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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: P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2)

p.s. i still love you book cover

Rating: 4 stars

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times best seller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

I definitely enjoyed reading P.S. I Still Love You better than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Like its predecessor, I found this book easy to read through. But I found myself even more invested in what’s going on because I found the story and plot itself more invigorating.

What I believe helps is that you continue to see Lara Jean coming more and more out of her shell as her relationship with Peter grows. It’s like their relationship really brings her to life and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think what helps for me as a reader is that I can relate to Lara Jean’s feelings because I’ve had those feelings myself. The first time you fall in love is one of the most wonderful feelings and this book reminded me of everything that comes along with it, including the most difficult moments of a relationship. While I’m no longer with the first guy I fell in love with, this book still allowed me to relate to it because of those feelings. It allowed me to reminisce without feeling sadness and regret over a relationship I’ve since moved on from and reminded me that you can find love again even after the heartbreak.

Like with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this book continues to portray good, realistic relationships. I continue to love seeing the bond Lara Jean has with her family, her relationship with her best friend Chris, and her relationship with her boyfriend Peter. I also love seeing the new relationship she begins to form with John, one of the recipients of her love letters even though it doesn’t turn out the way you as the reader expect. You finally get to see how the letters getting out really affects her relationships and I enjoyed it.

If I have any criticisms for P.S. I Still Love You it’s that you don’t really get to see her relationship with John go anywhere. You can tell as a reader that feelings are going on between the two of them, but you don’t really see it turn into anything. While I understand why that’s the case, I actually wouldn’t have minded too much to see more interactions between the two of them. While I love Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter a lot, I wouldn’t have minded seeing her give John a chance and seeing where that went. Because I honestly really like John’s character a lot. So, I think my biggest criticism is actually that I think both Peter and John are good guys for Lara Jean and am struggling with which guy I think is truly right for her.

So, I overall loved reading this book a lot more than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before because you see her relationships with everyone she’s close to growing and you can truly see Lara Jean falling in love. But I also love that the story realistically portrays first love, which is something I can truly relate to because of my own experiences. I just didn’t like that both of the guys she ends up liking are both likeable because it makes me as a reader have a difficult time choosing which of the two guys she should end up with. I can’t wait to finish reading Always and Forever Lara Jean, even though I know I’ll be sad that I’ll be done reading this trilogy.

I definitely recommend reading P.S. I Still Love You because it’s such a good read. But if you’re just getting out of a relationship, then this book might not be for you.

 

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: Sinner

Sinner Book Cover

Rating: 5 stars

found.
Cole St. Clair has come to California for one reason: to get Isabel Culpeper back. She fled from his damaged, drained life, and damaged and drained it even more. He doesn’t just want her. He needs her.

lost.
Isabel is trying to build herself a life in Los Angeles. It’s not really working. She can play the game as well as all the other fakes…but what’s the point? What is there to win?

sinner.
Cole and Isabel share a past that never seemed to have a future. They have the power to save each other and the power to tear each other apart. The only thing for certain is that they cannot let go.

After reading the rest of the books in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, I was really excited to get started on reading this one. Not because I didn’t enjoy the rest of the books in the series, but I was looking forward to reading a story that focused just on Isabel and Cole.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Taking place after the events in Forever, Isabel and Cole are in Los Angeles. Isabel lives there because her parents made her and to escape her feelings for Cole. Cole has been to Los Angeles before, but is there this time with the goal of winning Isabel’s heart.

One of the reasons I enjoyed reading Sinner is their love story. It’s very apparent that Isabel and Cole are meant to be. Both of them are the same in the sense that they just don’t give a shit about others. They both don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves and let others see their real selves. But that’s one of the reasons why I love both of them, by themselves and together.

Another reason I enjoyed reading Sinner is getting to see the rock star life through Cole’s eyes. Having been to Los Angeles before in his band NARKOTIKA, he’s already familiar with the world around him. But he’s not the same as the last time he was there. He’s a changed man, doing the best he can to live his life the way he sees fit, despite society’s belief that he’s still the same as before. In Sinner, you see him struggle with putting on his fake persona in front of the crowd when all he needs to do is be himself. Cole struggles throughout Sinner with being himself and it’s very apparent when you juxtapose him with the rock star crowd verses being with Isabel.

