Showing posts with label contemporary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label contemporary. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Recommendation: Wild - Hannah Moskowitz: Deafness and Bisexuality

In WILD, Zack wants to meet up with his online girlfriend, but has no idea that she's Deaf.
What intrigued me: Bisexual Jewish #ownvoices! Hardly any white people in the main cast! Deaf romance!

Hilarious and Authentic Romance

WILD has one of the most authentic teen voices I've ever encountered in YA. I'm super picky with contemporary romance, most of the time it's like pulling teeth for me, but not with WILD.

The combination of a great voice, teens who truly feel like teens, great humor, and diverse, non-white protagonists (Guatemalan/Jewish Deaf bisexual love interest and Filipino bisexual protagonist), make this one an absolute success for me. I couldn't get enough of WILD and read it super quickly. Despite being short, I feel like Moskowitz made the most out of this story and wrote a fast-paced, compelling, and adorable romance that will make you laugh out loud.
I can't emphasize enough how funny this is, I seriously had to pause sometimes, because I couldn't breathe. I can confidently say that I have never ever seen any author write believable chat convos between teens until I read WILD. Honestly, you guys, it's so good. Moskowitz writes teens a little dorky, a little dirty-minded, and 100% authentically. I'm so in awe. It hasn't been that long since I was a teen, but this is the first time I'm not painfully aware that this is an adult writing teens while reading chat convos and texts. Bless.

Deaf Culture and Organic Romance

While WILD is a romance at heart, it really shines more with the protagonist and side characters instead of being a straight-up romance. I didn't really feel like it's about Zack and Jordan getting to know each other or falling in love, because this is an established relationship and they've sort-of been dating since long before the events of the novel start. Zack and Jordan truly feel like people who genuinely enjoy each other as friends first and foremost, which is very rare to find in YA, and I'm all about this. This is as far from instant love and tropey romance as it gets. 

My favorite element and the one that you have to definitely prepare for when you're picking this up, is Deafness. It plays a really big role in WILD. I am not D/deaf, so I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation, but it does feel like to me that Moskowitz put a lot of research into this: There are bit of bobs you'll learn about Deaf culture while reading and all signed conversations are written in <<>>. Zack and Jordan communicate either through sign language or texts. 

Signing plays a big role, too, because Zack starts learning ASL for her (and is terrible at it, which is just hilarious to read). A lot of the characters are either Deaf and/or signing, which is super refreshing and interesting. Again, can't speak for the accuracy of the rep, but I did learn a lot about Deaf culture that I didn't know before. WILD is unlike anything I've ever read, and an absolutely refreshing and fun delightful Deaf romance.




Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WILD is probably my favorite romance of 2017. Even if you don't like contemporary romances, give this one a shot, I beg you! Who can say no to a hilarious and adorable romance between a Deaf Guatemalan/Jewish bisexual girl and Filipino bisexual boy?

[If you're D/deaf and have reviewed this, I'd be happy to link your review! Let me know.]


Additional Info

Published: April 26th 2017
Pages: 228
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: YA / Romance
ISBN: B06ZZMBMVS

Synopsis:
"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf. 

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild."(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read any books by Hannah Moskowitz?



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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

[Review] Someone Else's Summer - Rachel Bateman: Bucket Lists and Losing a Family Member

In SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER, Anna finds her late sister Storm's bucket list and decides to go on a road trip to check off all the things Storm didn't get to.

What intrigued me: I totally didn't read the blurb and went off the gorgeous cover.

Fantastic Characters

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER is an unexpected gut punch. I immediately grew very attached to the characters, from protagonist Anna to her ex-boyfriend Jovani to her neighbor Cameron - I loved them all! 

This is very much a character-driven story that takes its time to get to the actual premise and get the plot started, so it's always fantastic to connect with the characters. Bateman excels at conveying the emotions of her characters and portraying their grief and sorrow over Storm's passing realistically and beautifully. 

It truly feels like Bateman took her time creating realistic and fleshed-out characters with intricate and sometimes complicated relationships to each other.

Quite unoriginal and following tropes

However, there just isn't that much to this story after all. This is your typical bucket list / road trip story with absolutely no spin to the topic, no originality, and nothing memorable about it aside from the nice characters. Every twist and turn the plot takes is extremely predictable if you've read a handful of novels with similar themes. 

