Warning: this review will contain an inappropriate quote. Because Adam has a lot of inappropriate things. Like recreational drug use and explicit sexu...moreWarning: this review will contain an inappropriate quote. Because Adam has a lot of inappropriate things. Like recreational drug use and explicit sexual detail involving pornography. All within the first 20 pages. You have been cautioned.
Seventeen-year-old Adam Freedman has nothing to do over the summer. He decides to stay with his older sister Casey in her apartment in New York City, and right away he finds himself thrust into the lesbian subculture of 2006 - night clubs, trans people, and attractive women abound. Soon he meets Gillian, the redheaded girl of his dreams, and they fall in love - only after Adam pretends to be a trans guy. Adam would rather die than lose his new love interest, so he maintains the facade, but as his relationship with Gillian gets more and more intense, so does the deceit that drains him of his freedom.
Adam delves into the queer community and touches on often overlooked topics, especially trans culture. As a gay guy I like to think that I know a decent amount about lgbtq rights, but Adam still taught me a thing or two. Most importantly, Ariel Schrag creates honest characters - lesbians, straight men, transgender folk - all with real faults and strengths, all with the real, human desire to be loved. Some of Schrag's scenes turned into educational lessons and lost their authenticity as a result, but those moments were minor blips in the grand scheme of the novel.
Adam grew on me as a narrator. His cynical and disenchanted view of the world captured me, and he progressed from a whiny, privileged brat to a sympathetic, likeable young man. At the beginning of the book he had no direction, but that changed the moment he met Gillian, and Schrag pulled off his development well. Here's one of Adam's many interesting thoughts that exemplify how Schrag uses Adam's narrative to reflect on subversive topics in the lgbtq community:
Adam had always wondered about the whole gay masturbation thing. If you have the body parts you're fantasizing about, couldn't you just touch your own and pretend they were someone else's? Like when he sat on his hand to make it numb before jerking off. being attracted to vaginas and having the option to touch one whenever you wanted. He felt wildly jealous. Something about it just much not work.
However, I had two major issues with this book. First, Schrag did not conclude Adam's "pretending to be a trans guy" story arc well. By the end of the book I almost forgave him because he gained empathy through his facade, but he still never faced the consequences of his transgression. (view spoiler)[The fact that Gillian just started to like bio guys and morph her sexuality toward Adam's true gender (hide spoiler)] felt too convenient. On a more minor note, I did not appreciate (view spoiler)[Gillian's reveal about depression. I felt like Schrag used it as a plot device - why is Gillian ignoring Adam? Did she figure out his secret? - instead of grasping its significance or mentioning it in a meaningful way (hide spoiler)].
Overall, a good book, and I would recommend it to those interested in the plot synopsis. Some will love it, some will hate it, and I can see the reasoning behind both ends.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
People often value confidence in potential partners. After reading The Girl with All the Gifts, I think that preference might ring true for b...more4.5 stars
People often value confidence in potential partners. After reading The Girl with All the Gifts, I think that preference might ring true for books as well. As I read M.R. Carey's novel, I kept admiring the backbone and certainty of his writing: even while crafting a character-driven dystopian/zombie/survivor thriller, his prose maintained an amazing, adrenaline-filled poise.
M.R. Carey's first novel revolves around Melanie, a young girl who goes to class every morning restrained in a wheelchair with a gun pointed to her head. She knows a few things: the room she sleeps in, the classroom, and the hallway that connects them; that the outside world is filled with flesh-eating Hungries; and that her favorite teacher in the whole wide world is Miss Justineau. Certain people aim to keep Melanie in the dark, and Melanie is fine with learning just what her teachers tell her. But when something forces Melanie outside of the world she's always known, she must adapt to an entirely different environment - both outside of herself and within it.
I can't say too much about this book without detracting from its novelty, but I will state that Carey combines several story elements with aplomb. Unlike other authors who use zombies, dystopian settings, or multiple perspectives as "fads," he explores every facet of his fictional world with skill and depth. The smoothness of Carey's writing exists because of all the thought and research put into the back story, and his inventiveness makes itself apparent to any reader after just a few chapters.
