Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick

Title: Kiss of Broken Glass
Author: Madeleine Kuderick
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: September 9th 2014
Pages: 224
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Edelweiss - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.
When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love the premise of Kiss of Broken Glass. I've read a number of books on the issue of self-harm, but Kiss of Broken Glass is unique because of the main character's motivation. Kenna started cutting because of peer pressure, because her group of friends at school does it, which is a really interesting/scary idea and adds a whole new layer of complexity to the issue. That's what made Kiss of Broken Glass such an intriguing and fascinating read. 

I also loved Madeleine Kuderick's writing style. Verse is kind of hit-or-miss for me, but when it's well-done, I love it, and Madeleine Kuderick definitely did it well. Her writing style is beautiful and evocative; Kiss of Broken Glass is the kind of book where you have to stop every once in a while to really take in the beauty of a phrase, or how perfectly it captures the emotions it's trying to express. No matter my feelings about other aspects of the novel, the writing has ensured that I will definitely read whatever Madeleine Kuderick will publish next.

But despite the great premise and beautiful writing, I had some issues with Kiss of Broken Glass. And honestly, most of those issues stem from it being really, really short. With 224 pages in verse, there just isn't enough space to really flesh out the story or the characters. It seemed more like a psychological character study than like a novel, really, because there's not all that much of a story arc. I get that, since it's set over just 72 hours, there obviously isn't going to be some kind of miraculous cure, but I still wanted more from the story than I got.

The secondary characters are especially underdeveloped. I've read a couple of books set at facilities like this one, and I think the setting has a lot of potential for interesting interactions between characters. But sadly, I didn't get enough of that in Kiss of Broken Glass - again, because it's so short. There are a couple of secondary characters, but because they're not fleshed out enough, they seemed more like plot devices than like real people. Especially the hint of romance seemed forced. The characters of Kenna's family members are underdeveloped, too, just because there isn't enough space to create complex secondary characters in such a short novel.

The premise has a lot of potential, and I absolutely loved Madeleine Kuderick's writing. But because the novel is so short, there isn't enough space to fully develop a story arc or to flesh out any of the characters. That made it hard for me to really feel anything while reading the story. I really wish this novel had been twice as long, to fully develop the story and to create complex characters, because I think I could have really loved this one. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Title: Falling into Place
Author: Amy Zhang
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: September 9th 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA 2014
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Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Falling Into Place combines so many factors that I usually hate - an omniscient narrator, non-linear storytelling with lots of flashbacks rather than a focus on a current plot - but somehow, it works. I don't even know how to explain why Falling Into Place is so good; not all that much happens, since it's set in the stand-still after Liz's car crash, but the writing is so amazing that it doesn't even matter.

I really, really dislike omniscient narrators. I've read very few books that make it work, and while I was interning this summer, I read a ridiculous amount of queries with omniscient narrators that are used as an excuse for tons of head-jumping and a lack of focus in the story. So to say I was wary when I saw Falling Into Place has an omniscient narrator would be an understatement. But somehow, it totally works. Once you understand who the narrator is, it makes sense for them to have access to every characters' thoughts and story. I figured out who the narrator is about halfway through the book, but that doesn't make this way of telling the story any less powerful. It's pretty much genius the way this balances objectivity with a personal investment in the characters' lives, and I loved getting this perspective.

When you add non-linear, snapshot-like storytelling to this omniscient narration, Falling Into Place should be confusing as hell. As a reader who is used to linear, first-person narration, I am easily confused by anything that jumps from one character or one time period to another, let alone both. But somehow, it all comes together and makes sense even to a simplistic reader like me; the different points in time and the different characters' stories intertwine in intricate but subtle ways that tie the story together seamlessly; the story flows nicely, and I pretty much couldn't stop reading, despite (or because of) the non-linear storytelling.

