what the heck was the point of turncoat CIA agent choking his (secret) partner and causing him to crash the plane – which could have killed everyone onboard? He already had what he wanted: the ring and the people hiding it trapped at his mercy in an enclosed space. I mean, crashing the plane and trekking the wilderness, which could’ve led to his death or abandonment, was completely pointless. Exciting, but stupid. (hide spoiler)]
Whatever, it was a fun read and good summer fluff. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
One of my greatest fears is being in a car accident that kills my entire family; and I don’t know if dying or living is a better option in that scenarOne of my greatest fears is being in a car accident that kills my entire family; and I don’t know if dying or living is a better option in that scenario. And this book is set in Oregon (my guess is that Mia lives in Corvallis or Eugene) and Mia is sent to a Portland hospital. Being from Portland, this hits close to home.
It's powerful and beautiful and heartbreaking and surprisingly, despite all the sadness, incredibly gripping and good. Now I know why everyone has been going so head over heels for it.
My one complaint is all the flashbacks. It's quite a slim book (only 196 pages) so it's not that it should be shorter. And since the book starts the morning of the accident and the majority of the "current" timeline takes place while Mia is in a coma and her spirit/consciousness/whatever you want to call it is roaming the hospital, flashbacks are certainly necessary to establish Mia's past, especially her relationships. But it got repetitive. Mia was part of an incredibly close knit family. She was shy and studious and loved her cello and got accepted into Julliard. Her boyfriend Adam was sweet and though it was awkward at first, since they were so different, they worked through it and were happy (though worried about the future, with Mia moving so far away). And this was all established during the first several flashbacks. And established well. I could feel how painful it would be for Mia to decide to stay, without her loving, supportive family. And how it would be just as painful to leave the people who were still alive. By the end, I wanted to spend more time with "current" timeline Mia and what was happening in the hospital, not another scene of "past" Mia and how much she loved her cello/her boyfriend/her family. That sounds harsh, but I felt that the point was proven and I was more concerned with what Mia was going to choose and what it was like for everyone in the hospital.
And since music is so important to this book (both Mia and Adam are musicians), I will say I played two songs on repeat while reading this book (maybe not the best idea, because they just made me cry harder) because they felt very appropriate to me: "Kettering" by The Antlers and "Biko" by Bloc Party....more
Holy fuck this book is DARK. I was expecting a light young adult book about a high school misfit but this is some Judy Bloom shit right here. EVERYTHIHoly fuck this book is DARK. I was expecting a light young adult book about a high school misfit but this is some Judy Bloom shit right here. EVERYTHING BAD that could possibly happen before you reach adulthood happens – sexual abuse, domestic violence, suicide, abortion, homophobia, rape, drug abuse. No wonder this is banned all over the place.
This is not light. This is not fluff. This is heavy stuff.
It was very good but not at all what I was expecting.
This is an odd book. I like the uniqueness – it is written as a journal by a 12-year old boy genius and his side-notes and maps and illustrations areThis is an odd book. I like the uniqueness – it is written as a journal by a 12-year old boy genius and his side-notes and maps and illustrations are in the margins (he tries to understand the world by mapping, diagraming, and illustrating it, from animal migration patterns and water systems to how his sister shucks corn and how his father drinks whiskey). It’s different, and I think different is almost always good.
I think the essential story is amazing: intellectual kid who lives too much in his head (and his drawing) in a Montana ranch family with a stoic, old-school cowboy father, dramatic teenage sister (who is actually a great older sister – I heartily love the sibling dynamic in this family), head-in-the-clouds, flighty (failed) scientist mother, and dead younger brother that T.S. both loved and envied (not only does he feel his rough-and-tumble, guys’ guy brother was his father’s favorite, but he also feels guilty because he was with his brother when he accidentally shot himself). I think the lonely genius growing up in a family who loves him but doesn’t always understand him and who is dealing with the worst kind of tragedy angle is great unto itself. Add in T.S. fending for himself and encountering the wider world for the first time through his roadtrip to the Smithsonian to collect a prestigious award for his scientific drawings – with the Smithsonian unaware he’s a kid, not a professor – and it’s perfect. I can almost see the Disney movie made of this (That is a compliment. I feel this fits in well with childhood faves like Home Alone and Homeward Bound). This book both had me giggling (especially in the Smithsonian part) and tearing up (when he talks about his brother’s death).
