What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang is a dark young adult novel that explores the idea of identity, soul...moreReview first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang is a dark young adult novel that explores the idea of identity, soul mates, and a society that is both corrupted by the government and by its own citizens.
With surprising eloquence, Zhang introduces her characters to moments that had me cringing, and biting back my own angry retorts to the antagonists.
The reader will connect with Eva and Addie’s plight to be who they’re meant to be, but at a cost. We are almost forced to pick a side—kind of like the “settling” event that is supposed to occur when a child turns ten. What we see is two souls struggling for power over more than just a body—but a life. While they both inhabit one body, they both have different personalities, desires, and choices to make.
The dialogue is very unique and I found the presentation of it successful. It is easy enough to follow without confusing it with the other forms of dialogue in the novel. The pacing is great, since the story slowly builds to a very exciting, but not completely surprising conclusion.
I recommend this one to readers of dystopian fiction, and anyone who wants two sides of a story, all within the same narrative. If you enjoyed The Program by Suzanne Young, you will enjoy this one!(less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Insomnia by J.R. Johansson is a debut young adult thriller that will keep the reader up at night. Its fast-paced prose and the curiosity Parker’s ability insights makes this a tough book to put down. Johansson’s writing will make the reader question Parker’s innocence in the growing dangers around him, and s/he will crave an answer to Parker’s most important obstacle: Will he survive long enough to find a way to beat his insomnia?
Novels like Johansson’s are the kind of books that make me wish for more male protagonists. Parker is your typical jock, he’s smart enough to pass classes, and has great charisma. The only catch? Parker has a hard time sleeping because he spends his nights experiencing other people’s dreams. Let’s just say that it’s been a long time since Parker’s had a good night’s sleep. Insomnia takes a turn for the eerie when Parker becomes obsessed with the idea of sleeping a peaceful night, thanks to the new girl in town, who is being stalked by more than her mysteriously dark and painful past.
Okay, this is where Johansson’s genius comes to light. Parker, our trusty protagonist, becomes the antagonist of his own story. As his world tunnels in on the bliss that is a full night’s sleep, we start doubting that he can be called a reliable narrator—after all, he can’t be such a good guy if he is being so creepy and stalkerish, right?
But what’s genius about this is that we still sympathize with Parker. Even if, just like he does, we question his sanity and whether he is truly on the good side of good vs. evil. We are made to question him, just like everyone else does; just like Parker questions himself. Why should we trust Parker if he can’t even trust himself?
As the story spirals out of Parker’s control, the prose becomes twisted to showcase his near-insanity. Reality morphs with his dream-state, and the darkness within him promises to swallow both Parker and the reader. And when some form of redemption reaches Parker, the reader breathes a sigh of relief because, really, Parker can’t be that bad, right?
That’s Johansson’s genius, among other aspects of her debut novel.
She makes us ask: What would happen if we didn’t sleep?
I recommend Insomnia to fans of young adult thrillers that touch on the supernatural, but not overtly so. If you enjoy creepy novels that beg you to figure out its secrets, then this is a must read.
Filled with dark humor (thanks to Parker’s incredibly witty best friend, who is the perfect comic relief in a very disturbing novel), great character growth—Parker’s attempt to reign the darkness within him makes him much more powerful than the scared narrator we first encounter—, and romance that staggers on several occasions, Insomnia is a novel that must be read late into the night.
Because, honestly, who can sleep after reading this?
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Josin L. McQuein's Arclight is a creepy, but very cool young adult novel. McQuein's debut is teeming with individual stories begging to be told, as well as a mystery that pulses with a life of its own. Basically, who is Marina? We are plagued with this question for the majority of the novel as we follow Marina, the protagonist, and the other characters on her quest to self-discovery.
But the creepy tone of the novel is what will surely capture the reader's attention. McQuein takes the common fear of the dark and twists it into her own horrifying perfection. She does not simply create monsters who lurk in the dark, she creates creatures who are made of the dark and so much more--giving them the disturbing ability to blend in with nearly anything.
The pacing is great. The story begins in the heart of a crises, giving us a chance to see which characters will stand out in the novel, and what side they will sit on (either they are bad guys, or good guys). The introduction also works for me because I am not left wondering why Marina isn't popular, and why the people living in the Arclight are so scared of the dark.
Having complimented the pacing, I think it's important to state that the storyline (and rising action) can be described as a very action-filled read--never a dull moment. We are continuously led from one terrifying moment, to another.
There is romance, as there usually is in post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels. The affairs between these young characters add not only blush-worthy story lines, but also hope to the bleak setting. The romance between Marina and her love interest makes you hope for the best for them, even as the dark encroaches on their world.
The complexity of the novel is brought up a notch as we learn more about the Fade, the creatures that live beyond the light barrier. McQuein somehow makes a terrifying creature into a thing of beauty by using poetic prose in her descriptions. She touches on the power of nature in a world seemingly bereft of life, she explores familial connections, and how trust can be more powerful than fear.
The one thing I am not a huge fan of is how stubborn Marina is. I also find her behavior near the end to be slightly hypocritical. Here's a girl who's been shunned by those around her because she's different, yet she cannot offer the same compassion to others in similar situations. Her attitude mimics that of the people who mistreat her, which completely baffles me. While I like the other characters, like the thoughtful and hopeful Tobin, or even the chatty Anne-Marie, Marina acts just like the other ignorant people in the Arclight--even though she was not born there.
Which adds to the fact that, no matter if the subject is human or not, prejudices run deep in this one.
At first, I was extremely happy to have found a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that was a standalone, but then I found out that Arclight is simply the beginning of a series. I have mixed feelings about this because while I would like to know what happens to the characters beyond Marina's story, I'm going to need a heck of a new mystery and discovery for the sequel to intrigue me. Arclight's mystery explains and disproves so many of the prejudices and fears in the novel, that a sequel feels a little dangerous.
I recommend Arclight to readers of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. If you like novels that play with the dark, offer fearful situations that have more depth than simply being terrifying, and like complex mysteries, then you might want to check this one out.
This year is looking good for dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels, and Arclight is a nice addition to the already impressive collection. (less)
This was a fantastic read that immediately pulled me in! I've been thinking about reading this one for a long time now and I'm glad I finally sat down...moreThis was a fantastic read that immediately pulled me in! I've been thinking about reading this one for a long time now and I'm glad I finally sat down to read it. Needless to say, I read straight through the night because I couldn't put this one down!
The characters are memorable and the romance is beautifully created. The author captured the horrors of the island, the isolation, and the reality of being away from everything and everyone we know. I liked that there wasn't too much focus on the mundane, but on the things that mattered and established an exciting tale.
The underlying theme of age differences and what we want in life is explored seamlessly, while the decisions made by the characters are realistic and not dramatic like so many fictional romances out there right now.
A great read that I recommend to anyone who enjoys romance in general fiction, and for anyone who wants a story that explores not only the survival of oneself, but the survival and growth of one's heart.
When I jumped into Evan Fuller's Mutt I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. I have read...moreThis review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
When I jumped into Evan Fuller's Mutt I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. I have read independent authors' novels before that have left me confused, angry, and even tired, so I won't lie, I was a bit weary. But Fuller's debut into the world of writing is an exciting and fluently written story that delves into the politics of humanity if the world were to experience catastrophic events (I'd like to even say that the points raised in the novel can be used to compare the different powers that countries in the present global economy hold).
The cover is intriguing and it forces the reader to look for any hints of what is offered within the pages. The magic can be seen in the wisps of smoke coming off Green, the central magical character in the novel, and the rough life of the Wastelands can be noted in the wear and tear of his clothing. The colour of the background might indicate the "wasteful" atmosphere that the characters explore.
The following synopsis is from smashwords:
"Centuries after most of humanity died out, a new civilization is slowly constructed upon the remnants of the old.
Emery, a young man living in the walled city of Rittenhouse, has taken it upon himself to rescue "mutts," as the citizens of Rittenhouse call the impoverished masses outside. When Timothy, a boy afflicted with a fatal illness, seeks Emery's help, the two embark on a deadly errand to secure the medicine Timothy needs. This mission takes them from the safety of Rittenhouse into the wasteland outside it, where ancient superstitions are reborn and humanity struggles to survive amidst the ruins of a fallen American metropolis."
To be honest, I have become a fan of Fuller's writing and only really had two complaints while reading the novel.
1. Editing. Though not to such an extent that it distracted me from the story, the editing could have been a bit more thorough. Some of the errors include: a few missing quotation marks, extra words, oddly phrased sentences, and missing words. The problems with editing weren't so huge that it completely killed the novel because the writing was still beautiful. Don't let this deter you though: a) because I am a stickler for these things in novels, and b) the story is brilliant and thought-provoking.
