I found myself super charmed by this book. At times, Juliet's narrative got a little boring, and there were slow parts to it, but I genuinely enjoyedI found myself super charmed by this book. At times, Juliet's narrative got a little boring, and there were slow parts to it, but I genuinely enjoyed the book. Longer review coming!...more
I read this book last year, just about the week it came out. I was excited for a Meg Wolitzer YA, excited because the cover has the Joy Division shirtI read this book last year, just about the week it came out. I was excited for a Meg Wolitzer YA, excited because the cover has the Joy Division shirt on it (it's the little things...) and excited because the story sounded great.
So here's the deal. The writing isn't the most authentic. It's not the best writing. I'm not going to argue with anyone. It does, at times, feel like this is very much an adult trying to appeal to kids. But the thing is, there's so much more to this book than than. Some of the dialogue is weird, and some of the characters kind of leave you guessing because there's really not too much development for them.
But where this book gets things right? The part everyone seems to really hate, I think. That the "twist" so to speak involves us finding out that a lot of Jam's pain is there because of something she made up in her head.
And I loved it.
Because there's a line, early on, when the kids are discussing the tragic things they've gone through while they're meeting all huddled around the candle. I don't remember who says it, but someone says "I feel awful, this isn't as serious as the things you guys went through." And someone says, "But it's the worst thing that's ever happened to you."
That's the whole thing. It's the whole thing that matters. Jam's situation isn't the worst thing that's happened to anyone, but it's the worst thing that's happened to her. And that's the thing that matters. That's the whole point. The things she's made up in her head, the lies she's been living and telling, she knows in the back of her mind that she couldn't face the reality of her "relationship" with Reeve.
There are so many clues to this, too. So many clues about the relationship not being everything we're made to think it is. The way Reeve acts in Belzhar, for one. Andd when she tells us in the beginning all of the things, like the party and everything else, it's so obvious and it's right there and you know this is going to turn out badly for her. The way she acknowledges her relationship with Sierra so early on, that they're becoming best friends when we haven't seen anything to clue us into it.
What I love about this book is that this is something that happens. This happens to people. They fixate on things and people. They create scenarios on their own and they get lost in the possibilities that aren't real. It happens, and it's stressful and it's hurtful to be pulled out of it, to have to finally face reality. So while she didn't get into a major car accident, while she didn't have her brother abducted, and she didn't leave a barn to go up in flames, what she experienced was still valid. It just wasn't real.
I love the way this was presented, love the fact that it is so uncommong to see these kinds of things really talked about. And maybe I can identify with it in a way, but that's so not to point. The point is that everyone always focuses on what they feel to be valid reasons to be depressed, to have mental illness issues.
But sometimes, they just exist. And that's all there is to it. And those stories are just as valid, just as serious, as the ones where deaths and accidents happens. ...more
What resonates the most with this book for me is that it holds only one thing back from the reader: a graphic depiction of Valerie’s assault itself. WWhat resonates the most with this book for me is that it holds only one thing back from the reader: a graphic depiction of Valerie’s assault itself. We are given details without force, without dramatic effect, and with almost a clinical style. Given the nature of the story, and the title I was surprised by that. Not just surprised, but pleased. If there is one thing that would make me uncomfortable, it’s reading through a scene like that. I’m happy that the author spared us that. So when Valerie is raped by her crush the day after she hosts a party, if the reader is familiar with how these things are treated at all, a knot forms in the stomach. Valerie speaks up, and this is the story of what happens after
There is nothing held back in terms of frankness. We’re pulled through small details that might be ignored during any other book -- the rape kit, the questioning, and the awkward meetings with the principal are two examples. It’s handled with a cautiousness and care that doesn’t skim on the reality of the situation. If you were a teenager who had never read any other YA book on rape or sexual assault, this would be an interesting starting point. However, this is not a book I would recommend you start out with.
