My good friend Jillian and I hung out at the Little, Brown booth at NCTE waiting for them to break down so we cou...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
My good friend Jillian and I hung out at the Little, Brown booth at NCTE waiting for them to break down so we could get a couple of the ARCs we had our eyes on. The Statistical Probably of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith is the one that she was hoping for, and luckily she received the only copy. Jillian read the entire book that night in one sitting because she loved it so much. The next day at ALAN, she gave me the ARC so I could read it as well (thanks, Jillian!). I started it on the train and read most of it during the ride. I had fun reading Jennifer E. Smith’s debut, but I didn’t love it like Jillian did. This is one of those books that I need to break it down into what worked for me and what didn’t work.
*Oliver–Yep, I definitely enjoyed Oliver’s character. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight would probably be good on audio because I’d get to hear Oliver’s British accent. He’s just so ideal in general. I love his wit and romantic side. *The scenes with Hadley and Oliver–I was instantly drawn into the story because Hadley meets Oliver early on in the book. They have an instant chemistry that grows as they spend more time together. I couldn’t get enough of their conversations and the tension between them. If you enjoy a romance with characters that have an instant attraction, then I’m sure you’ll like Hadley and Oliver.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
*Hadley’s conflict with her father–I was looking forward to reading The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight because I was in the mood to read a great romance. I did get my wish when the scenes were focused on Hadley and Oliver, but so much of the book was spent with Hadley at her father’s wedding. This element of the story made the book’s title and summary feel misleading. If I had gone into the book wanting to read a novel about a father/daughter relationship, then I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book that much more. In my opinion, too much time was spent with Hadley trying to deal with her father moving on to another woman and getting married. The story would have been so much better if the focus was more on Hadley and Oliver’s blooming relationship. *The third-person point of view–To be honest, I prefer first-person point of view, but I still read and enjoy plenty of novels written in third-person. The third-person is really choppy and jarring in Smith’s debut. I found myself re-reading passages because I wasn’t sure what was going on and if we were in a flashback to when Hadley’s parents were together or not. I’ve noticed that when other authors write in a similar manner, they’ll include a page break between these passages so the reader has a clearer signal that something is changing. Having page breaks would have made a world of difference for me while reading.
Overall my likes and dislikes are pretty evenly balanced which is why I gave it 3 out of 5 stars and not something lower or higher. I’m looking forward to passing The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight on to my students to find out what they think of it. I imagine plenty of my students will love it.(less)
3.5-- This is an adorable book that I enjoyed reading. I love that Sarah Weeks includes real pie recipes at the beginning of every chapter; I think I'...more3.5-- This is an adorable book that I enjoyed reading. I love that Sarah Weeks includes real pie recipes at the beginning of every chapter; I think I'll try making a couple of the pies! I'm not thrilled with the epilogue. After a very cute, fun read, it left me feeling a little deflated.(less)
Historical fiction is a genre that I make a conscious effort to read. I enjoy history and am a history minor, but...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Historical fiction is a genre that I make a conscious effort to read. I enjoy history and am a history minor, but I often pick other genres before historical fiction. I was excited when Monika asked if I'd like to read her novel, especially because I have a few boys in class that really enjoy war novels. My Brother's Shadow was a bit slow for me to start. The story takes its time introducing us to Moritz and the confused life he's living. His mother is anti-war, his brother is serving, Moritz is falling for a Jewish girl, and he's conflicted on his own feelings about the war. So many of these stories set during this time period and during the WWII time period are told from our side or the side of Holocaust survivors. It's refreshing to read something from this point of view. Even though I wanted more action at the beginning of the story, I respect what the author did because it's important for the reader to understand Moritz's life, especially once his brother returns home. I think the book would be stronger if more time was focused on Moritz's brother's return, especially considering this novel is only 240 pages long.(less)
If you’re looking for a book that will appeal to guy readers, make sure you hand them Insignia by S.J. Kincaid. T...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
If you’re looking for a book that will appeal to guy readers, make sure you hand them Insignia by S.J. Kincaid. This debut has everything a book needs for guy appeal: humor, action, gaming, and more. Even better? Considering this type of book isn’t always my first choice, and knowing how much I enjoyed it, I’m positive girls will like Insignia as well.
