When I first read about Narc in the Book Expo America Show Daily, I made a beeline for the Flux booth. With such an edgy prePosted to Almost Grown-up:
When I first read about Narc in the Book Expo America Show Daily, I made a beeline for the Flux booth. With such an edgy premise, the rarer YA male protagonist, and a South Florida setting, I was itching to get my hands on a copy.
Unfortunately, the novel didn’t resonate with me as I’d hoped.
I think my main issue was with the plausibility of the entire premise of Narc. Perhaps a teenage “narc” is, in fact, a method police utilize. However, the way that it was laid out, I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I didn’t have enough explanation, or maybe the deal is thrown on the table a bit too early and with too little provocation. Either way, it made the whole story difficult for me to believe or lose myself in the slightest bit.
There are also several elements that felt a bit anachronistic to me. Narc presumably takes place in the present-day, 2012 and Aaron use tools at his disposal like Facebook. But he refers to Facebook apps like Top Friends that are still technically around, but seldom used. When he sends Facebook IMs, they use screen names, which isn’t how it works. There’s also the fact that even “richer” students that Aaron hangs around with have phones without wifi, which is extremely commonplace these days.
I suppose that’s the danger in relying so much on technology in exposition. There was so much of it and it was just outdated. It served no purpose but to distance me from the novel.
Further, Aaron’s voice didn’t ring true to me. He spends a lot of time composing unsent e-mails and sometimes events are so glossed over that I was left backtracking trying to figure out exactly what had just occurred.
Overall rating: 2/5. Despite a promising premise, unfortunately, Narc just didn’t feel real to me at any point.
While Narc wasn’t for me, if you live in the Miami area and it sounds like a book for you, Books & Books is hosting Crissa-Jean Chappell on September 8th! You can see the full event details here.
WARNING: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson is NSFW. That is… Not Safe For Work. And it’s not due to the usual reasons thPosted to Almost Grown-up:
WARNING: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson is NSFW. That is… Not Safe For Work. And it’s not due to the usual reasons that things are deemed NSFW. Nope, no gratuitous sex in THIS incredible book. Second Chance Summer is of the ugly-crying NSFW variety. But we will get to that. I promise.
Earlier chapters of Second Chance Summer may not be sob-inducing, but they pulled at my heart an equal amount.
And there are a variety of reasons for that.
First of all, there’s Morgan Matson’s masterful handling of a terminal illness. Taylor’s dad seems fine as the summer starts, but his diagnosis hangs over them even in happy moments. A dark cloud on a sunny day, so to speak.
But those happy moments are there. Matson develops a cast of characters around Taylor who are quirky and wonderful. Her family is loving, but isn’t some cliche of the all-American family. They don’t seem like caricatures of an idea; they are all so human and real.
Taylor reunites with her former best friend, Lucy amidst a great deal of awkwardness (they haven’t spoken in years after something Taylor did to both Lucy and Taylor’s ex-boyfriend), but when they get back to the friendship point? I wanted to squish them in a hug. Even when they were fighting, for that matter, I still respected them. Lucy wasn’t nice to Taylor, by any means, but she doesn’t fall into that trap of being “mean girl.”
Then… oh, guys, then there is Henry. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. Her first love. The boy who brings swoon to the page in Second Chance Summer. The way he and Taylor come back together is so realistic and just… do they actually make boys like this in real life? Because I would like one.
We get into NSFW territory (again, from ugly-crying) as Taylor’s father begins his decline. I started off the cry-fest by wiping the few tears that trickled out of my eyes. But soon after that, I gave up wiping them because they kept on coming; there was practically a WATERFALL on my face. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there was a point when I was crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe.
Overall rating: 5/5. I literally have no criticism of Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer. This is a fabulous book and left me with… just… so many feelings....more
Chasing the Skip is a prime example of why you should strive to go into a novel without any preconceptions. My expectation:Posted to Almost Grown-up:
Chasing the Skip is a prime example of why you should strive to go into a novel without any preconceptions. My expectation: a book with a little swoon… perhaps a bad boy with a heart of gold playing the love interest.
