Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor | Book Review

Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor | Book ReviewMaybe One Day by Melissa Kantor
Publisher/Year: HarperTeen- February 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: The Darlings Are Forever, If I Have A Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince?, The Breakup Bible, Confession Of A Not It GirlGirlfriend Material

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

 

 

 

book synopsis Zoe and Olivia have been best friends since they can remember — they do everything together, they danced together, they planned for the future together. Then Olivia is diagnosed with leukemia and everything is so uncertain. Zoe tries her best to be there for Olivia and treat her normally as she continues to get treatment, misses school and seem to continually get weaker but it becomes hard for her with how everything changes and how she is supposed to continue living in a forward motion when things with Olivia are so uncertain.

good books to readOverall I rather liked this one and constantly couldn’t wait to pick it back up…but I don’t think it made the overall kind of impact to make it stand out for me that I thought it would be and there were some little things that irked me. But overall my feelings are more positive than negative — there was just some sort of disconnect there that is hard to explain. It just wasn’t all the way there for me.

Despite the premise which is an emotional topic — a young girl’s best friend being diagnosed with leukemia – it took me a little bit to get emotionally invested (I was invested in the story but not yet emotionally) but when I DID…WOW. I was a hot mess and just weeping by the end. Melissa Kantor got me SO invested in the friendship of these girls that I just felt everything along with them. I loved learning about their friendship and all its facets — how they met, how dance was this huge bonding thing for them and just all the things that best friends did and talked about it. It reminded me a lot of my best friend from middle school and I — being constant figures at one another’s houses and planning how we would do this and that together as grownups. I had some serious friendship nostalgia with this one.

I think that is really where this book shined for me — the friendship. It was complex and it wasn’t always perfect but they had such a strong foundation and really had such love for each other. I’ve read The Darlings Are Forever by Melissa Kantor and I think she really is just very talented in creating great stories of friendship that feel authentic and easy to relate to. Knowing the back story and FEELING the magnitude of their friendship made me invested in them going through this together and I appreciated that Zoe, who is definitely not always perfect and doesn’t always know how to deal with this, loved and supported Olivia in the best way she knew how — visiting her, acting normal towards her, teaching the dance class for her, etc. I felt it was realistic to how a teenage girl would react in this situation.

I know a lot of other people didn’t like Zoe but I really came to like her. She was doing the best she could in these uncharted waters. Having been a teenager when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I know how you are consumed with it but at the same time, in grappling with it, you also very much are consumed with the other parts of life going on around you — boys, other friendships, things at school, etc. I felt Zoe was very real in this balance in trying to keep LIVING life but dealing with this situation with Olivia and I loved the secondary characters who added to all this. I know that it’s hard to swallow how things happen with Zoe and Olivia’s sort of crush but that didn’t bother me so much because she’s a flawed human being and we don’t always go about things they right way. I could feel her struggle with the whole situation and so it didn’t make me dislike Zoe and I REALLY loved Calvin (and wanted more of them maybe?)

Even though I grew to like Zoe, I think she was a bit of my disconnect alone.  Zoe’s relationship with dancing was a huge thing — something that was her whole life, along with Olivia, and she’s just never really been able to find what it is that makes her tick after she’s cut from dance. It derails her and how she became after made it hard to connect to her at first. She literally doesn’t have anything, besides Olivia, anymore. She’s disinterested in everything, and mostly everyone, because her plans don’t turn out how she thought they would and just stops living so she just kind of was a flat character for me until I got further in the story. She focuses on dealing with Olivia’s illness and being there for her and I saw glimpses of Zoe becoming interested in life again but I wish I would have seen more growth in her with really FINDING herself again because I might have not felt that disconnect.