2. There is one moment where a professor is called out of a classroom and I never get to find out what happened... I would love to see an answer in the sequel!
1. Fuller's writing is effortless. When I first began reading Mutt, I found myself lost in the world of Rittenhouse and the Wastelands (which immediately brought my thoughts to T.S. Eliot, but I digress). The writing is fast-paced and this is mainly why I finished so quickly!
2. There is a scene that terrified the hell out of me. Why is this a positive? Because I rarely find novels that legitimately have sections that scare me to the point were I feel uncomfortable. For example, there's a point where Emery, the protagonist, is attacked and his thoughts become erratic. How does Fuller present the mental change of his character? By writing one long run-on sentence, which is an excellent technique when done purposefully with the intention of disturbing the reader and making him/her wonder why the author has written such a sentence.
3. The emotions that the characters experience are well written and I found myself empathizing with them. Let me tell you, some moments in this book will break your heart, while others will make you just as angry as the characters themselves.
4. The characters all varied for me. Lydia was a bit of a nag, but I understand why. (view spoiler)[That wholeromance in the novel was a bit unexpected, but I hope that it is explored further in the next novel since it left me feeling a bit confused. (hide spoiler)] The people in and from the Wastelands had a great dialect, which Fuller continuously used. He varied it slightly as the social status of the characters either rose or fell. Emery is of a higher class, so his dialogue was rich and intelligent.
5. The description of things that survived after the extinction of the world as we know it and how the world rebuilt itself is brilliant. It was fascinating to see how things would be in such a world and how our actions now would be viewed later.
Mutt is a great debut novel and I urge you to read it if you enjoy dystopian novels that not only explore magic, but also the political issues behind the changes that the world undergoes when it is trying to fix itself.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I received a free copy for review from the publisher.
Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin (A.K.A. Andrew Shaffer) is a parody of E.L. James’s series, Fifty Shades of Grey. The debut encompasses various other aspects of pop culture, offering witty commentary from both the protagonist, Anna Steal, and her romantic interest, Earl Grey.
Shaffer is aware that Anna is not the most reliable character in his book and he plays with this revelation. Anna acts as his example when he criticizes the weak female protagonists literature has adopted, the narcissistic male billionaire characters, and the farfetched plot twists employed in recent novels.
Shaffer persuades his readers to notice the flaws in our current society. He challenges us to question who we are idolizing and what the effects of such adoration could be. He also comments on the state of the modern novel. A terrifying prediction that rings true if we continue to entertain weak protagonists and the relationships they have with other characters. Whereas humorous for the most part, this novel is a serious examination of the ludicrous fads overwhelming society.
Shaffer’s writing is fast-paced, fresh, and entertaining. This book does require some knowledge of Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, since the underlying dark humor isn’t always blatantly clear. A person not privy to the general plots of either books may not understand the meaning behind Shaffer’s satirical novel.
The reader must observe Shaffer’s ability to comment on the cliches of erotic and romantic literature without seeming pretentious. This can be seen when he creates a hysterical mood that shatters the illusion of romance by overusing cliched words. The word "Gaze" appears to be one of his favourites.
There are moments where the humor tends to feel a bit forced, the jokes slipping right past me. But for the greater part, I could not stop laughing. Shaffer is able to draw out humor from content that is disturbing in nature.
Andrew Shaffer’s book is a mean feat, considering he wrote it in 10 days. A satirical look at pop culture and our society, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is a comical debut that will have you giggling until the conclusion.(less)
I received a copy from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Freshman Forty by Christina Duval is a new adult novel that follows Laurel, an eighteen year-old who discovers that she’s pregnant during her freshman year of college. Having read several new adult novels, I was expecting something a little sexy and spicy, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this debut deals more with the consequences of said sexy actions, and less with characters getting it on in every chapter.
Duval’s novel is a quick read that can be easily devoured in a day or two. The prose is to the point, but not in such a way that is off-putting. Her story has substance, since it shows us how difficult it can be to make decisions that have the power to change our lives forever, but it is also a little on the unbelievable side.
Laurel is an extremely smart girl who is beginning her college career at an exclusive college set in rural America, yet her decisions make me question her intelligence. For starters, her pride and standoff-ish behavior tends to make her unlikable at times, especially when she opts out of sharing her news with those she loves. It’s a good thing that this is the first in a series, because I would love to see where Duval takes Laurel’s story.
Laurel’s relationships are complex, especially the one with her father. It’s easy to see why she is so stubborn. But I felt bad for Laurel, too, because it wasn’t like the people around her made it easy for her to open up. Yeah, she should have been more open from the get-go, but it’s not like Laurel didn’t have a reason to be wary. Let’s just say that her father can be really cruel with his decisions.
Freshman Forty is a little cliche (i.e. rich girl, easily fixed problems), and very predictable. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a fun read.
I don’t know what it is, but Duval’s writing pulled me in immediately. It could be that I like the idea of young pregnancy and how a character can grow from the experience. It could also be thanks to the easy flow of Duval’s prose. Either way, I was hooked and couldn’t put the book down until I finished it.
Is Freshman Forty something philosophical and life changing? Maybe not. But hey, if you want a book that has a complex family dynamic, powerful friendships, possible romance, and comments on one of society’s largest contemporary issue, then this is definitely something for you to put down on your to-read list.
Duval’s a new adult author to keep an eye on, and trust me, I was very happy to see that Freshman Forty was just the beginning!(less)
Bleed by young author Nusrat Sultana is an ambitious novel that offers an original perspective of the vampire genre. Sultana’s debut is impressive, since she manages to draw the reader in and keep his/her attention throughout the 264 pages. Though her technique is a bit archaic, Sultana is an author to watch for in the future.
Bleed is a novel revolving around Amaryliss, a young girl on the verge of changing into something from a horror book. Not only does she receive news that will aid in re-shaping her outlook of the world around her, but she starts to experience odd events that make her question her sanity. Then she meets Austin, the strange and always cool boy by the graveyard. But Amaryliss knows her parents are keeping secrets, and she's confused by Austin’s sudden appearance. As a result, she spends the greater part of the novel questioning nearly everything she sees as she learns about her seemingly new world.
Sultana’s ability to write in an omniscient, third person voice is seamless. The reader will barely notice when she changes from one character’s point of view to another. Another aspect of writing that Sultana appears to have a strong understanding of is how to show the reader what is happening, rather than telling him/her what s/he should be experiencing. Sultana shows the reader Amaryliss’s fear through slightly archaic diction, regardless of how old-fashioned the writing appears.
However, one of the downfalls of Bleed is how cliched some of Amaryliss’s characteristics are. It feels like Sultana uses every negative feature from a past heroine when it comes to describing her own character. Amaryliss’s frailty is reminiscent of the past gender-degrading state of various heroines, and her naiveté over the situations surrounding her is an over-used tactic to create angst in novels. One other cliche is Austin’s ability to always appear when Amaryliss needs him. Does anyone remember a certain sparkly creature waiting on the sidelines?
Of course, even with all these cliches, the reader must admit that Sultana’s Bleed is a fun and highly addicting novel. Though at times the dialogue is contrived and the pacing is a bit slow, Bleed will grab the attention of nearly any eager reader.
Bleed is recommended for readers who want a different take on the vampire genre, and a plot that grows beautifully as the story progresses. Sultana sets the stage for a new generation of writers who promise to take the future of literature by storm.(less)
I received a free copy of The Accidental Siren for review purposes.
The Accidental Siren by Jake Vander Ark is a young adult debut set in Lake Michigan that follows twelve year-old James during the summer of 1994. This particular summer is unforgettable for young James since it is the year he experiences his first love. Beautiful and surreal, twelve year-old Mara is the object of every boy’s dream, yet her attraction goes beyond reality and touches on the supernatural.
Vander Ark successfully recreates 1994 for the reader by using references to popular artists, films, and trends of the time. He openly warns the reader of the prejudices that were still active in the early nineties; racial discrimination being an important subject in this novel. The Accidental Siren also explores the difficulties of growing up. James, a prepubescent boy when we meet him, struggles with his weight, hormones, and changing body as the summer progresses.
James, as a protagonist, is unreliable. As the frightening conclusion approaches, he does nothing to show us that he is affected by what he’s learned about Mara. At times, as is pointed out within the story, the reader is left wondering if James is in fact relaying the truth, or if everything we’ve learned from him is all an illusion caused by obsession.
There are moments where Vander Ark’s characters appear unrealistic. However, an older version of James reflects on particular events in certain chapters, reminding the reader that this is an adult’s retelling of a childhood memory.
