Nancy Werlin's first foray into fantasy, IMPOSSIBLE, is designed around an imaginative premise: the womeImaginative premise w/room for more, 3.5 stars
Nancy Werlin's first foray into fantasy, IMPOSSIBLE, is designed around an imaginative premise: the women of the Scarborough family have been cursed to become pregnant and go mad by age 18 if they do not complete three seemingly impossible tasks before the birth of their child. Seventeen-year-old Lucy discovers she is part of this family curse and must race to save herself and her unborn daughter from repeating this cycle. Unlike the women before her, Lucy has the support of her foster parents and her friend, Zach, and some guidance from her mother's diary and song. Will Lucy will be able to complete the tasks in time, or will she fail like her foremothers before her?
I was very excited to pick up this book. The premise was original, based in song, and filled with complexities that could be expanded into wonderful plot lines. IMPOSSIBLE was a good read with mature themes, but it didn't capture me like I hoped it would.
Mature themes appear in the book, including rape, teen pregnancy, (perceived) mental illness, foster parenting, teen marriage, and the meaning of real love as shown through sacrifice. I appreciated that these themes were explored and presented as real and pertinent to young adults. Even though Lucy and Zach find themselves in an unusual situation, their love is never downplayed or made to seem less genuine because they are young. Their characters demonstrate palpable (if not completely believable) maturity and awareness about their situation. It was also nice to see parents in a YA novel who are supportive and present. The conversations that Lucy had with her friends about rape and sex were real and raw in their honesty.
On the down side, the heavy themes did slow things and make the text and dialogue feel cumbersome and stilted at times. The recovery from rape, both physically and emotionally, seemed too easy for the character affected. Also, while the premise of the book was completely inventive, the fantasy elements were underdeveloped. Lucy's family and friend Zach were too quick to believe in the curse. Other than deciphering the riddle of the song and feeling threat early on from the villain, there wasn't a feeling of danger and the need to rush to action that I would have expected. For a fantasy book, I would have liked more focus on the fantastical elements and more overt conflict at the climax. Things cleaned up much too nicely at the end.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but felt it could have been improved by more emphasis on the fantasy elements and a greater sense of urgency/threat. The serious and considerate nature with which the mature themes were handled was refreshing, and I think this is a good read for all teens, many of whom face similar issues every day (though thankfully not due to the actions of an elfin knight)....more
Lauren Myracle’s SHINE uses atmosphere and suspense to examine small-town life and the intolerance and complexities that can underlie it. When Cat wasLauren Myracle’s SHINE uses atmosphere and suspense to examine small-town life and the intolerance and complexities that can underlie it. When Cat was thirteen, she was best friends with Patrick, but then something happened and she stopped speaking to most people. Now, three years later, Patrick is the victim of a horrible hate crime. When the investigation stalls, Cat decides to unravel the mystery for herself and bring Patrick’s attacker to justice. In the process, Cat uncovers startling information about small-town politics, hidden secrets, drug culture, and what it means to stand up for someone.
From the outset of SHINE, Myracle impressed me with her clear, descriptive writing and its ability to create a stifling atmosphere for the town and its inhabitants. This style worked well for a story that provides an unflinching examination of homophobia, poverty, drugs, and the long-term impacts of intolerance and assault. The author also managed to do what most writers do not: she portrayed the people of a small, rural town as real and complicated, not stupid or backwards. Instead of falling into easy stereotypes, the main characters are depicted as people with complex desires but limited opportunities. Each character, even the protagonist, is not wholly good or wholly bad. The mystery plot also plays out in a mostly believable way, without any need for Cat to put herself into unlikely, supernatural, or unbelievable situations in order to solve the crime.
Even with this mix of suspense and compelling issues, SHINE never grabbed me as much as I had hoped. Though there were many emotional and poignant details in the story, I never became really invested in the characters. Parts of the mystery were predictable, and some clues were discovered too easily with characters too willing to talk. Slow pacing pulled things down a bit in the middle, and the outcomes at the end of the novel felt too convenient and somewhat unsettling in their possible messages. Despite the uplifting connotation of the title, which is referenced in the book, the story also ended without much uplift or hope.
