**spoiler alert** In real life, I’m a pretty political person, though I rarely let that show through in my internet life and it almost never influence**spoiler alert** In real life, I’m a pretty political person, though I rarely let that show through in my internet life and it almost never influences my reading choices. Shine is different. When my friend Salma read it, she gave it five stars so I knew it was something I had to read. I am so glad I did and I love this book and its message, but be warned: this book is brutal and it offers no apologies or sugarcoating. Black Creek is a town that is dying due to economic collapse. It was never a wealthy town to begin with, but the closing of the local paper mill has everyone living in poverty. The inhabitants of Black Creek are rife with racism, homophobia, sexism, rape apologism, drug abuse, and suicide. This is not a book for the faint of heart.
Right at the very beginning, we learn that Patrick, a gay teenager, has been brutally beaten, tied up, and left for dead in the parking lot of that gas station where he works. This is the beginning to one of the twistiest tales I have ever read in my life. As Cat details her childhood with Patrick and his guardian, Mama Sweetie, we learn what kind of person Patrick is. He is kind and playful, always including Cat even though she’s a few years younger than he is. They’re best friends for their whole lives, and when Patrick comes out to Cat, it’s one of those situations where she’d always kind of known anyway.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
Cat hangs out with her older brother’s group of friends when she’s young. That is, until one day when the leader of the pack sexually assaults her, and nearly rapes her. No one comes to Cat’s defense. She knows her brother saw, but he did nothing. Her aunt can only say, “pretty girls get teased,” which goes a long way in showing how divergence from the path is frowned upon. Women get raped and it’s no big deal; gay teenagers are almost killed and the police to next to nothing.
This is a story not only of Cat searching for Patrick’s assailant, it’s a story of Cat finding herself after a self-imposed, three-year exile. Cat finds love and solace in a local college boy, and together they find Patrick’s killer. And that’s the twistiest part yet. I know a lot of reviewers knew who the killer was long before Cat did, but I found myself realizing it at the same time as she did, and it was intense.
This story is tough, and there’s a lot of talk about meth and its destructive effects, but also about drinking and cheating and lying. It’s a story that’s easy to follow and to understand, but it definitely teaches you something along the way. It’s one of those books that’s hard to review, partially because it’s hard not to give anything away, but also because it left me so speechless at the end. I definitely recommend this book to anyone, straight or otherwise....more
This book is really intense. It’s basically straight fiction, nothing paranormal, no romance involved. I’ve been stressed the entire time I’ve been reading this, because Chap is so on edge, so sure he’s going to get caught. His “family” never gives him a straight answer, and Chap has no idea how to be Cassiel. The whole book is uncomfortable and scary, and it’s really rough to be in Chap’s shoes, because you as a reader know only as much as he does. This book has literally zero instances of me knowing something before Chap. When he suspected, I suspected. I had no idea who the bad guy was at first, and that’s all I really want out of a mystery like this one.
Chap isn’t only a runaway. His story is so much deeper and with so many more twists, but it all starts with his Grandad. Grandad apparently felt no need to enroll Chap in school or to really function in society. Chap lived with his Grandad for ten years before an accident gets Social Services after him. Chap’s story is sad and it doesn’t get any happier when he’s “recognized” as Cassiel Roadnight.
Chap is never comfortable in Cassiel’s skin, and knows next to nothing about him. Chap tries to enjoy the time he spends with his brother, sister, and mother, but he’s too on edge, just waiting to be found out. And when he is, it’s the revelation that leads to it that really floored me. It’s such a simple thing, such a simple reason, and it never once occurred to me.
It’s hard to review mysteries without giving anything away, but make sure to check this one out if you’re a fan of dark mysteries....more
Let me start this off by saying that for almost this entire book, I loathed Skylar. I loathed her even moreReview originally posted at Nose in a Book.
