Posts Categorized: Young Adult

ARC Review: 26 Kisses

August 7, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

ARC Review: 26 Kisses26 Kisses by Anna Michels
Published by Simon Pulse on May 24th 2016
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
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three-stars

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Kasie West meets Morgan Matson in this hilarious and heartwarming debut about a girl’s summer mission to get over her ex-boyfriend by kissing her way through the alphabet.
Getting dumped by her boyfriend is not how Veda planned on starting her summer. When Mark makes it clear that it’s over between them, Veda is heartbroken and humiliated—but, more importantly, she’s inspired. So she sets out on the love quest of a lifetime: use the summer to forget about Mark, to move on, and move up. All she has to do is kiss twenty-six boys with twenty-six different names—one for each letter of the alphabet.
From the top of the Ferris wheel at her hometown carnival to the sandy dunes of Lake Michigan, Veda takes every opportunity she can to add kisses (and boys) to her list, and soon the break-up doesn’t sting quite as much. But just when Veda thinks she has the whole kissing thing figured out, she meets someone who turns her world upside down.

This was a book that was extremely difficult for me to rate. I found myself constantly going back and forth between a three or a four rating, but ultimately decided to go with a three. This was a really fast paced and cute contemporary read, but it lacked some important things for me as well. The concept is definitely a unique one that I did enjoy, the execution just wasn’t totally what I was expecting. I recommend this one if you’re looking for a summer romance that is relatively on the light side, though not lacking in drama.

26 kisses focuses on Veda, who is going into her senior year of high school, and is completely blindsided when her longtime boyfriend dumps her. This forces her to decide who she wants to be without him, and how she should spend her first summer in a long time as a single girl. I think that Veda was a pretty interesting character, though she didn’t really standout all that much to me as a whole. One thing that I had a major problem with is how she didn’t seem to totally defend the slut shaming that was happening due to her kissing boys. She basically said that though it was no one’s business what she was doing, she was definitely concerned about her new reputation as a “slut” because of the kisses. I guess my point is that I disliked the way she was so preoccupied with what everyone else thought of her, yet she didn’t want to stop the alphabet kissing challenge. It just didn’t match up with the way the character was portrayed for most of the book, in my opinion. She’s not a terrible character, but I certainly wanted to sit her down and have a chat with her about a few things.

Killian was one of my favorite parts of the book for sure. I loved how he was a genuinely good guy, who was intelligent and very opinionated about certain things, which made him a solid debater. There was just so much to like about this character. I found myself wanting to know more and more about him as the book went on. Something super unique about his character was how obsessed he was with pop music. He also drew his favorite pop lyrics on his dashboard and I loved how cheesy yet awesome they all turned out to be. He was a cool character, and I loved that he wasn’t exactly like every other YA love interest out there, he had some new things to bring to the table.

The romance between Killian and Veda was fairly great and interesting, though naturally also filled with some serious complications along the way. I enjoyed that the relationship started out as a friendship, in my opinion, that’s the most realistic kind of relationship out there. I loved watching them banter and debate in the beginning, and then slowly but surely start falling for each other. Veda resists him for an irritatingly long time because she doesn’t want to start a new relationship after just getting out of a rather serious one. However, it’s still pretty obvious that this is an unavoidable romance that’s just bound to happen. Though not my favorite couple ever, they still make a realistic and enjoyable one.

So all and all, this was a fun book to read, just not anything overly memorable to me. I considered giving it a four at times, because it seemed to have such depth and likable characters, but the slut shaming and the drama with her best friends made me go with a three instead. I’m impressed with Anna Michels’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. It reminded me of a Sarah Dessen or a Kasie West book, which is an extremely high complement. I recommend it if you want something fast paced and on the light side!

three-stars

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ARC Review: How to Keep Rolling After a Fall

August 6, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 2 ★★★½

ARC Review: How to Keep Rolling After a FallHow to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo
Published by Swoon Reads on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 272
Source: Netgalley
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three-half-stars

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

After a cyber bullying incident turns her life upside down, a handsome wheelchair rugby player shows a former mean girl that everyone deserves a second chance.
The party was at her house. The photos were posted to her Facebook account. That's all the evidence anyone needed to condemn Nikki Baylor for a cyberbullying incident that humiliated a classmate and nearly resulted in the girl's suicide. Now Nikki's been expelled from her old school, her friends have abandoned her, and even her own parents can't look her in the eye. With her plans for the future all but destroyed, Nikki resigns herself to being the girl everyone hates - almost as much as she hates herself. But then Nikki meets Pax, a spirited wheelchair rugby player who knows what it's like when one mistake completely shatters your life. Refusing to judge her because of her past, he shows her that everyone deserves a second chance... and everyone deserves to be loved.