SHINE has much to offer with its realistic and gritty depiction of the often harsh realities of living in small town America. In future books, however, I hope that Myracle’s ability to create mood and setting pull me into the characters’ lives and struggles more.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy....more
Gritty sequel failed to keep my attention like WITHER did
Fever takes readers into an even darker world than did Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, Wither Gritty sequel failed to keep my attention like WITHER did
Fever takes readers into an even darker world than did Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, Wither. Having escaped the confines of the mansion, Rhine and Gabriel make the run to freedom only to find that the outside world may offer even less of it. As they struggle to make their way to Manhattan in search of safety and Rhine’s twin brother, the two find that the world is populated by those both cruel and kind and that everyone is looking for a way to survive.
When I read WITHER last year, I was impressed by the author’s writing and her willingness to explore what dire things might happen in a world where all young people die early. Even with this gritty dystopian world laid out, I found the world building to be weak enough that I spent a lot of time questioning how this world came about. Unfortunately, this is the same problem I had while reading FEVER, and it seemed even more prevalent this time. Incomplete or unbelievable world building continued to draw me out of the story too often. Also, while I liked the author’s exploration of sexuality and oppression in the first book, this book’s tone comes across as even more bleak and without as much purpose. Rhine and Gabriel routinely end up in situations that felt like they were there more for shock value than for character or plot development. And when these terrible things happen, they don’t touch the main characters in the way one would expect, again making the world less believable. Because of this, I sometimes felt disconnected from Rhine and Gabriel and their struggles. I also never felt really moved by Rhine and Gabriel’s relationship, despite a few good moments. The book then finishes on a cliffhanger with little resolution. FEVER as a whole felt very much like a “middle book” where things don’t move forward a great deal.
On the positive side, DeStefano continues to show that she can write well, and her pretty prose allows readers to easily visualize the surroundings she describes. FEVER also provides much more information about the world outside the mansion, and sympathetic new characters are introduced. Although I don’t think it was as well done as in the first book, I also continue to appreciate the author’s willingness to examine the harsh realities that could result in a world where women become little more than sexual commodities.
Overall, FEVER failed to keep my attention in the way that WITHER did one year ago, and it didn’t leave me mulling over important issues in the same way. Even such, I am sure that many fans of the first novel will appreciate this sequel and where it sets up things for the final book. I know I’ll be reading it to see where DeStefano takes her characters and her story and whether she leaves readers with a sense of hope or just continued despair.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
What an impressive and moving tribute about the atrocity of Emmett Till's death and its influence on the burgeoning U.S. civil rights movement of the What an impressive and moving tribute about the atrocity of Emmett Till's death and its influence on the burgeoning U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s. The author's use of Petrarchan sonnets in the round (a corona) was outstanding, and the artwork complemented it perfectly....more
Though I had heard many positive things about Hopkins’ gritty verse novels for teens, Collateral was my first experience with her work and it left me Though I had heard many positive things about Hopkins’ gritty verse novels for teens, Collateral was my first experience with her work and it left me extremely disappointed. The author’s use of verse never felt poetic; it simply seemed like prose broken awkwardly across a page.
Additionally, while it was clear what message the author was trying to impart about the effects of a military life on both the solider and those around him/her, it came off as heavy-handed and unbelievable; because the reader only meets the characters at the time of enlistment, it’s a big jump to believe that the personality changes described are attributable solely to the stresses of military life, as opposed to some inherent part of their dispositions.
Only recommended to those who enjoy Hopkins’ work and who are willing to read a very depressing tale about military life, abuse, and drug/alcohol use. ...more
Oh, book, I don't know what to do with you, rating and review-wise. I can see what you were trying to do, but it felt too contrived and contradictoryOh, book, I don't know what to do with you, rating and review-wise. I can see what you were trying to do, but it felt too contrived and contradictory in many instances. Let me ruminate further.......more
Poor writing & implausible story made this a non-finisher for me
In an attempt to try out another New Adult title, I downloaded The Coincidence of Poor writing & implausible story made this a non-finisher for me
In an attempt to try out another New Adult title, I downloaded The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden. It is currently sitting in the #4 spot on the NYT Best Sellers list for e-books, and it seemed like a deal at only 99 cents. I even picked up the author's second similar title (The Secret of Ella and Micha) on a whim at the same time. Though I should have been more wary due to the low price and the author's self-pubbed status, I was feeling adventurous.