But Cole is human and he’s bound to make mistakes. And he makes quite a few, despite doing the best he can to stay human for Isabel’s sake. And so does she. That’s why they are the perfect couple: both are chaos looking for their chance to heal and find peace in the crazy world around them. Both of them are sinners, looking for redemption from the one who loves them the most.

The one aspect to Sinner I wish was there was finding out more about what happened with Grace and Sam following Forever. I know this book’s main purpose was to focus on Isabel and Cole’s relationship. But I felt like Sam and Grace could’ve been more present too. Because I definitely wanted to know what was going on with them while all of this was going on and wanted to find out if a cure had been discovered. So while I enjoyed reading this story from Isabel and Cole’s perspective, I did wish we could’ve seen more of Sam and Grace in the story too.

However, Sinner is a well-crafted masterpiece. I enjoyed reading it because of the storytelling and seeing everything from Cole and Isabel’s eyes and am sad that the series is over.

Book Review: Forever

Forever Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

then.
When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their loved moved from curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.

now.
That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.

forever.
Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment–a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

The third book and last book in the Mercy Falls series (minus Sinner, which is more of a standalone novel in the series that focuses on the characters of Cole and Isabel) Forever was everything I hoped it would be. It picks up where Linger left us, with Grace being a wolf and Sam missing her deeply.

What I enjoy about this novel in the series is continuing to see Sam and Grace’s love go on. Their relationship is such a lovely thing that every time I see them together, I’m filled with envy. And despite everything, their love for each other is still stronger than all of the obstacles in their way.

Another aspect of Forever I like is how the plot continues to thicken. The plot in Forever continues to develop, making the story an even more interesting read with each page turned. I found myself continuing to read because I wanted to know what happened and how things were going to end for the wolves. I found myself reading because I wanted to know what happened to everyone. I became invested in all of the character’s lives, which is something every good book should be doing for its readers.

The one aspect of Forever I couldn’t get around was all of the loose ends in the story and how fast Stiefvater moved the novel along. I felt while reading this that there were still so many questions I had left about what was going to happen to the characters. For example, I was hoping that there was going to be a definite cure by the end of the story that they figured out. Instead, there’s nothing definite about the cure at all. I also just didn’t feel like we were given much of an ending for Sam and Grace either. We are told what they are going to do, but there’s no definite guarantee for any of the characters that everything is going to be alright. And then, there’s the pacing of Forever. I felt as if this book moved too fast. I felt as if the writing was rushed with certain events happening and no explanation given.

And while I do enjoy Forever like I do the rest of the books in this series, it isn’t necessarily my favorite book in the series. But overall, I enjoyed Forever and can’t wait to read Sinner next.

Book Review: Linger

Linger Book Cover

Rating: 5 stars

the longing.

Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means a reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain.

the loss.

Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being a human.

the linger.

For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life a constant struggle between two forces–wolf and human–with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?

Like Shiver, I’ve also read this second book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. However, my memory of this book is very limited from my last reading because I don’t remember a lot of the events unfolding, just the characters.

But like Shiver, I couldn’t put Linger down. Every page I read of this weaving tale had me engrossed in these character’s lives, wanting to find out what happened next.

Linger picks up exactly where Shiver left off. After discovering that there is a cure to turning into a wolf, Sam and Grace live their lives happily together. Until a new wolf enters into the story and things begin to change.

One of the aspects to Linger I like is the added point of views of Isabel and Cole. No longer is this series only told from Sam and Grace’s side, but you also get more details of what’s going on from other characters who play an important role in the story. I like seeing more character’s perspective because I feel like it continues to enrich the story, adding more pieces to the puzzle that is beginning to form.

