Genre: YA Contemporary

Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian | ARC REVIEW

Posted September 7, 2015 by Samantha in reviews / 1 Comment

Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
Published by HarperCollins on September 1st 2015
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.
Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?
Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.
Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.

 

 

 

Tags: , , ,


Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa | ARC REVIEW

Posted August 31, 2015 by Samantha in reviews / 0 Comments

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 8th 2015
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 360
Goodreads

A captivating and profound debut novel about complicated love and the friendships that have the power to transform you forever, perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.
Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.
Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.
As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

 

Tags: , , ,


Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed | REVIEW

Posted August 28, 2015 by Samantha in reviews / 3 Comments

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed | REVIEWWritten in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on March 24th 2015
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 277
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny? Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

Written in the Stars is actually a book I don’t recommend reading the synopsis for, as I feel it spoils a lot of elements of the book. I know I know.. I just posted the synopsis. But that is my review structure and I’m sticking to it.

First off, this was a very interesting story about a subject matter I had never read about before. It introduces the reader to the culture slowly, and I found a lot about it very fascinating.

While I felt for Naila and her plight, I also found her very naive at times. I saw the plot twist coming from a mile away, and it seemed obvious to everyone but her. I also found that due to how short the story was, many of the characters weren’t developed. I was hoping for more interactions with her family that made them more sympathetic, when we instead got a very stereotypical image of them and their beliefs. I kept waiting for them to get some redemption, and they never did. I found it very interesting that the author is in a happily arranged marriage herself, and chose instead to write about the horror’s surrounding that same topic. I was expecting this book to have a little more middle ground on the subject. While the situations she chose to depict are important, I think that is often the image we see of Middle Eastern culture here in the West, and I would have liked to see something different there.

Lastly, I also found the writing to be simple, and the plot to overall be wrapped up a little too quickly and easily. The writing allowed for the story to move quickly, but it was also very blunt. It made me feel like I was reading a script more than a story. I also felt that the conflict was wrapped up very quickly, leaving me reeling a bit. This story is very intense, and it is brought to a close rather easily. I also felt that the ending was a tad unrealistic for the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I found it to be a quick read about a subject matter that many of us don’t know much about. While I had some problems with it, I still think it is worth a read if you are interested.

 

three-half-stars

Tags: ,


If I Stay & Where She Went Duology by Gayle Forman (+Movie Review)|REVIEW

Posted August 6, 2015 by Samantha in reviews / 9 Comments

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1) by Gayle Forman
Published by Speak on April 6th 2010
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 261
Goodreads
four-stars

The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year. Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Chloe Moretz!
In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time. "

My thoughts on If I Stay:

I was hesitant to read If I Stay, as I’d heard mixed reviews on it, so instead chose to listen to it on audiobook. I ended up enjoying this book overall.

I enjoyed how this book didn’t focus as much on the romance, and instead focused most of Mia’s memories of her family and friends. Her relationship with Adam was an element, but ultimately, we are shown that her family and music is the most important. I enjoyed her parents especially, as they were developed into fully realized and complex characters, which is not something we see a lot in YA contemporary.

I also found Mia and Adam’s romance realistic. Their relationship felt true of teenage romances, with its problems, but both characters remained mature and level-headed, instead of falling into pits of angst.

I thought this book took a subject and a theme that could be really hard to pull off, and did it beautifully.

My thoughts on Where She Went:

SPOILERS FOR IF I STAY!

When I originally started this book, I wasn’t inspecting it to be in a different perspective, and was taken aback. I was not interested in hearing from this alternate perspective, and wanted to get back to Mia’s voice. But, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

This book handled different themes with the same grace of the first book. I ended up enjoying both books equally, but for different reasons.

This book focused more on their relationship, and I was okay with that. It also commented on the “rock star” life, as well as anxiety, and more individual issues. I enjoyed the way the story was wrapped up, and it didn’t leave me wanting any more.

Thoughts on the movie:

If_I_Stay_posterFirst off, I am typically not very harsh on book-to-movie adaptations. Even when I have read the book before watching the film, I tend to view them as two different things. With this adaptation though, I was very disappointed. I felt like the book lent itself well to being adapted, and that it didn’t need to be changed much in order to be successful on screen. Instead, pointless changes were made that changed the overall themes of the story.

One positive was that I thought the casting was very well done. Mia’s parent especially were well cast, and felt like how I imagined them in the book.

Beyond that, I hated the majority of the movie because of the changes made (SPOILERS BELOW):

  • Adam was a much more volatile character in the movie, and he was overall a jerk. Their relationship also seemed more petty and angsty, an element that I don’t feel was present in the books.
  • Mia’s relationship with her friend Kim felt bland and unimportant, while Kim was an important part of Mia’s life in the book.
  • The focus was on the romantic relationship, instead of the focus being on the family relationships, which is what made the book great.
  • Cello was an afterthought. In the book, the cello is what ended up saving her. In the movie, Adam was framed as her reason to live. It was an unrealistic change for a character whose whole life revolves around music.

The changes made the characters more unrealistic and less likeable, in my opinion. They took a story that was different, and made it generic.

