Review: Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

CriminalTitle: Criminal

Author: Terra Elan McVoy

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 7th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

A searing and gripping read that explores the depths of desperation true love can inspire, from the author of Being Friends with Boys.

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.

But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy is a book that surprised me and kept me turning the pages. It’s a book that I’m very excited to share with my students, especially those who love mysteries and edgy books.

Nikki is a character that I felt for, but I also found myself shaking my head at her often. Terra Elan McVoy wrote her in such a way that while I knew I shouldn’t feel sorry for Nikki, I couldn’t help it. She makes horrible choices. She blindly follows her boyfriend’s directions. But she’s also coming from an unstable home and is uneducated. She’s very naive. But she’s also real. She makes choices like many girls in bad relationships do. They may not be as extreme (thankfully), but readers will relate with Nikki.

Like I said before, Criminal kept me turning the pages. The chapters are fairly short and the plot moves quickly. I hope this book will end up YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list because it’s one that I know will win over my reluctant readers. One day during SSR in my sophomore class I had to stop our reading to talk to them about a part that made me angry. Nikki did something that I couldn’t believe she did; I thought it was stupid of her. I had a quick conversation with my kids and asked them if they’d ever confronted a part like that in a book. Taking that moment piqued quite a bit of interest which I’m happy about because my sophomores aren’t as excited about reading as my seniors are this year. Criminal is full of “we need to discuss this” moments.

I do want to add that Criminal is a mature read. There are sexual scenes and mature themes involved. I’m not worried about placing this in my classroom, but I know quite a few of my readers work in middle school libraries/classrooms. Nikki is an eighteen year old character and lives a rough life. There are certainly lessons to be learned from Nikki’s story.

More reviews:
Chick Loves Lit

Wrapped Up in Books

Mrs. Crawford’s Thoughts

Students Want to Know Terra Elan McVoy

Photo Credit: Jamie Allen

Photo Credit: Jamie Allen

My students and I love contemporary realistic fiction, especially when authors of this genre write both verse and prose novels.  When Terra Elan McVoy approached me about an interview, I knew my students would be thrilled to interview her.  I have a copy of her book Being Friends With Boys in my class library, and as we came up with questions for the interview, we discovered more of her books that we’re excited to read. 🙂  Thank you for answering my students’ questions, Terra!

Ayla:

  • What is your favorite YA novel? This is so hard to choose, but I think my very favorite YA novel is GIRL by Blake Nelson, just because it has taught me so much about voice, and the genre in general.

  • At any point did you ever want to quit and begin a different career?
    This is so funny, because it was only this fall that I really tired to approach novel writing as a career at all! I have always had other full-time jobs while writing my books, largely because though the advances are nice, they are not enough for me to live off of just yet!  (And they really aren’t for most people.) Even now, I am working part-time at an independent children’s bookstore, as well as doing as many workshops and teaching engagements as I can, to supplement my novel-writing income. To answer your question though, even when I’ve had other jobs, of course I’ve felt like quitting, because being a writer is HARD!!

 

  •  Did any of your close family/friends tell you not to become an author? If so, why?
    No, no one ever told me not to do this, except for myself. My family and teachers, friends, my husband, have all been extremely encouraging of my writing. I just never thought it was possible for me to make a living at it, because doing so is so difficult and requires so much work. (Work I wasn’t sure I wanted to do. I just wanted to write because I loved it and had fun with it, and didn’t want to worry about the money part). Sometimes I still think it is indulgent, and a crazy thing to try, but for now it seems to be working out all right.

Tristan:

 

  •  What is your favorite and least favorite genre?
    The stuff I love to read most is realistic fiction, because I’m so enraptured by the drama of daily life, and interested in how writers articulate this real-life human experience. My second favorite genre though is magical realism (books like The Night Circus, and Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin), because I love it when magic gets worked into real life, too. There isn’t any genre I dislike really, because I think it’s important for there to be a book out there for every kind of reader. I’ll say that I don’t often read a lot of high fantasy or paranormal stuff, though, just because I don’t need a dragon or a vampire to keep me interested in the characters and the plot, so long as the writing is good!

