Tag Archives: Contemporary

Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty SmithA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Published by Harper
on 1940
Pages: 496
Source: Bought
Goodreads
The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness -- in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts

It’s actually a wonder I finished this book, considering I was on a two-week trip this month and other than that, was busy watching every episode of The 100 (I caved, I did). But I did manage to finish it, and I’m so happy I did. I’ve never read a book for school before that I really enjoyed. I already owned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I chose to read it because 1) it was on the list of choices for my Writer’s Craft class, and 2) I wanted to clear it off my shelves. But now I know I’ll be keeping the book, because I loved it so much.

It’s hard to say exactly why I liked the book because truthfully, nothing much happens in the nearly 500 pages. It’s really just a recounting of Francie Nolan’s first 17 years. Yet it’s so much more – we’re taken back in time to the life of Francie’s grandparents, the meeting of her parents, the birth of her and her brother. We’re not confined to just the thoughts of Francie, but also those of her mother and brother and neighbours. I think the only reason it’s not boring is because of the scope of the novel. It spans over generations and offers a glimpse into the lives of almost everyone Francie meets. Everything happens, just as it says on the back cover, as things happen in real life: not in quick, short bursts, but in long drawn out periods, over months and years and even decades. Every part of Francie’s story is told fully, written with a quiet patience. Nothing is skimmed over or fast-tracked.

The writing is simple and presents the story as it is, no tricks. Yet there’s still so much subtlety in the way it’s written. Little details that can easily go unnoticed may be the most important part of a chapter. It’s the kind of book that needs all your attention, because you don’t want to miss anything.

Because I read this for school, I’ve had to do a lot of research on it. The story of Francie’s life so closely mirrors Smith’s life that it’s almost a memoir. I believe this is why Smith was able to write with such incredible detail and emotion. Others who’ve read it have commented on the outstanding minute details that are included, especially in regards to the setting: early 20th century Brooklyn. And it’s remarkable just how deeply Smith delves into the thoughts of other characters. Of course she could never have known what her mother or father or aunt was thinking when she was actually living this story as a young girl, but written from Francie’s perspective she’s able to give each character such a vibrant backstory and personality, not leaving a single detail untouched.

It’s definitely a heavier read, but I loved it nonetheless. Never did I feel bored or tired with the story, which was surprising since there was really nothing happening other than the passing of time. I’m so glad I chose to read this book and I absolutely recommend it, whether you’re looking to read a modern classic or just something with incredible substance.

4 birds

four-starsfour-starsfour-starsfour-stars

Review of The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Review of The Summer of Letting Go by Gae PolisnerThe Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner
Published by Algonquin Books
on 2014-03-25
Pages: 250
Goodreads
Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope—and love—can appear in the most unexpected places.Summer has begun, the beach beckons—and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca’s little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca’s the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on—most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can’t have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it’s possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she’d never dare to go—and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.

My Thoughts

The Summer of Letting Go is a difficult book for me to review, not because I disliked it or am absolutely in love with it – it’s difficult because I feel neither of those things. I felt a general sort of detachment with this book, like I saw what was happening and I realized what I should be feeling, but I just couldn’t connect with anything. I think the root of this detachment stems from my inability to connect with the main character, Francesca. In all honesty she felt like a very young character to me. She was supposed to be turning 16, but in the way she talked and acted she seemed a lot younger than that. I’m definitely not saying this is a bad thing – it just didn’t work for me. If I had read this book when I was 14 going on 15 I think I would have really liked Francesca’s character. Sidenote: Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like there is a division in YA between older and younger YA fiction? Personally, I see younger YA as characters up to age 15 and older YA as character aged 16 – 18. I don’t know if anyone else sees this divide, but to me, The Summer of Letting Go feel more into the younger YA category.

Returning to Francesca, I saw her as a fairly well developed character, I just found it difficult to really empathize with her. I understood that she was in pain and dealing with a lot of grief, and every logical path led me to feeling sad for her – but I just couldn’t. I felt her pain on the surface because I knew I was supposed to, but I didn’t have any strong emotions relating to her story.

