Like the Fight Club of YA Novels

91cMHG1mVaLSo I’ve been watching a lot of BookTubers lately, and almost all of them have unanimously been telling me for months that I need to read E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. And then, frustratingly, they’ve all said, “but we can’t tell you anything about the book.”


So you’ll have to forgive me if I am here to tell you now that you should totally go read We Were Liars and also that I can’t tell you anything about the book. Yes, just smack me now. I get it.

I feel like lately I’ve been on a series of very high highs and very low lows with books, and this was one of the very high highs. I loved this book. It was beautifully written, and had one of my favorite literary devices – an unreliable narrator. It’s about a group of three teenage cousins and their other teenage friend and  summers spent on their grandparents’ island in New England (I KNOW). And then one summer, everything changes…

Seriously, that’s it. That’s what I can tell you. But you should really go read it, because the writing was just lovely and the story was intriguing. I’ve heard the writing style itself was hit or miss with people actually reading the book, as it was unusual and in many places very stream of conscience. But I listened to the audiobook, where this translated perfectly.

If you’re looking for something a bit different than the standard YA this summer, I’d put this at the top of your pile. Then hit me up – I have some book related feelings I need to discuss.

There’s Gonna Be Hella Good Times at My Moon Party

Pfeffer_Life_As_We_Knew_It_2006Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer has a pretty exciting premise.  A highly anticipated asteroid show ends up colliding with the moon and pushing it out of its orbit and closer to the Earth, causing all sorts of calamity.

I think my favorite part by far is the beginning, where everyone is hotly anticipating how cool it will be to see an asteroid hit the moon, and then instead it ruins their lives. Continue reading

Fug or Fab: The Royal We

Look familiar?

It’s a classic story: regular girl and aristocratic boy meet, fall in love, have relationship issues due to the fact that the boy is second in line to the English throne, and then eventually get engaged. Who hasn’t heard that plot a million times? Actually, substitute a Duke or whatever, and I believe that is the plot for approximately 83% of regency-era historical romances. Anyway, authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan’s (aka The Fug Girls) first adult novel, The Royal We,  is heavily based on the Prince William/Kate Middleton romance. And they’re not subtle about it either. It’s been in all the promo copy and just look at that cover (which I love, by the way). In fact, I’m not even sure how much of a plot summary is necessary, but here we go.

American Rebecca Porter (aka Bex) arrives for her year abroad at Oxford and is surprised to find that Prince Nicholas, the aforementioned heir to the English throne, living down the hall from her dorm room. Though Nick is initially reserved and Bex is uninterested in the royal drama, they eventually bond over their insomnia fueled love of junk food and bad, supernatural teen soaps. And yes, they fall in love. Once out in the real world though, the pressure of royal expectations, invasive paparazzi, and the snooty British class system cause tension in their relationship and they eventually break up. Tragedy and twu luv eventually bring the two lovebirds back together, but a big secret threatens Bex and Nick’s happiness on the eve of the wedding of the century. Dun, dun ,DUN! Continue reading

Friends Like These

althea-and-oliver_612x913I really like the cover for Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho.  We should have more yellow books.

I’m going to try to start out every post by saying something nice if I can come up with something.  Not that this book was terrible–I enjoyed reading it, it wasn’t an act of pure torture like DUFF.

Althea and Oliver are prototypical YA friends–a boy and girl that aren’t complete losers but not technically in the ‘in crowd,’ right on the cusp of ‘will they or won’t they,’ being raised by single parents (his a hipster widow, hers a bourbon-soaked professor). Continue reading

Spot’s House of Horrors!

It is safe to say that it has been a while since I have contributed our blog. My excuse is being pregnant and having a baby. I don’t know what those other slackers are using for an excuse. As my baby boy hits the one year (and some change) mark, I felt like it was time to dust off the blog and jump in again. While I have managed to still carve out time for myself to read, a lot of my time during the day is spent reading board books. Board books are an amazing invention, because pretty much everything ends up in my kids mouth. The few “regular” picture books I have let him go near have ended up with ripped pages, which hurts my soul. He has a few books that he insists that we read every day, and I will be slowly reviewing them, along with more YA and adult books. This brings me to todays book, Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill. Spot I know what you’re thinking. Cute picture book? Lift the flaps to play hide and seek with Spot? WRONG! Lift the flaps and you DIE! Spot’s mom, Sally, goes looking for Spot around the house because he has not eaten his supper. First she looks behind the door. What could possibly be behind a door in a normal home? Coats? Boxes? No. It’s a fucking BEAR people. He is eating honey, but there is nothing that says that once he is done that he won’t be eating your face off. 11H5531040-01-lpThat’s cool. We just found a giant bear in the house. We should TOTALLY keep looking.

Maybe Spot is inside the clock? This is a rational place to hide… if you are a giant PYTHON lying in wait to strangle innocent puppies! You hear that?! Puppy murder by asphyxiation! Why is Sally not phased by this? What kind of mother is she?! How is she not showing any concern as to whether or not her baby boy has survived a bear and a python?

The piano. Definitely has to be hiding in the piano. That is where I would go to hide from a bear and a python. Oops. NOPE. Just your friendly neighborhood HIPPO. First, hipppn-618b_3zos are mean and will crush you. Second, what the hell kind of piano do they have that can hold a hippo (maybe a baby hippo?), and how do they even play the piano with their paws? BURNING QUESTIONS IN CHILDREN’S LIT. Again, Sally is not shocked. This may be because the hippo does appear to be high, and thus, not a threat. Unless he got the munchies and really wanted puppy. My bet is on Sally being the worst mom ever. This makes me feel better about my own mothering skills.

