Waiting on Wednesday–The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

Why am I so often drawn to books featuring grieving characters? I know I’m not purposely seeking them out, but I have read and loved so many! Regardless, The Square Root of Summer really grabbed my interest because there’s also a time travel element. And I’m extra excited because as I was looking for more audiobooks to listen to via Audible, I discovered that Roaring Brook Press had an audiobook made for Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s debut!

The Square Root of SummerTitle & Author: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Release Date: May 3rd, 2016

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It’s a little bit like a black hole. It’s a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she’s hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie’s past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone’s heart is about to be broken.

Waiting on Wednesday: There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

Told from a guy’s point of view? Loss and grief? A twin sister? A bucket list? Yep, I’m intrigued!

There Will Come a TimeTitle & Author: There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

Release Date: May 6th, 2014

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary (From Goodreads):

Mark knows grief. Ever since the accident that killed his twin sister, Grace, the only time he feels at peace is when he visits the bridge on which she died. Comfort is fleeting, but it’s almost within reach when he’s standing on the wrong side of the suicide bars. Almost.

Grace’s best friend, Hanna, says she understands what he’s going through. But she doesn’t. She can’t. It’s not just the enormity of his loss. As her twin, Mark should have known Grace as well as he knows himself. Yet when he reads her journal, it’s as if he didn’t know her at all.

As a way to remember Grace, Hanna convinces Mark to complete Grace’s bucket list from her journal. Mark’s sadness, anger, and his growing feelings for Hannah threaten to overwhelm him. But Mark can’t back out. He made a promise to honor Grace—and it’s his one chance to set things right.

Waiting on Wednesday–The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

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Many of my seniors this year are on a dark/edgy kick and seeking out titles to satisfy that. They’re looking for books dealing with grief, tough situations, suspense, etc. so this book sounds like something they’ll love. I’m currently working on a list of books to request/find at NCTE this year. The Edge of Falling is on that list.

The Edge of FallingTitle & Author: The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Release Date: March 18th, 2014

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary (From Goodreads):

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumors are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realizes that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

Flash Reviews (24)

Flash Reviews

Thin SpaceTitle: Thin Space

Author: Jody Casella

Publisher: Beyond Words/Simon Pulse

Source: NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads):

Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

Flash Review: I read a review that compared Thin Space to Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, which I didn’t really like, so I was hesitant to read this. I ended up really liking Jody Casella’s debut novel. The comparison to Through to You is a good one since both books deal with grief and loss, but the execution and story is so much better in Thin Space. I was completely absorbed in Marsh’s story. For a large part of the book I wondered if a Thin Space was some kind of coping mechanism or if it would turn out to be an actual place. I’ll let you find out when you read it! There’s a great twist in the story and wonderful character development. I understood Marsh and his profound grief. This is an excellent book that I know my students will love. Better yet, it released in paperback so it’s easy on the wallet!

Forgive Me, Leonard PeacockTitle: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Author: Matthew Quick

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.

Flash Review: Matthew Quick is a rock star author. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is yet another example of why I love his books and writing style. No matter the subject matter, his books are engaging and difficult to put down. Quick tackles some serious issues in his newest YA novel and although I felt like it grew a little “preachy” at times, I loved this book. Leonard Peacock is a deeply troubled and emotionally wounded character who you’ll cheer for despite his intentions. One of my seniors borrowed this the first week of school and tore through it. Since then another senior has borrowed it and told the class how much he’s enjoying it. I now have a list of readers waiting to read Leonard’s story. This is a powerful book that I hope you’ll read and share with high school students.

CanaryTitle: Canary

Author: Rachele Alpine

Publisher: Medallion Press

Source: Library

Summary (From Goodreads):

Staying quiet will destroy her, but speaking up will destroy everyone.

Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete.

But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

Canary is told in a mix of prose and verse.

Flash Review: Rachele Alpine’s debut came to my attention when I joined the Great Lakes, Great Books Award committee and was looking for titles to read. I’m happy I read Canary and see it being enjoyed by many of my students, but it left me with mixed feelings. The summary tells us that Kate is assaulted at a party and needs to do something about it despite the consequences for her father, but that doesn’t take place until nearly the end of the book. I understand the placement of this in the story because we need to understand who Kate is before she goes to Beacon Prep and who she becomes once she makes new friends, but it fell flat. I was starting to get bored with Kate’s obsession over her brother’s actions and how she felt about her friends. Once the assault happened, I was ready for more of that part of the story but instead it was rushed. This is a fast read despite the length, but it needs a little more revision. I did, however, love Kate’s blog posts. This is where the verse is tied in and it really works. I plan on using some of her blog posts in my writing lessons.

