Discovery: It was the first book I saw on a random trip to the bookstore.
+ Language. Chen’s writing is exactly the kind of easy, rhythmic prose that I...moreDiscovery: It was the first book I saw on a random trip to the bookstore.
+ Language. Chen’s writing is exactly the kind of easy, rhythmic prose that I want to achieve for myself, the kind that lulls you in and comforts you even as it leads you into uncharted, terrifying territory. My favourite passage has to be: ”There is a time to study a map passionately, obsessively. To see where you’ve gone, where other have gone before you. To commit to memory every obstacle, every danger. Shakespeare had a term for this obsession: mappery. But there is a time, too, when you say ‘come dragons. I challenge you to find me.’”
+ Themes. The entire novel is a homage to the changes wrought by adolescence. We may not have the obvious birthmark on our faces, but there are blemishes and scars that we all wear and are eager to shed. Each of us are on journeys to find ourselves, each of us try to ignore the detractor in the corner, and none of us feel like we can actually do it. Terra’s birthmark may distinguish her from everyone else, but over the course of the novel, she learns to confidently wield that power. The title is especially poignant in light of this change in Terra: “beautiful” is a word that most girls yearn to be attached to their names, but Chen reminds us that it’s always possible to be more, to reach that pinnacle north of beautiful where we are happy to be exactly who we are.
- Structure. There are three parts to this novel: Terra Nullis, Terra Incognita and Terra Firma. The third and last part was the one I was most pleased with, and the one which was developed best. During the first half of the novel, it does seem as though Chen is feeling her way along the story and her uncertainty is obvious. By the time Terra flies to Hong Kong, Chen has more control over her writing. I only really noticed this after my third reread, so it’s not too much of a problem.
Recommendations: North of Beautiful is a passionate and ethereal narrative, worth passing on to young girls who are entering adolescence as well as older readers who might need a reminder of just how wonderful they are.
Release Date:February 1, 2008 Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers Age Group: Young Adu...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 1, 2008 Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 224 Format: Paperback Source: Personal copy
As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also each other's only friend. SO when Cameron disappeared without warning, Jennifer thought she'd lost the one person who would ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she is popular, happy, and dating—everything "Jennifer" couldn't be. But she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they both are confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.
Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.
Discovery: I first heard about this book from my best friend Aimee, who fell so hard and fast for Cameron Quick that she got whiplash. Needless to say, that set up some really high expectations.
+ Themes. Most of the talk surrounding this novel involves the touching romance between Jennifer and Cameron, and while I'm inclined to join in that discussion, I would like to highlight the beautiful character development and themes in their story. Jennifer's insecurities will be familiar to teen and adult readers alike--who wouldn't want a chance to reinvent themselves and be one of the "cool kids?" As someone who knows exactly what Jennifer went through in elementary school, I found Sara Zarr's take on bullying to be terrifyingly accurate.
Bullying isn't restricted to kids who look different or who may identify as a different gender. It is easy to forget that there are kids out there without an alliance or celebrities to look after them and tout their cause. And as readers will find in Jennifer's story, there is nothing more difficult than getting past all the hurt and bitterness. It's even worse when you have no idea why you were chosen to be the laughingstock of the class. Zarr brings contemporary teen fiction to a whole new level with this no-holds-barred look at what life is like for the quiet kids, for the kids who don't fit in, and the daily challenges they face.
+ Romance. Cameron Quick. Those of you who've already read Sweethearts told me that your heart skips a beat when you hear that name. I'm happy to count myself among your number now. I was expecting a flat-out obvious romance between Jenna and Cameron, but what I got was more beautiful and heartbreaking. I can't recall a YA love story that relies so much on nuances and distance, and yet manages to show the reader just how deeply the characters feel for one another.
There is no guarantee of a happy ending. I reread this book a few days after my first go, looking for clues to the ending. Sara Zarr sprinkles the story with touches of hope and yearning, but never quite lets the reader relax. As adults reading this book, we know deep down how it will end. But the power of Zarr's prose makes us believe, makes us wish for Jenna and Cameron and their childhood love story.
The final say: Anyone who wants to read contemporary YA should not pass this jewel up--Jenna and Cameron's story is a precious shooting star of a novel.
