This was soo tough to rate. I appreciate what the author was trying to do here, but I think it fell short for a few reasons. :( There was no2.5 stars
This was soo tough to rate. I appreciate what the author was trying to do here, but I think it fell short for a few reasons. :( There was no wrap-up, for one thing. I feel as if this was setting up for a second book, but I may be wrong. Perhaps the author is unsure of where she is taking it (if anywhere), or maybe it is meant to be speculative. Either way, it was missing a lot as far as the ending and closing up details. If a sequel were to come out, I would read it for the simple fact that I need closure, lol.
This book is focused on abusive relationships and trust, and I think the author covered a lot of it well, but fell short in the details. Something about the book felt like an imitation of what someone thinks an abusive relationship is like, rather than what it is actually like. I speak from experience. It was just missing something, but A for effort.
Chicken Girl is the story of Poppy—a teen working at a summer job dressed as the chicken mascot for a ♥ Find my reviews here: Literary Meanderings
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Chicken Girl is the story of Poppy—a teen working at a summer job dressed as the chicken mascot for a local restaurant. Poppy used to be confident and love her body. She even participated in roller derby and was really good at it, but that was until a photo of her dressed as Rosie the Riveter made it's way onto an online forum called “I see fat people” and was edited and mocked. Now she is more withdrawn, spends more time alone, and tries to hide herself inside her chicken suit. This is until a strange group of people come into her life, starting with 6-year-old Miracle.
Miracle is where the mismatched cast of characters comes in. Miracle is six years old, yet she hangs out with teens and adults alike. Her mother is a prostitute and they live in a very tiny, very crappy home. Miracle spends her days hanging out under a bridge with the homeless and troubled people of the city. Poppy is basically led to this ragtag group via Miracle. We also have Lewis, a female-to-male transgender teen who is saving up for bottom surgery while he also takes care of a dying relative all on his own. Then there is Buck... oh gosh, he is such a dickhead. The guy is supposed to be charming at first, but I found him irritating from the get-go, and he only gets worse as the story goes on. He's mean, gets drunk and then makes fun of his friends and puts them down at every turn, Poppy included. And she is supposed to be his girlfriend. This book lost a star for that. While Buck did do some redemptive things, he was still a shitty person overall, in my opinion. The book involves a twist when it comes to Buck, and it did knock me for a loop and add an interesting element to the story. Still didn't like the guy though. Other interesting characters include an ex-gang member with a racist past, a drag queen with a mental illness (I don't think the author said what it was, unless I missed it), and Poppy's cranky Chinese boss at the chicken joint.
Poppy also has a twin brother named Cam. He's newly out of the closet and is quite flamboyant. This is a struggle for Poppy as she believes he is only trying to fit into a sort of gay stereotype. The two teens are very close and it shows with their banter as well as their concern for each other and what they each deal with throughout the story's progression. Their bantering wordplay with each other brings a much needed lightness and vein of humor to an otherwise quite serious story.
This book covers quite an array of relevant topics. Feminism, at it's core, as well as sexual assault, queer issues, racism, the homeless population, being a plus sized person and being comfortable with that, the cons of drinking or taking drugs, as well as family issues and the possibility of CPS taking a child out of the home.
Overall, this book really highlights personal growth. Poppy and those closest to her are all coming to terms with their respective struggles and learning how to become better, how to overcome and still be on top. It's a story of acceptance and standing up for yourself; about making a place for yourself in the world and embracing your quirks and differences. I loved the characters (aside from Buck, ew) and I think they all made so much progress throughout such a short book (at 240 pages). I definitely recommend it! Do keep in mind that it does contain some more adult themes such as sex work, sexual assault, and drug use.
