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

DEC

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Don't Ever ChangeTitle: Don’t Ever Change

Author: M. Beth Bloom

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Contemp / New Adult

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Waiting on Wednesday–Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

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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Gail Giles is an excellent YA contemporary author. Her upcoming release sounds like one that my students and I will love. I like that it appears to fit the New Adult category while also being about special education students. I need more titles in my class library with special ed characters. Also, I like the cover and that this is a Candlewick title. I hope I find an ARC at NCTE this year!

Girls Like UsTitle & Author: Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Release Date: May 27th, 2014

Publisher: Candlewick

Summary (From Goodreads):

With gentle humor and unflinching realism, Gail Giles tells the gritty, ultimately hopeful story of two special ed teenagers entering the adult world.

We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad.

Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in their first “real world” apartment, it initially seems to be an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces a harrowing experience that no one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought — and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward.

Hard-hitting and compassionate, Girls Like Us is a story about growing up in a world that can be cruel, and finding the strength — and the support — to carry on.

Flash Reviews (23)

Flash Reviews

Two books I really enjoyed–Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles and New Money: A Novel by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal–are releasing today. They’re both books I plan on buying for my classroom library and sharing with my students.

Living with Jackie ChanTitle: Living with Jackie Chan

Author: Jo Knowles

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Source: NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads):

After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.

This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.

Flash Review: So first of all, I didn’t realize this is a companion to Jumping Off Swings until I started reading it. I guess I wasn’t paying close attention to the summary!  Second, I was pleasantly surprised because I wanted more of Josh’s story when I finished reading Jumping Off Swings.

Living with Jackie Chan is an all-around enjoyable read that is full of heart. Josh is a character readers will relate with and probably learn from. He was really suffering in Jumping Off Swings and that suffering is even more evident in this companion novel. He simply doesn’t know how to deal with what he did and what happened to him. His guilt and remorse are eating him up from the inside out, but thankfully he has a supportive family and group of friends to help him. I love his uncle Larry for this reason. Larry is encouraging, enthusiastic, and supportive without being over-bearing. He’s a gem of a character and so much fun to read. My one minor qualm with Living with Jackie Chan is that it felt a little long. Towards the end I was ready for Josh to heal and stop being so remorseful; his narration and feelings began to feel repetitive. Despite that, I really liked this book and am looking forward to sharing it with my students.

New MoneyTitle: New Money: A Novel

Author: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books)

Source: NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads):

A young Southern woman of modest means suddenly finds herself thrust into New York’s high society when she discovers that she is the illegitimate daughter of a recently-deceased billionaire.

Savannah Morgan had high hopes. She dreamed of becoming a writer and escaping her South Carolina town, where snooty debutantes have always looked down on her. But at twenty-four, she’s become a frustrated ex-cheerleader who lives with her mother and wonders if rejecting a marriage proposal was a terrible mistake. Then Savannah’s world is shaken when she learns the father she never knew is Edward Stone, a billionaire media mogul who has left Savannah his fortune on the condition that she move to Manhattan and work at his global news corporation. Putting aside her mother’s disapproval, Savannah plunges into a life of wealth and luxury that is threatened by Edward’s other children—the infuriatingly arrogant Ned and his sharp-tongued sister, Caroline, whose joint mission is to get rid of Savannah. She deals with their treachery along with her complicated love life, and she eventually has to decide between Jack, a smooth and charming real estate executive, and Alex, a handsome aspiring writer/actor. Savannah must navigate a thrilling but dangerous city while trying to figure out what kind of man her father truly was.

NEW MONEY is a keenly observed and exciting peek into a world of privilege and glamour with a spirited and charming heroine at its center.

Flash Review: New Money is Lorraine Zago Rosenthal’s sophomore release. Her debut was YA, but I would consider this to be New Adult/chick (women’s) lit. If you’re looking for a New Adult novel that isn’t a “junior romance novel,” then New Money is for you. (There is, however, romance in the story, just not a gratuitous amount of it.)

Something I really enjoyed while reading New Money is that it felt like I was watching a movie or a television drama. The characters are easy to imagine and the narration and dialogue read smoothly like characters on screen would. When I told my students about this book, they told me it sounds like Hart of Dixie which stars Rachel Bilson. It would be fun to see these characters come to life, although I did have a hard time liking Savannah at times. She’s navigating this new life and begins to forget who she is and where she comes from, as I’m sure many people in her position would. Rosenthal has written characters readers will cheer for and characters readers will despise. It’s these characters that kept me engaged. The story is sweet, and while I predicted some of the events that took place, I still wanted to read to the end to know the fate of each character. Savannah is beyond college, but I still think my high school students will enjoy her story, so I plan on buying a copy of New Money for my classroom.

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

Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful DisasterTitle: Beautiful Disaster

Author: Jamie McGuire

Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)

Release Date: August 14th, 2012 (paperback)

Interest: Student Recommended

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire wasn’t on my reading radar until two of my seniors started raving about it.  I was at Target last week, saw a copy that was marked 20% off, and decided on a whim to buy it.  I was hooked as soon as I started reading.

I do, however, have a lot of mixed reactions about it.  Books that fall in the New Adult category are naturally going to be more mature than YA, in my opinion, so that’s why I hesitate sometimes when I read them.  As a mature adult, I can look at Travis and Abby’s relationship and make sense of their relationship and all of the drama.  In Beautiful Disaster, I’m really not as concerned about the sex in the story as I’m concerned about the dynamics of their relationship.  The sex isn’t overly graphic or too prevalent.  My issue is that their relationship is dysfunctional and bordering on dangerous.  Travis isn’t physically abusive, but he is incredibly dependent on Abby and extremely violent around her on an almost regular basis.  My concern is that my students will read this and think that Travis is cute and sweet and the kind of guy they want to date.  And to be honest, he does have many of those characteristics and grows throughout the story.  Abby isn’t always much better.  She toys with Travis and is often wishy-washy which she knows drives him crazy.  They have a really messed up relationship, but it has plenty of moments that shine.  I’m going to add Beautiful Disaster to my classroom library, but I’m going to take my time book talking this and expressing my concerns.  I’ll make sure to discuss it with any of my students that read it because I want to make sure they understand the difference between a stable relationship and a dysfunctional one.

