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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCourWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour
on February 14th 2017
Genres: YA, Glbt
Pages: 240
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

"You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother."

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

So I fell in love with the cover of this book and decide that was it I was getting this book. I have to remember that a great cover does not always equal a fantastic book. I think I am getting a little burned out by YA books about grief. This book reminded me of all the worse parts of The Square Root of Summer. I get that people respond differently to grief. But I had a hard time with the main character (Marin) shutting everyone away similar to how her grandfather did when she finds out about things he has kept hidden from her all her life. And honestly the flow of this book was pretty bad. I was bored for about a good 3/4 of it. I just felt like the majority of the book was too angsty for me to really get into. I also had a hard time with Marin being able to just quit her life so to speak. I think if we had more developed secondary characters it would have come together to me. But Mabel felt like an archetype and her parents were too perfect to be real. Heck even Marin’s grandparents friends’ were too perfect in their reactions to Marin just ignoring all of them for months. I wanted someone to yell, scream, to call her selfish, to suggest you get counseling, etc.

“We Are Okay” has Marin at her first semester of college. She is nervous because her best friend (Mabel) who she has not seen since the summer is going to come visit her at her dorms in New York (Marin’s dorms). We don’t know why at first that Marin is staying in New York and not going home, but eventually the story starts to unfold and we find out that her mother died when she was 3 and her grandfather died fairly recently.

I guess my main thought is that I don’t think I could have done what Marin did. I don’t think I could run out on my whole life and abandon friends and especially a best friend and just ignore everyone for months. Heck, I wish we had gotten the perspective of Mabel in this one since I don’t get how she was able to persevere and still make sure that Marin saw her after months of silence. I don’t think I could have been that forgiving. I would want to be, but God knows I am not perfect so I would have held a grudge. That said though, I did end up feeling nothing but pity for Marin from the beginning of this book til the end. It is a long meandering story, but eventually you get to see the real grandfather that she had and you realize that she has been cheated of a life where she could have grown up listening to stories about her mother, looking at pictures of her mother, even getting her mother’s hand me downs. A character tells Marin late in the book that she has been betrayed, and honestly she was. There was a scene earlier in the book that I felt was off based on her grandfather’s reaction (he is angry that a nun dares to talk about grief with him over losing his wife and then his daughter) and of course later I get to the reveals and realize why it read as off to me.

But since most of the book is Marin hiding the truth about her life for most of the book until the very end you may get bored and quit before the revelations are brought forth.

Then I think that LaCour made a mistake with her ending. I think since most of the book was in a deep/dark place, to have it change pretty suddenly the way it did, didn’t feel realistic. For me, I wanted someone somewhere to sit down and have a conversation with Marin about her options and how maybe going out of state and spending a crap ton of money on school was not the smartest thing.

I can see how for Marin it may have been easier for her to just go off and pretend to be some other girl, but honestly it strained credibility with me that she would be able to just go off an hide and no one from the police, insurance company, mortgage company for their home/car, etc. would just quietly went away. I mean a freaking bill collector called me the day of my mother’s funeral and did not give two craps about the fact that I was about to head to the Church. Also, Discover, this is why I loathe you to this day.

Anyway, we hear through the whole book about her roommate Hannah and of course Mabel. And I wish that LaCour had added in more information about Hannah. Cause for me, Hannah was the unsung hero in this book. She realized that something awful had occurred with Marin and drew her back into the world. And I smiled at the scene we get of Marin finally decorating her side of the room and texting a picture of it to Hannah who sends back two high fives with a heart in between the high fives. So when Mabel asks Marin about someone else maybe being there that Marin is interested in, my first thought was honestly of Hannah.

I was already guessing where things were going with Mabel, but reading about Marin angsting about it through the majority of the book just left me bored. I will say though that LaCour does a great job of showing that just because Marin wanted to pretend the world stopped that other people had to go on.

The writing I found to be too descriptive though. There’s a lot of commentary about loneliness, ghosts, Jane Eyre, etc. I know as a reader I am supposed to be thinking about how Marin has lived with her mother’s ghost all her life and how she doesn’t even know much about her due to her grandfather not discussing her with him. But by the end of the book we definitely get clued in how a person’s ghost can leave some people gutted past healing.

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LaCour keys you into timelines though cause at the very bottom of a chapter ending in text she will show you the month you are reading about. If there is nothing there though (date wise) just know yo you are back in the present with Marin (December).

The flow was up and down through the whole book and I found some of the chapters choppy.

The setting of New York felt cold, dark, and lonely. I can’t imagine just sitting in a dorm over the holiday break for about a month. Also, am I just too old now, but I recall when I was in school no one was allowed to be in the dorms during the holiday breaks and over the summer.