As soon as everything is settled introduction-wise the story just starts to become really dull and boring. Anna and her sidekick Cameron embark on a journey to tick off all the bullet points on the list and that's it. You have to be a fan of those types of novels to enjoy this and specifically enjoy bucket list narratives. Because this personally isn't really my thing, I found the narration and plot to end up feeling very stoic and boring. 

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER really has its peak within the first 80 pages, which are just brilliant, but then simply recedes to boring bucket-list-novel tropes. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I really enjoyed the first third of SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER but quickly grew uninterested when I realized that this is quite unoriginal with little to no variation to other novels that feature bucket list storylines. If you enjoy these types of contemporaries, SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER surely is among the better of these books, if you don't and like me enjoy variation, original plot, and surprises, you might want to skip this one.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780762462193

Synopsis:
"Anna's always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm's summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm's list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm's dream summer would eventually lead to Anna's own self-discovery?"
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite road trip read?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

[Review] We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson: Alien Abductions and the Apocalypse





In WE ARE THE ANTS, Henry is frequently abducted by aliens and presented with the choice to either prevent the apocalypse or let the world end.


What intrigued me:
 Alien abductions and the world is ending? Count me in!

... is that it?

WE ARE THE ANTS has a fantastic premise and an equally great narrative voice. Hutchinson absolutely had me from the first page, the cynic and observant way he writes Henry is incredibly entertaining and fun. However, all this can't mask the fact that there really isn't much to WE ARE THE ANTS aside from the premise. 

All characters in this are painfully obvious plot devices. The main problem I had with everyone in this book that Henry doesn't show any attachments whatsoever to the people surrounding him. How is the reader going to be enamored with the characters if they are all introduced like worthless scum bags? Henry's cynicism may be entertaining for the first 100 pages, but it quickly gets insanely tiring. 

Getting abducted? What else is new...

Another problem I had is that Hutchinson romanticizes depression. Protagonist Henry get depressed very early on when he realizes that the world's fate is in his hands and I just don't like the way this gets handled. The whole atmosphere just screams "your typical depressed kid from a broken home finds love and gets cured", and that's exactly what you're getting in WE ARE THE ANTS. The story has so much potential, but I think Hutchinson absolutely ruined everything that lured me to this story with the execution. 

Especially the abduction part is written so frustratingly boring that I can't wrap my head around it. Henry doesn't theorize about it much, or appears scared or worried about it! The only emotion he displays is annoyance, which seems to be pretty much his default.

WE ARE THE ANTS is nothing short from being a regular novel about a kid's high school troubles. The alien part is so redundant that this doesn't even feel like Sci-Fi. Absolutely a disappointment.


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WE ARE THE ANTS is just an average contemporary with a side of aliens. If you like that, and aren't expecting too much world building or fantastic characters, go ahead!



Additional Info

Published: 19th January 2016
Pages: 455
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9781481449632

Synopsis:
"There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. 

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books about alien abductions?

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Recommendation: Geekerella - Ashley Poston: Star Trek and Conventions

In GEEKERELLA, Elle enters a cosplay contest to win tickets to meet the star of the reboot of her favorite TV series.

What intrigued me: I was craving some more classic takes on fan fiction tropes and stories!

Super cute!

GEEKERELLA is an intensely fun story about a fangirl falling for the new actor who was cast in the reboot of her favorite series, and whom she despises. If you love a good enemies-to-lovers story with You've Got Mail elements and lots of nerdy references, you will absolutely adore this. 

GEEKERELLA is sprinkled with references from Star Wars to Princess Bride, and is definitely one of those happy-go-lucky reads that will make you feel all fuzzy inside. GEEKERELLA follows the tradition of a couple similar books that pay hommage to fandom culture, but remains wholly original through the fairy tale spin. As you may have guessed from the title, this is a Cinderella retelling, complete with mean stepsisters and all. If you love Jenny Han and Rainbow Rowell, and want a cute contemporary, you will absolutely adore this. 