Now I know I harped on Travis and Abby in that last paragraph, but don’t let that make you think I didn’t like them or the book.  There were plenty of times I wanted to scream at both of them.  But there were also plenty of times that I loved seeing them together and cheered them on.  They’re both very flawed characters and their relationship brings their insecurities and flaws to light, but it also helps them grow and mature.  I really felt like I knew them.  At one point, I was so upset about an event in the book that I called my friend, who had already read it, to vent and express my concerns.  I felt attached to Travis and Abby while I was reading.  Jamie McGuire has done a fabulous job write these two characters and their supporting characters as well.  I could easily see and feel everything that was happening in the story.

I do have to point out that Beautiful Disaster is full of DRAMA.  Lots and lots of drama.  Abby and Travis bring most of the drama on themselves, but there’s plenty there that’s outside of their control.  I can’t complain about it too much because it made the story intense and exciting, but towards the end a few things came up that sort of made me shake my head.  I’m not sure some of it was really all that vital to the story at that point.

I’ll definitely be reading Walking Disaster which is told from Travis’s point of view.  I’m not going to lie, I really liked him.  He’s often an idiot, but he grew on me, and I would love to read something from his point of view to better understand him.

If you’ve read either of these books, I’d love to know your thoughts!  I’m curious to know if any other high school teachers have read this and added it to their libraries.  I’d also love to know if I’m off base in regards to my concerns.

Waiting on Wednesday–New Money: A Novel by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

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.

newwow2

I absolutely adored Lorraine Zago Rosenthal’s YA debut, Other Words for Love, so I’m excited about the release of her New Adult novel.  I’m intrigued by this new world of New Adult, but I’d read Lorraine’s new book regardless of that!

New MoneyTitle & Author: New Money: A Novel by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Release Date: September 10th, 2013

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books)

Summary (From Goodreads):

A young Southern woman of modest means suddenly finds herself thrust into New York’s high society when she discovers that she is the illegitimate daughter of a recently-deceased billionaire.

Savannah Morgan had high hopes. She dreamed of becoming a writer and escaping her South Carolina town, where snooty debutantes have always looked down on her. But at twenty-four, she’s become a frustrated ex-cheerleader who lives with her mother and wonders if rejecting a marriage proposal was a terrible mistake. Then Savannah’s world is shaken when she learns the father she never knew is Edward Stone, a billionaire media mogul who has left Savannah his fortune on the condition that she move to Manhattan and work at his global news corporation. Putting aside her mother’s disapproval, Savannah dives head first into a high-class life of wealth and luxury that is threatened by Edward’s other children–the infuriatingly arrogant Ned and his sharp-tongued sister, Caroline, whose joint mission is to get rid of Savannah. She deals with their treachery along with her complicated love life, and she eventually has to decide between Jack, a smooth and charming real estate executive, and Alex, a handsome aspiring writer/actor. Savannah must navigate a thrilling but dangerous city while trying to figure out what kind of man her father truly was.

NEW MONEY is a keenly observed, fun yet wise peek into a world of privilege and glamour with a spirited and charming heroine at its center.

Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

Title: Easy

Author: Tammara Webber

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Release Date (paperback): November 6th, 2012

Interest: Contemporary / New Adult

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.

Wow!  Easy by Tammara Webber is fantastic!  I wanted to read it again before I even finished reading it.

I don’t like the “New Adult” category name, but I love this new category of books.  I haven’t been away from college for too long (almost six years), so I still remember my college days fondly.  My college experience is the only part of my life, so far, that I’d relive if given the chance, so having the opportunity to read something from that point of view was really entertaining.  Obviously, I wouldn’t want someone stalking me.

Tammara Webber is a talented author.  Easy starts off with an intense scene that had me literally on the edge of my seat.  I started reading it during SSR and was sitting at the front of my classroom hoping the scene wasn’t going to get too intense since I didn’t know how I’d react in front of my students who were quietly reading.  From that point on I spent the rest of the day sneaking pages so I could keep reading.  It’s that good.  I completely understand why Berkley Trade decided to publish Webber’s book, which was originally self-published as an e-book.  Her writing is fluid, descriptive, and engrossing.

It needs to be noted that Easy isn’t for younger readers.  Considering it’s under the New Adult category, it deals with adult themes and has sexual scenes, which are pretty steamy.  I’m okay with adding Easy to my classroom library, but I’m also more liberal about what I put in my classroom.  When I booktalk it in class, I’ll make sure to express that it’s for my mature readers.  I can easily see some of my more sheltered or innocent readers feeling uncomfortable reading parts of this book, but I don’t want to keep it from my students because I have plenty of readers who are mature enough to read this.  If you’re undecided, I suggest you read this before adding it to your class library.  Although honestly, you should read it anyway because it’s a really good book. 🙂

Tammara Webber sold me with Easy.  I enjoyed her well-developed characters, her pacing, and her ability to write a strong story so much that I’ll read more of her books.  I really hope she writes more books under the New Adult category because she did an excellent job depicting a college experience, and I’m referring to more than the stalking part of the story.  She understands what college life and college students can be like.

Book Pairings: Fans of Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry trilogy

More reviews of Easy:

Christina Reads YA

YA Librarian Tales

Chick Loves Lit

IB Book Blogging

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