As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Review: Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Title: Who I Kissed

Author: Janet Gurtler

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: October 1st, 2012

Interest: Contemporary / Blog Tour

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Samantha didn’t mean to hurt anyone. She was just trying to fit in…

And she wanted to make Zee a little jealous…

But now things will never be the same unless she can find a reason to start living again.

Who I Kissed is the first book I’ve read by Janet Gurtler and I enjoyed it.  I have two of her other books on my shelf right now, and after finishing Who I Kissed, I’m looking forward to reading those other titles.  Despite enjoying this book, I still have a few issues with it so I’m breaking my review into likes and dislikes.

What I Liked:

  • The easy writing style is definitely a win for me.  Who I Kissed is a quick read and straightforward.  The characters’ voices are distinct and the story is easy to follow.
  • I was a swimmer in high school, so it’s fun to read a YA novel about swimmers.  I wish there were more that feature swimmers because I really don’t think swimming is recognized enough.  It’s a tough sport!
  • I love Sam’s support system.  Her dad helps in the few ways he knows how, but he’s still supportive and a positive influence in Sam’s life.  Her aunt, however, is fantastic.  She’s the mother figure Sam really needs and is so much fun to read.
  • The ending is “neat and tidy,” but I really liked it.
  • Sam has a really hard time dealing with Alex’s death and allowing herself to recognize that it was an accident on her part, but she really learns how to be strong and independent.  She makes some big mistakes along the way, but she quickly learns from them and keeps moving forward.  I like how Gurtler balances the weak Sam with the strong Sam.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I understand that this book is about dealing with grief and bringing peanut allergies (and similar allergies) into focus, but Alex’s death happened too fast.  I think the story would have been stronger if we learned more about Sam before she meets and kisses Alex.  Her crush on Zee may have been more believable along with realizing how insecure she is.  It threw off the pacing a little bit because it ends up being lots and lots of grief which wore me out after a while.
  • I don’t know how I feel about Casper’s character.  I understand the intent in adding him as a character, but I don’t know if the story really needed to go in the direction it did with him.  Towards the end it just felt over the top.  (I’m purposely being vague to avoid spoilers.)

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Title: Saving June

Author: Hannah Harrington

Publisher: Harlequin

Release Date: November 22nd, 2011 (paperback)

Interest: YA Contemporary / 2011 Debut Author

Source: Purchased my own copy & have an eBook from NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads): When her older sister commits suicide and her divorcing parents decide to divide the ashes, Harper Scott takes her sister’s urn to the one place June always wanted to go: California. On the road with her best friend, plus an intriguing guy with a mysterious connection to June, Harper discovers truths about her sister, herself and life.

First of all, I will openly admit that I feel like a bad blogger since I waited so long to read Saving June.  I feel even worse about it because a few of my girls in class absolutely loved it and I couldn’t share with them my own feelings about Hannah Harrington’s debut.  But I finally read it (and really liked it) so that has to count for something, right?  One of the reasons I did end up finally reading it (besides really wanting to all this time) is that Harrington has a new book coming out tomorrow called Speechless which I’m excited to read.

Harper Scott’s character and voice grabbed me as soon as I started reading Saving June and never let me go.  She’s obviously sad and torn up over June’s death, but she isn’t wearing her heart on her sleeve about it.  She’s snarky and quick and tired of feeling bad about who she is in comparison to June.  She’s tired of feeling like she is constantly letting her mom and her aunt down.  Harper wants to cry over June’s death, but the tears simply won’t come.  As a reader I could see and feel her grief through her words and actions.  I really felt for Harper because she feels so alone, especially in the beginning of the story, since her mom is disconnected and her dad is for the most part out of the picture.  The family dynamics in Harper’s life make her friendship with Laney and ultimately Jake so much stronger.

The plot is an obvious focal point since Saving June is a road trip book, but it’s also very character driven since these characters are on this trip because of grief and honor.  Harper discovers that June wanted to go to California so on a whim she decides this is what she needs to do to honor her sister.  Laney is vibrant and adventurous, so with very little coaxing she’s on board with Harper.  I like Laney because she brightens up Harper.  Harper adores Laney and values their friendship so she often tries to make Laney happy.  This gave us another layer to Harper’s character; we get to see a glimpse of who she was before June’s death and what her personality is really like.  Jake’s connection in the story is a mystery at first because Harper can’t figure out his real motives for helping them get across the country and how he really knew June.  This unknown makes Jake’s character more interesting to read because the connection he has with Harper is there, but neither Harper nor the reader know if it’s okay for those two to get together.  I was constantly wondering if Harper was reading him right and if she should let herself fall for him.  Did he date June?  Did he want to date June but never had the chance?  I really like Jake’s character and wanted it to work out between him and Harper.

