This book is super cute and a lot of fun. It's definitely a fairy tale type of a story, but that is part of its charm. It will be one I know kids willThis book is super cute and a lot of fun. It's definitely a fairy tale type of a story, but that is part of its charm. It will be one I know kids will enjoy. ...more
This was fun. I enjoyed the banter and the characters if some of the situations they found themselves in had me rolling my eyes. I must have gone to aThis was fun. I enjoyed the banter and the characters if some of the situations they found themselves in had me rolling my eyes. I must have gone to a very different college though because the whole college experience here had me snorting in amusement. ...more
I don't review graphic novels on the blog very often, which is in no way a reflection of their importance in the Painter home. Bit is a huge fan of graphic novels. Baby Mouse was integral in her early chapter book reading years. She owns and reads the Amulet books, anything by Raina Telgemeier, and the Zita the Spacegirl books regularly. She has declared Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson the best graphic novel she's ever read. She insisted I read it. Then she proceeded to plop it in my lap every time I sat down. And constantly asking if I read it yet. My own child was stalking me with a book. So I read it and I wholeheartedly concur. This is a fabulous book.
Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend, Nichole, to a roller derby match one night, and Astrid comes away with stars in her eyes. When she discovers there is an opportunity to go to a derby summer camp, she jumps at it. Astrid assumes Nichole will be there with her, but Nichole has already made plans to go to ballet camp. Worse, Nichole seems to want to spend more time with Astrid's worst enemy talking about make-up and boys. As the summer begins, Astrid's life seems to be spiraling out of control. She has lost her best friend and roller derby doesn't come as naturally as she assumed it would. But Astrid sticks with it, and learns just as much about friendship and teamworks as she does about skating.
Astrid's story is one of discovering passion, persevering when things get hard, learning to atone for mistakes, and friendship. It's also an empowering book. Astrid is brave and hardworking, but she is also selfish and headstrong. She steamrolls Nichole a lot and doesn't realize it. She also mocks the things Nichole is interested, not realizing this is as belittling as when she is mocked by Nichole's ballet friend. I liked the way the book highlighted the different interests of the girls without making one better or worse than the other. Yes, this book has a lot of roller derby in it, but Nichole is as strong and sympathetic a character as Astrid is and her interest in ballet is shown as important and valuable too. The feeling of fear about entering middle school, their changing relationship, and what the future holds are realistically demonstrated in both girls. But this is Astrid's story and it is through her mistakes and bold action, defeats and victories, that Jamieson tells an amazing story of the power of teamwork and forgiveness.
The way Jamieson explains roller derby is brief, through, and folds well in to the rest of the story. The art is vivid and colorful. The whole book is a treasure from start to finish. It's a must have for MG readers....more
Soooo....black sheep here in a big way, but I"m completely at a loss to explain why this has an average of nearly 4.5 stars. I actually ALMOST gave itSoooo....black sheep here in a big way, but I"m completely at a loss to explain why this has an average of nearly 4.5 stars. I actually ALMOST gave it 2 stars, but thought maybe I was being too nitpicky about the biggest problems I had with the book (see below). I still might come back and do that, but thought I would give myself some time to consider.
ETA: DAYS of considering this book in more detail has convinced me that I can't leave this at three starts so I've dropped it to my original thought of two.
Overall this book is fine. It's a little long for the story it's telling. (I'm always amused by the irony of a book written about a dyslexic student that a dyslexic student would break out in hives at the thought of being made to read it.) There are places where it reads like an American Girl movie (if the girl of the year ever came from a working class family) minus the musical numbers. Mostly I felt like it was more of a book for teachers. Or students majoring in education. With an incredibly unrealistic look at how bullying works and is resolved.
My (possibly) nitpicky major issue: I'm a military brat myself and I was majorly distracted though the majority of this book by how WRONG Hunt got that. I must add the disclaimer that I'm an Air Force brat, but my father was once stationed at a base on an Army post so I'm fairly familiar with Army culture too. Problems: *Army families do not PCS every year. It would be every two years AT MOST. (one year deployment, one year on post for the active duty member). And the Army actually changed that policy in 2013 to every 3-4 years so families would have more stability. *WHY was Ally the only military kid in her class????? Laughs forever at this. Even off post schools in a system with a military presence have a TON of military kids in them (and they tend to stick together). (And not all posts have DoD schools.) Seriously. If you've ever been to a military town, you know how much it affects the entire town's culture. Which leads me to... *Where were they living? There is absolutely no mention in Ally's family of things that are par for the course to military dependents. If they weren't even living at/near the post where her father was officially stationed, why were they moving so much? Why did they have to go to a friend's house for internet? *Unless I'm much mistaken (and I did double check to be sure about this), Army tanks don't have captains. They have commanders. (They wouldn't call it a captain because that is an officer rank and there are no officers in a tank crew. The commander of the tank is the highest ranking enlisted person on the crew.) And you can't fob me off by telling me Ally might be confused. When you are the kid of a career military person, you know their rank and their job. *Maybe Ally's dad was National Guard called to Active but that REALLY doesn't explain why the family was moving every year. And even then a tank commander is usually a sergeant (I believe) and that's not a very high enlisted rank. And if you don't make your next rank in a certain number of years, you have to get out. Judging on Ally's brother's age, her dad can't be super young. But maybe he jus signed up later?
I know people will say it doesn't matter but it was a MAJOR distraction for me. (As you can probably tell.)
Minor (possibly) nitpicky bother: OF COURSE it was a male teacher who rode in on his white horse to save the day. Because the women teachers are too distracted by their babies and what not. Blech all over that. ...more
My Life in Dioramas by Tara Altebrando is a wonderful heart-warming MG story about change, friendship, and family told with humor and realism.
Kate has lived her entire life in Big Red, the old farmhouse her parents own. Now half way through her 7th grade year they tell her they are moving. Worse, they are moving in with her grandparents because they are in financial trouble. Kate has to leave her school, dance class, friends, and the only life she has ever known. But Kate isn't going down without a fight. She hatches a number of schemes to turn off potential buyers, everything from causing a terrible stench to having her teenage neighbor play loud music. As time goes on, Kate realizes that more might be at stake than just her house though, and as she begins to feel more desperate and lost she makes a series of dioramas illustrating her life in the home she loves.