Let me start this off by saying that for almost this entire book, I loathed Skylar. I loathed her even more than her dumb friend, Lisa Marie. Skylar is the epitome of the clueless, obtuse, casually racist mentality spreading across our nation. I understand that Jimmy was there for her when her mother died, but she is ruled and controlled by her love for him. Everything is, “Jimmy said” or “Jimmy thinks.” I DON’T CARE ABOUT JIMMY. I already know he killed a man, and so do you! I want Skylar to break out of this insulated, sheltered existence and get out of Long Island. I knew people like her in high school, and maybe I was just in a more diverse environment, but I hated kids like her and never associated with them. Why would I? This girl is a whining, willfully ignorant jerk for a good two-thirds of the book! I’m trying to be sympathetic, but I can’t imagine just listening to and believing someone who calls an entire race of people “parasites.” How could she be so clueless? (I also might hate Jimmy since my cousin had a stalker named Jimmy…)
This book is so rough. It’s told from multiple points of view, so not only do you get to see inside Skylar and Sean’s heads, you also get to see inside the head of Carlos Cortez, the brother of the man Jimmy killed. We get a glimpse into Carlos’ mother’s head. It’s horrible and heartbreaking, and it will make you cry. This book is a lot like Shine by Lauren Myracle, but without a heroine who knows right from wrong. (Skylar doesn’t say something worthwhile until the eighty-nine percent mark!)
Sean is much more relateable to me than Skylar. He’s hurting and he’s remorseful and he can’t sleep. He wants to talk about it, but Skylar is a freaking zombie and Lisa Marie just keeps saying, “everyone knows. No one’s talking.” When I got to the last ten percent of the book, I was practically screaming for someone to come forward. Skylar wants to run away. We haven’t seen Lisa Marie for a few chapters. Everyone’s parents are turning a blind eye to this sort of thing. It’s sick and sad, it’s hard to read. Almost impossible. I had to loose a lot of rage on twitter over this book and its characters.
This book is good. The characters are real, and easy to hate for what they did, but they also have layers (though we’re told more than shown these layers). As much as I don’t understand these kids or their views, these things do happen. No matter how much I want to strangle Skylar, she’s had a rough year.
But I still hated every single character in this book. I would never read it again, but I’m glad I did, because this book was heartwrenching and beautiful, in it’s own way....more
Charlie Khan is dead. He was Vera’s best friend up until a few months before his death, and she’s always loved hOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Charlie Khan is dead. He was Vera’s best friend up until a few months before his death, and she’s always loved him (until she hated him, of course). There is mystery surrounding Charlie’s death that Vera can clear up. But she doesn’t. Not right away. She’s angry and hurt, and Charlie will remain dead regardless. Vera’s mother left when she was twelve, and her father is a recovering alcoholic. Vera herself keeps vodka until the seat of her car. She’s a witty, ironic, cynical kid, and I loved her. She has a tiny romance with a man five years older than her at the pizza place where she works, but most of the book is about Charlie. Charlie through Vera’s eyes. The chapters are short and jump around in time (once we get a chapter from the nearby pagoda’s point of view), but that made it even more readable to me. We get pieces of Charlie’s life and death between Vera dealing with her everyday life, and the details come in fits and starts. That’s okay though, because Vera is such an interesting character. Being in her head was a cynical girl’s dream. (And of course she has ideas I don’t agree with, and the word “slutty” pops up now and then, but Vera has her reasons and I loved her.) This is the story of how Vera copes with the sudden death of her best friend.
Charlie has secrets, and not just open secrets, like his father’s abuse of his mother. Charlie leaves Vera in their treehouse for hours. Charlie writes things down and eats them. Charlie throws his underwear away. He’s an engima, and an annoying one, at that. Vera’s parents tell her to “just ignore” what happens at Charlie’s house, and it’s heartbreaking. Apathy is a killer, but some of the things they say aren’t wrong. Sometimes reporting makes things worse. That doesn’t mean we get to check out though. Vera’s learning this. We also get to see the inside of Vera’s father’s head, and it’s interesting, because he was an alcoholic by middle-school, and I really think work helped bring him out of it, which is why he pushes for Vera to work so hard. He’s afraid she’ll end up like him, while Vera’s afraid she’ll end up like her mother, a pregnant seventeen-year-old or a young mother forced to work as an exotic dancer. Vera has a lot of gender-related issues, mostly stemming from her father’s insistence that she “avoid her destiny.”
I liked this one despite its more “racy” or controversial moments, because Vera was so straightforward, but the rest of the novel was not. Charlie was complicated (and did some really bad things), what happened to him was complicated, and getting the story out of Vera was a path full of twists and turns. It showcases the pros and cons of a small town and all the implies, especially having strangers know your (or your mother’s) private business. I liked Vera’s father, who obviously loves her but is obviously out of his depth with a teenage daughter and as a single parent in general. He has a lot of pain in his past. While some of the other secondary characters fell kind of flat (James, for example), I really liked being in Vera’s head and learning more about her relationship with her parents and more about Charlie. This book is about so much more than Charlie’s death. It’s about Vera learning to define herself in ways other than by her parents and their goals/dreams. It’s about Vera forgiving Charlie, and learning how to forgive in general. I really highly recommend this one....more
This book pissed me off so many times, I can't even give you an accurate count. I hated every main character at least once, and I still don't like BriThis book pissed me off so many times, I can't even give you an accurate count. I hated every main character at least once, and I still don't like Brigette. It's weird that fluff can make me so angry. This is why I stick to the paranormal stuff!
