Audiobook Review: Run by Kody Keplinger

Audio Review

RunTitle: Run

Author: Kody Keplinger

Narrators: Em Eldridge, Elizabeth Evans

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Source: Audio purchased via Audible

Interest: Author / Contemp

Summary (From Goodreads):

Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and — worst of all — confronting some ugly secrets.

Audio Review:

I decided to listen to Run because I love Kody Keplinger’s books and also because I was listening to another audiobook, but it was getting a little too “adult” let’s say to be listening to with Jack in the car. Sure, there’s some foul language in Run, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I can tell Jack they’re using a bad word, but how do I explain sexual stuff to a two year old? Not that he understands it, but I’m sure you get where I’m going with this.

Anyway. I don’t think I’ve listened to Em Eldridge narrate any other books, but I have listened to Elizabeth Evans narrate a couple books and I enjoyed it. Also, the audio for Run is just over seven hours long which is always a plus. I enjoyed the dual narration and even the southern accents each narrator used.

Book Review:

The only book written by Kody Keplinger that I have not read yet is The Swift Boys Me. With that said, I feel the need to begin this review by saying that Run is so very different from her other books I’ve read. There’s a love angle in the others (which I enjoy) yet this story focuses more on friendship (which I also enjoy). This book felt like a milestone for Kody Keplinger; I felt like I was reading a book that shows how much she has grown as an author.

Also, the two perspectives really worked for me. I’ve found that I often prefer one character over another when I listen to a dual narrative, but I enjoyed Agnes and Bo equally. I also like that Bo’s point of view is set in the present and Agnes’s story starts when she and Bo first meet and become friends. The stories come together and often added layers to each other’s point of view, if that makes sense.

I love that through Agnes, readers can understand a character who is legally blind. Agnes has been treated differently her entire life and once she becomes friends with Bo she begins to recognize this. Bo doesn’t treat her any differently than a person who can see clearly. I loved reading this part of Agnes’s life because she shows so much growth through this part of the story. Her parents are at times annoyingly overprotective which causes a lot of conflict for Agnes. So we get to learn who Agnes is as a person, her thoughts about being blind and how others treat her, and how she can overcome those obstacles. All while still reading about her friendship with Bo and their story together.

Kody Keplinger also includes poverty in Run. Without intending to, I have read at least three or more books this summer with characters in poverty. I’m thankful that it worked out this way because even though poverty wasn’t the focus of the story, it’s still an important element. And it’s an element that I don’t see enough in young adult literature even though so many students face poverty. Bo lives in a trailer, her mother is addicted to meth, and her entire family has a reputation for being drug addicts, trash, etc. Through both Bo and Agnes we see just how much Bo goes against the family grain.

I really can’t say enough positive things about Run. I’m buying a physical copy immediately because I want it available for my beginning of the school year book pass. I can’t wait to get this book in my students’ hands!

 

School Year Reading Reflection

I know many book bloggers reflect on their reading life at the end of the calendar year, which I do as well, but as a teacher I like to also reflect on my school year reading. It helps me plan my summer reading so I can work on filling in any gaps I may have had over the school year. I don’t like to plan my summer reading too much, however, because it’s my time to truly dig into my reading pile and relax. Plus, I don’t know what my new group of students will need in terms of reading, but it’s still good for me to always be mindful about my reading choices.

During the 2015-2016 school year I read 56 books which is an increase from last year. I’m sure most of that has to do with Jack being older and I made a concerted effort to listen to more audiobooks this school year. For this post, I’m going to break down my reading life by different categories and some books will be listed more than once depending on the category. It’s important to remember that one book can appeal to a variety of readers for different reasons.

