Publisher: Balzer + Bray

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ARC Review: The Hate U Give

February 28, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

ARC Review: The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th 2017
Pages: 464
Source: Edelweiss
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five-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.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Guys, this book is easily the best book that I’ve read so far this year. It’s also the first five star rating that I’ve given this year. The Hate U Give is just a story that you need to read in order to fully understand the greatness of it. There honestly isn’t anything negative to say about it, only very rave and fangirl comments about how amazing it is from start to finish. On page one, it immediately sucks you in until you reach the end. I wasn’t able to put it down once I started reading it. This was such a mesmerizing and beautifully written novel all around filled with memorable and complicated characters. I can’t recommend it to you guys enough, you need to pick this one up!

Starr is seriously my girl. I immediately connected with her right away. She has such a beautiful and relatable personality. Starr is definitely a girl that I want to be best friends with. She’s smart, funny, kind, caring, and passionate. I sympathized with her struggles, the loss of her two best friends, one that happened when she was younger and one that just happened seriously broke my heart. Although I can’t relate to the fact that she lost them both to senseless violence, I also lost a childhood best friend far too young. Anyway, Starr is an extremely passionate person and I absolutely love that about her. She’s not afraid to take a stand for what she believes in. I was so proud of her for not letting her voice be silenced, no matter what the circumstances were.

Even though this book tackles the serious and timely issue of racism and police violence, it’s still surprisingly funny more often than not. A lot of those funny moments come from the hilarious main and supporting characters. Starr honestly has the best family. Her mom, dad, two brothers, Nana, Uncle Carlos, Chris, and DeVante are all fabulous and filled with personality. They might be dysfunctional sometimes, but they are still a great family. I loved how supportive each of them were towards Starr as she goes through this difficult and tragic time in her life. I loved them each so much that I really don’t know which one I liked them best, they all stood out for various reasons.

I don’t believe that Thomas could have tackled these difficult subjects any better than she did. As mentioned earlier, these are unfortunately such timely issues. It surprises me that more people haven’t written YA books on these topics yet, but I’m so happy that Thomas did and I hope that others follow in the future. The shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil is such a tragic event. Although we didn’t get to know him for very long in the book, we learn more and more about his real story that Starr wasn’t totally aware of since they hadn’t been hanging out recently. I believe that it was handled in such a realistic and touching way, similar in some ways to the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and countless other African American teens who were unarmed. It’s such a devastating thing that will never make sense to me, but I thought that Thomas’s take on making sense of it all was perfection.

The Hate U Give is a book that will stick with me for a long time after reading it. The characters, plot, and writing make it such a complicated and beautiful novel. It’s extremely hard to believe that this is only the author’s debut novel. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. This is such a powerful and memorable novel all the way around. There really isn’t much else to say on the topic other than other fangirl ramblings on it. It’s a difficult thing to make me laugh out loud while reading one page, but then cry on the next page. Somehow The Hate U Give was able to do just that and I can’t recommend it enough.

five-stars

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ARC Review: Diplomatic Immunity

September 2, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1

ARC Review: Diplomatic ImmunityDiplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 6th 2016
Pages: 368
Source: Edelweiss
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one-star

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.

Aspiring reporter Piper Baird decides to write a scathing exposé on the overprivileged students at an elite Washington, DC, school, only for her life to change when she begins to fall for the story's main subject, in this new realistic contemporary romance from Brodi Ashton, the author of the Everneath trilogy.
Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity...it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.
Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.
Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.
The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I’ve never read any of Brodi Ashton’s books before, but I thought that I should start with her only contemporary book. Unfortunately, it ended up not working for me at all. I disliked it because of how predictable it was. I was looking forward to the journalism aspect of it, but sadly it let me down. The journalism wasn’t realistic, or well done in my opinion. I’m sure that other people will probably like it, I just simply can’t recommend it to others because of my major issues with the plot, characters, romance, and even the writing.

I’m sorry but this is far from being realistic. The rich kids in this book are absolutely insane and out of control. It reminded me a bit of the story, Paper Princess (which I strongly disliked) in the respect that the teachers were hardly present and the students ran the school. The other major issue that I had was with the journalism. Basically, the love interest ends up trusting her with all of his “secrets,” knowing that Piper was writing a paper on it. You know that she’s a journalist yet you fully trust her anyway? It just didn’t feel real to me at all. Not to mention the fact that the drama surrounding the whole issue was entirely predictable. Obviously something’s going to go wrong and she and the love interest are going to end up breaking up because of it.