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Book source: Personal collection Publisher: Penguin Teen
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Imagine Us Happy is the story of a toxic/mentally abusive relationship between two teens with depress • Find my reviews here: Literary Meanderings
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Imagine Us Happy is the story of a toxic/mentally abusive relationship between two teens with depression. Stella and Kevin are both living with depression and both dealing with it in different ways. Stella isolates herself as much as possible, while Kevin (view spoiler)[copes with self-harm (hide spoiler)]. When the two come together, sparks fly. The two begin a relationship and in no time at all, things begin to go south. Kevin becomes extremely possessive and mentally/emotionally abusive. He doesn't hurt Stella physically, but abuse comes in multiple forms. Pretty soon, Stella is pulling away from the only two friends she has and is using Kevin as a crutch for her depression. Kevin does the same, but uses manipulation tactics to keep Stella "in line". All they do is fight with escalating intensity, leaving Stella feeling as if she is doomed to be just like her constantly-fighting parents.
• The story jumps from future, past, future, past, present, etc. It is ALL OVER THE PLACE. I don't mind a time jump, but this was a little tough to follow unless you really paid attention, which would be fine...except the story wasn't all that gripping, you know? So, I was constantly losing track of whether I was in the past or the future.
• There just wasn't enough emphasis on the mental illness aspect of the story. We know the two teens are depressed and how they each cope, but we also know that neither way is healthy. Stella sees a therapist for awhile, but she stops when things get serious with Kevin. She uses her boyfriend and relationship with him as therapy. Granted, her therapist did warn her against this, but she didn't listen. She's a teen, I get it. Still, in the end, I didn't see any growth from her as a character. She was the same girl by the end of the book and that was disappointing. It was less about either of their mental illnesses than about the toxicity of the relationship itself. I think the author really missed the mark.
• The book was just slow, to be honest. I had that niggling urge to skim.
• The format. While I wasn't a fan of the past a future layout, I did like that the book starts with the ending. It served to keep the reader on their toes and waiting for the fall. It worked.
• It did cover some tough topics, such as mental illness, self-harm, and abusive relationships. I can always appreciate this.
• I enjoyed some of the side characters! Lin, one of Stella's friends, was amazing. Loved her. I also enjoyed Jeremy and his girlfriend. Jeremy is a boy Stella is working with on a school project—and also a huge source of jealousy for Kevin—and Jennie is his girlfriend. They are the perfect juxtaposition to the relationship between Stella and Kevin. I think the contrast was needed and a nice move on the author's part.
Overall, I think the book could've been better organized. It was barely likable, but I gave it the ol' college try. I think the intentions were great, but the execution didn't hit the mark. If you can look past the misplaced focus on the romance-gone-wrong, perhaps you may like this one. For me it fell a bit short.
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Book source: From the publisher for review Publisher: Harlequin Teen
If You're Out There was an okay read, but I ended up on the fence about this one, as I have with so m • Find my reviews here: Literary Meanderings
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If You're Out There was an okay read, but I ended up on the fence about this one, as I have with so many books so far in 2019.
Zan and Priya grew up together, and were as close as two best friends could be. Then Priya moved away to go to a new school, and stopped responding to Zan's emails and messages. Zan is confused as to what may have caused her once-best-friend to ghost her, as she sees Priya posting photos via social media and responding to pretty much everyone but her. Zan doesn't accept this. She begins to think something else is going on; that her friend may be in trouble. Why else would she ignore her like this? Everyone in her life is telling her to basically move on, get over it, right? Not Logan. Logan is a new guy at school and has taken a liking to Zan. Together, the two of them start to piece together what may or may not have happened to Priya.
When I was reading this I had some theories on why Priya may have started to ignore Zan. I wondered if Zan maybe had feelings for her and it wasn't Priya's thing, if perhaps Priya was kidnapped, or maybe she was just a snob—too good for Zan now that she is a California girl. What actually happened was pretty lame, to be frank. It was not what I expected and I was pretty disappointed with the outcome. I was happy with the ending, but the reason behind Priya not speaking with Zan was just silly to me. I don't want to spoil it, but it was this weird out-of-left-field thing and, I don't know, it just seemed far-fetched and not really believable. Meh.
What I did like was how devoted Logan was to helping Zan find her friend. I did enjoy the romance. It wasn't a main story thread, but it was nice on the side. I also enjoyed the friendship between Zan and Priya even though they were separated for most of the book. When the two finally see each other, things are wonderful. I felt the connection regardless of their separation. The author did really good job of making us feel how important they were to each other.
