I went into Midwinterblood with very few expectations. I had never read Marcus Sedgwick’s books before, and I don’t read a lot of horror. Many review...more I went into Midwinterblood with very few expectations. I had never read Marcus Sedgwick’s books before, and I don’t read a lot of horror. Many reviews have commented on how the author expertly weaves a variety of storylines together. For me, the plot points themselves and construction of the story led this book to feel like a YA version of Lost, but in a bad way.
I had pretty high expectations regarding Tiger Lily. Not only had I heard great things about this book, but there’s a lot of Peter Pan adaptations I r...moreI had pretty high expectations regarding Tiger Lily. Not only had I heard great things about this book, but there’s a lot of Peter Pan adaptations I really enjoy—this Peter Pan, Finding Neverland, Neverland, etc. This spring I’d decided I’d heard enough positive things about Tiger Lily, and that it was finally time for me to give it a shot. I even prefaced my read my picking up the original Peter Pan, just to give myself eve more context. Tiger Lily is, whether viewed as an adaptation or an independent work, a story that is heavy with potential but poorly executed.
A decent story, but a lot of the characters were stereotypes. I also didn't think the foreshadowing was well done, and the writing could have been bet...moreA decent story, but a lot of the characters were stereotypes. I also didn't think the foreshadowing was well done, and the writing could have been better.(less)
Didn't care for this one as much as others int he series. Greg's voice sounded bizarrely young here, but the way he acted felt more mature. It read as...moreDidn't care for this one as much as others int he series. Greg's voice sounded bizarrely young here, but the way he acted felt more mature. It read as weird and imbalanced to me. Not my favorite in the series.(less)
The basic idea behind this book isn’t terrible, but it’s explained too quickly. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that info dumping can be a problem and...moreThe basic idea behind this book isn’t terrible, but it’s explained too quickly. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that info dumping can be a problem and can stop some people from picking up books that are otherwise amazing. Barnes explained her concept and moved on pretty quickly.
As we all know, when April from Good Books and Good Wine recommends a book, I will purchase it almost immediately afterwards. I had been hesitant to...more As we all know, when April from Good Books and Good Wine recommends a book, I will purchase it almost immediately afterwards. I had been hesitant to try Mindi Scott’s books because they just didn’t look like something that would satisfy me in terms of literary quality, but I bumped this one to the top of my TBR pile. Live Through This tackles a difficult subject reasonably successfully, but overall I just thought it needed more.
To me, Coley read like a girl who could exist in any suburban, upper middle class in America. So did every other character in the book, and everything about Coley’s life. When I read about the things she was going through, I felt bad for her, but a sense of urgency wasn’t there for me. I wasn’t desperately rooting for Coley to work things out and get better because to me, her feelings of anxiety and hurt just weren’t totally clear.
Lots of people have enjoyed this one, so it’s hard to pin down why it didn’t work for me. I thin it’s because I was hoping for something truly outstanding, but felt as though I picked up just another run of the mill book.
THE FINAL VERDICT: If tough contemporaries are your niche, I think Scott may satisfy you. Personally I just feel as though I’ve read tough contemporaries that are more beautifully written and more compelling plotwise.(less)
Look at that cover. It makes Uses for Boys look like a read that will have rough spots, but also be very sweet, which is what I expected going into th...more Look at that cover. It makes Uses for Boys look like a read that will have rough spots, but also be very sweet, which is what I expected going into this book. In her review, Jen of Makeshift Bookmark compared this book to the movie Thirteen, and that is spot on. From my perspective, reading the plot and character arc of Uses for Boys was like watching a train crash. Uses for Boys is an important book of acceptable literary quality, but not one I particularly enjoyed reading.
Before we go any further, I should clarify a few things. I was raised in an upper middle class home. My loved ones have been teaching me about feminism and healthy relationships from an early age. I understand that even though I’ll start have to paying back student loans soon, the benefits of my education, both college and graduate school, far outweigh the costs. If this doesn’t make sense now, it will after you read Uses for Boys.
I expected Anna to have grown up in a home without a lot of money. Although this was the case when she was young, her mother is actually fairly well off. Anna’s mother goes through several marriages—at least three are mentioned in the book—and has a lot of boyfriends. Thanks to the men in her life, Anna’s mother acquires nice things such as jewelry and new clothes. She’s never around, but she’s happy to give Anna the money to procure what she needs. Of course, as Anna becomes a teenager, she thinks that she has to perform certain favors in order to receive love from others.
