Tag Archives: Young-adult fiction

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0553496646
Published: Delacorte Press, September 1, 2015
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Main Characters: Madeline, Olly, Carla, Pauline

Synopsis: You’ve heard of Bubble Boy… well, here comes Bubble Girl. Afflicted from a young age with SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), Madeline is allergic to everything. She’s never been outside. She’s never felt the wind on her skin, treasured the cool lap of an ocean wave, smelled the freshly cut grass. Her mother, a doctor, is her caretaker and best friend. Only friend, really– until a new family moves in next door. Madeline finally realizes there is more to life than what she’s been living, but she must decide what’s worth risking her life for. Is anything? Is everything?

Memorable Quotes:

  • We are awkward together for a few moments, unsure what to say. The silence would be much less noticeable over IM. We could chalk it up to any number of distractions. But right now, in real life, it feels like we both have blank thought balloons over our head. Actually, mine’s not blank at all, but I really can’t tell him how beautiful his eyes are. They’re Atlantic Ocean blue, just like he said. It’s strange because of course I’d known that. But the difference between knowing it and seeing them in person is the difference between dreaming of flying and flight.
  • He leans his forehead against mine. His breath is warm against my nose and cheeks. It’s slightly sweet. The kind of sweet that makes you want more.
    “Is it always like that?” I ask, breathless.
    “No,” he says. “It’s never like that.” I hear the wonder in his voice.
    And just like that, everything changes.
  • “They tried to stop me. They said it wasn’t worth my life, but I said that it was my life, and it was up to me to decide what it was worth. I said I was going to go and either I was going to die or I was going to get a better life.”
  • “Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.”
  • My heart is too bruised and I want to keep the pain as a reminder. I don’t want sunlight on it. I don’t want it to heal. Because if it does, I might be tempted to use it again.

Review: I haven’t reviewed anything in over a year. I’m terribly sorry. I haven’t been reading very much, either. Went through some shit. Left the country for the first time. But anyway, I figured this was a good book to come back with. There will be slight spoilers in the below.

If you’re looking for a book that will remind you what your priorities in life should be, this is the one you want.

I tend to judge books based on their ability to make me cry. A book can still be good if it doesn’t, absolutely. But I’m not much of a crier, and it takes a lot to set me off. Whether it’s a sensation of awe, or grief, or unfairness, something that just hits a little too close to home… This book was none of those things, though. I was crying and I didn’t even know why. I still don’t, and I finished it last night.

So, long story short, Bubble Girl meets Boy From Outside and risks her entire existence to be with him. Okay, it’s not that simple. It’s not just about him, and she knows that. What he does is give her a taste of what life could–should– be like. And life isn’t trapped inside her white, air-filtered room. Madeline notes that she’s happy, but she’s not alive. And she never realized there was a difference until she meets Olly.

I can’t relate to her situation, of course. I’ve never been forcibly trapped in a house with an airlock. (Forcibly? What a great plot twist, right?) But I definitely don’t live my life the way I could.

We spend so much time in our own little worlds. We don’t take risks. We don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone.

I read an article recently about a billionaire doctor who contracted a terminal illness. And he said that suddenly, none of it mattered– not his mansion, his fancy cars, all the things money could buy. And of course it was a little aggrandized, like this guy had spirits come to him in his sleep and tell him what life was really about blah blah… but what matters is that he got there, you know? He came to the realization that all that was important in life are the people you surround yourself with, the people you love. And he’d wasted so much time…

I never want to be that person. I want to take every step of my life with love. Just because I haven’t managed to find my life partner yet doesn’t mean I can’t express that love in other ways. Friends. Family. Animals. The planet.

I’ve carefully constructed a facade of cynicism and I’m tired of being that person. I believe in love and hope above all things– I always have– and I’m tired of hiding it. Maybe it makes me naive, or a dreamer, or somehow “lesser than.”

But I don’t care.

Do everything you do with love, and all the rest will flow.

“Love is worth everything. Everything.”

Rating: ★★★★★


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Illumicrate: What’s Inside

Hi guys! I just received my second Illumicrate, a wonderful quarterly subscription box for lovers of the Young Adult genre!*


It’s a fabulous collection of stuff curated by just one person in the United Kingdom named Daphne. I don’t know how she does it, the thought and love put into each box is astonishing.


For starters, obviously, it always comes with a book (and usually a signed bookplate or two to go with it). This round, we received When We Collided by Emery Lord (which you can expect a review on soon). Also included was a four-chapter sampler of Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. According to the website, she tries to include brand-new books so the possibility of someone having already read it is very slim! (Also, they’re UK editions of the books, which is a pretty cool bonus for me since that’s definitely not something I’d ordinarily obtain.)


