Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Title: You Against Me
Author: Jenny Downham
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Pages: 413
Release date: December 2nd 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.

First sentence:
Mikey couldn't believe his life.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was extremely impressed by Jenny Downham's debut, Before I Die (review), so I had high expectations for this one. And while I had a few small problems with You Against Me, it definitely lived up to my expectations!

I love Jenny Downham's writing. Like Before I Die, You Against Me is so real, I felt like I was there along with the characters. The subtlety is great. Aside from the obvious issue of rape, it deals with a few other issues, all without being preachy. For eample, Mikey's mom is an alcoholic, and the way that affects the whole family is described really well. I actually liked this way of dealing with the issue better than a few other books about kids with alcoholic parents, because in You Against Me, Mikey's mom seems like a real person, and her actions are understandable and accessible (which isn't to say they're justified). Another issue the book deals with are social differences. Throughout the book it's obvious that Mikey and Ellie come from very different backgrounds, and I love how this causes small complications but is not the main topic. (Rich-girl/poor-boy-romances are way too cliched.) Jenny Downham addresses these issues with great subtlety, leaving it up to the reader what to make of them.

The characters are great and well-developed, the main characters as well as the minor ones. I love Mikey - he's adorable, but still a realistic boy character. I liked Ellie too, and found her easy to relate to (with one exception - I'll get to that later). The two of them together are adorable, and the romance aspect is really well-done. The romance  develops naturally, which is always really important to me. I really enjoyed scenes with the two of them together. Another thing I really liked is how all the characters' motives are understandable. Even though I didn't agree with all of them, you could understand why Ellie's mom, Ellie's dad, Mikey's sister and Mikey's mom act the way they do and make the choices they make. The only character I didn't feel like I really got to know is Tom, but I think it's impossible to understand him without getting into his head, and adding his point-of-view would have ruined the story.

I loved the whole family storyline. You Against Me raises some interestng questions - is it more important to protect your brother or sister, or to tell the truth? If one of your children does not want to lie to protect the other one, which of your children do you stick with? It deals with these diffictult choices with subtlety, and that aspect reminded me a bit of My Sister's Keeper, another book I loved (review).

I did have some problems with this book, though, but they're really hard to explain without spoiling the book. So I'll explain it vaguely now, and with more details in a seperate paragraph, which will contain spoilers. One problem I had is that, for me, it was obvious from the beginning on which sibling was lying and which was telling the truth. I just saw from the way they acted that it couldn't be any other way, and that took some of the suspense away. My second problem is that the way Mikey/Ellie admits to him-/herself that their brother/sister is lying is too abrupt. I think the transition is too short, and the way Mikey/Ellie say they doubted their brother/sister was telling the truth from the beginnig on but made up excuses because he/she didn't want it to be true is not realistic, considering his/her thoghts at the beginning of the book. (Sorry if that's confusing - this is just really hard to explain without giving the end of the book away.)

***This paragraph contains spoilers!***
So now I'm going explain that in more detail, which should be easier and make more sense. But don't read this paragraph unless you've already read You Against Me or don't mind spoilers! Okay, so my first problem is that I thought it was obvious from the beginning on that Karyn was telling the truth and that Tom really did rape her. How Karyn is so depressed and doesn't come out of her room wouldn't make sense if nothing had actually happened, and I never seemed to really trust Tom. I don't know why, he just always seemed suspicious to me, not wanting to talk about it and pushing Ellie away. That made the book somewhat less suspenseful for me. I also disliked how quickly Ellie admits to herself that Tom is lying. In the beginning, she's so sure her brother is innocent and can't believe he would hurt anyone, which makes no sense, considering what Ellie saw that night. It's mentioned that Ellie doesn't remember everything from that night, but how she suddenly does remember is not explained. As a reason why she didn't tell the truth from the beginning on, Ellie says that she always had doubts (which isn't true, at least from what the reader sees in the beginning) but always tried to explain it all away, not believing Tom could do something like that, which I don't think is possible - what she saw is clear evidence, and I couldn't imagine how you could explain that away.

The ending - ugh! It's not that it's not a good ending, but I was frustrated that the reader doesn't get to find out how the case ends - I want to know!

Despite these complaints I couldn't explain well, this is a really great book. It's subtle and makes you think. You Against Me is almost as good as Jenny Downham's debut, Before I Die, and I recommend both of them!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Kane Richards Must Die by Shanice Williams

Title: Kane Richards Must Die
Author: Shanice Williams
Publisher: Lands Atlantic Publishing, LLC                         
Pages: 288
Release date: May 9th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
After an unexpected transfer to the States for her senior year, Suranne's new friends give her just one instruction: stay away from Kane Richards. According to everyone, he's a heartless playboy concerned only for himself. With one glance, it's easy to see why he gets away with it. But things aren't always what they seem- especially when he sets his sights on her and whispers that she's different.
Despite all the red flags, Suranne considers whether or not his intentions are genuine or if she's simply another name on his list. In the process, she may just uncover the real Kane Richards. But, when it comes down to it, the real Kane Richards may not want to be found.