Written in beautiful prose, Vander Ark’s tale warns of the perils of obsession. The setting is described using flawless metaphors that paint James's world in the reader's mind. The plot becomes more haunting with every chapter, effectively dragging the reader deeper into the story with every twist and turn.
Jake Vander Ark's debut is a wonderful book to read not just because of how original it is, but because the writing in itself is something magical that the reader can't detach him/herself away from.(less)
Abigail Gibbs’s young adult novel Dinner With a Vampire, the first installment in The Dark Heroine series, is another addition to the popular vampire genre. Full of romance and beautiful prose, Gibbs offers the reader a more creative, better detailed, and slightly less naive version of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. It is inevitable that the two are compared, since they both touch on the romanticization of vampires.
I admit that this is a guilty pleasure book, especially because of how it treats its female counterparts. I did my best to read straight through the disempowerment of female characters and the cliches that sprinkled the pages. For the most part, I allowed myself to be swallowed by the gothic romance and sexy male protagonist.
The unappealing aspect of Gibbs’s novel is how female characters are portrayed. This vampiric world introduces hierarchies full of men, as well as passing comments of female vampires hoping to one day have an equal say. The female protagonist, Violet, for a good portion of the story, is treated like an object, rather than a person, which unfortunately mimics the disempowerment of females in young adult novels.
What the reader will like about this story, however, is Gibbs's awareness of how weak Violet is in the novel. She points out flaws by having other characters comment on them, which is superb. This realization and commentary gives the novel comedic relief, whether intended or not, because Gibbs is showing her readers that her story takes place in a world aware of Violet’s frivolities.
Considering Gibbs is 18, most likely younger when she first wrote Dinner With a Vampire, this novel is a very impressive piece. The prose is nearly effortless, the diction well beyond expectation, and the pacing is quick, but not distractingly so. The story reads like a Jane Austen novel full of vampires and risque moments.
Gibbs also has a way of building anticipation for the reader. Certain scenes are very well crafted, luring the reader into the moment, rather than just telling him/her what happens next. In a way, Gibbs is seducing the reader with her prose, much like Kaspar, the male protagonist, is seducing Violet.
Dinner With a Vampire is a must-read for fans of vampires in young adult novels. Though sexy enough to be inappropriate for readers younger than fourteen, it is a quick and tasty treat for readers craving a romantic paranormal novel.(less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Amy Tintera's debut, Reboot, is another fantastic dystopian young adult novel that alludes to a new brand of zombies. Tintera's characters show great growth as they struggle for freedom in an increasingly dangerous world. Tintera throws us a story that challenges us to view the "post-apocalyptic" world from the point of view of zombies, rather than the humans who have survived. She almost asks us, "Are humans just as evil as the zombies portrayed in past horror novels? Or have we had the story wrong all along?"
Wren, the protagonist, is immediately introduced as the best and least human of all the Reboots, which is a fancy term for "humanized zombies". What I like about Wren is how her character growth is gradual, rather than immediate, and even near the conclusion of the novel, she still retains a few of her characteristics. The fact that Tintera can stay true to her character, rather than have her become absolutely human because of one boy, is awesome because it shows that Wren is her own person and not one part of a couple. Also, the character growth displays Wren's strength as a female protagonist--not because she is physically powerful or different, but because she learns how to be better, not for others around her, but for herself.
Reboot has a shaky start, but when it picks up, wow, it really picks up! I couldn't put the book down as event after event took place. Though the events that occurred were slightly predictable, they were still fun to read. You feel Wren's emotions--despite her self-professed lack of emotions--when her world completely changes and when she meets the new guy. You wonder how can humans be so cruel to children who are just different, and you even wish you could take a swing at a few characters. (Particularly the man in charge).
Since Reboot is a dystopian novel, the reader will notice the complex world Tintera has created. Though it may appear limited (only Texas survived? Huh?), one has to keep in mind that these generations of human survivors don't know any better than what their government tells them. In that sense, Tintera has created a world where we too are the slaves to the limited information we're given. For all we know, all the other states and countries have survived, but these characters' world is so small and limited, that we might as well believe what we are being told.
Reboot also showcases a powerful romance that, in its own way, is a political statement. Wren's relationship with her love interest (I will not ruin this for you!) is viewed as very odd because of the differences in status, and even as the conclusion nears, we note the discrimination between Reboots--which is ironic, considering how humans treat the Reboots. This in turn mimics our own society and how we too can have prejudices within our own minorities.
I recommend Reboot to readers of dystopian fiction that revamp popular paranormal creatures. These aren't bloodthirsty zombies (or are they?), these are military kids fighting for so-called peace in a corrupt environment. We are given the chance to empathize with the characters we would normally view as antagonists. If you like action, there is a heck of it in Reboot. We jump from one action filled situation to another, it never really lets up--which is awesome.
Reboot's conclusion is also extremely promising, since what we're left with makes us crave the sequel--there are so many questions left to be answered, will they be answered in the next book?(less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Katie Sise's The Boyfriend App is a great contemporary young adult debut that explores the intelligent world of technology and how it affects its most recent generation. Through quickly paced prose, geeky romance (of the best kind), and witty dialogue (a definite must!), Sise tells a novel that goes beyond the cute synopses and dives into the importance of truth, friendship, and family.
Audrey, the protagonist, is plagued by her ex-best friend's bullying, the lack of financial funds for college, her secret crush, and the poor financial state her and her mother have lived in since her father's death. But then, one of the most successful technology companies announces a contest: any high school student who creates a successful and popular app will win $200,000.
There are a few things that were hard not to love in Sise's novel: the humor aspect, despite the darker themes; the growing experience Audrey goes through as she discovers that, to quote Voltaire, "with great power, comes great responsibility,"; and how Audrey's world is shaped by the characters surrounding and supporting her.
The characters are so unconventionally nerdy that it makes me love them that much more. They are shy, smart, creative, and I won't lie when it comes to Audrey's love interest, sexy.
The Boyfriend App evolves from a quirky, angst-ridden, and dark story, to one of character growth and, at times, unrealistic situations.
The romance is super sweet, if not a little obvious. I know it's a character trait when a protagonist is oblivious to the affection of those around her, but I still find it a little annoying when the truth is not only obvious, but the characters choose to live in their ignorance. But, putting aside my disdain for naive characters, the romance develops slowly and with a lot of promise.
Sise plays with her readers as she dangles the idea of a romance between Audrey and her love interest within reach, but doesn't completely give them the obvious conclusion right away. She lets the story develop and her characters grow before she gives us what we want for Audrey.
The contrast between Audrey's knowledge of the digital world and that of the real world is interesting. Whereas she is incredibly smart with the former, the novel allows for Audrey to grow and learn more about the latter. I like the comparison of the two worlds as they co-exist because at times, with all of the explanations Sise offers us about HTML Coding and what-not, it helps ground the reader in the here and now--the current state of things for Audrey.
She cannot escape her problems via her computer, so we shouldn't be able to escape either through her vast explanations.
Audrey's relationships with the characters around her are revealing. Her relationship with her cousin is touching, while her feelings for her love interest reveal how powerful and important friendship is to her. Her relationship with her mother is at times strained, but she is a teenager recovering from her father's death, so her tendency to shut her mother out is understandable, making her relatable.
What I didn't like about the novel was how unrealistic it was. Okay, a boyfriend app is a possibility, but as the original app evolves with a little extra oomph, Sise pushes the boundaries between reality and science fiction. Who knows? Perhaps in the future we will see apps that can control everything about you, emotionally, but for now it is a little hard to swallow. Especially in a contemporary young adult novel.
Also, and this is just a little comment on the continuity of the novel, there is a scene where the characters are scrolling and searching for a particular name in a list. My question is, if these characters are computer brainiacs, why couldn't they just hit: CTRL+F?
I know, I know. It's a little thing, but for some reason it really bugged me. I know computer geniuses and they never navigate computers the "normal" way--instead, they always have a CTRL+this or a CTRL+that shortcut.
Despite the aforementioned flaws, Sise's novel has a lot of raw emotion. Audrey is still recuperating from her dad's accidental death and the loss of her best friend. The Boyfriend App has a catchy title, but the themes within the novel are much darker than the title suggests.
A few of these themes are: Bullying, to the point of physical abuse, occasionally takes place; the addicting qualities behind technology in today's society; and depression is shown by Audrey's addiction to her computer, since it was the greatest shared interested she once held with her father.
The Boyfriend App is a young adult novel that readers of contemporary fiction will enjoy, even with the little touches of technology here and there, since they add character to the novel. I recommend this to readers who want a quick book to read that has a protagonist who starts off as weak, but comes out at the end as a powerful force. (less)
Laurie Plissner’s Louder Than Words is a fantastic debut for the older young adult audience. Plissner’s writing style is witty, modern, and touching. With the barest hint of the paranormal, Plissner manages to engage her reader with a smart and grieving protagonist, and a climax that will take the reader’s breath away.
