Tag Archives: contemporary

Painless

Painless Book Cover Painless
S.A. Harazin
Albert Whitman Teen
March 1, 2015
Hardcover
272

A first kiss. Falling in love. Going to prom. These are all normal things that most teenagers experience. Except for 17-year-old David Hart. His life is anything but normal and more difficult than most. Because of the disease that wracks his body, David is unable to feel pain. He has congenital insensitivity to pain with anhydrosis--or CIPA for short. One of only a handful of people in the world who suffer from CIPA, David can't do the things every teenager does. He might accidentally break a limb and not know it. If he stands too close to a campfire, he could burn his skin and never feel it. He can't tell if he has a fever and his temperature is rising. Abandoned by his parents, David now lives with his elderly grandmother who is dying. When David's legal guardian tells him that he needs to move into an assisted living facility as he cannot live alone, David is determined to prove him wrong. He creates a bucket list, meets a girl with her own wish list, and then sets out to find his parents. All David wants to do is grow old, beat the odds, find love, travel the world, and see something spectacular. And he still wants to find his parents. While he still can.

 

Review:

“Painless” is a book about a boy, David, who suffers from a life-threatening disease called CIPA that makes it impossible for him to feel pain or changes in temperature.

The world of David is a fascinating one, with inner thoughts and situations that are not what most of us have ever been exposed to.  Additionally, there is a wealth of information about CIPA and what life is like for those living with it.  The plot is excellent in that it shows how David learns to come out of his shell and begin dealing with the world around him, facing his fears head-on, along with learning there are people there to help him and how to accept that help.

Unfortunately, there is almost zero resolution to the mysteries in the plot.  While realistically all of life’s problems are rarely solved easily, it would have been nice for there to be some sort of closure for the reader to at least one of the threads.  It made what was a good read a source of frustration, and that is what is lingering in my head as I write this review.

I cannot recommend “Painless”, nor can I say not to read it.  It will depend upon the reader whether or not it is appealing.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Brief Discussions of Sexual Situations, Language, Violence

Silence

Silence Book Cover Silence
Deborah Lytton
Fiction
Shadow Mountain
2015-03-03
320

Love is blind, but it's also deaf. Stella was born to sing. Someday Broadway. Even though she's only a sophomore at a new high school, her voice has given her the status as a "cool kid." But everything changes when a tragic accident renders her deaf. She can't hear herself sing not to mention speak. She can't hear anything. Silence. What happens when everything you've dreamed of and hoped for is shattered in a single moment? Enter Hayden, the boy with blond curls who stutters. He's treated like an outcast because he's not "normal." And, yet, Stella feels an attraction to him that she can't explain. As Hayden reaches out to help Stella discover a world without sound, his own tragic past warns him to keep a distance. But their connection is undeniable. Can the boy who stutters and the girl who's deaf ever find a happily-ever-after? Silence is a story of friendship and hope with a lesson that sometimes it takes a tragedy to help us find and appreciate beauty and love.

 

Review:

“Silence” is a romance for teens about a boy who has a speech impediment and a girl who loses her hearing in a freak accident.  At its heart it’s a very sweet story, and I wish I could have given it four stars.

I’ll begin with the good.  It’s nice to see a book written featuring different sorts of disabilities and how they affect lives of both those with them and those around them.  There are no sexual acts outside of kissing, faith is featured heavily, and there is no bad language.  It’s written in a very simple-to-read manner which makes it a good choice for middle readers and those looking for “clean” romances, which I know are often difficult to find.

Unfortunately, the writing, while easy to read, is also over-the-top flowery.  Considering there are two narrators, and both speak in flowery language, it is difficult to distinguish between their voices.  Therefore, character development is stagnant.  The plot is not bad, but seems more suited to a short story, making it seem like quite a bit is filler.

I recommend “Silence” for those looking for a “clean” romance for younger middle graders, but don’t think it would appeal to other demographics.  Your mileage may vary.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Child Abuse

My Best Everything

My Best Everything Book Cover My Best Everything
Sarah Tomp
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2015-03-03
400

An Appalachian summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating in this debut novel about first loves, broken hearts, and moonshine. Luisa "Lulu" Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out. Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends. Quickly realizing they're out of their depth, they turn to Mason, a local boy who's always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything? My Best Everything is Lulu's letter to Mason--but it a love letter, an apology, or a good-bye?

