Normally, if someone’s first offense is stealing a car, they don’t typically end up in a psychiatri...more[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
Normally, if someone’s first offense is stealing a car, they don’t typically end up in a psychiatric facility.
Probation? Sure. Community service? Definitely.
Let this be a testament to how over-the-top Taylor’s father was. He had her best intentions in mind when he requested she be placed there, but from an outsider’s perspective, the entire family should have taken up camp in a facility. Taylor’s parents split years before and she chose to stay with her alcoholic mother, who despite many visits to rehab and attempts at AA, cannot get sober. Taylor believes her father still feels hurt that he wasn’t chosen over his wife. Life with her mom is anything but easy (though she doesn’t feel she can admit this to her dad) — she stays out all night drinking, brings home random men, can never hold a steady job, and they’re constantly moving because she’s always late with the rent.
One of my favorite aspects of Lascarso’s writing was how she made me feel connected to Taylor. I felt the anger and betrayal Taylor emoted – she was pissed at her dad and furious she had to be locked in the facility. She didn’t understand why such extreme measures had to be taken. Over time, we see the depth of Taylor’s problems — she can’t control her breathing, has panic attacks, and has been mentally fractured by her mother’s poor decisions and her father’s controlling hand.
She fights back against the system — resists therapy, neglects to do any school work, makes enemies instead of friends, and thinks of nothing other than a plan for escaping the facility.
Through an air vent in the floor, she hears someone playing music in the room directly below hers. Eventually she and the mystery person begin speaking through the ducts, but she doesn’t know who he is. One night he suggests she leave her doom room after lights out to meet him in the basement. They forge a bond in the used-to-be darkroom despite not being able to see one another; he has ways to help her escape that could prove very beneficial. Taylor continues to plot and plan her exit despite feeling like she may be running from one of the first friends she’s ever had.
Counting Backwards is an amazing tale of a girl who has really been dealt the crappiest of hands. Once in the correctional facility she has to overcome herself, as much as her past, to create a new future. Her plans don’t always work out as she wants them to, but part of the journey is seeing how she’ll deal with the speed bumps. She chooses to keep her feelings repressed, afraid of being hurt by anyone. Weathering the storm with Taylor was a unique mix of heart-break and intrigue. I pushed for her and hoped she would learn to make the right choices. Because I was so wrapped up in her voyage I couldn’t help but speed read through Counting Backwards in a few hours.
Maybe it’s just me, but rehab/correctional facility/psychiatric ward books fascinate and awe me. Counting Backwards is a wonderful debut novel by Laura Lascarso if you’re looking for a story with a very messed-up girl with a lot of repressed anger who gets herself into more than a few sticky situations.(less)
After I finished Insurgent, I wanted something 180 degrees different. What better to pick up than a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story - except this time from the perspective of the girl Romeo (or Rob, in When You Were Mine) discarded, Rosaline? I have to admit I was a little unsure of how closely the story would follow Shakespeare’s masterpiece. I don’t want to get into the details of the ins and outs of what happens because you should experience the emotional roller coaster without any warnings from me. Please note that even if you aren’t familiar with Romeo & Juliet, you needn’t worry. This story can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys an epic, tragic love story.
Despite being familiar with the framework set up by Shakespeare, I allowed myself to hope that Serle had put a spin on this classic tale. I fell head over heels in love with Rob. I’ve admitted this in earlier reviews, but I am a sucker for stories that explore two best friends falling in love. Rosaline didn’t want to fracture the relationship she had with Rob, but ultimately, decided to follow her heart and allowed herself to fall for him. She had two female best friends, Charlie and Olivia, but there was something so pure about her friendship with Rob. Charlie and Olivia were a little silly and snobby, but they turned out to be the type of friend I aspire to be – encouraging when Rosaline was uncertain about Rob and protective when he broke her heart. I just couldn’t stop my heart from hoping that our Romeo would profess his love for Rosaline in spite of the spell he succumbs to when Juliet makes her appearance.
Juliet is Rose’s estranged cousin. Family drama to the max. Rose, Juliet, and Rob used to be best friends before Juliet’s family moved away. Rose is in utter darkness about why her cousin wants nothing to do with her when she returns. I had to chalk up the secrecy and Rose’s naiveté regarding the family tension to her young, unquestioning self when everything happened ten years prior. Juliet appeared after my heart had already fluttered happily for Rob; she was a little late to the game, but man, did she make an impact when she was introduced to the story. When Juliet hypnotized (figuratively, not literally) Rob, I felt like things happened so abruptly and the story began to progress much more rapidly. Serle set up the perfect scene for every romantic’s heart and then BAM, crushed it. I wept tears of sadness for Rose.
