{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
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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
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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} The Truth About Alice

{Book Review} The Truth About AliceThe Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Published by Macmillan on June 3rd 2014
Genres: Adolescence, Bullying, Dating & Sex, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Source: Netgalley
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four-stars

Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody.  Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control.

But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.

My Thoughts: I received an advance ebook copy of The Truth About Alice from NetGalley and Jennifer Mathieu’s debut novel kept me turning the pages. It’s a powerful story of the impact of rumors, what friendship means and discovering friendships in the most unlikely people. The story is told in alternating chapters between Elaine, Kelsie, Kurt and Josh with the last chapter by Alice.

Kelsie: “The hard truth is I think I knew we weren’t going to be friends anymore the day after Elaine’s party when I read the text about her and Brandon and Tommy Cray. It sounds terrible and shallow and not at all like something the Kelsie Sanders I knew in Flint would have said, but I’ve spent too many years sitting alone in the cafeteria, and I just can’t handle doing it again.

And I won’t.”

Young adults will definitely identify and connect with the characters and as someone who is around teenagers all the time I  found the writing style to be very similar to how teenagers think and speak. There are some important lessons in this book and this would be a great book for discussion, whether in a class or book club. I will definitely be purchasing a copy of this for my library, I’ve already had one student upset that they couldn’t get the book NOW!

four-stars

{Book Review} Stay

{Book Review} StayStay by Deb Caletti
Published by Simon Pulse on March 20th 2012
Genres: Adolescence, Dating & Sex, Social Issues, Suicide, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Now in paperback, a dark, romantic novel of love and obsession from National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti.Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he’s willing to do to make her stay. Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

My thoughts:

“All at once, my head was busy counting up my lies. I had never been a liar, but now they rolled off my tongue like lies were a second language I was suddenly fluent in.” p. 108

Clara is escaping from an abusive relationship, not a violent one, but from an emotional abuser. Christian is obsessive, jealous and controlling and their relationship spirals out of control until Clara is afraid for her life.

“Are you wearing that?
I guess I am, since I have it on.
I can practically see your nipples.

It’s hard to stand up for yourself when you are burning with shame.” p.135

She and her dad secret away to a beach house where they both are haunted by their past. As the past and present collide they both learn that you can never really know someone and sometimes not even yourself.

I absolutely loved Deb Calletti’s writing, she creates beautiful imagery.

“Will – it’s supposed to be a good trait, a more determined and persistent version of determination and persistence. But will and obsession – they sit right next to each other. They pretend to be strangers and all the while meet secretly at midnight.” p. 157

The story focuses on Clara and her dad as they settle into their summer at the beach and her developing relationship with Finn, a sailor she meets at the docks, interwoven with flashbacks to her time with Christian. I wish there had been more time spent on her relationship with Christian. His obsessiveness and jealousy were portrayed well but I never got the true sense of the intensity of their relationship and how dangerous he had become, maybe because emotional abuse can be so subtle.

I was a little disappointed that Clara would so easily slip into a relationship, wouldn’t she have been more tentative and less trusting after coming out of such a disastrous relationship? I loved Clara though because even though she had been through so much she wasn’t timid and weak she was strong and understood the mistakes she had made.

Overall I enjoyed the book, I loved the writing style, but I think the story could have been improved by showing more of the intensity of Clara and Christian’s relationship. I thought the ending (which I won’t spoil) tied all the different pieces of the story together into a fantastic culmination. I’m looking forward to reading more of Deb Caletti’s work.

three-stars

{Book Review} Delirium

{Book Review} DeliriumDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Published by Harper Collins on August 2nd 2011
Genres: Dystopian, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

Lauren Oliver's powerful New York Times bestselling novel Delirium—the first in a dystopian trilogy—presents a world as terrifying as George Orwell's 1984 and a romance as true as Romeo & Juliet.In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn't about to make the same mistakes.But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the Wilds who lives under the government's radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?Delirium received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and was named a Best Book of the Year by USA Today, Kirkus, Amazon.com, YALSA, and the Chicago Public Library and was selected as one of NPR's Top 100 Best Ever Teen Novels. Supports the Common Core State Standards

My Thoughts: Wow, wow, wow! I absolutely loved Lauren Oliver’s writing in Before I Fall and Delirium just seals the deal that she has a true gift for writing. I have so many sticky notes sticking out of Delirium of passages that truly touched my heart and spoke to me.

“Maybe the house hears me, because, miraculously, I do make it to the front door. I pause for a second longer, listening for the sounds of footsteps upstairs, whispered voices, anything – but other than my heart, which is still going strong and loud, it’s silent. Even the house seems to hesitate and take a breath, because the front door swings open with barely a whisper, and in the last second before I slip out into the night the rooms behind me are as dark and still as a grave.” p.118

Lena is getting closer to the date when she is cured and she can hardly wait. She plans to spend the last summer before she is cured with her best friend Hana but when Hana starts doing irresponsible things like listening to unapproved music and going to parties with boys, Lena questions her friendship and what she really know about her.

“…and meanwhile, behind my back, she’s been turning into someone I don’t know – someone with secrets and weird habits and opinions about things we’re not supposed to even think about.” p. 106

And then Lena meets Alex…and her whole world and what she thought she knew is upended. And as she falls under the deliria of love, she learns the truth about her past and the truth about the society.

“Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in tow. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.

Before and after – and during, a moment no bigger or longer than an edge.” p. 301

I loved everything about this book! I loved how Lena grew and became the “legend” and how her relationships with Hana and Alex ebbed and flowed and of course I loved the setting, Portland and envisioning all the landmarks in the future.  With tears in my eyes as I read the last page, I closed the book anticipating Pandemonium even more!
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
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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