 

Review:

It is going to be really difficult to describe just how much I love “My Best Everything” and what makes it amazing, but I am going to give it a try.

At its heart it is a coming of age story and a romance, and one that uses some of the standard tropes, but somehow manages to turn them around and make them into something completely different.  You have the bad boy, a common staple of romances, but he is not at all typical and by chapter ten you know his story is not what you think it will be.  There is bullying and stereotypes, but they are not the ones usually addressed in books, and it makes the reader think beyond what they would normally define as “bullying”.

The novel is written in the first person, but as a letter to the male protagonist, making the word “you” draw the reader into the experience.  It makes the entire thing more personal and intimate, with the narrator expressing feelings in a direct fashion, skipping flowery language, exposing the very real problems with the relationship, and yet somehow making this the type of  love story you are glad you were given the chance to become a part of.  There’s also the mystery of exactly why the letter is being written in the first place, adding some suspense, as well as reader anxiety, to the reading.

The character development is some of the best I have ever read in this novel’s genre, with traits and backstories being revealed with perfect timing.  All of the characters are flawed, with qualities that make you want to hug them and qualities that make you want to shake some sense into them.  In other words, they are realistic and react to their circumstances in a manner consistent with their personalities.  Additionally, the environment of the Blue Ridge Mountains is written in a way that makes them their own character.  Beautiful and flawed, they evoke feelings of longing and frustration.

I want to make note that the main character, Lulu, is Latino, and that is refreshing.  It is so rare to find diversity in books without it being the central theme of the book that it was a wonderful surprise to have her race being something that just is part of her and not the driving plot of the story.

The characters in “My Best Everything” act realistically, so there is underage drinking, sexual situations, and quite a bit of colorful language.  There is also a relationship with an age difference that may bother some, though the girl is only a couple of months shy of eighteen, so keep that in mind if that is the sort of thing that will decrease your enjoyment of the book.  Also, it’s about making moonshine, so if alcohol bothers you in any way, this is most definitely not the book for you.

As for my opinion, I highly recommend “My Best Everything” for older young adults as well as those who are no longer young.  It’s wonderful and I did not want to leave the characters and world behind.  I will never stop hoping that Sarah Tomp revisits Lulu and Mason at sometime in the future.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Sexual Content, Language, Violence,  Addiction, Underage Drinking,  Lots of ‘Shine

The Third Twin

The Third Twin
CJ Omololu
Delacorte Press
February 24, 2015
Hardcover
336

Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything.

The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect—Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist.

As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer . . . or Alicia is real.

 

Review:

I really wanted to like “The Third Twin”, and for a little over half of the book, I did.  Somewhere around there it really jumped the rails in several aspects.  The first half is why I gave it three stars, but the second would most certainly would be a two star book, in my opinion.

The premise is a very interesting one, and an unsolved murder for which the protagonist is a suspect holds a lot of promise.  The stakes rise as it goes on, delivering a mix of the predictable and good surprises.  The set-up was the best part of the book.

The characters are not well-developed, relying mostly on tropes to establish their personalities, and by the end they are quite grating.  The ending, without spoiling it, is everything that a mystery should not be.  While unpredictable, which is a good quality, it comes out of nowhere with absolutely no clues to lead it there, which is anything but good.

For most mystery lovers, I would recommend giving this one a pass.  If the little details are not something you care about in a mystery or thriller, it may be worth a try.  If nothing else, “The Third Twin” is a quick read.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Mild Sexual Situations, Language, Violence

Paper or Plastic

Paper or Plastic Book Cover Paper or Plastic
Vivi Barnes
Entangled: Teen
February 23, 2015
Paperback
352

Welcome to SmartMart, where crime pays minimum wage...

Busted. Alexis Dubois just got caught shoplifting a cheap tube of lipstick at the local SmartMart. She doesn’t know what’s worse—disappointing her overbearing beauty-pageant-obsessed mother for the zillionth time…or her punishment. Because Lex is forced to spend her summer working at the store, where the only things stranger than the staff are the customers.

