Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and give this 4.5 stars, because a;lsdkjfas, this book.
I'm sitting here at work and I actually teared up a little becauseYeah, I'm going to go ahead and give this 4.5 stars, because a;lsdkjfas, this book.
I'm sitting here at work and I actually teared up a little because this book was so sweet and heartwrenching, from start to finish.
Every once in awhile a book comes along that takes two flawed, so incredibly real characters and weaves a story about them that's emotional and amazing. This is one of those books, at least for me.
If you read the summary of the book, it actually tells you a lot about the plot, in a sense. But what it doesn't tell you is the slow, careful story that's held inside and the way it will take your heart and squeeze, making you feel protective over the characters, make you smile and laugh and maybe even cry a little. It's got a charming bad boy and a pretty girl with secrets, and backstories that will make your stomach clench and your heart turn over.
This isn't a story of insta-love and fatal attraction, etc. Oh, the first-look attraction is there, but it's not that shallow 'omg he makes my head spin' story, where characters go from meeting to 'so in love' overnight. It's so much more than that.
The two main characters are Charlie and Benjamin, each with their own burdens, hidden secrets and wounds that they're hiding from almost everyone. Neither of them have any intention of even becoming friends with each other, at first - Ben's hardened to the world and is looking for an easy conquest as usual, and Charlie doesn't have any time for that, with everything else going on in her life and having been warned about him by her friends.
That initial barrier between the two of them is what makes the progress from there all the more wonderful to read, to be honest. The friendship and building relationship between the two of them is important but there's other stuff that's going on as well, and that extra depth is really what takes the book to another level and makes it shine.
As the story unfolds, we switch back and forth between Charlie and Ben's point of view, getting inside their heads and seeing the conflict and emotional chaos that they're both dealing with. And that's really where my heart was squeezed, because both characters are so young, and they're both dealing with things that teenagers should never have to deal with - yet all too often, they do. Yet in spite of the burdens they're carrying, they do their best to continue on as normal, to hide their differences from the world, because what every teenager wants is pretty simple: to be normal. And I get that, I really do, because I remember how I felt in highschool myself and what it was like when I had my own crap going on at home, and a facade to put up at school. You present a face to the world and try not to let anyone see past, and sometimes not letting that crack is the most important thing in the world.
I think what I loved so much about this book was how real it seemed, in many ways. Charlie and Ben both think that each other's life is perfect, but the opposite is true - and in many ways, the one person who can understand them better than anyone else is the other person, as much as they try to hold each other at bay. Even as that proves increasingly futile, both of them are growing up and things are changing in their lives as they learn about themselves and each other, and start to heal from pain they've been carrying for most of their lives. They're intent on being friends, but slowly that blossoms into more - against their own best intentions, but it's for the best and anyone reading can determine that.
My one quibble would be when it comes to the ending, and in particular, Ben's story. I don't think that it was quite as well fleshed out as Charlie's, and was too abrupt for the depth of it throughout the book - I think it needed a lot more, and that's why I deducted the one star, in the end. It's a case of a too-quick climax, without the thoroughness and the breadth of emotion that had been put into the rest of the story, and it detracts from the impact, in my opinion. I also would have liked to see more from the cast of characters in the background - I wanted to know more about these people who are so important to Charlie and Ben, and I think it could have been done without taking away from the overall story. Again, just something that decreased my overall opinion of the book.
Overall, though, this was just a book that made me care a lot about the characters in the span of a few hundred pages, and left me smiling at the end.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review....more
What an interesting, melancholy little book this is.
This book was difficult to read in ways. Some books are like that, because they take the realityWhat an interesting, melancholy little book this is.
This book was difficult to read in ways. Some books are like that, because they take the reality of humanity and reflect it back to us, and that's not always a pleasant image. This book is one of those, and that makes for heavier reading than I was actually expecting, going into this.
The sort of things that go on in this book are heavy enough as adults, and the fact that this book deals with a teenager makes it all the more depressing, but incredibly realistic. It tells the story of Coo, an withdrawn, angry-at-the-world sixteen year old who resents everything that she's been put through, and both misses and hates her older brother Sam, who was swallowed by alcoholism.
The book drew me in right away, a testimony to the writing. To be honest, there are a lot of ways in which Coo isn't particularly likeable. She's withdrawn, she's a bit self-centered and selfish, she pushes away any overtures of emotion from her parents, and she makes a lot of stupid decisions throughout the book. In many ways the book is telling the story of her rebellion and recovery as she grows up.
Beneath all of that is a raw vulnerability, though, and that will get me every time. It's not easy being a teenager, with all its pitfalls and experiences - but you throw in addiction and death and suddenly its all the more treacherous. That's where the true raw beauty of this book comes through, a tale of grief and anger and growing up, testing the boundaries and learning to move on.
The relationship that Coo has with Banks is one that was morbidly fascinating and compelling. At times I wanted to shake her and other times my heart ached for her, and that's the truth of it, right there, and I think it relates well to the overall story of addiction the book is touching on. Addiction takes a person and makes your heart hurt for them even as you want them to snap out of it, and it's not necessarily an easy journey as we follow Coo through the book and see her experience everything that comes with having a friend like Banks.
