Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew – Book Review

Told in verse, Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon tackles public shaming, sexuality, friendship, and more. A must-read for young adults.

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew
Young Adult | Contemporary
Published by Walker Books US
Released 1 September 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating:

Public shaming has always existed, but it seems far more prevalent and far-reaching in our age of internet and social media. Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon is a young adult contemporary novel told in verse that takes a look at the impact of public shaming, as well as the importance of friendship.

Frankie, our main character, is a high school girl who has her first sexual experience, during which her period starts. She and the guy, Benjamin, both agree that it’s not a big deal. (Which is a great thing to be included in a young adult novel – let’s nip that taboo in the bud.) The same week at school, however, Frankie starts to realize that something is up as rumors start flying that Benjamin fingered a girl on her period. On top of that, there are memes about the situation that start making their rounds, horrifying Frankie.

While all of this is happening, Frankie is also dealing with the fallout of a huge fight with her best friend Harriet. At the time when Frankie needs Harriet the most, she’s not there, causing Frankie to navigate the whole sphere of public shaming by herself.

I have a tendency to really enjoy novels told in verse. It sometimes adds a touch of whimsy, other times it is just an interesting way to tell a story. For Blood Moon, I don’t think that it added to the story in any way. I would have felt the same way about the novel if it had been written in prose. The writing style wasn’t bad, I just felt incredibly neutral about it.

More than how Frankie managed the public shaming debacle, I’m glad that Lucy Cuthew focused so much on her troubled friendship with Harriet. I love books that feature healthy friendships, especially young adult books. All friendships have their rough patches, especially in our turbulent teenage years, and realistic portrayals of this is always a healthy aspect to include in a story such as this one.

Frankie’s relationship with her parents and how they react to learning of her sexual exploit and everything that followed was another incredibly strong aspect of this story. Sex isn’t a big deal, and everyone does it. Her parents’ reaction mirrors this perspective, and is a much better way of dealing with teenage sexuality than universally punishing it.

The reason I can’t give this book a full four stars was due to the way the ending was wrapped up too quickly and perfectly. Without giving away too much of the ending, it has to do with Frankie and Harriet’s friendship. I just feel that everything was resolved much too easily.

Overall, Blood Moon is a wholesome and positive novel perfect for pre-teens and teenagers. It reads young, so if you’re an adult fan of YA keep in mind that it’s written for the lower end of the age group. I’d love to see this sort of taboo-tackling, feminist, positive narrative become a new trend for the young adult audience. I know that I would have loved to have access to a book like this when I was a teenager.

A big thank you to Walker Books for the advanced review copy.


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Contemporary-a-thon Wrap-up

Contemporary-a-thon

Last week, I shared my TBR for Contemporary-a-thon, round 5.

I had planned on reading at least four books:

In the end, however, I only finished one – Again, but Better – because I started reading Joe Hill’s The Fireman on my Kindle and I’m enjoying it so much that I stopped reading everything else.

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I’m still technically reading The Right Swipe, which I started and got about fifty pages into, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to stick with it or not. It’s by no means bad, I’m just not really in a contemporary romance mood right now. This time of the year, I get really into high fantasy, magical realism, and horror, so I might save it until I’m in more of a romance mood.

There are a number of readathons that I want to participate in for October (all horror-themed, of course), so hopefully, I’ll be more successful during those ones.

Did you participate in round 5 of Contemporary-a-thon? If so, what did you read? Let me know in the comments!




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Again, but Better by Christine Riccio – A Review

Again but Better Christine Riccio

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
Contemporary | New Adult | Romance
Published by Wednesday Books
Released May 7th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

“So—why didn’t something happen?”

Because of me. Because I let fear make decisions for me. Because I’ve chosen to let the world push me around instead of pushing my way through the world.”

You may recognize Christine Riccio’s name, especially if you’re in the book community. Christine is one of the most popular booktubers on YouTube, where her channel, PolandBananasBooks has over 400,000 subscribers. Again, but Better is Riccio’s debut novel.

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Christine Riccio

While I don’t usually read a great deal of young adult or new adult contemporary fiction, I was intrigued by the concept of this book. The story follows a university student named Shane Primaveri who is traveling to London for a semester of study-abroad classes. Her goal is to essentially have a college do-over; at her American school, she’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of friends, so in London, she decides to be outgoing and social.

