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Book Review: Afterworlds

Afterworlds Scott Westerfeld Cover

Rating: 4 stars

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS…

Darcy Patel is afraid to believe all the hype. But it’s really happening – her teen novel is getting published. Instead of heading to college, she’s living in New York City, where she’s welcomed into the dazzling world of YA publishing. That means book tours, parties with her favorite authors, and finding a place to live that won’t leave her penniless. It means sleepless nights rewriting her first draft and struggling to find the perfect ending… all while dealing with the intoxicating, terrifying experience of falling in love – with another writer.

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, the thrilling story of Lizzie, who wills her way into the afterworld to survive a deadly terrorist attack. With survival comes the responsibility to guide the restless spirits that walk our world, including one ghost with whom she shares a surprising personal connection. But Lizzie’s not alone in her new calling – she has counsel from a fellow spirit guide, a very desirable one, who is torn between wanting Lizzie and warning her that…

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS.

In a brilliant high-wire act of weaving two epic narratives – and two unforgettable heroines – into one novel, Scott Westerfeld’s latest work is a triumph of storytelling. 

The first time I read this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was about writing, and the world surrounding it, which fascinated me so much because I wanted to be a part of it. That was back in 2015, before I started writing here, before I graduated from college and was still doing my internship. I also loved reading the novel itself within the pages because Lizzie has such a fascinating story to tell.

Reading it again a second time, I’m just as enthralled with Darcy’s life as I was before. And I love Lizzie’s story just as much. To be honest, the way Westerfeld switches between worlds is one of my favorite things about Afterworlds. He does a good job of choosing when to end each chapter so that you’re hungry for more of what your leaving behind.

I also love this book because it’s a combination of young adult literature and paranormal romance. I love how the conflict Darcy goes through with her writing and her relationship with Imogen. You get to see her experience New York for the very first time, dealing with things writers deal with once a book is published while figuring out how relationships work. With Lizzie, I enjoy the paranormal aspects of her story like when she’s just back from the airport and truly realizes what’s happened to her and her learning more about the world she’s becoming a part of. I enjoyed learning about her mother’s childhood friend Mindy and seeing the flipside world.

Afterworlds is a good read for me because it talks about writing a lot.  I enjoy reading fictional stories that bring up real-life concepts, such as what it’s like being a writer and beginning the process of getting your book into the world. I enjoyed Darcy’s interactions with other authors as she struggled to figure out what she needed to do and she struggled with getting her second novel started.

However, there were a lot of things lacking overall in this book that I feel need to be addressed. For one, I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of conflict when it came to Darcy’s new life and the characters just seemed a little flat to me. What I mean is that I feel like the biggest problems Darcy dealt with as soon as she arrived in New York was getting her novel completed and her relationship with Imogen. You didn’t really hear about too much else going on with her in the story except when problems with Imogen occurred, which mostly happened because of Darcy’s inexperience with relationships. Even the fact that she could barely afford to live in New York wasn’t really addressed, she just spent her money however she wanted anyway. It also just felt like her relationship with Imogen came out of nowhere because she never mentions having feelings for her until Imogen confessed the way she felt about Darcy.  The characters seemed flat to me because there wasn’t really any development as time went on, except with Lizzie, which wasn’t all that much either. Everyone pretty much stayed the same from the beginning to end, the only difference was that time moved forward in both stories.

I also didn’t particularly like the way Lizzie’s character developed when she was introduced into this new world. She gained this new ability to go into the flipside and see ghosts, yet immediately becomes attached to the first ghost she meets. She uses her new ability to cause bodily harm to another human being, but actually suffers no consequences for her actions. I understand why she hurts this person, but I still don’t think it’s the right way she could’ve done this and I feel like she hasn’t really learned much from the experience. I get she’s very curious about this new world she’s become a part of and wants to learn as much as she can about it. But I felt like that particular situation wasn’t necessary because there was no consequence for making that choice.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Afterworlds despite some of the problems I had with the overall plot and character development. Westerfeld’s writing really made this story enjoyable for me as I heard characters talk about writing and the two stories within made me interested in continuing to read to see what happened next. I look forward to reading more works by this author in the near future.

Book Review: Carry On

Carry On Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

After reading Fangirl, I knew I needed to read this book to see if I’d enjoy it just as much. And I did, maybe even more so for several reasons. But I found I couldn’t give it a higher rating than Fangirl because I found a lot more things wrong with it that I’ll discuss shortly.

Carry On is about the universe Cath fantasizes about in Fangirl. It’s about the world of Watford, a school for those with magic. It centers on Simon Snow, a boy who’s supposed to be the greatest mage the World of Mages has ever seen. In this book, he returns to school for his last year at Watford and his biggest nemesis/roommate Baz doesn’t return until several weeks later. It centers around the death of Baz’s mom along with Simon stopping the evil Humdrum who’s face is very similar to his.

What I enjoyed so much when reading this book is that it’s unique. While the storyline, characters and everything else in it are supposed to be a play off of Harry Potter, you can tell when reading it that it’s a completely different universe. I like that this story is very similar to the world I already love because it made it that much easier for me to understand everything that happened. The universe was very similar to Harry Potter, but in a humorous way that I appreciated. It was like Rainbow Rowell was writing a one novel parody of the Harry Potter series, but twisting it into something else that is just as enjoyable.

You Know You've Read a Good Book Paul Sweeney Quote
Via Popular Inspirational Quotes

I enjoyed reading Carry On so much that when I was finished, I was sad to see the story end. It felt like a piece of me had gone and went into Simon Snow’s world. And I know why I felt that way. This book has all of the elements I like in a story. It’s fantasy with a mixture of mystery, comedy, and its young adult literature that features LGBTQ characters. I like that the world Rowell portrays has magic in it, yet also has some real world elements mixed in that allow you as the reader to see magic alongside normal reality.

