Review: Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Things I Can't ForgetTitle: Things I Can’t Forget

Author: Miranda Kenneally

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: March 1st, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemporary

Source: E-galley via NetGalley/publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Companion to Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

I’m a big Miranda Kenneally fan, so I have been super excited to read Things I Can’t Forget.  I read Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker in one sitting each, but I didn’t have that experience with Things I Can’t Forget.  I was having a difficult time connecting with Kate because she and I are so different.  Thankfully, as Kate grew as a character, I grew more invested in the story and ended up really enjoying it.

Things I Can’t Forget is much different from Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.  It’s not nearly as light-hearted and it’s much more about faith and religion than the other two.  I’d also feel comfortable placing it in the New Adult category since Kate is getting ready to start college and is trying to figure out who she is, what she believes, and what she wants to do with her life.  Miranda Kenneally has taken each book up a notch in terms of sexuality and religion, so I’m curious to see what she has in store for us in her next book, Racing SavannahThings I Can’t Forget isn’t overly sexual, but some of the scenes and descriptions border on what I’ve read in New Adult novels.  I like how she handled the sexuality because it fits with where Kate is in her life and her beliefs.  She’s testing the waters and growing as a person.  Kate’s discovering what she’s okay with, what her limits are, how to discuss this maturely, and how it all ties in with her religion.

I didn’t grow up as religious as Kate, so it was difficult for me to connect with her, however I have students right now who remind me of her quite a bit.  Things I Can’t Forget is more serious than Kenneally’s other books, but I can see it benefiting teens who are like Kate and teens who are different from Kate.  Teens who have grown up like Kate might connect with her and enjoy reading about someone so connected to her faith, while teens who aren’t as connected might read this and be able to better understand their friends who are like Kate.

Kate’s working with a girl named Parker, and silly me didn’t realize it’s Parker from Stealing Parker until almost 70% into the book. I don’t know if that was a blonde moment or what, but it made me feel dumb.  Anyway, I was happy to see Parker because we get to find out how she’s doing and what’s happened to her since the end of Stealing Parker.  I have a couple students in class right now who will probably want to read this for that reason.  We get to see Jordan from Catching Jordan as well, which is equally as cool.

Besides not really liking Kate at the beginning of the story (This eventually changed. I even teared up a bit for her towards the end.), my big qualm with the book is the writing.  As opposed to Kenneally’s first two books, the writing in Things I Can’t Forget felt rushed.  Some of the dialogue is choppy and difficult to decipher who is speaking, and some of the sentence structure is too simplistic.  Parts of the book just didn’t read like they were edited thoroughly enough or like an author who’s already written and published two books had written them.  I’m not trying to be harsh or overly critical, but I know Kenneally’s  signed on for at least a couple more books with the publisher which makes me wonder if she really was rushing while writing this (the next book is due to release in December).

I do think it’s a good book with a solid story that has a place with teen readers.  I’m looking forward to hearing my students’ reactions because I have many who are looking forward to reading this.

Review: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Stealing Parker

Author: Miranda Kenneally

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: October 1st, 2012

Interest: Contemporary / Author

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan’s Hundred Oaks High.

After her family’s scandal rocks their conservative small town, 17-year-old Parker Shelton goes overboard trying to prove that she won’t turn out like her mother: a lesbian. The all-star third-baseman quits the softball team, drops 20 pounds and starts making out with guys–a lot. But hitting on the hot new assistant baseball coach might be taking it a step too far…especially when he starts flirting back.

Miranda Kenneally really knows how to hook a reader!  Her debut, Catching Jordan, kept me reading from start to finish without putting it down, and I had the exact same experience reading her sophomore release, Stealing Parker.

I’m confident that my girls in class are going to love Stealing Parker.  It’s more mature in  nature than Catching Jordan in regards to sexuality, but it also deals with an important issue.  Some may see the idea of a book involving a relationship with an older man who is also in a position of authority as taboo, but it’s not uncommon either.  I knew plenty of girls in high school dating significantly older guys, although none of them worked for the school.  The idea of that always made me uncomfortable, and it made me uncomfortable as a reader watching Parker enter dangerous territory with Brian.  I think the girls in class will enjoy watching Parker flirt with Brian, but as things grow more serious, I think they’ll be hoping it ends.  Miranda Kenneally did a fantastic job making the scenes with Brian tense as opposed to romantic.  Nothing about their interactions are romanticized.  Parker doesn’t think six years is that great of an age difference, and I remember thinking along those lines when I was her age too, but it doesn’t take long for her to realize that it’s actually a significant difference.  In the grand scheme of things we know that six years isn’t a huge age gap, but when you’re in high school and your love interest is beyond that, the life experience alone makes six years a huge age gap.

Parker’s other love interest serves as a sweet and simple balance to her relationship with Brian.  I’m not going to say who it’s with, but it’s absolutely adorable.  This character made me mad at times, but he still won me over.  I hope other readers cheer for him like I did!

