Tag Archives: contemporary ya

Book Review: The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Dangerous Art of Blending in

The Dangerous Art of Blending In

Release date: January 30 2018

4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.
Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

This was a hard, emotional book to read but one that, when I was done, felt like I had just read something very important. It wasn’t just a coming out story about a boy finding his sexuality but also about telling the truth about an abusive parent. I believe this was the first book I’ve read with an abusive mother toward a son and it was chilling(as it would be no matter what) to read how much this mother hated her son.

Evan was the type of character who liked to keep everything in neat little boxes. He didn’t like his worlds to mingle. With it becoming harder to hide the abuse and his growing crush on his best friend, Henry, his worlds were starting to mix and it was obviously affecting him. He really just wanted to live his life but he couldn’t, not safely in his own home because of his mother. His father worked so much so he was rarely around and, when he was, he would try to step in but he only ever stopped her for the moment. It was not a healthy situation for Evan.

The book also had a lot of great, positive dynamics. The friendship to more of Evan and Henry was great, not sudden but a slow struggle. Henry’s family was great, funny, and I wish we’d gotten to see more of them. Every person in Evan’s life had some kind of impact of his, even if it was just by staying silent, and all of it was causing Evan’s perfectly separated lines to blend into each other.

What made the book so hard to read was that every time it seemed like something was going right for Evan, there would be something bad right around the corner. The kid couldn’t catch a break. I liked that he was able to have some escape with his art and how connected he was to it. This is a book where I highly recommend reading the author’s notes after because they add a lot to the book as well.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Release date: January 16 2018

4 stars

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?

The second I started reading this book, it felt like it was very personal and important story for the author. It was a little different than I first thought it would be, with the focus being more on the main character, her family, and the conflict within them than the aftermath of the incident mentioned in the synopsis. It held important messages so relevant to today about not judging someone based on their looks, race, religion.

Maya was caught in between pleasing her parents and doing what would make her happy. They had one view for her future and she wanted another. She loved film-making, loved seeing the world through her camera, and all she wanted was to go to NYU and study film. It created a clash between two generations with different values that was so relatable. I loved her relationship with Hina, her aunt that was more free-spirited than her parents and someone she could turn to for help or for some insight on her parents.

The romance was really sweet, but also another source of conflict between Maya and her parents. They wanted her to be with a nice, Muslim boy but she had feelings for a white boy. Both boys were sweet and she probably could have been happy with either of them if she’d felt a connection with both. Kareem was very sweet and respectful toward Maya, showing her the world outside of her small town, but Maya already had feelings for someone else. Phil was also very sweet and I liked that it was friendship that developed into something more, and that it wasn’t easy for her to go against what she knew she parents expected.

The plot centered mostly on Maya’s struggles to please her parents while also following her dreams, but it also showed how hate and fear can make people leap to conclusions or use it to justify their actions. Maya and her parents were the victims of Islamophobia on multiple occasions and it was a reminder that no matter how long they’ve been a part of the community, no matter how much good they’ve good, or how respected they’ve become, some people will always only see them as their race or their religion.

As mentioned, it was a very important and relevant book. It’s one that deserves a lot of attention leading up to its release and after.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider

Kiss me in new york

Kiss Me in New York

Release date: October 3rd 2017

3.5 stars

It’s Christmas Eve at JFK in NYC.
Charlotte is a British student, waiting for a flight home after the worst semester of her life. Anthony is a native New Yorker, surprising his girlfriend at the airport after three months apart. Charlotte has just been dumped, and Anthony is about to be dumped, right in the middle of the holiday crowd.
Charlotte’s flight is canceled when a blizzard blows in, and Anthony can’t bear to go home. So, they set out into the city together, clutching a book Charlotte picks up in the airport gift shop: Ten Easy Steps for Getting Over Your Ex. For this one night, they’ll focus on healing their broken hearts … together.
Step-by-step, the two struggle to put the past behind them. But the snow is so enchanting, and the holiday lights are so beguiling, that soon their shared misery gives way to something else. Soon, they’re not only over their exes — they’re falling for each other.
Then a subway ride splits them up by mistake. Will they reunite before Charlotte’s flight leaves New York forever?

This was a very fast, very cute read. It’s perfect for curling up with on a cold night, hot chocolate in hand, snuggled up with a blanket, and just letting it warm you up. It took place pretty much within a twenty-four hour period and had our two main characters, total strangers, bonding over their respective break-ups. I loved the idea of them teaming up to have one night of following the steps in the book Get Over Your Ex in Ten Easy Steps and it made for a book that was cute, heart-warming, and made me smile.

The book was told alternating between Charlotte’s POV and Anthony’s POV. Charlotte was a British exchange student who’s flight home for Christmas was cancelled. She had just been dumped by her boyfriend and was eager to get home, away from all the reminders. I really liked Charlotte, she was pretty rational but she could also be impulsive, and while I would probably never have the courage to ask a stranger to do the steps in a Get Over Your Ex book with me, she made it seem perfectly acceptable. Anthony wanted to surprise his girlfriend at the airport when she arrived but ended up getting dumped instead. He was more reluctant to get involved in Charlotte’s plan with his break-up being more fresh but he eventually agrees to go along with her plan. It was better than wandering the streets alone because he didn’t want to go home and face his family, who thought he was spending the night with his girlfriend.