I also love reading Linger because I love seeing Sam and Grace’s relationship continuing to blossom. Now that Sam and Grace don’t have to worry about Sam turning wolf, they can enjoy their lives and plan for their future. And the reader feels happy for them because you get to see how happy they both are to have each other in their lives. To be able to continue their relationship and not have to worry about any of them becoming a wolf. Or so, you think.

I love Linger because I enjoy reading the author’s story. The way Stiefvater writes this story continues to engross me as a reader, wanting to know what’s going to happen next. The words written are so beautiful that I had a hard time putting Linger down, wanting to find out what happens next to Sam, Grace, Isabel and Cole.

Another aspect to Linger that I didn’t notice quite so much in Shiver that I enjoy is character development. Throughout this book, I felt like all of the characters went through their own transformations. Isabel and Cole become more caring towards those around them and Grace gets more sensitive to feeling, even having the courage to stand up to her parent’s bad parenting.

The one thing that bothers me with this book though is the pacing of the story. While I did enjoy reading Linger, I felt some of the pacing was slow. For example, the problems with Grace happened at the beginning of the story and I knew exactly what was wrong with her as soon as it started. But none of the characters acted like anything was seriously wrong with her until it was too late and nothing could be done but the unthinkable. And then once that happened, the rest of the plot unfolded.

Overall though, I enjoyed reading Linger too and can’t wait to read the third book in this series, Forever for the first time and find out what happens next to Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabel.

Book Review: Where She Went

Where She Went Gayle Forman

Rating: 4 stars

It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

After reading If I Stay, I knew I would be reading Where She Went to see where Adam and Mia’s love story would go. And I was not at all disappointed by what I read.

I enjoyed reading Where She Went because you see how much both Mia and Adam’s lives changed without each other in them. Adam became the rock star he wanted to be only to discover the rock star life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. And Mia wasn’t left undamaged from the traumatic accident that left her without her family and changed her relationship with Adam forever.

And the changes that occurred throughout their lives during their three years without each other were quite huge. Both had become the musicians they wanted to be only to find something lacking in their lives. And when both of them happen to meet in New York City, their lives are changed once again.

What I enjoyed about reading Where She Went is that you find out what happened that caused their relationship to break. You found out why Mia ended their relationship, even though the reason given is a crappy one.

I also enjoyed reading Where She Went because I felt like their relationship was much stronger than in If I Stay. I felt their love was much stronger after they were apart from each other for so long.

Where She Went was a good read because I felt like I finally understood Mia’s character a little better. I didn’t mention this in my review of If I Stay, but I didn’t really like Mia’s character. I liked her character background, but I just didn’t like her as a person because I felt like she didn’t really care about Adam. And after reading this one, I feel as if I understand some of her actions a little better and understand why she broke Adam’s heart. And in the end, she loves him a whole lot more than I ever realized.

However, there were some things with Where She Went I didn’t like. I enjoyed reading the story from Adam’s perspective but didn’t like the way he handled certain situations. Some conversations need to be had in person and the one final conversation he had with one of the characters was a shitty way to deal with things. Yes, he was honest with her, but I felt like he should’ve had that conversation with her in person to explain why things wouldn’t work between them.

I also enjoyed this novel from Adam’s perspective because I could feel Adam’s love for Mia. As a reader, I could tell that Adam cared a lot about Mia and only wanted to do everything in his power to make her happy. Even if that meant sacrificing his own happiness for her.

In the end, Where She Went is a great young adult love story that I find myself easily able to relate to. It makes me hopeful that things will always work out the way they are supposed to and that true love does exist. I recommend Where She Went for those who read If I Stay and want to know what happens to Adam and Mia and for those who’ve lost hope in love and second chances.

The Swan & the Crow Chapter 3: After the Party (Steph)

Note: NaNoWriMo is where writers work on a 50,000 word novel during the month of November without editing their work, including checking for spelling or punctuation. Therefore, my story The Swan & the Crow for NaNoWriMo is nowhere close to perfect. Please keep this in mind when reading this chapter and the rest of the chapters that will be following it. But I am open to hearing opinions on what I have written so far and am open to any feedback given. To read Chapter 2, click here

Current word count: 11,196

After the party at Jason’s house, I returned home to a lonely room. I had to sneak upstairs in order to get to my room if I wanted to avoid waking up Mom and Dad from their slumber.