The frankness in Rape Girl book lacked emotions that tied the situations together. With 126 pages to work with, and a story to be told, something needed to be cut. Unfortunately for the reader, the emotional connection between us and Valerie is the choice. While we see what Valerie is going through, and we ultimately sympathize with the situation, it’s hard to empathize. It’s easy to feel the rage from her interactions with her classmates -- and especially her “best friend,” who turns her back on Valerie rather quickly. We understand the betrayal Valerie must be experiencing it, but it’s unclear if Valerie feels it herself.
What stings the most might not be her family, or her friends, but the way the principal talks to her. Valerie’s rapist is an athlete, a popular guy, That Kid. The principal makes it clear that they stand behind That Kid, and force Valerie to be the one to adapt around the changes that must be made. It’s infuriating, especially since we know it happens in real life. All the time. I think the strength of this book is how Alina Klein makes the reader react to what’s happening -- that uneasy feeling stays with us the entire time.
We’re introduced to a new character in Valerie’s counseling program. I can’t decide what’s more bizarre -- her obvious over-the-top personality, or the fact that she mixes her English and Spanish together. Both make me wonder how much Latin@ culture Alina Klein is familiar with, outside the realm of what exists in the media. Regardless of that, the new friend brings some form of connection forth with Valerie, and forced her to confront a few different things. But as I’ve made clear, 126 pages is not enough time for Valerie’s experiences to make an impact.
The lack of emotional connection with Valerie is where this one fell flat for me, though. She goes through the motions, but we’re never really there with her. Everything that changes for Valerie -- the scope of her family, the school, and we just never feel that connection. After I finished, Valerie faded away. Parts of her character didn’t linger. When I’m reading about something rough, I need to know what the character feels. Otherwise, it’s like I’m reading a news report. Valerie went to school. Her classmates bullied her. The principal was awful to her. There needs to be more. In reality, this book needed to be twice as long. Too much happens to Valerie for 126 pages of text.
While I understand where the book is coming from, I don’t think I would recommend this one to teenagers who want to understand. There needed to be more heart, more emotion, and more understanding....more
Have you ever read a book that was a complete and utter train wreck, but for whatever reason, you would feel bad if you stopped reading it? The UnquieHave you ever read a book that was a complete and utter train wreck, but for whatever reason, you would feel bad if you stopped reading it? The Unquiet was one of those books for me. I had a hard time committing myself to finishing the book, and mostly it was because it was a NetGalley, and I’d feel bad if I didn’t review it in the end.
The Unquiet is another book that grossly sensationalizes mental illness, turning it into the butt of numerous jokes throughout the story. Rinn is a boring, bland, run-of-the-mill, bratty, “look how angry I am at the world” teenage whose only defining characteristics are that she is The New Girl, and she has a mental illness. She treats her mother like garbage, treats the people around her like they’re disposable, is judgmental, picky, frustrating, and at no time during this book do I stop feeling annoyed at her and start caring about what happens to her. There is absolutely nothing, whatsoever, that makes her the kind of character that I want to follow around for an entire book. Instead of being the strong, loud, bold protagonist she was intended to be, Rinn falls into the trap of being snarky and predictable.
So then we have all of the other characters -- a bunch of snotty little bullies who make fun of one another, their classmates, and at times, Rinn. We’re to believe that this group of “Mean Girls” just accepts Rinn, despite the depths Rinn goes to in order to “stand out.” Somehow, Rinn also doesn’t mind the fact that these girls are incredibly rude and not even very nice to herself -- which makes me wonder... what’s the point? Rinn tries to stop the girls from picking on one of the classmates, but even so, it doesn’t stop her from associating with them.
Rinn also strikes up a romance with the first guy she sees, who just so happens to be the son of her mother’s ex-boyfriend. How coincidental. There is not much to suggest that there is any reason chemistry between the two, aside from a few scenes where they talk, and that alone isn’t enough for me to understand why they were “together” in the first place, if not solely for furthering the plot. The romance is stale, and you’re left to wonder: what are supposed to get out of this? Rinn opens up to him, but again, why?