I did like Frankie Sky’s character, although I found him to have that typical he’s-smarter-than-his-age personality (he’s four) that you see in a lot of YA books. He’s a very smart kid, and quite adorable, but he didn’t capture my heart or draw me into the story any more. Actually, a lot of the characters seemed very “stock” to me, including the best friend and the love interest. Especially the love interest. The one character that I did really like was Frankie Sky’s mother, Mrs. Schuyler, because you can truly see the pain and pressure she’s under. Her was more substance than stock, as was the neighbour that Francesca has her ups and downs with.

Going past the characters, I found the family dynamic in Francesca’s home to be a point of interest. Francesca’s little brother drowned when she was supposed to be watching him – you can imagine the kind of tension this leads to in their home. Her mother grows cold and distant, and much of the book deals with Francesca coming to terms with what happened to her brother, and healing the relationship between her and her mother. In this way, I think The Summer of Letting Go is a very good introduction to grief in YA fiction. Not that everyone wants to read terribly sad books, but I know that a lot of YA contemporary deals with loss and grief, and The Summer of Letting Go manages to do that as well, except it molds it in to a somewhat lighter story. All of the heavy themes are there – loss and love and dealing with tragedy, but the story as a whole doesn’t feel like it’s too heavy or upsetting.

The ending seemed to be trying to find the balance between a happy ending with all the strings tied up and a somewhat unsteady ending, but I liked it nonetheless. It fit in with the overall story and gave some resolution to the various plot lines that were being explored throughout the book.

Overall

Overall, this book is an interesting take of grief and loss, while holding a strong central theme of new beginnings and letting go of the past. Personally, I found my inability to connect with the characters made it hard for me to fully appreciate this book.  However, I can see it appealing very much to younger YA readers, as well as contemporary fans looking for a summer read that maintains a summer-y, light feeling, but also has some substance to it and deals with some deeper issues.

3 birds

three-starsthree-starsthree-stars

Review of Just One Year by Gayle Forman

My Thoughts

Okay, so this book was kind of a mixed bag to me. It managed to pull me out of a reading slump I had been in, which was definitely a plus. I think the most important element of Gayle Forman’s books are always the characters. This book was no different. Each of the characters was well developed, and I truly enjoyed getting to learn more about Willem. In Just One Day we really don’t get much information about Willem’s family, friends, past – nothing really. Just One Year is, of course, Willem’s side of the story. Finally we get to see what has contributed to Willem’s decisions and personality – everything that really builds him as a character.

The biggest thing I would tell someone who’s thinking about starting this series (duology? companion novels?) is that if you’re looking for an epic love story, you’re not going to find it here. That was the one thing that was very misleading for me when I read Just One Day. I was prepared for a swept-away romance set in wonderful Paris, which is definitely not what you get with the first book. This is probably my fault as I should’ve read the description more closely, but I was expecting a romance and I didn’t get it. That being said, I still really enjoyed the book. Also, this is supposed to be a review of Just One Year, not Just One Day.

My point with all of that is that when I picked up Just One Year, I knew what I was getting into. I expected that the story would be mostly focused on Willem, and Allyson probably wouldn’t make an appearance (at least, not for the majority of the book). In that way, I think it let me enjoy the book more because I wasn’t wondering where the romance was. This book, along with Just One Day, are absolutely 100% about character development to me. I look at them as kind of a lesson on how to properly create a character with complex relationships, possibly past complications, and give them a lot of room to grow. From the first glimpse we get of Willem in Just One Day, Forman takes his character and molds it into a fully fledged out being. Willem’s story seems to be one of healing, mostly. He’s recovering from something that happened quite recently, and because of this event he’s become estranged from his mother. This was one of my favourite story lines from the book – the relationship between Willem and his mother. Willem’s mom was a very well written character in that I did not agree with her actions whatsoever, but reading about her backstory and who she is as a person, I had an understanding for why she did the things she did. It didn’t justify them, it just made her a more believable character.

The book is set in many places, as you might expect of Willem, which I absolutely loved. I’m a huge fan of books about travel, or books set in other countries. Willem travels across the globe, from touching down in Europe, Mexico, and India. Throughout the changing backdrops, the story remains as Willem tries to track down Allyson as well as heal from his past.

