With Croak Grim Reapers have "entered" the YA world. Now, Grim Reapers are evidently not new, with movies an...moreGo away, vampires; enter the Grim Reapers!
With Croak Grim Reapers have "entered" the YA world. Now, Grim Reapers are evidently not new, with movies and books and plenty of legends about them. However (and correct me if I am wrong) Grim Reapers have not entered the YA world before. I know of some books that touch on reapers but none that are entirely based around reapers. Frankly, I was almost surprised that there had never been a YA book (that I know of; I could be wrong) focusing entirely around these hunters; nowadays there seem to be plenty of books about panoramal creatures and hunters.
The beginning of this book may be a harder sell, and some readers may become disinterested in the book. Lex is a "punk" girl, punching and hurting and harming people and constantly getting warned, suspended, and expelled. Some readers have commented that they found Lex hard to relate to in her actions, but I related to her a bit and didn't dislike her. To me, she seemed to be a girl who didn't know how to understand her emotions and acts. The plot quickly moves away from the more realistic setting into Croak (hence the title) as Lex goes to live with her uncle Mort. Croak, is of course, a town populated entirely by Grim Reapers, and of course, Lex is a Grim Reaper herself, and of course, she is going to learn how to become one.
Some of the plot is based upon tropes: girl learns that she is (insert creature/thing here) must learn how to become (insert creature/thing here) and adjust to becoming (insert creature/thing here). But Croak puts a pretty fresh spin on these tropes, as Lex doesn't want to learn to be a Reaper. But she obliges and begins to learn. This was the other complaint I had with the plot: it was hard to understand the "rules". The Grim Reaper world has created a foundation of rules on which their society is based on, which are a bit complicated. The rules are explained quickly and I still was confused on some aspects (such as Killing and scything) by the end of the book.
However, I did enjoy the plot. Lex is very funny and how she goes about being a Reaper brings extra humor. She has plenty of wild misadventures, and the world of Croak is very funny as well (such as the afterlife populated by fighting famous figures). The world is filled with dark humor and the book knows what is appropriate humor and what is not. I also loved the climax, which is very heartbreaking and perfect for the story while building on towards the next book in the series.
As for the characters, Lex was a strong girl for me with insecurities and motivation. She seemed relatable and interesting, and changed over the course of the story from her "angsty" persona to a better girl. Cordy was another favorite of mine and I loved the sisters' relationship and how it influenced and motivated the plot. I liked Driggs but the romance he developed with Lex was completely unsurprising to me. Uncle Mort was also very funny and the rest of the Reapers were as well.
Gina Damico's writing was strong and interesting. She wrote third person well and I felt that I understood Lex's motivations and feelings very well. Her writing was perfect for the story in my opinion, strong and fresh.
I really enjoyed this book and I'm eager for the sequel, SCORCH, which comes out in the fall. A fun read.
Out of all of Courtney Summers's titles, this book seems to be considered the least favorite, judging from the Goodreads reviews I'd read. Cracked up...moreOut of all of Courtney Summers's titles, this book seems to be considered the least favorite, judging from the Goodreads reviews I'd read. Cracked up to Be and Some Girls Are are more popular. And comparing this book to the first I read -- Cracked I think I like Courtney's more "edgy" style better. But I did enjoy this book and it's a sweet contemporary with a strong mystery.
Eddie is reeling from the death of her father, after he killed himself by jumping off the roof of an abandoned warehouse. She just wants to understand: why? Why would he kill himself when he had such a great family, when he found inspiration in everything he saw, and loved his life? As she ponders these questions, Culler Evans, a former student of her father, says that he knows the answers. Eddie is attracted to Culler and decides to go on the hunt with him, as they examine photographs that her father took and try and find the meanings that he left behind in them. But Culler is getting too close, and Eddie doesn't know what to do -- and she wonders, are some secrets better left unknown?
The grief factor, with books written about grief and how they affect characters, certainly isn't new, but Summers managed to take a tried-and-true plot and make it interesting. I will admit that I figured out the plot to this book. I figured out what would happen in about 100 pages and the big shocker was, frankly, not a shocker to me. But I still enjoyed reading the book. The plot was exciting and intense, with the mystery interesting enough to have me keep turning the pages. And though the shocker wasn't surprising to me, I still felt bad for Eddie when she discovered the secret. The ending was another great one (I commented on how much I liked the ending in my review for Cracked up to Be ) and I definitely think that Courtney has a talent for writing realistic, hard-hitting endings. This story is a lot quieter, with not as much intensity, and a lack of the "mean girl" character that Summers is known for, but I still enjoyed the read. Also, the title is perfect.
