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

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

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Amy And Roger’s Epic Detour || a surprisingly deep contemporary that is surprisingly not for me

7664334Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it’s Amy’s responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn’t ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip – and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar – especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory – but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.

I had a certain image of Amy And Roger before starting it. I expected fluffy, cute, tons of witty banter between our leading characters, and an overall lighthearted vibe. Boy, was I wrong. To put it bluntly: Amy And Roger could be considered an exact opposite of everything I’ve listed above. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad, it could actually be a good thing because I love deeper contemporaries too. But, among the occasional well-written and emotional moments, Amy And Roger’s Epic Detour was executed in a way that isn’t my cup of tea.

That writing + plot: The writing is on the wordy side. It often read very formally, specifically toward the beginning, but managed to capture me well enough. It wasn’t too much, not too little. There were many moments in which the emotion was strongly enhanced by the prose, specifically when it came to Amy and how she deals with her grief. Unfortunately, this wasn’t kept up throughout the novel and I found myself skipping paragraphs every now and then. The “not too much not too little” can have a downside to it and it shows in this book, because the writing was only mildly engaging. Not without personality, but not too memorable either. But I suppose the characters play a part in that debacle too.

Despite a surplus of events and characters, the book did have a direction in all of its detours. What was even more surprising, was the amount of depth that the story possessed. Here I was, ready to go into a happy-go-lucky adventure and a totally adorable romance when all of a sudden Matson starts hitting me with all this grief discussion and death and guilt and deep shit in general. I don’t mind deep shit at all, in fact I like emotional contemporaries more than fluffy romances. Unfortunately, I have some issues with the execution of this concept and it mostly has to do with the fact that Amy and Roger’s EPIC detour, was not actually that epic. While the documentation of their trip is certainly present, there aren’t any groundbreaking events that truly challenge Amy and Roger’s relationship or cause any sort of realistic unsettlement. They never seem to struggle with money or gas or food and most of their feelings are kept to themselves, which creates a huge lack of excitement. I commend the story for trying to explore deeper themes, but the events taking place and the people Amy and Roger met tended to be forgettable. There wasn’t much propelling the emotional elements of the book besides the parts where the prose kicked in, and those actually turned out to be great scenes.

The characters: Amy and Roger are both likable and relatable characters, but aren’t really that memorable. Amy is clearly struggling, she’s dealing with the sadness and guilt caused by her father’s death. She isn’t the most lively person, and her quiet and unintentionally awkward nature is out in the open. But, she wasn’t very interesting to me. I just couldn’t connect that deeply with her grief, her character, her personality and this happens from time to time, it just doesn’t work out. I couldn’t connect with the ‘old her’ itself because it was barely shown, which leads me to say that Amy doesn’t entirely stick out from all the other heroines in YA contemporaries. I expected Roger to be the traditional funny guy that brings Amy out from her sadness, and while it didn’t really work out that way at first, I liked it anyway. Roger’s ‘baggage’ isn’t as deep, but I liked how Matson managed to create a fleshed-out conflict for him too.

The romance: Amy and Roger seemed to evade the rules of typical contemporary pairings, as they weren’t constantly talking about shared interests, engaging in witty banter, or being adorable while doing childish things together. Hell, they hardly spoke to each other in the beginning because Amy hardly says anything out loud. They were simply a boy and girl forced to go on a road trip together, without much complications at all. It wasn’t the most entertaining, but it was certainly realistic and not as predictable as it could have been. They did start bonding progressively though, and while it was slow journey, they ended up being a pretty likable and realistic couple. Realistic, however, is a tad disappointing in a book such as this because I didn’t want them to be as individualistic. The title has the word ‘epic’ in it and the cover shows a couple holding hands, I expected Amy and Roger to be cute and funny in a non-cheesy way, much like a fluffy contemporary. But, this book was not a fluffy contemporary and I shouldn’t judge it as one (you would’ve thought I’d get it by now).