This cover is so weird. I thought this was a romance when I first saw it. I almost think it’s inappropriate forOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
This cover is so weird. I thought this was a romance when I first saw it. I almost think it’s inappropriate for the subject matter, but whatever, I can shrug that off. The writing was incredibly simplistic and not very detailed, which annoyed me part of the time, but lent some realism to the narrative as well. This isn’t about a lush medieval environment, this is the aftermath of a bombing. There are, however, some incredibly cheesy lines that made me cringe, too. I don’t think the teenagers really speak like teenagers in this one. They talked very formally sometimes, with weird slang at others, and sometimes I felt like I was reading middle-grade. I don’t mean to be rude, but McDaniel is no Lauren Myracle. I also hate the “I don’t want to lose my virginity [insert place here].” Why not? The backseat of a car is really no less dignified than a bed considering the act itself, and the place mentioned in the beginning would be super romantic to lose your virginity! Can we all agree that virginity isn’t really even that big of a deal?
Man, I didn’t mean to start the review off that way! I did like this one. The topic is heavy, but the narration is good. There are a lot of cliches, like the girl whose mom never forgot her own cheerleader days and forces her dreams on her daughter, but there was a nice variety of cliched characters. I have a hard time relating to people who think high school is the prime of your life, because I’ve had a hundred times the fun in my 20s as I did in high school. There were also things Morgan said to Kelli that made me rage, like something about how “boys don’t like moody girls.” Ugh. I realize Morgan will probably grow, but that made me so mad. Everything seemed like a cliche until after the explosion. Then I really started relating to and empathizing with the characters. I hated the pregnancy storyline, but really, it was hard to hate on any of these hurting kids.
The last third of the book really did it for me, in that it showed so well how these kids triumphed (or didn’t) after the tragedy, and it really got to me. I found myself tearing up more than once, more than five times even, because this hits close to home. The Aurora theater shooting was only last weekend. The topic is fresh, and it’s not like school shootings have stopped since Columbine. This one is kind of tough to get through because of the subject matter, but I really recommend it, despite my early reservations (for a case very similar to this one, see my review of LIE by Caroline Bock). It starts as a tale of tragedy and turns into a story of hope, and I think we all need things like that right now....more
A contemporary YA novel? Who, me? Who would have thought, right? No wizards or demons or ghosts or vampires or aOriginally published at Nose in a Book
A contemporary YA novel? Who, me? Who would have thought, right? No wizards or demons or ghosts or vampires or anything paranormal at all in this one! I think in order for me to actually enjoy contemporary YA, it has to be a mystery. I’m the only person in the world who was annoyed by Anna and the French Kiss, after all. Rain, our protag, has a cleft palate and therefore a bit of a language disability. She doesn’t have many friends at her exclusive high school for rich kids, and when Wendy’s body is found, Rain’s world is rocked off its axis. Wendy was vindictive in a way that I quite enjoy, in that I like seeing snobby high school girls get their comeuppance (though she goes a little overboard with her boyfriend-stealing ways). I was really, really worried about slut-shaming in this one because of Wendy’s…activities, and Rain does imply Wendy is slutty at one point. I hate body policing and shaming women for sex, even vindictive high school juniors. It’s a little sad to watch the interactions of Rain and Wendy, both with each other and their classmates. The realism in this one makes me cringe a little, especially at times when Wendy’s peers complain that her death means no more parties. We meet Taylor, who is an overeager student reporter stereotype who annoyed me more than anything. We’re also introduced to Nico, resident bad boy, newest object of Wendy’s obsession (an obsession she’s embarrassingly public about, posting statuses about him on Facebook and such). Rain wonders if Nico and Wendy were in the park that night, and if Nico killed her.
