{Book Review} All the Bright Places

{Book Review} All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published by Random House Children's Books on January 6th 2015
Genres: Death & Dying, Depression & Mental Illness, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Source: Purchased
Add to your TBR on Goodreads
five-stars

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning! 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. This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

My thoughts: Mental illness has such a terrible stigma in our society; for some reason we look at a disease of the body (i.e. cancer) very differently than a disease of the brain. The more I learn and read about it the more frustrated I become because it is so hard for people to get the help they so desperately need. Whether they are too afraid to reach out or their illness is ignored, this happens far too often in our society. Until mental illness touches your life it is extremely difficult to not only understand its effects on the person suffering, but also its effect on all the people close to them. All the Bright Places opens our eyes and hearts to two broken young adults, Finch and Violet. Finch, determined to become Violet’s savior, through a class assignment where they have to visit the “wondrous sights” of Indiana.

“Everyone around you is going to give you a gentle push now and then, but never hard enough because they don’t want to upset Poor Violet. You need shoving, not pushing. You need to jump back on that camel. Otherwise you’re going to stay up on the ledge you’ve made for yourself.”

As Finch fights to bring Violet out of her dark depression we discover that Finch’s mental illness goes much deeper, but their friendship and relationship grows even as Violet’s parents forbid her from seeing him.

“You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.”

What happens next can only be described as heart wrenching. I kept turning the pages hoping beyond hope that what I thought was going to happen didn’t.

I absolutely love books that have scavenger hunts or road trips, i.e. Paper Towns, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Let’s Go Places, The Disenchantments and this is one going to the top of that list. All the Bright Places is a beautiful story, albeit extremely sad, and I absolutely adore Jennifer Niven’s writing.  I found that she captured the lives of two young adults very accurately. It took me awhile to figure out what Finch was suffering from, but I think that only highlights the difficulties of diagnosing mental illness.

“That’s just his thing. It’s what he does.”

All the Bright Places is so important because it underscores the issues surrounding mental illness especially in young adults and hopefully brings an awareness to the dire consequences. I knew after about two chapters that this was going to be a tear jerker and I finished the book with tears streaming down my face.

five-stars

{Book Review} Anatomy of a Misfit

{Book Review} Anatomy of a MisfitAnatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
Published by HarperCollins on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Death & Dying, Love & Romance, Physical & Emotional Abuse, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: Purchased
Add to your TBR on Goodreads
five-stars

In this Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower tale, narrator Anika Dragomir is the third most popular girl at Pound High School. But inside, she knows she's a freak; she can't stop thinking about former loner Logan McDonough, who showed up on the first day of tenth grade hotter, bolder, and more mysterious than ever. Logan is fascinating, troubled and off-limits. The Pound High queen bee will make Anika's life hell if she's seen with him. So Anika must choose—ignore her feelings and keep her social status? Or follow her heart and risk becoming a pariah. Which will she pick? And what will she think of her choice when an unimaginable tragedy strikes, changing her forever? An absolutely original new voice in YA in a story that will start important conversations—and tear at your heart.

My Thoughts:

What do you do if your best friend is the most popular girl in school, but only got that way because she is controlling and the biggest bully? Knowing that if you ever cross her or provide a differing opinion you will be outcast and become bullied and tormented by Becky.

“If you’re wondering what I was doing standing right there next to Becky, aka the dark force, it’s because I am number three in the pecking order around here. I have no hope for rising above my station and I will explain why later. But number three is where I will always be and, as I am constantly reminded, I am lucky to be here.”

Anika knows that Becky’s bullying is wrong and slowly develops the courage to face that truth. At first she finds ways to surreptitiously defeat Becky’s bullying attempts on her fellow students but soon she must face her head on. When two boys from opposite ends of the popularity scale like her, she faces a no win scenario. Becky would never allow her to see Logan who is beneath their social status and she would never allow her to see Jared, who she likes herself.

“It’s not lost on me that the only two guys in the universe who seem to somehow; maybe, like me are both completely off-limits for entirely different reasons. What a bizarre world, isn’t it? Logan is off-limits because he’s a social pariah that could completely ruin me if anyone knew about our moped rides and late-night sneak-outs. Jared Kline is the biggest stone-cold fox in the city, possibly even the state, and if Becky knew the things he was saying in the hoity-toity library, she would hand me to the wolves covered in butter.”

Anika’s snarky attitude and remarks made me laugh out loud and I wish I had her courage when I was in high school. I really identified with her because of my experiences in high school. This was an amazing book about learning how to stand up for yourself and others around you. Anika developed the courage to believe in herself and that it’s not important what others think. This book made me both laugh and cry. No spoilers, but I did not see the ending coming and was beyond sad.

five-stars

{Book Review} Before I Fall

{Book Review} Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on October 25th 2011
Genres: Adolescence, Death & Dying, Friendship, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 496
Source: Purchased
Add to your TBR on Goodreads
five-stars

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

My Thoughts: Some authors have a true gift and Lauren Oliver is one of those writers. Her writing draws the reader in and her words have a magical and lyrical quality when she strings them together. Bullying is such an important issue in our schools and Oliver does a great job of realistically portraying the social strata of high school and how bullies act. As I was reading, I felt transported back to my high school years and life as a teenager.

“It was Lindsay who found out that Juliet wasn’t sent a single rose freshman year, and Lindsay’s idea to send her a Valogram. It was Lindsay who nicknamed her Psycho, and who, all those years ago, spread the story of Juliet peeing on the Girl Scout camping trip.” p. 149

As much as the book is about bullying, it’s also about the power of redemption, realizing mistakes and trying to right wrongs. As Sam relives her last day over and over again it helps her see outside her circle of friends and the impact you can have on other people without even knowing.