First sentence:
As I drew up to the secluded school building the butterflies started.

My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

I really hate writing bad reviews, but this book annoyed me to no end, and I just can't give it anything more than 1 star. Of course I wasn't expecting Kane Richards Must Die to be the most meaningful, literary book ever, but it took the whole fun/thoughtless-romance-thing way too far. Everything about this annoyed and frustrated me, so much that I didn't want to finish it (I only finished it because I didn't have enough other books with me on vacation).

What annoyed me is how melodramatic the whole book is. From the beginning on, it's like the relationship between Kane and Suranne is the only thing that exists in the world. Suranne is new at school and everyone knows about it - everyone's talking about how there's going to be a new girl, everyone knows her name and where she's from. Maybe it's like that at a really small school, but Suranne says the school is so big it's confusing, so that makes no sense. Kane also immediately comes up to her, which I didn't get - what does he need Suranne for, if so many girls want to get with him? How would anyone even know about her? The whole book is way too focused on that storyline - no other storylines are really explored. Highlight to see spoiler: Even when Suranne finds out she has to go back to Europe because her mom is sick, she's not sad about her mom being sick at all, just about the fact that she needs to leave Kane.

The characters annoyed me. Suranne has absolutely no personality - we know nothing about her outside of her relationship with Kane. We know she plays the piano, because that's what connects her to Kane, but other than that, she has no interests of her own. There are no hobbies, no friends in London she misses, no scenes with friends in the US, no scenes with her aunt, with whom she's living in the US, except for when they're talking about Kane. Suranne has no personality; we know almost nothing about her, and she's our main character! And one little thing: Suranne's last name is Williams, just like the author's. Shanice Williams wrote a book about Suranne Williams. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that's weird?

Kane is just as bad. While he has a personality, somewhat, I really, really disliked him. The way he treats girls is terrible! He doesn't even remember the name of the girl he slept with last night! The stuff he says to them is incredible (I should have gotten a quote, but I'm not reading through it again to find one). He treats girls, including Suranne, at least at the beginning, like objects, and I really, really hated him. Yes, later on we find out about his life, and I guess that explains it, but that didn't make me like him. He's still conceited, talking about how good-looking he is and how he could have any girl he wants, and he's still only interested in sex. It seemed like the author wanted the reader to like Kane, once we found out his secret, but that didn't work for me at all - he just pissed me off. Kane's issues are under-developed and do not seem realistic, and they're solved way too easily.

Another thing that annoyed me about Kane is the swearing. Not that he swears, because that's normal, but the way he swears. He uses swear words in the weirdest ways - I can't even explain it, but it's just not how normal people talk. It seemed like those were used to make him seem like a real teenaged guy, but it didn't work - basically, it's that 'shit' is added at random times in random sentences, and it just sounds off.

The plot is, well, kind of crazy. I thought the plot would be predictable, but that's not the case. There are crazy plot twists, which is a good thing, normally. The problem, though, is that they make no sense. It seemed like the author just made stuff up along the way, like "Oh, now that could happen to the characters", and didn't go back to make sure it worked with what she'd previously written. Of course I know that can't actually be the case - she must have edited, like every author does - but it seemed that way to me. Kane's secret, for example, isn't mentioned at all before he tells Suranne about it. I don't mean that the reader should know about it before Suranne - that would take the suspense away - but... Okay, how do I explain this without spoiling it for anyone? For example, Kane plays the piano at night and says something about waking his family. His secret is a family issue (that's not too big of a spoiler, right?), and because of that what he said makes no sense. The plot-twist with Kate is like that too. There were absolutely no signs for what happened - and I don't mean that in the good, I-never-would-have-seen-that-coming way, I mean that the plot-twists make no sense.

One storyline I would have enjoyed reading more about is Suranne's friendship with Kate, but that's underdeveloped; barely even addressed. Kate tells Suranne to watch out for Kane that first day, and just like that, they're friends. We don't really have any scenes between the two of them; we're just told that they're friends, and they sit together at lunch. I would have liked to read more about how Kane affected their friendship, but that's never even addressed. I was frustrated by how Suranne chooses Kane over Kate without a second thought - what kind of message does that send? The same goes for Suranne's relationship with Lawrence, the one character I could have liked, if there'd been more scenes with him.