The ending I know was supposed to leave me warm and happy, but instead my first thought was that someone needs to hog tie Marin and take her back to California.

three-stars

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silveria

More Happy Than Not by Adam SilveriaMore Happy Than Not Published by Soho Teen on June 2, 2015
Genres: YA, Glbt
Pages: 304
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again--but he's still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he's slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron's crew notices, and they're not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can't deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can't stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

This was recommended to me since I loved “Everyone We’ve Been.” This book has a similar setup teen gets to a tough moment in life and wants to go an institute and get his memoires suppressed. However, there’s a twist and then even more after that. I felt for the character of Aaron Soto. However, I found the teen to at times be selfish when the truth comes out and he demands that other people who are not ready are weaker than him which made me uncomfortable. Some of the other characters motivations in this book felt off to me and the ending didn’t work.

Aaron Soto is a typical teenager who is in love with his girlfriend. He is nervous about losing his virginity to her and that he will be terrible. He is also still recovering from the fact that his father committed suicide. We don’t get a lot of details until the middle of the book to find out what caused Aaron’s father to commit suicide. Aaron’s mother and brother are distant from him and he only feels connected to his neighborhood friends. When Aaron meets newcomer Thomas, all of a sudden Aaron starts to feel different and finds himself leaning on Thomas when his girlfriend goes away to art camp. When Aaron comes to a realization that he is gay and in love with Thomas he seeks out the Leteo Institute in order to have his memory of bring gay removed.

I give insta-love crap no matter the setup, and the insta-love in this book between Thomas and Aaron didn’t work. I think they hung out for two weeks or so and it seems weird to me that Aaron would all of a sudden go from I am in love with this boy I just met. Speaking of Thomas, he felt like a blank slate. I didn’t get his character period. Aaron constantly asserts that Thomas had to be scared of coming out and implies that Thomas is in love with him. Everytime we “see” Thomas he looks bad and like he’s slowly being drained of life. Due to an attack that happens to Aaron, I got the worry, but everything after that felt like an over reaction. Maybe Silvia was just showing us that Aaron’s perspective was skewed, when it came to Thomas, I don’t know.

I really can’t say much about anyone else in this book without spoilers, so I’ll skip over them. I will say that Aaron’s father’s suicide doesn’t make sense to me when we find out why he did it. I guess I just don’t see it as something believable. I don’t know. Also there were so many vague details concerning Aaron’s father I was once again wondering what was going on until pretty much the end.

The writing was okay and I think since I read “Everyone We’ve Been” the twist was expected. Everything after the twists though felt rushed. The flow was up and down and too and I still scratched my head a bit about some of the narrative choices Silvia takes.

The setting of the Bronx in this type of futuristic setting seems poorer and more brutal than what I think it is like in real life. What I thought was odd was this world feels pretty mundane even with the idea of the institute.

The ending was sad and I think a bit of a cheat.

three-stars

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David LevithanNick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
on May 23rd 2006
Genres: YA
Pages: 183
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
zero-stars

So you're a guy; you're at a band show and your ex, the girl who dumped you, walks in with the new guy. Looking for a safe exit, you ask the girl you happen to sitting with to be your girlfriend for five minutes . You're a girl; you're at a get-together and your least favorite female strolls in. The stranger sitting next to you asks you to be his five-minute date. So what do you? You lock lips . Nick and Norah's instant connection begins a roller-coaster "first date" that takes them through Manhattan and into themselves. A novel concept that works.

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Insta-love square. 

This is going to be a bit ranty so I apologize in advance. I loathed this book. From beginning to end. I can’t believe that a movie that I enjoyed spun off from this source material. I think at one time I wonder how many times Nick said the “f” word and decided I was too lazy to do a search via my Kindle because I just wanted this book to be over. At least it counted towards a romance book bingo. I realized after I finished I could count it towards the insta-love square. I initially was told that this was New Adult. It’s not, it is Young Adult, though due to the actions of this two nitwits you have to think it was for a bunch of middle schoolers.

The book shifts POV between Nick and Norah. I am trying to think of something positive to say. I got nothing. This whole book is just a cliche wrapped in something terrible. Like lima beans. I hate lima beans. So let’s go with this book is wrapped in lima beans. It has been left outside to rot in the sun for seven days as well. And then a dog comes along, sniffs it, carries it away, and buries it in the backyard.

Nick is performing with his band in New York City. He is still recovering from having his heart broken by his ex-girlfriend Tris. When he sees her in the audience with another dude, he pretty much starts spiraling. He goes up to Norah and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to make Tris jealous (middle school actions). And then somehow they are kissing and feeling something has happened between them. I don’t think they even told each other their names at this point by the way. Norah finds herself attracted to Nick, but tells herself because of her breakup with her ex Tal (by the way why the hell are these exes names beginning with the letter “T”?) that she is frigid (GOD JUST GET THROUGH THIS SO YOU CAN STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK) that Nick can’t possibly want to be with a girl like her.