On the downside, Larsen has trouble finding T.S.’ voice. Sometimes it seems pitch-perfect for a child genius (like when he is wondering about the mysteries of adulthood or having intense but bizarre ideas, like that the bathroom attendant is a spy who will kill him because of his run-in with the crazy hobo). But most of the time T.S. sounds like a weary old man. You can almost smell the tweed and elbow patches. Plus, the historical fiction account T.S.’ mother wrote about T.S.’ scientific great-grandmother is in the exact same voice (except for being in the third person). I know it’s really hard to write children’s voices in literature, but I wish Larsen could’ve done better.
But what really threw me for a loop was the fantastical turn this book took near the end. It was a fairly realistic account and then suddenly T.S. thinks he kills a violent hobo by knocking him into the river accidentally (the hobo had stabbed T.S., mistaking him for an instrument of the devil). That was where the WTF began. Then it got worse because apparently there is a secret society operating that includes both bathroom attendants and T.S.’ professor-mentor and also operates the Hobo Hotline. Seriously, was this a dream? Did T.S. get stabbed to death in Chicago and everything after that was his brain making up things to cope? Because the stabbing in Chicago was where it started to make no sense (the whole “wormhole” section I did take to be either a dream or T.S. misinterpreting a very dark night in his sleepy, hungry state). This is like Life of Pi all over again (seemingly normal book with a weird twist at the end) and I don’t like it.
Oh, I did think it was hilarious that T.S. in a moment of panic was like, “my parents are dead!” when asked about them in D.C. because he was worried someone would contact them. I wanted to see the fallout for that – what happened when people inevitably found out the truth and what his parents/sister thought about him declaring himself an orphan. But, nope, it ended a bit too soon.
I actually dropped this to 3 1/2 stars for the weirdness in the ending, but rounded up to 4 stars. ...more
Oh, Marchetta. Please don't ever stop writing contemporary YA fiction.
This is a sequel/companion novel to the absolutely amazing Saving Francesca. ItOh, Marchetta. Please don't ever stop writing contemporary YA fiction.
This is a sequel/companion novel to the absolutely amazing Saving Francesca. It follows her friend Thomas Mackee, aka Tom, Tom the Piper's Son (some fortuitous googling led me to that one). And if you thought poor Francesca was fucked up, welcome to Thomas' life.
I strongly, strongly recommend (re-)reading Saving Francesca right before reading this. It has been two years since I read it and while I retain a deep and abiding love for that book, I have little memory of actual plot/characters (I have a very porous brain when it comes to details). So that left me a little confused while reading this book (I couldn't even recall the name of Francesca's boyfriend! Or what Tom had been like in the first book!).
This book felt honest and raw. It could've easily slipped into angst but never did. And like all of Marchetta's books, although the premise can be tragic it is ultimately uplifting.
I liked that Marchetta doesn't romanticize post-high school friendships. Lots of times (especially on TV series, because it's necessary to the plotlines) everyone goes to the same college, still hangs out all the time together and the relationships are basically the same as in high school. But that's not what happens in real life: people move, people change, people lose contact. And the group of friends from Saving Francesca will always have a bond, but the dynamics of the relationships have changed and not everyone is together all the time. Which is sad but true.
Also, I think Marchetta and I share the same music brain. I actually thought of "Set Fire to the Third Bar" (GREAT SONG) when I thought about Tom and Tara's relationship in the book. And while it happily doesn't fit with the relationships in this book, "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" is one of my favorite songs EVER. And, c'mon, Regina Spektor? Tell me "Hero" and "Eet" and even "One More Time From Feeling" couldn't be Tom's themes (heck, the album "Far" could be written for Tom). ...more
Laurel is a nondescript girl at a boarding school full of one-note characters. She soon discovers that when she gives a bouquet of flowers to someone,Laurel is a nondescript girl at a boarding school full of one-note characters. She soon discovers that when she gives a bouquet of flowers to someone, the meaning of the flowers comes true. This works well at first when a “spinster” teacher is given a bouquet for love and quickly falls in love with a teacher from the nearby boy’s boarding school and gets married (in, like, a few weeks. Damn, those flowers work fast). But then the other girls hear about these “magic” flowers and demand them so they can do well on tests and get dates. Laurel quickly gets overwhelmed. Especially since she has to put up with Tara, a mean girl who is I guess her kind of frenemy? Tara hates Laurel for taking her place on the soccer team, but also keeps demanding flowers and Laurel keeps giving them. Laurel has no spine. Her crush on nice guy Justin is just as bland. She’s kind of interested in him – he’s cute! he’s nice! – but doesn’t do anything about it, except have some semi-painful conversations with him near the end of the novel. There’s also Everret, who is the dumbest jock ever, and insists on saying “luv” instead of “love.” This is weird, because you think you couldn’t even tell the difference in how someone pronounces the two.
