What a wonderfully mistitled book! I spent 80% of the book wondering where the girl with the great personality was. I spent the last 20% wondering wheWhat a wonderfully mistitled book! I spent 80% of the book wondering where the girl with the great personality was. I spent the last 20% wondering where the resolution between the abusive mother and daughter was. I spent 100% of the book enjoying the voice, and 0% of it enjoying the "girls who wear makeup are fake bitches with fake personalities" nonsense.
Yo, when a girl outs someone at a part for having an eating disorder, the whole "great personality" thing kinda becomes irrelevant....more
I think Patrick Jones might be an example of a writer whose writing I don't really connect with. There's a lot that happens, there are some run-of-theI think Patrick Jones might be an example of a writer whose writing I don't really connect with. There's a lot that happens, there are some run-of-the-mill characters. But I know when I was 13/14, I probably would have loved this. ...more
This book came from, then went in, a completely different direction than what I was expecting. I mean, the summary is fairly obvious. And in a way, IThis book came from, then went in, a completely different direction than what I was expecting. I mean, the summary is fairly obvious. And in a way, I think I wanted it to be that sort of carbon-copy book that's out there about teenagers in abusive relationships. But the coolest thing? Like, really super cool? It's not like that at all.
Rae's a sweet girl brimming with the need to do something good. She works part-time at a flower shop and sticks her money to the side. She needs a ticket to get out of her crummy household, with a neglectful mother and emotionally (and physically) volatile step-father. Rae comes across as sort of the everygirl at first -- someone we could all relate to, someone we could all see a bit of ourselves in. With all that nervous energy, she writes poetry that's incredibly telling of her state of mind.
This is one of the first things that really sold the book for me. If you're not familiar with Lisa Schroeder, she has written a number of (really good) novels in verse. They're really great, but they obviously have a polished, streamlined quality to them that you don't expect from a teenager. So while it's fine to read about them in verse, having a teenage girl write such awesome poetry would stick out. But Rae's is true to life, not the worst I've ever read, but definitely believably juvenile. And by the way, if you haven't read Chasing Brooklyn, you should.
Anyhow, enters Nathan. Right off the bat, Rae is worried and skeptical about this kid. He's aggressive from the start, has a mouth on him -- and even she admits that she doesn't know if she should slap him or laugh with him. But it's that kind of affection and attention, where he's calling her beautiful and making her feel wanted, that gets through to her. All those nerves working through her body, the months and years of being ignored by her mother and yelled at by her step-father, take a backseat to feel even just a little good about herself.
But it doesn't last, and the doubt Rae had at first comes to a head. She sees Nathan for what he is, a stalkery, creepy, angry person who needs help that she can't provide. But when he throws out phrases suggesting he'd hurt himself if she stops being there for him, she concedes and sticks by him. And though it's hard to read and you want to push Rae in the direction she's leaning, it's true to life.
Let me make it clear, at no point are Nathan's actions made to be anything but creepy and overwhelming. Faulting Rae for her reactions to his reactions is outlandish and downright wrong. People don't always have the resources -- emotionally, physically, to get up and leave someone toxic behind. Nathan doesn't want to give up that comfort he created in his own mind, and he makes damn well sure everyone's aware. Rae has a hard time deciding what to do, and eventually gathers the courage and strength to handle it on her own terms.
Some of that strength comes from the light inside of her, some of it comes from the encouragement she gets from her friends -- especially Leo, the ridiculously caramel sweet coffee shop boy. I've never liked a book boy like I've liked Leo, both wanting to pat him on the head, and wanting to giggle at him for being silly. Leo is such a sharp, albeit slow-moving contrast to the impulsive and dangerous Nathan. Leo's earnest and cute, he's there for Rae, and most of all, he doesn't solve all of her problems. Leo is not the one who saves Rae from the cruelties of the people around her.
