And the Greek Chorus Returns: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan Book Review

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Two Boys Kissing

By: David Levithan

Released: August 27, 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Length: 208 Pages

Genre: Young Adult-GLBT

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: Purchased

 

The Greek Chorus has returned in the form of long passed away Gay men with AIDs watching over a couple that has been together for over a year, a pair of exes who want to beat the Guinness Book of World Records for kissing, a new couple, and a single boy who feels he doesn’t fit in in the world. 

Two Boys Kissing is perhaps David Levithan at his best stylistically. The writing was beautiful from the beginning to end. I loved the narration he chose. I don’t think he could have done it any other way. It was engaging, entertaining, and completely heartfelt. He talks about the AIDs crisis in such a honest way, but it never took away from all the other boys. The boys, the boys were great. Every single one of them. You felt for them. Could understand them as much as you could. There was such a rawness and tenderness with each one.

I really liked this one by Levithan, but, truthfully it was not one of my favorites. I loved the writing style which is perhaps one of my favorites of his. Although it only works in this book. This book was relatively short and I expected to read it in a day, but it didn’t hold my attention well enough. I found myself not truly wanting to pick it up. When I did, I enjoyed it. Mostly the writing style. The topic was great, but I unfortunately couldn’t relate to it. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. It wasn’t that big of a deal if you see I still gave it four stars, but it did stop me at five stars. I was able to get into it more towards the end, but I think maybe because I just liked the thoughts of the chorus and wanted to finish this.

I would still highly recommend this book. I think the writing style/technique used was perhaps the best I’ve seen in a long time. It kept me interested; and, it was something unique enough that worked. The individual stories were interesting, especially the exes. They were my favorite. There were some good quotes to be had, especially at the end. It’s a book not to missed, I think.

 

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I Want a Museum of: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder Book Review

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The Museum of Intangible Things

By: Wendy Wunder

Released: April, 2014 by Razorbill

Length: 302 Pages

Genre: YA Contemporary, YA Mental Illness-Bi polar

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: purchased

 

Hannah and Zoe have been best friends since they were little kids.  Hannah is the practical one. She owns her own hot dog stand. She wants to go to college, even if it’s only at county. She can’t see more for herself. Can’t see past the lake. Zoe is more adventurous. More wild. She’s artistic, creative, free-spirited. Bi-polar. 

On a particularly manic day, Zoe has decided she has had enough of their New Jersey lake town. It’s time they see more. It’s time Hannah stops settling and learns some lessons outside of school. On this adventure is where, on each new day, Zoe teaches Hannah about something–Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. All while have the most epic road trip. 

The Museum of Intangible Things is one of those books that has a pretty cover and is not a let down. There are books that have beautiful covers and when you crack that spine, read those first pages you are immediately disappointed. But the cover is so pretty! This is not one of those books.  I immediately fell in love with this book. First sentence, first page in love. There was something magical that just grabs you without magic. They way Wendy Wunder crafts the words and weaves a story is magic in itself. There doesn’t need to be dragons or princesses. Hannah is perhaps one of my favorite characters I have read/met this year, possibly after Zoe. Zoe was pretty phenomenal, too. They both were great. And, I don’t just like Hannah because we share a name! She is a genuine, tough, real, true to herself character who goes through a lot and comes out strong. She comes out on top. I admired her completely. Zoe was the opposite of her. She was this wild girl. Strong-willed, will-full, and kind of a parent’s worse nightmare. Yet, there was something so special about her. Then, there was her demon–her mental illness.  

Her Bi-polar 1 Disorder with psychosis was prominent in this book. Not in a scientific way or anything. But, there. Let me tell you, never have I read a book so spot on about the illness. There are tons of books, movies, and television shows that portray this serious illness wrong. Completely wrong. It’s not like that terrible medical drama Black Box. It’s mostly like Homeland. And, it’s like this. Zoe’s mania was very, very accurate. Her need for adventure, for something more at an unrealistic pace, all real. I was very impressed. Also, very moved by the end of the novel. It’s a mini tear jerker. I won’t lie. The end. THE END!!

The “lessons” in the book are both universal and true. They are meaningful; some like insouciance are fun while others are more moving. This book really makes you think. Young Adult novels can still do that. This book definitely makes my top ten list of books read this year. I would truly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. There is just this realness and rawness you don’t find too often in any kind of genre anymore.