Laurel learns that she is a flowerspeaker and yadda yadda yadda. Nothing happens, even though flower magic had the potential to be neat and creative. Laurel just refuses to be anyone, and instead just worries and hesitates all over the place...more
Holy crap, for a pretty depressing YA I really loved this. One, I’m kind of in love with Clay Jensen and if a boy like that was in love with me I woulHoly crap, for a pretty depressing YA I really loved this. One, I’m kind of in love with Clay Jensen and if a boy like that was in love with me I would never commit suicide (not that I would anyway). Two, it moved quickly. And even though it dealt with depressing subject matter, Hannah’s voice was brisk and bitter, but not melancholy (she reminded me a lot of Veronica Mars; except Hannah had a very unteenager-like habit of referring to people as “honey” like she was some small-town diner waitress)....more
First off, I don’t think Johnson has actually backpacked through Europe in a long time. There are things like the internet!Whimsical, yes. Good, no.
First off, I don’t think Johnson has actually backpacked through Europe in a long time. There are things like the internet! It helps you find non-crappy hostels!
Even worse, none of the places Ginny traveled to came alive. They were like marks on the checklist.
Plus, Ginny was kind of dumb. She kept running off with strange people. Being adventurous is one thing - being spontaneous to the point of danger is silly. At times she was adorably awkward and at other times she was just too dumb to live.
And this book wasn't even romantic. I thought the playwright/thief/bloke-about-town (as per the book description) would be charming and fun. It started out well, but quickly fizzled – mostly because he wasn’t in most of the book. I’m putting this as a strong “meh.”...more
This is my year for Maureen Johnson, apparently. Never read any of her stuff before and now I'm delving into her three main series. I would put this aThis is my year for Maureen Johnson, apparently. Never read any of her stuff before and now I'm delving into her three main series. I would put this as far better than 13 Little Blue Envelopes but not as good as The Name of the Star.
In this book, Scarlett is part of a family who runs a past-its-prime hotel and is inexplicably completely friendless all summer in NYC. Don't make friends solely with kids who flee the City for three months, Scarlett.
Luckily, Scarlett has her new job as the assistant to the eccentric Mrs. Amberson. Johnson apparently loves the Elderly Magic Pixie Dream Girl. These older, free-spirit women who shake up the lives of high school girls. Seriously, that is Ms. Amberson’s role here (same with the dead aunt in Blue Envelopes). She is this whirlwind of energy that just sucks up everyone around her and lets them fall where they will. Scarlett spends the book trailing after her when not being in obsessive puppy love with Eric. Eric, of course, being her older brother Spencer's new friend and fellow thespian in his off-off-off-faaaar off-Broadway acting troop.
Scarlett is also involved in some massive sibling dynamic drama. There's Spencer, the caring-is-creepy older brother. Spencer is charming and funny and passionate but he takes the Dude that's my sister! thing a biiiit too far. Once it was pointed out to me via a GoodReads review, I realized Scarlett and Spencer did have a weirdly close relationship and Spencer was weirdly judgmental about his sisters’ dating lives - I mean, basically accusing Lola of being a whore is not cool. It doesn't help that he has a Texas-sized chip on his shoulder when it comes to Lola's rich boyfriend.
Lola (the oldest sister in the family) I liked an awful lot and thought was perhaps the character with the most hidden depth. She’s beautiful, fashionable, popular and has a rich boyfriend but she’s also sweet and caring – she seems to have basically raised little sis Marlene, the manipulative cancer survivor, by herself [seriously, what the hell are the parents doing with their time? Running the hotel is hard work, but they don’t seem to find time to actually raise their own children] – and she seems to genuinely care about her besotted but clueless boyfriend and falls into the caretaking role with him, too – even to the point of losing a job she loves. I feel like the book should’ve been centered around her. Instead, she’s just a fascinating supporting character and we’re just stuck with glimpses of her in between listening to Scarlett being milquetoast and piney.