My biggest disappointment was the point at which the book ends. I desperately wanted to see more of Allyson and Willem actually being on the same continent, but alas… However, I recently heard that Gayle Forman is writing a novella to continue their story, after the door scene (finally). Additionally, while I enjoyed watching Willem transform and break down the barriers he’d built up in the past, I wasn’t fully committed to his story. I was interested, but I wasn’t enthralled. For a story in which the characters are the central aspect, I just didn’t care about them enough.

Aside from that, I really appreciated the small details that went into every character. It seemed like anyone who showed up in the book was there for a purpose. Even the minor characters had a reason for being there, and were used tactfully to help the story progress. There wasn’t any unnecessary fluff, and the pieces of the story fit well together.

Overall

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t completely captured by the story or the characters, but it had a steady progression of character development paired with exciting travel that kept me reading. If you’re looking for a story that is very much based upon the characters, and has central themes of character growth and development, then I definitely recommend these books. However, if you’re looking for a love story, this isn’t it.

4 birds

four-starsfour-starsfour-starsfour-stars

Review of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Published: February 26, 2013
Genre: YA Contemp.
Pages: 328
Source: Bought

 

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK 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. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under. (Goodreads)

mythoughts
I was really, really expecting to love Eleanor & Park. It has so many of the my favourite things all mashed together: 80s pop culture, a slow-burn romance, and difficult, heart-wrenching moments. I’m having trouble forming my thoughts into proper, coherent sentences, so here’s a list of things I did like and things I didn’t like:

I liked…

  • The setting, time-period wise. Sadly I was born too late to personally experience the neon leotards and huge hair of the 80s, but I’ve watched enough John Hughes movies to have a solid appreciation for the decade.
  • How Eleanor’s character never tried to lose weight or go on a diet. At first I had trouble coming to terms with this, and I wasn’t sure why. I really liked Eleanor’s character, and it didn’t bother me that she was described to be a bit bigger. But I think I was subconsciously wondering throughout the book when she was going to change, and looking back on this thought, I realize it’s probably a reflection of my previous reading and watching experiences. Whenever you read about a heavier character, there’s likely to be a transformation of some kind in their future, or at least an attempt. This simply doesn’t happen in Eleanor & Park, because it’s just not possible for Eleanor given her circumstances. She barely gets enough to eat at home – I doubt her main concern is eating less food. I think Rainbow Rowell explained it best in her series of tweets:

(via Shoot the Wizard)

  • The slow-burning, ugh-why-haven’t-you-kissed-yet-romance. Eleanor and Park are both pretty awkward people, and it takes them an insane amount of time to finally realize they like each other and then do something about. It was a bit torturous, but I loved it. Vaguely reminiscent of the drawn-out, agonizing but incredibly amazing romance of Jim and Pam.
  • The end. Because everything leading up to it was so sudden and intense and such a drastic change from the quiet lull of the first half of the book. The way Rowell ending the book was pretty depressing and devastating, but that very last line gives you hope, and I know it’s a standalone but wow, a follow up would be amazing.
  • The writing. The only way I can think to describe it is “gentle”. It was just really subtle, nothing too in your face, but it also showed the emotions of each character so well, and illustrated each fine detail of Eleanor and Park’s lives. Eleanor’s home life, especially, is depicted so well. There’s always this tension in the air, and you know it could snap at any moment.

I didn’t like…

  • How I didn’t feel a huge connection. Usually when I read a contemporary that I really love, I get so connected to it and everything just feels so EPIC and I end up walking around in a daze after I’ve finished it. Clearly, from the points above, I really liked this book. I just didn’t LOVE it like I was hoping to, and I didn’t feel that totally, all-consuming connection that I get from my absolute favourite contemporaries.

Overall this is a brilliant contemporary. It’s so well written and the characters are developed fantastically. If you are a contemporary fan, I would say this is quickly becoming one of the staples in the genre and it’s definitely worth giving it a read. Even if you aren’t a contemporary fan, I would still recommend it, because you might be surprised by all the emotion and heart in this book.

4.5 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one!

Review of Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2)
Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

Published: May 28, 2013
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 456
Source: Bought

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

mythoughtsI’m not quite sure what to say about this book, because my thoughts on it are really mixed. On one hand I really enjoyed the romance, but I also had a lot of issues with the plot and the characters.

