I received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
A Really Awesome Mess, a collaborative novel by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin, is one of those young adult books that you don't expect much from. It has a cover that barely tells you anything, besides the fact that this book may be set in a place of conformity, and a slightly curiously long synopses.
But really, Cook and Brendans' novel shows us that perhaps it's time to stop judging a book by its cover
A Really Awesome Mess, which from hereon will be ARAM, is a fantastic young adult novel that has fistfuls of wit, quick and sharp dialogue, and two characters bursting with personality. Plus, we get to see the story develop from both of their perspectives, which is really awesome because we get to see how they affect each other, and how they grow throughout their adventures at Heartland Academy.
Tellulah Darling stated in her review that ARAM is, "like Breakfast Club set in a reform school," and I went into this with that in mind. She was so right. You have a collection of kids who have supposedly all been dumped in the school because of their less than stellar actions and/or recreational activities. Each character is created beautifully because they all have their own light that refuses to be dimmed by the two protagonists.
My favourite aspect of ARAM is the dialogue and, heck, the whole narrative. It was just so quick and sassy, no matter who was speaking, that I was never bored. It gave the book an energy that makes it unique. When I read a book with kids who have social disorders, or who need a bit of anger management, I always picture them as people well-acquainted with quick retorts, or smart-ass responses. This did not disappoint. I was laughing like crazy throughout the whole thing, curious as to what would happen next.
I loved the idea of friendship and family through adversity, and you get loads of that here. Cook and Halpin show us that sometimes the most unconventional people can make the most powerful families. Though life may not always be fair, we are never alone, even when we are at the most bleak points of our lives. By touching on depression, eating disorders, abuse, and many other topics popular in today's society, Cook and Halpin are allowing readers to see that there will always be someone that can either relate, or learn from you, just like you can learn from them.
The touch of romance is the little hopeful twist that's added throughout the novel. It is inevitable that as teenagers, these characters will somehow bond--I know this makes it slightly predictable, but it was fun nonetheless--so romance wasn't completely out of the question. What I didn't expect was how quickly each character accepted the other, even with their imperfections and inability to let go of the things traumatizing them.
Though ARAM is funny, at times romantic, and an all-around fun adventure, I know that the underlying message of family, familial acceptance, and abandonment gives this novel a sometimes dark tone. I won't lie, I cried a little bit at the end.
I recommend ARAM to readers who love a young adult contemporary novel that doesn't solely focus on romance, but has substance. If you enjoy wit and sass, slightly neurotic protagonists, and surprisingly funny characters--all set in a school that is less than conventional--then you might enjoy this one.
A Really Awesome Mess is a personification of its title: The characters and backstories may be messy, but their adventure and growth makes them awesome messes.(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)
I received a copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
I'm just going to say, right off the bat (ignore the cliche), that Romily Bernard's Find Me is a very cool book. I don't know what it is, but thrillers that touch on the complex world of computers are so interesting and enthralling that I always feel myself being pulled in.
That being said, Bernard's debut is a great story that introduces us to a strong, intelligent, and independent female protagonist--a very nice change from other female characters in the age group. The topic of the novel is both a popular concept in young adult literature and a unique story. On one hand, we have the domestic violence topic, and on the other hand we have the take-charge female character who finds a unique way of surviving in her world.
Wick (Don't get me started on how awesome this name is), the protagonist, is a teenaged girl who lives with her younger sister and foster parents. She's lived a pretty hard life and we are introduced to her just when things are finally starting to look up for her and her sister.
Side note: Wick's name itself could be a metaphor for the power she has--without a wick, a flame can't come to life, causing chaos and disorder in the world around her. Whereas her abusive father may have used such an ironic name as a way to cause more damage in Wick's town by using her as a weapon, Wick proves to be just as powerful in her ability to douse the impending chaos.
Wick is a realistic character when it comes to teenaged behavior. She is guarded, of course, but she is also shy around the guy she's attracted to, and is overly protective of her sister. She doesn't trust quickly and questions everything. She also shows that she is human by her reaction to the horrible news that acts as the catalyst at the start of the novel. Wick is well-rounded and believable, even if she is incredibly gifted with computers. I like that her personality reflects her physical appearance and that, much like her hobby, she prefers to watch from the outside than be part of the world.
I love Bernard's ability to pull the reader in with her savvy hacking lingo, making it seem like a completely normal every day thing, rather than something people spend their whole lives learning.
Wick's frustration with those around her isn't as palpable as I felt it should be, which shows great restraint. I personally would have told her little sister to stop being so naive, but well, that is the life of a kid who's known so little happiness that one ounce of it proves to be the nutrients for her inner naive tree.
The pacing is great and the prose fluid--I didn't want the story to end.
What really got to me, though, is the animosity Wick encounters--it's truly devastating. Bullying, both from a social and familial standing, is never okay and I like how more and more authors are putting a spotlight on it through their writing. Bullies can come in many forms, not just as schoolmates, and the effect of the abuse can be more damaging than the physical proof. So, to see a character like Wick stand up for herself (even if she suffers the consequences) is a hell of a powerful move, proving that she is, not only a strong character, but a possible inspiration for readers who experience any kind of bullying.
