This is No Ordinary Love..Story; Another Day by David Levithan Book Review

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Another Day (Every Day #2)

By: David Levithan

Released:  August 25th 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Length: 327 pages

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: BEA 2015/ netgalley

 

“Maybe this is what we’ve needed all along. Distance from everything else, and closeness to each other.”

In David Levithan’s companion novel to best seller Every Day, Another Day takes the readers on Rhiannon’s journey of navigating love, both new and old from a fresh perspective. Unlike companion novels, such as Just One Year by Gayle Forman, this work is a somewhat retelling of Every Day instead of a what happened next novel from the opposite perspective. It is  as every bit creative and insightful as Levithan’s previous works, especially Every Day.

The reader really gets the opportunity to be inside Rhiannon’s head and life. Trying to adjust to these budding feelings for A, an extraordinarily unique human being, Rhiannon also has to deal with the complications of her current relationship with her distant, troubled boyfriend, Justin. There is a great scene between Rhiannon and her best friend where the best friend discusses Rhiannon’s relationship with Justin in an honest way. It’s not often people are completely up front about certain feelings regarding other friends’ relationships. It was refreshing to read that. I did shout, “You go girl,”  because while powerful, a little mean, but true, her message translates universally. Something Levithan specializes in.

The good thing about Another Day, and Every Day, is you can start with either one, I think. It is clear what the condition is that A has as much as it can be, in both novels. You are told in two ways–once per novel– who, what A is; so if you do decide to start with Rhiannon’s story, you won’t be totally clueless. You’ll have some idea, just not in the full capacity of how A himself explains it in his narrative.

It’s no secret that I am a huge David Levithan fan; having read a majority of his published works. This may be one of his better novels. The series is, quite frankly. It is inventive, thought provoking, and something we need to see more in YA, or literature in general. I loved how Levithan’s character A has no gender. It’s not that he doesn’t see gender, he really has none because he changes bodies constantly. How this translates into Rhiannon’s views and acceptance of such a condition is flawless. There is an apparent struggle with accepting A as A–a boy or a girl on any given day. It wouldn’t be close to realistic if she didn’t have a problem, or hesitancy regarding A’s various identities.

Part fantasy/ sci-fi, this novel can also be categorized as realistic, teen fiction. The concept of A may be unusual, but everything else is real. The struggles, the successes, and the love. I can’t recommend this book, and series, enough. Both characters tell interesting stories. Stories you don’t won’t to miss out on reading.

I loved this novel. It would make a great standalone. The end. The end! Once again, Levithan pulls us in with a cliff hanger of sorts that leaves readers like myself wanting more. If you haven’t read Every Day, you won’t know how the end leaves off. But, it’s a good one. However, it doesn’t continue over to the second book. I think Levithan is writing a third, from what he told me at a signing. This will, hopefully, tie in the two cliff hanger endings.

This series should not be missed. The  way Levithan tackles topics it explores, such as gender identity, abusive relationships, and first and second loves, is a great start to better understanding these on your own. I can see either, hopefully both though, books being taught in High School. The tackled topics are so important, universal, and important to learn. Especially when it comes to understanding gender, gender norms, and gender constraints. Another Day tackles these topics a little more heavily than in Every Day because it is about someone who has an assigned, accepted gender that may fall for a person who has none, while both at the same time. Things can get messy!

Please, just read this. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Physics Meets Suicide: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang Book Review

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Falling into Place

By: Amy Zhang

Released: September 9th, 2014 by Greenwillow Books

Length: 304 Pages

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction- Mental Illness Suicide Attempt

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: BEA

 

Liz Emerson planned the perfect suicide–a car accident. But, she failed to understand the physics of it. Instead of dying, she landed in the hospital, in a coma severely injured.  Narrated by a mysterious person, revealed at the end perfectly, you are taken on a journey through the days before the attempt, the days of her recovery, and brief snapshots of her life as a child. It’s part heartbreaking, part tearjerker, and a hundred percent worth reading.

Despite the sad subject matter, this novel was able to be beautiful. The writing was close to lyrical. Everything about the novel was meticulously done. I am shocked this is a debut novel. I believe Zhang has a bright future in writing ahead of her. If she was able to beautifully capture something like suicide that is often done messy, I can’t wait to see what hard topic she will tackle next. This specific topic is often hard to write about. Yet, the way Zhang wrote Liz made me understand her in a way writers don’t often do. In Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, he tackled suicide in a way that the character blamed everyone; and, even inserted a dead joke. Zhang handled everything delicately from the way her friends, family, and crush reacted, to the feelings and self-destruction of Liz; and, then the act. It wasn’t done brutally. It wasn’t done in a way you would hate the character. It wasn’t graphic, either.

