5 stars · fiction · young adult

Foul is Fair: I LOVE THIS BOOK

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Foul is Fair

author : hannah capin

pages : [hardcover] 336

favorite character : elle

summary :

Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

review :

This book is badass. Foul is Fair is brutal and beautiful.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from Wednesday Books in exchange for my honest review. Yes, this book doesn’t come out until February. Yes, I started reading this as soon as I got my hands on it because I couldn’t resist the urge to find out what Foul is Fair is all about.

Before page one, content and trigger warnings are printed for readers. I hope that Foul is Fair is setting a precedent, because this is something that is so important to include. Wednesday Books might be starting one of the best trends to happen in literature.

Elle goes to a party. Something terrible happens at the party. Elle begins to call herself Jade. Jade plots her revenge.

Foul is Fair is truly a revenge fantasy for girls who are tired with boys getting away with their crimes. It is dark, it certainly doesn’t hold back, it screams and attacks for every girl out there who’s ever been kept silent. It certainly isn’t like anything I’ve ever read before.

It does require a little suspension of disbelief. This book is a retelling of Macbeth (which, I’ve just realized, isn’t mentioned in the book summary?) and if you keep thinking about it within that context, you’re fine. However, the book does take place over the span of three weeks (at most) so if you think of it within a contemporary context, it makes less sense. It happens so fast. If there had just been a few chapters in the middle that said Jade wormed her way into the lives of her enemies over even a few months, it would have been infinitely more believable.

The writing is so incredibly beautiful–enough to make me not really care about the timeline. Which is saying a lot, because usually I rail against insta-love, even in retellings. Hannah Capin has the kind of writing that is *chef kiss* delicious. I want to read anything she’s ever written or will write; I want to sink into these beautiful words that talk about such dark themes. You all know I’m not the biggest fan of books set in a contemporary world. I feel like Hannah Capin could write about anything, she’s so good. Maybe this also plays into why I didn’t mind the rushed timeline so much; as a reader, you’re so in tune with Jade’s thoughts that you understand her completely. Her motivations. Her fears, that she tries to hide from even herself.

I’m sorry so many of you are going to have to wait so long to read this book, because I want to discuss it with all of you right now. It’s unique. It’s amazing to see this badass girl pulling all the strings. And it’s very satisfying. Foul is Fair is fairly brilliant.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

3 stars · fiction · young adult

A Match Made in Mehendi: an ok, light contemporary read

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A Match Made in Mehendi

author : nandini bajpai

pages : [hardcover[ 320

favorite character : simi

summary :

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

review :

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book at Book Con.

A Match Made in Mehendi is a cute, light read following Simi, who isn’t quite sure that she wants to join the family matchmaking business because she dreams of becoming an artist. As a way to sort of test her interest and also gauge if she’s any good at matchmaking, she works with her friends to design an app that uses all of her family’s techniques to pair individuals. The dating app only works at her school and Simi personally has a hand in every match that occurs.

I can truly say that I’ve never read anything like this! A Match Made in Mehendi has modern high school drama with the technology components, while also doing a callback to the past with Simi’s more ‘traditional’ family business–old school, meeting prospective matches in person, and everything is written out on paper (Simi struggles with those filing cabinets and I sympathize). There’s a blending of generational differences, a blending of cultures–and Simi is struggling to find her way through it all, so it’s as relatable as any coming-of-age story.

However, it takes a lot for me to fall in love with contemporary novels, and I don’t think the characters were unique enough in this one for me to ever consider it for a reread. Simi is someone I think a lot of teens will see themselves in, but the cast around her falls flat as they really only exist to support her and don’t stand well on their own. At times, things happen to other characters seemingly only so we can get Simi’s reaction, and then we never see the follow-through or consequences. The plot threads are dropped, and while it was interesting that there were so many in a relatively short book, it would have been better to have them condensed so that nothing would end up getting left behind after a few chapters.

The writing in this book was very simplistic, so I think it would appeal most to the younger spectrum of YA readers. There were never any really biting bits of dialogue, or paragraphs that jumped out as particularly meaningful. The text said what was happening, and who was saying what, but never explored Simi’s emotions any more deeply than that. Disappointing, when we get the entire book from her perspective.

However, unlike so many YA novels coming out right now, this was a fun book to read and pretty happy overall. Yes, there are deeper themes explored, such as bullying, but they’re done nicely in a way that isn’t quite as depressing or melodramatic as other current contemporary novels. Simi goes through a lot but never really lets it get her down, and it’s refreshing to have such a positive main character.