It's all Rae -- and it has a lot to do with what she does at work. I don't want to go into detail into that, because all of it was a pleasant surprise for me. But she delivers flowers to people, and it's actually a little inspiring how Rae takes some "random" acts of kindness and passes it on the the people she goes to school with. This isn't the story of a girl in a crappy relationship at all. This is the story of Rae's darkness, and her trying to battle it with light, just like it says in the summary. It's heartwarming and inspiring, but definitely not over-the-top or saccharine. The author takes the same care she does with her verse novels -- and although I think I do like those a little more, I absolutely enjoyed this book.
That being said, if you liked Jennifer Brown's Bitter End, you might like Falling For You. But if you liked 40 Things I Want to Tell You, take a look at Falling For You. There are some similarities between the characters and their circumstances that would make for happy readers. ...more
A.S. King is very good at presenting really boring main characters and making everything happen around them. I wish I could say that this book was beaA.S. King is very good at presenting really boring main characters and making everything happen around them. I wish I could say that this book was beautifully written or provocative or anything like that, but it was just another coming out (more like forced out) story of a girl in a small town with a small-minded family.
I was really unimpressed with this one, with the family dynamics especially. Astrid was just... it's not that she wasn't very likeable (she wasn't, she was terrible), it's just that she wasn't anything. She just existed.
Books involving fat protagonists are an incredibly hard sell for me. I've never read a YA book that got it right without sensationalizing it, or grossBooks involving fat protagonists are an incredibly hard sell for me. I've never read a YA book that got it right without sensationalizing it, or grossly exaggerating some of the more "disgusting" details just for shock value. Empty's one of those books, and it made me vaguely uncomfortable the entire time I was reading it. Not the "good" sort of uncomfortable, where you want to keep reading and be unsettled, but the bad kind of uncomfortable, where you can tell you're reading a book by someone who doesn't get it. If you spent your teenage years (or any years) being fat, I think you might understand. The way it's portrayed across the board is frustrating and makes you wonder if the people responsible have ever spent any time with someone that's fat.
It's hard not to look at books a little personally when they're on things that you've experienced. For me, Empty didn't feel real. At all. Dell's attitude and character was completely wrapped in the the fact that she'd gone from a size 10 to a size 24 in a short time, and her every waking second was consumed by the experience of being fat. There seems to be nothing else in Dell's life other than her god-awful attitude, her shallow emotions, and oh, right she can sing. Because Dell fits right into the mold of countless other weak YA books in which the character is defined by two things:
1. Their "issue" 2. Their one hobby
It happens in books all the time, and it's something I've grown wary of over the years. It feels like they're produced on an assembly line. Take some issue that teenagers can relate to, and pick one thing they can be good at. Mix together some emotions, and you've got a protagonist who doesn't reflect either with any accuracy. The "issue" seems wooden, and the "hobby" comes off planned, expected even. Teens are not defined by their issues, and I wish that books would stop letting this happen. They're not defined by their one or two hobbies (unless those hobbies are really that they're elite gymnasts or Olympic-level athletes, and even then, Lauren Tanner liked scheming as much as she likes gymnastics).
Dell has gained a significant amount of weight, and her parents are horrible to her. Dad abandoned her, and Mom is more interested in her pills than her daughter. But they both have plenty of time to snap at their daughter and remind her that she's fat. Really, everyone is horrible to her. Being fat has stripped all of Dell's self-confidence, her voice, her ability to control her emotions and her physical nature. Being fat takes up all of Dell's life and time, being fat takes up every page of this book. It takes up emotional space, it takes up all of the conversations she has, it weighs on Dell's mind every second of every day -- and that's not supposed to be a cute joke about being fat. There is nothing to her character the doesn't revolve around it, and we're reminded all the time.
That's not how being fat works. Even for a teenage girl. It's like the book is about Dell's fat, rather than Dell. I'm not griping because it's not sending the right "message" to readers, I'm bothered because it's an inauthentic portrayal of a young girl that creates a wall between the character and the reader. If K.M. Walton wanted to tell the story of a bullied, misunderstood, broken young girl as she states in her saccharine author's note, she failed. She told a story about a teenager's fat body, and how it ruined everything.