But most of all, one of my favorite features in this book is the relationship between Simon and Baz. Both characters are confused about their own identity, yet end up finding each other and connecting in a way you as the reader don’t expect: through the loss of a parent, aka, Baz’s mom who died many years ago at the hands of vampires. Simon could relate to what Baz was going through because of his own loss of not growing up with parents. So Simon did what he thought was right: to help Baz find out who really orchestrated the attack on the nursery that resulted in her death. This connection resulted in showing us their relationship continue to grow, from being roommates who hated each other to lovers. I loved seeing it come together because it was fun to watch the commentary between both of them as they uncovered the truth. It was entertaining, a breath of fresh air that I didn’t realize I needed. And it made moments in the story when things were turning weird more enjoyable for me. I could see the love for each other with each page I read and just couldn’t wait to watch their relationship continue to grow.

Carry On Simon Snow and Baz Pitch Because We Match Picture
Via Pinterest 

What also made Carry On an enjoyable read for me was the different points of view. I enjoyed reading this story from all of the character’s perspectives. It allowed me a better understanding of what was going on, gave me a clue about things I didn’t know before. It also made this book even more interesting because we were given access to these character’s thoughts and feelings, given an understanding as to what they were doing and why. I liked having access to all of the characters in this way because it allowed me to immerse myself even further into the story. It’s also different from any other fantasy novel I’ve read because there’s usually only one perspective that you have access to.

While Carry On is definitely a page turner, there were some elements when it came to the story that I disliked. For one, I thought the names of the spells in this world was ridiculous. I don’t know what Rowell was thinking when she came up with that idea, but it didn’t make sense to me. Especially because it wasn’t at all realistic to what magic is normally like in books. While this allows her world to be uniquely different, I don’t see how these different incantations would even be justified for someone with magic to say. I don’t know if she thought of this as a way to make fun of magic or something, but I just don’t see why magic wielders would have incantations that are nursery rhymes or common sayings that someone normal could say. That sounds like it could potentially lead to an accident, an incident that very easily could’ve been prevented.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of Agatha’s character. I felt like she acted throughout the story like she was above everyone else and just didn’t seem to care about the people she had called friends for the past seven years. Throughout Carry On, she was completely selfish, focusing only on the things that affected her life. She didn’t seem at all remotely interested in keeping up a friendship with Simon and Penelope, yet felt like she could criticize both of them for working with Baz to uncover the truth about his mother’s death. I felt like her character just existed in the story, but didn’t really belong. She was just in the story, wasting space that could’ve been better spent on other characters that played a crucial role in the overall plot.  I just didn’t like Agatha and wish she wasn’t a part of the story at all.

While this book was definitely a page turner for me, another criticism I have is that the overall plot was okay. It definitely had quite a chunk of holes in it that made it difficult to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked. I think part of the problem for me is that Simon Snow’s story is rushed. The whole plot structure in this story runs a little too fast, leaving very little room for making sure nothings being left out. I think part of the reason this is even a problem is because I feel like this story should’ve been spread out into multiple books. That would’ve given Rowell the chance to get the structure and story together and figure out how to end it. Instead, this story is at the final chapter of Simon Snow’s whole story. You learn most of what Carry On is about if you’ve read Fangirl, but I don’t think it’s enough because we miss out on all of the other years Simon Snow is at Watford. You get bits and pieces of some of the important details, but it’s not enough for us to just jump to the finale and see how everything will end for Simon Snow, which by the way is actually pretty disappointing too. With the plot, it feels like you’re missing something, yet not missing anything at all. It would for me be like only reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the Harry Potter series and expecting to know every detail of the whole series without reading any of the other books. I feel like we miss too much and that the details we are given aren’t enough and have holes in them that don’t really connect the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Carry On much more than Fangirl. But because of the amount of criticisms I found myself having about it, it would’ve been unfair to give it a higher rating. But that doesn’t make it any less of a good read for those who want to be taken away to a magical world or for people who want to read about two boys falling in love.

 

 

Book Review: Fangirl

Fangirl Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I remember getting this book as a Christmas gift from my grandmother a couple years ago and when I read it feeling disappointed because it wasn’t as good of a read as I was expecting. But I decided to read it once again before starting to read Carry On and found myself enjoying it much better the second time around.

I don’t remember what exactly I disliked about Fangirl the first time I read it, but I can definitely tell you what I’ve enjoyed from this reading experience. One of the things I enjoyed reading this book a second time is how much I can relate to the main character. I don’t know if part of the reason I didn’t enjoy this book the first time was because I couldn’t relate to Cath, but after reading it again, I realize I can relate to her very well. For one, she’s an introvert like me. I can also relate to her because my own college experience involved me spending a lot of time in my room more than going out and socializing with friends. When I come to think of it, I didn’t really have a lot of friends in college anyway due to focusing so much on schoolwork and working at my job that I didn’t really make as much time to spend with friends as I probably should’ve. I also share Cath’s love of the written word and reading. I know most of her love for it is due to one book series in particular, but I still appreciate how Rainbow Rowell makes Cath so relatable to me. That she’s so relatable to me that I feel almost as if this book was written specifically about me. Even her sister Wren’s first year experience at college reminds me of my own sister even though we aren’t twins.