Just as you’ll remember from high school English study of Romeo and Juliet, When You Were Mine is filled with lots of:
family drama scandal mystery broken-heartedness hostility
Amidst the black hole that is Rose’s extended family, there is a beacon of light: Len. He’s a facetious but goofy guy. He’s given the cold shoulder by Rose and her circle of popular friends because he appears so unmotivated and detached from high school life. Rose feels as if the whole world is against her when her (terrible) bio teacher pairs her with Len. I was completely taken aback by the friendship that developed slowly and beautifully and delicately between these two unlikely characters. I was often caught off guard by Len’s insight and thoughtful observations.
Serle’s writing was incredibly engaging, and I was fully invested in the story almost instantaneously and couldn’t stop reading. When You Were Mine is a wonderful debut novel that Rebecca Serle should certainly be proud of. My only complaint is that I was left wishing for more – I wasn’t ready for Rosaline’s story to be over when I closed the book.
(Take this one with you to the beach this summer; it’s the perfect companion for drinks with umbrellas and a lazy afternoon in the sun.)(less)
The Thing About the Truth revolves around the tense, abrasive relationship between Kelsey and Isaac. Ke...more[Review Originally Posted on Rather Be Reading]
The Thing About the Truth revolves around the tense, abrasive relationship between Kelsey and Isaac. Kelsey is, at heart, a really good girl. Isaac acts out to capture the attention of his self-centered politician dad. Isaac and Kelsey’s meeting is nothing short of awkward. They’re both new to the public school, but upon seeing Isaac, Kelsey makes quick judgments about the type of guy he is and writes him off. She wants to fly under the radar so she can focus on getting into an Ivy League school. She’s lost the trust and respect of her parents after what she did to get herself kicked out her prep school.
To prove she’s still got her act together, her solution is to start a new organization on campus. While she’s presenting her ideas, Isaac saunters into the room and throws out an idea the principal salivates over. Thus Kelsey and Isaac become the leaders and founders of the new group – spending more time together than either of them would have hoped for. The back and forth banter and constant arguments between these two are so good (so good so good). Clearly Kelsey is attracted to Isaac, but come on. She can’t be that girl and fall at the feet of this wealthy boy who has girls tripping over him. Isaac is drawn to her confidence and screw you attitude. The biggest dilemma is that while they’re pretty candid and honest with each other, Kelsey refrains from telling Isaac something pretty big.
The story navigates the past with chapters from both character’s perspectives, but sprinkled in are chapters that focus on flash-forwards, present day. There’s this sense of them falling in love and falling hard, but then we see that somewhere along the way, things got screwed up and Isaac and Kelsey are on non-speaking terms sitting in the superintendant’s office. While trying to figure out what happened between these two, I fought the urge to jump ahead to discover Kelsey’s big secret.
Oh, the secret.
Usually, characters in young adult books have “big secrets” that don’t really seem to shock me very much and things sometimes feel a little anticlimactic.
Not Kelsey’s secret.
The girl did something that made my jaw drop. It was no wonder her parents had her on a short leash and that she was trying to redeem herself. I didn’t exactly connect with Kelsey in the way that I wanted to because I didn’t fully understand her actions. What she did wasn’t something I would ever find myself doing (I hope). Her character was really great – she’s a wonderful girl who could obviously go places – but her decision-making skills were complete crap. I wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with Kelsey to snap her out of it.
Isaac was definitely more relatable for me; I’m not sure that I have connected as much with a male character as I did him. I understood why he acted out, why he was arrogant. He was so likable and kind to Kelsey (once they called a truce) and their kissing scenes definitely made my toes curl. I could see the growth in him and wanted to be a cheerleader for his team. When Kelsey’s secrets were revealed, my stomach was in knots on his behalf.
There were a few things I wish had been further explored. (slight spoilers ahead) I understood her parent’s reaction to what she did, but Kelsey mentioned daddy issues a few times. I didn’t really see that or understand why she felt the way she did. There also didn’t seem to be a lot of resolution with Kelsey’s (ex) best friend. There were lies and a semi-big misunderstanding and nothing ever seemed to be resolved.
Although there are a few things I would have hoped for, I definitely recommend you check out The Thing About the Truth. Kelsey and Isaac are sure to make you laugh out loud or wish you were smack dab in the middle of their steamy kissing scene.(less)
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson has landed a spot in my top ten favorite books of all time.
This story is layered and complex, but so rich with detail and overflowing with emotion. It’s about the power of apologies, confronting life head on, falling in love, losing a parent to cancer, and growing up. From the very beginning, I was drawn into Taylor’s world and emotionally invested in her family’s story.
