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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

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

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

What intrigued me: Biracial and bisexual characters?! YES

Snarky Teen and Sad Vibes

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

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

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


Representation goddamn matters.

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

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

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


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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



Additional Info

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

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

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



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

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

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

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

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

Super sad and depressing

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

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

Wildly Inappropriate Refugee Comparisons

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

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


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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

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



Additional Info

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

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

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

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



What's your favorite mixed format book?

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

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

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

What intrigued me: I love the movie Memento.

Compelling story and interesting concept

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

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

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

Insensitive and romanticizing

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

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

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



Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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



Additional Info

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

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

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



Have you ever read books with unreliable narrators?

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

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

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

What intrigued me: I felt like reading some contemporary.

Feels more magical than Contemporary

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

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

POVs don't fit together

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

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


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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



Additional Info

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

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



Have you read any books by Jandy Nelson?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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





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

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

More companion than sequel

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

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

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

Truly a magical, gut-wrenching romance story 

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

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

Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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



Additional Info

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

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

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

Do you like David Levithan's books?

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Recommendation: Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler: Marriage and Greencards

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

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

Quiet and Hilarious

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

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


Brilliant original characters

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

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


Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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



Additional Info

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

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

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

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


Have you read The Taming of the Shrew?

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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


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

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

Brutally Honest

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

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

Refreshing and Real

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

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

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




Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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

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

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

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



Additional Info

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

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

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

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


Have you read books about eating disorders?

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

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




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

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


Extraordinary writing and voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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



Additional Info

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

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

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

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

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Friday, October 7, 2016

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

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

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

Genre-defying and Brilliantly Lucid

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

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

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

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

Unpredictable and Addicting

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

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

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


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

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



Additional Info

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

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

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


Have you read books by Sarah Crossan?

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Recommendation: One - Sarah Crossan: Conjoined Twins and Poetry

In ONE, conjoined twins Tippi and Grace have to face an impossible choice.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for some novels in verse!

Mastering Free Verse

This book. ONE is a gut-wrenching emotional journey that will most definitely grip you and not let you go until the end. In free verse, Crossan tells the story of two conjoined twins. The story is structured very loosely, which in fact absolutely complements the form. Each little chapter has a title and describes a part of their life (doubling as a single poem) and also bringing the story forward. It reads like a regular contemporary, except DOUBLES as a poetry collection.

Crossan masterfully executed this. I was skeptical in the beginning because I had my doubts about the form, but Crossan exceeded my expectations and absolutely and utterly stunned me with this magniloquent masterpiece. 
Tippi and Grace are those kinds of protagonists that you immediately fall in love with. Crossan manages to effortlessly establish their personalities and traits within a couple poems and it's just so gripping. I loved reading about their daily life, it's so strangely addicting while absolutely NOT losing itself in telling the story. The poems in themselves are so incredibly cohesive that you might as well just read them as little short story standalone snippets. I think you'll get the most out of ONE if you take it slow and not gulp it all down in one sitting (which will be hard because it's so addicting). 

Get the Tissues Ready

The thing that ultimately made me absolutely break down and melt into a puddle of tears is that ONE not once leads you on about what it's trying to be. From the first page on, the tone makes it absolutely clear that it goes downhill from there. That the sisters will be facing a tragedy and that you'll slowly but surely should get a box of tissues as you'll go along. You can virtually feel your heart get torn in two as you read more about those lovely sisters, learn more about them and ultimately come closer to the Big Tragedy that you really really really will want to have some tissues ready for.

ONE absolutely surprised, charmed, and stunned me. Crossan created such a profoundly beautiful work of art seemingly so effortlessly. I am in absolute awe and will most certainly pick up more books by her. 


Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

A clear recommendation for both poetry lovers and skeptics. ONE is a powerfully eloquent and fantastically entertaining work of art that you will most definitely reread and reread and reread. If your heart can take it, that is.



Additional Info

Published: September 15th 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780062118752

Synopsis:
"Grace and Tippi. Tippi and Grace. Two sisters. Two hearts. Two dreams. Two lives. But one body.

Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins, joined at the waist, defying the odds of survival for sixteen years. They share everything, and they are everything to each other. They would never imagine being apart. For them, that would be the real tragedy.

But something is happening to them. Something they hoped would never happen. And Grace doesn’t want to admit it. Not even to Tippi.

How long can they hide from the truth—how long before they must face the most impossible choice of their lives?"
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite read in verse?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

[Review] The Form of Things Unknown - Robin Bridges: Hallucinations, Schizophrenia, and Ghosts





In THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN, Natalie struggles with hallucinations and suddenly starts seeing ghosts when she's chosen to play Titania in her schools rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

What intrigued me: I've read the first companion novel DREAMING OF ANTIGONE and was curious to see more of Bridges.



Character-driven coming-of-age story

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is a companion to DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, featuring some characters you might recognize, but it's by no means necessary to have read the latter. Both novels are coming-of-age stories that feature chronically/mentally ill protagonists and are essentially retellings of Antigone and A Midsummer Night's Dream respectively. 

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN surprised me by being a lot more hands on and to-the-point than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE. I quickly grew very invested in Natalie's story and was very intrigued by the paranormal (? or not ?) sub plot. Brigdes cleverly intertwines Natalie's mental illness with the past-tense story though I found the novel a little too slow at times. The plot doesn't advance as quickly as I would've liked and aside from the premise, there is sadly not much to THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. It's purely a character-driven coming-of-age story and you certainly do have to have a soft spot for that to enjoy this. Personally, I'm not a fan.

Belittling mental illness?

I loved Natalie dearly and grew fond of almost all the supporting characters, which ultimately warrants my interest in this story and had me stick around until the end. Without Natalie's entertaining voice and narration I wouldn't have finished this. The truth is, there are a couple things that are problematic about THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. Love interest Luke is/was suicidal and depressed and has been at rehabilitation facility with protagonist Natalie (who`s been treated there for her hallucinations). 

At no point do both these illnesses feel genuine, realistic, or even just well-researched. Luke is one of those generic mysterious love interests whose depression is belittled, paraphrased: "he doesn't look like he's depressed". Natalie's hallucinations are shrugged off and merely a gimmick to give this novel at least some kind of plot with them searching for ghosts in the theatre. 

It just irked me, though I love that Bridges tries to tackle mental illness in many forms (Natalie's grandmother also suffers from schizophrenia), the lack of research is blatantly obvious. THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is spiked with microaggressions and slurs that may not be as obvious to a neurotypical reader. Despite all that, there's no story to begin with. 

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I certainly liked THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN more than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, but because mental illness isn't handled very respectfully and the novel overall lacks direction and plot, I wasn't really a fan. The high rating is mostly warranted by the great voice and characters, and trying to include neurodivergent characters.



Additional Info

Published: August 30th 2016
Pages: 240
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781496703569

Synopsis:
"Natalie Roman isn’t much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory.

Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won’t even meet her eye. But Nat doesn’t need him. She’s making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater’s ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don’t interfere with her partying, it won’t be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read novels that portray mental illness accurately?

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Recommendation: Because I Love You - Tori Rigby: Teen Pregnancy and #Feels

In BECAUSE I LOVE YOU by Tori Rigby, Andie gets pregnant after sleeping with her best friend.

What intrigued me: I haven't read many books about teen pregnancy.

Page-turner with perfect pacing

BECAUSE I LOVE YOU truly is a pleasant surprise. With incredibly powerful and strong writing, it absolutely sucks you in.
Rigby tells this story without ever missing a beat, it's perfectly paced and told from the perspective of a very relatable teen. I truly loved reading about Andie, was really invested in her struggles, and felt like her thoughts and actions are very authenic. The voice and characters are on point, and I genuinely loved every second of reading this book. Rigby has an uncanny ability to make you care about this story and the characters and I came to dearly love Andie and care for her.

The perfect pace is genuinely my favorite thing about BECAUSE I LOVE YOU. It just makes you want to continue, and that quickly, because Rigby just knows where to end a chapter. Cliffhangers galore! But not the forced kind, the kind that makes it very difficult to just put the book down and stop. You have to keep reading. This book cost me a couple night's worth of sleep.

