A perfect (goody-two-shoes) girl embarks on a summer of freedom. She meets a boy. Or two. She embraces a passion of hers th[Posted on Rather Be Reading]
A perfect (goody-two-shoes) girl embarks on a summer of freedom. She meets a boy. Or two. She embraces a passion of hers that may not lead her down the path her parents want for her. There are enough family secrets to account for my entire extended family.
Upon first meeting Em, my very first written note was how rigid her life was. So much is expected of her by her parents and grandmother, and she has no wiggle room to question what they think is best for her future. The only person who has a glimpse of who she really is, or wants to be, is her younger sister, Gwenny. When an unexpected letter arrives in the mail for Em inviting her to spend a summer with an aunt she didn’t even know she had, she can think of nothing else she’d rather do. (Especially when the alternative is prepping for Harvard and working as an intern at her father’s law firm.) I admit I was a bit taken aback by how easily the decision was made for Em to change her summer plans. For as intense as her parents were, their permission was not as difficult to obtain as I’d have assumed.
While I mostly anticipated a summer romance read, I didn’t expect there to be so many secrets surrounding Em’s Aunt Tilly.
Why did Em not know about Tilly? Why doesn’t Tilly speak to her grandmother? Why didn’t she know she had a cousin?
All these questions were nagging at Em, but her aunt was reluctant to give answers. Instead of dwelling on what she couldn’t find out, she immersed herself in getting to know her cousin, touring the Outer Banks, and helping out however she could around the bed and breakfast Tilly owned.
During those activities, she meets Jeremy and Cade – two very different (but great!) boys. Jeremy is everything her parents would expect in a boy; he’s proper, determined, has a life plan. Cade is sexy, but mysterious, a little stand-offish, and comes with baggage. Em’s never had time for boys before, so of course, this was my favorite part of the book because watching her fall in love was so sweet. I had hopes for who she would fall for, but also never really felt like there was a strong love triangle. (That’s kind of a pet peeve of mine in books. I wish these YA book girls would get their acts together. Or there should stop being so many smouldering, hot YA boys. Okay, rant over.)
Overall, The Summer My Life Began was about discovery. Em has to decide who she wants to be – who everyone expects her to be or who she feels she’s called to be. The facade of her perfect family comes crumbling around her when she finally starts piecing together the truth. She had a lot of tough decisions to make; finding out what she would do and choose kept me engaged as a reader. This was definitely a book that called to me while I was sitting at work anxiously looking forward to the next time I could begin reading again.
I feel like I’m hiding a lot from you guys. (Guess I’d fit right in with Em’s family.) BUT, I can’t ruin the thrill of The Summer My Life Began and all the surprises. Definitely pick this book up for your next beach trip… or sooner if, like me, just reading about beaches makes you want to reach for a fruity drink with an umbrella....more
Imagine putting Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen, the four primary characters from Dawson’s Creek toget[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
Imagine putting Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen, the four primary characters from Dawson’s Creek together in a car to complete a scavenger hunt. It’s almost graduation time and those ten hours in the car are when all chaos ensues because if the drama isn’t hashed out right then and there, what other chance will they have before everyone moves on to the next stage of their life?
Dawson’s got eyes only for Joey. (What’s new?) Joey’s in love with someone else (let’s say Jack for right now). Jen’s secretly also in love with Jack. Pacey is harboring secrets of his own.
Dawson’s Creek is my blast from the past of choice because a) I’m currently re-watching it and b) that’s precisely how I pictured Patrick, Mary, Winter, and Des. They’re four highly intelligent students referred to as the Glee Club (though their school doesn’t even have one) who are entering the Unofficial Senior Scavenger Hunt. They want the opportunity to prove themselves to all the students (especially Barbone) who have berated them over the years. The stakes are high and the competition is fierce, but they’re committed. They want that one moment they can reflect upon when they’re older that says they left their mark.
The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is told from Mary’s point of view. She’s full of tension because losing is not an option and if her parents found out she was galavanting around the town as a participant, she’d be screwed. Feelings for her longtime crush, Carson, intermix with her hopes of winning the hunt. She’s certain he’s going to break up with his girlfriend soon — especially since he’s bestowed so much attention upon her lately. (Yes, the girl lusted after a boy already tied down.)
If only there weren’t further complications.
