First of all, I will openly admit that I feel like a bad blogger since I waited so long to read Saving June. I feel...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
First of all, I will openly admit that I feel like a bad blogger since I waited so long to read Saving June. I feel even worse about it because a few of my girls in class absolutely loved it and I couldn’t share with them my own feelings about Hannah Harrington’s debut. But I finally read it (and really liked it) so that has to count for something, right? One of the reasons I did end up finally reading it (besides really wanting to all this time) is that Harrington has a new book coming out tomorrow called Speechless which I’m excited to read.
Harper Scott’s character and voice grabbed me as soon as I started reading Saving June and never let me go. She’s obviously sad and torn up over June’s death, but she isn’t wearing her heart on her sleeve about it. She’s snarky and quick and tired of feeling bad about who she is in comparison to June. She’s tired of feeling like she is constantly letting her mom and her aunt down. Harper wants to cry over June’s death, but the tears simply won’t come. As a reader I could see and feel her grief through her words and actions. I really felt for Harper because she feels so alone, especially in the beginning of the story, since her mom is disconnected and her dad is for the most part out of the picture. The family dynamics in Harper’s life make her friendship with Laney and ultimately Jake so much stronger.
The plot is an obvious focal point since Saving June is a road trip book, but it’s also very character driven since these characters are on this trip because of grief and honor. Harper discovers that June wanted to go to California so on a whim she decides this is what she needs to do to honor her sister. Laney is vibrant and adventurous, so with very little coaxing she’s on board with Harper. I like Laney because she brightens up Harper. Harper adores Laney and values their friendship so she often tries to make Laney happy. This gave us another layer to Harper’s character; we get to see a glimpse of who she was before June’s death and what her personality is really like. Jake’s connection in the story is a mystery at first because Harper can’t figure out his real motives for helping them get across the country and how he really knew June. This unknown makes Jake’s character more interesting to read because the connection he has with Harper is there, but neither Harper nor the reader know if it’s okay for those two to get together. I was constantly wondering if Harper was reading him right and if she should let herself fall for him. Did he date June? Did he want to date June but never had the chance? I really like Jake’s character and wanted it to work out between him and Harper.
A number of reviewers have commented on the music references in Saving June. I enjoyed them, but I could honestly take or leave them. Jake is obsesses with music and spends a large bulk of the story schooling Laney and Harper on different artists like Jimmy Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, etc. The musical connection does open up Harper’s emotions and feelings about June, and it also gives us a little insight to June; I liked the music references for those two reasons. Some of my students now may not like it because so much of the music is “old” and unless they’ve been exposed to it they probably won’t appreciate it. However, reading this book and learning about the music and the artists might drive their curiosity enough to look up some of the songs.
Overall I really enjoyed Hannah Harrington’s debut. It’s a strong debut and good enough that I’m looking forward to her sophomore release, Speechless (8/28/12). The story slowed down a bit for me a couple times, but I think that’s mostly because I grew tired of the grief. I don’t think it’s over done in Saving June, but prior to reading this I’ve read a number of books dealing with grief and I think I’m spent for a while.(less)
I really need to separate the story and the audio narrator in regards to my feelings about Supernaturally. The story itself kept me entertained for th...moreI really need to separate the story and the audio narrator in regards to my feelings about Supernaturally. The story itself kept me entertained for the most part because I like Evie. Unfortunately, I grew irritated with her towards the end of the book because she kept whining and making the same mistakes. I think the book in general was a little long as well.
When it comes to the narrator, I liked her sometimes. I think she was a good choice for Evie, but she didn't do a very good job switching voices. Jack just sounded weird and I often got Lend confused with Evie. At times it sounded like she had food in her mouth when she was speaking. I know that she didn't, but there's just something about her voice that irritated me at times during the narration. I honestly don't know if I'll be able to listen to another book with her as the narrator.(less)
A.S. King is such a talented author! I ended up loving this on audio and the narrator really fits Vera. The characterization is fantastic. I started t...moreA.S. King is such a talented author! I ended up loving this on audio and the narrator really fits Vera. The characterization is fantastic. I started tearing up at the end of the audio. So good. Sorry for the choppiness and gushing, but I just loved this book!(less)
I can understand why so many people love Revolution, but I'm not impressed. Maybe it was the audio, but I really think it's the story. It went far too...moreI can understand why so many people love Revolution, but I'm not impressed. Maybe it was the audio, but I really think it's the story. It went far too long without connecting the plot and when it finally did it was overly dramatic. I invested a lot of time listening to this audiobook. A lot of time I won't get back... Sigh. The catch? I kept listening because I wanted to know how it was all going to end. It's too bad I wasn't impressed.(less)
I have more to say about the actual book than the audio, so this portion of the review will...moreAudiobook Review originally posted at YA Love
I have more to say about the actual book than the audio, so this portion of the review will be short. Overall, I liked it. It’s not the best audio performance I’ve listened to, but it’s still good. I don’t want that part of the review, however, to keep anyone from reading the book. Katie Schorr is a good choice for Regina, but she isn’t as talented at changing her voice for different characters. Considering the amount of character interaction in Some Girls Are, this became an issue for me because I had a hard time distinguishing when Regina was talking and when, say, Michael or Kara were speaking. I also don’t know if this is the best choice for audio because of how clipped some of the narration and dialogue are. I think hearing it, as opposed to seeing it, took away from the effect the clipped, sparse lines were supposed to have. I recommend reading Some Girls Are traditionally over listening to it.
Courtney Summers is an author who deserves more attention and more of a fan base because she is seriously talented. I still have to read This is Not a Drill, but I’ve read all three of her other books and in each one she develops characters who are both hard and easy to like. Regina is the epitome of this. I did not want to like Regina or feel sorry for her because to some degree she doesn’t deserve pity. She’s not a nice person–at all. But I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her because she is treated horribly by Anna, Kara, and all of her old “friends.” Still, Regina doesn’t completely learn from this because the cycle continues as Regina retaliates and is equally brutal. It’s alarming how much this hate spreads from person to person in the book. It’s alarming because this actually happens outside of books.
