Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell | A super cute Harry Potter “fanfic.” Nuff said.

4.5 Stars

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

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

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

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

Carry On is one of those rare books where I read over 90% of this 500+ page book in a day. I have to say, I didn’t expect to like this book nearly as much as I did. I haven’t read Fangirl, but knew that this was essentially a book within a book that became its own book, which hardly attracted me. In addition, it was reviewed widely as basically  a Harry Potter fanfic, which worried me. I’m as obsessed with HP as any reader, but a spin-off written by a contemporary author? Seriously? Well, Carry On was all of those things: romancy, a spin-off, and a copy of Harry Potter from start to finish. And I loved every bit of it.

So I’m going to talk about Carry On as its own book, and not as a Fangirl related one, probably because I haven’t read the latter (I know, sue me). This book is about Simon Snow, a super powerful orphan mage referred to as “The Chosen One,” prophesied to defeat an evil connected to him in some way. Currently, he attends the Watford School of Magicks, where he studies with his two best friends and enemy/rival, who Simon initially suspects is up to no good. Sound familiar?

The comparisons to HP were overwhelming at first, and I definitely wasn’t sold on Simon’s obsession with his rival Baz’s disappearance. However, as I read on (and once Baz finally showed up), I began to enjoy the book much more and note the differences between this and Harry Potter. There are no school houses, for one. The spells are also common English phrases, and wands are not the only way of harnessing power. The world and class differences/tension are similar, but developed in a different way.

But what truly sold me were the characters. Simon is very adorable, and his best friend Penelope is all kinds of awesome. Baz, as well, is (secretly) super cute and his interactions with Simon had me squealing on the floor. The character relationships were surprisingly layered and very enjoyable to read. I also liked Simon’s relationships with the adults in his life, particularly the Mage.

The romance between Baz and Simon somehow wasn’t forced, either. My initial worry (knowing Rowell’s standard style of writing) was that there’d be more kissing than actual substance, but that wasn’t really the case. Although Baz’s love for Simon was a bit bluntly stated in the beginning, they don’t actually kiss until page 343-ish, which I was very happy about. Overall, the romance and characters were so much fun that I was more than happy to overlook the obvious flaws of this book.

Oh, the flaws. I wish I didn’t have to cover this but I consider it my obligation as a reviewer. I gave this book a very high rating simply on the basis of how much I relished it, but it cannot be ignored that the plot is, well… nonexistent. The “Voldemort” of this book, the Insidious Humdrum, takes a back seat to the Simon-Baz tension and there’s no real effort made on Simon’s part to defeat it. Most of the story revolves around figuring out who murdered Baz’s mom, but progress is excruciatingly slow. While Harry Potter also rarely had Voldemort show up for the majority of the book, the time was spent on world-building, foreshadowing, and attending classes. I don’t think I can name a single class Simon attended (because they were so inconsequential), and there was no growing mystery or a sense of foreboding. There just… wasn’t much of a plot.

This may sound like a game-killer for you, and if you’re considering scrolling away to some other book, think again. Despite everything, if you’re a character-driven reader looking for a cute read, please try Carry On. I hope you don’t regret it, because I certainly didn’t. 🙂

~Liz

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Welcome To The Slipstream, by Natalka Burian | extreme mixed feelings toward this unique contemporary

32164715Bright lights, big trouble.

Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Judy Gregerson’s Bad Girls Club will relate to this story about a girl traumatized by her brilliant mother’s serious mental illness.

Like a grown-up Eloise from the picture book, the main character, Van, lives in an upscale casino in glitzy Las Vegas, giving readers entree into a crazy world that few ever get to see. Based on real life events witnessed by the author, a harrowing look at the dangers of self-help cults that promise insight and instead deliver destruction.