This quarter’s box was filled with all sorts of lovely knick-knacks, most of which are exclusives from small businesses on Etsy (and/or similar websites). Here’s what the packing list says:

  • “To Be Read” List Notepad by Goodnight Boutique (exclusive) – keep track of your TBR pile and other bookish to-dos with this specially designed notepad
  • Ex Libris Stamp by Little Stamp Store (exclusive) – mark books from your library or create cards and tags with this gorgeous, versatile stamp
  • Book Club Mug by The Art of Escapism (exclusive) – great for indoor and outdoor use when discussing your latest reads
  • Readers Gonna Pin pin by Literary Emporium – display your reader status proudly with this adorable enamel pin
  • Bookworm clips by My Bookish Mark (exclusive) – use these little cuties to mark your place in books or planners


Not mentioned on the packing list:

  • 4-mini-button set from author Jenny McLachlan
  • postcard featuring #mystery&mayhem, which appears to be a collaboration of twelve authors
  • set of postcards (or placards, moreso) that match the art from the Emery Lord novel, featuring quotes from said novel
  • card with excerpt from The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, entitled “How to Make A Wormhole”
  • on the back of the card is a recipe for the cinnamon muffins from the aforementioned novel (makes 12 muffins, which I will probably make and eat ALL BY MYSELF)

FullSizeRender (1) FullSizeRender

That about cover this quarter’s contents! I’m really excited to dive into the book (and to check out The Square Root of Summer and eat muffins while I read). Thanks to Illumicrate for another stunning creation; can’t wait for the next one!

* I am not receiving anything for reviewing this, I’m just doing it BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME.

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Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Title: We All Looked Up
Author: Tommy Wallach
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4814-1877-5
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Purchase: Amazon, Simon & Schuster
Bonus: Full-length companion album


Main Characters: Peter, Eliza, Andy, Anita

Synopsis: One evening, a blue-tinted star appears in the sky. Not “appears” as in something only careful astronomers and amateur star-charters would notice, but “appears” as in everyone on the planet notices at pretty much the same time and won’t stop talking about it. It’s only a couple weeks before NASA tells the world that yes, it might hit us. In fact, there’s a 2/3 chance that it will. What would you do in the months leading up to impending doom? Wallach’s novel, told through multiple perspectives, takes us through the lives of four teens and their friends as they try and figure out what’s worth keeping around… either for the continuation of the world, or the end of it.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “… The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world. You’re part of this cosmic community of people who’ve thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be. I think that’s what happened to you today. This fear, of squandering your future, was already on your mind. I just underlined it for you.”
  • She believed photography to be the greatest of all art forms because it was simultaneously junk food and gourmet cuisine, because you could snap dozens of pictures in a couple hours, then spend dozens of hours perfecting just a couple of them. She loved how what began as an act of the imagination turned into a systematic series of operations, organized and ordered and clear, mixing up the processing bath, developing the negatives, choosing the best shots and expanding them, watching as the images appeared on the blank white paper as if in some kind of backward laundromat– a billowing line of clean sheets slowly developing stains, then hung up until those stains were fixed forever. And then there was the setting, crepuscular and shadowy, everything about it perfectly calibrated for creativity, from the sultry red glow of the darkroom lights to the still and shallow pool in which her prints rested like dead leaves on the surface of a pond…
  • … “Anita, do you every worry that you’re wasting your life?”
    … “I think everybody does,” Anita said. “But we’re only eighteen. You can’t have wasted your life at eighteen. We haven’t even lived our lives yet.”
    “But you have to decide, you know? It’s like that poem with the road in the woods. You don’t want to end up running down the wrong road, because you’ll probably never get back to that place again. The place where the road splits, I mean.”
    “Actually, the point of that poem is that it doesn’t really matter which road you pick.”
  • After it was over, Peter sat on the couch and let his mom hold him. His dad kept changing the channels on the TV, hoping to find someone able to contradict some parts of the president’s speech. Both of them were crying, his mom steady as a stream, his dad like an imperfectly sealed pipe– just a slow drip around the edges. Peter loved his parents, but right then he would’ve given anything to get away from them. Their anxiety burned away all the oxygen in the room; his own feelings couldn’t breathe. He was only eighteen! There were so many things he hadn’t experienced yet– world travel, bungee jumping, sushi. And what the hell had he been waiting for? Why had he assumed time was some sort of infinite resource? Now the hourglass had busted open, and what he’d always assumed was just a bunch of sand turned out to be a million tiny diamonds.

Review: This book was an easy sell. I was intrigued by the cover, first of all, and then I flipped it open to read the blurb. I didn’t even read the first part, but my eyes were immediately drawn to: “They said the asteroid would be here in two months.” That was all I needed. Bam. Sold.

I’m going to throw it back a bit here, but do any of you remember Animorphs? You know, that series about the kids that were able to turn into animals to save the world from the invading aliens? Anyway, that’s one of my favorite series of all time, and its author, K.A. Applegate, has continued to write books that blow my mind. Shortly after Animorphs ended, she released a series called Remnants. It didn’t quite have the longevity of Animorphs, but the first book in the series began with a similar premise to We All Looked Up: the end of the world. An asteroid impact. The rest of Remnants involves the 100 or so people chosen to escape the planet on a dilapidated space shuttle and their adventures once cryostatis wakes them up 500 years later, which is pretty divergent from WALU, but anyway. The point is that Remnants #1 is absolutely one of my all-time favorite books (within the top 10) and it’s a brilliant reflection on human nature.

Which is to say, that human nature is unpredictable. There is no “default” setting for human nature. What you assume humans are going to do… well, they won’t. Some will. Others will exist completely outside the realm of plausibility.