“Perfect should never be a goal. Perfect just happens if you let it.”

 

Searching for the Great Perhaps in: Looking For Alaska by John Green Book Review

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Looking for Alaska

By: John Green

Published: December, 2006 by Speak

Length: 221

Genre: YA Realistic

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: Gift

 In searching for “The Great Perhaps” Miles “Pudge” Halter finds himself at boarding school with a new life, new friends, and Alaska Young. It all comes to Alaska. The taken Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Miles Halter grew up in Florida with very few friends and a limited existence. It isn’t until he is attending Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama that his life starts to change. He goes there, inspired to find his “Great Perhaps” the famous last words by poet François Rabelais. Obsessed more with famous people’s last words and biographies, Miles doesn’t know know how to really live until he meets Alaska Young. Alaska Young is beautiful, smart, well read, and completely unattainable. She is moody, careless, reckless, and fun. She is your A-typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And Miles “Pudge” Halter is in love. But, there is more to Alaska than he, and even her closest friends, know. 

Split in a before and after an event you don’t find out about until the end of before, Looking Up for Alaska is John Green’s debut novel about a boy learning the ins and outs of growing up, falling in love, and what it all means. It’s a well written story that deserves every ounce of the acclaim it has received. Part humorous, part heart-warming, and part heartbreaking, John Green crafts a universal story of what it means to grow up. How hard it can be at times. And, when something happens, who you can count on. The event that happens is somewhat surprising and somewhat expected. How Green handles it is metaphorical beautiful. It’s all in the title. If I ever have a child, my teen is receiving this book from me hands down. It’s universal. Teaches you about friendship, love, and letting go. Even Miles’s obsession with famous last words was great.

There are two major themes/questions in this book both based off of famous last words. The first, of course, is the Great Perhaps. I loved this immensely. Especially through the eyes of a teenager. You are always looking for something, at that age. It’s not always philosophical,  but it’s something. The depth Green added worked. It was convoluted; nor, was it too heavy to understand or believe. It was perfect. The second major theme was more of a question that was asked by Alaska Young, through the possibly fictional words of Simon Bolivar, ” How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” That question, which Alaska often repeats and becomes central to the plot, `perfectly sums up her. She forever thinks she is living in a labyrinth; but, she is also one to everyone she knows. You never knew what Alaska you would get that day; what wall you would hit that day. Green crafted her well.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Although The Fault in Our Stars is still my favorite book of his, and Paper Towns was more adventurous, this was more realistic and philosophical. It surprised me. I connected to it more than Paper Towns. And, I can see more of a universality to it. This is definitely a book not to miss. I agree with the hype. Maybe not to the whole extent, but to most of it. It leaves you with something. A good something.

 

Laudanum and Arsenic: The Devil in the Corner by Patricia Elliott Book Review

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The Devil in the Corner

By: Patricia Elliott

Released: March, 2014 by Hachette’s Children’s Books

Length: 400 Pages

Genre: Young Adult– Gothic/ Historical Fiction

Rating: 3 and a half Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 After a terrible run as a governess, poor, orphaned Maud Greenwood can’t keep the nightmares away without some Laudanum at night. When she moves in with her cousin by marriage, Miss Juliana Greenwood,  her need begins to take over. Then, there is issues with her cousin; all is not what it seems. She is needy, persistent, and sees her as an unpaid nurse rather than family and a companion. Suddenly, as an event shakes the town, the “Devil” begins to take over. Part love story, part Victorian Gothic story, The Devil in the Corner is engaging and enthralling. Has the Devil really come?

The Devil in the Corner is a compelling story told by two narrators, Maud, and John Shawcross, her love interest who is a local artist set to restore the Doom painting in the local Church. Their love story often gets in the way of what really is happening; the relationship between Maud and Juliana, Maud’s Laudanum addiction, the visions she sees and imagines, the rumors and accusations brought forth against her. Although John offered a different perspective, full of love and want for Maud, his story was one that could be expendable in this 400 page novel. It was what happened to Maud that was the most interesting.

In this novel, there is an underlining theme of good and bad; with the “Devil” appearing later on. The painting John has to restore is of the Judgment which later becomes one of the central themes in the novel. In the begin, Maud keeps thinking she sees shadows and that someone is following her, thus assigning this to the Devil. She also believes she has heavily sinned, as she tries to tell John who does not believe in any religion. He believes in Darwinism. Which also becomes a conversation piece, however brief.Then an event happens that shakes the town and its beliefs. I won’t say what happens because, spoilers, but it’s big.