Fabulous Writing and Characters

Poston is a very talented writer that immediately managed to catch my interest through the fabulous dual narration. As we all know dual narration is pretty much always hit or miss and requires an immense talent to pull off. Poston definitely possesses that. Love interest Darien is absolutely my favorite character in this and I loved him so much that I wished the whole story was told from his perspective. You'll definitely play favorites when reading GEEKERELLA. Elle, who lives with her vlogging bratty stepsisters and stepmother, is completely different than Darien, teen heartthrob and secretly just as much of a Starfield geek. It makes for such a great almost-starcrossed lovers story to read about these two secretly falling for each other. 

It should also be noted that Darien is a man of color, he's Indian if I'm not mistaken. Poston generally managed to gain a bazillion sympathy points with the way she handled adding characters of color into this story. GEEKERELLA is for the fans out there who love obsessing about TV shows. It's spiked with little references to the age of technology with a blogger protagonist and an online romance. You'll love this.



Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

GEEKERELLA is a super cute love letter to fangirls and fanboys out there. Especially if you love Star Trek, you'll adore this.



Additional Info

Published: April 4th 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781594749476

Synopsis:
"Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?"
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite geeky read?

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Recommendation: Girl Out of Water - Laura Silverman: Surfing and One-Armed Skaters

In GIRL OUT OF WATER, surfer girl Anise has to move from Santa Cruz to Nebraska when her aunt has an accident.
What intrigued me: Always there for cute contemporaries!

Bittersweet and Unique

GIRL OUT OF WATER hit me out of nowhere. With lyrical prose and a voice that packs a punch, it reads like it's written from the heart. Silverman's narration is captivating, sassy, essentially teen, and just an absolute delight. 

I'm especially happy to see a protagonist in YA contemporary that I'm very sure I've never seen before. When was the last time you read about a surfer girl-turned skater? So interesting to read about and the nuanced way Silverman writers about the bittersweet experience of leaving home hit very close to home for me personally.

GIRL OUT OF WATER is a story about family, friendships, and growing up. It's quiet, it's funny, it's bittersweet - it's just the perfect read for spring and summer and I'm very happy that I chose to give this one a shot. However, don't expect fast-paced action when picking this one up, GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet first and foremost and capitalizes on its fantastic characters. If you fall in love with them, this will be even more fun for you and I can wholeheartedly recommend this if you like character-driven contemporaries.


Diversity Done Right

I was especially happy about the casual diversity. Anise's best friend Tess is Samoan, there are sapphic background characters, and the love interest is a black one-armed skater. It's very rare that you'll find a book that doesn't capitalize and advertise with its diversity, but uses it as a given. Our world is diverse. People are diverse. 

I absolutely enjoyed about these characters who just happen to be marginalized and whose marginalizations don't involve huge plot complications or are used as plot devices - I have to remark that because unfortunately a lot of books do this. Not this one though. GIRL OUT OF WATER reflects our diverse world beautifully in a quiet manner that just made me squeal with joy. I wish this was the norm. More like this please.


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet and fun contemporary with a sassy narrator that I'm sure teens will love. If you like Ashley Herring Blake and Jenny Han, you'll adore this. With a black amputee love interest, a Samoan BFF and sapphic side characters, the background diversity made me really happy. That's so nice to read.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781492646860

Synopsis:
"Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves "
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite contemporary?

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Recommendation: How to Make a Wish - Ashley Herring Blake: Bisexuality and Sadness

In HOW TO MAKE A WISH, Grace's mom makes her move in with her ex-boyfriend's dad and meets Eva, who is struggling with her mother's death.

What intrigued me: Biracial and bisexual characters?! YES

Snarky Teen and Sad Vibes

HOW TO MAKE A WISH is one of those very quiet reads that you definitely have to have a thing for and have to be in the right mood for. Blake tells Grace's story with the authentic snark that I would've adored reading about as a teen. The thing Is - HOW TO MAKE A WISH is so character-driven and so quiet that I just didn't feel as enthusiastic about it as I would've liked. 

This is a me thing. This has nothing to do with the book. It's skillfully written with a killer voice and with heart. Also #ownvoices by a bisexual author, which clearly, obviously shows in the nuanced way Blake writes her characters. It reads somewhere inbetween books like those by Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han. If you enjoy works by these authors, you'll surely adore this one. 

HOW TO MAKE A WISH will surely hit close to home for many people out there, not only because of the fabulous narration but because it features a bisexual protagonist and a black biracial love interest.


Representation goddamn matters.