Plissner’s characters are well-rounded and realistic. Sasha, the protagonist, deals with the loss of her family through an extreme form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder called selective mutism. Though her body chooses a rare form of PTSD, her grieving process appears natural for someone who has lost her entire immediate family. Plissner’s words, as she leads the reader through Sasha's troubled thoughts, are powerful and raw.
The paranormal aspect of the novel is understated. Ben, Sasha’s romantic interest, is a mind reader with an antiquated morality code, while his mother is more aware of the world around her than most.
But Plissner does not bog down her story with winded explanations of why her characters are so supernaturally inclined. By omitting the usual lengthy description of why a character can do something unusual, Plissner is trusting her readers to just accept her story and enjoy the ride.
Louder Than Words has a touch of sensuality that makes it more appropriate for an older young adult audience. The chemistry that Sasha and Ben have is evident in their frisky actions, but it is slightly dramatic and unrealistic. But then again, Ben is a boy who can read minds, and Sasha is a depressed teenager. They're not exactly a conventional pair.
Perhaps the most addicting part of Plissner’s debut is the mystery surrounding Sasha. The reader can’t help but dissect everyone Sasha encounters, and everything she learns once she decides to pursue the truth behind her family’s death. All of her sleuthing and attempts at regaining some semblance of a normal life lead to a surprising conclusion.
Plissner’s success in creating a powerful ending comes from the fact that she slowly builds up to it, throwing the reader a proverbial bone with every chapter, either leading him/her astray, or hinting at the obvious truth that sits in plain sight.
With an outspoken protagonist, and a quickly paced romantic relationship, Plissner’s novel touches on more than just the mystery of the novel. Sasha's world explores the troubles teenagers face growing up, the dangers of the naive world they tend to inhabit, and the complexities surrounding hormones. All of these aspects make Louder Than Words more of a contemporary read, rather than a supernatural romance novel.
Older teens who like reading books about teenagers who overcome seemingly impossible odds, pretentious boys who steal girl’s hearts, or just a hint of the supernatural in fiction, will most likely enjoy Louder Than Words.
Witty and unapologetic, Plissner’s novel is a realistic representation of the teenage world: imperfect and complicated.(less)
Strength & Justice: Side: Strength is the first installment in a young adult science-fiction series by Adrem Kay. Jeremy Itsubishi, the protagonist, leads readers into the world of Geminate City where danger and magic lurks. Kay touches on the Japanese culture via Jeremy's knowledge of the food and language of the culture. We are also given the opportunity to visualize some of the events in the novel by glancing at the six hand-drawn sketches scattered among the pages.
Jeremy is a 15-year-old smart-mouth with the habit of acting before contemplating the consequences of his actions. Though I liked Jeremy and his loyal personality, he is sometimes wearisome. While he occasionally acts and sounds much older than his age, there are moments when his whining and blatant misunderstanding of situations are a bit over the top. The reader watches as Jeremy's world quickly falls apart as the mysterious Repulsion Illness, a disease that rids a person of his/her magic, spreads. The fast-paced plot causes Jeremy to grow as a character. He does this by surpassing the comical facade that is presented at the beginning of the novel.
The relationship between Jeremy and his girlfriend Mandy is questionable. An aspect of Jeremy that irks me is how quick he is to place Mandy above every one else, even his mother. I understand the dependency the two teenagers have for each other, considering they are both from less than ideal homes, but I can’t help but wonder if this is a realistic portrayal of a relationship.
The biggest issue I have with Strength & Justice is the apparent plot hole near the beginning of the novel. Ellie, a minor character, barely appears before she is taken out again. Given her role in the memory that Jeremy recounts, I find it unsettling that the characters barely react to Ellie’s disappearance. As a result, this character feels like a last minute addition to the plot.
Putting aside the few flaws found in the characters, Kay has created intriguing and realistic characters. The reader will laugh along with the humor and will relate to the emotions portrayed by the characters. Kay's ability to write a novel that is both character and plot driven is intriguing, since I never know what will happen next.
Strength & Justice is a fun and original adventure that will have its readers guessing until the end of the story. Readers seeking a fast-paced novel that explores a world inhabited by magical abilities and a quirky protagonist will love this debut.(less)
I received a copy from Merit Press in exchange for an honest review
Leah Konen's debut, The After Girls, is an exploration in how grief can affect everyone in different ways. Lunacy is both rampant and a very real threat, while the power of friendships and the need to know the truth rule the characters' lives. Eerie, dark, touching, and surprisingly romantic, Konen's novel shows the reader how death can have the power to either destroy you, or make you stronger.
The concept of the story is very powerful. The After Girls begins with two best friends, Ella and Sydney, mourning the sudden death of their third best friend, Astrid. Astrid's suicide is not only the start of a near-tragic novel, but it is the theme that creates the dark tone within the pages. Even as Ella and Sydney find potential romance, their actions, thoughts, and decisions always have an echo of Astrid's death.
Ella and Sydney not only have to heal after Astrid's death, they also have to learn how to be two, instead of three. This challenge is introduced when Sydney is forced to consider how Ella's mourning is all-encompassing. Konen teaches her readers that everyone has a different way of mourning, and though Ella's journey after her best friend's death is near psychotic and definitely obsessive, she too eventually finds peace.
Sydney, however, is the interesting character. The After Girls is written in third person limited (to either Ella or Sydney), so we are allowed glimpses into both lives. Sydney, originally the rebel, changes and falls into near-destructive behavior--grief is a very dangerous emotion that opens up too many outlets for people to explore, especially teenagers.
But then, suicide is a risky topic and a very real threat in today's society. Konen's novel does touch on how Astrid commits suicide, but unlike other novels depicting similar situations, The After Girls focuses more on how a sudden death can make some people complete opposites of who they used to be.
Even with the darker themes of depression, obsession, and addiction, Ella and Sydney share delicate moments of friendship that hint to us that everything will be okay. They obviously care for each other like sisters, but they are so lost in grief, that they are barely holding onto each other. Given the situation, it's understandable that the characters will often clash in an attempt to understand their new messy world.
Despite the seemingly despondent tone some of the characters adopt, Ella and Sydney experience love, both forbidden and unexpected. What I wasn't so keen on was how someone (who will remain nameless so as to avoid spoilers), who is apparently very important to one of the character, is barely shown in the novel. Of course, this could be intentional, so as to show us just how distant the characters are from each other, but I still found that odd.
For some apparent reason it took me a long time to get through this. Any other day, I would think the pacing is fine. But every time I turned to read The After Girls, my brain would quickly turn to something else. The storyline is great, the mystery is thrilling and spooky, and the characters are challenges to be solved. Perhaps it was the narrative voice, which was kind of ambiguous, that turned me off more often than I'd care to admit. I blame this on the fact that I am not a huge fan of third person narration.
The ending is nostalgic and fitting. The characters are given a chance to mourn, while hoping for a future--which, after the darkness in most of the novel, is a very light and welcoming conclusion.
I recommend The After Girls to readers of contemporary young adult fiction. There is romance for the romantics, character growth, and an unforgettable tale of grief that will haunt the reader even after turning the last page.(less)
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review
A Shimmer of Angels by Lisa M. Basso is a young adult novel that begins slowly, but picks up speed near the middle of the story. While the novel is somewhat predictable and a bit cliche, it is an emotional story full of anger and misunderstanding. A fast read with touches of romance here and there, Basso's debut into the world of young adult novels is powerful and dangerous.
Ray has been in and out of a mental institute for a good portion of her life. Why? Because she can see angels, or can she? It isn't until her most recent release that Ray's world starts to make a little more sense and she begins to question whether angels are real, or just a figment of her schizophrenic imagination.
One of the most popular topics in young adult literature today is that of angels, so I was expecting the predictable scenarios that often plague overused topics in literature. Thankfully, Basso adds a bit of originality into her story line with her powerful and independent protagonist, Ray.
Ray's name hints at her power and I think it is something the reader should consider as the series progresses. The name "Ray" depicts a streak of light, most likely from the sun--i.e. a ray of sunlight. I am a sucker for names that hint at the protagonist's purpose, so this was not lost on me.
There is romance beneath the layers of anxiety Ray experiences, but I was glad to see that it didn't take up the whole novel. Whereas other novels love to make the romance between the characters the main focal point of the story, Basso makes it something that occurs along the way in Ray's hectic life.
Ray's character grows from a timid, fearful person to a powerful guardian of sorts. Though I do not agree with some of her choices, she is one tough protagonist. Her family life is fraught with unfairness, but Basso makes the reader consider what her father is experiencing as well.