I liked how Elliott approached the idea of divinity and good and evil. The symbolism was strong. The way she used the Devil throughout her novel was really good. She didn’t throw it in the reader’s face. She approached it slowly, then sped things up at a nice, progressive pace. The plot twist was great. I enjoyed it immensely. It was unexpected, new, and kept me engaged. The chapters were often short, and left me wanting more. I rather breezed through this relatively long book that did not feel like 400 pages long. I really lost myself in the characters and plot. Juliana was the right amount of bad and needy. Maud was the right amount of scarred.

I would definitely recommend this book. It was an enjoyable read that I didn’t put down often. The Gothic aspect was very well written. The only issue I had was the love story which can be easily bypassed. It’s not that it’s cheesy, it’s just that it should take third chair to all the action that Maud sees. I hope you give this book a look over. Don’t be thrown by the pages, it’s shorter than it seems.

 

 

And the Bird Says Coo: Dr.Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

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Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

By: Evan Roskos

Released: March, 2013 by Harcourt Brace and Company

Length: 320 Pages

Genre: YA realistic contemporary-mental illness: anxiety, depression, cutting

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: Gift

 

James Whitman may not be Walt Whitman, but wishes he was. It’s better than being 16, living with a Brute and a Banshee for parents; as well as having your older sister kicked out of the house for a reason not so clear, Then there’s the depression and anxiety; plus, a pigeon for a therapist. Yes, being Walt may be better, but then this novel wouldn’t be so heartbreaking and funny; or touching and true to life.

Sixteen year old James Whitman is struggling. His older sister just got kicked out by his parents, the Brute and the Banshee. He doesn’t have many friends. His depression and anxiety is getting worse; his therapist Dr. Bird can only say so much. He’s determined to get his sister back into school after she was expelled for a reason unknown to him; and, back under the same roof. The truth he discovers is not what he expected at all. His sister was struggling much worse than he ever knew. When asked by his crush, the adorable Beth, to search for his sister’s final submission to the literary magazine, he finds out something disturbing– his sister was a cutter. Her piece had become more private and focused on her cutting with pieces of razor blades attached.

This new information, and a budding friendship with Beth, takes James on a new journey of self-discovery and what is truly going on in his life that he has ignored. It is at times heart breaking, other times funny, endearing, and sometimes sweet and inspiring. It’s a touching story about growing up and about family; being there for them and what it means to be a family.

I loved this story. I have wanted to read this book since it came out last year, but never got around to it. I’m glad I finally did. Here’s my plug. For the Nook (that’s what I have. I’m anti-kindle) it is $1.99. It is worth it. A quick read, it really affected me. There was raw honesty, great character development, the plot was entertaining and engaging, and it leaves you satisfied. I highly recommend it. It didn’t feel just like another YA book. It was very realistic; and, I think even adults would benefit from reading it. You get a sense of how hard High School can be, the effects and causes of self-mutilation (all which is very real in the book), and the reality that teens can get depression and anxiety. Some people brush it off as just puberty, but it’s real. Roskos does a nice job not being too clinical about it or bashing us in the head with it. It was all done very nicely. There is also a lot of poetry by Whitman which was really good. I enjoyed reading poems of his that I didn’t know. Overall, I believe it’s a book that should be read. Especially by teens. But, it’s just so universal, I think. And, who wants to miss out reading sessions between a pigeon therapist and James?

Happy reading!

Maybe isn’t Always Positive: The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson Book Review

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The Opposite of Maybe

By: Maddie Dawson

Released: April 8th, 2014 by Broadway Books

Length: 400 Pages

Genre: Women’s Literature

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via Netgalley

 

This is what happens when you settle: your boyfriend of over fifteen years decides to move the both of you across country to start up a museum full of teacups with a guy he met most, leaving behind your 88 year old grandmother- you sprain your foot, have a mini-break down and stay with her, then find out your pregnant after you both decided from day one to never have kids. Throw in a hot gardener/housekeeper and you have a novel about second choices and chances worth the reader’s while.