We have a plot to the story that will remind the avid YA reader of several other books that came first. Dell is sexually assaulted by her friend's boyfriend. The second people find out, they turn their bully radar to her and make her life a living hell. To that note, what I did like about this book is that we are reminded, finally, that survivors of these types of assault are not just one type of person -- despite what TV and movies and other books would like us to believe, it happens to any kind of person, not just "the beautiful people." I think that if the author had focused more on that than the other things I've talked about, this book would have been so much stronger. If Dell was given a character, rather than an issue, it could have worked.
As much as that might have been important for the author to get out in the open, it's hidden under miles of things that make Dell, and the story, completely unlikable. There's a talent showcase, Dell's supposed to sing for it. Her best friend's on the verge of ditching her for the popular crowd. Because we are firmly in YA land, where this happens to every other girl. It's not just Dell whose character suffers. Her best friend is portrayed as weak-minded and vapid, like so many other "best friends" before her.
Empty is at its core, a story that pulls the melodramatic bits and pieces from other books, and attempts to make them its own. This can work. Unfortunately, the writing is not strong enough to make this one stand out, the wooden characters are effortlessly forgettable, and the ending? Yeah, the title is rather accurate....more
Over-the-top, heavy-handed writing style. Boring. Fumbling, bumbling switching of perspective. Attempt at "graphic honesty" read more like a 14-yr-oldOver-the-top, heavy-handed writing style. Boring. Fumbling, bumbling switching of perspective. Attempt at "graphic honesty" read more like a 14-yr-old's bad attempt to gross-out his little sister.
Bland, no spice, not even dollar store black pepper....more
Literary style YA is difficult to find. In the past few years where I've read book after book, there are so few that I can think of that swing that waLiterary style YA is difficult to find. In the past few years where I've read book after book, there are so few that I can think of that swing that way -- the sadder part is that so few of them do it well, or are memorable. There is usually such a focus on young voice and identifiable plot that one author's style melts into another. There's so little attention paid to the beauty of words alone -- and that's fine, and that works. But with Amelia Anne, you get beautiful writing, an interesting plot, and a great story. That's the kind of thing I wish we could find some more of in YA -- not edgy for the sake of edgy, but thoughtful and pointed.
While the characters are interesting and very young, it is hard to talk about them without talking about the plot and the themes. The book is largely about freedom -- freedom to leave, to stay, to come back. Small towns are famous for that dilemma. I came from a small town too, and I know I'll never go back. Once I got my first whiff of Cheerios in Buffalo, I was sold. When you exit a small town, people talk. People harbor resentment -- and that is a large part of what happens. Becca hasn't left yet, but she's about to, and the people around her have already started the process of pulling away. No one wants to believe that there are people who don't want to come back to a place you're rooted in.
Becca has her sights set on a future, but that future is never fully dissected. She wants to leave for the sake of leaving, not being trapped. It's good enough for a reader to acknowledge, but I wonder what we could have gotten out of a deeper understanding of her character? She spends so much time in her head, thinking, obsessing, furiously trying to figure out the answers to questions that aren't hers to ask. "Her" part of the book focuses so much on everyone else that in the end, and that's a weakness that keeps you from getting to know her as well as you could have. I wanted her to get out of town because she wanted to get out of town -- but also because everyone else did, too.
In the other narrative, we have a voice that is altogether too close to Mary Alice Young from Desperate Housewives. If you're familiar with that show, you will know what I mean. Yes, in the end, small towns are known for... and the repetition of this really yanked me out and made me think we were reading some hokey Gray's Anatomy / Deperate Housewives ending monologue. Amelia's story was very much the same at Becca's, but handled so differently. I won't spoil it, but the end of her story obviously ties us to the beginning of Renee's. And I wonder again, of we knew more about Amelia, would it matter more in the end? Would we really know who she was? We never got to, and so all of the beautiful writing feels almost like a trick.
