Book Talk: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich // My Halloween Read

Book Talk: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich // My Halloween ReadThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on September 2015
Genres: YA Horror, YA Mystery, YA Thriller
Format: ARC
Source: BEA

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!




Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”



I don’t want to say too much but it is about: a reopened case about a suspicious fire at a school 20 years prior, a discovered diary that talks about the tragic night , a girl who claims she really is two people (Carly who lives in the day, Kaitlyn who lives at night), the people who believe her and the people who don’t,  a disappearance and a sinister dark house — all told by a mishmash of diary entries, police interview transcripts, video transcripts, notes and more!


a4Wow, I could NOT put it down. Reminded me of how I loved horror and stuff like this as a teen. Everything was so interesting to me and the mystery thrilled me, I loved the format and, while not scary, the creepy & sinister vibe was totally rocking my world. And then things at the ending happened (the ending itself + some parts really started dragging) and I don’t know how I feel it. I’ll get to that in a spoiler section further below but first we will get to the good.

Here’s what kept me reading on the edge of my seat:

1. The format: I love interesting and unique storytelling and especially when it integrates visual stuff. The book was told in diary entries, police reports, transcripts of video footage, interviews with various characters with the police. The diary entries definitely added to how I felt reading the story because we are in Kaitlyn’s head and I felt just as paranoid and trapped as her.  Having all these things helped put me in the story as if I were trying to figure out the mystery myself. I was pouring over all the evidence.


2. The way the mystery kept me flip-flopping what I thought was going on the whole time: So the main character Carly? For as long as she can remember she has had another soul in her, named Kaitlyn, and Carly exists in the day and then at night they switch and Kaitlyn lives. So, as a reader, it’s like okay — does she have this dissociative disorder in which she her mind has created this alter ego like her therapist thinks plus maybe some other underlying mental disorders? Or is there something evil going on inside her? Is everything she says real? Is it not? The unreliability of Kaitlyn/Carly adds to the flip-flopping I did plus some of the other characters seemed a bit unreliable as well. Is it all in her head or is something happening? Because if everything was really true than WOWSER some truly sinister stuff. Did she have the disorder or not? What happened to make her create Kaitlyn and why has she said she was always there? THERE WAS JUST SO MUCH TO COMB THROUGH WITH THIS MYSTERY. I kept doubting my instincts. I’d start to believe something but then doubt it all.


So now it’s time to talk about where some things fell apart for me but it’s all spoilers soooo:

View Spoiler »



factors+ the plot, the storytelling, how it kept me engaged & on the edge of my seat
–  the ending, romance

Re-readability: No, though I’d be tempted to reread the beginning to see if anything makes more sense to fill in some holes
Would I buy a copy for my collection? No

a5people who like interesting storytelling, fans of horror/psychological thriller type books, people who like a good mindf*ck

a8The Dead House was just what I needed for my Halloween reading — creepy, dark and sinister (wish it had been a little scarier) and unique storytelling that really hooked me and made me eager to put together the pieces from the diary entries, video transcripts, interviews and police reports. A compelling book but I’m still really unsure about how I feel about the ending which definitely was a minor buzzkill to my overall feelings toward the book.

review-on-post-itThe Dead House


a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?



The Perpetual Page-Turner

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr | Book Review

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr | Book ReviewThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on May 2013
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Sweethearts, The Running Dream, Story of A Girl
Format: ARC
Source: For Review

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!





book synopsis Lucy, before the age of 14, was already well on her way to becoming a famous concert pianist and was already widely followed. Until one day when Lucy decides to quit — an act that her family still can’t even get over after some time has passed and Lucy is now 16. She struggles with their resentment and watch her family put all the pressure on her younger brother’s career but also adjusting to life as being a normal teenager — going to school, having normal relationships etc. There’s also the fact she still loves music but she needs to work out how she can play for herself without being in that world and her brother’s new piano teacher, Will, may be just the one to help her figure it out.

good books to readThis pains me to write because I had such a great experience with Sara Zarr’s Sweethearts but The Lucy Variations just never took off for me. It’s not that I disliked it. I just didn’t love it or really feel much for it at all. There were moments that captivated me with this book but that’s about all they were — moments. I will admit that this had been my gym read and I forgot about it for a few months when I stopped going to the gym and started another workout routine so some of my feelings may be because I took off some time from it before I finished it.