I've got a confession to make here. This is first time that I've read about a biracial character portrayed so accurately that it freaks me out. I'm biracial and usually the representation we get hardly ever is stated on the page, and if it is, there are probably a lot other things wrong with the book. HOW TO MAKE A WISH presents biracial love interest Eva in a way that hit so close to home to me that I'm genuinely wondering if this was written about me. Is this me? Is this what representation feels like? 

Despite HOW TO MAKE A WISH missing the mark for me personally because of totally arbitrary and highly subjective reasons that stand in no relation to the quality of this book, this is an extraordinary book that I wish a lot of success. I refuse to give this any less than five stars and I urge you to be lenient with this book when rating and reviewing it as well. There is virtually no representation for people like me and we need to cheer those authors on that bother to do it right.

I would've needed this book at 14, 15, 16 - hell, I still need it now. I really don't know how to handle this. It's weird being represented, but it's also nice. Do me a favor and shove this book into the hands of any black biracials you know, okay? It'll mean the world to them.


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

So, HOW TO MAKE A WISH apparently is the first book written for people like me. And it feels damn good, you guys. Representation matters. Gift this to your biracial friends.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: HMH Kids
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780544815193

Synopsis:
"All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn't have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace's mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on."
(Source: Goodreads)



What was the first book that made you feel represented as a marginalized person?

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

[Review] Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer: Grief and Photography

In LETTERS TO THE LOST, Declan finds the letter Juliet writes to her late mom at the cemetery and they become unlikely pen pals.

What intrigued me: I've been in the mood for more mixed format books.

Super sad and depressing

LETTERS TO THE LOST is a very heartbreaking book. Kemmerer showcases her advanced skills through giving this book a so, so, so, so depressingly sad tone. This wasn't really my thing - I don't like books that deal majorly with grief, but that doesn't mean LETTERS TO THE LOST is a bad book and you shouldn't pick it up. Kemmerer is an extremely talented writer, this story flows beautifully, if very slowly paced, and the prose is breathtaking. The dual POV is executed wonderfully with the protagonists Declan and Juliet having two very distinct voices.

The back story, however? I struggled, I gotta admit. LETTERS TO THE LOST is too over the top for me, full of cliches, domestic abuse, melodrama, and I just don't like these types of books. Both Declan and Juliet do nothing but indulge in their sadness and it's not varied enough to make for a compelling narrative for me. I couldn't swoon over their relationship or find any joy in following their stories because there's just nothing but dealing with grief in this. Again, very, very subjective.

Wildly Inappropriate Refugee Comparisons

LETTERS TO THE LOST starts every chapter with a letter from either Declan or Juliet. Very frequently Juliet describes pictures her photographer mom took to him, usually of suffering or starving children in the Middle East and comparing herself to them, saying she understands their pain because her mom died. And I just - no. It's even worse considering that these are pretty much the only relevant characters of color in the story. There's a black family that's mentioned in passing, but the only non-white representation in this comes in the form of starving refugee children. This is so wildly inappropriate and offensive that I'm honestly speechless. You'd have her describe a picture of a little brown girl that's on the brink of starvation and has a vulture circling around her, and Juliet will say, yes, I relate to this. Oh my god.

I... I don't even. It's not like these are integral to the plot, this is absolutely redundant and very much cheapens this story. I usually would've given this book three stars, despite it not being my thing at all, it's well-written and will entertain and delight a lot of people - but this specific aspect made me sick to my stomach. I've informed the publisher and will be adding the missing star and revising my review if this is changed in the final version.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

LETTERS TO THE LOST is a very You've Got Mail kind of story mixed with grief and sadness. If you're looking for a love story like I was, you might not enjoy this. The extremely inappropriate comparisons to refugee children left a bitter taste in my mouth that severely impacted my reading experience as well.

Trigger warning: blood, (domestic) violence, abuse, guns, war



Additional Info

Published: April 6th 2017
Pages: 400
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781408883525

Synopsis:
"Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. 

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. 

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet. "
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite mixed format book?

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

[Review] The One Memory of Flora Banks - Emily Barr: No Short Term Memory and Romanticization

In THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS, Flora has no short term memory but when she kisses her best friend's boyfriend, the memory somehow seems to stick.

What intrigued me: I love the movie Memento.