With her mother, a brilliant businesswoman with fragile mental health, Van arrives in Las Vegas at the Silver Saddle casino, where Alex, a college student, is assigned to “babysit” her. Van is used to having to land on her feet, because her mother and her surrogate grandmother move from city to city all the time like corporate gypsies, but Alex introduces Van, a talented musician, to a group where her guitar skills may shine. But just as she’s about to play her first gig, her mother is lured in by a con man promising a “vision quest” in Arizona, and Van must go on the road to find and save her mom.

3 stars

Judging by its long synopsis, Welcome To The Slipstream sounds really random, messy, and sometimes unintentionally funny (all of them combined at certain points), which it is, but not on the incredibly large scale you want it to be on. The novel is actually quite short, at only 272 pages, and despite its promise of snazzy hotels, big cities, punk-rock vibes, and weird-ass cults, it still manages to cram everything in very tidily, exploring each aspect but always coming short somehow. I was actually enjoying the first half of the book and if I had continued to enjoy it all the way, it would have been at least a 3.5 star book. However, the second half had to come along and take away all my hopes of enjoying a contemporary fully for once. I am once again in a state of conflict. *deep sigh*

The story takes place in two areas: the fancy Silver Saddle hotel and casino in Las Vegas and the Arizona desert. The entire first half is set in Vegas, before Van goes to find her mother, and I definitely liked the descriptions and the vibe of the hotel/casino and its everyday routine. I do which that setting was more explored on a larger scale, and I could say the same for most of the aspects of this book. I definitely thought the same for the musical, punk-rock feel of the book, while it was there I did like it, but I wanted to feel more of that vibe. This book clearly contains a lot of random and unique elements that set it apart from most contemporaries, and if only those elements had been told in a bigger and bolder manner on a larger scale, Welcome To The Slipstream would have been a lot more memorable. The prose is very straight-forward and easy to understand, but I do wish the same kind of narration was kept constant throughout. The second half was entirely set in Arizona, where Van finally meets the creepy cult her mother had become entangled in, and it’s really, really boring. I was just gaining some interest for this mystery ‘vision quest’ by that time, but Van’s narration through the desert was so draggy and uninteresting, I honestly skimmed through most of it.

The characters were surprisingly more interesting and layered than I had initially expected them to be. Van herself is a quite relatable heroine that has gone through her fair share of pain, guilt, and emotional conflict concerning her mother’s behavior and their frequent moves. I loved Ida, she was such a force of nature with her vibrant personality and hilarious one-liners. I did feel as though Alex was a tad one-dimensional, and that Joanna, Carol, Marcos were only added to stir up unnecessary drama, but I appreciated their much-needed diversion from Van, Ida, and Sofia.

I am disappointed in lack of directness involved with Sofia’s mental stability, because it’s clear that she has trouble with mental illness, and in this case it happens to be bipolar disorder. I thought we would at least hear the words ‘bipolar’ or ‘mental illness’ in the story, but it was never went over or even directly insinuated. There is plenty amount of depth to match the funnier sides of this novel, but I was expecting something more concrete, considering they had plenty to work with.

There is a romance involved that does a perfect job of not overtaking the story, but I do feel as though it was added in unnecessarily. Alex seems to be interested in Van almost immediately, and while their relationship is slow burn, there wasn’t enough information to truly make their mutual attraction pop out. I did like how Van was still at center stage and that her insecurities and doubts affected her motivation to further her relationship with Alex, but I still think the book would have been better if the romance was reduced a tad.

Welcome To The Slipstream was a fairly engaging novel, but it could have been something much more than ‘average’ if it utilized its unique themes, and crafted itself to be bigger and bolder. I would recommend if you’re looking for something short, weird, and different from typical YA contemporary.

-Haven

Books, New Releases, YA Fiction

New Releases in YA for July 2017

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Summer is going by so fast and I honestly can’t keep up in a lot of directions. Fortunately, July’s releases sound very unique and genre-bending, and I’m itching to get my hands on any of these books.

