Tag Archives: realistic

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

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

 

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

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places Book Cover All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven
Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 6, 2015
Hardcover
400

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

 

Review:

I can summarize my thoughts on “All the Bright Places” by saying that this is a book that anyone in the upper middle grades and up absolutely needs to read, including adults.  It may be one of the most important books written in this decade, and I will be extremely disappointed if I don’t see it start popping up on school reading lists within a year.

The writing, complete with witty dialogue and two distinct narrator voices, is witty and solid.  You feel in the moment along with them, as opposed to reading about their own moment.  The characters are well-developed when they should be and not developed when they should not be.  That sentence makes little sense before you read it, but please keep it in mind when you get to the end.

Jennifer Niven is a brave woman with bold and risky decisions concerning the plot, and all of those decisions come together to form a masterpiece.  I can’t say much else, because the journey is the most important part of “All the Bright Places”, so I do not want to inadvertently spoil even the smallest of moments.  I will say that it is a story that will most likely stay with you for life.

In short, here are three things I know to be true about “All the Bright Places”:

  1. There will be a movie adaptation starring Elle Fanning.
  2. There will be angry posts all over the internet no matter who is chosen to play Theodore Finch, because he will be so loved by fans, and that is the nature of fandom.
  3. It will save lives.  Literally.

Five stars in this instance needs to be rounded up to 500.  Please read it, and please take its messages to heart.

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

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Talk of Suicide and Self-Harming

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock Book Cover Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Matthew Quick
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-07-01
304

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I'm sorry I couldn't be more than I was--that I couldn't stick around--and that what's going to happen today isn't their fault. Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol. Maybe one day he'll believe that being different is okay, important even. But not today.

 

Review:

If there is any book that is important to read, it is “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” by Matthew Quick.

I feel like I could hit a character limit for reviews simply by listing all of the life lessons to be found in the book, but I will try to keep it at a minimum.  It gives excellent insight into the mind of someone who feels they have nothing left to live for, as well as all of the attempts made at reaching out that go unnoticed by most.  However, it also makes it very clear that someone does care, even though Leonard may not know it at the time.  There is another hugely important issue raised that is very seldom touched on and took quite a bit of bravery to tackle as bluntly as it was, but I don’t want to spoil what happens.  Trust me when I say that it will make you think.

The characters are all very quirky and well-written, which is typically the case in anything written by Matthew Quick, and I really appreciated that Leonard is an extremely flawed character.  All too often books for young adults tend to portray a victim of bullying and/or someone with suicidal tendencies as being a perfect human being.  That is not the case here, nor is it the case with any person on earth.  It makes the entire story even more relatable by keeping it realistic.

The writing flows well, and given its subject matter, it is an incredibly quick read.  However, the story will stay in your mind long after “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” ends.

Everyone should read “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock”.  I know that I will think more carefully about those around me and look for signs of distress, and I hope that others will, as well.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations,  Violence, Suicide, Rape

 

Like the Moon

Like the Moon Book Cover Like the Moon
Mary Lewis Deans Foote
Realistic Adult Fiction
S&H Publishing, Incorporated
Paperback
206

In this charming novel, Mary Lewis captures the style, rhythm, and heart of a small, rural community in the South. From the first sentence to the last, she draws the reader in with colorful dialect and lovable, eccentric characters. In vibrant hues, Like the Moon weaves the fabric of a community through its oral storytelling traditions.

 

Review:

“Like the Moon”, by Mary Lewis Deans Foote, is what can only be described as a work of love about the daily lives of those born and raised in the south.

From the dialect to the common disagreements (should you break the leaves before or after cooking your collards?), it is a perfect picture about life in a small farming area.  Everyone born and raised in the rural south can probably say they know all of these characters, by different names of course, in their own communities.

The story is told as though you are sitting around the kitchen table with the narrator, listening to what’s been going on while you were away on a trip.  It is all vividly described and characters well-developed, while taking the time to meander through the stories, weaving in and out of memories of the past.  It’s a true slice-of-life tale, and most likely will not be enjoyable for those who want a speedy plot with a lot of action.

If you want to take the time to savor slow southern living, then this is the book for you.  The only reason I gave it four stars, as opposed to five, is that it is most definitely a niche book, and the dialect may be off-putting to those unfamiliar with the southern way of speaking.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided through the GoodReads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

No content warning, as this is an adult book.

Wildlife

Wildlife Book Cover Wildlife
Fiona Wood
Juvenile Fiction
Poppy
2014-09-16
400

During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating. New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can't help but be drawn back into the land of the living. Fans of Melina Marchetta, Rainbow Rowell, and E. Lockhart will adore this endearing and poignant story of first love, true friendship, and going a little bit wild.

 

Review:

This review is based on a complimentary copy given through Netgalley by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

“Wildlife” by Fiona Wood is a book about two vastly different girls coming together during a semester in a wilderness type camp required by their school.  It’s set in Australia, and while the differences are strange at first, I thought it was fun to learn more about the life of teenagers there.

The book is absolutely beautifully written, and takes many twists and turns that I did not expect at all.  The two main characters, along with a secondary character (Michael), were so well-developed that your heart breaks when theirs do, and you laugh when they laugh.  The mood is up and down with the story, ranging from sad to embarrassing to hilarious, and it makes the whole thing realistic.

Speaking of realistic, there is a LOT of strong language and talk of sex in “Wildlife”.  It fits with the story, and I love when authors are brave enough to write how real teenagers speak, but I did want to mention it in case anyone likes to avoid those types of things.

The only reason I gave “Wildlife” four stars instead of five is because the ending felt somewhat rushed.  It was a natural conclusion, but felt like it needed a couple of more chapters to make it seem less jarring.  It was a bit like being on a pleasant drive and then slamming on the brakes.  However, it is not anywhere near enough to ruin a wonderful book.

I highly recommend “Wildlife”.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Underage Drinking, Drug Use, Animal Death