The characters....I did relate to Eddie :) She was very easily relatable, with worries about her father and anger towards her mother's friend Beth, who was condescending towards her. Culler I really disliked. But I think that was the point, to make readers feel uncomfortable around him and realize his secrets before Eddie did. I still cannot figure out if the relationship the two had was insta love. Eddie said she was attracted to him, but I wasn't sure that she was ever in love with him, but simply attracted to the secrets and opportunities he offered her. However, if she was in love with him, then she certainly did become in love with him very very fast. The rest of the characters were interesting, from her mother (who could have become a cliche, the depressed mother, but was interesting) and the aforementioned Beth (who turned out to have a very interesting softer side).
Now, like I mentioned, this is a quieter book. It's not quite as gritty as the rest of Summers's books. Since grittiness is Summers's element, I was curious how her writing style would be influenced by that change. Her style is still easy and interesting to read, with fluid sentences and pared down to the esentialls. Her writing did seem to struggle a bit, without the gritty factor that makes her writing so strong, but she was still a strong writer.
This was a strong read, if I enjoyed Summers's grittier titles more, but it's still an interesting mystery. Recommended for anyone who likes realistic fiction, gritty titles, and stories about grief.
I'm a huge fan of contemporary fiction. And as I have started to read more young adult books, people constantly recommened Courtney Summers's books. I...moreI'm a huge fan of contemporary fiction. And as I have started to read more young adult books, people constantly recommened Courtney Summers's books. I looked up the descriptions for the books online and read a few excerpts from Courtney's blog, decided I was interested, and began the long hunt for a copy of the book.
I searched everywhere -- bookstores, libraries, and at online stores. Either all of Courtney's booms were checked out -- a telling sign -- or it was too expensive for me to buy the book. I was getting pretty frusturated. Finally I went to visit a large library a few hours from my house, a library I frequent fairly often enough, and decided to go in pursuit of Courtney Summers's books. AND VOILA! In the SUMM section of the library, there were two of Courtney's novels: her debut Cracked Up to Be and her third novel Fall for Anything . I was disappointed that I couldn't find Some Girls Are , Courtney's second and most highly acclaimed books, but I was glad I'd found two of her books and I went home happy.
I wasn't disappointed.
Parker, frankly, is a b*itch. She blows off her friends, hates her teachers, tries to harm herself. This change is sudden, though; she's always been Miss Perfect, nicknamed "Perfect Parker" Fadley, and now she's ruined herself with a danger of not graduating and has to constantly visit a counselor and the principal. A new boy, Jake, finds himself interested in her, but Parker simply pushes him away. She seems to be falling into a deeper and deeper spiral, and no one can understand why or how it happened. But there's a reason; Parker's holding a terrible secret -- something terrible has happened and it may be her fault.
This kind of plot -- girl hiding terrible secret -- is one that I've seen before, but Summers manages to carefully twist and turn the story so that nothing ever becomes predictable. It's a interesting, very gritty ride. The ending was probably my favorite part of the entire story. Some stories can seem sugarocated, perfect endings that seem too perfect. She throws all those ideas out the window, ending up with a dark, gritty ending that makes perfect sense -- and is very realistic -- and still holds a faint glimmer of hope. I loved that, because it really drove home the fact that not everything is perfect, that the most realistic things aren't always the best. The secret revealed was interesting, as well, but I did wish that it would have been revealed earlier in the text, then there could have been more exploration of the aftermath/repurcussions of the secret being revealed. Still, a strong, gritty plot with a fantastic ending.
Now, onto the characters. Parker is not.... likable. That's pretty much agreed upon by all readers of this book. You tend to dislike her, get mad at her because of her poor choices and how she treats the people around her, and at times I felt myself relating more to Jake and Parker's friends then our heroine. However, there is something that made me connect with her and made me finish the book. I did connect with her somehow, and I related to her problems and how she didn't know how to react -- even as I didn't agree with how she acted. The other two main love interets were interesting. I liked Jake and Parker's relationship, how flawed and realistic it was, and how it paralleled to Parker and Chris's relationship. Becky was a character I didn't think I would sympathize with, but at the end I did sympathize with her motivations and insecurities. Really, my feelings on the characters could be summarized into this: Didn't think I'd sympathize with any of them, ended up sympathizing with them.