Compelling story and interesting concept

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS is unlike anything I've ever read. Barr uses the premise cleverly to establish a compelling story. In some parts it gets a little repetitive because Flora constantly needs to be reminded of basic info about herself. Paired with the writing that feels very Middle Grade, it's certainly not the right pick for everyone.

What I cherished the most about THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS is that each scene works as a standalone. You could basically start reading anywhere and still have no issue following the story. The unreliable narration aspect is surely the most enjoyable and unique thing about this novel.

But at the end of the day I just have tremendous problems with the story that I just cannot overlook. I would've loved THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS if it wouldn't venture into the dangerous territory of romanticization. Had the memory just been something else. Sigh.

Insensitive and romanticizing

As someone with a chronic illness that does affect their memory, I just have to make remarks about the problematicness of this narrative. The whole premise of Flora remembering nothing since the accident that left her without a short term memory but then suddenly falling in love with a boy and getting cured...? Oh hell no. 

Flora even says this herself that Drake's kiss "healed" her brain. This is exactly where THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS ventures into difficult and problematic territory. I stopped identifying with Flora's story the second it became about the boy. Barr deeply romanticizes her illness, suggesting that love is all she needs to be "normal". Being neurotypical is the desired goal here and THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS more than just once clearly states that Flora's illness is something that has to be overcome and a hinderance. While I understand that she thinks like this to some degree, Barr doesn't try to open a dialogue about this.

Flora is constantly portrayed as a weird outsider that has no chance of ever being like her peers. The antagonist of the story is Flora's illness. And this is just so damaging, so unnecessary. THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS uses her illness as a gimmick to tell an ~edgy~ story instead of even remotely considering that there are people out there who are affected with similar illnesses. It's insensitive. Very much unapologetically so and I just can't condone this, I just can't ignore all this and rate this based on the entertainment factor. Chronically ill people are not your gimmick. We are not your edgy premise.



Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS isn't a story for chronically-ill people or anyone who struggles with serious memory problems. At no point does it try to give representation to sick people - it only wants to give healthy people an edgy premise to be entertained by. I found it very insensitive and offensive as someone with serious memory problems due to chronic illness. Can we just stop pretending falling in love cures all illnesses?



Additional Info

Published: 12th January 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780141368511

Synopsis:
"Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words "be brave" inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway—the land of the midnight sun—determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must "be brave" if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you ever read books with unreliable narrators?

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

[Review] I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson: Twins and Grief

In I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN twins Noah and Jude tell the story of their lives before and after their mother's death.

What intrigued me: I felt like reading some contemporary.

Feels more magical than Contemporary

The biggest problem I had with I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN starts right in the beginning. It's the prose. Nelson has an overly ambitious super flowery writing style that is filled with metaphors so creative that I struggled to understand whether things were literally happening or simply metaphors. It's that apparent. I was a little disappointed to realize that this isn't a Magical Realism novel but a straight up Contemporary that just overdosed on the metaphors. With this writing style Nelson certainly would be able to pull of a magnificent book with magical elements, but I digress.

The main problem I had with I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is the concept. One POV follows thirteen year-old Noah, a gay teen that's struggling with his sexuality and wanting to get into art school. First of all - his voice is way too young for YA. Would this be a Middle Grade Contemporary it would've been way easier to stomach, but combined with having the extremely long chapters alternate between 16-year-old Jude three years later and him, it's just too much of a stretch for my taste. 

POVs don't fit together

I also think that beyond this concept, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN doesn't have premise or even just a plot. Nothing of importance happens and Nelson very heavily relies on her flowery writing to carry the almost train-of-thought-esque narration. I just couldn't be bothered, the fact that I really disliked Noah's extremely young voice in combination with Jude's that feels more like traditional YA, it threw me off a lot and made reading this equal a chore. I hated Noah's chapters so much that I found myself skimming through them sometimes just to get to Jude. 

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN would've been so much better as a duology with aged up characters. Had Noah been a little older, only a year or two, and had he gotten his own book this could've been epic. Considering the length of I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN I just couldn't be bothered to stay enthusiastic throughout the whole thing because there is nothing in this book that warrants the length. It severely lacks in plot and therefore just fell absolutely flat for me, despite being the work of an exceptionally talented writer.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is a classic it's not you, it's me novel. I really disliked everything about it, but is hardly an objective judgment of the style and writing. Nelson is a talented writer, but her style just isn't for me.