Despite these problems, I guess this could have still been an enjoyable read, if the romance were well-done - it is, after all, a romance novel. But I didn't like the romance either. Honestly, I didn't feel like Kane and Suranne had much of a relationship - it's almost all physical, which is strange, as Suranne supposed to be different from all the meaningless sex Kane has with other girls. There's nothing about what Kane and Suranna like about each other - they just talk about how hot they think the other one is. The attraction is all physical. Really, the only reason Kane goes to Suranne in the first place is because he can't get it up anymore when he's with other girls. They even say that they only spend time in the bedroom. It's not that I mind a few scenes like that, but that alone does not make a good romance.

The whole topic of sex is kind of strange in Kane Richards Must Die. It's not that I mind that the characters have sex - that's normal. But Kane is seventeen and says he's with a different girl every night - and it's been that way since he was fourteen. That's just, well, crazy. Where does he find so many girls willing to sleep with him, at that age? Even if he's as good-looking as the melodramatic descriptions say he is, not that many teenaged girls sleep with guys if they're not getting a relationship out of it - that's just not realistic that there are hundreds of girls throwing themselves at him, willing to sleep with him even though they know it's just for one night. Suranne doesn't address the topic, either - she sleeps with Kane after going out with him once or twice, and she doesn't even think about it. I don't mind that they have sex, but I mind that it's dealt with as if it weren't a big deal at all.

Wow, my review is long. If you've beared with me this long, thank you! Obviously, I did not enjoy Kane Richards Must Die, not a single aspect. It's not a fun romance; to me, it was melodramatic, superficial, annoying and kind of ridiculous.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bookish Anticipation #6

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: February 16th 2012

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev’s band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she’s abandoning their plans—and Colby—to start college in the fall.
But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie-Colby struggles to deal with Bev’s already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what’s next?

The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: January 17th 2012

Brie's life at sixteen: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally. But now that she's in heaven, Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend knows a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul who's been D&G (dead and gone) much longer than she . . . and who just might hold the key to her forever after. With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: January 24th 2012

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.
Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.
Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: January 3rd 2012

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.
But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

In Too Deep by Amanda Grace
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: February 8th 2012

I never meant for anyone to get hurt. All I wanted to do that night was make a play for Carter Wellesley. His heartless rejection was mortifying, but people got the wrong idea when they saw me leaving his bedroom, crying. That’s how rumors of rape started.
Now girls at school are pouring out their sympathy to me. Guys too. But not everyone’s on my side. The school has become a war zone and the threats are getting scary. What began as poetic justice has morphed into something bigger—forcing me to make a terrible choice.

The Fine Art of Truth and Dare by Melissa Jensen
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: February 16th 2012

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that’s just fine by her. She’s got her friends— the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She’s got her art— and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it’s hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they’re dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?

Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: March 8th 2012

At home in Philly, Alex is angry. Angry at the dad who offed himself rather than stay around; angry at the mom who goes from one guy to the next without a thought for her family. Alex may be a player and a bully, but his little brother Kyle will do anything for his approval.
At home in the suburbs, Katie is Miss Popularity, the golden girl that everyone expects too much of, the one who will always be the prettiest and best in her parents eyes, and everyone else’s. Her shy little sister Julie just wants a bit of the attention that Katie gets so easily.
But during their summers at lake houses in Upstate New York, all four teens have a chance to leave their old identities behind. They can be anything here.
Here, no one knows the truly disturbing nature of Kyle and Alex’s dysfunctional relationship. No one knows that the girl Katie pretends to be is a lie. Julie never worries that Kyle is only spending time with her to get to her prettier sister. And the secrets that are threatening to destroy each of them seem are safe. But secrets have a way of getting out…

Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Release date: April 17th 2012

It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge, trying to make sense of the random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives.
Craig's crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him...and if he'll do it again...and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody.
Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable, and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Release date: April 24th 2012

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a tragic car accident—including her memory of the event. All she has left are the scars and a sneaking suspicion that the crash wasn’t an accident after all. When the police reopen the investigation, it quickly turns on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around their small town. As the threats begin and the survivor’s guilt sets in, Allie’s memories collide with a dark secret about Trip she’s kept for too long. Caught somewhere between her past and her future, Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: That Boy by Jillian Dodd (That Boy Blog Tour)

This review is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for That Boy by Jillian Dodd. You can find out more about the tour here. I got to do a This or That interview with That Boy's main character, Jadyn, last week, which you can check out here.