So the love interest is described as being “exotic,” which I honestly think is pretty offensive. She also thinks he’s exotic just because he can speak in a different language. As a whole, Raf is a pretty ridiculous character. He doesn’t act or talk like a high schooler at all. I honestly think that the author should’ve just made him a college student or something. It also really bothered me that he was able to get away with everything, even if he did have “diplomatic immunity,” it doesn’t excuse everything.

If you can’t already tell based on my views on Raf, I absolutely despised the romance. I felt like Raf was far too trusting of Piper considering what he knew about her. There was also a pointless “love triangle” going on that I honestly didn’t understand why it was included. The romance was such an issue because I didn’t see the chemistry between Raf and Piper. Maybe I have high standards, but I didn’t end up finding it believable. Raf was a terrible book boyfriend, and frankly, Piper wasn’t that great of a character either.

In the end, it makes me sad that I didn’t like this book. The characters and the plot made me feel like the author didn’t know how high schoolers acted and talked. I know that’s not true and this author is a very respected one, but that’s simply the impression that I was given based on Diplomatic Immunity alone. Maybe I’m so harsh because I have a little experience with journalism class and writing for the high school newspaper. Whatever the reason is, I found myself strongly disliking this book. As already stated, maybe you’ll find it cute and charming, but I didn’t see any of that. I wish that I liked this book better, but sadly it didn’t work out.

one-star

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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: The Season of You & Me

May 9, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★½

ARC Review: The Season of You & MeThe Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 10th 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss
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three-half-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.

From Robin Constantine, author of The Promise of Amazing and The Secrets of Attraction, comes a funny and heartfelt summer romance set in New Jersey. Perfect for fans of Sarah Mlynowski, Jenny Han, and Morgan Matson.
Cassidy Emmerich is reeling from a sudden, humiliating breakup. The last thing she wants to do is stick around and be reminded of her ex everywhere she goes. On impulse, she decides to spend the summer with her father and his family at their Jersey Shore bed-and-breakfast. A different scene and a new job working as a camp counselor seem like the perfect recipe for forgetting Gavin as quickly as possible—not to mention for avoiding him until he leaves for college. 
Bryan Lakewood is sick of nevers. You’ll never walk. You’ll never surf. You’ll never slow dance with a girl and have her put her head on your shoulder. Last year he made one false move—now he’s paralyzed and needs to use a wheelchair. But this summer, he’s back at his camp job and is determined to reclaim his independence—and his confidence.
Cass is expecting two months of healing her broken heart.
Bryan is expecting a summer of tough adjustments.
Neither is expecting to fall in love.

This was a really sweet contemporary summer romance that I also found to be rather unique and lovely as well. I wouldn’t say that it’s my all time favorite or anything, but I still found it to be a quick and fun read. This was the first book by Robin Constantine that I’ve ever read, though I own her other two books on my Kindle. I’d certainly say that this has given me a very positive view of her writing, and I’ll have to get around to reading these much sooner. If you’re looking for a cute but also complex YA romance, you should definitely pick this one up. It’s not total fluff, but there’s definitely some feel good moments thrown in there that you’re sure to love.

So Cassidy is planning on spending the summer with her boyfriend, until she finds compromising pictures of him with another girl. Now her plans are completely unclear, and she decides to spend it in New Jersey with her father and his new family. She decides to become a counselor at the camp her half brother is attending, and gets more out of it than she ever imagined. Bryan is in a wheelchair after a freak accident, and he’s returning as a camp counselor so things can go back to normal for him. These two different teens then find themselves involved in a summer romance that neither of them was expecting.

I liked Cassidy, though she’s not as memorable as Bryan. I did like her relationship with her family. She has a close relationship with both her mom and Grandma. She surprisingly isn’t all that angsty about her father, step-mother, and their young son are all fascinating and really not that bad. I especially loved her half brother, he was filled with so much energy and love. There were so many sweet scenes between the two. Anyway, I feel like Cass was such an intriguing character while she was working at the camp. She was a true leader, and was extremely good at her job. Basically, the characters around her were probably more memorable, but I appreciated Cass’s character growth throughout the novel.

Bryan was an awesome love interest. I also felt like his POV was very well written. I loved being directly inside his head and knowing exactly what he’s feeling. Bryan’s going through a frustrating situation to say the least. He ended up getting paralyzed by a weird turn while doing a Parkour move. An accident like that is tragic, but Bryan naturally blamed himself because it happened due to a choice that he made. You really have to feel for Bryan as he tries as hard as he can to get somewhat back to normal. He’s an independent guy, and doesn’t want to ask people for help. He also distances himself from his closest friends who he used to do dumb things with (like Parkour) because he feels like they treat him differently now. The point is, all the emotions that Bryan experiences are handled so well. The author couldn’t have written Bryan and his situation any better.