I also appreciate Rowell incorporating fanfiction into the mix. When talking about reading and writing, fanfiction is rarely incorporated into a story. I like how she includes fanfiction in Fangirl by having the main character be so in love with a series that she writes a story of her own with the characters, making them almost as if they are her own. It’s nice to see a story center around the world of fanfiction, something which I don’t really see too often when reading young adult literature. I like it too because the book series Cath is obsessed with sounds very similar to my favorite book series of all time Harry Potter.  Yes, there are obviously some striking differences between the two, but it makes it that much more enjoyable of a read for me because I feel like I can also escape into that world too. It also makes me even more curious about that world, wanting to understand why Cath likes that series so much.

What else I like about Fangirl is Rowell’s writing style. Her writing is very fluid, easy to read and makes reading this story that much more enjoyable to me. She writes like she’s a young adult herself, going through college and trying to survive the outside world. Every piece of dialogue between characters flows naturally, like it has its own unique place in the story. It’s almost as if she’s bringing all of these characters to life with each word written. It makes me feel as if I’m with Cath, following her journey as she experiences her first year of college.

But what I like the most with this book is seeing some of what Cath’s character writes and her relationship with Levi. I like that we get a little snippet of what Cath has written in the past as her Simon Snow fiction increases in popularity so we can see for ourselves how good of a writer her character is. It not only allows us to see her character write, but we are also given a glimpse into that world so we can see for ourselves why Cath loves it so much. I like her relationship with Levi so much because they go so well together. He’s someone when she first started going to college she got along with so well. He’s easygoing, friendly and you can tell he wants nothing more than to make Cath happy. The way the two of them interact together is great because it’s very relaxed and easygoing. To give a good example is whenever Levi becomes curious about Cath’s fanfiction and wants her to read some of it to him. She’s at first surprised that Levi wants to learn more about the world she writes about so much. But she does it anyway because she can see that he really wants her to read it. He’s just one of the characters in the story who seems to get her and they just seem really good together. So I like seeing their relationship grow.

While I overall enjoyed reading Fangirl, there are some criticisms I have about the book that I’m sure others have with it too. For while I like Cath’s character because I can relate to her, there are times when I feel like she’s too unrealistic or acts completely stupid. I feel like Rowell made her too antisocial in this book, almost as if she was trying to create a nerdy character that fits the typical nerd stereotype. To the point where she was avoiding going to the dining hall because of the amount of people that would be in there. To me, all of those moments she refused to interact with people was ridiculous because all the times she did interact with people she seemed completely fine, not at all like she was dealing with any social anxiety. I also think the way she reacted to Professor Piper accusing her of plagiarism was ridiculous. While I get that Simon Snow is a huge part of her life, I think she sometimes forgets she’s in college and that fanfiction doesn’t play a role in academics. This part of the story made me realize that while I do relate to Cath in some ways, she still has a lot of growing up she has to do and that Rowell didn’t really progress her character all too much throughout. While I do get where Cath is coming from, I do also think it would’ve been nice to see Cath have some sort of character development in the story.

Another criticism I have with this book is the lack of fandom in the actual story. We hear that Cath is such a great writer of fanfiction that she gets thousands of hits every time she posts a new chapter, yet we don’t really see her interact with other Simon Snow fans. It’s like she lives in this bubble with just her sister when it comes to Simon Snow that she won’t really let others be a part of. I at least expected her to act like she’s more involved in the fandom since she has such high amounts of followers. But we really don’t get to see too much of that in Fangirl, we just hear about it.  We also don’t really get an understanding of why Cath loves Simon Snow so much. I understand that she and Wren grew up with reading the books and watching the movies, but she never talks about why she loves this series so much that she feels like she has to write a work of her own about it. Again, we just hear about all of this but never get an understanding of why Cath loves this series so much. To me it’s frustrating because I feel like we are reading this story from her point of view, but aren’t being clued into important details that would really make this book shine.

I also have a problem with the ending. It feels like all of a sudden the story comes to a halt with no real conclusion or anything. Cath goes to the bookstore for the release of the last Simon Snow book, is reading it and then the story ends. I’m frustrated that this is how Rowell chose to end this story because I figured we’d at least see what Cath thinks and feels about the final book in her favorite series. Instead, the story ends with no thought provoking conclusion and we are left wondering what’s going through Cath’s mind as she finishes the last book. While it was an interesting way to end, it wasn’t the ending I’d have chosen.

Despite these criticisms I have for Fangirl, I definitely enjoyed giving this book another chance. It was definitely a much better read for me this time around than the first and can’t wait to finish reading Carry On.

Book Review: Before I Fall

Before I Fall Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today’s foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman’s If I StayBefore I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

I both enjoyed this book immensely and was frustrated with certain things about it all at the same time. But I really appreciated Samantha’s character growth throughout the story. In the beginning, she starts off as this mean girl who nobody can touch or hurt. She’s mean to everyone else who isn’t a part of her clique, and she doesn’t feel bad about it. But it isn’t until she dies and has to repeat the day of her death over and over again that she begins to realize how much harm she’s unintentionally inflicted on others. While I honestly feel like it’s too late for her to fix the problems she’s caused, it was nice to see her realize how much she hurt people and try the best she could with what she was given. Seeing her character go from being a total bitch to everyone around her to trying to set things right made me appreciate the way her character was written. While my dislike of her doesn’t improve, I’m glad Lauren Oliver gives her some much needed character development.

But at the same time, I feel like her actions are more selfish in nature despite how much her life has changed. I say this because most of the story she doesn’t focus on making things right with people. She spends most of the other days screwing around with other people because she knows it won’t really change anything. It takes her awhile to realize what she’s supposed to be doing, but she still manages to mess things up. Then, on her last day, she pretty much talks about how it’ll be the last time she sees her family and gets pretty emotional over the whole thing. While I know these things are a part of her character development, it still frustrates me because a lot of time in the story could’ve been saved for her to do something to further her along. I also believe this though because if the car accident hadn’t happened, she would still be the same character she was in the beginning of the story.

