Saturday, February 28, 2015

My New Treasures #37

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.

I haven't done one of these in forever, so I figured I would do a round-up of all the galleys I've gotten over the last... I don't even know how long.


The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma


Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil
Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel
The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi
Paperweight by Meg Haston

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
We Can Work It Out (The Lonely Hearts Club #2) by Elizabeth Eulberg
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Finding Paris by Joy Preble
Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu
Lies I Told by Michelle Zink
Solitaire by Alice Oseman

What books did you get this week?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Title: The Last Time We Say Goodbye
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: February 10th 2015
Pages: 400
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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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.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I know Cynthia Hand is kind of a big name in YA, but I hadn't read anything by her before The Last Time We Say Goodbye, since this is her first contemporary and I don't read much paranormal. And because sometimes contemporary debuts by authors who usually write paranormal don't work so well for me, I kept my expectations low. But there was no need for that because Cynthia Hand completely stunned me with The Last Time Goodbye! It's a heartwrenching novel, and I loved everything about it. 

What I loved most about this novel is Lex; she's such a relatable character! In a lot of grief-related books, the main character completely shuns herself, lashes out at everyone trying to help them, and hates her therapist with a passion. And Lex does that too, to some extent, but she does it in a lot more relatable way; her relationship with her friends is very realistic, and she even ends up getting something out of her therapy. I don't even know how to explain it; I just related to her and felt for her so much.

I loved the secondary characters, too. We have a very large cast of secondary characters, so I could see how some people would criticize that they don't have enough depth. But I really appreciated the large cast because we got to see Lex interact with such a great variety of people. And I think that, even though they didn't get much page time, these characters are very well-developed and have their own stories, too, even if they're not as complex as Lexi. All of the characters just felt very real to me; I especially loved Lex's group of nerd friends and Lex's mom, whose relationship with Lex is explored in a really interesting way. I also loved how romance never takes center stage; there's definitely a romance storyline, but most of it is in the past. There are a variety of male characters, but I really appreciated that none of them turned into another love-triangle-y love interest.

Cynthia Hand's writing, and especially her ability to create such poignancy and strong emotions, definitely left me impressed. Throughout the novel, I didn't even think it was that sad, but then the last 10 pages, I was straight-up bawling; the ending is so perfect. Lex's development over the course of the novel is realistic and natural; I especially liked the subtle changes and the non-preachy discussions of guilt, and how all of that contributed to the story. I even liked the ghost element; I was kind of worried about getting too paranormal for me, but it ended up being handled really well and within our world. 

This is just one of many books I've read about this topic, but The Last Time We Say Goodbye definitely stands out. It's incredibly well-written, with complex and realistic characters, and overwhelming emotions and poignancy. If you're looking for a book that will make you fall in love with the characters and break your heart in the best way possible, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is definitely for you!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Title: The Latte Rebellion
Author: Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Publisher: Flux
Release date: January 8th 2011
Pages: 327
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA 2013
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When high school senior Asha Jamison gets called a "towel head" at a pool party, the racist insult gives Asha and her best friend Carey a great money-making idea for a post-graduation trip. They'll sell T-shirts promoting the Latte Rebellion, a club that raises awareness of mixed-race students.
Seemingly overnight, their "cause" goes viral and the T-shirts become a nationwide fad. As new chapters spring up from coast to coast, Asha realizes that her simple marketing plan has taken on a life of its own-and it's starting to ruin hers. Asha's once-stellar grades begin to slip, threatening her Ivy League dreams, and her friendship with Carey is hanging by a thread. And when the peaceful underground movement turns militant, Asha's school launches a disciplinary hearing.Facing expulsion, Asha must decide how much she's willing to risk for something she truly believes in.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Even though I hadn't heard much about this book, I had high hopes for The Latte Rebellion. YA books don't often address social justice issues in such an explicit way, so I thought I would appreciate that The Latte Rebellion does. And while I really liked the idea, it just doesn't work as well as I'd hoped. I had some issues with how the movement is handled, and the actual story develops didn't really hold my interest, so I was pretty disappointed by this one.