The conclusion was all kinds of twisted--but I won't lie, it wasn't completely unexpected. I usually see everything coming, so it might just be me!
I recommend Find Me to readers who want an intriguing young adult thriller that portrays strong characters in a tough world, and hacking--which is super cool. The mystery aspect may pull you in, but it's the protagonist's character strength that will keep you hooked.(less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Parallel by Lauren Miller is a young adult sci-fi debut that explores the “what-if” theme. It is a very unassuming novel that begins like many other young adult novels with fluffy story lines. But when we get accustomed to Miller’s fictional world and begin to guess at what will happen next, we are literally lifted from one place to another, which is quite mind-bending—and oh, so, so brilliant!
Okay, I admit that this plot change came more of a surprise because I didn’t read the synopsis again before reading Parallel (which I strongly recommend!). But hey, it paid off. I was happily surprised and very intrigued as to what would happen next. Miller’s protagonist is relatable, goes through terrific character growth, and finds that sometimes the most obvious path isn’t always for us.
Perhaps one of the best messages that Abby, the protagonist, can ever share with her reader is that things happen for a reason, and while one choice may work for someone else, it doesn’t necessarily have to work for you.
And of course: You can’t escape/outrun/evade the past. That’s the tricky part.
Oddly enough, Parallel reminded me of Pivot Point by Kasie West—another novel that I simply adored. What makes these two novels so successful? Well, for starters, they both challenge the norms of young adult literature. Whereas other novels who blatantly showcase love triangles, both Miller and West give us two separate stories that show the protagonists becoming closer and closer to both love interests. So, rather than having two guys fighting it out, or one telling the other to back off, we have one girl experiencing multiple lives with both guys. But even so, when it comes down to choice, we see what one version of the protagonist picks, while we guess what the other version does.
I just really love that we’re given two love stories, rather than having to choose sides. Parallel, however, has its own delicious twist, which will tie everything in neatly together.
Abby’s character growth is gradual as she comes to terms with the idea that the past is literally deciding her present. We don’t get a protagonist who immediately knows what to do (unrealistic), but someone who makes errors and learns from her mistakes, someone who stands up for what s/he wants, and dares to do something from outside her norm.
Abby’s inability to accept that her parallel self is just an extension of herself shows that perhaps there are two stories, and not just one continuous story, being told. We feel Abby’s worry for an unstable present, but much like how Abby treats her past self as someone wholly separate from herself, we too see the two girls as two different characters we can’t help but connect with—which side should we take? Or, should we view both sides as a means to a common end—occasionally alluded to as “destiny”?
Parallel is an addicting read that makes you question whether we live in a parallel world and how the choices we didn’t make would have affected us. It is a cautionary tale of how sometimes we take for granted what is given to us, and how we don’t realize everything we have until we lose it all.
I recommend Parallel to readers of young adult romance and low-key sci-fi. Miller’s debut is an intelligent mystery/adventure waiting to be read.
We often wonder if there are other worlds, but what if our choices are not only ours to make?(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
Hannah Moskowitz's Marco Impossible is a middle grade novel that follows the adventures of young detectives Stephen and Marco during their last few days before their grade eight graduation.
The great "heist", as the two boys nickname it, begins with Marco's need to tell his crush, Benji, that he loves him. But as the time for the great revelation approaches, the boys are faced with complications, previously ignored issues in their friendship, and the difficulties of being a young gay boy.
Moskowitz's novel is an important read because it teaches its younger readers about self worth, standing up against bullies, the importance of honesty, the power of friendship, and how to be yourself. While Marco is definitely confident, it is what he does not admit to that makes his story all the more powerful.
Stephen is the narrator, but he places Marco on a pedestal, making the story feel more like a retelling of Marco's influence on Stephen's life. The narrative is consistent and reflects Stephen's afflicted emotions and passive exterior. His inner dialogue portrays a young man trying to not just understand his place in his best friend's life, but in his own world.
Marco Impossible is extremely well written. The prose is sharp, at times witty, and incredibly captivating. The character growth is realistic as characters face the hardships of growing up and accepting what comes to fruition. Moskowitz laces her storytelling with fun details like the detective notebook Stephen carries with him, or the mystery of a missing sock--for example.
But the heart of the novel is the bigotry found in this book for younger readers. The way that Moskowitz handles the abuse Marco and Stephen, by association, receive isn't as raw as in books for older audiences, but it is hinted at. The reader simply knows that the abuse is not okay because of how Moskowitz alludes to the events. The bullying, the lewd comments, and the physical abuse are not too intense that it would scar a child, but are powerful and very important as themes.
I was not expecting Marco Impossible to be so memorable. The premise sounded cutesy and like a light read. Be warned, this story is not a light read. Family and social issues sprinkle the pages, making Moskowitz novel a near in-depth analysis of young teenaged boys and their friendships and associations.