Overall, I enjoyed the contemporary parts of this book such as the romance and Zan's struggle with the loss of her friend, but the mystery was lackluster for me. I feel that it was dragged out much too long, especially considering the actual events leading up to Zan ghosting her friend were not really interesting or believable. It was a fail on that front, but a win with the contemporary. Like I said, on the fence! Great character building, great background information. Inspirational friendship. Slow plot, but overall a good read.
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Book source: From the publisher for review Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? This is one of the worst, most ridiculous books I have ever read in my entire life. I will be writing a review later, but just kWHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? This is one of the worst, most ridiculous books I have ever read in my entire life. I will be writing a review later, but just know that this book is so fucking offensive it makes me want to spit....more
ACK! This was a tough book to read, not because it wasn't good, but because of the content. It was stark, unapologetic, and definitely a statement. IACK! This was a tough book to read, not because it wasn't good, but because of the content. It was stark, unapologetic, and definitely a statement. I enjoyed it, but the ending left something to be desired...which I suppose was part of the point.
(view spoiler)[It was tough to like the protag, not because of her being promiscuous, because I am fine with that, hell, I embrace it... but she wasn't a great friend, she stole from her friends, looked down on their physical appearances, and just had a shallow air about her. All the same though, she was drugged and gang raped and that gains the ultimate sympathy. So fucking rage-inducing. (hide spoiler)]
I could've done without the multiple references to "heaven" near the end, but otherwise, amazing! I expect nothing less from Alessandra Torre. She isI could've done without the multiple references to "heaven" near the end, but otherwise, amazing! I expect nothing less from Alessandra Torre. She is a master.
We'll Fly Away is a story that will leave you feeling a lot of feelings—and not necessarily good feel • Find my reviews here: Literary Meanderings
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We'll Fly Away is a story that will leave you feeling a lot of feelings—and not necessarily good feelings. This book is bleak and it is sad, but it is a wonderful read.
Luke and Toby grew up together in a small North Carolina town and belong to families that could only be considered trashy—poor, abusive, inattentive, selfish, etc. Luke's mother has him and his younger siblings living in a one bedroom apartment much too small for them. She barely works and would rather bring home strange men and try to leech off of them for money. The father is not in the picture. Toby has the opposite. He lives with just his father, alone in a small house. His father is an alcoholic and extremely abusive to him. All their life, Luke has watched over Toby, patching up his cuts and bruises, letting him sleep on the floor at his apartment as much as possible to avoid his father's rage.
We know from the very beginning of the book that Luke is in prison on death row. Part of the storytelling is done via letters to Toby from Luke. So, the book is gloomy from the get-go. We know something goes down and Luke ends up in prison. There can be no happy ending to this story.
Toby and Luke meander through high school and family life by leaning on each other. Luke is a wrestler, and a very good one. The boys are putting their future on Luke securing a wrestling scholarship and getting them both out of their crappy lives. When the two need an escape, they head into the woods nearby to a hollowed out plane. They spend time there and bond, as friends do. They dream of a future where they are free of their hardships; they talk about how amazing it'll be when they can escape together.
We are not living in a world that stands still.
Things begin to fall apart when both of them meet girls. Luke meets a girl via her being his new neighbor, and Toby meets an older woman at a bar his father frequents. These two relationships cause rifts between the best friends. Toby even falls into some of the illegal business his father is involved with.
I loved this book for everything but the “romance” bits. It kind of held the plot back and made the middle of the book laggy and skim-worthy. The story lost its way around the middle, but thankfully picked back up not too long after.
The characters are extremely relatable. I wanted to wrap both boys up in my arms and protect them from the harshness of their lives. I think Bryan Bliss captured the chaos of life so perfectly in this book. Sometimes, in life, you're dealt a shitty hand, and that is what is portrayed here. Neither of the main characters could've escaped their situations easily. They are just kids, you know? It was up to their parents to care for them, and they failed miserably.
The best thing about this book for me is that it doesn't have a happy ending. It is sad and may induce tears. It is gut-wrenching and horrible. I hated it and loved it at the same time. I hated it for how real and true it could be, but loved it because this is a book that doesn't apologize. The story is earnest and raw. I believe this book is a symbol for standing against capital punishment. I, personally, think it is a great example of a situation where the death penalty is not right. That's the only thing I will really say on that, as it is a personal opinion.