I absolutely adored Karole Cozzo’s debut novel How to Say I Love You Out Loud. I felt like that book did such a beautiful job at respectfully writing about a teen girl learning to balance fitting in at school with standing up for her brother who has autism. Anyway, Cozzo has written yet another well researched and fascinating novel about a relevant topic that teens should definitely be reading about. While I don’t believe that this was as great as her debut, this was still a well written novel that managed to keep me glued to my screen as I kept reading and reading.

So Nikki is a character that you’ll certainly have some serious mixed feelings about. On one hand, I think that the defining incident for her could have been avoided if she had done more. But it’s also startling to me that only Nikki suffered any consequences from it since her awful friends were the ones behind pretty much all of it. My point is, I don’t think that Nikki is a bad person in the slightest and it’s rough that so many people instantly judge her based on that one thing. Honestly, I’m not sure how realistic all the punishments and judgements actually are, but I’ll get to that later. While far from being a flawless character, she’s still an interesting and real one. There were various points in the story when I became extremely frustrated with her actions, like what are you thinking girl? As you can tell, she’s not my favorite character, but she’s not the worst either.

Pax is one of the main reasons why I loved this book, though he did have a few frustrating moments as well, but that’s another story. He was such a swoony book boyfriend and I loved his personality so much. Yes, he’s in a wheelchair over a stupid mistake that he made, and that’s why he’s able to instantly connect with Nikki. The best thing about Pax is that he doesn’t let his wheelchair stop him from doing anything. He almost always has a positive outlook on his situation and doesn’t let anything stop him from living a normal life. Though he might be super stubborn and push himself way too far at times, you still can’t help but respect his determination. What makes him so swoony is his acceptance of Nikki. He’s also so supportive and loving to her, he tries to help her make the best of her current situation the best way that he can.

The romance between them does have some insta-love to it, but there’s enough of a friendship built before anything romantic happens that it never really bothered me too much. So the chemistry between them is fairly obvious early on in the book, but Pax doesn’t want anything more than friendship because he’s afraid that he won’t be enough for Nikki. I felt like that was such a heartbreaking fear for Pax, but I also understand that he hasn’t had any kind of relationship since he’s been disabled and he knows that it won’t be as easy as it used to be for him. Though there is definitely some drama between them, I did still enjoy seeing them as a couple, though it would have been nice to have more pages dedicated to them being a happy couple together.

As I mentioned earlier, I did feel like Nikki getting expelled from her school for the horrible prank was a bit extreme. I’m not saying it’s right, but I’ve known kids who had naked pictures of girls and sent them to so many people and hardly were suspended. I get that the circumstances are obviously different since there was no consent given to take these pictures that were uploaded to Nikki’s account, but it still seemed a little far fetched. I also didn’t believe that literally everyone automatically knew who she was and shunned her for it. Another issue I had was how horrible her parents treated her. Look, I get that not all parents are like mine, but my parents would never treat me the way Nikki’s does. They obviously wouldn’t be proud of me for it, but they wouldn’t look at me in such a different light, and not be able to forgive me for this one mistake that they seem to not even know the whole story about. Meaning, I didn’t understand why her parents didn’t get that her old friends were just as guilty (or more so) as she was, or maybe they just didn’t care about it. The whole situation just ended up rubbing me the wrong way.

Though not a perfect book by any means, it’s still an entertaining but also meaningful book that I’m glad that I read. I feel like the subject matter is definitely an important one to read, I just had some issues with whether or not Nikki’s story was totally realistic and also with her parents in general. I did like the fact that she found a new friend at her brand new school, Sam was a fun and memorable supporting character who was one of my favorites! I don’t even want to talk about her old friends because they were just such awful mean girls. So basically, this wasn’t my favorite book, but it was still a solid one and I can’t wait to see what this great author writes next!

three-half-stars

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Openly Straight Review

July 27, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

Openly Straight ReviewOpenly Straight (Openly Straight, #1) by Bill Konigsberg
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on May 28th 2013
Pages: 320
Source: Purchased
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four-stars
The award-winning novel about being out, being proud, and being ready for something else . . . now in paperback.
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.
So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.
This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

The concept of Openly Straight is one that instantly fascinates me: a boy who has already came out of the closet attends a boarding school where he keeps his sexuality a secret. Rafe is sick of being labeled “the gay kid” back in Boulder, Colorado, so that’s why he makes the decision to go across the country to go to school in New England. Once he arrives at his new school, he gets the opportunity to start fresh and even hangout with the jocks. Anyway, Openly Straight is a fabulous book that addresses the subject of stereotypes, fitting in, labeling, friendships, relationships, sexuality, and much more. It’s a beautifully written novel, and I’m definitely embarrassed that it took me so long to pick it up.