I was expecting a main character who is passionate about social justice issues, but Asha did not turn out to be a character I liked. To be honest, she doesn't even seem to care that much. She really just starts this whole thing as a way to make money, which didn't really sit right with me. (And also just doesn't seem like a practical choice.) Even once Asha gets more into the idea of this becoming a real movement, she doesn't seem all that passionate about it; for example, she goes to a couple of social justice activism meetings that sound really cool, but she doesn't seem to care all that much, other than about them selling more T-shirts and about the activism that he guys she likes is interested in. For a novel that I hoped would send a strong message, Asha just isn't a feisty enough main character, in my opinion. She's also really good at slut-shaming and making assumptions about cheerleaders and the members of what she calls the Bimbocracy. 

It also bothered me how the issue of racism against mixed-race individuals is handled. For some reason, the novel focuses mainly on the racism Asha and her friends experience at the hands of other minorities. The main "bad guy," Roger, is an Asian American fellow student who doesn't understand why Asha doesn't just identify as Asian if that is part of her ethnicity. Of course this is a problem, but it bothered me how the novel basically completely ignores the racism all minorities experience from white people. This is especially evident in Asha's criticism of what is basically Affirmative Action - she talks about how minorities are given "special treatment" in college admissions when they can check the "Hispanic" or "black" box and how she doesn't benefit from this because she has to select "Other." I think it's a valid criticism that these categories don't have space for mixed-race individuals, but she completely dismisses the idea that a minority status should be considered in admissions. As someone who believes that Affirmative Action is definitely still necessary, that bothered me - and while Asha doesn't necessarily have to agree with me on this, I don't think this should have been dismissed quite as easily and been discussed in a more meaningful way. In general, it bothered me how the novel pits people of mixed race against minorities of one ethnicity when, really, they are both oppressed by the white power structure, which is basically ignored in The Latte Rebellion.

Asides from the way the issues are handled, I also had some problems with the actual story. I honestly don't know why, but I just couldn't get myself to care all that much about what happened. It might be because I didn't really connect with the characters, or because I thought parts of the story were just unnecessarily melodramatic - for example how snippets from the school board hearing are included in between chapters, when that hearing doesn't even end up being that important. Either way, The Latte Rebellion just wasn't a novel that really sucked me in the way I want books to.

In the end, I was really confused as to what we were supposed to take from this novel because there's no real message or explanation of what happens to the Rebellion. Without a real message at the end, the story didn't really seem to go anywhere. And since I had some issues with the message and the main plot didn't really capture my interest, The Latte Rebellion just didn't work for me. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Title: My Heart & Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: February 10th 2015
Pages: 320
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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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.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's only February, but I think My Heart and Other Black Holes is going to be one of my favorite debuts of the year. It sounded right up my alley, but writing is everything for these kinds of stories - and luckily, Jasmine Warga's writing is definitely strong enough to make this story work. I absolutely loved Aysel's story.

Aysel is definitely what impressed me most about My Heart and Other Black Holes. From the very beginning on, I absolutely loved her and felt for her. I was really impressed with how Jasmine Warga's writing makes Aysel's emotions come across as so real. I understood her completely; it sounds bad, but it actually made sense to me why she wanted to die. Jasmine Warga's descriptions of the black slug, as Aysel calls her depression, are honest and raw and really make you understand what it's like to suffer through something like this.

I also loved the whole set-up of this story. The idea of suicide pact is horrible, but it's also very compelling and suspenseful to read about. Because of this, Aysel's and Roman's relationship is very distinct because, at the same time as developing feelings for each other, they have to keep reminding each other not to "flake out" and make sure they will stick to their pact. It's very dark, but I think Jasmine Warga made it work because, again, it totally made sense to me. 

The only part I had an issue with is the ending; it just felt a little bit rushed to me. I found it kind of problematic how the romance is Aysel's main motivation for wanting to live, and how it changed her mind so quickly. After her decision not to commit suicide, I wanted to see more of the uphill battle of how she still struggles with depression, and how she manages to move forward. Especially Roman's development towards the end felt a bit rushed, and a part of his story seemed like it was only there to add drama without being fully explored.

Despite my issues with the rushed ending, I absolutely loved My Heart and Other Black Holes. Jasmine Warga's writing is poignant, raw, and honest, and Aysel is one of the most relatable characters I've read in a while. I definitely recommend My Heart and Other Black Holes, and I can't wait to see what Jasmine Warga comes up with next!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bookish Anticipation #46

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.

Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian
Release date: June 2nd 2015
When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.
Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.

Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook
Release date: April 21st 2015
Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn't supposed to. But she hasn't told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night--about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.
Now Kayla's coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything--and everyone--she ever cared about.

Emancipated by MG Reyes
Release date: May 26th 2015
The good girl, the bad boy, the diva, the hustler, the rock star, and the nerd. Six teens legally liberated from parental control for six different reasons, all with one thing in common: something to hide.
Now they’re sharing a house in Venice Beach, acting like a family, and living their lies. No parents. No limits. No alibis. One witnessed a crime, another might be a murderer—and one’s been spying on them all.
As they cling to a fantasy of freedom and slowly let down their guards, the past creeps up on them. And when one of them gets arrested, everyone’s carefully constructed facade comes crumbling down.

City Love by Susane Colasanti
Release date: April 21st 2015
Sadie, a born and raised New Yorker, is hopeful and romantic and an eternal optimist who is ready to find her soul mate.
Darcy is a free spirit from SoCal with rebellious tendencies and unlimited financial resources, looking for summer boy adventures.
Rosanna leaves Chicago for NYC with a grand total of seventy-three cents so she can reinvent herself and forget about her past.
Sadie, Darcy, and Rosanna are living together in New York City the summer before their freshman year of college begins. With no parents, no rules, and an entire city to explore, these three girls are on the verge of the best summer of their lives. Told from alternating points of view, City Love captures the moments in each girl’s life when everything is thrilling, amazing, and terrifying all at once…in a way it will never be again.
A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
Release date: May 19th 2015
It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it harder to eat or even breathe.
But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.
For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
Release date: March 31st 2015
It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it harder to eat or even breathe.
But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.
For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.
What are you looking forward to this week? 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: August 25th 2009
Pages: 345
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father's "bunny rabbit."
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.
Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer.
Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew's lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.
Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I can't believe I waited this long to read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It had been on my TBR pile for years, but I always pushed it aside for newer releases, which I now know was a mistake because this novel is instantly going on my list of all-time favorites. I know this book had gotten a ton of praise and awards when it was released, but I was not expecting it to be this perfect and speak to me in such a personal way. I don't even know how I'm going to gather my thoughts and write a coherent review because I just loved this book so much!

From the first page on, you can tell that The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is something very special, and that's because of the incredible voice and narration. We have a very unusual narrator for YA, someone who tells the story from Frankie's point of view but also makes commentary and hints at future events. This narrator is very sophisticated and witty, which contrasted the realistic teenager dialogue in really interesting ways. The narration provides a great frame for the story, especially when it gives details about past secret societies and connects the story to Frankie's class. I don't even know how to describe this voice; it's just funny and entertaining and so great to read.

The other element that makes The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks stand out is, of course, Frankie herself. Frankie is my favorite YA heroine I've read about in a long time, maybe ever. She is so witty and funny but still completely complex and realistic; I especially loved her obsession with neglected positives and her awkward debates inside her head about how to respond in certain situations. I can't talk about Frankie without mentioning how the entirety of her character basically made me want to do a feminist happy-dance - finally, a heroine that actually talks about feminism! Feminism and self-empowered women are such an important part of this novel, but I especially loved how Frankie debates the intricacies of feminism and differing viewpoints within feminism; she's a very realistic character in that way. The only thing that bothered me about her is how she seems to undervalue feminine qualities and activities and only wants to participate in things that will gain her respect from guys - like how she says she would never play field hockey because guys would make fun of her for it. But in a way, even that works, because it shows again a young woman navigating the intricacies and different interpretations of what it means to be empowered, and I loved that.

While Frankie is the shining star in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, the secondary characters are fully-developed and interesting to read about as well. I loved Zada and her influence on Frankie, and Trish is a really great friend to Frankie, too. Matthew and Alpha are interesting characters too, but I appreciated that the focus ultimately wasn't on Frankie's relationship with either one of them. It was interesting to see Frankie try to navigate her relationship with Matthew, but I love how, in the end, the novel is more about Frankie's self-expression than any kind of romance.

