Review: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Suicide Notes from Beautiful GirlsTitle: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Author: Lynn Weingarten

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Mystery / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gone Girl meets 13 Reasons Why in this stylish, sexy, and atmospheric story about friendship packed with twists and turns that will leave you breathless.

They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather’s shed. They say it was suicide.

But June doesn’t believe it.

June and Delia used to be closer than anything. Best friends in that way that comes before everyone else-before guys, before family. It was like being in love, but more. They had a billion secrets, tying them together like thin silk cords.

But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June’s boyfriend Ryan were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this-things would never be the same again.

And now, a year later, Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth…which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I’ve been on a mystery kick this summer for some reason, so I decided to give Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten a shot. Simon & Schuster sent me the ARC months ago and it’s been in the back of my mind since I first saw the cover. I’m happy I finally gave it a try because I really enjoyed it.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls takes an interesting look at friendships and relationships. We find out early on that June’s former friend Delia has killed herself, but we don’t know why or why the two girls are no longer friends. June is dating a guy named Ryan and there’s also a hint that he may be part of the reason why the girls’ friendship ended. A couple chapters into the novel the point of view switches  to third person and we get a glimpse of June and Delia as friends. I wasn’t expecting this switch, but it adds an interesting layer of mystery to the story.

These flashbacks of sorts help us see Delia as a character and another side of June. June doesn’t act the same way when she’s with Delia; she often came off as needy and insecure in these scenes. I would describe Delia as a taker and June is very much a giver and a people pleaser. June loves how different Delia is and that Delia wants them to be the best of friends who share everything. As the story progresses it’s easy to see that their friendship isn’t healthy, it’s actually quite toxic. June is wrapped up in Delia, even more so once she learns of Delia’s suicide, and this is when we see just how easy it is to be blind to what’s right in front of you. Delia has an unhealthy hold over June; they are very much co-dependent.

Honestly, it was hard to really like any of the characters in this novel, but that didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying it. And when I say that it’s hard to like them, it’s because they’re not good people. The characters are written well, but they’re awful to one another and those close to them. In this regard, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is very much like Gone Girl. I loved that book, but those characters are horrendous. I want to go into this more, but Lynn Weingarten wrote a book that’s difficult to review without revealing major spoilers.

Recently I was watching VH1 early in the morning since nothing good was on TV while I played with Jack and the music video for “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato came on. I love the song, but I had never watched the video before. As I watched it, I instantly thought of Delia. She’s wild, shameless, and daring. If anyone else has read this book, please let me know if you think this is off-base or if you agree. I watched the video again before I started writing this review and I still feel the same way.

Anyway, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is a page turner for sure.  It will keep you guessing until the final page. When I finished my instant reaction was “I need to discuss this ending with someone ASAP!” I have spoken with two friends about it, but I’m still not sure what I think. I’m leaning mostly towards one idea, but there’s still a small part of me that thinks something else could have happened. Read it and let me know what you think!

Similar Reads: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, You by Charles Benoit

Review: Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Jesse’s Girl

Author: Miranda Kenneally

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Author / Contemp / Series

Source: eARC provided by the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Miranda Kenneally, thank you for writing such good books! Okay, I had to get that out of my system so I could start writing this review.

But seriously, Miranda Kenneally writes such good books. She really does. And they get better every time. I really enjoy that the majority of the Hundred Oaks series features girls playing sports since we need more books like that, but it was refreshing to read about a Hundred Oaks character who’s a musician instead.

Before I get into why I like the musical side of Jesse’s Girl, I want to point out that while this is part of a series and though it references Jordan from the first book Catching Jordan, this could be read on its own. I like to point this out since I know many librarians and teachers read my reviews and students often ask me about the order of these books. And if one student has been waiting patiently for Catching Jordan to come back so she can start the series, I know I can hand this one or even Breathe, Annie, Breathe to her while she waits.

To the musical side of Jesse’s Girl. Many parts of it reminded me of Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Jesse is a passionate musician much like Adam, but he’s also troubled and doubting himself like Adam does. Maybe it was the country music aspect, but I also found myself thinking of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord while reading Jesse’s Girl. Both books are sweet and honest and down to earth.

