Books

Alex, Approximately, by Jen Bennett

2.5 Stars

The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

This is a book I really wanted to like. And I really mean it when I say that. The blurb sounded cute, the ratings were good, but most of all, Haven thought it was an example of fluff done right. And while I see why people like this book so much, I also think that I’ve read too many almost identical contemporaries to truly enjoy this formulaic type of book anymore. Sorry, Haven. 😦

Alex, Approximately is a retelling of You’ve Got Mail, and the premise is actually very cute. I appreciated that Bennett understood that the fact that Alex being Porter was too obvious to turn into a plot twist, and thus we were told of this in the blurb itself. The book itself started out predictable, but still cute. Bailey is likable, her friend Grace enjoyable, and Porter was the current-asshole-with-a-dark-secret-but-wait-you’re-gonna-love-him kind of guy. After the start, however, I felt there was a pretty significant drop in enjoyability; my irritation was probably increased by the fact that I was on a feminist literature streak, and contemporaries are not known for being amazing in this department.

I don’t want to make this entire review about the bad, since I did enjoy this to a certain extent, but I can’t help it. My first problem with it is how long it took Bailey to figure out the Alex-Porter connection. I don’t generally do well with dramatic devices that involve the audience knowing something the characters don’t, and I quickly lost patience with Bailey. The moment we’re waiting for really only happens in the last 10 pages of the book after huge amounts of stalling, and while I understood why it was written that way, Bailey came off as pretty dense to me.

My second problem is the “villain.” Fluff contemporaries generally have bad guys who are zero-dimensional (typically in a “mean girl” form) and this book was no exception. Because it’s a facet of the genre, I don’t mind this type of villain, but I thought the character of Davy was grossly abused in the writing. He’s portrayed as Porter’s old friend who’s now an all-around idiot and asshole, but he has a chronic injury, is addicted to narcotics as a result, and his parents don’t care about him enough to address it. That sounds like a character who’s desperately in need of reconciliation and help, but he’s just the “bad” guy in this book and is dismissed as such. I think this book would have been stronger if there was less victim blaming, or even if Davy just stayed zero-dimensional without all these cries for help.

My final problem is the incredible amount of guys doing things for girls because females are incapable creatures. Maybe I’ve been on a feminism streak lately (as I mentioned earlier), but I was waiting for Bailey to finally stick up for herself, and was relatively disappointed. Bailey is initially a “serial avoider” (a pushover), and the growth potential was enormous. Although she does come out of her shell and make out with Porter, this book is still filled with: Porter punching people to “defend her honor”, Bailey nursing his wounds and swooning, Bailey obsessing over Porter when he’s mad at her and begging him to stop being mad (even though she knows she did nothing wrong), and much more. Porter’s sister could potentially have been a strong female addition to this book, but we didn’t really get enough of her. I will admit, however, that Grace is a wonderful character and fun to read about.

Despite this in depth analysis of flaws, I did truly enjoy this book – it’s a fluff novel that succeeds in doing its job. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood for fluff when I read this. Perhaps I was in the mood of something deeper, and this overly harsh review is evidence of that. Regardless, if you’re looking for a fun rainy day read, this review shouldn’t stop you from picking it up.

(Click here to read Haven’s review, which is more positive and does more justice to the genre)
-Aliza

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Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness | an interesting concept w/ an underwhelming execution

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3.25 stars

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions…

Patrick Ness seems to be a hugely revered author in the YA community, A Monster Calls is highly loved by many readers, Goodreads seems to be obsessed with More Than This, and the Chaos Walking series has become so popular that it’s becoming a movie (starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, yeeeee!). Interestingly, The Rest Of Us Just Live Here is a lot less praised by Ness fans, and I’ll admit I was a bit let down by this one due to the height of my expectations. This book is simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary, it’s a largely contemporary novel set in the backdrop of a supernatural small town, with the ‘indie kids’ (the Chosen ones) interjecting at the beginning of every chapter, debriefing us on their quests and journeys and magical shit.