“Time does not care how precious it is, how hard you are working not to squander it. Time passes.” — Maybe One Day

 

book reviewsIf you are looking for a good book about friendship that is emotional and heartbreaking but gives you the warm and fuzzies thinking about your best friend (or former partner in crime from your childhood like I thought of), Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor is a very solid book. I think I’ve read more hard hitting books with similar subjects that had a bit more depth and a bigger impact but, overall, I feel very positively towards it besides some random things and some disconnect with Zoe herself — apart from who she was as Zoe & Olivia.

short book reviewmaybe-one-day-melissa-kantor

books you may also likeThe Darlings Are Forever by Melissa Kantor (more so if you liked the friendship side of this book), Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, The F-It list by Julie Halpern

for-fans-of-bookcontemporary YA dealing strongly with friendship, books dealing with cancer, books with main characters who are into ballet

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Did you like it less/more than me? Did anyone else feel a weird disconnect in ways? I attributed it to Zoe herself and feeling like I didn’t really KNOW her apart from her being Zoe & Oliva. What was it for you if you felt this? Did anyone else bawl?? Whew. I couldn’t stop.
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Fault Line by Christa Desir | Book Review

Fault Line by Christa Desir | Book ReviewFault Line by Christa Desir
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse- October 2013
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: eARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: None -- debut novel!

* I will say that I'd recommend this to more mature readers*
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

book synopsis Ben falls fast for the new girl in school — Ani. She’s brutally honest and totally not like all the other girls he knows. In a whirlwind fashion, they start dating and everything is perfect until the party…the party that Ben doesn’t attend. The party where Ani gets raped but doesn’t remember a thing. Rumors are circulating about the details — Ani was shouting about how she wanted them, that maybe it was date rape drugs, she was wasted — and nobody knows what really happened and who is to blame. When Ani pushes Ben away and starts acting out, Ben tries to help her and is met with resistance because Ani doesn’t want to be saved.

good books to readI have ALL sorts of feelings about this book. WOW. What a book. It was a our book club pick and we had A LOT to talk about because it brought up a lot of things. I don’t think that I liked this as much as other people did, as there were some things that just didn’t work for me, but I still think that it’s an important story with good things about it that I couldn’t put down.

What I Liked:

* The POV: I loved that this perspective was male and from someone who wasn’t the victim. I’ve read quite a few books dealing with rape and it’s always from the victim’s perspective, no doubt an important perspective, but this immediately hooked me because of the fact it was from the perspective of the victim’s boyfriend. I had never read that perspective and found myself thinking, “WHY has this not been done before?” because it’s also an important view to see from people who love and want to help someone when they experience this. I thought it brought up a lot of interesting things to see everything happening from his angle — to see her change and the effects the rape had on her and their relationship but to not be in tune with the inner turmoil she was going through. It added a lot to the story, I felt, and made me think of the struggles that victim’s loved ones also go through in trying to help them through it. I felt Ben’s helplessness and feeling like he just didn’t know WHAT to do. It felt realistic and honest and I appreciated the story being told from his perspective.

* The story itself: My heart was very invested in the idea of this story with some reservations with the characters which I’ll discuss below. Watching this all unravel my heart hurt for both Ani and Ben. To see the before and the after through someone elses eyes and see Ben try so hard to help her as she just is reeling from the rape and pushing him away.  The story was totally soul crushing because the sad reality is this kind of thing happens probably more than we know. All Ani’s actions made my heart hurt and Ben’s struggle to hold on to her was hard to watch…especially at the end. I felt like it was very evident that the author’s background in rape crisis enhanced this story because Ani and Ben’s struggles and reactions seemed very realistic. It was a very powerful story about that “after” and how it affects various people involved and, for Ani, she was stuck in this cycle of blame and guilt and left with all these questions unable really deal with it.