When it comes to music and Maya, I really enjoyed how independent and adventurous she is. Although she’s scared to attempt any solos, she wants to put herself out there and branch out. She wants to try different sounds and genres of music. I’m not much of a musician, but I know it’s not always easy to leave your comfort zone no matter the situation. I can’t imagine it’s any easier for an artist, especially a musician, who’s being judged right there in the moment while performing. This made Maya an admirable character.

Maya’s a great protagonist and she has a fun cast of secondary characters who support her. Catching Jordan has maintained the spot as Favorite Hundred Oaks Book since I read it, so I’m not surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed reading more about Jordan and her life this far in the future. I’m also a fan of Maya having supportive parents. Those are sometimes hard to find in YA even though many teens have great relationships with their parents and siblings.

If you still haven’t introduced yourself to Miranda Kenneally’s books, I hope you change that soon. They’re great books to read during the summer (or any time of the year). And my students absolutely adore them, so if you’re working with teens make sure you get your hands on this one.

Review: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The FixerTitle: The Fixer

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Mystery/Thriller

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

This thriller YA is Scandal meets Veronica Mars.

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

I forgot how much fun it is to read a good mystery until I read The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This is going to be a class favorite this upcoming school year.

I’ve only watched the show Scandal a handful of times, but I know enough about the show that fans will enjoy The Fixer. The political intrigue is there, as well as the personal backstories. The suspense is paced well and nothing was ever in-your-face obvious about how the story would end. In fact, one element of the plot really surprised me.

Something I really appreciate about Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s latest release is that there isn’t a strong love element. I thoroughly enjoy a good love story, but it’s refreshing to read a book without love at the forefront of the story. And while I encourage my students to see books not as books for girls or books for boys, but as books for readers, I do understand that many of my boys don’t want to read a romance. Not all of my girls want to read a romance. I know those students will be thrilled to read The Fixer and know that they can focus on the fun of the mystery.

As much as I enjoyed the mystery, I really enjoyed the characters and their relationships in this story. Tess is tough and independent like her older sister Ivy, but despite their similarities they have a tense relationship. Watching their relationship grow and evolve was a definite highlight for me. Tess’s friends really made The Fixer shine. The friendships allow readers to see Tess as a champion for the underdog, Vivie and Henry in particular. Asher really brings out Tess’s quick wit.

If you’re looking for a fun page-turner, then look no further than The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Other reviews of The Fixer:

The Fixer easily becomes one of my favorite reads this year. Without doubt, this book is joining my Top Ten Favorite Reads of this year.” ~Young Adult Hollywood 

“It’s fast paced, tense, brilliantly plotted and filled with a whole host of intriguing characters.” ~The Review Diaries

Blog Tour Book Review: Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom

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Click here for blog tour info (reviews / giveaways / related posts)

Don't Ever ChangeTitle: Don’t Ever Change

Author: M. Beth Bloom

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Contemp / New Adult

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Eva has always wanted to write a modern classic—one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she has realized she can’t “write what she knows” because she hasn’t yet begun to live. So before heading off to college, Eva is determined to get a life worth writing about.

Soon Eva’s life encounters a few unexpected plot twists. She becomes a counselor at a nearby summer camp—a job she is completely unqualified for. She starts growing apart from her best friends before they’ve even left for school. And most surprising of all, she begins to fall for the last guy she would have ever imagined. But no matter the roadblocks, or writer’s blocks, it is all up to Eva to figure out how she wants this chapter in her story to end.

Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell, Don’t Ever Change is a witty, snarky, and thought-provoking coming-of-age young adult novel about a teen who sets out to write better fiction and, ultimately, discovers the truth about herself.

I’ve decided to switch up my review style for this post and focus on reasons why teens might enjoy Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom.

1. I consider Don’t Ever Change as a new adult novel (although it’s still YA) because Eva has just graduated from high school and most of her conflicts stem from her preparing for college and wanting more life experiences. This is a book I’ll hand to my seniors this coming school year since I’m sure many of them will relate with Eva.

