Imagine putting Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen, the four primary characters from Dawson’s Creek toget[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
Imagine putting Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Jen, the four primary characters from Dawson’s Creek together in a car to complete a scavenger hunt. It’s almost graduation time and those ten hours in the car are when all chaos ensues because if the drama isn’t hashed out right then and there, what other chance will they have before everyone moves on to the next stage of their life?
Dawson’s got eyes only for Joey. (What’s new?) Joey’s in love with someone else (let’s say Jack for right now). Jen’s secretly also in love with Jack. Pacey is harboring secrets of his own.
Dawson’s Creek is my blast from the past of choice because a) I’m currently re-watching it and b) that’s precisely how I pictured Patrick, Mary, Winter, and Des. They’re four highly intelligent students referred to as the Glee Club (though their school doesn’t even have one) who are entering the Unofficial Senior Scavenger Hunt. They want the opportunity to prove themselves to all the students (especially Barbone) who have berated them over the years. The stakes are high and the competition is fierce, but they’re committed. They want that one moment they can reflect upon when they’re older that says they left their mark.
The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is told from Mary’s point of view. She’s full of tension because losing is not an option and if her parents found out she was galavanting around the town as a participant, she’d be screwed. Feelings for her longtime crush, Carson, intermix with her hopes of winning the hunt. She’s certain he’s going to break up with his girlfriend soon — especially since he’s bestowed so much attention upon her lately. (Yes, the girl lusted after a boy already tied down.)
If only there weren’t further complications.
Patrick wants to corner Mary during the scavenger hunt to express his feelings for her. He wants to move beyond being best friends. Mary also uncovers a secret that Winter has been keeping from her and she’s not sure how to continue on in the competition without exploding. Makes for an awkward ten-hour scavenger hunt, wouldn’t ya say?
Altebrando does a fantastic job at exploring the gamut of emotions we all go through when we graduate. Mary is caught in this awkward place of wanting to make something happen with Carson, but also not wanting to be tied down at all so she can make something of herself and travel the ends of the earth as an international ambassador. She wants to leave her town, but around every corner lies a different memory she’s afraid will escape her over time. She’s seeking closure, but is afraid of moving on. Everything in Mary’s life seems to be a paradox, a Catch-22.
With so many plot lines simultaneously weaving themselves into a big ball of confusion for Mary, Altebrando skillfully balances each issue. None of the plot lines outshines the others and the scavenger hunt still remains a fun, enjoyable journey to experience with these characters. Patrick’s LeSabre car and the items they cleverly pick up throughout the scavenger hunt, I think, are metaphorical for the places they will go, the things they will experience, and their friendship that will bond them together, despite college and moving on.
The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life will jerk you back to those moments in your life where you’ve felt the most out of control – when you weren’t certain what life held for you next. It’s a fun, fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat kind of read that I hope absolutely everyone will enjoy....more
Estelle: Here we are for another book report… this time featuring Deb Caletti’s The Story of Us,[joint review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Estelle: Here we are for another book report… this time featuring Deb Caletti’s The Story of Us, a contemporary young adult novel that hit shelves on April 24th — which sort of feels like Christmas Day in young adult publishing because EVERYTHING was released that day!
Magan: NO JOKE! I don’t think I’ve seen a release date as popular. All of us bookies probably went broke on April 24th…and right after the tax deadline, too. Hmm…
E: It’s a conspiracy! (Just kidding.) Okay, so let’s talk about The Story of Us, which looks like a deliciously romantic book from the cover art. Don’t you think? It made me want to go walk on a beach at sunset!
M: Oh yeah, I wanted to hug that cover. It elicits everything I had been wanting, in real life and a book: warmer weather, a beach, Zac Efron (kidding… that’s not on the cover, obviously), and a little romance.
E: The big question is… did we get all of that once we read the novel? The Story of Us sort of reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s Lullaby a bit because it was centered around a parent getting remarried after some disastrous relationships. Here, we have Cricket, who has recently gotten out of a long-term relationship, traveling to spend a week with her future step-family and end it all (hopefully) with a wedding.
M: I haven’t read that Sarah Dessen book, and in fact, this was my first Deb Caletti book. I liked that the issues seemed to be something teenagers could relate to. Sadly, divorce happens and families are split. What was interesting was seeing how these two families with older teenagers would blend together. That week was almost like a test.
E: Yes! A test for the dogs too! This was also my first Deb Caletti book. I liked the premise of the book and the mystery surrounding just WHY Cricket and her boyfriend, Janssen, broke up.