Because, yeah, Scarlett, I know this is first love and all and we've all had those boyfriends where everyone rational will tell you HE'S NO GOOD FOR YOU AND HE IS JUST STRINGING YOU ALONG OH MY GOD PLEASE JUST STOP THIS NONSENSE. But no one likes being that girl and everyone hopes that when their friend is that girl she will see come to her senses sooner rather than later. Stand up for yourself, Scarlett! To crazy Mrs. Ambrose and that no-good Eric. Do not just let yourself be pulled along by those with stronger wills. ...more
This book is the best YA I've read in weeks and an enthusiastic five stars. It's powerful, it's romantic, it's sad, it's happy. It's just brilliant.
TThis book is the best YA I've read in weeks and an enthusiastic five stars. It's powerful, it's romantic, it's sad, it's happy. It's just brilliant.
To be clear, I don't read the Focus On Teen Problems YA books often. Rape, drugs, alcohol, suicide, pregnancy. I don't read those. I read paranormal and sci/fi fantasy and other escapism YA. I avoid Heavy Issue books because I don't read YA to be sad (and then I go and love a book like The Hunger Games...). This book reminded me the most of Thirteen Reasons Why. This could be an apt comparison or it could be one of those random connections of my mind trying to think of another Teen Issues book I surprisingly thought was great (13 Reasons Why deals with suicide). Even though I should also compare this to Melina Marchetta's contemporary YA novels because they are also books that talk about tough issues but also are amazing with surprisingly sweet romances.
So enough about other books, now about The Mockingbirds. To put it simply, it's about Alex Patrick, a girl at an exclusive boarding school who is date raped. The handling of the rape and its effects on Alex (which I think is hard to do well in fiction) rang true, probably because the author had personal experience. I like that Alex worked to not let the rape control her life but was honest that it would sometimes bleed through and taint things. I also liked that she didn't wallow. Sometimes when bad things happen to characters they spend the book whining. Alex didn't do that, though she obviously hurt and expressed that hurt. We did the rape unit in Criminal Law last semester (most of the cases are incredibly infuriating) and all the issues that were raised in this book, especially regarding consent, came up in class. It was very interesting seeing how the Mockingbird justice system defined their rape law and made their ruling.
What really sold me on this book was (1) the characters and (2) the romance.
I loved the side characters and was impressed that they didn't blur together in my mind. Whitney managed to make them all distinctive without being overly descriptive. She really had the "show, don't tell" thing down, which was awesome. She also made the rapist and his buddies creepy without them being cartoonishly villainous. They are entitled, arrogant and selfish, but not evil, which I think is much more true to life. I also liked Alex and found her growth well-done. She's not weak to begin with, but she grows stronger in a believable way, with even more believable moments of doubt and back-sliding.
I was surprised to find romance in this story. It wasn't hinted at all in the description. But it's there and it's so adorable. I love Martin. He's Alex's friend and a member of the Mockingbirds (not much of a spoiler, you find that out pretty quickly). But most of all, in a book that manages to avoid almost all the cliches that annoy me in YA, Martin and his relationship with Alex avoids the most prevalent cliches of all. I mean, I love some of these cliches. I've got a thing for rakes with a heart of gold. I love a well-done hate you/love you sparring between the leads (although it's hard to do right and ridiculously easy to do wrong). And I have a not-so-secret preference for the broken, wounded male hero with the tragic past or the tragic secret. But they've been overdone and even worse, often overdone poorly. It's actually REFRESHING to have a nice, normal guy romantic interest. I know! It's crazy, right? No one wants the nice normal guy in YA! He's just the person you stick in to prop up the love triangle! But, seriously, Martin is that guy. And I absolutely adore him. And he's proof that normal and nice does not mean boring. He's strong and protective and sweet and gentle and working to bring justice to students when the adults have failed them. He's just quietly heroic. And his relationship with Alex is incredibly sweet and at the same time incredibly hot. More of him, please?