* The discussion that comes from this book: This was definitely a powerful book to make you think and I loved the discussion that it brought up because it is so, so relevant and important. Ani knows she was raped and she can’t remember what happened and only knows what she’s told (the details which make her look to others that she was completely wanting this) and is completely being tormented at school because of what went down. A lot of the conversation and the struggles for both Ani and Ben are if a) she was slipped a date rape drug b) if she got super drunk and was acting “slutty” and maybe a c) is if she just is a “slut”  and wasn’t actually raped at all — all sorts of victim blaming stuff. It was the one thing in the story, and I think in life, that people get hung up on. Does it make it better if it was one or the other? Does it make it easier to handle? Does it change it? Do people feel more sympathy for someone who gets slip date rape drugs vs. someone who got crazy drunk and got raped? Who is to blame? It’s an endless conversation that we even see in the media. “She was asking for it by how she was dressed.” “She got drunk and was flirty and came on to me” “She was drunk but she wasn’t passed out.” I just thought seeing this play out in the story brought up all the relevant news stories I’ve see and things I’ve even heard in high school and college. Fault Line was one of the bravest and most powerful books that really brought this discussion to the table.

What didn’t work for me:

* The romance/development of it:  I know this book wasn’t really ABOUT the romance but it was hard for me to really FEEL why Ben cared so much and hung on because I didn’t see much substance to their relationship. Yes, some young relationships are not based on substantial things but they literally knew nothing about each other and suddenly they were together. She said his hair made him look like an asshole, he thought she had legs for days (that and her honesty seemed to be the two things that made him head over heels for her) and then suddenly she invites him over and they are a couple. We do see a little bit of their beginnings but it just wasn’t much for me. It was difficult for me to care for either characters or their relationship, beyond what I knew I should feel, because there was barely any build up so, while I liked the IDEA of their story, I just felt some sort of disconnect.

During book club we were talking about how maybe there would have been more of an impact had the story been about two people who had dated for longer or at least more of a back story for us to get to KNOW them and see that spark. Ben pretty much gives up everything as he struggles to attempt to save her and it never made sense to me WHY. I never felt it and thus it took me out of the story A LOT — despite how important and powerful the discussion from this book was and how emotional I DID get at the end.

I will say I had NO idea how I felt at the end of this book as a WHOLE but I was teary eyed for Ben and for the very realistic and bittersweet ending.

* the length of this book: Okay so maybe it’s not so much the length, because for how short it brought a lot to the table, but it was more how because of the length I felt some things/characters were underdeveloped and it really detracted (including my above point). There were random people that I thought would be more important that were just kind of dropped. There were things just half developed in my mind and left dangling. A lot of the other characters were hazily developed to me, and I know they WEREN’T the focus of this, but I just would have liked to see a wee bit more development in the secondaries. I DID love  Ben’s friend though (his name is escaping me) and thought he was one of the best.

book reviewsWhile it seems like on paper there were more things that I LIKED about this book than didn’t like, my “didn’t work for me” list items unfortunately made me disconnect a lot from the story. It was a powerful and provocative novel that explored an important and relevant topic that is an ongoing discussion in society from the perspective of the victim’s boyfriend. There were a lot of good things about this book, no doubt, but the underdevelopment unfortunately pulled me out too much from the story and frustrated me — distracting me from what was great about it.

short book reviewfault-line-christa-desair

 

books you may also likeWhat Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

for-fans-of-bookbooks about tough issues, books opening an honest discussion about rape, books that will give you lots of food for thought, flawed and honest characters

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one or heard of it? What did you think of it? This is a very interesting book for discussion so I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!!

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The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr | Book Review

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr | Book ReviewThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Publisher/Year: Little Brown Books For Young Readers- May 2013
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Sweethearts, How To Save A Life, Story of A Girl, Once Was Lost, Roomies
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. 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?
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In Too Deep by Amanda Grace | Book Review

In Too Deep by Amanda Grace | Book ReviewIn Too Deep by Amanda Grace
Publisher/Year: Flux- February 2012
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Other Books From Author: But I Love Him, The Truth About You & Me 

This author is also known as Mandy Hubbard. Amanda Grace is her pseudonym.
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

book synopsis Sam’s determined to make the most popular boy, Carter, notice her but her real motivation for doing this is to make her long time best friend Nick jealous and hopefully realize that there is something more between them. After she has an encounter with him at his party, rumors that he raped her get started after they see they state in which she leaves his room and it just keeps spreading. Suddenly people who never noticed her are comforting her and telling her stories of Carter being terrible to them and she doesn’t deny these rumors. Everything gets out of control and Sam realizes she needs to put a stop to this but just can’t seem to figure out how to do it without losing Nick and having people think she did this on purpose or that she started the rumor.