Discovery: Just working my way through all of Jackson Pearce’s books.
+ Enchanting characters. I haven’t gotten attached this quickly to characters sin...moreDiscovery: Just working my way through all of Jackson Pearce’s books.
+ Enchanting characters. I haven’t gotten attached this quickly to characters since Harry Potter. The story isn’t too complex, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t wish Viola, Jinn and Lawrence were real so I could hang out with them. They are refreshingly real and made me laugh a lot while reading. I did find that many of the minor characters were a little on the flat side, but it is understandable. I loved Viola and Jinn so much that I kind of wish there was a sequel.
+ Light, fluffy plot. After the last few books I’ve read, is it any wonder that As You Wish‘s bubbly plot won me over so quickly? A few years ago, someone told me that there are books out there that are like Twinkies: they aren’t the most healthy snacks, but sometimes you’ve just got to have one. Jackson Pearce’s first novel is a Twinkie with a sprinkling of hot fudge. I won’t pretend that it’s the most intelligent novel I’ve read, but I also won’t deny that I had a great time reading it. The novel wasn’t written with people my age in mind, which means that it sometimes felt a little shallow, plot-wise. Still, the writing is snappy and easy to follow.
- Cliches. Jen from Almost Grown Up pointed this out in her review, and I have to agree: the cover is definitely reminscent of old Disney Channel movies. I’m also not a big fan of the constant repetition of the “lesson” Viola has to learn about belonging and loving yourself. Again, this makes sense because the novel seems to be directed at a younger audience, but it did elicit some uncomfortable twinges of memory from my high school days.
Recommendations: Younger readers will find much to love in this debut from Jackson Pearce, but older audiences can choose to focus on the sheer exuberance that leaps from every page.
Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that’s left is a note telling her about a day s...moreEach night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that’s left is a note telling her about a day she can’t remember. The whole scenario doesn’t exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can’t seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can’t make sense of, she realizes it’s time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.
Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if’s in their own lives and recognize the power they have to control their destinies.
Discovery: I saw this book in Chapters a few weeks ago and the cover alone was enough to put it on my to-read list.
+ Tone. Forgotten may sound like a dark, heavy novel but Cat Patrick’s writing gives it a refreshing pace and feel. The reader is never bogged down in too much teenage angst and it was nice to enjoy the discoveries that London made. Her voice was clear, humorous and mature enough to make reading this book an absolute delight. Everything feels deserved, from the romance to the friendships to the family relationships.
+ Plot. I won’t lie, I’m ridiculously forgetful. That’s part of why a book like this appealed to me so much. I wouldn’t mind knowing the repercussions of my actions or decisions, if only so I could stop being so indecisive. London is the perfect narrator for this story, and it unfolded in a manner that kept me reading. There’s a threefold set-up for this novel and all of them are balanced by London: her family, her best friend and her first boyfriend. All three issues are given ample discussion time and the reader won’t feel slighted or misinformed. I also thought that the twist was perfectly timed and explained.
+ Romance. Oh my gosh, the romance in this book was EXACTLY what I needed after my weekend fling with Anna and the French Kiss. Luke and London are an adorable couple, reminiscent of Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates. Luke is a great character, funny and warm. Their interaction is so much fun to read about and gives London a wonderful dimension.
- Slow exposition. After reading the synopsis, the first question most readers must ask is “Why does she forget?” And it’s a fair question, but not one that will be answered within the first 30 pages of the book. Actually, it won’t even be revealed until the very end. I’m on the fence over whether or not this is a good thing: on one hand, the desire to know kept me going; on the other hand, it did get a little frustrating. Forgotten is a fast read, but it may not be fast enough with the information for some readers.
Recommendations: I would definitely recommend this to YA readers of any age. Mystery lovers will have a nice little puzzle to mull over, and readers looking for a sweet teen romance will enjoy Luke and London’s story.
Release Date:January 2, 2012 Publisher: Poppy Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 236 Format: Har...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 2, 2012 Publisher: Poppy Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 236 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from Hachette Book Group Canada
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.
Discovery: This was a case of puppy love--the photograph used on the cover has been on my wall since 2008 and when I saw it on Goodreads, I added it to my TBR pile without even reading the synopsis.