Kate's voice is absolutely perfect for the story being told here. She is a wonderful combination of vulnerable, sarcastic, bossy, and lost. She is a typical middle schooler. The plans she comes up with to save her home border on brilliant and ridiculous. Even thought they clearly have little hope of working, she attacks them with all the enthusiasm of her dwindling childhood. The house is not the only change on Kate's horizon though. Her relationship with her best friend, Stella, is changing. Stella seems more and more interested in boys and popularity than the interests they used to share. Then there are the boys themselves. Kate doesn't want to be noticing them, but darn it if they are making themselves more noticeable.
Kate's parents are incredibly important to the story too. Kate learns a great deal about her parents through the course of the story. She is in that stage when a child is really discovering their parents have a much wider life extending beyond the life of the child. Kate's parents have made some foolish financial decision, and she is furious with them. At the same time, she can see that they are mourning these as well. And Kate's mom is suffering from depression. I really like the way this is dealt with. Kate only knows the bare minimum of what is going on, but it she overhears things and has uncomfortable conversations with her mother. I felt this was realistically dealt with and is a situation many readers will be able to identify with.
My Life in Dioramas is a great pick for MG readers who enjoy realistic fiction. It is a short read and wonderfully illustrated too.
I read ARC provided by the publisher, Running Press Kids, via the mail. My Life in Dioramas is on sale April 28th....more
I've heard a lot of good things about Nova Ren Suma's books. When the opportunity to read an ARC of her latest, The Walls Around Us, came up, I decided it was the perfect time to try her writing. I can see why so many have sung her praises, but sadly this book didn't work for me personally. There are several good aspects to it, but as a whole it was just not a Brandy book.
Violet is a star ballerina headed to Julliard and ready to leave behind her past. Part of the past she's escaping is the horrible memory of her best friend Ori and what happened in the tunnel of trees behind their ballet theater. The incident that sent Ori to prison and handed Violet all of her dreams. Amber was serving a sentence in the youth detention facility Ori was sent to. Amber was found guilty of murdering her step-father. Amber knows she has no future beyond the life she lives in the facility. Both girls tell their stories and, through them, Ori's story is told. Combined, the three girls share one story of friendship and hate, murder and revenge, ambition and power.
The combination of ballet and prison is an intensely interesting one. As you read both Violet and Amber's accounts there are a startling number of similarities between the two cultures. Hierarchies, those who bully, those who try and keep their heads down, the push and drive to become the most powerful. It is a fascinating study. I would love to hear from people involved in both worlds how accurate the representations here are, but from a purely literary standpoint, the comparison is incredibly well done. Violet and Amber play similar roles in the worlds they inhabit, the main difference being that Amber is more of a planner and better at execution when she wants something done. They both tell lies, not just to the people around them, but to themselves as well. Through them both, the reader sees plainly the power your mind has to manipulate your memories and make you believe what you want. This is a thing everyone does, just not on as grand a scale as Violet and Amber do it. Of the two girls, Amber was the person whose point of view I preferred. Violet was so self absorbed and unrepentant that I hated being in her head. I do think it is important that we were given that opportunity though. It's an important part of the story, and the dual narration lends the novel its sense of mystery and intrigue. I was saddened by how little we truly knew of Ori. Both girls have her on a pedestal-to them she is utterly perfect. Violet wants to knock her off that pedestal. Amber wants to worship her on it. I never got a sense of who she truly was a person, which was a real problem for me given the end.
The ending is my biggest issue with the book, and it's frustrating that I can't fully explain why without spoilers. I'll just say that the resolution didn't work for me at all. I didn't understand the mechanics of it. What on earth???? The supernatural aspects of the novel were really well done up until that resolution, and then I was just left feeling incredibly let down because it didn't make sense. I also feel like it counteracted a lot of the rest of the novel thematically.
I'm thinking I will read at least one of Suma's other novels to give her a fair chance, but this particular one left me confused, frustrated, and sad (sad because I feel like beautiful writing and well done characterization was wasted on an end that was ridiculous.)
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, via Edelweiss. The Walls Around US is available on March 24....more
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds came out the first week of the year. I heard good things from several people, and was eager to try on of Reynold's books. Boy was I not disappointed.
Matt Miller is a boy who wears a black suit to school every day. His mom died of cancer recently, but that's not the reason for the suit. Matt, a senior on an abbreviated schedule due to good grades, works every day at a local funeral home. He arranges flowers, sets up buffets, washes cars, and sometimes acts as pall bearer. He also attends most of the funerals. Sitting in the back, he soaks up every ounce of heart splitting grief he can. Matt has close friends, both old and new, who are there for him though and don't allow him to get swallowed up in his own grief. Friends who will have his back, broaden his horizons, and bring him back, little by little, into the world of the living.
Matt's world shrunk considerably when his mom died. He lost his position at the bank he was supposed to be working at for school. His father started drinking again after years of sobriety. He lost almost all the joy in his life. Matt loves to cook but finds he can't because it reminds him too much of his mom. In the days closest to her death, you can see that he is only hanging on by the barest of threads. As the days and weeks pass, it gets a little easier. His method of coping is a bit odd. He goes to the funerals and focuses on the person who appears closest to the deceased, and then eagerly awaits for the breakdown of grief he knows is coming. Like living vicariously through these grieving people keeps his own close enough that he never forgets what he's lost. Then his father ends up in the hospital and he's living alone. I felt so bad for Matt and worried for him. But I like his progression away from his grief too. He slowly begins to live a little. He hangs out with his best friend, who works hard to keep things as normal as possible between them. Matt's new boss becomes his mentor, sharing the hard times of his own life and giving Matt advice. Then there is Love, a girl Matt meets who brightens his world. She expands it too, dragging Matt into places he's never been and sharing her own pains. Through his relationships with the people around him, Matt takes his steps back into his full self, slightly altered but with a sense of purpose and reason to keep living.
The relationships and community are central aspect of The Boy in the Black Suit, and I found them all equally real, important, and necessary. This book showcases how the people in a person's life can make all the difference in times of crisis. I enjoyed all of the interactions between Matt and the other characters from the playful typical teenage banter he shares with Chris to the deep philosophical discussions with Mr. Ray to the tentatively healing superficial conversations with his dad to the gamut of conversations he has with Love, all of them are important and fit the characters and setting.
The setting of Bed-Stuy is fully realized as well, showcasing a community of diverse people with different motivations, pasts, potential futures, problems, jobs, and lifestyles. I really felt like I was experiencing the streets, restaurants, noises, and hilariously frightening cab drives right along with Matt.