The plot of Scheidt’s debut is lacking in purpose, and this is a personal pet peeve for me. I can see why some teens would want to read this story as Scheidt has written it, but I kept thinking of different ways the plot could go. Guys, Anna is an incredibly painful character to read about. Her personality isn’t as well fleshed out as it could be, and she makes a lot of poor decisions. When I got to the end of the book, I felt as though her character had not come as far as I’d like to see, and that was especially disappointing. I also don’t understand where Scheidt was going with Toy and her story.
As many problems as I have with this story, I have to admit that it belongs on teen shelves. Scheidt’s novel showcases that being privileged in one way does not mean that a person is privileged in ever way. For example, Anna’s mother has plenty of money, but Anna has unhealthy interpersonal relationships as a result. While I understand as an adult that being rich does not automatically mean your life is perfect, some teens may not, and this book will be eye-opening for them. Girls who have personally experienced slut-shaming will relate to Anna’s character, and Scheidt manages to show how negative slut-shaming can be without preaching to her reader.
Uses for Boys was a wash for me. I thought it needed to be longer with a better plot and more well-developed characters. Some readers, however, will appreciate and connect with Anna’s story much better than I did. I hope this book finds its audience.(less)
The Nightmare Affair sounded like a fantastically creepy YA paranormal/ghost story, which is why I decided to read it. Given that this novel is set at...moreThe Nightmare Affair sounded like a fantastically creepy YA paranormal/ghost story, which is why I decided to read it. Given that this novel is set at a creepy boarding school, it wasn’t totally devoid of these elements, but I found it disappointing overall. Arnett’s debut felt excessively similar to the first Harry Potter book in plot with poorly written characters and prose I didn’t care for.
Frankly, Michelle Hodkin’s debut, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, was kind of a hot mess. Her prose was overwrought, and she made the mistake of trying s...moreFrankly, Michelle Hodkin’s debut, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, was kind of a hot mess. Her prose was overwrought, and she made the mistake of trying so hard to keep her first book mysterious that her plot was unsatisfactory. Hodkin managed to clean up the prose for book two, and while I got answers to some of my questions, I was unsatisfied with where the plot went.
I’m a fan of witches and when I first saw the cover of and read the synopsis for Hex by Ramona Wray, it reminded me of Bewitched. I walked away expect...moreI’m a fan of witches and when I first saw the cover of and read the synopsis for Hex by Ramona Wray, it reminded me of Bewitched. I walked away expecting a cute and page-turning paranormal romance. Although I wasn’t left entirely satisfied, I definitely got what I expected, and think that lovers of paranormal romance will enjoy Wray’s novel.
The strongest aspect of Hex is the plot. Wray kept the twists and turns coming around every corner, and I really enjoyed that about the novel. The ending was a tiny bit rushed, yet overall I was satisfied by it It provided full closure for the story Ramona was telling, but also left a bit of wiggle room for sequels and spin-offs.
I have to confess that I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance. This was another girl-pursues-boy-even-though-she-knows-he-wants-to-hurt-her romances, and I’m getting a little frustrated with those. Lily and Ryder fell in love a little too quickly for it to be believable for me. They were incredibly sappy with each other, and Ryder used the term “baby” a bit too often for my taste.
Hex is a fun, quick read, and the perfect book for anyone who wants a paranormal romance with witches.(less)
One of my first books in verse was What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, which I first read as a middle schooler, and I’ve had a soft spot for...more One of my first books in verse was What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, which I first read as a middle schooler, and I’ve had a soft spot for this format ever since. When I received a pitch for Purple Daze, I was intrigued because of this and the period in history and that it took on this format. Although Purple Daze does not lack emotion, it tries so hard that it left no impact on me.
Purple Daze has been one of my quickest reads of 2012. Although some passages are written in the form of prose writing assignments or letters instead of poetry, it’s still a fairly short book. Readers get to see how characters interact with each other, as well as their inner monologues.
These elements make Purple Daze an interesting story, but are ultimately why I didn’t like it. This book is told from the perspective of six different characters, which was too many for me given the length of the book. I picked up on a few basic plot points, but got confused and never really tied the whole format together. Coupled with the odd formatting, it meant that even though I read the book, I had a hard time absorbing what I was reading.