A number of reviewers have commented on the music references in Saving June.  I enjoyed them, but I could honestly take or leave them.  Jake is obsesses with music and spends a large bulk of the story schooling Laney and Harper on different artists like Jimmy Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, etc.  The musical connection does open up Harper’s emotions and feelings about June, and it also gives us a little insight to June; I liked the music references for those two reasons.  Some of my students now may not like it because so much of the music is “old” and unless they’ve been exposed to it they probably won’t appreciate it.  However, reading this book and learning about the music and the artists might drive their curiosity enough to look up some of the songs.

Overall I really enjoyed Hannah Harrington’s debut.  It’s a strong debut and good enough that I’m looking forward to her sophomore release, Speechless (8/28/12).  The story slowed down a bit for me a couple times, but I think that’s mostly because I grew tired of the grief.  I don’t think it’s over done in Saving June, but prior to reading this I’ve read a number of books dealing with grief and I think I’m spent for a while.

Review: In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Title: In Honor

Author: Jessi Kirby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 8th, 2012

Interest: Author / Sophomore Reading Challenge

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): A devastating loss leads to an unexpected road trip in this novel from the author of Moonglass, whose voice Sarah Dessen says “is fresh and wise, all at once.”

Hours after her brother’s military funeral, Honor opens the last letter Finn ever sent. In her grief, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously decides to go to California to fulfill it.

Honor gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen Rusty in ages, but it’s obvious he is as arrogant and stubborn as ever—not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Despite Honor’s better judgment, the two set off together on a voyage from Texas to California. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn’s memory—but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

Have you ever started reading a book and knew right away that you were going to love every single page?  That’s how I felt when I started reading In Honor by Jessi Kirby.  I can’t explain what about a book wins me over when I have this experience, but I’m happy about it nonetheless.  I felt similarly when I read Jessi Kirby’s debut Moonglass as well.  Her writing draws me in and doesn’t let go until I’ve finished her book.

I love that In Honor starts with Honor describing taps being played and the 21-gun salute.  If you’ve been to a funeral when taps has been played and the salute is given, then it’s easy to relive it while reading someone’s experience.  It’s an emotional experience which becomes an emotional reading experience.  I don’t have an immediate family member serving, but I have former students serving, I have cousins serving, I’ve had friends serving.  I may not know what it feels like to lose a brother in the war, but I can certainly empathize with Honor and Rusty as they navigate through their grief.  In Honor is an emotional read, but it’s balanced with love, hope, and humor that many readers will appreciate.

The road trip setting gives In Honor a lighter mood despite the circumstances which I really appreciated because it made the emotional scenes even more powerful.  Road trip books are entertaining because characters are forced to interact with one another, given the close quarters, which provides more character development and insight.  Honor pretty much wears her heart on her sleeve, but Rusty is harder to read.  Honor and Rusty don’t get along very well and the tension is palpable, but there’s something just beneath the surface that lets the reader know that there’s more to Rusty than meets the eye.  Besides the fact that I had a character crush on him, I really enjoyed watching his character grow and discovering his secrets as their journey to California progressed.  He and Honor are learning more about each other, but they’re also learning about themselves through this entire ordeal.

I don’t know if this makes sense, but reading In Honor made me wish I could either live in Texas or at least visit Texas.  I love living in Michigan, so maybe I just wish I could have gone to Texas years ago and met a cute guy like Rusty?  I don’t know, but the whole southern atmosphere described was alluring.  I have been to Sedona (a pit stop Honor and Rusty have to make), so I know how beautiful it is and really want to make a return visit.  More than anything, I think this awkward paragraph just goes to show how well Jessi Kirby created the atmosphere and setting of In Honor.  So many elements of this book won me over and made me feel like I was there with Honor and Rusty.

If you take anything from this review, know this: In Honor is a book that will resonate with readers.  The characters are dynamic and true and ones you’ll wish you could meet in real life.  Jessi Kirby wrote a wonderful debut, but her sophomore novel, In Honor, is even better.  Without a doubt, In Honor will be extremely popular in my classroom and I really hope you read it.

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