{Book Review} With Malice

{Book Review} With MaliceWith Malice by Eileen Cook
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on June 7th 2016
Genres: Mysteries & Detective Stories, Young Adult
Pages: 316
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident.
As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

Imagine waking up in the hospital with having no recollection of how you got there and realizing you don’t remember the last six weeks of your life. Now imagine finding out that you and your best friend were in a car accident and she was killed…and then you find out that you are suspected of murdering her! Jill and Simone go on the trip of a lifetime to Italy, but Simone never comes back.

The book is written from Jill’s point of view and is interspersed with police interviews as well as blog posts and comments that provide different perspectives on the events that transpired before the accident. Did Jill intentionally kill her best friend? The police, media and blog comments seem to point to her guilt but will Jill’s memory ever return so she will know what happened? As in real life, the media and news play a big part in public opinion and we see how that impacts Jill’s case and her recovery. Her therapist helps Jill come to terms with the fact that even if her memory of the events does return she will never be sure if those memories are real or false memories because of the way the brain functions and heals.

This is a gripping story that reminded me of the Amanda Knox case. A handsome Italian guy, two best friends, the police mishandling of evidence as well as the media frenzy that ensued, parallel the Amanda Knox case and make for an intense read, I kept turning the pages hoping Jill’s memories would return and wanting to find out what really happened. But will we ever truly know the real stories in either case?

four-stars

{Book Review} Some Boys

{Book Review} Some BoysSome Boys by Patty Blount
Published by Sourcebooks on August 5th 2014
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 339
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

Some girls say no. Some boys don't listen. When Grace meets Ian, she's afraid. Afraid he'll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After she accuses Zac, the town golden boy, of rape, everyone turns against her. Ian wouldn't be the first to call her a slut and a liar. Except Ian doesn't reject her. He's the one person who looks past the taunts and the names and the tough-girl act to see the real Grace. He's the one who gives her the courage to fight back. He's also Zac's best friend.

What do you do if you’re raped by the most popular boy in school and no one believes you? If you’re Grace, you stand up to everyone no matter what until someone believes you. She shows courage and determination even when everyone turns against her, including her best friends. I really admired this about Grace, because I know when I was in high school I never would have been that brave.

“It would be so easy for you to – I don’t know – hide. Run away. Pretend.” He shakes his head. “But you get in people’s faces. You don’t back off. Even when you’re scared. And you’re scared a lot lately, aren’t you.”

The book, told in alternating chapters between Grace and Ian, the best friend of Zac, the boy who raped her. Ian has always liked Grace, but since Zac is the alpha male of the group and “scored” with her, which apparently means she is now off limits. After Ian and Grace are both assigned week long detention during spring break, Ian starts to realize that things aren’t always as they appear.  The book raises important stereotypes that pervade the issues of sexual assault, such as the way a girl dresses or that fact that she was drinking.

“I just want people to believe it happened.” I shiver, suddenly cold. “Nobody does, you know. The cops wanted to know if I was Zac’s girlfriend, if I was drinking, doing drugs, if I ever worked as a stripper, if I ever kissed Zac before that night. What the hell does any of that have to do with what happened? Do the laws against sexual assault not apply to strippers? To girlfriends? I don’t get that.”

Along the same lines as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, Some Boys is an important and well written book about sexual assault which I highly recommend. It would make an excellent book club/discussion book.

five-stars

{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} Half Bad

{Book Review} Half BadHalf Bad by Sally Green
Published by Penguin on March 4th 2014
Genres: Boys & Men, Family, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and sixteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his seventeenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves? In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

My thoughts: If you like action, adventure, plus magic then this book is for you. In a world where witches live among fains (humans) in Modern Day England, white witches are good and black witches are bad, and Nathan is the only half white witch and half black witch. In some ways this book reminded me a little bit of Harry Potter, since Nathan is an outcast.  He is ‘different’ from everyone else, since he is half white witch and half black witch and is forever being tormented by the white witches, with whom he has grown up with. No one wants anything to do with him and the white witch council is slowly limiting his rights and freedom; no one trusts him as they don’t know whether his loyalty lies with the white or black witches. Nathan is not only trying to figure out who he is but he also needs to find his father, Marcus, the most feared black witch of all. When the council imprisons him, Nathan must figure out a way to escape and locate his father to find out why he left him and has never tried to find him. In the process he begins to define who he is and learns to place trust in others.  This books kept me on the edge of my seat and turning the pages.

four-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} 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