The characters in The Girl with All the Gifts shine the most, without a doubt. Melanie, Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parker, Private Gallagher, and Doctor Caldwell all come across as caricatures at first. But Carey gives each of them a unique, developing voice that extends throughout the book. In the hands of another author, having that many perspectives might have over-saturated the story, but Carey makes sure that each point-of-view adds to the plot while fleshing out each individual character. Most importantly, by the end of the book I was rolling around in a puddle of my feelings, which reveals just how much these characters affected me.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone searching for an enthralling, unique work of fiction that spans the dystopia/zombie/thriller/experimental/horror genres. It is a standout novel, in every sense of the word.(less)
What a twisted, tantalizing story. We Were Liars centers on Cadence Sinclair and her three best friends, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat. The foursom...more3.5 stars
What a twisted, tantalizing story. We Were Liars centers on Cadence Sinclair and her three best friends, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat. The foursome calls themselves the Liars, and every summer their families get together on Beechwood Island to luxuriate and have fun like a lot of privileged people do.
If you've heard any of the hype about We Were Liars, you know that its trump card comes in its surprise reveal. Although I will not spoil the book - besides confirming that there is quite a shock - I can testify to the strengths of the story overall. Cady was an interesting narrator to follow, especially as she became more aware of her privilege. The writing felt intense and alive, and although purple at times, it still carried the suspense as well as Cady's voice in a consistent and jagged way. Unlike other reviewers, I had no problem reading about "rich people problems" or "white girl problems." People possess problems of different magnitude, and in my opinion we should strive to understand where everyone comes from in order to create compassion and empathy. Otherwise, we'd only be reading books like Night by Elie Wiesel or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, and more books than those two deal with the human experience in intriguing and complex ways.
I only wish Gat, Mirren, and Johnny received more development as the story went on. Cady always emphasized the importance of the Liars as a group, but their connection never came across 100% to me. Further characterizing the three other Liars would have made the ending even more affecting, and it would have given the novel a more thorough and focused feel, like a target missile instead of a misplaced time bomb.
I recommend We Were Liars to anyone even remotely interested in the synopsis, as well as those searching for a suspenseful, scandalous, and summery YA read. Not in love with the book, but I like it enough to believe that it deserves its praise.(less)
disappointment: noun 1) the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations. 2) the emotion experienced...moredisappointment: noun 1) the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations. 2) the emotion experienced when you don't like a book that almost all of Goodreads appears to love: "Thomas's read of Something Like Summer was a disappointment"
So many things went wrong with this simple story of two high school boys who fall in love after an unfortunate collision. Ben Bentley, our protagonist, notices an attractive newcomer in his neighborhood right before the school year starts. Tim Wyman, the object of Ben's affection, has a girlfriend: but that and much more changes when Ben and Tim's connection deepens and grows stronger.
I still cannot comprehend the plot of this book. The story spans several decades, and yet I still feel as if nothing of real importance happened - Jay Bell jumps around from one event to another without developing the significance of any scene or storyline. At one point Ben trashes his high school journalism room because the editor of the newspaper removed the gay portion of his poem: Bell resolves that conflict in a couple of pages without Ben really learning anything at all. We never see Tim come to terms with his sexuality because whenever his character grows, Bell hides it behind a convenient time lapse or a "tell, don't show" moment. The entire second part of the book with Ben and Jace had no connection to any other section of the story, and it felt like Bell took the easy way out by including it.
The secondary characters in this book saddened me because they fell so flat. Why does Allison, Ben's best friend, have a life that only revolves around Ben and struggles that are so easily solved whenever Ben shows up? Why is Jace perfect in every way possible? Near the end of the book, Ben thinks to himself that "there was so much more to Tim beneath the surface that others didn't see." Instead of telling us that, I wish Bell showed us Tim's depth instead of having him act like a scary stalker for a solid third of the book. Tim's behavior, while unrealistic and unexplained, also made me think about Bell's disconcerting portrayal of a healthy relationship - because Tim's obsession did cross into a creepy place several times.