+ Characters. Hadley might just be one of my favourite YA protagonists ever. She's quirky and smart, and dare I say it, almost a hipster (which I loved). She is a force of change in the story, which is refreshing because none of that potential involves supernatural abilities. In fact, each character is on the edge of something great: Charlotte and Hadley's father are getting married, her mother is getting stronger and Hadley herself is growing up. Enter Oliver, who makes her stop to reconsider how she's growing up. The two of them are the brightest lights in this story and make it worth reading.
+ Romance. Remembering one's first love is all too easy when you read this book. Hadley and Oliver are both vulnerable souls, but so very brave. It isn't often that love requires courage to even exist, and these two teenagers remind us that sometimes taking a chance is exactly what we need to restart our lives. From the very first time they see each other at the airport to the final scene, Jennifer E. Smith takes readers on an exhilarating flight of their own through Hadley and Oliver's tangled 24 hours. Call me crazy, but I loved that anxious last-20-pages feeling! I was clutching my pillow and slowly rocking back and forth, hoping that they'd finally get together. I don't always finish YA romances feeling like my world would be a little dimmer without that adorable couple, but that's exactly how I felt reading this book.
The final say: I laughed, I cried and I fell in love many many times over the course of this novel. Read The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love at First Sight for the sweet romance, but stay for characters that will live in your heart for years to come.
Discovery: I was a little iffy about reading this book because I avoid “angel” stories in general. Fortunately, I was convinced by some blogger friend...moreDiscovery: I was a little iffy about reading this book because I avoid “angel” stories in general. Fortunately, I was convinced by some blogger friends to give it a try, if only for the fantasy/mythology elements.
+ Imagination. For your reference, the first lines of the book–
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well.
Now, it’s shockingly obvious to me just how this was supposed to be read, but for some reason, I understood it as Karou-is-the-child-of-this-union. Suffice it to say that the last 150 pages of the book were a surprise to me, but it was a welcome one. Laini Taylor took a tired cliche of YA fiction off the shelf, tossed in a healthy dose of horror and fantasy, and gave me one of the most compelling and mind-blowing novels I’ve read in the last five years. Yes, I went there. I’m sure it’s been said before, but I would just love to sit down with Laini and pick her brain (not literally) for the gold nuggets of imagination she’s got rocking about. Her descriptions of the chimaera and Prague had me spinning in a slow circle while I cried because there is no way I will ever live up to her gorgeous prose. There is an indefinable magic in each chapter, and you will want to read and reread each paragraph just to soak in that enchantment.
+ Karou. If I could, I would write odes to Karou. Most of the books I read feature female protagonists and while I like them well enough, there are only a few that I would actually want to hang out with. Among them: Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Anna of the French Kiss and Keek from And Then Things Fall Apart. Karou is the untouchable, artistic girl you’ve always wanted to say hi to, but were always secretly terrified of. She’s crazy smart and talented, but unbeknowst to you, she’s just as unsure of herself. More than any female heroine I’ve met this year, Karou is a role model. She may make mistakes, but she faces the consequences head-on. She doesn’t know any other way and that in itself is evidence of her courage and strength.
Recommendations: Don’t borrow this book from the library or from a friend. Buy it. Trust me, you won’t regret owning a copy. (I’m sad that I can’t cuddle my own right now.) And if you can, buy multiples. You’ll want to put this book into the hands of every girl you know.
Tell Me More: There are some books that becomes so precious to me that I can barely string two words together about how much I love them. I keep them hidden in my mind and soul, turning them over and over and always finding something new. I grow afraid of telling other people about them because they may not understand and it would be physically painful to watch them lose interest in the story. Purity is only the second book of the year to do that to me, with The Fault in Our Stars as its only rival for Angel's Favourite Book of 2012. I realize that may seem like an impossible comparison, but both of these stories connected to me in ways I'm still discovering every day. They have also challenged me to find the words I need to express those discoveries, and the effects they've had on my life.
I am religious. I believe in God, in Jesus, in Mary, in the spirit of the church that I belong to. But I'm also 23 years old and I've never lost someone dear to me, nor have I ever had to make the Promises Shelby makes to her mother. Despite the myriad differences between Shelby and I, it isn't difficult for me to understand the crisis she undergoes in the novel, and the choices she makes because of it. I know things eventually get better, but Shelby doesn't, at least not yet. Jackson Pearces has created a painfully real character in Shelby, and the story is lit up by her powerful spirit.