Title: That Boy
Author: Jillian Dodd
Publisher: N/A
Release date: May 2011
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Received an ebook for review from the author for the blog tour - thank you!
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
There's Danny. Danny is a golden boy in every way. He has dreamy blue eyes and blonde hair that always looks perfect, even when it’s windblown or been stuck under a football helmet. He’s the boy every girl crushes on. The boy I get into trouble with, the boy I fight with, the hot quarterback no girl can resist, not even me. Being with Danny is like being on an adventure. He has a bright, contagious smile and abs to die for. He’s pretty much irresistible.
Equally crush worthy is Phillip. Adorable, sweet Phillip, who I have known since birth. Phillip has dark hair, a perfect smile, brown eyes, and the sexiest voice I have ever heardtrouble, the boy who irritatingly keeps getting hotter, and whose strong arms always seem to find their way around me. And when he gives me that grin, I can never say no.
One boy will give me my very first kiss. One boy will teach me to make out. One boy will take me to prom. And finally, one boy will ask me to marry him. They will both be my best friends. But only one of them will be the boy I fall in love with. Only one of them is That Boy...

First sentence:
"You arrogant son of a bitch," I say.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love the idea for this book. It's the classic falling-for-the-boy-next-door story, but this time, there are two 'boys next door'. And while I was kind of wary of this book, since it's self-published and I hadn't heard anything about it, it's actually a really cute love story!

At first, That Boy was hard for me to get into, just because of the format. The paragraphs aren't indented and random words and phrases are written in bold. I found that annoying and kind of hard to read. After a while, I got used to the format, but I still don't get why it was written that way.

From the content, though, That Boy starts out great. I immediately loved Jadyn's character - she's so easy to like and relate to. Jadyn's voice is sweet. I love how she says whatever enters her mind, stuff I think, too, but would never dare to say out loud. Her humor is great and had me laughing throughout the book. One thing I thought was overdone, though, is the way Jadyn likes hanging out with Danny and Phillip so much better than hanging out with her girlfriends - she complains that her girlfriends are too obsessed with boys, when, well, she's one of the most boy-obsessed characters I've read about.

The secondary characters are great too - I could imagine both Danny and Phillip easily. They have destinct personalities, but I loved both of them, and, like Jadyn, didn't know which one she should chose - she has great chemistry with both of them. Yes, it's obvious which one she ends up, but they're just so adorable together! It's clichéd and too, well, happy to be realistic, but I really enjoyed reading the cute love story.

The plot is good. I liked seeing how Jadyn changes over the years. There's only one main storyline - Jadyn's relationship with Danny and Phillip - but there's also a few smaller storylines that were interesting to read about. At some points, though, I found myself kind of bored, and I think some parts of the book could have been shortened a bit.

No, That Boy is not perfect - I disliked the format, it's clichéd at times, and some parts are too drawn out - but it's a cute, fun love story with great humor, that should have definitely gotten more attention than it has!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

Title: Brooklyn, Burning
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Pages: 210
Release date: September 1st 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book!
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreades description:
When you're sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you're lucky, you'll find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you're really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.

First sentence:
On the corner of Franklin and India streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is the north wall of Fish's bar.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Brooklyn, Burning is one of those books where you don't even notice how great it is while reading it; only once you've finished it do you see how incredibly good it really is. (At least, that's how it was for me.) It doesn't have one set topic or storyline, and while reading it, I wasn't all that impressed. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn't really seem all that special, either. Only once I'd turned the last page did I see all the subtleties and how inconspicuously amazing Brooklyn, Burning is.

The whole book was like that, for me. The writing is matter-of-fact most of the time, which isn't something I usually like. But the sparse prose works in Brooklyn, Burning - somehow, it manages to convey subtle emotions without ever really addressing them. Despite using so few words, this book really made me feel something.

I love the whole idea for Brooklyn, Burning. I don't think I've ever read a novel about street kids before, and it was really interesting to read about a topic that's so far removed from my day-to-day life.

Its subtlety is probably what I liked best about Brooklyn, Burning. So many issues play a role in this book - homosexuality, homelessness, drug/alcohol abuse, parental neglect, and many more. But none of those issues are ever really addressed - they just are, and each reader can make of them what he or she wants.

The characters are great. After reading just a few sentences about a character, I could picture each of them easily. Even though I don't agree with each of Kid's decisions (I can't imagine leaving my family to live on the street for any reason), I could easily relate to our main character. Once you find out everything that's happened the previous summer, you can't help but feel for Kid. The secondary characters are great too. Even though you don't find out too much about Scout, Jonny, Konny, Felix and Fish, I felt like I knew them. All of the relationships are so real, I felt like Fish was the owner of the bar I go to, like Konny was my friend, and so on.

Did you notice how I haven't been using any pronouns? That's because the book doesn't, either - just, you know, in a more skillful and less obvious way. The reader never finds out what the genders of our characters are. If I'm being honest, I didn't even notice that while reading. I pictured Kid as male and Scout as female - I don't know why, that's just how they seemed to me. Only after reading some other reviews of Brooklyn, Burning, which talked about how we're never told Kid's gender, did I see that it was only my bias that had me believe Kid was male. That just shows that Steve Brezenoff is a better writer than I am a reader. Then, after reading Maggie's review, in which she addresses Scout as a 'he', whom I'd seen as a 'she', I noticed that none of the characters really have set genders. That's when I saw how amazing this book truly is - it must have been crazy hard not to give the genders of your characters away, but I love the idea. It makes you not see Kid and Scout's relationship as an LGBT-romance or a heterosexual-romance, but just see it as a beautiful love story, free of all stereotypes. I love that you can make of it whatever you want.