Oh, how wary I should have been! I have never before given up on a title so quickly as I did with this book (at the 7% completion mark). The two chapters that I read were littered with typos, incorrect pronoun usage, and simply pedestrian and awkward writing. As per usual with YA or NA titles, the characters have trials or past abuses to overcome, but this story laid them out entirely too obviously within the first three pages with clunky statements about "hiding the scars on the inside" and the young woman's obvious fear of men. Then, soon after we're told that the main character hasn't touched anyone outside her family in six years and has never told a soul about what trauma has befallen her, the next chapter finds her at college with a new best friend -- the token gay guy -- whom she touches, laughs with, and has shared her darkest secrets with. The quick character changes, and the obviously forthcoming romance with the also-traumatized football jock from her hometown, just seemed too unbelievable. I simply had to stop reading due to the absolute implausibility of the story and the poor writing.
Though I don't hope to diminish anyone else's interest or enthusiasm for this book, I can't understand any of the hype, high sales, or great ratings for this book and the author's other titles, if they are at all similar. Not only did I declare this a DNF title, but it is also the first thing I have ever digitally returned. Read at your own risk. ...more
Though slow in the middle with an unnecessarily drawn-out love triangle, this tale’s very Gothic mix of mystery, romance, and the grotesque makes it a Though slow in the middle with an unnecessarily drawn-out love triangle, this tale’s very Gothic mix of mystery, romance, and the grotesque makes it a winner. Not for the faint of heart, though, as Dr. Moreau’s cruel experiments are described in detail more than once. ...more
Wavering between 2.5 and 3 stars on this one. Despite the ridiculous number of typos, misspellings, and poorly written sentences, the story clipped alWavering between 2.5 and 3 stars on this one. Despite the ridiculous number of typos, misspellings, and poorly written sentences, the story clipped along after an initially slow start and there was no instalove to make me roll my eyes. If the author cleaned this up, I think it would be one of the better titles in the New Adult genre...though that's not a ringing endorsement from me....more
I went into HOPELESS without any real expectations but a decent bit of curiosity because I know that many people consider Hoover's writing to be good. I went into HOPELESS without any real expectations but a decent bit of curiosity because I know that many people consider Hoover's writing to be good. In the end, I found the book readable but not memorable because of the way in which the heavy content was handled. I was completely and utterly disappointed with how the various traumas were dealt with. Not only did the couple have happy, healing sex from the get-go, despite past sexual trauma, but all of the horrible things were dealt with and resolved entirely too easily -- especially given that the big reveals and resolution all happened within the span of a few mere days. The book wasn't as terrible as other New Adult titles out there, but the author tried to force too many issues into one book and used the "true love and sex cures all" trope to wrap things up, which didn't sit well with me....more
Quite possibly the most well-crafted novel I have ever read. When I read this back in 11th grade, I was taken aback by the artistry and the complexity Quite possibly the most well-crafted novel I have ever read. When I read this back in 11th grade, I was taken aback by the artistry and the complexity and the symbolism that all appear wrapped together in this novel. Though I have never worked up to reading it again, it remains in my mind as one of the most influential pieces of literature I have ever read (or likely ever will)....more
Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as much as Katie Cotugno's debut novel, How to Love, did. This novel is a beautiful and achingly realistic portrayal of one couple's doomed teenage love affair, the aftermath, and their eventual coming to terms with one another.