School Year Reading

Historical Fiction/Historical Novels (10 novels read): This school year I tried genre binges which I can tell REALLY helped me diversify my reading since I tend to read mostly contemporary realistic fiction. Through this process I discovered a real interest in reading historical novels.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • Girl at War by Sara Novic
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowry
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Fantasy (Roughly 8 novels read): Another binge reading genre for me was fantasy novels mostly because of my fantasy panel at ALAN this past year. I always enjoy reading fantasy, but I’ve noticed that a fantasy novel isn’t always the first one I grab from my TBR pile when choosing a book. I really need to work on that because I sometimes feel like I’m always recommending the same fantasy novels to my students.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (I reread this as a read aloud/paranormal fantasy)
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins (one of my classes wanted me to read the sequel as a read aloud)
  • Jackaby by William Ritter (this has paranormal elements)
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (I go back and forth about whether to qualify this as fantasy)
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk (maybe paranormal because of the whole Cupid thing)

Mystery/Thriller (8 novels read): My students this year, maybe more than previous years, love and often requested more mystery titles. This category is tough for me to break down because so many books can be viewed as mystery depending on the plot and the reader.

  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Science Fiction (3 novels read): I simply don’t read enough of this genre. I would love some current (2015-2016) sci-fi recommendations!

  • Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  • Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Racially Diverse Characters (10 novels read): I’m really trying to expand my knowledge of books with racially diverse characters because even though the district where I teach is not racially diverse, I don’t want a “white-washed” classroom library. And I know my students don’t want that either; they want broader perspectives than their own. This is still an area of improvement, however.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt (this also works as a loose Romeo & Juliet retelling)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  • The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features racially diverse characters in some of the short stories)

LGBTQ Characters (5 novels read): I’ve been working on this area of my reading life for years now. Within the last few years I can tell that it’s making a difference because more and more of my students are openly requesting more of these titles and sharing them once they’ve read them. Also, for the purpose of this post I’m only listing books that feature an LGBTQ main character.

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features multiple LGBTQ short stories)

More Than One Point of View (13 novels read): My students love books written with more than one point of view.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (occasionally see the serial killer’s POV)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Graphic Novels/Illustrated Novels (3 novels read): I really enjoy reading graphic novels, but I know I don’t read enough of them during the school year.

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Romance (22 novels read): Not all of these are strictly romance, but many of them feature romantic storylines.

  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (this one isn’t as romantic as her others, but there’s still an element there)
  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (I like that this one applies more as dealing with mental illness)
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
  • Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel

Some other areas of reading/genres/categories I want to read more of are memoirs, books dealing with mental illness, books featuring characters with disabilities, and more books dealing with sexual violence/rape culture. I read a couple books this school year with characters in poverty and I’d like to read more like those. I also noticed that I only read one novel in verse this school year, which is really unusual for me.

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the SeaTitle: Salt to the Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Philomel Books

Release Date: February 2, 2016

Interest: Author / Historical Fiction

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

I finished Salt to the Sea Saturday morning and I really have no idea where to begin this review. Simply put, it’s tragic and amazing.

A couple weeks ago I listened to Ruta Sepetys speak about Salt to the Sea at her book signing at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. I was in the middle of reading another book, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying, but after listening to her talk about this maritime disaster and the research she did, I knew I had to read it right away. So I set my book aside that night and started reading her third novel.

Let me tell you, I cried and gasped multiple times while reading this novel. The tears weren’t always full-fledged, but I certainly sniffled and wiped my eyes a time or two. And then of course the end really got to me, but I knew that would happen considering the story. Ruta Sepetys is a passionate writer and it comes through in her stories. So many of the images she created were vivid and often shocking. Also, this was a tough read as a mom considering how many children were lost and the idea of having to choose which children would live and if they’d live at all.

Another part of the Salt to the Sea that really worked for me was the short chapters and the multiple character points of views. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the characters switching and hearing their voices, but once I did it made for smooth, quick reading. I was attached to all of them, even the characters who didn’t have their own chapters. Although, I never really connected with Alfred; he rubbed me the wrong way.

I feel like I’m moving through this review too quickly, but it’s because my thoughts are still all over the place. I’m still picturing those last scenes; my heart is still heavy. It doesn’t matter that these are fictional characters because I know they’re based on real people who suffered the way they did. And it’s even harder thinking about the Syrian refugees who are suffering today. Salt to the Sea is a book that I want my students to read and teachers to read as well. I wish I could bring Ruta Sepetys to school because I know she’d inspire my students to not only read this novel, but to also become passionate about research and finding stories.

