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.

 

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Falling Hard for Falling Hard: Falling Hard (Roller Girls #1) by Megan Sparks book review

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Falling Hard (Roller Girls #1)

By Megan Sparks

Released July, 2013 by Capstone Young Readers

Length: 255 Pages

Genre: YA fiction

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Annie has a choice to make: become a  fearless roller girl, or join become a British All-American cheerleader with the head cheerleader already marking you on her list.

After growing up in London, Annie relocates to the Midwest to live with her American father after her parents separated; leaving her life behind and starting high school as both a freshman and a foreigner. Wanting to please her dad, she tries out for the cheer-leading team, even though the captain, Miss Popular Kelsey, has it out for her.  But there is another sport that catches her eye, roller derby. After watching one game, with her new best friend, Annie is hooked. But, what about cheer-leading? And, the hot soccer player Tyler, perfect All-American boy. Can Annie juggle everything?

I read this book in a day. I couldn’t put it down. I laughed, a lot. It isn’t a book that is going to be a classic, or make it on any prestigious lists; I think that’s why I enjoyed it. It is such a light-hearted gem not to be missed. I liked Annie a lot, but it was her best friend I enjoyed maybe a little bit more. She just had such a great sense of humor. Called cheer-leading, cheer-weeding. She was one of those characters that was someone I would like to have in my corner. I could pass on oogling over Tyler, but there was also Jesse, who works at the roller rink and could have potential with Annie if she gets over the All-American Soccer boy crush. I don’t think dating an athlete is all that in regards to having a social life, but Annie thinks so. It was kind of annoying. But, really one of the only flaws in the book.

The writing was nothing fancy; which worked. The story wasn’t convoluted; it was very suitable for the age group the book is geared towards. Although I am no longer in that intended age group, I liked how I didn’t have to think while reading it. The flow was good. The dialogue was decent. It all meshed well. There is definitely a positive message in this book. Annie is a good role model; she is strong, speaks up for herself, a good friend, and makes good decisions (on what, you’ll have to guess. Is it roller derby or cheer-weeding?)  I am looking forward to reading the second book. It was just too fun to not want to continue the series. I am a little biased though, because I do like the roller derby. I loved the movie adaptation of Whip It starring Ellen Page (I haven’t read the book yet) that is very similar to this novel. Both girls are discovering themselves and how they fit in where they are living. Many girls in high school can relate to this book. The roller derby choice isn’t brought in for the violence factor. It is tied in a great, encouraging way.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for some light reading material. It is a great, one to two sitting read. You aren’t dedicating too much of your time. It isn’t a heavy commitment. And funny. Endearing. Leaves you with a smile. Give this little gem a try. You won’t regret it.

Not Your Average Princess Rescue:Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel book review

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Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

By: Michaela MacColl

Published in 2013 by Chronicle Books

368 Pages

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Four Stars

London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servants’ world below-stairs and the rampant trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen? Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this engrossing novel is as rich in historical detail.

–goodreads.com description

A couple years back, I watched the film Young Victoria with Emily Blunt as young Victoria. I fell in love with that movie pretty much immediately. Emily Blunt was great in it; as well as an under appreciated actress in my opinion. I have always been interested in the British Monarchy for some reason. There is more intrigue and secrecy that has happened than we are aware. Hence my deep fascination with historical fiction novels, particularly British. So, as another great $2.99 nook find, I fell in love with this neglected book. I have no idea how long I have had it. On a whim of sorts, after failing to love the previous book I read, it was great to pick this book up and never want to let it go.

          What starts off as a novel about a spoiled brat coming to terms with her new station and position serving the Princess, comes a tale based on the true accounts of Princess Victoria’s rise to the throne and the conniving ways of her mother and her mother’s “lover” and confidant Sir John.  Michaela MacColl creates a believable girl to act as a chambermaid, part spy, and confidant to sixteen year old Victoria up until Princess Victoria’s coronation.  Recently orphaned  Elizabeth Hastings was forced out of her fancy London hotel with a large bill and no inheritance. As luck would have it, Liza is born; from spoiled girl just shy of entering her first season in society to the girl who saved Princess Victoria and her Queendom from Sir John Conroy and Princess Victoria’s more, the Duchess.