WALU follows the story of four interconnected teens and their lives leading up to the Big Impact. The book begins with Peter, already having an existential crisis before the asteroid even appears in the night sky; obviously, learning that there’s a 66% chance that humanity will be wiped out just like the dinosaurs doesn’t do much to help him.

Anita is perfect. She gets perfect grades, has a perfect family, always looks perfect. But she’s tired of being perfect. She gets a C on a test for the first time ever, just to see how her parents will react. Spoiler: it’s not good.

Eliza’s home life sucks, so she’s taken to meeting boys at clubs and sleeping with them, just so she can feel something. To try and make someone care. But ultimately, no one seems to.

Andy is torn between loyalty to the guy who has always been his best friend, and the knowledge that his best friend is … well, not a good person. Andy wants to help Bobo, but might soon realize that Bobo is either beyond help or just not worth saving…

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the descriptions of what other people were doing. The randoms. The people you’ve never met and undoubtedly never will. Strangers in cities, strangers on islands, strangers in penthouses, and strangers on the street. Some, like Peter’s parents in the quote above, can’t find it in themselves to do anything but cry. They fall into the pit of depression, of hopelessness, of “what’s the point,” and there’s no one who can help them climb back out. Others decide it’s finally their chance to do whatever the hell they want; what’s a two-week jail stay in the long run? It’s all going to burn anyway. Others, though, others spread love: tell their loved ones they love them, make an effort to DO those last things on their bucket lists, find the money or the excuses to visit those beautiful places they’ve only dreamed about.

Not that any of those is a right or wrong response, really, which is sort of the point. You can’t predict how you’ll react. Honestly. You can ponder it day and night for the next 50 years but until it actually happens to you, you just don’t know.

Spoiler: the book ends before the meteor hits. Or doesn’t hit. I was slightly disappointed at first, because come on that’s the best part– but then I realized that the moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is the person you are leading up to that moment. You can die in jail, or you can spend the next seventy years in jail. Or you can fill your life with light and love and go out surrounded by the people you care about the most… or if the world doesn’t end, wake up to a new world surrounded by the people you love.

Which one sounds better to you?

Rating: ★★★★½

P.S. The author is also a great musician, and he wrote an album to go along with the book. Check it out on bandcamp! You can download it for $5, or if you really love it, get yourself the vinyl for $20. Why not? After all, life is short.


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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


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.


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: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Title: Meant to Be
Author: Lauren Morrill
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0385741774
Published: Delacorte Press, November 2012

meant to be

Main Characters: Julia, Jason

Synopsis: Julia is a bookworm. There’s no way around it. She keeps perfectly sharpened #2 pencils in her purse! And her friends bailed on her, so now she’s the only bookworm on the class trip to London. When you’re in high school, it seems like teachers are out to make your lives hell, and Mrs. Tennison is no exception: she assigns partners for the trip. Who does Julia get paired with? Class clown and unruly ginger, Jason. All Julia wants to do is survive this trip and get back to distantly ogling her MTB (Meant To Be), also known as the gorgeous hunk Mark, whom Julia has known since childhood. Is there more to Jason than meets the eye? Furthermore, is there more to Julia…?

Memorable Quotes:

  • I hate to fly. Seriously. HATE IT. It seems wrong to be hurtling through the clouds at warp speed in a metal tube. It makes about as much sense as being flung over the ocean in a slingshot.
  • London is where Mom and Dad went on their honeymoon, and they always talked about coming back here. Dad used to joke that Paris was the city of love for unimaginative folks. “Give me those guards in the big fuzzy hats any day,” he’d say, laughing and planting a kiss on Mom’s forehead. They’d even saved up for a tenth-anniversary trip, but when Dad got sick, the trip was quickly forgotten.
  • “Wow. That’s … wow,” I reply, choking back what I’m really thinking, which includes the phrases “shove it” and “butt munch.” I toss back my glass and manage to mask my disgust for the drink and the company in one fell swoop.
  • His voice cuts right through the London fog, and I’m glued to the bench, unable to take my eyes off him. He stares right back at me, eyes sparkling. He hits every note, even Paul McCartney’s trademark ooohs at various pitches.
  • “Point is, maybe some people wouldn’t want to be around me all day, but there are people out there who would. And they’re smart and funny. And they like some of the things I like and hate some of the things I hate, but they also introduce me to all kinds of new things. That’s as close to ‘meant to be’ as I can imagine.”

Review: This was a completely lovely story. It’s one of those that, again, you pretty much know how it’s going to end, but the journey it takes you on to get there is well worth the ride.

It’s set in London, as mentioned in the synopsis. The class trip is a little over a week, and they’re staying in a very posh hotel. Julia doesn’t even have to deal with a roommate, which is great for her, because she’s one of those “me against the preps” girls. (I used to have that kind of frame of mind too, back in elementary school, but thank goodness I grew out of it!)  She can spread out, fold her clothes, set out her books… and not have to worry about anyone messing it up.

Julia starts off with nothing but distaste for Jason, especially since he spent the whole plane ride over yelling “We’re going down!” every time there’s a semblance of turbulence. Like Julia doesn’t hate flying enough. (This, she and I have in common. See the first Memorable Quote.) That sums up his personality in a nutshell, really: he’s a joker, prankster, doesn’t really care how he’s perceived as long as at least one person is laughing.

