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Book Review: We Are Okay

We Are Okay Book Cover

Rating: 3.5 stars

“You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.”

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

We Are Okay is a book that leaves me with mixed feelings about what I think of it overall. I enjoyed reading it because I can relate to the content within its pages. But at the same time, I also struggled with the story because of the way Marin decided to handle her grief.

What I loved about this story was the subject matter, the shift between past and present in each chapter, and Marin’s relationship with her best friend Mabel. I found this story heavily relatable to me because I too have lost someone very close to me recently. So, I could understand the feelings Nina LaCour used with Marin to describe the overall grief she felt at her grandfather’s passing. I felt sympathetic to her character as she dealt with this loss while going through what’s supposed to be one of the most exciting moments in your life: going to college. I can’t imagine how tough it must’ve been for her being at that college, knowing she doesn’t have anyone left in her family that she could talk to about her first day of school and starting the road to becoming an adult. Just reading the story from Marin’s perspective, knowing how lonely she was feeling despite having other people who cared about her reminded me of the grief I’ve been dealing with since the passing of my best friend. Even though I know I have people who care about me and that are here for me, I completely understood Marin’s feelings in this story. So, for me, this story did a wonderful job of talking about grief, loss, depression, and loneliness when it comes to losing someone you deeply care about.

One of the aspects of We Are Okay that I loved is the shift LaCour does between Marin’s past from before her grandfather passed away and her life presently. I felt like this shift as readers allowed us to see more into Marin’s life from before everything changed for her. It also allowed us as readers to see the dynamic between Marin and grandfather, which gave us an even better understanding as to why she made the decisions she did. There’s a lot we don’t know about him when we’re first introduced to Marin so by having these different chapters, we as readers are given the chance to learn more about his character and about Marin too.

Seeing the relationship between Marin and her best friend Mabel was also something I really enjoyed when reading this book. You can tell with Marin that she really loved her best friend with all her heart. And while things with their relationship didn’t go the way you as the reader hoped, I was glad that despite everything that happened since Marin left California for college, Mabel still wanted to be there for Marin and be a part of her life. I found seeing that in their beautiful friendship wonderful. Reading about their friendship reminded me of my friendship with my best friend, even though our friendship was not like theirs at all. But I still found it relatable because my friendship with her was similar in that we were always there for each other whenever it really mattered, just like Mabel wanted to be there for Marin during this difficult moment in her life.

However, there are some things with We Are Okay that I didn’t like as well. For starters, I felt like the pacing of the story sometimes moved a little slow. While I understood why that was the case in that since she was dealing with this loss, Marin was experiencing a lot of feelings, such as depression, loneliness and isolation and LaCour wanted to show us, readers, how these feelings were affecting her. And while she did a good job showing us that, I felt like the story could’ve moved on a little bit more in showing us Mabel’s visit and the conversations they had while she was there.

While I understood Marin’s decision to leave California and everyone she knew there behind to go to college in New York, I felt like the way she handled it wasn’t the best. I get she wasn’t in the right state of mind when everything happened, so she was reacting in an irrational manner because of her grief and the anger she was feeling towards her grandfather. But she also had a circle of people left who cared about her that she could’ve confided in when this all happened so she wouldn’t have had to deal with her feelings alone. They were trying to reach out to her to make sure she was okay, and she ignored them all instead once she left. So, while I understood why she made this decision, at the same time, I still think she shouldn’t have too because these people that cared about her were worried about her and wanted to be there for her during this difficult moment in her life.

This is why I’m struggling with what I think about We Are Okay as a whole. Because I enjoyed reading this book, due to being able to relate to the subject matter and feeling empathetic with her character. But I also wasn’t okay with Marin’s decision to leave behind the people she had left that cared about her. So overall, I did enjoy it but have some criticisms with it too that I felt needed to be addressed. I definitely plan on reading more books by this author in the near future, such as Hold Still to see if she has any other books I’d enjoy.

 

Book Review: Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Can you love someone you can never touch?

Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.

The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?

I read this book in memory of my best friend who passed away last month in her battle against cystic fibrosis, which I recently shared here on my blog. It’s based off a screenplay by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis and chronicles the story of Stella and Will, two teenagers struggling in their battle against cystic fibrosis but for different reasons. While Stella is doing everything she can to keep her health in order so that she can get a lung transplant, Will is tired of going from hospital to hospital and is doing the best he can to live his life to the fullest. They fall in love with each other, but they must stay six feet apart in order not to jeopardize each other’s health, which feels like punishment to them both.

