I'm mailing this to my best friend tomorrow, that's how much I loved this book.
Tell Me More:Few things call to me the way a Morgan Matson novel can,I'm mailing this to my best friend tomorrow, that's how much I loved this book.
Tell Me More: Few things call to me the way a Morgan Matson novel can, and Since You've Been Gone is no exception. Where Amy & Roger's Epic Detour was romantic, and Second Chance Summer was poignant, Matson's third book is brave, much like its protagonist.
Emily is a character that I could relate to as soon as she was introduced. Her shyness and timid nature is familiar to me, and it wasn't hard to imagine how she felt when Sloane disappeared. Sloane isn't just a best friend--she also represents the things that Emily wishes she could be. She draws Emily out of her safe corner and takes her on adventures, giving her something to hold on to. Their friendship is so much of Emily's own developing identity that Sloane's sudden disappearance stuns and confuses her. The list that she receives becomes her sole link to her friend, and the catalyst for her growth into her own person.
Being shy is challenging, not only because interacting with others is hard, but because when you have someone like Sloane in your life, it's easy to let choices slide to that friend. You're along for the ride and you're safe, because you know that your friend will never lead you astray. Emily believes that even without Sloane's presence, the list will be enough to bring her back. And so she trusts in her friend through petrifying tasks like hugging a Jamie (relatively easy) to going skinny-dipping (crazy hard), because she believes that Sloane has a reason for this, like she has for everything else they've done together. Matson doesn't throw Emily into change--she paves the way, as Sloane does, for Emily to find her own way around life.
Flashbacks illustrate Emily's tendency to draw into herself and Sloane's charismatic personality, and Matson's writing style is similarly nuanced. The list is expanded upon in each flashback, and while Emily isn't as quick to realize it, the reader comes to see just how much Sloane believes in Emily. I would go as far as to say that Sloane believes in Emily more than she does in herself, and that she sees Emily as the kind of person she can never be. And while Sloane is the louder presence in Emily's memories, the list proves just how deeply Emily has influenced and inspired Sloane. I loved that even as Frank and other supporting characters help Emily through each task, they show her how she is capable and strong and everything she thought only Sloane could be.
The Final Say: Morgan Matson captures the doubts and thrills of adolescence, letting them breathe through the story of two girls who see the best of themselves in each other. Since You've Been Gone is a story about true friendship and all the myriad ways that it teaches us to believe in ourselves as much as we believe in our friends.
Release Date: August 27, 2013 Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) Age Group:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: August 27, 2013 Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 330 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC from publisher
Tell Me More: There are some books for which you know exactly what's going to happen, the secrets which will be revealed, the main overarching journey that the protagonist takes, and you love that book anyway. The Beginning of Everything was not that book. It dances on the edge of being something breathtaking without actually jumping off and losing its breath, and does so in favour of a rushed and unsatisfying ending.
Ezra is not a difficult character to decipher: he slides in perfectly with the typical hero of this subgenre, and you could recognize him in a heartbeat. He's used to life falling into place just so, without complications or complexities. The novel's first chapter hints at the supposed development of his personality with careful, poignant writing, and it was precisely those first few paragraphs that sold me on the book when the premise had not. That said, I didn't feel that his character development was explored as deeply as it could have been, and I didn't get the sense that he had truly matured. In fact, the experience was quite similar to how I'd felt at the end of (500) Days of Summer. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the film, but Tom Hansen and Ezra share quite a few traits. They're not horrible people, but they are very self-centered in the most basic sense of the term. Unlike Tom, Ezra takes on more responsibility for his choices and his perspective of the world by the end of the novel. And that's great, but the development is crammed into the last 20 pages of the book, as though the reader is just expected to take his word for it without seeing proof.
Cassidy Thorpe, on the other hand--I was never quite sure what Schneider had intended for her character. We get a portrait of a girl painted in very broad strokes, with the occasional quirk to make her relatable to the reader. She enchants a cynical and tired Ezra almost effortlessly, though I enjoyed the banter between her and Toby more. But she's selfish, in a way that the titular Summer Finn never was (Tom Hansen's bitter viewpoint nonwithstanding). She was unsettling to me, because I could sense there was something off about her from the beginning. At first, my fear had been that she would turn out to be another manic pixie dream girl, but as the book went on, it became clear that she was faking that too. And again, that's fine and I applaud Schneider for steering away from that trope. But there is very little time to digest that revelation before the book has ended and the reader is faced with questions they didn't think (they had) to ask. The big plot twist was obvious from the start, and it didn't have the impact it probably should have had because there wasn't enough time spent on building it up/making the reader care about it in the first place. Instead, the reader is caught up in the relationship between Ezra and Cassidy, which only adds to the dissatisfaction when things don't exactly work out the way you think they will.