There must have been many more things I loved about Brooklyn, Burning, but I can't even tell you about them - I didn't notice them because of the book's incredible subtlety. This is one amazing book, and it's definitely original. I highly recommend this book, and not just for YA-readers - I think this book could be enjoyable for adults as well. I'm going to need to read Steve Brezenoff's debut, The Absolute Value of -1, as soon as possible!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Title: Because I Am Furniture
Author: Thalia Chaltas
Publisher: Viking Juvenile                     
Pages: 352
Release date: April 16th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads
Goodreads description:
Anke's father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she's just an invisible witness in a house of horrors, on the brink of disappearing altogether. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. At first just being exhausted after practice feels good, but as Anke becomes part of the team, her confidence builds. When she learns to yell "Mine!" to call a ball, she finds a voice she didn't know existed. For the first time, Anke is seen and heard. Soon, she's imagining a day that her voice will be loud enough to rescue everyone at home - including herself.
First sentence:
I am always there.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I used to be wary of novels written in verse, but after discovering Ellen Hopkins and how amazing her free-verse-writing is, I was more confident about them and thought I might like some other novels written in verse, too. That's why I bought Because I Am Furniture, which is also written in verse. But every problem I thought I'd have with novels written in verse and didn't with Ellen Hopkins's books, I did have with Because I Am Furniture.

The writting is...okay. It would have been pretty good if this weren't a verse-novel, just written like a normal book. But free-verse-novles have such few sentences to convey the story and the emotions that you need to make each word count, and the writing in Because I Am Furniture just isn't good enough for that, in my opinion.

The characters are underdeveloped. They're bland and don't seem like real people. Anke is pretty easy to relate to, but I don't feel like I really got to know her, and I felt kind of disconnected from her throughout. Anke's mother, brother and sister seemed more like plot devices than characters, and there wasn't enough about them for me to understand their motivation for not doing anything about their abusive father. The father is underdeveloped as well - the mom talks about his issues and this being his way of coping, but we never find out what he's struggling with. We never find out why he abuses Anke's brother and sister but not Anke, either. Anke's best friend Rona has no real personality, and neither does Angeline, this girl Anke sometimes hangs out with but who really annoys her. The reader never understands why Anke likes Rona but finds Angeline annoying - honestly, I saw no real difference between the two. The love interests Jed and Kyler are flat, too, and there is no real development in that storyline.

Another thing I disliked is that there is no real plot. There's the topic of abuse and the topic of volleyball, but there's no plot - just random scenes either at home or at volleyball, somehow put together. I also found it weird that the book is split into four parts - I saw no real destinction between the different parts, and the seperation seemed kind of random.

***This paragraph contains spoilers!***
The ending is too sudden and clichéd, in my opinion. How Anke finds her voice is too fast, and how all of a sudden the rest of the family is on her side and her father is immediately put in jail is unrealistc.

The one thing I liked are Anke's emotions - the conflict between hating what her father does to the family and feeling worthless because he doesn't abuse her are developed pretty well.

Obviously, I did not enjoy this book. I didn't find it engaging for the reader, and thought there was a lack of character- and plot-development. Maybe, though, that's just because this novel is written in verse, and I had too high expectations because of Ellen Hopkins's novels. I recommend Because I Am Furniture only if you really like free-verse-novels.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Character This or That with Rob from Wherever You Go (Wherever You Go Blog Tour)

Today we have Rob from Wherever You Go by Heather Davis here for a This or That interview! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Wherever You Go. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour if you'd like to know more about Wherever You Go!

Summer or winter? 

Vanilla or chocolate?

Cats or dogs?
Dogs - I have a golden retriever

Day or night? 
Day. The night gets long and lonely.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee - I’m from Seattle.

Movies or TV shows? 
Movies. I love the old ones.

Outdoors or indoors? 
Outdoors. I love to take hikes or just get outside.

Being invisible when you want to, or being able to fly?
I’m experiencing being invisible right now. So, I’ll choose being able to fly.

Being in a crowd or being alone? 
I had chosen to be alone, but now I wish I was in a crowd. There’s nothing lonelier than feeling alone.

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for Wherever You Go, which will be released November 14th 2011.

