Skip to main content

Weekly Reviews and Recommendations: Week 17


Hello, everyone! It's now full on summer here, just after the Fourth of July, and this week I have a great beech read and one really thought provoking amazing book (but who says you can't read that on the beech?). I've been reading like crazy this summer and have been enjoying both my local independent bookstore and the amazing library here. I suggest you explore the libraries and bookstores in your area! 


It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (444 pages)
Overview: Craig suffers from clinical depression that appeared shortly after starting at prestigious  Executive Pre-Professional High School. He had worked all through his eighth grade year to study for the admissions test, and the day he got the results, a perfect 800 and an acceptance letter, was his last good day. As he starts to attend the school he realizes that he might not be cut out for the rigorous course work and intense pressure of the school. These feelings are only made worse by the effortless success of his classmates. This enacts a downward spiral as he feels he can't balance school work, his friendships, and the other problems in his life. This culminates with Craig deciding he wants to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. Luckily, he calls the Suicide Hotline and seeks help at a local hospital where he is thrown into the adult psychiatric floor despite being fifteen. There he meets plenty of interesting people all trying to cope with their own chemical imbalances. It is there, without the pressures of school, potential failure, and bad friends, that he starts to heal and form constructive relationships with his fellow patients that make him realize his will, and above that want, to live. This is a great and important book about confronting your problems and getting help when they become too much to handle alone. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 Craig's voice reminded me very much of a modern, and far less profane, Holden Caulfield. He had a blunt, matter of fact attitude and a tangible intelligence. He had a full understanding of his world and what the pieces of his world are. His time in the hospital only helps him grow this understanding and gives him strength to scale back his toxic friendships and remove himself from the situations that sent him over the edge. Craig has defiantly earned himself a place as a highly important character in YA literature.
The other characters in the story are also important and well developed. Each of the fellow patients serve and important purpose for Craig and his self discovery acting as mirrors for him to look in on himself while also playing roles such as comic relief or potential love interest which also serve as foils to characters that exist in Craig's outside world.

Plot: 5 This story is mainly a character driven book, not to say it is devoid of plot, but the plot isn't really the point. Each step is meant to show Craig take a step forward or back and is full of plenty of introspection and notable growth.

Writing: 5 In the first section (there are eight) I wasn't too sure about the writing or the voice of the character (especially concerning the speaker tag "was like"). As the story progressed it really flourished allowing readers to get into Craig's mind and identify with the stressors and pressure he is under. And I came to really enjoy the voice. Not only does this book give great insight into aspects of mental health and mental healthcare, it also shares important messages about the pressure that is put on teens about school and the future and the crippling effects that it can have on young people.


Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel (364 pages)
Overview: This light, easy, breezy beech read tells the story of sixteen year old Sarah, or Bean as her family calls her. The story opens with Sarah getting dumped by her boyfriend, best friend since kindergarten, and fellow science geek, Tucker. Tucker telling Sarah that all she does is watch the world (or more accurately the comment she's spent eleven months tracking as her science project for an elite high school scholarship), lights a fire under her, setting the tone for her summer. In an attempt to live life as vibrantly as her older sister Scarlett, Sarah takes to imitating everything from her outfits to her mannerisms to see if she can be popular like her older sister. When she catches the eye of near twenty year old Andrew, Sarah concocts the ultimate lie, that she's eighteen and starting at MIT, so not to loose his interest. They embark on a whirlwind summer romance that draws Sarah into the world and out of the lab, and she realizes that Andrew loves her for her and not her fake Scarlett impression. But with her sister's eminent return from Juliard orientation and the summer coming to a close, Sarah doesn't know how long she can keep her lie up, or how to tell the truth without ruining everything. Can Sarah salvage her relationships before they all crumble apart? Overall: 3.7

Characters: 4 Sarah is a likable, and, at times, relatable character. Her boyfriend Andrew also seems like a quality and realistic guy. While all of these characters lack a certain level of dimension despite the author's attempts at complexity, this light read doesn't really require much development beyond having enjoyable characters.

Plot: 4 This is really a summer beech read romance that follows Sarah through a summer on the cape balancing her secret relationship and newfound social life along with her family that can't grasp that she's evolving. It remained interesting, keeping me reading even through a lengthy, four hour sitting.

Writing: 3.5 It was light and easy to read. The writing felt a bit elementary in comparison to most YA books. It really is middle grade level prose with high school/ teenaged content which was not my favorite, but it was still, overall, a fun, quick summer read.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dumplin'

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (375 pages)
Overview: Willowdean "Dumplin'" is fat. It's something that she's come to accept about herself even after years of fad diets enforced by her mother and bullying at school. Aunt Lucy certainly helped with her self acceptance, and in cultivating her love of Dolly Parton, but Will is left rudderless after Lucy has a sudden heart attack. To reclaim a bit of confidence she'd lost, Will signs up for the Clover City Pageant. Though she's not the typical beauty queen, Will and her group of friends get to put their own stamp on her mother's beloved pageant. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 I like Willowdean. She lives in the place most of us do on the fine line between insecure and confident. Murphy does a great job building a crew of characters around Willowdean. It was fun to revisit the cast after I'd read Puddin', Murphy's forthcoming companion novel.

