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Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Title: Never Always Sometimes
Author: Adi Alsaid
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 0373211546
Published: Harlequin Teen, August 2015
Purchase: Amazon

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Main Characters: Dave, Julia, Gretchen

Synopsis: Dave and Julia are best friends. Nothing strange about that. Prior to the beginning of their high school careers, desperate to avoid turning into the cliché high schoolers you see on TV, they collaborate on a list: things they should Never Do. With three months left of their senior year, they decide that maybe it’s time to give the Nevers list another look…

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Well, it’s part of a longer quote, this really beautiful passage about how the best anyone can ever do is to leave the world a little better than you found it. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Invent a new toaster or reach out a helping hand; just, you know, leave it a little better than you found it.”
    Dave noticed that their knees were touching. Amazing what kind of warmth could come from such slight contact. “What book is it?”
    Timbuktu by Paul Auster,” she said. “I know it’s weird to say or even think this, but that book has made me who I am. Not entirely, obviously. It didn’t help me at soccer, or make me so good at telling jokes with a straight face. But certain lines felt like they were thoughts I’d had my whole life that just hadn’t taken shape yet until I read them. ‘A little better than you found it’ is how I see everything now. Not just the world, but everything. People, too. I want people I know to be a little better off than when I found them. God, that sounds pretentious, doesn’t it?”
  • How Julia had felt something so deeply for so long without knowing it herself was a mystery. As if love was a fugitive harboring in an attic, hidden even from the people residing in the house.
  • “That’s not enough,” Gretchen said after a moment. “To be sorry you hurt me is not enough for me to forgive you.”
  • Gretchen took a step closer to Dave, so she was less of a silhouette, the details of her face coming into focus. He couldn’t tell what she was feeling, if she was about to slap him or hug him. The moment stretched on and on without a clue as to what was on Gretchen’s mind. People walked all around them as if on fast-forward, like a film-editing trick. Dave realized he had no idea what was on anyone’s mind, not even a little.

Review:

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something so good that I actually wanted to accumulate the energy to review it. (It’s really hard to do this when your job sucks the life out of you, you guys. Hold out as long as you can.) But this book, especially the last third, resonated with me on a level that a novel hasn’t in quite a good while.

Spoilers ahead!

So, let’s face the facts: Dave and Julia are best friends. The book starts off in third-person-Dave, so we know right off the bat: he’s in love with her, he’s been in love with her as long as he can remember. He’s memorized her face, he’s tortured by her touch, he adores when she smiles (especially if he’s the one who caused it). When he and Julia decide to start breaking the Nevers, he can’t tell her that he’s been breaking one this whole time: #8. Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school.

Most of the Nevers are silly, things that most kids in high school take for granted. Never go skinny-dipping. Never hook up with a teacher. Never go to a beer party. They’re fun to break, and any time spent with Julia is time well-spent, no matter what they’re doing. But when they get to the lower Nevers on the list, things start to get complicated. Never date your best friend. Can that one be broken? How? Why?

Dave meets Gretchen at a party and a few things fall into place: one, Julia is never going to feel for him the way he feels for her, and two, Gretchen is pretty awesome. She’s smart, funny, pretty, and genuine. And she’s interested in him.

Naturally, it takes the lightning bolt of seeing Dave and Gretchen together for Julia’s heart to kick-start into motion: she’s in love with Dave. Of course she is. But she can never tell him. Not now, not that he’s finally found someone he loves. Who wouldn’t love Dave? Julia expresses surprise that no one’s ever taken an interest in him before. He’s handsome, intelligent, funny… oh God, she’s so in love with him.

The dance of love/not-love/platonic love that follows in the wake of this revelation is fantastic, especially as someone who’s been through (is in the throes of) a similar scenario. Julia can’t hold down her feelings for long, and this culminates in a night of passion on a beach– a cliché to end all clichés, if we’re keeping score! Waking up with Julia in his arms was just as he’d dreamed it would be: perfect. It was perfect.

Before, when Dave had dreamed about love, this is what it looked like:

It was lazy. Love was lazy as hell. Love laid around in bed, warm from the sheets and the sunlight pouring into the room. Love was too lazy to get up to close the blinds. Love was too comfortable to get up and pee. Love took too many naps, it watched TV, but not really, because it was too busy kissing and napping. Love was also funny, which somehow made the bed more comfortable, the laughter warming the sheets, softening the mattress and the lover’s skin.

But. (There’s always a but.)