Overall, this book touched me to the core. It left me lost and in tears. I loved and hated it. It was very well written. The characters are built perfectly and seem so real when you read it. I enjoyed the interspersed letters from Luke to Toby via death row. It was an interesting perspective to place into a young adult story. It fit well into the narrative. This story is beautiful in it's anguish. I recommend it to everyone, but keep in mind that it is a grim story with no happy ending to be had. Beautifully done. After this, I plan to read Bryan's other two books ASAP.
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Book source: From the publisher for review Publisher: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins
As a sort of disclaimer before this review: I just want to say that I am in no way able to review thi ♥ Find my reviews here: Literary Meanderings
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As a sort of disclaimer before this review: I just want to say that I am in no way able to review this as someone who personally understands either Asperger's or the medical condition Stanley suffers from, as I have neither. I can only review this book as an outsider looking in. :)
That being said, I loved this book!
Alvie was a lovely character. She is 17 years old and seeking emancipation so that she can avoid being “in the system” until she is 18. She is simple, yet complex. She loves animals and identifies with the rabbit(s) in the book Watership Down. In many ways, Alvie is like them; trying to survive in a harsh world where things are working against you. I can see why she loves and quotes this book so much in When My Heart Joins the Thousand. The story is a big source of strength for Alvie.
We go through a good portion of the book knowing that Alvie isn't like most girls her age, but not having an actual name for what is different about her (I refuse to say "wrong" with her, because it isn't wrong to be different). Ignorant people (kids/teens) in the book refer to her as “retarded” or make fun of her for simply being “weird”. It was apparent to me, personally, that she was somewhere within the autism spectrum, but I don't know enough about it to have pinned it down. This book inspired me to read more about it, and I found out that Asperger's has only recently been considered to be within the spectrum of autism. I will say this: I do work with someone with Asperger's. He's 21 years old, so not TOO much older than Alvie. Alvie portrayed similar characteristics to this person. So, for me, when it was finally unveiled, it all made sense. I don't know everything about Asperger's, but based on my limited knowledge, I thought Alvie was portrayed very well.
As for where her parents went? Well, I am ashamed to say I don't remember any mention of her father. I know he wasn't in the book, but I don't remember if he died or left the family. BUT, there is a lot of flashback on Alvie and her mother. The story is actually quite tragic and sad. Alvie's mother struggled greatly with having an autistic daughter. She couldn't understand it and just decided to medicate the hell out of Alvie and make things worse. Eventually, things take a terrible turn, and this ends with her mother dying and leaving Alvie in search of emancipation. I very much enjoyed the flashback elements of the story. It made me feel so much sympathy and empathy for Alvie that I was in tears. It was so important to the story and so well done on the author's part.
I think it is important to note that, regardless of her having Asperger's, Alvie was able to live independently. She is proof that you don't have to be held back by something like this. She had her own apartment, a job, and eventually, a romantic relationship. Did she have struggles? ABSOLUTELY. But who doesn't? I cry at work at least once a week due to severe anxiety. We all struggle. What matters is what we do when faced with these challenges. So, when Alvie loses her job, she applies at every place she can in search of a new job. She works very hard to make sure she can pay her bills, just like everyone else. She is different, but she is not. I think a bit part of this story was highlighting the fact that she, and others like her, can do anything we can do. They can live a full, productive life.
Let's touch on the romance, shall we? It was realistically awkward and adorable. Alvie first discovers Stanley when she begins to see him in a park she frequents daily. One of these days, he's visibly upset and throws his phone into a pond. Alvie decides to fish it out after he leaves and fixes it. She then ends up emailing him to say HEY, I SAVED YOUR PHONE FROM AN UNTIMELY DEATH. The two talk via internet for awhile and become friends. Eventually the two meet in person. Alvie has a certain proposition for Stanley, and this sparks a more intimate relationship. The two of them struggle through this relationship for many reasons—some of it due to Alvie, some of it not—but they ultimately work it out and it is beautiful. The two of them find comfort and strength in the other. They have a special romance that is unlike any other I've read about before. I loved it and it even brought me to tears when I was nearing the end of the book. Just lovely.
