29 March 2016

Review: The Great American Whatever

The Great American Whatever 
By Tim Federle

Publication Date: March 29, 2016 
Publisher: Simon and Shuster Books For Young Readers

Meet Quinn Roberts- the prototypical sarcastic screenwriter teen in the aftermaths of a personal tragedy, desperate to lose his virginity, with a lame social life and an interfering friend. Forced to attend his first college party by said interfering friend, he meets and spends a week with hot college boy Amir, complete with cliché introspection, awkward sexual experiences, failures, and life changing revelations. With no plans for his future, a dead sister, a mourning lethargic mother, and a broken air conditioner, follow Quinn as he attempts to turn his life into the perfect screenplay. What could possibly go wrong?
Federle has brought a new perspective to the classic,self-deprecating viewpoint of an angsty teenager. Quinn's voice rang true throughout this novel, as a relatable character suffering from the same cringe worthy moments and insecurities that we all suffer from. Riddled with funny quips and obscure pop cultural references, this book was a smooth story that finished itself effortlessly. I especially enjoyed how the fact that Quinn was gay was not used as a major plot point or a personality trait.I'd highly recommend this book, especially for fans of David Levithan or John Green.

22 March 2016

Review: Wink, Poppy, Midnight

Wink, Poppy, Midnight
By April Genevieve Tucholke

Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Dial Books

WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT is an eerie and whimsical book about a boy named Midnight, sweet and shy, stuck between a manipulative bully, Poppy, and his odd and mysterious new neighbor, Wink. The story itself is strange. There's mystery, romance, and plenty of suspense. The fact that there's the possibility of an unreliable narrator (well actually, three unreliable narrators, since each character has their own intertwining and overlapping chapters), adds that much more intrigue. This book is definitely for the quirky and the imaginative.

Review: The Way I Used to Be

The Way I Used To Be 
By Amber Smith 

Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

THE WAY I USED TO BE is a provocative story featuring Eden, a fourteen year old girl who is raped early in the story by a friend she knows and trusts. The story masterfully deals with the many emotions that trauma can trigger. Eden’s journey is tumultuous and heart-wrenching, and allows readers to connect with her sense of hopelessness, regardless of whether they have shared a similar experience. The principal struggle involves the cost of living with lies and secrecy, and while most of the story is quite bleak, it ends on a hopeful note.

16 March 2016

Review: A Drop of Night

A Drop of Night
By Stefan Bachmann 

Publication Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

A DROP OF NIGHT by Stefan Bachmann is a book that feels like a thriller movie; keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It is the story of five teenagers who have been selected to explore an ancient underground palace that hasn’t been entered in over 200 years. Yet, upon arrival nothing is as it appears, and the teenagers soon find that this expedition is much more than they thought they were getting themselves into. A story with constant twists and turns, I had to look up and pause every so often while reading simply to reassure myself that in fact I wasn’t in the underground palace myself, even though my heart was beating as fast as if I had been running alongside the five teenagers. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an exciting book that is just scary enough to keep you turning page after page, desperately wanting to know what happens next!

15 March 2016

Review: The First Time She Drowned

The First Time She Drowned 
By Kerry Kletter

Publication Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books 

Cassie O’Malley is an eighteen year-old with a troubled past who was involuntarily admitted to a mental institution for two and a half years. Now she’s finally free to start her life again--but problems from her past resurface even as she struggles to ignore them. THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is a compelling, sometimes disturbing, emotional exploration of the complex bonds between mothers and children. I thought that the prose was very engaging and kept my interest even when the plot was slow. There’s a bit of romance and a touch of witty humor that I thought really helped to balance out the bleak moments. This is a coming of age story in which Cassie has to break free of her past in order to have hope for a better future. 

Review: A Study in Charlotte

A Study In Charlotte
By Brittany Cavallaro

Publication Date: March 1, 2016 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE tells the story of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson's great-great-great grandchildren, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes. Almost immediately after starting at Sheringord School in Connecticut, they meet and become embroiled in an elaborate mystery. A mystery that is modeled after the stories of the original Holmes and Watson, and deeply connected to Charlottes' mysterious past. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an exciting mystery. One that pays homage to the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the original Holmes and Watson.