But I was not alone. Not really. The butterflies in my stomach from the night were with me. I felt them nestled in the pit of my stomach, growing larger in size with each minute passing. The stirrings of a curious heart beat within me. I do not know nor do I understand where all of these feelings came from all of a sudden. But they were there. They were everywhere. In my stomach. In my heart. In my eyes. In my feet. In every breath and every thought I made.

And yet, for the first time in my short life, I felt alive. I remember each moment with Max with a sharp clarity that I was never able to handle with anything else.

I remember the moment our eyes met across from the crowd of dancing bodies. The moment when I beckoned him with my movements to come over. To dance, to do whatever it was we were doing. Whatever all of this is. When I asked if he wanted to dance, seeing his cute stammered reply. The way our bodies felt closely connected to one another, our hearts skipping beat to another time. The way his blue eyes, his dark brown hair intrigued me into curiosity, wanting to know who he was and all about him.

And oh yes, asked him I did. As the dancing picked up and we met each other movement for movement, we began to talk.

“So,” I remember saying. “How did you hear about this party? I do not think I have ever seen you at one of these things before.”

“A friend,” Max said. “Matt. He has been inviting me to all of the parties going on this year. But I was not really interested in going to any of them. But I decided to give this one a chance. I do not know why exactly, not like it is different from going to any other party. But I guess I just wanted to get out of my house, get out of the normalcy of life for a little bit.”

“What about you?” Max asked me. “What has you interested in a party like this? You do not exactly strike me as a party girl. Then again, I have just met you so maybe it is wrong of me to judge you like that.”

“Oh, I did not know that you know Matt,” I said. “Well, well, what a small world. And yeah, you are right. I do not strike a lot of people as a party girl, but yet, I am one. But not for the reasons most people would believe.”

“I do not get a thrill from drinking so much alcohol that I puke, from having conversations with people I barely know, or from being around other people. The reason I like to party is none of those things. I enjoy it because it allows me to get away. Away from life, the mundane things I have to deal with at home on a daily basis. It allows me to be normal for a change. To allow me to pretend that my life is not as bad as it seems, to find some peace and comfort from something, at least one thing in my hectic life.”

“It allows me to express myself in a safely creative outlet. And yes, while not all parties are considered safe, I only go to parties for the dancing, no alcohol allowed in my system. Mostly because I have no interest in drinking or getting caught as a minor. But also because I do not think alcohol will wash all of my problems away. It is the root of most of my problems to begin with anyway.”

As I talked, I realized that I had opened myself so much to this guy. All without him saying anything in return or offering up his own life experiences.

You are saying too much, I remember myself thinking afterwards, slowly regretting what I had just said.

But this guy—no excuse me—Max, did not say a word. Nothing. He just listened intently as if what I was saying was the most important thing in the world. He did not judge me, ask what was wrong or why life had me so down. It was almost as if he understood exactly what I was talking about. As if he himself had been there before just as many times as me. Almost as if we were of the same mind, the same identity.

The thought that there was someone in the world who knew exactly what I was talking about struck me like a chord. And also made me curious, wondering what Max’s story was. But before I could say anything more, Max spoke.

“Yeah, that definitely makes sense.” Max said.

“Especially with the way you dance. You look captivated, like a child seeing something new in the world for the first time. It is very enthralling to watch and see with my eyes. But I admire you for it too. I wish I could look at the world that way, see things just the way they are and have something to forget my problems. But I guess I am not built that way. Even when I have something I am doing to keep my mind preoccupied, away from my other problems, the thoughts I do not want to have always resurface. Against my will, they return to me and I can never find a way of shaking them out.”

“But some things in life work out that way. While you try and forget the problems you face on a daily basis, they appear when you least expect them to. And not always in the way you want. But you just have to work through the struggles, through the pain, through the tears. And in the end, you will be okay. You will have made it and you will be stronger than you started out. But you will never forget what has happened, even if you do not yet understand why.”