So, if you’re looking for a light, fluffy read–overall, this might be the one for you.

3/5 stars

 

 

4 stars · fiction · young adult

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here: a diverse book we needed

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Amelia Westlake Was Never Here

author : erin gough

pages : [hardcover] 368

favorite character : will

memorable quote : So I do what any self-respecting person would: I go after her screaming.

summary :

A fiercely funny, queer romantic comedy about two girls who can’t stand each other, but join forces in a grand feminist hoax to expose harassment and inequality at their elite private school.

Harriet Price is the perfect student: wealthy, smart, over-achieving. Will Everhart, on the other hand, is a troublemaker who’s never met an injustice she didn’t fight. When their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior is swept under the rug, the unlikely duo reluctantly team up to expose his misdeeds, pulling provocative pranks and creating the instantly legendary Amelia Westlake–an imaginary student who helps right the many wrongs of their privileged institution. But as tensions burn throughout their school–who is Amelia Westlake?–and between Harriet and Will, how long can they keep their secret? How far will they go to make a difference? And when will they realize they’re falling for each other?

Award-winning author Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is a funny, smart, and all-too-timely story of girls fighting back against power and privilege–and finding love while they’re at it.

review :

This is the contemporary high school story I didn’t know I was waiting for.

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here tells the story of two girls who become unlikely allies in an attempt to shake things up at their boarding school. Will has always been a little unconventional and a lot into politics. Harriet is more likely to suck up to her teachers than to stand up against something. When the two agree that something is not quite right at their school, they start an anonymous campaign together and begin by targeting their sexist, creeping gym teacher. They create Amelia Westlake, a fake student who pulls harmless pranks to point out terrible things that are happening which the school is attempting to sweep it all under the rug.

Will and Harriet’s dynamic is hilarious, and frustrating, and perfect. The story is told in their alternating points of view. Will’s perspective is always quick, moving forward recklessly and without thought. Harriet’s is more restrained, as she forces the world around her to bend to her will, and the way she words things is stiff and filled with superfluous vocabulary words. I love it. It’s so rare to see a book so easily dive into the heads of two very different characters and have the writing style change to adapt to each personality.

This story is about teenagers, and the amazing thing about it is it speaks about real issues people in high school encounter—real, terrifying issues—and it never talks down about these girls. There’s never a moment where the book seems to doubt they’re capable of fighting against the injustice at their school simply because of their age. I feel like it’s incredibly empowering and poignant for the young adults who’ll be reading this book. Undoubtedly some will be dealing with the same issues Harriet and Will are fighting against. One lovely thing about Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is the truth behind its message: one voice speaking out against the rest can be enough to turn the tide.

Of course, I’m also a sucker for the dynamic between these two, where they bicker and claim to hate each other while truly they’re getting a better understanding of what each is going through. There were parts of this book that had me laughing, squealing, gasping—parts that made my heart hurt, because they’re so relatable and part of anyone’s experience in growing up. This is a coming of age story that helps readers truly decide: would you rather be a bystander, or make a change in your world?

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is a book that is here, and will be important for a long while.

4/5 stars

Fantasy · fiction · young adult

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly: yeah I couldn’t fly away from this one

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Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly

authors : stephen graham jones & paul tremblay

pages : [paperback] 280

summary :

This is the story of a girl who sees a boy float away one fine day. This is the story of the girl who reaches up for that boy with her hand and with her heart. This is the story of a girl who takes on the army to save a town, who goes toe-to-toe with a mad scientist.

review :

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while now because I downloaded it on Netgalley and never fit in the time to read it. Instead I found it on Hoopla recently (my love for that app never ends) and dove it.

This was a quick read. Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly is a simplistic contemporary fantasy. It opens on Mary (our narrator, and I just had to look up her name because it’s used so rarely in the book) who is at a family reunion when she spots someone she’s never seen before. A boy, who climbs a tree and starts floating up into the sky.

It’s a hoax.

Or . . . is that only what they want her to think? Strange things start happening, spreading through and taking over her town, and Mary starts investigating it because . . . I don’t know, because Floating Boy is hot?

I had a lot of problems with this book, mostly the content because it was pretty well-written. Sometimes Mary’s POV was a little confusing, because her actions don’t really match the tone and content of her thoughts. She’s fourteen, and she’s running all around independent and making mature, rational decisions while her thought process is like that of someone half her age.