good books to readOh how frustrating this story was!! That doesn’t mean I didn’t LIKE this book because I certainly flew through it and thought it was interesting but HOLY FRUSTRATING. So if you read my plot summary, you’ll know this all centers around a LIE. A very damaging lie that the main character perpetuates — that this super popular guy raped her at a party. She didn’t START the rumor but she doesn’t deny it, especially when girls start coming forward with how much of a jerk this guy is and people start comforting her,  so it’s this frustrating situation that you watch play out where you are going OH GOD THIS IS SO WRONG. TELL THE TRUTH!

You understand her predicament in the beginning knowing that she had no intentions of confirming this rumor but it happened and got out of control really quickly so you sympathize with her but then you are like OKAY ..this needs to be stopped. NOW. And it’s frustrating to watch her not do the right thing because of what she has to lose if she does. You GET where her mind is at  and what she has to lose but it’s nonetheless frustrating because it’s so wrong.

The other thread of this is the fact that the whole reason she was even trying to be in the same room as this guy was to make her best GUY friend jealous because she’s in love with him. And turns out the feelings may not all be one-sided there. So as this lie grows and Nick and Sam get closer  she’s feeling guilty about it and keeps wanting to tell him the truth but knows she could lose him. I really liked Nick and thought their relationship was sweet but it was hard to truly get behind it because, as the reader, you know this huge lie and it doesn’t set well with you the longer she keeps it up (well, me at least). My other barrier with the relationship is how it just sort of happens despite them being friends for so long. It just felt off.

I read this in one day because I just HAD to know how bad this rumor was going to get, if she was going to do the right thing and how/if it would change her relationship with Nick. I have to say I was actually really satisfied with the ending because I thought, as this novel played out, it could go really, really wrong for me personally.

book reviewsI thought In Too Deep was a quick, pretty good read. It was definitely different and one of those books where it’s going to be a frustrating ride with the MC — just so you know. You hate her decisions in regards to the rumor that he raped her but you understand how things got out of control and that SHE didn’t start this but, at the same time, you know she could have stopped them and not perpetuated everything. I think this it was an interesting look at rumors and how they happen and how they affect people and the consequences that come from them. You feel so conflicted towards Sam the whole time! Interesting read, kept my attention for sure but not a favorite just because I don’t feel like it will really stick with me.

short book reviewIn Too Deep by Amanda Grace

books you may also likeSpeechless by Hannah Harrington, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

for-fans-of-bookrealistic fiction, stories about rumors & their effect, MCs that will frustrate you even though you GET some of their actions

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, what do you think? Did Sam frustrate you or did you understand where she was coming from even though she made some poor choices with how to handle it? Can you think of any other books that are centered around a rumor (false or not).


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The Impossible Knife Of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson | Book Review

The Impossible Knife Of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson | Book ReviewThe Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher/Year: Viking Juvenile- January 7, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Speak, Chains, Fever 1793, Wintergirls, Twisted, Prom, Catylst
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

book synopsis Hayley hasn’t had the most normal of upbringings — she’s spent most of her time at the side of her dad, a veteran,  as he drove his rig for work but also as a way to escape his experience in Iraq. She didn’t go to school but rather learned from her dad and learned things on her own.  When her dad decides he wants to settle down in his old town and expects Hayley to go to high school, she’s cautiously optimistic that she’ll even be able to fit into a normal life and that this decision will help her dad’s PTSD. She finds out that she’s not so great with math and winds up in detention because teachers don’t appreciate her sass in correcting them when they are wrong. But she also meets Finn. And with Finn she has a chance at some semblance of normalcy as things with her dad become even shakier.

good books to readHuzzah! One of my 10 most anticipated 2014 releases delivered!! The Impossible Knife of Memory just solidifies, in my mind, why Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best. I’ve read her YA and I’ve read her MG and I just really think she knows how to write a damn good story that always leaves an impression and always makes me FEEL something — not to mention that her writing is divine. The Impossible Knife of Memory was certainly no exception.

