I love it when I find the right book for the right moment. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was that...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
I love it when I find the right book for the right moment. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was that book. I’m not sure what it is right now, but lately I’ve only been interested in reading contemps that are on the lighter side. Lara Jean’s story couldn’t have fit any better.
I’ve never read any of Jenny Han’s books, but after reading this I’ll be sure to get my hands on the rest of her books. I really enjoyed Lara Jean’s story because her voice is very much that of a junior in high school. She’s a little on the innocent side of the spectrum, which I found to be a breath of a fresh air. That innocence fits her character perfectly because she’s basically been raised by her older sister since her mother died. Lara Jean is very much a middle child who works hard to be responsible like her father and older sister want her to be and her younger sister needs her to be. She also spends a great deal of time thinking about Margot (her older sister), focusing on two of the guys in her life Josh and Peter, and taking care of her little sister Kitty and her dad.
Lara Jean’s focus on everyone else added well to the conflicts of the story, but it also drew away from her character. By the end of the story I knew I really liked the book and want to read the second one, but I don’t feel like I know Lara Jean as well as I think I should. I know that she is devoted to her family. I know that she’s a romantic at heart. I also know that she wants to take risks. But I don’t know as much about her personal interests and passions besides her family and close friends. I really hope to learn more about her in the second book which is currently titled P.S. I Still Love You.
While I wanted to know Lara Jean a little better, I did love the cast of characters in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Kitty is absolutely adorable and a great addition to the story. She’s one of the reasons why Lara Jean’s family works so hard to keep their Korean traditions alive despite the fact that their father isn’t Korean and that their mother has passed away. I liked both Peter and Josh, but I think I enjoyed Peter’s character just a little bit more. He along with Kitty added a nice amount of humor to the story.
I do have to admit that I’m not wholly satisfied with the ending, and I know I’m supposed to feel that way. Sure, it fits with the story, but it left so much unanswered! Some pieces of the conflict are resolved at least. I’m really happy there’s a sequel, but I really wish I didn’t have to wait until 2015 for it!
I’m not sure how many of my students will be able to read my copy of Jenny Han’s latest before the school year ends, but I know it will be a big hit next school year.(less)
This was kind of disappointing. I hoped for more than just letters from Zoe, although the ending saved the rating. I did enjoy the audio narrator thou...moreThis was kind of disappointing. I hoped for more than just letters from Zoe, although the ending saved the rating. I did enjoy the audio narrator though.(less)
I read a review that compared Thin Space to Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, which I didn’t really like, s...moreFlash Review originally posted on YA Love
I read a review that compared Thin Space to Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, which I didn’t really like, so I was hesitant to read this. I ended up really liking Jody Casella’s debut novel. The comparisonn to Through to You is a good one since both books deal with grief and loss, but the execution and story is so much better in Thin Space. I was completely absorbed in Marsh’s story. For a large part of the book I wondered if a Thin Space was some kind of coping mechanism or if it would turn out to be an actual place. I’ll let you find out when you read it! There’s a great twist in the story and wonderful character development. I understood Marsh and his profound grief. This is an excellent book that I know my students will love. Better yet, it released in paperback so it’s easy on the wallet!(less)
I really like the premise for this, but the writing is often awkward and the alternating points of view aren't always smooth. And I have no idea why i...moreI really like the premise for this, but the writing is often awkward and the alternating points of view aren't always smooth. And I have no idea why it needs to be so long. Despite this not living up to the hype for me, I know it will be a huge hit with my students.(less)
This is a cute story, but it drags a little and felt about 50 or so pages too long. I'm not sure I needed everything they ate and saw to be described...moreThis is a cute story, but it drags a little and felt about 50 or so pages too long. I'm not sure I needed everything they ate and saw to be described (I'm slightly exaggerating when I use the word "everything").(less)
I loved listening to Sean's story. After finishing this audiobook, I've decided that Sean is my favorite character out of the trio. This is such a fun...moreI loved listening to Sean's story. After finishing this audiobook, I've decided that Sean is my favorite character out of the trio. This is such a fun series of books.(less)
Shawn Goodman’s sophomore release, Kindness for Weakness, made me feel an array of emotions: hope, grief, dismay, a...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
Shawn Goodman’s sophomore release, Kindness for Weakness, made me feel an array of emotions: hope, grief, dismay, and more. I absolutely loved Something Like Hope, so when I featured Kindness for Weakness on Waiting on Wednesday, Shawn offered to send me an ARC of it. I had requested a copy via NetGalley, and hadn’t received a response yet, so I accepted his kind offer. Regardless of how I received a copy of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to offer it to my students.
What I like most about Shawn Goodman’s writing is how honest and real it is. He works with troubled kids as a school psychologist and it’s evident in his writing. He really understands what teens are going through and how much they suffer. He understands what a bad home life can do to a teen. He knows how difficult it is for troubled teens to trust themselves and others. The characters in Something Like Hope and Kindness for Weakness display this deep understanding.