The town this book is set in is clearly marked by some supernatural, magical mark but the atmosphere is confusing and simply not fleshed out. How far this supernatural streak goes in terms of setting is not defined and I can’t pinpoint any sort of vibe coming from this book, which is usually what I look for first. There were some chilling moments though I wish that same vibe remained throughout the book. Concerning the whole distinction between the ‘indie kids’ and the regular kids, I wish the distinction was made a whole lot clearer. I liked how Ness subtly made fun of the common tropes used in ‘chosen one’ stories, but besides the short paragraph at the beginning of every chapter telling us about whatever the ‘indie kids’ are doing, I still wish we got more perspective on their lives. There wasn’t enough “extraordinary” to contrast the “ordinary” of Mikey and his friends, especially considering Mikey and his friends aren’t all that ordinary.

Through the characters, Ness zeroes in on a number of common issues teenagers struggle with today, such as mental health issues, eating disorders and body image, sexual identity, and generally tapping into their growing maturity and making their own decisions. I really like this, but Mikey, Mel, Jared, and Henna still lead highly unique and atypical lives and the fact that all of them together are dealing with these problems at the same time makes their whole existence more than a little extraordinary. It kind of defeats the purpose of showing these kids are utterly regular people just like everyone else, but they were actually the saving grace of this book. That isn’t saying much since this book couldn’t have been saved from itself, in my opinion, but I absolutely adored Mikey, Mel, Jared, and even little Meredith. Mike and Jared’s relationship is probably one of my favorite brotps ever (only bested by the Gansey, Ronan, and Adam trio and their complexity) and Mel and Meredith are great too. Nathan and Henna are the sole wasteful supporting characters in this book, but looking from a broad POV, the characters are a win.

The overall message of this book is meant to highlight the small amounts of extraordinary we find in our ordinary, blase lives through our friends, family, and love, and yes, I thought this message was sufficiently expressed. Ness was very subtle with the themes and messages he chose to incorporate in the midst of all the supernatural weirdness going on, and while I thought some plot points were unnecessary and drawn-out to the point of ridiculousness (like Mikey and his jealousy toward Nathan), most of it turned out okay. Ness definitely knows how to write a book even if it supposedly doesn’t match up to his other novels, and The Rest Of Us Just Live is definitely motivation to check out the rest of his raved-about books.

If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it? How did it compare to other Patrick Ness books you’ve read? Let me know your thoughts! 🙂

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon | every cliché you’ve never wanted

186924311 star

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.

Usually when I rate a book one measly star, I expect to have some burning hate or sadness toward it because it’s disappointed me that much. However, the truth is, the books that I usually rate 1-2 stars are those that I expect to dislike. Everything, Everything is a book that I knew I would hate right off the bat, but like everyone else, I too gave in to the immense hype. Unsurprisingly, I thought it was ass, but I’m still really mad that this concept couldn’t have turned out to be anything other than a cliché, trope-y, colossal mess.

I guess I’m heartless: I suppose I’m a bit of a cold-hearted bitch because this book made me feel absolutely nothing. The writing was incredibly simplistic and not at all thought-provoking, choppy sentences riddled the novel making it devoid of any emotion that could have made the story more fulfilling. While the prose was easy to slide through, it was also easy to skip/skim pages because there was no commentary offered to match the strange situation Madeline is in. It’s some of the blandest, most soulless writing I’ve ever encountered, which is funny, because the whole point of the novel is to take risks and explore life.  It’s supposed to be exciting and thrilling and inspiring, but all I felt was boredom. The only parts where it actually said something somewhat meaningful were ruined by the cliché framing of the message. Take risks! Love is worth everything! Live your life to the fullest! Okay, you’ve said something but can we please try to make it less cheesy and more provocative? This aspect basically demolishes everything this book wanted to be.