In analyzing Shelby and her journey, I found myself turning back to my notes on Gabriel Marcel from senior year's Philosophy of Religion class. Much of the novel is spent on Shelby's personal challenge--how can she keep her Promises without having to make a vow of purity?--but there are poignant and beautifully written moments where she curls in on herself and admits her uncertainty about everything.
How is it possible that God understands what's best for me, what I should or shouldn't do, if he isn't human? If he hasn't loved someone, hasn't lost someone, hasn't wanted someone?
How indeed. Is it fair for God to ask us to follow Him when He doesn't have to deal with the double standards that women are held to? Is it fair for God to say what's right and what's wrong and what's fair when He isn't the one watching mothers die? Gabriel Marcel studied these questions and ultimately dismissed them. To Marcel, an understanding of God and the things He does or does not do comes from our experiences with other people. Shelby's questions are to be expected from a girl who's lost something very dear, and it's the people around her that comprise her faith, not an invisible (at least to her) God.
Beyond anything else, I want to commend Jackson Pearce for taking on those inner conflicts and being fair and honest in her writing. As I read Purity, I had to turn off my instinctual disagreement when she expressed her doubts in God, because it's not something I have a right to feel uncomfortable with. I may have a strong faith, and I may know my own mind, but Shelby is still working her way to that kind of certainty. She is selfish, she is reckless, she doesn't make the best choices and she isn't always honest about it either. But I dare anyone to say that she's a bad person just because she struggles with the idea of God and purity.
It was extremely satisfying to see the topic of sex and virtue be held up to scrutiny, especially in light of the laws being passed in the United States. Girls need to know that there are people they can talk to and places they can go to consider their choices, whether it's a church or counseling offices or just their own homes. Like Shelby, so much of what girls endure daily isn't upfront, but under the surface, making them doubt themselves. Personally, I've always questioned the right of the church to dictate what I can do with my body, because they've never actually asked how women feel about those rules. Purity is a great way to start that dialogue with the girls in your life and let them know that they have agency and power over their body.
Lastly, I was pleased with the way love was brought gently, softly into the story. Shelby's two best friends may be the foil to her father's distance, but I never once doubted that she was surrounded by people who loved her. Like many of us, Shelby struggles with that belief--it was heartbreaking watching her doubt herself. With chapters that detail exactly how Shelby comes to see her own worth and the importance of loving those who have been there for her every broken step of the way, Purity shines.
The Final Say: I couldn't have asked for a stronger character or a more beautiful story. Purity is a book I will put away on a beloved shelf to give to my future daughter.(less)
Release Date:February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young Adult P...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 448 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: The sudden influx of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels over the past year has made contemplating the future rather terrifying. Most plots center on the things we take for granted and lose--freedom, safety, emotion. The main characters in many of these books often live comfortable lives, before coming face to face with something outside their experience. It's that catalyst that begins an "epic saga" that will change the world forever. As much as I thought the characters needed a bit more vibrancy, Pure does answer to the call of the dystopian epic in a massive way, by pointing the finger at our governments' actions today.
Pure suffers from what I personally like to call the Tolkien Syndrome: an overwhelming amount of description and detail in otherwise lackluster scenes. Note that I didn't say the writing was horrible, nor were the descriptions poor. Tolkien was a wonderful writer, but he also had a tendency of describing blades of grass on a mountain individually for paragraphs on end. Baggott's strength lies in this love of detail, and her world comes alive because of it. Unfortunately, because there is so much that she chooses to describe about Pressia's world, the pacing of the novel takes a huge hit. Getting through the novel took me longer than I thought it would, simply because I had to keep stopping when I got bored with the slow-to-nonexistent movement. Plodding through the story takes more patience than what most YA readers may be used to giving, so it only makes sense for me to recommend this as an adult novel.