The plot was mostly Charlotte and Anthony getting to know each other while doing the steps in the book. They had to improvise on a few of them but they made it work. The connection between them maybe happened a little fast but I could also understand it, both heart-broken and alone on the holidays and finding someone who understands what they were going through formed a bond. If they’d met under any other circumstances they might not have even given each other a second look but everything that night worked to form a bond between them.

As mentioned, it was a fast read at about 200 pages, but it was one that put a smile on my face and i really enjoyed it.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Series Spotlight: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

anna bigimageisla

Anna and the French Kiss series by Stephanie Perkins

Review status: 2 books. Anna and the French Kiss, Isla and the Happily Ever After

All books released, not matching covers😪

All three books in this series are so cute and so different from each other. This is the series that introduced me to companion novels and I’ve been a huge fan since. This group of friends were amazing and I could have gone on reading about them forever.

Favourite character: Isla. She’s quirky and awkward and says things that are just so me. Plus she’s named for where I’m from and I loved that.

Favourite book: Isla and the Happily Ever After. It was Isla and Josh in all their angst and cuteness but it was also a return to where it all started.

Status: All three books read and on my favourite contemporaries shelf.

Author status: Auto-buy!

Next up from Stephanie Perkins. Unsure. There’s Someone Inside My House was just released so might not see anything new for a bit.

 

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Book Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

The Nowhere Girls

The Nowhere Girls

Release date: October 10th 2017

4 stars

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story. Who are the Nowhere Girls? They’re everygirl. But they start with just three: Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head. Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant. Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android. When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students. Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

There seem to be a lot of books coming out that tackle the issue of rape culture, and real life proving that there can never be enough of these types of books. There were three very relatable main characters but we were also introduced to many others with small snippets in many POVs of many different girls who were being affected by the events of the book. I really liked seeing these girls come together, fight for each other, and have such open discussions with each other.

Grace, Rosina, and Erin were the three girls we spent the most time with, the main characters. Grace was the new girl, having moved with her parents after her mother needed to find a new job; Rosina was the eldest girl in a large, extended family so she was overwhelmed with family duties; Erin had Asperger’s and was dealing with a mother who spent more time on autism chat rooms than understanding her own daughter. These three were the girls who were behind The Nowhere Girls, giving girls at their school a safe place to speak their minds. The friendship that formed between them was amazing.

I loved all the additional snippets from other characters, some agreeing with the group and some not. We saw girls from all different perspectives and I thought it was very realistic that not everyone agreed with everything, even if they agreed with some of it. I also loved the secret meetings and how open the dialogue was between the girls during these meetings. It was great to see the girls actually talking and educating each other instead of judging and bullying, though there were still a few times a comment would slip in.

There was also a blog run by one of the male characters that we saw posts from, countering and commenting on what the girls were doing. It was disgusting and sad, especially knowing there are people who agree with it. It was good that we saw decent male characters in the book as well so not every male was bad.

It was a slower read, mostly due to the heavy content. It’s not something that should be an easy read and it’s definitely one that will stick with readers.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier

Rules of Rain

Rules of Rain

Release date: December 5th 2017

3.5 stars

A dramatic new novel about the bond between a teen and her twin brother.
Rain has taken care of Ethan all of her life. Before she even knew what autism meant, she’s been her twin brother’s connection to the hostile world around him. She’s always prepared—when her father abandons them, when her mother gets sick, when Ethan is tortured by bullies from school—Rain is the reliable, stable one holding them all together. She’s both cautious carer and mad chef, preparing customized meals for her family and posting crazy recipes on her cooking blog.
Each day with Ethan is unvarying and predictable, and she’s sure that nothing will ever change—until one night when her world is turned upside down by a mistake she can’t take back. As her new romance with her long-time crush and her carefully constructed life begins to unravel, she discovers that the fragile brother whom she’s always protected has grown into a young man who no longer needs her. And now, for the first time, she finds that she needs him.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect going in to this book but it turned out to be a quick, cute read that had some great supporting characters and some very good character growth for the main character. There were interesting family dynamics, romance, and amazing friendships. I really liked Rain’s blog entries with her food suggestions and Ethan’s experiments.

Rain started the book as someone who pretty much lived to take care of her brother. As he started to become more independent, she struggled with losing her own sense of self. Who was she if she wasn’t her brother’s caregiver? That, and trusting other people with her brother, were something she was struggled with the whole book and had to learn to let go. The relationship she had with her brother was sweet but also could be a little co-dependent.

The romance was sweet, though sometimes Liam did seem a little too perfect. The friendships were a huge highlight and I would definitely read a spin-off featuring either Ethan and Hope or Marcus and Kathy. I was surprised at how invested I got into their stories considering they weren’t the main focus. I loved the way the group interacted with each other. They seemed like they would be a lot of fun to hang out with.