Telling the stories of so many characters, it is easy to let them embody cliches and simplify their relationships, but that is definitely not the case in Falling Into Place. All of these characters' issues resonated with me, even if I didn't particularly like them or agree with them most of the time. They are self-destructive and vulnerable, and complex in the best way. The relationships, too, are toxic and complex, making for a fascinating read. The characters' vulnerability and pain is honest and heartwrenching, which is what makes this such an emotional read.

I can't talk about this much without spoiling things, but I wasn't a huge fan of the ending; I thought it was too abrupt and didn't fit the theme of the rest of the story. I get that ending it another way might have been problematic, and I might be in the minority in this opinion. But I think that, no matter how the story ends, it would be important to explore the emotions related to the outcome, and I found that aspect to be lacking.

Also, one more little complaint: I know the whole physics-thing is supposed to be meaningful and relevant, but... I just didn't care. A someone who doesn't really care about physics (sorry not sorry), I just found those passages kind of boring, to be honest.

Amy Zhang, I love you for writing this beautiful story, but I also hate you a little bit for making me feel like a total underachiever by writing something so good while still being in high school. But I still mainly just love this book. With effortlessly beautiful writing and vulnerable, complex characters, Falling Into Place is a quiet but powerful, heartwrenching, exceptionally-crafted novel that I can't recommend enough.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #29: Books I Really Want to Read But Don't Own Yet

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish with a different topic for a top-ten list each week. You can find out more about it here.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books I Really Want to Read But Don't Own Yet

1. The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

I loved most of Sarah Ockler's books, and I really want to read The Book of Broken Hearts. (To be honest, the only reason I haven't bought it is the embarrassing cover. But I'll just have to get over that.)

2. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Let's just get this one out of the way. Obviously I need to buy Isla as soon as possible.

3. Fault Line by Christa Desir

I love Christa Desir's Bleed Like Me, and Christa is awesome on Twitter, so I really need to read her debut.

4. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

I feel like everyone who has read Raw Blue has loved it like no other; I don't think I've read a single bad review for this one. I really really need to get over my only-reading-recent-releases thing and buy Raw Blue.

5. The Disenchantments & Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

I'm just going to count these two as one because I couldn't decide which of them to put on the list. I absolutely loved Nina LaCour's debut, Hold Still, but for some reason still haven't read her newer releases. Her writing in Hold Still is amazing, so I really need to get to these.

6. Golden by Jessi Kirby

I loved both Moonglass and In Honor by Jessi Kirby - Jessi Kirby's writing style is just amazing. So of course I need to read her newest release!

7. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Trish Doller's debut, Something Like Normal, is one of my all-time favorites, and I have no idea why I still haven't bought Where the Stars Still Shine.

8. The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

I loved Wendy Wunder's writing in The Probability of Miracles, so I can't wait to read her sophomore novel!

9. White Lines by Jennifer Banash

I love gritty, dark contemporary YAs like this, and I've heard amazing things about White Lines. I'm also kind of obsessed with the cover, and I don't even know why, since it's a very standard YA girl's face cover.

10. Like No Other by Una LaMarche

I recently read Una LaMarche's Five Summers and loved it, so I really need to get my hands on a copy of Like No Other!

Have you read any of these? Which books do I absolutely need to get right away?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace

Title: No One Needs to Know
Author: Amanda Grace
Publisher: Flux
Release date: September 8th 2014
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Sometimes, the cost of love is too steep.
Olivia's twin brother, Liam, has been her best friend her whole life. But when he starts dating, Olivia is left feeling alone, so she tries to drive away Liam's girlfriends in an effort to get her best friend back.
But she meets her match in Zoey, Liam's latest fling. A call-it-like-she-sees-it kind of girl, Zoey sees right through Olivia's tricks. What starts as verbal sparring between the two changes into something different, however, as they share their deepest insecurities and learn they have a lot in common. Olivia falls for Zoey, believing her brother could never get serious with her. But when Liam confesses that he's in love with Zoey, Olivia has to decide who deserves happiness more: her brother or herself?
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

