Travel was the catalyst for Hello, I Love You, a debut YA novel by Katie M. Stout: the author was inspired by the time she spent teaching English in CTravel was the catalyst for Hello, I Love You, a debut YA novel by Katie M. Stout: the author was inspired by the time she spent teaching English in China. Protagonist Grace Wilde, a country music princess from Nashville, runs away from Tennessee to a boarding school in South Korea, hoping to escape from the expectations and pressure of her family. Her new roommate, Sophie, turns out to be twin siblings with Jason, an up-and-coming pop star. Sparks, inevitably, fly.
“In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss,” promises the cover copy, convincing me to not only give Hello, I Love You a shot, but to feel happily excited about it. AatFK charmed me from the first page when I read it, and I hoped I would feel the same way about Grace and Jason. After all, when’s the last time an Asian love interest landed on YA shelves?
Hello, I Love You was not Anna and the French Kiss. Not by a long shot. What it was, however, was astonishingly tone-deaf, offensive, and racist.
Tell Me More:Eleanor & Parkwas a book that came highly recommYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: Purchased copy
Tell Me More:Eleanor & Park was a book that came highly recommended to me by the fabulous Rebecca at Indigo Yorkdale. With comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars and Gayle Forman being made by fellow readers I trusted, I knew right away that I had to find the time to check out why everyone loved this story. Unfortunately, good recommendations don't always result in satisfying reads, and Eleanor and Park simply did not charm me as much as I hoped they would.
My reading experience can best be expressed as an inability to suspend disbelief. I couldn't lose myself in the story because everything felt too perfectly set up to tell a certain kind of story. I felt like I could see all the reasons why Rowell chose to have her characters say and do certain things, instead of discovering those hidden layers bit by bit as I read. I spent most of my reading time nodding along, thinking "of course they love the Smiths," "of course comic books are what they connect over," and the like. There's nothing wrong with those things being E&P's interests, but I feel like every single "nerd/outcast" character in YA fiction shares the same interests. Some variety would be nice--how about a self-proclaimed nerd who loves pop music or reality shows? Park's parents were pretty stereotypical too, and I couldn't quite shed my discomfort with the way the relationship was illustrated. Park' father might love his mother, but I never got the sense that he truly understood her or cared about her cultural background, and I do not agree with John Green's review where he stated that they were well-drawn adults.
Likewise, the love story between Eleanor and Park results in some adorable moments, but it never really got off the ground for me. I couldn't particularly relate to either of them, so I wasn't invested in what eventually happened between them. Some thoughts Eleanor had about Asians also bothered me enough to make me step away from the book for a little bit. The relationship between Eleanor and Park wasn't surprising either, though there were a few moments that made me go "awww." There was little to distinguish it from other contemporary YA romances, and even as I write this review, I struggle to recall scenes that made me emotional.
What I did find intriguing were Eleanor's life at home and her family. I wish more time had been spent on scenes between Eleanor and her siblings, instead of the hints of discontent and distrust that are scattered throughout the book. Her abusive step-father was the only character to garner a real reaction from me, and remembering some of the things he said and did still makes me shudder. I also would have liked to know more about her mother and the relationship they had before her mother married Richie.
The Final Say: Eleanor & Park read like a sketch of a painting: not quite whole, not quite full and not quite real enough to capture my imagination and make me love it.
Tell Me More: When you're on your very first proper train ride and it's going to take five hours to get to your destination, there's nothing better than an engaging and intense book to remove you from the cramped seats and boredom. I'd been putting off reading The Hunt for a few days before my trip to Windsor, Ontario, but faced with a dying iPod, I decided to give it a shot. Quite honestly, it was the best decision I'd made all week.
Fukuda yanks readers into The Hunt like they're about to be hit by a train--the first fifteen pages are elemental to setting up this bizarre world where people drink blood, scratch their wrists in joy and crack their necks. Or are they people in the first place? The word "vampire" immediately comes to mind, but you'd be hard pressed to actually find Fukuda throwing out that familiar life line. Instead, Gene (whose name readers won't even spot until well into the book) makes two things clear: people are dangerous, and he is not one of them. I loved that I wasn't sure if I could trust Gene or not; after all, couldn't this just be part of our future evolution (as uncomfortable as it is to think about it)? But Fukuda deserves another point for infusing the first few chapters with a sense of dread and unease. Something isn't right in Gene's world, and if my reaction means anything, readers won't like what they'll find bubbling under the surface.
