Skip to main content

Weekly Reviews and Recommendations: Week 15


Hello, everyone! This week I read two awesome books both by authors I absolutely love. I've gotten a ton of reading done recently that I am so excited to share with everyone. In the coming weeks, expect to see a few more articles featuring John Green books, though I promise not to inundate you. He really is a quality author which was why I was so excited to discover that he has a new book coming out October 10 called Turtles All The Way Down which I can't wait to get my hands on. I also wanted to spotlight his amazing website johngreenbooks.com which features the most detailed Q&A section I've ever seen for each of his books. In regards to Jennifer Niven, our other wonderful author this week, check out her other book All The Bright Places (My all time favorite book) and her author website as well as the online literary magazine she started (germmagazine.com and http://www.jenniferniven.com). 


Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven (391 pages)
Overview: Told from the alternating perspectives of Jack and Libby, this is the story of two teens, who both have their own challenges, facing high school. Libby was once America's Fattest Teen, and though she has come a long way from being immobile and homebound at the peak of her struggle after her mother's death, she still is overweight. Of course, at her small town Indiana high school, she gets bullied for this just as she did before she started homeschooling. While Libby rejoins the masses for her junior year, Jack is entering his senior year in the same haze he's lived in since he was six. Suffering from prosopagnosia, Jack doesn't recognize anyone; his friends, his girlfriend, even his family. Instead of sharing this, Jack works to hide it which he does effectively thanks to his natural charm and swagger. When an unfortunate incident prodded by Jack's popular friends causes the two to meet, things start to change for them. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 4.5 I thought that Libby and Jack were quality characters with layers and complexity. The supporting cast also carried their weight throughout the novel. Libby wants to show the world how to be kind and make a difference toward positive change after years of enduring hate. Her bubbly, energetic personality has come back to her again, and she is determined to never let it falter. She is so sure in her skin that nothing can really touch her anymore.
Jack, on the other hand, has the appearance of being self assured and smooth, but it's really only a mix of natural swagger and survival skills as he walks through life unable to place people in his memory. He does a good job of trying to mask it while he deals with the other crumbling parts of his life (his little brother being the constant bullying target, his father overcoming cancer only to cheat on his mother, and his parents eminent separation). And he does his best all the time though no one notices or praises his for it because all they see are the mistakes that are totally out of Jack's control.

Plot: 5 The plot is where this book shines. I couldn't stop turning the pages making every time I sat down to read a few pages into an hour long session. Niven knows how to keep the reader engaged and ready to devour whatever lies ahead.

Writing: 5 Niven is most definitely doing what she was born to do. She has an undeniable talent that makes any book she pens special. Her quick chapters kept me engaged and never made me feel burdened by long bouts of reading. The words on the pages feel light and easy to read in the best way. This story is defiantly lighter and more hopeful than All The Brightest Places. It is a quality read that should make any YA lovers TBR list. It simply didn't make the five star mark because I didn't connect or identify with these characters as I did Finch and Violet; though I see that as a positive thing for two reasons. First, it means that Jennifer did something very different with a book in the same genre and format as her last one which show artistic verity and capability and guarantees each of her books will be unique. Second, I know that there are defiantly people out there who will identify strongly with Libby and Jack just as I did Finch and Violet, and that is very important.



An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (215 pages)
Overview: Colin has always been smart. Very smart; a child prodigy actually. And even though he never had many friends, Colin was content with his life. But the problem comes to exist that ever since he graduated high school, Colin isn't a child anymore. Unable to make the jump to genius, Colin is floundering with what to do with himself; how to define himself when his strength in memory and anagramming no longer makes him special. How will he matter one day? which is a question Colin always asks himself. The only other stark defining point of himself, dating exclusively Katherines (and only Katherines with a K), hasn't worked out so well either. On the heels of getting dumped by Katherine #19, Colin and his only friend Hassan decide to take a road trip ending up in the tiny, nowhere town of Gutshot, Tennessee where they find summer jobs collecting oral histories for the lady who essentially owns the town. While there, Colin has what he thinks is his Eurika! moment when he sets out to make an equation that could chart the fate of any relationship. Is this what Colin needs to matter? Is being an ex-child-genuis all Colin will ever amount to? And will he ever find a Katherine who doesn't dump him? All of these questions and more are answered over the course of John Green's awesome novel An Abundance of Katherines. Overall: 4.7