Although you may know from the start what happened (it is not explicitly said until the end, but you see the clues and you know that things are up), the journey you take with Becca to get there is worth the rest of the story. She has such a hard time breaking through to who she has to be, and breaking through her conceptions of the people around her -- and maybe she knew the entire time and was afraid to look at the facts. Rosenfield builds tension very well with the short, quick-paced chapters and Becca's growing paranoia. It keeps you going, even if the style doesn't hook you like it might for others.
I wasn't sold by some of the details -- on how Amelia died, on who "killed" her, on how exactly it happened or the consequences therein. Some of it sticks out as a cop-out, as too "easy" for such a strong set ups. While I found that disappointing, it doesn't ruin the experience.
But I assure you, you're not going to pick the book up for the plot -- and when you read it, you'll be pleasantly surprised....more
I shouldn’t have liked this book as much as I did. There are some parts that are traditionally things that drive me up the wall with books, but with tI shouldn’t have liked this book as much as I did. There are some parts that are traditionally things that drive me up the wall with books, but with this, it faded away.
Gray is a sweet guy, a little egotistical, and without direction for a great part of this. After the death of his sister Amanda, he’s stuck in a depression that clouds up the greater part of his daily life. He stuck to home to watch over his parents, who aren’t emotionally available to him, forsaking his athletic scholarship opportunities. He needs someone to be around, other than himself and his slow-moving parents. He is essentially waiting for something to happen.
Then enters Dylan. She is the reason I shouldn’t have liked this so much. Dylan is very much a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, the trope that puts me off fiction and movies. If you’re unfamiliar, the MPDG exists solely as a mechanism to open the main, male character up and show him how wonderful and magical life can truly be. She’s typically eccentric, off-the-wall, goes against the grain without trying, and can’t be captured by one person’s wants. In Dylan's case, she doesn’t seem to exist outside the realm of Gray. All of her scenes in the book revolve around Gray, and we never get to see her for herself. Even in the end, when they are apart, she gravitates toward Gray like he’s the only thing that matters.
There are a few reasons that alone didn’t turn me off, where it has in several other cases. The setting in this book, the southwest, is brilliantly done. Dylan and Gray don’t just look out the windows at the mountains and complain about the heat. They experience the setting, and Kacvinsky’s handling of the terrain is beautifully written without being over the top. Anyone who has been in this general neck of the US would understand how enchanting and beautiful certain places are -- they go to Sedona! But somehow, they don’t make it to the Grand Canyon. None of this is heavy-handed or annoying, and it’s woven so well into the narrative that you can’t wait to find out where Dylan takes Gray next.
Setting alone isn’t enough to keep me going for an entire novel. Realistically handling a relationship like Gray and Dylan’s could have been difficult. They fall in love fast (although it feels like it takes longer), but it’s not starstruck, love at first sight. It’s companionship -- most people crave this companionship, most people aim for it in love, and these two nail it. They spend a little too much time together, but what else do they have to do?
The little things they do for one another are sweet -- mix CDs, a shelter pet, road trips, and finally, they have sex. Then they have a lot of sex. Which is utterly realistic, but it reminds us how quickly these two fell for each other and became completely wrapped up together. A life outside of the other would have been great -- especially in Dylan's case, because we know that Gray's is sidelined at the moment.
Then that comes, and it is what cured the issues I had with this book. Dylan isn’t ready to settle down because she’s got a lot of fluttering around to do. At the end of this whirlwind romance, the two go their separate ways. For one party, it’s more unwilling than the other. But deep down, neither is willing to let go of the idea that they belong together. In the end, it’s up to them to decide if the feelings are enough.
First Comes Love would appeal to the same crowd as Tammara Weber's Easy, and maybe to fans of lighter romance. If you've never been to Arizona, I'd recommend reading this. It'll make you want to take a trip to see some places, and you'll be surprised at how accurately they are depicted....more