Review: What happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

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 Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

First, I must admit that this was my first Sarah Dessen book (gasp!)  Although one of the most well -known contemporary YA authors out there, I just haven’t been pushed to pick up one of her works (until now).  I really needed an audiobook for a long drive and I happened to come across What Happened to Goodbye.  The audiobook itself was narrated wonderfullyMeredith Hagner by Meredith Hagner. She nailed the ‘teen voice’ bang on (especially Heather).

The storyline itself was OK.  The very character driven book focused largely on McLean’s relationship with her parents and the aftermath of her parent’s divorce.  Since the storyline is slow and steady, some parts did drag on.  However, since the characters were so well developed, it was easy to feel for them as well.  I felt McLean’s anger toward her mother, and her protectiveness over her father.  Yet, I did not really feel the whole romance connection between McLean and Dave.  There was not enough focus and exploration of this relationship to really convince me.

I enjoyed the restaurant aspect. It reminded me of being in an episode of ‘kitchen nightmares’ minus the terrifying Gordon Ramsey.  I used to work at a restaurant so the descriptive kitchen scenes transported me right into the chaos of dinner rush.  I could almost taste the fried pickles!

Overall, this contemporary book deals with some sensitive issues that many teens can identify with, including identity and family issues.  See more praise for this charming book below.

“Readers can count on Dessen; she’s a pro at creating characters caught at a nexus of change, who have broken relationships and who need to make decisions.” (Kirkus Reviews )

“Dessen’s prose is clean and focused, the characters are developed and real, and the plot is believable. Mclean’s journey through the healing process after her parents’ divorce provides bibliotherapy for any teen dealing with family issues, and the secondary plot of tentative steps toward trust and friendship is beautiful. This is a must-have for any young adult collection.” (VOYA )

 

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Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Inspired by the Nickleback song ‘If everyone cared,’’ this heartbreaking, emotional book is an absolute must read.  The book jumps between the past (day of school shooting) and present (the aftermath).  Also included are newspaper style articles that serve to give readers background information about the injured and slain students.

Although based on the school shooting, the book is mainly character driven.  Valerie struggles with her identity after her boyfriend uses their ‘hate list’ to kill classmates. By adding layers of dimension to the characters of Valerie and Nick, Brown made it impossible to classify them.  At some points, I saw them as victims of bullying, other times, as the perpetrator.  I guess that’s the whole point though—everyone has good and bad in them.  Throughout the story, I really felt for Valerie (despite her total selfishness).  Her awful parents made me so angry! The majority of time, Val is so broken and sad that I couldn’t help but wish for healing and recovery.  However, it’s likely that Val will never fully recover after that experience. To me, the open-ended conclusion to the story was a perfect ending.

Although I loved this book, I’m still wondering about Nick’s mysterious friend, Jeremy. Who exactly was Jeremy and did he have any influence on Nick?  Readers are told that they were spending more and more time together before the shooting. However, after the shooting he just disappears. Why bother introducing him at all?

Unfortunately, school shootings are an all too real tragic experience.  I definitely teared up a bit, especially during the graduation ceremony scene. This is not light read, but I would recommend this thought-provoking book to anyone.  No wonder it made multiple award lists, including:  YALSA best books for young adults, and School Library Journal’s Best book of the year.  Check out more reviews below.

 

“[A] riveting debut.” (starred review) (Publishers Weekly )

“Startling, powerful, and poignant.” (starred review) (School Library Journal )

“This novel ought to be the last written about a fictional high school shooting because it is difficult to imagine any capable of handling it better . . . A story that is as sensitive and honest as it is spellbinding.” (starred review) (VOYA)

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

From Goodreads:

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.


Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

                                  The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Published: January 2nd, 2012

I’d give this book a three out of five.  The title alone made me pick up the book. It is an amazing title but I think the story didn’t really do it justice.  The title actually stems from one of Oliver’s fake summer research topics he tells Hadley in his effort to impress her.  As far as I’m concerned, the book could have also been named ‘The Fermentation Process of Mayonnaise’ or ‘Patterns of Congestion in US Airports’.  However, I doubt the book would have received the same attention! I just felt it was more of a family drama than love story. Sure, they met at the airport and that’s cute and dandy, but I never felt like they were truly in love. They just happened to be at the same place at the same time and it was convenience.  I didn’t feel the chemistry.

I also completely hated the character of Hadley’s father. After moving to Europe, he essentially abandons his wife and daughter when he meets another woman.  I can’t believe Hadley lets her dad off so easy, with his justification ‘because I fell in love’ and ‘love isn’t supposed to make sense. It’s completely illogical’.  Reaaaally?

One more thing—I didn’t enjoy the third person narrative and it really took some getting used to. I felt like I was reading as a spectator rather than a participant.

Overall, a quick, cute read. Maybe I was just hoping it would rank along with Anna and the French Kiss. I wanted the love story, but instead got a story more about reconnecting and forgiving. I think that teens that have felt the effects of a broken marriage would able to relate (and enjoy) the story more than I did.

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