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, is unfortunately, another book I’ve ruined for myself due to expectations. Not necessarily high expectations, but … different expectations. There are better stories out there that mix lightheartedness with emotional themes, and hopefully Matson’s other book (which I will hopefully obtain soon) achieve that better than this one did.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas || a powerful story on the social/political issues of today

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give is such a hyped, highly-sought after commodity and I’ve actually avoided many reviews and the book itself for a long while, just because I was afraid to be let down. My expectations went sky high for this one, and because of all the tragic events taking place in the black community, I even feared disliking it. However, The Hate U Give indeed lives up to the hype with a very significant message behind it, and I was overall impressed with how Thomas weaved an uplifting and inspiring story with more darker, powerful themes.

The atmosphere and prose: This book takes place across two major settings: Starr’s neighborhood, Garden Heights, and her fancy private school Williamson. I loved the way Thomas peeled back the layers on each of these settings, redefining the stereotypes and adding character and originality to both. Starr lives in a poverty-stricken environment filled with gangs and violence, but goes to a wealthier private school out of town which contains a majority of white students. I loved the way Thomas added a sense of familiarity and relatability to Starr’s hometown through building stores, parks, houses, and even the gangs involved. It was quite interesting to see the distinction between each area and how it affects Starr and her family psychologically, and this worked out so well due to the well-defined individual environments. The prose was surprisingly very informal, which I really liked to an extent. I felt as though the dialogue and overall commentary was brought to life easily, in all the happy, angry, and frustrated moments. There are times where I wish the writing wasn’t as casual, and a little more poignant in its commentary of the issues plaguing Starr, her family, and everyone affected by Khalil’s death. There was a surplus of dialogue throughout the novel, and I often felt as though there wasn’t enough commentary to match it.

The perfectly defined characters: Other than the great way this book delivers its message, the characters were my favorite part of this novel. Starr is incredibly relatable and realistic. Her vulnerability, anger, and sadness in such a situation is so well-expressed and it’s heartbreaking to imagine that so many other people her age have been similarly affected by such terrible acts. Her struggle to come to terms with what happened and how she plays a part in the grand scheme of things, as well as her courage and fierceness, are wonderfully realistic and uplifting. Amazingly, the side characters involved were equally three-dimensional. I adored Starr’s sincere and heartwarming immediate and extended family, from her tell-it-like-it-is Nana to her mischievous younger brother, Sekani.  I specifically admired Starr’s father, his history and personality was incredibly layered and well-defined, and the emotions and actions her presented spoke volumes. Even the minor characters like Mr. Lewis and Iesha were so full of life.

A multitude of emotion and range of messages: This book is based on the Black Lives Matter and it exemplifies all that it is perfectly. It has a special way of taking you inside this girl’s head and witness what is going on in the world right now, firsthand and up close. We experience Khalil’s murder right away, and many of the events taking place afterward are equally shocking, upsetting, and so real. There are even instances where Starr notices that the news of Khalil’s death has spread on Twitter and the internet in general, and how people are protesting everywhere, demanding justice. What’s amazing, is the fact that all the other social issues depicted in the novel are all equally well-developed. This book explores interracial couples, familial and cultural dynamics, and even the psychology and history behind all the violence and gang banging in Starr’s neighborhood. Thomas has exposed a range of topics with utter poise, but never shies away from honesty and rawness.