Matson did an incredible job of crafting the characters and building relationships. Taylor always seemed to suffer a bit from “middle child syndrome” and didn’t feel like she had any distinguishing traits or talents like her siblings (Warren was a brainiac and Gelsey a talented ballerina). It was Taylor’s bond with her father that really tugged on my heart strings because even though she didn’t feel special by comparison, he showed her he loved her through his words and his actions. They had secret breakfasts together where they played fun trivia games to get to know one another. He always seemed to know exactly what she needed and would offer advice in the most nonchalant ways. Taylor’s character was mature and it was really admirable to see that she understood her time with her dad was precious. Their relationship made me think about my [future] children and how I want to have that kind of profound relationship with them and be that kind of parent.
Taylor would frequently run from situations she didn’t want to deal with in the past; this was the summer of her growing up and defying her fears – not just with her father, but with the two people she left behind five summers ago. Being back in (incredibly small) Lake Phoenix, she is forced to see her ex-best friend, Lucy, and ex-first boyfriend, Henry. As readers, we don’t immediately know what happened five years before to separate these three. Via a few flashback chapters that catch us up to present day, we get the full story.** Henry was full of a lot of hurt that had to be mended between he and Taylor. He was intriguing and quiet — one of those strong, silent types that will make girls’ hearts everywhere skip a beat. Taylor and Henry were wary of each other and their inevitable run-ins were so entertaining and awkward. Lucy seemed much more difficult to crack. Though they had summer jobs together, Lucy would barely glance in Taylor’s direction. Matson realistically brought these relationships to life; the timing and progression (of the entire story, actually) flowed so effortlessly.
The word I could not get out of my head when I sorrowfully closed Second Chance Summer was linger. This will be a story that will stay with me; it has implanted itself in my heart. Maybe that sounds cheesy to you, but I cried (sobbed, to be precise) as Matson weaved this story together, allowing me to fully grasp the dynamics of the family and friendships. As I became more and more absorbed in the story, my eyesight became blurrier as the cancer progressed. This was definitely a difficult and sad book to read, forcing me to constantly be on the verge of tears until I was so emotionally overwhelmed about 100 pages from the end and I could no longer hold them back. I cried big, fat, ugly tears the entire rest of the way through.
Second Chance Summer is a book I want to shout about from the rooftops. It’s beautiful, gripping, and has no doubt, set a much higher standard for everything I am to read after it.(less)
I spend a lot of time reading difficult issue books. They’re kind of my thing, but after reading them b...more[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
I spend a lot of time reading difficult issue books. They’re kind of my thing, but after reading them back to back things can seem a little somber. I was thrilled my library finally got a copy of This is So Not Happening, the last book in the He’s So/She’s So series because this final book was sure to fulfill my need for drama and craziness.
Ally and Jake have finally become an official couple. They can look forward to normalcy and enjoying their senior year together. Or so they think. Ally is thrown a curveball when her ex-best friend Chloe announces that she’s pregnant with Jake’s baby. Chloe and Jake slept together before he and Ally became an official couple. What does that mean for Ally?
She tries to do the right thing and be the supportive and understanding girlfriend who doesn’t go crazy. She stands up for Chloe when things at school get bad for her. (What high school students wouldn’t feast on the news of the popularity heiress getting pregnant?) She sticks by Jake’s side and doesn’t give up on their relationship (even when it seems Chloe takes her place as he suddenly has doctor’s appointments to attend all the time). Ally is stuck in an awkward position because she will most likely lose her friends if she and Jake break up and she can’t talk to her mom about things because she’s too preoccupied planning her wedding to notice something is bothering Ally. She’s left to figure things out on her own.
Though Jake never betrayed Ally, I feel like I would have done more investigating and probing than Ally did. Something just never seemed to add up (and for those of you who read He’s So Not Worth It, you will have strong suspicions). Jake seemed like a pawn in the chess game of Chloe’s life – he was at her beck and call and did absolutely everything she asked. It was really difficult for me to have outsider information and not be allowed to talk sense into the characters.
Jake was the character I struggled with the most. He did the honorable thing and really did everything he could for Chloe, but he became a mean, cold-shouldered boyfriend to Ally. At the climax of the story, I didn’t want Ally to date Jake. I hoped that maybe she would go to college a single lady and she and Jake’s story would finally have a bit of closure. I wish I could say that his character was fully redeemed for me by the end, but his actions were just … actions…without a lot of heart behind them.
While there were a few other things I would have liked to have seen (as in maybe a few chapters from Chloe’s POV to understand her character a bit more, more focus on Ally’s mom’s remarriage, and some of the spunkiness provided by Ally’s best friend Annie we saw in book number two), I did enjoy the nostalgia that crept up as Ally applied to colleges and prepared to move on after graduation. I loved seeing the characters mature and ready themselves for their next stage of life.
This is So Not Happening was definitely full of drama and an easy-breezy read; Scott does a great job exploring the difficult topic of teen pregnancy without making the topic feel overwhelming. If you’re like me and you like “issue” books, definitely give this one (actually, the whole series) a try if you need something a little more light-hearted than normal.(less)