30199656What To Say Next, by Julie Buxbaum – Coming July 11th, 2017

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

This contemporary has already been garnering glowing reviews from readers on Goodreads, and while it sounds slightly cliche, I’m curious to see how it is. I hoping it’s just as heartfelt as it is cute.

31450752Because You Love To Hate Me: 13 Tales Of Villainy – Coming July 11th, 2017

Leave it to the heroes to save the world–villains just want to rule the world.

In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like “Medusa,” Sherlock Holmes, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains’ acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage–and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon

BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

I remember seeing this a while ago and thinking ‘WHAT IS THIS?!’. It was such a mystery to everyone back then and it still seems mysterious now, but I can’t wait to dive into this fabulous mess.

22892448The Color Project, by Sierra Abrams – Coming July 18th, 2017

Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.

Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.

When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, THE COLOR PROJECT is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.

This sounds like a very interesting contemporary that blends familiar romance formulas with something unique. It also seems to have a hint of mystery — definitely looking forward to it!

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Lucky In Love, by Kasie West – Coming July 25th, 2017

In this new contemporary from YA star Kasie West, a girl who wins the lottery learns that money can cause more problems than it solves, especially when love comes into the picture.

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

I’m always telling myself to catch up on Kasie West’s novels, hopefully I’ll actually follow through this time. This sounds like a cute and easy read, which I’m always down for.

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Daughter of the Burning City, by Amanda Foody – Coming July 25th, 2017

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

This sounds ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Book, please be as good as you sound.

Thanks for reading, guys! What upcoming releases are you greatly anticipating? Leave a comment below 🙂

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Isla And The Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins | disappointed + conflicted

9627755Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Isla And The Happily Ever After is one of those books that is either loved greatly or hated with a burning passion, with no in between. Or at least, that’s what Goodreads seems to say. Well, allow me to be the rebel and rate it a neutral 3 stars, because I just can’t seem to overcome the conflict this book put me in. Clearly my least favorite and weakest of the contemporary series, Isla is an engaging and fairly likable love story, but lacks the right amount of depth that made the other two books winners.

The plot + writing: Perkins’ novels are always very entertaining and never boring, and Isla was the same. It was very addictive and easy to read, which is why it’s so hard to rate the book. I definitely had a fun time reading it, because most of it was pure fluff, which I didn’t expect. This novel has mastered its fluff components, but there is a severe lack in depth with its themes. Most of the narration and plot mainly centers around Josh, Josh, and Josh, and honestly, it’s a little weird. Isla herself actually has an interesting inner conflict, she’s insecure about herself and thinks she isn’t worth loving, which is totally understandable and relatable. But this theme is only half-hardheartedly expressed in the book, and that’s only toward the last few chapters. The last two books had romance take the center stage, but were still focused on the main characters and their inner conflicts, but all Isla ever seems to think about is Josh. *sighs* wasted potential.

Characters: Perkins’ characters are never easy to love, but most of the time, that’s what makes them interesting and charming even. Most of the time. Don’t worry, I didn’t hate any of the characters in this novel, but I will admit they were more frustrating than usual. Isla is a very sensitive and soft girl that doesn’t really do much besides think about Josh and plan their fantasies together. While she’s the top student in her class, Isla doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, referring to herself as a ‘blank canvas’ compared to Josh’s detailed life plans. Of course, the book decides to focus more on the first point, making her narration easy to read but not as memorable. I hardly know anything about Isla and her complexities besides what I could figure out from the surface; she’s insecure and in love with Josh. Josh isn’t so interesting either, though he certainly insists he is. *rolls eyes* The problem with the characters is that there aren’t enough; the whole scheme only surrounds Josh and Isla’s whirlwind romance with an occasional (awkward) pop-in from Kurt, Isla’s best friend. We know more about their hook-ups and make-out sessions than their individual personalities.