M: Oh, yeah. I liked the mystery, too, but I have to say my biggest complaint about this book is how long we were left wondering and guessing. I got anxious to know what happened because… I guess because I wanted to understand the decisions she was making as a result of what happened with Janssen.
E: That’s the thing. Caletti has some beautiful images and language in this book. Just as gorgeous and tangible as the cover, but when it came to cracking down on Cricket and what exactly happened between her and J, it just got to be too much. I think the book could have definitely been edited down almost 100 pages. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t completely into it. It took awhile. Probably 200 pages before I was in the “I cannot put this down” mode. But not everyone has patience to go 200 pages without anything really happening. And that’s another thing. The book focused on her relationship with J when really it was everything happening with her family that was bubbling into the real story, ya know?
M: Yes! I understand that SO much. J isn’t present in the book except via her flashbacks and the letters she writes to him. I wanted to understand him and how he was feeling. (Man, that’s such a girl thing to say.) I wish some of the extra family things had been stripped out and that maybe we were able to see the letters he actually wrote TO Cricket. Not just her responses.
E: That is a genius idea. I kept thinking about the structure of this book, which is basically we see the wedding craziness through Cricket’s eyes and learn about the backstory of her family and relationship with Cricket through her letters to J, which is a creative way to do it, for sure. But Cricket’s voice changes a lot in those emails to J and I’m not sure who she really is especially once we see her actions and thoughts during wedding week. J is always kind of a shadow to me… sort of ghostly because we never get the deeper side of him. (Even though from what we know he seems like a winner.)
M: That left me so confused. If he was such an awesome guy, then why all the drama? Cricket definitely seemed like a completely different person in her thoughts (and via her actions) than she did in her letters back to J. Especially once the BIG secret was revealed, I really didn’t understand how her actions and responses all meshed together. Maybe I just wouldn’t have responded like that.
E: I’m not exactly one to beat around the bush about anything so it was difficult (and a tad frustrating) for me to watch her spell everything out. If she had to go through this much to decide if she wanted to be with him or not, maybe she was looking too hard for an answer. Especially when Ash pops into the picture. She’s clearly attracted to him, and all I kept thinking was… hey hun, maybe you’ve been tied down for too long at too young of an age and need to see what’s out there. There’s no harm in that. But Cricket was deathly afraid of change and making decisions. And she even knew that about herself. It was a rough time… she graduated high school (yay for an older YA), her mom was getting a whole new family, and she was sort of lost. I think those feelings were very relatable.
M: Add to that the feelings of not being sure where her relationship with J were headed and not being able to make a decision about where to go to college. That IS a lot to handle. I always understood that she had a lot on her plate, but what was frustrating was her fear of not wanting to turn into her mother. I think at the root of everything, she was afraid she’d run away from guys like her mom did. Except, I didn’t get it! Janssen was a GREAT GUY. Her mom always dated d-bags. Yet, Cricket was still running.
E: One character I really loved was her dog, Jupiter. I just adored that little guy and animals never really make that much of an impact in books. But dogs and their relationships to their “owners” was very important in this book and while at times, it was a little too much, I did enjoy the parallels you could draw between dogs and how they perceive things and then the human side of all of that.
M: I’m definitely a huge dog person, but at times, despite my love for Jupiter, I just wanted to say.. get to the point. I understand. I love metaphors, but I had had enough. I needed answers.
E: Okay how about her relationship with her brother? I liked him a lot.
M: All the family things were great. I loved their closeness and the grandparents kept me cracking up, but I guess my question to you is this: what was this book about – learning about the family or learning about Janssen and Cricket? I just expected a lot of their story (ahem, the title of the book!).
E: I think that’s a strong argument. I expected one thing and sort of came out with something else entirely. Maybe Cricket did too? I just think if the point of the letters was to REMIND Janssen the many details of their time together… could that have been expressed in a better way structurally? Would we have felt the author got to the point faster?
M: I honestly would have liked to have seen both of their letters with the goings on of the wedding and life in the beach house making guest appearances. Instead, I feel like their relationship and her working through things felt more like the secondary plotline.
E: So how would you rate this book?
M: It’s most definitely a borrow kind of book for me, and hopefully we’re making it clear that working through all the decisions is a slow process. I feel like Caletti was intentional in making us dislike Cricket’s indecisiveness. Readers should be prepared for a slower read when they pick this one up. What about you, E?