Plot: 4 While this book is mainly billed as being about a beaut…

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…

What If It's Us

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (448 pages)
Overview: Ben and Arthur meet at the post office during a flashmob. Well, Arthur followed Ben into the post office because he thought he was and, and, just as they started talking, in true form with Arthur's New York fantasy, a flash mob erupted. When the boys and split up, Arthur loses his chance at connecting with Ben, but when he can't stop thinking about him, he explores ways to reconnect even in a city of a million empty faces like New York. Even if they can find each other, with Arthur going back to Georgia at the end of the summer, will it even be worth it? Overall: 4/5

Characters: 4.5 I'm not sure what to say about the characters. I liked them enough, but I didn't feel any real attachment to any of them. I liked the cast of friends, but they all lacked a certain weight that would give them a stronger sense of reality. My favorite relationship in the book was the friendship between Dylan and Ben.…

Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Nice Try, Jane Sinner Lianne Oelke (420 pages)
Overview: Jane wants to forget the past. Forget the high school that expelled her. Forget the people that watched her fall from grace. Forget her family who thinks that prayer is the answer to everything. Facing community college at Elbow River as a last resort graduation option, she signs up to be on House of Orange, a new web reality show, to solve her housing problem. Though she knows to expect the unexpected, House of Orange and its inhabitants test Jane in ways she never imagined. Maybe the year won't be as bad as she imagined. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 I LOVE Jane. There are very few main characters I can say that I appreciated more. Her sarcasm, dry humor, and outlook on life echoed my own thoughts, and I loved how she was so introspective. It is fascinating to listen to Jane work through her own thoughts and recognize her behaviors as masks for other feelings. I also thought that Oelke did a wonderful job with her depiction of Ja…

Diving Into Difficult Topics with Books (Part 1)

The world is filled with a lot of negativity and difficult situations. It's also filled with awkward stuff, misunderstandings, and confusing transitions through life. A lot of times, people wish they could have do-overs of certain moments knowing what they learned after the experience. Sometimes it's for awareness, preparedness, or redemption. Regardless, no one has a time machine.
But we do have books. There's been a couple different moments lately that got me thinking about books, censorship, and how books really are a safe space too explore topics that are tough to discuss or process. From starting and graduating high school, leaving for college, navigating breakups (of the romantic and friendship varieties), or seeing different takes on how people think of sex, YA on its most basic level navigates some of the biggest moments of teen years that no one is ever prepared for.
Books offer a safe space to contemplate regular teen moments and more intense situations that see…

Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (306 pages) Buy At Your Local Bookstore*
Overview: It's just one elevator ride. Just one elevator ride to the rest of Will's life. Eight floors takes so long when you're headed to kill someone. Even in revenge. Even for justice. Even when your brother was just murdered. It's even longer when every stop brings someone who's left your life back in. There's so much to learn before Will hits the lobby. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Because of the atmosphere and the point of the story, we don't get super into the characters. They each represent a stop on a horrible cycle. It starts with Buck, Will's older brother, Shawn's, older brother figure. When Buck got killed, Shawn had to avenge his death, which got him killed. He also meets his Uncle Mark, an aspiring filmmaker who's death lead to Will's father's death because of the Rules. Each character doesn't exist to explore themselves or have their own motives- they…

Meet Me In Outer Space Review

Meet Me In Outer Space by Melinda Grace (262 pages) To Purchase from your Local Bookstore(Affiliate Link)
Overview: Eddie has an auditory processing disorder. Sometimes, she hears things that don't quite add up. Sometimes, she's able to piece together what is meant, and, others, she asks people to repeat themselves. This works well enough regularly, but, in French 102, it might keep her from her dreams. Eddie needs the language credits to graduate; she needs the French language if she wants to make it in France, the capital in fashion. She fully expects to fail French 102, but she doesn't expect to fall for the TA. Sometimes, though, life defies expectations. Overall: 4.5 

Characters: 4 Eddie is a highly relatable character. She's driven and willing to work doubly hard to overcome a system that actively works against her. She also knows what her dream is and how to get it. Spending the summer and fall semester of her junior year in Paris would allow her to step toward he…

Tell Me How You Really Feel

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
Overview: Sana and Rachel hate each other. After a bad encounter freshman year and a misunderstanding that followed, the two have been at odds in their two separate worlds. When the two collide on the school field, Sana and Rachel are pulled together to make it right by Sana staring in Rachel's movie. While the two struggle with their futures, they find interesting allies in each other. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 I really loved both Rachel and Sana's characters. Sana feels the need to be perfect to make her mother and grandparents proud. She has to bear the weight of intense expectations on her shoulders, and as senior year comes to an end, she finally feels the need to break out of her box and start living for herself.
Rachel feels the need to be perfect because she's at her fancy private school on scholarship, she needs to earn money to go to college, and she wants to prove that she belongs with the rich kids. Her chip on her s…

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…

The Second Life of Ava Rivers

The Second Life of Ava Rivers by Faith Gardner Overview: The Rivers family has been lost for twelve years. Vera has been missing a twin. Her parents lost a daughter. Then, one day, there's a breakthrough. Ava is at a hospital an hour away, and their lives have been forever changed. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 The characters in the book are all interesting and quite complex. I really liked Vera and her very honest inner conflicts about her family's situation. She loses a lot of her life when Ava suddenly comes back into the picture. She's been in Ava's shadow her entire life, and no one knows what to do when Ava comes back.  Her parents and brother are also strongly featured as they fall apart and cope in their own ways. It makes it clear just how impactful events like these are on people who are not directly seen as the "victims". 
Plot: 4 This isn't a fast paced story. There are some wow reveals, but, overall, it is much more about the fallout to each twist th…