Rafe is an interesting main character. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about his choice at first. It definitely seemed to me like he was hiding who he was, but then I slowly realized that his sexuality doesn’t define who he is, it’s just a small part of him. I also completely understood that he desperately wanted to fit in with the other kids. Back in Boulder, though the kids were mostly accepting, they still looked at him differently knowing his sexuality. Ultimately, Rafe was a character that basically every high school student, gay or straight, can identify with due to his need to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, at times I wanted to shake some sense into him and tell him to be honest with certain people about it, but I still understood where he was coming from.

Ben is a different type of love interest. Though he’s on the soccer team with Rafe, he isn’t your typical jock. He’s ridiculously smart and loves thinking deeply about things in a surprising way. Ben is yet another interesting character, and I loved watching his friendship with Rafe gradually grow into something deeper. It broke my heart for him that he doesn’t come from a supportive and loving family like Rafe does. His parents are pretty judgmental and the only reason he isn’t is because of his amazing uncle, who died last year. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way that Ben handled his feelings, but it’s also very realistic considering the circumstances.

So the family factor is still a pretty big deal in the plot, even with him being away from them. Rafe’s parents were extremely supportive when he first came out to them. I mean, they even threw this huge embarrassing coming out party involving balloons and party hats saying, “Yay! Rafe is gay!” His mom is also overly involved in PFLAG. You might imagine that his parents aren’t overly thrilled about his plan to go back in the closet while away at school. However, they suck it up and support his choice anyway, which I really respected.

This was an incredibly fast paced novel that I absolutely couldn’t put down. Seriously, I started out reading it, and before I knew it, I was sadly already reaching the end. If you haven’t read this book yet and are planning on reading it, you should prepare yourself for the ending. Obviously I’m not going to ruin anything, but I will reveal that it isn’t a HEA. This was definitely one of the main reasons why I held off on picking it up, but the ending here did make a lot of sense even if it wasn’t all that satisfying in terms of the romance. This was a quick read, and even though it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was a solid book that I do recommend. I’m not sure if it sends the right message to LGBT teens, but it’s a unique kind of story that I’m glad was written.

four-stars

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P.S. I Like You Review

July 26, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

P.S. I Like You ReviewP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Published by Point on July 26th 2016
Pages: 304
Source: Dahlia Adler
Also by this author: The Distance Between Us, The Fill-In Boyfriend, By Your Side
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five-stars
What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?
While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?
From beloved author Kasie West (The Distance Between Us) comes an utterly charming story about mixed messages, missed connections, and the magic of good old-fashioned secret admirer notes.

It’s insane to me how each book that Kasie West writes gets better and better. If you’re a fan of quirky contemporary YA romances, you need to read something by Kasie. Though I adored The Fill-in Boyfriend, this might be my new favorite by her just because I was able to connect to these characters in a totally awesome way. This book has it all: friendship, family, awesome MC, cute romance, and cool plot. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough to you guys! Before I get into my review though, you should know that I am going to name the love interest. To be honest, it’s not that hard to figure out who it is, but still proceed with caution when I discuss the romance towards the end of my review.

So I related to Lily from the very first page. She may or may not now be one of my favorite MC’s ever. I loved how quirky and awkward she was. Most of all, I loved how she wasn’t afraid to be herself. She has a bit of an eccentric style and makes her own clothes. Lily isn’t the best at talking to boys, which is definitely one of the things about her that I instantly connected with. I’m pretty sure that so many others are able to relate to this awkwardness as well, talking to boys back in high school was always the worst. I also loved how passionate she was about music. Lily expresses herself through her song lyrics and playing her guitar. I loved how creative and awesome she is. Once she gets past her initial awkwardness, she’s truly a beautiful and hilarious person.

One of the best parts of this book was Lily’s family. Both her parents are happily married and relatively normal. They cracked me up with how they would have these competitions with food and make their kids pick what they liked better. Her little brothers were adorable and her old sister was hilarious and a fascinating character. In some ways, this family reminded me of the Garretts from My Life Next Door. Basically, it’s a flawed and very chaotic family but I want to be a member anyway. Sometimes I feel like YA books have a habit of only showing families that are totally messed up and only bring drama to the plot, so it was nice to see a crazy but loving and supportive family in P.S. I Like You.