I’ll admit, I started to worry that Rain and Nico were going to get involved in some weird romance. Nico has called her a retard in the past, and I was going to be furious if this turned into some bad boy redemption story, because I did not sign up for that. She has a cleft palate and he shoved his finger in her mouth to touch the hole left over from her surgery. Nico Phelps makes me sick. Not only is Nico contemptible, all of Wendy’s popular “friends” are either faking their grief or being openly indifferent to her murder. Many of the girls seem to be more worried about Nico’s reputation than what happened the night Wendy was killed. Rain is really pissed off by the amount of victim blaming going on, horrified that because Wendy slept around, people are acting like she deserved what she got. Rain is on a mission for truth. And at about 44% on my Kindle, I had a suspect of my own, and it wasn’t Nico Phelps. Did I mention that in the midst of all this, Rain is crushing on her teacher? There are a lot of emotions going around for her.
So I sort of figured out who the killer was about halfway through, but I liked the mystery. Things work out a little too easily for our heroine, but the whole story was intriguing, and I liked how they gave Wendy a voice through Rain. Rain, in her own mind, confronts slut shaming, prejudice, and the sometimes callous media. There are a lot of realistic things in this book, like the way they paint Wendy as a party girl, or how Nico is so believeable as a murderer due to his violent past. When I say realistic, I mean the media portrayal in this book. The media is terrible and it hurts people in lots of different ways. This was an intense book to read, and exactly the kind of contemporary novel I like. It’s definitely worth a shot....more
Valentina, renamed Wallis, or Wally, was adopted from Russia (something Americans are no longer allowed to do) aOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Valentina, renamed Wallis, or Wally, was adopted from Russia (something Americans are no longer allowed to do) at age five. Her removal from the orphanage was a sad scene, and the one that follows it is the same. Wally is, appaently, selling ecstasy and ketamine to college kids. And when the narrative switches from Wally to Detective Greer, it’s a bit of a cold open, so to speak. I loved it. I never mind having things I don’t understand thrown at me in the beginning, as long as the pieces come together eventually (which was true of recent urban fantasy novel Between Two Thorns). The beginning is also a red herring, a lie, and I liked that too. I tore through this one, even though it’s almost 400 pages, because the writing is tight, the plot moves quickly, and it’s just so good. Plus, not all the characters are white! Wally and Jake are, but Tevin is black and Ella is Asian. That’s more diversity than the last ten books I’ve reviewed here, and even then, the POC characters are secondary. Wally the blonde is the main protagonist, which is so normal in YA literature, I’m kind of amazed it doesn’t get called out more often.
Anyway, Wally is the leader of the group, and the one with the least messed-up story. The other kids have had hard lives and tragedy, while Wally had an adoptive mother unwilling to allow her daughter to be Russian. And maybe Claire was doing what she thought best, if she knew the secret of Wally’s parentage. Even at the beginning of Wally’s search for self, danger lurks. The narrative style is third person omniscient, which is a style I personally like (how can you only like first person POV? It can get really annoying), so the narrative switches between characters, some seemingly minor, to give the reader information about the mystery. I could see a movie play out in front of me as I read this novel, which makes sense, as Richter is a screenwriter by trade. I had an idea about who Wally was from the start, and I was partially correct, but the whole story is so much better. And as a personal aside, Dave has a friend who was adopted, and while he knew his birth family, he still had some textbook issues, like abandonment, jealousy, things like that. I sort of felt like Richter’s story demonized adoption, and I don’t believe it’s always terrible. I have an adopted cousin and he’s totally fine. Most adopted kids are fine. I think when things start to go bad is when the adoptive parents won’t let their children learn about or immerse themselves in their own culture, which is what happened with Wally and with Dave’s friend.
Wally is on a personal quest that just so happens to involved murderers and generally bad people. This is sort of a coming of age tale on steroids. You know how much I like coming of age stories! This one was just so polished. I usually don’t like it when men write female characters, but Richter really did a great job. I can totally understand why this one is being compared to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s smart, the points of view shift, and it’s a really compelling mystery with interesting characters. What it’s missing is the horribly boring first 100 pages of Larssen’s novel (sorry, but it’s true), and who can really complain about that? I thought the writing was really tight and the book held my interest for the entire span of the book. I think I read it in about 24 hours. And the only reason I dropped a star is I saw the twist coming from a mile away. That did not detract AT ALL from the story though. I really recommend this one. It was fantastic. This one can almost be a standalone novel, but there is a sequel, called Tiger, that was released on March 21 from Razorbill. I will definitely be reading that one too!...more
You guys remember when I read 17 & Gone and I was confused but also in love? Like right off the bat? Yeah. SOriginally published at yAdult Review.
