3 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Review: Every Day by David Levithan

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every day

author : david levithan

pages : [hardcover] 322

memorable quote :

I wake up thinking of yesterday. The joy is in remembering; the pain is in knowing it was yesterday.

summary :

I wake up.

Immediately, I have to figure out who I am. It’s not just the body – opening my eyes and discovering whether the skin on my arm is light or dark, whether my hair is long or short, whether I’m fat or thin, boy or girl, scarred or smooth. The body is the easiest thing to adjust to, if you’re used to waking up in a new one each morning. It’s the life, the context of the body, that can be hard to grasp.

Every day I am someone else. I am myself – I know I am myself – but I am also someone else.

It has always been like this.

original rating, december 2012 : 5 stars

december 2017 rating : 3 stars

I remember the love that I had for this book. I remember being unable to put it down, until to get this remarkable concept out of my head.

I have fallen out of love with this book.

I still love the premise. The concept is the driving force of this book and David Levithan does a fantastic job with it. The diversity presented within this book is astounding.

It just isn’t a very good love story.

I realize that it needs to be insta-love; A only spends one day in each body so in order for them to form a connection with anyone it needs to be a little instantaneous. But it was also slightly . . . weird. As in, A kept pressuring the love interest to be with them and kiss them and all when she’d repeatedly said she has no interest in them and has a boyfriend.

It made things jarring and less fun and less . . . good.

I still think everyone should give this book a try, if only for the intriguing concept and the diversity spread throughout. It’s worthwhile. It’s just no longer a favorite, and I’m not sure I’ll ever read it again.

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3 stars · series · young adult

Daughter of the Pirate King: entertaining but disappointing

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daughter of the pirate king

daughter of the pirate king #1

author : tricia levenseller

pages : [hardcover] 320

favorite character : alosa

summary :

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

review :

Daughter of the Pirate King was a lot of fun and proved why we need more lady pirates in books. But it wasn’t perfect.

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I saw the MC compared to a ‘female Jack Sparrow’ (and my love for the Pirates of the Caribbean films is never-ending despite theirfaults). The cover is cool, the concept cooler. I finally managed to get a copy from the library and settled in.

The book immediately draws you in. The plot begins with a big battle scene, the beginnings of a cunning scheme, and blood. Lots of blood. Oh, and death. This isn’t some sanitized version of pirating–there are lots of people who aren’t going to make it through the book, simply because they were in the wrong place, or didn’t fight hard enough, or were too drunk to defend themselves. I loved that ‘classic’ pirate things were happening–the pillaging, the plundering, the drinking. All seen through the lens of this incredibly strange and powerful young woman.

Alosa is an amazing main character in many ways. She’s interesting to follow. She’s smart, has witty comebacks, and is a fantastic fighter. The only problem is possibly that she’s too good. She’s too perfect at getting herself out of sticky situations; too perfect at being better than everyone else. Even when she’s defeated she is only losing because she allows the other person to think of her as weaker. This wasn’t merely something like she has the ego to think she’s the best. There’s nothing here to show she isn’t the best.

And, with that comparison to Jack Sparrow–we all know even the best pirates need someone else to save their skin sometimes.

The writing I think is what kept me from giving this book any higher than three stars. While I know that it’s just due to my taste, I couldn’t dive into the style. The tone didn’t feel right to me. For all of the reasons I loved the way this book was going, that couldn’t persuade me to fall in love with the writing. Which is . . . pretty much a big one for me when I judge books.

I think this is going to be a series; I can almost guarantee that I won’t read the sequel. Which disappoints me so muchbecause, like I said, I love some badass women pirates. I love these types of characters. I just wish this had been written differently.

3/5 stars

 

 

 

1 star · romance · young adult

once and for all by sarah dessen is, for once, 1/5 stars

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once and for all

author : sarah dessen

pages : [hardcover] 358

memorable quote :

It’s about the courage to go for what you want, not just what you think you need. 

favorite character : ira

summary :

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

review :

This is the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve ever read that I wished I DNF’d.

love Sarah Dessen. I think a lot of YA readers go through a phase between those pre-teen and teenage years where they discover Dessen, and her writing, and the wonderfully beachy, romantic, comedic, quirky books she writes. I love how each of her books references characters in the others. I love that feeling that there’s this town where all of the people are meeting and falling hopelessly, madly in love with one another in adorable ways.