At times, I wondered what else could possibly happen to Regina. What more were Anna, Kara, and the rest going to do to her? How was the story going to end? But it still went on. Summers creates this slow, bubbling of brutality on every page. One question I kept asking myself is “Where are Regina’s parents?” They are so completely oblivious and out of the picture, it’s sickening. I want to say it’s unrealistic, but I know that’s not true. I can’t tell you how many times I started saying things out loud to Regina like, “Tell your principal!” These characters are ruthless and horrible and need to be punished by an adult.
I know Regina isn’t forthcoming with her parents because she is embarrassed, but I’m not completely sure why she doesn’t go to another adult or principal or something. Yes, she fears retaliation, but I think she also fears that no one will believe her. It’s messed up that we preach against bullying, yet there’s still this fear that no one will believe it when someone accuses another of bullying, especially when the bully is a “good kid.” I have a lot of say about the reason why Regina is thrown from the group, and I’m not sure if I should say because it’s slightly spoilery, but it’s also right at the beginning of the book, but I’m saving those thoughts for another post I’m currently drafting. Anyway, Some Girls Are brings up so much about school culture that needs to be addressed and changed.
I’m simply not doing this book justice, but it’s a book that needs to be read and discussed with other people who have read it. It’s hard to write a review for it because there are so many layers and feelings to discuss. I hope you read it. I hope you read all of Courtney Summers’ books.
Similar Books: Speechless by Hannah Harrington, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen(less)
When Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally released all I found were positive reviews, so I knew it was a book to buy for my classroom. I bought Catching Jordan for my classroom back in January, and I haven’t had a chance to read it myself since then! Every time one of my girls reads and returns it, another girl is standing right there waiting to read it next. The only reason I was able to read Catching Jordan this weekend is because one of my girls in my 5th hour (our last hour of the day), finished it and handed it back to me. I quickly stashed it in my bag and the rest is history.
Miranda Kenneally’s debut novel is a quick read that teens obviously love based on what I’m seeing in my classroom. It has plenty of appeal including sports, friendships, love and relationships, etc. Most of my girls that have been reading it are very active in sports, but my romance fans have been picking this up as well. I like the balance of sports and romance because many of my girls ask me for books without too much love. Based on the amount of football scenes and references, I might even attempt to have one of my boys in class read Catching Jordan. I teach primarily freshmen, and many of my boys are self-conscious about this sort of thing but it’s worth a shot. I think some of them would genuinely like it.
I’d like to ask my students what they think of Jordan. I love her dedication to football and her teammates; her actions as captain are believable and realistic. I felt for her in regards to her wanting/needing her dad’s attention. She’s really hurt that her dad doesn’t appreciate all of her hard work and skill in football. When she meets Ty, she keeps telling herself that she doesn’t want to lose her focus and get too wrapped up in him. I like this about Jordan, even if this does happen to some degree. I did worry about her and how quickly their relationship becomes a sexual one. Part of me thinks I feel this way because of how their relationship is written and how fast that part of the story progresses. I also didn’t see Jordan acting that way based on what I knew about her at that point in the story.
Speaking of Ty, I definitely liked him and understand why Jordan is attracted to him. He’s a talented athlete, even if she’s threatened by him, he’s loyal to his family, and he’s really attractive. I enjoyed getting to know him with Jordan, but I kept wondering about her best friend Henry. He’s always there for Jordan and sticking up for her. It’s obvious that he really understands her, and I kept wanting to steer Jordan towards him! The scenes with Jordan and Henry made me think of my best guy friend in high school. I kept thinking about him as I was reading this and it made me wonder if maybe he liked me more than as a friend. He’d come to our house all the time and even called my mom “Mom” although he never slept over. Another guy I like in Catching Jordan is Jordan’s brother, Mike. It’s nice to see an older brother character that’s supportive and looks out for his sister.
I’m looking forward to reading more of Miranda Kenneally‘s books in the future. Catching Jordan is a really cute book that appeals to a variety of readers. I’m happy I read it and look forward to recommending it to more of my students.(less)
The Future of Us is a fun, quick read that many of my students will enjoy. I'll admit that I was hoping for something edgy considering this is Jay Ash...moreThe Future of Us is a fun, quick read that many of my students will enjoy. I'll admit that I was hoping for something edgy considering this is Jay Asher's second book, but it's good to see that he can write something lighter after the continued success of Thirteen Reasons Why. I read a couple of Mackler's novels and liked those, so I'm not surprised that these two authors are a good combination.
The premise is a fun spin on the idea of Facebook, and will generate lots of discussion. I'm looking forward to talking about this one with the students in my book club. My biggest critique is that even though the chapters are labeled according to Emma's or Josh's point of view, neither of their voices are distinct enough for me to tell the difference. Other than that and a few minor slow points, this is humorous and also sweet at times. Full review to come. (less)
Joshua Swanson delivers a good performance in the audio for Out of the Pocket. We offered this novel to our fresh...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Joshua Swanson delivers a good performance in the audio for Out of the Pocket. We offered this novel to our freshmen as part of our To Kill a Mockingbird YA connections unit which is why I decided to listen to the audio. At the time I was swamped with other books to read, and considering the amount of driving I do to work and back, I figured this was a good way to read the book before the unit. At times Swanson’s narration was a bit slow, but it wasn’t monotonous by any means. His version of Carrie was also far from what I would have pictured, to the point of being ridiculous. Besides those two points, the audio is engaging and entertaining. I was engaged enough that at certain parts in the book I actually gasped at what characters said. Out of the Pocket is a good choice whether you want to listen to it or physically read it.
Out of the Pocket will appeal to readers who are interested in contemporary fiction, sports fiction, and/or LGBT fiction. Bill Konigsberg did a wonderful job writing a story that’s about identity, sports, friendship and family. Bobby Framingham knows he’s gay, but he doesn’t know what to do about it or who to tell. He doesn’t know if he should tell anyone because he doesn’t know of any openly gay athletes who aren’t retired from their sport. Football is extremely important to Bobby, and it could land him a college scholarship, so telling someone he’s gay could put that scholarship in jeopardy. Coming out is an important moment and Bobby wants to do it when the time’s right. I liked Out of the Pocket because the characters are real and Bobby’s life isn’t sugar-coated, nor overly dramatized. It was a good book for my freshmen to read because many of them don’t have friends who are gay (that they know of), and consequently they had some thoughtful discussions about the story and their connections to it. Once they started reading Out of the Pocket, they understood the comparisons we (their teachers) made with To Kill a Mockingbird when deciding which books to use with the unit. I didn’t really care about the scenes with football plays and all, but everything else about the story really worked for me as both a reader and as a teacher. (less)
First of all, if you haven’t read this series yet then you shouldn’t read this review, but you SHOULD read The Bo...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
First of all, if you haven’t read this series yet then you shouldn’t read this review, but you SHOULD read The Body Finder pronto!