First of all, my expectations were high. Pushing the Limits was a book I really really liked, so I expected nothing less from the next in the series (I know it’s not technically a series but…). I have to say that the beginning half of the book really bored me. There was nothing especially interesting going on, or at least I didn’t think so. Yes, the beginning is used to mostly flesh out the characters and introduce their backstories, but I just found it to drag on a bit. I seriously did not like Beth at the start of the book. She is so far away from my personality that I couldn’t relate to her at all, and although it got better by the end of the story, I still had a lot of trouble with her character. I understand that she has huge trust issues, but it made me so mad when she just kept pushing Ryan away. Plus she treated him like crap. He literally followed her around like a lost puppy telling her how he felt, and she just kept saying she didn’t believe him. Seriously, give the poor guy a break.

Also, it bothered me how Beth kept telling Isaiah that his feelings weren’t real. People are allowed to have feelings, Beth, and you can’t dictate what they are!!

So I definitely had some issues with Beth as a character. I thought her backstory was really well done and her character really reflected what had happened to her in the past, but I just could not get on board with her attitude. Ryan was another character that I didn’t really love. He was just so typically jock-ish and his character, while it had one obvious deviation from the cookie cutter jock image, seemed very bland. In fact I had a lot of trouble connecting with the whole book. This may sound odd, but one of the reasons for this was definitely the cultural differences. This book takes place in the South, and it’s evident throughout the whole story. Sometimes a character would say something that sounded so… strange. Like I have never actually heard a person use that phrase in my whole life. And the whole book seems to have a really Southern culture that I frankly did not get. I’m from Ontario, Canada, so I found a lot of things in this book to be very different from my life, and I think that made it hard for me to connect. I don’t know, that might sound stupid. Honestly it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced not connecting with a book because of a geography issue. But the whole time I was reading the book I felt like I was missing out on some big inside joke. I appreciated the Southern culture, I really did, I just couldn’t personally relate to it.

The love aspect between Ryan and Beth was one part of the book that I did like. It was kind of cheesy some times, and a tad bit unbelievable (rain in a jar anyone?), but overall it was an interesting mix of slow building and fast paced. I like seeing Beth finally resolve her trust issues with Ryan, and it was nice to see Beth helping Ryan with some of the issues he had in his life.

Lastly, Katie McGarry definitely has a knack for taking tough subjects and seamlessly weaving them into the plot. This book dealt with a few problems, such as Beth’s mother’s struggle with addiction, and Ryan’s family’s issues around Mark. I would say that while these books aren’t straight up “issue books”, they definitely tackle some real world issues in a realistic way, and not always easy, way.

Overall, I did enjoy Dare You To. Once I really got into the book I was drawn in to the love story, and I think some serious issues were dealt with really well. However, I didn’t like Dare You To as much as I liked McGarry’s first book, Pushing the Limits. I’m still hopeful for Crash Into You, though! Also, as a sidenote, I got to go to one of Katie McGarry’s signings and she is such a kind and sweet person!

 4 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one!

Review of This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

This is Not a Test

This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Published: June 19, 2012
Genre: Zombie apocalypse meets dark contemporary
Pages: 323
Source: Won

 

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
mythoughts2“This must be what Dorothy felt like, I think. Maybe. If Dorothy was six scared teenagers and Oz was hell.”
-Courtney Summers, This Is Not A Test
This was my second adventure into the world of Courtney Summers. I was especially excited for this one because of the things I’d heard about it, and because The Walking Dead doesn’t return until the fall so this book filled the zombie-void. While I didn’t love love this book, it was captivating and very enjoyable.Sloane reminded me a lot of the other MC I’d read from Courtney Summers (Cracked Up to Be). She seems to have a theme of tough, snarky girl MCs, although Sloane was also a very dark and troubled character. I really liked the contemporary element, because contemp is my staple and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this novel as much had it just been flesh-eating madness. Sloane’s back story was eerie, disturbing, and sad. The dynamics between her, her father, and her sister were written so well… even though these were all memories, not actual scenes. So this part of the story made it feel like a dark contemporary, but the part where they’re hiding in a school, running for their lives from zombies was super intense, and very creepy, but not over the top. It was tasteful, if you can say that about zombies.

