I remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day aI remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day and focusing on a girl named Hazel and her best friend, Jack. Everything about this book says I should like it - constant nods to classic fairy tales and current children's fantasy (Coraline and When You Reach Me are two that pop into mind). It's got a spirited girl as the central character. The writing is strong and can be funny, sweet, sad, and reminiscent of traditional fairy tales. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to work.
The pacing of this story just dragged. We spend so very long in the real world, hearing about how awful school and life in general is for Hazel. The fantasy elements were introduced too late - I would've liked them interspersed earlier in the book so that we had a clue that that's where the story was going. And the sentences, which were beautiful on their own, got clunky and repetitive. I get that you want to sound like a fairy tale, but there's a reason most fairy tales aren't a full-length novel. After awhile I imagined what this would look like as a graphic novel - it would reduce the long sentences, the flowery descriptions, and be able to sum that all up with pictures. I think it'd make a great graphic novel.
Hazel's relationships with her mom and Jack also bugged me. She's incredibly dependent on Jack, which got to the point of being awkward. I understand that he's her best friend and that he was the one person she felt she could count on, but this girl fell apart when he disappeared. And if I step away and say "This happened over the course of a few days", it doesn't feel nearly as dramatic and soul-crushing as it did hearing directly from Hazel. And then there was her mom, who just seemed so... unappreciated. I wanted to shake Hazel a lot and say "Hey, you've got a nice mother and potential friends and you're really just living in your own world." And that would be fine, because that's a set of issues Hazel has to work out. But really, they don't get resolved by the end of the book.
I wanted to like this, but the further I got into the book, the more I just wanted it to end. And even the ending was unsatisfying.
Is it really possible for a book about someone dying of cancer to be funny? Well... yes. Greg Gaines's mission in life is to go unseen. He's a seniorIs it really possible for a book about someone dying of cancer to be funny? Well... yes. Greg Gaines's mission in life is to go unseen. He's a senior in high school and for several years now he's passed through life, being welcomed by any social clique and a member of none. And that's how he likes it. Then his mother orders him to spend time with Rachel, a girl dying of leukemia and sort-of-but-not-really-Greg's-ex-girlfriend. Add in Greg's sort-of-friend Earl, a short, chain-smoking, rage-filled African American kid who likes to make mediocre films with Greg, and you have your general cast of characters. What's so remarkable about this book is that it avoids many of the typical YA tropes - absent parents, romance with the dying character, a miraculous recovery, a moment when the entire school comes together. No, what Jesse Andrews gives us is a very real look at how awkward life is, particularly as a teen trying to cope with someone you kinda know (but should probably know better) who's suffering from a terminal illness. Greg's growing depression is never spelled out - the story is told in first-person - but we do see the powerful impact Rachel's impending death has on him. And throughout the story, we get an authentic teen's voice as he deals with the perils of high school, his friend's anger management issues, crazy over-bearing parents, and a passion for films. This is worth reading just for the accurate depiction of the high school dichotomy! For those whose readers are sensitive to outstandingly strong language and drug use, this is probably one to skip. Otherwise, highly recommended!...more
Amber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at bAmber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at being a mom, and Amber's starting to feel like the walls are closing in, she still maintains a positive outlook on life. Amber volunteers at a local nursing home, helps teaching English at a nearby Korean church, and fights to keep her favorite teacher from losing his job. But when a fatal tragedy destroys Amber's life, she loses it. She is just a shell of her former self, and it's up to the people she's always cared for to help Amber.
It's almost impossible not to like Amber. As a character, her voice is strong, unique, and realistic. Great attention is paid to the surrounding cast of characters, making everyone - even the jerky jocks - realistic. Quick weaves together a story that involves poetry, religion, disability, and depression, without it ever becoming too overwhelming or preachy. I highly recommend this book!...more
**spoiler alert** I went into this book prepared to dislike it. I had seen many official reviews saying this was an excellent debut of fantasy. But I**spoiler alert** I went into this book prepared to dislike it. I had seen many official reviews saying this was an excellent debut of fantasy. But I had heard from friends that it just wasn't that good. And there had been many comparisons to Katniss and The Hunger Games, and that's a difficult comparison to live up to. And in the first few chapters, I wasn't really into it. I disliked Katsa... she was angry and difficult to sympathize with. She also seemed to be oblivious to the rest of the world, a theme I keep seeing in female characters in many recent YA novels. But I was totally won over as the story and the characters began to develop. Okay, spoilers aheads....