It’s definitely not a light and fun book as it tackles some difficult things but it managed to be balanced by Hayley’s humor and irreverent nature (seriously, girl is a firecracker!) and one HOLD-ON-TO-YOUR-BRITCHES-LADIES Finnegan Ramos. (I’ll get to Finn later but he’s tres PERFECT and worthy of swoons). It’s wounding to your heart in a subtle way that creeps up on you and then suddenly has you in a full-on headlock but also manages to soothe you with its bits of hope. As you learn about Hayley’s offbeat upbringing and see her dad struggling with his PTSD and drinking it just grips you even harder and definitely DOES NOT release you until the very end — oh GOD those last couple chapters killed me. You feel for Hayley at how she has to take care of him and how she feels so helpless because she knows he’s getting worse — you can just FEEL the burden of all this but also the love and concern and protectiveness.

I love books that have a focus on a a character’s relationship with their parent and typically the ones I point out are strong but this is one of those stories that paints such a real and stirring dynamic that is actually one of my favorites ever despite how hard it is to read sometimes because of the fractured nature of it. You want to shake Hayley’s dad so much because of  everything going on but you know he’s suffering from PTSD and needs help. Most of my emotions from this relationship came from watching Hayley interact with her dad and take care of him. We get these glimpse of her dad’s memories on random pages but honestly I didn’t feel like it lent much to my view of him like some of interactions and memories did. They just kind of left me feeling I could have done without them. Watching the love Hayley has for her dad and realizing that could not be enough to save him PAINED me.

Finn. I don’t really do the whole “book boyfriend” thing but he is the boyfriend I probably actually would have HAD in high school and I’m staking my claim on him now. He’s got that deliciously nerdy but totally cute thing going on, he’s funny and he’s so, so charming and genuinely sweet and caring. I love how he’s able to break Hayley’s walls down in the most charming of ways despite the fight she puts up being typical Hayley. One of my favorite scenes involves a non-date. Finn and Hayley’s relationship is one that I won’t soon forget because they were both two incredible fleshed out characters and from their very first interactions there was just this energy that I loved. It was playful and wonderful.

book reviewsThe way Laurie Halse Anderson delivers this story is just signature Laurie and it hits all the right notes. There’s a reason she’s one of the Queens of YA and I loved The Impossible Knife of Memory so much! It was powerful and stirring as Hayley settles into a huge transition living in one place with her father as he starts to come more undone because of his PTSD. Quiet, explosive and all around a spectacularly written novel. Also, FINNEGAN, YOU HAVE MY HEART. If you are a lover of realistic fiction that has just incredible depth, get this on thy list!

short book reviewImpossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

books you may also likeWhere Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you read it, what did you think? Was Finn not the cutest ever? Did you bawl at that PART ( you know which one!!) like I did?? I honestly did not know what was going to happen at that point. How does this rank if you’ve read other LHA novels?


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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
Publisher/Year
: 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

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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.

forgive-me-leonard-peacock

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?

Live Through This by Mindi Scott | Book Review

Live Through This by Mindi ScottBook Title/Author: Live Through This by Mindi Scott
Publisher/Year
: Simon Pulse 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Freefall

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I purchased this book with my own cash money.

 

 

 

 

On the outside Coley looks like a normal teenager — she’s got friends, is on the dance team, works hard in school and has a nice family. She’s got the typical teenage dramas — fights with friends, trying to be the best so she can earn the captain spot next year and, of course, navigating the boy scene. But nobody knows the secrets Coley keeps — secrets she buries down so deep she goes about her day pretending they don’t exist. When she starts getting closer with her crush, all of those secrets of the relationship that crossed the line come up full force making her feel the shame and guilt she’s tried to bury.