I loved the romantic twists. You’ve got 6 teenagers trapped in a school for days, weeks… Something’s bound to happen. Again, that tastefulness was there, but everything was also very emotional, as you would be if that was your last kiss before your throat was ripped out by your used-to-be neighbour. There wasn’t as much action as I had expected, because most of the book takes place in the school. But it’s kind of like the kids are all bottled up, and the tension is just building and building toward the final action. I wished it had happened differently, maybe on the zombie’s terms so that it was more exciting, but there were twists and turns nonetheless.

Courtney Summer’s writing is very blunt and to the point. I love that she doesn’t spend pages and pages on fancy description. She says what needs to be said, even if it’s gritty and tough to deal with, which most of the time her books are.

Overall, this book was really different from what I expected. There’s a very complex contemporary plot line that I loved, and it weaves so well into the zombie apocalypse situation. I definitely recommend this book to fans of contemporary or zombie-ish books. It was action packed and rich with good characters and writing, Courtney Summers style.

 4.5 birds

 

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one, and then some!

Review of My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Published: June 14, 2012
Genre: YA Contemp.
Pages: 394
Source: Library

One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? (Goodreads)

 mythoughts2

So. I just wrote this whole review, was about to press publish, and guess what? The whole thing was gone. Stupid WordPress with it’s stupid settings. So now I’m going to try and type this out from memory (and a lot of fist pounding on the keyboard in anger).

Okay, so, I loved this book. I completely resonated with Samantha, who lives a pretty average, kinda boring life, and is always watching the Garretts and wanting to be part of their fun, messy, crazy life. I’ve always wanted lots of siblings, and when I was little I would watch Cheaper by the Dozen and Yours Mine and Ours on repeat, non-stop. So reading about the Garretts and their crazy and loud family was just so fun for me. I was a bit upset at how lucky/coincidental it was that that the Garretts just happened to have a 17 year old son who just happened to be rather good looking and nice, but I guess it had to happen to drive the book forward. Either way, I absolutely could not put this book down.

Another thing that I really loved about this book was how it dealt with tough issues of substance abuse and family dynamics. Throughout the first half of the book the plot focuses mostly on Samantha and Jase, but underneath that, Fitzpatrick presents, in a realistic and emotional way, the conflicts, tension, and fear that can come about when someone around you is dealing with an alcohol or drug addiction. On top of that, there are the issues between Sam and her mother as well as the life changing incident that happens to Sam. The book went from light, fun, and happy to deep, emotional, and intense within a couple chapters. The variation in Fitzpatrick’s writing showed that she’s easily capable of writing both kinds of stories. A lot of the time you find contemporaries that are summery and fun with heavy undertones, but often those undertones are either overdone or bland. In My Life Next Door, the light parts and the heavy parts were both just as engaging and well written, and it was refreshing to read something with such a well-rounded story line in YA.

Lastly, I’ll just touch on the romance between Sam and Jase. Did I think it was a bit insta-love? Maybe. Did this detract from how sweet and realistic their relationship was? Not at all. I loved how their relationship developed through the book, and how things were just so easy between them. There was one point that I wish had been explained a bit more, but it sounds a bit silly when I say it aloud. See, we are under the impression for most of the book that Samantha has been hiding her relationship with Jase from her mother. But we don’t really know if Jase is aware of this. Does he know that Sam’s hiding their relationship? It seems like something that should matter when you’re dating, if you’re keeping your relationship completely secret from your family. This issue is finally discussed later in the book, but I wish we had known all along what was going on. I know that’s just a dumb little thing, but it bugged me.

Overall, this book was fantastic. I loved everything, from the plot to the characters to the writing, and I can’t wait to see what Huntley Fitzpatrick comes up with next.

4.5 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a few birds for this one, and then some!

Review of This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Published: April 2, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher

 

If fate sent you an email, would you answer? When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?
(Goodreads)

 

mythoughts2I haven’t written a review in weeks, so I don’t know if I even remember how to do this. Sorry if it turns into an awful mess.

