To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

to all the boys photo

My first Jenny Han read comes compliments of PLA. I eyed the gorgeous cover, and scooped it up immediately. I connected with the narrator Lara Jean, right from the first page. I too am a keeper of all things and love to bake, knit, scrapbook and go antiquing. Like Lara Jean, I also would pour my emotions into my writing, opting for poems/songs instead of letters. I’m not sure how I would have reacted to someone sending my past loves these notes, but I thought Lara Jean handled it exceptionally well.  Her character was well written, and felt authentic. Her sisterly bond with Margot and Kitty were a nice addition to some of the typical high school stories.  It is a unique and interesting dynamic, and I’m glad it’s portrayed realistically, including the frequent fights and makeups!

In terms of romance, there is a bit of a love triangle… but really, Lara Jean’s real love interest becomes blatantly obvious and makes the storyline a tad predictable.  However, the ending to their complicated love story is anything but. I was expecting everything to wrap up beautifully, so I embraced the messier ending, and was able to imagine my own conclusion. I know many readers disagree with me, but I really hope it remains a standalone novel as the story felt complete as is. UPDATE-Found out book #2 P.S. I Still Love You is in the works for 2015. BUMMER.

I encourage you to add this contemporary high school romance to your reader radar. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available April 15, 2014.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Mila has an exceptional talent for reading a room—sensing hidden facts and unspoken emotions from clues that others overlook. So when her father’s best friend, Matthew, goes missing from his upstate New York home, Mila and her beloved father travel from London to find him. She collects information about Matthew from his belongings, from his wife and baby, from the dog he left behind and from the ghosts of his past—slowly piecing together the story everyone else has missed. But just when she’s closest to solving the mystery, a shocking betrayal calls into question her trust in the one person she thought she could read best.

picture
After taking time to get accustomed to the dialogue and lack of quotation marks, Picture Me Gone was an okay read.  Some passages I had to re-read to fully grasp if twelve year old Mila was in conversation or observation.   Her ‘voice’ was also problematic as it read way higher than her age.  Yes, she is inquisitive, smart, and perceptive but I still found her voice off.
Despite her maturity, I’m still not sure why her father, Gil would take Mila to help unravel the mystery of Matthew’s disappearance.  Matthew is an unlikable and depressed adult in a complicated mess.  So why expose a child to that?  Not only does Gil deceive Mila, but he allowed her to believe there was a mystery to be solved.  When the ‘mystery’ is revealed, readers are left hanging. There is no resolution and we are left to wonder what happened to Matthew.
Overall, Picture Me Gone was a quiet, contemporary, sad mystery. Not only was the character of Matthew sad, but I felt sad reading Mila’s childhood innocence slowly disappear as she learns about the mistakes and regrets many adults carry.  I just hope her exposure to such heavy matters don’t affect her future relationships negatively.

Picture Me Gone is a National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2013).

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

moon

Meh. I know the many Sarah Dessen fans will disagree with me, but I found The Moon and More to be just an okay read.  I much preferred What Happened to Goodbye.

Don’t expect much drama, action or cliffhangers in this book. Rather it consists mostly of mundane details of a teenager about to embark on college. Summer jobs, romantic and family relationships, and common worries about growing up are all very much explored. In that aspect, teens will be able to relate to Emaline. I on the other hand, was a little bored.

The best feature of the book was the setting of Colby. Emaline lives in the beach town of Colby that is flooded by tourists every summer. It is perfectly described and easy to image.  The subplot of the local Colby artist was an interesting element and coming from a small town, I could understand the protectiveness and cautiousness of letting ‘outsiders’ in.

 

Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

From Goodreads:

Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.

 easy

When looking up ‘new adult’ books, Easy by Tammara Webber was a title that kept appearing along with Slammed by Colleen Hoover.  Since I adored Slammed, this read-alike was an obvious choice.  Why do I love new adult, sooo much? Well, I am one!  As much as I like YA, I do sometimes crave a little more mature content.  ‘New adult’ targets this missing piece in the publishing world, and includes real issues that college students, and young adults face.  While I have not personally dealt with the very serious issue of sexual assault portrayed throughout ‘Easy’, I realize that it is a real concern for college campuses everywhere.

I think Webber handled the delicate topic of sexual assault well, and I appreciated the emphasis on the need to report such incidents, and the message that it is NEVER the victim’s fault.  I just expected Jacqueline to show a little more emotion after the attack, but she quickly focused all her attention on classes, her ex-boyfriend and new crush. That being said, everyone experiences trauma differently and we can’t expect the same reaction from everyone.

This attempted sexual assault in the first couple of pages powerfully sets up the storyline of the book. I thought the college setting was portrayed realistically, but no professor of mine would have been so quick to forgive missing an exam.  Also, I’m not familiar with the Greek fraternity system, so I really didn’t understand the boys’ rationale in covering up the assaults. However, I did like the portrayal of how different individuals (victim, families, friends, social groups) are all affected by such a crime.  It shows how an attack on one person has a rippling effect on other people’s lives.

In terms of Jacqueline and Lucas’ budding romantic relationship, I thoroughly enjoyed the flirty email exchanges.  Yet, I found their on/off status to be a little frustrating.  When they were ‘on’, they had undeniable chemistry, which created some pretty steamy make out scenes.  I must warn you, Lucas fits the tortured, hot, tattooed bad boy love interest that is often played out in YA novels.  But, he does manage to step a little outside the box, as he is also portrayed as sensitive, artistic, and intelligent. In the end, you can’t help but fall for Lucas too.

A recommended read; especially for those that enjoyed Slammed.

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.

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