The premise itself was really interesting to me — a former piano prodigy gives it all up and struggles with a life that involves being a normal teen and the family who resents her for quitting. There were a lot of interesting dynamics in this one like Lucy’s family building their life around this competitive piano playing, Lucy’s penchant for being into guys who are older and not appropriate crushes to have per se (aka teachers) and obviously Lucy trying to reconcile where her love for piano can fit into her life on her own terms now that she’s given up her career. There was also the scandal surrounding her LEAVING that world, her brother’s new piano teacher and friends who have to deal with her transitioning.  The THINGS were there to make this a great one for me!

On the surface it did make it a compelling read for me, I was generally fascinated (and appalled) by Lucy and her family. Seriously her family is the worst and Lucy isn’t too far behind them. I even was intrigued by this relationship that Lucy began to have with her brother’s teacher. It was kind of provocative and I wondered where Zarr was going to go with it as soon as there were some seeds planted and I appreciated the fact I felt uncomfortable while reading it. I thought it was handled well.  I also, despite not really feeling much for Lucy, was kind of interested in how she would reconcile her love for piano.

But the thing that just didn’t make this novel what it could have been for me was the characters. And it’s not even that most of them were dislikeable or awful but it’s that I didn’t feel like they were full of life which was a bummer for me considering how I know Sara Zarr can write really full characters. I felt nothing for any of them really. On the surface they were all pretty interesting characters but there was some disconnect in making me feel like I should care and that they were more than who we were told they were. I didn’t feel like I really got to know anyone besides Lucy despite it being 3rd person.

I think, despite this not being the best Sara Zarr for me, that there are still a lot of redeemable things about it especially the writing and the readability once you get really into it and I have no doubt there are plenty of readers who loved this and will love it. Something just went amiss for me personally.

book reviewsI hate that I didn’t love this. The THINGS were there to make this a great one and there were super compelling elements but it just hovered around the “that was alright but I don’t feel much about it” mark as I finished. The writing was high quality though just wished I didn’t feel such a disconnect with the characters. I knew them because of what I was told of them but I didn’t FEEL them. Maybe it was the 3rd person narrative which only really followed Lucy? I don’t typically have a problem with 3rd person so who knows!

short book reviewSara Zarr's The Lucy Variations review

books you may also likeVirtuosity by Jessica Martinez , Bunheads by Sophie Flack,

for-fans-of-bookstories about talented YA’s, family dynamic issues explored, realistic YA fiction, music especially classical, really well written YA realistic fiction

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Did you enjoy it more or less than I did? What did you think of the whole Will thing? Which Zarr novel should I tackle next?
The Perpetual Page-Turner



Hate List by Jennifer Brown | Book Review

Hate List by Jennifer Brown | Book ReviewHate List by Jennifer Brown
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on 2009
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Thousand Words
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought






Valerie and her boyfriend Nick are a bit of outcasts at their school and they’d been writing a hate list full of people and things they hated in order to vent about it. Until one day five months ago, when Nick used that hate list as a target list in a deadly school shooting in the cafeteria. While Valerie tried to stop him as the event unfolded, and even saved a girl’s life, she’s been blamed for being just as much a part of this as Nick because she helped write the list. As the school year begins, Valerie is forced to go back to school with the peers who think she is guilty and the memories of what happened all while she tries to reconcile her role in all of this, the strained relationships between friends/family and the complicated feelings she has towards Nick.


This is my second Jennifer Brown book, the first being Thousand Words, and I do declare that Jennifer Brown is one the best when it comes to tackling tough, relevant issues in YA especially after reading Hate List. They are incredibly realistic, feel genuine and not at ALL preachy. There’s always room to think with her books and I LOVE that about them. I thought Hate List was better for me personally between the two I’ve read so far and that mostly is because I really found a strong connection to Valerie and I found myself just absorbed wholly into this story as it was super powerful and incredibly evocative.

I read this book at a strange time though personally as this story mirrored a situation going on with my nephew and his girlfriend. He is going through an angry phase and his girl friend is a very, very angry girl and there was a list written similar to this. Luckily, this situation has been taken care of but it made the predicament in the book all the more real. You look at something like a “hate list” and you have to wonder — is this just kids being angry but harmless or is it something more? In this day you can’t really look the other way.