For those of you who are up to speed with Kimberly Derting’s fabulous series, I positively loved The Last Echo! It has all of the normal goodies from The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead (mystery, suspense, romance, Jay, etc.), but The Last Echo also feels more mature which fits with where Violet is in her life. She’s joined Sara Priest and others to help the police find murderers which is a very adult job to take on as a teenager. This means Violet’s working more closely with Rafe and consequently there’s more tension between those two and also between Jay and Violet.
I like where Kimberly Derting is taking the story and how she’s developing Violet’s character. Watching Violet trying to navigate through her life as a teen, but also as a teen with a supernatural ability and adult job is really intriguing and has kept me reading the story. One of the reason I enjoy The Body Finder series so much is because while it has a supernatural element, I feel like I’m still reading something realistic. Jay isn’t the typical paranormal guy love interest who acts like he’s 30 even though he’s a teenager. He still rings true for me as a regular teen guy who’s really in love, and just a bit jealous as well. Violet’s life isn’t exactly normal, but she she still has common worries like other teens her age. Keeping these characters grounded in the story makes it more believable and entertaining. I feel like I’m watching Violet grow up and I can’t wait to see where the story takes her in book four.
Of course, while I love the reality, I was completely engrossed in the mystery! Like always, I had so many predictions and only some were close to accurate. This “girlfriend collector” is creepy! As in the past books we get to read sections from his point of view, and when I read those sections I kept making sure my door was locked. He seems so unsuspecting, but not someone I would want to cross paths with. The Body Finder had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, but not as much in Desires of the Dead. I’m happy to report that The Last Echo is very similar to The Body Finder (and then some) in regards to mystery and suspense!
Violet and Jay’s relationship in these books is swoon-worthy. It didn’t feel quite as steamy in The Last Echo, but it’s becoming more of a relationship of understanding and acceptance while still maintaining a strong sense of romance. Jay is still always by Violet’s side and supporting her, but the tension with Rafe in the picture and Violet’s new job adds new levels of stress. Both Jay and Violet are working on trusting each other and working together to be more supportive and understanding. Jay is still one of my all-time favorite Y.A. crushes. I won’t say too much more about the relationship because there’s so much left to ponder at the end of Desires of the Dead.
Overall, I am incredibly thankful that HarperCollins sent me this ARC because The Body Finder series is one of my favorites and continues to be. This book rocked and left me excited for the fourth book!(less)
This year has been a big year for war-related contemporary YA. When I found out about Corrine Jackson’s debut, If I Lie, I knew I had to read it and I...moreThis year has been a big year for war-related contemporary YA. When I found out about Corrine Jackson’s debut, If I Lie, I knew I had to read it and I’m really glad I did.
I don’t know what it is about serious contemporary YA novels, but I love them. I’ve realized that my class library is full of them. If I Lie is serious and emotional, but there’s a nice mix of humor and warmth as well. Jackson covers some heavy issues like varyious forms of bullying. Quinn’s turned into a pariah and deemed a traitor after a compromising picture of her cheating on her boyfriend is spread across the Internet. The cyber bullying is a primary focus, but it’s present enough to give a reader pause. Quinn is bullied constantly. Her locker is violated, her friends have abandoned her, and she’s called names over and over again. I was shocked that she handles it as well as she does. I would hope that a military town would act differently, but in this war-ridden climate it’s easy to believe what happens to Quinn. Most of the humor comes from Quinn’s interactions with the war veteran, George, she spends time with. I loved his character because he’s really caring but he’s sharp and witty too.
After around 50 pages or so I started wondering where the story was going to take me. Corrine Jackson sets it up so we discover the big secret early on, but the full picture and background of it is broken up throughout the story. Once I realized that was happening I understood the pacing better and enjoyed it. Besides bullying, Quinn’s life is paralleled with her mother’s life. Her mom faced a similar situation as Quinn which haunts Quinn regularly. She feels like she’s lived up to the town’s expectations that she’d be just like her mother. So along with flashbacks to before the picture was taken and spread around town, we get flashbacks to when Quinn was still with her mother and what happened at home. The flashbacks are written well and easy to identify when reading. I’m picky about that when I read a book like If I Lie.
Readers who enjoy Courtney Summers or books like Speak will most likely enjoy If I Lie. It’s a quick read full of heart with a main character who, despite what everyone around town thinks, is incredibly loyal. I predict it will be popular in my classroom since there’s so much students can relate to. Readers who have tough relationships with their parents will connect with this. Readers who have been subject to bullying and gossip will connect with this. Readers who have fallen for the wrong person will connect with this. If I Lie is a strong contemporary debut and I look forward to reading more of Corrine Jackson’s work.(less)
Joshua C. Cohen is an author to watch! Leverage is an edgy, emotional, gripping debut. It will appeal to those wh...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Joshua C. Cohen is an author to watch! Leverage is an edgy, emotional, gripping debut. It will appeal to those who enjoy sports, but it’s about more than sports. It’s about loyalty, courage, and standing up for what’s right, even when the odds are against you.
Kelly at Stacked has been telling me to read this for months, but I can’t say why I put it off for so long. I’m actually made at myself for waiting so long to read Leverage. When I told my students about the Y.A. Cybils finalists, one of my Y.A. Lit students asked if he could read it for his project (sports in Y.A.). He reported back to me as he was reading it, and eventually another student in class went to our library to get himself a copy. Once my student finished Leverage, he came into class telling me all about it and preparing me for some of the events/scenes in the novel. After this interaction with him, I started it right away. Just like my student, I came into school and kept up our conversation, this time sharing my thoughts about the story. This kind of interaction/relationship with my students is why I love sharing books with them.
