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

 

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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

 

3 stars · fiction

they both die at the end didn’t manage to make me cry

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they both die at the end

author : adam silvera

pages : [hardcover] 384

favorite character : rufus

summary :

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

review :

A big thank you to Edelweiss for providing me with an E-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I was really really really excited to read this book.

This is the first book by Adam Silvera that I’ve read and when I attended Book Con this year, I think this was one of the most popular ARCs floating around the scene. I’m not a typical contemporary reader–there are times I absolutely love them, times I hate them, and I can never read too many of them in a row. But I dove right into this book without knowing about it’s compelling concept: somehow, someone has developed Death Cast, a system where if you are slated to die on a certain day, you’ll have your call by 2 A.M. that it’s your day to die.

Of course, this leaves so many questions. How do they know this? Who determines it? Are people dying because they’ve been told to die, or is this thing that predicts their deaths also predicting everything they’ll do after learning they’ll die? What about the people who end up dying between midnight and 2 A.M? Do they not get a call, or do they get their call the day before?

So many questions, and I love how the characters address some of the questions themselves, because they don’t know. The operators at Death Cast don’t know. The people getting the calls don’t know. The people left behind by their dying loved ones don’t know. They can question and beg and plead for answers all they like and, in this book as in reality, there are no full answers. Which I liked.

Another thing I loved was the diversity in this book. Most of the main characters are people of color, one of the narrators is bisexual, and the other never outright defines his sexuality apart from giving enough evidence that it certainly isn’t straight. That was awesome.

But, what I didn’t love, what ended up distancing me from this book I wanted so desperately to love, was the writing. It didn’t grip me; it felt too bland. I couldn’t connect fully with the other characters because some of the dialogue felt clunky and jarred me out of the story. In the plotline, there were some pieces that read too much to me like things that often make me put down contemporaries. Pieces that are so obviously slated to be symbolic, or quirky, or meaningful, that just don’t feel realistic or flow reasonably in the setting. I won’t give any specific examples because of spoilers, and quoting from an ARC, but it’s something I ran into before.

And, I have to admit, I cry a lot over books. It isn’t unusual for me. This book didn’t really get to me until hours later, when I was still considering how it had made me feel. I think, most importantly, it made me consider what I would do if I knew it was my last day to live. Or what I would do if it was my last day and I never knew it until it was too late. Would I want to know? I don’t think so. But, as They Both Die at the End shows, maybe something great can come out of the knowing.

This book certainly wasn’t for me. I don’t regret reading it, and I’m definitely going to try other books by this author. Still, I won’t be throwing this into any recommendations I give out.

3/5 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 Reflection: Unsouled by Neal Shusterman

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

THIS BOOK. Just when you think this series can’t get any more intense, any sadder, any more painfully happy moments hidden in all of the mess that is this world, Neal Shusterman pulls out all of the stops and outdoes himself yet again.

If you haven’t read the previous two books, Unwind and Unwholly, stop right now and get them. This is definitely the series in which you can’t read any books out of order. Not only will you be incredibly confused, you’ll only end up spoiling yourself, and that’s absolutely no fun.

Unsouled is amazing and crazy and fabulous and horrifying. I mean . . . I could basically use all of those words to describe absolutely any novel Neal Shusterman puts out.

There are so many more things at play here that weren’t evident in the first book. Now, in my reread, I feel like I picked up on more in the first two books that came into play in book three. There are so many details thrown into these books, rereading them just makes them more enjoyable. It isn’t that the world or the concept is too complex; there are just so many factors, politically and physically, going on with the plot that it’s so interesting to see how complexly they weave together.

I feel like the more books of this dystology I read, the more invested I become, and the more eager to recommend these books to anyone and everyone I know. Yes, you need to read them. Yes, I’ll probably read these over and over again in the future.

Yes, this book maybe has enough fuel for a few nightmares.

 

 

5 stars · reread review · science fiction

Reread Reflection: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

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

Gearing up to finally read book four in this dystology, I decided to reread the three books I’ve already known and loved so I can sink my teeth back into this universe. And there’s no way I could forget just how much I’ve loved Unwholly.

I love how this book literally expanded the reach of book one, Unwind, to focus on the issues of unwinding globally. Basically, in these books, it’s been accepted that parents can decide to unwind their children, which is a jazzed up form of organ donation because technology has progressed so much that anything can be donated. Arm crushed? Replace it with a new, fresh, healthy one. Bash in part of your brain? You’ll get hundreds of pieces of brain tissue from hundreds of unwinds. Just feel like you want to try out a different eye color, or get taller legs, or graft on some better hair–there’s a surgery for all of that. Unwinding is as much a vanity as it is a health industry.

Unwholly is intense. I think what’s most insane about it isn’t the actions of the characters from the previous book, but the new kids on the block. (Not the boy band. I don’t think they exist in this AU.) It just raises new questions of unwinding morals. One character is created entirely from the parts of unwound teens. If you thought you had existential crises, then think again. It’s all at once undeniable that he is living and yet impossible to think he is his own person.

That’s what I love about these books. The questions that spring up. I mean, sure, I’m also in it for the characters, the romance, and the inescapable action-packed plot twists. But they leave you thinking, and wondering, and questioning things. One of the most important things learned is to question everything and think for yourself.

And just wait until you get to book three.

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Reflection: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

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

Neal Shusterman is one of my all-time favorite authors. Unwind is simultaneously one of the most creative and one of the scariest novels I’ve ever read because this could totally happen in the future. I haven’t ever read book four, the last book, so now that I finally have it, that called for a reread of the series so I’m geared up for the conclusion. (Well, kind of. I really don’t want it to end, because I’ve been reading and loving these books for around eight years.)

Unwind is something you kind of have to read before you can really get it. It’s one of those books that sounds horrific when described (and is horrific in execution) but it’s still necessary. It’s still relevant. People today continue to fight over issues that, in this fictional universe, led to the Unwind Accords. That’s what makes these books so terrifying. They make us see what we as a country are totally capable of.

And yeah, I mean, people look at you kind of crazy when you try to describe these books. As in, “You know organ donors? Think doing that, but while you’re still alive, only parents decide to ‘donate’ their kids, and the kids have no choice about it, so they’re cut into a million different parts to help other people who were lucky enough to have parents who didn’t want to chop them into a million different parts.”

And then there are the complex characters, the ones you love, the ones you hate, the ones you hate that you’re beginning to feel empathy today. Shusterman takes societal misconceptions and turns them on their head. Kids who have anger problems, or acted out a lot–instead of getting the help and support they need, they’re being unwound. Even perfect kids, talented kids, are getting unwound because of messed-up reasons.

Unwind makes you think. It makes you cry. Most of all, it makes you want to read more, so it’s a good thing there are three more books after this one.