However, I appreciate this story’s message, which is that every action you take has an effect on everyone else in some small way. You see this throughout the story with the choices Samantha makes with each of these days. Some of her decisions result in a ripple effect that we are able to see when Oliver has her make certain choices on that day. I also like that each of these same days are handled differently and that we learn more about the other characters. I appreciate this aspect in the story because it allows us better understanding of these character’s actions, and gives us a better glimpse into their everyday life. You learn something new about each of the characters the further along you get into the story, and I really appreciate how that’s tackled.

I also like how realistic this story is about the high school experience. For some people, high school is one of the best times of their life while others really hate it. I appreciate that this story covers that experience really well by going into topics such as bullying, cliques, drinking, rape, sex and suicide. These are not only topics that need to be talked about, but are things high school teenagers experience during those years of their life. It made me feel like I was at their high school on that day, meeting all of these people and dealing with everything Samantha was going through. It made me better understand her group of friends and their choices as well as what some of the other characters were going through. I liked learning more about these characters because it gave you as the reader a better idea of what happened and the role Samantha plays in their lives.

I would have to say my favorite thing about Before I Fall is the writing. I like the way the story is written with each of these seven days as a chapter that Samantha explains what she did on that particular day. I also like the writing because I think Oliver’s writing flows really smoothly and has a poetic feeling to it. She gets really descriptive at certain points in the story which makes you want to continue reading to find out what happens next.

However, I also have quite a few criticisms for Before I Fall. While I think Oliver is a beautiful writer, I also believe she made this story a little too fluffy. You see this with the repetition of this particular day when certain aspects of the day aren’t changed, such as the party at Kent’s house. It’s to the point where I feel like this book could be chopped in half and we’d still get an understanding of what happened in the story. She’d just have to include the really important things, such as the background information on Juliet and why her past friendship with Lindsay came to an end.

She wrote so much in this book, yet didn’t include one of the most important details in the story: Why did Samantha have to repeat this day? We know that after she dies, she’s stuck in this limbo of repeating the day of her death over and over again, but she never once explained why she had to go through this. We also get an ending to the cycle that doesn’t make sense, because both these characters died on the original day. So it would stand to reason that Samantha is supposed to save both of them from death, but that ends up being far from what happens. While I understand Oliver has this as a way for Samantha to prove how much she’s changed, I find it to be a flaw with the story, since both these characters are supposed to already be dead.

Besides Samantha, everyone else has no character development. Yes, we learn more about her friends and the people they bullied, but we don’t see any of these characters grow. I understand that all of these events happen on the same day so we shouldn’t expect this much of them, but I feel like they’re could’ve been a way to make this possible. Like with Lindsay, you start to see a little shift in her when Samantha asks about Juliet, but that’s really it. The only thing that changes with the characters in Before I Fall is the way Samantha sees them.

Speaking of which, I hate how Samantha and Kent’s relationship develops. Considering what’s happening in the story, I felt like having romance was completely unrealistic. Even though this is a young adult novel, I hate that she paired these two together because it didn’t make sense to me. I get that Samantha has known Kent since childhood, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect for each other. Especially with the way Samantha’s character is in the story, it just didn’t add up to me. It was almost like she was putting these two together since neither of them had anyone else. Yes, Samantha had Rob, but you could tell she didn’t care for him all too much. She only stuck with him because he was popular and someone she’d had a crush on for a long time. But you can tell she’s not right for Kent either, especially with the way she treats him in the beginning of the book. It seemed way too unrealistic to me because of everything that was going on that I wish she didn’t include any romance in the story at all.

While I enjoyed reading Before I Fall, it’s definitely not the book I expected. There are so many things with the story that if improved would make it the book people are raving about. But for me, it had too many flaws to meet those standards.

 

 

Book Review: Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

While I enjoyed reading this book completely, there were some things with regards to the story that just didn’t add up.

Everything, Everything is about this seventeen year-old named Madeline. She’s allergic to the world and has spent a majority of her life inside her comfy home so that she doesn’t die. The only people she spends time with are her mother and Carla. But everything changes when a moving truck arrives next door and a boy named Olly and his family move in. When Madeline sees Olly for the first time, she knows her she’s going to fall in love and that it’ll be a disaster. But what she doesn’t realize is how much her life is going to change.

Okay, so there are a lot of things I like about this book. I like the characters who seem very personable and relatable. Especially Olly, who we see has a very terrible home life, yet has a lot of energy that allows him to overcome any obstacle that gets in his way. I find myself able to relate to his character the most because I’ve been in his shoes. I know what it’s like to have someone who’s supposed to be a father figure hurt you in the ways his father has hurt their family. But I also enjoyed reading the story from Madeline’s point of view. She’s a very intelligent lady who despite her circumstances manages to make the most of the situation she finds herself in. She becomes close to the only two people she can really talk to, and even though she wasn’t allowed to go outside, she makes the most of the time she spends with those she cares about. Her relationship with Carla is one of my most favorite things about this book. Carla is very kind and caring towards Madeline, almost like a second mother figure for her throughout. She gives Madeline advice and doesn’t begrudge her for any of the choices she makes. Even when she messes up, Carla is still there to support her and guide her in the right direction. I like their relationship because you can see how much they both care about each other, and how happy they are together.