Deep breath.

I maybe started rocking back and forth with the whole frigid talk. Cause I don’t think that the character Norah got what it meant and I am pretty surprised the author didn’t seem to get she was using that word wrong. And don’t get me started on how Nick was the one to get Norah to thaw out. SHUT UP BOOK! Deep breath again.
And considering that Nick at one point was like one freaking second away from never leaving his room again and writing bad break-up poetry, I have some feelings toward the way he was all yes I guess I am no longer in love with Tris. I mean, I have given John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” rightful crap for how teens are portrayed, but man. I feel like going back and upping my rating on that book due to this mess.

The secondary characters are Cliche 1, 2, 3, and 4. I refuse to go back and tell you who is who besides Tris who I started calling Cliche 1. Cause apparently, she realizes that Nick loves her too much, and she doesn’t feel that way, so you know, break up. Though she still wants him I think. But she doesn’t. And gives her used to be friend Norah tips on how to kiss by actually kissing her outside. And Norah somehow is getting turned on (and wonders if she is really frigid again).  I at one point wondered did I somehow wonder onto the Literotica site and realized, nope, still reading this book and thought about hunting down the Book gods and sacrificing 10 dictionaries in order to have something like this never happen to me again this year. I can’t read any more terrible books. I may go into a reading slump and not climb out for three months like the year before last.

The plot is just two teens chasing each other around New York playing a game of do you really like me. That’s all I got.

The writing felt and read very amateurish to me too. And repetitive.

“Fuck this.
Fuck this wondering. Fuck this trying and trying. Fuck this belief that two people can become one ideal. Fuck this helplessness. Fuck this waiting for something to happen that probably won’t ever happen.”

“We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are underneath every part of this moment. And by making the moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It’s the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it’s racing towards.”

“My heartbeat accelerates. I am in the here, in the now. I am also in the future. I am holding her and wanting and knowing and hoping all at once. We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are the underneath every part of this moment. And by making this moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It’s the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it’s racing toward.”

The flow of the book was not great either. It just snaps back and forth between Nick and Norah. And since when we see Norah’s POV, Nick seems kind and control, and when we switch to Nick he is too busy thinking of the “f” word or some other damn thing, I was not getting this kind, wise, and sweet guy that she was. Also who the hell falls in love in like a few hours? Ugh. I have to stop, I just want this book done.

New York would not be a place I want to visit after finishing this book. It never comes alive. We have Nick and Norah rushing from points A to B throughout the book and I never got a sense at all where the heck they were. I just gave up and kept reading so I could finally be at the end.

Bah to the whole ending.

 

zero-stars

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

The Distance Between Us by Kasie WestThe Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on July 2, 2013
Genres: YA
Pages: 312
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
two-stars

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

I am so annoyed. I got this book because I enjoyed Kasie West’s other book I just finished, “P.S. I Like You.” This book made me wonder if I made a mistake in thinking that I may have found another YA author to follow. The plot did not make a lot of sense. I did not care for the main character. I seriously wondered why the love interest even kept hanging out with her, because she ran hot/cold towards him and also was rude. The secondary characters were a mess. And then the book ends and I think I am supposed to be going, ahh or something, because yes teens should totally be running around thinking about forever and marriage. I don’t know guys. Maybe it’s just me.

The main character, Caymen will work your nerves. She’s rude and sarcastic. She even kicks a guy who was actually nice to her, but hey he needed to wake up so ha ha? She answers someone else’s phone (I hate that in YA novels, there is no justification for that, stop it!) and decides she knows everything about everything. We find out that Caymen is poor. And not just regular poor, but capital P poor. She lives above a doll shop that she and her mother run. We find out that Caymen’s mother is estranged from her family after being disowned for falling pregnant with Caymen when she was a teenager. Caymen’s mother accepted money from the boy’s father with a promise to not seek him out for anymore money and Caymen’s biological father is nowhere to be found.

Now if this had been about one girl’s journey out there trying to find out about her family, why her father has not sought her out in 17 years, I would be all for it. Instead, we just have Caymen acting like a jerk and thinking that it’s cute. She is resentful of her mother because she thinks/knows her mother wants her to run the doll shop one day. Caymen though is interested in science (and by the way that whole thing came out of nowhere, she goes to school for half days and barely interacts there at all, so I wasn’t getting a I really love to learn and love school vibe from Caymen) and wants to go to college, but knows that her mother needs her to give up everything to take care of things. That is me being sarcastic by the way. Honestly 2/3 of the angst in this book would be solved if people actually spoke to one another.

