Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

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ARC Review: Things I Should Have Known

March 29, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★½

ARC Review: Things I Should Have KnownThings I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 28th 2017
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.

From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.
Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.  

Things I Should Have Known is a fast paced and refreshing story. I’ve never read anything by this author before, but I’m definitely going to look into her other stories now. I was looking for a heartfelt and not overly heavy contemporary read, and that’s exactly what I received here. The plot is a rather unique one, and we need more YA novels that deal with teens caring for their sibling who is autistic. The romance was also realistic, sweet, and charming. I recommend reading this if you want to read something relevant and important, with some swoon thrown in for good measure. I’m happy that I read this!

Chloe is a fierce and great character. She’s not perfect but what teenager is? I really respected her for being able to step up and take care of her sister when her mom isn’t so great at doing it. She’s a seventeen year old girl who has responsibilities that most teens never have to worry about. I wasn’t always a fan of how she didn’t stand up for her sister more when her friends/boyfriend would make rather offensive offhand comments about her. She didn’t want them to think that she was overreacting, which is something that I do understand. She made mistakes, but she was still a solid character as a whole.

The main thing that you need to know about David is that he’s a feminist. Some people may not love him right off the bat (or maybe at all) but I still liked him in the end. He’s a grumpy jerk for basically no reason at all. He doesn’t have some tragic backstory or anything. I ended up liking him so much because as the book progresses, we learn how sensitive and sweet he really is. The fact that he cries is awesome to me. We don’t get the chance to see that side of most love interests in YA books so I thought this was specifically refreshing. He was so sweet to his brother Ethan (who is also autistic) and I loved his relationship with him as well. So just keep in mind that while he has a grumpy exterior in the beginning, he’s a true softy underneath and I truly enjoyed seeing this.

So let’s talk about Chloe’s sister Ivy. As mentioned, she’s autistic and Chloe takes care of her for the most part since her mom is too concerned with her husband to primarily care for her. Anyway, I thought that Ivy was so sweet and brave. I thought that her autism was written in an honest and well researched fashion. The relationship between Chloe and Ivy is pretty much the entire purpose of the book. I felt like it was definitely well written and realistic. I loved the bond that they shared.

If you’re not a fan of hate to love romances, you’ll probably not like this one. There’s A LOT of hate going on. And it’s not like they used to be friends but now they hate each other. Nope, they’ve just always hated each other for whatever reason. There’s also the fact that Chloe has a boyfriend, which I didn’t love. I did appreciate how the relationship between them slowly and realistically progressed. The romance wasn’t my favorite, but it still had a little swoon.

Although it wasn’t exactly perfect, this was still a nice novel. Chloe was a funny, sarcastic, and kind teenager. I know a lot of people who aren’t a fan of some of the themes/tropes like hate to love, mean girls, and a love triangle, so you should probably stay clear if that’s you. If you’re able to overlook this, you get a clever and fairly unique story. I enjoyed this one for the most part. I felt like the author did a decent job at writing realistic teenagers. I’m glad that I had the chance to read this one.

three-half-stars

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The Wednesday Wars Review

August 5, 2016 Reviews 2 ★★★★

The Wednesday Wars ReviewThe Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 18th 2009
Pages: 264
Source: Library
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four-stars
In this Newbery Honor-winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero. The Wednesday Wars is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year in Long Island, New York.
Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

So I’ve been reading a lot of adult romance books lately, so this was a nice break from that. I’ve actually missed reading middle grade books and I’ve been meaning to pick this up for such a long time now, so I’m glad I finally sat down and read this incredible book. I can definitely admit that I now know exactly why this is an award winning book. There’s so much to enjoy about this lovely little story, and I can’t recommend it enough. Regardless of your age, this is a story that all ages will be able to relate to and also learn more about history along the way.