As for the plot itself, readers won't see much action until about halfway through the novel, a point which some of my fellow readers confess they never reached before giving up. Once it begins, however, Pure takes off running. The theme of the story I found most interesting was the consideration of nuclear warfare and its consequences. As children born in the late 1900s, we are all very familiar with the fallout of World War II, and if last week's North Korean nuclear launch is any indication, there is a healthy fear among the world's populations of what could happen in a nuclear war. Power and control have become overwhelming forces in society, and each day brings a new limit to push. I was highly impressed with the message Baggott chooses to tie into her story, and her writing is a chilling testament to her talent. Here's hoping the following books are also infused with that same strength and honesty.
The Final Say: Though it may require more of a commitment than other novels, Pure is a worthwhile read which will leave you looking at our society through a clearer lens.(less)
Release Date:December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group:...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 336 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.
Garden State meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.
Discovery: While browsing Goodreads lists one lazy afternoon, I came across this gorgeous cover. If you know me, you know that winter is my favourite season--despite the dangers of frostbite--and I loved that the summary sounded like a quirky, David-Levithan-esque novel.
+ Illustrations. Let's be honest, sometimes it can get exhausting to look at pages and pages of straight text. I probably read upwards of 1000+ pages a week and when I'm curled up next to my pillows, I sometimes need something special to want to keep reading. Wintertown was one of those books that I just breezed through, because the illustrations were amazing. In fact, I can't imagine this story without illustrations--they complement Emond's writing so well and tell their own story. I loved that they weren't super polished and even that the lines seemed to pulse with uncertainty. Evan has a talent to be sure, but he hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet. I loved the potential that I could see in every hand-drawn page.
+ Plot. Slice-of-life stories are some of my favourite pieces to read. Studying creative writing gave me a taste for unvarnished, simple stories about complicated people. And man, were Lucy and Evan complicated. Stephen Emond has a knack for writing coming-of-age tales that get to the heart of all that insecurity and uncertainty. It takes courage to really grow up, and watching Lucy and Evan try to figure things out was both heartwarming and scary. I remember what it was like to be unsure of my own future, and that perspective made reading this book a truly exceptional experience.
+ Romance. This book pushed all my buttons, it really did! When I started reading, I was actually comparing Wintertown to Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (hence the David Levithan mention above). It didn't take long for me to be utterly enchanted by the quiet charm of this story. Where D&L is boisterous and feisty, Wintertown is careful and shy, much like their protagonists. I loved that the romance had so much to do with the setting as well--when it snows, the world looks like a completely different place, and anything can happen. There are so many possibilities surrounding Lucy and Evan, and watching them realize those new dreams was wonderful.
The final say: With vibrant and quirky characters, Wintertown will charm every reader. Stephen Emond writes a story alive with hope and reminds us that our best dreams aren't always the ones we set out to have.
Tell Me More: At the heart of every major scientific discovery is the existence and absence of life. Having power over creation and destruction is something that all human beings contemplate at least once in their lives, and Cat Patrick's take on that ethical dilemma makes for an interesting piece of literature. However, I hold a few reservations about the execution.
Daisy's name is the least of all the contradictions that make up this unique character--it conjures up images of a dainty, shy girl in the place of what she really is. The first 50 pages struck me as a little strange, and I quickly realized that the reason for it was a lack of detail about Daisy. She felt like a construct to me, a sketch of a character that hasn't been inked in and coloured, up until the chapters where she starts to question the Revive program. She comes alive then, and her determination pushes the story along with a much faster pace. The urgency that I was looking for in such a high-tech story simply wasn't present throughout the whole novel, and I think it could have been a much stronger story with it.
That said, Revived's plot is a lively piece of Patrick's imagination come to life. It forces the reader to face its questions, and it won't take no for an answer. For much of the novel, I was torn as to whether this would be a book that younger teens could handle, despite the facility of its language. It's certainly a novel that needs to be read, but I would recommend that parents and teachers take the time to explain the ethical decisions Daisy makes. Patrick doesn't shy away from giving Daisy a chance to think and reflect on the consequences of her actions and the actions of the entire Revive team. She poses questions that are difficult for both Daisy and the reader to consider, and she is fair to both.
The Final Say: I would give anything for more thought-provoking novels like Revive, and I think our society would be better off for it. Give Cat Patrick's sophomore novel to your kids when it's time to talk about life and death. You won't regret it.