Once in London, she makes friends with her roommates Babe and Sahra, and her male neighbors, Pilot and Atticus. A romantic relationship starts to spark between herself and Pilot, and the story moves on from there.

The main reason I was intrigued by this novel was its unexpected time travel element. I can’t say too much about this part of the book because there would be major spoilers involved, but essentially, Shane has the chance to live a hypothetical question that many of us think about: If you could go back in time with all of the knowledge that you have now, would you do it? I love thinking about that question (and if you’re curious about my answer, I would absolutely go back in time for a do-over), and I haven’t found many books that discuss that question.

Another aspect of the novel that drew me in is that I wanted to live vicariously through a character that did something that I really wanted to do in college. Before I dropped out of my political science program (because it was making me angry and cynical), I really wanted to study abroad in the U.K. Aside from my obsession with British history (which started in high school out of the blue), like Shane, I also wanted a social do-over. I’ve always been the quiet, meek girl, and have always had an irrational desire to move to a new place to become a different person. It’s never worked, of course. As Neil Gaiman wrote in The Graveyard Book, “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”

That’s all that I feel comfortable saying about the plot of the novel, so let’s move on to my review.

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While I was entertained by this novel in a guilty-pleasure sort of way, objectively, it wasn’t good. For the first several chapters, I seriously considered DNF-ing it, but I talked myself out of it and read on. It was a fun, light story, but one that I probably wouldn’t read again.

The book itself and its characters were incredibly cringy and overwhelmingly silly. First, we have the characters’ names – Pilot Penn, Babe Lozenge, etc. Second, nearly everything that Shane does made me cringe, from the way she talks to her crush, Pilot, the never-ending Lost, Dan Brown, and Taylor Swift references, to just Shane’s behavior in general. Her character is awkward as hell and, again, super cringy. Shane has a tendency to act much more immature than a college student should have. One out of the many, many examples: On their first day in the dorms, Shane and Pilot walk to a grocery store and the whole time Shane is trying to decide if it’s a date and if he’s going to kiss her. Seriously? She literally just met him and knows nothing about him. It was an annoying part of the book.

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The relationship between Shane and Pilot was mediocre. For one thing, Shane becomes obsessed with a guy she barely knows. It’s very insta-lovey, which is a trope that drives me insane. For the majority of the book, she obsesses over everything he does, in a manner that is borderline stalkerish. Also, Pilot has a girlfriend back in America. Once Shane discovers this information, it doesn’t stop her from swooning over him and pretending that he’ll still choose her. I can never get behind cheating in a relationship, even in a fictional story, so that alone was one of the reasons I gave this novel a lower rating. Shane is way too okay with continuing to flirt with Pilot without ever talking to him about his girlfriend; at least until his girlfriend comes to visit and she is forced to confront the issue. It’s one of Shane’s characteristics that make her an untrustworthy character, along with the fact that she lies to her parents about why she’s in London.

While I knew about the magical aspects of the novel ahead of time, it still caught me a little bit off-guard. The time travel was done pretty well, but it was incredibly predictable. I doubt many people would be able to read this book and not predict its outcome.

One of the positive things about this novel was that it was a pretty decent portrayal of social anxiety. Shane obsesses over how she appears to her new friends and has to force herself to become more social. That’s something that a lot of us can relate to.

The last thing I want to say in this review (which is turning out to be quite a bit longer than I was expecting) is that it’s very clear that Shane is Christine. I feel like she didn’t even try to disguise the similarities. First, Shane is a blogger that writes under the name FrenchWatermelons19. Second, the description of Shane’s character could also describe Christine. Third, there are tons of references to books that Christine talks about frequently on her channel, such as Twilight, Harry Potter, and the Shadowhunter books.

In the end, while I did enjoy reading this book, it wasn’t good. There were so many issues with the writing and characters that I found myself unable to overlook. If you’re a fan of Christine Riccio and want to read this novel, go ahead. However, if you’re looking for great literature, this is most definitely not it.


Have you read Again, but Better? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


Looking for some more contemporary fiction?

