I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

sun

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Well the hype over this YA title did not disappoint! Often recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell, this book is about art, life, love and pain. The story is told via the alternative voices of twins, Noah and Jude. Noah’s story is told from a 13 year old perspective; Jude at 16.  The three years in between detail the transformation of their relationship.  Each plot unraveling, whether fueled by jealousy or love is done in such an intricate way, for both the characters and readers.

As fictional characters, both Noah and Jude felt so alive. Yes, they were both extremely flawed and broken but readers are able to invest in them and their complex story.  The only thing that irritated me was Noah’s captioning of almost every scene with a portrait title, ex: SELF-PORTRAIT: Boy Gets Fed Piece by Piece to a Swarm of Fire Ants (p.19).  Also, I don’t like long chapters.

Prepare to feel happy, sad, and every emotion in between when reading this beautiful book.  It reminds us of our connectedness, and I too believe that ‘maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story” (p.365).  Thanks Jandy Nelson for sharing NoahandJude’s.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl

Fangirl follows twins Cather & Wren, as they explore college, the changing nature of relationships, and first love. What differentiates this book from others is the focus on fan fiction.  Cath is obsessed with the fantasy series, “Simon Snow”, and spends most of her time thinking and writing about characters Simon and Baz. However, issues arise when extrovert Wren begins to drift away from fandom to experience all that college life has to offer.

The book opens with a Wikipedia-like entry about the Simon Snow series. Immediately, it is evident that Simon Snow is a reflection of Harry Potter.  Every chapter begin with an excerpt of Gemma T. Leslie’s “Simon Snow”  or a fanfixx.net entry by Magicath. While I could manage snippets of Simon Snow, I completely skipped over the long passages when Cath begins reading it to Levi. I didn’t care to read a story within a story and preferred to read about Cath’s socially awkward life rather than Simon Snow’s fictional characters.

Although Cath’s social anxiety hindered her ability to meet people, she did fall for her roommate’s ex-boyfriend and happy go lucky, Levi.  In all honesty, I found is surprising that Levi would pursue the standoffish, immature and inexperienced Cath.  As their relationship slowly progresses, the intimate scenes are always sweet, not explicit.  Levi is just one of the distinctive characters that play a role in this book. The rest of the supporting cast of characters are well written, and relatable in their own way.  The family dynamics are interesting and mental health issues are evident.

Overall, I thought Fangirl was refreshing for new adult fans.  If you’re looking for a dark story with a tragic bad boy love interest, look elsewhere.  I had a smile on my face reading this book, especially when I picked up on the pop culture references (including Twilight!).  Even if you aren’t a fanfiction enthusiast, I think you will still enjoy this coming of age college tale.

Winger by Andrew Smith

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

 

winger

Self -described ‘skinny-ass loser’, Ryan Dean West has one of the most real voices I’ve came across in YA fiction.  The text can be raunchy and ‘perverted’, but always raw as Ryan Dean narrates his coming of age experience in boarding school, including  important firsts and serious heartbreak.   His illustrations and graphs (my favourite being ‘things that make Ryan Dean West Stupid, pg. 145) added visual interest throughout this thick book.  Even though it is quite lengthy and intimidating for reluctant readers, the story and characters will immediately hook the reader to become a quick and memorable read.

Readers will be laughing their way through the majority of this book. I only expected heartache after reading the back cover quotes describing it as “ …powerful, sweet and heart wrenching.” About half way through, I predicted the ending, but hoped I wasn’t right.  I connected with the characters and felt like I knew them, so I was tearing up in the last couple of heavy pages.

For the most part, I like the graphic cover photo.  It captures the raw, honesty of the book. My only complaint is that ‘Winger’ is 14 years old, but the model looks mid-20s.  However, the final cover was likely out of Smith’s control, so I won’t hold it against him.  Pick up this awkward, cringe worthy, hilarious, honest, sad book today.  You won’t regret it.

 

Review: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Love is awkward, Amelia should know.

From the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head over heels infatuated with him. It’s problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, is 15.

Amelia isn’t stupid. She knows it’s not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris—at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. As time goes on, Amelia’s crush doesn’t seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?

Through a year of befuddling firsts—first love, first job, first party, and first hangover—debut author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up.

love and other

I so adored this coming of age, young adult romance book. Originally published in Australia as Good Oil, Love and Other Perishable Items has been nominated for several literary awards, including the William C.Morris YA Debut Award Nominee (2013).

The book is organized by journal entry titles. Both Amelia and Chris’ distinguished voices are heard as the point of view switches back and forth between them. Using Amelia’s journal and Chris’ purple/black notebook, readers are shown the inner thoughts of both characters over the same period of time. It becomes evident early on that smart, naïve, ‘youngster’ Amelia is hopelessly in love with older Chris. Although many teens are likely to relate to having a crush on an older guy, it was Chris that I identified with the most.