2. Eva is a writer and wants to improve as a writer. So many of my students read and write fanfic, they journal,  and they work on their own novels. I know many of them struggle with wanting to improve as writers, but they also don’t necessarily want to know what they’re doing “wrong”, much like Eva.

3. Eva is worried about losing her friends when they all move on to college, so she’s trying desperately to keep their friendships close. I can’t tell you how many times I hear my seniors talk about “the last this” and “the last that.” It’s hard moving away from friends and not knowing if those relationships will stick.

4. There were times as I was reading Don’t Ever Change and thought it felt a little hipster-ish. It was something about the voice. I’m not saying E. Lockhart or David Levithan are hipsters (not by any means!), but the voices of some of their characters fit that of Eva’s, as the summary says. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and the Ruby series by E. Lockhart seem like good comparables. Their characters are witty and upbeat and smart.

5. The cover will definitely pull in some of my readers. I polled my students about book covers and many of them stated that they like covers that stand out and that have brighter colors. Don’t Ever Change utilizes both of those criteria.

Getting Caught Up: Spring Reading

I haven’t been keeping up with my book reviews, but I have been reading as much as I can. Now that I’m on summer break it should hopefully be easier to read more and blog more. I figured now is a good time to fill you all in on some of the books I read this spring.

I’m going to write brief reviews and am including the Goodreads link so you can see the summary.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley (Goodreads): Novels featuring war, soldiers, boot camps, and more have been really popular lately for obvious reasons. When I learned about Rites of Passage I was instantly intrigued because Sam McKenna is a girl joining a previously all male military school. As I’m sure you can imagine, Sam is faced with more than her fair share of conflicts. Because of this I was often mad, dismayed, and frustrated while listening. Sam’s a strong and independent character, however, so I completely admired her and how well she fought to overcome the many obstacles she faced. There’s also an element of romance in the story, which definitely had me swooning from time to time. Rites of Passage is going to be a big hit in my classroom next school year.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (Goodreads): The first thing I need to mention, is that middle school libraries should consider adding Maya Van Wagenen’s memoir to their collections if they haven’t already. I always recommend reading a book first before adding it to a classroom or library, especially at the middle school level, but this memoir is set during Maya’s 8th grade year. She learns so much about self-esteem, friendships, family, and finding herself that readers of any age will relate. I haven’t bought a physical copy yet, but I will this summer so I can share this with my students next school year.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Goodreads): I’m afraid to admit this: I couldn’t get into Throne of Glass. I met Sarah at a dinner during NCTE in the fall, though, and after talking to her I had a good feeling I was going to enjoy A Court of Thorns and Roses. I was not wrong! Feyre is fierce and intelligent. I loved that she goes after what she wants and that she’s so loyal and protective of her family. There is a heavy amount of romance in Maas’s first installment of this series; I found myself blushing as I read one particuarly steamy scene while reading during class. Fantasy lovers who are looking for more mature fantasy while still hanging out in the world of YA will thoroughly enjoy this. The imagery is lush, there’s plenty of action, and the story is engrossing. I can’t wait to read the second book!

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (Goodreads): It’s been at least a month since I finished reading this, and I still don’t know where to begin my review. I own all of Nova Ren Suma’s books, but this is the first I’ve read. Her writing is beautiful and vivid and really pulled me into the story. The story itself is so richly layered, I had to purposely slow down my pace so I could take it all in. Honestly, it’s a difficult book to explain without giving too much away. Readers who enjoy magical realism, mystery, and character driven novels will enjoy The Walls Around Us.

Audiobook Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Audio Review

99 DaysTitle: 99 Days

Author: Katie Cotugno

Narrator: Allyson Ryan

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Interest: Contemp

Source: eARC received from the publisher / audio received via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Audiobook Review: I decided to read 99 Days via audio despite having the eARC mostly because of how much easier it is for me to listen to audiobooks at this stage in my life. I’m trying to keep up with blog tour reading requests and my own personal reading desires, so sometimes I’ll take the easiest route and experience a book via audio. Also, I’ve recently been contacted by Scribd to give their platform a free one month trial and figured, why not? Katie Cotugno’s book was right there and I’ve been wanting to read it. The stars aligned and I made it happen.