My Rating: 2 stars

What are your thoughts on the If I Stay duology? Have you seen the film?

four-stars

Tags: ,


Anything Could Happen by Will Walton | REVIEW

Posted June 25, 2015 by Samantha in reviews / 0 Comments

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton | REVIEWAnything Could Happen by Will Walton
Published by Push on May 26th 2015
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 282
Goodreads
two-stars

When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.
Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody's in everybody else's business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.
The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.
Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.
ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN is a poignant, hard-hitting exploration of love and friendship, a provocative debut that shows that sometimes we have to let things fall apart before we can make them whole again.

I had high hopes for this Anything Could Happen. I love reading LGBTQ+ fiction, and was immediately drawn in when I saw there was a gay MC. Pair that with his being in love with his straight best friend, and I was hopeful for a lot of the themes that could be explored. I ended up feeling disappointed and found the story a little jumbled.

Firstly, there was a lot going on in this story and I found the plot lacking in focus. There are so many elements thrown into this story that aren’t developed enough for my liking, possibly because of how short the book was. Tretch’s love of dancing is pointed to on numerous occasions, but it’s something we only really get to see as readers during one scene. Family dynamics are explored, but the story really only scratched the surface on those issues and I found myself having a hard time caring.

Which brings me to my second point, in that I could not attach to the characters. Tretch felt like a blank slate. I couldn’t get a sense of his personality, or the personalities of those around him including friends and family. Everyone felt very flat. Because we didn’t see any depth, a lot of the problems they are facing throughout the book didn’t pull at my heartstrings, because I didn’t have any connection to the characters or their back stories.

Lastly, I felt that most of the issues were resolved too quickly and easily. For example, Tretch ‘comes out’ a few times in the story (I won’t say to who or the circumstances surrounding it) and all of the reactions were the exact same. I enjoyed that the characters didn’t make a big deal out of his orientation, but at the same time, I expected some differences in the reactions. Instead, his coming out was very much glossed over and everyone moved on in less than a paragraph. While I know that does happen in real life, I also felt it was unrealistic for a story in which it was never hinted that the people around him knew about his orientation before he told them. Also, there are some friendships made far too quickly in this book. Tretch goes from feeling ambivalent or even negatively about various side characters to suddenly being friends over the course of a scene. I just found a lot of the situations in this story to be too easily resolved.

Additionally, and this may not be a problem for every reader, but this story also included one of my pet peeves in contemporary fiction: too many references to modern pop culture. Artists like Taylor Swift and Ellie Goulding are referenced numerous times (the title of the book actually comes from an Ellie Goulding song). While I’m okay with that a little bit, as that is the nature of contemporary fiction, that device has to be used sparingly and I felt it was overdone in this book.

Overall, this was a quick and easy read. The characters, while simple and bland, were overall good people and some of my favorite themes like family dynamics and self-discovery were explored. Ultimately though, I felt this book did fail in it’s execution and I was expecting more from it.

I picked up an ARC of this book at BEA 2015. All opinions are my own.

 

two-stars

Tags: , , ,


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart | REVIEW

Posted June 22, 2015 by Samantha in booktube, reviews / 1 Comment

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Delacorte Press on May 13th 2014
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 227
Goodreads

A beautiful and distinguished family.A private island.A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.A revolution. An accident. A secret.Lies upon lies.True love.The truth. We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it.And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

 

 

Tags: , , ,


Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone | REVIEW

Posted June 15, 2015 by Samantha in booktube, reviews / 0 Comments

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
on June 16th 2015
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 368
Goodreads

If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.
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.

Disclaimer: This ARC was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tags: , , ,


Hopeless by Colleen Hoover | REVIEW

Posted June 10, 2015 by Samantha in booktube, reviews / 0 Comments

Hopeless (Hopeless, #1) by Colleen Hoover
on December 19th 2012
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 410
Goodreads

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…
That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.
Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.

 

 

 

Tags: , , ,


13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher | REVIEW

Posted May 18, 2015 by Samantha in booktube, reviews / 0 Comments

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Published by Razorbill on October 18th 2007
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Goodreads

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

 

 

Tags: , , ,


Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson | REVIEW

Posted May 7, 2015 by Samantha in reviews / 4 Comments

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson | REVIEWSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster on May 6th 2014
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 449
Goodreads
five-stars

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.
On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?
Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.
Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?
Kiss a stranger? Um...
Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?
Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?

I loved this book! It was the perfect Sping/Summer read. I previously read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and enjoyed that one so much that I had predicted I’d love this one as well. This entire book takes place over a summer break and gives you a summer vibe the whole way through.

I really enjoyed the cast of characters we had. This is a book about friendship at its core. The friendship between Emily and Sloane, and the friendships Emily is building in Sloane’s absence, take center stage. They are realistic and complex. Additionally, the romance takes a back seat to all of this. Although the romance is adorable, it is also a romantic relationship built on a friendship, which I really enjoyed.

Ultimately, this book is about Emily finding herself, discovering who she is as a person without Sloane, coming out of her shell, and finding the meaning of friendship. I adored this, and Morgan Matson has officially become an auto-buy author for me.

This was also our first book for the Random Readalongs group that I run with Sarah Jane (TheBookLife) and Kristin (kap89x), a readalong group in which we randomly decided during random months to read a book together! We did a live show to discuss the book, so please check that out if you HAVE read the book and would like to hear our thoughts.

five-stars

Tags: , ,