Many of the twists in The Hunt were obvious from a mile away, but I still enjoyed the breakneck speed at which I experienced them. Gene is a strong character, but he is also a bit obtuse--I had a couple of moments where I wanted to shake him and convince him not to make bad decisions. I also had a few moments where I wanted to curl up in the fetal position on my seat and hide from the awful situations Gene found himself in, time and again. The titular Hunt was horrifying to watch unfold, but its power could have only come from the little details. From every step of the preparations for the Hunt, Fukuda reveals more and more of the society Gene is hiding from and it adds to the suspense.
Thematically speaking, the horrors that come to light in The Hunt are ones that are smarter than most people give YA authors credit for. There is an obvious condescension when children's literature is discussed, but if you don't start kids thinking about their society and actions early, when can you start? I loved that Fukuda presents his readers with questions on humanity, acceptance and truth, and that he doesn't dictate, but creates scenarios that his readers will respond to. Again, if my reaction is anything to go by, they will respond in a myriad of ways. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek nudges towards the fetishized vampire culture we live in today, Fukuda asks smart questions about cultural and political issues we tend not to notice.
The Final Say: The Hunt is an automatic choice for readers who want their horror served with slices of realism, dystopia and socio-cultural commentary. Also, it's one of the wildest and terrifying rides YA could ever offer.
Release Date:January 3, 2012 Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin Age Group: Young Adult Pages:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 293 Format: Paperback Source: ARC received from publisher
Discovery: I was given an ARC of this book to review and I originally thought that it was about a faery changeling, which would have been awesome.
+ Interesting premise. Kudos to Hocking--she wrote a shocking prologue that would draw even the most reluctant reader into the story. I liked that she didn't shy away from the violence and that Wendy's confusion was palpable as she related what had happened on her sixth birthday. The cover copy might not have hooked me, but I definitely wanted to know more about Wendy and why her mother would risk going to jail to kill her own daughter.
- Flat characters. With the way Switched opened, I was expecting a fast-paced plot and vibrant, witty characters. Unfortunately, I got neither. Wendy talked the talk, sure, but I never really got a sense of her personality or saw anything unique in her perspective. For someone who is touted as "special" and "one of a kind," she's very dull and indecisive. She wants to know what's going on, but she doesn't actually try to find out. She is content to let Finn or Rhys or Elora tell her what to do, and in the few instances that she isn't content, she just lets it all go anyway. I don't see any reason to cheer for her, because it doesn't seem like she knows what she really wants.
My main reaction to the other characters was "...so?" Again, the way that they're written makes them seem hollow. Elora makes proclamations and condescending remarks, but they have no real sting behind them. The reader is told, not shown, that Finn "loves" Wendy. How? How did they fall in love? What real bonding experiences have they had? The dialogue seems forced, all smoke and mirrors.
- Uncompelling plot. I've noticed a trend in YA paranormals where the boy has to steal the girl away to keep her and/or her family safe. This trope doesn't convince me of anything, much less that they belong together. And let's be realistic, characters in YA are teenagers. They are legally restricted from doing a lot of things, and if they go missing, authorities are informed. That's why I can't suspend my disbelief over the events in Switched. Wendy's mother tries to kill her and is sent to a hospital--that's all well and good. But Wendy runs away from home and her older brother and aunt--who claim to love her dearly--don't tear up the city trying to find her? They're okay with a sixteen-year-old girl's declaration that she "has to leave?" It's baffling.
I also didn't find much of the Trylle world to be interesting. Frankly, it seems the label "troll" was just tacked on after writers had run the gamut of paranormal creatures. Other than the Trylle's fascination with jewels, I found nothing to suggest that they were really trolls. It takes more than a paranormal creature to make a book worthy of the term "urban fantasy," which I believe Switched might have fallen under had it been written well.
The final say: As an intended successor to the tiers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, Switched falls far from the mark with lackluster characters and a shallow plot.