I was underwhelmed by the literary quality of Purple Daze. This story had a great deal of potential, but read as thought it required more stringent editing and plotting. As a librarian, I would pass this book on to a teen looking for a book about this particular period, but otherwise, I’m dubious about recommending it. (less)
I essentially picked up Slayed largely because it’s set in Maine, but also because I thought the fact that it’s about a vampire slayer interesting. It...moreI essentially picked up Slayed largely because it’s set in Maine, but also because I thought the fact that it’s about a vampire slayer interesting. It’s a short book and I started off thinking that it was a cheesy but fun paranormal novel. Unfortunately, by the end of the novel I was rolling my eyes at the extreme lack of development.
Daphne has a unique problem of not really having a true home because she’s constantly been on the move with her slayer parents, and she craves a normal teenage life. I thought that this was an interesting situation to have a teenage character in, however, it also seemed like one of her biggest passions was being a normal teenager. I can understand that feeling, but she was so self-centered in her focus on this one goal that her emotions never really felt genuine to me.
When you toss in a character who’s only somewhat likable with poor writing, things go from meh to worse. The main plot was okay, but nothing particularly special. The character relationships all moved too quickly to come across as realistic, and were often kind of cheesy for me. However, my least favorite part of Slayed was the romance Daphne and Tyler, because it felt terribly cliched and mushy. Note that I call a romance “mushy” when the characters have just met but are already proclaiming their undying love. A good romance keeps you rooting in the air and crying and fist pumping as you watch what happens throughout the characters, and that isn’t what this did for me.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure who I would recommend Slayed to. A ten or twelve year old me would have been more forgiving of the cheesiness, but this book has a bit too much crass content for me to push it on a middle grade audience. Perhaps if you just can’t get enough vampires and want a light read this is the book for you, but otherwise I’d pass it by.(less)
Based on the summary, this book sounds completely thought-provoking, interesting and engaging, correct? Honestly, I found the aspects of this novel su...moreBased on the summary, this book sounds completely thought-provoking, interesting and engaging, correct? Honestly, I found the aspects of this novel surrounding racism extremely well done. I wanted to like this novel, but something about it was just very “meh” for me.
At the start of the novel, Ellen is a character whose life revolves entirely around getting the best grades possible. She doesn’t have a lot of friends, and doesn’t make an effort to change that fact. Eventually, Ellen had a character arc and was willing to change, but this happened too slowly for me to feel passionate about this plot, because I was getting impatient. I wanted to love Tony, but his character just never clicked for me.
The writing of this story was another thing that never clicked for me. It wasn’t anything particularly special. Sometimes the characters would drop in a “That’s the way it is” sentence which was a bit too obvious for me.
While it had a lot of great content, I found The Way It Is poorly executed. However, I applaud the author for so boldly tackling issues of racism and feminism. I would certainly consider giving other books by this author a chance.(less)
As soon as I heard Forbidden would be coming out in the U.S., I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. How many YA books deal with incest? Eventually I just couldn’t ignore it calling to me from my TBR pile. Forbidden is a compulsively readable book, but tries to tackle too much without enough editing.
Forbidden is told me from the perspectives of Lochan and Maya, the two siblings who are not only in love, but essentially raising three younger siblings because their mother is horribly irresponsible. This book has family drama, psychological issues, forbidden love, and legal issues all tied into one story. At first I thought that some of these things were necessary for the premise, like the psychological issues, but I think the overall tone to this book was too dark and dramatic. The psychological issues gave sort of a backstory to why Lochan and Maya would want to be together, but Suzuma didn’t focus enough on their love in the present. For example, we’d hear about how Lochan has had a hard time with others since he was young, but not as much about why he wanted to be with Maya right now. Unfortunately, it felt like Maya and Lochan just went in circles around each other for 200 pages.
As for the legal drama, there were some great moments towards Lochan and Maya where I liked reading about what they were thinking about the legal system and the consequences of their actions. However, it got melodramatic at times. It seemed as though Suzuma wanted to throw in a lot of twists and cliffhanger chapter endings. I certainly don't mind some of these elements, but after a while it felt they felt too heavy-handed, as though Suzuma was shouting, "You know, you're reading about teenagers doing something that is illegal and that most of society find disgusting!" right into my ear. Tough subjects need to be addressed in YA literature, and I'm not questioning that at all. However, don't spend all 450 pages of your novel (which should be 50-100 pages shorter, I think) telling me this. Some of the dialogue felt like something that a.) a teenager wouldn't say or b.) like something a teenager would say if he or she was an actor on a soap opera. I understand that these characters had unusual responsibilities given their ages and that they’re supposed to have dramatic feelings for each other, but the juxtaposition of the two made it feel like the characters were under-developed not carefully thought through.