Then there is the narration itself. While I loved the character develop and the way Zhang tackled this sensitive issue, what really captured me was the creative narration. When you discover who the narrator is, it will blow your mind, it’s that creative. I loved the twist. I didn’t expect it at all. It made sense, too.  Made me love the book that much more, too.

I can’t rave enough about this book. I truly loved it.  It’s worth reading.

What Everyone Thinks They Know: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu Book Review

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The Truth About Alice

By: Jennifer Mathieu

Released: June 3rd, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Length: 199 pages

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction– bullying

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Alice Franklin was one of the popular girls. She wore pencil skirts and fitted tops. She was pretty without trying very hard. She was wanted. That’s what got her in trouble. It started at a party, where it always starts. Alice “has sex with two boys in one night” according to one of the recipients who texts his best friend. That slut. If it was just sex, she’d be a slut. But, weeks later the boy with the loud keyboard dies while sexting Alice in a car crash. Now, not only is she a slut, she is a slut who kills the superstar quarterback because she can’t keep it in her pants. How could she! The Truth About  Alice isn’t her story, but the story of four people who think they know the truth; only one is right.

Alice doesn’t get to defend herself in this unique take on he said/ she said. Told in alternating voices of the girl who threw the party, Alice’s then best friend, the best friend of said dead guy, and a guy who wasn’t there but may know something, this novel gives us a look at what bullying is really like. Each voice is different. The party thrower focuses more on herself rather than Alice. The best friend throws Alice completely under the bus because she doesn’t want to be a loner like she was at her old school again. The best friend of dead guy is just idiotic, and the shy, wasn’t even there guy, is the only great character; also, with the only narrative that has Alice speak albeit briefly and in little sentences.

You might not believe me, but I loved this book. Really loved this book. I thought Mathieu did an excellent job writing about High School bullying; and, how hurtful rumors can be. Alice is not the only person who has been slut shamed, whether or not the rumor was true. She went from looking pretty, being herself, to wearing pants and a hoodie zipped up, hiding her head. This isn’t a rare thing, unfortunately; and, Mathieu captured it masterfully. The reader is taken through the whole journey of the development of the rumor to discovering the truth. It’s a heart breaking story, with only a small happy ending.

Although I am well out of High School, and the politics of it, I can see this book as still being relevant. Kids are still cruel. People are being bullied all the time. I think this is a perfect novel to be taught in schools.  See, kids, this is what happens. Do you want to be such and such? Do you see what he/she is doing to Alice? Having Alice not speak in this novel, although it sounds like it wouldn’t work nor be beneficial in teaching a lesson, it does the opposite. Here’s how: you meet Kurt. Kurt is not popular, a total nerd, and the only one who befriends Alice. Yes, he had a crush on her, but his narrative becomes so much more. It brings reality to all the other nonsense you read from the other three people.

At first, I was apprehensive when I found out Alice never gets a chance to defend herself against these rumors, but as I continued reading, I understood why. If you choose to read this book (please do!) you’ll get it, too. Sometimes, these rumors have nothing to do with the victim. They just happen to be with the target. You need to understand the person who is the bully. It completely works. You don’t feel sorry for these people, I sure didn’t, but you get it. You understand where rumors start, develop, and take off full force. This approach is certainly a risk, it may not work in fiction all the time, but Mathieu did it well.

I highly recommend this book. I read it in one sitting; it’s that good. You just want to find out the truth. You know one of them knows, but which one. You will be surprised at who and why. There are three good plot twists that I enjoyed. Little zingers I didn’t see coming. The end was also very good. I loved it. I hope you read it. It’s a book not to be missed, in my opinion. Plus, if you know someone in High School, or are in High School yourself, this will be a great novel for you, I promise!

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.