Initial thoughts: 2 for 2 with your 2012 books, Jackson Pearce. You are quickly becoming one of my favourite authors AAAAAAAAND I think I would read an...moreInitial thoughts: 2 for 2 with your 2012 books, Jackson Pearce. You are quickly becoming one of my favourite authors AAAAAAAAND I think I would read anything you wrote, including but not limited to a reinterpretation of the phone book.
Release Date: September 4, 2012 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Human beings are funny things. Hand us a mystery, we'll not only preoccupy ourselves with solving it, but as frustration builds, we'll also come up with myriad explanations for all the things we cannot understand. The vastness of the ocean is one particular mystery that has enthralled people for centuries, and even as we make our marks on planets in the galaxy, knowing what lurks in the depths of the sea is still a challenge. Likewise, the human mind never quite lets us in all the time, and it can even turn on us as quickly as a storm can develop in open sea. Jackson Pearce's new novel Fathomless is a brilliant study of identity and memory through characters that are tied to the water in ways they can't comprehend.
Upon beginning this story, I was struck with the poignancy of the title Pearce chose. The word is lyrical, reminiscent of sea shanties and old tales, and yet it always seemed to hide something more. Celia and Lo's story is much the same: both girls are aware of their lives, and they can locate themselves through what they do, but there is something deeper that neither of them feel comfortable poking at. Neither of them are comfortable with their identities. Celia is tired of being a triplet, simply "Anne and Jane's sister," and Lo struggles with the memory of a name, Naida, and what it means for her own identity as Lo. It's a confusing and discomfiting experience for both girls, as adolescence always is. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Pearce used a third-person POV in the prologue--which introduces Lo--because it sets up the distance between Lo and the human race, of which she is no longer a part. While the rest of the story alternates between Celia and Lo's point-of-views, the prose remains beautifully written.
One of the most interesting themes of the novel is centered around how memory gives us our identity. Celia has the ability to see anyone's past, but her own father loses his memories because of Alzheimer's. She can't help him get those memories back, and so his identity as her father is lost as well. Lo's memories as Naida quickly force her to choose who she will be, because they cannot both exist in the same body. Celia would do anything to help her father remember, but she can't--Naida pushes Lo to kill a boy to get Naida's soul back. Memories set up a powerful dynamic between the girls and make them decide once and for all what they are willing to do to be who they want to be. Can you grow without knowing what came before? Can you be different without knowing how you've changed? Is giving up the past for a new future the right thing to do?
As easy as it would be to focus on the paranormal aspects of this novel, I think that would do it an injustice. Disney's version of The Little Mermaid is sanitized for children, and Pearce's choice to base the story more on Hans Christian Andersen's tale was a wise one. It asks the same questions without diluting the consequences of the mermaid's choice, and it ties into Fathomless' themes of transformation and identity. Like the titular mermaid, Lo wants to know more than what she is expected to believe. She goes in search of knowledge, of memory, and she makes choices that aren't always wise. But I absolutely loved the development of her character, and I think it works better than Celia's own journey, which was more connected to the love story. The relationship between Jude and Celia was the weakest part of the story, in my opinion, and I think it would have benefited with a bit more time spent on that development. I do believe that the core of Fathomless was the connection between Celia and Lo, and it succeeds with aplomb.
The Final Say: Jackson Pearce brings some tough questions to her third fairytale retelling, and the result is a nuanced, passionate story of the choices we make and the connections we forge in our need for identity. Fathomless is one of her strongest novels to date. (less)
Release Date:April 3, 2012 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Yo...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: April 3, 2012 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 368 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: When discussing books in literature classes or book clubs, it's often a given that the words "human experience" will be brought up once or--let's be realistic--a dozen times at least. The people who insist that stories are just reflections of human experience are correct. We read stories to see how other people react to situations we can only imagine, but which have a basis in our own reality. It's fun to imagine oneself in the middle of the barricades in Les Miserables, but given the chance to actually do it, not many people would volunteer. But what happens when a reader is asked to imagine an absence of human experience, a lack of that unnameable quality that separates us from animals?