Patrick wants to corner Mary during the scavenger hunt to express his feelings for her. He wants to move beyond being best friends. Mary also uncovers a secret that Winter has been keeping from her and she’s not sure how to continue on in the competition without exploding. Makes for an awkward ten-hour scavenger hunt, wouldn’t ya say?
Altebrando does a fantastic job at exploring the gamut of emotions we all go through when we graduate. Mary is caught in this awkward place of wanting to make something happen with Carson, but also not wanting to be tied down at all so she can make something of herself and travel the ends of the earth as an international ambassador. She wants to leave her town, but around every corner lies a different memory she’s afraid will escape her over time. She’s seeking closure, but is afraid of moving on. Everything in Mary’s life seems to be a paradox, a Catch-22.
With so many plot lines simultaneously weaving themselves into a big ball of confusion for Mary, Altebrando skillfully balances each issue. None of the plot lines outshines the others and the scavenger hunt still remains a fun, enjoyable journey to experience with these characters. Patrick’s LeSabre car and the items they cleverly pick up throughout the scavenger hunt, I think, are metaphorical for the places they will go, the things they will experience, and their friendship that will bond them together, despite college and moving on.
The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life will jerk you back to those moments in your life where you’ve felt the most out of control – when you weren’t certain what life held for you next. It’s a fun, fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat kind of read that I hope absolutely everyone will enjoy....more
You guys know I love contemporary YA books. I big puffy heart love them. One genre I haven’t reviewed[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading!]
You guys know I love contemporary YA books. I big puffy heart love them. One genre I haven’t reviewed since RBR began is thrillers. A little known fact is I used to thrive on thrillers (mostly adult fiction). I went through a phase where I was reading lots of ‘em, but since I dove head-first into YA books, I haven’t read a single one. I’ve told you guys before, but I’m reiterating it now, I like the thrill of the chase — I like to be caught off guard by the author. Boy, oh boy, did Paul Griffin deliver with Burning Blue.
Told from the point of view of Jay, a boy who suffers from seizures and the aftermath of an incident where he peed his pants in front of his high school, we learn about Nicole. She is the girl who has it all: popularity, beauty, smarts, money. She’s not a snobby popular girl, though. She’s nice and kind to everyone. (She’s one of those girls many people would be envious of.) One day as she’s rounding the corner to make it to class on time (after a mini-make-out session with her boyfriend Dave), she is squirted in the face by a bottle of acid.
Half of her face is damaged.
Jay and Nicole bump into one another before their scheduled therapy sessions at school six weeks after the incident. They begin talking and hit it off. Jay leaves that day wanting answers. A little known fact about Jay: he’s a genius computer hacker. He begins breaking all kinds of laws by hacking into the police department’s files and tries to solve the mystery of who did this to Nicole.
Burning Blue is filled with so much mystery, intrigue, and tons of suspense. It’s a story of whodunit — I needed to know who hurt Nicole, but I was fueled to devour the book because I wanted to know the motive. I never knew when a valuable clue was being given or when I was on the right track to guessing who the guilty person was. Griffin comprehensively developed a full cast of characters that constantly had me wondering:
- Who would want to hurt Nicole? - Why? - Did no one see what happened? - Her boyfriend, Dave, was in the hall when it happened. Is he lying about not seeing the incident? - Was Dave involved?
While Jay is our main storyteller, we get glimpses of Nicole through minimal journal entries and a few notes written by one of her therapists. I began to speculate whether or not Nicole could have harmed herself. Did she do this to herself? What would cause a person to inflict this kind of self-harm? (I should mention I also questioned Jay’s fixation on Nicole and finding the villain. Was I reading from the criminal’s point of view?!)
Burning Blue is a complex story, weaving the drama of Jay’s life together with the pressure of Nicole’s. Jay lives with a dad who isn’t around much and his mother passed away. His social life is laughable since his aforementioned seizure incident, which led him to be homeschooled for a year. Nicole’s burn wasn’t the only complication in her life. Her parents recently split and her relationship with Dave is full of friction since the accident. Oh, and photographers are stalking her so they can make bank on her story.
While I very much enjoyed Griffin’s Stay With Me, I felt he tapped into something completely unique, dark, and suspenseful with Burning Blue. I welcome more of this type of story from him. I highly recommend you pick up a copy as soon as you can so you can experience Griffin’s incredible writing and the insanity of the mystery.
(Also: Don’t forget to read the acknowledgments after you finish Burning Blue. Griffin offers incredible insight about his inspiration for the story.)...more