The male characters that surround Ray kind of irritated me, just because of their inaction. Though they are ridiculously sexy, they have their faults. But in a way, their lack of action turns Ray into a much stronger character. This is where originality comes into play--instead of falling to pieces, Ray accepts her fate, but slowly builds herself up without the help of the men in her life.
Readers who love angels and fierce protagonists will most likely enjoy A Shimmer of Angels. Written in quick and witty prose, Basso's novel is a fun twist on the angel genre that will have the reader yearning for more. (less)
I received this ebook for reviewing purposes from the publisher.
Morgan McCarthy’s debut, The Other Half of Me, follows two siblings over the span of twenty years as their lives morph from childhood innocence to adulthood in a nurture-less environment. Written in hauntingly beautiful prose, McCarthy has created a unique, albeit slow-paced, novel.
Jonathan Anthony, the narrator, is at times unreliable. When he recalls his childhood years, he occasionally uses words much too advanced for a young boy, making him unbelievable. Understandably, Jonathan was an intellectually advanced and solitary boy. But excusing Jonathan’s unreliable nature, he does paint a lovely picture for the reader. The metaphors are exquisite in their uniqueness, and the descriptions are flawless. Every minute detail is observed, however, making the plot feel tedious. The reader should consider: Given the trouble Jonathan experiences with memory after tragedy strikes his family, how can he possibly remember everything so clearly?
Theo Anthony, Jonathan’s sister, appears to be the protagonist of the story. Her behavior is what moves the plot forward. Though we learn about Jonathan and his rising success in the architectural world, it is Theo’s life that we crave glimpses of. Jonathan, whether McCarthy intended to or not, places Theo on a pedestal throughout the novel as he relates her deteriorating mental state. Theo is seen through Anthony’s subjective eyes, inadvertently placing her on a pedestal for the reader as well.
The character growth is successful because of its subtlety. One of the motivating factors for character growth in McCarthy’s novel is grief. She does not overplay the role of grief in her novel, instead she caresses it and gently directs the reader into understanding the grief that is haunting her characters. The second factor affecting character growth is the love that Jonathan and Theo share. It is the familial love between the two siblings that gives the story depth. McCarthy does not easily give her characters unconditional love. Instead, Jonathan refuses to bestow or receive love, while Theo is too quick to share it.
Morgan McCarthy’s debut’s greatest flaw is the pacing, but her characters and masterful descriptions redeem the story. The Other Half of Me begins unsteadily, but will haunt its readers with its conclusion.(less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
The beginning of May is riddled with a few zombie novels that have opened up the world of zombies for us beyond the usual shambling and insatiable creatures that haunt our dreams. T. Michael Martin's young adult debut, The End Games, plays perfectly into this genre-changing month with its unique take on the undead, and its very emotionally stimulating and raw internal struggle. Brimming with stories untold and an extremely successful use of third person narrative, The End Games is a must-read for any young adult zombie enthusiast.
I've mentioned in various other reviews that I am not a fan of third person narrative, whether it is omniscient or limited. But I will have to put that dislike to the side for this one. I was wary at first, since third person usually feels disconnected and unreliable, but wow, Martin sure knows how to cross the disconnected barrier. Though the narrative is obviously third person, the writing feels so personal and unique, that it made me want more and more.
Michael, our seventeen-year-old protagonist, paints a distressing picture of a past that actually acts as a good opponent against his current predicament. Zombies, or as he and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, call them, Bellows (ingenius, since these creatures repeat whatever they hear), have taken over the world as we know it. They struck, ironically enough, on Halloween and offered both a purpose and salvation for the two lone brothers.
We are pushed from liking Michael, to pitying him, hating him, then finally, having the hope that he is too afraid to have. He is only human and though he acts as more than that for his brother's sake, we are reminded many times of how insecure he is about his decisions. As we continue reading his story, we begin to find it difficult to discern the difference between his fearful reality and what is blissfully imagined.
In fact, the internal struggle Michael experiences (occasionally written in spurts of stream of consciousness) is so powerful that we are often drawn to the darkness of his past, rather than the dangers of his present. And while he creates a somewhat safe world for his emotionally unstable little brother, we forget that Michael himself is a child who also needs to believe in something; who also needs protection from the past the two brothers are running from.
While Patrick's inability to accept his surroundings as something more than just a game may infuriate me, I also understand that he is just a kid stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse with only his brother.
Martin starts off the novel with a hook that is electrifying and immediately intriguing. Right off the bat, we want to know: What game is this? Who are these players? What are bellows? Who is this game master?
Of course, aspects of religion are tossed in, as they usually are with post-apocalyptic novels, but I like how they are hinted at and occasionally used, but not to the extent where it is everything the protagonist thinks about. Sure you have your biblical lunatics here and there in The End Games, but let's be honest: aren't they, or any approximations of this genre cliche, in every post-apocalyptic novel?
The tone and prose go hand in hand. Whereas one expects the prose to make up the tone (words, phrases, etc), Martin uses the (extremely cool) technique of letting the prose highlight the tone. Sometimes the text breaks up, or repeats itself, just to create a hyper awareness of Michael's surroundings, or his thoughts and memories. This also plays into making the whole third person narrative aspect of this novel unique. We aren't simply being told what is up, we are being shown how to feel what we are being told.
One last note, and probably one of the more important ones when it comes to books like this one: The End Games is CREEPY. Very extremely, can't look away, block your eyes, look out your window to make sure there are no bellows out there, creepy. Gory, exciting, bloody, frustrating (thanks to humanity's occasional ignorance), and heart-warming (Patrick and Michael are the cutest siblings ever!), The End Games is a must-read.
The End Games baited me with a very original and intelligent concept, hooked me with its twist just after we are introduced to the characters, and reeled me in with the fantastic storytelling. I await Martin's next book eagerly! (less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Jordana Frankel's The Ward is a young adult novel that sits on the edge between dystopian fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction, simply because there is a new, oppressive government, as well as a destroyed and unfamiliar world. The reason why I bring this up first is because this flirtation between the two genres gives Frankel's novel an advantage: originality in a sea of similar dystopians.
Shock-full of action, adventure, danger, and emotional situations that will either make the reader burn with anger, or melt with tenderness, Frankel's The Ward is a young adult must-read of 2013--especially if you're looking for a dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel that reads more like a novel about an adrenaline junkie set to save those she loves, and to find the truth, then one that is just about political statements.
The beginning of the novel is a little convoluted, since we're meeting the characters that will take up most of the story. We are introduced to Ren, the protagonist, in her early teens right before her life changes forever.
The contrast between this old Ren and the new, more "improved" Ren that makes an appearance later on, is made obvious by her educated dialogue, internal monologue, and sense of self. Whereas you are introduced to a scraggly and loner-ish kid at first, you are guided through the majority of the story by a confident, strong, and emotionally-driven woman.
The prose is great. Frankel, through the use of well-placed descriptions, shows us the world Ren inhabits, without info-dumping everything on us. We are led, like tourists, through the drowned city where Ren races against the big boys. I can easily picture Ren's world in my mind, making it much easier to know where she is going, without having to refer to the earlier bits in the novel.
The issue of women vs. men in The Ward is especially bad in the races Ren participates in. Though she is powerful, the men still look down their noses at her--some even threatening her for being one of the better racers. While I did find this backwards thinking disturbing, it did add power to the novel because Ren has the ability to prove her assailants wrong.
The characters, especially Ren, are so easy to connect with, even if we can't begin to imagine what her life must be like. We all have someone we love and want to protect; we all have those friends who mean more to us than we'd like to let on; we all have adult figures in our life that have changed us; and we all have that awkward crush that brings us to our knees. We all have hope, whether we believe it or not, and Frankel creates a character that exhibits everyone of these emotions. Frankly, Ren's humanity is what makes a character in such an impossible place so reliable and realistic.
My issues were with teeny things. There were instances where the internal struggle kind of slowed things down for me. In a novel full of suspense, action, and go-go-go pacing, a pause for the protagonist to contemplate something may make you weary--especially right before a major event is about to take place.
Also, while the descriptions of the world are beautiful, the smaller things, like what Ren drives, are left bare and to the imagination. I would have liked to know exactly what it is that Ren drives, not just a vague explanation of what it can do.
The conclusion is open-ended (with a hint of hope), and allows for a promising sequel. Danger and excitement await the reader in the follow-up novel, (No pressure!) so it will be much anticipated!
I recommend The Ward to readers who, like I mentioned before, enjoy dystopian fiction, but also want a touch of post-apocalyptic fiction thrown in there. The romantic theme does exist in the novel, but it does not overtake the storyline--which is more familial than romantic.