The romance: Isla and Josh are cute, yes. They are probably the cheesiest and most romantic of all the couples in this series, but also the most confusing. Their relationship practically popped out of nowhere, and the justification for that is that they’ve both been crushing on each other for three years without letting each other know. One minute they’re glancing at each other and making some conversation, the next minute they’re making out. Both of them together are adorable, but their relationship escalated so quickly, where the reader can’t feel the tension and change in emotion involved with falling in love. Interestingly, for such an underdeveloped basis of a romance, the romance is incredibly overbearing throughout this book, overshadowing the characters’ true personalities and flaws. It’s annoying, because Josh and Isla are so needy and immature and cheesy sometimes, but other times they’re actually kind of cute. THE CONFLICT. UGH.

If y’all want an entertaining, cute, and easy to read romance with a typical formula, Isla And The Happily Ever After is probably the book for you. I was definitely expecting more than that from this book in terms of depth though, considering I’ve always thought Perkins’ novels blended deeper teenage themes and fluff pretty well. Still liked it though, and would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for pure fluffiness.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Year We Fell Apart, by Emily Martin | a frustrating contemporary on rebuilding relationships

22449806Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

The Year We Fell Apart contains a combination of elements I usually love in contemporaries, a heartfelt romance and an amount of frustration/angst to challenge the couple together and individually. Unfortunately, while The Year We Fell Apart was engaging enough, the classic combo didn’t work out so well this time around. This book tried to accomplish a number of things, from rekindling a friendship, dealing with problems rattling a family, redeeming oneself, but it all ended up quite directionless ultimately.

The writing was extremely simplistic besides a few moments and I often felt as there were ‘holes’ in the story. The ‘introduction’ of the characters, the relationships, and Harper’s history with Declan was very, very vague and continued to be the same throughout the entire story. It was as if the reader was already supposed to know every thing that took place, and there was very little detail on the things that mattered. There was so much angst with unclear context; Harper and Declan’s past relationship is slowly revealed over time but nothing is ever stated definitely and the order of events is still confusing. This is why the drama and angst feels so forced, there is hardly any context to balance the amount of commentary on Harper’s pain and frustration. I’m sure the cancer subplot was added as another reason for Harper’s constant angsting, but it was entirely useless since it failed to add any message to the story.

Harper herself is indeed a flawed heroine, but is incredibly hard to warm up to and understand fully. I can sympathize with her to an extent, but she keeps repeating the same mistakes and expects comfort from those around her without recognizing her issues. She’s extremely selfish and hardly grows throughout the story, regardless of her comments toward the end of the novel. I suppose her actions would have made more sense if the book delved deeper into her psyche and psychological state, but it decided to focus more on her deal with Declan. In fact, most of Harper’s narration is filled with constant, repetitive comments on Declan’s attitude, his appearance, and whoever he’s hanging out with. It’s annoying and unrealistic, and also amazing how there is so much commentary on Declan yet so little on his history with Harper, through that could just be attributed to bad storytelling.

The most underdeveloped portion of The Year We Fell Apart would be whatever the fuck happened with Harper and Declan, if that isn’t clear already. Like I said before, their relationship is so damn unexplained, and their random up-and-downs get even worse as the story goes on. Harper starts talking all this shit on why she split from Declan and how she was afraid of losing people, and it was all so contrived and nonsensical. If anything, these two just skirted around their feelings and thoughts for each other and decided to finally confront it in the last 10 pages. Those 10 pages where the best part of the book but there is still no depth in their relationship.

I feel as though this book would have been so much better if there was a focus, a central point. Harper’s identity and struggle to make amends, her damaged relationship with Declan, and her mother’s cancer are all interesting plot points but they serve no purpose because they aren’t utilized correctly. If the story focused more on how Harper dealt with her mother’s illness and how family values and dynamics changed due to it, it definitely would have been more well-rounded. If the story also delved deeper into Harper’s psychological state and her issues with fixing herself, that aspect would have gone well with the rest of the themes too. The book definitely took on more than it could handle.