Book Trailer Thursday (182)–I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Book Trailer Thursday

I didn’t know about the book trailer for I Crawl Through It by A.S. King until Gae Polisner posted a Facebook status about the book the other night. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read A.S. King’s most recent release, especially since I adore her novels, but I’m still excited to share this book trailer with my students because I think it will really grab some of them. She’s an incredibly smart and talented author that I want more of my students to discover and appreciate. Also, it’s awesome that e.E. Charlton-Trujillo created this trailer.

I Crawl Through ItSummary (From Goodreads):

Our big explosion is coming any day now. Can’t you hear the ticking?

Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.

Tick.

So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.

Tick.

The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience—and find the way out.

Tick.

Review: Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson + additional authors

Violent EndsTitle: Violent Ends

Author: Shaun David Hutchinson + additional authors

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Interest: Contemp / More than one POV / Author(s)

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.

But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.

This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, played saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties.

This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.

It’s been two months since I finished reading Violent Ends and I’m still having a difficult time putting all of my thoughts together. Immediately after finishing it I began tweeting my reactions and thoughts because I had to say something about it to someone right away. So this review is going to be a mixture of those tweets and some written explanation.

One of the primary reasons aspects that makes this an awesome book is that it’s not easy to demonize Kirby. When a school shooting occurs the shooter(s) is almost instantly villainized by the media. And part of me wants to add “rightly so,” but then I think about Violent Ends and all of the stories connected to Kirby, and I find it difficult to type “rightly so.” That’s incredibly hard for me to grapple with as a teacher and parent.

Something that is so smart about Violent Ends is that even though many of the stories could prompt a reader to point to a moment as “the moment” that set Kirby off, we still can’t do that. Take this tweet for instance:

Violent Ends Tweet 3

I won’t say what happens in Elisa’s chapter, but, yeah. I was extremely fortunate to be invited to the Simon & Schuster NCTE dinner that featured Shaun and was able to ask him some questions about this book during the dinner. I asked Shaun specifically about this chapter and even he doesn’t know exactly how it ends. Elisa has purposely kept that quiet because it could sway readers in one direction or not. I bring this up, because it’s a perfect example of how society wants to find the real reason why someone decides to attack a school (or any public place). And often when a suicide is involved we’re left without answers. The authors who wrote this book together crafted it in such a way that while we know Kirby pretty well, we don’t know exactly why. The closest we get to being in Kirby’s head is in a chapter from the gun’s point of view.

There are chapters that made me feel close to Kirby and the characters who were directly involved in his life.

Violent Ends Tweet 4

This chapter, had me on edge like the tweet says, but it also showed an unexpected side of Kirby. I’m still thinking about that character and want Tom Leveen to write a book from her point of view.

There’s also this:

Violent Ends Tweet 2

Mindi Scott’s chapter left me feeling almost everything. And, again, I saw a side of Kirby that made me want to know him more. Mindi was the perfect author for this character and chapter (I’m purposely not naming the character).

Overall, Violent Ends is smart and timely, which is one of the reasons it was one of my favorite books of 2015. I’m impressed with variety of authors Shaun David Hutchinson pulled together and the amazing story they created. I never felt like I was reading something written by a group of authors, which is quite the feat.

Violent Ends Tweet 1 Violent Ends Tweet 5

Audiobook Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

Audio Review

All American BoysTitle: All American Boys

Authors: Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

Narrators: Guy Lockhard & Keith Nobbs

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dloughy Books

Release Date: September 29, 2015

Source: Audio purchased by Audible

Interest: Authors / Contemp

Summary (From Goodreads):

In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galuzzi, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

Typically for an audio review I break up my post into two parts: the audio review followed by the book review. Today I’ve decided to break away from that. Rashad’s and Quinn’s stories prompted a number of questions to form as I listened to All American Boys, so I decided to list my questions instead of writing a formal review. I think the questions I kept asking myself speak volumes about the story and about our society. All of the questions I’m listing stem from moments in the novel.