Wow. This is going to be a hard book to review because it’s not one of those books where I can be like “WOW…I really enjoyed that” because it was a TOUGH book to read and saying I enjoyed something like that seems rather awkward. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more uncomfortable while reading a book…ever. Ok, maybe Lolita was more uncomfortable but you understand. And I don’t think that is a bad thing. It was a hard book to read and my heart broke knowing this happens so often and isn’t something that is talked about which is probably where my discomfort with some of the more confrontational scenes happened.

Live Through This starts out with a really, really intense scene. It’s the kind of WOW scene that smacks you in the face and demands that you pay attention — alerting you to the fact that this is going to be a very emotional and hard book to read with the sexual abuse occurring right off the bat. But then the brilliant part about this whole novel is how she tells the rest of the story from there. There is literally, for about half the book, NO mention about what happened. The whole time I was just reading, on the edge of my seat, just knowing that this abuse was lurking on the corner after that explosive first scene. I was nervous. On eggshells.  We really got to see Coley’s life and how she really was careful to be that normal girl with the normal life — trying to ignore those buried secrets. But, as the reader, you could just palpably feel that soon it was going to catch up with her.  By the time the abuse happens again it is intense and I just knew that I unfortunately figured out what was going on and it was very emotional and tense from that point until the very end.

I think what I really appreciated about Live Through This is that it wasn’t so concerned about tying things up in a neat little bow. So often in “issuey” books I find that the story happens, the main character realizes she needs help and then YAY RESOLUTION. ALL IS WELL. With this book, I know when I closed the pages that it would be an uphill battle for this character (you know, because I’m weird like that and think the characters live on when I’m done haha).   I actually found that having her try to stifle all of what she was going through and not even  feel clearly about what she wanted to do/feeling conflicted felt really realistic and made it all the more emotional to me.  I could feel how lost she was about it and I appreciated that, while the end was satisfying, it didn’t try to be  like ALL FIXED NOW.

 

Live Through This is really tough book to read, parts where I literally felt so uncomfortable, but I thought it was balanced well as we watched Coley try NOT to deal with the sexual abuse taking place and try to live a normal life like everyone  thinks she has. I think because of her keeping it at arms length I didn’t feel very emotional for most of the book except at some very explosive scenes that were really hard to read. It feels weird to say if I “enjoyed” this book but I do think if you don’t mind reading a book that tackles a tough topic this is a good one that definitely stuck with me because I just know this happens all too often. Live Through This was at times heartbreaking  and tough to read but it was worth it as it was well written and handles the topic sensitively.

 

live-through-this-mindi-scott

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you kind of guess WHO the person was? Did you think it tackled the subject well/comparatively to other books dealing with this topic?

 

 

 

 

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: Bunheads by Sophie Flack

Bunheads by Sophie FlackBook Title/Author: Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Publisher/Year: : Little Brown, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: None as of now. It’s her debut novel!

Amazon| Goodreads | Sophie Flack’s website

 While most of her peers are navigating their way through living on their own in college, 19 year old Hannah Ward has lived on her own in Manhattan for years to live her dream to make it into the ultra competitive Manhattan Ballet Company. Her peers go to classes and parties; Hannah enjoys hours of workouts, rehearsals, & performances which is all part of the strenuous life of a professional dancer just waiting to be noticed for a soloist position. It’s all part of her plan — every single blister, every diet, every sore muscle means she’s coming closer to making it and stepping out from the crowd of other dancers vying for the same parts. Her dedication to her dream never wavers until she meets Jacob — a musician and college student who introduces her to the possibilities of a life unbound from stringent schedules and very little free time outside the ballet and makes her start to question what’s important to her in her life or if she’s okay with giving up  “normal life” for a life trying to make it to the spotlight.