I think my biggest complaint was probably the abruptness of the ending. So much tension builds up over the course of the novel, and when I got to the end I was so surprised that there wasn't more - more of an unpacking of Coo's thoughts, what she'd learned and how she felt after certain events. It's not a book where everything is intended to be tied up in a pretty bow, by any means, but I think it would have benefited from a more satisfactory conclusion, more depth and exploration of how Coo was feeling. That would have taken it over the edge from being an interesting, good book to a very good or even excellent one.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book skews a lot younger than I expected it to be, so I am trying to keep that in mind with my review.
Overall, I think Purenet is a passable youThis book skews a lot younger than I expected it to be, so I am trying to keep that in mind with my review.
Overall, I think Purenet is a passable youngish YA novel, delving into a dystopian version of our world.
Skylier lives in the Cueva, always underground to avoid the harshness of the sunlight up above. Her people have been consigned there for many years, ever since a war devastated the world. Only those lucky enough to be born into Purenet can live beneath 'the dome', seeing the sun and having luxuries that those in the Cueva can only dream of - luxuries like the medicine that Skylier needs to save her mother, who is dying of cancer.
This is the thread that the book begins with, and I have to admit that it's pretty fascinating, and why I chose this book to begin with. Unfortunately, within the first twenty pages or so I was greeted with infodumping, and that set the tone for the rest of the book.
I think I would have enjoyed the book a bit more if I had realised just how simple the story was going to be. That isn't to say that simple is bad, but this is a very bare-basics story, without a lot of depth. Things are described very simplistically - 'bangs' for guns, 'zooms' for other weapons, etc. We don't learn much about the motivations of characters other than Skylier. The main villain is pretty much a caricature, and I wasn't sure why he was the bad guy, other than that he just, well, is. Which is okay for a children's book, but disappointing compared to the really good YA that I have read.
Because of this lack of depth, the story doesn't have quite the punch that it could have. The world that H.J. Lawson has built, the scenario - it's interesting! It just needs to be fully drawn out in the story and across the pages, and that didn't happen. I kept waiting and hoping that I would find out more and that the author would really delve into the world that has been built, but everything is very on the surface, right up to the rather abrupt ending.
What's left is a fair amount of passable action, but not much to give it substance, and that left me rather cold towards the whole thing. Honestly, at only 120 pages or so, I feel that the book could have easily have been doubled with so much more, and it would have been better for it. The book reads more like thinly-plotted outline of a novel, not an actual one. It's a bit of a shame in that sense, because the concept has a lot of potential.
I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review....more
I found that the concept of this book was one that had a ton of potential! Vampires and sisters - who could resist?
Stephanie and Estelle are sistersI found that the concept of this book was one that had a ton of potential! Vampires and sisters - who could resist?
Stephanie and Estelle are sisters who have been estranged for years, but there are some things family members just can't turn away from, and undead possession is apparently one of them. As is traditional for the two, it's Stephanie's turn to save her sister yet again... But this time she's up against entirely new challenges!
Sometimes the language in this book was a bit off-putting, but the story itself was engaging and interesting. I have two younger sisters myself, so it struck a chord with me, and the action was interesting throughout. It's also a character driven book, which I quite enjoyed - so often YA books now are focused on romance to the detriment of actually developing the characters, something that frustrates the hell out of me.
Quite enjoyable, a fresh take on some of the ideas out there!...more
Lol at myself. I thought that I had gotten this through Netgalley, but apparently not, so that means that I skimmed this book impatiently for no reasoLol at myself. I thought that I had gotten this through Netgalley, but apparently not, so that means that I skimmed this book impatiently for no reason at all.
This book was disappointing, to be honest. We have insta-love, a plot that needs a lot more depth to be acceptable, and a main character who is self absorbed. It's really a pity, because I think in the hands of someone else, this could have been fascinating. The history, the girls in the book and their stories... It could have been compelling and moving, but instead we get bare glimpses of them - when they're mentioned again mere chapters later it's difficult to remember what their story even was, or why we should care about them.
I could excuse that, but then it comes to the main characters and that's where the real weakness of the book comes in. I just... didn't care. Liv is young, full of life, an artist, was falling in love - I should care about her! But I didn't, and instead of being engrossed in the story I skimmed a lot of it, impatient to figure out just what had happened so that I could move on. With a plot like this it needs a strong, compelling character to drive the story forward and I just didn't find it here.
I do enjoy murder mysteries, though, even if they're shitty ones - so if you're like me, then give this a shot.
Edit to add: Two months later, I actually have no recollection at all of this book, which is not a good thing. Disappointing to say the least. ...more
This book was a bit strange, for me. I couldn't decide if I liked the main character or not, in spite of my usual reminders to myself when r2.5 stars.
This book was a bit strange, for me. I couldn't decide if I liked the main character or not, in spite of my usual reminders to myself when reading YA that I am reading about teenagers.
In that sense, the author has teenagers down pat. Hormones running wild, awkward drama, tensions over the smallest things? All of that is to be found in this book about a sixteen year old boy who finds the course of his life getting a bit bumpy when he sleeps with his best friend only to have things fall apart afterwards.
There are two romantic entanglements in the book, both filled with awkwardness. I will say that the author does a very good job of putting us into the head of a self-absorbed, hormonal teenaged boy - the trouble is, self-absorbed, hormonal teenaged boys aren't necessarily compelling or likeable.