At first I wasn’t quite sure about Allyson Ryan as the narrator. She doesn’t really sound like a teenager to me and sometimes her voice went a little flat, but somehow that worked for Molly’s character. Molly is sometimes a tough character to like so it worked for me that I didn’t always like Ryan’s voice. A number of people have abandoned this book because of the content and characters, so I think those readers should give the audio a try. It’s not my favorite audiobook because of the narrator, but I enjoyed the story itself.

Book Review: Like I said, 99 Days has been receiving a lot of criticism, mostly because the story features characters who cheat on one another. Honestly, I don’t think those reviewers are being fair. I 100% understand being against cheating, but I think we have to recognize and remember that even though it’s ugly and messy, it happens more often than we’d like it to. For that reason, I think Katie Cotugno deserves more credit for writing this book. She could have written another story about a guy or a girl getting cheated on, but instead she wrote it from the point of view of the person being unfaithful. This is a young adult novel and young adults are going to connect with Molly, Patrick, and Gabe for one reason or another. Every reader deserves to find her or himself in a book even if that book contains subject matter that some readers don’t like.

Do the characters in this novel make poor choices? Yes. Do they make poor choices over and over again? Yes. For me, this heightened the story and made those characters stand out on the page. I like flawed characters; they’re interesting and engaging. So many times I cringed over Molly’s decisions, but I also recognized that she’s just finished college and is at an age when she’s going to make mistakes. I think one of the best parts about her story is that she learned from those mistakes. Her entire summer was about figuring out who she is and how and who to love. She needed to figure out how to make friends and how to trust her mother again. She needed to figure out what she wants out of college. Molly figured out much of those problems, but it wasn’t a neat and tidy process that resulted in a gift with a big fat bow. She stumbled, she lost friends, and she learned some important lessons about life and relationships.

Personally, I couldn’t stand Patrick for most of the book and could not understand Molly’s attraction to him. Gabe has a little more going for him, but even he didn’t always seem right for Molly. Molly struck me as an insecure teen trying to find her way and in need of positive attention. I know teens like Molly and I know they’ll appreciate what Katie Cotugno wrote.

I do, however, like Molly’s close friend Imogen. She’s the type of friend I think most people desire because she’s loyal and honest.  She stands by Molly and sticks up for her as Molly endures endless slut-shaming, but she also calls Molly out when she thinks she’s making a huge mistake. People need friends like that in their lives because they keep us balanced. I’m glad Cotugno wrote Imogen’s character the way she did.

Another element to the story I enjoyed is the summer atmosphere. I can’t wait for summer and warm weather and reading on my deck, so listening to 99 Days while I drove to work in the morning literally brightened my day. It felt like summer while I read this even though the temps weren’t quite summer-ish.

Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Things We Know By HeartTitle: Things We Know by Heart

Author: Jessi Kirby

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: eARC from the publisher / Purchased hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads):

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Jessi Kirby is hands down one of my favorite authors of realistic fiction. Every one of her books pulls at my heart strings and Things We Know by Heart is no exception. I literally cried within the first two pages.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the inclusion of different quotes relating to hearts at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the quotes are profound, many are scientific, and others are dealing with love. I especially appreciated how each quote specifically connects with events in the chapter it begins. Unfortunately I didn’t mark some of my favorite quotes like I now wish I would have.

I also really liked Quinn and Colton; they’re simply incredibly likable characters. Sometimes books dealing with the loss of a loved one will feature characters trapped in the past, but Quinn isn’t like that. She’s understandably afraid to move on from Trent, but she shows growth and allows herself to let go and try new things when she’s with Colton. Both characters shine when they’re with each other and I couldn’t help but fall for both of them.

There were times when I was uncomfortable and tense while reading Things We Know by Heart, but that’s natural considering the plot. Quinn already knows Colton before actually knowing him. She’s at an unfair advantage in the relationship and as a reader I kept waiting for the moment when that would come to light. So of course parts of the story are predictable, but that never drew away from my complete and utter engagement and enjoyment. I rooted for Quinn and Colton the entire time I read this book, especially as I stayed up until close to midnight on a school night so I could finish reading their story. I may have even shed some tears as I read the last 10-15% of the novel.