The literary world is full of dystopian novels that tread similar paths, with The Ward, Frankel is offering something fresh, excited, and more than just a political read.(less)
Kate Mitchell's Aureole is a sweet and fast-paced novel that touches on the importance of family, whether related by blood or circumstance. Jessica Carleton, though a victim of a negligent and abusive household, is fostered by a rich family in New York City, while her siblings are sent to live with family. If the reader expects Mitchell's novel to be a "princessy, dreams come true" story, then s/he will be sorely disappointed. Mitchell goes beyond the cliches of the rich and jumps into the loneliness and downfalls of being a stranger in a rich, expectant family.
The one negative aspect of Mitchell's novel is the poor editing. Though the story follows a strong plot line, it is occasionally freckled with misspellings and repeated words. Having said that, however, Mitchell has weaved such a story for her readers that after a few chapters the editing is barely even noticed. Jessica's life with the Bishop family is fascinating and her friendship with the younger Bishop son, promising. It is easy to root for Jessica, even if she at times acts naive and too forgiving.
Though I could sense what is coming, thanks to the omniscient third person narrative, the events near the conclusion still shocked me. The reactions of the characters are proof of the character growth that occurs in the novel. One excellent example is how Jessica perceives the world near the last few chapters. Of all the characters, Jessica is rightfully the more changed.
As a debut, Aureole is an insightful view into the "princess" tale of a poor girl being taken in by a prestigious family. At times dark, funny, and heartwarming, Aureole shows more layers to Jessica's situation. In fact, money is barely mentioned regarding Jessica as she ages, except for the appropriate places. The reader does not see Jessica being bought everything, nor is she ever coddled. Jessica is the reality of how one might view the idea of a rich family taking in a poor young stranger.
I would recommend Mitchell's novel to those seeking young adult fiction that follows the life of the protagonist, rather than just one event. I also recommend this novel to readers who want the grittier side of the rich classes and their "generosity".
Aureole is a unique read thanks to Jessica's commentary on the Bishop family and her desire to overcome her misfortunes. (less)
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry is reminiscent of Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry series, whi...moreReview first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry is reminiscent of Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry series, which I find interesting since it is the quote from her review that is printed on the front of McGarry's novel. Elkeles captured my attention, my heart, and my admiration with her daring storyline in a world of cliches.
And guess what? McGarry has just joined her ranks in my books.
Pushing the Limits is brilliantly written, heartbreakingly honest, and touches the realities of trauma. McGarry tells it like it is and though this made her novel a nervy read, it was exhilarating at the same time.
Echo Emerson is tortured by her forgotten past and has fallen into a dark pit of depression, while Noah Hutchins deals with his own grief by veering as far as he can from his old life. But, and this is one of those things I enjoy about books like this one, they are both so much more than the angst-ridden teenagers we first meet. McGarry does not bore the reader with "woe is me" plights, but she instead slowly develops the story so that the reader too can understand and sympathize with the characters.
For me, some authors often forget that readers need to connect with their characters, especially the ones scarred physically and emotionally. We, as readers, need to understand why these characters are hurting. We need to know and the author needs to show us why we should care. McGarry does this and so much more.
Okay, so I will admit, I am a fan of the hot male protagonist being all sweet, charming, and changing his bad-boy ways for the girl he likes (no such spoiler here, come on, check the synopsis!). This may impede on my judgement, but I liked that McGarry took it past the physical (for example, sex) and focused more on the romance, the characters' pasts, and how they could possibly overcome their obstacles.
That's what I liked the most: Pushing the Limits has depth.
As the novel progressed, I grew to love the characters. There were moments where I dreaded reading certain sections, because like naive creatures, they committed errors and made stupid mistakes. For the most part, however, I couldn't wait to read more about their lives and how they would grow as characters.
I would recommend Pushing the Limits to anyone who loves romance in the face of adversity. If you love bad boys, then you might like this one too. Be warned though, the guy actually treats the girl like a person in this book and when he even says something to challenge that, the female protagonist calls him out on it. If you're a fan of Simone Elkeles, then this is a must read. It is a quick read, with admittedly heavy topics, like death, depression, abuse, and neglect, but it is worth the read.
If you're against bad language, then steer clear. Echo and Noah's story is an uncensored view into the troubled teenage mind. (less)
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review
Dualed by Elsie Chapman is the first in the Dualed se...moreReview first appeared on my blog: my link text
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review
Dualed by Elsie Chapman is the first in the Dualed series, it's also Chapman's debut into the literary world, so it's only fitting that her first book is an original adventure set in a cruel world. Emotionally gripping from start to finish, Dualed is an action-filled debut that promises to rock your world.
At first, I was undecided on how I felt about West, the protagonist. One moment she's a tough fifteen year-old ready to fight the world, then she is a seemingly cold-blooded killer that is too afraid to face her fate. Though West's indecisiveness and sudden change of behavior helps the reader understand just how nerve-wracking West's world is, it is a bit distracting and frustrating to see such an inactive character.
I'm a huge fan of the hit-man scenario. Okay, it's a bit morbid, but it's kind of cool how a teenage girl can go and undermine a city that is so obviously corrupt. Mainly, however, I like the idea of a teenaged hit-girl because it makes Dualed that much more interesting.
And sure, it should be interesting enough that teenagers roam the streets of this deadly city with guns and other weapons with the sole intention of killing their evil twin, but West's role as an assassin makes it that much cooler.
The writing imitates the wariness West feels. It is straightforward where it needs to be, and descriptive when Chapman really wants her readers to focus. The pacing is strong up until the final few chapters, where the writing lags just a bit.
But that might be because by this point, West is finally coming to terms with what needs to be done.
West's character growth is sporadic, at best. Various times West grows into a mature and calculating character, yet almost immediately reverts to the weak character she is striving to overcome--which in a way, makes her relatable, since none of us are perfect before, during, or after we've figured out our paths in life.
I recommend Dualed to fans of the Dystopian genre in young adult fiction. Those who enjoy a light action novel full of anticipation and internal struggles, might also like this one. If you're looking for lots of romance, you won't find it here. Yes, there is a hint of romance, but it is more of a shadow that's always followed the protagonist, rather than something that falls on her without her knowledge. (less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn is a unique and creepy young adult novel that follows the protagonist, Annaliese, after a year-long absence. Though the novel is rife with mystery, hints of the paranormal, and has a disturbing conclusion that leaves the reader asking more questions, I found that this one might be more geared towards a specific group of readers. As the first paragraph in the synopses states, "The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King," I would probably guess that this is more of the audience in mind for Quinn's debut.
The writing is intriguing, but very confusing. The plot tends to jump from one place to another, sometimes making the hints the author gives her readers about the horrors in Annaliese's world a little too subtle. Don't get me wrong, I love a good horror novel that slowly builds up the anticipation, but I felt like this story was both slow and confusing and a little too secretive.
The pacing was another issue I had with Another Little Piece. I'm fine with a book that decides to give us small fragments of the bigger mystery throughout the novel, as long as the pacing is flowing well enough to keep me hooked. I was, however, more bored than I'd like to admit and I did skip ahead on several occasions. I have a heavy reading list and felt like this one really slowed me down. But then again, thinking back, the resemblance to Stephen King makes more sense too, since the storyline really tends to drag (ever read King's work and think, man, when are things going to start happening?).
I did like the rawness of Quinn's novel, though. Her unflinching descriptions of blood, gore, and Annaliese's parents' experience while searching for their daughter were, perhaps, the most entertaining aspects of the novel. I'm not stating this because I like the macabre, I say it because they were well described and bone chilling, probably the best parts of this novel.
I also enjoyed how everything came together at the conclusion. After a novel full of confusing twist and turns, it was nice seeing a conclusion that not only tied together the loose strings of why things happened and why some of the characters were connected, but also left you with the horrifying sensation that though this story is over for Annaliese, someone else may be living it over and over again in another part of Quinn's fictional world. The conclusion is also a false sense of security, since really, it makes you ask, is the horror that is Annaliese's life really over? Is this really a happy ever-after ending?
Though I did not entirely enjoy it, I know that there are some horror buffs who will enjoy this. There's gore, crisscrossing plot lines, the dangers of dark magic (or what alludes to it), and the slow build-up of a mystery that is both dark and very disturbing.(less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Natalie Whipple's Transparent is a young adult novel that features superpowers, cool characters, and a surprising romance.
I must say that Transparentis a pretty cool novel, especially since we get to see an array of different powers obtained through radiation. It reads like a never-before-seen X-men episode, which made me love the concept even more. Whipple's novel is set during present time, rather than in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian world--which is pretty refreshing. As a result, the reader may often wonder why our world isn't gifted (or in some cases, cursed) with such abilities.