I didn’t get any of that from Once and For All.

To be fair, I knew nothing about this book going in, because since high school Sarah Dessen has been on my auto-buy list. New book coming out? Say no more. I’ll end up reading it at some point. Quite the feat, because I can only name two contemporary writers on that auto-buy list, and not many more where I’ve loved their books. Contemporary, usually, isn’t the genre for me. I saw a copy of this book at my local Target that was autographed, freaked out a little, and immediately knew it had to come home with me. And so it began.

Once and For All is about Louna, who works for her mother’s wedding planning company even though she’s cynical about love because of a certain tragic backstory and doesn’t plan to follow the career past her last summer before college. Which was a little disappointing, because I feel like there was so much focus on her job, and it would have been nice if she’d been a little more enthusiastic about it. After all, she’s annoyed whenever anything goes wrong or a certain someone bumbles through her day, but she’s never happy about . . . anything. Even if it isn’t a lifetime career goal it would have been nice to see her involved, maybe with the creative aspects, or . . . Actually, I don’t think we were given any indication of what Louna would like to do besides this. And it’s fine, not to have your life set in stone when you’re eighteen, but it would have been better to know what she’s passionate about, or even just likes, rather than her moping around all of the time.

Another huge chunk of the plot concerns a bet that seems like a common staple in romantic comedy movies but I’m not sure I’ve read about in a YA book before. Rather than taking an unexpected or even whole-heartedly romantic turn like I’d hoped, it turned into something very predictable, very cliche, and very disappointing.

I may be one of the rare ones who doesn’t need to sworn over the romantic lead in my contemporary romance to ‘get it’. All I need is a good character. And I’m not sure I got even that much. Ambrose is very . . . quirky. And so not ready for a serious relationship, which I guess would be the only thing to save Louna from a certain tragic backstory.

Which . . . I’m not certain of how that was meant to fit into the rest of the plot. It happened five months before the book starts, I think, but everyone is already pressuring her to move on and basically find true love when she’s barely eighteen. Everyone in this book, Louna and Ambrose included, just needed to take a little time to just sit back and enjoy themselves a little.

While it was boring, the writing wasn’t absolutely terrible. I’ll still try more of Sarah Dessen’s books in the future. But I’m afraid that, now that we’ve hit book thirteen, if she doesn’t mix something up, the stories will always end up this bland.

1/5 stars

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

I Hate Everyone but You

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i hate everyone but you

authors : gaby dunn & allison raskin

pages : [arc] 352

summary :

Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Sincerely,
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.
G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

review:

I received an ARC from Wednesday books in exchange for my honest review. 

I was so excited to read this book, because books with a unique text format are always something that I’m going to reach for an try out. I Hate Everyone But You is told in text messages and emails between two best friends who are separated from one another by over 3,000 miles as they navigate freshman year at college. All of the exploration, romance, and fun that comes with attending college, wrapped into an important relationship between two teenagers.

Unfortunately, it was a cute concept with little execution.

Before getting into that, I would like to note what I did love about this book. I loved that Ava, one of the main characters, has a variety of disorders–I say variety because she mentions problems with OCD, anxiety, and depression, though we can’t be entirely certain what her diagnosis is. I don’t say I loved this because I want anyone to go through this–mental illness is horrible. But it’s so rare to find YA in which a main character having even one of those mental illnesses isn’t the actual plot of the book. Yes, it certainly affects Ava, and the course of the novel, and even Gen, but this isn’t a book about OCD, or anxiety, or depression. It’s about Ava and Gen. And I loved that. The characters don’t define themselves by these illnesses, and knowing how many younger readers will be picking up this book because the authors both publish videos on YouTube, that’s an incredibly important message to send out.