No One Needs to Know turned out to be quite different than I'd expected. The description makes it sounds like this is just Olivia' story, but we really have alternating chapters from Olivia's and Zoey's POVs. This made me really happy, because, the synopsis makes it out to be like it's Olivia's decision whether Zoey stays with her brother or goes out with her, when that's obviously not for Olivia but for Zoey to decide. And the synopsis also doesn't do Zoey and Olivia's relationship justice: they're not just rivals for Liam's attention: they go to the same school, and they have some history that makes them, well, not quite BFFs. That means we had a really intriguing set-up, to add to love triangle with boy/girl twins that I loved; making for a fascinating premise.

But even though I loved the set-up, the story just isn't developed enough for me to actually love this book. The characters are pretty stereotypical: Olivia is the rich popular girl, and Zoey is the outcast from the wrong side of town. And there really isn't all that much else to them. Their issues could have been interesting to read about, but they're not really explored in any depth. I never got to know them enough to actually care about what happens to them. Even more underdeveloped than Olivia and Zoey is Liam: we find out pretty much nothing about him, and since he's very much part of the central conflict, I think he definitely would have deserved more screen (page?) time and more character development.

Just as underwhelming as the character development is the plot. I did like how Zoey and Olivia's relationship developed, especially in the beginning, but because the characters are underdeveloped, they don't have enough chemistry to make it work. We find out almost nothing about Zoey's relationship with Liam, which also would have been important for the plot. I just couldn't get myself to care, and there are parts when, despite the book being so short, the plot drags. And then there's the ending, which is just ridiculously overwhelming. It is much too happy and the central conflict is resolved way too easily, making that whole storyline feel kind of pointless. 

I did enjoy this story. Like I said, I love the set-up, and the story is entertaining at least. But because of the lack of character development and dragging plot, No One Needs to Know failed to be anything more than that. Sadly, the whole story was just very underwhelming.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BYR
Release date: April 15th 2014
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?
Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved Jenny Han's Summer series, but it's been a while since I read those books, so I tried to keep my expectations low for To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Luckily, though, there was no need, because I was most definitely not disappointed! Just as I remember it being in the Summer series, Jenny Han's writing in To All the Boys I've Loved Before is engaging and addictive, and it reminded me of why I love reading. I absolutely loved this book!

The description of this one is super-vague, and I loved going in without knowing much. Some people might complain that the book doesn't have enough drive and no real central conflict (I know lit-agent-me would probably have to turn this down for that exact reason), but I didn't mind. You have no idea where the story is going because it develops in such a natural way, rather than following any standard formulaic pacing. This might bother some people who prefer plot-driven novels, but as someone who loves character-driven writing, I really appreciated this set-up.

Asides from Jenny Han's addictive writing, the characters are what make this book work. I loved Lara Jean so much! Her voice is so relatable, and she's the perfect balance of vulnerable and strong. (I especially loved reading about her driving anxiety because that made her even more relatable to me.) The secondary characters are great, too: my favorites would have to be Lara Jean's sisters, Margo and Kitty. The relationships between these three are complex and fascinating to read about. Their dad is super-sweet, too - I just loved all of the family dynamics in this one. Chris is Lara Jean's only female friend, really, and she's also tons of fun to read about - she's very unconventional, and I loved it. And then, of course, there's the boys. I don't want to really talk about them because, like I said, I loved going into this without knowing anything, but I'll just say that I really liked reading about all the boys Lara Jean has loved before (and still does?).

I had mixed feelings about the ending. My initial reaction was anger because it's very open-ended in regards to the romance, and I need to know what happens! But in a way, I really appreciated that the ending focuses on the sister relationship rather than the romance. And it's not like it matters anyways, since there's going to be a sequel...