After fifteen years together, and no ring in sight, Rosie and Jonathon have lived a life together that perfectly suited them–until he gets a call to help start a teacup museum in California that prompts an impromptu proposal at a diner. But, when they wedding plans go sour, and Jonathon has to cancel, Rosie begins to awaken from her fifteen years of comfortable slumber. From there, after a fight and calling off the move, Jonathon continues his journey to California without her as she moves back in with her eighty-eight year old, accident prone Grandmother who has conveniently forgotten to tell her about the handsome, younger new help she has hired.

Tony is also at a difficult stage in is life. He just found out his wife and mother to his child is a lesbian; and, is now living with his best friend’s wife. The new lover won’t allow Tony to see his son very often, forcing him to sneak around to see him and hide in his car.

It is Tony who first suggests forty-four year old “I can’t get pregnant, I’m too old” Rosie is pregnant. She said that line a couple of times. But, surprise, she gets pregnant anyway! As Jonathon was always anti-kids, Tony becomes the one really there for her. Could he be more…

I read this book in one afternoon it was that good. I just couldn’t put it down. Every chance I got that day, my nose was in that book. All the characters were great. Jonathon was approximately boring and self-centered. Rosie’s grandmother Soapie was fantastic. She had wit, brains, and attitude. I loved her; and wished, at times, she was my Grandmother. Tony had a scene that melted my heart. I cried, I really really did. I read his speech twice and cried. It was realistic, meaningful, and not forced at all. He was possibly my favorite character. Rosie was great, too. I liked how she grew on her own. Once she got rid of Jonathon, she became a better person.

This was just an overall great book. There aren’t many bad things, if any, to say about the book. I loved them all. Rosie had snark that I loved. The characters were developed well. The plot moved along nicely. I would recommend this book as a nice afternoon beach read. You will get sucked in almost immediately. I know I did. It is one of those books you get a lot out of, but don’t need to put much energy into. It really is a great, quick fun read. I hope you give it a chance.

Happy reading!

 

DJ play that Song: This Song will Save Your Life by Leila Sales Book Review

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This Song Will Save Your Life

By: Leila Sales

Released: September, 2013 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)

Length: 279 Pages

Genre: YA-realistic contemporary mental illness-suicide attempt

Rating: 4 and a half stars

Acquired: Gift

 

Elise Dembowski is used to being the outcast. Bullied in High School; friends with two girls she has nothing in common with nor wants to find out if they can. After a rude encounter, she decides she can’t take it anymore. After a failed attempt, it isn’t until a friendly catcall one night on her late night walks, she discovers Start, an Indie night club that turns out to be possibly everything that she needs.

 

There weren’t many things going for Elise. She had two friends, but she didn’t have many things in common with them and often used them just for the company at lunch. Then Start comes into the picture and everything changes for her. After the DJ, DJ Char, from the Smiths’ song “This Charming Man” leaves her in the DJ booth so he can chase after their friend, Pippa, Elise discovers her true passion, garnering a new attitude on life, friends she actually trusts, and a fuller life.

Leila Sales writes a realistic novel about how hard it can be finding your voice in High School and the surprising ways we can find it. What starts off as a shaky novel with a problematic suicide scene that is more of a cry for help, Sales novel quickly develops into a fun, catchy novel about finding friendship and love in an upbeat indie club. But, the love isn’t necessarily with a boy–or a person. The music in the novel is great. The trope of Elise finding herself through music and DJing is perfect. It was nicely developed and written. There was DJ Char as a love interest, but he was more forgettable compared to the true love she felt with DJing. That was really what was home for her.

There were some little problems I had with the novel, particularly with her suicide attempt and her pseudo relationship with Char, but she remained mature and true to herself throughout the whole novel which is very difficult to do. I thought her new friends were excellent characters, particularly the bouncer Mel and her friend Vicky. They both brought life to the pages they were featured. The parents, when featured, weren’t the greatest of parents nor were the fully developed in my eyes. I did think, however, as much as I disliked Char, his characterization was spot-on.

I truly loved this book. I think because it was so heavy with music I normally listen to on a daily basis. I knew a lot of the songs that were referenced. I enjoyed the playlist at the very end of songs you would hear at similar clubs. I would highly recommend this book. It was a quick read. Something fun, and mostly read. Very engrossing and entertaining. I couldn’t get enough of it. Definitely one of my favorites for this year.

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