Skip to main content

Izzy and Tristan Review


Izzy + Tristan by. Shannon Dunlap (324 pages)
Overview: Izzy and Tristan have a love story. When Izzy's family renovates a moves into a new house on a Brooklyn block their lives change. Her twin brother Hull almost immediately gets into a fight, pulling a knife on some neighborhood kids after a gambling chess match goes wrong. Izzy falls for Tristan, the boy who won Hull's match. With Hull away at a rehabilitation center, Izzy and Tristan are free to fall for each other until Marcus decides that he wants to take revenge on Hull by dating his sister. And even when that battle is overcome, police brutality draws a permanent line between the couple. Overall: 2

*Okay, I'm not really sure how to write a spoiler free review of this because the shocker ending is what I take the most issue with. I'll keep it spoiler free in the characters and plot section, but I will talk about the ending in the writing section. I still recommend you read it, even if you plan on reading the book, because if I'd been aware of how some of the later elements were handled, I would have skipped this one.*

Characters: 4 I do like Izzy and Tristan, and I do have to applaud Dunlap for making her characters voices so unique. Over the course of the book, there are three narrators: Izzy, Tristan, and Brianna. Their chapters are labeled Queen, Knight, and Rook (I was surprised when Brianna's chapter showed up and it took me a while to figure out who was talking so I thought I'd make it clear here because she's not a main character).
Izzy is from the Lower East Side and her hippie-esque parents decide that they need to move to Brooklyn to be where it's trendy and up and coming. She's happy to go along with it, even when her twin brother isn't. She wants to be a doctor and is smart and curious. I enjoyed her point of view for much of the book.
Tristan is very sweet. He lives with his aunt who is still very connected to her family in Trinidad . They have a nice bond with each other. He's also one of the best chess players in the city. Wanting to fit in to the neighborhood does lead him to make some questionable, and even dangerous, choices though.
Ultimately, I think Brianna was my favorite character. I'm not sure what she really has to do with the story, and especially why she was chosen as a narrator, but she's a super interesting person. She's lived in the neighborhood her whole life and works at her family's restaurant, but she's also very in to astrology and tarot reading, which I found really interesting.
Marcus isn't a narrator, but he is a central character. He's like the ringleader of the street, and he's always doing something kinda sketchy, though he rarely gets in trouble. Tristan is his cousin, and they're close until Izzy comes along. But when Marcus starts to mistreat and objectify Izzy and Tristan starts to date her, Marcus becomes dangerous to the couple.

Plot: 3 Since I'm not giving spoilers, I'll keep my comments here to the first 2/3 of the book. I think this is the only novel I've picked up that I've loved the first 50 pages and then felt like the rug was pulled out from under me for the rest. The story set up in the beginning is not followed through on. Marcus goes from a good guy doing bad things to a terrifying villain after a single punch. His storyline, going after Izzy romantically to get back at Hull, is disturbing and doesn't serve the story, but the way that they suddenly decide he's really dangerous is a little bazar.
I had to reread the description on the book flap afterwards to make sure I didn't miss something. Nope. The flap copy (and the cover artwork) sell this as a cute neighbor romance between a smart girl and a geeky, chess playing guy. They say it's a love story for the ages. Really, it's a lot of unprovable, unearned, and uncalled for situations that culminates in the reader feeling mislead and a little unnerved about how some serious topics were handled.

Writing: 2 Okay, I said there'd be spoilers here and there will be, so if you don't want that, stop reading now. Otherwise, here we go. The main thing that you need to know to get everything below is that Tristan is shot and killed during a protest against police brutality with some friends at his other school. This happens twenty pages from the end and really comes across like a throwaway event to make it a tragic love story where somebody dies. Books that deal with racial discrimination and police brutality are so important, and there are so many amazing ones (The Hate You Give, Dear Martin...) that this incident that was written like a throw away plot twist left a bad taste in my mouth. The incident is barely discussed beyond saying that the officer claimed he had his taser out, but it turned out to be his revolver (what?). This is never explained further. Then, if it could get worse, there's an epilogue set three years later where Izzy is in a mental hospital, totally destroyed where she says she'll be, languishing, for the rest of her life because she'll never get over Tristan.
I understand grief and getting help and working through traumatic events, but there was no build to this. She was a perfectly healthy person before. To have the death of her boyfriend entirely end her life at 17... It doesn't make your love story more romantic or compelling. That's for sure. She was going to live such a promising life, and the author decides to take that away from her too. Exploiting severe grief and mental illness to make your story more "romantic" or something is disgusting, and I have to wonder how so many people were cool with that now.
Also, just logistically, it's revealed that's she's written (and rewritten) the book as a proposed therapy, but how is there three points of view, all in distinct voices?
I was so confused when Tristan died because he'd been narrating in the reflective past tense up to that point. Did she only write her chapters and Tristan posthumously contributed and Brianna sent pages from grad school?
I feel like Dunlap wrote three different books throughout the novel and only the first one made the summary. The odd turn with Marcus made it go from an interesting story about an interracial couple falling in love in Brooklyn and exploring each other's worlds to a weird star crossed lovers situation. Until the last 20ish pages, I was going to give the book four stars, but the ending... It made all the other small, off color moments in the novel come together to make a not so pretty picture. I wish she hadn't ended it this way. I wish she had instead delivered her promise of a love story for the ages.
If you want a tragic romance or epic love, read something written with more care like All The Bright Places. If you want a love for the ages read Eliza and Her Monsters or a romance in New York, What If It's Us. And for books that handle police brutality with sensitivity and an expert hand look to The Hate U Give and Dear Martin where the tragedy and horrible effects are properly explored and respected. Don't let the pretty cover and interesting flap copy fool you.