Another thing I enjoyed about reading Everything, Everything is the writing style. It felt very personal, like I was reading into the heart and soul of Madeline’s character. It also reminded me a little bit of a journal because of the cute illustrations that were in the book. Well, that and also the fact that Madeline literally put all of her thoughts and feelings into it. I liked it because I’ve never read a book written like this one. Especially one from the perspective of a teenage girl whose thoughts are pretty personal and relatable. It made reading this book that much more enjoyable because it allowed me an even better understanding of Madeline’s character.

Everything, Everything Image1
An example of one of the pages in Everything, Everything.

However, there are a lot of things about Everything, Everything that don’t particularly add up. For while this book was a good read, I felt like the author should’ve done some research on Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Especially because Madeline supposedly doesn’t know what exactly she’s allergic to so anything she eats or touches could cause her to get sick. Yet, you see Madeline do a lot of things that should’ve triggered her system if she really had this disease. For example, when she kisses Olly for the first time. She should’ve gotten some sort of reaction from the kiss, but she doesn’t. She ends up being perfectly fine, as if she and Olly didn’t kiss at all. While I completely understand why this disease is talked about in this way, it’s still disappointing because it would’ve been nice to see a positive awareness for this disease. However, I still managed doing research into it myself because I know I don’t know too much about it either. So I even though Nicola Yoon didn’t look too much into it herself, I did some research to at least make myself a little more aware about this disease.

I also didn’t like how cliché Madeline and Olly’s relationship ended up being. While I liked them as a couple, I felt like it was a cliché because it pretty much follows the boy saves girl plot or makes it where it seems like it’ll be impossible for them to ever be together. Then they end up together because of miraculous circumstances that would’ve never happened if Madeline hadn’t made the decision to leave her house because of Olly.  This bothers me because I don’t like the concept that falling in love with someone will make all your troubles go away.  Real life doesn’t work that way so reading a romance that acts like that’s true is frustrating.

I also felt like the ending to Everything, Everything was a cop out. It was a cheap way of explaining why Madeline didn’t have SCID. It also felt like a slap in the face because Madeline wasted many years of her life for nothing. It was also frustrating because her mother, who conveniently is a doctor, should’ve known that her daughter had no problems and should’ve addressed her own turmoil she was experiencing. While I get treating your own child’s health can cloud your judgment, I felt like it was a complete cop out for an explanation. It also added more into making this story even more unrealistic by using that to get Madeline and Olly back together at the end. Just wasn’t the ending I pictured for Madeline despite that I wanted things to go well for her.

As a whole, Everything, Everything makes a great young adult romance. However, it’s lack of true representation of SCID and giving a unique ending make it hard for those with health issues to feel like they are being represented accurately. I overall liked the story, characters and the style of the writing, but it messed up in the ways that really mattered, which is why my rating isn’t as high as I’d originally planned.

Book Review: A Little Something Different

A Little Something Different Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  

 But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship. 

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….

 A Little Something Different is a cute and easy read, which is one of the things I like about it. It’s a book that doesn’t take too long to read because the writing flows smoothly and the story is very simply told by those surrounding the two main characters.

I also like that the author kept everything so short and simple with all of the characters. While I normally enjoy reading stories with a lot of character development, I feel like that wasn’t needed with this story since everyone else was talking about these characters. Which reminds me, I really like that the author told this story from so many different perspectives. While at times it could be a little annoying because the points of view changed on every other page, I like that Sandy Hall had friends of the two main characters telling their story along with people who saw them and thought they would be cute together. It added something different to the story, let the reader know what people thought of these two characters instead of hearing the characters talk about themselves and their troubles. I especially thought it was cute to have a squirrel’s point of view in the story because you never see that type of perspective in books. And I found the perspective of the bench to be amusing because having a bench talk about the perfect butt just made me giggle.

I especially like Lea and Gabe, who I felt like I could relate to. Both characters are pretty shy and awkward, which is something I completely understand since I’m the same way. I have a hard time interacting with people socially, except for the people I’m closest to, like my friends and family. But I also don’t like people that much, which makes it hard for me to want to socialize with anyone except for the people I care about. They are also like me because I’m also very geeky. They both like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television show I’ve seen a couple episodes of here and there but haven’t really watched all the way through and both of them are into writing, something else I obviously enjoy. I really liked that Hall had these two awkward college students as the main characters because it was something I could really relate to, and it made me want to find out how their love story would unfold. I also found them as a couple to be really endearing and it wasn’t hard to root for them to end up together.

One of the things I like the most about A Little Something Different is hearing about Gabe’s physical handicap. Not a lot of teenagers have a physical disability like Gabe, and it’s nice to see her acknowledge how this impairment affects his life. I also appreciate that we get to see him struggle with this disability throughout the book, and then see his character once he’s able to do something about it. It shows that the story does have a little character development even though it’s not much, and promotes a positive message about people with physical disabilities.

A Little Something Different is a good read because it’s such a happy book. With the amount of horrible things that happen in the world on a daily basis, it was nice to read this book, and get away from that for a little bit. I also like this book because of the romance aspect of the story. I like romance literature, and reading about this couple was exactly what I needed.

But while this story is cute, there are some aspects of the story I didn’t like too. For one, I didn’t like that the whole focal point of this book was about their romance. Every conversation the characters in the story have is about both of them, and how cute they’d be together. But I felt like the author could’ve had these characters focus on their own lives while also talking about these two characters. It was almost like all of the characters didn’t have lives of their own, like Gabe and Lea were the only thing they had going for them. It was like these people were obsessed with having these two get together, that they couldn’t talk about anything else because of it.