Review: Shades Of Darkness

Shades of Darkness (Ravenborn #1)
By A.R. Kahler 

Publication Date: March 8, 2016

Publisher: Simon Pulse 

In SHADES OF DARKNESS readers meet aspiring painter Kaira, who attends Islington Arts Academy, a boarding school in Michigan. Kaira cherishes the solitude she finds living at Islington, because it has allowed her to put the past behind her and focus on graduating. However, when murders disguised as suicides start occurring on campus, some snippets of the past are brought back for Kaira, as she begins to worry that she is the only person who can bring things back to normal. SHADES OF DARKNESS was a truly unique read. The plot may sound basic but rest assured, it is anything but. With detailed descriptions, and elaborate stories of the gods, Kahler draws readers into Kaira’s inner world. Like the writing, she is creative, and witty. Furthermore, the other characters are just as bright as she is, from her roommate Elise, to her closest friend Ethan. The somewhat magical aspect brought the story a step above the usual boarding school book. It was twisted and unexpected, yet also light and funny. Although the novel’s beginning felt too drawn out, it was definitely worth it to keep reading, and I recommend this promising start to a new series to teens and adults alike. 

11 March 2016

Review: Firstlife

By Gena Showalter 

Publication Date: February 21, 2016

Publisher: Harlequin Teen 

FIRSTLIFE gives a new definition to life after death. After Firstlife, there's Everlife. The Troika and Myriad are the two powers in charge and a person has to sign with which realm they want to live in before they die. Ten has been sent to a mental asylum by her parents to make her choose Myriad, the realm they are loyal to. Both realms are in a deadly war to get Ten because of the power they believe she holds. Ten finds both realms appealing and can't make her choice as she questions everything she has been told. While the story does drag on in the beginning, it sets up Ten's relationships with other important characters. Ten handles everything with brilliance and we see not only her character develop, but also others as the plot thickens. Action packed and set in a futuristic world, FIRSTLIFE is a book for those looking for a completely new and fresh read. 

08 March 2016

Review: The Steep and Thorny Way

The Steep and Thorny Way
by Cat Winters

Publication Date: March 8th, 2016
Publisher: Amulet

THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY is an enlightening new look at discrimination, belief, and the challenges we face in trying to find our sense of identity. Based on Hamlet and told from the perspective of a biracial young woman living in small town Oregon, this haunting novel explores American views on race and sexuality in Prohibition-era America. Everyone in Elston knows that Hanalee Denney’s father was killed by Joe Adder, who was driving drunk on Christmas Eve. When Joe is released from prison and Hanalee confronts him, he tells her that he is innocent, framed by a conspiracy engineered by the rising KKK and led by Hanalee’s own stepfather. But Joe has his own secrets as well, and Hanalee’s  investigation of her father’s murder will become inextricably entangled with them as she unravels what is really going on in her deceptively peaceful community and discovers that people aren’t who they seem… especially after she is visited by her father’s ghost.

This book had distinct pros and cons for me. I loved the fact that it was centered on the West Coast during Prohibition, especially since most historical fiction novels exploring race focus on the Deep South. The incorporation of the discrimination experienced by homosexuals and the psychological recruiting methods of the KKK were both new topics that I never had read about in depth before, and were both fascinating and horrifying in equal measure. However, I was disappointed by the lack of complexity in the writing regarding multiracial identity and felt the author could have done a much better job. Often, the main character’s thoughts on this subject read as preachy, simplistic, and altogether fake, making her “voice” a little inconsistent. Regardless, I think it one of the better books currently out there on this particular subject and I encourage everyone to pick up this book and give it a read, especially because it illustrates complex social issues of the time in both accessible and gripping ways. The plot is suspenseful and hair-raising from start to finish and it is absolutely unlike anything you’ve ever read before.