My 2015 Reading Year

In the past I’ve written a few posts summing up my favorite reads of those years. Honestly, I don’t have time to do that this year so I’m going to compile it all into one post.

I’ve read 71 novels in 2015, 29 of which were audiobooks. I’ve read at least 55 picture books this year (courtesy of Jack), and most of those have been read over and over and over again. I’ve also abandoned a handful of books.

This year I’ve focused on expanding my repertoire of different genres/authors and am happy with the results:

Mystery: 10 novels
Historical Fiction: 4 novels (not many, but all within this school year)
Fantasy: 6 novels
Memoir: 4 novels (I have a couple in queue for 2016)
New to me/Debut authors: 40 novels

Based on my list of top ten favorite books of 2015, it’s obvious that contemporary realistic fiction is my favorite genre to read. This list is in no particular order because it would be way too hard to narrow it down.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (my review): I can’t imagine my list of favorite 2015 reads existing without this book on the list. It’s outstanding and Willowdean will probably stay one of my absolute favorite characters for a long time. Plus, it was a great audiobook.

Violent Ends by Shaun Hutchinson and 16 additional authors: I still need to write a book review for this, which I’m mad at myself for not having done sooner. This is the type of book that all teachers should read. It’s being passed from reader to reader in one of my senior classes right now and I couldn’t be happier about that. There are a number of characters in this novel who are still on my mind even a month or so after reading it.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (my review): This read more like historical fiction to me than fantasy, which worked perfectly fine. The audio is fantastic and really kept me hooked. I’m a huge Rae Carson fan which is one of the reasons I’m using The Girl of Fire and Thorns as a hero’s journey book club book with my freshmen. In one class, however, only two students chose to read that (totally surprised me) and one of students ended up being unsure about whether she wanted to stick with it. That student didn’t want to leave her peer behind though, so she didn’t know what to do. I had my copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger handy, so I suggested she try reading it instead so she and her other group member could maybe at least read books by the same author. My student came in the next day and was so excited about Walk on Earth a Stranger that she realized since it’s so awesome The Girl of Fire and Thorns must be just as great too. She’s now reading both books. Total win.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: Here’s another book that I wish I would have reviewed after I finished reading it. I loved The Summer I Turned Pretty and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but P.S. I Still Love You officially made me a Jenny Han fangirl. I felt like I was right there experiencing everything with Lara Jean as I read it. Jenny Han made me feel like I was part of Lara Jean’s family; I was left feeling kind of sad when I finished reading because I wasn’t ready to leave those characters behind. It would be perfectly okay with me if she writes a third book or even a book written from Kitty’s point of view. I’d pre-order either book!

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby (my review): I feel like all I’ve done this year is spread the book love for Things We Know by Heart, but I love it so much it’s hard not to. Thankfully my students trust my recommendations and have been thoroughly enjoying it as well. One of my freshmen has read it more than once and even created her own playlist for it. Another teacher in my building was reading it at the same time as one of her students and told me about how much fun it was to discuss Quinn’s story as they both read it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (my review): My goodness, if you want to read a steamy fantasy, add this one to your list. I was seriously bummed when I found out that ARCs weren’t going to be made for the sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury, because I have been wanting to read it for almost a year now!

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin: Time got away from me and I didn’t write my review after listening to this audiobook. Oh my goodness, is this debut funny and engaging! I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio because it was seriously that good. When I was at NCTE I requested the sequel, but they didn’t have it. Honestly, I’m kind of glad they didn’t have it because I think I want to listen to the audio again. If you’ve been wanting to read more sci-fi, but it isn’t really your cup of tea, I’d read Denton’s story; it’s what I like to call sci-fi lite. The idea behind the story could be classified as science fiction, but the story reads very much like realistic fiction, if that makes sense.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Fixer over the summer which is also written by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It was actually the first book of hers that I’ve read. Because I enjoyed it so much and because many of my friends have read and recommended The Naturals, I decided to give the audio for it a go. I have to say, Jennifer Lynn Barnes is fast becoming one of my favorite mystery authors. The narrator for this was really good and paced the story well. It’s a little bit predictable, but the reveal was still fun. This is perfect for fans of the TV show Criminal Minds and the books I Hunt Killers and The Body Finder. The only complaint I have is that I’ve been told there most likely won’t be audiobooks made for books two and three in this trilogy.