This is supposed to be YA romance, but honestly, there is barely any romance in it for me. We just have people telling Caymen she’s poor so Xander and her will never really fit. And heck even Caymen thinks that throughout. So this is like “Pretty in Pink” but only if you hated Molly Ringwald’s character.

Secondary characters are sloppily developed. The character of Xander just keeps popping up and is interested in Caymen. I don’t get why. I don’t know if she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen or what. But since she was rude and lied to him after their first encounter I am still baffled by what was going on there.

Caymen’s mother doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I don’t want to get into too much due to spoilers, but it felt like this ending was hastily thrown together, with no thought at all of why in the world would (view spoiler)

Caymen’s best friend was just another manic pixie girl and I refuse to even discuss her more than just saying that about her.

The writing was not good in this one. I was confused so many times while reading due to Caymen saying something rude and then inner voicing what she means or inner voicing that the person probably won’t get her sense of humor. Dear Caymen, you’re a jerk, it’s not cute. The flow was awful to from beginning to end. I don’t know if it would have made it better if we could have seen Caymen as a little girl in a prologue or what. I don’t know if we could have started off with her mother first and then switched back and forth to her. Nothing really worked, and I am wondering if a second POV by Caymen’s mother or even Xander could have saved this book for me.

The book takes place in California. But honestly, that is all I got. The main parts of the book take place in Caymen’s mother’s store. You get to read about how creepy dolls are and how creepy Caymen finds them. Things move around a little bit location wise here and there, but not really.

The ending was too much for me. I am glad though that West managed to restrain herself for going for a straight up cliche ending. I thought for sure someone in this book was a goner. So that’s the main and only reason why I gave this two stars.

two-stars

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Children's on May 10th 2011
Genres: YA, Romance
Pages: 402
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

Since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move—four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, Mclean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, Mclean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself—whoever that is. Perhaps her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Guy/Girl Next Door square.

Though I really did enjoy 2 out of the 3 Dessen books I reviewed yesterday, this one fell very short. It has classic Dessen moments (or what I consider classic). However, the flow of this book was pretty bad. It took me a while to get through it, and I am not going to lie, I started skimming a bit last night because I was seriously bored the whole time. I think the main issue was that I was not engaged with Mclean’s love interest (Dave) at all. He was just odd and lacking in so many ways. I actually did like Mclean’s father a lot, but her mother was problematic for me through the whole book. I feel like there was a side plot or something that should have been included to explain her perspective more. But honestly, she acted childish throughout and I ended up disliking her until pretty much the end. The secondary characters unfortunately really don’t shine at all in this one, and in her other books “Saint Anything” and “The Truth About Forever” I found the the secondary characters to be very developed.

The main character is Mclean. She is starting her senior year and dealing with being the new girl in town again. We quickly find out that Mclean lives with her father, whose job as a consultant for a huge restaurant corporation means that he is constantly moving around in order to fix or recommend closure for some restaurants. Mclean and her father have come to Lakeview, and she hopes they will stay long enough for her to enjoy her senior year. The biggest pain in Mclean’s life though, is that she feels lost and doesn’t know who she is anymore after her parents divorce. And we readers find out that this was a highly contentious divorce due to the fact that Mclean’s mother cheated on her father (with a man that her and her father saw as a hero) and quickly got pregnant. I don’t really know what to say about Mclean though. She definitely gets food and her and her father have a close relationship. But I never felt like I got what made her tick really. She’s obviously still upset by her mother tearing their family apart. And we know that Mclean chose and fought to stay with her father though her mother is angry about that. They have a blow up fight about halfway through the book, though Mclean is forced to capitulate to her mother or risk dealing with another court case to decide custody.

Secondary characters just felt too one dimensional for me to get an opinion on. Mclean’s dad at times seemed super wonderful, and then he would turn and be uncompromising. I don’t know if that was Dessen’s way of trying to show a bit of maybe what caused Mclean’s mother to cheat or not. Since the character of Mclean didn’t seem to mind I just didn’t know how I was supposed to feel as a reader.

Mclean’s mother was terrible. I really hate to read about cheating in romance novels anyway, but the woman acting like a spoiled brat through the whole book with her 180 in the end didn’t feel believable at all. You get that Mclean feels distant from her mother because it feels like she has created a whole new life and she wants her daughter there as well. But, she also doesn’t want to own what she did. And there was some sub-text there that Mclean’s mother and stepfather had some weirdness going on. Since Dessen doesn’t revisit characters in her books that I know of right now, this just ended up making the reading feel more muddled. I honestly didn’t get that Mclean’s mother loved her, she just wanted her in her new life and wanted things to be like they were. Obviously that can’t happen, hey you cheat, people tend to have feelings about it.