I absolutely loved To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I can see how it's not for everyone, because the plot doesn't really have a clear track or central conflict. But I think that Jenny Han's addictive writing and engaging characters more than made up for it. I can't wait to read PS. I Still Love You!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: yolo (Internet Girls #4) by Lauren Myracle

Title: yolo (Internet Girls #4)
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release date: August 26th 2014
Pages: 208
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA 2014
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Through texts and messages, the mega-bestselling, beloved Internet Girls series followed the ups and downs of school for three very different, very close friends. Now it’s freshman year of college for the winsome threesome, and *everything* is different. For one, the best friends are facing their first semester apart. Way, way apart. Maddie’s in California, Zoe’s in Ohio, and Angela’s back in Georgia. And it’s not just the girls who are separated. Zoe’s worried that Doug wants to break up now that they’re at different schools, and Maddie’s boyfriend, Ian, is on the other side of the country.In the face of change and diverging paths, Maddie’s got a plan to keep the friends close, and it involves embracing the present, making memories, and . . . roller derby! Using of-the-moment technology, Lauren Myracle brings her groundbreaking series into the brave new virtual world of texting and tweets.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I absolutely loved the Internet Girls series (my review) when I was younger, so I was super excited to see there was a new book coming out! Combine that with the fact that the protagonists are in college, and I knew I had to read this one. (Even if the title makes me cringe so hard. Had to read this one locked in my room so no one would judge me for reading a book called yolo.) And yolo (urgh) turned out to be just what I expected - no, it won't be the most meaningful book you'll read this year, but it is definitely entertaining.

I loved being reunited with these characters, whom I loved in the original series. Lauren Myracle always impressed me with her ability to create such dynamic characters with just the use of their IMs/texts, and she did it again in yolo. In a way, that was easier in yolo than in the previous books - in the first three books, the main characters see each other in real life and have lots of interactions that we don't get to see, but since they're all at different colleges in yolo, it seemed a lot more natural to get to see most of their conversations.

It was great to see how their friendship developed once they all left for college. Even though I liked the individual characters, my favorite part of the series was always the strong friendship between the three of them. And luckily, they manage to continue such a strong friendship, despite the distance. I loved reading about the three of them in the new college setting, and getting to see how these new circumstances affected them. I just wish we had gotten some more exploration of Maddie's story towards the ending - I wanted to know more about what had really been going on.

The last sentence of the jacket copy description goes "Using of-the-moment technology, Lauren Myracle brings her groundbreaking series into the brave new virtual world of texting and tweets," and I found that aspect to be a little overdone. I was excited to see them text instead of just IMing (because really, who still IMs nowadays?), but the other references kind of bothered me. There are a couple of references to Snapchat and Twitter that just seem kind of forced: I didn't think they were necessary for the story, and these kinds of references just mean that the book will be outdated again relatively soon. Then again, I guess that's inevitable with this type of format.

There is one scene in the novel that my feminist heart can't help but comment on. This happens sort of late in the novel, but I wouldn't really consider this a spoiler because it doesn't tell you anything about the main story. Anyways, at a frat party, Angela and her friend Reid see these three guys taking advantage of a girl who has passed out (just from drinking, or because someone slipped her something, we don't know). Angela and Reid tell the guys to eff off, and they take the girl to her sorority house, leaving her a note explaining what happened. For the most part, this event is handled pretty well - I applaud Angela and Reid for stepping in, and for not going public with this without the girl's permission, and for lamenting the fact that so often, the perpetrators in these kinds of situations aren't punished. But I still had some issues with their discussion of rape and sexual assault. Angela wanted to tell the girl not to get that drunk again, which is victim-blaming bullshit, and Maddie told Angela not to get herself into a situation like that, which is, you guessed it, more victim-blaming bullshit. Rape is not caused by getting too drunk or not being careful. Rape is caused by rapists. Also, they talk about rape as if it were such an unusual, rare event - Zoe, for example, believes that something like that wouldn't happen at her school. Sorry, I don't believe that there is a single coed campus in the US where no one has ever been raped, and thinking that the people at your school wouldn't do something like that is simply naive - rape culture is everywhere. Yeah, so... mixed feelings about that scene, but it was a good try, at least.