With the Fire on High | The Unhoneymooners | A Very Large Expanse of Sea | The Hate U Give | The Simple Wild




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Contemporary-a-thon TBR, Round 5

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Contemporary fiction is a genre that I don’t pick up often because I tend to choose a lot of science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction when I’m looking for my next read.

I found out this morning that today is the start of Round 5 of the Contemporary-a-Thon, so I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to read some great new books!

If you haven’t heard of the Contemporary-a-Thon, it’s being hosted by Melanie at Meltotheany, Chelsea at Chelsea Dolling Reads, Julie at Pages and Pens, and Natasha from My Reading is Odd.

For the time being, I’m planning on doubling up on several of the prompts, but if I have time to, I’m going to try to read a different book for all seven challenges.

Let’s get right into my TBR! Synopses are courtesy of the publishers and Goodreads.



Read a 2019 Release

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Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.


Read a book with yellow on the cover
&
Read a diverse contemporary

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The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:

– Nude pics are by invitation only

– If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice

– Protect your heart

Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and disappears.

Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…


Read a dark/hard-hitting contemporary
&
Read a book with plants on the cover

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A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White

Twelve years ago, Sarah Baker was abducted by the Watt Lake Killer and sexually assaulted for months before managing to escape. The killer was caught, but Sarah lost everything: her marriage, her child, and the life she loved.

Struggling with PTSD, Sarah changes her name to Olivia West and finds sanctuary working on Broken Bar Ranch. But as her scars finally begin to heal, a cop involved with her horrific case remains convinced the Watt Lake Killer is still out there. He sets a lure for the murderer, and a fresh body is discovered. Now Olivia must face the impossible—could the butcher be back, this time to finish the job?

As a frigid winter isolates the ranch, only one person can help Olivia: Cole McDonough, a writer, adventurer, and ranch heir who stirs long-dormant feelings in her. But this time, Olivia’s determination to shut out her past may destroy more than her chance at love. It could cost her her life.


Read a book with an illustrated cover
&
Read a book beloved by the book community

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Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.



So, what you see above is my official TBR. If I have time to read seven books, I’ll definitely try to read more.

Are you participating in the Contemporary-a-thon? If so, what are you reading?




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Let’s Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry – A Review

Lets Call it a doomsday Katie Henry

Let’s Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry
Contemporary | Mental Health | Young Adult
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Released August 6th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Words matter. Words are important, their definitions and histories are important, they mean something. Words tell every story that has ever been told, by fires in caves and castles and by prairie campfires. Under blue skies, under blankets of stars, in mountains and valleys, and forests and deserts. Thousands of years, thousands of words, thousands of people who have loved each other, needed each other, grasped for each other in the dark of the world.


Readers rely on a book’s synopsis to tell them if it’s the sort of book they would like to read. Sometimes, however, those synopses can be very misleading.

Here is the publisher’s synopsis for Let’s Call It a Doomsday:

There are so many ways the world could end. There could be a fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one. What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.

Despite Ellis’s anxiety — about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones — the two girls become fast friends. As Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, she learns there are secrets Hannah isn’t telling her. But with time ticking down, the search for answers only raises more questions. When does it happen? Who will believe them? How do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?

Katie Henry, the author of Heretics Anonymous, delivers an engrossing and thoughtful tale about how people survive — with some faith in family, friends, and maybe a few prepper forums.

I read that and thought, “Oh cool, a new post-apocalyptic book! I should read that!”, and I doubt I’m the only one. There is nothing apocalyptic about this young adult novel, and because I went into the book expecting it to be, I ended up not really enjoying it.

This doesn’t mean that the book was bad. In fact, Katie Henry’s writing was quite good, and if I had known what the book was actually about before going into it, I would have rated it higher. However, the synopses given for this book is actively misleading.

So, what is the book actually about? It’s about a girl named Ellis who has an anxiety disorder and her new friend Hannah. Ellis is obsessed with preparedness and being able to protect her family for any kind of catastrophe that could possibly happen. She then meets Hannah, who convinces Ellis that she knows when and where the world will end. Together, they try to discover exactly what will happen.

The real story, however, is Ellis learning to overcome her anxiety, and Hannah trying to find someone that she’s lost (I don’t want to say who exactly due to spoilers).