What I loved about reading Five Feet Apart is that this story brings awareness to cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects so many people in the world and currently doesn’t have a cure. I especially love that the story brings up information about cystic fibrosis people who don’t have the disease might not know, such as that people with cystic fibrosis can’t get too close to each other because of the risk of catching bacterial infections. While I had a very good friend who had cystic fibrosis, there are still some things I myself don’t know about the disease and I felt like this book brought that information to my attention. For that reason alone, I appreciate this book because it brought about awareness for a terrible disease that deeply impacted the life of someone I truly cared for.

I also enjoyed reading this book because I love the characters and the shifting points of view between the two protagonists, Stella, and Will. What made the characters in this book so sympathetic and real to me was seeing how they each handled their current predicament. For Stella, she focused on being well for the sake of her two parents whose marriage crumbled due to a devastating loss that shook the foundation of their family. Will, on the other hand, was more focused on getting out of the hospital and being able to live his life to the fullest since he was dying anyway. He was tired of spending all of his days in the hospital and couldn’t wait to turn eighteen so he could be done with hospital stays for good. I felt myself cheering these two young teens on as they struggled with being together while keeping their own safety in mind.

What I especially loved about reading Five Feet Apart is that it had an emotional impact on me. I know part of that is due to what happened with my friend, and reading a story with characters dealing with the same disease brought those emotions to the forefront. But I also know it’s due too because the story itself moved me. It felt like it was the right book for me to read at the right time.

But at the same time, there are some issues I had with the story itself too that I do need to bring up. For starters, I wasn’t fond of the instant-love that happened between Stella and Will. It’s a common troupe you see in young adult literature that I feel gets overused too much and I was sad to see it in this book too. While I understand why the connection starts, I felt like it was a little unrealistic in this story because of what these characters are dealing with.

I also wonder slightly about the accuracy of cystic fibrosis in this book. While I personally knew someone with the disease so I already knew some of the information that was brought up in the story, there were some details I was unsure of. I don’t have cystic fibrosis so I know I can’t speak for those who do, but if there’s inaccuracy in this book, it would be nice to know for sure. Unfortunately, the person who I’d speak to about this is no longer here to talk to about this book with.

This brings up another separate issue itself that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the book but that I feel I need to talk about anyway. I honestly wish I’d read this book sooner before my friend passed away. Or that we both could read it so we could talk about it with each other. I know she probably would’ve loved to do that (especially since there’s a movie coming out later this month, and she’s the one who mentioned wanting to see it) and I would be able to pick her mind about the way those with cystic fibrosis are represented in the story. So for me reading this story was pretty bittersweet because it reminded me of my friend’s desire to go and see the movie, which I also plan on doing too.

Overall, I love this book as a whole and give it four stars despite several issues I had with it. I find that I can’t give this book a lower rating because awareness of cystic fibrosis is important to me and I appreciate that this book attempts to bring this illness to people’s attention. It might not be done correctly, but I appreciate the effort and the story had a strong emotional impact on me that I can’t simply ignore. This book will forever hold a special place in my heart because it reminds me of a dear friend. I also can’t wait to see the movie no matter how sad not getting to see it with her will make me.

I highly recommend this story to those interested in learning more about cystic fibrosis and anyone interested in health as a collective whole. I also recommend this book to those who enjoy a good young adult romance like I sometimes do and want to read a story with sympathetic characters.

I’ve included the trailer in this post below for those interested in going to see the movie like I am so you can have an even better idea of the story I just finished reading.

 

Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3)

always and forever lara jean

Rating: 4 stars

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

I really enjoyed reading this concluding book in this series just as much as I enjoyed P.S. I Still Love You, but for different reasons. While I didn’t want this book to end, I felt like this book was the perfect way to end the series because of it being Lara Jean’s last year of high school before she goes off to college.

It continues to tell the story of Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter, but also focuses a whole lot more on the pressure of getting into college and what comes with that. When Lara Jean doesn’t get into the college of her dreams, she faces a dilemma she didn’t expect. I enjoyed seeing that conflict with her because I felt like it was a realistic problem that I’m sure other teens applying to colleges experience. Part of senior year of high school is beginning the journey of adulthood and I felt like with Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Jenny Han tackled the subject very well when it came to Lara Jean’s beginning journey into adulthood.