It isn’t long before Dave realizes something is off. As much as he loves Julia, as perfect as this friendship-turned-relationship has turned out, he can’t escape from the fact that when he’s looking at Julia, sometimes, just sometimes, he’s thinking of Gretchen. The doubts manifest into a dark cloud that follows him around, and he has to face the truth: that his affection for Gretchen had grown into something that not even this finally-requited love from Julia could squelch. For so long, Julia had been all he wanted– and now he’s gotten it, and he wants something else.

Gretchen gets hurt along the way, of course. It was unavoidable. As someone who is currently standing in Gretchen’s shoes and hasn’t gotten her happy ending yet, I almost couldn’t bring myself to finish this book because I couldn’t bear to find out how it ended. (Seriously, there were tears.) Would Dave make the right decision? Would he follow his heart to Gretchen, and where it would be truly happy? Or would his guilt, obligation, and fear of breaking Julia’s heart make him stay with her?

Spoiler: he makes the right decision.

In a scenario like this, someone getting hurt is unavoidable. But there comes a point where you can’t worry about the other people who will be hurt: you have to decide what’s best for you. It took a lot of courage for Dave, to break off this relationship with this person he’d wanted for as long as he could remember, who’d finally given him her entire heart. How could he ever hurt her? He’d already hurt Gretchen; that wasn’t the issue. But he had to figure out where his heart truly lay, and it was with Gretchen. To stay with Julia because… that was how he’d always wanted it, or because that’s how she wanted it, or because he didn’t want to hurt her… isn’t fair to either of them.

You’d be surprised how difficult this decision is for some people. Some people never make it. They settle. They never get to live a life less ordinary, or experience the difference between great love and mediocre love.

Jump. If you take one piece of advice from me, ever, it is to jump. Take that leap.

I’ll never fault anyone for following their heart.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 1595145141
Published: Razorbill, April 2014
PurchaseAmazon, iBookstore

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Main Characters: Hannah, Zoe, Danny

Synopsis: Hannah and Zoe are best friends. They always have been and they always will be. In a classic case of “opposites atrract,” Zoe is the thunderstorm and Hannah is her lightning rod. When Zoe’s health issues take a turn for the worse, Hannah has to try and keep her friend safe while she sifts through her own shit: self-pity, daddy issues, and love. A whirlwind tour around the country carves etchings of jackalopes, buffalo, and casinos on each of our three characters’ hearts.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Whereas I am grounded and mired in this place, she’s like milkweed fluff that will take off with the first strong breeze. Stronger than fluff, though. She’s like a bullet just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.
  • So, what is the opposite of a “helicopter parent”? I wonder. A subway parent? A sinking ship parent? A hibernating bear?
  • “You’re a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl, aren’t you?”
    “No, not really. I just like surprises, so I keep my expectations low.”
    He seems to think for a moment and then says, “The difference is subtle.”
  • “Don’t break up with her. You don’t want any part of this,” I say, swirling my hand in the air. “I don’t mean to be presumptuous or anything, but you seem to be testing the waters. And these waters are seriously polluted. With scorpion venom and Crown Royal and all sorts of toxic whatnot. Stay with Rebecca.”
  • I’m reluctant to steal a car. And I’m really reluctant to steal a car from a McDonald’s employee whose entire paycheck goes into the upkeep of the car just so he can drive back to work. Like that story of Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill and never getting anywhere.
  • “No, Zoe, it’s not enough,” I say, and I think how my love for Danny, at the outer limits, might last until he goes to college. My love for Zoe is supposed to last through graduations and weddings and baby showers and games of bridge. Forever.

Review: This is the greatest book I’ve read in a while. I’m sure you’ll notice the dearth of posts lately; it’s not that I haven’t been reading, but I haven’t come across anything that screams, “Review me! Tell the world how great I am!” This was definitely a yelling book.

I’m going to warn you straight off the bat, though, that this book does not have a happy ending. It’s not that kind of story. It’s a story that rings true, a tale of struggle. Zoe has bipolar disorder, and it’s about as bad as it gets: hallucinations and altered experiences. Hannah is Zoe’s rock, and has been since they were both very young. Hannah has seen Zoe’s disorder manifest itself over and over; she’s learned the signals, and she’s learned how to cope. How to help Zoe cope.

But this time, it’s not working. The Pippi stockings aren’t working. The threats of lithium aren’t working. The last stop on Hannah’s “Help Zoe” train, Zoe’s autistic little brother, Noah… isn’t working.