E: I would agree. I think it’s a borrow book. I could see myself taking this one on vacation and reading it gradually over a few days. There are definitely some entertaining moments, and some filled with crazy chemistry, but in the end, I didn’t feel fulfilled.
M: Oh, I like the way you said that. Unfulfilled. Perfect way to describe this book in a word. Any last comments?
E: I’m most curious to see what fans of Caletti’s work think of this book and which other of her work they could suggest to us?
M: Awesome, I wanna know, too. So, readers, tell us what your favorite Deb Caletti book is! Also let us know if you’ve read this one. Do you agree with us?...more
She hears the voice of Skinny who tells her she’s not beautiful[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Fifteen year old Ever weighs 302 pounds.
She hears the voice of Skinny who tells her she’s not beautiful, she takes up too much space, no one could love her. After the death of her mother, Ever began eating to recall her favorite memories they had together, most of which involved delicious treats. Ever is afraid to lose that part of herself so she sneaks Snickers bars into the bathroom stall at lunch or bags of M&Ms to her bedroom after dinner.
After a conversation with her step-sister, Briella, and an embarrassing moment in front of the entire school, she revisits a website she randomly stalked where gastric bypass patients or soon-to-be patients shared their struggles. With the support of her family, Ever decides to undergo the surgery in hopes of losing the weight, which could mean Skinny’s voice inside her head would finally go away, she might attract the attention of her long-lost best friend (Jackson) again, and she would maybe find the courage to try out for the school musical.
Ever’s voice was authentic and so honest. Skinny whispers lies to Ever that feed her insecurities. I, even at 27, struggle with the little voice inside my head that tells me I’m not beautiful and I don’t look good in my clothes. Skinny’s voice was a real eye-opener for me because I saw how hard it was for Ever to distinguish the lies from the truth. Her insecurities led her to believe things about her peers that weren’t true at all; it made her feel distanced, secluded, and so alone. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times my own self-doubts have gotten in the way of meeting amazing people or doing something because I was afraid of embarrassing myself.
Ever’s support system was pretty fantastic. Her best friend, Rat (yes, a so-very-unfortunate nickname), was a geeky boy who poured over the details of her surgery and did his best to make sure she was healing and progressing properly. He was by her side when she went under and when she got home with a chart to document her evolution. He creatively incorporated a way to tap into Ever’s emotional state by having her select a Broadway song to match her mood each week.
Rat was one of my favorite people, but I also felt a pull toward Briella from the very first pages and hoped she was more than the judgmental girl Ever labeled her to be. Ever’s dad was a tough cop, but I enjoyed his vulnerability and that the loss of his wife wasn’t glossed over or made better by his remarriage. From Gigi (the crazy-haired girl in her drama class) to Jackson (her childhood crush) to Charlotte (the stepmother who didn’t try to replace Ever’s mom) – every character had their place.
I’ve been through the battle of seeing the scale go both up and down. Each time I’m working to lose weight, I have to get over the voice inside my head that says my work has all been for nothing, that there’s been no physical change. Ever’s weight loss is quite significant and despite her achievement, she has a hard time facing herself in the mirror. She’s afraid to hope for the positive change (always afraid of failure). She struggles with the attention she gets from her peers (Does popular girl Whitney really care about her or does she just want to show off her charity case?) and she has a hard time letting go in drama class because for so long, she wanted to be invisible.
Ever’s story is a beautiful demonstration about how weight loss (or body image issues, in general) aren’t just about the external. The exterior is just a facade; it’s the internal barriers and emotions that must be broken down to accept the change and move forward. It’s not just about a number decreasing on the scale but also the belief that we are good enough, that we’re worth it… that we’re beautiful. Whether you’re 15 or 45 years old, I believe Skinny will speak volumes to you....more
After some very in-depth discussions with Estelle and Ginger about Uses for Boys, I’ve decided I needed[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
After some very in-depth discussions with Estelle and Ginger about Uses for Boys, I’ve decided I needed to pose my questions to you guys and make this more of a discussion post instead of a review. That being said, there will be some spoilers included below, so be cautious of this if you decide to read beyond this point.
Anna’s mom had her when she was very young and her father doesn’t stick around. When Anna is very young, her mother begins an endless cycle of leaving her daughter alone to go out which further progresses into longer periods away and countless marriages and divorces. When Anna is a young (innocent) teenager, she’s targeted by a boy on the school bus who decides it would be okay to touch her boob and use her to masturbate while two boys look on. (Yes, eww.) Immediately, Anna’s reputation is scarred and she seems to fall into her mother’s footsteps. She loses her virginity at fourteen and brings her boyfriend home from school every day where they explore their sexuality without her mother knowing any of this.