James is a character I cheered for while reading. He’s really trying to find his way and learn what it means to be a man, to stand up himself, and how to trust himself and those around him. His mom is basically absent, her boyfriend Ron is abusive, and his brother isn’t the best role model. Thankfully James has an encouraging English teacher, but he’s really the only supportive person James has at the beginning of the story. He has so much potential if only he believed himself and had support outside of school. James’s character made me think of students I have at school. He’s a good kid that’s stuck in a bad situation and ultimately makes poor choices because of this. The reader, fortunately, can see his potential and goodness even if James can’t.
I had a difficult time reading this because of the guards at Morton (the juvenile detention facility). They are brutal and horrible. There are some shining characters there like Samson and Mr. Eboue who really make a difference for James and some of the other characters. I hope the brutality at Morton is an exception and not the rule, but part of me thinks that’s not the case. I have had students like James and like the other characters in Kindness for Weakness. They may make bad decisions, but I know they need guidance and someone to believe in them. I don’t work in a detention facility so I can’t understand what that’s like, but the teacher in me hopes they can and are better than Morton. The setting Shawn Goodman created in Kindness for Weakness really plays a pivotal role in the book.
I will admit that I had a difficult time keeping all of the characters straight and probably could have done without a couple of them. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The last few chapters had me racing to finish, but also cringing at the brutality. The ending, however, shocked me. I’m not sure what to think, and even though I was upset, the ending works. I’m even tempted to read The Sea Wolf by Jack London which plays a strong part in James’s development and the development of the story.
Kindness for Weakness definitely has a place in classrooms and libraries. I highly recommend reading it and handing it to a teen reader.(less)
A.S. King sold me on Reality Boy when she read the prologue during an author event at one of my local indies. It wa...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
A.S. King sold me on Reality Boy when she read the prologue during an author event at one of my local indies. It was engaging and something I knew I could read to my students to sell them as well. But honestly, I don’t need A.S. King to sell me on any of her books because I’ll read anything she writes. Her books are awesome.
Reality Boy is a book that will resonate with a variety of my students. I know I can hand it to my students who are dealing with anger issues. They’ll relate with Gerald and appreciate his struggles. Hopefully they’ll find that they’re not alone and can change for the better. Hopefully they’ll seek help if they haven’t already. I know I can hand it to my students who have a tough life at home. On the outside it probably looks like Gerald’s life is a good one. Appearances can be deceiving, and while not all of my students come from deceivingly happy homes, many of them deal with tough home lives. Again, Gerald will let them know that they’re not alone. He’ll give them hope. I know I can hand Reality Boy to my students who simply want to read a great story. Gerald will provide them with that.
Back to the appearances can be deceiving point. I’ve read some criticisms that Gerald’s stint on reality TV wasn’t that big of a deal since it aired when he was so young and that he was only on a couple episodes. Those are valid points, but I think the reality TV focus goes a little deeper than that. Gerald’s experience with reality TV drives the point home that appearances can be deceiving. The bigger point to those episodes is what viewers, and even his parents, don’t see. No one sees how messed up his family is. Yes, it’s bad that Gerald was going to the bathroom wherever he wanted to, but what was happening with his sister was even worse. His parents, especially his mother, are blind to what’s really happening in their own home. There are a number of reasons for this and sadly it’s affected Gerald’s state of well-being and even his education. In my opinion, A.S. King is asking her readers to pay more attention and to be empathetic. I could be wrong, but that’s what I took away from reading Reality Boy.
This is yet another excellent book written by an excellent author. I hope you’ll read it and share it with others.(less)
To put it simply, I just loved Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.
Smith’s writing is lively and beautiful. I almost neve...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
To put it simply, I just loved Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.
Smith’s writing is lively and beautiful. I almost never take notes when I’m reading a book because it distracts me, but I had to write down multiple sentences and paragraphs while reading Wild Awake. If I didn’t want to stop, I took a picture of what I was reading so I would remember it when writing this review. Here are a few of the sections I wanted to remember (quotes taken from the ARC):
“His smile is a jar full of fireflies.”
“…I feel more exposed than I ever have before, like I’m climbing a rock face with only a strand of dental floss for a harness. The music we’re playing is a dripline straight from our hearts, a confession of all that we are.”
“…I’ve traded in a jar full of pennies for a bar of gold. It’s amazing how quickly the things you thought would make you happy seem small once you stumble on something true.”
Hilary T. Smith has lines like those woven throughout her entire novel. I absolutely love her similes and metaphors.
Along with loving the writing, I adore Kiri Byrd. She is alive on the page. I simultaneously worried about Kiri while wanting to be her friend and spend time with her. I worried for her because she is grieving over her sister and what she discovers about her sister. I also worried for her because she’s manic and dealing with it all by herself. (Note–I knew something was mentally wrong with Kiri, but didn’t think of mania–I have no idea why not–until Kelly @ Stacked pointed it out in her review, which is great by the way.) What’s awesome about Wild Awake is that I never felt like I was reading a novel about grief. I understood Kiri’s grief and empathized with her, but I never felt down while reading this. I think the main reason I didn’t feel down is because Kiri is so exuberant. Even at times that she shouldn’t be, she is full of life and wonder and wanting the best for herself and for Skunk.