HOW TO LOVE stands out among the crowd of other YA contemporary novels most notably due to Cotugno's lyrical, evocative writing. The author creates beautiful mental images throughout the novel by including details that add nuance and feeling to the story. Every detail or repeated image seems intentionally placed and well-considered. I would often stop reading to admire a passage and think to myself "THIS is what good writing looks and feels like." Another strength lies in the two main characters, Reena and Sawyer. Both are complex, flawed characters with multifaceted family members and friends surrounding them. While I often didn't like Reena or Sawyer, the writing allowed me to understand them and their actions and motivations.
In addition to her strong character development, Cotugno also does wonders with the plot and the structure of the novel. There is a careful interweaving of plot threads about family pressures, work, alcohol/drugs, religion, school, and friendship to make the characters' lives feel real and palpable. I especially liked the presence and impact of Reena's best friend, Allie, on the relationship between Sawyer and Reena. The plot of HOW TO LOVE never hurries nor dallies; the juxtaposition of the "before" and "after" chapters are perfectly aligned with mirrored events that follow one another naturally. When the book came to a close, the ending left me satisfied, even without answering every plot question directly.
Though this book was a perfect fit for me, there were a few phrases or sentence choices that threw me at times, and other readers may not be able to look past Reena's and Sawyer's flaws in order to find them sympathetic.
In all, though, HOW TO LOVE is the best young adult book that I've read in the past two years. I can't wait to see what moving, realistic, and emotionally arresting stories Cotugno writes in the future. I know that I'll be reading every one of them.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.
Immediate reaction: My first five-star book in two years! I am so incredibly impressed with the quiet but compelling story this novel tells and the style and lyricism with which the author tells it. I can't wait to see what this author writes in the future....more
Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of p Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of poverty and violence. When she's sent to a rural town to live with the uncle that left years ago, Beth struggles to find a way to save her mother and get back to the few close friends who have helped her. Though local golden boy and baseball star Ryan Stone's life appears blissfully easy in comparison, there's more simmering beneath the surface of his family's perfect façade. When Beth and Ryan's lives intersect, sparks fly and each learns that the expected path in life might not always be the best one.
While DARE YOU TO was a bit formulaic, this book was a quick and easy read that will appeal to fans of Simone Elkeles, both in its style of alternating male/female points-of-view and its overall light tone, despite the serious topics involved. One notable strength of the novel was Ryan: he was a great male lead who treated Beth with respect. Though there were some moments when he acted a bit chauvinistic, these instances seemed realistic for his character and the small-town climate in which he grew up. While I always knew where Beth and Ryan's relationship was headed, it was nice to see the progression from attraction and lust to something deeper. In addition, I appreciated how the sex scene was handled; the story featured a virgin hero and did a very good job depicting how sex can be an exercise in trust, not just desire. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Ryan's friends Chris, Logan, and Lacey. The interactions between these friends and their classmates depicted small-town rural/suburban life well without mocking it.
This novel didn't work for me on all levels, though. Some very serious issues were presented in the book (e.g., drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty), but they were glossed over and resolved too easily, even if somewhat sadly. Similarly, significant changes in Beth's character seemed to happen too quickly to be believable, and she felt less developed as a character than Ryan. While I liked Ryan's character, he did some things that seemed to contradict his "nice guy" persona, while also sometimes seeming too idealized to be real.
Even with these misgivings, I enjoyed reading DARE YOU TO and think it will have a wide fan base. This installment was a definite improvement over my experience with McGarry's first book (Pushing the Limits), and I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy (Crash into You)) when it comes out.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Unfortunately, this installment didn't add anything important or moving to the story of Hope and Holder. This novel was nothing more than the exact sa Unfortunately, this installment didn't add anything important or moving to the story of Hope and Holder. This novel was nothing more than the exact same story as found in HOPELESS with the exact same dialogue and merely more angsty moments from Holder. If anything, it made me like Holder even less as a love interest. ...more
Easily readable with a much stronger heroine and clearer writing than McAdams has used in the past, but the utter level of ridiculousness and crazy thEasily readable with a much stronger heroine and clearer writing than McAdams has used in the past, but the utter level of ridiculousness and crazy that's written into the plot blew me away and *not* in a good way. The amount of trauma and abuse to which the main character is submitted by the end of the novel made this almost feel like torture porn by the end....more