I also hate how hard Hall was using these secondary characters to push Gabe and Lea together instead of letting them get together if it was meant to be. While I think these two characters are cute, I find it annoying how hard the author was pushing for their relationship instead of letting things happen naturally on their own.

I was also frustrated with Lea and Gabe’s characters. I get that both of them are awkward and shy, but I feel like the author used this as too much of an excuse during the course of the story. She had them literally at the same places all the time, yet they had very little physical conversations with each other. They would just awkwardly acknowledge each other with a wave or smile each time they saw each other and that was it. I found this to be frustrating because it’s not completely realistic. I get having a crush on someone and having a difficult time getting the courage to talk to the person you like. But after a certain point, you have to make the decision to make a move or the person is going to believe you don’t like them and move on, which is actually what almost happened. I get that it’s not easy, but I felt like the author told the reader both these characters were shy too much. To the point where it made you as the reader wonder if Lea and Gabe really actually liked each other because there were times were it was hard to tell.

What I also don’t like about A Little Something Different is the way Hillary and Victor’s characters are portrayed in the story. These two characters are the only ones who don’t necessarily want Lea and Gabe together, and everyone else in the story gives them a hard time about it. While these two characters weren’t my favorite (especially Hillary, who I found to be quite annoying), I felt like their treatment was a little unfair. Especially Victor because he really didn’t want anything to do with the two of them, but ended up near them almost every time something happened. I felt sorry for him more than anything else, especially since Gabe was constantly kicking his seat during class.

I overall enjoyed reading A Little Something Different because the story was so cute and happy and it was very easy to read. It was exactly what I needed, but unfortunately had some imperfections that if fixed would’ve made this story even more enjoyable to me. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a book to read to cheer them up, a book with many different character perspectives, and is a romantic at heart like me.

 

 

 

Book Review: All the Rage

All the Rage Book Cover

Rating: 2 stars

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community.

 Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

This book was a disappointment to me for so many reasons. But before I talk about why I didn’t enjoy this book like everyone else seems to, let me tell you two of the things I did like about it.

What I enjoyed about All the Rage is its realistic portrayal of rape and the culture surrounding it. For those who’ve unfortunately had this horrible experience, what Romy goes through is all too real. Especially what happens after, with the people she thought were her friends turning their back on her. These people are really cruel to her because of her accusations, which they believe to be untrue. It isn’t until the end of the story that any sort of truth is found, even though there’s still no justice for Romy. This is very realistic of our world with regards to rape culture because rape victims are never believed to be telling the truth. Even those closest to them think they are fabricating or believe the victim wanted the person who hurt them. In Romy’s case, this is apparent because before the rape, she really liked her rapist. So when he hurts her, her friends find it difficult to believe her.

Romy’s reaction to her traumatic experience is also very realistic. She feels like she can’t trust anyone in her small town because they’ve betrayed her. It doesn’t help that the accusations are against the sheriff’s son, which plays into diminishing Romy’s chance at getting any justice for what was done to her. But what I like is how real they show Romy’s trauma. She doesn’t hide any of it from the reader throughout. It’s very clear she needs help, that she now has mental health issues because of her trauma. You see this in the story from the way she applies lipstick and nail polish, as if they are her armor she can take with her out into the world. But she also uses them as a way to hide herself. She believes that if she keeps applying these products, she’ll look and be a different person. She won’t be the person who was raped, but someone else entirely. I like that this novel includes her trauma because mental illness is a topic that really needs to be talked about.

Now, what I didn’t like with All the Rage is the characters. While I appreciate Courtney Summers exploring mental illness and rape culture, I felt like she focused so much on that she didn’t create characters with any personality. Romy is the main character, but she has no character development at all during the story. During the whole book, she’s pretty much doom and gloom because she’s so busy building walls around herself that she doesn’t notice how concerned her Mom and Todd are about her. This can also be seen with her “relationship” with Leon, the only character in the book I like besides Romy’s parents and other coworkers. She’s so busy guarding herself around him that she blows any chance of happiness she could’ve had. And when she does act normal around him, she’s using him in order to be a completely different person. The rest of the characters in the story also have flat and boring personalities too because they don’t add anything to the story besides being more tormentors to Romy.

I also had a hard time feeling any sympathy for her because she kept creating more trouble for herself. This can be seen in the story when she and Penny are both missing at the same time, and they find her with no recollection of what happened. These moments keep happening throughout the story, almost like Summers wants to continuously make her character the victim. She continuously makes stupid decisions that get her in trouble, but add nothing to the overall story, which made this book that much harder to continue reading for me. The only characters in this story I feel any sympathy for are Leon and Penny. I feel sorry for Leon for having to put up with Romy while I feel sorry for Penny for sacrificing her life for Romy who I feel didn’t really deserve it.

I didn’t enjoy this book so much I stopped reading it altogether. I stopped reading because I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to find out how everything ended or not. I also stopped because of how confusing the storyline was written. One minute, the story would be in the present, then we’d be back in the past with no warning. I’d stop reading and when I’d come back, I’d be so confused because nothing is explained to us. I also stopped reading because I just couldn’t deal with Romy’s character, which I explain in the previous paragraph. But I came back because I hate leaving books unfinished, and figured I should see this one through to the end. And I wasn’t disappointed because the last half of the book was better than the beginning, though the ending was pretty much a flop.

I also hated that the main antagonist isn’t really a character in this book. Throughout the story, Romy mentions what happened to her, but the person who truly hurt her is never physically present in the book. Yes, you get introduced to his lovely father and friends, but you never meet or deal with him in any way. I think this is a terrible oversight on Summers’s part because people who are raped by someone they know have to deal with seeing that person after the rape happens.

