This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing. 

song

Happy (early) Valentines Day! If you are without a date, you can always spend the night with a reliable book boyfriend.  Or, check out TSWSYL if you share in Elise’s love of music. ♥

I devoured TSWSYL in two sittings.  I was so caught up in Elise’s story that I never felt like I was reading. Immediately, I was able to connect to Elise’s real and relatable character.  Elise struggles to fit in with her classmates, and spends a summer trying to learn how to be ‘cool’.  Unfortunately, her doubts and insecurities become too much to bear and she turns to self-cutting.  Luckily, music enters her life and the story begins to change from heartbreaking to inspiring. Elise finds her true passion in being a DJ, and slowly begins to accept her true self.  My friend has a tattoo that reads, ‘music mends broken hearts’ and I think it’s definitely true in Elise’s case.   In addition to the music, an interesting cast of characters (all with their own faults) help Elise realize her potential.  Although I doubt a few hours of practice can turn anyone into an amazing DJ (especially at 16), I am willing to overlook this.

Overall, I adored this contemporary, coming of age novel. It is powerful, and emotional. Readers are reminded to discover and embrace themselves and find comfort in the power of music. Don’t forget to check out the recommended indie dance song tracks listed in the back! I’m listening to ‘Come on Eileen’ as I write this review.  TSWSYL is my favourite 2014 read, thus far.  Pick it up today!

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.

ask

The title of the book stems from Astrid’s practice of expressing herself and sending love to the passengers of overhead planes.  In turn, passengers share their love and lives with the readers. Their stories are interspersed between Astrid’s narration. Astrid herself has some really interesting family dynamics. Astrid’s pot-smoking father, her self-involved, workaholic mother, and insecure younger sister, all play a huge role in the telling of this story.  Throughout the book, Astrid’s connection with Socrates and his philosophical beliefs was a unique element. She begins to imagine him everywhere and nicknames him ‘Frank S’.  She admires him because he ‘rejected all the boxes’ and questioned everything.

However, I question why bisexuality was not further explored.  Astrid questions her sexuality, and when her parents confront her, they urge her to choose a gay or straight box. She comes to realize that we cannot force tidy labels on complex things like sexuality. Sexuality cannot always be simplified. However, in the end, she very loudly comes out as a lesbian.  Why couldn’t she be bisexual? Why did she have to choose?

Overall, I think Ask the Passengers is realistic of a girl struggling with her own sexual identity and the difficulty of coming out to her family, friends, and small town. I have several friends that went through similar situations, and ones that continue to struggle with their sexual identity. Despite the one issue, I think this book would provide comfort to those on a path of self-discovery.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

aris

Wow. What a beautiful book.  I’m so happy its receiving recognition as one of the best LGBTQ young adult novels out there.  There is so much honesty in the characters and story that readers can’t help but become emotionally involved in Ari and Dante’s relationship.  It is truly a coming of age story of two Mexican American teens trying to find their place in the world.  Told from Ari’s perspective (and a couple of letters from Dante), readers feel Ari and Dante’s love, pain, and heartache. Although the book explores sexuality and identity, Saenz also includes important themes of family and growing up. Both Ari’s and Dante’s family’s played a huge role in their lives. It was so heart warming to read about open, accepting families with unconditional love for their sons. It’s no wonder the boys were ‘crazy’ for their parents- I would be too!

Overall, this moving book will appeal to anyone who has ever felt different. There are many mysteries in life; one of the biggest is figuring out who we are and how we fit in the world.  I think this quote from the book sums it all up nicely:

 “Somewhere toward the end of the shift we all started singing U2 songs. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Yeah, that was a good song. My theme song. But really I thought it was everybody’s theme song.”

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

paper valentine

Yovanoff’s book covers always grab my attention. Paper Valentine is no exception.

A while back I read The Replacement, which is set around Halloween. By complete coincidence, I read Paper Valentine over Valentine’s Day. I found both books to have some similarities:

-Sibling relationships (Ariel is a big part of the story—Hannah is very protective of her younger sister)

-Underlying message— No one is perfect. We have to learn to be happy in our own skin and not care what others think.

-Stand alone title. Not a series!

-Genre-hard to classify. It includes a mix of different elements: romance, paranormal, mystery, thriller.

While the storyline centres on the murders, it is also a book about a girl coping with her best friend’s death. Although never referred to as ‘anorexia’, it is clear that Lillian died from the eating disorder. How Hannah describes the appearance of Lillian’s ghost and the smell of her breath is truly disturbing. Hannah’s guilt is prominent throughout, and only in the end can she finally let go.

I thought Hannah made an interesting main protagonist. She loves putting her own spin on her clothes and aims to stand out from the rest of the crowd.  Although she feels guilty for her role (or lack thereof) in Lillian’s death, she puts on a smile and pretends she’s happy. I liked how her love interest, Finny challenges her to be real and accept those emotions.

Although I didn’t see the end twist coming, I figured by the number of pages left that something was around the corner. However, I had big questions surrounding the killer’s motive. Why kill young girls? To demonstrate power? For a thrill? It’s a HUGE leap from shoplifting to murder. I didn’t get it. I also didn’t quite grasp the reason for all the dead birds and the constant mentioning of heat. I definitely thought it was so sort of eerie foreshadowing.

Overall, I think Yovanoff did a great job at weaving together an interesting murder mystery. The book tackled plenty of issues to keep readers hooked and guessing. The Ouija boards and séances really upped the creepy factor.

 

 

Review- Every day by David Levithan

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

 

every day

Every Day is a wonderful story about love, and acceptance.  Over the course of the novel, I really began to feel for A.  I felt sorry for the way A wasn’t able to connect and grow with other individuals or experience family and love (until Rhiannon that is).  The book is written so that every chapter details the different physical body A inhabits.  Readers journey along with A as he/she transforms into different body sizes, genders, and orientations.

Although the concept of being trapped in another’s body has been done, this book felt fresh.  I enjoyed the glimpse into other people’s lives and respected that A chose to never really muddle or intrude in the lives of the bodies he inhabited.  Kudos to Levithan for making me like a character that existed without a physical body, gender, or sexual preference.  Despite not identifying with key factors, I still pictured A as male. So for the remainder of the review, I will refer to A as he.  Did anyone else picture A as male?

At times, I felt like Leviathan was coming on a bit strongly in his effort to demonstrate his own viewpoint (gender roles/sexuality as a societal construct).  For example, A mentions that he wanted to call out Rhiannon on being more attracted to him when in a male’s body.   I don’t think that is fair.  Sure, it’s the person inside that really matters, but you can’t help if you’re only physically attracted to men. It just felt judgemental in a book that is supposed to be about tolerance and understanding.

Overall, I really enjoyed this page turner of a book.  The ending was heartbreaking, but true to A’s character. Although we all have full and ‘blank days’, this book reminds us to not take our love and relationships for granted.

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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