I wanted so much more from Ben. His entire character revolved around his romantic relationships with other guys. I wished to see his passions, his hobbies, and his personality expand as the book progressed. Instead, I felt that his perspective stayed the same throughout the entire novel, while only his relationships with those around him changed. If someone asked me to describe Ben's character, I would be unsure of what to say, because I can only think of bland generalities that could apply to almost anyone.
Overall, Something Like Summer required little effort to read, but a lot of dedication to finish. It might make a good beach read for those who want a YA with decent writing and gay characters, though I would not recommend it due to its lack of substance. Still, I find myself in the minority with my opinion, and I am glad that others on Goodreads have enjoyed it.(less)
Loved this short story - it includes sensual and lush descriptions intermixed with the cutting and painful realities of adolescence. I wish I could re...moreLoved this short story - it includes sensual and lush descriptions intermixed with the cutting and painful realities of adolescence. I wish I could read more about Jake and his challenges, ranging from the repression of his food intake to the suppression of his sexuality. Highly recommended for those who want a unique coming of age story.(less)
In an earlier review I wrote that George R. R. Martin writes in waves. Through his characters, he creates currents that culminate into a tsunami of ra...moreIn an earlier review I wrote that George R. R. Martin writes in waves. Through his characters, he creates currents that culminate into a tsunami of rage and retribution. Hundreds of pages spent describing his characters' mundane actions contribute to the development of their story arcs, and each detail adds to the climaxes of his books. However, this did not happen in A Dance with Dragons - for at least half of the book, I felt that I was knee deep in random, unidentifiable water, reading page after page of unnecessary information.
What happened to the characters we care about? I understand that Jaime, Cersei, Arya, and Sansa took the spotlight in A Feast for Crows, but the narratives of Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys still felt odd and distant. Even though Martin adds perspectives to ensure that all geographic areas of his world receive coverage, he sprouted so many minor and tangential paradigms that I felt both overwhelmed and underwhelmed - overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters, underwhelmed by what they each brought to the story. Why waste time describing the bodily functions of the characters or the insignificant details of their clothing when you could delve deeper into their conflicts with one another? Why highlight an inconsequential conversation when you could just advance the plot, thus tightening the tension of your story and keeping readers wanting more?
In my ninth grade English class I learned to avoid rhetorical questions. Instead of strengthening your argument, they add pointless fluff. While my review includes a bunch of rhetorical questions, I find it fitting when discussing A Dance with Dragons, because Martin raises too many questions and and not nearly enough answers. My three-star rating might be generous, but I still feel a connection to the characters I care about, and I cannot deny the beauty of Martin's writing itself. However, he needs to improve the quality of his plot progression and limit his focus to a certain set of characters. No matter how popular the series gets - both through the books and the televised version - fans will walk away unsatisfied unless he can bring back what he produced in the first three books. Quality over quantity, always.
Five stars for George R.R. Martin ripping my heart out and making me scream like a banshee for the entire last third of this book.
The third installment of A Song of Ice and Fire does drag for the first half, but after that, get ready for a relentless ride. George R.R. Martin escalates the suspense and the conflict in tandem with the competition for the Iron Throne. The world-building impressed me as always, and the political intrigue with Petyr, Cersei's conniving schemes, Arya's adventure, etc. kept me entertained. But when this book reaches its boiling point - and you will know when this happens - the ceiling of Martin's carefully constructed glass house comes crashing down.
Of course the character development earns this book its most meaningful lauds. Martin shows the best and worst sides of every character - not only the ones we hate but also the ones we love. I will not go into detail but all I have to say is that the character of Jaime Lannister exemplifies almost everything I love about this series.
Highly, highly recommended to those who liked or loved the first two books of A Song of Ice and Fire. (view spoiler)[The reveal with Petyr (hide spoiler)] shows how Martin knows what he's doing in regard to the plot, and I cannot wait to read what happens next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
At this point I've learned that George R.R. Martin writes in waves. Even though this probably isn't how real science works, I visualize his plot struc...moreAt this point I've learned that George R.R. Martin writes in waves. Even though this probably isn't how real science works, I visualize his plot structure as a giant tsunami: he adds little oscillatory currents that contribute to a huge tidal wave, which eventually crashes down and drowns us all in the most beautiful and devastating way. Though this might sound like how all books function - with a rising action leading up to a climax - Martin spends so much time developing and honing the rising action of his story that the inevitable climax calls for a great deal of praise.