I also appreciated seeing how talking about college impacted Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter. Especially because they both wanted to go to college together since they were planning on continuing their relationship after high school. While Lara Jean didn’t handle her plans changing very well at first, when she discovered another college that was very similar to the school she originally wanted to attend, I thought it was wonderful that she made the decision to go to that school. For once in these books, she actually made a big decision for herself instead of taking the easy road to get what she wanted. Seeing Lara Jean struggle with her decision on where she was going to college when her original plans failed reminded me of what the pressure of choosing college was like for me. While I can’t say my experience was anything at all like Lara Jean’s (because it definitely wasn’t), I felt like I could relate to her character when it came to college because that’s a big decision for a person to make for themselves.

What I also liked when reading Always and Forever, Lara Jean was that you as a reader slowly saw Lara Jean make big decisions. While she’s still pretty far from acting like an adult, I felt like she was finally maturing a little bit in this book. For once, she was finally making decisions for herself, not because her family and friends wanted her to make those choices.

My biggest criticism for this book would have to be the lack of conflict in it. While I sometimes didn’t mind because it made this book a fun, light read like the others, I felt like there should’ve been something more. I mean, yes there was conflict when it came to Lara Jean going to college and how her final decision impacted her relationship with Peter, but that was really it when you actually think about it. There wasn’t really a whole lot else going on that really caused conflict in the story and that did bother me a little bit because it was like certain characters who were featured in the previous two books never existed.

But overall, I still enjoyed reading Always and Forever, Lara Jean. As a whole, I enjoyed reading all of these books in this series because they were a light and easy read for me to get through. I also enjoyed seeing Lara Jean’s family dynamics and how close she is to her two sisters as well as her relationship with her friend Chris and boyfriend Peter. I enjoyed reading them as well because they reminded me of what it was like when I fell in love for the very first time and reminded me of what choosing a college was like for me. My biggest criticism for this series as a whole is the lack of character development, especially in the main character Lara Jean. She still has a whole lot of growing up to do, but I still find myself liking her anyway.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this series and recommend it to anyone looking for something light and easy to read. But I recommend caution to anyone who reads these books that’s just gotten out of a relationship and is still dealing with that heartbreak.

 

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)

to all the boys i've loved before book cover

Rating: 3 stars

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read for me because it was easy to get through. What made the story so simple to me is that it mostly centered around one character’s daily life and the challenges she was experiencing. It was the story of an ordinary girl, her relationship with her family and how she navigated high school when she discovered that the letters she’d secretly written about the boys she once loved were sent to them without her knowledge. I found this premise interesting, which allowed me to continue turning the page to find out what happened next with Lara Jean.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was also a good read for me because I loved seeing the relationship Lara Jean had with her two sisters Margot and Kitty, her friend Chris, and one of the guys she once cared for Peter. While the story overall doesn’t have too much character development, I feel like you as the reader truly see how Lara Jean interacts with the people she’s close to. You see this in her treatment of her two sisters who she’s been close to over the years due to their mother’s sudden death. I really appreciate this close-knit sibling relationship in this young adult book because you don’t often see these types of relationships with family in this genre. I also enjoyed her relationship with both Chris and Peter because I feel like you get to see Lara Jean’s character come out a little whenever she’s around these two in the story. And that was nice to me because there’s very little of her character that you truly see.

That’s one of my biggest criticisms of this book, not feeling like we as readers get to know Lara Jean. Even though this book is from her perspective, I still feel like I don’t truly understand her character and why she reacts the way she does in the story. In a lot of ways, it made it hard for me to like her character, even though I can relate to her a little bit. She just seemed way too standoffish, to the point where she couldn’t handle normal everyday things. But at the same time, I found myself sympathetic to her most of the time because I felt truly sorry for her.

However, my biggest complaint of this book is that I don’t really feel like it followed the central plot: Lara Jean’s letters that were sent to the guys she loved. The story doesn’t really focus on the letters all too much other than her reaction to finding out they were sent out and her freaking out about one particular person getting a letter. Other than that, the story continues on, as if the letters were never sent out in the first place. Then again, I honestly believe the feelings she had for these guys wasn’t actual love, but feelings a girl gets when she has a big crush on someone. Maybe that’s what made it difficult for me to believe the way the guys reacted to the letters and how Lara Jean handled the whole situation. I guess I’m just surprised these letters didn’t play more of a role in the overall story arc, which made me like the book a little less. What also didn’t help was that it was fairly obvious from the beginning who sent them out in the first place.

But despite my two main criticisms with this book, I still enjoyed reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It was such an easy read and I wanted to see how Lara Jean’s relationships continued to evolve that I couldn’t help but turn the page to see what happened next. I hope that P.S. I Still Love You gives me a better chance to learn more about Lara Jean’s character and is just as easy of a read.