Bunheads was a thoroughly enjoyable novel that gives a darker (not Black Swan dark!), somewhat  grittier picture to the world of professional ballet — a world that,  from the audience, is nothing short of graceful, beautiful  & elegant. Sophie Flack succeeds in portraying the captivating beauty of the ballet while balancing it with the ugly and cutthroat reality that happen at that level of success. Eating disorders, backstabbing, excessive exercise & exhaustion is the norm. Sophie Flack writes this world all in a way that pulls you in to this unfamiliar lifestyle — at least for me — as the extent of my dance career was three years of tap class.You can tell that the author was in fact a professional ballet dancer as she lends her knowledge of the world of ballet that really seems quite realistic in her descriptions — from the technical aspect to the magical feeling and rush a dancer gets in being on stage and performing these movements so gracefully and in sync. I really felt like I was getting the inside scoop on life behind the curtain. Like an E! True Hollywood Story.

I was nervous at first, as I am with any fiction that delves into a “specialty”, that it will be too technical or that it will lose me because the author can’t make the lifestyle accessible to the average reader who hasn’t lived a life like that. Thankfully Bunheads was not overwrought with too much technical detail that it went over my head and never did I feel too distant from Hannah’s lifestyle that I didn’t connect with her. In fact, I really connected with Hannah in a way that I haven’t with another character. Her struggle to find balance in her life, figure out who she is and who she wants to be, her sacrifice for her dreams — they resonated with me and felt extremely real. I loved Jacob’s role in this but I loved that he didn’t instantly come into her life and help “save her”. It was HER figuring out what she wanted. SHE struggled to try to balance her dreams with wanting to be a normal girl with a normal life.  He just helped perpetuate that. It was a very sweet romance — one that I really enjoyed to watch develop — even when I wanted to body slam Hannah for ditching him. But it was SO realistic. No girl with dreams so high would immediately leave it all for a boy.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack truly was one of my favorite reads this year! It wasn’t a fast-paced nor an overly dramatic portrayal like you might see in a tv show or movie but the world of ballet portrayed in Bunheads was even more captivating, in my opinion, because it seemed REAL as opposed to a drama-rama, hair pulling, scandalous story . It was gritty and a tinge shocking (like from how the “hide” their breasts to how they make their shoes fit to their crazy schedules) but it was also subtle, beautiful and magical and you can feel why it is someone’s dream. You’ll root for Hannah and Jacob but even more you’ll root for Hannah as she struggles to figure out what she wants — a plight we all can sympathize with.  Bravo, Sophie Flack, bravo. I can’t get this book out of my mind.

 

PS. Also loved this book because it seemed to be a bit of an “older” YA!

 

Bunheads by Sophie Flack

 

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, Take A Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe,

 

Review: Lola And The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

 Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
How I received: My lovely friend Shanyn at Chick Loves Lit let me borrow it!
On Sale: September 2011
Warning: Fan-girly, gushing OMG review ahead…..every now and again they happen for me. I try to save that for my reading journal but I just can’t with certain books.
 
Let’s just put this out there right now – I was hella excited about Lola and the Boy Next Door but I was a bit scared to actually read it because I loved Anna and the French Kiss something fierce. I kept thinking that, while there is a good chance I’ll really enjoy Lola, I’m never going to feel the same way about it that I did with Anna. It would be like the replacement goldfish that your parents try to convince you is just as great as the one you had to flush down the toilet. It’s not the goldfish’s fault…but it’s just not the same as the one you really loved.
 
The verdict?  I’m going to boldly say that I loved Lola from my head down to my toes….I actually think I liked it even better than Anna. I can’t believe I’m saying it but it’s true.  Stephanie Perkins brought the awesomeness and somehow created a story that could top Anna and the French Kiss for me — the amazing characters, the romance, a compelling storyline, the great setting. It’s all there. While the romantic city of Paris really propelled the story of Anna and St. Clair for me in ATFK, Lola truly is the shining star in Perkin’s second novel.
 