I loved how Katniss changed and grew, but I also appreciated how she stayed very true to herself. As Randa's tool, she was manipulated and abused. It was difficult to understand how much of a struggle it was for Katsa to get out from under him. Honestly, I felt that was a part of the book that could've been developed even more. I had to regularly remind myself that Katsa had committed terrible acts for Randa and that was a major influence on her. So much of her anger, her inability to connect to people, and her fear of relationships I think stemmed from her being treated as a dog on a leash. I was impatient with her as her relationship with Po developed... I mean, here was someone kind, trusting, and obviously infatuated with Katsa. Why couldn't she commit to him? But she had also just found her independence, and all that Katsa knew of marriage meant being beholden to Po. I'm glad that she chose to be true to herself and that Cashore showed Po and Katsa passionately in love and able to draw on each other's strengths and trusts. Both were strong characters that learned to trust each other and grew as a result. I thought this was such a healthy relationship, particularly compared to other mainstream YA lit.
The audio was absolutely amazing. Katsa's explosion, Po's steady calm, the couple's warmth and humor were all there. I've been surprised to read that people didn't Leck was all that scary as a villain... but I found him terrifying! The voice work made him sound maliciously cheerful and friendly, and the scene in Po's castle leaves you with a sinking feeling that reminded me of Robin McKinley's Deerskin. I wonder if some of the people who were on the fence about this book might change their mind if they listened to it. There were so many moments that just became absolutely engrossing when I was listening (so much so that I needed to keep driving around to get through them): the last part of the trek across the mountains, the appearance of Leck, the moment that Katsa decides on her relationship with Po or when she finds him again towards the end of the book. Full Cast Audio always does a great job and they don't disappoint here.
So I've gone on and on about this and how much I enjoyed it. There are some areas where I thought the book was kind of weak. The pacing felt off... I think that was why it was difficult to empathize with Katsa as the book started, even though she'd had a fairly miserable life (I think it was when I got to see her relationship with Helda that things really clicked for me). It seems strange that I'd have to remind myself to be patient with a main character, though by the end of the book I really got a kick out of Katsa's impatience to get to Po. I also thought that the ending dragged on a bit... Po's blindness seemed an afterthought, a difficulty that their relationship had to overcome, but I wasn't sure that it really served a purpose other than just showing that Katsa could help him as he had helped her.
Okay, so all in all, this was an amazing book and an even better audio recording. I highly recommend it....more
Samantha Kingston has it all - she's one of the most popular girls in school, she has the best group of friends, the boyfriend she's always wanted, anSamantha Kingston has it all - she's one of the most popular girls in school, she has the best group of friends, the boyfriend she's always wanted, and the ability to get away with just about anything. Sam knows that life isn't always fair. After all, she used to be on the lowest rung of the social order until the day Lindsay Edgecomb became her best friend and pulled her to the top. Sam accepts that this is the way high school works, the way her life will be, even if it means that other people get hurt in the process. And then, on Friday, February 12th, Sam is killed in a car crash, on her way home from a party.
Sam wakes up in her own bed, alive, and the day rewound. She gets a chance to do it all over again. And again. And again. Sam doesn't know if she's stuck reliving February 12th for all eternity, if there's a way out, or if the changes she makes, to her life and the lives of her friends and family, will make any difference.
Before I Fall Before I Fall is the sort of book you hate to even put down. Sam isn't someone that you start off liking... she's cruel, manipulative, and has changed herself into a person that she hardly even knows. However, you also feel for Sam because, as she points out, is her day-to-day behavior really a reason for her to die? To miss out on all the things in life that happen after you turn 18? As Sam's days pass, she discovers things about life she had forgotten or never even knew were there, like the joys of eating roast beef sandwiches (not done in her social circle), staying at home with her little sister and watching movies all day, wearing comfortable shoes, or eating The Country's Best Yogurt with her best friend. This is a book that shows high school at its best and its worst, including the bullying and cruelty that goes on and how people justify it until it seems like what they're doing isn't really so bad.
We get to see how Sam approaches each Friday differently and how she herself changes and takes on the social mores of high school and other teens. The writing is amazing, capturing Sam's life perfectly. You want so badly for her to succeed, even though you know that Sam's the girl who would've made you an outcast in school. You root for her to change and to understand why her decisions, even with the best of intentions, have the impact that they do.
I can't say enough good things about this book. If I had anything negative to say, it's that I didn't really like the ending. That doesn't mean it wasn't a good ending, but that I thought something different would happen. This is going to be one that I recommend a lot....more