Zoe has her heart set on the college of her dreams: New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a wizard of a seamstress, breaking fashion boundaries and helping the girls at the prep school keep their skirts too short. But somehow, Zoe isn’t accepted, and something inside of her snaps. She blows out of town like a hurricane, dragging stick-in-the-mud Hannah along with her.

Hannah has her own crap she’s in the middle of, though. She’s been hauling a hot dog stand around town for two summers, trying to earn enough money to attend the local community college. Her mom is poor, and her dad is squandering every cent he makes on booze when he’s not attending AA meetings or being a weatherman. After an on-air meltdown, Hannah discovers that her father has siphoned her hot dog money. All $2000 of it.

So, what the hell? Why not run off with Zoe? It’ll only be for a day or two tops, right? It’ll give her time to cool off, time to think of some way to face her father without smashing his head in. Or sending him to rest peacefully at the bottom of the lake, which is where her hot dog stand now resides.

Except Zoe doesn’t want to turn around. When she’s not turning the car north to follow tornadoes, she’s turning it west to chase buffalo. She’s setting Kermit the Frog free the night before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She’s bleaching her hair blonde in a Walmart bathroom on Black Friday. Above all, though, she’s not eating. Or sleeping. She doesn’t need to anymore, she tells Hannah. The aliens have been reformatting her DNA.

Hannah has to match her every step, because she doesn’t know what else to do.

Is Zoe crazy? What is crazy? If someone creates a world for themselves that’s better than the one they’re in, can you really blame them? She’s not harming anyone– except, okay, maybe the elderly security guard at IKEA whom she tazed in the middle of the night. Except herself, as she continues her path into starvation and sleepless madness. But she’s Hannah’s best friend. She’s the girl who creates museums in her basement for her brother to understand emotions. She’s the girl who teaches Hannah the meanings of audacity. Gluttony. Destiny. Betrayal. Insouciance. None of the meanings that you can glean from a dictionary, but the meanings that invoke life.

“If you won’t come with me, I’ll go with you,” Hannah tells Zoe. When forced to make a choice, I chose her.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

Title: The Infinite Moment of Us
Author: Lauren Myracle
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 1-41-970793-0
Published: August 2013, Harry N. Abrams
PurchaseAmazon

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Main Characters: Wren, Charlie, Tessa, P.G., Starrla

Synopsis: Charlie is in love with Wren, but up until today, she didn’t know he existed. Wren has been too focused on being perfect for her parents– perfect grades, perfect career path, perfect lack of boyfriends. Is she willing to throw it all away for Charlie? Is he willing to do the same for her?

Memorable Quotes:

  • She waved at him and smiled, and relief rippled across his features. Immediately he soothed his expression, but she’d seen, for a second, what he really felt. She had the strangest urge to go to him and say, No. Please. Sometimes the things we hide– aren’t they the parts of us that matter most?
  • He replied in his lowest, most serious voice: “I don’t make promises I don’t mean.”
  • She let go of him, and he missed her touch. She turned her back to him and stared up at the sky. Night had fallen, and the first stars had winked their way into existence, twinkling against a palette of inky purples, deep reds, and one last slice of pearly, light-infused blue. It was a blue that reminded Charlie of the ocean, or of pictures of the ocean. He’d never been. He wondered what Wren saw.
  • “Oh,” Tessa said. “You’re jealous.”
    “Am I? Ugh, I guess I am, but only when he picks them over me. But that’s dumb. I know.”
    “I didn’t say it was dumb,” Tessa said. “It’s what you feel, and guess what? Feelings are like three-year-olds. They’re not rational. They’re just there.”
  • How could she be his everything if she, herself, wasn’t enough?

Review: Let me preface this by stating that the only reason I ever put this book down was because it was 4:30am and I literally couldn’t hold the book anymore, let alone keep my eyelids up. But I promptly finished it the next morning (okay, afternoon), before I even rolled out of bed.

I completely enjoyed this book, and it was quite refreshing after the travesty that was the last book I reviewed.

Wren and Charlie fall in love really fast, and and not unrealistically. They’re both young and it’s the first experience of love for both of them. Naturally, that love is also peppered with insecurities. Like any teenage female, Wren struggles with the idea that Charlie could possibly like her over someone, anything else, especially when that someone is the too-attractive Starrla. Charlie’s troubled past and reluctance to share it with Wren isn’t helping those insecurities fade.

