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

Pride

Pride by Ibi Zoboi (September 18)
Overview: Though it's billed as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, this story is all its own. Zuri is a proud citizen of Bushwick. She loves her family, her neighbors, and the character that surrounds her. She and her many sisters have spent months speculating about who is moving into the renovated home across the street. They don't expect Darius and Ainsley Darcy, wealthy, private school boys that don't fit with the vibe of the neighborhood. Despite their differences, Darius and Zuri grow closer, and between dealing with her sisters and mounting college applications, they find a spark that might be too hot to ignore. Overall: 4 

Characters: 5 The characters are very well formed. Probably because they are so steeped in the vivid world Zoboi paints, we feel their essence from the very first page. From the refined Darcy twins to the chaotic group of four sisters all cooped up in one bedroom, the people in Zuri's world help us learn about …

Radio Silence

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (496 pages)
Overview: Frances has always known her across the street neighbor Aled Last in the periphery. He was Carry Last's sister until she disappeared. Now he's head boy Daniel's best friend. When she and Aled are thrust together on a drunken train ride home, Frances learns she's a lot closer to Aled than she thought. He's the mysterious creator of her favorite narrative podcast, Universe City. But when his identity surfaces on the internet in connection to Universe City, it all starts to fall apart for their friendship, and  Aled's life. Overall: 5

Character: 5 Frances, Aled, and Daniel are all extremely real people. France lives her life caught up on the dream of getting into Cambridge. If it's not helping her admissions prospects, she's not doing it- unless it's under a pen name and involving Universe City fan art. Over the course of the book, she realizes that the Frances in her head that she projects and the Fran…

One of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (360 pages)
Overview: Five kids are in detention. Only four come out alive, and they become the prime suspects of the most botched police investigation ever. They're the beauty, the jock, the brains, and the slacker. They barely know each other, but they're all tied together in one way or another to Simon, the school gossip leader with a severe peanut allergy. When all their secrets come out, the police investigation become the least of their worries. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I loved McManus's cast. We get to see prospective from all three of them which is a nice touch. Each of them are a take on a classic stereotype. While they fulfill almost all of the regular archetypes, she makes them deeper, more human and relatable. I particularly loved Browneyn and Nate who are in the classic good girl/bad boy relationship, but somehow she makes it cute and irresistible not tired and cliche. I also loved the sister relationships that get explor…

Spotlight Review: Heretics Anonymous

Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (August 7)
Overview: Micheal has moved four times in ten years. This time, the move has landed him at a prestigious Catholic school instead of the local public school. This does not go well with his atheist beliefs. On his first day, he meets Lucy, an outspoken Catholic girl who's frustrated that she can't change anything about the flaws she sees in the church she loves. She introduces him to the underground club, Heretics Anonymous where students of other faiths come to vent about the unfair policies of the school. Spurred into action by Micheal's fire, the atheist, gay, Jewish boy, pagan girl, Unitarian boy, and Catholic leader make changes in the school that no one will forget. Overall: 5+++

Characters: 5 This book carries a deeply complex narrative that is driven by the amazing detail put into each characters. One of the great tenants of writing is understanding that every character has their own wants and motivations. This is one of the…

Spotlight Review: 500 Words or Less

500 Words or Less by Juleah de Rosario (384 pages)
Overview: Nic Chen is not whole. Starting senior year, she's a fragment of parts she doesn't know how to reconcile. She's at the top of her class. She's Kitty's best friend. But she's also the girl with "whore" written in bright orange lipstick across her locker. Who's missing her boyfriend. And her childhood best friend who's abandoned her. It isn't until she's tasted with writing everyone else's college essays that she starts to piece together who she really is. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 I loved Nic. She sees the world in an interesting and beautiful way. She's critical and analytical, but she is also full of longing and emotional connection. She challenges the double standard and inequality. She questions the people around her and how they've changed- how some have been allowed by the world to change more than others.
The parsing of the parental relationships is also intere…

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.…

Warcross

Warcross by Marie Lu
Overview: Emika is a bounty hunter with $13 to her name and an eviction notice on her door. Then she's the hacker girl who glitched into Warcross. And then she becomes Hideo's personal bounty hunter who stands to win ten million dollars. Emika's life has changed a lot, and it only gets more complicated as she gets deeper and deeper into the world of Henka Games. Overall: 4 

Characters: 5 Okay, it's hard to go into this much without getting spoiler-ey, but I'll be vague. First off, I loved Emika. She's a great main character with the right amount of sensibility and emotion. What was really impressive though, was how Marie Lu plays with character evolutions. At the end of the book, there will be a moment where you put the book down and go wow at how Marie is able to twist shades of good and evil making us think about the grey.

Plot: 4 I finished this book in a few days thanks to its fast pace and urgency. While some of the game descriptions were…

Into YA Interview: Eric Smith

Today I have an extra awesome post for all of you! As part of my new series, Into YA focused on giving you a look into what goes on before the book gets into your hands, I'm talking to rockstar agent Eric Smith (who is also an author himself)! If you don't follow him on Twitter over at @ericsmithrocks, then you should be. He has one of the best Twitter accounts.

1. How did you decide to become a literary agent?
I'd been working in publishing for a number of years, at Quirk Books, an indie publisher in Philadelphia known for books like Pride & Prejudice & Zombiesand Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, when I decided it was time to really focus on books that I wanted to work on. I loved everything we did at Quirk, but I wanted to focus on more Young Adult books, as well as the kind of literary fiction I loved. So... along came my colleagues at P.S. Literary, and it's been a happy place for the past three years. 
2. Like me, many of my readers are author…

Why I Write Mostly Positive Reviews (Also Why It's Okay To DNF a Book)

You may or may not have noticed, but the reviews I post on the site have shifted a lot in the last few months. The average star rating of books I post about has shifted from a 3 to a 4, and the reviews are overwhelmingly more positive. I have lots of standout books, and 5 stars are no longer a rare occurrence like they were before.
This isn't because I've gotten less critical or careful with my reading and ranking. I still want to give the most honest content and only pair people with books I love. It's happened because I don't read books I'm not enjoying anymore. While I used to feel obligated to finish every book I picked up, I no longer feel tied to that seeming "reader rule."
I used to figure I had to give books at least to thirty or fifty percent or just barrel all the way through. This made me only pick books I was sure I would love. Even with that test, you can't know whether you'll like the voice or the writing.
It took school getting bus…

The Lake Effect

The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan (391 pages)
Overview: Lake Michigan is beautiful. That's why the town of South Haven draws so many tourists, or in this case, seasonal workers. Briggs gets the chance to return to the lake for a summer to work for an old woman looking for live in summer help. Though the lake promises beautiful days and abundant fun, it also opens him up to many new worlds. That of his Serbian employer oozing with spunk, the unintentionally mysterious girl next door, Abigail, and the whole crew of townies who fill his afternoons with beach volleyball. The time away also offers a fresh prospective on the family he left behind and his future priorities. Though he knew about the weather, the Lake Effect was something much greater than he anticipated. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 Wow. So, I have to  say that when the book started, I was fine with Briggs but nothing special. He was the kind of guy who came from a somewhat privileged background that was a machine towards wealth …