If it sounds like I’m being hypercritical here, perhaps I am. I take issue with books that grossly sensationalize mental illness, turn them into the butt of a joke, or a plot point related to paranormal or spiritual happenings. There is so little respect paid to people who manage mental illnesses every day, and to have some bratty teenager bouncing around making jokes about how she’s “crazy” and all of the off-putting ALL CAPS I NEED MY MEDS statements, I’m completely put off. It reeks of LiveJournal circa 2003. Not to mention, the explanations of the symptoms of her illness are told in such force that it reads as though she’s reading from an old textbook. The fact that she doesn’t even take her own illness seriously, making glib comments about hallucinations and acting like it’s all one big ol’ joke the whole time is completely off-putting.
But to make matters worse, we don’t get a glimpse of what Rinn was like before. We find out what happened with Rinn and her Grandmother, and we know how heavy a weight she carries with her because of it. But we also don’t get to know the intricacies of her mental illness, we don’t get to know how it started, how she felt, or anything like that. Further on, we find that she actually enjoys her manic episodes. That is, of course, fairly common -- and the reason for that is typically that the person doesn’t even know that there is something wrong. They might not want to ever come down, because it all feels so good. In that aspect, the writer absolutely gets it right. But I’m still not sold on Rinn’s relationship with her mental illness, or her medication routine. But we don’t get to know much about Rinn aside from a few instances where her illness took over her life, and we need to.
The sensationalizing of her illness comes at the cost of ignoring all options to give Rinn some real character. When you spend so much time establishing that a character has a mental illness, and it becomes the defining characteristic, or what comes across as the sole purpose of their existence or being a character in a book, you’ve turned it into a spectacle. You’ve made it into Bipolar Disorder: Look How Quirky It Can Be! Doesn’t Rinn, or any other character, deserve to be known for more than just her mental illness? What truly bothers me is that the author even says that she works for a hospital
Writers, even teenage girls, are more than just one defining characteristic. I beg you to stop making one thing stand out about them, whether it’s a hobby, a quirk, or an event that once happened to them.
The mystery aspect of this, with the ghost and Annaliesse and what was glaringly obvious the entire time. We knew from that start what really happened all those years ago, and that made this a complete and utter flop for me. When a character comes into an on-going situation and fits into it perfectly from the start, you’re selling your entire story short. Things shouldn’t stack up that neatly. There shouldn’t be that much of a coincidence from the very start. We shouldn’t have a clear scope of who “the bad guys” are in the first two chapters alone.
Maybe I’m just growing tired of the new kid fitting in from the start, because it doesn’t mimic reality. Rinn forces herself to hang out with a throng of girls who she doesn’t really get along with. She doesn’t try to find herself a group of people she cares about, she simply snaps at them, bites at them, and forces herself on the outside. Some could argue that’s just the character, but given the rest of her traits, is that realistic?
There are few moments in the book where I felt something -- Tasha’s scene, for example. I don’t think I’ve cringed so hard in my life, imagining it as it unfolded. Some of the scenes where the characters appear “possessed” by Annaliese are captivating, and I believe that’s what pulled me through the remainder of the book....more
Young adult books so rarely focus on the relationships with parents or siblings that when they come around, it’s almost certain I’m going to be reallyYoung adult books so rarely focus on the relationships with parents or siblings that when they come around, it’s almost certain I’m going to be really into them. Often times, they’re cast aside to take a look at the new boy, or examine the best friends. But here we have young Caro, full of attitude and feigned sarcasm, who is struggling to find where she fits in her own family after her ghost of a sister returns from a convent.
Yes. A convent. Unfortunately, that is where I had difficulty hanging on. Nuns and convents are a concept I struggle to regard with much sincerity. I don’t mean any disrespect to any religious folks who might be reading this, it’s just that religion has never been a part of my life. It was always there, and someone else kept it around, but I never really asked why. But thankfully, there is no alienating language or deep religious symbolism or anything like that, so someone like me isn’t left in the cold. What that means for my reading of the book is probably something much different than what someone else might take in, though. If religions and god and nuns are something that is important you, you will find a stronger connection with that aspect of the book, and I think that’s great.