Mason is horny. He's awkward. He's full of himself. He's dramatic. He's self involved. It's all very realistic but it made the book hard for me to read, and I felt as though secondary characterization suffered a bit. His best friend Jamie seems relegated to the background - not something I really expect from a teenaged boy - and I found this to be a situation where the author tells us about how the main character is such good friends with other characters, but doesn't show us. I really hate that, because I need to be invested in friendships to care about it.
This lack of depth haunted the main relationship in the book, that of Mason and the ethereal Kat. At the end of the book I still wasn't quite sure why he was so obsessed, or why they were such good friends. I think I would have enjoyed the book quite a bit more if I'd been able to see more of that. A book that is primarily about conflict is fine, but for that to work the reader needs to care about the people involved in the conflict, and that was what was missing, here.
So overall, a midling effort, really. I do like the fact that it takes on the male p.o.v. for once, though - we need more books that do that. ...more
I enjoyed the first book the most out of this series. After that it felt as though I was reading the same story three times. 'Pretties' and 'SpeBlah.
I enjoyed the first book the most out of this series. After that it felt as though I was reading the same story three times. 'Pretties' and 'Specials' both felt incredibly recycled in terms of plot... I mean come on, at least Catching Fire changed things up and made it different from The Hunger Games, and Mockingjay left the arena entirely!
The secondary characters suffered a lot in this book. I wasn't sure what to make of Shay's arc, and it wasn't resolved satisfactorily. Zane may as well have just been labelled 'Pretty Boy To Give Tally Angst'. Same goes for David.
And then the ending? Wtf was that? Ugh. It felt as though Tally was totally divorced from having any agency or control of her own destiny and what was happening, which was a pity in comparison to both Uglies and Pretties.
There was so much potential here that just went to waste, it disappoints me. :/ ...more
A hard, realistic look at a teenaged girl's life and where her choices lead her.
This definitely isn't a light, fluffy book - a fact that I actually aA hard, realistic look at a teenaged girl's life and where her choices lead her.
This definitely isn't a light, fluffy book - a fact that I actually appreciate, because so much of life is not light and fluffy. The book is told from the perspective of Anna, unspooling the story of a little girl who delights in being the centre of her mother's universe. It's just the two of them on their own, and when Anna's mother starts dating and bringing home men, suddenly Anna finds herself on the outside.
Quick fact about me: I grew up with my grandparents because when I was three, my mother decided that she couldn't look after me anymore. My mother liked to tell me that it was because my grandmother had always wanted a little girl and that's why she 'let' my grandmother have me. Now, setting aside the fact that toddlers aren't really the sort of thing you give away, the truth was, she couldn't look after me or my sisters, and we were quickly farmed out to our respective grandparents. It was supposed to be temporary, but it wasn't, of course.
I remember a time when I was supposed to go and see my mother, and I was all packed up with my little bag, and my grandparents drove to meet my mother. I was so excited, thinking it would be amazing to see her, and spend time with her... Except she never showed up, and so I drove home again with my grandparents. I remember asking why she hadn't come, and my grandmother didn't have an answer for me.
So a part of me broke a little as I read this book and saw what Anna's life was like. Anna's mother is so focused on marriage and new houses and finding a better man, a man who will make her feel whole, that she's rarely there for her little daughter, who is so desperate for her attention... So I wasn't really surprised when I read about how Anna started turning to boys for the comfort that her mother had never given her.
The way Scheidt describes what Anna does and what is done to her is not easy. She is a broken girl who has always wanted love and warmth and touch, and seeks it desperately in boys the instant they start to turn their attention to her. The book is a journey through her constant searching for satisfaction, something to heal the break inside her that's been there since she was a little girl. It's hard to read and I'm sure it's intended to be that way, because this is what really happens to some girls out there, more than we care to admit.
The fuzziness of the timeline makes the book hard to read at times - everything is very distant, as though we are seeing snapshots of a life. When Anna makes her first friend, I wanted things to be better, but in truth the two of them become locked in that sort of mutually dependant relationship where you feed off of each other and make things worse, but desperately need each other all the same.
The title is very fitting, in my opinion. With each relationship that Anna has, it's not about the boy, really. It's about how he makes Anna feel and what he does for her. They provide the fuel for some of Anna's decisions, which aren't necessarily great ones, and we see her spiral downwards before she finally meets Sam and a glimmer of a chance at change peeks through for her, and for the reader.
To be honest, the only reason I didn't rate this book higher was because I didn't feel like it was intimate enough, like it got far enough into Anna's head. Everything is very distant and bleak, which works, but at the same time I wanted to feel more of Anna's emotions - I know that they're there, undoubtedly, but we don't see much of them. Secondary characterization suffered a bit - we see everything through Anna's eyes, and a side effect of everything that's happened to her is that we don't actually learn much about the people in her life, with the exception of Toy. The ending left me unsatisfied with its abruptness, and left me wanting more. I didn't quite feel as though the story was complete, at the end - there's no real sense of where Anna is going to go from here, or whether she'll be able to make it... Though maybe that's what the author intended and I'm missing it, who knows.
Readers who like realistic fiction that looks at what it's really like for teenagers out there should pick this up, but I'd say that people looking for fluff and romance should give it a pass....more
November 28th, 2014 Edit: This book is $2.99 right now on th Canadian Kobo store! Not sure about other countries, but thought it was worth letting peoNovember 28th, 2014 Edit: This book is $2.99 right now on th Canadian Kobo store! Not sure about other countries, but thought it was worth letting people know :)
Sometimes a book is just a story, and sometimes it's like reading about another version of yourself, captured on paper.