Fiona, the protagonist, is the invisible daughter of a crime boss. Literally. She's lived her life trying to please him through various dangerous criminal acts. We get to see her in action at the beginning, making her appear cool and fearless. What irked me, however, is how her personality, though strengthened by all the things she's seen or experienced, is whiny. To be honest, I don't really know how her new friends accept her so quickly, since she is a jerk from the start.
The originality of the plot kept me intrigued as we hoped for a happy ending to Fiona's story. Though we know that the confrontation with her abusive father is inevitable, we still hope that Fiona and her mother find a safe way to live. But since Fiona is wary of so many people around her--her upbringing being more than enough reason for her paranoia--we can't help but find it difficult to get attached to certain characters, at least, not right away.
Though a little predictable, Transparent is still the type of novel that makes you want more. The pacing makes it a quick read, while the suspense of not knowing when or how her father will appear to collect his daughter creates a sense of tension within the reader. We fear what will happen to Fiona because even if she is frustrating at times, we also know that she is much more fragile than she pretends to be.
One of the greatest mysteries Whipple creates is Fiona's appearance. What does she really look like? Will we ever get to know? Will she always be invisible to everyone? Trust me, this will get you going because how refreshing is it to read about a female protagonist who doesn't judge herself based on whether she is beautiful or not? Of course, she does worry about her appearance, but not in the conventional sense.
I recommend Transparent to readers who love contemporary sci-fi fiction in young adult. If you like superpowers, action, romance, and suspense, then you'll like this one. Whipple's novel is pretty cool because rather than having just one extraordinary person, the whole world is gifted with power--ranging from stinky and useless powers, to mega strength.(less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Sketchy by Olivia Samms has a pretty cool concept: former drug-abuser has the quirky, but eerie, ability to draw whatever crosses a person's mind. The mystery is disturbing and the fear is palpable, while the characters are unique and witty--despite the morbid content of the novel. Samms's debut is a potentially powerful read that lacks strong dialogue, but makes up for it with an edgy premise.
Bea, the protagonist, is an opinionated girl who is put into a new (and very huge) public high school, after years of attending a private all-girls school. There she not only meets the first mystery in the series, but she learns about her unique gift.
The cool thing about Bea is that she is an imperfect protagonist dealing with real issues (such as drug abuse), and who is of mixed heritage. I think that is the coolest aspect about her, physically, that she not only stands out with her personal history and gifted artistic talent, but that she physically stands out from the crowd.
Samms touches on many different issues in her debut, making it more than just a cute little murder-mystery. Rape, race, sexuality, bullying, and drug abuse are the main themes explored in Sketchy. As can be imagined, the tone of this novel can vary from very dark, to light and endearing.
The prose is powerful (so as to match the themes) and the pacing is quick. One of the best aspects of Sketchy is how it pulls the reader in because s/he really wants to know who is behind the attacks. I couldn't put the book down, even though I was a bit wary at the beginning. My anxieties over Sketchy were proved wrong as the story gained momentum and eventually led to a hair-raising conclusion.
What I wasn't very keen on was the dialogue, and while I did giggle like a fool, I was confused about the romance.
For starters, I don't even know the love interest's age, which may be a problem (considering who he is, but I am not spoiling that for you). I mean, he sounds very cute and caring, but we don't know anything about him. I'm hoping that in the future installments, Samms will go more into detail regarding Bea's relationship with her supposed love interest.
The dialogue is very weak. I think Sketchy can be more powerful if the dialogue reflected the rest of the prose. It feels very childish and awkward. While the tone and main theme of the novel is dark, the dialogue feels forced and a bit antiquated. Since Sketchy is a novel for a young adult audience, I wouldn't mind seeing a little more colloquial writing in future installments--especially since nowadays it is easier to connect with dialogue that not only flows naturally, but mimics our modern dialect, no matter how flawed it may be.
Would I recommend Sketchy to fellow readers? Yes! Though it has flaws, it is a very interesting read. Sketchy is one of those books that pulls you in and does not let you go until you've reached the end. I recommend Samms's novel to lovers of young adult contemporary murder mystery novels that touch on social issues. Also, if you like low-key paranormal situations, then this one is the book for you.
Bea's talent for drawing others' thoughts is a very promising premise. I can see many more books spawning from this very cool ability--the possibilities are nearly endless. I know I will be checking out the next book in this series!(less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher is a dark reminder of how bullying can sometimes lead to tragic conclusions. Pitcher's novel, however, is also a reminder of how grief can alter our perspective, and how sometimes the struggle we go through in search of the truth may destroy us more than we know. Reading Lizzie's change in the many diary copies that are passed around at school is chilling, since she goes from a hopeful and quiet teen, to someone whose dreams foreshadow her downfall.
Pitcher's novel starts with a bang. The word "slut" is written in black marker on Lizzie's locker, her best friend and protagonist, Angie, is the one who has the power to say something, to stop the bullying, but she is also hurt--after all, she is the one who was betrayed by Lizzie.
For a while, the story fizzled, fighting to regain that incredible hook, but it wasn't until the major twist in the novel occurred, just after the half-mark, that I became absolutely hooked.
While the themes of bullying, sexuality, rape, abuse, racism, gender identity, and suicide are incredibly touchy subjects, Pitcher dives in head first with her protagonist into each theme. She battles the prejudice surrounding homophobic reactions in high school, and is surprisingly powerful against the bullying that students, despite the recent suicides, still partake in.
While I do love that Pitcher explores all of these topics unflinchingly, I find that perhaps it is too much. Yes, it is true that in every high school there is some sort of bullying, but, for the sake of a linear storyline, exploring all of these topics makes the novel feel unsure of where it wants to go--therefore, leaving too many unanswered questions, too many unresolved issues, and too many conflicts that take away from the main themes of the novel, which I presume are bullying and suicide (and okay, okay, I know that many things can fall under bullying, but The S-Word does not have to be the book to bring these issues to light, too many issues can be overwhelming--or perhaps it is just the way Pitcher presents them.)
I couldn't really connect with the dialogue. It felt... dorky. I don't know how teenagers talk now in high school, but I felt like the dialogue was a forced kind of cool that I would have used when I was in middle school. It didn't feel age appropriate and instead of sounding cool and contemporary, it sounded weird and outdated.
Despite my misgivings with certains aspects of The S-Word , I was able to enjoy it (for the most part). I loved the romance and the hope that it symbolized, especially given the dark tone of the novel.
Angie, despite her Nancy Drew (with a twist) qualities, was realistic in that she truly felt the loss of her best friend. I liked her because she found a way to forgive herself, thanks to her wonderful character growth. Her internal struggle is heartbreaking and I think that that is the most powerful point of Pitcher's novel.
I will admit that The S-Word is very addicting. Even though I giggled like a fool at the dialogue and I wondered where Pitcher was taking the storyline, I needed to know more. I craved the truth and I wanted to see what Angie was up to. The pacing may have been a little too fast for me, but I still found my way through Angie's struggle.
Keep in mind though, dear reader, that perhaps the prose is a reflection of Angie's internal struggle--the confusion, the fast-paced aspect of it all, and the urgency within the pages that sometimes jumps from one place to another--these may all be a reflection of how much Angie has changed since Lizzie's death. After all, the twist that I mentioned earlier in the review will make you put the book down and say, "Damn."(less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
In the After by Demitria Lunetta is a young adult post-apocalyptic debut that features one heck of a plot twist and is surprisingly original. With realistic characters, deadly mysteries, and horrific situations, In the After is an explosive ride waiting to be experienced by any reader who wants a creepy, adventurous, and kick-ass story about a girl in a world that is nearly dead and gone.
First off, I'm going to mention Lunetta's use of tense, which I loved. The present tense combined with first person is such a powerful, albeit difficult to write, narrative that I rarely find it in young adult literature. I don't know why, but when I see it in a book, I tend to expect more from the book (since the author has already met my expectation stylistically). I find that Lunetta's novel benefits from this style of writing, especially since there are flashbacks and it helps us separate, as the protagonist, Amy, suggests, "Before and After."
Amy is a force. She is loyal, strong, intelligent, witty, and very protective of what she believes needs protection. I enjoyed her consistency in her actions towards her survival and her love towards "Baby". Her curiosity, and inability to settle for the norm in New Hope's world, marks her as the rebellious protagonist we expect to see in powerful stories such as this. There is no second-guessing, there are no moments full of filler to make the story longer--Amy knows what she wants, she understands that there are secrets, and she knows that at some point, things are going to go beyond her control.
The pacing is a little slower at the beginning, but Lunetta's writing still hooks you in. You want to know why Amy's world is the way it is, what "They" are, and you want to know if Amy will survive another day. The complex world that Amy and Baby live in, with their own language and quiet way of moving, makes the story all that much more interesting.