Book Review: To Kill A Kingdom

To Kill A Kingdom Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

I originally heard about this book after reading Tiana’s book review on her blog The Book Raven. The premise of the book sounded really interesting to me so I decided to give it a read. And I enjoyed it so much.

I found To Kill A Kingdom to be quite an engaging story. What made me so interested in this story was reading it from the perspective of two characters who have a lot more in common than they know. While Lira and Elian both were fighting the same war on two different sides, it becomes obviously clear that they are more similar to each other than different. When Lira and Elian meet each other for the first time, you as the reader can see that both characters want the same thing: for the war between the sirens and humans to end. You can also tell that they’ll both do whatever it takes to achieve that goal even if that results in their own death. I found seeing this story being told from both of their perspectives to be interesting, but also enjoyable because I found both characters delightful. I found Lira’s perspective especially enjoyable for me because I’ve never read a book where the point of view in the story was told from the perspective of a siren. But at the same time, I enjoyed reading the story from Elian’s perspective too as a siren hunter/pirate.

Another reason I’ve enjoyed reading this book so much is because I love stories featuring mythical creatures such as mermaids and sirens. I especially love the way sirens were portrayed in this story because it made you sympathetic to Lira’s character. As a reader, you originally recall sirens from stories as being creatures who would sing to lure their victims to their death. While that origin story is an important part of the plot in the book, you find out that there’s more to sirens because of Lira. She gives you a better understanding of why sirens kill people to begin with and does her best as the story progresses to work on bringing peace between humans and sirens. She isn’t your typical siren and I love her for it.

I also love this book because I haven’t read too many books that feature sirens as a main character, especially ones like Lira who start questioning their upbringing. She and many of the other characters in this story go through a tremendous amount of character development that allows them to question their morals. The two characters who face development the most are the two protagonists, Lira and Elian. Lira has grown up her whole life believing humans to be her enemy and taking the hearts of princes to prove her worth as the next Sea Queen. Whenever she becomes human, however, she begins questioning her choices and realizes that everything she’s grown up believing about humans is wrong. Elian, the prince of Midas turned siren hunter/pirate, discovers siren hunting as being his true calling in life despite being heir to one of the most powerful kingdoms. Then one day he saves a mysterious woman from drowning in the ocean after he’s already plotting on finding an item that’s said to destroy sirenkind for good. This woman he barely knows agrees to help him and while he’s reluctant to trust her to begin with, he starts warming up to her as they get closer to what he’s searching for. As the plot of the story continues and he realizes who the woman really is, he still trusts her when the plot reaches its climax. It’s when he trusts Lira with his life despite her being a siren that he starts realizing that maybe not all sirens are bad and that if they work together, they can kill the Sea Queen and create peace between humans and sirens. Both of these characters overcome their initial beliefs about each other’s kind which allows them as characters to develop and do exactly what they need to make things right between humans and sirens.

What I’ve found I love the most about To Kill A Kingdom is the references to The Little Mermaid you can see throughout the book. First, there’s Lira and Elian who both are very similar to the main characters in The Little Mermaid. While Lira isn’t a mermaid, there are definitely quite a bit of similarities between her and Ariel, such as both of them being princesses and getting turned into a human. Elian is like Prince Eric in that he’s also a prince who also seems to love traveling in the sea. Then there’s the Sea Queen who punishes her daughter by turning her into a human who’s robbed of her siren song, just like Ursula turns Ariel into a human without a voice. The Sea Queen is also a lot like Ursula too in that she wants to make sure she gets what she wants but also does the best she can to destroy both Lira and Elian once her original plan is thwarted. While the overall plot in To Kill A Kingdom isn’t at all like The Little Mermaid and there are some obvious differences between the characters, you can still see similarities between the two stories and I really enjoyed seeing them while I was reading this book.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy when reading To Kill A Kingdom was when I finally finished reading the book. I really loved reading this story so when I was finally done with it, I was sad to see it all end. It was a book I was enjoying immensely so I didn’t want to leave the tale behind.

Other than being sad when this book ended, I overall loved reading To Kill A Kingdom. The story as a whole was interesting because of the two unique perspectives of the characters telling it. I loved hearing this book from Lira’s perspective who let us know that not all sirens are bad, which allowed us to see these mythical creatures in a different light. I appreciated that both of the main characters had character development that made them realize that they could work together to bring peace to their world. And I really loved seeing the references to The Little Mermaid story that I love so much, but was glad to see that this book didn’t follow that plot completely. I believe this book along with The Night Circus are my two favorite reads of this year so far, and I highly recommend giving this book a try.