The Boy in the Black Suit is an excellent look at the process of grief and the importance of community. ...more
I was introduced to Laura Ruby through my Twitter feed courtesy of Anne Ursu. She is an expert ranter about the things she is passionate about, and as we are passionate about many of the same things, I jumped at the chance to pick up an ARC of her new book, Bone Gap. I already knew she had a way with words and I couldn't wait to see how that manifested itself in a fiction narrative. It turns out Ruby is even more amazing when writing fiction.
This book is one that needs to be read. It begs to be read. Nothing I say in this review is going to do this book justice. It's one of those books you simply have to experience. Just read the book.
Bone Gap is a tiny midwestern town full of fences, cows, chickens, corn, and gaps. Gaps a person could disappear into never to be heard from again. Bone Gap is a place most people can't wait to get out of. This is true for the O'Sulivan boys as much as anyone. Older brother Sean had dreams of going to medical school, but put them on hold to stick around for his kid brother after their mom leaves them for an orthodontist who doesn't like kids. Younger brother Finn is in the summer between his junior and senior year of high school and working hard to get ready for his college applications. They will be his ticket out. But the brothers are currently both reeling from the disappearance of Roza, a beautiful girl who mysteriously entered their lives, and then just as mysteriously left them. Sean has resigned himself, figuring she chose to go of her own accord just like so many others had, including his mom. Finn knows better. He saw the mysterious man who came and took Roza away. Unfortunately he can't remember enough to help find her. As the summer continues, Sean's anger and resentment toward Finn grow. Finn, haunted by nightmares of Roza's disappearance, takes to going out at night and meeting up with Petey, the girl he's always had a crush on. As their relationship grows and the time since Roza's disappearance lengthens, Finn begins to feel better. But soon discoveries are made that make it impossible for everyone to ignore some harsh truths about themselves and life in Bone Gap.
Bone Gap is told in third person and follows the perspectives of several characters, mostly focusing on Finn and Roza. The reader also gets several glimpses into the mind of Petey and Sean. I loved the switching perspectives and how they give such a complete picture of what is going on. At the same time though, the way Ruby pieced these perspectives together gives the book a thrilling, edge of your seat, sense of urgency and mystery. Bone Gap is a puzzle where each piece is handed out one at a time, ending in a beautiful picture of family, community, love, friendship, and hope for the future. But some of the pieces are dark. Very dark. And that is part of the beauty of the finished picture. Ruby pulled it all together so well. And she has some great things to say through both Roza's story and Petey's story about the expectations society has for women and how that can trap a person. There is so much richness and depth to the whole book.
Bone Gap itself comes to life and is just as important to the story as any character. I have said before I have issues with small town books that are full of quirky characters. Ruby managed to stay balanced on the fine line between necessary oddness and too much quirk with Bone Gap. Bone Gap is a weird place for many reasons beyond being a small town. Reasons that become more evident as the story unfolds. The residents themselves are fairly typical people with their own little quirks and foibles, but there is never an overwhelming sense of it being too strange to be real. The people in the town and their stories are real and are brought to wonderful life.
As amazing as the plot, themes, and setting are, the characters are what truly won my heart. I'm a character reader and Ruby does characters well. There is a richness and depth to all the characters that make them feel so real. I haven't been this thoroughly immersed in the lives of the people in a book for quite some time. Finn and Petey in particular have my heart. They are both so odd and awkward. She is prickly and angry much of the time. He is confused and muddled. Together they manage to find peace and happiness, but even then things aren't easy. It's just so real. And I love how their relationship developed from the giddiness of first experiences to dealing with the harsh realities of fitting together two individuals with insecurities and problems. Sean and Roza have a similar dynamic with their own set of issues, and I like how the two relationships contrasted each other. Roza's story, for all its steeped in the magical, is all too real and harsh. They all have so much to offer as people, and so much to overcome to be able to do that. They are people I want to know, and this book makes me feel like I do know them. Like I'm part of their story.
This is my favorite read of 2015 so far and I've really liked all the books I've read this year so that's saying something. it is one of those books that I'm going to be telling everyone about and harassing them to read.
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Balzer & Bray, at ALA Midwinter. Bone Gap goes on sale March 3....more
Early evidence indicates that 2015 will be a good year for realistic MG. I'm hoping. Honey by Sarah Weeks is certainly an excellent indication of things to come.
Melody is fairly happy with her life the way it is. She has security and knows her father loves her. Melody's mother died in childbirth, and the one things she wishes she could add to her family is a mom for her and a wife for her dad. She has wished it on too many birthdays to count. When her dad begins singing, smiling secretly to himself, and becomes more absent minded than normal, Melody knows something is up. Then she overhears him call someone "honey" on the phone and realizes he must be in love. Melody is thrilled until she starts to think about all the reasons her father has kept this from her. Is it because he's fallen for someone he knows she won't like? Someone like her awful hateful teacher? Melody and her best friend embark on an investigation that leads to more discoveries than Melody imagined.
Honey has so much going for it. It is short. It will have wide appeal for kids looking for realistic fiction. It is a book that is accessible to the younger side of the MG reader spectrum. While not the type of story I'm particularly drawn to, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I typically do not enjoy small town stories with quirky characters, but Weeks skates a fine line here making her characters unique without them being caricatures. She also did a fantastic job setting up the mystery who has captured Melody's dad's heart and putting all those pieces together in the end. I just loved how organic and real the story felt. Even the super happy ending where everything works out perfectly for Melody-and everyone else-worked for me.
Melody is a great heroine. Her voice is genuine fifth grade girl. I loved the games she and her dad played with words and they all fit into the story being told and their characters. It didn't feel like an awkward vocabulary exercise hidden in a novel. (Which is far too often done and done poorly.) Here it works for the story. Melody's best friend, Nick Woo, is also a wonderful character. He and Melody have an easy friendship and camaraderie that many kids will be able to understand. They both reminded me of students I've taught over the years. Teeny, the obnoxious six year old next door neighbor, also strikes exactly the perfect note. Melody's frustration with and care for her are equally balanced and nicely portrayed. I really enjoyed all of the relationships in this book. Neighbors, old friends, new friends, grandparent/grandchild, parent/child, teacher/child-they are so well done.