Basically, I loved everything about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: the unusual narration, the kickass heroine, and the undoubtably feminist message. I was so disappointed when the novel final ended, not because I didn't like the ending but because I wanted to keep reading and stay in Frankie's world forever. E. Lockhart has converted me into a complete fan, and I really need to get my hands on some of her other books!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Author Interview with Nicole Maggi (The Forgetting Blog Tour)

I'm so excited to have Nicole Maggi here for an author interview today! Her newest book, The Forgetting, just came out on Tuesday.

1. Without spoiling anything, could you tell us what was your favorite scene to write in The Forgetting?
I loved writing this whole book. It’s odd, because the book is dark and goes to some disturbing places, but I wrote the book in a state of complete joy. Before I started working on this book, I’d really fallen out of love with writing, and it was this book that made me fall back in love with it again.
That said, there’s a scene maybe two-thirds of the way through the book, where Georgie finally goes to the place where Jane Doe died, that was really kind of exhilarating to write. It’s the scene where Georgie and Jane Doe really converge, where they sort of become on the same page with each other. It’s a huge turning point in the book. Writing those Big Moments are big moments for the author, too. 
2. If you had to pair up your main character Georgie with any other character from any other YA book (either romantically or as a friend), who would it be and why?
I would totally pair Georgie up with Clay from 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I’m not sure they’d get romantically involved, but I think they would be good friends. I could definitely see them bonding while working at something like a Teen Crisis Hotline. They’d probably try to outdo each other at who could help more kids in one night. Actually, I bet if they teamed up they could probably save the world. Or at least start a really awesome non-profit together.
3. What comes easier for you, description or dialogue?
Dialogue comes very naturally to me. I think it’s because of my background as an actor. Working on plays made me attuned to how people really speak to each other. I can hear dialogue very clearly in my head and it’s easy for me to translate it onto the page. Sometimes I’ll even speak the lines out loud while I’m writing…but only if I’m writing in my house by myself. I’m sure I’d get kicked out of one of the coffee shops I usually write in if I did that.
I also love writing description, to the point of, ahem, over-describing. One of my former editors once had to point out that I had seven similes in one paragraph. Haha! I can see things in my head very clearly, like a movie, but sometimes I have to tone it down when I put it on the page and trust that the reader knows what I’m talking about.
4. How do you go about naming your characters?
Oh my gosh, it’s SUCH a process. I can spend days looking for the right name for a character. I’m very attached the meanings of names. When I was a kid I used to read the baby names book that my parents had on their bookshelf. It’s because of that book that I love my own name so much because the meaning of Nicole was listed as “Victorious army, victorious people. A girl who succeeds at all she does.” Pretty powerful, right?
When I was naming Georgie, I wasn’t so caught up in the meaning as the sound of it. I wanted it to be a long, British-sounding name that could be shortened into something boyish. I know that seems insanely specific, but somehow I knew that’s what it had to be. With Nate, I wanted something short but strong. Nate comes from Nathan which means “he gave.” That just seemed to fit him so well, because he is so generous and selfless.
In my Twin Willows Trilogy many of the names are Italian, and it’s really fun to just pore over different Italian names. The main character in that series is named Alessia. It means “defender.” It actually felt like such a stroke of fortune when I discovered that name because it is so perfect for her.
5. For any aspiring writers out there - what's the best writing advice you've ever received?
This advice actually came from an acting teacher, the very brilliant Alexandra Billings, who inspired the character of Tommy. She said, “If there is art in your life, there will be life in your art.” I don’t believe that you need to write every day to be a writer. But I do think you need to have art in your life every day to be an artist. That doesn’t mean going to a museum every day and studying the Monets. It means doing things like going for a walk and noticing all the different shades of green you see along the way. Or singing in the shower at the top of your lungs just for the joy of it. Or cooking something really elaborate and then eating it with total gusto. Doing these things keeps you filled with art and will infuse your writing when you do eventually sit down to write.

Thanks so much for stopping by Paperback Treasures on your blog tour!

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for The Forgetting, which was released February 3rd. Here's what it's all about:

The Forgetting by Nicole Maggi
Georgie Kendrick wakes up after a heart transplant, but the organ beating in her chest doesn't seem to be in tune with the rest of her body. Why does she have a sudden urge for strawberries when she's been allergic for years? Why can't she remember last Christmas?
Driven to find her donor, Georgie discovers her heart belonged to a girl her own age who fell out of the foster care system and into a rough life on the streets. Everyone thinks she committed suicide, but Georgie is compelled to find the truth - before she loses herself completely.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Review: The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes

Title: The Distance Between Lost and Found
Author: Kathryn Holmes
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: February 17th 2015
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary mystery
Source: Edelweiss - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her … silent.
Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.
On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.
With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I really love the idea for this novel, combining a survivor story with a more typical contemporary YA storyline. The survival element was a lot of fun to read about, and while I had some issues with the other storylines, The Distance Between Lost and Found was definitely an enjoyable read for me.