From early on in the book, I identified with Ellis. Aside from the Mormonism, she is pretty much an exact version of who I was in high school. Especially her love of her high school’s library, just like I loved mine:

It’s a perfect place within another perfect place. And maybe a public school library wouldn’t be everyone’s perfect place, but it’s mine. Everything about the library is routine. Every time I walk inside, the steps I take are as replicable as a lab experiment, and much safer. 

Also, her internal dialogue could have been taken straight from my 16-year-old brain. It’s rare that I find a character who reminds me of the anxious, depressed, mess of a girl that I was in high school, but this book reminded me that it’s okay to be who you are, even if that means having anxiety. I wish I had read this book in high school.

It was interesting to read a book where the main character is religious and actively practicing. While I’m not at all religious, it’s an unusual aspect of a genre that is rarely touched upon, and added a unique touch to the story. I learned a lot about Mormons that I never knew before.

I wish that I hadn’t felt mislead by the synopsis, because I know I would have enjoyed the book more had I not been expecting something apocalyptic to happen. Publishers need to be more careful about marketing to the right crowd.


Have you read Let’s Call It a Doomsday? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!


Looking for some more young adult contemporary?

With the Fire on High | A Very Large Expanse of Sea | The Hate U Give




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With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – A Review

With the Fire on High

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Young Adult | Contemporary
Published by HarperTeen
Released May 7, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High is a book that lives up to all of the hype surrounding it. In fact, it’s such a good book that I started the audiobook just a couple of days after finishing the physical copy. It’s that good!

With the Fire on High follows Emoni, a teenage mother who has a special gift in the kitchen. The dishes she cooks not only taste great, but they make people remember special moments from their lives. Now in her senior year of high school, she learns that her school will be offering an immersive Spain culinary class, complete with a trip to Spain! Emoni is worried about raising the money needed for the trip, but when her teacher puts her in a leadership role for coming up with ideas to raise money, she puts her apron on and gets to work.

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This was such a sweet book, particularly the relationships in it. One of the aspects of this novel that really stuck with me was Emoni’s relationships with her family and friends, which were all really healthy. Emoni is such a strong character and it shows. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and treats everyone around her with respect. Most importantly, she sets solid boundaries in her relationship with the book’s love interest. For that reason alone, I think this is a great young adult book and hopefully will show teenagers about what a healthy relationship looks like.

I was actually pretty put off by the introduction of the book’s love interest at first, but I needn’t have worried. It’s such a healthy and slow-burn romance that it ended up working so perfectly.

Another reason that I believe this book is a perfect one for young adult readers is that it’s incredibly empowering. As I mentioned before, Emoni is a very strong female character, and I think more young people need role models like her in literature.

I flew through this novel in just a little over a day, and it’s paced very well. It’s a book that flows nicely and keeps your eyes glued to the page. It’s also a very aesthetically pleasing book. The cover, which you see above, is gorgeous, as is the yellow naked hardback.

With the Fire on High is Elizabeth Acevedo’s sophomore novel, and now that I’ve fallen in love with this one, I really want to read her debut, The Poet X, which is told in verse. If you’re looking for a light-hearted, fun, culinary-themed young adult novel, this one will quickly become your favorite.


Have you read With the Fire on High? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.


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Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone – A Review

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Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Young Adult | Contemporary
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Released June 16, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars



Synopsis

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. 

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.



Remember a while ago when I read and reviewed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and I came to the conclusion that I might be too old for young adult contemporaries?

I take that back.

I adored Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word. 

The story centers around Samantha, a high school student who learns to embrace who she is, even if that means not conforming to the perceived ideal of her peers and friend-group.

This novel has great representation for OCD, anxiety, and mental illness, which is wonderful to see in a young adult novel. I particularly appreciated that Stone didn’t shy away from talking about medications in the book – for example, that it’s not always easy to find the perfect mix:

“I remember how I used to be before we found the right meds. I used to fixate on something – it could be anything – something one of my teachers said, or something one of the Eights said, or something I heard on the news. I knew the thoughts were irrational, but one thought led to another, and to another, and once the spiral started, I couldn’t control it.”

