Book Talk: #Scandal by Sarah Ockler

Book Talk: #Scandal by Sarah Ockler#Scandal by Sarah Ockler
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse- June 17, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: eARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Twenty Boy Summer, The Book of Broken Hearts, Bittersweet, Fixing Delilah

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

 

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

A1

Lucy’s best friend Ellie begs her to go to prom as her boyfriend’s date when she becomes sick before prom. Lucy doesn’t want to because she’s not really into the social scene and would rather stay in and play her zombie video game but she does it for Ellie. Even though it’s a bit uncomfortable for her because, unbeknownst to anyone, Lucy has been in love with Cole before Ellie started dating him. And then Lucy and Cole end up kissing which was bittersweet and, before Lucy can even figure out what to do, someone uploads picture proof the betrayal along with incriminating pictures of others at the party on to Lucy’s Facebook. Everyone assumes Lucy did it and nobody will give her a chance to explain and she’s immediately branded as a rat, a slut, a horrible friend and more. Lucy knows her only chance for things to get better is to find who took those pictures and uploaded them and hope Ellie will forgive her.

a2I’m so glad that I was too old to see this cell phone/social media culture in high school. Our phones were bricks and texting was just getting to be a big thing.

a4I’m so conflicted and it breaks my heart to be because SARAH OCKLER. It was an intriguing enough read to keep reading but it did not blow me away like the books I’ve read and LOVED from her — The Book of Broken Hearts and Twenty Boy Summer. The magic that those two, ESPECIALLY The Book of Broken Hearts, had for me kind of lacked in #Scandal unfortunately!

What worked for me:

1. The subject matter: I’m so intrigued by this social media/internet, smartphone obsessed culture –especially how people are now growing up WITH IT. As a teen I begun to be introduced to the texting and all that but I didn’t grow UP with it because it was just becoming a THING so I’m always so curious about how this young generation is affected by it especially in relation to gossip, bullying, how they relate to one another and that kind of stuff. I was intrigued watching how this whole scandal played out via social media and also how they used in ways to “solve” the mystery.

2. How the “mystery” unfolded: There is a bit of a mystery (complete with VERONICA MARS references and banter) to find out WHO was the person who took the pictures that were uploaded for everyone to see on Lucy’s account and started all the scandal. I think THIS is what kept me turning the pages even when I wasn’t connecting to Lucy is that I so desperately wanted to know who did it and why.

3. I appreciated some of the thoughts about how we use social media and the internet as well as how we see other people: Now there was this (e)VIL group who was completely tech-free and while they were silly in some ways they had some good points. They were entertaining and I appreciated how thought-provoking it actually was. And I loved how we see Lucy see these people who she’s overlooked or written off in a different way.

What didn’t seem to work for me:

1. I really didn’t find Lucy compelling really at all: All the other Sarah Ockler books I’ve read I’ve REALLY connected to the main character and cared for them so much but in this situation I cared more about the plot and the secondary characters than I did the main character. In my head it’s like, “Poor girl. Nobody deserves to be bullied” but my heart didn’t really feel much anguish over her plight. I just wasn’t invested and I don’t really know what it was. I don’t mind a difficult main character as you know, so even though what she did to her best friend was HARD for me, that wasn’t really it. It was more like I just found her bland and not this vivid character that she was kind of being painted to be and how her response to the bullying was written it almost made me feel like it was such a minor annoyance more than something that hurt her. I couldn’t tell if it was her defense mechanism to seem like she didn’t care but it didn’t transfer to me as the reader to care much.

2. There were some really great characters besides Lucy but sometimes I felt there were too many and they all didn’t get the development they deserved: There were a lot of other characters that we were introduced to and that all became tangled in this with Lucy and I found myself so intrigued with some of them and others had great potential that never came through. We had Lucy’s sister who I didn’t care for, the (e)VIL group who I found fascinating though sometimes outlandish, Franklin (who I loved!!), the two best friends, a foreign exchange guy who liked Lucy and even more. There are people who are “suspects” and I get how they wouldn’t be fleshed out as well but some of the others I wanted MORE from who fell a little flat.

3. The romance never did anything for me: It wasn’t even HOW the romance happened. It was just that I didn’t find them all that compelling considering that they both loved each other for forever. I wasn’t NOT rooting for them but I wasn’t all I SHIP THIS. He was also kind of a flat character as well. I actually thought the romance was going to go in a different direction than it did, that maybe I would have been MORE interested in, but alas it did not.

 

a6
RATING-OKAY
factors+ plot & how it drew me in, interesting discussions about social media and how we use it, a couple great minor characters
- lack of feelings toward Lucy, not enough fleshing out of other characters, romance

Re-readability: Nope but I now I’m itching for a re-read of The Book of Broken Hearts because THAT is my favorite of hers.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? No.

a5fans of books that deal with social media/cyber-bulling, Sarah Ockler fans who want to read all her books

a8Sad times infinity. I have LOVED Sarah Ockler’s books in the past so I’m really sad that this one wasn’t in the LOVE/FAVORITE category the way her other books were for me. I have to care about the character’s story/feel really invested in things to really like it and that just wasn’t the case here. Intriguing plot that kept me reading but I really didn’t feel much towards it from start to finish.