You guys remember when I read 17 & Gone and I was confused but also in love? Like right off the bat? Yeah. Same story here. Imaginary Girls is tricky, because the summary and parts of the story make you wonder if this story is supernatural or contemporary. Ashley recently posted a review of Golden, a book that is her definition of near-perfect contemporary, and this, Imaginary Girls, is an example of mine. Isn’t it amazing the scope of one tiny subgenre of YA? And once again, the romance is pretty much nonexistent, limited mostly to Ruby’s “boyfriends,” poor souls who are really Ruby’s slaves, and Chloe’s unrequited crush on a boy named Owen. The summary makes it seem like the book is about London and her death, but really, this is the story of sisters. Ruby is the star of their tiny mountain town, and she can do pretty much whatever she wants. The town operates around her like an old movie, and shopkeepers put “her” shade of lipstick behind the counter so only Ruby can wear it. What? I never got what was so great about Ruby other than her looks, but looks can be everything, especially in a small town. Chloe is, as she says herself, an “echo” of Ruby, meaning Chloe looks a little like her but has none of the manipulative charm. Chloe sees herself as a part of Ruby and never really tries to gain any independence from her. Chloe’s time spent away from Ruby lasts a few chapters at most. Ruby is a bad person, manipulative in the worst way, and she seems to recognize that her small-town stardom won’t translate anywhere else. Ruby loves Chloe in her own way, but still, she uses Chloe in her machinations. In addition to this story of sisters, the drowned town of Olive becomes almost like a ghost constantly fluttering just out of reach.
That time apart, though short page-wise, serves to give Chloe a little skepticism about her sister. Chloe starts realizing that things aren’t perfect just because she’s back with Ruby, and Chloe seems better at questioning Ruby’s motives. Meanwhile, one of the “surprises” from the summary shows up, and Chloe, at first afraid, eventually realizes she has to solve this mystery herself. The thing I love about Suma’s novels is not only the way she writes, though that’s what made me want to read this novel after 17 & Gone, but also how she doesn’t always tie up loose ends. Sometimes her endings feel a little unsatisfying because the narrator is still unreliable or can’t be saved at all. In a standalone romance, that would be annoying, but in this ethereal, hazy world of upstate New York, it all works out perfectly. Ruby is just so wretched, such a spoiled girl, living this life of luxury at the expense of others and their feelings. Chloe isn’t immune to this, though she’d like to think she is. She says things like “half the town is in love with Ruby and she never asked them to be,” which, of course she did, Chloe, just not using those exact words. Ruby is like one of those lights that mosquitoes can’t resist. Ruby can be lethal, I think, and everyone knows it, including Chloe. I can’t review the rest of the novel the way I want to without spoiling, so let me say, remember: nothing is as it seems in a Nova Ren Suma novel. Let the words wrap around you and carry you through the story. You’ll enjoy it, trust me.
(view spoiler)[When London returns and begins playing a bit bigger of a role, I started to wonder some things. Did Ruby type up a fake obituary to send to Chloe to punish her for leaving? Did Chloe ever hear that London was dead from anyone other than Ruby? I started getting frustrated with Chloe, because she thinks Ruby treats her as an equal instead of just another follower. Even their own mother is afraid of Ruby, and for some reason, Chloe thinks Ruby lets her in on all her devious plans. Chloe. It’s time to disengage a little, please. Rachel Hartman wrote a good review of this novel on Goodreads and mentions the stage in a baby’s life where zie realizes they’re separate from their mothers. “Mom likes squash and I don’t and that’s okay!” or “Mom isn’t always right and that’s okay because we’re human.” Chloe never had this stage. She doesn’t eat raisins because Ruby doesn’t. Chloe thinks Ruby is magic and has no sense of self outside her sister and she never gains one. When Ruby disappears, Chloe can’t believe Ruby won’t return or doesn’t still exist. She’s Ruby, and to Chloe, this means she can move mountains. It’s more than a little disturbing to witness.
The problem is that you can’t tell if Ruby’s suicide was really a suicide or if there really were monstrous Olive residents still lurking below. With 17 & Gone, it was explained to us in the final third that Lauren had schizophrenia and that was why she was seeing the missing girls. With Imaginary Girls, it sounds like Ruby really could have sacrificed herself to Olive to save Chloe. The ending is vague, and that’s all right. I loved it, the whole thing, the whole experience that is a Nova Ren Suma book. (hide spoiler)]...more
So this was funny, but I was really thrown off by the homophobia, which will make people tell me I'm too sensitive, but I don't care. It made things..So this was funny, but I was really thrown off by the homophobia, which will make people tell me I'm too sensitive, but I don't care. It made things...not as funny....more
So while I was in line waiting for Stephanie Keuhn to sign my copy of Charm & Strange, I was handed a copy oOriginally published at yAdult Review.