The Year We Fell Apart is a standard angsty romance that is entertaining enough, but there are many better contemporaries out there that explore the same themes deeper yet keep a good balance among all of them.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Lola And The Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins | an adorable and charismatic contemporary romance

22247695Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

Fall in love with the international bestseller from queen of young adult fiction, Stephanie Perkins.

I’m half embarrassed to say I actually liked this book, but I believe there was no way I couldn’t have fallen for this book eventually, at least a little bit. Even with its flaws and occasional cheesiness, Lola And The Boy Next Door is undeniably charming.

Plot + writing: The book got off to a somewhat slow start, but quickly fell into a pattern that I could recognize and follow. The writing was delightfully sweet but not saccharine, and there is just a very light, happy vibe to it even when something stressful is taking place (and trust me, there are a lot of stressful moments). Perkins also has a great talent for combining the most relatable feelings when it comes to crushes and liking someone with the fun maintained throughout the book. All the confusion, heartache, and butterflies are so subtly and perfectly conveyed, creating a great balance between deeper subjects concerning love and the mindless entertainment that Perkins does so well. I will admit that elements of this book can come across as somewhat unimaginable, from Lola’s outlandish apparel to the overall outlandishness of some events that take place. However, Lola’s feelings and struggles with being herself and finding love are so realistically told and the romance is so positively swoon-worthy, that these elements don’t do much to hinder the overall message of the story.

Characters: The characters are actually quite likable, despite the occasional eccentric behavior they display in the commonly eccentric situations presented. Lola is a witty, quirky, realistic teenage girl who I’m sure any teenager could relate to. It is easy to presume her personality as being childish or immature (her ornate wardrobe could play a part), but despite all the wacky situations she stumbles into, Lola remains a likable character who is positively and negatively affected by her hormones just like the rest of us. Cricket is a fairly fleshed-out and realistic character as well, and I definitely liked him more than St. Clair in Anna And The French Kiss. Speaking of Anna And The French Kiss, both Anna and St. Clair make cameos in this book, which was absolutely great. I think they stuck around for a good amount of time without taking the spotlight away from Lola’s story, and even shared details of their future after leaving Paris.

One thing I have to comment on is the amount of side characters in the book, which is significantly lower than Anna And The French Kiss. While I do like this, I wish the main secondary characters were more fleshed-out and three-dimensional, similar to the leads. Rashmi and Josh from Anna were pretty layered side characters, and Lindsay (Lola’s best friend) and Calliope (Cricket’s twin sister) don’t really match up to their amount of depth. Max is a bit confusing, because while he was a flawed person and boyfriend, I thought the sudden change in character toward the end and the lack of resolve in his relationship with Lola … well, lacked resolve. I do feel as though his character and many of the secondary characters could use some work. Lola’s dads are great though.

Romance: The romance obviously takes center stage in this story, and it is just as adorable and fuzzy yet angsty as one might imagine it to be. Cricket and Lola are a charming pair and aren’t short of any chemistry. While there is a substantial dosage of cheese, it’s not too much to make you cringe (well, not always at least). The angst factor is similar to any real-life situation dealing with young love (young being the key word), and I loved the angst because I could totally feel where Lola was coming from. Coming to terms with your feelings for someone, experiencing heartbreak, and discovering your self-worth are all such relatable feelings and Perkins depicted it all so realistically. Cricket and Lola’s relationship is full of ups and downs, but the ride is so worth reading about.

While I enjoyed Anna And The French Kiss, Lola And The Boy Next Door was definitely and surprisingly more engaging to me, and I’m so looking forward to the next installment and whatever Perkins decides to write next. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fuzzy romance with the right amount of depth to match it.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman | a beautiful read on happiness and discovering your true self

30653843You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

You guys. THIS BOOK.

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While Radio Silence already has a number of 5 star reviews under its pocket and was was one of my top anticipated novels of the year, I was still completely taken by surprise by how enchanting this book was. The pacing was great, the characters were extremely charming and relatable, and the messages involved were so relevant and important among youth specifically. By now y’all should know I don’t throw 5 star ratings around casually, but Radio Silence is incredibly deserving of it.