The plot is heavily centered around the mental and emotional journey that Ezra embarks on, so it isn't heavy on the worldbuilding. I highly enjoyed the scenes during the debate tournament because they felt the most real, even when Ezra didn't know what was going on. And oh, I could sing praises about Toby for nights on end--he practically leapt off the page, his energy and enthusiasm so palpable that they were almost contagious. But though parts of the novel were very well-drawn and substantiated, the fact remains that this is Ezra's story, and it never achieved the closure it should have.
The Final Say: Though the original title--Severed Heads, Broken Hearts--would have been an eye-catcher, I do think that the current title of this story fits it perfectly. The Beginning of Everything is full of false and fresh starts, but you may want to avoid it if you want a novel that pushes itself to the limit and past.
A superb sequel that only raises the bar for all of Lyga's future books, not just the next Jasper Dent installment (because there is one, right? THEREA superb sequel that only raises the bar for all of Lyga's future books, not just the next Jasper Dent installment (because there is one, right? THERE HAS TO BE.)...more
Tell Me More:It's been two-and-a-half years since I first readI'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, and frankly, I wish I could go baTell Me More: It's been two-and-a-half years since I first read I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, and frankly, I wish I could go back. There is nothing like rediscovering a favourite series all over again, and even as I celebrate the release of the final book, United We Spy, I'm sad not only because it's the end, but because it'll be years before I can take up this series again and relive the experience like new. In the meantime, I want to take this moment to thank Ally Carter for one of the best series I've read in my entire life.
And what makes a series great anyway?
1. Consistency. Books 1 through 6 in the Gallagher Girls series have been consistently excellent, smart and ambitious, much like its subjects. Anyone who believes that a book with a girl in a school uniform can't be substantial is fooled by the same belief that the Gallagher Girls work to their advantage in every single chapter. United We Spy highlights the myriad ways that these girls have grown and used the way society sees women to achieve amazing and impossible things. Every time the reader falls into thinking that the story can be predicted, Cammie and her friends find another way to prove them wrong.
2. Real, powerful relationships between characters. I've always been more interested in the portrayal of friendships in literature than I have been in romantic attachments. The friendships on display in the Gallagher Girls series are some of the most luminous and realistic that I've encountered in literature. Cammie's strength and determination, especially in United We Spy, is built on the foundation of her love for her family and friends. She doesn't think twice about risking her life for them, not only because she knows they would never hesitate to do the same for her but that they are people worth saving. The friendship between Cammie, Bex, Liz and Macey is the crowning glory of the series, and United We Spy sees that friendship at its best. They are all brilliant girls on their own, but together? Their teamwork could single-handedly keep the world spinning on its axis.
And okay, the romance was pretty perfect. Zach is exactly what I wanted in a romantic interest for Cammie: he's funny, sweet and human. So many YA romantic heroes these days seem too good to be true, but Zach is realistic without resorting to extremes.
3. Unpredictable plot twists. I challenge anyone to correctly predict what happens in United We Spy. Go on. I'll wait.
Those of you who've read it already know that while all the plot twists and revelations make sense in hindsight, Carter handles them all masterfully, and there hasn't been a single book in the series that is unimportant to the central arc. The right pieces of information find their way to the surface all at the right times, and the suspense is bone-chilling when it needs to be. Carter succeeds in keeping the mystery and anticipation building, and the climactic scenes all feel like walking straight into a brick wall, they're that surprising. There were several moments where I literally screamed because I couldn't believe what was happening. United We Spy keeps the tension turned up to the highest level, and I couldn't be sure of who would survive the events in the novel until the very last page, as is only right for a thriller like this. It rewards readers who have followed the series faithfully, and it lays the groundwork for newer readers to return to the previous novels and pick out all the clues leading up to this one. (Frankly, I would be disappointed if those who've followed the series since the beginning didn't do that too.) It's clear that Carter has done the leg-, arm- and headwork involved in crafting this series.
4. Satisfaction. At the end of the day, a good series should tie up all its loose ends, answer its most pressing questions, and generally leave its readers with the sense that the story as told is complete. Sure, there should also be a desire for more. But if a reader can close the book knowing that the story can stand on its own and has achieved the things it wanted to achieve, good and bad, then the author has done an excellent job.
United We Spy does all of that and more.
I can't remember the last time I was this satisfied with the final book in a series, and really only Deathly Hallows compares. No question is left hanging, and it is very difficult to talk about this without spoiling anyone, so trust me when I say that this was exactly the right ending for the story. The biggest compliment I can give is this: as I finish typing up this review, I just keep thinking about how I want to sit in a corner, hold all six books and cry for a good long while because of the fantastic reading experience they gave me. So thanks, Ally Carter--you've got a fan for life.