Books, Original Post, YA Fiction

May 2017 Wrap-Up – Haven

Hey guys! This is my first wrap-up post and I’ve actually been meaning to do this since April, but due to testing it was pushed back. Anyway, I read 9 books this month, which is pretty amazing considering all the projects I’ve had to do (why do teachers insist on overloading us with work when the school year is coming to an end?).

Books I’ve read this month

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History Is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera (3.75-4 stars): I quite liked this very emotional and honest LGBTQ contemporary. There have been so many positive comments on Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, making him out to be a very hyped author. I was not disappointed with History Is All You Left Me, if you are looking for a diverse and raw read on love and loss, this is the one for you. You can find my full review here.

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars): This was a great sequel, and while it take a bit of time for me to truly get into it, it did not disappoint at all. I loved the introduction of new themes and characters, and the writing was totally upgraded. This series is already becoming one of my favorites and hopefully the next two live up to expectations I have. You can find my full review here.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (4 stars): I remember being extremely excited yet anxious when picking up this book, but it definitely lived up to the hype. This book reaches out to a range of messages on courage and hope, while detailing some necessary truths of the society we live in. Everyone should read it. My review can be found here.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson (2.25 stars): Unfortunately, I wasn’t huge fan of this much-loved contemporary. While I appreciated the attempt to combine deeper themes and a lighthearted road trip, I couldn’t find the balance between the two and the execution was simply not for me. I’m disappointed in my disappointment, but I’m still looking forward to reading Matson’s other contemporaries. You can find my in-depth review right here.

A Gathering Of Shadows, by V.E Schwab (5 stars): This was easily the best book I’ve read this month and probably one of the best I’ve read this year so far. After re-experiencing the glory of A Darker Shade Of Magic, I started this one and had the time of my freaking life. I adore these characters, this plot, this writing, everything. While it can be classified as a ‘filler’ book, I loved it nonetheless. I’m going to start A Conjuring Of Light soon and am totally not ready for the emotional destruction I’m about to face.

All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven (1 star): I strongly disliked this book, and most of my dislike stemmed from plain disinterest in the pretentious themes that are forever running through YA contemporary. The book’s view and depiction of mental illness was also quite off-putting, and while this aspect is praised and put down among readers, it simply made me uncomfortable for a number of reasons. Not for me guys, nope. You can find my in-depth review here.

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (3.5 stars): So, I decided to re-visit this classic this month. Interestingly, I had never read Winter, so catching up on the rest of the series was necessary. Cinder didn’t really capture me the same way it did in the past, but it definitely brought up a wave of nostalgia. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series though.

Shadow And Bone, by Leigh Bardugo (3.5 stars): I read this book way back in 2014 when the hype was just picking up, and remember being very ‘meh’ on it. I decided to give it another try this month and found myself enjoying much more this time around. Yes, it’s an older book so many of the events that took place are reminiscent of the tropes found in YA fantasy today, but I don’t regret picking it up again.

Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman (5 stars): This book totally took me by surprise and is actually one of the easiest 5-star reads ever. The messages it means to convey are told so subtly and earnestly, and the whole book simply exudes charm through its characters, themes, and writing. Look out for my review coming soon. 🙂

May was an incredibly scattered month, but interestingly, I’ve read the most books this month in the year so far. Hopefully the summer helps me prioritize so I can read and blog a whole lot more than I am doing now. Thanks for reading, guys!

-Haven

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Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven || nope nope nope

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

I’ve always intentionally ignored All The Bright Places for some unknown reasons. There are so many things I’ve heard about this book, and I always had the notion that I would hate it if I ever did read it. Well, I did read it eventually, and I did strongly dislike. I was so disinterested in this novel and something felt totally ‘wrong’ with it as I was reading it. What directly bothered me about it is hard to pinpoint, but I felt very uncomfortable with the story and the romance and … everything, really. I hate to give it such a negative rating, but it is what it is.

The writing + plot: The writing was fairly typical of a contemporary novel, however I couldn’t get into at all. It lacked the emotion behind discussion of serious topics such as depression and suicide, as well as the popular dark comedic flair that is frequently seen in the likes of The Fault In Our Stars or Side Effects May Vary. It felt as though the prose was missing something very significant to bring the characters, story, and message to life. The writing obviously would have struck a cord within other readers, but it wasn’t doing anything for me and largely contributed to my disinterest in the story. While the plot/storyline progressed slowly, much of the events that took place seemed driven by the overelaborate and pretentious themes penned by Finch, and I was not here for it. The whole thing felt very superficial and shallow, despite claiming to discuss mental illness and other deeper subjects.

Mental illness: There seems to have been much controversy over the way mental illness is depicted in this novel, and while I do not doubt Jennifer Niven’s knowledge and experience with the subject (her author’s note is proof that she kind of knows what she’s talking about), something does feel very wrong here to me. Theodore is obviously mentally ill in some way, as we see in his frequent thoughts on death and suicide, as well as his narration. However, it seems as though his condition (later revealed to be bipolar disorder) is covered up in a set of quirks that is intriguing to everyone around him. His ornate narration and quirky, showy persona are meant to make him stick out to capture Violet and intrigue everyone else, yet his actual mental illness is never expanded on or portrayed realistically in the face of others. Nearly nobody in this book treats Theodore realistically when it comes his mental health, and while it shows the misunderstandings and poor handling of mental health in our society, Theodore’s issues with death and suicide are merely used as ‘quirks’ to make the character different. His bipolar disorder seems almost ignored and it creates a false image of mental illness through romanticizing Theodore’s condition. I don’t know if that conveys how I truly feel, but I felt very uncomfortable by the depiction of mental illness in this book. The topic seemed to only serve the purpose of moving the plot along, not creating a realistic and relatable picture of mental health conditions and how it is handled.

Characters: Many readers have also stated that the characters become their illness and problems in this book, and I can see that. Theodore’s narration is essentially a collection of cheesy metaphors, Virginia Woolf quotes, and pretentious and unrealistic musings on Violet and life. His voice sounded like a mix of Holden Caulfield and Augustus Waters, and I could at least try to get past that if Theodore sounded like a realistic teenager who was struggling with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Throughout the entire story, I could never reach the true Theodore, past all the ‘quirks’ of his. Violet is an extremely flat character, the emotion and grief she supposedly felt for her sister lacked depth and was so toned down, it was barely there. I could not connect with her at all, but at least her narration was a tad more bearable than Theodore’s. Every other character hardly serves a purpose but to scrutinize Theodore, Violet, or Theodore and Violet. The adults are hilariously incompetent, they take completely unrealistic actions and seem to be oblivious to everything around them, and they are probably that way to allow these teenagers to say and do all the stupid shit that took place in this book.

The romance: Theodore and Violet’s relationship is the weirdest, confusing, most disturbing thing ever. All Theodore ever does is lust after Violet and responds to her ‘leave me alones’ with further harassment. He creates a Facebook account just to talk to her, messages her constantly, and even stalks her. It’s creepy and weird, and even weirder that Violet manages to fall for him so soon after telling him to leave her alone. One second she’s openly refusing his attention and the next she’s ripping her clothes off. Their romance is a mix of insta-love and every indie-romance cliche you could think of. And this whole idea of them ‘saving each other’ feels so fake because their whole relationship is built upon emotional manipulation.

I hate the uneasy feeling All The Bright Places gives me, and it’s not even an uneasy feeling I like, where I read something so profound yet raw that makes me feel uncomfortable in the best way possible. Everything about this book feels so false, and I would urge readers to look elsewhere for a story which portrays mental illness correctly and does not romanticize it.

-Haven