Crazy by Amy Reed (367 pages)
Overview: Isabel and Conner were summer camp instructors who ran the craft shack in tandem. Through dealing with the bratty campers and going on adventures with the other staff members they form a friendship and begin to exchange emails after going back to their respective hometowns. This is a compilation of these emails along with written letters and a few action sequences. But it is mostly a story created from the back and forth of email communications. As they exchange more and more, Conner starts to notice that Isabel's behaviors and intense mood swings aren't within the range of normal. Though he is scared to take action due to how frigidly Isabel looks at her other family members who have tried to help her, he decides that it is severe enough to discuss it with his therapist mother. But is this enough to stop the disaster everyone believes is sure to come? Overall: 5
Characters: 5 Conner lives a quiet life with his therapist mother. He's well adjusted and has no serious issues to speak of. Maybe he's even a little boring, or at least his life is. Conner is originally drawn to Isabel for her larger than life presence and unique creativity, and he is an honest character in his devotion to her even when her struggles become obvious.
Isabel does appear larger than life at first, but there is much more under the surface than first appears. She's constantly restless either from the world seeming blank and meaningless or to accomplish a task to capture the bright. But these swings are too extreme. She's resistant to both receiving and asking for help because she sees it as admitting she's like her heroine addict brother. This is until she finally spirals completely out of control.
Plot: 5 This book is really a character study. The exchanged emails that comprise of most of the book create an interesting storyline allowing characters to share large, uninterrupted chunks about themselves in a logical way which lets the author create an understanding about the lead characters that is otherwise more difficult to attain. The only real action, or happening at the present time scenes, show important and pivotal moments that could not be captured in a more delayed format. This is not to say the book isn't a page turner. I was unable to put it down staying up into the wee hours of the night just to see what Isabel or Conner would say next.
Writing: 5 This is a special book. The writing is definitely a main contributor to this. The way Reed is able to develop characters is phenomenal. But beyond that, the writing made me feel something. The construction of it and the way she used words on the page made me unable to stop reading it, and, when I finished, I definitely wanted more. Also, I'm a sucker for books with diary entries, emails, or text messages. Always have and always will.
Firecracker by David Iserson (331 pages)
Overview: Astrid Krieger is going to public school. How could this happen to her in the final months of her senior year? Trust me, this isn't the classic story of rich parents falling out of riches causing life to come crashing down. No, Astrid did this to herself, well kinda. If she hadn't trusted the wrong people she would never have gotten expelled from her premier boarding school. So just as rich as ever with a home life just as normal, which is not at all, as usual, Astrid takes on the culture shock of public school while simultaneously working on getting herself back into Bristol. In this hilarious, entertaining story with great narration and writing, the reader comes to realize Astrid doesn't have everything as figured out as she thinks she does. Overall: 4.5
Characters: 5 I loved Astrid, which is a good thing because she's the only character that matters. This story goes so deep into Astrid and portraying her honestly that she's the only character that really matters. Everyone else is just an accessory. While Astrid is cynical and pretends not to care about anyone and could be deemed an unlikable character, her strong voice is exactly what made me love her and this book. Now, if you don't like her personality/ attitude, you won't like this book.
Plot: 5 Astrid is a force, and she has quite the reputation for her elaborate schemes and pranks. Of course, this promises to keep it interesting. With a very strong character piece work, the plot points serve to show things about her but also fosters one of the more believable character evolutions I've read.
Writing: 5 Wow. Just wow. I find when writing reviews having finished the book I either feel inclined to be harsher on a book than I initially thought I'd be, or I find myself sitting back in complete awe of what the author managed to do. Fortunately, this is a case of the latter. The author never once strays from telling the story through the thick goggles of the mind of Astrid. And she's not written to be likable or anything besides purely Astrid which is refreshing and allowed me to identify with her.
Also, the execution of character evolution in this book is phenomenal. Astrid is a very strong and stubborn character. She also knows of her flaws but is very happy with herself. This creates a very tough scenario for crafting a believable chain. But Iserson nails it by making sure to change one little, but important, switch instead of trying to smooth out all of Astrid's jagged edges, because those are what make up Astrid. This is a very unique twist on the rich girl must leave boarding school trope that's been done the same way so many times.