So while I was in line waiting for Stephanie Keuhn to sign my copy of Charm & Strange, I was handed a copy of this novel. The author was also there signing, so I took it even though the cover made it look like just another YA romance. I didn’t look at it again until I bought a new bookshelf and started arranging my ALA books on it. I looked up the reviews on Goodreads, and they were full of people feeling misled by the cover. That’s when I knew it was my kind of book. The romance readers were tricked! And I’m so glad I read this one. I usually associate the contemporary genre with romance (think Stephanie Perkins), but I’ve found some really great ones that have almost none at all, or, like this one, have a kind of detached romantic feel, like Anna’s reading her own story along with us. Anna is broken. Her mother is neglectful and spends all her time chasing after her next husband only to divorce him later. Anna’s mother is also broken. Anna doesn’t know what a family is or what love feels like, so she strikes out on her own, substituting sex for love. This starts when she’s a very young teenager and leads to her being bullied and dropping out of school. She is first exploited, then cared for, then raped. The rape scene is truly upsetting, because the whole time Anna is trying to figure out why this boy is hurting her. She doesn’t understand that he’s violating her body. For the remainder of the novel, she says she wishes he’d come back and apologize, say he didn’t mean it. He doesn’t. All he tells her is not to tell anyone else. She doesn’t.
Not even Toy, the girl she meets at a thrift store, the girl who has the kind of boyfriends Anna dreams about. Toy’s mother is very similar to Anna’s, but Toy’s is an alcoholic to boot. So Toy has her issues (as anyone named “Toy” is bound to have) and her secrets as well. Anna doesn’t discover them until nearly the end, but I had some idea about Toy’s dreamland. Toy and Anna both seek out escapes, just of a different kind. This is a story about love and how Anna finally discovers what’s real. She has an abortion. She experiences heartbreak. People call her a slut. Anna has to learn that her body is her own, that sex does not equal love, that an intimate touch does not equal caring. And she does, eventually, when she meets Sam. Sam has a real family, a close one, with parents still in love. He’s a high school senior and a virgin, and he teaches Anna that she has only herself and that that’s enough. Or really, she teaches herself those lessons. She learns to be more than just enough for someone. Anna makes a personal transformation.
And this book is about a lot more than just Anna’s journey. It’s about our culture at large and how we treat our young girls. It’s about slut-shaming and the nature of sex. It’s about rape and abuse. It’s about parental neglect and possible mental illness. I saw this novel as a critique of the status quo in addition to Anna’s coming of age. I love books that challenge the accepted “normal” worldview. It’s so important we teach kids to question what they hear and to think critically. Books like these help them do so. I look forward to whatever Scheidt has in store for us next....more
I met Lauren Myracle at ALA this past summer, and I was really excited to meet her. She drew a little bird in myOriginally published at yAdult Review.
I met Lauren Myracle at ALA this past summer, and I was really excited to meet her. She drew a little bird in my book because my last name and Wren’s first name are nearly identical. I loved Shine, and I was feeling worn out by the supernatural after reading Untold, so I thought, why not delve into Myracle’s brand of contemporary YA? There was a lot that I liked about it too, since it seems like it’s a romance novel but there’s a coming-of-age tale buried in there too. Not only is Wren figuring out who she is outside of her parents’ expectations, Charlie also has to learn to forgive himself. Wren is sheltered and Charlie lives with a foster family, so they’re different, but those differences can help the other. The point of view alternates between Charlie and Wren by chapter, and I liked how it was done. I like alternating POV anyway, but it really worked here in particular. There were also things I didn’t like, which is to be expected when it comes to me and contemporary novels, which I’ll detail closer to the end of this review.