Here is absolute proof that you can write a good novel with great characters, all sorts of relationships, humor, and heart, and keep it under 200 pages. Sarah Weeks, my hat goes off to you for this.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Scholastic, via Edelweiss. Honey goes on sale January 27....more
Christmas stories. I love them. I can't get enough of them. I spend most of mid-November through December desperately trying to do fit in as many new ones as I can find and doing rereads of old favorites. (This has been a particular challenge the past couple of years as I've also been a first round Cybils panelist.) Needless to say when I found out My True Love Gave to Me was going to be a thing, I was excited.
This is an anthology of short stories written by YA authors. As a whole, I would say it is definitely worth reading and that you can read it leisurely as each story is its own little gift. It is as diverse as the authors who contributed to it, and that is its greatest strength as a book. There are, of course, some stories I like more than others. I'm going to just say a couple things about each story. I've put asterisks on my favorites.
*"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell: This is a compilation of the midnights celebrated on New Year by a group of friends over four years and the romance that comes grows between the two main characters. Sweet and short, it is all about a friendship to love relationship and is probably my second favorite thing Rowell's written next to Attachments.
"The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link: This is a Christmas Tam Lin retelling. It's not the most original Tam Lin story I've ever read, but it was such a delightful surprise to find it in a place I was not expecting to. I love Tam Lin stories.
*"Angels in the Snow" by Matt De La Pena: This is a wonderful story that highlights some troubling truths while managing to be fun and romantic at the same time. Too few books deal with the fact that people don't have enough to eat and are truly starving. I also l loved how this highlighted the transition that college is and how difficult it is to completey step out of the world you were born into and enter into something wholly different.
"Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" by Jenny Han: Not one of my favorite stories. It is an Elf type story about a girl who is adopted by Santa and lives at the North Pole. Except there is no Will Ferrel, and this isn't funny. Kind of creepy in some aspects actually.
*"It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins: This book takes place in Asheville, NC. I used to live there and it was fun to actually get every single reference in this story to things I knew. Beyond that it's just a really good story about two young people ready to move on in life, but unsure how to get what they want. They know where they want to go, just not how to get there. Then they end up finding each other. And it's pretty awesome.
"Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan: This story is nothing that I'm looking for in a Christmas story. While the end is sweet, it's actually kind of depressing. I know some people find Christmas depressing and they should have stories too. Just not my thing.
"Krampuslauf" by Holly Black: This story is a little strange, but I liked that it dipped into a mythology that few people really know anything about. That was fun.
*"What the hell have you done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman: Freshman year of college. So hard. Especially if you are a fish completely out of water. This is a story of two such fish finding each other and finding the spirit of the holidays they both needed. Lovely.
*"Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire: This is my FAVORITE. I have never read a book by McEntire but I think I need to change that. I could write an entire review on this one story. The character growth in a few short pages is remarkable as is McEntire's ability to convey much with few words.
"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Keirsten White: This is cute, if completely predictable. I found myself wishing it would move a little faster.
"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter: This is another fun yet predictable one that was good, but that I wouldn't ever feel the need to reread.
"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor: Beautifully written as is everything Taylor writes, but also not at all my thing. Taylor and I seem to have that problem meshing. I love her writing but not what she writes about. Sigh.
I definitely recommend this if you are in the market for a fun compilation of Christmas tales. There is bound to be something that satisfies everyone here.
Note on Content: Some references to alcohol use; Some strong language...more
I read Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas earlier this year and found it to be quite fun. However, I LOVE her new book Top Ten Clues You're Clueless. It's basically The Breakfast Club with Christmas thrown in. Because instead of serving Saturday detention, this group of unlikely teen companions are all working the same Christmas Eve grocery store shift.
Chloe is a list maker. She starts every day with a list and makes several more as she goes about her day. She has many running lists to which she continually adds. In addition to being a list maker she is a reader of mysteries, a red head, a girl with a massive crush on a co-worker, and a diabetic. On Christmas Eve she is required to work her regular job as a cashier at the grocery store. Many people are working including all of the young high school employees. All six of them. When there is a lot less money in the holiday donation box than is expected, all six of the teens are accused of working alone or together to steal the money and are held at work until the police can arrive to question them. In the interim they have to decide whether or not to trust each other and band together. In the process they begin to bond and get to know each other better than they ever thought possible.
This book is all about the characters. Zaina: the perfect, beautiful, Muslim, Lebanese immigrant who just wants the chance to figure out who she is outside of others expectations of her Sammi: the tough skater girl with an attitude and an interesting rapport with Gabe Gabe: basketball player, charmer, flirt, and golden rich boy who seems to understand Sammi better than she understands herself Micah: a sweet, nerdy, homeschool boy who loves science and is curious about the world and everyone in it Tyson: charming, fun, polite, and always willing to help out, he is just trying to save as much money as he can for college and is the object of Chloe's affections
Their story is narrated by Chloe and while she is ostensibly the focus, the reader comes to know all of them well as the narrative unfolds. The cast of characters here is diverse and yet there isn't a reliance on stereotypes or cliche's to mold them. Instead Czukas allows dialog and interactions to reveal each person's character and uses the other character's assumptions-assumptions most readers would have too-to challenge and bring out hidden details. All of these characters are so endearing. I loved every single one of them. I do think Chloe is the best vehicle through which to tell their collective story, but I find myself really wanting to have stories from all of the rest of them too, particularly Sammi and Zaina. I also enjoyed the wider observations of the world at large that came from seeing a grocery store through the eyes of the people who work there. Chloe's voice is genuine, a combination of cluelessness and wisdom that teens just starting to figure out the world often have.
The mystery isn't all that hard to figure out, but I completely bought how all of it came together. I could see the decisions that led to a bunch of mostly minors being held for hours at their job on Christmas Eve actually happening. I could also see why they all decided to cooperate and not give their parents the details of why they were staying late. The set-up is perfect in every way, and the conversations about life that came out of it were equally perfect.