 

Book Review: Girls Like Me

Girls Like Me Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Fifteen-year-old Shay Summers is trying to cope with the death of her father, being overweight, and threats from a girl bully in school.  When she falls in love with Blake, a mysterious boy online, insecure Shay doesn’t want to tell him who she is.   But with the help of her two best friends, as well as an assist by Kermit and Miss Piggy, ultimately Shay and Blake’s love prevails. 
     

Girls Like Me is a fun and fresh poetic take on teen angst, social media and online anonymity, and high school romance.

This book was such a delight for me to read. It was quirky, had a diverse set of characters and the writing style was different from any of the young adult literature I’ve been reading recently. I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I would and was sad when it ended. However, there were some things in the book that were a complete cliché that made the book a little less enjoyable for me to read.

For those who haven’t read this book before, Girls Like Me tells the story of Shay Summers, a teenager who struggles with her weight and trying to fit in at school. After the death of her father, Shay is stuck living with her stepmother Kara and tries to cope with her life by eating. She also makes two good friends who don’t fit in at school just like her. Then one day while online, she chats with a mysterious boy who gives her butterflies and knows how to make her laugh. What she doesn’t know is that this boy is actually the guy she’s had a crush on at school. He wants to meet her, but she’s so insecure about herself that she keeps pushing him away. Their relationship gets put to the test, but will their love prevail? Or are they not meant to be?

What drew me into reading this book was the cover and title. The cover is beautifully illustrated, making the reader want to pick up the book and read it. The title caught my eye too because it made me think this book would be relatable to me and that I’d understand the characters within its pages. While I don’t at all understand what it’s like being considered overweight, I feel like I can relate to Shay’s character anyway. I can relate to her because I love food too and I was bullied in school quite a bit myself, which made me lack a lot of self-confidence.

I also enjoyed reading Girls Like Me because of the writing style. It was written in free verse, which reminded me a lot of author Ellen Hopkins’s books, but also stood out from her work because of the use of social media in the story. It was unique storytelling to me because I haven’t seen too many other books written like this. I also enjoyed this writing style because it made this book an easy read for me.

Girls Like Me Text Image
An example of the text from the book. Can be found on page 4.

Another reason I enjoyed reading this book is because of the diverse cast of characters. There’s not only Shay, who is considered overweight, but her two best friends Dash and Boots are also unique characters too. Dash is her male best friend who struggles with being gay because of his upbringing in a Christian household. He especially has a really rocky relationship with his father because of his sexuality so he tries to change himself in order to please his dad. Boots on the other hand has cancer and is trying the best she can to live each day like it’s her last. But she’s dying and wants really badly to have sex since she knows she doesn’t have too much time left to live. She tries the best she can not to worry Shay and Dash with her sickness by trying to hide how unwell she’s doing, but they both know something is wrong.

And of course there’s Shay who struggles to cope with the loss of her father and eats because it helps her deal with the pain. She’s bullied in school relentlessly because of her weight by a girl named Kelly who enjoys nothing more than seeing Shay miserable. Her relationship with her stepmother Kara isn’t too great because Shay feels like she’s body shaming her. It isn’t until later on in the story that you find out that Kara understands exactly what Shay is going through. I like that this story has all of these characters with different problems and you get to see how they are handled. I also like that this book has a character with body issues because I haven’t read too many books that center around a character like Shay.

However, I do have some criticisms with Girls Like Me. While I overall enjoyed the writing style Lola StVil used, there were times where I found being able to understand it a little confusing. This confusing typically occurred whenever StVil had the story being told from the perspective of Dash and Boots. I was usually confused when this happened because their text didn’t at all have a different style from Shay’s. The only reason I was even able to tell the difference between the three was because of the change in font. Otherwise, I would’ve thought the text was just Shay talking about Dash and Boots’ personal lives.

Another criticism I have for this book is that while the set of characters are diverse, they are pretty cliché too. All of the characters that are really close friends are all of the social outcasts at the school, and they just happen to become good friends because of their differences.