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And since the situation with the cheating and subsequent divorce was so messy, you think that Mclean’s mom would have some shame about it, but not at all. Eh. I don’t know what to say, you don’t want to be totally hard and not forgive, but I also would have dug a grave and put my husband in it (alive) if I found out that he cheated on me and was all laters baby I have an amazing new life.

Image result for fifty shades of grey laters baby gif

Yeah, I hate this phrase so much now.

Note: I am not married, do not be concerned for this mythical husband. I repeat, I am not married.

Other characters like Opal and Dave just read like cliches to me the whole way through. I honestly didn’t even get why Mclean was even talking to Dave at all or bringing him with her when she goes to watch a basketball game with her mother (something that the family used to love to do together) since he was honestly just the boy that lived next door to her and her dad.

Usually Dessen’s books have a more meaty plot to me. This one just flailed a bit too much for me. I also think Dessen rushed things a bit in the beginning of the book and then slowed down way too much. The flow was all over the place and the time periods kept jumping back and forth too much.

By the time we get to the ending, I had a sense of whiplash and we had some hastily thrown together information regarding where everyone was now (and happily I might add) that once again didn’t feel realistic.  Everything just didn’t fit. And since I thought wet noodles are more romantic than Dave and Mclean were supposed to be, her whole well maybe one day I will just follow him around thing just gave me a hard pause.

three-stars

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever by Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on May 11th 2004
Genres: YA, Romance
Pages: 398
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

In The Truth About Forever, when asked how she is coping with her father's death, invariably seventeen year old Macy Queen's answer is "fine," when nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, she is drowning in grief while maintaining a flawless façade of good grades and unblemished behavior. Though she feels lost when her boyfriend heads to "Brain Camp" for the summer, she finds herself a job with the quirky Wish Catering crew, and meets "sa-woon"-worthy Wes, whose chaotic lifestyle is in direct opposition to her own.

As the two share their stories over the summer, Macy realizes she can no longer keep her feelings on ice. Though it feels like her future ended with her dad's death, Macy's learns that forever is all about beginnings.

This one hit all of the high marks for me. I think that Dessen takes a really good look at grief and how hard it is to bounce back from a death. We have several teens in this book that had tragic things occur and I loved the different reactions by all of them. And I thought the ending, while showing how one can move on, didn’t just slap a bow on things either.

Macy Queen is dealing with the death of her father. Her favorite person in the world dies before the start of this novel. Readers find out that Macy and her dad loved to go running together, and one day when she decided to sleep in rather than go with him, she finds him later on the ground having CPR administered to him. That moment and others haunts Macy. I maybe teared up a lot while reading this book. Probably because it hit close to home for me. Something similar happened to me in college with coming home to find ambulances surrounding my home and finding paramedics working on my father. My brother was upstairs hiding, and I was hit with the thought that my father was dead. You don’t understand a world in which you exist and your parents no longer do. It feels just as backwards to us as it does to parents when they have to bury a child.

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So believe me I got the character of Macy. You go from being in a fog and okay again so many times you don’t know what to do with yourself. Macy who is dating the most terrible person ever named Jason (seriously he is the literature version of Ted Cruz) is doing what she can be to be perfect for her mom and Jason. She finds herself opening up a bit though when she gets interested in the catering family that comes to one of her mother’s house selling events. Macy becomes intrigued by them and finds herself working for the catering crew because she finds them so loud and also just alive. The owner of the catering company, Delia made me laugh a lot.   But I also loved brothers Bert and Wes (Delia’s nephews) and sisters Kristy and Monica. There’s a running gag that Monica doesn’t really talk just mmmms and when she speaks in complete sentences at the end of the book I maybe fell over laughing my butt off.

All of the secondary characters felt very real to me. I get why Macy pulled away from her friends at school and quit the track team. You are just in self-protection mode there for a while. And we get to see how Macy’s sister and her mother deal with their grief as well. What I thought was great though is that as Macy meets Kristy and Wes and becomes close to them, she starts to realize that other people have their own private griefs too, but they keep moving forward. I loved that part of it, because believe me for about two years I had my head up my ass regarding what a pain in the butt I was to my friends who kept reaching out.

Once again Dessen nails the dialogue with teens and adults. I didn’t have an issue with flow in this one. I would say make sure you have a box of tissues nearby though. The scenes with Macy trying to hide her dad’s stuff from her mother’s trash purge, and her dream of trying to catch up to him had me sniffling.

Once again the book takes place in the town of Lakeview. I am wondering why this is not considered a series though? Lakeview in this one was a bit more interesting. We get to see Macy who is definitely on the right side of the tracks dealing with the stress caused by her mother who is trying to build up the community around them with designer townhouses. It felt a little more in sync with the world I was introduced to in “Lock and Key” and I enjoyed that.