  1. Why does American mean white? Why is does it seem like that’s the definition of our country?
  2. Who do you call for help when you witness a police officer doing wrong? Who else can help? Will other police officers come to your aid?
  3. Why aren’t the teachers discussing Rashad’s beating in their classrooms? Why do some teachers avoid openly discussing tough topics?
  4. Is it really “best” to leave it (it=Rashad’ beating / race issues / tough topics) at the gym door? Does this build a stronger team or weaken it? What does this actually communicate to the student athletes?
  5. Who’s on your team outside the gym door?
  6. Why in this day and age are there still “Invisible Men”?
  7. How do we define loyalty? Where do our loyalties lie? When is it necessary to redefine our definitions?

All American Boys is a novel that our country needs right now, which is why I hope teachers and librarians and parents read and share this book with teens. Today’s teenagers will be tomorrow’s leaders, so I hope Jason Reynold’s and Brendan Kiely’s novel lands in their hands.

Waiting on Wednesday–Violent Ends by Shaun Hutchinson

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.

A blogger I follow on Goodreads posted about Violent Ends and as soon as I saw the author compilation I knew I had to read it! Shaun Hutchinson has included Trish Doller, Courtney Summers, Neal Shusterman, Beth Revis, Kendare Blake, and even more of my favorite authors in one book. I know this is going to be a powerful book, so I can’t wait to get my hands on it, tear through it, and share it with my students in the fall.

Violent EndsTitle & Author: Violent Ends by Shaun Hutchinson

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary (From Goodreads):

It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.

But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.

This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, played saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties.

This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.

Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Sea of TranquilityTitle: The Sea of Tranquility

Author: Katja Millay

Publisher: Atria Books

Release Date: June 4th, 2013 (paperback)

Interest: ALA Alex Award Winner / Contemp

Source: Publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Full of rage and without a purpose, former pianist Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone discovering her past and to make the boy who took everything from her pay.

All 17 year-old Josh Bennett wants is to build furniture and be left alone, and everyone allows it because it’s easier to pretend he doesn’t exist. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, a hot mess of a girl who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. The more he gets to know her, the more of a mystery she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he may ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a slow-building, character-driven romance about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

OhMyGosh. I’m sorry (well, not sorry) that I’m going to gush all over this review because this book is absolutely fantastic. The publisher approved The Sea of Tranquility for me over the summer via NetGalley and for some reason I started it but didn’t finish it. I’m so glad the librarian in my building asked me to read some of the Alex Award winners to help her decide which ones to add to the library. I was in one of my moody reader moods on Friday and decided to pick up Katja Millay’s debut again to see if it would perk me up and also to help out our librarian. It did that and more.

Since I found out I was pregnant in January, I haven’t been able to read a book in one sitting without falling asleep. The Sea of Tranquility is 448 pages long and I read the entire book in almost one sitting without falling asleep. It’s incredibly engaging and engrossing. I can hardly explain how attached I am to the characters in this book. I woke up in the morning thinking about Josh and Nastya wondering how their story would end. Some reviewers say that the story starts out slow, but I disagree. I really can’t remember why I set it down over the summer, but I know it wasn’t because it’s slow.

But speaking of slow, Josh and Nastya’s relationship grows slowly–there’s no insta-love. Instead we really get to know Josh and Nastya as they get to know each other. I loved watching them navigate their feelings for each other since they’re both very guarded and hesitant to let anyone into their lives. I don’t know if this is weird to say, but I felt myself falling in love with them as I read their story. We get to read from both of their point of views, but I still wanted to know more about Nastya just like Josh did. Katja Millay wrote such real characters that I felt their emotions with them. She gave them depth and emotion and so much heart that I teared up multiple times while reading.

I do want to mention a warning that’s placed at the end of the Goodreads summary that I chose to eliminate from my review. It warns the reader about the mature content in the story. I know that’s one of the reasons why my librarian asked me to read The Sea of Tranquility before she added it to the circulation. I really don’t think the warning is necessary. Yes, there’s profanity, but I don’t think there’s an excess of it. There’s a lot of sexual innuendo and joking, but there isn’t anything graphic included in terms of sex. There’s a scene which includes drugs, but again, it’s nothing that really shocked or alarmed me. All of it fit the characters and the situations in the novel. I always recommend reading a novel before handing it to students and this is no different. I did, however, order myself a copy for my students when I was only 40% through because I felt that confident about it.