Then, there’s the relationship between Shay and Blake, two people on opposite sides of the social pool. Blake is the typical popular kid who doesn’t notice how popular he is because he only pays attention to Shay. To the point that he doesn’t at all understand why Shay is hesitant about their relationship being out in the open. He’s so clueless, especially close to the end when Shay finds out about the website students at the school made about her and she asks him if he knew about it. He doesn’t at all understand why it’s such a big deal to her, which bothers me since they are supposed to be a couple and he doesn’t at all see why her weight is an issue to her. Their whole relationship was just a big cliché to me and I didn’t really like it because it was too much insta-love.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the ending of Girls Like Me. I thought there’d be a big reveal where we found out why Kelly doesn’t like Shay. Instead, we get no sort of reason other than she just doesn’t want her to be happy, which isn’t really much of a reason at all. If anything, it just shows that Kelly isn’t a great person and she’s just a character in the story put in to cause Shay conflict. I also thought it was a little cheesy because even though I like the Muppets, I just thought the whole thing was a little corny. But at the same time, I also liked the ending because we finally see Shay stand up for herself and call Kelly out on her bullying. We also see her act confident in herself for once, which was something we didn’t see a whole lot of throughout the book. And I feel like Blake finally gets to see the real Shay and understand why she’s the person she is in the story.

Overall, Girls Like Me is such a fun, quirky read. It has a style unlike any other book I’ve read with a set of diverse, relatable characters and was such a delight to read. I definitely recommend this book to people with body issues and people who want to read a book with free verse poetry.

Book Review: Redemption (MILA 2.0 #3)

Redemption Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Mila has been running for her life for so long. But there might be nowhere left for her to go. Especially now that she’s an incredible danger to herself and anyone who dares get close to her.

That’s why Mila has gone into hiding with friend and tech expert Lucas. She can’t take the risk of hurting people worse than the way she hurt Hunter: the boy she’ll always love, the boy who might never forgive her for what she’s done.

But then Mila discovers that General Holland—her ultimate enemy—has plans that are an even bigger threat to humanity than she is. His quest to reclaim Mila is only part of a larger mysterious endgame that will put people’s lives at stake. Mila must make a choice: either push aside her fears and fight him with everything she’s got…or turn her back on the world forever.

After getting to the end of this book, I can definitely say I enjoyed reading Redemption. While the ending itself made me want to cry, the overall direction Debra Driza takes this last book in the trilogy was really enjoyable to read. I felt like we finally got the real answers we needed as to why Sarah (the person who Mila used to be) died in the fire and found out what Holland was planning on doing next.

I found the way the story developed to be quite surprising. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but I went with it because I wanted to see where this would all end up. I also enjoyed reading about Mila’s relationship with Lucas. You could tell there was a good connection there and I really wanted to see where it’d go. While I like Hunter’s character, I found that I actually like Lucas better because he’s understood Mila since the beginning and still wants to help her find out the truth. And at this point in the story, Hunter and Mila’s relationship is pretty much dead anyway.

One of my favorite things about Redemption is the amount of detective work the characters do to find out the truth about Holland and what he’s plotting. In particular, the last half of the book where they are in the school trying to find out what’s going on with the scholarship recipient students. It’s quite an interesting plot in the story I wasn’t at all expecting because then we realize how big of a threat Holland truly is.

I also enjoyed that redemption was a big part of the story too. It came into play with Mila gaining back the trust of some of Quinn’s members of the Vita Obscura and Holland at the end of the book. Because after the events in Renegade, a lot of the characters are still weary of Mila and whether she’s really someone who can be trusted. The same is said with Holland because he is given a choice to make at the end of the story, which I feel like I can’t really get into without ruining the end of this trilogy. But it’s definitely a big choice, I can say for sure.

As the last book in this trilogy that I’ve enjoyed reading, there were still some things I didn’t quite enjoy about this one. For starters, while I enjoyed seeing a connection blossom between Mila and Lucas, I hated that the beginning of Redemption was pretty much the same as Renegade, except that Lucas is the boy with Mila instead of Hunter. But the plot pretty much starts out the same there because they both look together to try and connect Sarah’s death with Holland and to find out what he’s planning on doing next.

I also wasn’t quite fond of the way Driza decided to end this trilogy. I hated it because I felt like Mila deserved so much better after everything she’s gone through and it actually made me want to cry. But it also didn’t really tell us much either because we don’t know what happens with the other characters afterwards. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly expecting this trilogy to have a super happy ending or anything. I was expecting it to have a neat resolution though, and I feel like that didn’t really happen.

I think as a trilogy though, I think that’s one of my biggest problems with it. Because while I’ve enjoyed reading this trilogy overall, I just feel like there’s something missing in the plot. I guess the best way to describe it would be to say that it’s rushed so certain things that happen in the trilogy don’t necessarily make sense to me. The best example that comes to mind for me right now is the Vita Obscura group as a whole. From the beginning of the trilogy, the author made this group sound like it was huge with a lot of members in it. However, the only members of the group that come to help Mila out with uncovering the truth about Holland are the ones she interacts with in Renegade. Then, there’s everything that happens with Holland in general that’s full of plot holes. I know that Mila as an android is supposed to be a secretive military operation that not too many people are supposed to know about. But besides Holland, Quinn, Nicole and Daniel, there weren’t too many other key players who knew about Mila. To me though, that just seemed too convenient because I feel like more people would’ve played a part in Mila’s creation, therefore they’d be playing a big part in the story.