Another great thing about this book was the friendship side of things. Yeah, I adored the romance, but I’m always a sucker for a solid friendship as well! Isabel and Lily have an unbreakable friendship. While they occasionally fight, they always find a way to get past whatever the issue is. I also loved how understanding Isabel was when it comes to Lily having to put her family first too. Meaning, sometimes Lily couldn’t go out somewhere because she had to babysit her little brothers and her best friend understood that. There is a tiny bit of drama involving a boy that temporarily comes between them, but don’t worry, it’s honestly not over the top and I loved how the situation was handled by Isabel. This is an incredible friendship between two very different girls who support each other no matter what.

Now we’ve reached the part in my review where I’m going to talk about the romance, so skip over this if you don’t want to see the name of the love interest. As most Kasie West romances manage to do, this romance brought up all the feels. I just loved how adorable the whole concept is. Let’s be real here, the concept of writing song lyrics on a desk and finding that someone added to it isn’t new, it was also in the book Faking Normal, but I loved it anyway. This was also different since they do end up graduating to writing each other full page letters, which was always entertaining to read. This novel portrays an incredible hate to love romance. This trope doesn’t always work for me, but Kasie managed to make it work with a natural ease. Once Lily discovers that her enemy Cade is the one writing the letters, she doesn’t know what to do. The Cade she sees in his letters is entirely different from the person he is in real life. Gradually, she starts hanging out with him more in person and getting a chance to see who he really is. If you can’t already tell, I absolutely loved this romance. I honestly don’t think it could have been written any better!

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for over a year now, and Kasie West didn’t disappoint. This is one book that I know I’ll want to reread again and again. It’s such a memorable and light read. Sure, it has some drama, but I felt like it was a realistic amount and never too much. If you’ve never read anything by this notable YA contemporary author, this is a great place to start. If you’ve loved her previous books, you’ll likely find a new favorite with P.S. I Like You. This book just hit shelves today, so be sure to go grab a copy!

*Big thanks to Dahlia Adler for sending me her ARC as a prize for Dahlia’s Book Club!*

five-stars

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Blog Tour: Smash & Grab Review

July 21, 2016 Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult 4 ★★★½

Blog Tour: Smash & Grab Review

Blog Tour: Smash & Grab ReviewSmash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on July 19th 2016
Pages: 384
Source: Random House Books for Young Readers
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three-half-stars

I received this book for free from Random House Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ocean’s Eleven meets the star-crossed lovers of West Side Story. Grab some popcorn and get ready for an adrenaline-filled heist!   LEXI is a rich girl who loves a good rush. Whether it’s motorcycle racing or BASE jumping off a building in downtown Los Angeles, the only times she feels alive are when she and her friends are executing one of their dares. After her father’s arrest, Lexi doesn’t think twice about going undercover at his bank to steal the evidence that might clear his name. She enlists her hacker brother and her daredevil friends to plan a clever heist.   CHRISTIAN is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The local gang has blackmailed him and his friends into robbing banks, and he is desperate for a way out. When the boss promises that one really big job will be the last he ever has to do, Christian jumps at the chance for freedom. In fact, he’s just met a girl at the bank who might even prove useful. . . .   Two heists. One score. The only thing standing in their way is each other.   Told in alternating points of view, this caper is full of romance and fast-paced fun. Hand to fans of Perfect Chemistry, The Conspiracy of Us, and Heist Society.

So Smash & Grab was a very unique and surprising read for me. I’ve never gotten a chance to read books like The Heist Society or The Conspiracy of Us, so I’ve basically never read a book that follows teen criminals committing heists. Is the concept here realistic at all? Nope, not by a long shot. But that doesn’t make it any less fascinating to read. Sometimes it can be nice to take a break from all of these contemporary YA books and read a book will some light thriller elements to it. Smash & Grab is seriously action packed, and I enjoyed getting caught up in the story as a whole. I also loved the dual POV narration, Amy Christine Parker did a wonderful job at getting inside the minds of these two extremely different characters. My point is, this book probably won’t be for everyone, but I personally found it to be a fast paced and genuinely interesting read.

Christian was definitely my favorite character by far. I enjoyed the chapters where he narrated the best because I felt more of a connection to him for some reason. Naturally, I also loved the fact that he loved books. My heart absolutely broke for him as he desperately longed to escape the gang life and the awful jobs that they gave him, but at the same time, he struggled with wanting to support his mom and little sister. It’s safe to say that I just wanted to give this a kid a huge hug and tell him that things were going to be okay. He’s an amazing selfless guy who I instantly clicked with from the very first chapter.

Lexie wasn’t as easy to connect with for me on a personal level. To be honest, she’s a little bit spoiled and I didn’t know what to make of her at first. However, she’s gone through a lot and lost all her money when her father was arrested. Lexie then goes to great lengths to prove that one of his coworkers from the bank had a hand in the illegal action as well. Lexie is a feisty character who thrives on taking huge risks. For one, this girl loves BASE jumping. She’s just full of adventures and seems to not be afraid of absolutely anything. Though I’m totally the opposite, I loved seeing the confidence and pure adrenaline that came from this incredible character.