To sum it up really quickly: I did not enjoy this novel. I thought it was overly cheesy, kinda boring, and way longer than it needed to be.

I actually really liked Smith’s first novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Mostly because it was fast paced and short – the opposite of This is What Happy Looks Like. Sometimes I talk about “fluff” books – books you read just to fill time and take your mind off things, but basic enough that a trained monkey could understand them. Well this book was like the bible of all fluff books. I found the characters to be dull and much of the plot unnecessary.

Ellie, the main character of the story, was just “meh” for me. I couldn’t relate to her, and I didn’t really care about her. The fight she has with her BFF (I can’t even remember her name) seemed so predictable and pointless (again, I can’t even remember what the fight was about). Then you’ve got Graham – the tortured young actor, estranged from family and friends by his career. Everyone sees him as The Star: Graham Larkin, but wait – what’s that? He’s just a normal guy??? How creative. On top of that whole cliched mess, we then learn a little bit about Graham’s background. Like how he lives in his own private mansion and feels uncomfortable visiting his own home because his parents treat him like royalty and don’t know how to act around him. His mom used to yell at him for leaving dirty laundry on the ground, but now that he’s a movie star she just picks it up without a word and does his laundry for him. Any respect I had for his parents flew out the window at that point.

The romance between Ellie and Graham was cookie-cutter at best. They like long walks on the beach and watching the sunset while holding hands. The only time when I felt the actual emotion was the scene where Ellie has to throw a towel over her face to hide from the cameras (I’m trying not to give anything away, hence the weird description). Props to Graham for stepping up in that scene.

Lastly, I’d just like to focus on the side-plot of Ellie’s dad. In my opinion, this did not need to be involved in the story at all. It added length, sure, but no value. You spend all this time learning about her dad, hearing stories about him, and it seemed to me that it could actually make the book more interesting. Then when the time comes, the big crescendo of the Dad Plot, everything just falls flat. Why spend all this time building up to something only to make it the shortest, most unnecessary scene in the book? On top of that, Ellie just seems fine with the outcome. It was like she was so scared of stirring up the pot that she jumped at the chance to give up on her dad.

Overall, I was not a fan of this book. I guess I see the appeal if you want something super light-hearted and fun, but I just found it boring and overly cheesy. There were a few upsides, like the gorgeous setting and the couple of scenes that stood out to me, but all in all I was really disappointed with This is What Happy Looks Like.

2.5 birds

Not my cup of tea. The birds can have it.

Review of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Audrey, Wait!
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Published: April 8, 2008
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 320
Source: Bought

 

California high school student Audrey Cuttler dumps self-involved Evan, the lead singer of a little band called The Do-Gooders. Evan writes, “Audrey, Wait!” a break-up song that’s so good it rockets up the billboard charts. And Audrey is suddenly famous!Now rabid fans are invading her school. People is running articles about her arm-warmers. The lead singer of the Lolitas wants her as his muse. (And the Internet is documenting her every move!) Audrey can’t hang out with her best friend or get with her new crush without being mobbed by fans and paparazzi.Take a wild ride with Audrey as she makes headlines, has outrageous amounts of fun, confronts her ex on MTV, and gets the chance to show the world who she really is. (Goodreads)

mythoughts2

The first thing I have to say about this book is just how fun it is. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time I was reading. Audrey is such a realistic character, and she’s just so much fun to read about. I was in desperate of a book like this – something that I was eager to sit down and read. And I was eager to read it, because I knew I would always have a blast reading about Audrey and her friends.

I had heard that this book was absolutely hilarious, so I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t laugh as much as I thought I would. I had a couple laugh out loud moments, but nothing like I thought it was going to be. It was a fun book, but not an extremely funny book. But it takes a lot for me to laugh in a book, so the fact that I laughed at a few parts basically guarantees that anyone can get a good chuckle from Audrey, Wait!

I also liked that this book didn’t take a stereotypical route. The whole plot is that Audrey became famous overnight because her ex-boyfriend wrote a song about her. Audrey’s best friend Victoria was another big character, and this book could have gone downhill fast if there had been that insta-fight between them about Audrey’s popularity. For the most part though, Victoria was a solid best friend, and although she did pressure Audrey a few times into doing stuff with the press, she always came around in the end and stood by her side. I also liked that it wasn’t that typical scene where Audrey is the sad, loser friend and Victoria attracts all the attention. For the most part Audrey and Victoria are equals, which was refreshing in a YA book.