I was wrong.
Our main character Ricki is, in a lot of ways, a typical teenager. She thinks of herself as more of an adult than she really is. She’s a little vulnerable, which she hides by way of snark. She’s lived with her mom all of her life and her dad has just barely maintained a position at the edge of the picture. Now she’s supposed to accept his authority over her? Not likely.
That element of her thinking she’d smarter than she really is made it real tough to sympathize with her. She kept making terrible decisions. It wasn’t until she let that vulnerability creep through a bit more, that my feelings for Ricki softened.
I did enjoy getting to know her dad and, though I agreed with Ricki that he should have been around more, I sympathized far more with him than I did her. That’s one of the things that comes from reading some YA novels from this side of 20 I suppose. There’s not a whole lot of crossover potential in Chasing the Skip.
What it really comes down to is that my feelings about the books are lukewarm. It has a unique-enough premise, but the prose and characters missed that essential spark that I felt I needed.
To sum up: A lighthearted novel that skips the froth of romance to focus on a father/daughter relationship. A quick and easy read....more
Parker’s coach, the guy that she refers to as “Brian” gave me a total creep total creep vibes throughout this entire novel.Posted to Almost Grown-up:
Parker’s coach, the guy that she refers to as “Brian” gave me a total creep total creep vibes throughout this entire novel. I’m not going to lie though, as an actual teen, I probably would have found him a little swoony in the beginning… I read many a fanfic with the student/teacher premise and it never bothered me before. Now, however, I was overcome with this urge to sweep in on Parker superhero-style and talk some sense into her.
Corndog, however was a cutie-pie. Even if I did unfairly judge him at first because my brain kept equating “Corndog” with “Horndog.”
Like with Kenneally’s other novel, Catching Jordan, I also appreciated Parker’s struggles at home. She’s always been a church girl, but when the people at her church turn judgey on her and her family, she struggles to separate church from God Himself. Characters with issues like this are always easy for me to relate to, having felt similarly throughout a majority of my teen years.
I, admittedly, connected more with Jordan (I just loved her I-don’t-take-any-crap- attitude) than I did with Parker, but I still enjoyed reading about Parker’s journey to find her way back to herself. And as a bonus: a few characters from Catching Jordan made cameo appearances in Stealing Parker!
To sum up: While I didn’t connect with this novel as much as Kenneally’s previous book, I still think this is one worth reading. But possibly not if you don’t enjoy a little religiosity....more
First off, I would just like to say: PROPS to the design team at Little, Brown who put this book together. It’s probably thePosted to Almost Grown-up:
First off, I would just like to say: PROPS to the design team at Little, Brown who put this book together. It’s probably the old yearbook nerd in me coming out to play, but I spent a lot of time admiring the product itself before setting in to read. I loved everything from the color (COLOR, guys! Color printing is AWESOME and at least for yearbook staffs, EXPENSIVE) illustrations in between each chapter to the thick glossy paper it was printed on to the heft of the book. It was heavy. IT WAS GLORIOUS.
But you probably want to know how the story was, yes?
I was really surprised by how much I liked Why We Broke Up given the fact that I’ve read a lot of so, so reviews for it and I kind of thought the summary sounded melodramatic.
Here’s why I thought it worked:
In a word? Min. The main character, Min, is melodramatic. She has a way of getting caught up in movies and fantasies that she concocts for herself that I could totally relate to. She rattles on about everything that bothers her in her letter in a swirly, twirly tumble of feelings that I can totally relate to.
That swirly, twirly tumble is what I adored. Min just spills over with emotion, with everything that she feels. It’s unchecked and even though you know how this book is going to end, even though the relationship is almost a blink from October to November, it’s an intense one, and you watch it with sympathy. Even if you even think she should never have dated Ed in the first place. You won’t, by the way, think she should. If I can say that I loved the book in a word and it’s Min, I can say I hated Ed in a word and that word is tool.