The romance started out extremely slow for me. That’s weird to say because it contains insta-love, but it still takes quite a long time before either of them act on their feelings. I guess I was expecting for the romance to take up more of the plot due to the West Side Story comparison in the blurb. But what I’m trying to say is that somehow it didn’t bother me that there wasn’t more romance here. I was so wrapped up in all the extravagant action that unfolded within the pages that for once, I found myself not longing it. Once they finally get together though, I believe that Lexie and Christian make a cute couple.

All in all, this was a quick book that captured my attention from start to finish. Lexie and Christian both have such distinctive personalities and wonderful stories to tell. Though I normally prefer stories with plots that I can relate to, I found myself on edge while reading all of this intense action. I’m glad that I broke outside of my shell a little here and read a book that I probably wouldn’t normally. Like I already mentioned, I wouldn’t recommend this book for people who only enjoy realistic stories, but this is still a light and fun book that I’m glad that I had the chance to read it.

ABOUT AMY CHRISTINE PARKER:

Amy Christine Parker

AMY CHRISTINE PARKER writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Visit her at amychristineparker.com and follow her on Twitter @amychristinepar.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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3 Finished Copies of SMASH & GRAB (US Only)

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three-half-stars

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Dumplin’ Review

July 18, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★½

Dumplin’ ReviewDumplin' (Dumplin', #1) by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 15th 2015
Pages: 375
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three-half-stars
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

I’m not sure why I waited so long to read this delightful book. Honestly, I didn’t have a great experience with Julie Murphy’s first novel, Side Effects May Vary, but this one was much more up my alley. It wasn’t my favorite as a whole, but I still believe that Dumplin’ has such a strong message that everyone needs to hear. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you give it a try. The outcome is a fabulous book with such powerful and memorable characters. Willowdean and all her friends will make you feel all the feels, this book is definitely a refreshing one.

Willowdean or Will is a sassy and confident character who isn’t afraid to admit that she’s fat. She embraces her size, and she doesn’t want to change that about herself. So yeah, Will is a super cool Southern chick who absolutely loves Dolly Parton. I felt like her whole attitude was so awesome. Like any other teenager out there, she does have her insecurities that have a way of showing up, but she never lets it completely control who she is. She always finds a way of overcoming those insecurities, like through being inspired by her new friends or remembering something about her dear Aunt Lucy who passed away not too long ago. Will is your average teenager in so many ways, but she’s also a lot more than that as well.

Dumplin’ has such charming supporting characters that totally make the book for me personally. If you haven’t read it yet, those “unlikely candidates” that are mentioned in the summary are named Amanda, Millie, and Hannah. I loved each of these characters so much for separate reasons. The one that standouts the most is Millie. At first, Willowdean isn’t really sure what to think of her. Millie is a big girl who gets made fun of on a regular basis, and Will doesn’t understand why she’s okay with all of it. The point is, I loved the fact that she didn’t care about what people thought about her. She desperately wanted to compete in the pageant, and unlike Will, she truly believes that she can win it, and I love that confidence. Amanda isn’t nearly as memorable as Millie, but she’s also overweight and doesn’t care about what people say about her. I also loved her attitude and how positive she was about everything. Hannah is a lot different from the other girls. For one, she isn’t actually overweight, she gets made fun of because of her teeth. Hannah is a lot more cynical than the others, and she doesn’t care much about the pageant, she just wants to make a point. However, she turns out to be a lot nicer than Will initially assumed, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship.

Bo is the love interest and I truthfully don’t want to talk all that much about him. In a way, I did like the romance. I felt like his character had quite a bit of growth and I loved getting to know more of his background. I still ended up having some questions regarding their relationship at the end. I don’t know, it just didn’t fully work for me for some reason. I think it bothered me that he talked about being such a jerk while at his old school, but now he’s suddenly this incredible guy that doesn’t care much about looks. Maybe this is something that only bothered me, hopefully you’ll have better luck with it. I’m ridiculously picky about romances sometimes, and that was definitely the case here.

So there’s still a lot of characters who I haven’t talked about yet. Willowdean’s mom was a hot mess who was satisfied with living in the past. She cares WAY too much about the beauty pageant, and I naturally hated how subtle and cutting she could be regarding Will’s weight. Ultimately though, she does grow more of a character, I personally would have liked to see more of that though. I wasn’t a major fan of Will’s best friend Ellen for most of the book. I didn’t like how she didn’t defend her best friend when someone was talking crap about her. I do understand where she’s coming from, it can be hard to want to fit in, and it can be easy to forget Ellen’s side of the story.