The only negative I have for this book is that the story itself seemed to drag a bit at times, slowing down a lot in places. It wasn't a big deal, clearly, but worth mentioning.
Overall, this book is just amazing! The characters are so very unique and lovable. I was extremely invested in their stories both together and apart. I think this book is a wonderful example of a strong female character overcoming obstacle after obstacle and still coming out on top. The entire story is very emotionally moving and deeply touching. I definitely recommend it for everyone. :)
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Book source: Via publisher for review Publisher: HarperTeen
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This book triggered the shit out of me. It made me angry. It made me sad. I am so torn on how I feel ♥ Find my reviews here: Literary Meanderings
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This book triggered the shit out of me. It made me angry. It made me sad. I am so torn on how I feel about this book. Even now, after sitting on it for a day, I am still torn. Upon finishing the book, I rated it 4 stars. I had to take a step back and really think about the book OVERALL, and I lowered my rating to 3. Part of the problem is that I enjoyed the fact that the ending wasn't expected (for me).
Where to start? I guess we can go with the dislikes:
• The relationship between Evan and Henry. It wasn't a great “romance”... not even a good one. While reading the book the romantic aspect was basically throw-away for me. In a nutshell: Evan comes from an abusive home. Evan is questioning his sexuality. He is pretty sure he's gay, but coming from an extremely religious family has him feeling guilt and shame. He's suicidal and depressed. He feels isolated and alone. He has friends, but they don't know the truth. Turns out, Evan's BFF Henry is also gay. Henry likes Evan, Evan likes Henry. (Although, Evan should've really learned to like himself first.) Evan basically falls into Henry as a way to escape his abusive mother and shitty life. If there was a reason to actually like Henry, I might be able to understand this, but this is not the case. Henry is controlling, forceful, and extremely moody (to the point where it could be violent and scary).
• The story honestly had no conclusion. I get it; things aren't always wrapped up in a nice little bow with a clear conclusion. But this? Nothing. Evan goes through all of this abuse at the hands of his mother—while his father sits back and lets it happen, might I add—and you'd expect some retribution by the end, right? Maybe the father stands up for Evan. Maybe they leave her. Maybe the priest that reads Evan's journals DETAILING the abuse goes to the damn POLICE?! Maybe Evan gets better mentally. Maybe he heals. Maybe THEN he gets into a relationship. Nope. Nah. Didn't happen. Wanna know what happened? Evan's passive father decided to help him get an apartment when he was of age to get away from his mother. So, he had to go through years of abuse only to have his father make excuses for his gross mother and shoo him away to his own place instead of actually taking care of his son.
• I am very glad to see an author spotlighting the fact that women can be abusive too. A mother can abuse her child. A wife can abuse her husband. And this woman does both. She tells Evan she wishes he was never born, that he is disgusting, ugly, evil, and worthless. She also tells him how to dress, calls him homophobic slurs, and reduces him to nothing. She takes mental abuse to a whole new level, and a huge part of this is due to her religious zealotry. Not only does she abuse him with words, but physically as well. She punches, slaps, scratches, smashes his head into walls, rips out his hair, and even burns him with hot liquid at one point. She is absolutely fucking insane. I was disgusted and horrified by the things she did to him AND her husband, because she was abusive to him as well, though to a lesser degree. Most people underestimate the fact that women can abuse people too! Sad as it may have been, this author spotlighted it well.
• I enjoyed that Evan questioned his religion. I hate religion. I was happy to see that Evan recognized that GOD WAS NOT THERE FOR HIM. Praying won't do SHIT for you. Know why? God is not real.
• As much as I think the ending was bullshit, I also appreciate the fact that it was unconventional. Most would go with a HEA, but this author did not.
Overall, this book had me shook. I appreciated about half of the book, but I disliked just as much. I am stuck in the middle, on the fence, if you will. The book is emotionally moving and hits on some very tough subject matter. I appreciate that, I just wish it had been executed better. And I also wish that Henry didn't exist. Ew.
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Book source: Sent by the publisher for review Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins
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