I stared at Max, surprised by what he said.

How?  I thought. How does this guy know exactly what I am thinking, what I am feeling? It is almost as if he has had some of the same experiences as me. Strange… have definitely never met someone like this before. Never met someone under these type of circumstances, that is for sure.

“So,” I said, doing the best I could to hold my emotions in, continue with what I was saying. “Why are you here? I mean, I know Matt invited you and everything. But you just admitted that parties are not your scene and that this is not something you would normally do. Besides getting out of the normalcy of everyday life, there is another reason, isn’t there? Something you do not really feel comfortable talking about?”

I sensed the change in Max’s mood immediately. He went from happy go lucky guy to silent and thoughtful at the drop of a hat. It was as if something changed, something that he did not want to talk about but felt that he wanted to share with me. I do not know why exactly, but I had a feeling about him. That there is more to him than what meets the eye.

And something familiar. It had something to do with his name, I am sure of it. Almost as if I had heard of him before, somewhere. Where even I am not really sure. But I could tell that I was right when he was able to collect himself piece by piece and began to talk.

“Well…” he began, hesitant to begin this discussion but talking about the subject at hand anyway. “A friend of mine here—attempted suicide. He and I have been close friends since middle school. But he tried to do it during our freshman year at Rockwell High School. He was trying to recover from a messed up relationship with his ex Emily, who cheated on him with another guy at this school. The guy she cheated on him with had no idea that she was already in another relationship and felt bad, trying to make things right.”

“But my friend wasn’t able to keep himself together. He started to feel depressed, as if the world were turning against him. He started cutting classes, leaving school early, and sometimes did not even come to class. I tried the best I could to help him, but it was not enough. Then one day, he skipped another one of his classes, without a word to me or to anyone. We all thought he was sick or just having a bad day and decided not to come to school. But when I was at lunch, I saw him.”

“And I had a feeling something was wrong,” he continues to say. “So I followed him without him even realizing it. And when he went to the rooftop of our school, that is when I realized what he was about to do. I called out to him, hoping he would hear me and stop. He was almost to the ledge when he finally heard my voice and turned around to look at me. The look he gave me in that moment was terrifying to behold. He looked… lost. Hopeless. As if the only way to solve the dilemma in front of him was to jump off the ledge. I was scared in that moment because I felt as if I had already lost my friend. That he had already made the jump and that I came a minute too late.”

“But I was not late. I had made it just in time apparently. When he heard my voice, you could also see the panic in his eyes. Partly because I was there, the one friend who cared about him, but also because he was still trying to decide to jump off the ledge and I was the one person he never expected in his plans. He asked me what I was doing there, how I had managed to know he was going to do this, and told me to not stop him. But I did not listen. I do not remember what I said exactly, but I know it was enough to pull him away from the temptation of the ledge and have him fall on his knees, crying. He said he was sorry that he almost made a bad mistake, that he had hurt me in ways that he never had wanted to, and told me how much he appreciated me being his one true friend.”

“I have that day,” he continued, “Ingrained in my head for the rest of my life. I remember it as if it happened only yesterday. The way he looked on the ledge, what he said that made him decide to take things too far. Everything. But he was lucky. Very lucky. Because of my heroic act, he was treated at the best hospital in the area for his depression and is now doing just fine. Apparently, this sort of incident with him was going to happen sooner or later, the doctors informed me. He was already depressed when he was in his relationship with Emily and battling with his inner demons. The end of the relationship was just the one thing that pushed him too far and caused his depression to go off the charts.”

“But that day has changed me. Changed me in ways I was not expecting. It has made me see the world in a completely different set of eyes, allowed me to understand my friend and everything he was going through differently. But it also put some pressure on me too. Because not only did I just talk my friend from jumping off a ledge, I also became known for saving him. Somehow, everyone knew about what happened. Even people who were not there heard about it from other friends. I do not know who told who exactly, but that day changed my days at Rockwell High School. People started calling me a hero, acting as if they completely cared about my friend and were thankful I was there to save his life. As if they were expecting to see great things from me moving forward. People I did not know well at school wanted to be my friend, wanted to hang out and be seen associated with me. They wanted me to be the friend I was for my friend, wanted someone who was willing to lend an ear whenever they needed it.”