Equally soulless characters + an equally soulless romance: The character are so damn pointless, I would rather watch paint dry than read their story. Okay, no, but you catch my drift. Madeline and Olly basically had no personality, they felt like cardboard cutouts of every quirky female character and brooding yet secretly cute male. The only thing that somewhat classified them as living, breathing, fictional characters was their romance. Which is a sham! Why? Because it’s plagued by this bitch called instalove. Olly and Madeline are literally meant for each other, they’re freaking soulmates and I don’t say this with a positive connotation. I’m saying that their entire view of life changes the moment they meet, and the things they say to each other are so damn cringe-inducing, cheesy, and just plain ridiculous. If I had explain all the instances and reasons why their ‘romance’ is bullshit, it would take me all fucking day.

Plot holes!1!!!1!: Plot holes GALORE. First off, SCID, Madeline’s disease, seems to be highly glossed over and depicted in a shallow way. It’s not explained at all, and it’s easy to see the superficiality because Madeline touches Olly in their second in-person meeting and doesn’t die, goes outside and stays there for a couple seconds and doesn’t die, runs off to fucking Hawaii with a man she barely knows for three days and experiences nothing crazy due to her condition. She’s able to eat nearly anything she wants and touch anything she wants in the house and nothing happens to her. I suppose this is an indication for what’s about to come (for those of you that have read this book, you know the mega spoiler I’m talking about), but it still makes me uncomfortable that such a disease is made so … trivial. Maybe trivial is too strong a word, but after experiencing the ending it all feels so cheap and calculated.

I already knew about the ending, and I’m sure y’all know about it now because there’s only one kind of twist this book would take. I saw it coming but whatever negative feelings I had about this book multiplied 5 times because … just what?! The ending adds a whole other plethora of plot holes because it simply doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Everything, Everything and I were doomed from the start but I’m glad I tried because now I see how worthless the hype is. Unless you wholeheartedly enjoy cheesiness, instalove, and other dreadful YA clichés, steer clear from this one.

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz |what happened???

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3 1/4 stars

The first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

Me trying to calculate where this book and I went wrong:

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Huh, this is unexpected. Really. I remember reading Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe a while ago and thinking it was a brilliant-ass book, and I also remember expecting and wanting Saenz’s next novel to be a brilliant-ass book. Well, here we are and I am clearly not in that position. I didn’t hate The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life, but I was also hella confused and irritated and bored throughout, and while there were a few elements that this book did right, there were just as many done not-as-well. I am once again in a state of conflict and disappointment when I least expected it.

The Good

The themes: Unsurprisingly, there are a plethora of themes and social issues addressed. Race, sexuality, mental health, friendship, and family are only a few of the themes totally explored in this book, and of course there is tons of diversity to go around. I really like how Saenz brings together all these people from different backgrounds and meshes them realistically.

The relationships between the characters: I loved Sal and Sam’s very platonic male-female friendship, I was half expecting them to get together and when it didn’t happen, I was fine with it, because their friendship was already written so well. The relationship between Sal, Sam, and Fito was also great and I loved the complex yet easygoing relationship between Sal and his father. The family aspect of this novel was also gorgeous, and I enjoyed exploring the dynamics of Sal’s family and how close everyone was. Discovering your identity was also a huge part of this novel, as Sal largely struggles with how he’s supposedly changing. I especially appreciated the relatability of Sal’s thoughts on college and his future. I could totally understand all the anxiousness and confusion as I am in the position of applying to colleges and figuring myself out too. While Sal’s feelings of nervousness and fear stem from a different place, they were conveyed in a really understandable way for everyone going through the same thing.

The characters themselves: The characters were classic Saenz, if that makes any sense. Strong, but vulnerable and complicated yet somehow easy to understand. Sal was interesting, he was a more sensitive yet strong-willed male character, who wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable and show his emotions. In fact, many of the characters were incredibly honest with their feelings, and this definitely has its negative effects, but I did like it because it brought out different sides of them. Sam was a very bold character who might piss some people off, but I definitely enjoyed her presence. I did feel as though the author was trying too hard to make her different ‘from other girls’ and quirky, but her character was still interesting. Fito, I loved as well, and Sal’s father and his extended family were such great people too.