Tom Raines’ character is written well and is perfect for this book. At the beginning of Insignia, we find out that he’s conniving and quite the talented gamer. We also find out that his dad is a short-on-his-luck gambler who isn’t really taking care of Tom the way a father should. With Tom being left to his own devices, he doesn’t take school very seriously even though it’s obvious that he’s smart. I think it’s safe to say that if Tom were a real teenager in my class, I’d really like him despite the front he puts up. He’s full of wit and quick humor and easy to like. He’s perfect for this book because he’s not over confident, nor is he too down on himself. He knows he’s talented, but I don’t think readers will find it annoying; I think they’ll connect with him and look up to him, especially if they’re gamers as well.
I’m not a gamer, but I have to admit that the world S.J. Kincaid created is pretty cool. How cool would it be to interact in a virtual reality?! Being a superior war machine really isn’t my idea of a good time (pressure much?), but I sure like reading about them! Kincaid did such a fantastic job creating the setting and the world Tom lives in, it felt like it could be real even though Insignia takes place in the future. Setting and world building is one of the most important features in science fiction and dystopians because so much relies on these two features. If they aren’t written well and with detail, then how am I supposed to buy in to the story, especially when sci-fi and dystopias are supposed to be believable?
I was fortunate enough to read Insignia back in November, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release since then. It’s a page-turning debut that I couldn’t put down, so I’m looking forward to discussing it with other readers. The release of Insignia is especially exciting because I’m using it in my YA Lit II class this upcoming school year. I let a few of my students read my copy early to get a feel from them, and was happy to hear rave reviews. S.J. Kincaid is an exciting new talent in the world of YA, and I can’t wait to read the next book!(less)
I’ve read a number of glowing reviews for Juliet Immortal and a couple of my avid readers told me I HAD to read it. I’m glad I took everyone’s advice...moreI’ve read a number of glowing reviews for Juliet Immortal and a couple of my avid readers told me I HAD to read it. I’m glad I took everyone’s advice because I really liked Stacey Jay’s novel. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical. I loved the many allusions to Shakespeare and his works as well. The twist on Romeo and Juliet really won me over, and I think it will have the same effect on my students. My department is working on adding YA novels to our Romeo and Juliet unit and I definitely plan on recommending this novel. It has plenty of action and romance without being too graphic; besides some language and violence, it’s a clean book. My problem with Juliet Immortal is that towards the second half of the novel, the writing turned verbose and the story became redundant. This is what kept me from giving it 4 out of 5 stars. Other than that, if you enjoy Shakespeare, or a good twist on a classic, I recommend reading Stacey Jay’s novel. (less)
There are a number of YA novels about teen pregnancy on the shelves, but Hooked definitely stands out in the crowd. It’s about more than Thea getting...moreThere are a number of YA novels about teen pregnancy on the shelves, but Hooked definitely stands out in the crowd. It’s about more than Thea getting pregnant in high school. It’s about Thea’s first love, it’s about her relationship with her dad, and it’s about Thea discovering where she fits after high school.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read Hooked because I don’t care for the cover. It really doesn’t do anything for the story and what it’s really about. Personally, I think it looks tacky and the title looks like a tattoo. Once I started reading the book and looked more closely as the cover, I realized that the heart is crocheted. Thea learning to crochet becomes a large portion of the plot, so it makes sense that it’s represented on the cover. I just wish it was more prominent. Despite my feelings on the cover, I’m quite happy I read Greenman’s debut.
I think the best way for me to review Hooked is to break down what worked and didn’t work for me.