That’s the sort of situation Valerie, the MC, found herself in. She and her boyfriend were writing this hate list as a way to vent about the people that were mean to them/that they couldn’t stand but it took on a whole new meaning for her boyfriend. What she thought was relatively innocent ended up not being so much and she had to deal with that in the aftermath — deal with that she contributed to this. This is where Hate List really soared. Jennifer Brown made me FEEL so conflicted about Valerie’s role and also understand why Valerie herself feels so conflicted as to what her role is in all of this. Is she a hero? Is she just as much to blame as her boyfriend who did the shooting?

I just can’t get over how realistic this book felt — how Valerie felt about going back to school, how her peers treated her, how even though people were changed it went back to normal in ways, how she still had so much love for Nick even after what he did, how it impacted her family (also: her dad is douche), how she felt conflicted about her role, the guilt she had etc. Sometimes with “issue-y” books, which I do love, I have the problem where I don’t feel like the characters are real and genuine and the issue itself takes precedence of the story but Hate List by Jennifer Brown did NOT have that problem. I loved how round the characters felt — even Nick. I LOVED her psychologist. I just wanted to hug him.


This story isn’t about a school shooting but rather the aftermath of the event on the shooter’s girlfriend, Valerie, who unknowingly had a had in it. It balances the glimpses from that day and the past with the very present reality. It’s a GREAT book — very powerful, emotional (yeah I cried), makes you feel conflicted at times and is very thought provoking. If you like books that tackle tough, relevant issues — definitely pick this up! I loved the way the story was told and I was so immersed in Valerie’s unique story.


Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you’ve read it? Have you read any other Jennifer Brown novels? Have you read any books that tackle school shootings in any capacity? I think this was my first one!



What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton | Book Review

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton | Book ReviewWhat Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers, Poppy on October 2012
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed




Cassidy, known to everyone as Sid, is on a ski club trip with her two best friends when she meets a charming guy who invites her to his house for a party. She sneaks out to go to the party, without her friends who didn’t approve, and finds her way to his house. The next thing she knows is that she has woken up in this house and can’t remember anything from the night and quickly realizes that this guy stole something from her that she can’t get back. Reeling from the aftermath of this incident, she comes home and decides to stay silent about what happened. She withdrawals from her friends, starts running a lot, drops her advanced classes and takes the only available activity for credits at that time in the A/V room with Corey — a guy she knows to be a complete stoner. An unexpected friendship, and maybe even more, blossoms between them that makes her feel alive again as she tries to ignore what happened to her.

Wow! What a recommendation from Estelle! What Happens Next is definitely a book I’m surprised more people haven’t read! It was incredibly powerful and highly affective though not entirely perfect, in my eyes, with how some of the things were dealt with. It deals with a heartbreaking scenario that happens way more than we probably even know — Sid wakes up remembering nothing that happened after hanging out with a guy she met on the slopes until she realizes one thing that did happen — something she could never get back. What Happens Next deals with the aftermath of that and how she copes with this secret silently. She acts different towards people in her life and pushes them away, starts running A LOT and drops her college prep classes but, on the surface, she still very much is the same Sid. I felt like the portrayal of her dealing with this (and NOT dealing with it) and all the hurt she harbored was very realistic — she tried to push it away and ignore it but eventually she had to deal with it. I just wanted to hug her so much and kept silently pleading with her to tell someone.

The thing that made me LOVE this book was Sid herself. She is a great character that I felt like just leapt off the page. She was hilarious and strong yet I could feel those insecurities she had. I feel like, before I started this book, I thought it was going to be a really dark, serious book and, while it tackled such a topic, there was so much lightness and vibrancy in this novel because of who Sid is and the hope you could feel even in the aftermath of this horrible event. She had so much resiliency in her and you could feel it but I also could feel those gut dropping moments when you’ve almost forget it happened because you are happy and it comes rushing back. The character of Sid was written perfectly and makes this novel stick with me. Her pain was as real as her.