Additional Info

Published: 21st November 2016
Pages: 480
Publisher: cbt
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 978-3-570-16459-4

Synopsis:
"Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world."
(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read any books by Jandy Nelson?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Recommendation: Another Day (Every Day #2) - David Levithan: Totally Works as a Standalone





In ANOTHER DAY, Rhiannon meets A, who takes over a new stranger's body every day, when they take over her boyfriend Justin's body and spend a magical day with her.

What intrigued me: EVERY DAY (the first) is my favorite book.

More companion than sequel

I was very skeptical when I heard that my favorite book was getting a companion novel. I'm never a fan of those and I think they're usually just quickly written ways to cash in on an exhausted concept. But ANOTHER DAY surely doesn't do that. 

As with all companion novels, you don't have to read the preceding one to understand and fully enjoy this. I'd even recommend that you start with this one if you've never heard of the series, because it easily trumps EVERY DAY.

Rhiannon's narration is poetic, beautiful, and just impeccable. Levithan is without a doubt my favorite YA writer ever, simply because every single one of the sentences he writes effortlessly holds so much meaning that you sometimes just have to put the book down and think. If you've read EVERY DAY, you do not have to expect getting the exact same scenes, just flip side. 

Truly a magical, gut-wrenching romance story 

Levithan manages to charmingly tell the same story, but different. It's hard to explain, Rhiannon's narrative voice is nothing like A's and the story has a completely different tone. It reads like a regular contemporary novel about a girl in an abusive relationship, with almost magical realism - like elements, in form of A coming into her life, always in a different body. ANOTHER DAY truly reads like a modern day fairy tale, a magical story with A being Rhiannon's guardian angel. 

It's absolutely fascinating to get the feeling like it completes the first novel, finding out about the other perspective. I never really understood Rhiannon and cared for her as much as A, and in a sense, ANOTHER DAY is packed with emotional scenes and gut-wrenchingly adorable romance where is EVERY DAY still stuck explaining the concept of A's special ability.
Just trust me, it's worth it.

Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ANOTHER DAY is just a fantastic story. From the immaculate voice to the magic of A's and Rhiannon's dynamic, fans of EVERY DAY won't disappointed. It's without a doubt the best contemporary I've encountered so far.



Additional Info

Published: August 25th 2015
Pages: 327
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780385756204
Sequel to: EVERY DAY 

Synopsis:
"Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all."(Source: Goodreads)

Do you like David Levithan's books?

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Recommendation: Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler: Marriage and Greencards

In VINEGAR GIRL, Kate's scientist father is trying to set her up with his lab assisstant Pyotr so he doesn't get deported.

What intrigued me: The Taming of the Shrew is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.

Quiet and Hilarious

VINEGAR GIRL is part of a series of retellings originally published by Hogarth Shakespeare. It very clearly is inspired by Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, though you don't have to be familiar with the original or even like it to enjoy this. VINEGAR GIRL is a clever and entertaining story that can easily stand on its own because of the brilliantly original characters and storyline. Especially the dialogue is so flat-out hilarious that I'm so enamoured and will definitely pick up more of Tyler's books.

VINEGAR GIRL is a quiet story at the core but has its funny moments that were ultimately the reason why I had such a great reading experience. A little over 200 pages this is quite a short novel but Tyler doesn't rush through the storyline.


Brilliant original characters

I fell in love with every single character. From the starry-eyed protagonist Kate, her naive sister Bunny, to the dorky love interest Pyotr. They're all people I have surely never read about before and this truly makes for such an interesting dynamic.

VINEGAR GIRL isn't a romance per se, if you're looking for swooniness and romance this isn't the right pick. Pyotr and Kate don't necessarily fall head over heels for each other, I'm not even sure if I'd even call this a romance. Nonetheless the story is just so fascinating and fun to read, simply because of the fantastic cast of characters and the fun dynamics.


Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

VINEGAR GIRL is the surprise of the year for me. A must-read for everyone who loves The Taming of the Shrew and everyone who'd like a retelling with a different spin on the classic play!



Additional Info

Published: 11th October 2016
Pages: 224
Publisher: Knaus
Genre: Adult / Contemporary
ISBN: 978-3-8135-0655-6

Synopsis:
"Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.  

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?"(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read The Taming of the Shrew?