Quiet and emotional

BECAUSE I LOVE YOU is pretty close to perfection. It really follows this super simple storyline of a girl getting pregnant and the baby's father not supporting her, but it's unique in so many little ways; the writing, the emotions, the characters - not once did I find myself able to predict what's going to happen next. Rigby is very subtle in her way of telling the story of Andie and her baby, making this a somewhat quiet, yet very emotional read. 

You won't find any stock characters in BECAUSE I LOVE YOU. Love interest and ex-boyfriend Neil for example, is one of those bad boy type of characters I certainly have seen before, but the way Rigby writes him makes him incredibly smypathtetic, adorable, and swoon-worthy. In the story, he becomes Andie's confidant and new love interest and their relationship will have you swoon and day-dream.

BECAUSE I LOVE YOU is easily one of my favorite contemporary reads of the year and a must-read for fans of the genre.


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

BECAUSE I LOVE YOU will definitely rise to the top reads of 2016 for me. If you love contemporary and gut-wrenching stories and want to be overwhelmed by emotions 200% of the time, you cannot and should not miss BECAUSE I LOVE YOU. Read it.



Additional Info

Published: May 17th 2016
Pages: 232
Publisher: Blaze Publishing
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ASIN: B01BUQM50A

Synopsis:
"Eight weeks after sixteen-year-old Andie Hamilton gives her virginity to her best friend, “the stick” says she’s pregnant. 

Her friends treat her like she’s carrying the plague, her classmates torture and ridicule her, and the boy she thought loved her doesn’t even care. Afraid to experience the next seven months alone, she turns to her ex-boyfriend, Neil Donaghue, a dark-haired, blue-eyed player. With him, she finds comfort and the support she desperately needs to make the hardest decision of her life: whether or not to keep the baby. 

Then a tragic accident leads Andie to discover Neil’s keeping a secret that could dramatically alter their lives, and she's forced to make a choice. But after hearing her son’s heartbeat for the first time, she doesn’t know how she’ll ever be able to let go."(Source: Goodreads)



Do you know great books about teen pregnancy?

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Recommendation: Nice Girls Endure - Chris Struyk-Bonn: Fat Rep, Anxiety, and Body Positivity


In NICE GIRLS ENDURE, everyone is telling Chelsea to start losing weight. When vicious bullies get violent, Chelsea has to make a choice: Endure or stand up to them.

What intrigued me: Beautiful cover and also fat representation, I love body positive books.

Lovely Characters

NICE GIRLS ENDURE is a very quiet, yet fascinating read. The writing and voice suck you in immediately and I was absolutely invested. I almost finished this in one sitting. 

Protagonist Chelsea is an incredibly lovable sweetheart that you can't help but fall a little in love with while reading. Her struggles are heartbreaking to read, but all the much more worth reading, because these things do happen in real life. It's such an important book that I will keep on recommending to people.

I suffered with Chelsea, I smiled about the friendship with the dorky and eccentric Melody, who wears strange homemade costumes and loves Chelsea so much. Their relationship is the heart of this book. I just wish I could be friends with her in real life. 

In general, Struyk-Bonn writes such fantastic character relationships. This is in my opinion the biggest strength of this fantastic book - the fact that her characters do seem extremely realistic and more importantly lovable. Chelsea's father, who always supports her is this fantastic role model, he's fat like her and absolutely unbothered by it and always tries to cheer her up. My heart aches just thinking about their wonderful loving relationship because it's such a moving highlight whenever they interact. 

Heartbreaking and Empowering

Because NICE GIRLS ENDURE is about fat representation and body positivity it also tackles difficult topics like abuse and bullying. Chelsea is never really uncomfortable in her body, there is this really great quote that I'll just paraphrase quickly. "She wasn't bothered by her weight, but by how much it bothered other people." 

This is essentially what you'll find in this book. A really strong protagonist that struggles with how much other people butt in on what she does with her body. It's heartbreaking. There is one pretty graphic scene (during the school dance) that I recommend you skip if you're triggered by rape scenarios and physical abuse. 