Also, I really need to point out 2 things — I loved the great family portrayed in this and I loved the friendship of Corey. Corey is one guy I didn’t expect to swoon over and TOTALLY did. His friendship was so important, I think, to anchor her at least a little bit and their romance came as one of those slow burn, I-TOTALLY-BELIEVE-THIS kind of romances. I loved how his relationship factored in but it didn’t overshadow Sid’s growth — she did the hard work but had great support.

I will say I was a little disappointed with how one of the issues was tackled/wrapped up. There were a lot of things that happened as a result of what happened that night and a number of, on the verge of overwhelming, threads that emerged and one of those centered around an eating disorder. It wasn’t developed a lot, like I said there was a lot going on, and I just felt this nagging sense when I finished that I didn’t completely love how it seemed like she just STOPPED doing it. Just a minor issue in my mind while reading but worthy of note because I just felt like it wasn’t super developed at all.

At first I wasn’t sure if I liked how neatly things seemed to wrap up but ultimately I decided that I know this story is just a small piece of this event and wasn’t about the healing aspect but rather the admittance that it occurred and coming to terms with what happened so the healing can begin.

I bawled through the last few pages of What Happens Next — this emotional surge that had been building up from the beginning to the end overtook me and the dam was able to burst forth with my tears. It tackles a really difficult subject brilliantly and Sid is a character who shines. Really, really shines. In the midst of a story that could, at first glance, seem to be a complete downer there is resiliency and strength in a character who is so vibrant and funny you can’t not care and flawless slowburn romance that will light your heart on fire but not distract you from Sid’s journey to come to terms with what happened so healing can come.

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton book review


Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think of it if you have read it? Did you LOVE Sid like I did?? How did you feel about Corey and Sid? How did you feel about how the subject was portrayed? Also, I’d love for some other recommendations for books that tackle date rape/rape well.


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick | Book Review

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew QuickBook Title/Author: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
: August 13th 2013 – Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary YA – Realistic Teen Fiction
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Silver Linings Playbook, Sorta Like A Rock Star, Boy21

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!




Leonard Peacock wakes up on his 18th birthday with a plan to kill his former best friend and then take his own life. Before he does that he spends the day giving gifts to the four important people in his life — his elderly neighbor, his teacher, a girl he met handing out religious tracts and a boy from his school. He slowly reveals his story and what has happened to get him to this day as he counts down the hours until he will pull the trigger.

This was definitely an interesting, powerful novel! Pretty heavy as we are following a narrator who has revealed right from the start that his plan for the day is to kill his former best friend and then himself. That alone definitely got my attention — like WAIT WHAT? PUT DOWN THE GUN, KID. We don’t know the reason why he is going to kill this boy but everything is slowly revealed throughout the day as we follow him say goodbye and deliver gifts to four people who have seemed to really make an impact on him. As the story unraveled and the motive was revealed, my heart broke for all the Leonard Peacocks of the world.

Have you ever had an experience following a character that is just so unsettling for most of it that you have to take breaks? This was my experience with Leonard Peacock. It’s just a strange experience to be following a main character who wants to kill someone and then kill himself. On top of that, you can just feel the pain of Leonard Peacock just emanating from the pages. He’s so lonely and pushed off to the side that it just hurt my heart. But at the same time you just feel some inner rage that he thinks this is the answer. But then you feel so badly for him again.  I was just so scared the whole time — like wanting to plead with him NOT to do it. I was pretty unsure about what was going to happen until I got to a certain point.

What made this book so powerful and raw was Leonard. I felt this cloud of sadness just settle around me for a good chunk of this novel. His story is so, so devastatingly sad and I wanted to just hug him hard and buy him a cake for his birthday. His voice was incredibly memorable with the way it made me feel a weight in my heart like really sad songs or the way his pain was just so visible like a painting on a canvas.

It’s definitely a bit of a slower novel as it takes place in one day and most of the day he is meeting with these four characters who have impacted his life in some way and revealing a lot about his life and why these people have been deemed important to him. Despite the fact it’s a bit of a slower novel, it’s so emotionally charged because you can feel his state of mind and you are kind of reading in a sort of flinched manner with your hands over your eyes but peeking through to read it. You are just waiting to see if he is going to pull the trigger all while reading Leonard’s really painful story. SO INTENSE.