I’m happy one of my older students read Leverage first because it’s a mature read. I knew something bad was going to happen as the prank war escalated, but even after my student’s warning, I never expected it to get as bad as it did. Without spoiling the novel, one scene in particular is horrific and haunting. I had a feeling something like that might happen, but I hoped it wouldn’t. It’s a graphic scene, so if you’re working with younger students, you might want to read Leverage first before you hand it to one of them. Or at the very least, let these readers know that it’s a mature and sometimes graphic novel. While I was heartbroken after this event, I understand why Cohen included it. It really sets up the characterization of Danny and Kurt.
I really enjoy novels that switch points of view, because it allows for more understanding of the events in the story. Kurt and Danny are written so well, that I couldn’t choose which character I preferred more. Both characters are flawed and motivated by their emotions. Kurt has a past no person would wish on another, and Danny is searching for praise and perfection. Kurt’s goal is to leave his past behind, so he’s working out constantly in hopes for a football scholarship. Football also allows him to release his anger and frustration. His helmet helps him speak without a stutter, which makes him feel more powerful and in control. He can also hide his scars, both physical and emotional. Danny’s mother died, so now it’s just him and his dad. His dad doesn’t seem to take Danny’s sport seriously, he sees gymnastics as a hobby. Danny’s hoping to become captain one day and receive a scholarship, but he also wants his dad’s approval and recognition. Danny and Kurt may play different sports and be vastly different physically, but both have similar aspirations. It’s not really until the heartbreaking scene that these two characters come together and work towards justice. It’s this scene that really shows how flawed Danny and Kurt are, but even while I was yearning for them to do something, I understood their hesitation. Joshua C. Cohen not only created complex characters, he has written a novel that makes the reader question what he/she would do if placed in Danny or Kurt’s position. Once you think about this from the character’s perspective, it’s difficult to judge them for their actions and/or inaction.
Leverage isn’t a novel for the faint of heart, because like Kelly told me, it will devastate you. And while much of the novel is dismal, I knew there would be some hope towards the end. Although the ending itself, I’m not so sure about. Parts of it didn’t feel very believable to me, but that might depend on the reader. If you decide to read Leverage, be prepared for an intense reading experience and an emotional connection to the characters. Leverage is a story about bullying to the extreme, and it’s one that I highly recommend.(less)
Exciting. Gripping. Thrilling. These are the best words I can use to describe the awesome that is Insurgent by Ve...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Exciting. Gripping. Thrilling. These are the best words I can use to describe the awesome that is Insurgent by Veronica Roth.
Let me say first, that if it’s been a while since you’ve read Divergent then I recommend either re-reading the whole book or at least the last few chapters because Insurgent starts right where Divergent left off. There aren’t any recaps either. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Insurgent, but let me tell you I wasn’t disappointed! We’re thrown right back into the chaos we were left with and I couldn’t stop reading. I think I was about 60 pages in and then BAM! Major action was happening all around. It was exciting and non-stop action. I sat there, awe-struck and completely engrossed the entire time I was reading. In some ways Insurgent reminded me of Mockingjay in the way the tone changed from Divergent to Insurgent. It’s not dismal and depressing like Mockingjay was, but Insurgent has more of an intense urgency to it. Thankfully Roth allowed us some breaks from the action and intensity with scenes full of well-done humor and romance.
I positively love Tris’s character, and in Insurgent we see a different side of Tris—a more vulnerable side. She’s still reeling from the death of her parents and suffering over the fact that she killed Will. These deaths haunt her for most of the novel and affect her personality. She’s not as tough, but she’s still stubborn, adventurous, brave, and reckless (reckless according to Tobias). We also witness how loyal she is, even if at times she and others question her loyalty. Tris begins to learn who she really is in Insurgent. In Divergent she was still figuring that out, especially since she switched factions. I often worried about Tris, but ultimately I’ve grown to love her character even more because of her supposed weakness which results in immense character growth. You have to love a protagonist that can overcome her demons.
I don’t want to give anything away, but I can’t write this review without mentioning Tobias. I still love his character, and I still love him and Tris together. All I will say is that it’s rocky between Tris and Tobias and I admire Veronica Roth for how she handled their relationship. She kept it real and didn’t add any extra unnecessary dramatics like so many authors do. That is all :)
It’s been a week since I finished Insurgent, and my mind is still reeling over everything we learn. Tris finds out so much more about what it means to be Divergent, but the ending left me with even more questions when I thought many were answered. But not only am I questioning things about the Divergents, I’m wondering about Amity and Abnegation. Veronica Roth blew my mind with the ending which is the biggest reason I’m reeling and slightly incoherent. I need to know more about ALL OF THE THINGS that I can’t discuss b/c it would spoil the book. But ALL OF THE THINGS are exciting and mind-boggling and discussion worthy. Seriously, read Divergent if you haven’t already so you can read Insurgent and enjoy the awesome!(less)
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams is gripping and intense. On the very first page Hope walks in on her sister Lizzi...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams is gripping and intense. On the very first page Hope walks in on her sister Lizzie holding a shotgun, her finger on the trigger. Not since reading Burned and Identical, both by Ellen Hopkins, have I read a verse novel so raw with emotion and suspense.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a sister, but I love reading stories about sisters and their relationships. Hope and Lizzie are as close as sisters can be, so it’s an absolute shock when Hope walks in and finds Lizzie this way. Carol Lynch Williams has done a fantastic job portraying the bond between these two sisters. Hope is slow to realize why her sister wants to kill herself, and part of that reason is because Lizzie has been committed to protecting and sheltering her sister. What I like about Glimpse and the dynamics between Hope and Lizzie is that we see first hand how concerned, conflicted, and confused Hope is about her sister. Hope doesn’t understand what’s going on between Lizzie and her mother, but she knows it’s making her jealous. While feeling jealous, however, Hope gets the feeling that Lizzie is hiding something important from their mother, so she tries her best to protect Lizzie and her secrets. Their relationship rides a fine line, but it leans mostly to the side of caring and protecting rather than jealous and malicious.