And, yes, there's a secret society (even though I love that Martin and the other Mockingbirds are continuously pointing out to Alex it's not nearly so secret as she keeps believing it is). And there's vigilante justice, which I'm a HUGE fan of. I mean, it has a jury and checks/balances and all that jazz, but it's vigilante. It's outside the normal justice system and does what the regular justice system can't. AND it's at a boarding school and I just love boarding school stories (even though Whitney pretends that there is no school uniform. Haha, Whitney, how could that be? Luckily I just imagined everyone in school uniforms anyway).
GoodReads tells me that this is Mockingbirds #1, suggesting that it's a series. This book is completely self-contained and I was actually surprised that there will be another. I mean, no complaints from me, I'll be glad to see everyone again (I DEMANDZ MORE MARTIN!!!). I wonder if Alex will be the narrator again or if it will be a side character (my vote is for British roommate Maia who I kinda totally love). Or maybe someone else who needs the Mockingbirds' help. Whatever it is, I can't wait.
P.S. On a random note, it's in first person present tense. What is up with me spending years barely encountering a first person present book and then suddenly that seems to be all I'm reading? Is that a thing now? ...more
I realized that the only other Summers book I had read was This is Not a Test, which was a decent zombie apocalypse novel but had the failing of stillI realized that the only other Summers book I had read was This is Not a Test, which was a decent zombie apocalypse novel but had the failing of still being a zombie apocalypse novel. And all the characters being a little bit dumb. Summers does MUCH better with contemporary YA.
The protagonist, Parker, is an unlikeable mean girl, which is pretty brave for a main character. Parker is a complete bitch – she’s always been one, but it goes up to uber-bitch levels when she starts falling apart. Pre-book Parker was an ultra-perfectionist who was constantly critical of herself and others – she was head cheerleader and all the other girls hated her, even if they respected her because of how her drill-sergeant ways got results. But then a mysterious tragedy causes Parker to work on destroying herself just as hard as she has worked on everything else in her life.
After fighting so hard on never making a mistake, she has finally made one. And it is such a devastating mistake that Parker can’t recover from it. So she sets about destroying herself – drinking at school, trying to commit suicide, actively trying to push away everyone who loves her. Fortunately for her, people won’t give up on her. Her parents still try to help her and her ex-boyfriend Chris still tries to support her. New guy Jake also falls for her, against his better impulses.
The love triangle was actually super not interesting at all and there is really no reason Jake should pursue her so hard when Parker is nothing but pain. I always find it annoying when a character is a complete jerkass and is terrible in a relationship but the romantic interest persistently pursues them anyway. That is not a healthy life choice.
But I really liked such a unique and unlikeable (but still sympathetic) narrator. Parker is a perfectionist mean girl gone incredibly toxic. Much more interesting than the typical YA heroine. ...more
Best YA I read this year. One of the top books, period, but definitely the best YA. I just couldn't put it down and I felt like my whole being was invBest YA I read this year. One of the top books, period, but definitely the best YA. I just couldn't put it down and I felt like my whole being was involved when I was reading it. This is one of those too-rare books that just springs to life fully-formed in your mind and is impossible to dislodge afterwards. From the first page I couldn’t let it go. Sometimes I forget books can have the power to shift you into a whole other life and reality which feels more real than the one where you’re sitting on your bed reading a book. It’s always wonderful to be reminded of that and experience that feeling again.
To put it simply: it was insanely good.
Split is about Jace, a teen boy from an abusive family who has to come to grips with the brother that abandoned him, the mother who could not protect him and the father who beat him. Jace finally flees his house and goes to the one person he thinks will take him in: his older brother, Christian, who left home years ago and hasn't been in contact since. Jace isn't sure that Christian will let him stay. And it seems that Christian himself isn't sure if he wants Jace to stick around, as his presence starts to create cracks in Christian's carefully contained new life.
There is some powerfully amazing stuff here, especially the hesitant relationship between the brothers and Jace trying to save his mother and the realization that she has trapped herself in a cage that she must release herself from - Jace can't save her from herself, no matter how much he loves her.
I liked Christian and how he was adjusting to the life he had fled coming back to find him though Jace and how poorly he was able to express his affection, partly because of fear, partly because of guilt, partly because he had put that part of his life deep in the closet of his mind and put everything he had on top of it to hide it away. He tried so very hard to not be his father with his extreme gentleness and patience, but he also often responded with a silence and coldness that inflicted pain.