What Worked: I like Thea’s character because she isn’t really popular and she isn’t really awkward either. She’s right in the middle like most teens. Also, once she has the baby, I think her life is portrayed realistically, for the most part. She’s incredibly nervous about being a mother and hurting her baby. I’m not a mother, but I’m guessing many new moms worry about this, especially teen moms. Thea’s decision to keep the baby wasn’t an easy choice, but once she makes the decision she stands by it no matter what anybody says. Her dad is firm that she doesn’t miss out on her college education, which I’m happy is in the novel because even though not all teens get this opportunity when they have a baby, I’m happy the importance of education and having a steady job is stressed. Thea is a likeable character that I found myself liking more as she matured and the novel progressed. She discovers a talent she didn’t know she had, while trying to balance being a mother and holding down a job.
What Didn’t Work: I think my biggest criticism is that while her life is realistic, it only was to a degree. **This is a spoiler** Thea’s and Will’s parents give them a large sum of money to live on with the baby until they get settled. This didn’t work for me, because while I know their parents are wealthy, I just can’t picture that really happening. Eventually Thea needs to rely on her dad in a different way which I viewed positively and saw that as being more realistic. It was actually one of my favorite parts of the story; their relationship isn’t perfect, but we get to see both Thea and her father grow as characters.
Other than the story, I had some issues with the writing. There are a number of flashbacks in Hooked, but the writing/format lacks a signal letting us know we’re moving back and then forward again. At times like these I had to re-read the passage to figure out what was going on. Also, I was confused about the setting at the beginning because Thea and her mom are talking and Thea’s mom mentions a flat she sold. When I read that I thought maybe this takes place in England, but then locations in New York were mentioned. It wasn’t until much later that we learn Thea’s mom is from England. That would have been nice to know at the beginning.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Hooked. I’m sure many of my students will enjoy this and I’m looking forward to their thoughts. There were a couple of quirks to the story, but I’m happy I read it. If you like novels by Rachel Cohn, I’m sure you’ll like it too.(less)
What an ending! This is the first book I've read by Maureen Johnson and after finishing The Name of the Star, I'd like to read more of her books. Full...moreWhat an ending! This is the first book I've read by Maureen Johnson and after finishing The Name of the Star, I'd like to read more of her books. Full review to come.(less)
I was immediately taken in by Annaleah’s story and her feelings for Brian and his death. This story is a little different because Annaleah is grieving...moreI was immediately taken in by Annaleah’s story and her feelings for Brian and his death. This story is a little different because Annaleah is grieving for Brian, but she’s grieving alone since no one knew about their relationship. I can’t imagine being in her situation. Not only is she trying to understand his death, but she has all kinds of questions about their relationship, if she can even call it that. We follow Annaleah into a pretty deep depression, and even though this makes me feel cold to say this, it really irritated me. She isolated herself while she was with Brian, but she’s not really alone; she has friends and family reaching out to her. This is something that Annaleah grapples with herself, but that point in the book really dragged for me. I thought about putting it down, but I didn’t and ended up being happy that I stuck with her. The verse isn’t as impressive as Lisa Schroeder’s or Kimberly Marcus’s, but it’s still enjoyable and easy to read. (less)
I read some mixed reviews for this one, but I wanted to read it anyway, especially after my mom read it and told me how much she liked it. The blurb f...moreI read some mixed reviews for this one, but I wanted to read it anyway, especially after my mom read it and told me how much she liked it. The blurb from Sarah Dessen helped too. I ended up really enjoying Moonglass. It’s a wonderful summer read, full of beaches, lifeguards, etc. Don’t let the beach atmosphere fool you. Yes there’s a budding romance, but Anna is really struggling with the memory of her mother’s death. This challenges her relationship with her father and her ability to grow as a person. It’s an emotional read that I didn’t want to put down.(less)
Prior to and during the week of The Near Witch‘s release, almost all of the blogs I follow had glowing reviews for this debut. After reading all of those reviews, and being in an odd mood on the day of the release, I decided to buy my own copy.
