Top Ten Characters I Love In Contemporary YA!

toptentuesssTop Ten Tuesday, as  always, is hosted at my other blog — The Broke & the Bookish

This week’s topic: Top Ten Characters I Love In X Genre (I picked contemporary YA)

 This was really hard! I have so many characters I loved for different reasons in the contemporary YA genre — some I loved their growth, some I saw a lot of myself in and some were just so darn memorable that I loved them!


ALSO: Anna and St. Clair….I can’t believe I didn’t I remember to put them on here! I FAIL AT LIFE! Seriously!
1. Mia: I loved being in Mia’s head and it was honestly one of the most memorable narratives ever. I obviously loved her in Where She Went as we got to see more of her from Adam’s perspective but If I Stay was where I just fell in love with Mia through her memories and the present when she was hanging in the balance between life and death. (Review of If I Stay by Gayle Forman)

2. Adam: Oh Adam. Adam. Adam. Adam. We fall for him in If I Stay as being so super sweet and devoted to Mia but Where She Went is what solidified him as my favorite. That book is special and Gayle Forman knows how to write a truly swoonyworthy boy  — and not just because of his looks or anything like that. He’s so fully developed in WSW that you just can’t help but love him! (Review of Where She Went by Gayle Forman)

3. Travis:  Oh gosh, TRAVIS. What a realistic YA boy that I loved watching that spark of growth in him. I just loved him so much. He’s been through so much and he has to really work to fight through it. We only catch a glimpse of his journey but it’s one of my favorites! (Review of Something Like Normal by Trish Doller)

4. Jessica Darling: DUH. If you know me…DUH. I need not explain. (Review of Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty)

5. Allyson: Oh gosh. I just understood Allyson so much. I can’t even tell you. Just a lot of the things she was struggling with were things that I have/am struggling with — saying YES, living the life you want to live, letting go of things that hinder you, etc. She’s not always perfect, sometimes she might annoy you or be whiny but I’m telling you…in the depths of my soul I HAD THIS CONNECTION WITH HER. (My review of Just One Day by Gayle Forman)

6. Bria: This is another character that I just really had a connection with as I watched her growth in Wanderlove. I just saw of myself in her or is it her in me? I just love her! (Review of Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard)

7. Tiny Cooper: Tiny may not be the main character of Will Grayson, Will Grayson but he is the most memorable for me and I just loved him to pieces. He’s definitely not perfect and sometimes he’s selfish but he’s got a good heart and I just LOVE HIM. (Review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan & John Green)

8.  Carly: Oh Carly. Her story makes my heart seize up every time I think about her. She’s been through some things and I admire her. Plus she’s a super cool surfer girl. (Review of Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager)

9. Audrey: I just loved Audrey! She’s so funny and loveable even when she’s down! I was definitely like her in high school — more shy but still liked to have fun and was playful! I also really connected with her on the music level and just found her downright delightful. (My review of Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway)

10. Sam Border: Oh Sam. What a sad childhood he and his brother Riddle have but he’s still the most kind and loving soul ever. I JUST LOVE HIM FOREVER. (My review of I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan)

So tell me…who are some of YOUR favorite characters in the YA contemp genre that I need to meet! Did you love any of the characters on my list?

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!


Ape House By Sara Gruen

Ape House: A NovelBook/Author: Ape House by Sara Gruen
Publisher/Year:  Spiegel & Grau 2010 –an imprint of Random House
How I Got This Book: Sent to me by the publisher. I thank you so very much for it!
Why I read This: I devoured Water for Elephants so I had to pick this one up!
Rating: Between 3.5 stars & 4 stars

I will admit that the only reason I wanted to read this was because I enjoyed Water for Elephants by Gruen. That book was an easy five star book for me as it was filled with such evocative characters and portrayed the gritty life of the circus during the Depression-era. I wasn’t too thrilled with the subject matter when I read the description for Ape House but I vowed to give it a chance because I owed Gruen at least that considering what a pleasure Water for Elephants had been for me.

This thrilling novel centers around a passionate scientist whose life work is researching and working with bonobo apes and communicating with them by using ASL and a newspaper reporter whose life becomes connected to these apes as he works on a piece for the paper about them. An explosion in the lab, in an attempt to steal the apes, alters the lives and the work of each as they grapple with putting back the pieces of their personal lives and getting the apes back from those who are now exploiting them for a reality tv show.

I will admit that this book bored me for the first chapter. I thought it was going to be too heavily about the research of the bonobos but it definitely picked up and the things you learn about the bonobos ends up being fascinating! I am not, in general, an animal person so it takes a special book to elicit strong feelings towards an animal centered book. It’s not that I don’t like animals. I really do. It’s just that it takes some convincing for me to care about animals enough to read a whole book centered around them. Gruen’s passion for animals is evident in her work and I applaud her for her ability to deftly construct a compelling story, sprinkled with scientific research and contemporary issues– such as exploitation of animals, that demands me to care about the bonobos—things I’ve never given a thought to in my life. What is intriguing is that a lot of the interaction with the bonobos and the reporter John were constructed from her own experience being able to visit bonobos.

It’s never been her writing that has blown me away and this holds true for this novel as well. She writes well and in a way that is highly marketable for the average reader looking for a page turner with deeper themes and issues explored within the pages.  I have to say that I was a little disappointed with some of the characters in this novel. Some of them seemed so flat and cliched for me and others were quite good characters that I found believable. I have to say that my favorite characters were the bonobos which is an interesting statement coming from someone who typically isn’t a big animal lover. I was really a fan of the animal characters in Water for Elephants. Gruen is able to tap into the innocence and mystique of these animals in a way that most authors cannot simply do and they become the shining stars of her novels.