Wren is a character that’s very easy for me to identify with. From our insecurities to our thirst for knowledge to our ideas about gun control (“her solution to gun violence would be to make all guns everywhere disappear”), she could be me in a parallel universe.

Wren is an only child, and as such, she’s been spoiled rotten by her parents. They’re not especially rich, but they’ve spoiled her in attention. Naturally, as one is wont to do, you grow out of needing that level of attention, and sometimes the parents just can’t understand why. Wren has reached that point. She wants to live her own life. She doesn’t want her parents to live another life vicariously through her. Understandable, right? Wren has been accepted into the college her mother works at, to pursue the career they want her to do, and they bought her a car (for which her mother wrangled special freshman “car on campus” privileges). But Wren… doesn’t actually want to go there. So she defers her enrollment, deciding to sign up for Project Unity instead (which is like a less-intensive version of the Peace Corps).

The catch? She doesn’t tell her parents she’s done any of that.

Charlie, on the other hand, grew up in the system. The System. Capital T, capital S. He was a foster child. Somewhere along the way, though, he was picked up by Pamela and Chris, and they have treated him well. Treated him as their own. Sometimes Charlie still can’t wrap his head around it, though, drawing on his past experiences with other foster families, knowing it has to go sour at some point. He found asylum as a young teen in Starrla, another broken person, someone who could actually understand what Charlie was going through. It wasn’t love, but it was… something.

Wren and Charlie… their souls touch. They’re truly in love, something neither of them have experienced before. It’s a whole lot of firsts between them, though maybe not the same ones.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending, really. I was a bit confused, because for all intents and purposes, it looked like she had decided to stay and he had decided to go, so they were going to miss each other by a matter of minutes.

My favorite part of the book, though, is when Wren has decided that love isn’t worth the pain, and she’s going to cut off her nose to spite her face, basically.

“Well … I guess I just realized how hopeless it all was,” she heard herself say. “Love. Relationships. Being with Charlie.”

“Being with Charlie is hopeless?” Tessa said. “Why?”

“It was hopeless from the beginning,” Wren said. “I just convinced myself it wasn’t. I convinced myself that because we loved each other, we should be together, when really, what is love? It’s not something you can prove, is it?”

“Oh, okay,” Tessa said, cocking her head. “Is this because of Starrla? Because of what she said about Charlie?”

Yes, thought Wren. Because he told her, but he didn’t tell me. Because he was afraid to tell me, because he knew it would upset me. Because it has upset me.

“I’m not good enough for him,” she whispered. “His problems are always going to be bigger than mine.”

“So, what, you’re cutting him off like… like a tag on a piece of clothing? Something you can just throw away?”

Wren shrugged. It was easier not feeling things. “There’s no room for me.”

“Wren. You’re being ridiculous.”

“I know.”

“You’re hurting him, and you’re hurting yourself.”

“Yep.”

This excerpt hits home a little bit for me. I tend to do this, all the time. “It’s easier not feeling things.” Every time I develop feelings for someone… the instant I realize it’s happening, I shut it down. There’s no point, I tell myself. They’re not going to like me anyway, so I might as well flip the switch and save myself the trouble of getting hurt somewhere down the line. “I have to learn not to need people,” Wren says. She and I, we’re the exact opposite of risk-takers, building up the walls that we have no intention of scaling.

At any rate, this is a fabulous tale of love, insecurity, and figuring out that real relationships do actually take work.

Rating: ★★★★½

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Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Moon and More
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-67-078560-1
Published: 2013, Viking Juvenile

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Main Characters: Emaline, Theo, Benji, Luke

Synopsis: It’s the last summer before everything changes, and the change has already started. Emaline and her family run a realty business in Colby, renting out fantastic beach homes to rich families seeking the vacation of their dreams. Theo is among them, and from the moment they meet, everything changes. Emaline had been dating Luke since freshman year, but when he cheats on her, that relationship goes down the hole (surprise). Also, her birth-father rolls into town unexpectedly, toting along Emaline’s ten-year old half-brother, Benji. Emaline spends the summer with Theo and Benji, and along the way she realizes that only she has control over who she becomes, and that perhaps giving everything The Grandest Title Ever leaves no room for improvement.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Yeah. Thanks. This lug nut’s being a bitch.’
    Of course it was a female. I sighed.”
  • “When you’ve never gotten love from someone, you don’t know what it might look like if it ever does appear. You look for it in everything: any bright light overhead could be a star.”
  • “Sometimes, when it came to events and people, it had to be okay to just be.”
  • “‘Life is long. Just because you don’t get your chance right when you want or expect it doesn’t mean it won’t come. Fate doesn’t punch a time clock or consult a schedule.'”
  • “She was dressing for the life she wanted, not the life she had.”