Characters: 5 I loved the characters in this book as well as how fully explored the cast is. The main character, Colin, has an identity crisis on his hands. Always having one label his whole life and living with the fear that he can't live up to it or continue to hold it is a facet of his personality I identified with. Colin's growth comes in stepping outside of his bubble and delving into the deeper parts of his personality beyond the obvious, and he needs a setting and people so far from the norm to do that. He has to figure out what he actually likes beyond what the world told him he is.
Hassan has always shied away from commitment. He's been fine with letting his parents take care of him. At the start of the book he has no ambition to go to college or do much of anything with his life aside from sitting on the couch and watching Judge Judy all day. Working and living in Gunshot for the summer also pushes Hassan out of his little bubble as well. Some of Colin's intense want to matter starts to rub off on him in a positive way allowing Hassan to start taking the first tentative steps toward maturity.
Then there is Lindsey, daughter of the town factory owner, seemingly beloved by all. Lindsey went from ugly and picked on to unique and uncaring, and then, in high school, she finally succumbed to the need to be liked, to be popular. Nothing Lindsey does is because she enjoys it. None of her personalities are real. She knows how to play the game to be liked by whoever she's with, and she puts on those faces accordingly. Colin and Hassan are her catalysts for returning to that point of honesty with herself.

Plot: 4.5 I thought that it was a great story that served the plot. The elements of the story matched what was necessary for character growth.The story was entertaining and kept me turning the pages.

Writing: 5 I always love John Green's writing probably because his narrators are always so amazing. This book is written in third person, a trait which often bugs me when reading books. That is not the case here. I believe that is because the narrator has a voice of his own that really comes through in a way that expertly sets the tone and works to make the book so much better. Now if the character development wasn't there, this would irritate me, but each and every main character is so well developed this narrator felt like the icing on the cake.
Also, this book contains a sprinkling of footnotes (something I recently encountered in another book I read, thought the execution here is far better). They always made me laugh out loud and were never confusing to the actual story. It's no wonder John Green is such a popular author. I have always found his writing to be solid, never imposing, and always enjoyable.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Top Reads of 2018

This year's best of 2018 list has tons of new categories to fit all of the amazing books I read this year. I've had the chance to read so many advanced books and recent releases, so most of what I read were books that came out in 2018. I mostly choose contemporary, so I've started with my favorite debut as well as the best books in other genres I've ventured into. After that, I have smaller categories in the contemporary genre. I hope you find new books to love and give to your friends and family for the holidays. If you're interested in learning more about the books on the list, click their titles to go to my reviews. Let me know if these are some of your favorites in the comments, and tell me your favorite books!
Best In Genre Top Debut
Nothing Left To Burn by Heather Ezell Nothing Left To Burn gave me the craziest book hangover. I was so immersed in the story, and I couldn't stop reading to do anything that I actually needed to be doing. There is a toxic relat…

Dear Martin

Dear Martin by Nic Stone (210 pages)
Overview: When Justyce is put in handcuffs after trying to get his drunk ex-girlfriend home safely, his world is shaken. He knows that being African American means that some will look at him differently, but it's never been so terrifying or... personal. He tries to sort his out with the help of his friends, teachers, and by writing letters to Martin Luther King asking for advice. Right when he's finding his footing at school again, he and his best friend Manny are shot in a traffic altercation with a white, off duty cop. Justyce never thought that some loud music would put him in a sling and deprive his best friend of the rest of his life. Overall: 4.5 

Characters: 4.5 Justyce is an awesome POV character. He's very introspective and into understanding the many layers that make up his views of the world. He grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood and was well aware of gang violence, but since getting a scholarship to a private boarding …

Truly Devious

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (420 pages)
Overview: There was a murder in 1936. Not just a murder, but a kidnapping and a double homicide. One victim was a student at the elite boarding school on a mountain, Ellingham Academy. One was the wife of the school's illustrious billionaire founder, Albert Ellingham. The second kidnapping victim who is still missing is his daughter. Despite the cold case and the lingering fear of the Truly Devious who sent a poem foretelling the murder a few days before, the school continued to attract the best and the brightest with the allure of a free, prestigious boarding school.
Stevie's dream is realized when she gets accepted to pursue a criminology curriculum tailored to her because her main case of interest took place on the very grounds she's moving to. Though her original mission was to solve the Ellingham cold case, when a student mysteriously dies on campus, her attention is shifted. Did Truly Devious strike again? Overall: 4 

Charac…

Eliza and Her Monsters

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (385 pages)
Overview: Eliza is regarded as a freak at school. Sweatpants and oversized clothes with her lanky frame must mean she's dangerous. Kids avoid her like the plague, and that's fine because that's who Eliza Mirk is. Even Eliza Mirk doesn't like being Eliza Mirk, but she loves being LadyConstellation, beloved creator of the online webcomic Monstrous Sea. No one knows LadyConstellations real identity (not for lack of trying) and the online world and fandoms gives Eliza a chance to be the invincible person she can't be in real life. And then Wallace transfers into school, and he's a Monstrous Sea fan. Though weary at first, Eliza hides her identity as she bonds with Wallace and realizes that the world outside of her screen might not be as poisonous as she believed. But with each day, the truth creeps closer and closer to the surface, and disaster strikes when it comes out. Overall: 5+++++++++ (I'm still so in …