Wherever You Go by Heather Davis
Seventeen-year-old Holly Mullen has felt lost and lonely ever since her boyfriend, Rob, died in a tragic accident. The fact that she has to spend most of her free time caring for her little sister and Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather doesn’t help. But Holly has no idea that as she goes about her days, Rob’s ghost is watching over her. He isn’t happy when he sees his best friend, Jason, reach out to help Holly with her grandfather—but as a ghost, he can do nothing to stop it. Is his best friend really falling for his girlfriend? As Holly wonders whether to open her heart to Jason, the past comes back to haunt her. Her grandfather claims to be communicating with the ghost of Rob. Could the messages he has for Holly be real? And if so, how can the loved ones Rob left behind help his tortured soul make it to the other side? Told from the perspectives of Holly, Jason, and Rob, Wherever You Go is is a poignant story about making peace with the past, opening your heart to love, and finding the courage to move forward into the light.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview with Leila Sales (Past Perfect Blog Tour)

Today we have Leila Sales, author of Mostly Good Girls and Past Perfect, here for an interview! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Past Perfect. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour if you'd like to know more about Past Perfect!

Have you aways loved writing? What made you decide to write for teens?
Yes, I have always loved writing! And I have loved writing for teens ever since I was a teenager myself. I started reading and writing YA lit when I was in middle school, and I just never stopped.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing process? Do you have any weird writing habits? How has writing this novel been different from wiritng your debut, Mostly Good Girls?
I wrote MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS on and off over the course of two years. I didn’t have an agent or a book contract at the time, so there wasn’t any rush. PAST PERFECT, on the other hand, I wrote in about six months. It was already under contract with Simon Pulse, so there was a deadline in place before I even knew what my second book would be about. I wrote the last 20,000 words in 21 days—and that was while I was working a 9-to-5 job, too. It was not the easiest 21 days in my life, but I look back on it now and I feel like, “Wow, I did that!”

Also, PAST PERFECT is a more linear story than MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS. With a few exceptions, I wrote the scenes in PAST PERFECT in the order that they now appear in the finished book. On the other, writing MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS required a lot of arranging and rearranging the chapters. So in many ways the experience of writing PAST PERFECT was different from the experience of writing MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS.

As for weird writing habits… I eat a lot of chocolate chips as I write. I mean A LOT. I usually eat chocolate chips and write until I feel too sick to my stomach to go on, and that’s how I know I’m done writing for the night. I do not necessarily recommend this as an artistic technique.

If you coud pair your main character, Chelsea, up with any character from any book, who would it be and why?
That’s a tough question! There are so many good options. I think I’d go with Naomi, the protagonist in Gabrielle Zevin’s MEMOIRS OF A TEENAGE AMNESIAC, because both Naomi and Chelsea grapple with some similar questions of memory and self-reinvention. Plus, I’m just crazy about that book!

Chelsea has a summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village, a historical reenactment village - why did you decide to make Chelsea work at a place like that? Did you have to do a lot of research in order to be able to write that storyline?
The summer I was 19, I had a part-time summer job as a costumed tour guide on Boston’s Freedom Trail. I wrote a number of short essays about it at the time—about how hot it was in those thick layers of clothes, how seriously everyone took it when the British redcoat reenactors showed up on the Fourth of July, how hard it was to flirt with boys using only Colonial vocabulary. I felt like there was a longer story in there, but it took a number of year for me to figure out what that story was. I drew on those essays and my journal from that summer as I wrote PAST PERFECT.

As I was writing this book, I also took a research road trip down to Colonial Williamsburg along with my writing partner, Rebecca Serle. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation was very helpful, and they set up a meeting between me and one of their teen interpreters. The poor girl, though—I kept asking her questions like, “So, do you ever date any of the guys here?” or, “Where would you say the ‘cool kids’ work? Like, in the stables? The church? Or what?”

Thanks for the great interview answers, Leila!

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for Past Perfect, which has already been released.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales
A summer job is exactly the distraction that Chelsea needs in order to finally get over Ezra, the boy who dumped her and broke her heart to pieces just a few weeks before. So when Chelsea's best friend, Fiona, signs them up for roles at Essex Historical Colonial Village, Chelsea doesn't protest too hard, even though it means spending the summer surrounded by drama geeks and history nerds. Chelsea will do anything to forget Ezra.
But when Chelsea and Fiona show up for their new jobs, they find out Ezra's working there too. Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. ...or will this turn out to be exactly the summer that Chelsea needed, after all?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

Title: You Are My Only
Author: Beth Kephart
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 256
Release date: October 25th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book!
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Emmy Rane is married at nineteen , a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock. Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the “No Good.” One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that opens Sophie’s eyes, giving her the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever…

First sentence:
My house is a storybook house.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

First off, I love this book's cover. The girl looks so sad but so beautiful, and I love the whole idea with the rain.