Now Lex is stuck in the bizarro world of big-box retail. Coupon cutters, jerk customers, and learning exactly what a “Code B” really is (ew). And for added awkwardness, her new supervisor is the totally cute—and adorably geeky—Noah Grayson. Trying to balance her out-of-control mother, her pitching position on the softball team, and her secret crush on the school geek makes for one crazy summer. But ultimately, could the worst job in the world be the best thing that ever happened to her?

 

Review:

“Paper or Plastic” is exactly what it intends to be: a light ya romance and palate cleanser.  It fulfills its purpose wonderfully.

The characters are engaging and fun, all of them with underlying issues that a revealed throughout the book.  They grow a surprising amount as people given the length and lightness of the plot.  It’s easy to find yourself relating to them in some way and I found myself more invested in their lives more than I expected to be.

The plot is solid and deals with some heavier issues like bullying, Alzheimer’s, and child abuse while somehow managing to keep the tone light and humorous for the most part.  The writing is done in a style that makes it a quick read, and the teenagers speak like actual teenagers, which is something I am always appreciative of when digging in to a ya novel.

I can’t finish the review without noting that the author has very obviously worked at a retail chain of some sort in the past.  The horrors of retail were enough to bring me back nightmares about my days at a grocery chain.  In spite of the nightmares, reading about the customers had me literally laughing out loud.  Well done, Vivi Barnes.

“Paper or Plastic” is obviously meant for the teen market, but there are few things explicit enough for parents of younger teens to worry about.  I recommend it for those looking for a quick romantic read filled with humor and just the right amount of sweetness.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Mild Sexual Situations, Brief Language, Child Abuse

How (Not) to Fall in Love

How (Not) to Fall in Love Book Cover How (Not) to Fall in Love
Lisa Brown Roberts
Entangled: Teen
February 3, 2015
Hardcover
352

Seventeen-year-old Darcy Covington never had to worry about money or where her next shopping spree was coming from. Even her dog ate gourmet. Then one day, Darcy’s car is repossessed from the parking lot of her elite private school. As her father’s business hit the skids, Dad didn’t just skip town, he bailed on his family.

Fortunately, Darcy’s uncle owns a thrift shop where she can hide out from the world. There’s also Lucas, the wickedly hot fix-it guy she can’t stop crushing on, even if she’s not sure they’ll ever get out of the friend zone.

But it’s here among the colorful characters of her uncle’s world that Darcy begins to see something more in herself...if she has the courage to follow it.

 

Review:

“How (Not) to Fall in Love” is the perfect palate cleanser that mixes romance with deeper issues, making it light but intelligent.  Part romance, part mystery, and part family drama, it covers quite a wide range of subjects.

All of the characters are wonderfully flawed and do not fall prey to stereotypes, even though the other characters try to project them onto those who are different.  They are well-developed and the dialogue is realistic and snarky.  The male love interest is actually a decent guy who sets a good example for the type of relationships girls and boys should expect to have.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case with young adult romances, so I’m always appreciative when it happens.

Mental illness and the effect it has on family members is also tackled and handled in a very sensitive manner.  There are no miracles to make it go away, and the path is not an easy one.  The realistic nature is something many people will be able to relate to, and it will also serve to help educate those without personal experiences.

While there is some adult content, none of it is explicit enough to keep middle readers from being able to read it and appreciate it, and parents can feel at ease with how everything is handled.  This makes it a wonderful choice for romance lovers of almost any age.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content:

Mild Sexual Situations, Language, Drug Usage

 

The Same Sky

The Same Sky Book Cover The Same Sky
Amanda Eyre Ward
Fiction
Ballantine Books
2015-01-20
288

A childless woman looking to adopt crosses paths with a 13-year-old Honduran girl who has embarked on a dangerous journey into Texas with her brother. By the author of How to Be Lost.

 

Review:

“The Same Sky” is an intense book told in the stark voices of two narrators, a girl from Honduras named Carla, and a woman from America named Alice.  The two stories combine to make a haunting novel that will, hopefully, forever remain in the mind of the reader.

Alice, while she can be somewhat of annoying character, is a good representation of middle-class America.  Her family has its own struggles and deal with the inability to have children.  She and her husband run a small family business and live comfortably within their own bubble until the poverty that surrounds them becomes a part of their lives.  I liked this subplot of the book, as it was a good example of the fact that poverty exists, quite literally, in our own backyards.