The relationship between Bryan and Cass is an incredible part of this novel. Honestly, it’s not all that different from your typical YA summer romance, but there are different emotions here as well. Bryan doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for Cass because he can’t walk. He doesn’t want her to feel sorry for him. Cass never treats him any differently, just like he’s a normal person. I love that they strike up a friendship first before they begin a real relationship. There’s definitely a lot of doubt that Bryan experiences along the way. In the end, this is a pretty great romance. It isn’t all that different from the others, besides the reason that I already explained. However, this is still an enjoyable and realistic teen romance.

Ultimately, this was a pretty short book that went by very fast. The reason why I didn’t give this a higher rating is because it just wasn’t as standout as some of the other books in this genre that I’ve read. Nevertheless, I’m still really happy that I read this one. I recommend this if you want a reasonably light but also complex teen romance. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

three-half-stars

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Sunday Street Team: Symptoms of Being Human Review

February 14, 2016 Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult 2 ★★★★

Sunday Street Team: Symptoms of Being Human ReviewSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 352
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four-stars
The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?
Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.
On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

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Hey, everyone! I’m so happy to be a member of the Sunday Street Team. This is my first post for it and I’m excited for many more book tours. SST is hosted by Nori @ ReadWriteLove28.

Symptoms of Being Human is a seriously power book that people need to read. The term Gender fluid is one that countless Americans are relatively clueless about. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know all that much going into this story either. However, Garvin provides readers with tons of information that is truly important regardless of age, sex, race, or whatever, this is a topic you need to know more about. Just trust me, this a great book and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.

This is a book that you will likely read in just one sitting. It’s easy to get completely caught up in Riley’s voice and forget to put the book down. Warning though: it’s a seriously emotional book, you’ll walk away feeling a large variety of different things. Honestly, some of the parts are downright painful to read since it’s baffling that a teen could treat another teen so terribly just because they are different. Anyway, this felt fairly realistic and the emotions that it provides the readers with plays a large part in that.

Riley is witty, brave, intelligent, and generally awesome all across the board. I will admit that I did catch myself attempting to guess whether Riley was born a boy or a girl, but after awhile, it finally hit me that it really doesn’t matter what part was given at birth. I loved that Riley was able to find a safe place on the Internet through blogging about what was happening under another name. Every single word written on the blog was beautiful and inspiring. Along the way, Riley also discovered both the good and bad that comes with having a blog that quickly becomes overwhelmingly popular. Once it becomes popular, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure placed on Riley when others going through the same thing start sending messages and asking for very serious advice about coming out and all that. I enjoyed that this whole experience online wasn’t totally glamorized, there were downsides to it as well.

Besides Riley, there were two specific characters that became really important at the new public school Riley was basically forced to attend. One of them was Bec, who instantly connects with Riley and never seems to pass any judgement. I felt like Bec was a fascinating character. I would have liked to see more romance happen between them just because that’s my favorite thing, but I get that Riley had more pressing matters going on. The other important character is Solo. I was a bit unsure about his motives in the beginning, but he proves himself and becomes an incredible friend to Riley. I also loved that he was a total geek but also this big and burly football player.

Symptoms of Being Human is a quick read that will hit you hard and make you feel so many emotions. It’s filled with tons of heart and I’m so glad this story exists. I hope the words in this story will bring comfort to gender fluid teens out there and make them feel less alone and help expose them to some of the resources that are out there. I also hope that it will teach those who know nothing about it or that have bullied gender fluid teens in the past how difficult going through this is, even in today’s more open society. I really hope my review encourages you to give this a read because it’s definitely worth it!

About Jeff:

Before becoming a novelist, Jeff Garvin acted on TV and toured as the lead singer of a rock band. He has a BFA in Film from Chapman University and lives in Southern California, surrounded by adorable, shedding beasts.