While much (MUCH) of the book includes very explicit sex, that’s not what Uses for Boys was about to me. I couldn’t stop asking myself these two questions:
Do we automatically follow in our parent’s footsteps? Or is Uses for Boys saying that we don’t have to?
Anna had a choice from the moment she was on the bus to make very different decisions than she did. WHY didn’t she say no to this hormonally deranged boy? WHY did she all of a sudden think this boy touching her was okay? (There had been no previous thoughts or mentions of sex before this scene. Her mother didn’t bring men home with her – she kept her relationships very distanced from Anna aside from when she got married.) WHY did this sexual molestation on the bus lead to every other bad decision Anna made?
I suppose, to me, it was so blatant that Anna’s mother telling her “their story” (about her young pregnancy and having a daughter to cure her lonesomeness) morphed into Anna’s own story. Anna was trying to find her way without any guidance, with her mother’s story as her only example. Seeing step-fathers constantly come and go does psychologically alter how we view our own relationships and what we expect of them. The boys Anna sleeps with and the sex she has is a result of her mother’s example for her. But why did Anna choose that for herself? Why didn’t her loneliness lead to strong friendships instead of a detrimental drop-out-of-school-for-a-boy-at-sixteen relationship?
My biggest misunderstanding was in that the blame seemed to be placed more on the boys and less on Anna making poor decisions and her mother’s inability to lovingly care for her daughter. Yes, that situation on the bus should never have taken place and maybe the domino effect wouldn’t have cascaded from there, but as I previously mentioned, Anna wasn’t over-sexualized before that situation. Because of that boy, Anna’s life begins to take a downward spiral into drugs, alcohol, and sex. In the end, I was very much hoping that Anna’s sad story would have a happy ending. While things do begin to look brighter for her, I again felt a little distraught that it was a guy who led her to see there was a better life to be had. I was hoping that by the end, Anna would have a huge revelation and she would evolve without needing to rely on boys.
For some, Scheidt’s writing style has been a turn-off, though I found it to be quite unique. It worked well as a tool for understanding Anna. The writing is very stream of consciousness and less structured, demonstrating how much of Anna’s life is spent alone without anyone there to direct her through life.
As you can tell, Uses for Boys definitely made me put on my analytical thinking cap, turning this into much more of a discussion post. Have you read this book? How do you respond to the many questions it posed for me?...more
You guys. Rarely is there a main character that I want to tuck in my pocket and keep with me forever. E[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
You guys. Rarely is there a main character that I want to tuck in my pocket and keep with me forever. Emme was definitely that girl in Take a Bow. She was a tiny, pint-sized, red-haired, talented, songwriting girl. She was so shy and unselfish, but had painfully low self-confidence. Despite that, she was super talented and everyone around her could tell. Her so-called best friend, Sophie, was happy to push Emme out of the lime-light so she could bask in everyone’s attention.
Sophie was mean and only focused on making herself the next big Hollywood star. Emme’s new set of friends – Ethan, Ben, and Jack – were incredibly protective of Emme. They saw right through Sophie to the core of her blackened heart. (Yes, she was this bad.) The boys form a band with Emme freshman year, and by the time they’re seniors, they’ve established a pretty decent following. They try to use the band as an excuse to pull Emme away from Sophie, as they only want the best for their girl.
I love, love, loved the musical aspect of Take a Bow. The story is actually told from four different people’s points of view. Emme was the character that I (obviously) connected with the most, but I liked being able to learn about different aspects of the program via the other voices. The story was fast-paced and moved at a speed I was really happy with.
If you give me a story that has a great group of friends involved, I will probably drool over it. I felt scared and sad to leave the characters when this story was over. I felt actively involved in the story, as if I too should be questioning where I should go to college and what would happen to me.
This is definitely a lighter read for me than usual, but it was perfect. I had been on a hunt for a book that wasn’t overly intense, but wasn’t so fluffy I felt like I was reading in the clouds. I loved absolutely everything about Take a Bow. Don’t forget to check it out – its release date is April Fool’s Day… though Take a Bow is no joke....more
I was immediately attracted to Shooting Stars when I saw the girl on the cover was holding a camera; my two loves were combined – photography and reading. However, I must admit, this can also be a dangerous combination. I read Famous, a book also about a teenage photographer, and very strongly disliked the book because I couldn’t stop thinking about the un-likelihood from a professional standpoint. I hoped that Jo’s story would feel more authentic and real.