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett (417 pages)
Overview: Glamping should not include getting stranded in the middle of the woods with your ex-best friend. But life doesn't always go as it's supposed to. When Zorie agrees to go with her friend Regan and her crew on a summer camping trip, she doesn't know Lennon will be there, and she's certainly not expecting the group to abandon the two of them in the middle of the California wilderness, forced to complete a multi day track back to civilization. It turns out, though, that an adventure in the woods might be just what they need. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I thought that all of the characters, including the adults, were given dimension. I loved the parental dynamic between Lennon and his moms as well as Zorie's relationship with her step mom who never considered Zorie less than her own daughter.
Lennon and Zorie are also awesome characters. Zorie has to battle her intense anxiety and relinquish control while she's stuck in…

Amy And Roger's Epic Detour

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (2010)
Overview: Amy needs to get the family car from California to Connecticut where her mom has moved. The only problem is that she doesn't drive. Enter Roger, a forgotten neighbor and childhood friend who needs to get to Philadelphia. With him behind the wheel, and Amy in the navigator seat, they begin their cross country journey that turns out to carry a few extra twists and turns. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 I enjoyed Amy and Roger. They balanced each other well and created an interesting dynamic to fill the long stretches of empty roads. Roger's ex-girlfirend and Amy's family add extra dimension to their journey.

Plot: 4 In the most indirect way, Amy and Roger weave their way across the country. They experience bits of culture, new fast food, and awkward hotel situations that fill the pages with laughs and thoughtful moments. Though it was a bit long, for the most part, it kept me entertained.

Writing: 4 The writing didn'…

What I Want to See More of In YA

As the year comes to a close, I'm reflecting on the books that I read (and loved) this year, and I'm eagerly putting my TBR together for the next. In the coming weeks, I'll be posting about my favorite books of the year, what I'm looking for next year, and a deeper look into some of the statistics behind my reading. While I've been working on those posts, though, I've seen trends in books that I'm drawn to and underrepresented areas in YA that I want to see more of. This post is my ultimate future wish list as well as a call for other readers to speak out about the kinds of books they want to see represented more on the book shelves. Let me know in the comments if some of these are on your list, or if there's other books you want to see!

College YA I'm starting off with my main wish. I absolutely love YA set in college, and there's absolutely not enough of it. Publishers seem to be scared of venturing that murky space after the summer before fre…

Little White Lies

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (390 pages)
Overview: Sawyer Taft is not a debutant... yet. For now, she works at a car garage making money to keep her and her mom afloat as runs off with new guys she meets at the bar. It's the only life she's known, and she wouldn't have it any other way. And then Lillian Taft walks through the front door, uninvited and announced, contract in hand. Lillian is her estranged grandmother who she's barely heard anything about, and she gives Sawyer a chance she can't refuse: Come live with her for nine months to complete a debutant year in exchange for half a million dollars toward her education. Overall: 4.5 

Characters: 4.5 I loved Sawyer. She's sarcastic and blunt. She can't take anything in her new, rich, Southern world seriously, and so she provides the setting both with a Mars like feeling and one of a grounded world. Sawyer meets her new family including true matriarch, Lillian Taft, her aunt, Olivia, her uncle, …

Ultimate Halloween Book List

At the beginning of October, I unconsciously started reading murder-thriller books. It started with finally reading One of Us Is Lying and then I went to Lauren Oliver's book event for her new book, Broken Things, so I decided I would pick up a few more to read on the many plane rides I've taken recently and make a list for you. I've ranked them by the books I enjoyed most, but I'm also throwing a scariness ranking below too.

1. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
I loved The Cheerleaders. Even if I wasn't narrowing this to just thrillers, this would still be up there. While there's no immediate threat, there's still a sinister feeling five years after five cheerleaders die in a year in three accidents. One of the girl's sister, who investigates, also has a complicated life of her own. Thomas did an awesome job of sprinkling the mystery clues and bringing us a story through such a strong voice. Here's my full Review Here (4.5 stars overall, 2 scare fact…

Neverworld Wake

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl (327 pages)
Overview: When Beatrice goes back to Wincroft to meet up with her four former best friends for the first time since their sixth member, and her boyfriend's death, something nearly unexplainable happens. They wake up from a car accident to find that they're repeating the same day over and over. At first, they struggle to understand their fate, but after a few wakes, they realize that they must use this time to discover what really happened when Jim died if they ever want to break the wake. The answer to the question will reveal who will get the groups unanimous vote to be the lone survivor of the Neverworld. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Each character was interesting with their own quirks and distinct personalities. They filled out to requisition parts of any good, dynamic group. It's unfortunate that each of these characters didn't really have a huge chance to be explored. The setting of the Neverworld was the main character in t…