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four-stars

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Review

February 13, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 2 ★★★★★

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda ReviewSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7th 2015
Pages: 303
Source: Library
Reading Challenges: Contemporary Romance Challenge, Diverse Reads 2016
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five-stars
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about reading this book because all of the hype that’s been surrounding it since it was first released less than a year ago. I finally decided to just give it a try and that was the best thing I could do. Basically, this is a book that absolutely NEED to read. While I understand that we all have different tastes in terms of what we enjoy, this has everything you could want in a story. It’s best suitable for those of you that have been reading a great deal of heavy/dark/emotional stories and need something much lighter. “Simon” is a book that will have you grinning and laughing out loud. I wouldn’t call it fluff because I feel like that word basically implies that it lacks substance and this sure doesn’t, but it is feel good and so romantic. I’m still pretty certain that I’m the last person on the planet (or at least someone who loves reading YA) to read this. But that just means more people that I can discuss this with, and I REALLY want to talk about it. This is a story that I know that I will turn to during a particularly crappy day and read all the super freaking adorable parts again and again. Really though, I finished this late last night and I’ve already read a ton of cute parts no fewer than three times.

This is one of those books where it’s difficult to provide reasons why you should read it, so most of my review is going to be more like serious ramblings of a rabid fangirl. So first of all, one of the many strengths that the book has its characters, starting with our awesome narrator Simon. He was someone that I instantly connected with, there’s no doubt in my mind that Simon is someone I would be best friends with if he went to my high school. He’s witty, hilarious, fun, a good friend, and he has the best taste in music. My heart was soaring when he declared his love for listening to Elliott Smith, aka one of my all time favorite singers. I definitely agree with what Simon said to Blue in an email, that Elliott was the best songwriter after Lennon & McCarthy. Anyway, my point is that this boy has serious taste, not to mention he has a love for Reese’s and Oreo’s. In my opinion, he couldn’t be more likable, and I loved his totally charming voice.

So I’ve established that the MC is incredible, but every other character is also complex and layered. Everyone has a story and you become emotionally invested (either negatively or positively) in every single person. Simon’s family is also hilarious but so realistic as well. Simon hid his sexual orientation from his parents not because he felt like they’d judge him, but because he felt like they would be too involved and nosy about all the details. I know that so many teenagers aren’t as lucky, it’s just nice that the parents Becky created are supportive. Along with that, his sisters were funny and great characters as well, though they weren’t featured in the story nearly as much as his group of friends. I like seeing a fairly normal and quirky family and that’s what we find here.

His diverse group of friends are all extremely amazing in their own individual ways. His closest friends are Nick, Leah, and Abby. Both Nick and Leah have been best friends with Simon for a long time. Abby hasn’t been friends with him as long, she moved from DC to Georgia not that long ago, but Simon feels like he’s known her just as long as his other friends. Leah is probably the least likable out of the bunch. In a way, I did feel for her because she’s had a crush on Nick for awhile and now he seems to like Abby. But her attitude became unbearable at times and she took things out on Simon. My favorite was definitely Abby. I loved how accepting and fun she was. I also thought that she and Nick made an adorable couple there towards the end. Though I wouldn’t consider Martin to be one of his friends since he was blackmailing him, but I still think that the author did a fabulous job at making us sympathize with him. Seriously, these characters are all so well written that you need to just read the book for yourself.

As for Blue, well he’s one character that I can’t reveal too much about in case you haven’t read it yet. Simon discovers him from a Tumblr post on a page for their school where the students can post their secrets. Blue had posted something about being gay and not being able to tell anyone and so Simon commented on it and then they began the cutest relationship via email. One of my favorite parts of their relationship is how comfortable they are online. Neither of them have anyone else to talk to about the struggle of being gay and feeling like your living a double life by keeping it a secret. Gradually, the emails do become more flirty and I really loved it. Like is it possible to completely swoon over a relationship even when it happens only online? Believe me, this one is. I loved trying to figure out who Blue was, maybe I tried a little too hard. I actually accused every guy he came into contact with of being him at one point. You’ll end up loving the real Blue, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The bottom line is: you need to read this book. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re sure to fall in love with this book (if you haven’t already) from page one. Yes, it’s LGBTQ+ friendly which is always super awesome to see, but it’s also just a beautiful and compelling book about two teenagers falling in love for the first time. This is easily one of the best YA romances I’ve ever read, and trust me, I’ve read quite a lot of them. It’s such a wonderful read, there’s literally nothing negative to say about it. This is certainly a story I won’t be able to get out of my head for a long time, and I’m sure there will be plenty of rereads to come.

five-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Underneath Everything Review

October 28, 2015 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★½

Underneath Everything ReviewUnderneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 27th 2015
Pages: 304
Source: Edelweiss
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two-half-stars
Mattie shouldn’t be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason.
But now Mattie is a senior, and she’s sick of missing things. So here she is.
And there’s Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know; she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.
But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can’t figure out where Jolene ends and she begins.
Because there’s something Mattie hasn’t told anyone—she walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.
Poignant and provocative, Marcy Beller Paul’s debut novel tells the story of an intoxicating—and toxic—relationship that blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy, love and loyalty, friendship and obsession.