Maybe I loved the book because she reminds me of myself. I have the very same sort of momentos of boys that I liked and even kind of “dated,” but I wasn’t brave enough to let them go, holding onto them for the day that I can look back and smile.
If you’ve ever thought about writing that long “screw you” letter to your ex, you might enjoy this one. God knows I did.
Overall rating: 4/5. I didn’t expect to be as glued to the pages of Why We Broke Up as I was. But I started and finished reading it in almost one sitting, even dragging it into the kitchen while I got my dinner ready....more
The first scene of Before You Go by James Preller packs a punch. It’s rich in imagery and sensory detail and there’s an urgePosted to Almost Grown-up:
The first scene of Before You Go by James Preller packs a punch. It’s rich in imagery and sensory detail and there’s an urgency to the scene. Add that to how excited I was for the novel, and I was fully sucked in. I expected that would be the case for then entirely novel, but then I realized it was a flash-forward-style prologue. These work in some (RARE) cases, but in many, as was the case in Before You Go, it irritated me as a reader. I felt like I’d been promised high stakes from the get-go and they weren’t nearly delivered.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better. I kept waiting for characters to feel like real people instead of caricatures of actual teenagers. The dialogue feels forced, awkward, and inauthentic, peppered with obscure book and movie references that would have been effective once or twice, but not as much as they were used.
The plot could have done with some tightening; it felt like there was a lot of information or scenes that didn’t serve a purpose. I can think of at least two characters who seemed simply like devices to draw out the story as they didn’t further the plot at all.
The main character Jude still feels grief and guilt over the death of his sister Lily and feels disconnected from his parents. He starts a new job and is maybe even figuring out his first love. Plus, as noted in the plot synopsis, something occurs that throws Jude’s life into upheaval once again.
Obviously, the events involved in Before You Go all involved some extremely heightened emotions and I’d anticipated feeling some major pathos for Jude. But, there was nothing. Not a twinge.
I think a lot of that was down to the fact that Before You Go is written in a third person omniscient point of view, which distanced me from all involved. I was never really close enough to Jude to feel for him.
Overall rating: 2/5. I simply didn’t connect with Before You Go. Still love the premise and the way that the prologue is written, though....more
Confession: I have a soft spot in my heart for southern living. I like country music, cowboy boots, Sweet Home Alabama, soutPosted to Almost Grown-up:
Confession: I have a soft spot in my heart for southern living. I like country music, cowboy boots, Sweet Home Alabama, southern accents, and right this minute I’m watching the new ABC dramedy GCB.
So to a certain extent, my love of a drawled y’all meant that I liked The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker.
Ricki Jo (or “Ericka” as she now prefers) is seizing on the chance to reinvent herself as she enters high school and the popular boy “Wolf” would fit perfectly into her plans.
But the thing was, I wasn’t all that fond of “Ericka.” She made a lot of poor decisions when it came to choosing her friends and it truly infuriated me how she’d go back to Wolf over and over again no matter how much of a jerk he was or how much he embarrassed her.
Like her best friend Luke, I preferred “plain old Ricki Jo,” who is a little eager to please, but sweet. She loves her dog and her family. She doesn’t much care for harvesting tobacco, but she’s not a hellion about it either.
When I very deliberately put myself into the shoes into those of a high school freshman, I found Ricki Jo a sympathetic character. I vividly remember my own freshman reinvention; I spoke in a determinedly perky high-pitched voice, going out of my way to fight my reserved nature and be outgoing.
I imagine that younger readers of the genre in their early teenage years will feel the same and sympathize with her. Older readers, like myself, may get distracted from the plot due to an urge to shake some sense into Ricki Jo.