In terms of things I didn’t like, SPOILER, Mark shows up in London. Yes, that Mark. Mark and Julia were neighbors when they were children, and they used to have a blast playing together every day. They even staged a pretend marriage! Alas, Mark moved away at some point, and her crush waned, as things do. But then Mark moved back, and it was like he’d never left. Clearly, this was a sign that they were Meant To Be.

At any rate, it turns out that Mark has some sort of connection to the hotel Julia and the kids are staying at, so she bumps into him in the lobby and they end up hanging out a lot. Long story short, Julia realizes Mark is definitely not the guy she thought he was. At all. I didn’t really… like that. I didn’t think it was necessary for him to magically show up. I think she could’ve appreciated Jason on her own, without the contrast of “Oh, Mark sucks, so Jason is clearly the only choice.” I wish she would’ve made the choice on her own, instead of basically having it made for her.

Regardless, this was a completely enjoyable book. The descriptions of London are so vivid and real. I even made myself watch a YouTube video of a trip on the London Eye because it was described so well in the book that I had to see it myself! Sadly, I’ve never been to London. I’ll get there someday, though, and this book gave me a few places I’d like to add to my sightseeing list!

Rating: ★★★★

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Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Title: These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 1-42-317102-0
Published: December 2013, Disney Hyperion


Main Characters: Lilac, Tarver

Synopsis: Tarver Menderson is a soldier. He accomplished something recently that propelled him into “hero” status, but even with that he doesn’t come close to the magnificent star system that is Lilac LaRoux. Lilac LaRoux is… rich. Beyond measure. A princess, by any futuristic standards. Why, her father built the spaceship that she and Tarver are both sailing on. (Spaceship? More like, colossal luxury cruise ship IN SPACE.) Except… Tarver doesn’t know who she is. He’s heard of her, of course, but he doesn’t recognize her on sight. So when he chats up the beautiful redhead in the ballroom, he has no idea that he’s speaking to the daughter of the most powerful– and dangerous– man in the universe. Well, that’s awkward. But there are worse things than incurring Mr. LaRoux’s wrath. Worse things like the ship bucking out of space and time itself. In a cruel twist of fate, Tarver and Lilac help each other escape the tormented ship. Their escape pod careens into the forest on a nearby planet, and they watch together as the behemoth of a space cruiser, dying and aflame, slams into the surface of the planet.

Memorable Quotes:

  • The Icarus is falling. She’s like a great beast up in the sky, and I imagine her groaning as she wallows and turns, some part of her still fighting, engines still firing in an attempt to escape gravity. For a few moments she seems to hang there, eclipsing one of the planet’s moons, pale in the afternoon sky. But what comes next is inevitable, and I find myself reaching out to put an arm around the girl beside me as the ship dies, pieces still peeling away as she makes her final descent.
  • My lady? Does he know how crazy his faux courtesy makes me? Surely no one could be so aggravating by accident or coincidence. I cling to that anger, trying not to let it fade as I look at him. It’s safe, this fury. I can’t afford to feel anything else.
  • How quickly one’s delusions come crashing down– the soldiers aren’t watching us society folk, wishing they could touch us. They’re laughing at us in our bright dresses and parasols, our immaculately re-created drawing rooms and parlors. And what was funny in the sparkling world of the Icarus is simply pathetically ridiculous down here, in the kind of world they live in day to day.
  • The idea that someone will swoop down and take him away from me, off to fight some distant war in some distant system, makes me feel like my lungs are filling with water. I don’t know how to reach him, how to make him see how I feel. I don’t know what’s going on behind the brown eyes I’ve come to know so well. I don’t know what he’s thinking as he looks at me.

Review: This is one of those books that you start off knowing how it’ll end, but that doesn’t make the journey any less fun.

This was just such a fun story! The opening scenes on the ship do a great job for establishing the characters. You learn quickly about their personalities, even if you don’t know their background stories yet. The action of the ship going down is brilliantly paced.

The book starts off with what can only be interpreted as someone being interrogated. You’re able to figure out a couple chapters later that it’s Tarver. But who is interrogating him, and why? The actual story, then, is a flashback as told by Tarver. (Except somehow the chapters alternate POVs. Hmm.) This also sort of answers a question you didn’t even know you had: when they crash-land, when all this bad stuff is happening to them, do they manage to make it off the planet alive? Well, clearly, yes. Because Tarver is giving a debriefing about it.

Their trek across the planet to reach the fallen Icarus comes off as a bit slow sometimes. (Are they there yet?) But the authors do a really good job of filling the silence. That’s when all of the character backstory comes out. The characters don’t tell all of it to each other, but we as the omnipotent reader get to see what’s going on.

You learn a lot about the planet through their separate reactions to it. Obviously, this book is set in the future. This society has the ability to terraform (and then colonize) planets. This planet that they’ve landed on is definitely terraformed: Tarver has been on many terraformed planets, and he recognizes the specific elements, like the type of trees used, the way the air is breathable. But the trees are taller than he’s ever seen… and, even stranger, there are no colonists. How long has this planet been terraformed? Why are there no colonists? What the hell happened here?