Wren’s parents are suffocating and Wren is someone who wants to keep the peace. If this was a Myers-Briggs test, I say Wren is a feeling type. She puts other people’s needs above her own, even to her detriment. That doesn’t make her weak, of course, but it makes it harder for her to find her own way. Wren doesn’t even know if she likes the clothes she wears because her mother likes them or because Wren herself does. Her parents are also a detriment to her, because they don’t let her be herself. They tell her what she wants is foolish and selfish, they make up interests and likes for her like they don’t even know her. They’ve taught Wren that approval equals love, and that’s not only wrong, it’s messed up! They oppress her spirit even though they just want what’s best for their daughter. What Wren’s parents want is for Wren to want what they want, to reflect well on them, and not to argue about it. It’s frustrating for both Wren and the reader. I know people who have parents who treat them as an extension of themselves and it’s hard and can be hurtful for all involved. Luckily, Wren stands up for herself and what she wants.
Charlie comes from a neglectful home followed by years of modern day orphanages and foster homes. When he puts his trust in Starrla, a friend with a violent past of her own, she disappoints him, and the well-intentioned sympathy he gets from his peers and adults around him makes him ashamed. He considers his foster brother his brother, but he can’t bring himself to call his foster parents Mom and Dad. I figured he didn’t think he was worth it. The neglect he suffered living with his biological mother will do that to a kid. I liked him though. He was sweet and gentle and trusting. It was nice to see a boy just head over heels for a girl for once. Charlie’s loved Wren since forever. He’s afraid that he’ll never see her again after they graduate, which, in the age of Facebook, seems unlikely, but the sentiment is clear. Charlie is also a pushover, but in a different way and for a different reason. Where Wren wants to keep the peace, Charlie wants to be needed. Charlie has two real problems: his self-esteem, and Starrla. Starrla is a weird character, shaped by probable molestation into this sexy teenager who can’t afford to form meaningful relationships or feel real feelings. She is also a weird stereotype that I wasn’t sure I liked very much at first.
Wren is so awkward, asking Charlie what I thought were very personal things, but they’re so endearing. They fall for each other really fast, but I forgive them this. They’re young, they’ve just graduated, they’re both about to embark on experiences that can seem both exciting and scary. This is first love stuff. It never makes sense. (Note: I am much less inclined to forgive supernatural YA for instalove, because instalove always seems to put the paranormal love interest at an unfair advantage. See: Edward Cullen and his “dizzying” breath.) And the supporting characters were fantastic. Tessa, Wren’s best friend, and not-so-stereotypical jock PG are hilarious and smart and just feel real. Their relationships felt normal and easy, even if they weren’t very fleshed out. Starrla, on the other hand, was hard to like. She “talks black” (a phrase I dislike), she sleeps around, and she’s manipulative as hell. She is especially possessive of Charlie for some reason.
Charlie and Wren both make mistakes and act like jerks. They’re still figuring things out. Wren has been so sheltered that she wants to run as soon as something hurts, and Charlie is so used to being hurt that he expects it. I had much less patience for Wren because her life was pretty easy and charmed, despite her parents. Her hurt is still real, but to me it seemed less than Charlie’s. Wren had a period of “woe-is-me” and I just rolled my eyes. (Note: I am close to someone who suffered abuse as a child, so some of Charlie’s issues were very familiar and a little upsetting to read about.) There are also some pretty cringeworthy lines about touching souls and just general lovey talk that you never want to hear unless it’s directed at you by someone you love. I felt like I was spying on them, hearing private things. Is it an indicator that I’m getting too old for YA when the sex scenes make me uncomfortable? Perhaps.
So overall, this was a great book. The writing can be simplistic, but still beautiful and it gets the point across very clearly. There were good topic touched on in this novel, like gun safety and racism. Both were left incomplete, but indicative of a conversation between teenagers about topics they’ve just begun to explore. (One thing I did not like was the repeated use of the word “ghetto” to describe old or worn down things. Not cool.) There is also a very realistic party scene that I loved, and the makeouts are sexy and hot. There’s not a whole lot of alarmism about sex. Wren and Charlie are 18, and they have sex eventually. Nothing wrong with that. The only other thing I disliked was at the beginning when Charlie asserts that Wren dresses “classy” compared to “girls in tight jeans and peekaboo thongs.” Why he feels this way is later explained by Starrla, but that’s a problematic thought. Girls in tight jeans and peekaboo thongs are just as worthy as girls in button-downs and knee-length skirts. They are the same.