Searching for an unusual stone: Stones by Polly Johnson Book Review

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Stones

By Polly Johnson

Released December, 2013 by Harper Collins UK Digital 

Length: 300 pages

Genre: YA realistic-alcoholism, coming of age

Rating: four stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Coo is like every sixteen year old girl- her friend is a drunken tramp she found by the sea

Corrine “Coo” at just sixteen has already lost her older brother, Sam to alcoholism. Sam wasn’t a fun drunk. He wasn’t the life of the party. On the contrary. He scared her all the time. The story starts off with him abusing her; yet, it turns out he’s been dead for almost a year. He often stole money from her parents, things from her bedroom like a chess set, and was extremely violent towards everyone in the house; but, no one would say anything. Coo’s parents would never stop Sam, just give him money and support his addiction. Almost a year later, and Coo s telling her story: meeting a boy she tries to let in, Joe, who doesn’t let her in, then meeting a mysterious drunken tramp named Banks who becomes the main character in her life. She can’t seem to figure him out or let him go. He reminds her so much of Sam. Although she won’t admit it, she wants to save him; have him be her new Sam although she will stand by her hatred for her older brother by eight years.

The chapters start off with a little random tidbit, or quote that mostly relates to the chapter. Some of them made me smile. There was the definition of a tramp, mince pie, a meaningful quote, and some funny Coo commentaries. There is something so deep and raw in every sentence and thought that is written.  Take the title for example- stones. The “tramp” Banks tells Coo that if she ever has a question all she has to do is stick her hand out for a pebble and if she finds a special, different pebble then she found the right answer. And, that in Heaven there is a new stone waiting for everyone. There is something about those two things that stick with me. The imagery and symbolism. 

There are two quotes I actually added on goodreads.com that I loved so much and couldn’t believe no one else added them: 

 

“Right now he’s like the ocean at night- you know it’s there, but even though the lights are coming on you can’t see it and all you know of it is washing sound somewhere sighing in the back room of a house when they think no one is listening.”

and

“How is it that time can be elastic? Sometimes years seem to go by while you’re looking the other way, and sometimes-when you most long for it to pass-life-times can stretch from a few hours”  

Johnson is a talented writer.  That being said, she did an excellent job of depicting what it is like to be an alcoholic, living with an alcoholic, and the aftermath of it all. I think this was a great story in every way. I really would recommend this, although it is not for everyone. I do sometimes give recommendations lightly because I am a very open minded reader. Some of the parts in this novel is graphic. In my opinion, at least. It is very true to the disease. And, the disease is ugly. There is abuse. Sexual, albeit a tiny bit, and physical. It is not a long book, but it took it’s emotional toll on me. And, it may on you. I don’t want that to deter you though. I do think this is an important topic, and a topic that isn’t looked at much from this perspective, point of view, and format.  

I hope you consider reading this book. Like I said about John Green’s Paper Towns, this is one book where I can see it being a benefit for kids to be required to reading it in schools. So many kids drink early on in high school. Coo’s brother was only twenty-three when he died. It’s just an important lesson. Plus, homelessness is a HUGE issue in this novel as well. Something I have also been passionate as a child about. This is one of those universal life lessons books that, if taught, could make a difference, I think. Johnson writes so well I can’t see it not making even a little impact. Alas, I am not a teacher and don’t intend on becoming one.

 

Happy reading!

Searching for the Stain: Just One Year (Just One Day, #2) by Gayle Forman Book Review

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Just One Year (Just One Day, #2)

Gayle Forman

Released October, 2013 by Dutton’s Children

Length: 323 pages

Genre: YA realistic fiction/romance

Rating: 4 Stars

Acquired: purchased on audible.com

 

Willem de Ruiter has been stained. And now it’s his turn to speak and remember just one day.

Just One Year starts off in Paris when Willem leaves Allyson sleeping. Where, in Just One Day, you don’t know where he went or why, you begin in the hospital with Willem as he suffered a concussion and can’t remember much of anything–especially Lulu/Allyson. He is desperate to remember, piecing together that he left someone. Throughout the novel are pieces, pieces he remembers, what he wished he did differently, and pieces of conversations he wished they had. Pieces of the love he shared with her, it’s all there. His feelings are at times raw, heart-wrenching, and slightly scattered brained.

Where in Just One Day you read about Allyson’s struggles to adjust, then her search for him, his starts sooner than hers did, in a way. I was especially happy when he went to Mexico, but missed her. You learned more about his past, including the story of how his parents meant, the affects it had on him, and the affects and similarities it has with his “story” with Lulu.

Of course the adventure was there. There were comedic parts, especially when certain things went wrong. He lived his life without Allyson, but she never “left him” in the sense he carried her with him. Although in the beginning he gets a new girlfriend (no spoiler alert, it’s in the first 50 pages) he starts to change.

Willem’s tagline, or concept really, on life is accidents.

“Accidents. It’s all about the accidents.”

There is some truth to that, even truth that reflects in my life.

“Sometimes the wind blows you places you weren’t expecting: sometimes it blows you away from those places, too.”