Overall rating: 3/5. Better suited for younger readers, but still an enjoyable read....more
I needed this book. I needed it in a way that I didn’t even KNOW that I needed it. Which kind of works because Hadley and OlPosted to Almost Grown-up:
I needed this book. I needed it in a way that I didn’t even KNOW that I needed it. Which kind of works because Hadley and Oliver didn’t know that they needed each other either. Because, you see, I was feeling the burn already this year. I’m not referring to an exercise burn (though I AM sticking with those New Year’s resolutions so far). No, I was already going through a book burn-out this year already. Reaching for each new book with a little bit of dread.
But The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight cured me. Because much like the main characters themselves, I very quickly fell in love. In love with Jennifer Smith’s uncanny observations about life and love and the wonderfully realistic characters she created in Hadley and Oliver. In love with her ability to juggle the past with the present and family relationships with romantic ones.
In certain ways Smith’s writing reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s. She creates metaphors that just resound with truth time after time.
I could tell very early into the book that I was going to love it. I was reading with an almost alarming speed, dying to see what would happen next, what adorable quirk Oliver may have or what perfect thing he might say. The beginning stayed true to the rest of the book, never once leaving me with the feeling that it was dragging or moving too fast.
Both Hadley and Oliver are traveling for major events. Hadley sort of needs saving, but the thing that made me love her and Oliver together is that he needs saving too. And then? They wind up saving each other.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight may be fiction. But it makes you believe that true love still exists. And that real life fairy tales still happen.
My only complaint? That the book had to end.
Rating: 5/5. Thank you, Jennifer E. Smith for living up to the hype in a big, big way. This one makes my favorites list easily. I can’t wait to read more by this author....more
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill was one of those titles that was on the tip of everyone’s tongue this year, whispered alongsidPosted to Almost Grown-up:
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill was one of those titles that was on the tip of everyone’s tongue this year, whispered alongside Stephanie Perkins and the famed Anna and the French Kiss.
While I can’t say that Meant to Be toppled Anna at the top of my list, it was a novel that I greatly enjoyed.
This was largely due to the connection I felt to the main character, Julia. Because for real, Julia is now on my fictional BFFs list. That may be a little narcissistic of me because when I tell you that Julia is like… a magnified version of me (especially teen me), I speak the truth. It was a refreshing change to read a book and see a character behaving so much like I would in her situations.
There’s also the bonus factor of an English setting. With Julia and Jason, I got to go romping about the country and historical sites. I got the thrill of rule-breaking without actually having to break any rules as I grinded my teeth with worry that they’d get into trouble with their teacher.
Jason was an ultimately loveable character and certainly managed to make me swoon in spades, even if I began the novel loathing him as much as Julia initially did.
And by the time the novel came to a close, I was grinning from ear to ear at it.
To sum up: If, like I did, you keenly felt the absence of a Stephanie Perkins swoonfest this year, Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill may help you ease the pain....more
This can’t be appropriately called a review. How can I properly review a book that touched me as deeply as The Fault in OurPosted to Almost Grown-up:
This can’t be appropriately called a review. How can I properly review a book that touched me as deeply as The Fault in Our Stars did? I even considered making a special format purely for this book before I decided to stick with the tried and true.
Looking for Alaska was the only John Green book that I’d read before. And don’t get me wrong. I loved it. It was beautifully written and literary and I think I summed it up with the word “wow.” But it didn’t touch me the way that The Fault in Our Stars did. I just– I don’t know how to say it better than other people have said it already. That Jodi Picoult blurb on the front? 100% agree.
I had a favorite quote from this book that I think sums up how I felt about it: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.” I was falling in love with this book– with Hazel, with Augustus Waters, with how they interpret and describe the world around them. And before I knew it, I was in. There was no getting out of how I felt about the book and the characters and it all culminated in about 100 pages of mascara running down my faces as I huddled in my bed with a tissue and this book.
I always vaguely want to thank authors for writing– because obviously I love to read. But I want to thank John Green for writing something that made me feel ALL THE THINGS.