Like A Clash of Kings, A Feast for Crows serves as the buildup of the tsunami. We see the aftermath of the destruction and chaos in A Storm of Swords with about only half of the characters: Cersei and Jaime, Sansa and Arya, Brienne, Samwell, and a few more. Not only do the separated pieces from the last book start to coalesce, but new divisions form, ones that will take a lot to tie together.
Martin's characters earn A Feast for Crows its acclaim. Besides the strenuous situations they find themselves in, their complexities still capture my attention with every page: how Jaime's honor hurts him more than it heals him, how we derogate Cersei for her actions while detesting the patriarchal system that motivates so many of her actions, how Sansa and Arya both adapt new identities to shield themselves, and more. When these characters interact, all the nuances and twists come together in unexpected and ingenious ways.
Recommended for fans of the first three books of the series. Even though this one is a bit slow, it adds plenty to the characters, and I'm confident Martin will capitalize on this development in future installments.
I wouldn't call myself violent, but after reading A Game of Thrones, I anticipated bloodshed like how I await the movie adaptation of a favorite book...moreI wouldn't call myself violent, but after reading A Game of Thrones, I anticipated bloodshed like how I await the movie adaptation of a favorite book - not wanting it at all, and yet, still wanting it. "But Thomas," my conscience whispered, "you don't believe in revenge. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind!" "Sh," I said. "Quiet. Or I will feed you to the direwolves."
The second installment of A Song of Ice and Fire didn't read like A Clash of Kings so much as A Crazy Assortment of Power-hungry People Planning Each Others Downfalls... of Kings. Though there were not as many huge scenes that stuck out to me as there were in the first installment, George Martin still sticks to what he does best: creating complex characters. Some of our favorites and least favorites from the first book return for more fleshing out, like Tyrion and his strategic scheming and his evolving feelings for Shae, Sansa coming to see that all that glitters is far from gold, Cersei and her icy grip as regent of the throne, and more. I even appreciated the added perspectives of Davos and Theon, even if they detracted from Daenerys's other paradigms. The conflicts between Tyrion and Cercei, as well as Renly and Stannis, exemplified the convoluted and tumultuous familial relations ubiquitous within their culture.
Though A Clash of Kings dragged in certain sections, Martin's development of atmosphere foreshadows a killer third book. He puts a tremendous amount of detail into the North and the South, the Starks and the Lannisters and the Baratheons, and all of the other geographic areas and familial associations. This buildup remains rife with tension and I cannot wait for it all to explode in A Storm of Swords.
Recommended to those who enjoyed the first installment - even if this book acts as a bridge between the first and the third, Martin includes characters and issues worth reading about. For those who have already read it, (view spoiler)[though I loathed Theon at first, I felt that Martin did a great job with his character because it exemplified the inevitable demise of someone who had no true loyalty or house affiliation... though I'm curious about what others think too (hide spoiler)].["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Quinn's first mistake: kissing her boyfriend's best friend. Her second mistake: getting caught on camera kissing her boyfriend's best friend....more3.5 stars
Quinn's first mistake: kissing her boyfriend's best friend. Her second mistake: getting caught on camera kissing her boyfriend's best friend. Quinn has complicated feelings for both Carey, her boyfriend currently MIA in Afghanistan, and Carey's best friend, Blake, the boy who held her the night Carey left. But when everyone in Quinn's high school and town sees the shot of Quinn kissing someone other than Carey, they condemn her as a horrible person. After all, who would cheat on someone like Carey, a great guy putting his life at risk to serve the nation? But Quinn has reasons for what she did. Now she must decide between telling the truth and risking even worse consequences, or keeping her mouth shut and suffering the price.