I think I knew that I wasn't one of the cool kids when I was in kindergarten. Admittedly, there were some things about my life that made sure that I didn't fit in - I grew up with my grandparents, I didn't wear jeans (a necessity for 'coolness'), I had long hair, I liked reading, I was quiet and awkward.
I got my first pair of jeans with the help of my cousin Nancy in grade three, and I think part of me hoped that somehow, overnight, I would become one of the cool kids - that the reality of my life would shift and change. It didn't, though. I can still remember one of the older boys on the playground calling me a 'tub of lard' as the other girls in my class tugged me out onto the playground and took my hair down. I was a project for a day or so and then they forgot all about me again. I became the weird one again, the easiest one to pick on in spite of the fact that I had jeans now. That didn't change who I was.
In some ways I was pretty lucky, of course. I did have some friends - a couple of close ones who got me through those years until I was in highschool. And then the pressure dropped a bit, when I entered highschool - I found a way to blend in a bit more, and my group of friends expanded. I wasn't 'cool', but I had some friends and that was all that mattered. They got me through.
I've never forgotten what it was like to be the center of attention for all the wrong reasons, though, and this book really hit home because of that.
Elise isn't a perfect character, by any means. She is selfish and sometimes difficult to read about because she's so wrapped up in herself and her own wants and desires that she doesn't pay attention to what's going on around her.
The book begins with Elise feeling as though her life is hopeless and nothing will ever change. The fact that it does start changing is quite by accident when she stumbles upon a late night club. Suddenly she's thrown into a new world of music and dance and bands and DJ-ing, meeting new people and learning about herself in the process.
It's not an easy journey - it's tumultuous and has its ups and downs. Elise makes some stupid decisions and gets so caught up in what she's doing that she hurts others around her. She's oblivious to what's actually going on around her. The bullying at school continues, and Elise isn't happy overnight.
The story that slowly unfolds is one of self-discovery - learning what friendship really is, about confidence and self identity. Learning about family and what's really important, with a touch of romance and mystery and drama thrown in. It's the sort of story that for many, will be intimately familiar, heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. Definitely recommend! ...more
I wish there were more books like this, or at least more books that I was aware of.
Beautiful Music For Ugly Children is the story of Gabe. Gabe was bI wish there were more books like this, or at least more books that I was aware of.
Beautiful Music For Ugly Children is the story of Gabe. Gabe was born as Elizabeth but he's been sure for a long time that he's not a girl, he's a boy. The book tells the story of his first steps into transitioning publicly, and the difficulties he faces.
Being bisexual, I could identify with some of what Gabe went through, though only a fraction of it. People find it hard enough to deal with the fact that some people like to sleep with the same gender, let alone the idea that someone might not identify with the parts that they're born with...
I would have liked to see a bit more depth in the book - somehow I was left feeling as though I didn't know Gabe quite as well as I would have liked to, or his family. I loved John and Paige, though, and how supportive they were. A lot of the issues faced in the book are very realistic, too, and incredibly important when I consider the number of hate crimes that people like Gabe are subjected to every year.
Gabe's struggles with his family and public perception made me angry at times, and made me smile at times - it's a good look at the life of a teenager in general, with all its ups and downs.. It's just that Gabe has a lot more weighing on him than most.
I can't say much more, because I don't think I'm the one to judge whether or not this book accurately depicts trans* issues and what it's like to transition. I enjoyed the reading the book, and think that we need more like this. ...more
This book is so sweet, it's like literary cotton candy. Light and fluffy and enjoyable, though possibly not too good for you in large doses.
Avery andThis book is so sweet, it's like literary cotton candy. Light and fluffy and enjoyable, though possibly not too good for you in large doses.
Avery and Aiden have grown up together - almost-twins by virtue of their mothers' close relationships and the fact that they were born on the same day. They're best friends, they do everything togther, they even celebrate their birthdays together. Then suddenly Aiden breaks Avery's heart... He thinks they should stop spending so much time together.
What's a science girl to do? Conduct an experiment to get over it all, clearly.
Problem: One broken heart.
Hypothesis: Conducting an experiment about the stages of grief will help her to get over Aiden.
This book got off to a bit of a rough start with me, mostly because the first few pages had a couple of situations that I found unbelievable. I really hate it when authors use panic or anger to have characters do things that I just don't believe match up with their personalities.
I also don't like it when authors make characters sound older and more mature than they are. For example:
'She translates those feelings of security into being in love with him because it's easier than seeing them for what they really are - a crutch she uses to cope with her shyness and social anxiety issues.'
This just really rubbed me the wrong way. It doesn't sound like something that a teenager would say, especially not one who is more into sports and serial dating than writing up thoughtful analysis of his little brother's best friend. Idk, maybe I'm not being very generous, but it just didn't seem realistic.
HOWEVER. The book turned itself around for me and turned out to be really cute and surprisingly realistic. A bit cliche, but I can deal with that if the writing is engaging enough, and this book was definitely engaging. Grayson is adorable and a pretty sweet guy beneath what he pretends to be, and that's where the dual pov for this book really worked - we got to see inside his head and learn what he was thinking. I appreciated that because so often it's always from the woman's perspective, and it's hard to know when he's being legit and when he just wants to get into her pants. This is especially important when we're dealing with a character as hot and charming as Grayson!