While Moskowitz explores adult concepts in Marco Impossible, she also retains the usual concerns that younger readers may experience. Her characters are learning to become who s/he is meant to be, what matters in life, and the hardships of first love. But most importantly, like many young readers, Moskowitz forces her characters to ask, "What will happen now?" once the adventures conclude and real life sets in, "What will happen when I graduate and go to the next phase of my life?"
I recommend Marco Impossible to readers of middle grade novels, and books that have meaningful messages intertwined with a seemingly light storyline. Romance, mystery, family, and friendship are all major players in Moskowitz's novel and if you're a fan of those genres, then you should definitely check this one out.(less)
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion is the Romeo and Juliet of the zombie world. Told in unexpectedly beaut...moreReview first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion is the Romeo and Juliet of the zombie world. Told in unexpectedly beautiful prose, Marion's protagonist, R, challenges his undead life and manages to push the existential questions on his readers. His exploration of the confusing and dangerous world that spawned him make for a heavy read, which leads to a powerful conclusion.
R personifies what I've always wondered about zombies. He gives the reader an all-access pass to the possible thoughts of a zombie. I mean, sure, we all know zombies love blood, guts, and brains, but what exactly goes on in their heads? Is a zombie an empty vessel that simply feeds, or does the essence of what s/he once was still linger within the confines of the rotting corpse?
Though Marion's story is a different and original one, he still serves us the brutality of the zombie lifestyle. It is even more disconcerting watching R devour his victims, yet be completely conscious of his actions. The mix of originality and the cult classic ideas of zombies make Marion's novel exciting, but thought provoking--which I never thought could be possible with a zombie novel. Sure, various novels with the undead give the readers a cryptic message of how humanity's actions have led to its fall, but none have ever really questioned it any further.
No other novel has ever truly redeemed zombies quite like Warm Bodies.
Though the prose is incredible, the pacing could have been much better. I found myself wondering if the story would pick up at certain points, but I also learned that perhaps this is the trick to Marion's novel: the reader, much like R, has to be patient. R's world is expanding with every new question he asks; with every new word he utters. Since the narrative of the novel is in limited first person, the reader is much like R--a zombie learning to live again.
Dark and imperfect, Julie, R's love interest, gives the reader the human perspective in the story. She is the one character that fully serves the purpose of showing the reader that yes, humans are flawed and at times broken, but that perhaps they need redemption nearly as much as zombies. She is in fact the human equivalent of R, since she is also navigating the complexities of life.
Death and life are not biased when it comes to characters in Warm Bodies, so the reader sure as hell can't be biased.
I recommend Warm Bodies to fans of zombie fiction. From the dangers in R and Julie's world, both alive and dead, to the journey they take towards self-discovery and redemption, Marion's novel overflows with originality and a great new take on a topic we thought we knew so well.(less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden is not your conventional coming-of-age story. This contemporary novel is an exploration of a depressed teenaged mind that is brilliant, self-destructive, creative, and lost. Written in unflinchingly honest prose, and with a powerful narrator, Blagden's debut is sure to create waves in the young adult pond.
Cricket, the protagonist, is a teenaged boy with a tragic past who has no idea where life is going to take him. Some may not categorize Blagden's prose as stream of consciousness, but still it reads almost like a diary of uncensored ramblings. Though still young, Cricket's analysis of his life and what is around him is nearly existential as he questions spirituality, love, family, and friendship.
I love Cricket and how different he is as a protagonist. Even from the first sentence of the novel, I could tell that Dear Life, You Suck was going to be a different book from others I've read in the same genre. The writing is so quirky that it takes some accustoming, but the reader is quickly sucked into Cricket's world. The manufactured words that Cricket offers his readers perfectly describe Cricket's unconventional character. What makes Cricket intriguing is that he may appear to be a bad boy, but there is a lot more to this creative character. Blagden avoids the cliche of bad boy turns good by not completely redeeming Cricket, but instead letting him grow up and learn from his mistakes.
The prose is lyrical, which oddly enough works well with the hectic life experiences that Cricket faces. The lyrical aspect of the novel comes from Blagden's fantastic understand of alliteration. I found myself hooked and wanting to see what else Blagden would write to create the smoothness in his prose. What is even better is how consistent the tone is. Even as Cricket changes and grows as a character, his personalities does not abruptly change. He doesn't suddenly become a well-spoken and soft character, but rather, he adapts to a world he was previously blind to: one of possibilities.
Perhaps what took me most by surprise was the conclusion. Of all things, I did not expect what Blagden gives us. It took me a while to process what had just happened. Hell, I even went back to re-read the conclusion. Then it hit me: what I read was Cricket's life and I saw what he wanted me to see. Whatever happens after the novel ends is up to him. Since he is so unsure of his future, why should he leave us with the satisfaction of knowing what he has yet to learn?