Really, the only thing that matters is that yolo was a really fun read. You don't necessarily have to have read the previous books to understand this one, but my favorite part was reuniting with these characters I loved, so I do think reading the books in order adds a lot. If you liked the original Internet Girls series and are looking for a quick, fun read, you should definitely give yolo a try!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Title: Torn Away
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR 
Release date: May 6th 2014
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.
In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've read a couple of Jennifer Brown's books and liked some, but thought others were only okay. That's why I'm so happy I gave her another try with Torn Away - this is most definitely my new favorite Jennifer Brown book! It's short, but it packs a hard punch. Torn Away is an emotional, heartbreaking but hopeful novel, and I absolutely loved it!

For some reason, I had expected Torn Away to begin right after the tornado kills her family, the focus being on the aftermath with maybe a couple of flashbacks to what actually happened. But the novel begins on the day of the tornado: it starts out as any regular day, which is really hard to read about because we already know what is going to happen. Then, we get to be there along with Jersey through this horrible hurricane. Even just reading about it, I was terrified. Of course I've seen TV coverage and pictures of natural disasters, but it's never felt as real as while reading this book. We, along with Jersey, get to experience the complete devastation of her neighborhood, which is both scary and heartbreaking. And worst of all, we wait along with Jersey for her mother and sister to come home, even though we already know they won't. Jersey's denial for the first day or so after the tornado, and heartbreak once she finds out what happened, are so real that I cried on pretty much every other page.

And then, when you think the worst is over because she is finally reunited with her stepdad... Wrong. The terrible events in Jersey's life are far from over. I know they're all struggling with their own stuff, but I couldn't stop myself from hating pretty much every person in Jersey's life. Her stepdad, grieving the loss of his wife and daughter, says he's incapable of taking care of Jersey and sends her off to live with her biological father... who happens to live in a house full of horrible people. Jersey's father, his wife, their daughters, cousins, and grandparents... Everyone but her aunt is simply horrible, and their insensitivity to what Jersey is going through continued to astound me. Whenever I thought things couldn't get any worse for Jersey, the people in her life would let her down again. I felt so much sympathy and heartbreak for Jersey and anger towards pretty much everyone else.

Thankfully, she somehow gets out of this horrible situation and goes to live with her mother's parents, whom she has never met because they disowned her mother when she had her baby. While these grandparents also had their faults, I loved them so much for finally at least trying to help Jersey. While this part of the story isn't filled with terrible events the way the first two are, it is no less heartbreaking. Living with her grandparents, Jersey begins to really grieve the loss of her mother and sister, and she attempts to somehow put her life back together. Jersey's feelings are so raw and honest that I, again, spent most of my time reading with tears in my eyes.

I really don't have much to criticize about Torn Away. The only small thing I didn't like is the hint of a romance towards the end of the story; I just thought that was really unnecessary and felt kind of forced. And it also bothers me that the girl on the cover looks so skinny, when that doesn't fit the descriptions of Jersey in the novel. But obviously, these are just really small things, and everything that matters is exceptionally well-done in Torn Away.

Torn Away is such a powerful story. Jersey is a complex, strong, inspiring character, and her story is heart-wrenching. This novel broke my heart so many times, but it didn't fail to provide some hope towards the end. I absolutely loved it, and I can't recommend it enough!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bookish Anticipation #39

Bookish Anticipation is a feature I do every once in a while to spotlight future releases I'm excited for. It was inspired by Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday. You can check out more of my Bookish Anticipation posts here.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Release date: January 27th 2015
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Release date: March 3rd 2015
Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.
Everywhere she turns, someone feels she's too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Release date: January 6th 2015
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the "natural wonders" of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself-a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Release date: February 3rd 2015
If seventeen-year-old Skyler Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage-months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings them together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Release date: February 10th 2015
Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who seems scared of her, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel’s ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.
There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers the website Smooth Passages and its section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution. Better yet, a boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman), who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner.
But as their suicide pact starts to become more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, Aysel must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Release date: February 10th 2015
The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment.
Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be.
As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.
Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.