Alternative Books...
All The Bright Places: Review Here
Eliza and Her Monsters: Review Here
What If It's Us: Review Here
The Hate U Give: Review Here
Dear Martin: Review Here

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…

Planes, Trains, and... Books

It's almost holiday time, and that means traveling for a lot of people. Since I'm leaving this weekend to go visit family for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd make a list of books for you guys that'll be perfect reads while you're flying, waiting in the airport, or hiding from relatives. If you're taking a car trip, check out the audiobook versions. Or, I guess, if you're fortunate enough to be able to read in the car, do that. I can't even look at Instagram without getting carsick.
So, without further ado, here's my list of perfect travel books that are lighthearted, page turning, or perfect escapes. I'll link to my reviews of each of the books so that you can read my full thoughts on each of the books.
Crying Laughing  by Lance Rubin I picked a lot of funny books for this list because they're my favorites to read while traveling. Even when books cross into difficult subject matter, the tone can keep a book perfectly poised as a light read. I lov…

The Reading, Writing, and Me Book Awards 2019

I read so many amazing books this year. Tons of debuts, tons of 2019 arrivals, but also ton of backlist books. I've made a list of my favorite books every year I've had the blog at the end of the year, and I always make the list full of superlatives, giving each book a specific award. I always struggle, though, with my top of 20-whatever list with not being able to honor backlist books that I didn't discover until this year. I want to scream about books I didn't know about when they were brand new, so this year we're going to do things a little differently. This year, for my named awards, I'm going to include both new and backlist books. The only rule is that I had to read them in 2019 or after the 2018 list came out. But I do want to honor this year specifically, so I will be taking ten books from this list and in the next week unveil my Top 10 of 2019. This will allow me to celebrate more books than ever. Carrying on from last year's tradition, I'm k…

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.…

Heroine

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis (417 pages) To Purchase From Your Local Bookstore (Affiliate Link)
TW: Depiction of opioid addiction 
Overview: Mickey has it all. She's on the best softball team in the county, she has a supportive best friend, and, even though her parents have recently gone through a divorce, they both want to support her. And then she and Carolina get into a car accident on the way home to watch Netflix and eat pizza, a regular Friday night. Mickey's leg is all but torn out of her body, and her hip has to be put together with screws. Carolina, the school's near famous pitcher, nearly destroys her arm. As the girls fight to be ready in time to play their senior softball season, Mickey falls down a dangerous road, slowly upping her intake of pain pills to get through the day and to quicken her pace through physical therapy. Even as she tells herself that it's just for softball, just for her team, just for her parents, as she gets further in and her dependency i…

The Cheerleaders

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (372 pages)
Overview: Five years ago, five cheerleaders on the same high school squad died in three separate incidents, but how separate were they? That's what Monica wants to know. Her sister, Jen, was the last teen to die in the tragedy when she died by suicide, but Monica isn't convinced it was simply survivors guilt at play. She's also not convinced that Jack Canning was truly at fault for two girls murders or that the car accident that took the final two girls was really an accident. With an unlikely friend by her side, Monica sets out to dig up the truth about what really happened to those five girls even if it jeopardizes her own life. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I loved Monica's voice. Even though it's told in third person, her character really shined through. Despite making some poor choices and putting herself in dangerous situations, she does strive to do what she thinks will bring truth or justice. Ginny, a girl she connects…

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…

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…

Spotlight Review: All of This Is True: A Novel

All Of This Is True: A Novel by Lygia Day Peñaflor (May 15)
Overview: When bestselling author Fatima Ro's new book hits the shelves, of course her biggest (and best) fans are going to want to read it... until they realize its the thinly veiled story of the past few months of their lives complete with details that got their best friend Jonah beat into a coma. In the media frenzy that follows, the girls each take their turn at telling their own sides of the story. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 Peñaflor has written quite the cast to fill her larger than life story, and they all play their roles perfectly. We probably get to know famed author Fatima Ro best, even though we never get to really see her side of the story beyond excerpts from her second novel. But the girls work together to shape the image of the young, intelligent, open minded author who welcomed them into their lives with accuracy. By the end of the novel, the reader realizes they would have fallen for Fatima's tricks too.

Crying Laughing Review

Crying Laughing by Lance Rubin
Overview: Winnie's life exists for laughs. Her dad is a former wannabe comedian, so he's never quit making jokes around the house. They're super close as he quit his career to stay home with her. She's taken on his love for comedy and has tried stand up, but she's never going back to that again. Now she's in the school's improv troupe, trying her hand at another form of comedy. She forms a closer group of friends and meets new people form it. It's also a good distraction from her dad's increasing health issues as he drops new things and starts falling. As her dad comes to terms with his ALS diagnosis, Winnie doesn't know how to respond to a world that's both full of joy and sadness. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 4 Winnie is super sweet and very interesting. She wants to be funny so badly. Sometimes, she succeeds and is very funny, but sometimes she falls flat on her face. She knows that every joke doesn't work, bu…