Radio Silence follows the ambitious and intelligent Frances Janvier, who’s determination to get into Cambridge University is only topped by her love for Universe City, a science-fiction podcast series narrated by the enigmatic ‘Radio Silence’. After Frances is contacted by the creator to incorporate her fanart into the visual aspect of the podcast, Frances discovers that Aled Last, the quiet, studious kid that she had always ignored, is in fact Radio Silence. From there, Frances and Aled develop an unlikely yet strong friendship, bonding over their love for all things nerdy and the parts of them they are accustomed to hide from everyone else. However, after Aled’s identity  is unintentionally revealed and their relationship takes a turn, Frances realizes she needs to come to terms with who she really is to move forward. As Frances delves into her passions and her past, she discovers a multitude of secrets about Aled, Universe City, and herself.

The wonderful writing and definite plot: Radio Silence is told in a very casual and informal way, which surprisingly works for a book carrying such heavy themes. There’s actually a perfect balance between dialogue and commentary, and all the characters’ personalities shine through so easily. The pacing is absolutely perfect, despite the book being 410 pages (which seems to exceed the typical length of a contemporary) it never drags or loses its direction due to the short chapters and wonderful storytelling. There was an incredible amount of diversity, we have characters of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations who are represented in a relatable and respectful way.

The lighthearted, relatable atmosphere was so lovable and consistent throughout but the book itself never shied away from more serious topics, such as depression, suicide, emotional abuse, and exploring one’s sexuality. In fact, the whole book is centered on these issues many face, along with much subtle discussion on growing up and staying true to yourself. We read the book in the perspectives of those that excel in academics, and therefore considered ‘smart’ (Frances, Aled, Daniel, etc.) and those who particularly don’t, and are considered ‘not smart’ (Carys, Raine, etc.). As someone who comes from a culture that puts extra emphasis on academic accomplishments/success and college, I could totally understand the characters’ struggle with societal and familial pressures, as well as their own inner conflicts on what they want to do and who they want to be. I feel as though I read this book at the perfect time, as I will soon be applying for college and choosing a path myself.

The realest characters ever: The characters were absolutely brilliant. Frances is so lively, funny, and understandable through all the emotions she experiences in this book. Her main conflict surrounds the divide in who she really is and how people around her see her, and her struggle with staying true to herself was so, so real. Frances’ determination and ambition concerning her grades and academic accomplishments, as well as her fear and doubt towards her future and who she truly wants to be, is conveyed with such sincerity and honesty. Aled is the most precious character ever and I just wanted to give him a hug throughout reading this book. He was also incredibly relatable (I’m saying that word way too many times in this review, but guys. Seriously.), and I adored his friendship with Frances. There are hardly any male-female non-romantic relationships in YA that don’t have romantic undertones, but Oseman just nailed it with Frances and Aled’s adorable, genuine bond.

Even the minor characters, such as Daniel, Raine, and Carys all had their own distinct personalities yet were realistic and completely fleshed-out. I don’t want to delve into their characters too much, I will probably say too much because I adore them all. But, guys. THE CHARACTERS ARE A WIN.

There was also a slight mystery element incorporated into the novel, through Universe City and Frances’ interesting past with Aled’s twin sister, Carys Last. Thankfully, this aspect only captured me more and never caused the original plot to lose direction. Instead, Oseman masterfully interconnects the Frances’ past and present with the mystery making for an incredibly engaging and surprising read.

Radio Silence is a gem that deserves to acknowledged among the masses of new YA fantasies getting all the hype right now. If you can relate to dealing with college, stress, hormones, nerdy obsessions, making friends, making difficult choices, discovering yourself, an identity crisis, or anything and everything that has to do with being a regular teenager, read this damn book. It will do you some good in a number of ways.

-Haven