I would have liked a little bit more detail about the friends in the background - especially Owen and Libby. I'm still not quite sure I buy their portrayal, and we didn't really get much of a chance to see Grayson and Avery interact with their friends. It was very much a romance novel in that sense, and it's a pity because I always find that romance novels suffer when they focus only on the couple and not on their friends or their other relationships.
I would have liked to see a bit more into Avery's relationship with Aiden, too. I actually got to see more about why she and Grayson were friends than why she was friends with Aiden, which is funny because he's the character that pretty much sets off everything in the book.
Despite these problems, though, I enjoyed this book. It made me smile more than once, and I enjoyed being taken back to highschool, with all the little social interactions, the worry about grades, the drama, the relationships that come and go in a flash. Grayson and Avery are adorable together and as they both changed each other for the better throughout the course of the novel, it made me smile - no wonder I was rooting for the two of them by the end of the book. What more can you ask for in a romance? ...more
I'll be honest - this is one of those books I picked up because of the cover. :D Isn't it dreamy? I have to admit that it suits the world of the bookI'll be honest - this is one of those books I picked up because of the cover. :D Isn't it dreamy? I have to admit that it suits the world of the book pretty well, too, where everyone is divided into night and day...
This book wasn't quite what I hoped for, though. A bit predictable at times, and it felt as though it stretched on a bit long.
Sol lives with her grandfather, and has a crazy, hare-brained scheme at the beginning of the book - she is going to kidnap her niece so that her dying grandfather can see her before he dies. Only problem? She's a Smudge, a person relegated to nighttime because of the fear of plague, considered inferior in every way, and her niece is a Ray, dweller of daytime.
All of this kicks off a plot of intrigue, baby-napping and oppression, with romance and the importance of family wound in there somewhere. It all gets a bit ridiculous at some points, with the babies involved and a bit of comedy of errors.
The plot is the weakest part of the book, IMO. I can't fault the characterisation - I loved Sol and D'Arcy, and even the secondary characters we meet throughout the book are well developed. Sol's relationships with her brother and grandfather have an intricate, messy background, as so many families do, and D'Arcy's relationship with his family is similar. Along the way we meet characters who are seemingly in conflict with Sol and D'Arcy, but I still liked them - something that is difficult to pull off when it comes to characters that are in conflict with the characters who ther eader is supposed to empathise with.
Sol herself is very real and tangible. She's strong and stubborn, fiercely loyal, she loves her grandfather and even still her brother, in spite of her belief that he has betrayed them. She doesn't shrink away from difficulty or from the obstacles in her path, she thinks quickly on her feet and it's clear from the first that she's not what people expect a 'Smudge' to be, but she's not a glittering perfect woman, either. I liked that.
The romance suffers a bit in comparison - it's based on a history that D'Arcy and Sol have that's a bit shaky, in my opinion. It still works, but I would have liked to see the development be a bit more clear cut in the present, rather than just depending on the past of the two characters. It's far better than many relationships I've read, however, and there are no odes to eye colour or abs to be found, which was nice!
I wasn't sure how much stock I put in the world that Fama has set up, though. Separation by day and night sounds cool in theory, but I wasn't sure how it could be enforced, and Ciel's magical abilities with 'hacking' seemed a bit thin, from my perspective. I guess it's hard to explain that sort of thing but I could understand Sol's irritation with so many people viewing him as some sort of hero...
In spite of my concerns about the plot and worldbuilding, though, I enjoyed the bok overall... And hope there is a sequel, after that ending!
Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review....more
A few months ago I read Fangirl and fell in love with it. I took a look at the page for Eleanor and Park and was disappointed to see soOh, this book.
A few months ago I read Fangirl and fell in love with it. I took a look at the page for Eleanor and Park and was disappointed to see some of the people I respect rating it so poorly, so I put off reading it. Today it came to mind again, though, so I decided to read it, and luckily enough I didn't look at the reviews, which might have put me off again!
I will certainly say that this book isn't an easy read. Nope, it sure isn't. There are a lot of uncomfortable subjects and Park and Eleanor are such teenagers that it hurts sometimes, you just want to smack their heads together and make them realise what's going on.
Eleanor's situation at home is precarious, and on top of that she's cripplingly self conscious about her weight and her looks - with the cherry on top being the fact that she's also the new girl at the school she's going to now.
Park is a slightly awkward Korean teenager, who loves comics and has dubious taste in friends, to be honest, like so many teenage boys out there. When he first meets Eleanor he's almost resentful of her presence in his life - he feels sorry for her, feels a responsibility towards her.
So he offers her a seat beside him on the bus, and that's how things get started.
Here's where I'll stop and say that it's so funny how different people can react so differently to books that they read. At least one review - and maybe more - has made mention of the 'insta-love' trope and it's presence in this book.
I'm going to digress for a moment here. When I was in highschool, I had math class with a boy I'd never really paid attention to before. He had curly dark hair and dark eyes, but he was one of the 'bad boys' and so I'd never really noticed him. We didn't really have any interaction, either, other than this one class together. But fast forward a couple of months, and what had happened? You guessed it: I had a gigantically huge crush on him, so much so that it actually embarrasses me a bit to remember it.