I liked how much Corrine Jackson balanced in If I Lie. Quinn has to deal with an MIA boyfriend, another boy she might have feelings for, mean former best friends, an absent mother, a callous father, and more. However, all of these plot elements never felt overwhelming: Jackson writes in an easy, smooth way that moved the story along and kept my interest. Quinn's self-awareness and her developing fortitude made me appreciate this book too. The growth of her character tied together all of the conflicts in If I Lie, ensuring that the drama was not just there for drama's sake.
The flashbacks incorporated throughout the book detracted from my enjoyment of If I Lie. It's clear from the start that Quinn cheated on her boyfriend, and as the book moves forward, it's not difficult to discern the circumstances in which the cheating happened. However, Jackson kept going back to when it happened, how it happened, and where it happened, when she could have allocated more time to developing the conflicts occurring in the present. Even though Quinn claims herself by the end of the book, there could have been more growth within some of her relationships, like her bonds with her parents.
Overall, recommended for those who want a smooth YA realistic/romantic fiction with some military drama and a love triangle thrown in. Even though I was not blown away by If I Lie, I look forward to reading more of Corinne Jackson's writing in the future.(less)
Without a doubt one of my favorite YA fantasy trilogies. In the third and last installment of her Fire and Thorns series, Rae Carson delivers...more4.5 stars
Without a doubt one of my favorite YA fantasy trilogies. In the third and last installment of her Fire and Thorns series, Rae Carson delivers a satisfying conclusion to Elisa's journey as a girl, a fugitive, a princess, and more. In The Bitter Kingdom, Elisa puts her safety at stake to save the love of her life, and she fights countless enemies to secure her status as champion of the world.
Rae Carson knows how to develop characters. Elisa grew so much in book one and two that I wondered whether she would stagnate in The Bitter Kingdom, but Carson put my worries to rest. Even though Elisa starts out way stronger than the sheltered girl she was in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, she still develops as a leader and as a friend in The Bitter Kingdom. Her interactions with all of the side characters felt so compelling. Whether it was her romantic relationship with Hector, her trust-building with Storm, or her friendship and sisterhood with Mara, each interaction showcased Elisa's budding confidence and Carson's ability to create believable secondary characters.
As for the rest of the book, I'd say Carson got everything "just right." Elisa faced a test outside of her Godstone that forced her to really identify and believe in herself. She went through just enough relationship angst with Hector to solidify their love for one another without resorting to melodrama. Even though the journey through the desert and in the caves during the middle of the novel felt a little long, the ending tied everything together nicely.
Overall, highly recommended for those searching for a YA trilogy featuring a kick-butt heroine. Carson's plot progression and her convincing writing style brought Elisa and her adventure to life, and I am already anticipating her future works.(less)
18-year-old Vincent Hazelwood earns his high school diploma after years of moving from foster home to foster home, dealing with bullies, and feeling a...more18-year-old Vincent Hazelwood earns his high school diploma after years of moving from foster home to foster home, dealing with bullies, and feeling apart from the rest of his peers in general. His guardian, Maggie Atkins, made it all possible: she understood him and cared for him in a way no one else could. When Maggie passes away, Vince drops to rock bottom, and he only finds solace in a website called Suicide Watch. Amidst the desperate and depressed souls on this site he meets Casper, a girl fighting cancer, and Adam, a quiet boy with an abusive mother. Vince bonds with them, but the three still struggle to stay afloat as life punches them in the gut over and over again.
Kelley York navigates the difficult and devastating theme of suicide with clarity and warmth. While Vince's voice does not captivate from the start, it grows over the narrative, and his interactions with Casper and Adam were where the book shined the most. The angst and the camaraderie the three shared felt real, and all of the emotional turmoil, while not easy to read, was conducive to a hopeful ending.
Overall, I would recommend Suicide Watch to anyone searching for a great YA read concerning depression, mental illness, suicide, or just a well-written book with strong friendships. At some points York only skims the surface of the characters' emotional depths - like with Vince and Adam's relationship - but she still conveys a heartfelt story about the process of recovering from pain nonetheless. A quick yet sincere novel.(less)