The story of Carla is eye-opening and disturbing.  Her life in her village is vividly described, illustrating some of the many reasons people of all ages choose to risk the journey to the United States.  I had no idea the trip is as difficult as it is, and I may have nightmares about it for quite some time.

I highly recommend “The Same Sky”.  It brings a deep understanding to the struggles of others who share our world, and it sheds light on the reasons many illegal immigrant children are arriving at our borders alone.  It is my hope that we can all come together to help others in need with this book in the backs of our minds.  I know it will remain in mine.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

While I do not typically write content warnings for adult books, please be aware that there is rape, child, and drug abuse in this book.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World

Vivian Apple at the End of the World Book Cover Vivian Apple at the End of the World
Vivian Apple, Book 1
Katie Coyle
HMH Books for Young Readers
January 6, 2015
Hardcover
272

Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.

 

Review:

The summary for “Vivian Apple at the End of the World”, while intriguing, sells the book far short.  So much more occurs within different contexts during the course of the book.  It is a contemporary romance, mystery, dystopia, and horror story all mixed into one good book.

The subject matter can be controversial, as organized religion is not exactly lauded, but I believe readers should look at it as satire.  It brings up very important questions that are important that we all ask ourselves in a way that is very palatable for teenaged readers.  What do we believe?  What is important to us?  Should we follow the crowd or go against the pressure of society?  Is everything we are taught true?

The plot flows quickly, but not too quickly, and is anything but predictable.  The characters are well-developed and there is a tongue-in-cheek humor that left me laughing out loud several times.  Not to be ignored is the romance between Vivian and Peter.  It is refreshingly devoid of “instalove” and develops in a way which is believable under the circumstances.  That is always something worth noting in a young adult book.

I recommend it for teenagers and adults who enjoy a good satire that makes them think closely about religion and society, though it may be offensive to those with certain religious beliefs.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Underage Drinking and Drug Use, Violence.

The Here and Now

The Here and Now Book Cover The Here and Now
Ann Brashares
Juvenile Fiction
Delacorte Press
2014
242

Seventeen-year-old Prenna, an immigrant who moved to New York when she was twelve, came from another time and she and the other travelers must follow strict rules to avoid destroying the new life they have worked so hard to get, as well as the one personPrenna is desperate to protect.

 

Review:

I don’t know whether I had high expectations because I loved “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” so much, or whether it was the book itself, but I found “The Here and Now” to be underwhelming.

The premise is original, and there is no real fault in the storytelling, but it seems like it would have been more suited to a short story.  There was quite a bit of filler in regard to the plot and the romance felt sudden, jarring, and forced.  The only character that seemed to be fully developed was the protagonist.

All of those being said, while there are sexual situations, it is a very easy and quick read that can easily appeal to younger middle readers.  In spite of there being plot filler, it does flow well, and it is technically well-written.

I would recommend it for the younger set, but not for older young adults or adults.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Mild Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence

Since You’ve Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone Book Cover Since You've Been Gone
Mary Jennifer Payne
Juvenile Fiction
Dundurn PressLtd
2015-01-24
224

On the run from her abusive father, fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother flee to London, England for a fresh start. But one day, Edie's mom doesn't come home from work. Afraid to phone the police and risk being returned to her father, Edie begins a desperate search for her mother, and finds an unlikely ally along the way.

 

Review:

“Since You’ve Been Gone” was a very difficult book to rate.  It tackles some very difficult subjects, including domestic violence and racism.  To be honest, I had no idea how rampant racism was in Great Britain until reading this novel, and the valuable education alone raised it from two stars to three.  I’d like to thank the author,  Mary Jennifer Payne, for making me more aware.

The problem with the book was not the plot but the pacing.  It all seemed very rushed from one event to the next in a way that did not allow the reader to gain much understanding of each situation.  It would have been much better had there been more details offered, even though it would have significantly increased the length.  A story about such heavy topics deserves to be fully explored.

There were also a large amount of secondary characters that were completely unnecessary.  They presented conflicts that had no resolution in some cases, and in others they just served to muddle the story.  One character in particular did nothing for me but make me have an intense dislike of Edie, the protagonist.

It was not terrible, and I can neither recommend nor say it is to be avoided.

This book is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence, Domestic Violence