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recommendation: Paperweight - Meg Haston: Eating Disorders and Treatment Centers


In PAPERWEIGHT, Stevie's dad signs her up for sixty days of treatment for her eating disorder. But she plans to be dead by the twenty-seventh day, the day of her anniversary that she killed her brother.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for a dark read.

Brutally Honest

PAPERWEIGHT is neither a light, nor happy-go-lucky type of story. It's a brutally honest story of a girl with an eating disorder. It's a raw emotional journey to read this and if you're looking for a thrilling read with plot twists or even a side of epic romance, this is the wrong pick. It's a minimalist story that's hard to read because it's so unapologetic. PAPERWEIGHT is a story that deserves to be read, but certainly won't be for everyone.

PAPERWEIGHT absolutely isn't romanticizing anything. If at all, it's doing the exact opposite. There are no euphemisms, no glorification, it's absolutely clear to the reader at all times that what Stevie is doing is wrong, that her motives are irrelevant, and that her experience isn't pleasant in the slightest. She isn't the most likeable protagonist, but that contributes to the credibility of the story and Stevie's actions. PAPERWEIGHT wants to make you uncomfortable and that's part of why I loved it so much.

Refreshing and Real

Stevie's narration alternates between her days in the clinic and her treatment with therapist Anna, and the past, through which we learn more about her family. The therapist plays a vital role in PAPERWEIGHT which I found refreshing. The present storyline is very straightforward and minimalist, but filled with fantastically well-developed side characters that absolutely make up for the lack of thrilling action. What had me clinging to the pages the most are actually the flashbacks and solving the mystery surrounding Stevie's brother and her best friend Eden, for whom Stevie developed more than just platonic feelings.

There are so many refreshing things about PAPERWEIGHT, at no point you'll feel like this story is told to influence the reader, to make them like the protagonist or to add any unnecessary drama to the story. It almost reads like an autobiography, which is even more admirable when you read the author's bio and realize that this an #ownvoices novel by someone who has first-hand experience with eating disorders. 

If you want an honest read that chronicles mental illness the way it is, read PAPERWEIGHT.
If you struggle to understand eating disorders and learn more about them, read PAPERWEIGHT.
If you want a dark literary read and want to be emotionally invested, read PAPERWEIGHT.




Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

PAPERWEIGHT is a brutally honest and fantastic novel that chronicles the story of a girl with anorexia. If you want to learn about anorexia or love YA that's on the darker side, PAPERWEIGHT is the perfect pick. A total page-turner.

Proceed with caution if you plan on picking this novel up, PAPERWEIGHT may be a very triggering read for anyone who has/has had first-hand experience with an eating disorder and/or self harm. 

Highlight following text for a full list of trigger warnings and possible triggering content:

alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, cutting, death, eating disorders, PTSD, self harm/self mutilation, suicidal thoughts, suicide



Additional Info

Published: July 13th 2015
Pages: 320
Publisher: Thienemann
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9783522202152

Synopsis:
"Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.(Source: Goodreads)


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Saturday, October 8, 2016

[Review] Holding Up the Universe - Jennifer Niven: Obesity and Prosopagnosia




In HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE, the world's fattest teen Libby, and Jack, who lives with prosopagnosia are sent to group counselling and community service.

What intrigued me: I was curious about Niven's books. The premise didn't necessarily pique my interest, I would've picked anything she'd release next.


Extraordinary writing and voice

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE certainly does bring a breath of fresh air into the genre with it's incredibly unique characters. From page 1 Niven is absolutely able to suck you into the story, to make you hear the characters' voices. 

She has an extraordinary feel for making characters speak aloud inside your head and make you forget that you are reading a fictional story, which undoubtedly shows that Niven is an insanely talented writer. However, it's the topic of choice that absolutely negates all of that for me and makes me disregard it almost completely when reviewing this.

Sensitivity is a necessity when you tell the stories of marginalized people.

When writing about marginalized identities, you have to be extra careful. There's just something about the tone of Niven's voice that irks me and makes me feel uncomfortable. HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE is told from the dual perspective of two teens who are obese and suffering from prosopagnosia (an illness that makes you unable to recognize faces) respectively. 

And both teens express extreme hatred towards themselves and their lives. Especially when you're including multiple teens who derive from "the norm", you shouldn't make them all hate themselves. This isn't how positivity works, this isn't the representation marginalized people are asking for. This story wasn't written for people who are obese or have prosopagnosia. 

All HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE is teaching readers and teens who might live with the same illness that they should hate themselves. That they can only be loved by someone who is ill, too, if at all. I'm sure this isn't the intention, certainly not what Niven's trying to say, but this is exactly why it's so important to be nuanced and incredibly careful when tackling very real topics that affect real lives. 

In fact, I do think that to some extent this story (of course) is told for the shock value. It's oozing from the language Niven chooses to let their characters describe themselves. But I think we need to move past that. Stop telling the stories of marginalized people because it's shocking or seeminlgy "innovative". Start telling the stories of people who happen to be marginalized instead. HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE certainly does not belong to the latter.

Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE simply makes me uncomfortable. I couldn't enjoy the story, despite very skillfull writing and strong character voices, which I usually applaud authors for. If the topic was approached with more sensitivity, this could have the potential to become a fantastic masterpiece, but for me it absolutely falls flat the way it is and disappoints.



Additional Info

Published: October 4th 2016
Pages: 400
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN:  9780385755924

Synopsis:
"Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.  

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. 
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours."(Source: Goodreads)

How do you feel about fat/mentally-ill characters for shock value?

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Recommendation: Apple and Rain - Sarah Crossan: Long-lost Siblings and Absent Moms

In APPLE AND RAIN, Apple's mother Annie comes back after 11 years out of the blue and brings a sibling with her.

What intrigued me: I loved ONE by Sarah Crossan and wanted to read more by her.

Genre-defying and Brilliantly Lucid

APPLE AND RAIN is very difficult to pinpoint. It's a little bit literary, it's a coming-of-age story, it's a drama, it's a little bit of a romance. To me it's genre-defying. You'd think it wouldn't work to mix all those things into a book, but strangely, it does. 

Crossan separates the novel into different parts which describe different aspects of Apple's coming-of-age journey. Some characters are more important in one part than the other as protagonist Apple goes through massive character development that's painstakingly obvious as she gets pushed out of her comfort zone more and more, and admirably manages to adapt. 

Apple is such a lovely character that you simply have to grow attached to. Crossan uses very simple language that feels very Middle Grade. It's filled with such brilliantly lucid thought processes and complicated ideas and concepts that it transcends the simplistic writing and yet again manages to come across as convincingly and essentially YA.

Poetry plays a huge role in Apple's life and there are little poems penned by her spread throughout the novel and intervowen with the story. You have to be a fan of poetry to enjoy those of course, but it does help that Crossan is an incredibly gifted poet, which is the most apparent in her latest novel ONE, written in verse, (glowing recommendation!) but also in APPLE AND RAIN. She tells this story with such authenticity and vulnerability that you can't help but grow attached and the poems beautifully highlight that.

Unpredictable and Addicting

Apple's mother Annie deserves an honorary mention. She's this young-at-heart rebel-turned-aspiring actress who's too cool for school and just feels like a recipe for disaster. This is a type of character that I'd love to see more often in YA, a parent who's still more child than mother/father.

Apple's and her dynamic very much feels reversed considering a classic mother/daughter relationship, which in turn makes a delightfully different read. Even neighbor Dell, who likes to wear pink and carry bags with mermaids on them; all of the characters feel like people that I haven't seen in YA before and it makes me so happy. Crossan really defies from the norm and surprises with fresh, fantastically unique characters. I loved them all dearly.

Everything about APPLE AND RAIN feels delightfully different. From the story, to the path the narration follows, to the structure - I did struggle a bit in the beginning, considering Crossan didn't build this on a classic dramatic structure you'd expect from novels in this genre. It's truly defying all narration tropes you'd expect and I love that. It's fresh, it's unpredictable, it's addicting. It's definitely something fun if you want to read a contemporary with its own spin on the genre.


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

APPLE AND RAIN is so smart and poetic, while never ceasing to make me laugh. Crossan is a very gifted writer and slowly rising to become one of my all-time contemporary favorites.



Additional Info

Published: 22nd August 2016
Pages: 330
Publisher: cbt
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 978-3-570-16400-6

Synopsis:
"When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

A story about sad endings.
A story about happy beginnings.
A story to make you realise who is special.
 "(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books by Sarah Crossan?

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