There is a touch of romance, but it is not the focus of the book. It really is just the briefest of touches. And I love that this also turned out to be a Christmas story. It is one I will buy and enjoy every year now.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Harper Teen, via Edelweiss. Top Ten Clues Your Clueless is available for sale on December 9th....more
I liked this one the best of the first three for sure. I felt there was actually some character development with both Chloe and Sawyer, and Sawyer isI liked this one the best of the first three for sure. I felt there was actually some character development with both Chloe and Sawyer, and Sawyer is by far my favorite of the heroes so far. He would be totally swoon worthy if it weren't for that annoying thing him and all his guy friends do of using derogatory female terms to laughingly insult each other. GRRRRR. ...more
For whatever reason I had a harder time getting into this one than I have Echols' other novels. I still enjoyed it, but felt myself more distanced froFor whatever reason I had a harder time getting into this one than I have Echols' other novels. I still enjoyed it, but felt myself more distanced from the characters than I usually do in her novels. I wasn't completely convinced of either of their motivations for their behaviors which was a big part of the problem for me I think. I'm still looking forward to reading the rest of Echols' backlist though as I have pretty much LOVED everything else by her I've read. ...more
Ugh. Okay so I rather enjoyed the firs book in this series. Not enough to love it, but enough to overlook some things that bothered me and ke2,5 stars
Ugh. Okay so I rather enjoyed the firs book in this series. Not enough to love it, but enough to overlook some things that bothered me and keep reading. But this one really got on my nerves, mostly because I tend to like more character development than these are giving me. Ford is sexy. Okay. What else is there really? Most of the time that's all he is. Tara has major issues over giving a guy her heart despite the fact that every time a relationship of hers has failed SHE is the one who walked out. There are some parts I just thought were silly (Tara, Ford, and Mia all loving to cook being one of them. And that whole situation? Resolved way too easily.) Here is the thing that really bothered me to the point that made my teeth grind: Logan is not going to get Tara back As readers we know that from the get go. But I didn't like that the first real comparison we get of him to Ford is when he orders a drink that is a "woman's" drink. I guess is liking of fruity bubbly drink is supposed to make us see him as less than manly rather than someone who owns who he is and what he likes no matter what the next guy thinks. Something that is truly manly. What pushed me into the rage category is how Ford thinks of him in this scene and how he and Sawyer talk about him using the p-word. (The one that pretty much means the same thing as "girlie" but is not as nice.) I HATE that: using either word as an insult. I'm probably going to read the third book just to see if this one is an aberration. I also confess to being curious as to how Chloe and Sawyer will play out, but my expectation are certainly way down. ...more
Do you know how difficult it is to write two protagonists who are in direct opposition to each other and still make them both relatable and woLove!!!!
Do you know how difficult it is to write two protagonists who are in direct opposition to each other and still make them both relatable and work as a romantic pairing? It's so hard that there aren't a whole lot of people who even attempt it. Emma Barry pulls it off and does it incredibly well. There is banter. There is lust. There is a crazy affair that's impractical for so many reasons. Because this takes place over the course of an entire election season from the Iowa caucus to the Presidential election, it spans a lot more time than most romances do. I loved that this gave Michael and Lydia more time for their relationship to develop even though they weren't face to face for much of it. There were emails, texts, and phone calls. I felt like they really truly knew each other by the end of the book, which made the struggle for both of them to decide what they wanted and what they were willing to compromise on that more real.
I really like Michael. I like that he knows what he wants and is willing to try for it, but he also knows how and when to back off. How to respect a woman's responses. His cynicism about politics and the system is tinged with enough humor that he doesn't seem like a typical jaded hero. His final confrontation with his candidate is one of the funniest scenes I've read in quite some time.
And then there is Lydia who I LOVE. I lover her ambition, ruthlessness, drive, vulnerability, and prickliness. I love how hard she tries and how she keeps pushing. She is not nearly as cynical as Michael, but neither is she a wide-eyed idealist. She sees the realities of her candidate and the system, but is still willing to work within that system and push hard to achieve what she desires. My one small small quibble with the book is that I wanted more time in Lydia's head, more time with her in general, just because I loved her so much.
Sexy, smart, with great dialogue, and plenty of humor, this is the perfect end to a wonderful series in every way.
I have said before I don't love verse novels. Do you know what I love even less? Basketball. Not a fan. Not even a little bit. With those two things working against it, I really didn't want to read The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. But it's getting a lot of award buzz so I finally (rather petulantly) picked up a copy. Ahem. This book is AMAZING. I loved it. This is why we should always stretch ourselves to read even those things that we don't think are "our type" of books.
Josh Bell is my name. But Filthy McNasty is my claim to fame Folks call me that 'cause my game's acclaimed, so downright dirty, it'll put you to shame. My hair is long, my height's tall. See, I'm the next Kevin Durant, LeBron, and Chris Paul.
Josh's voice. It is so perfect. The book isn't entirely blank verse, as you can see from the above. It is a combination of several different styles and types, but what they all have in common is Josh's voice. His voice which is so real, vulnerable, confused, cocky, angry, resentful, giddy, and everything that is perfect 13 year old boy. Josh is a star basketball player, twin to another star basketball player, son of a former basketball Olympian and a middle school assistant principal, and an eighth grader. Through each poem that tells of the few months of Josh's 8th grade basketball season, the reader is given a clear picture of Josh and every detail of his life, thoughts, and feelings. Few words are used but reams of information and emotion are conveyed. I could read and read it over and over and always find new things to be in awed of. I wanted to read it again promptly upon finishing and I haven't experienced that urge in quite some time. It's blowing my mind that I experienced it over a verse novel about basketball.
The book is about basketball. There's a lot of basketball in it. It is also a story about brothers, change, and the power of family. But don't let anybody tell you it's not a sports book. It is. And you know what? Even if you're not a sports fan, it doesn't matter. Excellence is excellence, and this book is excellent. The basketball is essential and provides a great deal of the metaphor in the book, but it is also really, like all MG books, a story about growing up, facing change, and how one's relationships alter and are affected by growing up (particularly when members of the opposite sex are involved). Josh's twin, JB, has a girlfriend for the first time. He's less interested in basketball and doing things with Josh. Josh is angry. Their father is clearly suffering from heart problems but refuses to go to the doctor. Josh is worried. All of this is set against the backdrop of the basketball season. It's a short read, but a powerful one.
The prose is excellent in terms of imagery and evoking thoughts and feelings. For example: The gym is a loud crowded circus. My stomach is a roller coaster. My head, a carousel.. The air, heavy with the smell of sweat, popcorn, and the sweet perfume of mother's watching sons.