In Chris’ letter to Amelia outlining all the things he hates, I could relate and understand almost all of his points. He writes, ‘Bottom line is- I can’t run my own race. I’m constantly checking what’s happening in the other lanes’. Honestly, this is something that I continue to struggle with. I work every day on counting my blessings, and trying not to compare myself to others. I could also connect with Chris’ limbo stage of being in between life stages. It was probably one of the most confusing and stressful times in my life and I am oh so happy it’s over.

Amelia’s and Chris’ refreshingly unique relationship allows for intellectual conversations on household responsibilities, feminism, and tons of English classic books like Great Expectations and the Great Gatsby (insert librarian bonus points here).

In the end, I wasn’t sure how Amelia and Chris’ story would conclude. I think the bittersweet resolution was the most realistic ending Buzo could have written. Add a dash of Australian slang, and you have one wonderful refreshing book on family dynamics and first love.

 

Review: The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers

From Goodreads: Tink Aaron-Martin has been grounded AGAIN after an adventure with her best friend Freddie Blue Anderson. To make the time pass, she decides to write an encyclopedia of her life from “Aa” (a kind of lava–okay, she cribbed that from the real encyclopedia) to “Zoo” (she’s never been to one, but her brothers belong there).

As the alphabet unfolds, so does the story of Tink’s summer: more adventures with Freddie Blue (and more experiences in being grounded); how her family was featured in a magazine about “Living with Autism,” thanks to her older brother Seb–and what happened after Seb fell apart; her growing friendship, and maybe more, with Kai, a skateboarder who made her swoon (sort of). And her own sense that maybe she belongs not under “H” for “Hideous,” or “I” for “Invisible,” but “O” for “Okay.”

Scholastic sent me some new fall releases and I immediately gravitated towards this middle school junior fiction novel about a witty pre-teen girl, Isadora. Like many girls her age, her life revolves around family, friends, and obsessing about first crushes. I remember being that age and going through similar experiences- especially feeling the confusion and hurt over the demise of a friendship.

Written in encyclopedia format, I found that sometimes the random entries (like ‘Stephen King’ or ‘Mesopotamia’) disrupted the storyline. They definitely acted as filler, as only a couple of the entries like ‘Mega Mall’ were much longer in comparison. These longer entries were used to help move along the plot and storyline. There was also use of photos (hairless cat, paella, etc.) and footnotes throughout Tink’s encyclopedia to allow for her random (yet hilarious) thoughts.

Although sometimes fluffy, the book also includes deeper issues like: being bi-racial, bullying, autism, and social pressures. I think Rivers did a great job at ensuring that Tink acted age-appropriate when dealing with those issues.  From the beginning to the end, Tink’s character grew and matured.  I was rooting for her the entire book, so her transformation was truly satisfying to read.

Pick up this touching and hilarious book September 2012. If you don’t take my word for it, Meg Cabot endorses the book too, declaring: ‘What every girl will be reading this year!’

PS-For all those still wondering what ‘quince’ is… it’s an Asian fruit tree.

Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Goodreads:

I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

                   

After visiting the HarperCollins booth at the OLA conference, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Daniel Handler’s book, Why We Broke Up. The booth was promoting the book with a ‘why we broke up’ display, allowing people to post the reason why their relationship ended.  Not only was the title heavily promoted, it also received recognition as a 2012 Printz Honor Book (excellence in young adult lit). Lastly, readers may better know author Daniel Handler as his other pen name ‘Lemony Snicket’.  Yes- it’s true! Handler wrote the fabulous, A Series of Unfortunate Events.  With all this build up, I was expecting great, great things from this book. 

Unfortunately, I’m telling you why I didn’t like your book, Daniel Handler.

First off, I could never connect with the sophisticated/artsy/mature/old soul of a teenager, Min. She never felt authentic to me and I was annoyed when she constantly referred to old movies/scenes.  I’m not even sure they were real movies, but honestly, I don’t care enough to find out. I mostly skimmed through any reference to an old movie or actor (which was a lot!)

Min’s narration made me bonkers. It was stream of consciousness writing, so she just wrote on and on and on with really long sentences that didn’t always make a lot of sense. It made the writing really hard to follow and I often had to go back and re-read the passages.  If I had a difficult time reading the break up letter, I’m pretty sure the co-captain of the basketball team isn’t going to read a 300+ page break up letter.   Min would be better off burning the stuff.

I almost wish I got an e-book version of this book because it is physically heavy. The thick glossy pages made my wrists hurt! Also, in terms of formatting, the book could have done without all that white space surrounding the text. However, I did really like the addition of Maira Kalman’s drawings of things Mina placed in the breakup box. I also loved reading the break up stories of other YA authors on the back of the book.

Overall, it’s really up to you to decide whether you want to start a relationship with this book…  our personalities didn’t match, but perhaps you fared better? Let me know!

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