I liked Jace and how he had to work with every bit of himself to not let his anger control him and to not become his father. He did it with cockiness and bravado and stubbornness, but his heart was good and the extreme effort finally paid off and I’m so, so happy for him. Because he refused to be broken, he never was. Damaged, but not broken.
I liked that Mirriam (Christian's girlfriend) was there and think she was perfectly used. You need that third character to balance out and comment on an intense, insular relationship like what the brothers had.
I think the one weakness was the romance with Dakota. Like The Adoration of Jenna Fox, it was not the focus of the book and came off as tangential. Also like Jenna Fox, the real point of the romance was not to be romantic, but to have the protagonist decide who they are and who they want to be reflected in a relationship with another person. The family relationships and the inner journey are much more important than who they end up dating. So the romance subplot feels both tacked-on and essential.
P.S., I forgot to say earlier how Jace’s compulsive stealing of chess piece queens is so obviously metaphorical but it’s never explicitly pointed out, which I like. It’s a subconscious desire manifesting in a conscious action. The chess queens are his mother – a potentially powerful woman stuck protecting her husband, the useless but pivotal king. Jace liberates them by stealing them away. He can't save his mother, so he saves the queens instead. Ah, Jace, your shoplifting says so much about you ...more
A formulaic romance about a Good Girl falling for a Bad Boy. Brittany Ellis is beautiful, popular, and rich. But the strain of maintaining her perfectA formulaic romance about a Good Girl falling for a Bad Boy. Brittany Ellis is beautiful, popular, and rich. But the strain of maintaining her perfect image is starting to wear on her. Alex Fuentes is a Mexican gang member with a tough guy swagger. But he's just trying to protect his family and joined a gang to give his younger brothers a chance for a better life. Brittany and Alex project an image of who they are, while hiding their true selves. Then they become lab partners and Alex makes a bet he can get in Brittany’s pants. Will these two crazy kids fall in love and be able to bridge their two worlds? It’s not really even worth taking bets, because the answer is apparent from the premise.
The most painful part of this was the random español sprinkled in. I’m still muy baffled why authors employ this tactic, as it’s nothing but distracting. It’s really estúpido. (see how annoying that is??). ...more
Much too stylized for my liking -- too flowery and overdone. The romance was also so overdramatic and - to me- not actually very romantic at all. AndMuch too stylized for my liking -- too flowery and overdone. The romance was also so overdramatic and - to me- not actually very romantic at all. And I am so over these silly love triangles.
While I think the portrayal of grief was heartfelt and realistic, that couldn't carry the entire story for me.
And there were too many characters that were quirky to the point of twee. The Casanova uncle who is trying to resurrect bugs (?). The grandmother who is obsessed with trimming bushes and does crazy things like take out all the furniture to un-curse it (?). It is like Gilmore Girls on tragedy and crack. ...more
Similar to The Whole Stupid Way We Are and Winter Town with two overly articulate teenagers and no real chemistry but lots of wacky side characters. DSimilar to The Whole Stupid Way We Are and Winter Town with two overly articulate teenagers and no real chemistry but lots of wacky side characters. Dash & Lily's impromptu scavenger hunt took them all around New York City and they were able to leave clues at so many random name-drop places because they had someone on the "inside" - like F.A.O. Schwartz and Madame Tussaud's. Do Dash & Lily know half of New York City? And why is everyone they know so kooky?
Dash particularly annoyed me trying too hard to be Holden Caulfield. I do like that Lily was not the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that Dash thought she was – in fact, she was the more traditional, less spontaneous of the two. Even though he was the classic Mopey Man-Child and she was the Cheerful Weirdo. I wish people had called Dash out on his shit more. Seriously, he is such an intellectual snob and he seems to look down on everyone and everything. He wasn’t even that nice to his friend (Boomer) or did anything particularly great to make up for being a little prick. I think he needed way more character growth; the only thing he did that was semi-redeeming was to realize that he was looking for a Lily that was in his head and not the real Lily.