While there’s not as much stigma around mental illness as there used to be, it’s still not openly talked about enough, and the medications for managing it less so. One thing that this book does that not many others do is to show the hardships of having a mental illness because, let’s be honest, it’s not easy.

Every Last Word also deals with bullying. Samantha is at the top of her high school’s social structure, along with her other “plastic” friends. They definitely have a Mean Girls vibe going on. When Samantha encounters A.J., a boy who they ruthlessly bullied in elementary school, she’s horrified at what she did in the past. Part of her learning experience in this novel is trying to accept how terrible she was to people and apologize for her mistakes.

I loved Stone’s writing style and her approach to her characters and their situations. Nothing felt far-fetched or unrealistic. Yes, there were some parts that were a little cheesy, but you know what – high school is a little cheesy.

Lastly, while I’m not going to spoil anything, I did not expect the twist at the end!

If you’re looking for a great, hard-hitting young adult contemporary, give Every Last Word a chance.


Have you read Every Last Word? What did you think?




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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – A Review

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Young Adult | Contemporary | Romance
Published by Simon & Schuster
Released April 15, 2014
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

I’m usually pretty good at avoiding the hype surrounding books, but To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one that I chose to read because of that hype. I’m not generally a fan of young adult contemporaries, and I also don’t read much in the way of romance. Normally, I doubt I would have read this book, but I kept seeing it and hearing about it literally everywhere, so I finally picked it up at my library.

Not quite a third of the way through this book, I realized that I was too old for it. I hate DNF-ing a book though, so I finished reading it. In this review, I’m going to imagine my thoughts had I read the book back in high school, which is the age group that it’s meant for. While I’m of the opinion that people should read whatever the hell they want to, whether it’s young adult, children’s, or adult literature, I’m starting to realize that my interest in young adult contemporary is fading fast. I still love young adult fantasy (I’m literally dying as I wait for Sabaa Tahir’s next installment of the An Ember in the Ashes series) and am willing to read plenty of YA horror, sci-fi, and magical realism, but everything else is starting to feel much too young to me, which makes it difficult to identify with the characters.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the first book in a trilogy about Lara Jean, a teenage girl who writes secret love letters to the boys in her life that she falls in love with. The letters are hidden out of sight and are not meant for anyone else to see. One day, however, her letters disappear, and she’s horrified to find out that somebody mailed them out to the boys she’d loved.

I enjoyed the plot of this novel. If something like that had happened to me when I was a teenager I would have been humiliated and would have hidden away in my bedroom until the end of time.

Out of the five letters sent, one is to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh; the second is to Peter, her first kiss and an old friend she’s fell out of touch with; a boy from a summer camp she attended named Kenny; and finally John and Lucas, two of her peers at school.

There’s a bit of a love triangle here, which is a trope I don’t enjoy. Josh and Peter are her two main interests in this novel, and I found both of them to be problematic. Josh was her sister’s ex and essentially a member of her family, and it seemed as though Josh was reeling from being broken up with by Lara Jean’s sister, which lead to quite a bit of uncomfortable awkwardness. Then we have Peter, who starts “fake-dating” Lara Jean so they can make both Josh and Peter’s ex-girlfriend jealous. As an adult, I find all three of the characters to be petty, and the real and fake relationships a terrible idea, but as a teenager, I probably would have enjoyed the book.

The writing and the pacing were good, and I found that the characters were developed enough to have very distinct personalities. Since, as I said earlier, I feel like this book is too young for me, I won’t be continuing with the rest of the series, but I’d still recommend this book to people who love young adult contemporary romances.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – A Review

 

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Contemporary | Young Adult
Published by Balzer + Bray
Released February 28, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give deserves all the hype surrounding it. It’s a well-written, thoughtful, and important book that deals with difficult topics, and I’m certain this book is going to be read in schools for years to come.

The book has been sitting on my shelf for way too long, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. I occasionally listened to the audiobook while reading it, and the audiobook is amazing. It’s narrated by Bahni Turpin and she does a spectacular job of putting emotion into the story and giving all the characters distinct voices and tones.

The Hate U Give is a book that was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. We follow Starr Carter, who witnesses her childhood friend, Khalil, get shot at the hands of the police. Khalil didn’t have any weapons and wasn’t threatening the police officer, and was shot in the back right in front of Starr.