I recommend Dear Life, You Suck to fans of contemporary Young Adult fiction that has a male protagonist with a traumatic past, a messy present, and an uncertain future. Also, if you enjoy romance, great character growth, and unique prose, then I definitely recommend Blagden's novel for you.
Beware, however, if you have a dislike for cuss words.(less)
When I first started reading “Three Cheers for Chunky” by Mike Ronny I w...moreReview first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
I received a copy for review
When I first started reading “Three Cheers for Chunky” by Mike Ronny I wasn’t sure what to expect. On one hand, it was a relief to read and review a short story, on the other hand—I haven’t read a short story since last spring, and that was for school. On that note, however, I found Ronny’s short story to be a fun, light read with a surprisingly strong message.
Chunky is, well, overweight, as his name would suggest. He is challenged by his coach to go beyond what he would normally do when faced with a sports-related dilemma. Chunky is a character that many of us can relate to, since we tend to stick to what is easy and well-known. Very rarely do we take risks, and if current literature isn’t proof enough, we tend to stick to the sidelines and hope for the best.
But not Chunky. Thanks to his coach’s prompting, he goes and pushes himself to his limits. I liked the coach, he was well-known in the world of the story, but he wasn’t snarky, or rude. He earned the respect given to him and that is obvious in the heartfelt conclusion.
Though Ronny’s story is short and sweet, it was a quick read. The dialogue is colloquial, adding to the authenticity of the situation. Also, instead of weighing the story down with needless descriptions and backstory, the reader is given the most important facts, hints about Chunky’s life, and enough information to make the reader wonder what will become of Chunky.
I recommend this short story to anyone who needs a reminder that sometimes hard work pays off. That we have to push ourselves beyond our limits, sometimes for others, but mainly for ourselves. Also, this story may prompt the reader to remember those who’ve changed his/her life in some way. (less)
I received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
What I love about young adult contemporary romance novels like Jessi Kirby's Golden, is how engaging and addicting the story can be. Whether you're laughing, crying, or relating to the protagonist, you're part of the story being told.
That's powerful storytelling right there.
Kirby's novel is full of wit, romance, ghostly mysteries, and an almost impossible sense of hope--which contradicts the narrator's lack of spontaneity.
Parker, the protagonist, is one of those girls who has her life all mapped out. Thanks to her overbearing mother, she's always steered clear of trouble (which her best friend does not approve of), anything that may challenge her mother's goals for her, and anything Parker wants for herself--after all, mother knows best, right?
By setting out to solve one of her town's greatest and saddest mysteries, Parker learns that sometimes we need to push ourselves until we find what we love. By settling, we may never truly realize our potential.
Kirby captures realistic young adult romance and friendship. Parker and her best friend, Kat, bring the comic relief to a novel that could have easily been full of teenage angst. Their dialogue is so brilliant, it had me giggling throughout the whole book. The friendship is also inspiring because it shows how fragile relationships can be when it is time to go our separate ways in life. Also, it proves that sometimes we need that extra push from someone we trust to get us on the "right" path in life.
The pacing is brilliant and as the story progresses with the occasional sprinkling of descriptions that bring the town to life in my mind, we learn more and more that this isn't so much a story about coming to terms with the past, but how tragic it can be to not speak up and make our own choices. Golden is a wonderful example of how the mystery presented is simply a reflection of the protagonist's own personal struggle.
The conclusion of Golden is inconclusive in the sense that we are given hints and unreliable ideas of what has become of two of the most important characters in the novel. But I like this because when we meet Parker, she is robotic and never risks her plans by daydreaming about her surroundings and the people she has encountered. Her character growth isn't immediate. Instead, it is believable as she struggles with the trials and errors of real life.
I recommend Golden to readers of contemporary romance in young adult fiction. If you like characters who chase the near-impossible and challenge the ideas and goals set for them by parents, then you'll love this one. Kirby's novel is full of witty romance, quirky friendships, and a mystery that will lead Parker to a surprising conclusion.
But ask yourself, after reading Kirby's novel, who do you want to become?(less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
I don't even know where to start with Shawn Goodman's young adult contemporary novel Kindness for Weakness. This novel is so good, that I devoured it in one sitting.
I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.
Funny how I was wary of it at first--a teenager sent to prison because of his relentless need for approval from a less than stellar big brother? I honestly didn't know how this was going to go. But I was extremely surprised and so honoured that I was given the chance to read this. Everyone should read this.
Goodman's writing is brilliant. He manages to draw you into a story that would otherwise make you cringe. It is so unflinchingly honest that for a while after reading the heartbreaking conclusion, you won't know what to do with yourself. You'll ask questions, you'll want more, but the truth is, Goodman's story isn't something that can be simply filed away as fiction--if you want more than what the story has to offer, you will probably get it by scanning the news about boys and girls in situations disturbingly similar to Goodman's protagonist.