Lily is one of those characters who never has a friend ever, which is all such bullshit. If she was completely friendless she would be SO MISERABLE no one could stand it. She’s the captain of the girl’s soccer team and she doesn’t have a single friend? Yeah, frickin' right. Obviously the other girls on the team like her – by the end of this book for no apparent reason they suddenly befriend her (as in, why now and not before? All of a sudden it’s like hey let’s be friends! Where have they been the past couple years?)
I feel like this could easily be made into some Lifetime TV movie (or, more likely, a Disney movie). The idea is fun, but I couldn't like Dash and Lily individually or as a couple enough to get engaged in the story....more
I love books like this. They just feel so…right. It was funny and sweet and moving. It reminded me a lot of Saving Francesca in its ability to mix humI love books like this. They just feel so…right. It was funny and sweet and moving. It reminded me a lot of Saving Francesca in its ability to mix humor and romance and Big Issues (in this case, Payton dealing with her dad's MS). It never got too dark or twisty. It was heartbreaking, but never gloomy, which I am so happy about. I don’t need my YA bringing me down.
I love Payton and Sean. I love that there was nothing stalkery or wrong with Sean. He was a nice, normal guy (though he apparently has bad parents) and they got together because they started actually talking to each other after years of just being classmates. The inevitable Conflict Before the Happy Ending that all romances must endure happens because of Payton’s issues and fear of loss, not because he was a jerk or Forces Keep Them Apart. It's the kind of good, sweet, non-melodramatic/not ridiculously overblown romance that too much YA these days is missing. Hurrah for Leavitt!
I like that other people called Payton out for being selfish and acting like a brat (her brother and her best friend), but they also give her space and try to help her out (I like it when heroines are not treated as being perfect by the other characters when the reader can obviously see their flaws, and I love it when a character actually grows and becomes a more mature person by the end of the story). I also like that both Sean and her friend reference the fact that Payton can come across as uptight. It is one of those realistic things where Payton is portrayed as someone who really could come across that way (she is hyper-organized, straightlaced and a perfectionist) but she is still surprised that people see her that way (and she never describes herself as uptight). I like touches like that, when the narrator is slightly unreliable when it comes to how other people see them.
I loved this book SO MUCH. I actually ended up sitting on the floor finishing the rest of it because I couldn’t stop myself – I really wanted to keep reading, even though I was on my way to taking a shower! That’s the mark of a great book. ...more
This is what Winter's Bone should have been (and wasn’t) [my review of Winter’s Bone]. In both books, a girl with vast reserves of hidden strength andThis is what Winter's Bone should have been (and wasn’t) [my review of Winter’s Bone]. In both books, a girl with vast reserves of hidden strength and willpower makes it her mission to solve a mystery about someone she cares about, not necessarily because it’s the right thing to do, but because otherwise people she loves will be hurt. Both books are also set in the backwater of rural America, where few people graduate from high school and poverty and drugs run rampant. Unlike Winter’s Bone (made into an equally dull movie, starring the girl now famous for being the film version of The Hunger Games’ Katniss) I really liked the main girl and connected with her. The pacing of this book hums along and even though I suspected some of the twists, I was a bit surprised at the whodunit (though I still managed to figure out who the attacker was long before Cat did).
In this book, Cat sets out to solve the vicious apparent hate crime perpetrated against her gay childhood best friend, Patrick. Cat keeps getting told to give up and let it go, but she won’t. Something bad happened to Cat a few years ago, bad enough to make her withdraw from everyone, which tragically meant that she abandoned Patrick when he needed her the most. And she won’t abandon him again.
Ever since I saw the movie True Grit, I’ve loved that term. And I use it for characters like Cat. She definitely has true grit. This book is partly about solving the mystery of the attack on Patrick, but it is more a bildungsroman. Cat, by having to be strong to help Patrick, slowly comes out of her shell. She finally lays to rest the demons of her past and begins to really see people again. And she realizes everyone is a lot more complex than she was willing to admit and that some of her assumptions were just disastrously wrong (especially the resentment she held for her beloved brother).
I was surprised that there was a thread of romance in this book. It was unexpected, but sweet. Though even the love interest was Not What He Seemed at first (which was, a complete and utter jerk. For real. But Cat, being awesome, totally called him out on it).
The only negative of this book was how the attacker turned into a complete lunatic at the climax. He was just unnecessarily cartoonishly villainous. But something like that can’t keep a good book down and this was a very good, very satisfying book. Skip Winter’s Bone. Read this.