I think all of the reviews spoke of Schwab’s beautiful, lyrical writing and I completely agree. She created an atmosphere of mystery and magic, very much like a fairy tale. The imagery is fantastic and painted an easy to imagine setting. Overall, the writing is gorgeous and impressive.
My only complaint is that the story is too plot-driven. It was while reading this book that I realized how much more I enjoy character-driven stories. I never felt connected to Lexi or anyone in the story. I was interested in the mystery behind who’s kidnapping the children. And I was interested in the lore of the Near witch. My lack of connection with Lexi made the story drag on. I got to the point where I just wanted to know what happened. Despite the writing, and how much I was enjoying it, I found myself skimming the last couple chapters because I was growing weary and wanted to be done.
Honestly, it makes me feel down writing this review because I wanted to love this book. I did like it and will recommend it to my students. Reading is subjective and not every book is for every person. I already know which of my students will most likely love this book as much as the reviewers I follow did. I’d love to get some comments from those of you who read The Near Witch and loved it or feel the same as I do.
A few bloggers who enjoyed The Near Witch: The Story Siren Novel Thoughts Reading Teen (less)
**I reviewed this on my blog in NOVEMBER and apparently I forgot to post it here as well. Sorry!**
Prepare for gushing because this novel is beautiful...more**I reviewed this on my blog in NOVEMBER and apparently I forgot to post it here as well. Sorry!**
Prepare for gushing because this novel is beautiful and amazing. I’ve been a fan of Sara Zarr since a family friend gave me a copy of Story of a Girl as a college graduation present. Story of a Girl has remained my favorite up until now. How to Save a Life is such a strong novel and very different from Zarr’s other novels.
All of Zarr’s novels are strong in story and characters, but there’s a different feel to How to Save a Life. I finished reading it thinking, “Wow. This is her stand out, best book yet.” The two point of views are seamless, dynamic and natural. I could picture Jill and Mandy perfectly, but I could also picture her mom, Dylan and Ravi with ease as well. I finished this yesterday and I’m still thinking about Jill and Mandy; I connected with them on such an emotional level. Mandy is naive and often socially awkward; I often felt awkward for her, especially at the beginning. She is also understanding, compassionate, and true. Jill is grief-stricken and sometimes harsh, but she wants to open up and be a new, friendlier Jill. I couldn’t help but fall for these girls. So often I was willing them to communicate with one another and with the people around them. Watching them develop a friendship and begin to trust others was one of the best parts of the novel. Sara Zarr really did a fantastic job writing these characters.
The story itself is beautifully layered and more than just a story about a girl giving her baby up for adoption. This is a story about the many ways of dealing with grief. Jill has isolated herself. Her friends aren’t easy to get back, her relationship with her boyfriend is strained, and she doesn’t know how to connect with her mother. The relationship between Jill and her mother, Robin, is believable. Sometimes these relationships are exaggerated in novels, but I never felt like either of their interactions or reactions were over the top or unbelievable. And this is a side note, but even though I’ve never met Sara Zarr, I kept picturing her as I read Robin. Maybe that’s weird, but I did. Mandy is of course battling the conflicting emotions involved with giving up her baby. This conflict is made deeper because of her own need for a mother. Mandy’s mother is absent, cold and simply not what a mother should be. She’s still connected to her and often recites her advice, but her need for someone like Robin is obvious. Mandy broke my heart more than once. I love a book like How to Save a Life because I can offer it to more students considering the rich layers. I can hand this to a student looking for a book about teen pregnancy, grief, strained relationships with mothers, losing a parent, finding ways to trust again, and I could go on.
Sara Zarr has written a phenomenal book. I absolutely loved it, and of course that means I’m struggling to write the review. I hope I’ve found the right words to express the awesome that is this novel. How to Save a Life is an emotional novel that will warm your heart.(less)
I’ve read quite a few books recently that teachers and librarians should have in their libraries, but Something Like Hope is the first book I’ve read...moreI’ve read quite a few books recently that teachers and librarians should have in their libraries, but Something Like Hope is the first book I’ve read in a while that, if I had the money, I’d buy for all of my teaching friends to read and include in their libraries. Some of us may not have a student like Shavonne right now (that we know of), but who’s to say we won’t in the future. Shawn Goodman wrote this poignant novel in response to his experiences working in juvenile detention facilities. Unfortunately, many people across the country have had experiences like Shawn. This is why it’s so very important for people to know about Something Like Hope. I hope that many readers (teens, parents, educators, etc) will read this novel.