Murder is a fascinating subject for many people, I imagine, because it sits in that realm of possibility which we have been conditioned never to touch. Sentences like "I'm going to kill him" have entered the common lexicon because we consider it a joke, just a cathartic turn of phrase. To Jazz, death has always, always been something tangible. Lyga's previous work seems like the tip of the iceberg now, after reading I Hunt Killers--he burrows deep into the psyche of not just one, but two sociopaths and draws out the shadows for readers' judgment. Where Lobo's Nod is concerned with the uncanny similarities between Jazz and his imprisoned father, Lyga insists that his readers take no piece of information for granted and gives all his characters credit for their actions. That kind of approach is so important to a story like this, because it could easily devolve into just another crime thriller on the shelf.
Jazz is forced to come to terms with the idea that his father may have forced the experience of murder onto him as a child, and the thought of the possible victim is just one of the lashings he has to take in the course of the story. In many ways, I Hunt Killers is a story of uncertainty and our reactions to that confusion. Some people have midlife crises. Billy Dent, Jazz's father and an infamous murderer, speaks of "not knowing" if people are truly alive until he's killed them, that the blood flowing onto his hands and the sigh of their last breath are the proof of their life. When faced with a serial killer who is copying his father's crimes, Jazz himself crashes into a mountain of doubt and distrust in his own ability to see people as living, unique beings. It is a realistic and painful journey to witness from page one to 368, and one that needed a writer brave enough to slash away at bad metaphors and easy cliches. Barry Lyga was the perfect writer for this story, because he made it more than just a story about murder. He reminds his readers that humanity is something we choose first, and not something that chooses us, no matter whom we were born to or how we grew up.
The Final Say: A story this tough will find a true home with readers who need something to hold on to, and readers who know how important it is to never take our lives for granted.(less)
Release Date: June 4, 2012 Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Book Group) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Last week, I attended the One Direction concert at the Molson Canadian Amphitheater. As one might expect, the venue and surrounding areas were packed with teenage girls at their most excitable, crowing and shrieking over every little reminder of the boy band they were about to see. (My eardrums haven't quite forgiven me for subjecting them to the high-pitched decibels.) As an infrequent concertgoer, I took the time I spent waiting as an opportunity to observe an age group with whom I rarely interact these days, and concluded that I might be too old to really sympathize with their concerns and foibles. A Midsummer's Nightmare was a lot like that concert--I believe in the importance of its message, and it is certainly necessary to address its issues with teens, but it wasn't a book that had anything new to say to me personally.
The plot is old-hat, and frankly very cliché. Whitley's summer of freedom with her father is turned upside down when he introduces her to a fiancée and future stepchildren. It's a common plot device in YA literature--The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants comes to mind--and not one that has a lot of wiggle room in terms of creativity. Kody Keplinger answers with a controversial twist, where Whitley's future stepbrother Nathan also served as her graduation one-night stand. That was about the only part of the story that interested me in the first half, but it doesn't quite reach a satisfying conclusion.
Whitley is what I could call a Keplinger standard: she swears a lot, is extremely cynical and can't be bothered to care about anyone but herself. I'll put it right out there--I did not like Whitley. There was a touch of Special Snowflake Syndrome that made me roll my eyes at her more than once--she ONLY listens to 90s music? She thinks having friends is overrated? I did not enjoy Keplinger's previous protagonists either (especially Bianca of The D.U.F.F.), but fortunately, she comes the closest to a real character arc with Whitley. A lot of the problems that are brought up in the novel are ones that could be easily solved with a tiny bit of honesty, and it was frustrating to see many of the characters hiding from it and complaining at the same time. Whitley's mental and emotional self-flagellation can grow old very quickly. Again, there is a real possibility that my frustration with this novel and character comes from having grown up. The six years between myself and Whitley have taught me how to deal with relationships and the importance of honesty, both of which she learns in the course of the novel. I appreciated Keplinger's commitment to giving Whitley a chance to grow and figure things out for herself.
Despite my initial distaste and later detachment from Whitley, she remains the most interesting character in the novel. Her father and mother are shockingly cardboard, which does them a disservice. Nathan is exactly what one might expect from his character, and Bailey is unsurprising as well. The standout might be Trace, Whitley's brother, whose tiny moments with his sister help to make her more real. There is a tangible connection between the two of them, and while I understand the necessity of his distance, it is a little disappointing to only have a handful of conversations between them.