My initial thoughts were that the story was definitely fun, but maybe a little bit cheesy. I was impressed by how well Rushby described the job of a photographer. Jo’s character was easily relatable and enjoyable to get to know. It wasn’t until she became a resident at the rehab center and went undercover, though, that I really understood how much more there would be to Jo’s story.
She has big, big dad and family issues. She meets people in the facility who are dealing with some pretty crushing life issues, too. And then there was the huge twist in the storyline that definitely shocked me. When this happened, the whole story changed for me because I wasn’t expecting it at all. The book went from silly to more serious in a split second.
It was a change that was definitely welcomed. As I was reading, I could see the moral dilemma that Jo was going to face. I was going to be really upset if there wasn’t something more to come out of Shooting Stars than Jo scoring a bunch of money for a job well-done. In the end, I also like reading and feeling like I’ve learned something. This will be a great book for teenagers to walk through Jo’s situation and decide how they would follow through with the job.
As a result of the big surprise, there was a lot of character development and growth for Jo. I enjoyed seeing her figure out what her goals were and how much being a paparazzo impacted them. Her attempts to get shots with her hidden cameras were pretty hilarious and I loved seeing her fall in love. For a girl who isn’t close to many people, Jo had a lot to learn about letting her guard down to be in a relationship.
This was a really fun, quick read for me. I am happy to have read a book involving photography that I enjoyed. Shooting Stars comes out on Tuesday, February 28th. Don’t forget to it add it to your to-read list!...more
I spend a lot of time reading difficult issue books. They’re kind of my thing, but after reading them b[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
I spend a lot of time reading difficult issue books. They’re kind of my thing, but after reading them back to back things can seem a little somber. I was thrilled my library finally got a copy of This is So Not Happening, the last book in the He’s So/She’s So series because this final book was sure to fulfill my need for drama and craziness.
Ally and Jake have finally become an official couple. They can look forward to normalcy and enjoying their senior year together. Or so they think. Ally is thrown a curveball when her ex-best friend Chloe announces that she’s pregnant with Jake’s baby. Chloe and Jake slept together before he and Ally became an official couple. What does that mean for Ally?
She tries to do the right thing and be the supportive and understanding girlfriend who doesn’t go crazy. She stands up for Chloe when things at school get bad for her. (What high school students wouldn’t feast on the news of the popularity heiress getting pregnant?) She sticks by Jake’s side and doesn’t give up on their relationship (even when it seems Chloe takes her place as he suddenly has doctor’s appointments to attend all the time). Ally is stuck in an awkward position because she will most likely lose her friends if she and Jake break up and she can’t talk to her mom about things because she’s too preoccupied planning her wedding to notice something is bothering Ally. She’s left to figure things out on her own.
Though Jake never betrayed Ally, I feel like I would have done more investigating and probing than Ally did. Something just never seemed to add up (and for those of you who read He’s So Not Worth It, you will have strong suspicions). Jake seemed like a pawn in the chess game of Chloe’s life – he was at her beck and call and did absolutely everything she asked. It was really difficult for me to have outsider information and not be allowed to talk sense into the characters.
Jake was the character I struggled with the most. He did the honorable thing and really did everything he could for Chloe, but he became a mean, cold-shouldered boyfriend to Ally. At the climax of the story, I didn’t want Ally to date Jake. I hoped that maybe she would go to college a single lady and she and Jake’s story would finally have a bit of closure. I wish I could say that his character was fully redeemed for me by the end, but his actions were just … actions…without a lot of heart behind them.
While there were a few other things I would have liked to have seen (as in maybe a few chapters from Chloe’s POV to understand her character a bit more, more focus on Ally’s mom’s remarriage, and some of the spunkiness provided by Ally’s best friend Annie we saw in book number two), I did enjoy the nostalgia that crept up as Ally applied to colleges and prepared to move on after graduation. I loved seeing the characters mature and ready themselves for their next stage of life.
This is So Not Happening was definitely full of drama and an easy-breezy read; Scott does a great job exploring the difficult topic of teen pregnancy without making the topic feel overwhelming. If you’re like me and you like “issue” books, definitely give this one (actually, the whole series) a try if you need something a little more light-hearted than normal....more