“And it never seems to end. Even now, almost a year since the incident happened, people I do not know still come up to me and idolize me. And I hate it. I hate that I am now the hero of Rockwell High School because I did what any kid would do for a friend. I did not save my dear friend because I wanted recognition. I did not save my friend so that other people at school could gawk and stare at me as I am on my way to classes, talking about what happened as if it happened yesterday.”

“I just want to be a normal teenager,” Max said. “I do not want any of this. I did not ask for any of this. But people keep acting like I did something special. But I did not. I just saved one of my dearest friends.”

“So yes, I came to this party,” Max finally said. “But not only because I know Matt and to get away from life. I came to let loose. To have fun. To forget what happened. And most of all, to live this night and the many more to come as if they are my last. Because you never know what could happen to you day to day. You have no guarantees that you are going to be breathing and still living tomorrow. Or even next week, next month, and next year. There are no guarantees in our lives so why not spend a night out hanging out with strangers, having a good time, and forgetting what happened? Besides, being at home was starting to get lonely anyway.”

I was numbed into absolute silence. I did not expect Max to say all of that. To tell me every aspect of his life, the most important of details. I did not expect to hear someone openly admit all their faults, all their issues, all their mistakes in life. And to do so so completely stunned me most of all. It was as if he had been waiting for someone, anyone, even a complete stranger, to open up to as if he had been meaning to get these words off his chest for a very longtime now. Maybe even as long as a year, when the incident happened.

I knew more about this guy within a couple minutes than I did anyone else. I felt both honored and terrified all at once. I was honored that he wanted to confess to me all of his feelings and to tell me how he was feeling emotionally. But I was also terrified too because I was not expecting this much from our conversation together. I was expecting a simple conversation, telling each other a little bit about ourselves piece by piece. But definitely was not expecting any of this. At all. A total surprise, most definitely.

It scared me too because now I felt obligated to tell him everything about myself too. To open up to him, just like he did me. And while I did not mind having such a conversation with this guy, I did not expect this conversation to be happening so soon. Especially because neither one of us knew each other’s names. We were total strangers, suspended in time, having a conversation. About life. About our lives. Our own personal lives. Everything we have each been through and then some. Things so personal that most people would be surprised we were talking to each other about, considering how we just met and everything.

So saying that I am stunned into absolute silence does not sound like an understatement.

But what do I say? I thought to myself. What do I say in response? How do I tell him I am sorry, that I wish I could do more to help, and that I understood his pain only too well?

Because I most definitely did. While I did not almost lose one of my friends to suicide myself, just imagining such a thing happening to Becca and Allison made me shudder in appreciation at the fact that I had such wonderful friends who were always open with me about every aspect of their lives. In return, I treated them with the same, opening to them in ways that I was not open with everyone else at Rockwell High School. But this guy made me pause. While I do not know him, I felt absolutely drawn to him like a magnet. For some reason, I felt as if I could trust him completely. With anything. I know part of the appeal is because of his willingness to save one of his friends. You could definitely tell that this guy really cared about his friends and would do anything to help them, even talking them out of making a bad decision. So I definitely knew I could trust him.

I continue to think, contemplating what I should say before I come up with a response that I think he would be completely okay with.

“Well, I know what could help with that,” I said in response, a mischievous grin appearing on my face. “We could continue dancing if you would like. I think the music is definitely picking up so that should definitely help you forget your troubles.”

“And,” I continued. “I am so sorry about what happened. I can not even imagine going through what all you had to go through. Especially because of how everyone is reacting to it. And while I do think what you did was very heroic, I also understand why you did it and why you are tired of everyone treating you differently because of it. Just know that it will not change my opinion of you as a person in anyway and that I feel like I have no room to judge you for what happened. You can not control things like that happening to the people you care about and there is nothing you can do whenever they make those type of decisions. And people do not seem to understand that. Anyway, we can continue dancing as if this were our last day here.”