        I absolutely adored this book because it included many details and inside looks, the first and foremost actual journal entries from Queen Victoria’s journal she kept when she was younger with entries that detailed the first time she met her future husband, her cousin Albert. There were also actual correspondences written by Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess, when Victoria was getting closer to the throne. The novel felt very real and authentic. Even if you are unfamiliar with Queen Victoria and her life, this would be a good historical fiction starter novel. Mostly, because it does not just include Princess Victoria and her life’s activities, but an authentic representation of a working girl and how it life was for an orphan and/or one of lower class standings.

      In the back of this novel,  MacColl  talks about how she was able to portray Liza and young Princess Victoria’s life. MacColl even goes as far as writing about an actual woman who was a dismissed maid of Victoria’s and the maid’s downfall (her death).  I loved this book more after I read the author’s note. I felt that much closer to Queen Victoria and the struggles all women had to face. The details were vivid sufficiently, with details that I could relate to, even without being a princess or Queen.  Both Liza and Princess (Queen) Victoria were portrayed as personable, with struggles I could relate to, if not understand. There are plenty historical fiction novels that tackle England, and it’s Monarchy, but not many YA ones that are as impressive and representative as this book is.

Happy Reading!

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Let the Summer Reading Commence with The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

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ImageYA author Sarah Dessen brings readers her eleventh novel, The Moon and More, following her successful tenth novel, What Happened to Goodbye, released two summers ago. Set in the familiar beach town of Colby, North Carolina, Sarah Dessen introduces us to a new heroine, eighteen year old Emaline. Living in Colby her whole life, Emaline tries spends her last summer before college working at her family’s realty company, Colby Realty. As well as planning on spending her remaining time with her two best friends, and her high school sweetheart, Luke. Things take an unexpected turn as Emaline’s estranged father and half-brother from New York comes back into town. And, if things could not have been stressful enough, in come NYU Film student Theo and his mentor Ivy to challenge Emaline’s small town thinking.  As Emaline starts to grow closer to her half-brother and Theo, Emaline begins to reevaluate her life and future in a small town; wondering if a big city will set her free.

Emaline’s high school love, Luke is the perfect, good, safe choice for her. They have been together since their freshmen year of High School. Both would be attending the same school, only buildings separating them. In comes Theo, offering a new perspective on life and opening Emaline’s eyes to a new her: an Emaline who steps out of her comfort zone and escorts Theo and his mentor, documentary film director Ivy, around Colby to learn about a town outside of tour guides. Like with everyone, this new summer isn’t always an easy transition. Decisions must be made. But which one and how?

Dessen is also known to bring characters back from previous novels; Dessen took it a step further this time by having Along for the Ride’s minor character, Washroom and underground café owner Clyde Conaway a power force; from small town boy to big city artist back to a recluse artist. There are still minor appearances, two from Along the Ride, and a two name dropping from The Truth about Forever. However, Clyde’s role takes precedence over minor recurring roles. He brings together reclusive and big city behavior together, stringing along the plot in a fun way. Will he actually do an interview for a documentary? Does he really want to go on tour? Emaline’s life may be changing, major choices must be made, but it is Clyde’s life choices that help push the plot through.  By seeing the life Clyde chose to live after leaving a lucrative art career in New York, then the life he may still want, Emaline grows with him.   

True to form, Dessen doesn’t bring readers a traditional summer fling YA book in time for the season of vacations and brief romances. While there are many of those aspects present: the love interests-high school love and not from here summer boy; small town eccentrics, like local artist Clyde Conaway; and, an unusual and tricky family dynamic. I loved how, to me, the book seemed a little like a sequel to Along for the Ride, another book I loved and would recommend any day. It made me smile continuously when the familiar haunt Washroom would be featured; my favorite underground spot Eli took Auden to in Along for the Ride. Even after ten books, this book is still refreshing and new, with quotes aplenty to write down and memorize. My favorite is “Maybe it was just part of growing up with someone. Once you have a rhythm and stay with it long enough, it’s hard not to find again.” (pg. 306) Overall, I give this book a full five stars, reminding me why I fell so in love with Sarah Dessen those ten books ago.

 

 

 

 

 

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