My one and only complaint that I remember thinking that, at times, some of the other characters seemed a little bit like caricatures. I did really love his elderly neighbor and the teacher though! ALSO, I don’t know what the finished copies or ebooks will be like, but I read an e-galley and there are footnotes in this novel that I didn’t see until the END. I did read them after and I felt like they would have distracted me with their length but some were actually important. I think maybe something I didn’t see coming was said in one of those footnotes so MAYBE his motive won’t seem as shocking because it seemed to hint to it.

Also, hip hip hooray for a novel set in my area again — Philly!


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was definitely an unsettling, raw kind of book that made me think twice. Leonard Peacock is a voice that you won’t soon forget as the voices of thousands of Leonard Peacocks resound all around us. The unraveling of the pain that Leonard held so tight, a deep pain that would motivate him to want to kill someone and then end his own life, made my heart so, so heavy. I closed the pages ultimately with hope and it made me think a lot about our interactions with people that we may think are meaningless.


Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? If you’ve read it what did you think? Who was your favorite of the four characters he gave gifts to? Did you find it hard to read? Anyone else think it would be a great book club pick?


Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Book Title/Author: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Publisher/Year: Little Brown 2008
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: How To Save A Life, Story Of A Girl, Once Was Lost

Amazon| Goodreads |Sara Zarr’s Website

Got this little beaut at the library!





Jennifer Harris used to be THAT girl in school — the one that always got made fun of and who was a complete social outcast. Her best friend, Cameron, was her one and only friend in school so when Cameron disappears randomly so does the old Jennifer. Fast forward a little bit and once social outcast Jennifer is now pretty and popular, well-liked Jenna who has a boyfriend — something she thought she’d never have.  On the outside she may have changed but on the inside she still hurts from Cameron’s disappearance so when Cameron mysteriously reappears in her life it hits her hard and she has a hard time reconciling her old self that Cameron knew versus who she has become.

I am definitely a new found Sara Zarr fan! This was just straight-up excellent contemporary YA. It’s not flashy or trying too hard — it’s incredibly authentic and sweet yet tells the really heartbreaking story of two friends who share a whole lot more than just your typical elementary bffs type memories.

I instantly fell in love with Jennifer and also Cameron. Their relationship as kids was just so beautiful and pure — they had a friendship that was so strong because everyone else rejected them. I felt so badly for them but loved that they had each other. And when the book fast forwards to “Jenna” I really loved her too. Zarr really wrote her in a way that you could totally understand her desire to change who she was and get a fresh start but you could feel that deep conflict in her soul where Jennifer and Jenna warred — with Cameron, who accepted Jennifer, being at the heart of it. Zarr creates some really well developed characters in this novel that felt incredibly realistic. And Cameron’s story — so sad!

The thing I loved MOST about this book was that it was a book about friendship — true friendship. Two incredibly broken people who could find solace and love in each other when they were young and again when they found each other again. I truly thought this book would be a sweet little romance and that’s not at all what I got. I feel I got something way more. It didn’t have that forced romance plot and I loved that. Their friendship ran so deep and they shared that secret and I just felt how hard it was for each one of them to deal with it on their own so when they came together again Sara Zarr just created this intense feeling of longing, confusion and unfinished business. There were so many things that were left unsaid with the two of them and I loved how you could just feel the intensity of it.

I’ll say that I personally thought the ending was quite fitting. I felt hopeful and just sad to see their story end. The ending actually did kind of surprise me just because I totally thought I’d predicted what was going to happen. I know a lot of people were wanting more resolution but I was fine without everything all tied up neatly in a bow for this story.

After only one Sara Zarr book I know I’ll be racing back to my library to pick up all of her books because she is a force to be reckoned with in the contemporary YA world. This story of a beautiful friendship was unexpected for me and touched me more deeply than I realized until I was done. The characters were just incredible & the way Sara Zarr unraveled this story and their secret  from the beginning to end was perfect.


For Fans Of: Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, Sarah Ockler


Let’s Talky Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Were you satisfied with the ending or were you wishing for more resolution? Have you read any of Sara Zarr’s other novels? Which was your favorite?