Lola is just one of those unforgettable characters. I instantly connected with her — she’s different and I can appreciate that as someone who has always used clothing as a way to set myself apart…especially in high school. It was something I could control amidst the chaos that was my life. I can’t say my wardrobe was even a fraction like hers but I still understand her mentality. I can truly say I felt like I was reading the character of Lola as a little sister. I was protective of her, I wanted to hug it out with her during both crappy moments and awesome moments and I just wanted to tell her what an amazing girl she was.
 

Ok…I’ll address the big fat elephant on the blog. The Boy! I know…you want to know if the boy is as wonderful and amazing and swoonworthy as St. Clair. Yes, ladies. Eat your heart out. For those of you who loathed St. Clair (yes there are people out there that do — one of my fave ppl of all time and I had a friendly banter about St. Clair at BEA when she revealed this to me), you will be so thrilled about the new crush that Perkins has handed to you on a silver platter. There are seriously not enough “nice guys” in YA lit…but Cricket is leading the army against all those douchenuggets that seem to be in the “in” thing. I want to see more guys that are super nice, but not pushovers, and actually have a personality. He was sweet and sensitive and honestly the type of guy I love and I truly felt as though he complemented Lola so well. The thing I loved most about him (aside from his adoration of Lola) was how he was SUCH a real teen boy to me. Sometimes I find that most of the guys I read are always written so much more eloquently and more mature than teen boys actually are. They always seem to take on these hot, underwear model characteristics and always are suave and dashing. But Cricket was just so real. He’s got quirky hobbies and interests and, hell, he’s got his awkward, stupid boy moments. So refreshing. I love me some Cricket.

 
All of the secondary characters really felt so lively and real to me — Lola’s parents were incredibly supportive and definitely NOT absent. I really liked Max in the beginning and even though my love for him fizzled…he still felt very real. I LOVED how Perkins incorporated Anna and St. Clair into the novel without making them centerstage. PERFECT roles for them and I was ecstatic to see what had become of them.
 
I don’t want to give away ANYTHING about this book but I honestly loved the whole story, the romance, the tension that was present in different threads of the story, and the ending! I felt myself charmed by San Fransisco and swept up in Lola’s life. Anna’s story was somewhat dreamy and escapist for me but Lola’s story felt so realistic to me and I really appreciated that. Lola persevered through a lot in the story and I really believed in her progress and the path that Perkins lead her on. Lola was not overwrought with emotion and drama but perfectly captures the complicated nature of love and relationships with family and friends. It also shows the joys that come with the pain, awkward moments and general confusion of being a teen. I love that about this book — it captures the teen voice in a genuine way with out being too “OMG this is a teen book” that actually doesn’t accomplish the teen voice…like when your mom or dad tries to act really hip and up on the lingo.
 
I typically don’t make bold statements like this but I’m going to because I feel so strongly after reading Lola: Stephanie Perkins is on auto-buy for me now. If she writes it, I’m going to beat down doors to get it. If I were my 13 year old self, I’d be bedazzling shirts proclaiming the awesomeness that is Stephanie Perkins and making a shrine in my room dedicated to her. Um yeah, I totally did that for certain boy bands back in the 90′s.
 
Stephanie Perkins, after two novels, has become my go-to for wonderfully written contemporary YA with swoonworthy romances and unforgettable characters. She infuses so many quirky elements into her books and the little details are so wonderful. Lola is certainly no exception — from an awesome reference to one of my favorite bands (Phoenix!) to having an incredibly cute dog named Heavens to Betsy..I just found myself smiling at the smallest details and it added SO MUCH to my overall enjoyment of the story. Perkins writes the perfect contemporary novel for me. It isn’t so distorted of a reality that it too far-fetched for me but it has just enough drama that keeps you reading….because, let’s be honest, if realistic novels were TOO realistic we’d be bored and feel like we were reading about our own lives. She writes things I felt as a teen and still feel now at 25.  And oh my gosh, PLEASE PLEASE  read the acknowledgments at the end of the book to her husband. SO CUTE. I had to read it out loud to my boyfriend because I just was so moved by it…and then I proceeded to gush about it on Twitter.
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