The plot was very character focused so if the reader didn’t like Rain, it might be hard to enjoy the book. It was quick to read and I got way more invested than I first expected.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Waiting on Wednesday

New WoW

This is a feature started on Breaking the Spine that puts the spotlight on upcoming books.

This week’s pick is:

Not If I Save You First

 

Not If I Save You First

Release date: March 27th 2018

Goodreads: Maddie and Logan were torn apart by a kidnapping attempt when they were young. They were only kids — Logan’s dad was POTUS and Maddie’s father was the Secret Service agent meant to guard him. The kidnappers were stopped — but Maddie was whisked off to Alaska with her father, for safety. Maddie and Logan had been inseparable . . . but then she never heard from him again.
Now it’s a few years later. Maggie’s a teenager, used to living a solitary life with her father. It’s quiet — until Logan is sent to join them. After all this time without word, Maddie has nothing to say to him — until their outpost is attacked, and Logan is taken. They won’t be out of the woods until they’re . . . out of the woods, and Maddie’s managed to thwart the foes and reconcile with Logan.

Why I’m excited: I can always count on Ally Carter for an exciting story and a great romance.

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Book Review: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

When It's Real

When It’s Real

4 stars

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.
Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

This book was very cute, perfect for a summer read or curling up under a blanket or in bed and just losing yourself in the characters and the plot. I do love the hate-to-love trope and I thought this book handled it very well. I loved the dynamics, not only between the two main characters, but between all of them. It was entertaining to read and very easy to completely lose myself in the story.

Vaughn was a good girl, never really in trouble, helping out at home, and when the opportunity to to pose as a teen celebrity’s girlfriend and take financial strain off her older sister came up, she had to say yes. I really liked her. She wasn’t afraid to speak up when Oakley treated her badly but, no matter how angry he could make her, she was still willing to listen to him when he opened up to her. Oakley was someone who’d had a lot of success at a young age and, while he was still young now, was in a bit of a creative drought. He needed to prove he was a serious artist to work with the best of the best and his team thought dating a ‘normal’ girl was the way to do that. I liked that there were little scenes early on to show he wasn’t just a jerk, there was a decent guy underneath his celebrity persona.

The pages really flew by, even at over 400 pages it was a quick read. I really liked seeing Oakley and Vaughn getting to know each other, getting on each other’s nerves, bickering then making up, everything they did was fun to read. Their relationship was what drove the plot so if the reader wasn’t too invested in their romance, fake or developing, they might not get as absorbed into the book as I did. I loved them and I’m very glad I have 3 of the Royals series to dive in to now that I’ve finished this one.

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Book Review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down

Long Way Down

Release date: October 17 2017

4 stars

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES. And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

This book was a fast read and I found it to be very unique. Told from the POV of Will in the verse style, the chapters were short but very engaging. It made it very easy to say one more chapter until the book was finished. Almost the whole book took place within the length of the elevator ride from the eighth floor to the lobby and it did so without feeling like the plot was being stretched out.

Will was someone I found to be a relatable character and he had a voice that really resonated, that stayed with me long after I closed the book. He was grieving for his brother and he wanted revenge, he knew he had to follow the rules his brother taught him and as long as he could focus on that, he had a purpose. He was hurting and angry and just wanted someone to pay.

I liked seeing who was going to come on to the elevator next and what they would add to the conversation. Each person had a connection to Will, even if he didn’t know it right away, and they all gave him and the reader something to think about. Jason Reynolds could have doubled the amount of floors and stops and I’m sure I still would have loved it because the conversations were so great and important.

The verse style worked well for the subject matter. It drew attention and highlighted the parts of the conversations that ended up sticking more in my mind and it made for a quick read. I wasn’t fully prepared for just how much this short book shook me but I know I won’t be forgetting it.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza

Kat and Meg

Kat and Meg Conquer the World

Release date: November 7th 2017

3.5 stars

Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different. Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people. Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: They’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos.
It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship—if they don’t kill each other first.

This book was a quick read with great moments of female friendship and both main characters showing a lot of growth. I enjoyed the way their love of a video game and YouTube star brought them together. They were such complete opposites but they worked well as friends, first more as a convenience since neither really had any friends and then as someone they could trust. It stayed pretty light but still tackled some issues like mental illness(anxiety, panic attacks, and ADHD).

Kat was the one I found myself identifying with more than Meg. Kat was new, quiet, and getting paired with Meg for a science project was a huge nightmare. She was the type of student who would rather work by herself and know she would get a good grade than chance her partner bringing her down. Meg was more outgoing, very open with her love for Lumberlegs, and wasn’t the most reliable when it came to schoolwork. Her antics drove Kat crazy but she also pushed Kat to try new things so they balanced each other very well.

I enjoyed the YouTube/Lumberlegs plot line. Both girls loved watching the YouTube star Lumberlegs playing a video game, one that Kat also loved to play and Meg was learning to play. It was relevant to today with so many YouTube stars making names for themselves. It was nice to see their love of the video game tie into their science project, which was another major plot of the book. The science project was their big assignment for the year and was a big source of disagreement between the two girls due to their difference of work ethics.

The plot was predictable but enjoyable. It was fast to read and I will definitely be looking for more books from this author in the future.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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