And that’s one of my biggest problems with this trilogy. The story being told overall is unique, amazing and everything I want to read in a science fiction, young adult story. But there’s just so much with the plot that doesn’t add up, isn’t fully explained that makes it hard to wrap your head around and accept what’s been told to you.

However, I still enjoyed reading this trilogy and was sad to see it come to an end, even if the ending isn’t at all what I wanted for Mila. It left me feeling emotionally sad to be done with these books, but also looking forward to whatever book I decide to read next.

Book Review: Renegade (MILA 2.0 #2)

Renegade Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

There is no one left for Mila to trust. Except for a boy she barely knows.

But Hunter has no idea who—and what—Mila really is. She can’t bear to reveal her secret, even though he’s unwittingly joined her search for Richard Grady, a man who may know more details of Mila’s complicated past.

Yet the road to the truth is more dangerous than ever. With General Holland and the Vita Obscura scouring the earth for her whereabouts, Mila must rely on her newfound android abilities to protect herself and Hunter from imminent harm. Still, embracing her identity as a machine leads her to question the state of her humanity—as well as Hunter’s real motives.

While I wasn’t completely sure what to make of MILA 2.0 when I started reading it, I know for sure that I enjoyed reading Renegade immensely. It was action packed, suspenseful, and ended with me wanting to find out more. Continuing where MILA 2.0 left off, Renegade shows us the journey Mila went on with Hunter to find out more about who she really is. But in doing so, her relationship with Hunter takes a turn for the dangerous as she contemplates whether she really can trust him with the truth or not.

I enjoyed Renegade more than its predecessor because the beginning didn’t start off quite as slow. You have Hunter and Mila interacting with each other, trying to find out what they’re going to do now. While I was frustrated with Mila for not telling Hunter the truth and hated that she kept bringing it up, I was fascinated by their journey into learning more about Mila’s identity. She learned more about who she is in this book, and I felt like it really explained everything that happened up to this point in the story. It explained why she was having memory flashbacks of a life she never truly lived, but also explained why even though she’s an android she has such strong emotions. I enjoyed this book better because I felt like I understood Mila better than before.

I also found this story to be more action packed, which helped too. Because while Mila is with Hunter, she’s still on the run from General Holland so she has to be careful who she trusts. So when she finds Grady, she starts becoming weary of the person she’s traveling with. She starts questioning her decisions and comes up with a plan for what to do next. While I was annoyed that she was continuously questioning Hunter’s motives throughout, I also understood her reasoning for it. I understood because I honestly didn’t understand why she even brought Hunter into this situation to begin with. Yes, he was one of the few people she felt like she could trust in Clearwater, but she barely knew him.

I also enjoyed finally being introduced to the leader of the Vita Obscura. I like how Driza made it seem like she was trustworthy at first, though I was suspicious of her character immediately. She just seemed too nice and it made me very weary of her character. It wasn’t until we see Mila make that terrible decision that her true nature really came out. While I completely understand her part in the story, it really put a twist in the story that I never saw coming.

However, there are some criticisms I do have with Renegade that I didn’t have with MILA 2.0. For starters, while I do overall like her connection with Hunter better than before (despite it being instant love), I found it to be too convenient that his family actually has a role in the story. I also hated that he decided to just come along with her on this trip without fully questioning what was going on and why she’d reached out to him. I also didn’t really understand why she wanted him around knowing that she was putting him in serious danger. I get she really likes him, but I feel like he shouldn’t have really been given a role in this story. Or that if she did talk to him it wasn’t until later after the events that transpired. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like his character and I do understand why he’s in the story. But I don’t know, I feel like romance shouldn’t even really be in this trilogy. And there’s a possibility that this trilogy will become a love triangle, which is something else I’m truly starting to hate in young adult novels. It’s starting to become a cliché in young adult literature for the female character to have two boys fighting for her affections, and I’m really starting to hate it because it’s very unrealistic.