What I first noticed when I started reading You Are My Only is the incredible writing. It's poetic, rich and beautiful, with just the right balance of sparse and descriptive - sometimes, when something needs to be left to the reader's imagination, the writing is sparse, and the rest of the time, the author uses rich descriptions with great imagery.

The story itself, though, was kind of hard for me to get into. It feels a bit rushed, and I think the author should have taken some more time at the beginning. You Are My Only jumps right in with the plot, but I would have liked a longer exposition to get to know the characters before the plot starts - to understand why Emmy stays with Peter, the husband she no longer loves; what Sophie's life is like not being allowed to leave the house; what her mother is like, etc. This way I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I would have liked, and I felt somewhat removed from the story at times. For example, it took me ages to figure out when this story takes place.

For the most part, Emmy's and Sophie's stories are seperate, and I have to say I liked Sophie's story a lot better than I liked Emmy's. It's heartbreaking to watch Sophie grow up the way she does. I loved reading about how she breaks free and about her relationship with Jimmy, the boy next door, and his two aunts. The suspense of Sophie figuring out her mother's secrets is great, too, and kept me interested throughout. Emmy's story starts out interesting and suspenseful, too, and I liked reading about how she tries to find her baby. Once she's in the mental hospital, though, I kind of lost interest in her story. I found it kind of boring, even though I can't explain why - interesting things happen, and Enny's roommate is a fun character. I just felt kind of removed from Emmy's story once she gets to the mental hospital.

The main characters are... well, they're okay. I didn't get too much of their personalities, but that might be because of the rushed exposition. The secondary characters, though, I loved. The man who helps Emmy in the beginning, her roommate at the mental hosiptal, Jimmy, Aunt Helen and Aunt Cloris - they're all quirky, well-developed characters, and I loved reading about their relationships with the main characters.

Some other reviews I've read said the plot is too predictable, but for me that wasn't the case. I knew almost nothing about this book beforehand, so for me it wasn't obvious (I didn't get the connection till the end), and I liked it that way. I understand, though, how the book description could give it away.

Overall, this is an enjoyable read. I felt somewhat removed from the story and characters, possibly due to the rushed exposition, but the incredible writing makes up for it. If you're looking for something with an original idea and great writing, you should definitely check out You Are My Only!

Monday, October 17, 2011

This or That with Jadyn from That Boy (That Boy Blog Tour) & Giveaway

Today we have Jadyn from That Boy by Jillian Dodd here for a This or That interview and giveaway! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for That Boy. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour if you'd like to know more about That Boy!

This or That with Jadyn:

Summer or winter?
Can I choose both?? I live in Nebraska, and we’re lucky to have both hot summers and cold winters. I love playing around in the snow. I mean, who wouldn’t like to play strip football in the snow with Danny and Phillip? It was fun, then we’d always end up in our hot tub drinking hot chocolate and teasing each other about who won. And summers are awesome too. Late nights out drinking with friends, star gazing, going to the lake, the way the fields smell after a good rain. I really can’t choose one!

Vanilla or chocolate?
Now this one is easy. Chocolate for sure!! My favorite dessert is mint chocolate brownies. Mrs. Mac makes the best ones, but I can give her a run for her money now! I should give you the recipe sometime!! 

Cats or dogs?
Dogs for sure. We used to have a dog, Pookie, when I was growing up. She was awesome and loved to sit on my bed and keep me company.

Day or night?
Definitely night! That’s when everything good happens. My mom used to say nothing good happens after midnight, when she thought that was what my curfew should be, but I disagree. The good stuff always happens later. Kissing cute boys under the stars, hanging out with your friends. I am really not very good in the morning. 

Coffee or tea?
Coffee. I never liked it much, but out of necessity learned to drink it in college. I always tried to schedule my classes early, but sometimes the school didn’t see fit to work around my preferences. Coffee was the only thing that kept me awake. Phillip always made me and Danny coffee before he left the house in the morning. I have to add lots of sugar and flavorings to make it taste good. Basically by the time I’m done with it, it tastes a lot like hot chocolate!

Movies or TV shows?
Honestly, I like both. We watch a lot of TV, mostly for sports and things like that, but I’d probably pick movies. Phillip makes me watch action films, we both like funny movies and I make him suffer through romantic comedies. (Even though he complains about them, I’m convinced he secretly enjoys them!)

Outdoors or indoors?
I love to be outside! 

Superpower: Being invisible or being able to fly?
Hmm. That’s a good one. I think flying would be super cool. Especially if I could fly really fast. And it would be really fun if one of my friends could have that power too, so I wouldn’t be like flying around all alone. We could race and stuff!