Also, Audrey’s parents were actually present in this book! I can’t even tell you how many YA characters exist seemingly on their own, without any parental presence. In Audrey, Wait! her parents appeared a lot, and actually existed in their daughter’s life.

Overall, Audrey, Wait! is a fun and unique contemporary that will brighten your mood instantly. This is a shorter review than I usually write because I don’t have much to comment on other than how fun it was. I loved reading it!

 4 birds

Sweet read! Would definitely knock out a couple of birds for this one!

Review of Anatomy of A Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Single Girl (Anatomy, #2)

Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky

Published: January 8, 2013
Genre: Young/New Adult Contemporary
Pages: 240
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review

After everything that happened—my first boyfriend, my first time, my first breakup—jumping back into the dating game seemed like the least healthy thing I could do. It’s not that I didn’t want to fall in love again, since that’s about the best feeling ever. But as a busy college premed still raw from heartbreak, which is the worst feeling ever, I figured I’d lie low for a while. Of course, as soon as I stopped looking for someone, an impossibly amazing—and devastatingly cute—guy came along, and I learned that having a new boyfriend is the quickest way to recover from losing your old one.

The moment we got together, all my preconceptions about romance and sex were turned upside down. I discovered physical and emotional firsts I never knew existed. I learned to let go of my past by living in the present. It was thrilling. It was hot. It was just what the doctor ordered.

But I couldn’t avoid my future forever. (Goodreads)

 

mythoughts

A few years ago I read Anatomy of a Boyfriend, the first book in this little pairing. Although I can’t remember much about it, I do know that the two main characters go to different high schools but still stay best friends. My own best friend and I read the book at the same time back in elementary school, and now that we’re at different high schools we kind of think of ourselves to be like the best friends from these books. So when I found out that there would be a sequel, I was eager to read it and visit those characters again. Just an FYI, this review contains spoilers for the first book – but if you’re reading this one without reading the first book (which you totally can), you’re going to find out these spoilers anyway.

I would say that this book easily falls into the New Adult genre that everyone’s freaking out about. Dom, the main character, has just returned home for the summer from her first year at university. She’s still getting over the break up with her high-school boyfriend, she’s got a volunteer position at a hospital, and she’s finding that things with her old best friend aren’t quite the same anymore.

I think that this book is definitely geared toward older teens and mature readers. It’s not a difficult book to read, but the story is about Dom starting to date a new guy over the summer, and she’s kind of figuring out that not all relationships are going to end in marriage, but does that mean they’re not worth it? So the story talks a lot about sex in a pretty descriptive way. Not excessively, just descriptively. I think the easiest comparison to make with this book would be Judy Blume’s Forever. Anatomy of a Single Girl was for me, a modern version of Forever. I’m not one for banning books (read: I think banning books is an atrocious practice), but I also wouldn’t put this in an elementary school library. I could definitely see it in my high school library though, because it talks about things in such an upfront way that I think most teens would appreciate.

I liked the characters in the story, and I didn’t mind that Guy wasn’t perfect (although it kind of bugged me that his name was Guy). He was more realistic than most other boys in books; during his and Dom’s relationship he said some things and did some things that were just plain stupid and so fundamentally male things to do, but I could forgive him for it because at least he was realistically portrayed, and he was a good guy/Guy in the end. He’s not a character that I’m going to remember, because there was nothing special about him, but I’m glad he was written the way he was.

I do wish that the story hadn’t revolved so much around Dom wanting to be with a guy, and then just being utterly depressed when she wasn’t with a guy. Can she only be happy when she’s in a relationship?

Overall, I think more than anything I’ll remember the upfront writing this book had. Snadowsky didn’t shy away from the subject matter, and like I said, she wrote a book that I think is just as valuable in a high school library as Judy Blume’s Forever. Other than that, I won’t remember much from this book, but it was a fun story to read nonetheless.

3.5 birds

Mhm. Okay. Flip a coin. Heads – bird wins. Tails – it’s mine.

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