The plot of All the Rage is also horribly written. I hated it because so much was going on along with Romy learning to recover from her trauma. I also just found most of it to be a little pointless too because it didn’t move the story forward, or make Romy come to terms with what happened to her. For example, that scene with the stranger near the end when she finds Penny’s car is completely ridiculous because it really doesn’t add anything to the story.

To be honest, I really wanted to enjoy reading All the Rage, but this book has so many issues for me that I couldn’t. I know a lot of people like this book, and while it did have some moments where I was interested in finding out what happened, there are just too many things with this story that made it hard for me to enjoy. I really badly wanted to feel for Romy and everything she was going through, but her character is too unsympathetic for me to even entertain the notion of pretending to feel that way. So while this book was a powerful read for a lot of people, I just don’t see what makes it so special.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Wintergirls

Rating: 2 stars

“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.

“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.

I am that girl.

I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.

I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

I didn’t like this story as much as I’d hoped. Lia’s story of battling anorexia is intense. But the writing and characters made it difficult to enjoy, and I’ll tell you why shortly.

First, I’ll tell you what I do like about Wintergirls. It’s an interesting story about a girl named Lia. Dealing with issues of her own, Lia looses her best friend Cassie who she hasn’t talked to in a long time. As she’s dealing with this loss, Lia continues pushing herself to be skinner until she realizes she needs help. While this is going on, Lia gets regular visits from Cassie’s ghost who wants Lia to join her in the in-between. What I like about the story is seeing all of these different elements emerge together. While at times it doesn’t make sense, the way Laurie Halse Anderson brings it all together makes for an interesting read.

I also like that Anderson doesn’t shy away from serious topics. In her novel Speak, which I absolutely love, she talks about rape but does it in a way where you feel like she’s really bringing awareness to the subject. So while this book is definitely not one of my favorites, I appreciate reading a story about a young girl and her struggle with anorexia. I think it’s a good way for people to become really aware of what it’s like to have an eating disorder. I especially like it because you can see it in Lia’s behavior. She’s always aware of the food she eats before she puts it in her mouth. You also see it in the way Lia’s family deals with her eating disorder. They are worried about her well-being throughout that they are keeping track of her weight, hoping to get her back to health again.

What I also like about Wintergirls is the message Anderson is sending her readers. The whole time Lia is struggling with eating, there’s a message she is trying to tell us. The whole story is basically about how you can’t help someone unless they want help, which is a very powerful message. This is apparent with Lia because when her family weighs her, she deceives them by having the scale fixed to be a higher weight than what she truly is. She does this every time without any sign of remorse. Even when the one person she truly cares about finds her in terrible conditions, she doesn’t want help. It isn’t until the end of the book when she almost dies that Lia realizes she wants to live and gets the help she really needs.

I also really like the cover. It looks intriguing, makes me want to read the book and find out what’s going to happen. But it’s also really pretty because it reminds me of the cold, which I don’t mind quite as much as heat.

But there are so many things about this book I didn’t like. For one, the characters are pretty horrible. I feel like there’s no character development with any of them and I had a difficult time sympathizing with them. All of the characters were really flat to me because I couldn’t get any sense of personality from them. For example, Lia is supposedly shy, but Anderson never gives us an example of how she’s shy or anything. I also had a hard time sympathizing with Lia or her parents because of the way they treated each other. Lia’s biological parents are hardly around and when they are, there so focused on work or obsessed with getting Lia to eat. But Lia doesn’t treat them any better either, especially her mother, who seems like she wants to help. The only parental figure in the story I felt any sympathy for was Jennifer because she acted more responsible than even Lia’s father. She’s the one parent in the story I felt any sympathy for because you can tell she cares about Lia and wants to get her back to health. I also hated Lia because she just wasn’t at all likeable to me. I get she has an eating disorder so she’s going to act extremely selfish, but damn. She’s probably one of the most coldest and unfeeling characters I’ve read in a young adult book. I just felt nothing for her but pity and sad because if her character was more developed, I could’ve liked her.

I also had a hard time enjoying Wintergirls because the writing is terrible. There was nothing that kept me reading this book other than hope it would get better. It was a read I made the decision to keep exploring, but there were many times I wanted to stop and not finish, it was that awful of a read for me. The most interesting thing about it to me was reading all of the crossed out words and seeing how Lia kept count of the amount of calories in the food she ate.  I also didn’t like the writing because it didn’t feel clear to me with certain moments what was going on. For example, I didn’t realize Cassie’s spirit was visiting Lia until she mentioned wanting to make sure Cassie’s body was being put into the ground. This story is so poorly written that I’m still surprised I finished reading this book.

The plot of the book is just as bad to me too. One example is Elijah’s character being in the story. I felt like he didn’t add anything important to the plot or played any sort of purpose that made sense to me. He just happened to have a room in the same motel Cassie stayed in when she died and that’s it. He also calls Lia after Cassie’s death, but you never find out why. There also wasn’t any explanation for anything, like how Lia developed her eating disorder. You know she and Cassie made an oath to each other during the New Year, but there’s no explanation of how this started for either of them. My guess is that their friendship sparked these problems, which would make sense to me. There’s so much in the story that isn’t explained it made the story difficult to read.

I know I’m in the minority when I say I dislike this book. I know a lot of people enjoyed reading this from what I saw on GoodReads, but I’m definitely not one of them. I appreciate it talks about anorexia because eating disorders are a topic that needs to be discussed. But there were so many things with the way it was written and the plot that I had a hard time enjoying it. To me, its just not a good read, as unpopular of an opinion that may be.