Stand-Off by Andrew Smith: Ryan Dean West is another one of my absolute favorite characters. I’m so thankful that we’ve been gifted with the rest of his story after such a tough ending in Winger. I adored this book and was left completely satisfied when I finished reading it. Of course, if Andrew Smith decides to write a third book about Ryan Dean I won’t complain; I’ll pre-order it as soon as it’s available if that ever becomes an option. What I really liked about Stand-Off is that it’s still laugh out loud funny, but it’s also full of heart and introspective moments for Ryan Dean. It reminded me of what Geoff Herbach crafted in I’m With Stupid as he wrapped up Felton’s story.
P.S. I’m sorry I didn’t write a full review after I finished reading this. I was racing to get all the things read and finalized for NCTE.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: I received an ARC of this when I was at NCTE and it’s the only 2016 title I’ve read so far. It feels like cheating adding a 2016 title to this list, but there’s no way I can be honest about this list and not include it. In fact, Jeff Zentner’s debut will be on my 2016 favorites list as well because it’s utterly fabulous. I’ll probably read it a second time if my students don’t hog my copy, but I’m predicting this is going to be a book I rarely see during the school year. I promise to write a full review in time for the March 2016 release, but I’ll leave you with this: The Serpent King was reading in almost one sitting–which is nearly impossible to do these days–and it made me ugly cry FOR MULTIPLE PAGES.

And because I can’t stop at ten and because I don’t like leaving good books off my list, here are some titles I’ve read in 2015 that my students are loving this school year:

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon: My students and I really dig the multigenre format to this novel; it makes for a quick and engaging read.

A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy: I love it when authors feature athletic girls in their stories and make that aspect of the character a primary focus in the story. There aren’t enough female characters who are student athletes in YA novels, which is a real disservice to our teens. I was a swimmer in high school and the high school I teach at has an impressive swimming program, so Abby’s story really resonates with my students.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I listened to the audio for this before it was announced as the 2015 Printz winner and was over the moon thrilled about it. As usual for the past few years, we had a snow day when the awards were announced so I had to wait to tell my students all about the win. Since last school year I’ll Give You the Sun has been passed from reader to reader in my classroom. My freshmen last year kept a constant waitlist for it and have even told my current freshmen about it. I love it when a book becomes so widely loved that my students recommend it to friends outside my class. Also, the audio for this is fabulous!

 

I’d love to know which books were your 2015 favorites! Happy New Year, lovely readers!

 

 

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.

Run Much? YA Titles Featuring Runners

When I think about sports books I’m typically thinking about football, basketball, and baseball. I honestly have a difficult time getting into those stories, but I’m try to read at least a few titles under that category each year. I think, however, that it’s easy to forget about our students who don’t participate in those sports. I need to remind myself that I also have runners, soccer players, swimmers, etc. in my classes. Thankfully I caught myself reading a few books in a row featuring runners. I’m going to guess that I’m not the only teacher or librarian who forgets about this, which is why I decided to write a post about YA characters who run for one reason or another.

Anna from Moonglass by Jessi Kirby (Goodreads): Anna runs on a team (cross-country, I believe), but she’s also running to clear her head. I liked this part of the story because while it added another element to the plot, it also added another layer to the conflict.

Jessica from The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (Goodreads): I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jessica’s story is so much more than a story about a runner. It’s about overcoming adversity, friendship, family, and more. I was really touched by how much of a family Jessica’s track team was to her.

Felton from Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads): If you’ve followed my blog for a while then you know how much I love this book. Felton is a stupid fast runner who runs on the track team (how his speed was discovered) and is a fast runner on the football team. Sports in general help Felton work through his family troubles and his personal conflicts.

Alice from On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor (Goodreads): Alice is a fun and quirky character who has decided she’s going to be a runner when her college plans don’t work out. I like that she’s goal-oriented and driven because so many of my students are. This is a great book for my seniors who are overwhelmed and stressing out about college, especially those who haven’t been accepted to their first choice schools. I’m not a runner by any means, but Alice’s story made me feel like I could be a runner, too.

Annie from Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (Goodreads): Annie has decided to train for a marathon in honor of her boyfriend who died tragically. Miranda Kenneally’s characters continue to become more interesting with each book that she writes. I really enjoyed watching Annie become a marathon runner and watching her work through her grief.

Kate from Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads): Kate’s plate is more than full. She’s in charge of taking care of her family, she’s only applied to one college, her mother has passed away, and her father has taken in a family who she doesn’t get along with. Running is a way for her to calm her nerves and keep some control in her life. This is one of my favorite books written by Laurie Halse Anderson and one that I wish more of my students would read.