Caro is comprised of run of the mill teenager, two underdeveloped sidekick best friends, a boy, and one hell of a nasty attitude. At times I couldn't actually understand where all the attitude was coming from -- not just from Caro, but her equally icy parents. The mechanical way she greeted them with typical teenager attitude was full on irritating by the second time she griped about doing her chores.
This was an unfortunate trade-off -- there was no common connection between them, there were no soft moments that didn’t focus around “Caro, be nice to your sister!” It was all cold. They were by no means abusive or anything like that, but they weren’t very friendly or open with her. But that’s how some families are, and it’s interesting to read a depiction that still involves them, but doesn’t turn them into an after school special. I had a hard time connecting with Caro, but I don’t think that teenaged readers would. There is a lot that’s appealing about her – she’s having a hard time adjusting, she’s dealing with having said goodbye to her sister and then having her show up again, etc. It’s not that she’s not well-developed, it’s just that there’s only so much of the teenage attitude and angst that I can hang onto, most of the time.
Pawel is a stand-out character in this book, for me. He is the new guy who hones in on the first girl he meets, and that might be a turn-off for some people. But we learn a lot about his family, and where is loyalties are. He's a nice guy, and he is forgiving when it comes to Caro's inability to be honest. I did appreciate that this book kept a minimum on the physical affection, because it would have been otherwise out of place. The romantic tension between the two of them is there, but it doesn’t become A Big Deal. There are so many other things to focus on in the book. Instead, we get to focus on him as a character, as a person, and as a factor in what helps Caro cope with the changes in her life.
But out of everyone, Hannah is the real major depressive episode star of the book. There is a big secret -- and for once, I don't necessarily feel cheated about what the secret is -- and there are reasons for her sudden arrival back home. She's so distant from everyone in her family, and while you want to see her improve, she doesn't. She goes deeper inside herself while Caro tries her hardest to be a sister for the first time. It’s difficult to pinpoint when Caro’s change of heart came around, but it did, and it might have been out of left field. One second she’s muttering under her breath that she won’t apologize to her sister for lying about her, the next she’s taking her to get a haircut. It’s unclear what breaks through her exterior, but it was nice to see it happen.
The mystery aspect of this is why I love Anna Jarzab’s writing. Her last book, ALL UNQUIET THINGS, was another book heavy on mystery, and I fell in love with it. I love the way that it’s woven into the narrative, the way that it’s a focus, but it isn’t the whole story. There’s more to it than just why Hannah left for the convent, or why she’s struggling now. But it keeps you hooked, as well as Jarzab's writing style.
THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH will appeal to fans of Kristina McBride, and I think to fans of AS King as well. If you like a bit of mystery with your characters, try it out. ...more
Let me start off by saying that I absolutely believe this was a gorgeous. Jandy Nelson's writing style is smooth and beautiful, steeped with lovely voLet me start off by saying that I absolutely believe this was a gorgeous. Jandy Nelson's writing style is smooth and beautiful, steeped with lovely voice and a strong flow.
But all of the beauty couldn't distract me from the fact that Lennie is hands-down one of the most boring characters I've ever read....more
While this book was well-written, and our narrator was engaging, there was something that kept pushing me out of this book -- maybe it was the idea ofWhile this book was well-written, and our narrator was engaging, there was something that kept pushing me out of this book -- maybe it was the idea of Rachel coming back to him after all this time, after what happened? Maybe it was the idea of (view spoiler)[Eve allowing him to step inside his apartment, to not turn him away immediately. (hide spoiler)]
Whatever it was, I kept wondering how realistic this actually was. The fact that the teacher's name is actually Evelyn, and she's referred to as Eve, and even brings up a comment about how she's his "first women" was a little... planted? Hokey? Annoying?
As a lot of my friends might point out, I don't read a lot of books by men, or with men as the narrators. Reason being, I remain unconvinced by the women that the men write or portray -- many of them don't have a purpose or existence outside the realm of the narrator's immediate story. They're plot devices. Though Evelyn really was a huge part of the story, all we know about her is that she's the evil woman who stole his childhood, virginity, and sexually abused him. Oh, and she often drank. There was room for so much more development -- even pertinent to Josh.