These bonobos were more human than most of the characters in this book and I can’t tell if that was done purposefully. I think sometimes humans act more on animal impulses than anyone would like to admit. I think it is interesting that the bonobos were more loyal and displayed genuine emotions than most of the humans in this book.

One thing that irritated me a little bit was that some of the things that happened in this book seemed SO far fetched and over the top. I know that was needed to keep this book thrilling and to make sure you were on the edge of your seat but I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention that. Sometimes the connections between some people seemed too contrived…”Oh, what a coincidence..this random person just HAPPENS to work for this person”..things along those lines.

My final thought: Despite the lack of stellar human characters and moments of being over the top, I’d recommend this book to readers who are looking for an entertaining story peppered with a moral commentary of some darker aspects of humanity and a bit of mystery. If you are an animal lover, I’d highly recommend this book to you, although you might be appalled at the treatment of animals but I’m assuming you already are so it won’t surprise you. If you are a fan of Water for Elephants and are wondering if you should read this, I’ll say yes, but preface it with the warning of NOT expecting Water for Elephants. For me, this novel had a lot to live up to and I don’t think it wowed me the same way but I enjoyed it nonetheless. If you are on the fence as to whether you think you’d like this, wait until it comes out in paperback or get it from the library.

An AWESOME video about Gruen and her experience with the apes:

*Bonobo image from

After thinking about this a little bit, I want to know if an author has ever moved you to care about an issue that you never thought about or knew about prior to reading their books!

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Matrimony: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)Title/Author: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Publisher/Year: Pantheon 2007
How I Got This Book: The author contacted me, as I’m the moderator of the College Students group on Goodreads, to see if I’d like to read the book in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: I’m not doing a star rating for this one. I couldn’t decide. See my recommendation in the last two paragraphs to see if this novel is for you.

This is one of those books that I knew, while I was reading it, I was going to have a hard time reviewing and I realized it was because I was getting all apprehensive about having to give it a star rating because I felt like I just couldn’t. Sometimes things just aren’t that cut and dry. I am refusing to commit to a star rating for this review.

When I received this book, I really wasn’t sure that I’d like it. The title turned me off for some reason. I’m weird like that. A title could make me want to pick up a book or pass it by no matter if the book is crap or really great. Am I the only one like this? Anyways, this book was one of those that exceeded my expectations.

This novel centers around Julian Wainwright, a privileged kid that just doesn’t fit into the mold of your typical trust fund baby like many of his prep school classmates. Much to the dismay of  his investment banker father, Julian is passionate about becoming a writer of great novels. The novel chronicles Julian’s life through college and mid-adulthood as he finds friendship, love and success and learns how hard it can be hold on to it all.

I really enjoyed this novel. The pace was perfect for me, for the most part, and the characters were believable and interesting. I thought the relationships between Mia, his girlfriend turned wife, and Carter, his best friend, held the sort of family dynamic that I appreciate as someone who has built a family full of great friends. The familial relationships explored in this novel seemed genuine and I could relate to many of the issues constructed in the novel.

Henkin has a knack for delivering memorable characters. I love when I become fond of a minor character, who might just be in the book for a chapter or two, but their impact on the character weaves itself through the pages of the character’s life. I loved Mr. Kang (the owner of the grocery store Julian goes to in college), Mr. Chesterfield (his writing professor) and Henry (a fellow grad student that we only meet for a little bit). These characters were crafted to be those types of people that we all encounter in our lives–the ones that are there for a little while but our memory of them is lasting and we think fondly of them.

I was really interested in how the college life was portrayed as I can never seem to find novels with main characters that are in college. The college life, despite the fact it was set in the late 80’s, seemed to be pretty realistic aside from the fact it all seemed so much more formal and sophisticated than my college experience. At the heart of it was those late night pigout sessions at diners, laughing until you cry and doing some of the most random things you will ever do in your life. I also thought Henkin really portrayed that feeling of anxiety at being propelled into the adult world. They are all the things I’m going through right now–the prospect of an engagement, figuring out what I want to do with my life and just finding who I am as an adult.

Some of the reviews I had seen for this book deemed this book as boring and this made me worried. After reading the book, I would have to disagree. I am a fan of quiet stories that deal with ordinary lives but are interesting and thought-provoking in their own way. This book, for me, is like listening to some quiet, soulful woman sitting at a piano in the corner of a lounge. I am relaxed, maybe sipping a glass of wine, and enjoying the soothing sound of the voice in the background as I feel the love or the loss she sings about penetrating deeply within me. I am not entertained in the same way that I would be after attending a flashy, hip shaking Lady Gaga concert. There is a need for both of those in my life.

Similarly, it all depends on what you are looking for in a book when you read this. If you are looking for an action packed “Lady Gaga-esque” book that is plot based and keeps your heart racing, I would not recommend this to you. If you enjoy a novel with a beautiful sense of quietness that peers into the lives of everyday people, then `I think you would really enjoy this novel.

The author has graciously provided me with a copy to give away here on the blog. You do not have to be a follower to enter this–though it would make me very happy.

To enter:

Leave a comment with your name and a way to contact you if you win and an answer to one of the following that deals with two important aspects (that were of interest to me!) of the book:

1. Share a crazy or fun college experience/memory with me!
 2. Tell me about a person in your life that is like a Mr. Kang or a Mr. Chesterfield that I mentioned above– a person that was meaningful in your life but was only there for a little bit.

This giveaway ends  10/2!

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