Nastya from The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (Goodreads): This is one of my favorite books and it’s because I got to know the characters so well. Nastya is dealing with more than her fair share of issues and running helps her feel in control. Running has also led her to Josh Bennett who is also dealing with too much. This is a wonderful story that I couldn’t get enough of.

Nico from Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads): Nico is another character who runs to escape. His brother has died and so has his friend. Running helps him clear his head and relieve some of the anger he feels.

Waiting on Wednesday–Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

wow

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.

You know a book is going to be good when the summary makes you say “Ooooo…” That was exactly my response when I read the synopsis for Things We Know By Heart. But honestly, why *wouldn’t* I have that reaction to a Jessi Kirby book?! Now to wait until April…

Things We Know By HeartTitle & Author: Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Quinn Sullivan lost the love of her life when her boyfriend, Trent, died in an accident their junior year. In an attempt to get closure, she reached out to the recipients of his donated organs. Though some answered her letters, the one Quinn feels matters most–the person who received Trent’s heart–has been silent.

Nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas has spent the last several years in and out of hospitals waiting for a heart transplant. Now that he’s finally received a new heart, Colton is regaining strength, and he’s walking away from his bedridden past with no intention of looking back. He doesn’t want to know about the person who had to die so that he could live. He only wants to move forward.

But Quinn can’t let it go. Venturing outside the system to find Colton, Quinn takes a risk in hopes of finally laying her memories to rest. But what begins as an innocent conversation quickly becomes an attraction–and to make matters worse, Colton has no idea how they’re connected. His zest for life pulls Quinn from her months of sorrow but leaves her torn between honesty and utter betrayal. Because no matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books of 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Normally I write out reasons why I’m including each book on this list, but I’ve reviewed these books and mentioned them on so many lists that I feel like it’s not really necessary at this point. But believe me, creating this list was HARD. At the end of every year I feel like I haven’t read enough books, nor enough books that really wowed me. Do any of you feel that way at this time of year? I guess I’m not reading to be wowed, but I certainly like discovering new favorites. The books on this list are here because they’ve stayed with me this year (characters, plot, writing style, twists, etc.). I’d love to know which books are you favorites this year!

My favorite books of 2013 in no particular order…

1. Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (My review)

2. Winger by Andrew Smith (My review)

3. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (My review)

4. Golden by Jessi Kirby (My review)

5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (My review)

6. Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler (My review)

7. I’m With Stupid by Geoff Herbach (My review)

8. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (My review)

9. The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine (My review)

10. Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting (My review)

My favorite backlist titles read in 2013 (I couldn’t help but cheat)…

1. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (My review)

2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (My review)

3. Recovery Road by Blake Nelson

4. Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Review: Golden by Jessi Kirby

GoldenTitle: Golden

Author: Jessi Kirby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 14th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

Jessi Kirby’s books keep getting better and better. I bought my copy of Golden over the summer and am now angry with myself for not reading it right away; it’s that good. I’m not sure how to put words to all of my thoughts about this book, so this review is going to be written as a list.

1. Julianna’s journal. I love that Jessi Kirby added Julianna’s journal entries to the story. It takes the story to a whole new level because of the romance and mystery it adds.

2. Mr. Kinney’s journal assignment. I love the quote he had students respond to: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver. He gives his seniors notebooks and says, “Fill it up with words that make a picture of who they are, things they may forget later on, after so many years, and want to look back on” (11). I love the idea and want to find a way to mimic this assignment with my seniors.

3. The cover. This book cover is gorgeous! Besides my raving about it, the cover will draw my students to this book.

4. The relationships. Parker deals with a strained relationship with her mother, the threat of losing her best friend when she leaves for college, deciding if she should give her long-time crush a chance, and of course Julianna and Shane’s relationship. They’re blended together and balanced perfectly so it never feels like one part of the story outweighs another.

5. Parker’s growth as a character. Parker’s character is one of the many reasons I love contemporary realistic fiction. She’s afraid to let anyone down and that fear has held her back. She discovers a lot about herself through Julianna’s journal. I know a lot of students who are very similar to Parker. Senior year is often scary for students which is one of the reasons why I appreciate Jessi Kirby writing Parker’s story.

Lovey Couples That Would Last In Real Life

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

The Broke and The Bookish is celebrating love on behalf of Jamie’s wedding this week, so we’re focusing on couples that we believe would make it in real life.  This prompt has made me realize that I need to read more contemporary YA romance because most of the romances I kept thinking of are from paranormal fantasy and fantasy novels.  I just don’t think those relationships would work in a realistic world.  I don’t have a list of ten today, but I’m still satisfied with my list, especially since I love these couples 🙂

1. Jay & Violet from The Body Finder series (Goodreads)–Is there a better book boyfriend out there?!  Sigh.  I love this couple.  I realize that this series is supernatural because of Violet’s ability to see echoes, but it reads more like realistic fiction than anything else.