All in all, this was a pretty quality book overall. It was a very quick read, and I enjoyed it. It’s not the best book that I’ve ever read, but I still feel like it has a lovely message that needs to be heard. I hope that you guys have already read Dumplin’ since it’s been out for almost a year now, but if you haven’t then I recommend it. Julie Murphy has written a pretty great novel with extremely well developed characters that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

three-half-stars

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ARC Review: Defending Taylor

July 11, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

ARC Review: Defending TaylorDefending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on July 5th 2016
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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four-stars

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

There are no mistakes in love.
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.
Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

I’ve been a fan of Miranda Kenneally for awhile now and Defending Taylor didn’t disappoint. This is an incredible novel with a swoony boy and an awesome sport. More than that, it also portrays some of the challenges that teenagers face. Taylor has to make a difficult choice regrading someone that she cares about, and this is a place that many of us can understand, even if the circumstances are different. I wouldn’t say that this is my favorite Miranda book, Breathe, Annie, Breathe still holds that title. But I will say that it’s an easy read filled with memorable characters and a romance that will take your breath away.

So Taylor is a great character who I personally wasn’t able to identify with completely, but I truly respected her. She has her flaws, but she is selfless and will do anything to protect people that she cares about. Yes, this sometimes causes trouble for herself, but she always has pure intentions in the end. Taylor is fascinating, and I enjoyed reading about her journey and seeing her character growth. She starts out being a more than a bit stuck up, to understanding that privilege doesn’t always get you ahead in life. It was a great subject to focus on and watch gradually evolve.

Ezra was definitely one of the best parts of the book by far. He starts off being a bit misunderstood due to a secret that he keeps that causes Taylor (and others) to have a poor impression of him, but you’ll love him once everything is brough to light. Anyway, I’m always a sucker for a brother’s best friend type of romance, and this is a fabulous one for sure. Ezra isn’t my favorite boy of Miranda’s, Matt and Jeremiah are tied, but he’s still fairly high up on the list. It’s difficult to explain exactly why he’s so amazing, all I can do is advise you to read and discover for yourself.

One of my favorite aspects of Miranda Kenneally’s writing is that the romance is mature and honest. She doesn’t shy away from the subject of sex which I really respect and appreciate. Taylor loses her virginity to her longtime boyfriend Ben, and though she had a crush on Ezra before she started dating him, that doesn’t change the fact that she still loved and respected him as well. I liked how she approached the subject in general, it was extremely well written all around. On top of that, there’s also sex scenes between Ezra and Taylor. None of them are totally fade to black, but they aren’t ridiculously explicit either. Some people might be a little weary of teens reading this, but in my opinion, teens NEED to read this because of the honesty of it all. Some teenagers have sex, some don’t, I think that it’s good to include this without making a huge deal about it. Meaning, Taylor having sex isn’t shown as being this bad or good thing that takes up half the book, it’s portrayed as something natural, but not essential for all teens. It’s hard to described fully, but to put it simply: I like how it was portrayed.

All lectures about how sex in YA is an important thing to include aside, Defending Taylor was a solid book. It made me feel all different types of feelings: happy, sad, angry, infuriated, and every other emotion in between. If you have yet to read anything by this author, you need to do that right away. Defending Taylor is a standalone novel, but you’ll enjoy it more if you read all her books since they all exist in the same world. I highly recommend picking up this novel right away!

four-stars

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The Lost & Found Review

July 6, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

The Lost & Found ReviewThe Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
Published by HarperCollins on July 5th 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A charming and imaginative new novel about getting lost before you can be found.
LOST:Frannie and Louis met in an online support group when they were both younger. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.
FOUND:They each receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.
The Lost & Found is a bighearted novel about connections (missed and found), family (the kind you’re born with and the kind you make for yourself), and unexpected journeys (on the road, and of the heart), from an author who Publishers Weekly called “a fierce new presence.”

So a lot of my Goodreads friends have rated this book extremely high, so I was anxious to read and judge The Lost & Found for myself. Ultimately, I really enjoyed Katrina Leno’s duel narration and writing in general here. I think both the main and supporting characters were very strong and memorable. If you can overlook some magical fantasy that’s weirdly thrown into the plot, this is a solid read. I hope that others will be able to love this as much as some other bloggers out there are, but it didn’t completely work for me.