Shavonne’s exterior tough attitude reminded me of some of the students I’ve had. She’s suffered from all types of abuse from when she was living with her mom, living in foster care and living in the detention center. It’s no wonder that Shavonne has built up this wall to protect herself; she’s constantly preparing herself for fight or flight. The abuse she suffers at the juvenile detention facility is the most haunting of all. Any time something happened to her or to another character, I wanted to bust through those doors and have someone arrested! Thankfully Shavonne finds some solace in Mr. Delpopolo. He’s straight-forward and honest with her, which both throws Shavonne for a loop, but is also something she desperately needs. Mr. Delpopolo shows Shavonne compassion, which so many teens–troubled or not–crave. The therapy Shavonne receives from talking to Mr. Delpopolo allows her to feel. She feels more than just pain and fear. She starts feeling sympathy and love and concern for her new roommate Mary. She starts feeling trust for those in the center who have helped her. Like the summary says, Shavonne starts feeling hope.
Knowing that Shawn has experiences like Mr. Delpopolo boggles my mind. I’ve listened to some of my students’ heart-wrenching stories, but I haven’t heard anything like Shavonne’s story. I had a difficult time not crying while I was reading Something Like Hope. Shawn deserves high-praises for the work he’s doing with troubled teens and for writing such a powerful and tragic, yet hopeful novel. It’s my hope that Something Like Hope gets the attention it deserves and consequently more troubled teens get the help they so desperately need. This is a five-star debut novel without a doubt!(less)
This book just didn't work for me. There are some surprising twists to go along with the mystery, but I found myself bored and skimming portions of th...moreThis book just didn't work for me. There are some surprising twists to go along with the mystery, but I found myself bored and skimming portions of the novel. Full review to come.(less)
I'm debating between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I'm rounding up to 4.
I’ve always admired dancers. They’re athletic, gr...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
I'm debating between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I'm rounding up to 4.
I’ve always admired dancers. They’re athletic, graceful, hard workers and more. Before this year I haven’t read any novels with main characters that are dancers. Not only do has Audition released in 2011, but there’s also Bunheads by Sophie Flack and Ellen Hopkins’ newest novel, Perfect has a main character that dances. My dancers in class will be happy to see these new additions to YA, as am I.
Stasia Ward Kehoe grew up as a dancer, so I can imagine Audition was a very personal novel to write. Her expertise in dance is evident in how articulate she is in the language of dance. I, not being a dancer, didn’t understand all of the terminology, but I did appreciate it and respect it. Ballet dancers reading this novel will certainly appreciate Stasia Ward Kehoe’s expertise. Not only does she use correct terminology, Audition is full of beautiful imagery and scenes. Even with my limited knowledge of ballet I was able to picture the dancing and the dancers.
I’m a huge fan of verse novels, so I was really looking forward to reading Audition (besides it being about ballet). The students in my book club chose this as our next novel after I told them about it, and most of them started it before me. For one of the girls, this was her first verse novel and she told me she was struggling with it. She wasn’t sure if it’s simply because she’s not used to verse, or if the verse was just choppy. I kept this in mind while reading Audition, and for the most part I enjoyed the verse. As I read more of the book I began to notice that many of the scenes and the writing are choppy. Sara would be describing a scene at the studio, and then on the next page we were back at the house or with Rem. These sudden changes in setting are jarring and caused me to re-read more pages than I cared to. The verse isn’t always as fluid as I prefer, but I still enjoyed Stasia Ward Kehoe’s writing and will read more of her novels.