The plot revolves around a boy named Holling as he goes through the seventh grade. Basically, the book is set in 1967-68, which is right during the Vietnam War and tons of other tragic events that also go down. However, the main focus of the book is Holling’s complicated relationship with his teacher. At the start of the school year, he’s totally convinced that Mrs. Baker is out to get him, going as far as hiring a “hitman” to assassinate him. He has to stay with her on Wednesday afternoons while the rest of his classmates get to attend church services. She starts off making him clean off the dusty erasers, which results in a hysterical story involving dusty cream puffs. After he finishes that, she then starts making him read Shakespeare. Sidenote, his interpretation of Romeo and Juliet and also his habit of using the dialogue as insults will make you laugh out loud for sure. Anyway, Holling ends up finding a surprising friend and general motivator in Mrs. Baker as the year progresses.

I think my favorite part of the book was the hilarious main character Holling Hoodhood. Though he has a super tragic name, his personality is anything but that. Seriously though, I absolutely loved being inside this seventh grade boys head. I don’t know how to really describe it accurately, he’s just a memorable character who you can’t help but love from the very first page. Throughout the school year, he encounters so many different hilarious and sometimes heartwarming antics. I have to say though, my favorite adventure of Holling’s is when he has to perform in a Shakespeare play in order to get to pay for cream puffs that he has to buy for the whole class. So it turns out that his costume ends up having yellow feathers on the butt, which is naturally beyond mortifying on all levels for him.

The Wednesday Wars was an incredible read that I’m seriously happy that I finally got around to reading. This book is exactly why I love reading middle grade books in the first place: memorable characters, unique plot, and a fascinating focus on all kinds of different friendships and relationships. When I become a seventh grade English teacher, this is definitely a book that I’m going to add to my classroom library. It teaches a decent amount of history, without being the least bit boring. Though it takes place in the late 60’s, the problems discussed are still just as relevant today.

four-stars

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Suffer Love Review

May 15, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

Suffer Love ReviewSuffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 3rd 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss
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four-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.

“Just let it go.”
That’s what everyone keeps telling Hadley St. Clair after she learns that her father cheated on her mother. But Hadley doesn’t want to let it go. She wants to be angry and she wants everyone in her life—her dad most of all—to leave her alone.
Sam Bennett and his family have had their share of drama too. Still reeling from a move to a new town and his parents’ recent divorce, Sam is hoping that he can coast through senior year and then move on to hassle-free, parent-free life in college. He isn’t looking for a relationship…that is, until he sees Hadley for the first time.
Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret that could ruin everything. Should he follow his heart or tell the truth?

I read this book WAY before the release date. I was planning on holding out at least a little bit, but the description instantly drew me in and I knew I had to dive into this one right away. This is a story that has managed to stick with me nearly a year since I read this for the first time. I’ve already gone back to refresh myself on some of my favorite moments in Suffer Love. This is such a rad debut novel and Ashley Herring Blake is definitely an author to watch in the future. I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to read this book, and I recommend that you buy yourself a copy right away.

Personally, I’m a lucky child and my parents are still happily married. However, I still loved the family dynamics in this novel, and felt like it seemed very real and never forced. I’m not a fan of books that showcase cheating in any kind of way, because sometimes it feels like it’s understated and made sexier than it actually is. Suffer Love talks about cheating in a completely opposite way, it shows us how it affects the lives of the families of these cheaters in a raw and sad style. That being said, it portrays divorce in a messy, heartbreaking, and real way. As you might guess, I’ve never experienced this firsthand, but it still felt authentic and far from perfect. So the plot revolves around two teens: Hadley and Sam. Hadley’s father cheated on her mother for over a year, and Hadley is filled with anger and confusion. Sam is a teen who is forced to start over in a new place for his senior year due to his own family secrets. Sam and Hadley begin to find a deep and real connection with one another, but will it able to last when Hadley doesn’t know everything about Sam?

The relationship between Hadley and Sam was certainly one of the most important aspects of the novel. It’s better if you don’t know much about it going in, so I’ll try to keep this as brief and to the point as possible. Sam is a swoony book boyfriend. Yeah, he’s keeping secrets from Hadley that he probably shouldn’t be keeping. In the end though, he was only doing what he believed was best for her. I felt like the connection and the bond that they built was well developed. There was totally some insta-love going on, but I was able to overlook that for the most part because the relationship itself occurred at a gradual pace. One of the drawbacks that I had does have to do with the romance, I wasn’t a fan of some of Sam’s choices when it came to his relationship. You’ll have to read it to see exactly what I mean, but it did take away a bit for me regarding my overall enjoyment of the book.