“I can’t stop thinking about how strange life is, about Kent and Juliet and even Alex and Anna and Bridget and Mr. Shaw and Ms. Winters – about how complex and connected everything is, all threaded together like some vast, invisible netting – and how sometimes you can think you’re doing the right thing, but it’s actually terrible and vice versa.” p. 424

How will Sam’s act of redemption impact the people around her and more importantly Sam? I had tears in my eyes as I read the final pages. An extremely powerful novel that I highly recommend.

five-stars

{Book Review} The Truth About Forever

{Book Review} The Truth About ForeverThe Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen
Published by Penguin on 2006
Genres: Adolescence, Death & Dying, Love & Romance, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 374
Source: Purchased
Add to your TBR on Goodreads
five-stars

Macy's summer stretches before her, carefully planned and outlined. She will spend her days sitting at the library information desk. She will spend her evenings studying for the SATs. Spare time will be used to help her obsessive mother prepare for the big opening of the townhouse section of her luxury development. But Macy's plans don't anticipate a surprising and chaotic job with Wish Catering, a motley crew of new friends, or ... Wes. Tattooed, artistic, anything-but-expected Wes. He doesn't fit Macy's life at all--so why does she feel so comfortable with him? So ... happy? What is it about him that makes her let down her guard and finally talk about how much she misses her father, who died before he eyes the year before? Sarah Dessen delivers a page-turning novel that carries readers on a roller coaster of denial, grief, comfort, and love as we watch a broken but resilient girl pick up the pieces of her life and fit them back together.

My thoughts: Sarah Dessen knows how to reel you in emotionally and connect you with each of her characters. She has one of the most lyrical and poetic writing that I have read and continue to be astounded and wrapped up in her writing. She knows how to keep the reader turning the pages and I cannot read a Sarah Dessen book without a fresh pack of sticky notes on hand.

Macy, her sister and mom are still dealing with the sudden death of her dad; her mom buries her grief deep inside by working 24/7 and getting rid of everything connected with her dad, her sister has a quick romance and is suddenly married, while Macy hides from her grief behind a safe, unemotional boyfriend. The one thing that Macy hangs onto are the quirky purchases her father made from infomercials and which continue to arrive even after his death and what is this mysterious gift her father said he had for her at Christmas?

“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, to how it holds you to a place.” p. 180

When Macy’s boyfriend goes away to spend the summer at brain camp, leaving her the responsibility of his job at the library which she hates, fate intervenes and she begins to work for the completely disorganized and absolutely fun and spontaneous Wish Catering company. Delia is the ever disorganized but “everything works out” owner, Kristy is fun loving and says what she feels, while her sister Monica barely says a word, and then there is Wes.  Ahhh Wes, the gorgeous, quiet, artistic and mysterious Wes who manages to help Macy discover who she really is and that she doesn’t need to be safe and that she can live again. As Macy and Wes learn about each other through their game of Truth, Macy must decide between her safe boyfriend or take a chance on Wes.

“There is never,” Kristy said adamantly, “a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.” p. 356

The story ends in a culmination of chaotic events that forces everyone in Macy’s family to confront their grief and finally come together.

“You think you’re so strong because you never talk about Dad. Anyone can hide. Facing up to things, working through them, that’s what makes you strong.” p. 327

I won’t spoil what the mysterious gift was and while I was reading I was hoping and praying that Sarah Dessen’s plan was what I was thinking and she did not let me down; she magically brought fate and destiny together.

“That was the thing. You just never knew. Forever was so many different things. It was always changing, it was what everything was really all about.” p. 374

five-stars

{Book Review} Willow

{Book Review} WillowWillow by Julia Hoban
Published by Dial Books on 2009
Genres: Death & Dying, Depression & Mental Illness, Family, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 329
Source: Purchased
Add to your TBR on Goodreads
four-stars

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow?s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy ?one sensitive, soulful boy?discovers Willow?s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the ?safe? world Willow has created for herself upside down. Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl?s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy?s refusal to give up on her.

My thoughts: This premise of this book is intense. I cannot even imagine the emotional turmoil Willow must have felt dealing not only the loss of both parents, but most importantly knowing that she was the cause of that loss. Instead of reaching out for help, Willow turns inward and to cutting which releases her emotional pain through physical pain.

“She looks down at her stomach, searching to find a likely place, and makes the first cut, waiting for the moment when the pain of the razor erases everything else.” p. 182

“I’ve taught myself, I’ve trained myself, not to feel anything except physical pain. I’m completely in control of that.” p.222

I never understood the concept of cutting and how someone could do that to themselves, but Hoban created a character that I sympathized with, I felt her pain and suffering and understood her need to cut.

I truly admired Guy. I think it’s extremely unusual and shows great character for a teenager to feel a responsibility towards the well being of someone they don’t know but to reach out to try to stop their destruction.

“But I can’t leave you like this! You can’t put me in this position!”

I haven’t put you in any position,” Willow says coldly. She quickens her steps. They’ve almost reached the park now.

“Yes you have,” Guy says stubbornly. “I can’t just forget about this. What if you –”

“I told you I’m not going to kill myself.”

“Is that supposed to make it all right?” p.71

Although Guy doesn’t truly understand her need to cut, his steadfast friendship becomes Willow’s savior.

As their relationship develops and Willow takes tentative steps towards friendship and trust Willow begins to heal. Communication is the key to healing and by shutting out her friends and family her self destruction was inevitable, but by learning to open up and share her feelings true healing begins.

four-stars