That being said, I did like reading this. It isn't often that we get to be presented with a story of sexual abuse from the young boy perspective that doesn't involve some kind of religious official. The way it was broken up was interesting, and for a thick-er YA book, it was a surprisingly quick read. ...more
Once in a while, a book tries to pack too many issues into too few pages. When that happens, either we miss out on some great possibilities with charaOnce in a while, a book tries to pack too many issues into too few pages. When that happens, either we miss out on some great possibilities with characterization, we miss out on some interesting plot, or the writing suffers. With Never Enough, the bits of plot took the focus. Characterization and writing fell to the wayside. But the weird thing about that is that the plot took about 200 pages to get going? Until we’re already deep into the book, it’s like nothing is happening.
We’re given hints about what’s wrong with Claire from the start – and if you read the synopsis, you’ll be aware of what’s wrong, and what to look out for. But aside from that, Claire doesn’t have much of a character. She’s angry, she’s sick, and she’s volatile. Her relationship with Loann, which I thought would be the focus of this book, gets buried underneath scenes where the two battle for power at dinner. They’re focused on battling and showing off the battle for their parents – specifically, the mother – and it still feels like nothing happens, and we don’t get to really know the two outside of this.
It’s only when Claire’s condition is really shoved under her parents’ face that the action starts – and although I’m not saying we need books to be jam-packed with non-stop action, some of the smaller side plots took focus when they would be better used elsewhere. When you get to the last half of the book, everything happens. And yeah, sometimes that’s how life goes. But in a book, you want things to be spaced out a little more.
The biggest issue with this is Loann. You know from the start she’s got some dangerously low self-esteem – she even uses her name (Low, below Claire, and Ann, boring) to explain why she’s just the absolute worst. She doesn’t have many interests until this guy Marcus comes along, and after that, she exists in two modes: Marcus or Claire. We don’t see a lot of characterization outside of what Claire worries about – and she’s not even a particularly fretful worrier, it’s just all that occupies her story. The fights she gets into with her friends are shrugged off and brought up time and again, but she never reflects on them. You never understand why she’s bummed, because you don’t know if she’s bummed, and you don’t really know what it was like before they all fought.
The budding friendship with Marcus, his moodswings, and his own life problems, were what pushed this over the top. People all come with their baggage, but he came with too much to make Never Enough work. The good thing is that his existence encouraged Loann to experiment and try photography a little more seriously. She gets her mind going, takes a lot of pictures -- but you have to wonder if, without his presence, would Loann take as many pictures? Would she have the drive to? She's given the camera at the start of the book, but doesn't put it to very good use until a boy finds a way for her to.
We don't learn what's all that interesting about her crush on Claire's boyfriend -- only that he's Claire's boyfriend now, and so it's an added level of competition for the girls. He smiles, and later takes advantage of Loann's relationship with Claire, but that's it. Again we read the characterization falling wayside, while issues are shoved forward. He's just another "thing" that happens to her.
The pacing issues were not the only writing problem for me with Never Enough. Loann’s voice was dull, almost painful to read. The parts where she faces off with Claire are the most interesting, because she actually has feelings that she’s expressing. But any other time, she’s observing things, and they aren’t particularly awesome, or interesting. There’s no spice to her voice, and so when you’re done, she blends into a sea of other unhappy teenagers.
A brighter, more vibrant voice wouldn’t have completely fixed Never Enough, but it could have given the book more perspective....more
**spoiler alert** I'm wavering between 3 and 4 stars. It's not a big deal, but there are a lot of things about this book that are holding me back from**spoiler alert** I'm wavering between 3 and 4 stars. It's not a big deal, but there are a lot of things about this book that are holding me back from giving it that extra star, I guess. While I liked it, and I will absolutely recommend it in the future, and I will look forward to Hannah Harrington's future books.
If I read one more YA book that's rife with the kind of slut-shaming crap that applies to Laney, I'm going to start writing angry letters to the authors. It was out of place. The entire sub-plot here about "omg my friend Laney is such a super-slutty-slut-slut she makes out with people and being a judgmental little brat, I have to comment on it and make her feel bad," was easily what made me not "really" like it, as opposed to like it.