I’ve become critical of verse novels, and while some of the free verse felt choppy, the writing as a whole worked for me. Some of the choppy lines came from sections where Hope repeats random sentences or words. I’m sure it’s for effect and drama, but those few lines were more distracting than anything else. The majority of the verse, however, is lyrical and smooth. I say this often in my reviews of verse novels, but I’m so impressed when an author is able to convey strong emotions and paint vivid scenes and characters with so few words. Carol Lynch Williams does an excellent job doing both.
Carol Lynch Williams tackles some mature issues in Glimpse, but she does with subtlety and grace. As I began figuring out what was happening I grew nervous because I was wondering how it was going to be handled later in the story. The revelation is clear, but it’s not overdone or graphic. It’s enough to gain understanding and break your heart at the same time. Glimpse is a powerful book and one not to miss.(less)
Plain and simple, Boy21 is a GREAT book. I was on the search for a quality read aloud for my freshmen English classes, so I picked up Boy21 on a whim. I wanted to read it anyway, but I kept thinking about my 3rd hour freshmen class that’s primarily boys who don’t enjoy reading. Boy21 seemed like the perfect fit for them, so I went with my hunch and started reading it. As soon as I read the first couple chapters I knew I made the right decision.
Finley’s voice really stands out on the page, which is ironic considering he doesn’t like to talk much. He actually reminds me a little bit of Lucky Linderman from Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King. Both Lucky and Finley have a sort of innocence about them. They both have trouble speaking up for themselves, and they also want what’s best for those around them. Just like Lucky, Finley is an admirable character.
One of the reasons I like Finley is because he’s so loyal to his friends, coach, and family. When his coach approaches him about helping Boy21 (Russ), Finley doesn’t hesitate to offer his help. He trusts his coach, so even though he worries that Russ could take his starting position on the basketball team, he still tries to make friends with Russ. Russ has an obsession with space and refers to himself as Boy21, but he and Finley pair up well. They’re both amazing basketball players, even though Russ doesn’t show this right away, and they both deal with unfair treatment. They’re both treated poorly for different reasons, much of which is based on race and rivalry, but it still serves as a bond. After a startling and tragic turn of events, Finley really grows as a character. His loyalties are tested and he begins to doubt what’s truly important in his life. He begins to question his life, where it’s going–if anywhere–and what really happened years ago that caused him to be such a quiet, good kid. I love being able to witness this kind of characterization, which is one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Matthew Quick’s novel so much.
Boy21 by Matthew Quick is a novel that appeals to a variety of readers. My basketball players and sports fiction fans will enjoy the basketball scenes and references in Boy21. My fans of great contemporary realistic fiction will recognize what a superb example this is of that genre. Readers will connect with Finley, Erin, and Russ. They’ll feel the tension and suspense, they’ll laugh out loud, and they might even cry (I did).(less)
My students and I are big fans of Lisa McMann, so whenever she publishes a book I read it without question. I was especially excited to read Dead to Y...moreMy students and I are big fans of Lisa McMann, so whenever she publishes a book I read it without question. I was especially excited to read Dead to You because it’s a contemporary thriller. Also, I let one of my students read my ARC before I did so she could use it for her author study of Lisa McMann. My student adored it and couldn’t stop gushing.
Dead to You, like many of Lisa McMann’s novels, is an engaging page-turner. I have three classes of freshmen in a row, and I started Dead to You during SSR in my first section. By the end of SSR in the final class, I was almost 100 pages in! I may have given my kids 20 minutes of SSR time that day, but if you’ve read this book or when you do, you’ll understand why each class was given an extra 5 minutes. Anyway, that’s a pretty big chunk of reading done in a short amount of time, but that almost always happens when I’m reading one of Lisa McMann’s books. I’m always so engrossed and connected to the story. My students typically feel the same way which is why her books are so popular in my classroom. And to be honest, Dead to You had me hooked sooner than any of her other novels.
I can’t relate with Ethan and his family because fortunately I haven’t been in his situation, and I don’t know anyone who has. I was still able to empathize with him and those around him. We see this kind of reunion on the news, but we rarely see the day-to-day life and adjustments everyone goes through. Lisa McMann gives us this insight and it’s brutal at times. Ethan’s brother doesn’t trust him, Ethan can’t remember anything before the kidnapping, his mother is constantly crying and worrying, and his little sister–the replacement child–is innocent and surprisingly accepting of Ethan. Watching Ethan trying to adjust and remember is often heartbreaking because it’s obvious how badly he wants it. His blocked memory and old habits get in his way though. It’s his vulnerable, secretive side left me wondering about his past and why he can’t remember anything.
For much of Dead to You I kept waiting for something big to happen. Was a big secret going to be unveiled? Were they going to track down the kidnapper? Questions like these kept running through my mind as I raced through this book. There’s foreshadowing that fits with the ending, and my mind went there from time to time, but I didn’t really think it would turn out that way. While reading Dead to You, I was sure it was going to be a 5-star read, but the ending just blew up in my face. We get this climatic scene, and it’s a great scene, but then that’s it. I wanted to turn more pages. I expected to turn more pages. But there aren’t more pages available to turn. The ending left me disappointed; it feels unfinished. Of course I’m happy I read Lisa McMann’s newest novel, and I look forward to recommending it to my students, but I wish I had more at the end.(less)
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky is a prime example of great contemporary Y.A. literature. Keek has a true, authentic...moreActually 4.5 stars
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky is a prime example of great contemporary Y.A. literature. Keek has a true, authentic voice, which I enjoyed immensely. I’m actually struggling right now trying to find the words to write this review because I loved this book that much.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if And Then Things Fall Apart was a book I wanted to read when I first heard about it. I hadn’t read that many reviews, and I’ve never finished reading The Bell Jar, so I didn’t know if it was a book for me. When I was at NCTE, Arlaina Tibensky was signing, so I figured I’d buy a copy and get it signed for my classroom. Since then it’s been sitting on my shelf. Recently I bought a copy of Saving June by Hannah Harrington for my classroom, another book I haven’t read, and one of my freshmen read it. When she finished she told me she loved it and needed another book like Saving June. Since I haven’t read that one yet, I was at a loss, so I consulted Twitter. Thanks to Kelly at Stacked, I had a couple book recommendations for my student which included And Then Things Fall Apart. I didn’t have that in my classroom at the moment, so I gave my student the other recommend book and decided to read And Then Things Fall Apart. I know this is a long-winded story, but I’m SO GLAD I read it! Based on what my student said about Saving June and then Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (which was the other read alike), I’m almost positive she’ll love And Then Things Fall Apart.