The story is about Sara and how she’s basically thrown into this new life of dancing. She’s from a small town and is a promising dancer. After she scores well at an audition, she is accepted at a dancing school at the Jersey Ballet. Sara goes through a whirlwind of emotions during this transition and is really unsure of herself as a dancer and who she is outside of dance. Eventually Sara isn’t sure if she wants to continue dancing, if this is really her dream. Readers will appreciate Sara’s hesitation whether they’re a dancer or not, because many of us face these decisions in our lives. Who are we? What do we want to do with our lives? Will our choices let down our family? In the midst of this, Sara falls for Remington. While I appreciated Sara’s angst about ballet, I simply couldn’t connect with her relationship with Rem. Sara and Rem have a fast infatuation that never really made sense to me. Part of this may be the fact that Rem really doesn’t have much dialogue–he and Sara don’t do much talking. This is mostly because of the nature of their relationship, but also because the scenes with Rem focus more on Sara’s thoughts. I understand the reasoning for this, but it also caused these scenes to fall flat for me. As a result, Audition didn’t become the book I wanted it to be.
I’m looking forward to hearing my students’ thoughts, especially after seeing the different ratings they’ve been giving it on Goodreads. Audition is one that I enjoyed, and even though some areas were weak, it’s a book that I still think others should read.(less)
I want to start off saying that Matt Blackstone did send me a copy of his book, but that hasn’t altered my thoughts on the book. Gae Polisner, the aut...moreI want to start off saying that Matt Blackstone did send me a copy of his book, but that hasn’t altered my thoughts on the book. Gae Polisner, the author of The Pull of Gravity, was telling me about Matt’s book in a Facebook thread. One of my former students, Joe, saw the thread and looked up Matt’s book. He added on to the thread that he really wants to read this book, so I suggested that we read it as our next alumni book club pick. From there, Gae sent Matt a message saying he should add me as a friend because of what Joe and I were saying (and because Matt and I are both English teachers!). You can figure out the rest :)
To the review–I really did like A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie. It has wonderful boy appeal, tons of humor and wit, and it’s touching at times also.
The character development is strong, which I’m always a fan of. Rene is fourteen years old, but he really hasn’t reached the maturity of a fourteen year old. Although as I type that, I’m thinking to myself, how mature are fourteen year old boys?? To be fair, I have had some fairly mature boys in my English 9 classes. As I was getting to know Rene’s character, I pictured him being at the level of a 7th or 8th grade boy. He wants to mature and like the other guys, Gio in particular, but he still has his digital Batman watch, wears a cape, and imagines himself fighting crime as he’s walking home. All of these nuances make Rene very likable as a character. Within the first few pages I was giggling enough that my husband glanced over at me with a “What are you reading?” look. I, of course, told him all about it :) Rene is hyper aware of the people around him. He has names for the different types of kids in school like the Cutters (they cut class) and the Smartypants. His example of what the Smartypants are like reminded me of a girl I knew in middle school who, during a Girl Scout retreat, corrected my pronunciation of the word “jaguar.” This would be a funny story, but only if you could actually hear the story and how it sounded when she said it. She would be a member of the Smartypants clique.
I haven’t read too many books with characters that suffer from OCD. For this reason, I was looking forward to reading A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie to see how it affected Rene. Most times I giggled when he’d get going about something. He gets so distracted by his compulsions, that Rene often misses what others are saying or he just completely misunderstands them. This happened often with his teacher and with his friend Gio. These conversations are when I was laughing the most because it would really take some patience and understanding to interact with Rene. Honestly, though, I thought sometimes that his actions as a result of the OCD resembled how my students with autism act. The examples I’m thinking of are how paranoid Rene would get that the kids at school were talking about him and when he’d get completely sucked into his imagination. This is a great book for teens to read because they’ll have a better understanding of what people suffering from OCD are going through. They’ll know what everyday life can be like for them. I can’t imagine living my life like Rene; it’s exhausting to think about what he goes through.
