What happens when a summer fantasy starts becoming reality? Do you jump in headfirst or start running in the other direction as fast as you can?
Ari LoWhat happens when a summer fantasy starts becoming reality? Do you jump in headfirst or start running in the other direction as fast as you can?
Ari Logan isn't used to getting what she wants, not with a younger half sister who clings onto her, an absent mother who works nights, and a stepfather who needs her help at the store. Not to mention that she's still struggling with her memories of the night she cut herself and the inner demons that led her to self harm.
So when she sees Camden Armstrong at the lake one summer and starts crushing on him, she finds safe satisfaction in her fantasies and learning what she can about him from other people instead of approaching him herself. It isn't until the next summer when she runs into him in oops let's not let that embarrassing incident come to light! that her fantasies start becoming reality, and she begins falling for him harder than any of her wildest dreams.
With an inside look at some dysfunctional relationships and the healing process, What Happens Now is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching read that does not feel as long as its 384 page count suggests. Despite its light-hearted looking cover, this novel is a story about the demons in all of us, about the fight to overcome them, and about forgiveness and the healing that comes after. As scene after scene passes, and Ari continues to make poorer and poorer decisions, I found myself turning the pages quicker desperate to find out where this seeming spiral of destruction led her.
Ari's particular demon is her depressive tendencies. Most novels I've read that explore mental conditions are dark, dense texts that get deep into the heart of the issue to the loss of other areas of the protagonist's life, such as his or her relationship with beyond the romantic interest and a few close friends, maybe a family member. What Happens Now is told in a lighter style that is more in the vein of beach reads that make it a suitable addition to the tote bag. Furthermore, it does not lose sight of Ari's relationship with her best friend Kendall, her new semi? friends (Eliza and Max), or her family members (mom, stepfather, and half sister)—and in fact develops them! It even dips beyond the surface of Ari and Camden's relationship, though their relationship never does seem more than a summer fling that I expected to burn out as quickly as it caught fire. The only character that didn't get as much attention as I would've thought is Ari's ex, with whom she shares some hefty baggage.
I believe that many of us can relate to at least some part of Ari: the depression. The desire for a guy she's hard-time crushing on but can't find the nerve to approach. The baggage with your ex-boyfriend. The need to rely on a fictional heroine to hold yourself up. The wondering if these cool people can really truly like you. The feeling of falling too hard too fast. The knowing that something is wrong for you but too tempting to let go. The feeling that your best friend is becoming distant, and you don't know how to repair the relationship. The wanting to go further than you should. The pleading to make things right. The crying after a painful breakup. The crying to forget. The coming to terms with the fact that nothing's perfect, but it doesn't need to be. And that's just a part of the picture.
If the wounds still feel fresh, this will be a raw and painful read. Ari does a lot of rebellious things, things that in another context would have made me dismiss her as another wild teen. Knowing the problems in her family and her internal struggles made me feel for her and wish wholeheartedly that things were better for her because I emphasize with a lot she's going through. I wish that she knew how much her mother loves her and that her mother speaks from a place of love—that sometimes the people that know us and love us the best say no to us because they mean well for us. That lying to her parents and running wild with a crowd provides with temporal satisfaction that will not last and is not worth giving up your parents' trust in you. That giving so much of yourself early into the relationship will hurt you and break you when the guy doesn't turn out to be the person you grew to love.
Ari's not a bad girl. She's a beautiful girl that's been hurt badly by the people she cares (and, in some cases, cared) about. Over the course of this novel, she learns to fall in love again, to take chances, and to forgive. She grows into a more confident, if not entirely assured person, and that's okay because life is all about learning and maturing from our experiences. She also learns that everyone carries something, nobody's perfect, and there's no clear-cut answer on when to let go.
That said, I, with all my heart, did not agree with how the romance angle turned out. I believe Ari made the right, if hard, decision once, and I didn't see the need for the unexpected turn that upended her big decision, especially given all that she's been put through. And I absolutely do not see how Ari ignored everything that happened to do what she did at the end. What I do love how the family plot worked out and began moving them in the direction they needed to take, and I wish the romance had been left as it was.
For a while, I couldn't decide whether or not to pick up Ivory and Bone. The synopsis doesn't give us much to go on other than what looks like a trianFor a while, I couldn't decide whether or not to pick up Ivory and Bone. The synopsis doesn't give us much to go on other than what looks like a triangle—romantic or not, I can't say. Historical fantasy is one of my favorite genres, but it's difficult to do well given all the world building and characterization that must go into it. (Both are always important to a novel but especially so when your audience isn't familiar with the culture and setting.)