And yeah, we get it, this girl is just so smart and above everyone else because while her friends is tanning her legs, she's reading VONNEGUT, and one of the things she uses to judge people is their opinion on AYN RAND (admittedly, I can't blame her on that, but come on??). And Jake, we get it, you're a huge pretentious hipster douche. I'm not impressed.
Laney was obviously the best character, but of course, she got the "ew ur such a slut" treatment, which is pretty crappy. The whole "oh no, I am a slutty-slut-slut who got pregnant and maybe this miscarriage is because I'm a terrible person!" was screwed up. Laney, I hope you come back in another one of Hannah Harrington's books.
The rest of this book was pretty okay. The roadtrip, the dead sister, all of that. What I did like about this book was how the whole "dead sister suicide" thing was dealt with. We see sorrow and grief in all the right places, but it's not a time-suck, and there isn't too much emotion. I never got a lot of emotion from this book, and I liked that. June isn't much of a character, and I think that's the way it was meant to be? At least, I hope so. She didn't have any outstanding qualities that would have set her aside from other people, and that was refreshing to find.
It's pretty okay, and maybe you should read it if you like pretentious douchebags who hit it off and fall in love. ...more
I don’t know how C. K. Kelly Martin does it. I just know that I want her to keep doing it until all of the stories are told.
We start from the point ofI don’t know how C. K. Kelly Martin does it. I just know that I want her to keep doing it until all of the stories are told.
We start from the point of view of Ashlyn, and we don’t know much about her. That’s because she doesn’t know much about herself, either. She’s just died, and we’re experiencing her afterlife with her. It’s not the kind of set-up you’d typically catch me reading, but let’s forget about all of that for a second. There’s something that I really need to get out in the open.
C. K. Kelly Martin, you write the best teenage boys that I have ever read. After reading a book with a male perspective that made me “swear off this author forever” frustrated, reading Breckon’s point of view felt right. It feels natural, and reminds me of how as I read I Know It’s Over, I thought the author was a man. Being wrong never felt so satisfying. He wasn’t over-the-top padded with testosterone and gross commentary on girls, but he wasn’t like sifted flour, either.
As Ashlyn discovers who she is (who knew that something as everyday as orange juice could start a chain reaction of memories?), we discover who she is as well. She likes ice cream, she likes orange, she once danced to that Pitbull song. Even though at first, the uncovering of details follows a list, there’s more that she remembers. Many of the things we learn come in relation to what she witnesses from Breckon, and it’s unfortunately not always happy things. We discover who she was, though we don’t find out why she’s been tethered to Breckon until the end. And trust me, you’ll want to find out why.
Jules, the girlfriend, is a wonderful character. In fact, her relationship with Breckon is one of the things that makes this story so realistic and crisp. It’s once build out of compatibility, not out of nowhere. They get along, and they care about each other, and it doesn’t need to be any more dramatic than that. It’s not the center of Breckon’s universe. When he eventually pulls away from her, we understand why. When she returns, full-force, to his life, it makes sense.
I love when a book has two storylines that crash and bang into one another, but never go on the same wavelength until the end. Finding out “the whole story” at the very end makes for a much more satisfying. You put the bits and pieces together, but the maraschino doesn’t get added until it’s ready to be served. That’s how I like my stories, and that’s one thing that makes My Beating Teenage Heart brilliant and emotional. I’m not saying the last chapter made me cry, but I am saying that I might have hurriedly told all of my friends to read it. …and the last chapter made me cry. ...more
**spoiler alert** I can't get behind a narrator who so firmly wants to believe that her best friend since childhood is lying about being sexually assa**spoiler alert** I can't get behind a narrator who so firmly wants to believe that her best friend since childhood is lying about being sexually assaulted. I just can't.
The writing was simple, and, while it was an interested choice for it to be in verse, I wished that the writing was actually more poetic. The metaphors, similes, and some of the one-liners were kind of silly. In one respect, it is completely in-tuned to the mindset of a teenager, to think like that. But I expected more. ...more