Lastly, the romance in this novel felt forced. As much as there is no law preventing it, I was still very uncomfortable with the way Whitley and Nathan's relationship progressed. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a bad decision for Keplinger to make, but it just wasn't something I enjoyed reading about. I didn't see their relationship as a necessary next step, and their scenes weren't compelling enough for me to want them together, despite everything that happens.
The Final Say: Kody Keplinger's newest reluctant heroine might be pessimistic and wry, but A Midsummer's Nightmare offers teens a chance to learn from her experiences and be brave enough to make their own hard decisions.(less)
I have many dear memories of favourite middle-grade novels, like The Giverand Bridge to Terabithia....morePosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
I have many dear memories of favourite middle-grade novels, like The Giver and Bridge to Terabithia. They served to ignite my imagination and tell me truths adults may have been reluctant to share with an 8- or-9-year-old. The Storm Makers is a novel worthy of joining those much-loved books. The POV and narration were stellar, lively enough to keep young readers' attention but insightful enough to please older readers as well. In fact, there was an amazing depth to the story, to the point where it stopped reading like a MG novel and the adventure just took over. Jennifer E. Smith's focus on the friendship between Simon and Ruby is the cornerstone of this remarkable novel, which will gain new fans with every reread.(less)
Discovery: I came across this book in the Hachette fall catalogue and the premise struck a chord in me.
+ Themes. Before you add this book to your TBR...moreDiscovery: I came across this book in the Hachette fall catalogue and the premise struck a chord in me.
+ Themes. Before you add this book to your TBR pile, be warned that it is much more serious than the premise makes it sound. I know that doesn’t sound likely, but I found myself close to tears more than once while reading it. There is no way that this book can be mistaken for a light read.
Desperation, helplessness, dishonesty: all of these mix into Ames’ story to create a storm of bad decisions and hatred. There were many instances where I was tempted to put the book down because the emotions were simply too much for me to take. While that might sound like a bad thing, I would be the first to recommend this book for the sheer power of Ames’ experiences. Giles doesn’t shy away from the truth of Ames’ family troubles and many teens will relate to the changes that Ames is dealt. I especially loved the ending because honestly? There’s no way a happy ending can be contrived for this story and Giles didn’t try to write one. She was true to the story and that courage alone is worth reading this book for.
+ Voice. Ames is a teenager who has lived her entire life without a single care. When her father is fired, the floor buckles and crumbles beneath her and her family comes close to doing the same. She is stubborn and strong and the saddest part is that she can’t see that strength through her disappointment. Make no mistake, Ames is a character that will stay with every reader after they finish the book because she is who we are afraid to be. She feels too much, she knows too much, she is afraid to let it all in. Every word that comes out of her mouth is two-sided and pained. I may not like her, but she represents that darker side in every person who we have to learn to respect and work with. She’s human, and I admire her for it.
Recommendations: While this isn’t a book for younger readers, I do think it’s something that older readers will understand and learn from, especially in the troubled times we live in today. Gail Giles is to be commended for her honesty and bravery in writing this book.
Jennifer Brown's books have always been hit-or-miss with me: I adoredHate List, but wasn't as impre...morePosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
Jennifer Brown's books have always been hit-or-miss with me: I adored Hate List, but wasn't as impressed by Bitter End. Perfect Escape lands smack-dab in the neutral zone. Kendra's impromptu road trip with her older brother Grayson is certainly interesting, but I couldn't quite connect with Kendra herself. The sibling dynamic between Kendra and Grayson is the strongest part of the novel, and even when I was displeased with the way the plot was unraveling, I was still very interested in how they would manage to work things out. Perfect Escape is just right for the summer--a novel that is simultaneously complex and light enough to bring to the beach.(less)
Not cool, Johan Harstad. I'm going to have such a hard time sleeping for the next week at least, and what makes it worse is that there's a Doctor Who...moreNot cool, Johan Harstad. I'm going to have such a hard time sleeping for the next week at least, and what makes it worse is that there's a Doctor Who episode that has a very similar plot and JUST NO NO NO NO I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS.
I knew there was a reason why my brain refused to let me focus on this book. It's because it knew I'd end up a terrified mess.(less)