Brace yourself. I’m about to royally GUSH about how much IN LOVE I am with this book. I’ll try to keep the all-caps and exclamation points to a minimuBrace yourself. I’m about to royally GUSH about how much IN LOVE I am with this book. I’ll try to keep the all-caps and exclamation points to a minimum, but it’s going to be difficult. I read it all in one sitting last night and am practically vibrating with excitement while blogging right now.
First, I’m completely in love with the characters. Bex has such a solid head on her shoulders! Thank goodness for the lack of emotional drama. She’s refreshingly level-headed and very honest about what she’s feeling, and that moves the plot forward with nice momentum. Her dedication to her art is admirable, as is her compassion for the personal struggles of the people in her life.
If Jack could come to life and be my boyfriend IRL, I’d be okay with that. A rockabilly stud who is a vegetarian Buddhist AND he hand letters? Be still my heart! But in all seriousness, his dedication to his own art, to his sister, and to discovering what’s important to him philosophically is just as refreshing as Bex’s level-headedness. Also, a male character not afraid to share his feelings, ask questions, and support both physically and emotionally the girl he’s into? Swoon.
Also, the heat between these two – wowza! One of the things I find frustrating about reading YA is that they often tame down that heat. That certainly wasn’t my experience, and I love reading books that take you right to that sexual edge. We’re not reading an adult romance novel, obviously, but teenagers have heat. They have amazing first kisses and they have sexual feelings and conversations and dry humping and even, yes, intercourse. Jenn Bennett writes about all of that with supreme grace and delicious little details (I will never look at a belt buckle the same way again) that bring their teenage sexuality to life.
The book is told primarily from Bex’s POV, though that doesn’t mean we’re at a loss for what the other characters are going through either. The secondary characters primarily include Heath, the older, more rebellious, gay brother; “Saint Noah,” the brother’s boyfriend (quick shout-out to LGBT secondary characters done correctly!); “Nurse Katherine,” the mother; and “Pandhandler Will,” the homeless man who’s somewhat instrumental in getting “Sad Girl” and “Monk” together. Secondary characters include Jack’s parents, Bex’s father who abandoned them when he ran off with his stripper girlfriend (or did he??), Jack’s sister, and a few of Jack’s friends. Bex’s friends are vague tertiary characters, which I’m usually not a fan of, as I like to see a girl with an active and strong supportive circle, but her family is so clearly written and obviously involved that I didn’t miss the friends at all.
Another thing that makes me so in love with this book is the lack of game-playing. Can I get an AMEN?
Mini-rant: I’m so tired of teenage characters who are all “me, me, me,” “drama, drama, drama,” “my life is sooooo fucked up you guys, like, you don’t even know, and that means I can be all selfish and an asshole and you have to forgive me.” No. I’m glad those books exist for those who need to read them, but give me characters who can be both upset about life’s unfair twists and turns, yet still show compassion to themselves and others any day. Thank you, Jenn Bennett, for writing a book like that.
Because that’s the thing about this book – it’s not fluffy. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that bad things, unfair things, happen to good people. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but Jack’s very public family has been through a lot. Bex’s parents divorced a few years ago and we all have heard the continuing fallout that can happen from that type of situation (especially when the father has – allegedly – disappeared and refused to pay child support). Two teenagers who are willing to do almost anything to express their artwork are also bound to make a few bad decisions in the pursuit of love and craft. But that doesn’t mean the story can’t be a lovely, well-written, contemporary, quirky, young adult novel full of hope and mistakes and forgiveness all with a promising ending.
The Anatomical Shape of a Heart/Night Owls is following in some pretty large footsteps (in my opinion) and totally lives up to it. I could barely sleep last night because I felt positively giddy, like I had actually just fallen in love, whether with the entire book, Jack, or Jack & Bex, I really wasn’t sure. I was already in love with Jenn Bennett, as I devoured the first three books of her 1920s paranormal romance series, Roaring Twenties (book 4 soon, please!!). My desperation at having finished that series but being in the library queue for book 1 of her other paranormal romance series, Arcadia Bell, led me to her YA novel, and boy am I so glad it did.