Part of the subplot is that Mary has had problems with anxiety and depression, probably stemming from pressure at school, and she’s still struggling with that. I love books where mental illness is not the only plot, just part of who a character is. However, Mary vehemently resists medical help with her anxiety/depression (which are apparently so bad that she mentions several times that her friends and family are on “suicide watch” and seems to look down on them for being worried about her?). She refers to all medication as “zombie pills” and there’s never any point where she realizes that medication actually is the answer for a lot of people and that it can be a good option. I can’t stand YA books that look down on medication like that, when someone young and needing help could read it and assume they shouldn’t consider that option, or think that everyone will judge them for it.

Mary loves to judge people. She looks down on her family. She looks down on her friends. Mary is one of those girls who isn’t like other girls. She needs to explain to other people who Godzilla is, because she’s the only one she knows who has ever seen or heard of Godzilla.

Excuse me what.

I wish we’d gotten to know more about Floating Boy and his past and all, because obviously he was the most interesting part of the book. Unfortunately the explanation for everything was so convoluted that I’m still not quite sure what the answer to all of the mysteries was? It didn’t make very much sense to me, and I didn’t care to try to go back and understand.

I can’t say that I recommend this book. There are so many better options out there to read, that are full of amazing characters, and are more satisfying. This one just really missed the mark.

2/5 stars

 

 

5 stars · graphic novel · young adult

Check Please: the graphic novel that tastes like sunshine and smells like pie

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Check Please! Book 1: Hockey

author : ngozi ukazu

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite character : bitty

summary :

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

review :

THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD I NEED MORE IMMEDIATELY I HAVE NEVER FELT HAPPINESS LIKE THIS BEFORE MY HEART HAS GROWN THREE SIZES

Okay. So you may be thinking: Kayla, usually you hate contemporary things. Right you are. You may also be thinking; Kayla, I have absolutely no interest in hockey so I will not enjoy this adorable little graphic novel. You’re so very wrong.

Friends, the thing about contemporaries is that if I don’t care about the characters, there’s nothing there to keep me interested. No worldly stakes or fantasy settings or fantastical things. Check, Please has THE BEST CHARACTERS. Also, it’s hilarious. I snorted out loud while reading this book. As in I LAUGHED SO HARD THAT I SNORTED OUT THAT LAUGHTER BECAUSE I PHYSICALLY COULD NOT BREATHE.

Our main character, Bitty, is possibly the most charming, sweet, and lovely character to ever roam this earth. He loves hockey, used to ice skate competitively, bakes like five pies a day. He’s the best friend you could ever ask for. He’s also gay, and incredible rep as he’s sorting out who he is now that he’s in college.

In COLLEGE. We love a book that takes place in those woefully neglected formative years. Little Bitty starts out as a freshman and …. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. I’m not even typing full sentences anymore. I’m too excited.

I have had a sort of mild interest in hockey (as in, I enjoy watching it but never particularly seek it out). This book sort of assumes you’ll know nothing, so you won’t be lost when it comes to the sport and it isn’t doesn’t dominate ALL of the plot. It isn’t a sports book, just a book that happens to involve sports. Also Bitty and co look really great in their uniforms.

I cannot emphasize enough how much you need to read this book. It’s the kind that you’ll fly through and immediately want more. That will leave you warm and fuzzy (although it does discuss some more serious themes). IT’S SO GOOD. Read it. Read it.

5/5 stars

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

All of This is True is NOT the contemporary you were looking for

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All of This is True

author : lygia day penaflor

pages : [ebook] 432

summary :

Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .

review :

I received an e-Arc of this book from Epic Reads in exchange for my honest review.

I was very excited to read All of This is True because I want to read more contemporary this year. The book is told in alternative format, which I love–in podcast interviews, emails, texts, and book excerpts. There’s a book-within-the-book going on, which I think is an interesting move. I was highly interested and didn’t know much about the plot before I dove in.

Let’s start by talking about the format. Some of the alternative text didn’t lend itself well to ebook format, though this may just be an issue with the ARC, so I’d suggest getting a physical copy to get the full affect. Still, I think it could have been done in a better way to really capture the narrative voice. The podcast interviews were impossible to tell apart—all of the girls being interviewed ended up sounding the same. Because the names of the people in the book-within-the-book, characters based on the characters we’re learning about in ‘reality’, all began with the same letters as the people they were based on, it was hard to keep track of who was who. There was no real foundation for the story to stand on.

Next, the characters. If the voice couldn’t be the foundation, surely the characters could. But they were all very unlikable, and I’m not certain that was done on purpose. I didn’t really care about any of them. I didn’t care if they were hurting, or in trouble, or excited. I didn’t want to hear their perspectives on the incident. Actually, I still don’t knowwhy the book was told in this format. Why did we need to hear their perspectives on the incident? Only one character actually says anything that adds to the intrigue of the book (such as it is). In that case, we could have focused on her for the whole of the story and made things less confusing.