I could quote so much, but then there would be no reason for you to go and find a copy of your own to read which you must do. Now. ...more
This was fun and cute. It seemed more an interesting writing exercise than a fully fleshed out novel though. I could have done without narration fromThis was fun and cute. It seemed more an interesting writing exercise than a fully fleshed out novel though. I could have done without narration from a bench and a squirrel. Also, I feel as though I was kept too distant from the main characters since their entire story was told by other people. But it was fun and I would recommend it to my teens with no problem. ...more
I really enjoyed Barry's first book, Special Interests, but I LOVED this one. There are so many books out there where the quiet, often overlooked girlI really enjoyed Barry's first book, Special Interests, but I LOVED this one. There are so many books out there where the quiet, often overlooked girl finally gets the hot guy she's always secretly (or not so secretly) wanted. You don't often see that gender reversed. I like that here it is. Liam is such a great hero in so many ways. I have to admit I have a fondness for ridiculously optimistic despite all evidence to the contrary journalists. I'm actually married to one. (There aren't that many of them in existence.) Liam is that and one of those heroes that has a quiet strength and assuredness that is calming. At the same time he can be super sexy. I also really liked Alyse and her struggle to figure out who she really was and what she really wanted out of her life in D.C. Together they are not the easiest of partnerships, but they work. The roadblocks that they encounter on their way to a happy ending are ones that make complete sense for the type of people they are and the places they are in. Liam has every right to be cautious of what Alyse will do to his heart, and she has every right to feel like she needs space and time to figure out what she wants. Fitting those two together is not easy.
The political storyline in this one is realistic again and fairly simple, but it does have some fun espionage moments and mystery. The writing is stronger than the first one overall I think. There were some places where I absolutely adored the way Barry phrased things. I also liked the humor.
I'm the first to recognize as much as I love these books, they aren't for everyone. But if you are in the market for smart, realistic, politically savvy romance, you need to read these books NOW. ...more
I enjoyed Spirit's Key. While I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those books that sucks you in due to the mystery,3.5 stars
I enjoyed Spirit's Key. While I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those books that sucks you in due to the mystery, which is incredibly well done. The hints are given out slowly and just enough to keep you engaged and waiting for the next tidbit. I was also pleased that I was only able to half figure out what was going on. The book left a lot of unanswered questions in my head as well. I was never able to fully suspend my disbelief enough to completely buy into the fantasy element. This seems to be a problem just I have. Most others seem to be dealing with it just fine. It is a good book and a wonderful recommendation to give to kids who love fantasies and animals. ...more
Last year I read The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston and fell in love. I fell in love with the characters, the town of Trondheim, the world Johnston created, and the voice that told the story-Siobhan. I immediately began looking forward to the sequel, Prairie Fire. Now that I've read it, I'm sort of wrecked but only the best of ways.
Prairie Fire is very much a sequel in the strictest sense of the word. It is the second half of Owen and Siobhan's story. While you could probably read it first, the emotional pay off will be far greater if you don't. If you haven't read The Story of Owen, go and do that. I don't know what's been holding you back anyway.
Spoilers for The Story of Owen ahead. You've been warned.
Siobhan, Owen, and Sadie have graduated from high school and are beginning their service to the Oil Watch. Siobhan has mostly recovered from her encounter with the dragon that left her hands burned, but she will always have limited mobility. She is learning to cope. She has found a different instrument. She still feels a strong sense of purpose. Siobhan is Owen's bard, and she does not take that commitment likely. Hailed by much of the populous as heroes, Siobhan and Owen are not looked on quite as favorably by their government. They find themselves stationed in Alberta on the edge of the Canadian prairie-an assignment that's kind of a slap in the face given Owen's talent and proven ability. But their support team is top-notch and they've bonded. They find the other two novice teams, one American and one Japanese, easy to work with. All three teams forge new ties and friendships, bonds needed living in the realm of the most dangerous dragon species alive with an instructor who is a frowned upon rule-breaker and a general who scorns all the things Owen and Siobhan stand for.
"When Lieutenant Porter said 'it's our busy season', what he'd meant was 'Shit there are dragons everywhere. Duck.'"
This quote sums the book up nicely. There are a lot more dragons, dragon slayings, and close encounters with dragons in this book than the first. There was quite a lot of set-up in the first book. It was a time to get to know both Owen and Siobhan, time to get to know the world, and to fully understand what it was the Thorskgards were fighting for. True, there were plenty of dragons to be found too, but in this second half they're everywhere. Also in this book the reader is introduced to the mother of all dragons-nearly unbeatable and scary as everything. The pace is much faster than the first book. It feels like a head long rush to the explosive and shattering end.
Siobhan's recovery is rather skipped over. Her emotional recovery happens much faster than seems reasonable until you remember how young she is. And young people often can bounce back and find new routes quicker than adults. She still has her music. It's just different. I think too that her being a rather even tempered individual from the start helps the believability of this. The story becomes Siobhan's more than ever as she and Owen are separated for quite some time. The government is trying to keep Siobhan's influence over public opinion to a minimum. They want the people to forget Owen's a hero. Owen's presence is still felt even in his absence though, and Siobhan still works on ways to get what he is capable of out there. These two have an amazing relationship, a friendship that is truer and stronger than average. I love how much they give to each other and complement each other. Siobhan gave Owen a voice. Owen gave Siobhan a story. And it is absolutely beautiful.
There are a number of new characters introduced in this story and I loved them all-Courtney the engineer and Porter the lieutenant especially. The other two dragon slayers add so much to the story as well and I love the interactions between them. (Nick, the American from NYC, was a particular favorite and I wished we had just a bit more from him.) The characters in the first book are all back though we see far less of them now that Siobhan and Owen are away from home. Sadie is present for much of the first half, but is assigned to the UK while Siobhan and Owen remain in Canada. I enjoyed her when she was there though. She is a perfect balance to both Siobhan and Owen.
Thematically this book is even more brilliant than its predecessor. The slayers and their teams are all so young. All serving their countries and the world in a noble pursuit. But bureaucracy and politics being what they are, they can't always do it effectively. They are dedicated, bold, and brilliant. What they do has a high cost though and Johnston shows that beautifully.
Basically this book left me sort of wrecked, but in a brilliant way.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Carlolrhoda Books, at ALA Midwinter. Prairie Fire goes on sale on March 1st....more
I waited too long to read this book. Seriously. When it came out back in March, I was intrigued. Many people I trust said read this. It's good. Why did I wait so long? The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston is a perfect blend of myth, reality, sly humor, and exhilarating action-adventure.