Being in a crowd or being alone?
I love the excitement of being in a crowd. It’s funny how no matter where I am, I can always find Phillip across a crowded room. Well, except for that one night when he was making out with that girl in the frat house, and I was um, well, it’s sort of embarrassing, but you’ll find out a lot of embarrassing things about me in my next book, That Wedding. (My friends have big mouths, just saying.) Anyway, I maybe, possibly, threw up across the dance floor when I was trying to find him. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a shining moment.

Being able to change the past or living with your mistakes?
I would change the past. Bring back my parents in a heartbeat. I miss them a lot. Especially now that I’m planning my wedding. But I have a feeling you’re talking about changing something in my past that I specifically did. In that case, yes, a couple things. I would have dumped that jerk Jake, or possibly never even dated him. I also would have slept with Phillip much, much sooner.

So I’m thrilled that you invited me to join you today! I’ve been busy lately planning my wedding. Well, sorta. Mostly I’ve been getting busy with Phillip because that’s about all that’s been on that boy’s mind lately. The wedding planning, not so much. But I’m pretty sure things with him will work out, but we did get engaged on our first date. We need to make sure things are going to work out, before we get all crazy planning a wedding, right? So I guess what I’m saying is if we do actually get married, I hope you will all come! It will for sure be a great party!

Thanks for the great answers, Jadyn!


Jillian was so generous to offer an e-book copy of That Boy for one lucky winner!

This giveaway is open for two weeks, from now till October 31st. It's open worldwide.

That Boy by Jillian Dodd

There's Danny. Danny is a golden boy in every way. He has dreamy blue eyes and blonde hair that always looks perfect, even when it’s windblown or been stuck under a football helmet. He’s the boy every girl crushes on. The boy I get into trouble with, the boy I fight with, the hot quarterback no girl can resist, not even me. Being with Danny is like being on an adventure. He has a bright, contagious smile and abs to die for. He’s pretty much irresistible.
Equally crush worthy is Phillip. Adorable, sweet Phillip, who I have known since birth. Phillip has dark hair, a perfect smile, brown eyes, and the sexiest voice I have ever heardtrouble, the boy who irritatingly keeps getting hotter, and whose strong arms always seem to find their way around me. And when he gives me that grin, I can never say no.
One boy will give me my very first kiss. One boy will teach me to make out. One boy will take me to prom. And finally, one boy will ask me to marry him. They will both be my best friends. But only one of them will be the boy I fall in love with. Only one of them is That Boy...

Please fill out this form to enter:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bookish Wishlist #4

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
(Amazon / Goodreads)

When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York--and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn't think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari's family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future.
When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Emma Healy has never fit in with the rest of her family. She's grown used to being the only ordinary one among her rather extraordinary parents and siblings. But when she finds a birth certificate for a twin brother she never knew she had, along with a death certificate dated just two days later, she feels like a part of her has been justified in never feeling quite whole. Suddenly it seems important to visit his grave, to set off in search of her missing half. When her next-door neighbor Peter Finnegan -- who has a quiet affinity for maps and a desperate wish to escape their small town -- ends up coming along for the ride, Emma thinks they can't possibly have anything in common. But as they head from upstate New York toward North Carolina, driving a beat-up and technically stolen car and picking up a stray dog along the way, they find themselves learning more and more about each other. Neither is exactly sure what they're looking for, but with each passing mile, each new day of this journey, they seem to be getting much closer to finding it.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Amber's life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of her family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself. Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell that he's also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets. The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she's drawn to him. And the more she's troubled by his darkness. Because Cade's not just living in the now--he's living each moment like it's his last.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
(Amazon / Goodreads)

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner. What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
(Amazon / Goodreads)

When high school junior Natalie - or Dr. Aphrodite, as she calls herself when writing the relationship column for her school paper - is accused of knowing nothing about guys and giving girls bad relationship advice, she decides to investigate what guys really think and want. But the guys in her class won't give her straight or serious answers. The only solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boy boarding school in town. There she learns a lot about guys and girls in ways she never expected - especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
(Amazon / Goodreads)

At the beginning of his junior year at a boys' boarding school, 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend. When questioned, Alex and his friend Glenn, who was also at the river, begin weaving their web of lies. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind Moby-Dick. Caught in the web with Alex and Glenn is their English teacher, Miss Dovecott, fresh out of Princeton, who suspects there's more to what happened at the river when she perceives guilt in Alex's writing for class. She also sees poetic talent in Alex, which she encourages. As Alex responds to her attention, he discovers his true voice, one that goes against the boarding school bravado that Glenn embraces. When Glenn becomes convinced that Miss Dovecott is out to get them, Alex must choose between them.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

Clean by Amy Reed
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They’re addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. But they’ll all have to deal with themselves and one another if they want to learn how to live. Because when you get that high, there’s nowhere to go but down, down, down.

These are some books that are on my wishlist. If you've read any of them, what did you think? Are these on your wishlist too?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...