What releases are you anticipating this week? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo

Title: Six Feet Over It
Author: Jennifer Longo
Publisher: Random House BYR
Release date: August 28th 2014
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:
Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.
At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).
Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Six Feet Over It was completely different than I'd expected. I somehow missed the whole "sudden loss of her best friend" part of the synopsis; the only thing that registered was the unique setting and the humorous tone. Especially the title suggested this would be a funny, sarcastic, teenage-drama type of story. And while it definitely has those elements, Six Feet Over It is so much more than that. It is very much literary fiction, portraying dark topics in an honest and moving way. I loved everything about it!

Leigh's incredible voice is what carries the novel. She is such a dynamic character. She puts up a front of being strong, sarcastic, and cynical, and she has a great sense of humor. But over the course of the novel, we also get to see what's hidden behind the sarcasm. She is deeply troubled, and I felt for her so much during her darker moments. Her emotions are raw and honest, making parts of this novel heartbreaking to read. The character growth Leigh undergoes feels very real, and I loved being with her over the course of the story.

The secondary characters are just as great. I loved Leigh's sister, Kai, gravedigger Dario, and her friend Elanor. The only characters that I think could have used some more depth are Leigh's parents: I get that being absent is kind of what defines them, and I really enjoyed Leigh's astute criticism of them, but I still wish we had gotten some more insight into their backgrounds and motivations in order to understand why they act this way.

There are some parts of the plot that are a little bit too convenient and might come off as unrealistic, which would usually bother me. (Some details about Emily's death, for example, and where she is now.) But for some reason, I didn't mind - these scenes served their purpose, and Jennifer Longo's incredible writing and complex characters more than made up for it.

My only issue with the novel is the Spanish. There are many conversations in Six Feet Over It that take place in Spanish, and when it's such an important part of the novel, I really think it's important to do your research. The Spanish the characters use has a bunch of grammatical errors, and a ton of stuff literally translated from English that just doesn't work in Spanish. If this only applied to the Spanish Leigh speaks, that would make sense, since she's just learning. But it's the same with the other characters, whose first (or only) language is Spanish, so that didn't make sense. I know this isn't really that big a deal, but it just really bothers me when authors get foreign languages wrong - how hard can it be to find someone who is fluent in Spanish to proofread those scenes? Okay. Rant over.

Six Feet Over it is such an impressive debut. It's an excellently written, raw and honest story that will break your heart and put it back together again. (Sorry, cliched, I know. But it's totally true in this case.) I know these characters will stay with me for a long time. If you're a fan of literary YA, you should definitely pick this one up! I can't wait to read what Jennifer Longo writes next.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Review: Five Summers by Una LaMarche

Title: Five Summers
Author: Una LaMarche
Publisher: Razorbill
Release date: May 16th 2013
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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Four best friends, five summers of camp memories...
The summer we were nine: Emma was branded “Skylar’s friend Emma” by the infamous Adam Loring...
The summer we were ten: Maddie realized she was too far into her lies to think about telling the truth...
The summer we were eleven: Johanna totally freaked out during her first game of Spin the Bottle...
The summer we were twelve: Skylar’s love letters from her boyfriend back home were exciting to all of us—except Skylar...
Our last summer together: Emma and Adam almost kissed. Jo found out Maddie’s secret. Skylar did something unthinkable... and whether we knew it then or not, five summers of friendship began to fall apart. Three years after the fateful last night of camp, the four of us are coming back to camp for reunion weekend—and for a second chance.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 I wasn’t expecting much going into Five Summers – I hadn’t heard all that much about it, and it sounded good, but also not like anything special, anything that hasn’t been done before. And it’s true that Five Summers doesn’t have the most original premise, and in a while, I probably won’t be able to tell it apart from the other summer-camp related books I’ve read. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love it – Five Summers is a cute, fun, entertaining summer read!