If I was giving my rating on characters alone, this book would easily receive 5 stars from me. Louis is the male protagonist, and my heart broke for him throughout the novel. He struggles with guilt from an accident that happened when he was little. As a result of this accident, his twin sister lost her legs. I personally suffer from anxiety, though not as bad as Louis’s, but I still identified with his struggle. I felt like the portrayal of his mental illness was so raw and real. Frannie is the female protagonist, and I didn’t love her as much as Louis, but she was still a decent character as a whole. She was definitely a smart and witty character and I loved her sense of humor. Besides that, there wasn’t all that much about her personality that I was able to connect with, but I didn’t hate her either so that’s always a plus!

If you like books that have strong supporting characters, you’re going to love this one. Willa is Louis’s twin sister and she was just ridiculously amazing. As mentioned earlier, she lost her legs, but I love how she doesn’t let being disabled define her. There were several scenes where she was just so honest and open about how people staring at her out in public made her feel. Not going to lie, those scenes made me want to cry. On top of all that, she’s a total feminist with absolutely spot on opinions. This quote sums it all up better than I can:

“We live in this really weird world where female celebrities can be photographed without underwear on and instead of making it illegal to publish explicit photos of a person without their express permission or, you know, shaming the person who’s shoving a camera up their skirt, we call them sluts for accidentally spreading their legs when they get out of their car.”

Frannie has a cool cousin named Arrow who is also incredibly memorable. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have all that many memorable lines, but she was amazing as well. Arrow also brings some diversity to the mix because she was adopted as a baby from Vietnam. Anyway, she cracked me up how she responded to a random guy in a restaurant hitting on her. That scene was totally priceless to say the least. So the supporting characters bring both diversity and priceless moments in the book.

So how in the world can this book have magical realism when it seems to read exactly like a contemporary? Well, I won’t say too much about the specifics because I don’t want to reveal any major spoilers, but let’s just say that it involves the things that Louis and Frannie lost. In my opinion, too much time was spent on losing these objects, but it never felt all that resolved in the end to me. I think that if you typically enjoy magical realism in book, you won’t have a problem with it. I barely read anything that isn’t contemporary, so it was difficult for me to understand and accept.

All in all, there was a lot to like about The Lost & Found. Unfortunately, I was hoping for a little bit more in terms of a resolution and the romance was seriously lacking for me. It’s weird for me to say since I’m usually all about it, but I think this book would have worked just as well without the romance between Louis and Frannie. I recommend this book if you’re a fan of short fast paced reads that have wonderful supporting characters and just a bit of legit magic sprinkled in for good measure.

three-stars

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American Girls Review

July 3, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

American Girls ReviewAmerican Girls by Alison Umminger
Published by Flatiron Books on June 7th 2016
Pages: 304
Source: Purchased
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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three-stars
She was looking for a place to land.
Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she's had it with her life at home. So Anna "borrows" her stepmom's credit card an runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn't quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.
As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn't the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.
In Anna's singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn't, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.

American Girls was actually a unique contemporary that explored some complex situations and characters. I think using Los Angeles as a background was an incredible choice. I really enjoyed all of the details and also the general emotions of the city that were revealed here. If you’re looking for a fast paced coming-of-age story that has fascinating writing, this might be just what you’re looking for. It’s not the best book I’ve read this summer, but it was still something a little bit different from what I normally read. I do recommend that you give this one a shot!

It’s difficult to really explain what this book is about. In simple terms: Anna decides to leave her home in Georgia and run off to Los Angeles so she can live with her cool actress half-sister for the summer. While in the city, she learns more about Charles Manson and his girls, and also ends up learning more about herself in the process. Like I said, the plot doesn’t sound all that interesting, I feel like the book focuses more on the characters than anything else.

Truth be told, Anna wasn’t my favorite character by any means, but that’s kind of the point. Let’s be real, how many teens are totally likable? All teens (and obviously people in general) are horribly flawed, and I liked that the author explored this here with Anna. So yeah, she was super angsty and did some ridiculously dumb things, but she was still a real human being like all of us. That being said, I still wasn’t able to completely connect with Anna for whatever reason.

Naturally, the characters are what made the story truly flow. As already mentioned, Anna and all the other characters are flawed. There are many points in the book where you don’t like her half-sister Delia at all. She’s incredibly selfish and Anna can see that she’s like their mother in the respect that she basically tries to ruin every good relationship that she has going on. There were some points where Delia was easier to sympathize with than Anna, then in the next part, it’s the complete opposite. I think that says a lot about the strength in Alison Umminger’s writing, there’s not really good or bad characters, it ends up lying somewhere in the middle.