To get back to the story, by my count it's about 50 pages before the romantic feelings start to creep in. That's actually a quarter of the book, and not too bad in my tastes, when it's so obviously written as a romance. At first you just have two characters living parallel to each other, day by day - but then Park notices that she's reading his comics over his shoulder. Eventually he loans her one. They're still not talking at this point. The comic lending continues, and then it progresses to music, and then they start talking, and then one day they hold hands.
At this point there's a mention of Homecoming, so from what I can tell, about two months into school. I don't know, I actually found the whole thing very realistic - hell, as a teenager I saw relationships kindle, flare up and fizzle all in the space of a couple of weeks! I dislike insta-lust, but I don't mind fast-paced love as long as the writing makes me believe it.
As the book continues it lays out a twisting path through the trials and tribulations of growing up and how difficult life can be. Eleanor's lack of self confidence does a number on her relationship with Park more than once, and I had to grit my teeth a few times, seeing the self sabotage but not being able to do anything to stop it. Similarly, Park also puts his foot in his mouth a few times, torn between his feelings for Eleanor and the fact that he's a teenager, and wants to fit in. He has his own issues at home, too - he's different from the other kids, and he's not like his brother, the son his father seems to identify with more.
There are darker undercurrents to this book as well... Put Park's family troubles beside Eleanor's and you instantly see that she is the one who is struggling more. The relationship that Eleanor's mother has with her husband, Richie (Eleanor's stepfather) is not at all a healthy relationship, and as the book winds to a close things escalate and become worse.
If there was one thing I might say I was dissatisfied with, I'd probably say that it was the ending - it left me a bit confused, hoping one thing, wondering about another. It's bittersweet, not neatly tied up in a package - but that does suit the subject matter, and how it is when you're a teenager. ...more
Some authors just seem to *get* what being a teenager is like, and Lauren Oliver is one of those. Although I didn't finish Before I Fall I read enoughSome authors just seem to *get* what being a teenager is like, and Lauren Oliver is one of those. Although I didn't finish Before I Fall I read enough of it to feel that her writing was authentic, and reading it was like reading about real teenagers. Depending on the particular teenager, they might go to the mall, hang out, get into relationships for the wrong reasons, drink beer and make stupid decisions for very dramatic reasons. Depending on the teenager, of course! Hah. I'm sure that some never do any of this at all, but for me, personally, I empathised a lot with the characters in this book. I understood them.
The instant the book opens, the setting is set: we're taken into a gritty small town and the haze of summer, everything covered in a veil of boredom and desperation and cigarette smoke.
Heather and Dodge both have very different reasons for entering into Panic, but you might say that the desperation is equal on both sides. Nothing is skimped on in this tale, and while I'm sure that many will pick this book up for the promise of action and the game, the characterization is just as important, if not more important.
There's a lot of action, never fear - but it's also a story of slow developments and self-discovery, and a look into the realities of life for so many out there. I think small-town people will see a bit of themselves in this book, or anyone who's come from a poorer family, or known one. Everything is vividly depicted, and very true to life, in my opinion. I could see it all - the rundown homes, the trailer park, the drunken parents and the kids who have nothing better to do than hang around and get into too much trouble.
I think what I really liked about this book is the story it tells. It gets into Heather and Dodge's heads and really tells us what makes them tick - and hell, it tells us about Bishop and Val, too. We see their families and where they're coming from, not just how they interact with each other.
So many books tend to focus on the romance or have everyone else fade into the background, Panic does none of that. The friends are not reduced to just background noise, they are there and just as important as well.
As much as this is a book about a game, it's also about many other things. It's a book about love and friendship and betrayal and despair and that drive that so many small town and elsewhere teens have: to do something, to make something of themselves, to distinguish themselves. It's about tangled up relationships and the messes we make just trying to find our way.
The overall game itself was just as interesting - I could identify with it strongly, having come from a small (much smaller, actually, 3000 people) town myself. When you take bored kids with nowhere to go and a drive to get out, you get games like Panic. Nothing was unbelievable, or too farfetched - I could see it all.
People who are looking for nonstop action will probably be disappointed, here, but for me it was just right. Heather and Dodge's story, the relationships, the hints of romance, the game - the combination worked for me. I'd love to see more indepth books like this rather than the scrapings of dystopia so many authors are focusing on right now, full of plotholes and characters who are more like outlines than fully realised people. ...more
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I mean, come on! A girl who can read minds? A gorgeous cover? Count me in, I love that sort ofSigh.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I mean, come on! A girl who can read minds? A gorgeous cover? Count me in, I love that sort of stuff. But instead of the fun book I wanted, I found myself getting increasingly bored/frustrated as the book went on, and I ended up skimming a rather large chunk of it.
That said, I have a feeling that this book should be geared towards the younger end of the YA scale, so people should keep that in mind when considering this book.
There's a lot of stuff about this book that may seem highly unbelievable to anyone who sits and thinks about it a little - everything from the dialogue, the way the teens interact with each other, to the overall world that these characters live in. When I think about it, I'm sure that there are a lot of books that I read when I was younger that didn't really have any sort of logical explanation, but I guess it stands out a lot more when you're rereading the book as an adult.
The idea itself is a good one - take a teen who can see into the future and has a few other powers, and follow her adventures! Add in her friends who have their own abilities and a mysterious father and you have the makings for a fun little romp. Nothing wrong with that.