Review: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Book Title/Author: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher/Year: : Little Brown 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No!
Other Books From Author: Keeper

Amazon| Goodreads | Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Website

The Story

Told from many perspectives, I’ll Be There tells the story of how one song on a Sunday morning brought Sam & Riddle Border into Emily Bell’s life and changed their lives, and those connected to them, forever.

Sam & Riddle have grown up in a poor, unstable home with a father who drinks and doesn’t believe in doing things the way everyone else does. They bounce from home to home and never have much interaction with others as per their dad’s lifestyle. Sam is very protective of his little brother Riddle — he doesn’t talk much, he draws and some might think he’s stupid but there’s a lot more behind his quiet exterior. Emily Bell is the girl who has a normal life — a good group of friends, two loving parents, a boy that really likes her and more — but meeting Sam makes her wonder if that’s enough.

What I Thought:

This is one interesting book! I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to experience based on things I had heard but I really actually enjoyed this one. It’s so, so different from what I typically read — especially in the contemporary YA genre. It was a little quirky and really quite moving (in a non-crying way for me) and beautiful — such a testament to how we all are so interconnected and weave through one anothers lives making imprints on one another in varying degrees. I just loved the little vignettes of many people’s lives that were used to tell this story of Sam and Emily.

The storytelling itself was very interesting — the dialogue is sparse, very short sentences that pack a punch, and we are told the story in the 3rd person throughout. Through some of the book you really have to suspend your disbelief for how outrageous some of the things that happen are, how it seems like some of the situations just couldn’t get any worse but then the worst DOES happen or how things certain things just HAPPENED to work out at the right time. Definitely a little bit of a more imaginative novel so if you can get past some of the more crazy things and just enjoy some of the more dramatic parts then I think it will be enjoyed for how cinematic it is. It was certainly very action packed at times when I totally didn’t expect that from this novel. In a way it seemed like this funny little modern day fairytale — the good prevailed, the baddies were taken down in somewhat hilarious ways and mostly everyone lives happily ever after but it takes a long journey to get them there. Um, let’s talk about Bobby — that guy just couldn’t WIN and I chuckled at the ridiculousness of his demise from thinking he was Hot Stuff to him getting served a big ol’ piece of Humble Pie.

Immediately you find yourself rooting for Sam and Riddle and feel so invested in their story and willing for there to be a happy ending. You just hope they can get out from the their father’s rule so to speak. You feel your heart become happy as people who were at first wary of Sam and Riddle start to open their hearts to them. Now Emily…I didn’t really feel much for her to be honest. I felt way more for Sam, Riddle and some of the other supporting characters than I did her. I don’t know what it was about her but I just never felt compelled to care for her nor did I know what to make of her. She seemed weak and I couldn’t tell what guided her in life other than Sam when she met him. Sam & Emily’s relationship really wasn’t my cup of tea and I didn’t feel strongly about it but I really thought the relationships of Sam & Riddle and then Emily’s parents and Riddle (Sam too) were so very touching and MUCH more interesting.



My Final Thought

I really enjoyed this one. I think the thing I say the most when describing is that it is just SO different than what I seem to be reading in the YA drama. It’s kind of quirky, imaginative and undeniably a moving novel. I loved so many of the characters and their relationships (especially that of Sam & Riddle) but I’ll be honest that I didn’t GET the Sam & Emily romance. Much better relationships throughout the book. If you can suspend your disbelief amidst some of the more dramatic, over the top things that happen to the characters then I think you’ll be fine and will actually enjoy the cinematic qualities of this one! There’s really tender moments, complex relationships, some compellingly written action and, at the end of the day, it’s one of those stories of how humanity is so beautifully woven together.


For Fans Of: Imaginative contemporary stories that feel cinematic, stories in the 3rd person, moving stories but not in an obvious sob-your-brains-out kind of way.


Let’s Talky Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Did you find Emily and Sam’s relationship to be more moving than I did? Which relationship did you love the most? Favorite character? What did you think about some of the, errr, more dramatic things that happened later on in the story? Were you satisfied with the ending?