The love story takes a back burner to the larger mystery, which is quickly noted as being a mystery but slow to be fleshed out. Why is Lilac hearing voices? Is she simply crazy (or in shock), or is there something else going on here? Seriously, why are there  no colonists? Are they ever going to confess their feelings for each other??

This review came out a bit more sarcastic than I intended, but I truly did enjoy the book. I read it in less than a day, it was that enthralling. It’s an adventurous, futuristic love-story mystery novel. What’s not to like?!


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Review: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Title: Everything Leads to You
Author: Nina LaCour
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-52-542588-8
Published: May 2014, Dutton Juvenile


Main Characters: Emi, Charlotte, Ava

Synopsis: Emi, a Los Angeles native, has just graduated high school. Thanks to her older brother, Toby, she’s got an awesome job: she’s interning at a movie studio. She’s in charge of designing a set! Just for one scene, which is a tall order for an intern, but Emi is very, very good. The job isn’t without its perils, though; she’s working with her love interest, Morgan, who has just dumped Emi… for the sixth time. In her attempts to avoid Morgan, Emi avoids the studio. She’s looking for furniture for her set design anyway. However, she finds something at an estate sale that will completely change her life– and a few others’ along with it.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Later, though, once she’s lying under the boy’s weight, and there are close-ups of their hands or feet or faces, people will see the thread and the leaves. I can picture the girl’s hair spilling over the side, blending with the gold, like she’s tangled up in a forest. There’s something fairy-tale-like about it, which is perfect, because fairytales are all about innocence and ill will and the inevitability of terrible things. They’re all about the moment when the girl is no longer who she once was…
  • “… I’m sure that Tracey loved me and couldn’t imagine losing me, too. But that doesn’t mean she really wanted to be a parent. Or that she was ready to be one.”
  • This conversation isn’t that different from the five others we had before getting back together. But it feels different, because wanting someone is not the same as loving her, and now I understand that Morgan does not love me. When you love someone, you are sure. You don’t need time to decide. You don’t say stop and start over and over, like you’re playing some kind of sport. You know the immensity of what you have and you protect it.
  • … I am thinking about the set I would create if this were a movie about me. If I were trying to show people how it once felt to be with Morgan I would show the shimmering blue water of the pool at her apartment, and the line she rigged on her back deck because her unit has a washing machine but no room for a dryer. All those tank tops and pairs of bright underwear in the sun. It would be a soft nostalgia, a faded romance.

Review: I love falling in love with characters. I love falling in love with the way a book makes me feel. I loved falling in love with this book, maybe more so than I even like falling in actual love.

Spoilers abound.

This is a beautiful, beautiful story. At its heart it’s a love story, of course. But Nina LaCour crafts the book so beautifully, I can’t help but compare her to Emi and her careful eye as she constructs a set. Every little detail matters, whether it’s the way a picture frame tilts just off kilter, or the way the light hits Ava’s hair. Obviously Emi and Nina are of the same brain… but it’s different, somehow, this time. I could get lost in the way things are described. I picked out a few of my favorites and posted them above. The way she describes the couch, for instance. I mean, it’s a couch! But the couch is Emi’s job: she finds the beauty in the details, she knows how important the subtleties are, and all of that comes across in the writing. You and I, we look at a couch and think, wow, that looks comfy. (Or… maybe not, depending on the couch!) But Emi looks at a couch and sees how it needs to connect with the story. The golden thread, the character’s golden hair. A fairytale forest, full of ominous danger, because that is where the character is headed in the story.

I loved the emotion weaved into the story, too. There’s a particularly poignant moment in the story after Ava confronts her adoptive mother, Tracey.

Without warning, Ava pulls onto the side of the road. She pulls up the emergency brake and leans into Jamal, buries her face in his shoulder, her body quaking. She trembles and trembles and when she finally cries it doesn’t even sound like crying. Nothing like that night in our living room with Clyde Jones on the screen looking out at her. Not like a few minutes ago, on Tracey’s front lawn. Not even close to that. It’s this gasping that makes Charlotte and me lock hands, makes me have to struggle against crying myself. It isn’t my tragedy. It isn’t me who knows for certain in this moment that I’m alone in the world. She has us, I know, but for all people talk about friends as being the same as family, I know that, really, they aren’t. At least not when you’re eighteen. Not when sometimes you need your mother.

I can completely identify with that feeling. Last year, I moved to a completely new place by myself. I didn’t know a soul, and my workplace was not conducive to making friendships. I didn’t know anything about the city I was in, and going out was always a pain in the ass because of traffic, so I pretty much always stayed home. It got to a point where my anxieties had completely overwhelmed me and I was becoming a bit of a hypochondriac and I was crying multiple times a day and… I just really needed a hug from my mother. But she wasn’t there. She was three thousand miles away. I know it’s completely, 100% not the same thing as being abandoned on purpose, but that sense of alone-ness, of not having anyone there to comfort you in your darkest moments when you absolutely need them… that, I get.