But anyway, enough of that. Another part of the story I didn’t particularly like is when the Vita Obscura leader’s plans are finally revealed through the decision Mila makes. I’m not going to go too much into detail about this part of the story because I want to try the best I can not to spoil it. But basically, Mila makes a decision for herself that doesn’t go particularly well. It actually results in her briefly becoming less human and more android, which in turn leads to a discovery none of us find out about until the end of the story. In this part of the story, Mila makes terrible decisions that affect the lives of others. She also briefly looses the part of herself that made me like her character in order to not deal with the hurt and pain she’s experiencing. I hate that she made this decision because while I do completely understand why she did it, I knew something bad was going to come from it. I also knew that the end result of this decision would be her character being less human and making decisions she wouldn’t make herself. While I enjoyed seeing more of her android side in this moment, I overall hated this part of the story because she did something she would’ve never done. And that frustrated me because her character has been through a lot already and I feel like she didn’t deserve this.

However, despite these two parts of the story, I overall enjoyed reading Renegade.  I enjoyed reading this book because I learned the truth about Mila’s identity, the story was more action packed and fast paced, and we finally were introduced to the Vita Obscura and found out why their leader was interested in Mila. I really can’t wait to finish reading the final book in the trilogy Redemption to find out what happens next to Mila.

Book Review: MILA 2.0 (MILA 2.0 #1)

MILA 2.0 Book Review

Rating: 3 stars

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t completely sure what to make of it. The pacing was slow, the characters you as the reader were introduced to were annoying, and the storyline didn’t flow together quite as smoothly as you’d expect. As you continue reading, however, the story gets more invigorating, the main character becomes much deeper, and the plot becomes even more intense. It’s as if Debra Driza’s writing became more focused and she knew exactly what direction she wanted to take her readers.

And for me, it worked. The story came together, started making sense and I liked what I was seeing overall. I enjoyed it because while it started off slow, I still found myself wanting to continue reading to find out what happened next. I wanted to see what happened to Mila, how she’d deal with learning the truth about herself and what she’d do next.

I gave this book a chance because my grandmother recommended it to me. And I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. What I enjoyed when reading MILO 2.0 is that it’s unlike any other book I’ve read. What I mean to say is this is the first book I’ve really read that’s focused on a character who isn’t quite human. She’s an android with unusual abilities who questions her humanity and what it means to be human. Yet, has the capacity to feel deep human emotions that makes it much more difficult for her to survive the tasks she encounters throughout the story. And I enjoyed every minute I learned more about her abilities.

What I also enjoyed when reading this book is how Mila’s character questions what it means to be human. She questions everything she’s dealing with in her life and refuses to do anything that’ll make her even less human. I like this aspect of her character because she wants to fight to be alive and free from what’ll happen to her when she’s caught.

MILA 2.0 Book Quote
Via Epic Reads.

I also like that MILO 2.0 is very action packed. As the story continues moving along, it gets even more intense with each page the reader turns. One minute, Mila is enjoying her normal life as a teenage girl. The next, she’s having to flee from those who are trying to catch her. She doesn’t completely understand what she’s running away from, just knows that if she gets caught, her life will get a whole lot worse than it was before.

However, there are a lot of things with this story I don’t completely like. For starters, the first half of the novel like I said before moved at too slow a pace. It was like Driza was struggling to write, figure out where she wanted the direction of this story to go. Everything was a complete mess that desperately needed to be changed. Especially the plot because I have a hard time believing they were found out because of an accident in a car.

Part of what made the first half of the story not as good as the rest were the characters. In particular, the girls Mila had become friends with when she moved to small town Minnesota. They were all just sort of snooty, rude, mean, not the type of people she should’ve been friends with when she moved there. I know part of the reason she was friends with them was because the leader of their group Kaylee welcomed her into the fold since she was new there, but overall, I didn’t see any other valid reasons for her to continue interacting with them, especially when Hunter came into town.

Speaking of which, I hated the instant attraction Driza made Hunter and Mila feel for each other. While I overall like Hunter’s character (what we see of it, I mean), I feel like their romance is completely rushed. They’ve only had a small amount of interactions with each other, yet they’ve almost kissed a couple times and Mila is constantly thinking about him while she’s on the run and when she gets captured. It feels like infatuation instead of love to me and I wish she’d given their interest with each other more room to grow. Or I would’ve been perfectly fine if there was no romance at all throughout the story. I know it’s in there to show that she’s capable of having human emotions, but I do feel like it doesn’t need to be there. And I don’t know, I have a feeling it could be the death of her at some point in the rest of the books to come.

However, I overall enjoyed reading MILA 2.0. Despite its flaws, it was a book unlike any other I’ve read and I can’t wait to continue reading the rest of the books in this trilogy to find out what happens next to Mila. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s willing to push through a book to get to the juice of a story and to people who love young adult science fiction novels that center around a teenage android.

 

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