Courtney Summers's writing is just what the back blurb says. Gritty, edgy, and intense. This isn't any kind of "fake edgy". No, no, no. She doesn't pull any punches. The characters talk about sex, take drugs, drink, and act like real teenagers. The writing is smooth and clear, parsed down so only the true, important thoughts shine through. I've read many reviews saying that the edginess of Summers' books is what makes them so interesting and unique, and I have to agree with that statement. Her book is edgy, interesting, and so intense I had to put it down a few times. She's definitely a master of the edgy contemporary.
I know that there are plenty of reviews urging people to read Summers's books, but I will happily join that crowd. If you are interested in contemporary, gritty contemporary, and realistic books this is a definite must read, and it's easy to see why this won the Cyblis Award and why Summers has been so well acclaimed.
In the past, I've read a few of Pete Hautman's other novels. His books are very sweet, contemporary books kind of stripped down to the essence. I enjo...moreIn the past, I've read a few of Pete Hautman's other novels. His books are very sweet, contemporary books kind of stripped down to the essence. I enjoyed his other reads, and when I found out about his newest release, the romantic comedy What Boys Really Want , it was one of my must-haves for 2012.
The story felt a little too heavily based on romance, but I enjoyed the read.
Adam and Lita are friends. JUST FRIENDS.They've been best friends forever, both firmly in their own roles: Adam is the entrepreneur and Lita is the writer. Adam comes up with the idea to write a book, though, shaking up their roles and making both of them unsure of their identities. Adam decides he will write a book on what boys want -- hence the title of the novel -- and Lita turns her attention to matchmaking her friend Emily with her crush. Their friendship becomes more and more distanced, though, as Adam becomes more and more engrossed in the book and people become more interested in reading his book.
This book is really refreshing. I mean, a boy-girl friendship? Where neither of them are interested in dating the other or harboring a secret crush on the other? Fantastic. I love boy-girl friendships and I have lots of guy friends. I thought this was a really refreshing part of the story. The friendships are done very well, and they make up a large portion of the novel: Lita and her friends, Adam and his friends, and Adam and Lita's friendship are very prominent. The book is also really funny -- there are a lot of humorous moments and they all are realistic while being hilarious. So in some parts the book is really refreshing. But there were also issues I had. The romance is obviously a key part of the book. I expected it to be a big part of the novel, and it is. There's a major subplot with Lita attempting to hook up her friend Emily, and both Adam and Lita gain love interests. I liked the love interests, Blair and Brett, but my issues were more with the love subplot. Throughout the entire book Lita had been fixtated on her plan, and she wanted to make sure Emily got the guy of her dreams. But at the end, the subplot kind of fell apart. Emily started to date her crush, and while their relationship ended realisticly it seemed like a low ending. The entire book had been working up to some kind of interaction between them, and I expected it to end a little better. The two characters moved on so quickly it made me wonder why the author had even inserted the subplot.
The other thing I want to note is that Adam does self-publish his book. I have nothing against self-publishing -- I've read many great books that were published by their authors -- but I did wish that Hautman had discussed traditional publishing/self publishing a bit more. He had a character state that he disliked self-publishing, and another character who was published traditionally, and briefly explained the traditional publishing route (writing the book, editing, getting a literary agent and then having the agent go on submission). I did think it would have been interesting to have more on this topic, and kind of make for some interesting parallels to Adam's way of publishing compared to the traditional way of publishing shown by Lita's mother. Overall a strong plot and a good story with some confusing subplots and some things that could have been addressed better.
The characters were fantastic. Lita and Adam both had very distinct personalities and narrations. It was easy to tell that Adam was a boy and Lita was a girl, which doesn't always happen with double-gender POVs. The dialogue was very realistic and sounded like real teenagers. The other characters were also very developed, and the best friends -- a trope that sometimes creates flat characters -- were also developed. The love interests were both interesting, and I loved how Hautman broke down gender stereotypes with his love interests while still giving the interests their own personalities. Brett was very into auto mechanics but also enjoyed English lit and Blair acted skanky but wasn't as skanky as she seemed. There's also a fun twist about Brett and Blair at the end but I won't give it away. :) Very strong, realistic characters.
Hautman's writing is very realistic. His characters all sounded like teenagers, and that reflected in his writing as well; the narration sounded like how a teenager would speak and act. His writing's also very funny, and he's a very good humorous writer with a good sense of how teenagers act.
If you enjoy contemporary YA this would be a good read for you, and if you're interested in romance and "he said, she said" stories you would probably also enjoy this read. I had some issues with the book but it turned out to be a good story and I'm glad I chose to read it.