In the After is also a cautionary tale. Can things be too good to be true? How far can war take us? What will we do to survive? Is humanity more valuable than our own need to survive, or should we put the needs of hundreds, if not thousands, aside for the sake of attaining power?
The romance in In the After is as fleeting as the safety that Amy experiences in New Hope. It is there, but we know that the most important story is what Amy does to survive. Amy's growth as a character is determined by how she reacts to the new world around her and the decisions she makes, despite all the warnings.
The world that Lunetta weaves is disturbing. You know those creepy movies where there are blood splatters on the ground, yet there are either very small bits of a body left, or there isn't a body at all? Lunetta gives you that in her debut, which I found to be powerful. Instead of telling you the horrors that Amy experiences while scavenging, she hints at the brutality and nightmare that once took place in certain areas, as well as the decay of human society in grocery stores, nature's ability to reclaim roads and human inventions, and the dead streets littered with bloody cars.
I recommend In the After to readers who want a creepy adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world full of monsters. If you want a creative and unique portrayal of the end of humanity, then give Lunetta's debut a chance--you won't regret it.(less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Cal Armistead's Being Henry David is a young adult contemporary novel that examines the effects of grief and the fear that guilt creates within us. "Henry David", or "Hank", is the protagonist struggling to come to terms with who he is and why he is where he is.
I've never read anything by Henry David Thoreau, so reading the few snippets of his novel, Walden, was an interesting and unfamiliar ride. Armistead introduces Thoreau's book into the mix immediately and uses Walden as a guiding light for both the reader and Hank until the conclusion.
I can't help but think that Walden, from the quotes given in the novel, was the perfect choice for Hank's story. Thoreau's ghost forces Hank to live, explore, and see what he has lost without rushing him. He adds a depth to the story that any other amnesia novel may lack.
What I absolutely loved about Being Henry David was how focused the storyline was. Sure, Hank encounters friendship, danger, romance, and even unconventional familial attachments, but Armistead stays true to the story by having it centered around Hank.
Like any good novel, Hank learns from his experiences and grows as a misguided character, but at the end of the day, the story is about Hank--not about the girl(s) he meets, the dangers of homelessness, or the friendships he bonds.
Hank is running from something in his past and Armistead makes it impossible for you to forget his goals, even if Hank himself occasionally forgets--or tries to.
The pacing is wonderful and the conclusion does its job: it concludes with us learning what happened to Hank, who he is, and what he plans and/or hopes to do with this knowledge. It leaves questions, of course, but in a way, we're left just like Hank: with no certainty of what awaits us in the future.
Poignant and beautifully written, Being Henry David is a rare young adult novel that questions the power of the mind, the treacherous addiction we at times harbor for guilt, and the dangers we encounter when we try to escape our familiar worlds.
I recommend Being Henry David to readers of young adult contemporary fiction, lovers of story lines full of character growth, and of course, fans of Henry David Thoreau.(less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Hilary T. Smith's debut Wild Awake is a young adult contemporary novel that touches on grief, mental health, and the expectations that parents often place on us in order to make us either copies of themselves, or better than the disappointments they've faced in the past.
Smith's writing is gorgeous, if not at times a little intense, and it is her unflinching ability to portray a young girl not only on the cusp of escaping her parents' expectations, but also on the verge of finding herself after an intense breakdown, that makes Wild Awake such an intense ride.
Kiri Byrd (check out the last name and its connection to being free as a bird in a world of constrictions?), the protagonist, is a gifted pianist who comes from a slightly affluent family. We are first introduced into Kiri's world after her parents have left her home alone for a cruise--which immediately screams, "Bad Parents" alert. From there, we see Kiri slowly fall apart when left to her own devices with a heavy and dark secret that she unfortunately comes across on her own.
Smith's writing is riddled with very quotable metaphors and descriptions, making it easy to picture what Kiri is seeing. Also, Kiri is so quirky that we can't help but either laugh, or squirm uncomfortably as she slowly loses her perfectly controlled world.
No one, it seems, can understand Kiri's pain, and we're made privy to this information as Kiri sees the world through angst and grief filled eyes. One of the reasons why I love when authors write in the first person narrative is how easy it is to become the protagonist. Unlike with third person, where we look on as unattached strangers, we can navigate the dark passages in the character's mind alongside him/her when in first person. Kiri's slow descent into her own destruction would not be as powerful if it were in anything but first person.
Kiri's story also brings to question the popular notions of madness, drug-abuse, homelessness, and obsessiveness in the arts. Kiri and her deceased sisters' beautiful music or art were the creative outcomes of their personal struggles. Kiri's obsessive piano playing and unrealistic goals hint at her imminent mental break. There's only so much a teenaged girl can take.
The romance is as cute and unconventional as Kiri herself. Skunk is nowhere near perfect, perhaps more broken than Kiri, but they somehow help each other. While fighting off imaginary enemies, experimenting with drugs, and reaching new levels of intimacy, Kiri and Skunk indadvertedly heal each other. Though the romance is a little quick, it also plays into the hurried pace of, "If we don't act now, if we don't do this NOW, then we might lose it all; we might not find ourselves in the end."
The reason why I'm not giving Wild Awake five stars is because it is a slightly messy read. While the writing is gorgeous, all of the bad crap happened so...suddenly that it took me by surprise. I was still reeling by the time Kiri came back to her senses. I remember thinking, "What just happened?" And while this is perhaps the exact feeling Smith was going for, it came off a little intense and messy. I understand Smith wants us to experience Kiri's mental and emotional instability as intensely as Kiri does, but it was, perhaps, too much.
The conclusion, in my opinion, is pretty perfect since it showcases what truly matters in the book.
I recommend this to anyone seeking an adventure and more realistic romance (no blue-eyed, blond, insta-love boys here). Kiri isn't someone you forget, since we all have that one little thing that can tip us over the edge and is capable of changing how we see everything and everyone around us.
Kiri's unforgettably destructive, yet healing summer is all jam-packed into Wild Awake--be prepared. (less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Sarah Jamila Stevenson’s Underneath is a unique contemporary novel that flirts with the idea of the paranormal, but still keeps things relatable by remaining a mostly contemporary story. Though the tone is darkened by a sad revelation, there is a glimmer of hope and redemption. We learn that sometimes, in order to save ourselves, we need to relinquish our hold on what we once thought made us who we are; sometimes we need to start anew in order to save ourselves.
Sunny, the protagonist, was once the kind of girl one would imagine to have a name like Sunshine. But after her cousin’s suicide, Sunny realizes something unique, and terrifying, about herself: she can hear people’s thoughts.
What was interesting about Underneath was how sporadically Sunny heard the voices. As she slowly reclaims control of her paranormally impaired life, we start to witness the transformation of a wilted protagonist, to a powerful and new character. Granted, we never truly get to see what Sunny was like before she received the news, but we can only assume that it wasn’t as empowering as her new life.
Sunny’s experiences teach us to be wary of those around us if our gut makes us pause. We are always told not to judge a book by its cover, but this is especially true in Underneath. We need to learn to trust our instincts and make the right choices--Stevenson’s novel is a great example of how difficult it is to make the right choice, thanks to peer pressure, love, family, curiosity, and our own well-being.
One of the most important topics that is brought up in Underneath is that of abuse and its destructive power. The issue of physical, mental, and emotional abuse is parallel to that of what the “curse” does to Sunny. She is assaulted by the emotions and thoughts of others, just like Sunny’s aunt is being tormented by her uncle. If the reader does not fully understand the strain Sunny’s curse has on her, Stevenson showcases the abusive relationship as a comparison to the issue at hand--placing what we know with what we can hardly fathom.
The romantic aspect of Underneath is powerful in that it helps the storyline move towards the conclusion. It also acts as a growing experience for Sunny, because like I previously mentioned, her character growth comes from learning not to judge a book by its cover. What I liked about Stevenson’s use of romance in Underneath is that it does not overtake Sunny’s road to discovery. It helps her, sure, but the story stays true to the most important theme of the novel: Sunny’s survival and growth.
The conclusion, while a burst of sunlight in a stormy story, feels incomplete--there is more to Sunny’s story, and while I understand the importance of just letting a story end, I feel almost cheated. What happens now? How does Sunny survive any further discoveries? I want to know more!
If you enjoy powerful protagonists, novels that explore complex and dangerous family issues, story lines that have great diversity (not just your typical blond, blue-eyed protagonist), and tough but empowering situations, then Underneath is the book for you. It has enough supernatural aspects to keep the reader intrigued, but it is the difficulties that Sunny encounters that make this a relatable and eye-opening read. (less)