I love that this isn’t a simple and fluffy read, it has some seriously emotional parts. So if you’re looking for something light and filled with happiness, this isn’t your book. I won’t say that it contains total darkness, but it has more angst and dark parts than I typically enjoy reading. However, Ashley Herring Blake executed this in such an incredible and refreshing fashion. It does have some sweet moments between Hadley and Sam, you’ll heart will be filled throughout certain scenes. Be prepared to ride on a complete emotional roller coaster ride while reading this. But take my word for it when I say that the ride is worth it by the end of Suffer Love. All in all, I’d say that this novel was tremendously well written to say the least.

four-stars

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Mini Reviews: What’s Broken Between Us & This Raging Light

December 26, 2015 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

Mini Reviews: What’s Broken Between Us & This Raging LightWhat's Broken Between Us by Alexis Bass
Published by HarperCollins on December 29th 2015
Pages: 241
Source: Edelweiss, Netgalley
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three-stars
Alexis Bass’s heartbreakingly beautiful second novel is a tale of love, loss, and learning to forgive, perfect for fans of Gayle Forman and of Robyn Schneider's The Beginning of Everything.
A year and a half ago, Amanda Tart's brother got behind the wheel drunk and killed his best friend. Today, he's coming home from prison.
Amanda's been the one living with the fallout, made worse by her brother's recent unapologetic TV interview. People think he's a monster. Still, she loves him. It's her dark secret, until she starts getting close to Henry again--whose sister is paralyzed from the accident.
A year and a half ago, her brother destroyed his life. Now Amanda has to decide if she'll let his choice destroy hers.

This book hit a little bit close to home for me since I also have an older brother. While it did have some flaws, I liked that it was a book about finding forgiveness and moving on. It also tackles the topic of holding onto the past instead of letting go. These were extremely real and touching themes that I found enjoyable to read about. However, I didn’t like some aspects to the relationship between Amanda and Henry. I also wished the ending would have turned out differently, but I suppose it was the only realistic way to resolve everything. In the end, I did like it, it just wasn’t all that memorable for me.

I didn’t read Alexis Bass’s first novel because I heard that the ending was depressing. But the summary for this one intrigued me and it was really fast paced and easy to read in just one sitting. Even though books that have to do with the MC’s big brother screwing up always make me extremely nervous, I still genuinely liked reading it and am glad that I did! I will be looking out for more books from this author in the future, who knows I might even bite the bullet and read her debut just because she is such a decent writer.

Mini Reviews: What’s Broken Between Us & This Raging LightThis Raging Light by Estelle Laure
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on December 22nd 2015
Pages: 288
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three-stars
Can the best thing happen at the worst time?
Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure's soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

This Raging Light was one of those books that I thoroughly enjoyed while reading it, but didn’t like it as much once I really looked back on it and was able to reflect on it. Basically, I felt like the story was creative but I also feel like there wasn’t enough closure on some important parts the way that there should have been. It seemed as if they never gave enough information and depth behind the main characters parents not being around. Yes, we knew why, but I felt like it should have been brought up and had closure to it in the end. Instead, the whole book consisted of the high school MC stepping up into the role of parent to her younger sister. I won’t lie, I’m a big fan of little kids in YA, I think they always make for adorable and entertaining supporting characters and Wren definitely didn’t disappoint. This was an emotional read and I cried several times throughout the story, but it was a decent book as a whole, it just felt like it was missing some important details.

Would I recommend this debut? Well, it depends on what kind of books you like. If you’re a reader who embraces YA books that deal with crappy home issues and result in a teenager taking charge, this one might be for you. Warning: if you aren’t a fan of love triangles/cheating, you might want to stay clear of this one. The LI just so happens to have a long term girlfriend for quite a bit of the novel. So if you despise those, I wouldn’t recommend this because it will likely infuriate you. However, I did like this book, I just didn’t completely love it.

three-stars

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