This book has everything: Hollywood, teen TV dramas, prom, and deeper family issues. Ally's childhood best friend Vanessa is in the Hollywood spotligh...moreThis book has everything: Hollywood, teen TV dramas, prom, and deeper family issues. Ally's childhood best friend Vanessa is in the Hollywood spotlight, having just been recruited as the lead for a hot new teen soap (think The Vampire Diaries or The O.C. ). Ally, a top student, may need to sacrifice her Ivy League college dreams after her dad's melanoma diagnosis turns fatal. She picks up a job as her friend's personal assistant where she meets and falls for Vanessa's costar, Liam.
The balance of Hollywood vs. real life felt so realistic here. Seeing, literally, behind the scenes of a TV production with the publicists and paparazzi and the press who skews the truth, makes that whole side of life seem far less glamorous. Ally is a great character because she's loyal to Vanessa, not a TV show. Liam has a great backstory, and his relationship with Ally, with his costars, and his own family are explored and played off of Ally's experience. Lots of conflict that felt realistic despite being set among celebrities and the TV/movie scene.
I recommend this for fans Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson. A great summer read with that touch of depth to provide a really engaging read. (less)
Despite its rather slow start, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks turns into an examination of class, culture, and gender, in a suprisin...moreDespite its rather slow start, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks turns into an examination of class, culture, and gender, in a suprisingly fresh prep school heist-gone-wrong caper.(less)
More summery YA contemporaries! Cricket vows to have a great summer with her best friend Jules on Nantucket island, a place she's yet to go herself th...moreMore summery YA contemporaries! Cricket vows to have a great summer with her best friend Jules on Nantucket island, a place she's yet to go herself though Jules spends every summer there. But when Jules' family befalls tragedy, plans change. Jules' family decides to spend a quiet summer on the island without her. Cricket is deeply affected given spending time with Jules' family beats solving her own family's issues--a lonely mom and dad who's moved on to a new family. Cricket knows Jules needs her, so she finds summer work on the island, and shows up to surprise Jules.
The flavor of elite vacationers in Nantucket serves as a theme for Cricket's experience. Class issues are explored, as well as family loyalties, and self preservation. Cricket finds her family's hurts follow her to the island, as does Jules'. Cricket's other motivation for a Nantucket summer relates to a boy she knows back home who is also there for summer. But, love has other plans for her....
This is a solid summer contemporary, and a second book Nantucket Red is also available. (less)
Psychic Russian teen spies. Do you need any more than this? The premise of SEKRET, set in early 1960s Cold War Russia, intrigued me from the start. Yu...morePsychic Russian teen spies. Do you need any more than this? The premise of SEKRET, set in early 1960s Cold War Russia, intrigued me from the start. Yulia is recruited by force by the KGB for her capability to read minds, joining a small group of other teens with similar mind-manipulating abilities. Only, of course, not all is as it seems! Yulia's father disappeared prior to the story, and her mother and brother are taken right before Yulia is taken in with the KGB. She has quite a bit to uncover with her own family, as well as whether she can trust her fellow students.
I really liked the historical factors which blended actual history with embellished psychic abilities, making this more like a speculative, alternate history, which is really exciting to see in Young Adult. Kind of like a YA spin on the TV show The Americans (though this story actually takes place in Russia).
The love story subplot reads a little clunky, but overall the tension from love interests adds to the story's stakes, so it works. If you're looking for a different read with a bit of suspense, a unique setting, and historical details, SEKRET is a fresh read. (less)
The book begins with the assertion that Alice Franklin is a slut. The story is told from four different points of view, people who know Alice Franklin...moreThe book begins with the assertion that Alice Franklin is a slut. The story is told from four different points of view, people who know Alice Franklin, but not Alice herself until the very last chapter. A cool concept that reminded me of Siobhan Vivian's The List.
What the book does brilliantly is shows how quickly rumors spread, and how toxic our culture can be to young women. A credit to the author, each character point of view has value and nuance, even the "bad" people, because we are shown through their voice why they say and do the things they are doing. Alice is shown at times as a victim, a bully, a mystery, a cool girl, a loner. We see the history of her current friendships and the aftermath of the party that changes everything. And there are a few twists. This reads almost like a mystery, with the mystery being what truly happened to Alice Franklin. (less)
If you like the New Adult genre, this is a good read; maybe more like a 3.5 or 4 if you're really into this genre. The book is short, though that migh...moreIf you like the New Adult genre, this is a good read; maybe more like a 3.5 or 4 if you're really into this genre. The book is short, though that might also go with the NA territory. (less)
Open Road Summer is summer wish fulfillment: school's out, road trip, celebrity culture, romance. Reagan hops on a tour bus with her best friend Lilah...moreOpen Road Summer is summer wish fulfillment: school's out, road trip, celebrity culture, romance. Reagan hops on a tour bus with her best friend Lilah, who happens to be country music's next rising star. Reagan has a lot she's running from: a bad-boy ex, a broken family, general rebelliousness and restlessness now that her bestie no longer attends public school. Of course, there's a guy. Another country music star making his solo comeback after a stint with a Hanson-like family kids group years earlier.
This is the perfect book to breeze through on a warm day, and the characters have enough depth to keep the story from floating away entirely. Reagan's family troubles are realistic and her reactions similarly real, in both her mistakes and her loyalties. Each main character has a deeper story, with a lot of fun moments thrown in. (less)
Points for creativity here. This book has been pitched as a YA Fargo and the comparison is valid, though dialed way, way back for a YA audience. Still...morePoints for creativity here. This book has been pitched as a YA Fargo and the comparison is valid, though dialed way, way back for a YA audience. Still, there are dark themes, disturbing imagery, and rough language that makes this appropriate for an older YA audience. I personally would not recommend this to the younger scale of YA readers.