Review: Let me preface this by announcing that I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I have been, ever since I stumbled across This Lullaby at my local Borders’ outlet. Presumably, I always will be. I wish she could turn out a new book every week, that’s how much I long to desire them. However, I know that’s a sightly ridiculous goal, so… keep doing what you’re doing, Ms. Dessen. That being said, this novel certainly did not disappoint!

Even at the ripe old age of 24, it’s quite easy for me to relate to Dessen’s characters. She’s spoken of her love for the 16-18 age group before, and that she has no plans (as of yet, anyway) to move beyond it. She claims nostalgia. That’s fine with me, though, because she writes about the sort of loves and lessons that transcend age boundaries. She writes Strong Female Characters without having to drop them into such tropes as warranted by the TV/movie world, for example. (You can either be pretty and feminine, or ugly and an unfeeling warrior, etc.) Emaline works hard: she works full-time for her family’s business and somehow still managed to balance the studying required for an acceptance to Columbia University. She loves hard: she and Luke were together for more than three years before life just got in the way. She’s a feminist: she calls out Morris on his use of the word “bitch,” albeit subconsciously. (Thank you, Ms. Dessen, for that!) But Emaline is not afraid to cry, as evidenced when she disappoints her mother, or when her birth-father disappoints her. She feels lonely and not special, which are feelings everyone battles with, be they a teenage girl or not.

In a deviation from most of Ms. Dessen’s other books, this one does not end with the Girl Getting the Guy! Spoilers. Theo turns out not to be the one from her, and she goes off to East U free of romantic entanglements, ready to start again with someone new. This clearly doesn’t happen right off the bat, though, because at the end of the book we run into Emaline taking Benji to New York City for an art show. Not a boyfriend, but her half-brother. You go, Emaline.

If I had to give this book a big, capitalized Moral, it’d be You Don’t Need A Man to Be Happy. You might even be able to through an “especially” in there, in regards to her birth-father. Emaline learns that she had no obligation to be with Theo if he wasn’t making her happy, regardless of how many Best Dates Ever they had (or didn’t have). She also learns that sometimes parents really do know best, and that their love is truly unconditional: no matter how many times you disappoint them, they’ll forgive you and welcome you back with open arms. And that, even when you’re only two hours away, your mom still worries.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: A Northern Light
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-15-216705-6
Published: 2003, Harcourt Books

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Main Characters: Mattie, her family, Weaver, Miss Wilcox, Royal Loomis

Synopsis: Mattie is a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, trapped in 1906. She loves school and tries to spend all her free time reading– not that she has much; now that her mother has died and her brother has run away, her Pa needs her to help run the farm. But Mattie has big dreams. Big dreams that will cost a lot of money to make happen. She has to decide if she wants to marry the handsome local boy and be a farm wife forever, or to break her promises and make a break for the Big Apple. A story told in two timelines that meet up at the end, Mattie makes her choice and solves a murder mystery in the process.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “As I tried to figure out what I could say– to find words that weren’t a lie but weren’t quite the truth, either– I thought that madness isn’t like it is in books. It isn’t Miss Havisham sitting in the ruins of her mansion, all vicious and majestic. And it isn’t like in Jane Eyre, either, with Rochester’s wife banging around in the attic, shrieking and carrying on and frightening the help. When your mind goes, it’s not castles and cobwebs and silver candelabra. It’s dirty sheets and sour milk and dog shit on the floor. It’s Emmie cowering under her bed, crying and singing while her kids try to make soup from seed potatoes.” (p. 17)
  • “I stared into my teacup, wondering what it was like to have what Minnie had. To have somebody love you like Jim loved her. To have two tiny new lives in your care. … I wondered if all those things were the best things to have or if it was better to have words and stories. Miss Wilcox had books but no family. Minnie had a family now, but those babies would keep her from reading for a good long time. Some people, like my aunt Josie and Alvah Dunning the hermit, had neither love nor books. Nobody I knew had both.” (p. 96-97)
  • “I thought some lemon drops would be just the thing to cheer Abby up. It would be a furtive purchase, as I really should have given the money to Pa, but after he’d hit me, I decided I wouldn’t. Furtive, my word of the day, means doing something in a stealthy way, being sly or surreptitious. Sneaky would be another way of putting it. I did not wish to become a sneak, but sometimes one had no choice. Especially when one was a girl and craved something sweet but couldn’t say why, and had to wait till no one was looking to wash a bucket of bloody rags, and had to say she was ‘under the weather’ when really she had cramps that could knock a moose over, and had to listen to herself be called ‘moody’ and ‘weepy’ and ‘difficult’ when really she was just fed up with sore bosoms and stained drawers and the fact that she couldn’t just live life in the open, swaggering and spitting and pissing up trees like a boy.” (p. 161)