The thing that had me most reluctant to review I Hate Everyone But You is because I could never quite find the plot in it. The way that it ends, the authors may be setting up for a possible sequel, because it just ends. Many things that I thought might be resolved, like romance and personal issues that I won’t get into for fear of spoiling anything, tapered down to a rushed ending.

Throughout the novel, it was extremely hard to discern one voice from the other. Ava and Gen blended together so completely that I often had to check the names in the headers of their emails to determine who was who. As best friends, I know their writing would have some overlap, but with such distinctive personalities, their text speech should have differed more as well. The texts were more confusing to read than the emails, as using icons next to their names was a cute idea but forced me to triple-check which icon belonged to who each time a conversation started.

And then there was the date rape joke.

We arrived at ZBT to a line of freshman pledges handing out tropical punch and leis. The party had a jungle theme and probably at least one case of date rape. (I’m joking. I hope.)

(This is a quote from the ARC, so I plan to check this quote against the finished copy when the book is released on September 5th.)

I simply don’t understand when people will stop thinking that rape jokes are funny. With all of the other huge issues in this book, with Gen and Ava navigating what is appropriate/inappropriate to say in LGBTQ+ spaces–those conversations were great. I feel like these lines by Ava could have sparked another discussion. One that reiterated how not okay it is to make light of date rape, because there are still so many men and women whose experiences and traumas are invalidated.

That was the biggest problem I had with this book.

I know many readers and reviewers will also feed into the controversy of YouTube personalities filtering into the publishing industry these days. I’ve personally never watched either author’s videos, but I feel like that shouldn’t matter. Whether someone has striven to become an author since they were a kid or they only decided to write because they already had a fanbase, the book is still going to be judged on its own. I Hate Everyone But You just didn’t hold up for me.

Is this the last we’ll see of Gen and Ava? Maybe not, if this book does well. But it’s certainly the last I’ll see of them.

2/5 stars

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

She, Myself, & I by Emma Young: bland writing, cool concept

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She, Myself, & I

author : emma young

pages : [hardcover] 384

favorite character : rosa

summary :

Ever since Rosa’s nerve disease rendered her quadriplegic, she’s depended on her handsome, confident older brother to be her rock and her mirror. But when a doctor from Boston chooses her to be a candidate for an experimental brain transplant, she and her family move from London in search of a miracle. Sylvia—a girl from a small town in Massachusetts—is brain dead, and her parents have agreed to donate her body to give Rosa a new life. But when Rosa wakes from surgery, she can’t help but wonder, with increasing obsession, who Sylvia was and what her life was like. Her fascination with her new body and her desire to understand Sylvia prompt a road trip based on self-discovery… and a surprising new romance. But will Rosa be able to solve the dilemma of her identity?

review :

I received an ARC of She, Myself, & I from BookCon and while I am exceptionally thankful for that, it in no way affects my review.

I wanted to love this book. From the minute I read the summary, I knew I had to get my hands on it, and my friend and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time during BookCon to grab an ARC. I guess the only book I could possibly compare it to is that Meg Cabot novel about the girl who has her brain placed inside the body of a celebrity. This is nothing like that.

Rosa is in many ways a typical teenager. Her brother is simultaneously annoying and a best friend; she has friends online across the world she’ll probably never meet in real life; her parents hover a little too much. But she’s also been diagnosed with a real, debilitating, terminal illness. Her independence has slowly been taken away by this neurological disorder that isn’t ever named (so far as I know) and the specifics of which remain vague. Still, it’s shown that the longer it progresses, the less Rosa has a chance at life.

Until tragedy strikes, and one family is losing their teenage daughter. But for Rosa, this means she might get to live.

I love how She, Myself, & I addressed so many questions that there aren’t really answers to–ethical, spiritual, physical. One brain, one body–so is it all Rosa? Is anything left of the dead girl? As painful as it was, I loved that struggle, because it made it feel so much more real. Rosa’s questioning her own soul, what it means now that all that’s left of her old self is her brain.