The book-within-a-book was . . . bad. This is another thing that, if I knew for certain was done on purpose, I would like a lot more. The book-within-a-book is supposed to be written by this young, best-selling writing prodigy. I think she’s in her mid-twenties and she’s supposed to be really, really great at writing amazing, thought-provoking passages. The book-within-a-book was so laden with cliche and specifically YA cliche that I thought it had to be done as a parody. I really hope it was. Matching this terrible book-within-a-book with the supposed prodigy author, within the context of the theme of the real book, would make things very interesting.

The plot twist . . . as soon as that portion of the plot was mentioned, I called the resolution then and there. Actually, I thought that the book would have been better and bolder if the plot twist hadn’t existed and the plot had taken a completely different direction. Instead, the plot relied upon and built up to this twist that was completely unnecessary, that needed ‘shock value’ I guess, and made the book pretty . . . boring.

It was a very unique idea, but I can’t say that I recommend it.

2/5 stars

 

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

Girl Out of Water: another contemporary I couldn’t get into

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girl out of water

author : laura silverman

pages : [paperback] 350

favorite character : lincoln

summary :

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

review :

I keep trying to find contemporary books I’ll love. I promise. But I’m beginning to think the genre really just has it out to get me.

Girl Out of Water is different. I’ve never quite read anything like it—I can certainly give it that much. Unlike most beach-y reads, where the main character moves to the shore for the summer, Anise is forced away from the ocean. This is mostly horrible to her because she loves surfing and wants to be a competitive surfer. But the move is temporary and not only that, it’s for a really, really good reason. As in, Anise doesn’t really have much room to complain about it.

But, I get it. Just because I have to do something or it’s the right thing to do, doesn’t always mean I want to do it. I can respect that. It’s just that, when those thoughts begin to overtake the entire plot it gets to drag, on and on.

The characters are fairly realistic and were surprisingly diverse, which was a nice touch. But they were fairly boring. Most of them had flat personalities. Again, this could stem from my aversion in general to contemporary stories. Their problems, for the most part, were pretty minor and petty. Their problems which were larger and more interesting ended up for the most part unresolved. Less used for character growth and more for the drama of it.

I did enjoy the fact that this book shows active girls, surfing and skating and generally enjoying sports. Not once is it mentioned that Anise is good at things “for a girl”. She’s always simply good at it (and, okay, her ego is GIGANTIC when it comes to physical activity and makes absolutely no sense. If I were the best baseball pitcher I wouldn’t just ASSUME I was also the best quarterback, you know?). I feel like this book will be really interesting to early teens who are passionate about sports.

Honestly, though, this book is a bit forgettable. There isn’t much suspense or action; it wasn’t very character-driven. It just sort of happened, and certainly wasn’t for me.

2.5/5 stars

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

The Radius of Us: a unique contemporary

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the radius of us

author : marie marquardt

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : phoenix

summary :

What happens when you fall in love with someone everyone seems determined to fear?

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself.

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid.

Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.

review :

The Radius of Us is an important book and an interesting book, but not an entertaining book. By that I mean in a contemporary novel, I usually expect a more gripping plot. Unfortunately this one kept the characters at the distance and didn’t delve as deeply into its themes as I thought it might.

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it. That’s how I find some of my favorites. But I have to admit that contemporary has always been a hit or miss genre for me; you have to have some speculator writing, characters, and themes for me to read about life as I already know it. Usually I don’t really need someone else to tell me about the world.

But books like The Radius of Us are usually the exception, because this book presents a viewpoint I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in YA literature. The book is told in alternating points of view. Half of the book is told by Gretchen, a teen from Georgia who has a myriad of issues after experiencing something horrible, and Phoenix, a year or two older than her, having run from El Salvador to seek asylum in the US.

Honestly, I might have liked this book better if it was gold only from Phoenix’s POV. So young, having been through so much, and having to face so much more still in Georgia. I understand Gretchen as a counterpoint–a reference US readers might relate to more easily–but her character felt so flat compared to Phoenix. I rooted for him, hoped for him, felt sympathy for him–and Gretchen could only fail as a comparison.

The Radius of Us did succeed in making me determined to read more books from diverse POV, because these different experiences are so important to try to understand through literature. It discusses privilege, racism, gang activity, immigration, and more. All amazing, important themes that the writing just falls flat on supporting.

2/5 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