 

review-on-post-it

#scandal by sarah ockler

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, is it something on your radar or that you think you will read?
* Have you read Sarah Ockler’s books before and, if so, what was your favorite??
* Were you surprised about who stole the phone and took the pics? (I wasn’t)
* How did you feel about the romance?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

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Book Talk: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor

Book Talk: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie ConnorThe Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor
Publisher/Year: Katherine Tegan- June 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Waiting For Normal, Crunch

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

 

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

A1

Bettina’s super strict dad never lets her date or really out of the house much at all. But when she starts talking to Brady, a decently popular and cute guy at school, he manages to woo her dad as well and suddenly Bettina has something she never really had — FREEDOM. Plus a great boyfriend. Until suddenly Brady changes and suddenly isn’t who she thought he was at all. As she tries to figure out what to do with Brady, she meets a much older guy in his twenties who she ends up spending significant time with. As she tries to keep this secret relationship with Cowboy under wraps and keep herself at a distance from Brady without sacrificing her freedom, something that happens that tears it all apart and brings the truth out in the open.

a2*wipes eyes* I need a moment, please. *curls up in a ball*

a4

I did not expect The Things You Kiss Goodbye to make me cry. Nope. Sometimes there are books that I have a hunch that might make me cry but this was not one of them — not even when I was reading it did I think that. But oh did I cry…sob really. It’s really hard to explain how I felt about this one — it affected me for sure but I can’t say it was in a way that was lasting or that made it a favorite but I absolutely couldn’t put it down and think there was so much good about it.

Here’s some of the main things I thought about this one:

1. It certainly was a dramatic, intense story and I felt emotionally devastated by the end: I read this prior to BEA and knew I’d forget things about it if I didn’t write down and one of the first things I wrote was “reminds me of the kind of drama you’d get from a Lifetime movie or a soap opera but less cheesy.” A few days later I saw Blythe say something similar to that and it made me feel better because I didn’t know if I was explaining it right in my preliminary thoughts. There’s a whole slew of intense things in this book: abuse, secrets, family drama, an older man and a thing that happens that was pretty intense and made me weep alongside Bettina. The escalation of emotional things happening made me turn the pages faster for sure and by the end I just wanted to sleep for days because I just felt sad.

2. I never felt anything for the romance but had complicated feelings towards it: So there is a secret romance that happens. I guess the age difference didn’t really bother me — it happens — I saw the struggle there. But I never felt the butterflies or FELT the fireworks as I was reading. But I found myself feeling really invested in it toward the end — even though I didn’t believe necessarily it as it was happening. I can’t explain much more of when I felt invested or else it would give the whole thing away but I was very emotional towards their relationship for REASONS.

3. The whole Bettina and Brady situation made me physically panicky: It was very hard to read about how Brady changes. You see how charming he is and how their relationship starts and it’s really sweet. And then I felt like I wanted to vomit each and every time we started to see this other side of Brady. I seriously felt tense and sick to my stomach when it came to Brady. I think the progression of their relationship was written very well because it definitely got to me as a reader and it felt so plausible. It wasn’t ever this huge, explosive thing but these little things that were just getting more and more aggressive and it made me sick how he could just laugh it off and Bettina could doubt herself. HOWEVER, as much as I think this was written very well, I feel conflicted as to how it was dealt with by the end. I felt like there weren’t any consequences for Brady AT ALL. And I know sometimes that is realistic but I kept having this nagging voice wanting SOMETHING a little more when it came to him.

4. Despite my concerns for Bettina and my empathy for sure, I never quite found her to be a character I thought about after: I really did feel for her and have major anxiety when it came to things going on her life but I always felt a bit of a distance from her. She just never really leaped off the page even though her story definitely did…if that makes ANY sense at all.

a6RATING-LIKED

factors+ page-turning, got me emotionally invested, felt unique in lots of ways
lack of true connection to MC, never truly felt the romance with Cowboy,


Re-readability
: More than likely not to be honest.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Because it wasn’t a favorite/I wouldn’t read it, no. But I’m contemplating buying this for my 17 year old niece for her birthday because I think she’d dig it.

a5people who like books that are a bit more dramatic and pretty damn emotional, people interested in books that feature a more unique relationship (a significantly older guy), readers who don’t shy away from a book where abuse happens, people looking for books that deal with family, readers wanting a POC main character

a8This book hooked me for sure with its emotional intensity and drama. From the Brady situation to the budding romance with Cowboy, an older guy, I couldn’t stop turning the pages because I was nervous for Bettina and how all this would turn out. I felt emotionally devastated by the end and wasn’t sure WHAT to think about the ending in certain ways. I wished for more in different areas –actually FEELING the thing with Cowboy, wishing for a less flat MC — but I can’t deny that I was sucked in.

 

review-on-post-it

The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor

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, is it something on your radar or that you think you will read?
* Did anyone else wish the whole Brady thing was a little more wrapped up? I just…I could see it being realistic that way but maybe I just wanted some sort of justice or responsibility or something?
* Was I the only one who wasn’t shipping Bettina and Cowboy (and not even because of age for me)?? I liked their relationship but never felt how this romance happened.


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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 review consideration. 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 review consideration. 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 review consideration. 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 review consideration. 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).


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

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 review consideration. 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?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

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

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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?

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