James, the protagonist, is someone that immediately sticks out. A loner whose outward appearance mimics his own internal struggle, boy caught between boyhood and manhood, James doesn't have the easiest life. While we may argue his innocence while he is arrested for his brother's crimes, we also have to note that this is a huge step towards James understanding not just who his brother is, but who he is.
The prose is gorgeous. Goodman seamlessly maneuvers the thoughts of a teenaged boy on the edge of becoming what society constitutes as a "man". The pacing, though the book goes by quickly, is actually pretty strong. There is never a dull moment and I honestly learned a lot about the Juvie system.
Perhaps some of my favourite traits that James has are the little quirks presented in the novel. Much like the cliched ideals in past novels that a protagonist somehow "finds" him/herself after reading a book, James, with the help of his brilliant English teacher, openly sets out to understand the message within his current read. I also like the hope he gains as the story progresses, and how he comes into what he defines as a man, as opposed to what society would want him to be, or expect him to become.
James's best friend in jail, a gay black teenager, is the victim of both physical and verbal abuse from not just the inmates, but from the people in charge. He inadvertently helps James become a stronger character because by befriending the one person everyone warns him against, he is already showing signs of being a powerful character by making his own choices.
Some may argue that this is a novel written solely for male readers, but saying that is like saying that J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is written only from younger readers. Any one can not only read Kindness for Weakness, but they can walk away with a better understanding of life and how our choices can help us grow--whether we believe it or not.
So, yes, I recommend this to everyone. Kindness for Weakness is as beautiful as it is saddening. It is a great portrayal of character growth in a difficult setting. The conclusion will have the reader contemplating his/her own life, and it will leave you breathless, and wondering why life sometimes throws us a curveball.
Goodman's novel showcases maliciousness alongside beauty and hope. It shows that humans are flawed, but at the end of the day, we choose who we want to become. (less)
Dee Doanes's The Man with the Green Suitcase is an interesting story tha...moreReview first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
I received a copy for review
Dee Doanes's The Man with the Green Suitcase is an interesting story that spans over several characters, rather than the conventional single or double protagonists. The story, though a relatively fast read, was at times hard to follow, but in the end made perfect sense. Doanes explores the complexities of human relationships and the flaws that humanity harbors, while adding a teeny touch of magic and mystery into the mix.
I was constantly surprised by the immense change that some of the characters went through. In a way, it gave me hope that somewhere out there there are people like Doanes's characters. Also, the greed inhabiting some of the characters was disturbing, yet very realistic.
The novel's concept is original and a bit odd. Not in a bad way, but in a I-need-to-get-accustomed-to-this-originality way. Whereas we are used to the typical adult fiction novels full of romance and witty characters, or murderous plots, Doanes's book is simply a collection of different characters colliding in a story full of redemption, hope, and love.
Though the old man isn't mentioned as much as the title would suggest, the story does indadvertedly revolve around him. Stories clash and characters meet, but in the middle of everything is the old man and his green mysterious suitcase.
For a while, after I read the book, I wasn't sure what I thought about this. I mean, if you're title reflects one of the characters in the book, would you not make him more central? But then, I realized, the old man was central to the story line. Without him none of the characters would meet or have inner turmoil. He was the catalyst, the climax for each individual characters' internal struggle or conflict that s/he had to overcome.
The negatives that keep this book from being a five star book, in my opinion, is the need for more editing and the at times awkward dialogue. There were instances where the dialogue felt stilted, overwrought, or too dramatic.
But, keeping to the topic of dialogue, I have to comment on how smoothly Doanes blends the different points of view into a fluid omniscient observation of her world.
The twists and turns in the story the reader does not anticipate create a uniquely mysterious air to the novel. There are a lot, which is ridiculously satisfying. It is nice to know that I've read yet another book where I don't know everything that's about to happen. It's also interesting to have an ever-present tug of curiosity with the open-ended conclusion. (less)
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Emily Murdoch’s debut If You Find Me is as impressive, as it is eye-opening. With powerful prose, unflinching narrative, and characters that are impossible to not love, Murdoch has written a wonderfully dark novel that will take the reader by surprise.
Murdoch has the ability to create the same sense of anxiety within the reader that her protagonist, Carey, senses as her world begins to change, even when there is reason to trust--making her readers’ experience thrilling, terrifying, emotional, and disturbing.
The narrative of the novel acts as a barrier between Carey and the reader, since she does not give anything away, but barely hints at the storm raging beneath her cool and untrusting exterior.
As readers, we truly have no idea what she is capable of. We believe Carey to be resourceful, but we do not know to what extent. If You Find Me takes its time to not just explain to us what Carey has survived through, but to show us what has made Carey the untrusting character she’s become. As the novel progresses, Carey slowly opens up and begins to trust, if not herself, then the reader.
The descriptions of the events that further darken the tone of the novel are deeply disturbing, but so beautifully done that one can’t help by empathize with the characters. The great thing about Murdoch’s writing is that she creates a tormented character that is still relatable. We’ve all been the new student, we’ve all had secrets, and though most of us can’t compare to what Carey experiences, we still, despite all odds, connect with Carey.