2. Adam & Mia from If I Stay (Goodreads) / Where She Went (Goodreads)–I have to believe if you’ve read these two books then you understand completely why they’re on this list.  Adam’s point of view in Where She Went is explanation enough.  They could totally make this work beyond the pages.

3.  Lola & Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door (Goodreads)–I love this couple!  Are they quirky  Absolutely!  But they balance each other out and work really well together.  I can definitely picture them being super cute together in real life California.

4. Anna & Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss (Goodreads)–I feel silly including two couples from the same author, but Stephanie Perkins does a fantastic job writing realistic characters!  Anna and Etienne go through so many ups and downs that I think their relationship is believable and something that could continue to grow in real life.  I still think I like Lola and Cricket more, but Anna and Etienne are really cute together.

5. Rusty & Honor from In Honor (Goodreads)–This relationship might be a long shot since these two really only get to know each other during a road trip, but for some reason I think they can make it work.  There’s something about their chemistry that makes me feel like real life love would be a possibility.

6. Travis & Harper from Something Like Normal (Goodreads)–Harper will need to remember to be patient with Travis, and Travis needs to remember not to take Harper for granted, but this flawed couple has what it takes to make it.  I love these two characters so I can’t help but cheer for them as a couple.

I hate to end this list at six (I like a nice round number), but that’s all I can think of.  Which couples made your list?  As you can see, I need some recommendations for realistic contemporary YA romance!

Can I Switch Places With These Characters, Please?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

 

Top Ten Tuesday is one of my favorite memes, especially when we get a prompt like today’s.  So often when reviewing and discussing books, we mention our love of the setting/world or how we would love to spend time with the characters.  Today’s prompt asks us to list the ten characters we’d like to switch places with for 24 hours.  Here we go!

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (Goodreads)–I don’t really want to deal with Auden’s home life, but I love the town she’s staying in over the summer.  I love beach town settings, and this one’s a favorite.  Plus, I like Eli 🙂

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Goodreads)–I can’t say that I’d be very good at demon hunting or anything like that, but I would love to cuddle up with Jace and hang out with Simon!  Clary can go ahead and sit a day out so I can have fun with these Shadowhunters + Simon!

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (Goodreads)–This is still one of my favorite books because it’s incredibly funny and I love the cast of characters.  I’d totally be okay with switching places with Norah and running around New York with Nick all night.  I’ve never been to New York City, and I don’t have a character crush on Nick or anything, but he’s a cool guy and he really knows his music.  How fun would it be to hop from crazy New York club to crazy New York club all night with your friends!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Goodreads)–If you’ve read this book, I don’t think I need to explain myself, do I?  Living in Paris for a school year.  Eating delicious crepes.  Going to famous museums.  Etienne St. Clair.  Enough said. 🙂

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin (Goodreads)–I really have no desire to repeat my high school years, but I would love to spend a day with Kelsey Finkelstein because she is so darn funny.  I love how melodramatic she is and how loyal she is to her friends.  If I could choose a day, I’d choose the last day the school play is performed.  I’m pretty sure that would be the best.  Or the night of the tooth mishap.  Either would be funny.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (Goodreads): I love this book’s time period and the powers the girls have.  And I have a book crush on Finn.  It would be fun to spend a day in the garden with Finn and maybe part of the afternoon at a gossipy tea gathering.  Writing this makes me feel like I’m an old soul or something because I don’t know many people who would want to spend their day like this! 😛

Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy (Goodreads): This is one of the cutest middle grade books I’ve read, first of all.  Second, I would absolutely love to spend a day in Lilah’s shoes so I could communicate with my Grandma Rosemary.  I love that Lilah gets to spend more time with her Bubbie.  Those of us who have lost grandparents know how special and precious that extra time would be.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby (Goodreads)–Am I allowed to pretend Honor isn’t honoring her brother that just died?  Because if so, I’d switch places with her for a day.  I’d want to spend time getting to know Rusty, and I think it would be cool to revisit the scene when she’s swimming really early in the morning.  For the most part, their trip to California was fun to read (with the exception of a few sad/scary parts).

I know that’s not ten characters I want to switch with, but it’s the best I can do today.  Let me know which character you’d like to switch with!  I’m sure I’ll feel the same way, or even better, find a new book I want to read!  Happy Tuesday! 😀

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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