The satire is evident, with the everyones-so-gosh-darn-nice even when it comes to a gruesome murder, (and are they really nice at all given the reveal of the townsfolk's darker sides, which is what Fargo essentially explores), though the narrative often slips into straight-up slapstick and absurdist humor, which makes for an unsettling read. I'd like to think the author has intentionally built in that incongruity, so I'm going with that, though I don't know that the execution conveys this clearly enough.
I likened our narrator Kippy as a shell-shocked Leslie Knope (from Parks & Rec) set in the backdrop of a grizzly small town murder. Kippy is an oddball, and her sometimes exaggerated childishness seemed at odds with the dark tone of her best friend Ruth's diary entries, which to me bordered on Gone Girl-level dysfunction. Ruth as a character is why I caution readers that this is upper YA reading. There's a lot of weirdly funny stuff here, but the balance between satire, grieving loss, and bumbling comedic humor makes this a strange mix.
What sort of lost me in the middle was the violence support group where Kippy and her war vet friend/love interest joke that they have an abusive relationship (which they don't). It's just kind of stuck in there like a dark joke, but isn't really mentioned again, which just seemed weird.
I also questioned the [potential spoiler] mental health facility Kippy is sent to which seemed like something out of the 1960s in Girl, Interrupted, where the patients are constantly drugged and mash food on their faces. This is not at all a place I would expect her father would send her given he is a guidance counselor by profession. His entire character revolves around his deep research of therapy groups and strategies. I could see him sending her to a facility, but not to a place so absurd and archaic. And it really read as absurd and almost too comical for the tone set earlier in the book.
This book is definitely different. It's a bit all over the place, though I do appreciate the risks it took and the premise it explored. (less)
I have a personal interest in this book after having spent 2 years writing and researching a novel set in this same time period with the astronauts, s...moreI have a personal interest in this book after having spent 2 years writing and researching a novel set in this same time period with the astronauts, specifically looking at the space race's effect on families. I scoured some difficult sources to get a lot the information that is in here, so it was refreshing and fun to confirm what I'd found.
However, the oddly distant storytelling here does a disservice to such a fascinating time in history. This is human interest non-fiction and the free-for-all-point-of-view seemed out of place. A paragraph would start with facts and then slip into a more personal account from the perspective of one of the women. One paragraph was told in the voice of a child, then switched back to summary that somehow failed to capture the emotion of a very difficult situation. Some anecdotes didn't feel connected to any larger narrative, seeming like a funny-to-them story with the aftermath feeling that you really had to be there to get the punchline.
The Kennedy assassination was summed up in a few short lines: "Hands flew to mouths and cries filled the room. They couldn't believe it. The president had been shot." Talk about a missed opportunity!
Perhaps the structure of the book could have been organized in a way that focused more closely on specific wives, rather than trying to get to all of them at a high level. Some sections flowed well, especially when the accounts included dialogue and read more like a novel. Much of the storytelling included cliche phrases and clunky summary descriptions devoid of emotion, which felt tonally off.
I still recommend the book if you have interest in this era of history. (less)
I almost wonder if someone dared Brenda Novak to take the silly trope of a forced marriage and turn it into an engaging story. The premise is so ridic...moreI almost wonder if someone dared Brenda Novak to take the silly trope of a forced marriage and turn it into an engaging story. The premise is so ridiculous (think The Proposal where X circumstance "requires" a couple to marry), and yet somehow, Novak pulls it off. With her easy storytelling, the characters themselves pull apart the trope, dissect it, and turn it around again, revealing a nice little romance. A real credit to the author.(less)
The Goodreads description kind of oversells this as a romance--even the cover does. Family dynamics are the primary driver of the story with the roman...moreThe Goodreads description kind of oversells this as a romance--even the cover does. Family dynamics are the primary driver of the story with the romance more as a subplot. This one is a little less swoon and a little more introspection, but in the best way possible. Also, bonus stars for cultural diversity. (less)
Run to You is a serial novel released in parts. This format works really well for the book and adds to its fast pace. If you're a writer looking to ex...moreRun to You is a serial novel released in parts. This format works really well for the book and adds to its fast pace. If you're a writer looking to explore pacing and first chapters, this is an interesting one. The action starts from the very first page, with subtle hints to the larger picture of what's going on. It's not a book that stops to explain very often, and yet it still works with context and leaving a bit of mystery.
Tessa's identity changes frequently due to her family relocating whenever the mysterious man hunter her family gets close to finding them. Her parents have a run-and-leave-nothing-behind exit plan they've instilled in Tessa and her brother and sister. We don't know why they are being chased, though it has to do with Tessa's family's psychic and telekinetic abilities. All abilities Tessa doesn't have herself.
In a new town, and new school once again, Tessa is conflicted about letting herself get close to a boy she meets on the running trail near her house. While her older sister flirts and dates without shame, she's seen the heartbreak it caused when their family had to flee. There are no goodbyes in their world. Only new identities, hotels and rental homes paid in cash, and fires set to their old belongings.
This is a really fun series and one of the first YA thrillers I found truly engaging. I'm only on part one! All three parts are now out (having each been released in subsequent weeks this month). At $1.99 for each part as an ebook, it's a pretty great deal too.(less)