Overall rating: 5/5. Like my initial 1 sentence Goodreads review said: “John Green gets ALL the stars.”...more
Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm combines two of my very favorite genres: YA and (I hesitate to use the terPosted to Almost Grown-up:
Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm combines two of my very favorite genres: YA and (I hesitate to use the term since it seems to be frowned upon these days, but...) chick-lit. It has all the earmarks of a classic chick-lit: a loveable main character with a weakness for fashion, a quirky love interest, even the stereotypical gay best friend.
Libby, the main character, was easy for me to bond with. She has a difficulty choosing which clothes and accessories to leave behind when packing for her summer. I have... similar issues that I won't get into much here. Let's just say I've had to get creative in an airport after weighing my bag to avoid an additional baggage fee.
Plus, the girl has strong interest (read: OBSESSION) with history. Random historic facts are peppered throughout the novel and they fascinated me. Though I didn't keep up with it, World History was one of my favorite subjects in school. Libby thinks of it much the same way that I always did:
"History isn't an endless parade of facts[...] History is just stories-- I mean think about it, story is right in the word-- history is the life stories of millions and millions of people. Real people, living, beautiful, ugly, wonderful, horrible, messy, complicated human lives."*
While she loves history, Libby is undoubtedly a girl of the modern age, with her unwillingness to let go of her cell phone and connection to her best friend. Her life has countless references to pop culture that served the book well, but date it.
But it doesn't matter what era she thinks she belongs in, she makes the same mistake many girls have made throughout time: she has a crush on a big D-bag. It gets to the point with that (and the fact that she can be a little judgmental) where you want to take reporter Garrett's Hobbit-y feet and use them to stomp some sense into her head.
The ending felt a bit rushed and out of place to me. Largely because the main thread of the story revolved around Libby's romantic life and once that's resolved, I didn't feel that I needed much else to have the novel finished. We return instead to the resolution of the haunting question aboard the boat in Camden Harbor and one last twist that gets resolved very quickly.
Still, overall I'd recommend Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink if you're a fan of chick-lit along the lines of Confessions of Shopaholic. There's a major CHEESE factor to this novel. If that's not your thing, then this probably isn't for you. It's a quick, frivolous read that didn't fail to make me smile.
Overall rating: 3/5. Libby was a bit silly and so were her adventures, but sometimes a bit of silliness is what you need.
*Note: quote is from a review copy and may have changed....more
I have a fondness for Disney Channel and ABC Family original movies, so when I compare Shooting Stars to those movies, it'Posted to Page Turners Blog:
I have a fondness for Disney Channel and ABC Family original movies, so when I compare Shooting Stars to those movies, it's a good thing. It wormed its way right into my heart.
Jo's good at being a paparazza. With her incognito photography gadgets, and her pint-sized appearance, it's easy for her to sneak the shots that no one else can get. Her talent is hardly a surprise-- her father's about as big as a paparazzo can get in in the biz-- but if she had the money to quit and take photography classes, she'd drop the game in a heartbeat. Still her morality fights her when she'd offered a big job to spy on her favorite celebrity at a special kind of rehab center. Is the money worth exposing someone who's done no wrong?
Shooting Stars is a little slow to start off. The focus is almost solely on Jo and her career as a paparazza. Where the book really starts to shine is after Jo arrives at Ned's exclusive retreat, where she's forced not only to develop friendships, but to take a closer look at her own issues.
I don't want to spoil anything by telling you what Ned is up to at the retreat, but Rushby totally surprised me. I spent a lot of the book guessing about what was up with him and though I came close once or twice, most of my guesses were way off! I also loved how things are pulled together in a tidy little bow at the end.
Shooting Stars was a fun and light contemporary read. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more U.S. YA releases from Rushby in the future....more
Some of you may remember that I’m a bit of an Ally Carter fangirl– to the extent that when I represented Cammie Morgan in thPosted to Almost Grown-up:
Some of you may remember that I’m a bit of an Ally Carter fangirl– to the extent that when I represented Cammie Morgan in the YA Sisterhood’s Heroine Tourney, I made a couple of videos pretending to be her. So you’re not going to be all that shocked by the fact that I went to the closest bookstore to me on March 13, the day that the latest Gallagher Girls book came out, and picked up a copy of my own.