As the title implies, this is the story of Owen, a teenage dragon-slayer-in-training who helps guard the small town of Trondheim from dragons while trying to pass Algebra. Yet this isn't just the story of Owen. In fact, it isn't even mostly the story of Owen. It is really the story of Siobhan, the gifted musician who Owen encounters on his first day at his new school when they are both late for English. Like it was fated. Except not that kind of fated. Siobhan's talent makes her the perfect partner for Owen. Even though the tradition has long since died, every good dragon-slayer needs a good bard and Owen and Siobhan are about to resurrect the art. Siobhan is the one telling this story, in a voice that is both straightforward and trickily slides away from the telling the whole truth at the same time. The Siobhan telling the story is telling it from somewhere in the future. The writing is well done and has a dry wry wit that is subversive and oh so well balanced. I like both Siobhan and Owen, but I really like their partnership and how we see it unfold and grow. Their loyalty towards each grows in a natural way as the book progresses as does the strength of their companionship. And I love that is all their relationship is. I hope it stays that way in the future volumes. I love romance and am hopeful that there will be some eventually, but not between the two of them. One other thing I appreciated about both of them is that they are not super-heroes. They are kids who are talented yes, but who work at what they are good at to make themselves even better. And they work hard. I also really liked the supporting cast of characters, particularly Owen's aunts, Lottie and Hannah. I do feel that Siobhan is lacking in emotional depth enough that she kept me too removed from the story. I think that is probably due to the device of her being a bard and telling the story from the future, carrying we only know what baggage, wounds, and heartache. But it felt as though she didn't feel strongly enough about anything or anyone. Even the descriptions of her music have a vaguely detached air (which makes a bit more sense at the end), but the effect of all that was I wanted to know everyone and feel this story more deeply than I did. That is my one and only complaint though.
The world-builiding here is excellent. It is our world set in modern times with all our modern gadgets and technology. The difference? Dragons. Dragons have been a scourge on humanity in this alternate world for all of history but with the beginning of the age of modern industrialization they became an even bigger scourge. Dragons, you see, crave carbon fuels. It's like candy for them and they instinctively seek out anywhere they can find it. Cities with factories, roads with cars, water with boats, if you are anywhere these things are chances are you will be attacked by a dragon. The political ramifications of this are so well done, and Johnston raises so many provocative questions about our own world and how things are managed through them. Siobhan, Owen, his family, and some of their friends are trying to change the way the world works, but change does not come easy or free. I enjoyed how the world-building was so detailed throwing in so much history, not only maintaining my interest as a reader, but heightening it. It is also through the world-building that the major themes are developed. One thing that is highlighted is how easy media and history are to manipulate and I appreciated that aspect particularly. Siobhan is not just there to be a cheerleader for Owen, she is in charge of shaping perception not just about him, but dragon-slayers in general, and advancing the political and social causes their group deem important. It's fascinating stuff.
The writing brings this world to vivid life. What I felt it was lacking in character emotion, it more than made up for in terms of top rate plotting. The humor in the book is dry and tongue-in-cheek, something else I truly appreciated.
I highly recommend this for all fans of fantasy, particularly if you enjoy a good Nordic tale retold. It has all the feel of Beowulf, while being set in the present time. Truly excellent. ...more
I read Something Real by Heather Demetrios last year and was completely taken by surprise when I LOVED it. I was eagerly anticipating her 2015 release, I'll Meet You There, even though I knew, given its subject matter, it would probably leave me wrecked. Well it did in the way only really great books can.
Skylar is counting down days until she can get out of the nowhere town she has lived in all her life. She and her best friend, Chris, had a pact. They focused on school and kept away from the drunken parties and hook-ups their classmates were having, and it worked. They are both off to college with scholarships. There is only one more summer left for Skylar to make it through, working at the Paradise hotel. But when her mom loses her job and falls off the wagon, Sky sees her chance for escape slipping away. It doesn't help that there is someone else tempting her with the what ifs of staying. Josh Mitchell was their high school's popular playboy. Now back from a tour in Afghanistan, missing a leg, and fundamentally changed from the boy he used to be, Josh is trying to figure out exactly what it is he's supposed to do next. Why of all people did he make it back? What is he going to do with the chance he's been given? And how can he figure that out when everything is so messed up? As the summer progresses Josh and Sky are drawn closer and closer together, but it may be too hard to work through all the wrong in their lives to find something right.
I'll Meet You There is told in alternating voices. It is mostly in Sky's first person perspective, but there are also chapters that are entries from Josh's journal-the words he writes to his dead best friend, killed by the same IED that took his leg. Both Sky and Josh have a lot of seriously rough stuff to sort through in their lives. Sky is dealing with the very harsh realities of poverty as her mother no longer has a job and then kicks her out of the house. Fortunately Sky has people around her to help her who love her, but seeing the true and real effects of poverty portrayed in YA is not the norm. It's frustrating as a reader to Sky flirting seriously with the idea of throwing her chance for a future away to take care of her mother. This frustration is mirrored in her two best friends, Chris and Dylan, who insist her mother is an adult who can make her own choices and mistakes. Even with this frustration, it is all too easy to see why Sky might wish to stay. It is hard to walk away from everything you've ever known even if you are walking toward something better. I think her feelings, insecurities, and struggles are ones many readers can recognize and empathize with though they may not have experienced the same circumstances.
Josh's character is equally well done and nuanced. He is the epitome of a boy/man: still so young, but he's seen more than most people twice his age. Demetrios did an excellent job of showing all the facets of his being a Marine. He is suffering from PTSD, has to learn how to be the new him in the town he grew up in, and despite his trauma, he still has a fierce loyalty to the military. Being a Marine is the very heart of who he is. He does some really terrible things to both himself and Sky. He uses descriptive language that is often highly offensive (not because of the number of "curse words", but some other more derogatory type words he uses). At the same time, his heart is just so good and he wants to do what is right. You can see that. My heart just broke for him as he tried to figure out what to do and how to be. He truly feels like he is a disaster waiting to happen to Sky, and yet she helps him so he can't really stay away from her. He doesn't want to. This is a story about two broken people finding each other. In the process they break each other a little more, but they also help put each other back together. What I really liked about this is that they also both work to put themselves back together. Their relationship is not codependent.