Review of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Book Title/Author: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Publisher/Year: : Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Series: No – standalone!
Other Books From AuthorFixing Delilah, Bittersweet & out in May 2013 — The Book of Broken Hearts

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Ockler’s Website

Every girl dreams of their first real romance. When Anna finally experiences this she is dying to tell her best friend Frankie. Only problem is that her new boyfriend is Frankie’s brother. A tragedy occurs before Anna and Matt can tell Frankie the truth and Anna keeps the truth hidden from everyone — especially Frankie. A year later, Anna is still holding on to her lost romance with Matt and Frankie decides that Anna is in need of a summer romance. Whilst on their summer vacation together at Zanzibar Bay, Frankie plots that for every day they are there (20) they will have a competition to see who can snag a new guy each day. Under the weight of her secret, Anna halfheartedly agrees to go along with the plan though conflicted with being true to her love for Matt.

I got interested in this book back when the whole Scroggins-was-a-douche-and-tried-to-ban-this-book-without-reading it drama llama happened. I procured a copy and so it has sat on my shelf like a lot of other books I really want to read. So this summer, as part of  my Read Backlisted Books Plan, I decided to read it. So take that Scroggins, your stupid little tirade made a lot more people interested in this book. SUCKER.

Seeing as though it was part of a banning debacle, I kept WAITING for something “bad”  or “edgy”. I was waiting. And I just didn’t really understand why this was being challenged at all. Ok, so teens drink sometimes (a pretty minimal part in this book)?? Shocking. And they sometimes have sex (SAFE SEX with a condom in this novel) and think they want to lose their V card? Really? And this is different from what teens are experiencing for real in their high schools? Different from things they are seeing on tv and the movies?  I don’t know. I’m not seeing why it’s so dirty and filthy.

I thought Twenty Boy Summer was so powerful — no light, fluffy beach reading here. That grief just gnaws at your heart throughout the book — just as you see it doing to Anna (and Frankie too obviously). The general grief and pain, Anna’s secret, the what could have beens, etc. just are written in such a way that you can’t help but feel an immense amount of sorrow. I felt the complete and utter devastation of love lost. You can feel Matt’s presence in her heart. Sarah Ockler doesn’t lose him in the novel. He’s not easily forgotten. I felt it to be very realistic portrayal of grieving and coping and trying to put back those pieces. This book was one of those where I could feel my eyes and nose starting to sting because the tears were a comin’ and I was trying to hold them back so much. It annihilated my heart. More quietly and over time than say If I Stay where I was in full out SOBBING mode. But still. Shredded. Minced. Diced. What have you. Sarah Ockler didn’t hold back on my heart. I’ll say I felt hopeful and a little bit of peace at the end but there is no reversal to this type of slaying. Certain books leave their mark like that on me.

Sarah Ockler’s writing was just perfect for me — right from the beginning as she hooked me with such a sweet, playful & innocent romance. My heart. She also nailed the setting for me. I had to look down at my pasty white skin to remind myself I was not actually enjoying their summer fun on the beach. I really connected with Anna right away and I could tell that behind the messy exterior of Frankie there was a really great character that I’d grow to love. You could just tell. She grieved her brother like my sister grieved my mom. A little more attention seeking and rebellious…and attention turned to boys. I also thought some of Frankie’s family interactions were written were just brilliant to be honest; though I was quite disappointed that they seemed SUPER oblivious to what was going on all summer. Grief is just this big ol’ elephant in the room and sometimes it decides to show itself in the strangest of ways, places and times. I could relate to it.  And the way the secret came out – HEARTWRENCHING.


Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is just one of those books that you easily get sucked into (the pain evoked experiencing a sweet love lost, the jump-off-the-pages variety of characters, the gorgeous setting, etc.) and find yourself come tumbling out of the pages hours later; bruised, tattered & with a heavy sense of something in your heart. Sarah doesn’t totally pulverize your heart as you see the beauty of friendship & family, hope,  and a new found appreciation for every day. It’s a good mix of heavy & uplifting. I do not understand AT ALL why this book was challenged. I expected something way more scandalous and promiscuous based on the title and then on the whole Wesley Scroggins thing. I will say that I’d be more likely to hand this to older teens as there is a little bit of drinking and sexual situations involved.


Young Adult Contemporary Novel Twenty Boy Summer


Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, books from Jennifer Echols, Moonglass & In Honor by Jessi Kirby, books from Sarah Dessen


Did any of you read this book? Did you agree with Scroggins assessment of it? Tell me what you thought!

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