I wasn’t a fan of the romance in this book, though it was basically nonexistent for most of the story. Strangely enough, it didn’t bother me that there wasn’t more pages dedicated to Anna and Jeremy falling in love. In my opinion, all of that wouldn’t have felt right. I feel like the author was incredibly justified to focus more on Anna just finding out where she belongs. Additionally, she also finds Jeremy and his sister Olivia’s life to be very depressing. The spotlight centers on everything that they do, and is just waiting for them to screw up. Anna realizes that this is something that she definitely doesn’t want for herself. Anyway, I thought it was interesting how Anna ended up learning so much about the price of fame while on her trip.

Though not a personal favorite, this was still a quick and interesting read. I’m always a sucker for coming-of-age stories. This one let me down a little bit because it felt like not that much happened plot wise, but it was still a different type of book. So if you don’t mind angsty teen characters and lots of LA centered drama, you will probably quite enjoy this book. I’m looking forward to checking out whatever this author writes next!

three-stars

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Every Exquisite Thing Review

July 1, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

Every Exquisite Thing ReviewEvery Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
on May 31st 2016
Pages: 272
Source: Purchased
Also by this author: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars
Didn’t you ever just simply want to…stop?
Star athlete and straight-A student Nanette O’Hare has played the role of dutiful daughter for as long as she can remember. But one day, a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper—a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic—and the rebel within Nanette awakens.
As the new and outspoken Nanette attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, she befriends the reclusive author and falls in love with a young, troubled poet. Forced to make some hard choices that bring devastating consequences, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion can sometimes come at a high price.

To put it simply, Matthew Quick is just a downright fabulous author. I haven’t read all of his books, but I was extremely impressed with Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and Silver Linings Playbook. Sadly though, this one didn’t resonate with me in the way that the previous two managed to accomplish. Every Exquisite Thing is a decent book as a whole, just not an incredibly standout novel compared to the others. My standards might have been a bit too high going into this, I just hope that Quick’s next work will better suit my personal taste.

The reason why I didn’t totally love this promising work was because of two of the main characters: Nanette and Alex. First things first, I felt like I truly got Nanette in the beginning of the book. I related to the fact that she felt like she didn’t belong in this world of privilege that she was raised in. I didn’t appreciate the way she slut shamed her soccer teammates, one of which was her closest friend for most of her life. As the book went on, Nanette became more and more pretentious and believed that she was so above everyone in her small town and I just couldn’t sympathize or relate to her on any level at that point.

Nanette became less relatable and more unlikable when Alex was introduced in the story. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m all for loner dudes who love reading and writing poetry, but it soon became apparent that this character was much darker than your typical rebel teen. The thing that really got under my skin regarding his relationship with Nanette was the lack of chemistry between them. I’ve already made my feelings towards insta-love known, I can’t stand it. Surprisingly, this one didn’t bother me all that much, but it did bother me how Alex seemed to throw around the fact that he loved her when there seemed to be hardly any romantic feelings there. To me, it felt like two tortured souls who were finding a mutual appreciation for music, The Bubblegum Reaper, and poetry. The romance just felt forced, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty things about this novel that I did enjoy. It was less than 300 pages, so it could easily be enjoyed in just a few sittings. I also liked some of the supporting characters, specifically Oliver, June, and Booker. Booker was the author of The Bubblegum Reaper, the book that Nanette’s English teacher gave her and she immediately connected with. Booker became like a grandfather figure to Nanette, and I found every interaction that they had to be incredibly amusing. I wanted to see more scenes with him since he added a hilarious factor to some of the more dramatic parts.

Oliver was a young boy who Alex felt the need to protect. Oliver was bullied frequently and had no friends, so Alex gave him a copy of the book that changed his life and it soon touched Oliver as well. He’s another character that I wanted to see more of, but I really connected and sympathized with him throughout the novel.

June is Nanette’s therapist and she probably gets the most scenes out of all the supporting characters that I mentioned. One of my favorite things about this book was definitely how it portrayed therapy. June reminded me a lot of my own therapist that I had during my high school years. They are both very cool, without bordering on being unprofessional completely. I’ll have to overlook the fact that she also gave Nanette advice to refer to herself only in third person for awhile, which led to the book being told in that perspective. This style of narration got old fast, and I was ready for it to end right away. However, I did like June and felt like therapy couldn’t have been written any better here.

It’s safe to say that Every Exquisite Thing was not my favorite Matthew Quick novel, but it wasn’t terrible or anything. Ultimately, it didn’t turn out to be my kind of book for whatever reason. Honestly, I think it was Nanette’s character that really turned me off from thoroughly enjoying this decent book. For the most part, the characters and this book in general felt all too forgettable to me. That being said, I’m still not going to give up on Matthew Quick anytime soon, and I can’t wait to see what comes next from him.

three-stars

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