Where She Went by Gayle Forman (If I Stay #2)

It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I StayWhere She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

where she went

I rarely read sequels.  However, having just finished If I Stay, I knew I had to pick up the next book, Where She Went.  In book one, Mia narrates the events leading up and following the tragic car accident that killed her family. Fast forward three years later for book 2 and now Mia’s boyfriend, Adam shares his story. It is a sad, raw and powerful narrative that will pull on reader’s heartstrings.  Adam is deeply affected and confused following his separation/breakup with Mia. I thought this was refreshing to see, as often it is the female character that is shown destroyed by a breakup.  Like the previous novel, memories and flashbacks of their relationship are again provided throughout.

Emotionally connecting with Adam came easy.  Like Adam, I felt anger toward Mia for how she ended things. When the truth is told, I was confused.  I’ve never experienced loss like Mia, so I couldn’t completely understand her reasoning. I believe that if I were in her shoes, I would have never pushed Adam away. I would have accepted all the love and support, rather than trying to erase him from her life.  However, I enjoyed the conclusion to their story and was left with feeling of hope. Pick up this realistic teen fiction series for a touching and beautiful read.

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If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

 

There are some things you can’t leave behind…

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

if you finddd

Many of my latest reads have featured terrible, dysfunctional families, but I think Carey’s mentally ill and drug addicted mother takes the cake. The level of neglect and abuse will break your heart.   From the very first page, we learn of Carey and her younger sister, Janessa’s sad and miserable living situation, consisting of: canned beans, clothes that stink of cat urine, and an abandoned cockroach filled camper in the woods.  But that’s not even the worst part…

Throughout the divided three parts (The End, The Middle, The Beginning), Carey hints at the trauma they’ve endured as the “white-star night”.  It’s not until the last few pages that readers learn what really happened the night Janessa stopped talking.  Warning—this violent scene was really difficult to read.  Despite this, If You Find Me is truly a story of resilience and the power of sisterly bonds. After being discovered by a social worker and Carey’s dad, the sisters are able to overcome unimaginable horror and adjust reasonably well to new life.  There were peaks of happiness and hope that were fully welcomed in this book of dark and traumatic events.

Overall, If You Find Me is a quick 245 page read.  Murdoch hooks the reader in within the first couple paragraphs and takes them on a haunting emotional journey that uniquely explores identity and family. A recommended read.

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

eleanor photo

Tons of buzz happenin’ for this quirky YA book about two misfits falling in love.  It’s mostly a love story, but serious issues like self-esteem, bullying and domestic abuse are also covered through Eleanor and Park’s alternating points of view. I did enjoy their romance (and the brilliant hand holding scenes), but I didn’t get the extremely quick progression from barely looking/speaking to each other to being super in love. Not just in love, but the deep intense infatuation kind of love. It gets so cheesy, as ‘“I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. “I…”-her voice nearly disappeared-“think I live for you.” (P.111) and “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. (p.111)   

As individuals, both Eleanor and Park are both interesting and flawed teens.  Eleanor is a red-headed, overweight girl with Goodwill clothes and a twisted family dynamic. Park is a small, quiet, insecure Asian kid that feels like an outsider in his own community. The character building was phenomenal and I loved that they weren’t the typical bad boy/hot girl combo we usually get in YA.

One other thing- the story takes place in the year 1986. If it weren’t for the continuous references to 80’s music and the cassette player, I could have easily imagined it to take place in the here and now. It reads very current and contemporary. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing… bad because I didn’t feel the 80’s vibe, or good because falling in love is timeless? Regardless, I would love to find out why Rowell set her story (besides being totally rad) in the 1980’s.

In the end, Rowell leaves Eleanor and Park’s heartwarming/heartbreaking love story for the reader to interpret.  Plenty of obstacles complicate this awkward, weird, quirky, touching love, but I can’t help but root for these two eccentric outcasts. 

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.”

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- 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.