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby made my heart swell. It’s one of my favorite books of 2015; I hope you’ll read it soon if you haven’t already.

Review: Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin

Sophomore Year is Greek to MeTitle: Sophomore Year is Greek to Me

Author: Meredith Zeitlin

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot.
 
High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she’s devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona’s mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks… but no thanks. 
 
In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.

I adored Meredith Zeitlin’s debut, Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, so I was thrilled when I learned about her sophomore release, Sophomore Year is Greek to Me. Zona Lowell charmed me just as Kelsey Finkelstein did.

I want to quickly note that Zona attends the same school as Kelsey, and Kelsey does make a brief appearance, but you do not need to read Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters before reading Sophomore Year is Greek to Me. I do, however, strongly recommend that you read both books!

Zona is a character with goals and plans, both revolving around her role with the school newspaper. Her driven personality was one of my favorite parts of this book. Being part of our high school’s newspaper and yearbook classes is basically the equivalent to having a part-time job. By the time those students are seniors, they are more talented, goal-oriented, and career focused than I could have ever dreamed to be when I was their age. Zona is a character that these students will respond to quickly for those reasons. She’s also enjoyable because her life in Greece forces her out of her comfort zone which in turn helps her learn how to handle life’s hiccups.

I’ve always wanted to visit Greece; reading Sophomore Year is Greek to Me allowed me to live vicariously through Zona. She travels to different towns, experiences the night life, and even has a rustic “old country” experience. Admittedly, I would have spent much more time at the beach than Zona did, but I loved seeing more of Greece through her eyes.

The summary says this is a book that will make you laugh out loud. I giggled a few times, but I think readers will be disappointed if they’re looking for a “funny” book. Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters made me laugh out loud and is one I had to students who want to read something funny. I wouldn’t hand this to those students necessarily. It has it’s funny moments, but I think this is more fitting for readers who want a story about a character finding herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sophomore Year is Greek to Me and hope you’ll enjoy it as well. I’m looking forward to reading Meredith Zeitlin’s future books.

Blog Tour Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage pub coverTitle: All the Rage

Author: Courtney Summers

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release Date: April 14th, 2015

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From the publisher):

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything-friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time-and they certainly won’t now-but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

Where do I possibly start with this review? All the Rage by Courtney Summers is a book just about everyone should read. Are you a girl? You should read it. Are you a guy? You should read it. Are you a teacher? Are you a counselor? Are you a parent? You should read it. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

Courtney Summers addresses an important issue–rape culture (and much more, actually)–and she doesn’t sugar coat it. Rape isn’t described in detail or anything, but it doesn’t need to be because this is more than about the act of rape. Readers understand how horrific rape is without “witnessing” it. Those who read Romy’s story will understand that, but (more?) importantly they will also experience the emotional trauma after rape and the backlash from a community who refuse to believe the truth.

All the Rage quoteAs I said, Summers doesn’t sugar coat anything in this story and Romy being written as a flawed character highlights that fact. Romy is suffering deeply after being raped by Kellan Turner and being relentlessly and mercislessly bullied by her former friends and community. She has become withdrawn, angry, and self-conscious. She’s afraid to grow close to anyone again and let her guard down. Consequently, she’s put in situations and gets herself into situations that made me cringe and feel a multitude of emotions. Courtney Summers is often brutal when she writes her characters, and with good reason. If Romy did everything “right” after her rape, I don’t know if this story would have affected me as much. First of all, what is the “right” thing to do in the aftermath of a rape, especially when no one in your town, especially the sheriff, believes what you’re saying? What is the “right” way to act towards kids in school who slut-shame you because you were raped at a party where you were drinking and having a good time? I wanted Romy to tell that sheriff what-for and I wanted her mother to demand she be treated like a victim. I wanted Romy to stand up to her former friends. But that’s not really what happens (in All the Rage and in real life). And it’s hard to read.