I loved this. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I will admit that maybe objectively it's not an A++++++++ book. But sometimes you read a book that comes aI loved this. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I will admit that maybe objectively it's not an A++++++++ book. But sometimes you read a book that comes at exactly the right time, and this was one of those. It was exactly what I wanted to read at the time and it was perfect.
I loved Abby. She always felt overshadowed by her too-perfect sister, Tess. And now that her sister is in a coma, Abby is feeling pressure from being the leftover and trying desperately to get her sister to wake up again so her family will be less fractured.
I also liked that Abby is kind of an unreliable narrator when it comes to Tess. Abby really considers Tess some ideal she could never reach, but there are hints throughout that Tess was cracking from all the pressure she put on herself to be perfect all the time - and Tess also made herself desperately unhappy by putting what others thought of her above what she really wanted for herself.
And I loved Eli. He was an incredibly attractive, rich, nice, amazing guy - typical romantic interest. But he was also actually flawed. And not in a “I have anger control issues!” or “I am stalkerish!” or “I get upset sometimes because I love you soooo much!” flawed. Like, he had hang-ups because (1) his OCD (2) his parents’ disapproval and withdrawal of love over his OCD (3) being the token minority. And while he was admittedly attractive, he always felt that people were staring at him not for his looks, but for his twitching or his race. It was refreshing.
I thought the romance between Eli and Abby was just spot-on. It hit my romantic sweet spot.
I liked McLean and her need to change herself in each town because she feels so anchorless. I like Dave and hiMy second Dessen and so far my favorite!
I liked McLean and her need to change herself in each town because she feels so anchorless. I like Dave and his sweetness. But I think Heather stole the show – an annoyingly peppy outsider with a surprisingly tragic/punk past. She had the most depth (the inner punk surprisingly hidden under the cheerful shell) and we never got her full story. I want to hear it! It was kind of heartbreaking that her insane liveliness made her kind of a freak and that she was friendless before McLean.
I don’t get it. I adoredThe Mockingbirds. It put Whitney on the map for me and was one of my very favorite contemporary YA novels. And yet I found thI don’t get it. I adoredThe Mockingbirds. It put Whitney on the map for me and was one of my very favorite contemporary YA novels. And yet I found this wildly underwhelming.
It was too repetitive (lots of Alex repeating thoughts about how she was afraid of what people were saying about her, about how she was still living with the ramifications of her rape, of how she was afraid she had lost who she was, etc.). And it was told in a dreamy, langrous tone that sapped any urgency from the book. I don’t remember this happening in The Mockingbirds. Did I just not notice it? Did Whitney change her style? Was more happening so it was just more exciting?
After Alex won her date-rape trial, she became the president of her boarding school's underground justice system, the Mockingbirds. Now the Mockingbirds are investigating an ADHD drug ring (where is 21 Jump Street when you need them?).
I didn’t like Alex nearly as much in this one. She was kind of a terrible leader for the Mockingbirds. I’m not even talking about getting tricked by everyone all the time – she was not savvy. But that’s okay. The thing that really got me is that when the student body started reacting poorly to the Mockingbirds and thinking they were too clubby and were out to protect their friends – Alex did exactly that. She REFUSED to put her roommate on trial, even though there was enough evidence that a trial was necessary. By not putting her on trial she was just undermining the Mockingbirds and not even really protecting her friend – people would still think she did it. That’s what a justice system is for – giving the accused a fair shot to clear their name and giving people a system they can believe in to get justice. Alex didn’t believe in the system enough – if her roommate didn’t do it, shouldn’t she believe in the Mockingbirds enough that she’d trust them to find her friend innocent? (view spoiler)[(and, okay, they didn’t, but it worked out anyway). (hide spoiler)] If Alex couldn’t be impartial, then she should’ve resigned. Full stop. She failed completely as a leader.
And the Watchdogs were kind of so evil it turned into hilariousness. They broke her fingers!?!? WHAT THE FUCK. There’s an actual girl gang going on? I guess I should at least be pleased that the evil rival secret society was not an Old Boy’s Club. Besides the fact that they were comically evil, I thought the Watchdogs actually should’ve won – they were way more clever and together than the Mockingbirds. But as always, justice prevails in the end. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more