Unfortunately, Ivory and Bone didn't end up being for me. In particular, two narrative choices on top of poor characterization threw me for a loop:
1) USE OF THE 2ND PERSON Kol narrates the story to Mya while they're out somewhere in the wild and in danger. At least, that's what I'm guessing based on the little that we're given in the prologue. While the prologue invites intrigue, it doesn't do a good job setting up the reader for the scenario much less the 2nd person narrative. 2nd person is used to submerge readers into the story and make us feel like we're a part of it. Frankly, it's challenging enough to use without introducing the reader to a historical fantasy world. It didn't work at all for me here.
2) MODERN LANGUAGE . . . IN A PREHISTORIC SETTING I'm not fond of the pairing of modern language with the prehistoric setting. It felt like I was watching a bad movie where the actors were trying to act in a historical movie but forgetting to leave their modern lingo behind. For an example of a YA historical fantasy series that aligns the dialogue to the time period, I highly recommend Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.
3) THE CHARACTERS LACK SUBSTANCE I couldn't feel a connection to the characters. One reason is that the characters themselves fall flat. Outside of his immediate fascination with Mya, there is no substance to Kol. Though he describes his apprehension of hunting mammals, I understand his theory but couldn't feel his emotions. The other part of this disconnect goes back to the second-person POV. It weirded me out that Kol narrates this story to Mya and thus refers to Mya as "you" when describing her. On top of not being Mya, I wasn't given an opportunity to get to know Mya before Kol begins addressing her. To read this novel as a story addressed to Mya caused an immediate disconnect with the characters.
IN CONCLUSION. . . This novel didn't work for me because of the use of the 2nd person POV, the poor world building (language disconnect), and the lack of substance in the characters. If you don't mind 2nd person narration, you may enjoy this one more than I did. Otherwise, I recommend reading Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.
An interesting premise, but the characters are flat and unrelatable. I felt like I was being told what happened rather than being presented a story. IAn interesting premise, but the characters are flat and unrelatable. I felt like I was being told what happened rather than being presented a story. I don't have an interest in pursuing this novel further.
Two young women, both with big dreams and losses incurred during the war, come together. The premise intrigues me. Given the similarities in their dreTwo young women, both with big dreams and losses incurred during the war, come together. The premise intrigues me. Given the similarities in their dreams and the difference in their class, there was potential for the story to make parallels between Dolly and Loretta's lives to show how love, war, and ambition intersect with class biases and the culture of the time to influence the young women's lives. However, the author takes far too long to set up the context. It isn't until close to midway in the novel that Dolly and Loretta's paths cross or the plot starts going anywhere. Despite Dolly's big dreams, we don't see them take direction until she meets Loretta. For a novel that does a better job of portraying the culture of the society and the relationships of its individuals, I recommend The Great Gatsy. (Albeit, it examines a different social class across the pond from The Girl in the Savoy.)
It seems as if the author wasn't sure where she was headed with the novel for much of it. Many of the initial scenes shown do not serve to build the story and could easily have been omitted. On the other end, there were characters and plotlines that were not developed enough. For example, Mr. Snyder's character represents the good darker sides of stardom, and he could have served as a good foil to Perry's character. However, Mr. Snyder was only given two key moments, neither of which led anywhere to reinforce the character traits he exemplifies. Again, a good opportunity to build the world is wasted.
Generally, I'm not fond of multiple perspectives because they're difficult to do well. Every perspective that is added takes away space that could have been used to further develop the main perspective. The Smell of Other People's Houses is another recently published work that does a fantastic job intertwining the stories of the protagonists (read my review here). The Girl from the Savoy does not handle this as well. For example, many of the revelations about Dolly and Loretta end up being revealed to the other later in the novel. Time spent with Dolly and Loretta's perspectives could have focused on their internal conflicts and the emotional damage dealt to them while hinting at what happened. (Just Listen by Sarah Dessen is a fantastic example of a work that successfully hints at a past trauma while building to the big reveal.) As for Teddy's perspective, I honestly didn't see a point to it except to show us what Dolly and Teddy had. What we learn with could have just as easily been shown through Dolly's perspective while further building her character and keeping the story focused on the two starring women.
Overall, The Girl from the Savoy is a decent enough read if you're looking for a historical fiction novel to pass away the time. It is unique from novels like The Great Gatsby in that it is set in London post World War I, though the setting / culture isn't developed enough for me to be entirely conscious of the differences in culture. However, it isn't one that I would go out of my way to recommend.