Anyway, back to why I loved this debut. I need to bring up Keek. She’s sick in bed with the chicken pox during summer vacation. Chicken pox become worse with age, so Keek is really suffering. To make matters worse, her mom is out of state, and her parents are about to get divorced, so she’s trapped at her Grandma’s house without any technology to interact with the outside world. But she does have a typewriter and her worn-with-love copy of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. To give herself something to do, she decides to start writing. Arlaina Tibensky’s novel is essentially Keek’s book. She has a wonderful sense of humor that’s made up of mostly snark and wit. Her voice is authentic, so it’s easy to picture Keek. There isn’t much dialogue because Keek is isolated for the most part, but also because she’s a character that really lives in her head. The lack of dialogue didn’t bother me at all, and it wasn’t something that I noticed until I saw some reviews on Goodreads after finishing. Keek, who’s real name is Karina, is very mature for her age in the way that she thinks. But on the other hand, she’ll sometimes act immature when it comes to her boyfriend Matt and her reactions to her parents. Teens that view themselves as being more mature than their peers will really identify with Keek.
While Keek is mature and a deep thinker, she’s inexperienced with boys, which adds to her insecurity with Matt. When she’s confronted with moving forward sexually with Matt, she often consults The Bell Jar for advice. Her virginity is always on her mind, as is Matt. At times Matt drives her crazy and she can’t stand him. Other times she’s thinking about times when she was madly in love with him and her hormones were driving her actions. Keek’s really conflicted; she doesn’t know if her feelings are real and why she’s so scared to have sex with Matt. Some readers might be put off by Keek’s thoughts about sex and her virginity; they might see it as being too mature for some readers. I read Keek’s memories of Matt and her thoughts about her virginity as very real and what many teens probably go through and think about.
The only fault I found with And Then Things Fell Apart, is that sometimes Keek’s voice and thoughts felt off character. She started to sound more like an adult, or like I was reading a non-YA novel. I normally wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, but Keek at times was too smart for her age.
Overall, if you want to read a fantastic example of contemporary Y.A., then I can’t recommend And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky enough. It’s humorous, honest, and just all-around great. I can’t wait to read more books written by Arlaina Tibensky.
P.S. If you’re currently on a budget, you’ll be happy to hear that this was released in paperback.(less)
Have you ever started reading a book and knew right away that you were going to love every single page? That’s ho...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Have you ever started reading a book and knew right away that you were going to love every single page? That’s how I felt when I started reading In Honor by Jessi Kirby. I can’t explain what about a book wins me over when I have this experience, but I’m happy about it nonetheless. I felt similarly when I read Jessi Kirby’s debut Moonglass as well. Her writing draws me in and doesn’t let go until I’ve finished her book.
I love that In Honor starts with Honor describing taps being played and the 21-gun salute. If you’ve been to a funeral when taps has been played and the salute is given, then it’s easy to relive it while reading someone’s experience. It’s an emotional experience which becomes an emotional reading experience. I don’t have an immediate family member serving, but I have former students serving, I have cousins serving, I’ve had friends serving. I may not know what it feels like to lose a brother in the war, but I can certainly empathize with Honor and Rusty as they navigate through their grief. In Honor is an emotional read, but it’s balanced with love, hope, and humor that many readers will appreciate.
The road trip setting gives In Honor a lighter mood despite the circumstances which I really appreciated because it made the emotional scenes even more powerful. Road trip books are entertaining because characters are forced to interact with one another, given the close quarters, which provides more character development and insight. Honor pretty much wears her heart on her sleeve, but Rusty is harder to read. Honor and Rusty don’t get along very well and the tension is palpable, but there’s something just beneath the surface that lets the reader know that there’s more to Rusty than meets the eye. Besides the fact that I had a character crush on him, I really enjoyed watching his character grow and discovering his secrets as their journey to California progressed. He and Honor are learning more about each other, but they’re also learning about themselves through this entire ordeal.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but reading In Honor made me wish I could either live in Texas or at least visit Texas. I love living in Michigan, so maybe I just wish I could have gone to Texas years ago and met a cute guy like Rusty? I don’t know, but the whole southern atmosphere described was alluring. I have been to Sedona (a pit stop Honor and Rusty have to make), so I know how beautiful it is and really want to make a return visit. More than anything, I think this awkward paragraph just goes to show how well Jessi Kirby created the atmosphere and setting of In Honor. So many elements of this book won me over and made me feel like I was there with Honor and Rusty.
If you take anything from this review, know this: In Honor is a book that will resonate with readers. The characters are dynamic and true and ones you’ll wish you could meet in real life. Jessi Kirby wrote a wonderful debut, but her sophomore novel, In Honor, is even better. Without a doubt, In Honor will be extremely popular in my classroom and I really hope you read it.(less)
Bittersweet is now my favorite of Sarah Ockler's three novels. It's the perfect blend of romance, coming of age, and all around fantastic contemporary...moreBittersweet is now my favorite of Sarah Ockler's three novels. It's the perfect blend of romance, coming of age, and all around fantastic contemporary fiction. Hudson is trying to balance helping her single mom run a diner, taking care of her little brother, becoming a figure skater once again, and deciding between two attractive hockey players. Make sure to add on keeping a friendship alive, baking cupcakes to support the diner, and training a bunch of hockey players and you have some difficult situations taking place. Hudson is a likeable character that teens will relate to for a variety of reasons, especially if they want to do it all without having to give anything up. Even though Hudson makes some errors in judgment, I couldn't help but root for her and hope she eventually made the right or best choice. She's the kind of girl who doesn't want to let anyone down, especially her loved ones, so you have to admire her for that. And of course I can't write about Bittersweet without mentioning the cupcakes. I wish I had a recipe for every one because I want to make them ALL!(less)
For some reason I’m having a tough time writing this review like normal, so I’m going to try a bullet list review...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
For some reason I’m having a tough time writing this review like normal, so I’m going to try a bullet list review today featuring what worked and didn’t work for me.