The only things I have to complain about would be the casual prose and the length of the novel. While the book certainly wasn’t boring, it seemed to drag a bit every now and then and I couldn’t pinpoint the direction. Other than that, the hype is very, very real. I would urge everyone to read this book right away, not only because it’s the ‘it’ book of right now, but because it expresses a range of social/political issues in an emotive, realistic, and inspiring way like no other.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

History Is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera || an emotional rollercoaster ride of love and finding oneself

25014114When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Just wanted to let y’all know that my AP exams are finally over, and I can freely get back to blogging now. While I’ve been away from M&B, I have indeed been reading, even if it’s slower than usual. Finding time to read during exam weeks may or may not be a good thing, but that’s beside the point. I’m back and I couldn’t have chosen a more difficult book to review. *sighs*

History Is All You Left Me is one of the most heartbreaking, intense, and dramatic books I’ve ever read. I can’t say it was a book perfectly fit for me, I struggled slightly with the writing throughout the novel. But, it is still an incredibly real and emotional read that not many can pull off. Adam Silvera is very, very talented. Speaking of Silvera, I’ve actually seen him in real life when I went to a book convention back in March with a friend, and he was openly speaking about his struggle with OCD in the mental health panel, which clearly connects to History Is All You Left Me. He seemed like a really nice guy, and I wish I had read this book back then, or at least his debut novel. Anyway, a little story time for you guys, since I rarely talk about my personal life lmao.

Let’s go into detail.

The beautiful writing that has me in a bind of sorts: The writing has me in a terrible bind. I struggled at first, because while Silvera conveys emotion effortlessly there is also a large paragraph following the major point which is overridden with details and repetition. There are a few gems of writing in these, but it’s unnecessary most of the time and quite boring. It actually reminded me of my own writing, which tends to dissect every little characteristic of a character or setting and repeat those dissections in different manners (which will probably happen soon in this review if it isn’t happening right now). But, the writing is gorgeous, really. It’s very consistent in its portrayals of heartbreak and confusion and sadness and every other feeling that is explored within the pages of this book. I found myself falling for Theo, dwelling in the aftermath of his death, and dealing with all the pain that came with it along with Griffin in this book, and it’s amazing how the effortlessness of the writing pulls you in so easily. There are anecdotes and musings and statements scattered all over this book that rip you apart with its honesty and rawness, and I do wish Silvera just stuck to keeping these throughout and not expanding on every little thing. Thankfully, while this aspect has me conflicted, it’s not too conflicted to make a large impact on the emotional capacity of the book.

Flawed, relatable, and heartbreaking character arcs: The book mainly follows four boys: Griffin, Theo, Jackson, and Wade. The all have different amounts of page time (obviously), but they have to be the most well-defined characters in the novel. The books is told from two time periods: one in the present during the aftermath of Theo’s death and the other detailing Griffin’s life when Theo was alive. I really like this aspect and it wasn’t confusing at all. It actually revealed much more about the characters in the story and had a huge influence on the amount of emotion explored in the book. The details of the complex relationships are slowly revealed over time and this makes the book that much more impactful. Surprisingly, while these boys all have their own flaws, drama, and frustration spilled over the pages, I loved all of them. I loved reading about Griffin’s recovery process and his painful path to finding out the truths about the people he loves. I could understand Jackson and Wade’s pain with coming to terms about themselves and the things they have experienced. Theo was only there half the time in the flashback period, but I could totally feel his essence and his personality without it being blown out of proportion or sensationalized in the present. These boys have gone through something most of us haven’t and will never want to go through, but I could so feel their grief and confusion over something so tragic they had never would have predicted.

The complicated yet honest relationships: There are so many relationships in this book, oh my god. It doesn’t seem that way initially, but as the details are revealed over time, it just blows you mind on how interconnected these boys are. Fortunately, while this relationship drama does create more entertainment and makes the story more engaging, it’s not solely characterized as ‘drama’ and actually has a purpose and reasoning behind it. Griffin and Theo’s love and friendship was so heartwarming and real, and Griffin and Jackson’s reluctant yet necessary meetings were so genuine and honest. Even Griffin and Wade were complicated in the best ways, and while I did think some of the events that took place were a little extra, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

History Is All You Left Me is one of those books that takes you a while to get into, but once you get into it, you are sucked into a universe that is melancholy and raw yet strangely enlightening. It’s not a book everyone will like, but if anyone’s looking for a powerful and honest LGBTQ story, look no further.

-Haven