The ending for this one definitely leaves you with hope for Macy and her family. You can tell they are not 100 percent healed (you never are really) but you can see them starting to come out on the other side.

 

five-stars

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah DessenSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Juvenile on May 5th 2015
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 432
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

I really enjoyed “Saint Anything” by Sarah Dessen, but not as much as I did “Lock and Key.” The biggest issue I really had with this book was the fact that Sydney’s mother and father were 100 percent ridiculous. And them not realizing the danger of Ames. I also hated the final scene between Ames and Sydney with Sydney rushing off. It didn’t feel real at all.

This book tackles a really big issue right away. Sydney is dealing with years of fallout from her older brother Peyton. Petyon though charismatic, is a huge mess. We find out that he is sent away time and time again due to breaking and entering, drinking, and drugs. Throughout it all Sydney’s parents have been supportive. Until the night Peyton goes out, gets drunk and high and hits someone with his car. This leads to Peyton being sent to jail for several months and Sydney and her family trying to pick up the pieces.

Sydney has always done the right thing. However, she is floundering with transferring schools and going to Jackson High School. Due to her parents having money issues because of her brother’s constant arrests and fines, Sydney suggests transferring for the good of the family. Seriously though, Sydney is a touch too martyrish for me at times.

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After transferring to Jackson, Sydney goes to a pizza place after school and meets the Chatham family. Pretty soon she finds that she has friends for lives in Layla and Mac (brother and sister) and there friends Eric and Irv. Though Sydney has old friends from her school (Jenn and someone I am forgetting) they were pretty much non-entities throughout the book. Besides one scene where Sydney goes and deal with their mess, I was not feeling old school friends that much.

I honestly didn’t feel the romance between Sydney and Mac. I thought they really worked out well as friends. I would have loved it if Dessen had them be best friends just like Sydney is with Layla.

I have to say, that for me, my favorite character was the secondary character in this one, Layla. We eventually see how Sydney re-meets Layla and comes to become part of her inner group at Jackson High School. Layla and her chaotic family were so bigger than life, it may have been better to flip this and make her the main character. I mean Layla in five seconds gets what is going on with Ames and Sydney’s parents are totally oblivious.

The parents in this one were infuriating. I don’t know why, but I kept thinking of Brock Turner’s parents, and their total 100 percent backing of their son and blaming everyone else for what he did. So to read a book where Sydney’s dad was checked out, and her mom was so insistent about being there every step of the way for her son without acknowledging what he did. At least Dessen redeems the character of Peyton by having him having a dang clue about what he did and why it was so awful. I can’t even give the parents kudos for finally clicking onto what a creep Ames was, guess what, don’t move people into your house when you don’t really know them. I know Ames was a fictional character, but my stranger danger alert was going off in every scene he was in.

The dialogue felt off at times. We have a lot of Sydney “inner dialogue”. I really wanted and needed her to speak up more. Her anger at her parents when she gets grounded (she invites people over after they say no and gets caught having a sip of vodka) was hilarious to me. Um no dear, you don’t get to be outraged when you are drinking underage and have people in a house you don’t pay the mortgage on.

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I was ready to shake Sydney, and this is where the martyrdom needed to die.

The book’s flow was off while I was reading this. I think it’s because it wanted to cram too much in it, and honestly there was a lot in it. Between Peyton’s jail time, Sydney’s transfer, we also have the Chathams dealing with the matriarch of the family dealing with MS, Layla’s dating woes, and oh yeah Ames and his totally not subtle I am going to try to do something evil self.

The setting in this one was once again Lakeview. The town didn’t feel set up as well as it did in “Lock and Key.” I don’t know why that is, but maybe the flow had something to do with it.

The ending was a bit too much everything is awesome for me. We do have Sydney taking a step to go and have closure on something that has been worrying her this whole book. But man oh man, I found the whole thing inappropriate. Send a letter first, and then see about it. Showing up on someone’s door didn’t feel right to me at all.

three-half-stars

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key by Sarah DessenLock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on May 14th 2008
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 444
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

"Ruby, where is your mother?" Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return. That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

What can I really say. I loved this book to pieces. It’s been a while since I can say that a book was picture perfect from beginning to end, but I really did find this book worked great. I had no issues with the writing, dialogue, plot, setting or pacing. I went and borrowed a ton of other Sarah Dessen books from the library as soon as I finished “Lock and Key.” I read this for the “Key to My Heart” square for Romance Book Bingo 2017.