Then I tore through it in one night.
Because I really, really, don’t want anyone to get spoiled too much from my review I’m going to strive to keep things a little vague, while still giving you an idea of what I thought about the book. But there is a teeny-tiny itty-bitty spoiler at the end of the review. Nothing that Ally Carter herself didn’t reveal many times before the release.
First of all, there was never a point that I wanted to set this book aside. Ally Carter whisks you off on adventure with not a single dull moment. Her pacing kept me engaged as we set off with Gallagher Girl Cammie to try to uncover the mystery surrounding the events of her summer.
The interesting thing about the amnesia factor is that at times it makes you feel a little like Cammie may be an unreliable narrator, and honestly, when done well that is one of my favorite writing devices. The mystery of the Circle of Cavan is deepened even more with the idea that somehow, whatever Cammie has learned about them, it has left a blank gap of time in her mind.
Out of Sight, Out of Time is filled with the characteristic spy lingo and reports that we’ve come to expect from the very first installment in the series, in addition to the wonderful voice of Cammie. Ally Carter has a gift for making a character that is relatable because she is strong and smart. Cammie defines herself based on what she does and the choices she makes, and YA could use more heroines like her.
In Out of Sight, Out of Time, we get some answers to the mystery that’s been building over the past few books. But the adventure isn’t over yet, and in the end, still more questions are raised.
Oh, and tiniest spoiler ever:
Like Ally Carter said on Twitter many many times, Zach really is in just a towel at one point. My immature self couldn’t help grinning. Also, he’s as swoony as ever, but one of the many reasons I love Cammie is that she may have boy drama to worry about, but she’s very aware that other things are more important.
Overall rating: 5/5. I’d say this is tied with the last Gallagher Girls book for my favorite in the series. Get your copy soon!...more
I won’t pretend I didn’t go into Purity with some high expectations, having readPosted to Almost Grown-up:
Jackson Pearce has done it again, you guys!
I won’t pretend I didn’t go into Purity with some high expectations, having read and loved Pearce’s other works. I was thrilled for the chance to read her first contemporary novel, Purity.
And I spent a lot of the time that I read it with either big-ass grin on my face or holding back tears when Pearce reached INTO my chest to pluck at my heartstrings.
I won’t lie to you, this book isn’t going to be for everyone because some people will react negatively to the religion and sex hot buttons, but in my personal opinion, it was amazing.
Shelby has lost her mother and it leaves her wondering about the existence of God and with doubts as to the whole religion thing. There was a point in my life where I would have squirmed about the subject because the doubts would have felt like mine. It’s not as though I experienced something as scarring as Shelby, but for a good 7 years or so through high school and college, I considered myself an atheist– I just wasn’t sure about the God thing and, back then, I kept leaning back and forth on the idea. Pearce handles the topic exceedingly well– Shelby never feels like she’s attacking the idea of God or religion, just working through her own issues with it.
Pearce has an amazing grasp of the teenage mindset. Her characters are not only relatable, but they feel completely authentic, from how Shelby interacts with her friends and families, to the party she goes to, to how she interacts with her “Potentials.”
Sidenote: some of those friend scenes were laugh-out-loud funny; especially a certain Target scene. I loved that Shelby has healthy friendships and though I mostly hate the Princess Ball, I loved that she starts to build a healthy relationship with her dad through the planning of it. Those scenes, along with Shelby’s memories of her mother were the ones that got me choked up more often than not.
I’m not going to be shocked if some people try to get this book banned, but the fact is that sex is something that teenagers think about. Hell, it’s something that adults think about. And whether you decide to do it premaritally or not, it’s an extremely personal decision that Shelby feels is being taken away from her and she acts accordingly.
Overall rating: 5/5. Jackson Pearce’s 1st contemporary is just as engrossing as her paranormal efforts. Basically, the woman is a stellar writer and Purity shows that just as well as her other novels....more