I also very much enjoyed the supporting characters in the book. Josh's brother, Blake, is an idiot at times, but really loves his brother and tries very hard to be helpful in his own idiotic ways. Chris is a great foil for Sky. In many ways they are very much alike, but they are different enough in the ways that matter, that he balances her well. Marge, the owner of the hotel where Sky and Josh work, is a motherly type who helps and cares for both of them. Sky's other best friend, Dylan, is my favorite supporting character though. Her first appearance in the book, drunk and making reference to hooking up, leaves a first impression that is not all that flattering. She's a teen mom. She parties. She enjoys sex. Sky and Chris spend a good deal of time feeling bad for her stuck life. But man, this girl is more than she first appears, and even Sky doesn't fully appreciate all the depths her friend has until it's almost time for her to leave. I really liked how Demetrios showed that while Dylan's life was hard, it wasn't hopeless.
There are probably going to be some who are upset by the way some of the boys, particularly Josh, refer to some of the girls and each other. The words they use. The connotations behind them. It is an incredibly realistic portrayal though, and there are other characters who do call them out on this. I really appreciated how it was a fellow Marine who first opened Josh's eyes to how much more there was than the world he knew with his buddies in his hometown too.
I'll Meet You There is a beautiful and heartbreaking story that is also one of hope and new beginnings.
Content Heads-Up: strong language, underage drinking, sex
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., via NetGalley. I'll Meet You There is available now....more
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang is a book I added to my TBR because a couple of people on Twitter were saying how amazing it was. Then I discovered it's published by Greenwillow so excitement rose. I got it from Edelweiss without even reading the synopsis. Imagine my surprise when I started reading and was not expecting a book that was quite so intense, dark, and sad. It's probably a good thing I didn't know because I probably would have put off reading it. Despite bringing all my parental nightmares to vivid life, this is a book that says and reveals important things about the teen experience. It's a book I think many parents are going to freak out about, but they should all read.
Liz Emerson is her school's most popular girl. Everyone knows her, most people hate her. The latter is well deserved. Liz is not a nice person. No one in this book aside from Liam, the boy who sees something else in Liz and is the one to find her car, is. Liz is the ultimate mean girl. She deliberately goes about trying to destroy other people. It is her way to prop herself up against the world and keep herself separate. But she is killing herself with this long before she attempts suicide through car crash. Each act, each destroyed life, every choice she makes that is about image rather than self, works to destroy her. In addition to Liz this is the story of her two best friends, Kennie and Julia, girls both swept up in the force of Liz's personality. They are just as unlikeable and broken as she is. Despite being the quintessential mean girls, all three of them are very real and human in their fears, doubts, struggles, and horrors. Through vivid imagery and prose, Zang brings to life their high school experience and the harsh reality that is being a teen. My heart broke for all three of them.
I usually don't like books that skip around in the way this one does, but here the format works perfectly. It moves from the timeline of Liz's accident and what occurs after to flashbacks of the months leading up to the accident (but not in order!) to some snippets from Liz's childhood. There is very linear movement. However, it was absolutely perfect in how it fully depicted all of the characters and still got the point of the story, which is a powerful one, across. The prose is vivid and emotive. Zang really makes you feel what her characters do causing a physical ache in places.
Yes, this is an excellent book, but it was not without its aspects that bothered me. I really grew to hate how often Liz's full name was used. Liz Emerson feels...Liz Emerson does....Liz Emerson wants... Enough already! The entire premise of the narration grated on me too. I didn't really see it as necessary and it was actually rather silly. This book has so much good going for it that it did not need to depend on a corny gimmick like that narration trick. The best parts of the story, in my opinion, were the ones where the narrator got lost and it felt like it was just third person. Then that annoying first person would pop up again and UGHHHH. This is a typical problem for me when this narration is used in any book. I'm not a fan of The Book Thief either, and my inability to buy the conceit of the narrative is a big reason why. It was less intrusive here, but still got in the way of my fully falling into the story. The final aspect that bothered me is the end. It does end on a rather hopeful note. One I found completely unbelievable. I know I always say I love a good depression to hope story. There are authors that do it extraordinarily well: Melina Marchetta, Trish Doller, Meg Medina. What makes those authors so good is how they show the characters climbing out of the darkness. It is an arc I can see. That wasn't as evident here.
Despite the things that didn't work for me, I do recommend this book, particularly for fans of contemporary YA who enjoy heartrendingly real stories.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss. Falling Into Place is for sale on September 9th. ...more
Always, Abigail by Nancy J. Cavanaugh captured my attention because I saw in the synopsis that it it told through letters, journal entries, and lists. I love books like that and don't know that I've ever read one in the MG age category.
Middle School. Ugh. Who ever wants to have to do that again? For those currently in the thick of it, Always, Abigail is the perfect book. Abigail's voice is so perfectly honest and real. She comes across as genuine, vulnerable, and sympathetic. I was wondering how well the list/letter format would work in a MG. The tricky part of writing a book like that is that the voice has to completely reflect the character. The author can't sneak in or it becomes glaringly obvious. Cavanaugh avoided this pitfall nicely. As an adult reading this book, I wanted to shake Abigail quite a few times. She was being mean, cowardly, and downright silly about what she though was important. For a kid negotiating the minefield that is middle school society, Abigail will seem like a true reflection of their inner selves. She doesn't want to be a mean girl, but she doesn't want to be a social outcast. One would think a balance could be reached between those two, but it is easy to see how Abigail wouldn't see it that way. Everything feels so urgent and dramatic when you're 11. Gabby's character was also well done. The two girls truly bond, and that is seen clearly in their notes and activities. I loved Gabby's voice in her letters to Abigail, particularly that first one. She is subversively snarky and she is a brilliant foil for Abigail. The only characterization I wasn't happy with were Abigail's best friends, Allie and Cami, who she collectively refers to as Allicam. I really didn't understand why there needed to be two of them, when they were so easily conflated into one snotty unpleasant persona.
The school setting of the book is incredibly realistic. I liked how Abigail's homeroom teacher operated, and that she was rather clueless at times but also an inspiration. Far more realistic than teachers are often portrayed. I also liked how real the behavior of the kids on the bus was, and how the nothing was done to stop it. Everything in the book is very true to life. When the time comes for Abigail to make a choice, there is no cheesy made-for-TV-hero moment either. And the way she loses her temper in the slightly crazy way girls her age so often do, not really accomplishing much but making herself feel better, was the perfect touch.
I enjoyed Always, Abigail very much and can not wait to share it with my daughter (who I know will love it).
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, via NetGalley. Always Abigail is available for purchase now. ...more