It's just that the execution is what didn't work for me. For one, the writing made me think a bit of Joss Whedon on overdrive - that patently obvious desire to be cool, to have the sort of language that kids will want to read. Apparently Jillian thinks in constant wisecracks and witticisms, and while I appreciate the humour, after awhile it became a bit grating. Maybe some people think in constant comparisions and stuff, but it just didn't feel realistic for me.
I didn't really like Jillian all that much, if I was honest, though maybe that's just because she's a typical teen: simultaneously full of herself and yet doubting herself all the time. Her characterization was all over the place, for me, and again, the dialogue didn't help when she was being snarky all the time. I love me some snark, but I want to see the true depths of the characters, too, and I didn't feel that there was any real depth to Jillian or her relationships.
There are three other main teen characters in this book besides Jillian, and I didn't really feel that we learned all that much about any of them. We know that she lusts after two of them, and that Roxanne is her best friend, but I would have liked more depth, particularly with Ryan and Jake. I know that instant lust does happen when you're a kid - hey, I was victim of it myself - but there still has to be some sort of connection to justify a relationship. Saying that they all grew up together isn't good enough.
This book also suffers from having, well, too much going on, and not all of it well executed. It revolves a lot around Jillian's missing father and her abilities, but then there's also the abilities that her friends have, angels, a connection to hell, mental connections to phones, etc, etc. It felt very disjointed as I read. Idk. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind, though I kept reminding myself to think of the book as lighthearted and fun.
Several times I found myself questioning just what was going on, or worse - not caring. We didn't learn anything about the true motivations of the story's main villain, or how exactly he was implementing his nefarious plans - it seemed like we were just supposed to accept what was going on without questioning it...
So again, this might be better for the younger end of the YA scale. The premise itself is cute and will appeal to younger readers.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review. ...more
I don't know about you, but I've definitely wondered how I would handle it if I ever lost my memory. I mean, our3.5 stars.
I enjoyed this book!
I don't know about you, but I've definitely wondered how I would handle it if I ever lost my memory. I mean, our memories are such a key part of ourselves, shaping who we are... Are we ourselves without them? Do we become someone different, or just what we could have been, if things had been different?
Those are the sorts of questions Don't Look Back made me think of as I was reading, taken into the life of a teenaged girl whose life has been turned upside down. Found scratched and battered at the side of a road, Samantha's memories are gone, her best friend is missing, and she's not really sure who she is or if she likes herself, for that matter.
Now, this book isn't short on cliches. Girl with amnesia, check. Turns out she's rich, popular and pretty, check. Dreamy boyfriend, check. Lingering tension and drama and suspense, check. I could go on.
Added to that is a heroine that doesn't quite click the way that she could have. I think the biggest weakness in this book, for me, lay in my struggle to understand the seeming depth of Samantha's change from who she was before. I did a quick google and it seems as though deep personality changes are unlikely after amnesia, so my instincts weren't too far off - I think that was the part that consistently drew me out of this book a bit.
In spite of that, however, I still enjoyed a lot about this book. The strength of the relationships that Sam forms are very much what carried it for me - Scott is loveable, Carson is smoking hot, and Julie is a sweetheart. They all help Samantha find her way forward in their own ways, and I thoroughly enjoyed them all. Through her connections to them we hear her voice her fears, her worries, and we see her start to find who she is again, and form new relationships. It was one of the strongest parts of the book, for me.
The obvious character arc for Samantha was also a pleasure to read, if not as deep as I might have liked. Her confusion, fear and frustration are clearly written and had me engaged, feeling sympathetic for her as she dealt with a situation that seemed, at times, to be akin to being thrown into the deep end with a bunch of sharks. If a book is going to be cliched, I at least expect it to make me empathise with the main character and understand them, and Armentrout succeeds on that point.
This is the second book that I've read recently that also touches on an important question we need to examine: how people become who they are. How do friendships fall apart, marriages rot from the inside? How do teenaged girls morph into those catty 'mean-girls' we all know so well? That's touched on here and I really enjoyed it. I think the paintbrush we use to paint teenagers is a bit wide at times and it's important to remember that there's depth to everyone, even if we can't or don't want to see it.
The undercurrent of tension running through the book is, of course, part of what kept me going - the desire to know what had happened, how things had gone so wrong, and in a way, to understand who Samantha was before. Dribs and drabs of that come out throughout the book, and I will say that I quite admire the twist that came in the last few pages. It kept me guessing, but the foreshadowing is there... Will it be obvious to other readers? I don't know. I will just say that my idea of what had happened turned out to be wrong, surprisingly enough.
So, the verdict? If I had to sum it up, I'd say that this is a fun, sexy little book. If you like mystery, drama and a bit of romance, it's worth checking out.
An ARC was provided in advance by the publisher in return for an honest review....more
A sweet coming of age story about a boy struggling to deal with both his newfound sexuality and an overbearing but loving family.
I enjoyed this book,A sweet coming of age story about a boy struggling to deal with both his newfound sexuality and an overbearing but loving family.
I enjoyed this book, it was cute. I'm trying to read more books that touch on what it's like to be anything other than straight as a teenager, and I liked the take the author took, here: Alek hasn't ever really thought about his sexuality until he meets Ethan and his mind starts wandering.