The Bad

The nonexistent plot: Okay, plot. What plot?? The amount of events that took place in this book were overwhelming, more so than it should be because there is so much going on yet nothing heading toward a point, or theme that is especially emphasized. In the beginning of the book, Sal gets into a ‘fight’ and he later wonders how his emotional state became so volatile so easily. There was hardly any buildup to this revelation and it heads off into nowhere, much like the other elements of this book. While there are so many themes expressed, none of them were fleshed out enough because the whole novel is simply a series of events without any direction. I’m a character-based reader, but I still need a strong enough plot to keep me engaged and not fast asleep.

The lack of emotional impact: One of the greatest things about Aristotle And Dante was the huge emotional weight it carried, and how it was expressed through the prose in a subtle, relatable, and totally non-corny way. Well, either Saenz switched things up in this one or I don’t remember Aristotle And Dante at all, because things were pretty damn different. The writing is uber-choppy and straightforward, and while it only added to the emotional impact in Aristotle And Dante, it took away from this one. Everything was so jilted and repetitive, it was so hard to draw any emotion from the prose because it was all so, so dull. Completely drained from any sort of feeling.

I would say The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life would appeal to those who loved Aristotle And Dante, but that would be somewhat invalid as I find myself supremely confused and conflicted with this one, regardless of my love for the latter. Give it a try if you’re already a fan of the author, but don’t expect to be wowed.

Thanks for reading, peeps. If you’ve already read this one, what did you think of it? Did it leave you disappointed? Emotional? Shooketh to the core? Let me know! 🙂

Books, New Releases, YA Fiction

Anticipated Releases: September 2017

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September is about to be so lit, y’all. Marie Lu, Adam Silvera, Stephanie Perkins, Leigh Bardugo. !!!

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They Both Die In The End, by Adam Silvera – Coming September 5th, 2017

33385229On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

History Is All You Left Me was a pretty intense emotional experience, and I have no doubt Silvera will be able to do it again. I’M READY

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Warcross, by Marie Lu – Coming September 12th, 2017

29385546For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 

It’s been a long-ass time since I’ve got me some Marie Lu, but it doesn’t matter because this book has been all over my Goodreads feed, and I could not be more jealous of those who have an ARC. So ready for this adventure. LET’S GO.

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There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins – Coming September 26th, 2017

15797848Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

Stephanie Perkins? Yes, give me some. Stephanie Perkins writing a horror novel?

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I have no idea what this will turn out like, but I’m pretty excited to find out. LET’S GOOOO

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The Language Of Thorns, Leigh Bardugo – Coming September 26th, 2017

34076952Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

Y’all already know Leigh Bardugo is my queen, so I’m so ready yet not ready for this masterpiece to floor me. LET’S FUCKING GOOOO

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An Enchantment Of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson – Coming September 26th, 2017

30969741Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Margaret Rogerson is the lone author in this list that I have not previously visited (I couldn’t have though, because this is her debut), but this book sounds super cool. The cover is gorgeous and the summary is giving me The Iron Fey vibes, so I’m totally looking forward to this!

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Thanks for reading, guys! What are your anticipated releases for September? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Books, Original Post, YA Fiction

August 2017 Wrap Up

Me to the mess that was August:

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So can I debrief y’all on this month?? I totally expected to have hardly any time to breathe in the midst of SATs, summer homework assignments, dance, and getting ready for school, but I did expect to read between that mess. I tend to read more when I’m stressed and busy (and this month had me both, trust me), but right when I least expected it, BOOM. Reading slump. Blogging slump. Which, is why I only read a sad total of 5 books this month. Normally, I would be pretty happy, considering how much I used to read a year ago, but I was doing so well this summer, I thought I would hit at least 7 this month. Screw you, August. Damnit.