Watching Parker grow as a character was really enjoyable.  She’s quite naive in areas of love and relationships.  The shocking revelation that her mom is a lesbian crushed Parker.  It threw her world into a tailspin and rocked her self-image and thoughts about love.  Her so-called friend, Laura, starts rumors that Parker’s a lesbian just like her mom.  As a result Parker wants to do everything she can to distance herself from her mother.  She loses weight so she doesn’t look “butch” and starts kissing lots of boys so people will know she isn’t a lesbian.  I can’t imagine going through what Parker goes through.  She’s completely lost which is what drives many of her poor decisions.  I love a good mother-daughter storyline which Stealing Parker has and does well (it even made me tear up!).  The only thing I didn’t need in this part of the story is Parker’s weight issues.  The story would have been just as strong without them. Her concerns with calories and weight were more of a distraction because I didn’t know if it was going to lead to something more severe as the story progressed.  I didn’t expect religion to play such a big role in Stealing Parker, but it works with the story.  I have quite a few students who are active in their church, so I think they’ll enjoy that aspect of Parker’s

I thoroughly enjoyed Stealing Parker because it invoked so many reactions in me as a reader.  I was completely engaged and connected to the characters.  I wanted to smack Laura, I wanted to hug Parker, and I wanted to laugh with Drew and Corndog.  Miranda Kenneally tackles some heavy issues, but she does so with ease and charm.  I wish her next book, Things I Can’t Forget, came out sooner!

Book Covers: What My Freshmen Think

A week ago I posted about what my Y.A. Lit students think of book covers.  The day it posted I received tons of feedback and also passed out a book covers survey to my freshmen to get a broader view.  This time I added two parts to the survey: providing their gender and providing examples of book covers they like.  I polled 43 boys and 34 girls for a total of 77 freshmen.  My post also includes images of some of the covers mentioned in the surveys.

1. What about a book draws your attention the most?

  • Cover design–58%
  • Author/reviewer blurb–3%
  • Summary–39%

2. What kind of cover design do you prefer the most?

  • Models on the cover–25%
  • Objects/scenes related to the story–75%

**Note–This was the same in my Y.A. Lit class**

3. What kind of color combination draws you the most?

“There isn’t really a color combination that draws me in more than others.”

“Red and black”

“Bright colors”

“Red mixed with black and white”

“Bright and dark in one”

“Pink, purple, blue–cute colors”

“Green and yellow”

“Orange and blue”

“Neon or 1 or 2 solid colors and an all caps, stencil, huge title.”

“I really don’t care, but if it has fun colors it will catch my attention.”

“It doesn’t matter, I pretty much read what you say is good.”

4. Is font style & placement important to you? Explain.

  • Yes–40%
  • No–60%

“Bold and artistic to draw me in to see what the title is.”

“Not really. It’s more about what it says than the font or placement.”

“I like it when the font is popped out and in your face.”

“Not really, it really depends on what’s between the covers.”

“The author’s name should be at the bottom.”

“Not really because I’m going to read the title no matter what.”

I Hunt Killers is a good example when font matters.”

5. Would you feel comfortable reading a book w/a gender-specific feel to it? (Guys reading a book w/a “girly” cover.)

  • Yes–65%
  • No–35%

“Not really, unless somebody points it out (multiple times).” –Male

“I don’t care as long as it’s a good book.” –Male

“Yeah, as long as it’s not hardcore manly.” –Female

6. Do you prefer to see the character’s “face” or would you rather imagine the character on your own?

  • See the character’s face–34%
  • Use your imagination–66%

“Seeing the face ruins the book for me.”

“Seeing their face is easier, but imagining them is more fun so either one.”

“I do sometimes. I really like the models on the covers of Wither and Fever.”

7. If possible, please provide some examples of covers that you like and why.

Divergent–The symbol looks to be on fire, and it is connected to the story.”

Bad Girls Don’t Die, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, If I Stay, Where She Went, Night World.  All of these books have interesting covers.”

“I like the cover for Stupid Fast because it looks like he’s alone; it makes you wonder.”

Payback Time because it’s about sports.”

Epic Fail–It’s cute and fun.  Catching Jordan–It kind of explains the book.”

The Hunger Games–Looks tough and serious.  Shiver–Draws my attention.”

“Anything by Simone Elkeles. Hers have models and they really interest me.  I like covers that look romantic.”

Fracture, The Hunger Games, and Living Dead Girl because they leave you with questions.”

Other Words for Love because it’s cute.”

Split and Crescendo

Catching Jordan–Cute and pops”

The Pull of Gravity because I like the colors and how you can see the characters, but everything’s sort of muted.”

“I like the cover for I Hunt Killers because it catches my attention.  I also like the cover for Trapped because it helps me visualize the school they were trapped in.”

Forever by Judy Blume and Boy Meets Boy because Forever is girly and I like the colors in Boy Meets Boy.”

House of  Night, The Mortal Instruments, Hush, Hush, stuff like that.  I like that the models aren’t too detailed but enough to get an image of the character.”

“I like the cover for Across the Universe because there are people but not faces; it’s mysterious.”

Boy 21, Paranoid Park, and I Hunt Killers because they just stick out or have the character on it.  They let you picture something while staying mysterious.”

The House of Night series: This is because they show the main character’s unique tattoos.”

Divergent–very bold”

Insurgent because it makes me wonder why there is a tree with a circle around it.”

“The cover for Hold Still is good because even though it shows the girl, it also briefly tells the story just by looking at it.”

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