So Max and I continued to dance together as the music picked up in tempo. We danced at the party as if tonight was the last moment we had on the Earth. As if this was the last day we were going to be spending together. As if this night were the last we would see each other before saying our goodbyes and going our separate ways. Which of course, is absolutely possible. Because while I am enjoying my time with Max, I have no clue where this is all going. I have no clue what is going to happen next, what we will be doing next. And there is no guarantee that once I leave here, I will be seeing Max again.

Because before this night ever happened, I had never seen Max before. Yeah, I had heard all of the stories about the “Hero of Rockwell High School,” but I always thought they did not have any truth to them. That they were made up stories by my peers to make our school seem extra cool. And so did Becca and Allison. But that was because we did not know him that we did not believe his story to be true.

Until tonight. I am now able to put a face to the name of the person everyone at school has been talking so much about. For the first time, I have met someone who completely understands me as a person. Yes, I know that he does not know about my past and what I am currently dealing with just yet, but he is the type of person who would understand what it is I am currently going through. He has dealt with a lot already, so I know my issues would be something he would understand.

And he would listen. I know that for certain.

And that was partly what scared me. Meeting someone, a guy, who could relate to everything I was saying and would listen. I have never had a guy friend, guy anything present in my life. Unless you can count Allison’s boyfriend Jason, of course. The exception being my father, of course who was not much of a help with anything. He was too busy beating on Mom to give me sage advice on anything a teenager could possibly go through while in high school.

And I can not really ask Mom either. While she is one of the best people I have been able to get advice from throughout my life, I feel that she would not be of much help either. Considering her own life choices, I would be better off asking both of my best friends what they think I should do.

But that is neither here or there. Right now, I am living in the present, dealing with what is currently in front of me. I will work with what I am given and hope for the best.

It was well into the night and most of the morning by the time the party ended and we had to go our separate ways.

And it was difficult. I had such a good time that I did not want this particular party to end. Mostly because I did not want to say goodbye to Max, partly because I did not know where my future was heading. I did not know where all of this was going, where any of this was going. I just knew in the present moment I was in now that I did not want any of this to end. I did not want this party to end.

I want to continue seeing Max. I know that for certain. But what is going to happen next I still have yet to know. Whether Max and I will see each other again after this party is yet to be determined.

What I do remember though is that Max was of the same mind as me. Before we parted our separate ways, he asked for my name.

“So,” Max said hesitantly. “What is your name? Here I am, just opening my heart up to you and spending most of my night and morning dancing with you and yet, I do not even know your name. How impolite of me not to ask you until now. My name is Max, by the way.”

“Max, nice to meet you,” I remember responding. “And my name is Steph. I know what you mean. I did not even think to ask you either. Guess we were having too much fun in each other’s company to notice that we did not even ask the most basic of necessities sooner. But that is okay. We were having so much fun together that we did not even notice how quickly our time passed here.”

“That’s okay,” Max responded. “I just enjoyed getting to spend my night with a wonderful woman like you Steph. Speaking of which, when will we see each other again? I enjoyed my time with you and would like to see you again. Of course, as long as you want to see me too, that is.”

“Of course I do,” I responded. “I enjoyed my time with you as well Max. And I am not sure. I would enjoy nothing more than to see you again too. But I just do not know. We both go to the same school so maybe we can talk at school. Does that sound good to you?”

Max nodded his head, coming to the same understanding I did. Yes, I had a good time with Max, I will admit. But I am just not sure how this is all going to work yet. I do not know if we should see each other again or not.

What I do know is that these feelings are real. My heart was hammering in my chest like crazy during the whole night we were together, butterflies emitting from my stomach constantly. And I know I enjoyed the feeling too, that much I know for certain. But I do not know what is going to happen and do not want to rush this, whatever this things with Max is.

So as I sat in my lonely room, thinking about all of this, everything that happened, I contemplated what was going to happen next and where my future was taking me. And then, I got out of bed, got dressed and prepared myself for the weekend at home ahead.

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