What Worked for Me:
I like the dynamics in Claire and Loann’s relationship. It’s easy to identify with Loann and understand how disconnected from Claire she’s become. In the beginning of Never Enough it’s hard to say whether Claire feels this way as well, but Loann feels it. She feels awkward and ugly in comparison to Loann, and like she isn’t interesting enough to spend time with Claire and her friends. Claire is set up as this perfect doll who can do no wrong. It’s obvious that Claire isn’t perfect, especially based on the summary, but she’s found a way to deceive those around her. This deception is one of the biggest reasons why Claire and Loann struggle with their relationship because Loann finds that she can’t trust her sister. Loann’s always looked up to Claire, even when her family and friends are constantly comparing her to Claire. They share a tight bond which falters as the story progresses. I like Marcus’s character. He brings out a different side of Loann; he brings out her more confident side. She’s not always confident around Marcus, but she discovers that she can be more than Loann’s sister when she’s around him. As their friendship grows, Loann begins to detach herself from Loann’s shadow, even though she’s still constantly thinking about her and comparing herself to Claire. This is when Loann finds photography and independence. She feels comfortable around Marcus and can be herself. Even though it’s difficult for Loann to stop comparing herself to her sister, the reader can see her character growing and finding herself. When looking for a book dealing with eating disorders, Never Enough doesn’t fall into that usual category since we’re not in the shoes of the character dealing with the actual eating disorder. We’re watching everything through a bystander’s, Loann’s, eyes. We see how it affects her and her relationship with her sister. Denise Jaden has written a book that those who have a friend or relative battling with an eating disorder can read and connect with.
What Didn’t Work for Me:
The pacing and length are off in Never Enough. I had read almost 200 pages and was left wondering when the real conflicts in the story were going to develop. At this point there had been hints about Claire’s eating disorder and a lot of story set up, but nothing major was going on. There is one big development between Loann and another character that shocked me, but that was about it. I wish that either the story moved faster, or that there were less side stories tied in (Marcus’s home life, Loann’s parents’ marriage faltering, etc.) I will say, however, that by the end of the book I could see what Denise Jaden was doing by writing the story this way and I appreciated it. I’m worried, though, that my students might not stick with the book because of the “slow parts” as they would say. Never Enough would probably work better for me if it were about 100 pages shorter. (less)
What She Left Behind is a great mystery that I’m sure will hook some of my reluctant readers. It has fairly s...moreFlash Review originally posted at YA Love
What She Left Behind is a great mystery that I’m sure will hook some of my reluctant readers. It has fairly short chapters which keep the story paced well and will appeal to many of my students. So many of them won’t stop reading until they read the end of the chapter, so I’ll sometimes spot them flipping through a book before they read it to see how long the chapters are.
The beginning of Tracy Bilen’s debut is gripping as Sara remembers threats her father made towards her mother; it’s obvious right away that this is a violent home. I was tense through the beginning and Sara and her mother plan their escape and when Sara suddenly finds herself without her mother. The fact that Sara’s dad won’t recognize her brother’s death is even worse and adds more tension to the story.
My one issue with this story is that I needed a little more action or build up in the middle of the book. The beginning caught my attention right away and the ending is even more intense, but the middle dragged a bit. I’m not sure what would make it better, to be honest. Maybe the relationship between Sara and Alex could be stronger. Even though the middle was a bit slow for me, I think my students will really like this.
Since I know many of the people reading my blog are teachers and librarians, you’ll be happy to know that What She Left Behind is in paperback. I know I always appreciate being able to buy a new release in paperback; my bank account appreciates it, too :) (less)
I have been a big fan of Greek mythology since it was introduced to me in my 8th grade reading class. There’s bee...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
I have been a big fan of Greek mythology since it was introduced to me in my 8th grade reading class. There’s been an influx in Greek mythology in YA, which I love. Admittedly, Everneath was on my “maybe I’ll read it” list, but after reading a few reviews and listening to people at NCTE talk about it, I decided to give it a shot. I was hooked right away, but about half-way through the novel, the story fell apart.
Everneath has a great hook in the prologue. Nikki is in the Everneath with Cole, and it’s obvious that she and Cole have a strong connection for reasons unknown until later. She’s with Cole and doesn’t seem to remember much about her life, but there’s an image of a guy that’s keeping her connected to her life before the Everneath. She’s remembering a guy named Jack. I loved this because I wanted to know more about how Nikki arrived at the Everneath, who Cole is and why they’re connected, what the Feed is, and who Jack is and why he’s important to her. Brodi Ashton did a great job with the prologue and kept up that mystery by alternating between present day and Nikki’s memories of when she met Cole and ended up with him at the Everneath.
Unfortunately, my intrigue and wanting to continue reading only lasted for about half the novel. Eventually Everneath lost momentum and my attention. Nikki has returned from the Everneath and doesn’t remember much about her life on the Surface because even though everyone from home thinks she’s been gone for six months, that’s the equivalent of 100 years in the Everneath. Much of the novel is about Nikki trying to get her life back and making amends for the next six months before she has to leave the Surface again. During this time, she’s trying to gain back Jack’s trust because of her bond with him and the love she feels for him. Cole follows Nikki back, because he wants her as his queen, but Jack is standing in his way. This makes for the typical love triangle we find in paranormal YA, but I needed more. I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters, so this love triangle had no effect on me as a reader. Much of the focus of Everneath turns to Nikki’s feelings for Jack and her connection to Cole, instead of the story behind the Everneath and why Cole needs her to return. Because I didn’t feel a connection to the characters, I needed more background about the mythology and how it connects to Nikki, Jack, and Cole. I can’t explain why I didn’t feel for the characters, which still bothers me. I can usually pinpoint the reason, but I’m at a loss. The format of the story might be part of the reason because there’s no real build up; we’re thrown into Nikki’s memories about her whirl-wind connection with Cole and her friendship-turned-relationship with Jack. It just didn’t work for me.