BookIt Guest Review-Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

I rarely have the pleasure of coming across a picture book for teens so I was thrilled to come across the uniquely told story of Chopsticks.

After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song “Chopsticks.” But nothing is what it seems, and Glory’s reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it’s up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along.

Chopsticks is not just a regular picture book, it is a story told through a  mix of images from photographs, letters, television shots, cell phone messages,  CD lists, artwork, menus, and more.  As a reader I felt like I was going the personal scrapbook of Glory, uncovering the key moments of her life from losing her mother to losing her grasp on reality. I think that this book would be a great choice for those who enjoy expressing themselves artistically. I went through the book several times, loving the images, and even followed it up by listening to some of the songs they share with each other. I believe teens will be able to identify with elements of the story, and enjoy the alternative format.

I give it 4 out of 5

Happy reading,

Bookit

p.s. check out the YouTube version of Chopsticks

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.

Bookit Review: Above by Leah Bobet

I saw this book and I thought the cover was beautiful and intriguing. I enjoy discovering new Canadian authors and the depiction of a woman with beautiful wings looking out at the Toronto cityscape at night prepared me for a read that would intertwine a fantastical world with a city I have visited often. If I wasn’t already excited, the cover also includes praise from the 2011 Evergreen winner Emma Donoghue (Room) who writes “Above pulls off that rare trick of being convincing and utterly magical at the same time.” Thus, I went into this read with high hopes….

From Goodreads:

An extraordinary debut urban fantasy about dangers outside and in.

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.

ABOVE is the debut of an amazing new voice.

 

I really wanted to like this novel. The story is told from the perspective of Matthew who describes himself as a monster or freak, with feet like lion claws and scales like fish. He was born underground in a Sanctuary called Safe and has the role of Teller for his community. He listens, memorizes and tells the stories about the members of Safe. Thus, we see the story through his perspective and after Safe is invaded by horrific creatures that try to destroy the only home he has known Matthew is forced to the world above. Leah Bobet does a great job of building character development through Matthews voice, similar to how Emma Donoghue told the story of Room through the perspective of 5 year-old Jack who knows the world only through the room he is born in. Matthew tells the stories of the various members of Safe and how they came together, including Ariel a girl with bee wings he found broken and abused in the sewers.

In Above Bobet combines a depressing and realistic look at what life might be like for those who are born or inflicted with abnormalities, such as those of the fantastical nature and even those that have been seen to threaten societal norms such as being mixed gender. How would society and scientists treat these people if they were discovered? History shows that we have not been kind, and Above includes these hard to read topics which made it sad to read at times.

Lastly, the mystery of the story takes an interesting spin as you discover who invaded Safe and why. The moral code of Matthew`s character is challenged throughout the story and in the end the story of Above sends out the message of the butterfly effect, where one action can completely change the course of events to come.

I give it 4 out of 5

Happy reading,

Bookit

 

 

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

All John Green fans were eager and excited to get their hands on one of the most hyped books of 2012. Often labelled a ‘cancer book’, it undeniably includes content on death and philosophical ideas on the afterlife. However, it was the love element between the two fabulous characters of Hazel and Augustus that really touched me.

John Green fans know and expect phenomenal writing and there was no let down there. Chalk full of raw emotion, Green was even able to make me tear up. Yet, I also enjoyed the humour to break up some of the sad moments. For example, when Hazel and Augustus are talking about their ‘make a wish’ wishes, Augustus pokes fun of Hazel for using a wish on Disneyland, telling her “I can’t believe I have a crush on a girl with such cliché wishes.” Another part I loved was when the two put Hazel’s swing set for sale online with the ad ‘Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs Loving Home’. It has a hilarious description of the swing set that will undoubtedly illicit memories from the buyer. All ads should be written like that!

Overall, Green does provide perspective of what it may feel like to know you are dying (both physically and emotionally) and doesn’t shy away from the uglier aspects. I appreciated that. Without a doubt, it can be a depressing read but I feel like it does capture the tragedy of children with cancer.

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