The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

sea

Writing this review is difficult. I know tons of individuals that raved about this book (including the majority of the Goodreads community), but I found it just okay. Yes, the writing is beautiful and there are tons of memorable lines, but the lack of plot made the storyline move incredible slow at times. The book is character driven, and switches point of view between damaged high schoolers ‘Nastya’ and Josh. The mysterious reason for Nastya’s silence is hinted at and slowly revealed as the book progresses.

The romance is heavily focused on, and is mostly adorable. I thought it was cute that she fell for an equally damaged individual with his own ‘human force field’. Although they both survive tragedies, they are able to find healing and safety in each other. Their love and trust builds slowly and it felt authentic. Pet nicknames in general are terrible, but Josh’s overuse of calling Nastya ‘Sunshine’ got beyond irritating.

Speaking of names, the origin and meaning of names played a large role in the book. It’s interesting (and so not a coincidence) that every single name meaning matched their personality (example- Sarah being a princess, Josh being a savior, etc.)  While I don’t think a given name predicts your personality, I did a quick search of the meaning behind my name and it is weirdly accurate.

Overall, this is a very angst filled book of two broken individuals finding each other and starting over. Because of the profanity, and mature content, it reads like other darker ‘new adult’ books and so I would recommend this title to older teen readers.

 

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Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

count

I picked up a digital copy of Counting by 7s at School Library Journal’s Summer Teen Virtual event. In short, this beautiful and touching middle grade story follows twelve year old, Willow Chance as she overcomes heartbreaking grief. Willow’s fascination with plants, medical issues, and the number 7 all play a key role in her healing. However, it is the diverse cast of well-developed characters, including a Vietnamese nail salon owner, taxicab driver, and deadbeat counselor that teach Willow the true meaning of family. While I loved the authenticity of these individuals, I truly hope that someone like Dell wouldn’t be able to slip through the school system and use unorthodox methods to counsel children. Scary!

Although I found the ending predictable, I really loved this sad, yet beautiful contemporary book. Willow’s story will completely absorb readers and warm your heart.

Review: Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope. Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope. Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

slammed

I’ve been following this trend with ‘new adult’ fiction, and one of the most mentioned books is Slammed. ‘New adult’ often refers to books with content in between teen and adult. My curiosity peaked, I checked out the book.

While I’d really like to write my review as a slam, it’s been way too long of a day for me to even attempt that. Instead, I will give you a one word review – AMAZING. This captivating book has plenty of powerful messages on life, love, and family. It evoked so many emotions, especially the twists I didn’t see coming! I completely devoured the book in less than a day.

I really love words and poetry so this book was a perfect fit. In high school, my teacher actually encouraged me to submit my poems in contests, and two of them ended up getting published in the Canadian Anthology of Verse. Poems are often very private and personal, so I was proud of Lake when she ‘pushed her boundaries’ and performed her slam at the club. Once you read the book, you’ll understand just how clever all the slams are. For a taste, here is a sample of one of Layken’s slams:

I got schooled this year
by
a
Boy.

a boy that I’m seriously,
deeply, madly, incredibly,
and undeniably
in love
with.
And he taught me the most
important thing of all
To put the emphasis
On life.

Regardless of the reader’s age, this book is suitable for anyone with a love of words.  If you enjoyed Slammed, you’ll be happy to know that it is the first in the series. Point of Retreat continues Layken and Will’s relationship.  I haven’t decided if I’ll read it yet because I was really satisfied and happy with the ending of Slammed. Layken and Will both experienced so much hardship and grief that I want to continue imagining them living on as it ended in book one. Most of all, I hope and imagine Layken takes into consideration her mom’s long list of advice. The advice served as a great reminder to us all, especially: “Don’t take life too seriously. Punch it in the face when it needs a good hit. Laugh at it”.

Now go borrow or buy a copy of this fabulous book right now. I’m not kidding– GO! You won’t regret it!

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.

Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin & Trish Cook

Summary from Goodreads-

Declan loves death metal–particularly from Finland. And video games–violent ones. And internet porn–any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway. Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to hich Declan is never invited). She’s the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested– or it was until today, when she’s dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she’s getting a new brother–of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan’s dad is marrying Neilly’s mom. Soon. Which means they’ll be moving in together.
 
Just as the title suggests, Notes from a Blender has a ton of elements
mixed into one contemporary story about two angry and confused teenagers learning the meaning of family. Mix up a little bit of heartbreak, a touch of grief, two tablespoons of divorce, one cup of homosexuality, with a pinch of bullying and you get one touching, relatable, humorous story.
 
For me, the best thing about the book was the male/female author
collaboration of Halpin/Cook. Readers are clearly able to tell the difference between the two distinguished voices. I loved the alternating points of view, changing from chapter to chapter that show each side of simultaneous events happening throughout the story.
 
Having both female/male points of view will appeal to both female and male readers. Males will be able to relate to the awkward and hormonal Declan. Although Declan is painfully honest about his inner feelings, I really didn’t care to hear about his frequent boners, masturbation, love of porn and sexual thoughts. Too much information! Girls will relate to the beautiful, popular Neilly. Although she is sometimes shallow and self-centered, she falls for the wrong guy and is betrayed by her best friend. For all the unexpected surprises thrown at her, she continually demonstrates how strong and loyal she is.
 
Declan and Neilly together are an interesting duo. Despite their differences, they quickly take to each other, becoming friends and in
turn, help each other grow and change. While this is all nice and great, I would expect a blended family to experience a little more difficulty. Yes, both kids had anger toward their parents, but I would expect a little hostility toward their new step-siblings as well. There was none in this case, and that’s why I’m not so sure this family blending is realistic.
 
Another aspect I found unrealistic, was that almost every character
expresses their disgust with anyone who drinks. Since Declan’s mom was killed by a drunk driver, I can understand why he disagrees with drinking, but why is Neilly so against the idea? For trying to be edgy and in-the-know with teens, you would think that the authors wouldn’t try to be overly preachy about not drinking. I felt the subject was pushed too hard.

Overall, a solid 3.5/5.

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