Book Review: Seven Minutes in Heaven (The Lying Game #6) 

Rating: 4 stars

Warning: This book review may contain spoilers that are pertinent to the overall plot of the story. Read review at your own discretion. 

My sister wants the truth.

But sometimes the truth hurts.
For months, my long-lost twin, Emma, has been living my life and trying to solve my murder. She’s unearthed dark secrets about my friends, my family, and my tangled past. But when it comes to finding my killer, she keeps running into dead ends.

Until my body shows up in Sabino Canyon. Suddenly everyone knows there are two girls who look like Sutton Mercer – and that one of them is dead. At first the police assume the body is Emma’s. But as questions and accusations start flying, it’s harder than ever for Emma to keep playing me. The truth is bound to come out eventually. And when it does, Emma will be suspect number one in my murder investigation. If she can’t find my killer before time runs out, she’ll end up behind bars… or worse.

This book is my favorite overall in The Lying Game series. I enjoyed it because Shepard really picked up the pace of the story. But she did it in a way that didn’t rush the plot forward and made it enticing enough for me to finish reading within a couple hours from when I started. It was to the point where I couldn’t put this book down until I learned who killed Sutton and why. 

Along with being well-written, it was a very emotional book too. As you follow Emma on her journey to discover her twin’s killer, you as the reader begin to feel like you’re a part of their lives. In many ways, the reader is very similar to Sutton because we are also on the sidelines watching all of this unfold and can’t do anything to help Emma find the killer. But we are just as much a part of her journey as Sutton. We experience everything Emma feels and find ourselves feeling emotionally involved in the story. So when all of the pieces finally come together, you are both happy and sad. Happy because Emma is finally getting answers, but sad because the one person she trusted so much since she came to Tucson turns out to be the person who hurt her the most. You experience her pain when the family she’s come to know and love kick her out because they think she’s responsible for Sutton’s death. You feel sympathetic to Emma because she’s had to work for everything she has and it still isn’t always enough. And these emotions make you want to continue reading to see if Emma gets the happy ending she deserves. 

It turns out the person who killed Sutton is the person I suspected from the beginning. This makes me sad because I was really hoping someone else was involved, not the one person she trusted the most and went to when things got really bad. But there are many reasons why I suspected this character. One of the reasons I suspected Ethan’s involvement was because of his reaction to when Emma told him that she wasn’t Sutton. He didn’t seem as surprised as I’d expect, considering all of the information she confided in him through the short period of time they knew each other. I felt like he just accepted her as she was too easily and by being that way with her, he was able to keep his eye on her to make sure she didn’t slip up. I also felt like he was one of the characters in the story who didn’t have a real solid alibi. In the series, Emma suspects everyone around her until she is able to get an alibi from them. Except she never gets one from Ethan, even when she suspected him when they first met. But she doesn’t question him because of the feelings she had for him. It’s because she trusted him that when she discovers Ethan has a file at the hospital in Cross My Heart, Hope to Die, she asks him about it because she thinks he’ll tell her the truth. This file is one of the things that made me suspect him because it shows there’s something wrong with him even though he’s acting rationally. I also suspected him because she conveniently received those notes from the killer when he wasn’t around. He also manipulated himself into her life very easily, which made me question his intentions when I started reading this series. Then, there’s where she wants to look for clues and every time she does, Ethan tells her what she’s doing is dangerous. You think it’s because he wants to protect Emma from harm. But it turns out that’s far from the truth once Sutton finally has a flashback of her last moments. 

I’m sad Ethan killed Sutton because he and Emma were really great together. As a couple, they seemed perfect. Both of them were outcasts with difficult lives, which was why Emma felt like he understood her. He seemed like a great guy who loved Emma very much and was the only person by her side when things really got rough in the series. He was the person she trusted the most to have her back, but turned out to be the person who did her the most harm. Then again, he was the one person she never suspected while she was searching for clues. But I also enjoyed finding out he was the killer because he played the part very well. Emma never doubted Ethan’s love for her because she cared about him so much that she wanted to protect him from being hurt. But it turned out she was the one who needed protection from him. Even though Ethan being the killer is considered a predictable move, I love it because it makes the series come together perfectly. 

The one thing with Seven Minutes in Heaven  I didn’t like was that it ended. I felt emotional after I finished reading this book because it was finally over for Emma. Her real family now knows who she is and she can finally be herself again. It was also really touching to see the tribute Sutton’s friends did for her at her funeral and I was happy to see Emma get the happy ending she deserved. I just enjoyed it so much that I didn’t want it to be over, especially considering the person who killed her sister. But it’s also nice that she’ll finally have a family of her own. 

As a whole, my rating for The Lying Game series is 3.5 stars. I loved the characters, the plot of the story and all of the suspense behind finding out who killed Sutton. I also enjoyed the supernatural element of Sutton being on the sidelines, experiencing flashbacks about the day of her murder because it added a completely different element to the story. But I felt like the set up of each of the books in the series became predictable. I really disliked that in each book, Emma suspected someone of killing her twin only to discover evidence contrary to her suspicions. Then the person she ends up believing to be her killer in the final book is completely innocent and she doesn’t find out until it’s almost too late for her to help herself. Having the books play out this way almost took out the fun of guessing Sutton’s killer, even though I already knew who the killer was and didn’t realize it. It made it that much easier to eliminate people who were just as capable of killing her, which allowed me to continue following my instincts on who I suspected. 

However, I really enjoyed reading this series and am completely glad I stuck with it. I definitely recommend reading it to those who like reading suspenseful stories and people who enjoy young adult literature as much as I do. I know I’ll definitely be reading it again in the future. 

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