The main character in “Lock and Key” is Ruby Conner. Ruby is a senior at Jackson High School living in North Carolina. Through bits and pieces we find out that Ruby was in foster care temporarily after it becomes known that she is living alone and her mother is nowhere to be found. Placed with her older sister Cora that she hasn’t seen in years, “Lock and Key” is really Ruby’s journey learning to figure out what it truly means to be family, and how sometimes the hardest thing to do is stay and just support someone.

I freaking loved Ruby. I mean loved her. I wanted to hug her, give her some chocolate cake, and tell her that she is awesome. I have never fallen so quickly into another teen character’s head since Harry Potter. Ruby’s vulnerability and her general belief that she could take care of herself with help from no one we see get reworked from the beginning of the book to the end. Ruby and Cora’s shaky relationship due to Ruby’s belief that her sister had abandoned her we also see slowly changes through the course of the book. I loved that Dessen didn’t just throw out hey Ruby you are wrong from other characters either. Ruby had to see and feel that her way or really her mother’s way of acting was just not what she needed anymore. Ruby’s reluctant friendship with Nate also got me too. I loved how she got to see that someone who she thought had a perfect life, really did not, and that her just saying this is too hard, was actually not what he or she needed.

All of the secondary characters got to shine in this too. I loved Nate. Man oh man, his backstory regarding his mother and his father was just heartbreaking. A kid who doesn’t want to be in the situation he is, but doing the best he can until he is 18 and can be free.

Ruby’s sister Cora was also such a great character. There is a scene when Cora’s husband Jamie is rightfully angry and yelling at Ruby, and Cora steps in front of her like she did when they were kids and their mom was on a tear. I wanted to hug them both. We get to see that Cora is just as unsettled having what she considers a “good” life and not being used to things like huge family dinners, Christmas cards, etc.

I loved Harriet and Reggie, and heck pretty much everyone. Well except for Ruby’s old friends at Jackson who she got to see for herself were not true blue friends at all.

The writing takes a look at a lot of things. Drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and even abandonment. Dessen does a good job of not prettying things up which I appreciated. I also applaud her since she writes Ruby really well. I have a hard time with some YA authors having teens talking like characters from Dawson’s Creek.

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That was always my big thing about that show, no one my age sounded that pretentious. Did we sound like asses though? Yes, all teens do at one time or the other.

The flow was great too. We pretty much get to see Ruby over a course of a school year til her graduation which I really appreciated. Spare me from books that have a character do a day/night change in a month or two. It’s not realistic. It would have been great to see Ruby in her therapy sessions, but I was happy with what we got.

The setting of Lakeview, North Carolina sounded pretty polarizing. When Ruby is transferred from Jackson to what she considers the rich kid school, I was so happy we didn’t see some Mean Girls shtick in this book. We got to see a lot of secondary characters there with tons of nuance as well.

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The ending was really great. I can picture Ruby and now her family and her family of choice. I am going to see if Dessen ever follows up on Ruby and others from this book. It looks like she revisits the town of Lakeview in a lot of books, so it be nice to see a shout out to Ruby and other characters we have met.

 

five-stars

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 491
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
four-stars

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

This is such a weird book and I loved it. There were some plot holes here and there which is the only reason why I am giving this 4 stars.

This is an alternate story to Lady Jane and here is some information for you people out there who don’t know who Lady Jane Grey is.

Lady Jane Grey (1536/1537 – 12 February 1554), also known as Lady Jane Dudley or the Nine-Day Queen, was an English noblewoman and de facto monarch of England and Ireland from 10 July until 19 July 1553.The great-granddaughter of Henry VII through his younger daughter Mary, Jane was a first cousin once removed of  Edward VI. In May 1553, she was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward’s chief minister, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. When the 15-year-old king lay dying in June 1553, he nominated Jane as successor to the Crown in his will, thus subverting the claims of his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth under the Third Succession Act. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower of London when the Privy Council decided to change sides and proclaim Mary as queen on 19 July 1553. Jane was convicted of high treason in November 1553, which carried a sentence of death, although her life was initially spared. Wyatt’s rebellion of January and February 1554 against Queen Mary I’s plans to marry Philip of Spain led to the execution of both Jane and her husband).

In this alternate story, the entire world (at least England, Scotland, and France) have humans (Verities) and Edians (human beings who can shape-shift into animals).

We find out King Henry VIII could turn into a lion and from there his different wives were either Verities or Edians. England right now has many Verities who want to wipe out the Edians totally.

This story has three different POVs and each works quite well. We have King Edward VI (the boy king who dies in our history), Lady Jane (Queen of England and Ireland for 9 days) and her husband Gifford (otherwise known as G).

I have to say my favorite POV was honestly Edward. He tries to be a good king, but once he is told he has “The Affliction” he knows that he will die soon. He is led to bypass his two half sisters (Mary and Bess) in the line of succession and instead names Jane instead.