So I think this is another quality novel from Lauren Myracle, and if you like contemporary, if you like romance, this one could very well be the book for you....more
Remember how I hate contemporary, guys? You know how I won’t read it because I hate shmoopy romance and all contOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Remember how I hate contemporary, guys? You know how I won’t read it because I hate shmoopy romance and all contemporary has shmoopy romance? I WAS WRONG. I’ve been on a tear reading contemporary novels, and this is the latest in a series of successes. Now, this involves a little suspension of disbelief, since being a DJ isn’t something you can usually just do without learning software and the like. Elise’s redemption was a little too cutesy and tied up too nicely, but this one is so worth your while for Elise’s journey alone. Elise has never had a real friend in her life. She’s a little weird, very smart, and just kind of socially awkward. She thinks she’s into things that others her age aren’t, but really she’s been beaten down by relentless bullying (something I can relate to). I’ve started reading more novels about bullying and serious issues because I relate to them and it’s so important for kids to know they aren’t alone.
Elise has loving parents, but her mother has started a new family, so she’s busy, and Elise has never been a rule breaker. Her parents don’t think she needs watching…until she tries to kill herself. (And even that is sort of an accident.) To get away, Elise starts wandering at night and discovers the thing that saves her life: music. DJing, more specifically. Vicky, Pippa, and Char are so real it hurts. Pippa is the kind of girl who believes she can change men, one of those girls who loses interest when she finally attracts a guy, and she’s met her match in Char. Char doesn’t care and won’t be her boyfriend, so when Pippa is sent away, Elise thinks it’s okay to start messing around with Char. She doesn’t know the social rules yet, but she learns, and what I really liked is that Char didn’t end up saving Elise or being her savior. He’s just a guy.
The things Elise learns along the way are so important, and the relationship she has with her parents is equally heartbreaking and heartwarming. They don’t really know the depths of the bullying Elise faces day to day until later in the book. Things work out for Elise, and I think everyone should read this book if they have time and inclination. Sales has a really accessible writing style, and the story never feels boring or slow. I liked this one a lot, and I’d definitely be interested in more stories from Sales....more
There will be spoilers for the end of the novel in this review.
So with this novel, I’m continuing my education aOriginally published at yAdult Review.
There will be spoilers for the end of the novel in this review.
So with this novel, I’m continuing my education as to contemporary novels. Laurie Halse Anderson had the longest line by far at ALA in Chicago, and it seems everyone loves her books. I thought I’d love this one too, in the beginning, but that ended up not being so. Disclaimer: I have never had an eating disorder, nor do I know anyone who has, at least not personally. And at first, I sympathized with Lia, caught in a storm of self-hatred, cut off from her family and her best friend. And in the case of the latter, Lia is cut off forever, because Cassie is dead, done in by bulimia. Lia is anorexic and somewhat high and mighty about her ability to abstain from food, while Cassie chose to binge and purge. At the beginning of this novel, Lia is just out of recovery, but she is not recovered. She is living with her permissive father and his new frazzled wife. She constantly considers the calories in things she’s eating and sometimes gives pretty gross detail to the distortions she’s seeing in food and in her body. Lia does a lot of describing what it was like before her disorder, how her friendship with Cassie progressed then ended, and how Lia’s relationship with her parents deteriorated. The beginning hooked me, and I thought Anderson did a good job presenting the material.
After that, though, I started to get tired of the writing style. It’s almost lyrical sometimes, kind of poetic, and that’s generally not for me. I skimmed near the end due to wordiness. I was also very frustrated because being in Lia’s head made it harder and harder to sympathize with her. In the end, she considers everyone the enemy, is wasting away, and no one even notices. Her father failed really badly here. I found myself really pissed at him throughout the novel and identifying more with her mother. The methods in this book of trying to force Lia to eat seemed suspect too. Yelling at her and shoving food in her face is almost guaranteed to not help, and it doesn’t. Lia only gets worse. There is also a vague romantic storyline that I won’t even detail because I found it extraneous and forced. In the end, it means nothing anyway. And in the end, Lia is carted off again, not because she recognizes that she has a real problem, but because she almost bled out in front of her stepsister. Any time a person is forced to better themselves for the sake of others, it does not work. You have to recognize your problem and fix it because you want to, otherwise you will rationalize yourself right back into your problem. I might not know eating disorders, but I know addiction, and Lia’s thought processes were similar.
I had a hard time identifying with and sympathizing with Lia, and this affected my enjoyment of the book. I wish we’d been in Cassie’s head, who seemed more interesting, personality-wise. I thought the basis of Lia’s recovery was shaky at best. However, I do think this is a defining novel, because at least someone is talking about it, and at least people living with ED have voices in the mainstream, even if those voices are facilitated by healthy authors. ...more