I feel like there’s a bit of “manic pixie dream girl” dismantling going on here, too. When Emi first meets Ava, she thinks she’s perfect. The girl is a mystery. Ava doesn’t even know anything about her own life! Emi’s dramatic flair takes over, and she wants to solve this mystery. She wants to help Ava in her rags-to-riches fairytale. She wants to be the one who made her. Emi wants to direct the movie of Ava’s life, frame the situation. That the tragedy is in the past and now Ava can be free and live her life in the spotlight. Except… that’s not how real people work. I found this passage particularly beautiful.

I want to confess. I thought that her story was composed of scenes. I thought the tragedy could be glamorous and her grief could be undone by a sunnier future. I thought we could pinpoint dramatic events on a time line and call it a life.

But I was wrong. There are no scenes in life, there are only minutes. And none are skipped over and they all lead to the next. There was the minute that Caroline set Ava down and the minutes it took her to shoot up. There was the minute that Caroline died and all of the minutes before Lenny discovered them. The minute he left Ava there, still crying, and the minutes before the ambulance came. And all of the minutes that followed that, wherever she went next, whoever held her, so many gaps in memory that must have been filled by something important. I want to apologize for not realizing sooner that what I felt in Clyde’s study was not the beginning of a mystery or a project. She was never something waiting to be solved. All she is– all she’s ever been– is a person trying to live a life.

I also want to add that it’s really refreshing to read a book with queer characters that… isn’t about being queer. Emi is gay, obviously, but it’s not her defining trait at all, just like a regular human being. It’s just one facet of her being. So many “queer novels” are about the gay struggle: coming out, getting kicked out of the house, telling your friends, what have you. And those are… important, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of the genre. The world needs to recognize that queer people can lead just as normal lives as anyone else, and that’s who Emi is. She’s a normal teenage girl with an awesome job, a family, a best friend, and a car. Her love is the same as anyone else’s: timid, nervous, afraid of messing up, but passionate. It’s what we all strive for in a relationship, no matter what gender the person we search for it in.

In short, I’ll leave you with this. If you want a completely beautifully written story, with colorful, relatable characters, and fantastically interwoven plotlines to boot, please pick this book up. Do yourself the favor. It’s $11 for your Kindle and you don’t even need a Kindle to read Kindle books! Just get the free app on your smartphone. Seriously. I promise you won’t regret it.

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


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.”


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 One by Kiera Cass

Title: The One
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-06-205999-8
Published: May 2014, HarperTeen
Purchase: Amazon

the one
Main Characters: America, Maxon, Aspen

Synopsis: There are only four girls left, and Maxon has to pick soon. But the rebels are looming on the horizon, attacking from both the north and the south, and the entire Selection hangs in the balance. Can Maxon save the country? Can he save his future wife? Can he even save himself?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Would you regret it?” he asked. “For the rest of your life, it would be like this. Beautiful walls, but walls all the same. My mother scarcely leaves the palace more than once or twice a year.” … “And if you think the public is intrusive now, it would be much worse when you’re the only girl they’re watching. I know your feelings for me run deep. I feel it every day. But what about the life that comes along with me? Do you want that?”
  • I thought of the mouselike boy in the corner of the room that night. He willingly ran out into the fray for me, for all of us. Bravery hides in amazing places.
  • I can imagine you sitting here, smiling at my idea, maybe shaking your head at me as if to say I’m being silly. You do that sometimes, did you know? I like that expression on you. You’re the only person who wears it in a way that doesn’t come across like you think I’m completely hopeless. You smile at my idiosyncrasies, accept that they exist, and continue to be my friend. And, in seven short hours, I’ve started to miss that.”

Review: You know that thing that happens when you’re reading a book, and you start to run out of pages, and you’re like, “Oh god, all the plot points can’t possibly be wrapped up in this many pages, there’s going to be another novel”? Well, that definitely happened with this book. So look forward to the fourth book in The Selection Series by Kiera Cass!

Er… wait. No, I’ve got that all wrong. There isn’t going to be a fourth book.

So where the hell is my wrap-up?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d been completely enjoying the book up until the very end. It was a helluva lot better than the second book, that’s for sure. It didn’t seem haphazardly thrown out of Kiera’s fingers to appease her editors. But when the book ended, I was completely floored by the complete waste of potential.

I still have so many questions. The story ends (SPOILERS!!!!) with Maxon promising to undo the caste system, which is apparently something he’d been planning even before America opened her big mouth on national TV. (Sure, buddy. Sure.) And then he and America get married. Fantastic! Lovely! I mean, we all knew it was coming!

But… what about the rebels? In this third novel, we learn that the northern rebels are on Maxon’s side. They want to protect the monarchy, and like Maxon, they want to dissolve the caste system. It’s the southern rebels that are the dangerous ones. They’re the ones that resorted to killing people in the castes of the Elite because they refused to quit the Selection. They’re the ones that lead armed raids on the castle. We don’t want the southerners in power, because they’ll overthrow the monarchy and put a crueler one in its place.

So… what happened with them? Was every single southern rebel killed in the last assault on the palace? Speaking of which, how on earth do rebels manage to get in and out of the palace so easily? (Even the “good” ones?) Let’s not even mention how so many rebels (disguised as guards) slipped past the regular guards. Did no one ever say, “Hey, I don’t know this group of guards. Where did they come from?” Check their papers. There’s gotta be some record of their arrival if they’re legit, right? Better safe than sorry, right?!

