01 December 2017

Review: Pretty

by Justin Sayre

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Publication Date: July 4, 2017

PRETTY by Justin Sayre discusses the meaning behind true beauty and true friendship. Sophie, the heroine of our story, struggles to balance her life at school as a popular, social girl and her life at home where she hides from her mother's alcohol addiction and abuse. Sophie is constantly being called “pretty”-- whether it's a compliment from a school friend or an insult from her mother-- but she doesn’t understand what the word means. Sophie’s social life becomes harder and harder to maintain. She has trouble interacting with her friends, her secrets increasingly drawing a rift between them. When her aunt comes to take care of her while her mother is away, Sophie begins to learn about her family’s past. Her aunt helps Sophie to express herself and do the things she loves. Sophie also realizes who her true friends are and is able to bridge the gap by opening up to them. With the help of her aunt and eventually her friends, Sophie is able to define herself: not as pretty, but as beautiful.

As a high school student, I read this and found it very enjoyable. Despite it being targeted towards a younger audience, I think it has a valuable message a person of any age can appreciate. The words used are simple and easy to understand but impactful, and the story is interesting and captivating. I recommend this book to kids in middle school but encourage older kids who are interested to enjoy this wonderful story as well.

28 November 2017

Review: R.I.P. Eliza Hart

R.I.P. Eliza Hart
by Alyssa Sheinmel

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: November 28, 2017

Do I have a thing for odd, broken ladies named Sokoloff? From my last reviewed book, GENUINE FRAUD, I went right to this one. R.I.P ELIZA HART is about two misunderstood and mentally “sick” girls, both of whom seem to hate the other. One of them is a “mean girl,” the other is a “freak.” It is a whodunit, except you find out at the end…Eliza Hart is not perfect in any way. 

This book was a bit sadder and a bit more beautiful than GENUINE FRAUD, although the slow reveal and deep twists were similar. I liked the tree burl thieves – I liked that their official “crime” was just maybe less of a true crime than you might expect. Mack and Sam are both, in my opinion, the most realistic characters, simply because we do not read from their perspective but we know how they feel. I liked Sam and Ellie’s transition between friendship and girlfriend/boyfriend-ship, it was paced well and very sweet.

16 November 2017

Review: I Never

I Never
by Laura Hopper

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Love is an unknown idea for junior Janey King, so when she falls hard for a popular senior, she has to get it together and figure out what her goals are, while still staying on top of school, her newly divorced parents, and constant friend drama. I NEVER by Laura Hopper tells Janey's coming of age story as she navigates first love and all of its many obstacles. I really enjoyed how real this story was and how it made you feel like you were truly Janey King and going through your first love right alongside her. The writing was well put together and has a nice flow to the chapters making it easy to follow, but while still leaving mystery. Will Janey love being in love? Or will she dig herself into a hole she can’t get out of…

14 November 2017

Review: Runebinder

by Alex R. Kahler

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: November 14, 2017

I really enjoyed reading RUNEBINDER, however while I completely recommend it, as it is a fantastic book, it is truly a dark novel. To give a little background, the world has rediscovered magic, but instead of creating a utopia, the world is plunged into something akin to hell, after "Howls," magical monsters created by draining a living human of their magic, are born into this world in the event known as “The Resurrection.” Now, three years later, Tenn struggles to survive, but between the Howls, and his own special powers, which often seem to have a mind of their own, can he get out of this alive? And if so, at what cost? But, once again, and I cannot stress this enough, the book really does have a very dark plot. So while I do highly recommend you read this book,  please be prepared for a gruesome moment or two, and a couple adult scenes. 

Review: No Saints in Kansas

No Saints in Kansas
by Amy Brashear

Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: November 14, 2017

NO SAINTS IN KANSAS by Amy Brashear is narrated by 16 year old Carly Flemming who is new to the small town of Holcomb, Kansas. Winter is usually quiet in this small town, but after the horrible murder of the Clutter family (including Nancy Clutter whom Carly used to secretly tutor), Carly and her friends take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and find the killer, much to the disapproval of the sheriff and their protective parents. This suspenseful novel was impossible to put down, and was definitely a fun read. Carly’s character is easy to relate to and she takes the reader on quite a ride as she tries to solve the case.

07 November 2017

Review: Now Is Everything

Now Is Everything
by Amy Giles

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

NOW IS EVERYTHING by Amy Giles is a dark family drama that deals with abuse, love, and sisterhood. Protagonist Hadley is willing to do anything to protect her younger sister, Lila, from her violent father, but as the stakes increase, she senses she’s running out of time. I’m not going to say much more than that, because the book is, in some ways, a mystery. I enjoyed reading about Hadley and Lila’s relationship; it is incredibly genuine and heartbreaking how much they care about each other. Hadley also explores a forbidden romance with Charlie Simmons, who becomes her confidante and ally; I loved their relationship as well.

I generally lean towards dark material in my book choices, but the graphic violence in NOW IS EVERYTHING was a lot to handle even for me. Hadley is also suicidal at some points in the book, so readers should be conscious of this. Because of the suicidal themes, violence, and substance abuse, I would recommend this book for older teens.

Review: Millard Salter's Last Day

Millard Salter's Last Day
by Jacob M. Appel

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: November 7, 2017

It’s psychiatrist Millard Salter’s 75th birthday, and he’s got big plans. He is going to hang himself. Not because he’s depressed or ill--simply because he feels that he is at an age where he has lived his life to the fullest and doesn’t want to face the frailty and isolation that comes hand in hand with old age. In MILLARD SALTER'S LAST DAY, Jacob M. Appel brings readers along on the whirlwind of an adventure that Millard’s final day turns into. While tying up the loose ends of his long life, Millard encounters a wild lynx, a myriad of cumbersome coworkers, a good for nothing son, and much more. Millard’s day culminates in an event that may just make him change his mind about how it will end.

I loved this book. The characters are very realistic and by the end of the book, I cared about them all. Taking place all in one day, MILLARD SALTER'S LAST DAY was incredibly hard to put down as it moved fast and kept me on the edge of my seat. While the author frequently went on rants unrelated to the storyline and added some unnecessary backstories, his ideas and thoughts about how a 75-year-old man would think and act on his last day is fascinating. All in all, this book is a thought-provoking coming of age novel as well as an ode to how valuable life is.