Tag Archives: realistic

Love and Other Unknown Variables

Love and Other Unknown Variables Book Cover Love and Other Unknown Variables
Shannon Alexander
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
2014-10-07
352

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswerable problems. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck. The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy pawing at her—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy. By the time he learns she's ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second).

 

Review:

This is a review of an ARC provided through Netgalley by Entangled Press in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t even know where to begin with how much I love “Love and Other Unknown Variables.”  Love may not be a strong enough word.  There are so many things about it that make it a breath of fresh air in the Young Adult genre.

Shannon Lee Alexander’s writing seems effortless and flows in a way that pulls you in quickly and keeps you engaged, making it nearly impossible to put it down.  The characters are all intriguing and the dialogue is realistic for teenagers, something not always present, which adds to the relatibility of the characters to the target audience.

I was thrilled to find a coming-of-age romance narrated with such tenderness by a male narrator.  Charlie is flawed but likable, and grows in a way that is inspiring.  It was especially wonderful to see how siblings can grow together and become friends as they age, as well as how those we think we know can be so much more than we give them credit for.

I can’t say much else without spoiling the book, but the themes of difficult choices and thinking outside of the lines, both literally and metaphorically in this case, are explored with an excellent mix of humor and gravity.

I feel privileged for the opportunity to be one of the first to read “Love and Other Unknown Variables.”  My honest opinion is that the book, as well as Shannon Lee Alexander, will become a force to be reckoned with in the world of Young Adult literature, something which is well-deserved.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

All We Had

All We Had: A Novel Book Cover All We Had: A Novel
Annie Weatherwax
Adult Fiction
Scribner
August 5, 2014
Hardcover
272

For thirteen-year-old Ruthie Carmichael and her mother, Rita, life has never been stable. The only sure thing is their love for each other. Though Rita works more than one job, the pair teeters on the edge of poverty. When their landlord kicks them out, Rita resorts to her movie-star looks and produces carpet-installer Phil, "an instant boyfriend," who takes them in.

Before long, Ruthie convinces her mother to leave and in their battered Ford Escort, they head East in search of a better life. When money runs out and their car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in a small town called Fat River where their luck finally takes a turn. Rita lands a steady job waitressing at Tiny’s, the local diner. With enough money to pay their bills, they rent a house and Fat River becomes the first place they call home.

 

Review:

I received this book for free from Scribner through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

“Every character is a protagonist in their own story” is a quote I once heard (apologies, but for the life of me I can’t find the person who actually said it), and on my own attempts at writing, I have always tried to keep it in mind.

“All We Had” is hands-down the greatest example of this concept in action I have ever read.  The heart of the story is Ruthie and her young mother, but every single character has a deep and rich history that is revealed through remarkably little prose.  I found myself wondering what happened to them all after the last page, and I imagine I will do so for quite some time.

This book is a slice-of-life story that is a very easy read about subject matter that is not easy to read about.  Ruthie shares it all with stark realism, zero nostalgia, and brutal honesty.  There are no feelings of self-pity or self-congratulation.  It is what it is, and that is how the story is told.  As such, it feels raw and honest, ultimately leaving an uneasy feeling in the readers about all of the Ruthies that live within our world.

I don’t want to spoil anything, because in this case the journey is the story, so even a summary feels as though it would give away too much.  I can say that it’s on the list of books I will be giving all of the readers in my life this holiday season.  Annie Weatherwax is a wonderful storyteller, and I look forward to many more novels from her.

Five stars.  I wish I could give more.

Content Warning:

“All We Had” is not actually a young adult book, but I feel like it is an excellent choice for more advanced and mature readers.  There is strong language, violence, sexual situations, rape, and animal death, but none of it is gratuitous or presented too graphically.  In my opinion, the contemporary social issues raised are important and present many good talking points.

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & Park Book Cover Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
Juvenile Fiction
Macmillan
2013-02-26
328

"Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits--smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try"--

 

Review:

After reading “Eleanor and Park”, I felt an overwhelming urge to write a love letter to Rainbow Rowell.  It was everything my old, nerdy, hipster heart needed and more.

Make no mistake about it, this book is hipster and nerd to the core.  Everything about the 80s that was amazing in terms of pop-culture is here, and everything that needed some good-natured mocking is mocked.  It’s a book filled with nostalgia that can still be appreciated by the young.  In fact, it should be required reading for the new generation of hipsters.

The writing is sparse, but in a good way.  The facts, and only the important ones, are laid out like an outline to a research paper, softened only by the accompanying thoughts and emotions that can only be found in hormonal teenagers finding love for the first time.  It makes it realistic, and also keeps things from becoming overly romantic.  The heaviness of Eleanor’s situation is never overshadowed by the good, and the good is never completely overshadowed by the bad.  Given the subject matter, that balance being so perfectly accomplished is a testament to the author’s talent.

The only reason I am giving “Eleanor and Park” four stars instead of five is the ending.  It seemed rushed, and while somewhat understandable, almost out of character.  Given the easy flow of the rest of the book, it was a jarring awakening from a literary dream.

The ending was not, however, nearly enough to keep me from recommending it to anyone who is old enough to read it.  It is definitely aimed at older readers, with subject matter that is dark and difficult to read.  If given to a younger reader, I would recommend an adult read it and discuss it with them.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Abuse

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Book Cover Paper Towns
John Green
Juvenile Fiction
Puffin
2009
305

One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q's neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears. An ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Reprint.

 

Review:

I love John Green.  No other author can turn a phrase quite like him, and I greatly respect his refusal to create novels that assume teenagers are not capable of reading about real issues they face in a frank manner, even if that includes sex and questionable language.  I expect excellent work from him, and he did not disappoint me with “Paper Towns”.

Part of the brilliance of this novel is that a teenager can read it and get an entirely different story from it than an adult who reads it.  Neither are inferior to the other, it’s simply that some of it is viewed differently when time removes you further from the days of high school.  I literally cried from the overwhelming sense of nostalgia it created.

Quentin Jacobsen is the “every man” of high school.  He is not popular, nor is he quite on the bottom rung of the social ladder.  In short, he is smart, but average.  Then there is Margo Roth Spiegelmen, the girl who was larger than life in Quentin’s mind.  The girl on the pedestal. Haven’t we all had that person in our lives at one point or another?   Of course, eventually we learn that they are just as human and average as the rest of us, and that is the point of the story.

The lessons to be learned in “Paper Towns” are good for teens and adults.  People are not always who they present to the world.  Some are better than they let on and some are worse.  The best memories aren’t what you think they will be.  Everything has a beginning and an end.  All of this is woven into a thoroughly entertaining story that is filled with humor and tenderness.  I highly recommend it for those who like Green’s style of writing.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Content