Do yourself a favor and go read this book right now....more
As with a lot of Jennifer E. Smith’s books, this book is about the publisher description and so much more as we get to know these particular characterAs with a lot of Jennifer E. Smith’s books, this book is about the publisher description and so much more as we get to know these particular characters. Yes, Lucy moves to Edinburgh with her parents, but what this doesn’t tell you is that Lucy’s parents are frequent world travelers, leaving Lucy at home in their New York City apartment, and Lucy wants nothing more than to go somewhere. It also doesn’t tell you that Owen and his father are reeling with grief, adding a different kind of weight to their decisions and interactions. Owen is determined to travel everywhere, and his trip out west mimics a trip Owen’s mother and father took during the first two years of their marriage. As the story unfolds, it becomes a meditation on what “home” means, on communication in the 21st century, and on interpreting the ways different people make you feel when you’re with them and when you’re not. Also, the author has Lucy read a different book that is about or of or from the places she goes (Catcher in the Rye in NYC, Julius Ceaser in Rome, etc.), and I love that idea.
Meet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroinMeet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroines that make up the Friday Society.
When flower girls start being murdered, men of science turn up dead, and bits of London start blowing up, it is up to these three to use their unique talents to put it all together and save London from permanent destruction. Cora (Hyde) uses her brilliant scientific mind and her knowledge of the streets from her time spent living on them as a child. Nora (Lady Sparkle) uses her beautiful face and flexible body to escape any trap and scale any wall. Michiko (Silver Heart) uses her formidable fighting skills as a trained samurai to defeat any foe. Together they have the brains, beauty, and brawn to save London.
Irreverent, funny, full of steampunk costumes and inventions, these three ladies are set to take London by storm - as long as they can ditch their bumbling male handlers and be back in time by morning, of course.
"How shocking. Truly. One simply doesn't do such things in polite society."...more
For fans of the The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins comes an equally enthralling debut novel by Joelle Charbonneau. Certain similarities between The TFor fans of the The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins comes an equally enthralling debut novel by Joelle Charbonneau. Certain similarities between The Testing and The Hunger Games are undeniable - a group of teenagers are chosen to compete against each other through a series of controlled tests. The last contestants standing will continue on to the University to be among the next leaders of a dystopian Earth. Joelle Charbonneau brings a fresh voice to this story in the character of sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale, who wants nothing more than to be chosen for the Testing.
When four students from the Five Lakes Colony are picked this year, Cia is one of them. She is thrilled until she realizes it may mean leaving her family forever. Her father has flashbacks to his own Testing - horrific nightmares of fallen Testing comrades - and warns Cia that in order to stay alive, she must trust no one but herself. Time and again her father's words, Cia's physical and emotional strength, and her belief in humanity are put to the test as she finds both betrayers and supporters amidst everyone involved - the other contestants, the testing officials, and even those (human and non-human) living outside the boundaries of the established cities and testing grounds.
As Cia literally battles her way to the end of the test, the scariest part of all looms in front of her - no one remembers their Testing. Only in dream or nightmare fragments like her father's flashbacks. What will happen if Cia does make it through the test? What will happen to her family? To her budding relationship with Tomas, the only other Five Lakes Colony contestant to make it to the final round of the Testing with her? To the friends and supporters she has made, in secret and in the open? How can she preserve some memory of this experience so that should she be lucky enough to pass the Testing and go on to the University, she will be able to remember to do something about this brutal trial for future generations? Can Cia not only keep herself and Tomas alive, but outsmart the Testing officials, too?
With a swift plot full of twists and turns, surprisingly casual brutality mixed with surprisingly tender reminders of humanity, Charbonneau has written an engrossing, stand-alone, and stand-out novel in the YA dystopian genre....more
The best way to describe this book is The Breakfast Club meets zombie slasher flick - and if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you should readThe best way to describe this book is The Breakfast Club meets zombie slasher flick - and if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you should read it anyway for a surprisingly funny teen romance/adventure. Bobby, formerly of the UK, then the US, now back to the UK, is frustrated, sad, lonely, pissy, and SO very tired of her perky classmates on the pre-school year ski trip. When everyone gets off the bus at a rest stop on the way home, Bobby stays on-board, and unfortunately, so does Smitty, the class "rebel-without-a-cause". This turns out to be a good thing when their entire class turns into a bunch of raving zombies, and it's up to the two of them, plus a few other stragglers, to save both themselves and the rest of the world.