It’s been done before, but I’m a huge fan of books set at summer camp. I’ve never been to camp, so it’s a foreign world to me that I always love to explore in books. This setting provides so many opportunities for intense relationships and fun stories, and Una LaMarche makes use of it expertly, creating a ton of entertaining relationship and friendship drama with the backdrop of the camp. Since it’s a reunion, we don’t get quite as much of the excitement of being away from home and experiencing something new, but we do get some insights because of the flashbacks. I wish, though, we had found out even more about the girls’ first summer, to see how they all met and became friends.

The characters are what make this book work – I loved all four of these girls! As always in books with more than two narrators, I had some trouble telling them apart, but once I figured it out, I could definitely see their individual voices and personalities shining through. Each one of them has their own story and background that I loved reading about. If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Skylar, but I related to and felt for each of the girls in one way or another. Since each of the four girls has their own story, though, you could say that some of them lack depth, just by nature of not being able to fit four fully-developed stories into a less-than-400-page book. Emma seemed to be the “main” character, as we get more chapters from her POV than from anyone else’s, and I wish that had been a little more equal – Emma’s a good character, but she’s very much the typical YA narrator, so I wish that the other three, who are a bit more unconventional for contemporary YA, had gotten a bit more screen (page?) time. Especially Maddie’s story could have been explored in a lot more depth. But overall, I loved each of their stories.

I know this is just a little thing, but the title kind of bothered me while I was reading. Because it’s called Five Summers, I had assumed that there would be a section on each summer, that each summer would be equally important, but that’s definitely not the case – it’s all about the reunion summer, with flashbacks to the previous four. I didn’t mind – the girls are so young in these flashbacks that if those previous summers had been the focus, this would have been more MG than YA – but I do think that the title is kind of misleading, and I wish they had chosen a title that better reflects the novel. And speaking of little things, the copyeditors could have definitely read through this one again – the mistakes didn’t take anything from my reading experience, but they did bother me sometimes.

If you like books about summer camp, Five Summers is one you can’t miss! It might not be the most meaningful story that will stay with me forever, but it was definitely an entertaining read. I loved getting to know these characters and each of their stories. I can’t wait to read Una LaMarche’s new novel, Like No Other!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Review: See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne

Title: See Jane Run
Author: Hannah Jayne
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: January 1st 2014
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult mystery
Source: Bought
Riley Spencer never thought twice about keeping secrets from her parents--not big ones, at least. They didn't need to know that her math tutor was also her boyfriend and that cocktail dress she "borrowed" from her mom would be back before she missed it. But when she finds a birth certificate with the name Jane O'Callahan wedged inside her baby book, Riley must face the reality that her parents are the ones who might be lying to her.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

See Jane Run is very different from what I’d expected. I had assumed that Jane would find out that her parents did kidnap her as a child, and that the rest of the novel would be Jane dealing with that and figuring out her past. But there is so much more to See Jane Run. The mystery goes in a very unexpected direction, which I really appreciated. The suspense is expertly done: throughout the novel, I was trying to figure out along with Riley what was going on, and just like Riley, I had no idea who to trust and what to believe. I’m not sure if the plot is entirely realistic and logical at all times, but that didn’t even bother me because the suspense is so well-done and the mystery captured my attention throughout.

The characters are okay. I felt for Riley, but she also frustrated me to no end because she can be incredibly dumb at times – there are many situations when she just seems to completely lack common sense or logic. I feel bad for judging this because she is in very stressful and traumatic situations and of course I can’t imagine what anything like this would be like, but as an outsider, she frustrated me to no end with her lack of rational thinking. The secondary characters are pretty good, but I wish the parents’ characters had been more developed, considering how important they are for the story. Shelby, too, seemed more of a cut-out than an actual person. I really liked JD – for once, a romantic interest with depth!