The survival element is what really drives the story, in my opinion. It was fascinating to read about how Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel dealt with everything nature threw at them, things I'd never thought about happening. This storyline was enough to keep the suspense up throughout the novel, ensuring I kept flipping pages without ever wanting to put it down.

Another aspect I liked, surprisingly, was the religious one. I'm not usually a fan of books that incorporate religious elements because it almost always ends up being preachy. But the way it's incorporated into The Distance Between Lost and Found, it actually works. Since this is a youth group trip, of course questions of religion come up, but we get a variation of points-of-view, rather than just getting one opinion shoved down our throats. Rachel isn't religious at all, and Hallie and Jonah both grew up in religious families and are at varying stages of figuring out their own beliefs. While lost in the wilderness, they go back and forth between feeling God's spirit and feeling like God has abandoned them, and between thanking or blaming God for their situation and thanking or blaming themselves, which led to some interesting discussions. It's not the mad in focus of the story, but I really appreciated how open-ended the discussion of religion is in this novel.

I also really liked Hallie as a character. I never quite got used to her full name being Hallelujah and was thrown off each time I read that, but her as a person, I liked. She is easy to relate to in her issues, and she's a very strong character throughout this trip. Rachel is a great character, too, and I wish her and Hallie's friendship, and what that could do for what Hallie is struggling with, had been more of a focus.

But then there's the part of the story I didn't like, which was most of the backstory of how Hallie came to be so isolated, and how that is dealt with over the course of the novel. The story behind how Hallie got shunned is definitely an important one, but it's also a bit predictable because it's been done before, and I think other books have handled it better. I can't really explain this in detail without spoiling anything, so I'll do that in a separate paragraph, but the short version would be that this story oversimplifies the issues and places too much blame on the individual rather than the community, and promotes some problematic, slutshame-y views.

***This paragraph contains spoilers!!!***
The way what happened between Hallie and Luke is handled includes way too much slut-shaming for me. Luke sexually assaulted Hallie, and Hallie is the one that's slutshamed and shunned by the community. Jonah didn't stand up for Hallie when it happened and simply took Luke's word for it, which is sort of addressed when they reconcile on this trip. What isn't addressed, though, is how Jonah didn't want to like her anymore once he found out she hooked up with Luke, because she was "a slut with someone else" - and that's never seen as a problem in their relationship, which is not okay. Additionally, it bothered me how only Luke is seen as the bad guy - of course he is a really crappy person, but he's not the only one to have treated Hallie crappily. I feel like the novel sort of takes the easy way out by making Luke out to be entirely terrible and everyone else to be good. Rather than talking about how the rest of the community and her friends are wrong in abandoning her when people find out she's a "slut," the novel simply talks about how Hallie learns to stand up for herself and reach out to people. Of course learning to stand up for yourself is good, but the fact the evolution of the story focuses entirely on that aspect promotes a victim-blaming point-of-view. Yes, Luke deserves to be punished and, if she wants to, Hallie should be free to tell people what really happened; but even if she had thrown herself at Luke, that doesn't mean she's a horrible person and deserves to be shunned by everyone she knows. That part of the story is never really addressed, which sends a really problematic message.

These issues made it hard for me to like the personal development storyline as much as the survival element. However, the suspenseful survival story and the relatable main character were enough to make me really enjoy this novel. If you're looking for a suspenseful story with a little depth, The Distance Between Lost and Found is the book for you - but if you want a more in-depth discussion of the issue at hand, there are others that address the issue in a more productive way (like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, of course).

Sunday, February 01, 2015

New Releases February 2015

New releases:

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios: February 3rd
One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin: February 10th
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand: February 10th

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga: February 10th
The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes: February 17th
No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss: February 24th

New in paperback:

The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle: February 3rd

What February releases are you most excited about?
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