I really hope Katja Millay writes another book soon. I’d even be happy if she chose to write a sequel. 😉 I’m so impressed with her debut that I’ll automatically add her next book to my TBR list. The Sea of Tranquility is a new favorite and has been added to my limited list of books that I would happily read more than once.

The Sea of Tranquility read alikes (titles & authors): Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Fall for Anything & Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

RoomiesTitle: Roomies

Authors: Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 24th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl’s summer — and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they’ve never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

If new adult is going to become a category that sticks around like young adult has, then it needs to have more books like Roomies published if it does. Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando truly understand what it means to be a teen who is about to leave for college. They understand what it means to be a teen on the cusp of adulthood. I can’t wait to share Roomies with my seniors this year and every year that I teach seniors.

I really appreciate the characters’ emotions in this book. Elizabeth and Lauren appear to be very different people, but they’re actually quite similar, especially when comparing how they feel about leaving for college. Both of the girls are questioning their decisions about moving away from home, how to deal with their friends, and how this move will affect their families. I appreciate their feelings about all of these things because I remember feeling exactly the same way before I moved to college. Quite a few of my former seniors confided in me and expressed similar worries. Roomies is a book that will let seniors know that it’s okay to have doubts, but that it’s also okay to ultimately be confident about a decision.

Another reason this book won me over is because it’s written so seamlessly. Sometimes I wonder if a dual-authored book will flow well. I can honestly say that I’m not sure if Sara Zarr and Tara Alterbrando each took on a different character and wrote this story or if they worked on it as a whole together. The characters’ voices are distinct and the story flows perfectly as the points of view change. I love that it felt like I was reading one author’s work.

A layer of the story that made Roomies extra fun are the relationships Elizabeth and Lauren begin. Neither of the girls are really looking to be in a relationship before they leave for school, but the guys they each meet end up being supportive and positive additions to their lives. I love how Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando handled these relationships because while new adult has become associated with romance novels, these relationships are very fitting for the average senior girl who’s about to start life outside of high school. Sex is discussed and a topic of conversation in Roomies, but it’s done without venturing into romance novel territory. It’s new adult that I feel comfortable adding to my classroom library.

Overall, I can’t recommend Roomies enough. The characters are vibrant, their stories and conflicts will resonate with readers, and the feelings and worries portrayed about venturing into the real world are authentic.

Review: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

The Infinite Moment of Us official coverTitle: The Infinite Moment of Us

Author: Lauren Myracle

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: August 27th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads):

For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now… not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them…

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.

The Infinite Moment of Us is a beautiful, real love story.  But really, Lauren Myracle has written more than a love story. She’s written a story about finding yourself and allowing others to care.  It’s a story of discoveries: life, love, and self.

I’m really picky about third person point of view, but the third person in this really worked.  Lauren Myracle wrote this from both Wren’s and Charlie’s points of view so we can get a full picture of their story.  I finished reading The Infinite Moment of Us feeling like I knew both characters really well. I knew all the ins and outs of the story.  Even the ending, which I know will probably upset some readers, left me feeling happy because I still had an idea about what the “real” ending is.

The Infinite Moment of Us is sexually mature and not one I would hand to middle school readers.  The sexuality is handled well though.  It’s steamy, but it’s also authentic.  It didn’t strike me as being sexy to be titillating.  It does take up a large part of the story, but like I said earlier, the story is more than about sex.  And let’s be honest, these are high school seniors; they’re hormonally driven.  I have seniors this year and have already pre-ordered a copy of this to share with my students because I love it so much. If I had freshman I would still share this with them, but with the warning about its mature content.

This is a relatively short review, but it’s difficult to put my love for this into words.  I read Forever by Judy Blume when I first discovered YA and am so excited to have read a sort of updated version of it.  I’m really looking forward to discussing this with my seniors this year.

Book Pairings: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Forever by Judy Blume

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