The hint of romance in the novel is a promise of better things to come for Carey, but it does not overtake the importance of Carey finding a new way of life.
Murdoch offers us hints of what the girls suffered through while living in the woods, but it isn’t until the unexpected conclusion that we truly see what has altered their lives forever.
I would recommend If You Find Me to lovers of contemporary fiction in the young adult age group. This book is truly about finding yourself when there appears to be no one you can trust, and no way out. The hope and redemption sit heavy on the pages as both the reader and Carey navigate her new world.(less)
Susane Colasanti’s Keep Holding On is an inspiring story that delves into the hard truth about bull...moreReview first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
Susane Colasanti’s Keep Holding On is an inspiring story that delves into the hard truth about bullying: parental or societal. Told in fast-paced prose, Noelle, the protagonist, describes her situation in much more gusto than would be expected in a child of abuse. She is not only emotionally abused by her mother, but she is abused by her peers who taunt her for being poor. But when a horrible event occurs that rocks the social order of the school, it is up to Noelle to decide if enough is enough.
Though predictable, Keep Holding On is one of those great young adult novels that more people should read. It isn’t the way the message is being sent that matters, it is the message itself.
Colasanti, in my humble opinion, does a magnificent job in creating a story depicting that we aren’t as alone as we believe we are. She shows us the power of friendship, love, and the ability to hold on.
I recommend this book to anyone seeking a quick read with a heavy message that will mean something to all of us, whether we want to believe it or not.(less)
When I first jumped into The Fault In Our Stars I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, considering that so many people were recommending...moreWhen I first jumped into The Fault In Our Stars I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, considering that so many people were recommending it to others and that it had such an unbelievable rating. I've fallen into the trap of people recommending popular books that left me wondering why they were so successful in the first place many times before. I will admit, this was the first time I’d ever read a John Green novel and even though I have a friend who is always parading her love for him whenever we see each other, I’d always been reluctant to read any of his books... you know, on the chance that I might find out that I do love his writing and join the ranks of admirers breathlessly awaiting his next novel. But, in all honesty, I’m happy I read The Fault In Our Stars before his other novels, because now I know what Mr. Green is capable of.
Hazel is a survivor of stage IV cancer, through the invention of a fictional drug. She expects to live the life that she has been given by watching reality television, reading, and sleeping. But, when her mother decides that Hazel should attend a support group for child cancer patients her life changes in unimaginable ways. There, among the other kids in the “literal” heart of Jesus, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, the one boy who shows Hazel that there’s more to life than what she believes there to be and that she should use every moment of it.
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard is such a fantastic book that it's incredibly difficult to put into words just how much I love this book. The prose, the characters, the adventure (whenever I experience something new I call it an 'adventure', so I am a huge advocate for life's little adventures), the romance, the self-discovery... and I can go on, and on.
Hubbard's voice is powerful as she confidently guides her characters through the complex world of South America. She expertly navigates the twists and turns backpackers experience while discovering new worlds, creating an exciting "what will happen next?" vibe.
I could not put this one down, and when I absolutely had to because of work, or that little nuisance called sleep, I couldn't stop thinking about Bria's newly changed perspective of the world.
Okay, enough gushing, let's get serious.
Bria is a teenager who recently left a less-than-stellar relationship before her trip, which slowly reveals itself to be a learning experience for Bria. When she decides to embark into the unknown world of South America, she has no idea how her life will change.
What got me hooked onto Hubbard's novel was how nicely paced the introduction to her protagonist is. She doesn't linger on unnecessary descriptions or backstories. Instead, she ops for having the scattered revelations of Bria's life months before her trip be our guides into just how much Bria is changing.
Rowen, the potential love interest, isn't what you would call a conventional male character--at least, appearance wise. But as the two characters grow to know each other, we can't help but fall a little bit in love with Rowan. His past is rife with learned lessons, regrets, and innocence, making him tough, but realistic in that he too, at some point, was just as lost as Bria.
Hubbard's descriptions of the various stops along Bria and Rowan's journey make it so easy to pretend you're with them. You're smelling what they smell, tasting the delicacies they encounter, feel the heat of the unforgiving sun--reading Wanderlove is an adventure of the senses.
The message of finding oneself hit home with me. When I was a kid I always imagined traveling and exploring the world, but Hubbard's novel has encouraged me to widen my horizons beyond the stalemate that my life has entered. A book that affects me in this sense will forever have my respect.
Wanderlove isn't a book to be taken lightly. On the outside, it may appear like a chick-lit novel gone rogue, but don't be tricked. Some of the aspects of Hubbard's novel that make it a powerful read are the multiple life lessons, like never underestimate life, sitting within the pages waiting to be found by its reader.