Like I said, I needed more Greek mythology. I enjoy the story of Persephone, which is one of the reasons I read Everneath (**Note–After a comment I received, I should add that I know part of the myth connected to this story is about Orpheus and Eurydice**) . The concept for this debut is intriguing, but it needed more connection with the myth. Maybe it will be explained more in the second book, but I don’t think I’ll read the second novel because this one fell apart. We gain more knowledge as the story continues, but at close to 400 pages, the myth needed to be explained sooner. Also, if a novel is aiming for mystery, as a reader I don’t want to come to realizations before the characters. At almost every twist in the story, I knew it pages before Nikki did. Quite a few reviews have mentioned the great ending, but I saw it coming chapters before it happened. It’s a real let-down when I know the ending that far before it actually happens.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t fall in love with Everneath, because I really wanted to. (less)
I don't know exactly what to say about this book. I've read some really great reviews, so I went in with high expectations. The reviews mentioned it's...moreI don't know exactly what to say about this book. I've read some really great reviews, so I went in with high expectations. The reviews mentioned it's humor, and they were spot on. This book is very humorous and entertaining, but I don't really understand the point of it. It's not a horribly sad cancer-book, which is refreshing. I'd almost go so far as to say that Greg's writing this book to sort out his feelings about his friend's cancer, and how he often felt obligated to deal with it and keep her company. Many books that deal with cancer won't write about that aspect; they're focused almost on romanticizing it. Considering I've dealt with cancer in my family, there's nothing romantic about it. I need to think on this one a little more before I write my full review.(less)
I’ve read quite a few paranormal angel novels, and while I’ve enjoyed many of them, too many of...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
4.5 out of 5 stars
I’ve read quite a few paranormal angel novels, and while I’ve enjoyed many of them, too many of them follow the same plot. When I was speaking with the women working at the Sourcebooks booth at NCTE, I was told how awesome Embrace by Jessica Shirvington is and that I should give myself time to start it and finish it in one sitting. Based on my past reading experiences, I’ll admit that I was hesitant to start reading Embrace, but I’m happy to report that I worried for no reason at all! Embrace puts a fresh spin on the paranormal angel plot with a different take on the lore and a strong female protagonist. And the women at Sourcebooks were right: I needed uninterrupted reading time because I didn’t want to put Jessica Shirvington’s debut down.
Violet is different from many of the other female protagonists in paranormal Y.A. because she’s independent and strong. Does she feel conflicted about her purpose and her love interests? Yes. But she’s still smart enough to make her own decisions and own her choices, even when she makes choices that she might end up regretting. Too many of the female protagonists in this genre fit the damsel in distress archetype. Violet breaking that mold is probably the most refreshing part of Embrace. She spends a large chunk of time in the novel conflicted over her feelings for Lincoln, but I never felt like she was being overly dramatic. Violet often weighs her feelings before taking action. She’s still a teenager, so some drama is expected, but overall I was really impressed with how she’s written. The one flaw I found is the number of times Violet swears. Normally that doesn’t bother me, but it didn’t feel necessary. I’m fine with a well-placed swear word, but there were times when it felt forced or out of character for Violet.
The mystery and action are perfectly paced. Not too much is revealed too soon or too slowly. Readers will appreciate this because from the very beginning I was drawn in and the mystery only kept me reading and turning the pages. There are plenty of life or death situations, mixed in with romance, intrigue, and self-realization. There wasn’t a moment in Embrace that I was bored or feeling the need for something more.
Overall, I definitely recommend reading Jessica Shirvington’s debut. It’s already been released in Australia, so the first three books are already finished. This means that the books will be released within six months of each other! (less)
I haven’t read any other books by Siobhan Vivian, but she has been on my radar. When I saw The List at the Schola...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
I haven’t read any other books by Siobhan Vivian, but she has been on my radar. When I saw The List at the Scholastic booth at NCTE, I decided that was going to be my first Siobhan Vivian book. It’s a fast read and one that kept me turning the pages, but I have mixed feelings about it.
*Siobhan Vivian created some very real characters. Danielle is one of my favorites because she really came alive on the pages. She’s voted as the ugliest in her class and dubbed “Dan the Man.” She’s a gifted swimmer, especially as a freshman. She has a new boyfriend, and now that the list has been released she fears he won’t see her as beautiful anymore. I was a swimmer in high school and worried about my body, my shoulders in particular, becoming too masculine. This wasn’t something that Danielle worried about until the list was released because she was wrapped up in her boyfriend and hoping to make the varsity team. Her insecurity and everything else that happened as a result of the list really resonated with me. A few of the other characters stuck with me as well, but Danielle’s character is still on my mind. *Even though I think The List would have been a stronger book with fewer characters, the constant switch from character to character made this a fast read with some added mystery. Most times one character’s section would end at a point of intrigue and then switch to the next character leaving me wanting more from that particular character. I can see The List being a high interest and popular book in my classroom, especially since a few of my girls in class were already showing interest while I was reading it during SSR.
What Didn’t Work:
*My biggest issue with Siobhan Vivian’s newest book is that too much was thrown into one book that takes place within a week. We have bullying, eating disorders, self-esteem issues and more. These are all important issues to write about, but I was left feeling like Siobhan Vivian wanted to write a book about all of these issues and couldn’t decide on just one. I think it can be done, and I appreciate what was attempted, but it missed the mark. Maybe if the book took place for longer than a week I would have bought into this more. I can see how this list changed how people viewed the characters and how the characters changed because of the list, but some of it was pretty drastic. *Another problem I have is that there are so many stereotypes portrayed in The List. The List features a pretty girl who isn’t very smart, the ugly “freak”, the jock, the mean girl and so on. Honestly, we get a deeper characterization than some of these stereotypes, but the stereotypes are still present. The List would have packed more punch with fewer or none of these stereotypes. *The ending. I’ve read mixed reviews about the ending of The List, many of which I’ve thought myself. Personally, I didn’t like the ending because it leaves so many loose ends. Others appreciate the ending because it’s not realistic to have an ending with closure when the book takes place within a week. Without spoiling the story, I understand what those reviewers are saying because it makes sense. My problem is that some of the characters could have had a better ending because their issues weren’t as problematic as others. On the other hand, one or two of the characters were facing such large problems and suffered so much during the week, I didn’t believe their endings because by the end of their part of the book I had the feeling that their affliction took place over a longer period of time. (less)