Review: Spoilers ahead! I adored this book. It took a bit of getting used to, simply because of the time period, and the way the timelines were split, but after a chapter or two it was easy to discern what was going on. I love Mattie’s use of words and the games she plays with Weaver. Weaver’s character was fantastic. He’s black child growing up in 1906 whose mother saves every penny he owns to send him to college, and he works his bum off to get into college and dreams of becoming a lawyer. Mattie can see his future plain as day and knows he’ll be brilliant in everything he achieves. Of her own future, though, she isn’t so sure. Sometimes things really are too good to be true, and Mattie’s coming to terms with that is one of the hardest parts of the book to stomach. Because although Mattie can’t see it coming, the reader sure can.

I loved the separate timeline bit, although like I said, it took a bit of getting used to. I’m still not sure if it was past/present or present/future, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter since they meet up toward the end anyway. Mattie is handed a bundle of letters and told to burn them by a young woman who turns up dead in the lake the same night. Curiosity outweighs her desire to keep her promise, and she reads them. The author’s note at the end says that all the letters are real; it’s an interesting case that became one of New York’s most famous murder mysteries. Obviously, the author took a bit of creative license with the circumstances considering Mattie is fictional, but the rest is true. (If you’re curious, here’s the Wikipedia page.)

Anyway, Mattie learns that you really do have to follow your heart, even when it takes a while to learn that it isn’t a) pointing at the handsome boy who’s asked her to marry him or b) keeping the promise you made to your mother on her deathbed when she asked you to take care of the family. She has to live her own life, and thank heavens she does.

Beautifully written with a colorful cast of characters; I didn’t mention all of them but the twist with the English teacher is a lovely touch, and greatly inspiring. The secondhand learning of all these famous authors via Mattie was good for me as well. She talks of her love for Emily Dickinson, how she didn’t hide the truths of the world for you, she wasn’t afraid of death or loss or heartbreak. That’s the kind of writer Mattie longs to be, because her life isn’t perfect and she can’t imagine lying to the world.

Rating: ★★★★

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Review: Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner

Title: Nobody’s Princess
Author: Esther Friesner
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-375-87528-1
Published: 2007, Random House

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Main Characters: Helen of Sparta, her family, and her friends Atalanta, Milo, and Eunike

Synopsis: Helen of Sparta, daughter of Zeus, is a young girl growing up in ancient Greece. She may not know exactly what she wants out of life, she knows what she doesn’t: she doesn’t want to marry a boy, she doesn’t want to learn needlepoint, and she definitely doesn’t want to just be pretty! Helen takes it upon herself to make her own dreams come true, such as learning to swordfight, and sets herself up to become Helen of Troy, one of the most famous women history will ever know.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “That would be so easy, wouldn’t it?” she said. “So easy to let someone else make your choices for you. That way, if you fail, it isn’t your fault.” She clasped my hands more tightly. “You deserve to live a better life than that.” (Queen Leda to Helen, p. 87)
  • “She said that until she met you, she thought she was the only woman alive who’d ever wanted something more than a husband, a family, and a hearth fire. Was she wrong?” (Milo to Helen, p. 256)

Review: Although I can definitely say this tale was intended for someone much younger than I, I must give credit where credit is due: this is a wonderful little novel. I’ve always gotten a kick out of historical fiction, and reading about a young girl’s struggle to make a mark on the world is something I think we can all identify with. We all grew up wanting to be the President, did we not? Helen sees the cookie-cutter mold laid out for her future and doesn’t want a piece of it. The characters are vibrant and well-fleshed out; you truly feel for Helen and her plights. Her friends are loyal and imaginative, though the prophesizing Eunike comes off as a mere plot device. In spite of that, however, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot; it’s written more as a journal, detailing her day-to-day experiences and travels. There is a sequel, though, and if I can get my hands on it, I’ll definitely review it as well!

Rating: ★★★½

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Filed under historical fiction, young adult ficton