The who-dunnit twist at the end needs a little bit more (lead-up? explanation? context?), but ties up some loose plot points nicely. The writing manages to keep pace throughout the plot, amping up the action and the tension with each short chapter. A relatively breezy read, Bobby & Smitty's banter breaks up the suspense, while Alice (the popular cheerleader) and Pete (the brain) play helpful supporting roles. For a cleverly-written romp through the Scottish countryside, I highly recommend this, dare I say it?, teen zombie adventure....more
Irreverent and hysterical, Croak tells the surprisingly believable story of the Grim Reaper. Or Reapers, to be precise, as there’s a whole group of GrIrreverent and hysterical, Croak tells the surprisingly believable story of the Grim Reaper. Or Reapers, to be precise, as there’s a whole group of Grims, and Lex Bartleby’s Uncle Mort is the head of them all. Shipped off to upstate New York to “milk cows or something,” Lex is surprised to find out she’s actually a Grim apprentice – and more than that, she’s the best Grim apprentice anyone’s ever seen. But when someone starts using the Grim powers to Kill people who haven’t yet died, Lex is torn – they’re killing bad people, like murderers, who Lex secretly wishes were dead, but it’s also an unforgivable use of Grim powers. As Lex and her friends get closer to uncovering who is doing this, she struggles harder with the question of whether to join the rouge Grim or turn them in....more
I had the chance to read this in manuscript form when I was interning at HMH. LOVED IT! It is the best kind of female fantasy heroine. Can hardly waitI had the chance to read this in manuscript form when I was interning at HMH. LOVED IT! It is the best kind of female fantasy heroine. Can hardly wait for the rest of the series....more
In Spud: The Madness Continues, the madness of the Crazy Seven (Seven due to a loss of one boy in Spud; then Eight, when a new boy comes; then Seven,In Spud: The Madness Continues, the madness of the Crazy Seven (Seven due to a loss of one boy in Spud; then Eight, when a new boy comes; then Seven, when the new boy leaves; then Eight, when they induct Roger the Cat as an official member; then Six, when two of the boys get expelled; then Seven, when one of the boys gets back) really does continue. Spud is going to turn 15 during this year, is no longer in his first trembling year at the school, and has high hopes for both ball dropping and hair appearing in that same region. Despite his optimism (and the eventual voice-cracking, ball-dropping accomplishment), Spud soon finds that with both enemies and allies still at school, this year will not be any smoother. Still writing in his diary, the Spud of this year will chronicle his mother's plans to emigrate, The Wombat continuing to lose her mind, and his father's moonshine business; his first breakup, first ball hair, and first trip to England; the Crazy Eight's torture attempts at the Normal Seven (the new batch of first years); his actor career hitting a snag when he's cast as the Dove of Peace in a disastrous school play; and all the usual adventures of midnight swimming, cricket matches, brews, books, and broads, with just a hint more seriousness this year than last. ...more
As a thief, Will Scarlet has a lot of secrets. As a member of Robin Hood's band, Will keeps a lot of secrets for other people. But the most importantAs a thief, Will Scarlet has a lot of secrets. As a member of Robin Hood's band, Will keeps a lot of secrets for other people. But the most important secrets of all are his:
1. Will is not a he.
2. She wasn't born into a life of crime.
In this rolicking retelling of the Robin Hood legend, Scarlet emerges as an integral piece of hope in the Hood stories. Holding her own with her thievery – bread and coin for the overtaxed people of Nottingham, and her knives – deadly daggers she uses against the Sheriff of Nottingham's men, it is her brain that helps save the band when the sheriff hires a Thief Taker, Lord Gisbourne, from London. Lord Gisbourne is someone Scarlet used to know well, someone she ran from in her past life, and someone who will not stop until Robin Hood, his merry (wo)men, and most particularly Scarlet, are captured and killed. While battling to save herself, her team, and the village of Nottingham, Scarlet learns that sometimes you don't have to rely on only yourself; sometimes it's even better to rely on your team, and most importantly, your friends, in order to win....more