Speaking of Skunk, his character is wonderful. He and Kiri are both suffering, but they’re life rafts for each other. He’s her “bicycle boy,” her “love-bison,” and so much more. Kiri sees his potential and wants to help him heal. I don’t want to say too much more because I’m afraid I’ll spoil something, but I sure do love Skunk. Especially Skunk and Kiri together.
A couple people have asked me if Wild Awake would be okay for middle grade readers, and I’m honestly not sure. There isn’t anything graphically sexual in this novel, but the themes and issues are deep. I’m not sure if a middle grade reader would grasp what exactly is going on with Kiri and Skunk. My best advice is to read this–because you’ll hopefully enjoy it anyway–then make your decision based on what you know about your readers. I feel completely comfortable offering this to new freshmen in the fall, if that helps at all.
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith is a must-read. Based on this debut, I know that Hilary T. Smith is going to be an exciting voice in YA literature. I can’t wait to read what she writes next!(less)
Sarah Dessen has always been a favorite of mine, and I’m happy to say that The Moon and More didn’t disappoint me....moreReview originally posted at YA Love
Sarah Dessen has always been a favorite of mine, and I’m happy to say that The Moon and More didn’t disappoint me. It’s, of course, an ideal summer read that’s perfect for graduating seniors who are preparing to leave for college.
Even though many of Sarah Dessen’s novels deal with similar issues and often have similar settings, I never tire of reading them. Her writing easily captures my interest, just as it did while reading The Moon and More. I love that this is set in Colby and that we get to see a few characters again from Along for the Ride. Colby felt different for me when I was reading this, and that’s probably because we read it from the perspective of someone who’s always lived there (Emaline) rather than someone who’s visiting (Auden from Along for the Ride). I felt like I was in Colby and ended up knowing it just as well as Emaline does. The setting plays a large role in this book because Colby feels so secure there. Knowing that she’s going away to school at the end of the summer is a big change that drives the plot in a few different directions.
The Moon and More doesn’t contain as much romance as Dessen’s other books. It’s more about change, family relationships, and figuring out who you are in the midst of all of that. As a general rule, Emaline doesn’t like change, but she’s forced to deal with it over and over again. I really enjoyed her character because while she’s struggling, she’s still very focused and true to herself. She’s trying to balance her mom holding on to her and not wanting her to make the same mistakes she did, with new friendships and her biological father visiting Colby for the summer. Emaline’s character stood out in different ways depending on who she was dealing with. She’s patient with her mom and sisters, she’s pretty darn strong with her biological father, she’s tough around Ivy, and she’s trying out a different version of Emaline with Theo. All of it connects and changes as the story progresses. It made for an engaging reading experience.
We meet Emaline’s half-brother Benji in The Moon and More. I love that Sarah Dessen wrote this character into the story. He’s absolutely adorable and brings out Emaline’s soft side. I loved every page he was on and am happy how things turned out with him at the end.
I do with The Moon and More was a little shorter, but I still really enjoyed reading it. It’s a great book for students who are nervous about going away to school, struggling with absent parents (fathers in particular), or just want a book with a female protagonist who is figuring out who she is.(less)
Fun and suspenseful read. The ending could have been a bit better (it's not a bad ending, just could have been better), but overall I really enjoyed i...moreFun and suspenseful read. The ending could have been a bit better (it's not a bad ending, just could have been better), but overall I really enjoyed it. Full review to come closer to the release date.(less)
I'm kind of debating between 2.5 and 3 on this one. I'm leaning towards 3 since it's a quick read and kept me reading, but the only real reason I kept...moreI'm kind of debating between 2.5 and 3 on this one. I'm leaning towards 3 since it's a quick read and kept me reading, but the only real reason I kept reading is because I never knew what was going on.
In all honesty, this book has connections and an interesting plot, but it's not executed cleanly enough. I appreciate the flashbacks between Annie and Fia and how they round out the story, but the actual present pieces of the story drag and really don't reveal much. I learned that Fia is angry and broken and feels responsible for her sister. Annie is oblivious and wants what's best for her sister. And round and round it goes. There's too much repetition of how the girls feel and not enough plot development.
I like the two points of view, but the voices aren't developed enough. I knew which character was which because of the chapter headings and when Fia was tap, tap, tapping. Otherwise I had no idea based on voice alone.
Positives, I think my readers will probably enjoy this because of the fast pace and the mystery. For me, on the other hand, I can see what Kiersten White is trying to do, but she fell short. I hope I can still sell this to my students even though I'm disappointed, because I realize that this book will work for lots of readers.(less)