We also learn at some point that the leader of the northern rebels is a descendant of Gregory Illéa himself. But… why bother? That revelation has literally no bearing on any other part of the story. He goes to a couple meetings with Maxon and that’s it. He doesn’t want the crown. Maxon doesn’t even seem particularly impressed by it; it’s not like knowing the boy is an Illéa grants instant trust with the monarchy.

There was so much set-up with the outside world that never amounted to anything at all. America kindles a friendship with the Italians, right? That’s all well and good, and it turns out to be a reason why King Clarkson even considers not kicking America out of the Selection outright. But what does it ever do? America convinces the Italian princess to give some money to the northern rebels for weapons. But did she? Do they ever use them? It’s hinted that the northerners use some artillery against the southerners in the final battle, but who knows where that came from. Elise is kept around because her family is from New Asia, and an alliance could be useful there, too. But an alliance for what…?

Something that is also revealed late in the book is that America’s own father was part of the northern rebels. (Apparently, northern sympathizers have a thing for North Star symbols. Necklaces, tattoos, tittles*. But that’s literally all we ever learn about that in regards to her father. How did he come to be a northern rebel? What did he do in service of the cause? Was their mother in on it, too? Did he have plans to induct America into the society before she was Selected? Yet another lovely plot point setup that went absolutely nowhere.

Let me bring your attention back to the ending of the second book. Do you remember that revelation? That Maxon is being abused by his father, King Clarkson? Well, here’s another spoiler for you: the King is killed in the final battle of the third novel. Surprised? I can’t say that I am. I was pretty sure he was going to die, but I didn’t know at whose hands. He’s simply killed by a southern rebel, if you must know. His wife, the loving, wondrous, oblivious Queen Amberly, is also killed. She was trying to save her husband.

But what is Maxon’s reaction?

Literally nothing. Nothing. There is nothing.

One could argue that in the hours after it occurs, he’s simply in shock. All right, I’ll give you that. People all grieve in different ways. He says something along the lines of, “I can’t believe it’s real.”

But… to not give us any sort of reaction after the fact? This man is the King of Illéa and he’s been mentally and physically tormenting Maxon for at least the last year, if not for his entire fucking life. Maxon, your tormentor is dead. Does that not elicit ANY SORT OF REACTION? Happiness? Relief? Bitterness? Sadness, in spite of himself?

What about his mother? The woman who was benign, benevolent, and loving, but ultimately completely blind to the abuse that was inflicted on her son by her husband? That’s gotta arouse some feelings too. Resentment?

I think the lack of reaction to his parents’ death is what pissed me off the most.

I am glad, though, that the silly love-triangle shenanigans was mostly absent in this book. Aspen finally falls in love with someone else (I won’t tell you who, but it’s pretty obvious it’s happening), and early on, America finally realizes she’s completely head-over-heels for Maxon. Of course, though, the love triangle ends up blowing up in her face even after all this is revealed, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how it happens and if it manages to be resolved.

Another thing that was missing from this book was the bland, vapid version of America we met in Book 2. You remember her. Constantly weeping because of the choice she had to make in her heart. Skulking around the castle hiding from both of them. Honestly? The way this third book is written pretty much pretends that the second book doesn’t exist. America makes a few references to sleeping next to Maxon in the safe room, but that’s about it.

If I’d reviewed this book in the middle of it, it’d probably be getting four stars. But the completely awful ending wrecked it all. If you manage to make it through the travesty of a second book and start reading this one, do yourself a favor: pretend it ends right after Maxon and America profess their love for each other. That way NOTHING is wrapped up and you can mentally write your own ending, instead of getting like pieces of one wrap-up and none of any others.


* Before you giggle, a tittle is the term for the dot in a lowercase I or J.

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Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 1-25-001257-0
Published: February 2013, St. Martin’s Griffin
Purchase: Amazon, Indie Bound

Main Characters: Eleanor and Park

Synopsis: Eleanor is big, Eleanor is a redhead, and Eleanor does not dress to fit in. Eleanor is the new girl in town. None of those things add up to being popular. At home, she’s finally been let back into her old life; she was kicked out a year ago by her mother’s husband, Richie. Eleanor’s trying to stay under his radar, to be invisible, to not get kicked out again (or worse): she doesn’t have time to even be thinking about boys. But when she boards the bus to her new school for the first time, she doesn’t have a seat: the social hierarchy has already been established, the pecking order in place. What is she going to do, stand the whole way? It seemed like it, until someone slid over to make room… and that someone was Park.

to Rainbow Rowell and Eleanor & Park for winning a
Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature!