From its cover to its title to its size, The Smell of Other People's Houses is a quiet, unassuming novel at first glance. As each character is introduFrom its cover to its title to its size, The Smell of Other People's Houses is a quiet, unassuming novel at first glance. As each character is introduced, his or her story builds upon the events that have taken place and gives us a fuller image of the lives touched by our protagonists. To get a feel for the structure of this novel, imagine that you're traveling along a plane (here, I'm using the geometrical term); every now and then, a door opens allowing you to peek into the life of one of four characters whose timelines are growing ever closer to each other and are project to intersect in the near future. More than being enthralled in TSoOPH, I felt like I was a benevolent spirit hovering over the characters' shoulders and following their stories in the moment. In this way, TSoOPH was like a documentary but on a deeper, more personal level.
I don't often read novels featuring multiple POVs. From my limited experience, I've found that such novels tend pick up immediately, or even a little before, the moment the last POV left off. TSoOPH connects the characters' stories in a more subtle manner. Going back to the timeline example, it felt like I was watching the characters grow through vignettes that gave me a glimpse into key moments of their lives. This manner of storytelling is suitable for the novel's purpose in expressing the interconnectedness of life. Over the course of the novel, Hitchcock shows us how four (almost) strangers influence each others lives in a meaningful way as their lives cross paths.
The ending is very open and seemingly inconclusive. Given the experiences gained and lessons learned, you expect that our protagonists will mature into more open-minded, self-assured people, and we do see some of this growth. However, TSoOPH isn't about coming to a stunning conclusion on where Ruth, Dora, Alyce, Hank, or any of their associates end up. TSoOPH is about the journey and the discoveries that they make about themselves and members of their community. In the end, this is what life is really about: making mistakes and learning from them. Like our teenage protagonists, the older members of their community are still growing, and they have as much to learn from the younger generation as the young have to learn from them.
Lastly, go in prepared to rage, cry, have your heart broken, have your breath taken away. You will hate characters, then feel for them when you learn their story (even if you cannot entirely love them). You will pity some and loathe some even more. You will laugh and rejoice over new relationships that form as more lives cross paths.
In particular, I direct you to the end of chapter thirteen. Words alone cannot express the feels. My heart overflowed 'hearing' Ruth say, "I want to know that both of us have something good to look forward to." Her words touch on a subject that is near and dear to my heart for what they have to say on the value of life. Once you finish this chapter, go back to the beginning and reread the title; in the context of this chapter, the title—and this chapter—becomes even more poignant and significant. When you're done with this novel, go back and reread the chapters in the context of their titles and the season in which they take place. There is meaning layered throughout different elements of this novel. I will certainly be rereading it for the elements I missed out on in the first read.
TSoOPH is a breathtaking debut from Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock that draws from her personal experiences growing up in Alaska (for more information, check out her bio on her website). Needless to say, I look forward to more from her!
This is My Brain on Boys took me back to Smart Girls Get What They Want, a 2012 release by Sarah Strohmeyer. Both novels are about smart girls who expThis is My Brain on Boys took me back to Smart Girls Get What They Want, a 2012 release by Sarah Strohmeyer. Both novels are about smart girls who express interest in something other than studying. Whereas the romance took a secondary place in Smart Girls, however, it was very much at the forefront of My Brain on Boys.
While I don't have any problems with a romance novel here and there, it can be too easy for the pursuit of romance to overshadow other character developments. I never really felt like I got to know Addie and her friends or get invested in their story. It didn't help that the novel tried to juggle Addie's experiment, her growing interest in Kris, the conflict with her lab partner, and her role as assistant PC. These were all opportunities to get to know Addie on another level, but it was all done on a superficial level and didn't make use of the events to further develop her character. I do like the attempt to show how Addie's brain works differently from other people (e.g. her not understanding idioms like people "falling off the face of the Earth"), but it didn't feel natural.
My Brain on Boys alternates POV between Addie and Kris. Personally, I'm not fond of multiple POVs because it limits the amount of time we can spend getting to know any one character, but when done well, it can really further the plot. (For a fantastic example, check out: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman.) I like the alternating POV in this novel because it lets us get to know Kris and the reasons for his almost-expulsion before he becomes fully accepted by Addie, but I don't like it because, again, the character development was superficial. I'm still not even fully sure how the romance bloomed. The two of them never really talk or get to know each other; it was all just teenage hormones (that, and of course Kris turns out to be a perfectly nice guy). Then again, love being hormones is what Addie was trying to prove . . . .
Though Addie claims to have no interest in boys, she's working on a project that's designed to imitate conditions under which people may fall in love. While it's an interesting social experiment, it's much too difficult to control all the variables or replicate the experiment. I wouldn't have thought that would be the project she used to increase her chances of getting into Harvard—or that she would throw in that plot twist at the end. It was also disappointing that her lab partner turned out to be such an untrustworthy and overall uncool guy.
Overall, the characters were flat and not well developed, and the story tried to juggle too many storylines for my liking. I would recommend this as light reading for someone interested in a book with humor, smart girls, and love experiments.