While the ideas and themes were great, the writing just didn’t do it for me. The dialogue was fairly bland and the writing was quick, simplistic, and not very descriptive. The romance felt a little forced for me, less insta-love and more like Rosa picked the best out of all of her options and simply went for it. I didn’t feel much chemistry between them, and honestly thought it would have been more interesting had they remained simply friends. The book didn’t particularly need the romance; it didn’t improve from it, and Rosa is already dealing with so many other changes I feel like the focus should have remained on them.

There were a few other plot points that fell flat for me, but I won’t mention them because I don’t want to give out any spoilers. That’s because I know there will be people who love this book more than I did. I really want to read more of Emma Young’s writing in the future because I can see the potential here and feel like her perfect book for me simply hasn’t been written yet.

I probably won’t go around recommending this book, but I’ll certainly hand it off to someone else so they’ll have the chance to read it.

2/5 stars

 

5 stars · fiction · young adult

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker: a surprising thriller

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emma in the night

author : wendy walker

pages : [hardcover] 320

favorite character : dr. winter

summary :

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

review :

Emma in the Night is everything you want in a thriller, every plot-twist you could ever dream of, every perfectly imperfect characters, rolled into one novel.

It’s like reading a Dateline episode in real time.

Emma in the Night tells the story of a family, but most importantly of two sisters: Emma and Cass. Three years ago, they both disappeared, with no leads, no suspects, and no explanation. One night, Cass arrives at her mother’s house with a story to tell and an iron will to do everything in her power to make sure they find Emma as well.

I didn’t expect to love this book–but I did. I loved how it portrayed Cass’ unhealthy family, from her narcissistic mother to her well-meaning but weak-willed father. I feel like most fictional mysteries like this I’ve read present the family in a golden light before the disappearance, and only show it as falling apart afterward. The home is, generally, presented as a safe space, or at the very least if it was dysfunctional it seems like outsiders knew about it. No one understood Cass and Emma’s childhood apart from the two of them and even they couldn’t form a united front, as their mother constantly pitted them against one another.

That was another aspect of the book I loved, considering narcissism. I don’t think I’ve ever read a work of fiction where ‘narcissist’ isn’t meant in passing, as a descriptor rather than a diagnosis. Dr. Winter, who works on the disappearance case in Emma in the Night, has done extensive research on narcissistic personality disorder, as well as the fact that most people in general do not give it credence or think it could truly affect anyone apart from the narcissist. And as with many layers of the plot in this novel, I love how it is presented with the option for the reader to form their own opinion of events. Dr. Winter isn’t allowed an official diagnosis, so there are no “official” answers.

Because Cass is most certainly not a reliable narrator.

I don’t think I would want it any other way. Emma in the Night is written brilliantly, in a way that immediately makes me want more of Wendy Walker’s writing, and this is exactly the kind of mystery that gets readers excited for more. And because there isn’t, it leaves you thinking, and that’s exactly the kind of book I love.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

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How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

Dearest readers, I don’t think that I can rightly explain to you how much I love this book. I mean, I read it for the first time in the eighth grade, and now here I am, twenty-three and still loving it.

Yes, I’m old now, but that’s beside the point.

This is the kind of book that lasts. It’s the kind of book that makes you think, and delve into the mythology, and desperately want more. I didn’t realize for years after reading this that there was a sequel–and do you know how happy I was when I found out there was another book written in this world? And book five was just recently released. Imagine my head exploding. From happiness. From all the good things.

Well, bad things do happen in this book, but at least they’re beautifully written bad things.

The thing that makes The Thief stand out so much for me, even all of these years on, are the characters. The Thief himself, Gen, is kind of a sarcastic asshole, but he’s a criminal, so you shouldn’t expect anything less. The best part is that there are plenty of characters who don’t let him get away with that, which leads to plenty of banter. I don’t think there’s a piece of dialogue in here that seems frivolous. Everything either furthers the plot, or gives something away about the characters, or delves into the myths of this place.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that I met the author last month at Book Con, and a small literary piece of me died and went to that great library in the sky. Book conventions are amazing things. Anyway, I’m getting distracted.

Go read this book, if you haven’t already. And if you have–discuss it with me!