I do want to stress, however, that Romy is a fighter. She has a hell of a time figuring it out and helping herself, but she’s trying nonetheless. Her relationship with Leon is a prime example of how much she wants to get her life back. I’ve read a review or two where this relationship was criticized, but I like the addition of the Leon and what he adds to the story. Romy has a difficult time letting herself relax around him and allowing him to see who she really is. She’s so guarded and wounded, Romy can’t understand why he wants to be close to her. Unfortunately this causes additional conflict for Romy, but it’s a conflict that truly illuminates her pain, fear, and trauma. Readers gain an understanding of how rape affects inter-personal relationships.

I did at times have a tough time following the organization of the story. I love how captivating the beginning the book is, but it leads to “Two Weeks Before” and eventually jumps back to the present. For about 60 pages or so I was trying to get my footing and figure out exactly what was going on. My “got it” moment came during SSR in class one day and from that point forward I didn’t want to put the book down.

All the Rage is Courtney Summer’s first hardcover published book and it’s worth every cent. I encourage you to read this, buy this, and share this with others. It’s been added to my classroom library and already been borrowed by more than one eager reader.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Summers lives and writes in Canada, where she divides most of her time between a camera, a piano and a word processing program. She is also the author of What Goes Around, This is Not a Test, Fall for Anything, Some Girls Are, Cracked Up to Be, and Please Remain Calm. 

BOOK LINKS

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/125002191X

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-the-rage-courtney-summers/1119182775?ean=9781250021915

Books-A-Million: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/All-Rage/Courtney-Summers/9781250021915?id=6229825482952

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250021915

Indigo: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/all-the-rage/9781250021915-item.html

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/all-the-rage/id921442373

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Courtney_Summers_All_the_Rage?id=UyudBAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/all-the-rage-12

AUTHOR LINKS

Website: http://courtneysummers.ca/

Tumblr: http://summerscourtney.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CourtneySummersAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/courtney_s

Instagram: https://instagram.com/summerscourtney/

Review: First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano

First There Was ForeverTitle: First There Was Forever

Author: Juliana Romano

Publisher: Dial Books

Release Date: April 14th, 2015

Interest: Contemp / Debut Author / Friendship

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Prettyand Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door, Juliana Romano’s expressive debut is an absorbing and bittersweet story about first love, first loss, and the friends that carry us through it all.

Lima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey….if she knew it happened.

Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers.

A number of my students will ask me to help them find books that deal with friendships, and I often struggle to think of titles worth recommending. Usually when my students are inquiring about a friendship book, they aren’t looking for a book heavy with romance. Many of the contemporary titles I read feature friendships, but many of those titles are also heavily focused on a romance.

I appreciate how much emphasis Juliana Romano puts on Lima and Hailey’s friendship. They’ve always been best friends, but their paths are veering away from one another and consequently their friendship is falling apart. This is common in friendships and consequently something many teen readers will identify with. This part of the story line was frustrating for me to read at times, however, because Lima keeps trying to retain her friendship with Hailey even though Hailey begins to treat her poorly. I wanted Lima to stand up for herself.

Part of the reason, I think, that Lima has a difficult time standing up to Hailey is because of her growing feelings for Hailey’s long-time unrequited love, Nate. Lima can’t get over the guilt she feels for developing feelings for him and that he may have feelings for her, too. This part of the story is where the majority of the focus falls, and that disappointed me. Conflicts like this happen in friendships, so I think it deserves to be part of the story, but I wanted there to be more focus on Lima and Hailey. I didn’t want the Lima-Nate dynamic to overshadow the problems in Lima and Hailey’s friendship because there was already enough there without focusing on the love triangle. It would have been interesting to see Lima discover herself without Hailey and without a love interest.

I did, however, really enjoy the setting. Juliana Romano created a captivating California setting for First There Was Forever. At times it felt like the setting was a character in the novel because it was so vivid.

The blurb says First There Was Forever is perfect for fans of The Summer I Turned Pretty and My Life Next Door, but I don’t know that I would hand this to readers who just finished either of those books. This debut fits better with Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer and Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti.

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