Memorable Quotes:

  • Eleanor had pretended not to notice the bruises on her mom’s wrist.
  • “Now there’s a girl who might want a piece of you,” Cal said. “Looks like somebody’s got jungle fever.”
    “That isn’t even the right kind of racist,” Park said, looking up. Cal was nodding toward the far corner of the library. The new girl was sitting there, staring right at them.
  • If this had happened two summers ago, Eleanor would have run and banged on the door herself. She would have yelled at Richie to stop. She would have called 911 at the very, very, very least. But now that seemed like something a child would do, or a fool. Now, all she could think about was what they were going to do if they baby actually started to cry. Thank God he didn’t. Even he seemed to realize that trying to make this stop would only ever make it worse.
  • “Your father is a piece of work,” her mother said. “Every time, he breaks your hearts. And every time, he expects me to pick up the pieces.” Pick up, sweep aside– same difference in her mom’s world. Eleanor didn’t argue.
  • “Like, a few minutes ago, you said you missed me. And for maybe the first time ever, you didn’t sound sarcastic or defensive or like you think I’m an idiot. And now you’re yelling at me.”
  • It was a terrible thing to admit. But sometimes, Eleanor slept right through the yelling. Especially after she’d been back a couple months. If she were to wake up every time Richie got angry … If she got scared every time she heard him yelling in the back room …

Review: This book was really, really hard to read. Not as in skill level, but as in heartbreaking. The central theme in Eleanor’s life is abuse, and it’s been that way for a really long time: ever since Richie entered their lives. Not that her life was great before that, but as she mentions at some point, her dad’s selfishness was way better than anything Richie ever did.

I think everyone’s been picked on at one point or another at school, but I was never anyone’s number one target. I never had my clothes flushed down a toilet during gym class. I never had a whole school bus chanting insults at me. Eleanor just can’t catch a break: if it’s not happening at home, it’s happening at school.

She finds solace in Park’s company, but it took a while for her to open up to the possibility. They went from non-speaking bus-seat-mates to silently reading comic books together to silently appreciating the same music to finally actually speaking. And once they started talking, they never stopped.

Relationship!Eleanor acts the way you’d expect for someone who a) is treated like shit by the people in her life who are supposed to love her, who b) never thought her peers would like her, who c) certainly never thought anyone would like her enough to want to be in a relationship with her. She’s scared as hell. They don’t do more than hold hands for months, and even that sets every nerve ending in her body aflame.

When they finally get around to kissing, Eleanor is hesitant. She’s only ever seen kisses on TV and in movies. Lips don’t come with an instruction manual! What if she messes up? What if it makes Park not want to be with her anymore? But they’re in the alley next to the RV, and even though it’s cold and dark, Park is warm, and Park is gentle, and he teaches her without a word.

(Did any of my readers ever have a “comfortable” first kiss? When mine happened, we’d been sort of fighting, and we were silently sitting at a picnic table in the park around nine at night, and we were both cold and nervous and shaking. I can’t imagine not being nervous for something like that. Let me hear your first kiss stories!)

Naturally, all the time Eleanor spends with Park is stolen time. Richie would never allow her to be out with a boy. He barely lets her out as it is, and that’s under the pretense that she’s visiting a girl friend named Tina. Richie is a mean drunk, and he’s always drunk. He beats their mother, probably close to every night, and he threw Eleanor’s typewriter through a wall before banishing her from her family for a year.

The book starts off with a little prologue from Park, talking about Eleanor being gone and how much he missed her and how sometimes he’d see people on the street that reminded him of her. So the fact that she somehow is gone at the end of the story isn’t a spoiler. However, as I read the novel, I got increasingly nervous: how would it happen? Does Richie… kill her?

Abuse can be really hard to write about, I think. People outside of abusive situations always wonder why the victims don’t just leave. I think this story beautifully illustrates why. You can’t leave because they’re family. You can’t leave because you think it will get better. You can’t leave because you think it isn’t that bad. From Eleanor’s mother’s standpoint, the abuser provides for her; he brings home the bacon, he gave her the roof over her children’s head. He even loves you, when he’s not hurting you. For Eleanor, the reasons may be different but the logic is the same. She thinks that if she does everything right, she’ll stay safe. Except she’s wrong. Abusers don’t need a reason.

This book is set in the mid-80s, and some of the references went right over my head. I mean, I know who The Smiths are, but I can’t say I’ve ever been a big fan (sorry. They’re a bit whiny for me). And I never had a Walkman. I had Sesame Street cassette tapes when I was little, but by the time I was old enough to need portable music, they’d invented CDs. I never knew a time when they actually showed music videos on MTV, you know? So the environment was a bit hard for me to sink my teeth into.

I think my only gripe with this novel was the POV-switching. The story is told in third person and the characters often occupy the same space, so I thought the POV-switching was not only completely unnecessary but at times, very confusing. I’d be reading along from my third-person perspective and suddenly, the heading announces we’re now viewing it from Park’s perspective, but I thought I already was. I was confused trying to figure out whose head I was supposed to be in and why it even mattered. (I actually mentioned this to a friend who read the book a bit ago, and she said she didn’t even remember that they switched. From that, I affirm: the switching has no impact on the narrative.)

I definitely enjoyed reading this book; I started yesterday afternoon and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished at 4am. (What a coincidence that it won that award today!) I’m a bit torn on what rating to give it, because like I mentioned, I did have a hard time with the setting and the POV-switching, but the story itself is just so well-told. Also, I feel like this review shied away from Park and his life, but his mother and father are great characters, and he does deal with a few issues on his own. So don’t leave it up to me, go pick it up and read it yourself! Like Reading Rainbow says, “You don’t have to take my word for it…”

Rating: ★★★★

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