The family dynamic is really interesting, here, and I can see the 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' appeal. I can't particularly speak to the accuracy, but I liked the touches the author added of what it was like for Alek to grow up in his particular family, and the unique issues it presented for him. Sometimes books can be very white-suburbanite focused, and I welcomed the difference, here.
The relationship in the book was interesting, and I liked how it was presented - the juxtaposition between Ethan and Alek, how Alek actually thought that Ethan was homophobic at first, the build-up between the two of them. I particularly liked the backstory that Ethan was given, the way the author avoided the temptation of just having a 'hot love interest'.
I think I would have liked a little bit more, though. It felt as though things moved very fast, and a little bit more depth would have been nice to see, particularly with Alek and his best friend. There was an obvious undercurrent to the story there that was never really addressed, and while it was clear to me, as the reader, I'm not sure that Alek ever really understood it. A missed opportunity for character and friendship development, in my opinion.
I also felt that the last part of the book was rushed in terms of Alek's relationship to this family and how they were going to move forward. I expected the conflict to go on a bit more and involve more than it did, and the ease with which it was solved sucked out some of the emotional heft that the book could have had, for me. Not that I think that all coming out stories can or should be difficult, but when it was clear that Alek's parents had their issues with it, I think that more could have been done, there. The realism was tarnished a bit when it seemed like within a few pages, all the conflict had been sorted out. It's not necessarily that easy outside of the books of this novel!
Overall, though, a sweet story that I think is worth a read. We need more stories like this, and I think they're quite important.
Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review....more
A cute, fun little book. Definitely skewed a bit towards the young end of the YA scale, but I still enjoyed it.
What happened when a group of teens, hA cute, fun little book. Definitely skewed a bit towards the young end of the YA scale, but I still enjoyed it.
What happened when a group of teens, hopped up on hormones and highschool angst, get the flu shot and suddenly become telepathic?
The short answer is a lot of drama.
The perspective in this book jumps around a bit, which I found a little disconcerting though it works in the overall concept of the book. We go from one kid's head to another, and there are a lot of different kids involved in the story, as well, which makes it a little confusing to follow.
Right off the bat there's a lot of angst. Who likes who? Who's smart and who's not? Who's cheating on their boyfriend? Who's shy? Who's snarky behind their friends' backs? And of course, with telepathy comes the drama surrounding everyone else - the parents, the other students at the school.
There were a couple of characters who I really enjoyed reading about - Olivia and Tessa stood out, in part because I could empathise with them moreso than some of the others. That's probably going to be true of a lot of readers - when you have so many characters in one book, different ones are going to speak to different people. Tessa's storyline in particular made me smile.
The one thing I'll say about this book, is that nobody should expect any big insightful answers as to the why of it. The answers are very superficial, but the book's not really about that, anyway - it's about being a teenager and all the problems that come along with it, and dealing with ESP on top of it. It's about the fluidity of highschool and how things can change from day to day even without mindreading going on. The book is also realistic about the amount of sex and cheating and drama that actually goes on when you're a teenager, and I appreciated that - I'm all for media that embraces the reality that teens live with.
I'd probably recommend this most for teens.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review. ...more
Oh, this book. At times I wanted to throw it across the room, but in spite of that it does have a touch of that good old magic embedded in it.
ImagineOh, this book. At times I wanted to throw it across the room, but in spite of that it does have a touch of that good old magic embedded in it.
Imagine a modern day retelling of Peter Pan, except with the magic of the sea and beach thrown in along with some adolescent hormones and a hint of tragedy. Stir it all together and you get this book.
I think Alyssa Sheinmel does a fairly good job of capturing some of the magic of Wendy's story. Flying off to Neverland is replaced with escaping to the beach and endless summer days, sun and sand and surf mixing together to form a magical haven that becomes Wendy's escape throughout the story.
This is most definitely no children's fairy-tale, and the focus isn't so much on romance, either, if that is what some people are looking for or expecting. Instead this is Wendy's journey, and the lines become a little blurry at times - reality versus fantasy, truth versus lies. What does it all mean, anyway? How do we know what's true and what isn't?
There is a definite sweet lyricism to the book, that fairytale blur that makes it easy to read - you can almost imagine yourself paddling out into the ocean to catch a wave, riding a wave so high you feel like you're flying to a magical place where nothing ever goes wrong. There are dark places, though - the moment the wave pulls you under, the harshness of grief, and Wendy struggles to adjust to the idea that maybe she didn't know her brothers as well as she thought she did.
There are moments in the book that are very frustrating, I will say - on the one hand, Wendy is true to that spirit of adventure and leaving at a moment's notice, and I have no doubt that she worries her friends and family. On the other hand, I found myself very frustrated with her parents and her supposed best friend, Fiona - they aren't nearly as loving as I would have expected them to be, nor as supportive. They seem quick to distrust and their reaction to Wendy's problems made me uncomfortable and very protective on her behalf because they seem to just want to pack her off to be fixed.
The ending is both frustrating, perplexing and fitting all at the same time. I am still not entirely sure whether I liked it, though it does leave all paths open, which I appreciated. It reminded me a bit of some episodes of TV shows that I have watched, where the question of reality is brought up and makes the viewer wonder just what went on...
I think that some people will probably downright dislike the ending, but I think I'm all right with the ambiguity... After all, isn't Neverland all about imagination, the possibility of things? What's real and what isn't real...or is the story really about what you learn along the way?
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review....more