From Mexico, to India, back to Amsterdam, the wind blows Willem to different places that all remind him of one thing, or person: Lulu/Allyson. One of my favorite quotes about her is

“It was just one day and it’s been just one year. But maybe one day is enough. Maybe one hour is enough. Maybe time has nothing at all to do with it”

Maybe all it takes is just one day to fall in love. Forman might be after something there. Even when you fall in love with some, start to love them, even if it happens over time there is a particular instant where you know; you know that was when love hit. In that moment, on that day.

 

I would highly recommend this book. Especially if you read he first. I never read Where She Went by Forman, although I read If I stay and loved it. This was a first read for me of hers where the narrator was a male; and, where events overlapped, but not completely identical. I listened to it on audio, so it took a little longer for me to finish. I do think if I read it, I might have liked it more; the narrator’s voice on the audio took a little to get used to. I still think this is a good book to swoon to because the few swoony moments there are really are swoon-worthy. And Willem is so insightful. Really a majority of the people he meets are. There are plenty of quotes I bookmarked on goodreads. Thank you Forman for a good, sweet conclusion and fun adventure.

“Loving someone is such an inherently dangerous act. And yet, love, that’s where safety lives.”

Where the Internet knows your name: 4 to 16 Characters by Kelly Hourihan

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4 to 16 Characters

By Kelly Hourihan

To be published in November, 2013 by Lemon Sherbet Press

Acquired by netgalley

Genre: YA Realistic fiction

Rating: Two and a half stars

Fifteen-year-old Jane Shilling’s best friends don’t know her real name. In fact, they don’t know anything about her at all.

  Jane Shilling is not happy with her real world life. During the day, she is plain Jane Shilling, attending Spectrum, a high school for the disabled and mentally challenged; she has no friends, easily mocked, and challenged by teachers and therapists as she remains withdrawn and angry. At night, ignoring her grieving, alcoholic father she is Rachel, a popular college student who writes some of the best fanfiction for a show. She is also a grad student writing about Edna St. Vincent Millay, an emo goth guy whose posts are often dark, depressing, and slightly suicidal. In total, on and off she has lost count of her fake identities.  With online diary entries, IM conversations (including ones between her therapist), e-mails, fanfiction, and fictional postings comprise this novel.

I can’t quite get my head around this book. I am torn with whether or not I liked this book. There were some good parts in the novel. I rather enjoyed the end. One of the few things I did like. I had trouble with reading the narrative. Jane’s voice was very authentic. So authentic that I felt it was , at times, too juvenile. In retrospect, that is a good thing. It’s not an easy thing to write in a child’s voice when you are grown, and separated from that voice. I commend Hourihan for that; and will always be impressed. However, I felt lost within Jane’s voice. Maybe more distant. I just wanted to get to the next page or chapter because she was irritating me at the page I was at. I skipped through a lot of her fan fiction diary entries. Some parts of her diary entries I glanced through, noncommittally.

I didn’t truly know why she was at Spectrum; really why any of the characters mentioned were there. I could feel Jane’s emotions, and her lack of empathy towards school. I just felt her behavior towards school was exaggerated. She hates her high school, a lot of adolescents do. It is curious how smart she is, under driven, and then uses the type of school she goes to to allow her behavior. Her math teacher is the only teacher you read about in the novel that truly tries to help her. Granted, in not a very productive way. But, Jane hates that this teacher does. Claims that the teacher is too tough for Spectrum standards since school is supposed to be like a joke for the kids that go there. Easy, helpful, not any way tough. She uses the one institution she is not fond of to protect her, and almost reward her for not trying. It made me dislike Jane more.And, when she does get a friend, Gary, she is just as awful, at first at least. I dislike her, then she becomes this reformed character I can’t help but root for; in a subdued manner of course.

Gary’s character felt underdeveloped to me. He felt flat, slightly one dimensional. I know his immensely poor spelling should be excused, but I couldn’t help but focus on it because you never find out what his disability is to allow the bad spelling. Should that not be something I was so bothered by, yes absolutely. But, I was. He wasn’t the only character who I didn’t see develop.

I also didn’t truly connect with the fan fiction, taking me away from the novel. It fit, but didn’t at the same time. Nor did the spread out diary posts and emails from two of her fictitious personalities. If there were not those thrown in, maybe I would have liked it more.

I don’t regret reading it, though. Again, I did enjoy, even love a little, the end even if it took some time to get there. I would recommend this book if you like The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time. Also, if you enjoy child narratives. It isn’t for everyone.

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