Reading this book will not only provide you with plenty of laughs, but it will also give you the opportunity to connect with a deeply layered character. The supporting characters are wonderful as well, and I’m sure you’ll be rooting for them. As a final comment, I’m not going to give the ending away, of course, but I really did like it; it’s full of hope.(less)
Before the school year ended, my student Hanna told me about Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams. She was reading it and enjoying it because she discovere...moreBefore the school year ended, my student Hanna told me about Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams. She was reading it and enjoying it because she discovered after reading Impulse by Ellen Hopkins and Exposed by Kimberly Marcus, that she loves reading verse novels. Once she pointed this out to me, I decided that this summer I need to read more books written in verse. I love reading them as well, but this really motivated me to make it happen this summer. Anyway, Lisa Schroeder has a new book out titled The Day Before. I’m reading it for The Contemps Challenge, so I picked it up the day it released–along with two of her other books. I jumped into I Heart You, You Haunt Me right away.
It is a BEAUTIFUL book! The verse is flawless and reads with ease; I read this in one sitting. I simply couldn’t put it down! And the imagery–fantastic! These lines on page 83 blew me away:
The sun starts to set and tangerine orange turns to cotton candy pink and I wish my man Jackson was here to give me some cranberry red love.
I wish I could think and write like that. Isn’t it beautiful?! Once Ava described that I had the image in my mind. This is only ONE example of how incredible Lisa Schroeder’s writing is. Breathtaking.
I really felt for Ava. I can’t imagine losing someone like she did. She’s grieving, feeling responsible and guilty, and doesn’t know what to do about it. Once Jackson starts contacting her, I had mix emotions. I was excited for her, scared for her, supportive of her. This whole situation makes her feel more isolated because who can she possibly tell that her boyfriend has become a ghost? But then she’s conflicted because she doesn’t want to be away from him, but that’s isolating her as well. Reading this book was an emotional roller coaster that was so worth the ride. I’m really impressed by how developed the characters are in such a short novel, especially a verse novel.
After reading I Heart You, You Haunt Me and Chasing Brooklyn, I am officially a HUGE Lisa Schroeder fan. As soon as I finished this book I started Chasing Brooklyn. These books will be raved about until I can’t rave anymore all summer and even more once school starts again in the fall. If you enjoy verse novels, if you enjoy love stories, if you enjoy reading, you will LOVE I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder.(less)
During some conversations I had with my freshmen last school year, I discovered that many of them still enjoy middle grade titles, especially fantasy and action/adventure titles. Since then I’ve been making a point of seeking titles like these out and reading them. When I heard about Liesl & Po, and that it’s written by Lauren Oliver, I knew I had to read it. Truth–I think I like this book more than Before I Fall.
Lauren Oliver has a note in the very beginning of the ARC (I hope it’s in the finished copy as well) explaining why she wrote this book. It’s incredibly moving and something I thought back to many times while reading this book. I’d rather not go into detail about the note, though, because I think you should experience it for yourself. It made reading the book feel more personal, and I appreciate that sort of honesty from an author.
The illustrations by Kei Acedera are fantastic! I wasn’t expecting any art, so it was a very pleasant surprise and experience. I like that they’re paced throughout the novel and I like the style used to create the setting & characters. I’m not very good with art/drawing terminology, so please forgive my ignorance on this. The drawings felt like how I would see the characters if this book were made into an animated Disney movie or something. But the shading and everything also felt whimsical. I may not be making any sense, but regardless, I love the illustrations. They added an element that made the story come alive. I wish more books could include illustrations, MG and YA alike.
Another element I love about this book is the cast of characters. Liesl is sweet and caring, but also full of adventure. Po is mysterious, but I love that it looks out for Liesl and begins to feel human emotions again. I also couldn’t get enough of Po’s wit and one-liners, especially when Will, the alchemist’s assistant, enters the scene. Liesl & Po forge an unusual friendship, but it’s ultimately one of trust and understanding. There’s also a few villains, of course. Liesl’s stepmother is truly horrible; she has Liesl locked up in an attic and barely feeds her. The Lady Premiere, who expects to receive the box of magic, rivals Liesl’s stepmother in the evilness category. These characters, along with others, made for a fantastic story full of magic and hope despite all the gray.