I’m still not totally sure how I feel about this book. It’s difficult to talk about, I personally think it’s best to just read it and not have a lot of background information going into it. It’s not really that much of a mystery honestly, though it is kind of marketed as one. There’s a lot of past and present tense going on, so the narration does shift a significant amount. However, I never felt like there were too many flashbacks or not enough, it seemed just right for me personally. My issue really came from just not liking the note that the story ended on. To me, endings definitely make or break a story and this one more or less broke it for me. I did enjoy parts, but as a whole I just wasn’t as into it as I hoped I would be.

This book is definitely unique. There have been a lot of comparisons to the insane but popular teen movie Thirteen. I personally haven’t watched it, I’ve just heard countless stories about the plot and characters. Based on that, I can kind of see the similarities between the two, but I still felt like this was different from other books that I’ve read. This debut novel brought something new to the table, and I know that many YA fans are sure to love it, I just didn’t love it exactly. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, but as already mentioned, I wasn’t happy with how the book ended. As much as I want to spill my guts and reveal exactly what all happened, I’m not going to do that. You’ll have to read it for yourself and determine if it’s your cup of tea.

Part of what made me not so into the book was the characters. I liked Mattie and felt bad for her, I honestly could relate to her in the respect that I wanted to fit in with everyone else when I was in school as well. I just wanted to see even more growth happen with Mattie. She did evolve in a way, but not in the way that I was really expecting. I also wasn’t sure what to make of Jolene, who is the bad girl that has a toxic friendship with Mattie. Truth be told, I didn’t know what to make of the majority of the characters. I enjoyed the writing, but the characters in general didn’t completely click with me because I felt like there was an overwhelming amount of unanswered questions leftover.

As a whole, Underneath Everything wasn’t a bad debut novel. I did like it, it just didn’t knock me over and I wasn’t invested in the story. I feel like the first half was really strong and I liked the flashbacks that were delicately sprinkled around, but it began falling up short the last half of the book. I’m probably going to check out the next book that the author writes and hope that will be more of my cup of tea.

two-half-stars

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99 Days Review

September 3, 2015 Reviews, Young Adult 2

99 Days Review99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 21st 2015
Pages: 384
Source: Library
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Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.
Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”
Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the writing and I think it was a creative concept. However, I wasn’t able to connect with Molly at all and wasn’t a fan of the decisions that she made. All in all, this is a quick read that always holds your interest, I just had a problem with how some of the events turned out in the end. I’ve also made it clear that I hate love triangles and I thought this one wasn’t going to be one of those types of stories, but unfortunately it did become one and that made me less interested in the story completely.

Molly ran away from her town after her longtime boyfriend Patrick discovered her affair with his older brother Gabe through a book that her mother wrote about Molly’s experiences. Now Molly is back in the town for the summer before she leaves for college and she’s trying to make amends with the people that she hurt. Gabe is back for the summer from college and seems to be the only person who is on her side and sticks up for her. Then Molly becomes confused for her feelings for him when the boy she loved for so long, Patrick, returns for the summer.

I don’t want to ruin too much here but the one thing I hate more than love triangles in YA books is cheating. Yes, Molly made a mistake and I don’t think that she deserves to be treated so poorly when Gabe is treated exactly the same way. I like that he also has a problem with this and I instantly liked him when he took responsibility for his involvement in the affair. I really loved Gabe and felt like he truly cared about Molly in a way that his brother never did but Molly isn’t as aware of this as she should be. One thing that I did enjoy was the female friendship here. Molly has to repair a lot of friendships that she abandoned when she took off and ran away from all her problems. She slowly gains back the friendship of her old best friend and gains a new friend in Tess, who also happens to be her ex boyfriend Patrick’s new girlfriend. This obviously is an interesting and sort of cliché friendship, but I like that they do bond since most new girlfriends in YA books seem to have it out for the old girlfriend but Tess is nothing but nice.

I recommend 99 Days specifically for people who love contemporary romance YA. If you have an issue with love triangles or cheating, I would recommend just passing up on this one even though there still may be some parts of the book that you might enjoy. Most of the reviews that I’ve read for this one are either people who absolutely loved the book or it just didn’t click for them. I say that you give it a shot because it isn’t a heavy read, you’ll likely finish it in just a day or two so check it out if it sounds like something you’d be interested in!

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