I mentioned the twists before, and they were most intense in the last 100 pages. It felt like a new one was added every five to ten pages. I realize that Suzuma probably wrote this book for the sake of selling a story, and not with an agenda in mind. I say this because think if a YA novel tackling incest had a really strong agenda, it wouldn't be marketable. Young adulthood is a time of intense change, and teens (nor adults) don't see the world in black and white. Unfortunately, because of the nature and quantity of Suzuma's twists, it felt as though there was some kind of agenda, but so much had happened that no reader could pick it out of the story. I think it’s kind of like My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult—it seems like the author was trying to make a very specific point with this ending, but you have to step away from the shock of it to get it. In this case, I still can’t figure out what Suzuma was getting at. It all became so convoluted that I find myself asking why this particular story needed to be told. Am I supposed to think, "Wow, what an emotional story,” or “Wow, we need to look at people who commit incest in a more sensitive light”? It didn’t help that the last line of this book felt completely off base to me. It was perhaps meant to convey a particular tone, but came across as more "Where did that even come from?"
While I applaud Suzuma for at least trying to tackle the subject of incest, I don’t think she succeeded. In just about every respect—plot, major themes, characters—I thought this one had far too much going on and needed stronger editing. There are readers who agree with me, but some reviews have been very different, so check out what these folks have to say as well. (less)
PROM! The anticipation for prom makes one giddy, the night is one to remember and the pictures are comical in years afterwords. Or at least, that’s th...more PROM! The anticipation for prom makes one giddy, the night is one to remember and the pictures are comical in years afterwords. Or at least, that’s the common belief. The Anti-Prom takes place over the course of one prom night, but focuses on three girls who aren’t having the time of their lives and wind up spending the evening together: Bliss, who’s coping with a cheating boyfriend, Meg the wallflower and Jolene the bad girl. The whole thing actually felt as thought it was inspired by The Breakfast Club, but with more cheese and characters with whom it was hard to connect. However, parts of The Anti-Prom were sweet and lighthearted, and I think some readers will love that.
McDonald created three unique characters to center her story around. Each of the three characters in this novel wants revenge, or at least a change of pace. While it was mildly entertaining to watch the characters scheme, I couldn’t help but dwell on how impractical and unrealistic things got. There was at least a delightfully geeky guy at one point, and I enjoyed reading about his character.
Since the novel is centered around prom, I expected great detail towards subjects like makeovers and shoes, yet each of these three girls had serious problems that they were trying to work around. As it happened, I couldn’t relate to any of their problems. Instead of going, “Man, I know you feel” I would just think, “Oh, that’s...sad.” While I was reading I kept thinking McDonald’s writing was a bit cheesy, and in retrospect I think I might have felt differently about the writing if I had related to these characters’ more.
The Anti-Prom turned out to be something of an anti-climatic read for me. However, I think it was just a matter of me not being able to connect with the characters’ circumstances, so this book could be a totally different experience for you. McDonald’s other novel, Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots sounds more like my type of thing, so I’ll definitely give her work another chance.(less)
I cannot think of a single other YA book that deal strictly with pegasi, so I have to applaud McKinley for the original premise of this novel. McKinle...moreI cannot think of a single other YA book that deal strictly with pegasi, so I have to applaud McKinley for the original premise of this novel. McKinley seems to be a pretty well acclaimed YA fantasy author, and I’ve only read one of her other books, so when my favorite tour site listed Pegasus I jumped at the chance to read it.
The pacing of this story just felt off. McKinely devoted a lot of time to world building, and to an extent that was really interesting. However, this novel is 400 pages and I felt like the plot didn’t really take off until about the last 100 pages.
A few other glitches made this story tricky to focus on. For example, a lot of the names were ridiculously difficult to pronounce, and if I can’t say a name aloud I tend to get distracted from the story, which is probably a flaw of mine as reader. I also felt as though McKinley would provide description in anticipation of something happening but barely touch on the actual event, and this kind of detached me from the story as a reader. McKinley didn't show me what happened, she just told me.
I wanted to like Pegasus, but couldn’t quite get past McKinley’s writing. Her world building held some serious appeal, and I have Spindle’s End on my shelf anyway, so I’ll be sure to give her another shot.(less)