Lauren Oliver has written a story that children, tweens and teens will appreciate and enjoy. There are plenty of universal themes like loneliness, the importance of family, grieving, etc. This is another title that I’m excited to share with my students, and I’m equally excited to buy a finished copy.(less)
I need to admit something before I write this review: I’ve never read Anna and the French Kiss. I feel like I should be hanging my head in shame becau...moreI need to admit something before I write this review: I’ve never read Anna and the French Kiss. I feel like I should be hanging my head in shame because it seems like everyone and their grandma has read that book. I have two copies of it in my classroom and I started reading it over the summer, but for some reason I stopped. And never picked it back up. Then I kept seeing the buzz for Lola and the Boy Next Door all over Twitter and won a copy, so I figured, okay I’ll give it a shot. That was last night and I finished it this morning. I have so much love for this book!
Lola and the Boy Next Door is awesome and lives up to the hype I kept hearing and reading. I was up until almost 3am reading this book and I didn’t want to stop. It’s been months since a book has kept me up that late. I forced myself to set the book down so I could sleep for a few hours before picking it up again and finishing it. I do need to mention that Lola’s story is a companion to Anna and the French Kiss, but even though I now know how that book ends, I was fine reading Lola and the Boy Next Door first. Also, I’ll be sure to finish Anna’s story very soon.
One of the first things I liked about this novel is that Lola starts off speaking about some wishes she has and one of them is that she wishes her parents would like her boyfriend. As she goes on, she mentions her dad and her other dad. It took me a minute to figure out that she has gay parents. Perkins did a wonderful job creating this element of Lola’s life without making it a big focus in the story. It’s completely natural and accepted; her dads are protective, loving, and funny. It makes me happy to see this in YA because it should be in YA, especially the way Perkins infuses it into the story without making a big fuss about it.
I enjoyed reading Lola’s dads, Andy and Nathan, but I adored Lola. She’s quirky and creative while trying to be mature and older than she is. She loves expressing herself by dressing in costume, which reminded me a little of Cyd Charrise, Rachel Cohn’s main character in the Cyd Charrise series. Not every girl will connect with this part of Lola’s character, but they will connect with how she still sometimes worries about what other people think of her. She’s dating a much older guy, which adds an interesting spin to the story because Lola not only focuses on their relationship, but she also worries that she isn’t mature enough for him. Add to the fact that her boyfriend is a musician that travels and isn’t loved by her parents, and you have a strong story element to go along with the arrival of Cricket.
Lola is on uneven ground with her current relationship, so Cricket and Calliope moving in next door (again) only makes matters worse because of her history with them. This is where I had one issue because Lola mentions problems she had with Calliope when they first lived next door, but those problems are never really explained. Granted, it’s not a focal point in the story, but I would have liked to have known more about them. Cricket and Lola were close friends until something happened that broke Lola’s heart and he and his family moved away. With his reappearance, Lola isn’t sure anymore about her feelings for him or her boyfriend.
Perkins did a wonderful job writing Lola because I often felt the same way she did. At times I was rooting for her to stay with her boyfriend, but once I got to know Cricket, I kept wanting her to dump her boyfriend and move on. Cricket is in his freshmen year of college, but often comes home to help out and be with his family. He’s an inventor and on the cool side of nerdy, which I love. Plus, he loves Lola for who she is, crazy outfits and wigs and all. Cricket is adorable, smart, honest and an all-around good guy.
Lola and the Boy Next Door is about Lola deciding between two guys, but it’s also about Lola figuring out who she is and if she’s okay with who she is. It’s about her forming stronger friendships and relationships with her family. It’s also about first love and what that really is. I laughed, swooned and even teared up while reading. I hope you’re able to get a copy pronto! (less)