NICE GIRLS ENDURE doesn't kid around. It shows how ugly people can be on the inside. It's an incredibly powerful and empowering story that I love dearly and will keep on thinking about for weeks to come. An absolutely clear recommendation. 




Rating:

★★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Yes. You need this book in your life. Read it.



Additional Info

Published: August 1st 2016
Pages: 256
Publisher: Switch Press
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781630790455

Synopsis:
"Chelsea Duvay is so many things. 

She's an avid musical lover, she's a gifted singer, and she has the most perfect, beautiful feet. But no one ever notices that. All they notice is Chelsea s weight. Daily, Chelsea endures endless comments about her appearance from well-meaning adults and cruel classmates. So she keeps to herself and just tries to make it through. 

Don't make waves. Don't draw attention. That's how life is for Chelsea until a special class project pushes the energetic and incessantly social Melody into Chelsea's world. As their unlikely friendship grows, Chelsea emerges from her isolated existence, and she begins to find the confidence to enjoy life. 

But bullies are bullies, and they remain as vicious as ever. One terrible encounter threatens to destroy everything Chelsea has worked so hard to achieve. Readers will be captivated by Chelsea s journey as she discovers the courage to declare her own beauty and self-worth, no matter what others might think."(Source: Goodreads)


Can you recommend some body positive reads?

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Recommendation: Last Will and Testament (Radleigh University #1) - Dahlia Adler: Dating the TA and Becoming an Adult





In LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, party girl Lizzie has to take care of her little brothers and become their guardian after her parents die in an accident. 

What intrigued me: I don't read New Adult often, but when I do, it's because it was recommended. Like this one.

Fantastic voice

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT had me hooked from the first page. Adler has an uncanny ability to utterly suck you into this novel's world. The writing is super accessible, fun, and easy to read. Adler's characters don't need much introduction, it just jumps right into the action.

Paired with a story that is absolutely not light, but rather heavy in the best, subtle yet gut-wrenching way; LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT has a perfect equilibrium. I love novels with easy writing that tackle dark themes. Though I wouldn't have minded if it had tapped more into the dark places, considering that Lizzie loses both her parents and has to completely change up her life in a relatively short time.

Lizzie's voice is really fantastic. Adler manages to capture her narrative voice at the intersection between teen and adult in a way that I have hardly ever encountered before. Lizzie is sassy, Lizzie is teen, and Lizzie is badass, and incredibly likeable. Lizzie definitely carries LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT and makes it stand out. I immediately found myself identifying with her narration and enjoying it. But the thing that I enjoyed by far the most about Lizzie is the fact that she's a valedictorian who stopped getting good grades in college - for ... well, for no reason really. There are too few characters like her and reading about her experience hit close to home for me. LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT tells the story of a girl growing up, of a girl taking responsibility and charge of her life.

Fresh & fun

I fell hopelessly in love with the love interest Connor, Lizzie's TA who really doesn't like her. Their banter is hilarious and easily my highlight of LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT. I love a good hate-to-love story and Adler absolutely pulls it off. I enjoyed that Adler decided to take it slow with the romance, which contributes to the realistic feel - it doesn't feel forced, but like a natural consequence. A truly organic romance.

It truly is a fresh of breath air to read about characters that I find go completely into the different direction of what I'm used to seeing in this genre. I loved the forbidden-romance aspect, considering this is technically a teacher/student relationship, even if the age difference isn't really that relevant.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT is a breath of fresh air, amazes with unique, quirky characters and a fantastic voice. And more importantly such a good read that you will finish this in one sitting like I did. Did I mention that it has a Filipina lead? Cue the choir of angels singing. 

Adler is definitely an author to watch. I'll certainly be reading more books by her.

Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT is easily among my favorite New Adult contemporaries. A true gem.



Additional Info

Published: December 9th 2014
Pages: 414
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: New Adult / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780990916802

Synopsis:
"Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she's acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she'll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn't exactly Lizzie's biggest fan.

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you're ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks... and that she'd like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he's not the kind of guy who'd ever reciprocate.

Until he does.

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left."(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite NA read?

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