The ending is a little too happy for my tastes, and I don’t think it’s entirely realistic. Like I said, the story takes a very unexpected turn, which is good, but this means that the side plot that turns into the main focus ends up providing a resolution for the central conflict and all the other issues that are addressed over the course of the novel.  I understand why Hannah Jayne must have done this – a 300 page book doesn’t have time to resolve each of these conflicts separately – but the set-up just seemed a little too convenient for me, and I would have preferred for things to end up a little less perfect.

I know large parts of my review are very negative, but that’s not really what I’m trying to say. This book isn’t perfect – logic just isn’t its strong suit, and some of the characters lack depth – but I really did enjoy this. It’s entertaining, unexpected, and suspenseful, so if you’re looking for a fun mystery, you should definitely give See Jane Run a try!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Review: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life
Author: Tara Altebrando
Publisher: Dutton Juvenie
Release date: July 5th 2012
Pages: 239
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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An all-day scavenger hunt in the name of eternal small-town glory With only a week until graduation, there’s one last thing Mary and her friends must do together: participate in the Oyster Point High Official Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. And Mary is determined to win.
Mary lost her spot at Georgetown to self-professed “it” bully Pete Lembo, and she’s not about to lose again. But everyone is racing for the finish line with complicated motives, and the team’s all-night adventure becomes all-night drama as shifting alliances, flared tempers, and crushing crushes take over. As the items and points pile up, Mary and her team must reinvent their strategy—and themselves—in order to win.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life sounded like a light, fun read, and I was really excited to read it - I love books set at the very end or right after high school, and the scavenger hunt sounded really random and fun. Thankfully, The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life lived up to my expectations, and exceeded them, even!  It's a super-fun read that has some depth as well, and I enjoyed everything about it.

The scavenger hunt was so much fun, and once it got started, I couldn't put the book down. Just like Mary, I know that, on the grand scheme of things, winning this scavenger hunt doesn't really matter, but I got really into it, trying to figure out the clues right along with the characters. I loved reading about all the random things they had to collect. I don't even know why, but I just had so much fun reading about this competition.

Asides from the scavenger hunt, the characters made this novel. I could see how some people might not like Mary all that much because she does make some mistakes, but I really related to her. I loved how strong-willed she is but how she's also open about her insecurities, and I could definitely see myself in her struggles of trying to figure out what she wants to do, so I for one loved her.

The cast of secondary characters is great. I loved everyone on Mary's team, and some of the other characters -  Barbone and Carson, in particular - are also fully developed. I loved reading about Mary's relationships with Emily, Patrick, and Carson - to add to the intensity and hectic of the scavenger-hunt, we have some romantic tensions and friendship drama going on. These conflicts are well-developed and easy to relate to, and I really enjoyed reading about them.

I really enjoyed The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life. The idea of focusing on this scavenger hunt might sound kind of dumb and insignificant, but it's so much fun to read about. With a hilarious plot, relatable characters, and entertaining relationship drama, I definitely recommend The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life! I will definitely have t check out Tara Altebrando's earlier novel, Dreamland Social Club!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

My New Treasures #35

My New Treasures is a semi-regular feature here at Paperback Treasures to showcase all the books I received over the previous week (or however long it's been since I've last done one of these). It was inspired by Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

So on Monday, HarperTeen put approximately 5209573 galleys up on Edelweiss, and because I have no self-control, I ended up with these:

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Little Peach by Peggy Kern
Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

What books did you get this week?

Friday, August 01, 2014

New Releases August 2014

New releases:

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover: August 5th
Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan: August 5th
Magnolia by Kristi Cook: August 5th

Some Boys by Patty Blount: August 5th
Blind by Rachel DeWoskin: August 7th
Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt: August 8th

Random by Tom Leveen: August 12th
A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen: August 12th
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins: August 14th

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall: August 26th
Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo: August 26th
yolo (Internet Girls #4) by Lauren Myracle: August 26th

New in paperback:

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff: August 1st
The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes: August 5th
Catherine by April Lindner: August 19th

What August releases are you most excited about?
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