I recommend Wanderlove to readers of contemporary fiction that has adventurous characters. If you like a good narrative and descriptions of exotic lands, then dive into this one. Bria's world is alive within the pages of this memorable young adult novel.(less)
The Anti-Prom is the first novel by Abby McDonald that I've read and I will admit that it was s...moreThis review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
The Anti-Prom is the first novel by Abby McDonald that I've read and I will admit that it was surprisingly fun! I was expecting a light read surrounding the adventures of three girls boycotting the prom. Instead, what I got was a novel that touched on subjects that some teenagers experience nowadays in high school. McDonald's novel also acts as a reminder that we shouldn't be so quick to judge others, and sometimes we should give more credit to people we only have assumptions about.
"Three unlikely allies team up for a night of rebellion, romance, and revenge in a high-stakes dramedy from acclaimed young author Abby McDonald.
They’ve spent years at the same high school without speaking a word to one another, but that’s all about to change. Popular Bliss was having the perfect prom until she found her BFF and boyfriend making out in the back of a limo. Bad girl Jolene wouldn’t be caught dead at the prom, yet here she is, trussed up in pink ruffles, risking her reputation for some guy - some guy who is forty minutes late. And shy, studious, über-planner Meg never counted on her date’s standing her up and leaving her idling in the parking lot outside the prom. Get ready for The Anti-Prom, Abby McDonald’s hilarious, heart-tugging tale about three girls and one unforgettable prom night."
1. Meg's character was the loner of the group and her boringness seeped into her narrative. The novel is separated into three different narratives for each character and Meg's was the least entertaining one. I know that this was probably McDonald's intention, but it didn't stop it from being boring and drawn out.
2. I wasn't a fan of the ending. McDonald's novel follows how these three girls change and grow their relationships with each other, so why does she feel the need to end the story on a romantic note? I thought that was a cop-out then, and now, while writing this review, I still think it's a cop-out.
3. Bliss's character is selfish, prissy, and superficial. Sure, she changes during the adventures with the other two girls and when challenging her so called "friends", but I feel that she changes the least of the three girls and I found it a loss that she didn't change more.
1. Though Meg was boring, all three girls had different personalities. I think it's awesome that McDonald writes the narratives in such a way,since the reader can clearly see how the different characters think.
2. I have always loved one-night adventures where characters learn more about themselves and come out with a greater understanding of what their lives could be like. The idea of three girls who are relatively strangers driving around town may not be original, but it does make for a fun read.
3. The novel touched on some pretty serious stuff:
a) College and what to do with your life. b) Parental abandonment c) Unhealthy relationships d) Bullying
McDonald wins points with me for not only discussing these issues within her novel, but for exploring them and using them as building blocks for her story, rather than just glancing over them.
For some, this book may just be a quick, fun read. For others, this book acts as a sign that high school issues aren't just kept within the walls of any school in particular, but that influential authors are touching on important things like bullying. Authors like McDonald who write novels that explore issues plaguing one's teenage years, but help their characters grow from their experiences will always have me as a fan.
McDonald writes fluidly and though this novel isn't about girls who hate the prom, it does show a heartfelt story of three girls who help fix and find each other.(less)
Reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was like reading a present version o...moreThis review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
Reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was like reading a present version of a J.D. Salinger or Jack Kerouac novel. Sure, this may sound cliche, but it is quite obvious just who must have inspired Chbosky as a writer.
Chbosky's debut and sole novel has a rare quality to it. The novel is real, honest, and has a keen insight into life as a teenager that reflects not just on the early nineties, but on any time frame later on (or perhaps earlier). Written in epistolary form, Wallflower follows Charlie as he navigates life as a teenager and dealing with death, love, sex, drugs, alcohol, and abuse.
This novel is memorable and can easily become a reader's favourite read.
What I loved the most about this book is how unassuming it is. It tells the reader the barest of details, but offers so much more.
1. I really wish I could say there are no negatives, but I have to follow my rule of always finding something off-putting about a novel. One of the problems I have with Chbosky is how slow and sometimes tedious his novel feels.
2. Charlie is such an interesting boy who is privy to nearly everything, hence his given name "The Wallflower", so I was left frustrated at times when I wasn't told more about a topic or what is going on around Charlie. I guess this is one of the pitfalls of reading an epistolary novel (and why I'm not the greatest fan). We, as readers, are limited to what the writer of the letter/journal entry sees, hears, or experiences, rather than reading about every minute detail or beyond the narrator's point of view.
1. Chbosky manages to capture the troubles of young adulthood so honestly that it goes beyond mortification (about sex, drugs, and other taboo subjects), and delves into the truth of high-school and what it is to be a teenager.
2. Charlie reads a lot of books that reflect on what he experiences throughout the novel. Chbosky manages to tell us so much about his character via the books he likes to read, that I was in awe of his ingenuity.
3. Three words: Funny, Sad, Real. For me, as I devoured page after page, these three words defined my initial reactions to Charlie's life every time he encountered something new. I think it's a gift to be able to create something so powerful, yet elicit such a response from readers.