As the event’s only witness, Starr has to decide if she wants to speak up or stay silent and also has to deal with the police, gang violence, and more. It’s certainly a difficult novel to read, but one that I think everyone should read.

Starr has to deal with being two different versions of herself: the Starr in Garden Heights, and the Starr that goes to a mostly white private school. In the process, we meet other topics head-on, such as interracial dating, privilege, and racism.

More than anything, this book is about placing value on human life. After Khalil’s shooting, the media paints him in a harsh light, as a drug-dealing gangbanger who may have deserved being shot. One of Starr’s white friends openly states that she doesn’t understand why people care so much about a drug dealer being shot. However, this book shows us the reality behind the media: that Khalil, and all of his real-life counterparts, are real people, who didn’t deserve to be murdered.

This was Angie Thomas’ first book, but it has the polish of a seasoned writer. It was well-paced, the characters were three-dimensional and felt real, Starr was absolutely believable as a teenage girl, and it was just all-around written perfectly.

I want everyone to read this book. It’s a book that America needs, and I’m glad Angie Thomas wrote it.

As a side note, Angie Thomas’ second book, On the Come Upis already out if you’re interested in reading it.


Have you read The Hate U Give? What were your thoughts on it?




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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi – A Review

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Young Adult | Contemporary
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by HarperTeen
Released October 16, 2018
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is Tahereh Mafi’s first contemporary novel, and it’s a good one. Mafi is known mostly for Shatter Me, which is a young adult fantasy series. In this novel, released at the end of 2018, she examines what it’s like to be a Muslim teenager in post-9/11 America.

Tahereh Mafi has said in many interviews that this is her most autobiographical novel to date, and she is also a Muslim-American who wears the hijab and was a teenager after the events of 9/11. I’m always intrigued by #ownvoices novels, so I was excited when I was finally able to pick this up at the library after being on hold for it for well over two months.

Overall, it was very enjoyable and enlightening, and a book that I feel is important that young adults read. It deals with racism and bigotry in the best way possible, by showing us the pain and hardships people experience when they’re victims of bullying and being singled out based on their skin color or nationality. Shirin, our main character, has dealt with all sorts of really terrible situations that no one should have to live with, and it’s caused her to essentially shut herself off to the people around her.

As a character, Shirin was immensely likable and, because of that, the situations that she finds herself in with other students, teachers, and even police are incredibly frustrating. My mind is constantly bogged down by how cruel people can be to others based on something such as what they look like or what they choose to wear. I found myself feeling so bad for Shirin for the way that she’s been treated, and it doesn’t help that her parents are essentially non-existent in her life. Despite everything, though, Shirin is a great character for the simple reason that she’s both strong and incredibly fragile:

“I always say that I don’t care what other people think. I say it doesn’t bother me, that I don’t give a shit about the opinions of assholes but it’s not true. It’s not true, because it hurts every time, and that means I still care. It means I’m still not strong enough because every time some mentally ill homeless person goes on a terrifying rampage when they see me crossing the street – it hurts. It never stops hurting. It only gets easier to recover.”

I wasn’t surprised at all when I found out that Mafi based some of the aspects of the novel off of events that happened in her own life because from the start it felt like a very honest book. It seemed too real not to have some personal experience behind her words.

This was the first book by Tehereh Mafi that I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I loved her writing style, and I hope her other books are as straight-forward and heartfelt as this one was.

The main reason I’m only giving this book three and a half stars is due to the romance between Shirin and Ocean. I understand that part of the intention of this book was to look at inter-racial relationships, and those parts of the book I did really enjoy and found to be very insightful. However, I don’t feel that the beginning of their relationship was very realistic. Shirin basically does everything she can to push Ocean away, and I have trouble believing that Ocean wouldn’t just give up. Heck, if I found myself in a situation like that, I would probably back off. She constantly sends him mixed signals, goes days without speaking to him (despite being his lab partner), and he’s clearly baffled by her behavior.

With the exception of that the issues I had with the relationship, I really enjoyed this novel, and will definitely be re-reading it again.


Have you read A Very Large Expanse of Sea? What were your thoughts?




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