Anyway, let’s get into it. 🙂

18667779Everything Leads To You, by Nina LaCour (3.5 stars) – This contemporary novel didn’t blow me away in its romance (clearly the main focus), but I loved nearly every other aspect of it! The writing was casual, the atmosphere was well-defined, and the messages it carried were great. You can find my review here.

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25752041Royal Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts (2.75 stars) – I expected a shitton from Royal Bastards (a grave mistake on my part), and unsurprisingly it did not deliver. Stronger characters, more diverse world-building, and a more fitting narration would have done this book some serious good, but it decided to go a whole other route and there’s nothing I can do about it. I wouldn’t encourage reading this one if you want more than something mildly engaging. My full review can be found here.

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30971706Things I Should Have Known, by Claire LaZebnik (3.75 stars) – This novel was so, so sweet! The themes of family and friendship were expressed so subtly and the character development was equally strong. The topic of autism was also realistically talked about and was nicely tied in with the rest of the book. Would definitely recommend. You can find my review here.

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764347Unwind, by Neal Shusterman (4.5 stars) – I’ve decided to reread this beloved series, starting with one of my favorite books ever, Unwind. It was just as amazing and I can’t help but think of all the heartache I’m going to suffer while reading the rest of the books. It’s worth it, though. 🙂

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23447923The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (3.25 stars) – I don’t need to reread Aristotle And Dante to conclude that this book paled in comparison to it. There are many elements of this book that were done wonderfully, but others I simply couldn’t ignore or push myself to enjoy. Look out for my full review coming soon!

Thanks for reading, guys! Let me know what you thought in the comments below. Meanwhile, I’ll be praying September turns out to be better. 😀

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

I’ll Meet You There, by Heather Demetrios

3.5 Stars

If Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing separating Skylar from art school is three months of summer…until Skylar’s mother loses her job, and Skylar realizes her dreams may be slipping out of reach.

Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.

What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and, soon, something deeper.

Compelling and ultimately hopeful, this is a powerful examination of love, loss, and resilience.

Today was my first day of school, so I’m glad to blow off some steam with a riveting discussion about books! Particularly I’ll Meet You There, of which I own a copy courtesy of my local library’s summer reading program. I went into this book with very little expectations, but came out of it pleased.

This book is about Skylar, a teenager aching to get out of her small trailer-park town. It’s also about Josh, a teenager back from a stint in the Marines, minus one leg. From the start, these characters were intriguing – they’re colorful and three-dimensional and stay that way throughout the entire book. They had wonderful separate storylines, and Skylar’s opinions and strong personality particularly attracted me (Josh was a douchebag to begin with, but Skylar quickly corrects his more offensive speech patterns.) I loved both these characters individually… but couldn’t really enjoy the forced romantic plot.

I thought the setting of Creek View was beautifully written, and Skylar and Josh fit wonderfully into it – I could feel the effect Creek View had on both of their goals and personalities. I could easily have bought a coming-of-age novel about their individual struggles and their friendship, but thought the romance escalated too quickly and Skylar’s thoughts quickly devolved into typical YA romantic girl mush when she was around him. I did like that they didn’t get together too quickly, but I think the characters were most true to themselves when not thinking about how kissable the other person was.

The side characters, especially Skylar’s friends, were super enjoyable and fun. I would have loved a lot more of Skylar’s interactions and camaraderie with these guys. I also loved how non-stereotypical they were about most everything, and enjoyed the awareness of teenage pregnancy, racism and homophobia.

Although most of the conflict was romantic in nature, other conflicts such as the family/financial struggles of teens living in underprivileged circumstances and PTSD were well written. Although I will forever wonder how teens in YA novels have such complete reign over and access to alcohol and drugs, even these topics were handled with care and an understanding of the gravitas of drug-related decisions.

Overall, this book is a sweet contemporary novel that has well-written characters and settings, but ultimately fails to be extremely memorable due to the forced, cliche romance. It’s a read I definitely still recommend, though!

~Aliza