4. I can honestly say that this book was not predictable for me. Unlike some people I talked to, the ending was pretty clear to me, but only when I reached it. For some, you may have to read it again to catch the gist of what is going on and why Charlie is the way he is. The ending is powerful and breathtaking, despite the horrible realization that the characters experience.
5. I can't state enough how much I love Chbosky for exploring such a touchy subject. He weaves a web that ensnares his readers and plays with them by keeping those around charlie at a slight distance, so that it is mainly just the reader and Charlie, (because honestly, who else can the reader trust in this novel but Charlie?), until the pivotal end. Chbosky shows the aftereffects of a serious moment in Charlie's life that changes him forever, without actually stating it or alluding to it until the very end.
6. When Charlie realizes how infinite simple moments can be, I found myself relating and figuring out how my own life had similar moments. I liked that Chbosky made me reflect on my own life as I read Charlie's tale.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is definitely one of those books I will keep on my bookshelf and re-read when I want to be enlightened. Chbosky is a wonderful storyteller, it's really too bad he's only written one book.(less)
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is one of those post-apocalyptic books that gives you all...moreReview first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is one of those post-apocalyptic books that gives you all the scary details of what life would be like if the world took a turn for the worse, without being over-the-top and over-dramatic. Pfeffer creates a story where readers get to see what life is like as the apocalypse happens, rather than after. Addicting, emotionally stimulating, and an excellent example of character growth, Life As We Knew It is a must read for fans of the apocalyptic genre.
Miranda, the protagonist, tells us her story through journal entries. I have to admit that I'm not the greatest fan of this style, simply because it can either fail miserably, or benefit the story. Thankfully, Pfeffer's novel sits in the latter category. I think that having Miranda tell us her story through her limited point of view made the events feel more real. If the story was in third person, or omniscient, then the mystery of how the world deals with its destruction would be boring and predictable.
If we were ever unfortunate enough to find ourselves in a similar situation, then Miranda's story might be the best way to prepare ourselves. Perhaps this is because she is so naive at the beginning of the novel, believing that everything is unfair and that things will be fine by a certain point, that we can relate to her. After all, when something changes, don't we all wish for it to end quickly? Do we not expect things to eventually get better?
Miranda's family is one of billions surviving a horrible catastrophe and much like in real life, the novel focuses on her life, because really, there is no way to document how everyone else is doing in the world.
Well-written with a few editing errors sprinkled here and there (which I will attribute to her being only sixteen, though I don't know if that is the true purpose), Life As We Knew It is full of moments that makes the reader put the book down and question what s/he has now and what s/he could stand to lose.
Death is a frequent visitor in the novel and, much like the characters, the reader may start to understand why death comes, rather than question, or challenge it.
Pfeffer's novel manages to explore existence and life in one of the most chaotic scenarios possible. Life is precarious and Pfeffer captures it within the pages of her book, changing her readers' lives as well.
This was a completely different read for me. I'm so used to books taken place after the death of Earth, that it took me by surprise how I never thought about the people that suffered along with those who survived.
I would recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking and emotionally charged novels. If you enjoy a hint of romance, but mostly character growth, then you might like this one.(less)
Ah, Kody Keplinger, how may I count the ways I love thee...writing? 1. Realistic characters 2. Realistic issues 3. Inspiring storylines 4. Strong, powerf...moreAh, Kody Keplinger, how may I count the ways I love thee...writing? 1. Realistic characters 2. Realistic issues 3. Inspiring storylines 4. Strong, powerful writing
I could seriously go on, but I won't because I'm sure any one else who has ever read The Duff and now Shut Out knows how talented Keplinger is as a writer. She faintly reminds me of Sarah Dessen, who enjoys exploring the complexities of teenage life, rather than just being another cliché.
Shut Out, for me, was written even better than Keplinger's previous novel. It's like she took the problems that her writing faced before and improved on them in this novel. Cash Sterling, the boy who's caught the protagonist's eye, is realistic, not insensitive nor arrogant like we see so often in the last few years of YA fiction, but he is aloof like we girls believe boys to be. He is REAL. Which makes him that much more appealing as a character.
Lissa is a powerful character who has a lot of anxiety issues to overcome, but her past is a simple explanation for such stress. I found her to be powerful because she was REAL. She made mistakes like any other girl would in real life and she learned from them. She faced moments of real growth and took them on full force, even if it was painful for her to accept the consequences and the realization that she'd been wrong.
I loved this book, I think, more because of how I understood what was going down (I've read Lysistrata so I was quickly able to see what Keplinger was doing) and how it was executed. I sympathized with the characters and was happy/angry with the moments that deemed such responses.
I recommend this book to any YA reader out there because, honestly, I know most of us love the supernatural, but sometimes we need real books like these to remind us of what the YA genre is really about. It's not just about sparkling vampires and heartbroken werewolves, but it is also about realistic teens facing realistic issues that affect our way of seeing the world.
Good job Keplinger, you've knocked another one out of the park. This is one author to keep our eyes out for. (less)