We’re running out of room for large dangerous animals here. Under the stairs seems like a safe place to hide. Maybe go into your little closet and pretend to be Harry Potter? Wrong AGAIN. wheres-spotThat is obviously where they keep their LION. He’s trying to play it cool and is all “No, I haven’t seen Spot,” but what are you hiding back there Mr. Lion? Could it be blood and guts? How do they feed all of these wild animals?

Next, we find a monkey in the closet, which would be fine and cute and cuddly if I didn’t know that monkeys have sharp teeth and throw their poop. From a hiding standpoint, this is not good.

We move on to under the bed. Kids across the board pretty much fear what is under their bed at some point in their lives. So what does Sally keep under the bed? A hungry crocodile with razor sharp yellowed teeth! This guy has been around the block and is biding his time to snatch you as soon as you close your eyes!

Now I don’t want to ruin the end for you, but suffice it to say that reading this book might give you night terrors. Go buy it. The kids will love it!

Why Couldn’t This Be Earl and the Dying Girl? Or Just Earl. Just Earl Would Be Awesome.

Me_and_Earl_and_the_Dying_Girl In my old age, I’ve come to realize that I have very little patience for books that I don’t like. If it doesn’t grab me in the first fifty pages or so, I’ll typically give up and move on to something I might actually enjoy. (Case in point, my recent abandonment of I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, which I found so insanely grating that I actually returned it to Audible.) So I’m kind of angry at myself that I stuck it out for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, because guys, I really really REALLY did not enjoy this book.

The “Me” in the title is a kid named Greg, who is bumbling his way through senior year of high school with one goal – to be completely invisible to everyone around him. He goes about this by becoming friendly, but not friends, with every group on campus in an effort to blend in everywhere but belong nowhere. This has been his M.O. for the majority of high school and it has, for the most part, succeeded in keeping him being noticed by pretty much anyone, even though he thinks that if he doesn’t work SUPER HARD at blending in, the whole system will just fall apart. His only real acquaintance is his “coworker,” Earl, with whom he shares a love for the kind of movies that most high school kids can’t stomach. Together, they spend their free time creating remakes of their favorites with their own twists. Greg’s life is working out pretty well for him (at least in his own mind), until his mother forces him to befriend his classmate Rachel, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 leukemia.

Before I get into this review, I want to say that I understand this is a book about teenagers, and that teenagers are, by and large, narcissistic assholes. They just are. They actually can’t help it. I took a development psychology class in college and was fascinated by the theories on teenagers and where they are in their mental development – namely, that they are unable to see the world beyond their own little sphere of self and those close to them, partially because they lack the life experience and partially because their brains just haven’t developed to that point yet. So yes, I get it, but if I wanted to experience the real, ugly, narcissistic assholery of the average teenager, I’d go hang out at a high school. So perhaps that might explain why being shoved into the head of a character like Greg for the 6+ hours of this audiobook just wasn’t my cup of tea.

One of my main problems with the book is that I feel like the characters were never fleshed out very well (except for Greg, who I frankly could have done with less of). Most of the time, Rachel seems like a tertiary character, and I was surprisingly not all that upset when she (spoiler) died. Greg’s parents, who actually had the potential to be interesting because they were just that odd, were background as well. We know more about the bust size of Greg’s crush than her actual personality, and I forgot until 3/4 of the way through the book that Greg even had sisters.

Earl felt more solid, but something about his characterization made me uncomfortable, even as I found him the most interesting and relate-able character in the book. He was the only major character of color, and it was like the author so wanted to make you aware of this fact that he threw every stereotype in the book at the kid. Poor and not living up to his potential? Check. Absent dad? Check. Alcoholic mother? Check. Gang member little brother who already got a girl pregnant at 13 and deals drugs on the side? Check check checkity check. And yet even with all of this, Earl is still the best character in the whole book, mostly because he remains just as annoyed with Greg throughout the book as I am, only he gets to tell him off for it.

I don’t want to say that Greg doesn’t have a character arc, because he does. He goes from being basically a loner to having someone in his life that he actually cares about. But he never fully commits to the people in his life being in his life. He describes his best friend as a coworker and acquaintance. His interactions with Rachel are enjoyable, but he admits that what he most enjoys about them is that he’s good at making Rachel laugh and that he enjoys the feeling of being good at something. When Rachel inevitably dies, his grief is not over losing someone important in his life, but over losing the opportunity to have someone important in his life. His arc leads him to realize how he has shut people out, but never reaches the satisfying conclusion of letting people in.

And maybe that was my problem from the get-go. Greg’s an ass. I wanted to see him become something other than an ass, but he never quite gets there. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. The author does like to point out, ad nauseum, that this isn’t a typical YA book, don’t expect typical YA book-type revelations to happen, OMG THIS IS NOT A JOHN GREEN NOVEL, etc. So yeah, I get it. And maybe for some people, that’s the wonderful, refreshing thing about this book and why so many people love it – that it shows teenagers in all their self-absorbed glory, the world in all its harshness. It shows that sometimes, we don’t let the dying girl in until it’s too late and have to live with that regret. In that way, it’s an admirable story to tell, but it’s not the story I wanted to read.

ETA: The trailer of the movie is actually what made me want to read this book, and I still think it looks better than the book itself. I’ll be curious to see.

Because You Could Die Literally At Any Point Today

theduff__spanDuff by Kody Keplinger has been out for awhile.  Long enough that I remember shelving it while working at Borders and that was at least five years ago.

I’ll be honest, the premise on the back never sounded that appealing to me, but then I saw they were making a movie out of it, and I was like, “surely they wouldn’t make a movie out of a boring, horribly written book” so I got it from the library.

Continue reading


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