We readers quickly find out that there are shenanigans afoot to put Jane on the throne as a figurehead only with her husband really being king. That quickly gets dealt with and somehow Mary gets put on the throne and is out to destroy Jane, G, and anyone else standing in her way since she wants to kill all Edians.

The overall plot really is about the Verities and Edians fighting it out (metaphors for the Catholics and the Protestants). I did mention some plot holes here and there, and one big one for me really is that there was this whole thing about our band of heroes going to France for help and King Edward talking to the current King of France about how terrible women are and they are not fit to rule (don’t worry Edward doesn’t believe it and feels sick even saying that out loud). The King agrees to help based on stopping Mary from sitting on the throne. However, with the ending, you are telling me the King of France did not get super ticked by those turn of events?

The fact that each of these author’s took a different POV and managed to make the plot run as smoothly as they did gives them high kudos from me. There are humorous comments made throughout the entire book that will have you smiling and even laughing. Some reviewers have likened this book to “The Princess Bride” or “Monty Python” in book form. I think those are great comparisons. If you like either of those things, I think this will be the book for you.

I thought the flow was just okay though. Sometimes it felt like we just got to a very interesting stopping point and then the story would be thrown to another character.

The setting in this alternate England really works. I loved the idea of people shape-shifting into animals. The random lines thrown out about  King Henry VIII eating people who displeased me cracked me up too. I also loved finding out what animals some of our characters turned into as well.

The ending leaves us with a Happily Ever After and I for one was glad to see it.

four-stars

P.S. I Like You by Kaise West

P.S. I Like You by Kaise WestP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Published by Point on July 26th 2016
Genres: YA
Pages: 304
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Signed, sealed, delivered . . .

While zoning out in Chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk, and added a message to her.

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters— sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery, and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out . . .

Kasie West brings irresistible wit, warmth, and sparkle to this swoon-worthy story of love showing up when you least expect it

So all in all I really liked this book. It was cute, and was a great little homage to You’ve Got Mail, which was a great homage to The Shop Around the Corner. I read this for Romance Bingo 2017 and this fits my Young Adult square.

Told in the first person, we have Lily, a teenage girl who has a chaotic (but loving) home life, and only has one best friend. Lily plays guitar and tries her hand at writing lyrics, but mostly she keeps to herself while clashing with her best friend’s ex-boyfriend who treated her badly.  After writing song lyrics on her Chemistry desk, she comes back the next day to see that someone has written the next line on the desk, and from there she starts exchanging notes with an unknown boy at her school who she finds gets her, and she really gets.

I liked Lily cause God knows I grew up in a family where I could not get five minutes of myself alone. She’s a loner, but has her best friend who she loves and who is always there to cheerlead her on.  Lily is a hipster I would say, but an unaware one based on what everyone else says to her. She loves music, indie rock mostly it appears. And she has a guitar and is trying her hand at writing lyrics. When a song writing contest opens up to Lily, she finds herself blocked for a bit until she and her mysterious  pen pal start trading back notes to each other. Based on the things he tells her, Lily finds herself writing about the things he makes her feel, but also about his loneliness.

What I thought was smart was that West allows us as readers to see the back and forth between Lily and her mysterious pen pal. You can see why she’s falling for this guy (whoever he is) and you see how vulnerable both of them are being while revealing things about themselves. I did laugh at bit here and there though, cause I cannot imagine a teen boy (even if he was anonymous) discussing some of the personal stuff that Lily and him discussed.

I do have to say that some of the secondary characters could have been built up a bit. Lily’s best friend (I ashamed I forget her name) was not really there except to be her wise friend and be totally understanding at all times. It pretty much comes out repeatedly that Lily’s friend broke up with her ex because he and Lily could not get along. Then there is a complete re-write to the whole thing and just made me roll my eyes.

The mean girl was so one dimensional and “evil” it just made me shake my head. Has high school gotten worse? I can’t imagine people like this at all. We had some bullies at school when I was growing up, but thank God the teachers/principal didn’t put up with it and made sure those people were suspended and dealt with. Heck two boys I went to school with were flat out expelled for what they were doing to people in class.

The pen pal didn’t take long for me to figure out at all. You watch “You’ve Got Mail” and you can pretty much figure out who it is. What I did like is watching Lily having to cope with finding out who the guy is that she fell in love with via notes.

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All the feels. I love Tom Hanks. That is all.

I liked the writing. Lily’s family scenes were freaking hilarious at times. The pacing moved okay too, though the end felt rushed as anything. There is a big incident at school and then it felt like it got resolved ten seconds later.

The ending didn’t stick the landing though. I would have liked to see what happened with Lily and the song writing contest she entered. Having an epilogue that said six months later would have worked wonders.

three-half-stars
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