 

  •  Do your characters reflect yourself?
    Of course they do, but not necessarily on purpose. I’ve heard several times that every person in your dream is really some reflection of your own self (for example: if you have a dream about your best friend, he or she in your dream is really a manifestation of how you see your friend’s energy/personality operating in yourself), and I tend to think that’s how characters are. There are qualities in all of my main characters that I can look at and say, “This is similar to how I am,” but it’s not  intentionally like “Oh I’m going to write a character about me in this situation now.”

 

  •  Will you ever write another book in verse?
    That is a good question, and the answer is, “I don’t know.” It’s hard for me to imagine how I might do that successfully, since I poured so much of my poetic self into AFTER THE KISS. It’s hard to picture how I could do so without having the poems sound just like Becca’s, or Camille’s vignettes. However,  more than one person has asked about it, so it’s definitely somewhere in there in my mind. Not in the plans right now, but you never know!

Breanna:

 

  •  What was your favorite book growing up?
    Oh gosh, I had SO many favorite books growing up, and different favorites at different stages in my life. One that really sticks out is Kabumpo in Oz. My mom read all the Oz books to us, and this one is one not many people know about, but it is so good. I was also obsessed with Fridays by Patricia Lee Gauch. I think I checked it out of the library about ten times when I was in 4th and 5th grade.

 

  •  Do you plan on writing any books in a different genre? (Other than contemporary)
    It’s only very recently that I’ve started to ask myself this question. I didn’t really “set out” to become a contemporary author, or even a YA author–it’s just the way the stories have been coming to me, and for now it’s how they seem to continue to. However, I have had some curiosity about what it might look like if I wrote, say, a horror story. Or maybe something epic and futuristic, since I liked those things a lot when I was in high school. Lots of people ask me about writing adult, too. I guess you’ll just have to stay posted on those! Or tell me what you’d like to see me do next!

***About Terra Elan McVoy***

Terra Elan McVoy has been reading and writing since she first learned how to, and her whole life has been motivated by her passion for those two things. She received her BA in English at St. Andrews Presbyterian College, and an MA in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She has worked as an event coordinator at a major chain bookstore; an editorial assistant at an NYC publisher; as manager of an independent children’s bookstore; and as Program Director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival. She is the author of Pure, After the Kiss, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, Being Friends with Boys, and Criminal. To learn more about Terra and her books, visit http://terraelan.com.

Review: Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy

Title: Being Friends with Boys

Author: Terra Elan McVoy

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 1st, 2012

Interest: Blog Tour / Contemporary

Source: Finished copy received for tour from Literary Logistics / Publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl’s perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys’ band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free…until it isn’t any more.

When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl…and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char…being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

When I was invited to be part of this blog tour I was really excited because the premise for Being Friends with Boys sounds like a fun summer read.  Plus, it’s contemporary which I love, and I haven’t read any of Terra Elan McVoy’s books yet.  It’s kind of awkward though when I end up not liking the book as much as I hoped to when I’m featuring it as part of a blog tour.  I’ve decided that breaking this post down into a likes/dislikes will probably work best for my review.

What I Liked:

  • I really like that Terra Elan McVoy decided to write a book about a girl with mostly guy friends because I always found it easier to be friends with guys, and many of the girls in my classes have mentioned this as well.
  • McVoy wrote a pretty accurate representation of what hanging out with guys is like.  Charlotte is part of the group, and loves telling jokes with them and watching them play video games, but she also sometimes feels out of place.  She’s managing their band and writing the lyrics, but then she’s also the one to organize them and get snacks ready for practice.  She’s riding that line between being one of the guys and being “Suzy homemaker” which she’s mentioned not wanting to be, or something along those lines.
  • I like that Char and Trip pass a notebook back and forth to one another about their day, gossip, music, feelings, etc.  I had a notebook with my best friend, but I never considered having one with one of my guy friends.  I don’t think I really had any guy friends who were the notebook type though either.
  • A big part of the story is Charlotte figuring out who she is and where she fits in.  Her mom left their family years ago, her sister is away at college, she’s trying to get to know her stepsisters better, and it feels like the band is falling apart.  Charlotte has to learn that she can’t always make everyone happy and sometimes it’s more important to do what’s right for her.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • From the beginning of Being Friends with Boys it felt like there was a back story I was missing or like this is the sequel to another book about Charlotte and the guys.  Readers are instantly thrown into the drama of Trip leaving the band even though we have no real reason why.  This sort of expected understanding happened often in the beginning of the book which left me confused and re-reading pages to figure out what I was missing.  To top it off, the chapters are incredibly long which almost always irks me.
  • I like a book with drama, but there’s so much drama wrapped into this book that it started to take away from the real meat of the story which is Charlotte’s friendship with Oliver and Trip.  At least I think that’s supposed to be the main focus.  McVoy wound in all of this extra drama about Charlotte and her (ex?) best friend Lish, her sister being away at college, and her mom not being around anymore.  Through most of the book it felt like I was reading a timeline of events that keep happening instead of getting a real in-depth story.
  • The length.  Being Friends with Boys is 360 pages long and it should have been 100 pages shorter.  If there was more in-depth story and less timeline and telling so much of happening instead of showing what happens, then I think the story could have been shorter.  Even if it wasn’t shorter, I think I would have enjoyed it more.  The writing is really what turned me away from the book.
  • The ending.  After all of this drama, so much was left with loose strings.

Make sure to check out the main page of the blog tour so you can read other reviews of Being Friends with Boys.  I’m only one opinion, and many of the other bloggers participating in the tour really liked Terra Elan McVoy’s newest book.

 

Being Friends with Boys Blog Tour

Terra Elan McVoy is known for her cute contemporary YA novels, so I was excited when Shanyn from Literary Logistics invited me to be part of the blog tour for Terra Elan McVoy’s new book Being Friends with Boys.  Every day of the tour, McVoy has one of ten reasons why it’s good to be friends with boys, and today I have reason number six.  Make sure to check out the main tour page so you can get links to all of the blogs participating, Being Friends with Boys giveaways, and more reasons why it’s great being friends with boys!

Links!
My Review
Terra’s Website
Terra’s Twitter
Buy Being Friends with Boys from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound

Summary (From Goodreads): Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl’s perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys’ band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free…until it isn’t any more.

When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl…and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char…being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

Differences Between Being Friends With Boys, and Being Friends with Girls

Terra Elan McVoy, author of Being Friends with Boys:

Ever since my novel, Being Friends With Boys was released, I’ve been asked a lot about friendships between guys and girls. Is it possible, for one thing (duh, yes), and how is being friends with boys different than being friends with girls. I happen to be very lucky to have had friendships with both guys and girls all through middle- and high school, and continue to have fantastic friendships with men (and women) to this day. Though I think the value and intensity of guy/girl friendships and girl/girl friendships are definitely equal, there certainly are some differences. Follow my blog tour to read a few of my thoughts on how being friends with boys isn’t quite the same as being friends with girls!

 6.   They understand how intense you get playing video games. I think one of the things I most appreciate about my guy friends is that they a) like to play video games, which I love —even just watching someone play them is awesome and b) they do not in any way think it is strange how into them I can get. No guy friend of mine (who is into video games) has ever once thought it strange to play a video game all day long, while some of my girlfriends can’t quite get their heads around even spending an hour that way. (But not all my girlfriends are anti-video game, which is also rad.)

I’m not much of a gamer myself, so when I found what topic I’d be featuring I brought this to my students and asked for their opinions.  This ended up being a hot topic with varied responses.  Here’s what a few of my freshmen think:

Daymon: “I love it when girls play video games.  This is for mainly two reasons.  First off, a lot of girls don’t exactly get video games but they’ll try.  When they do it’s hilarious.  The second reason is it’s cool when guys and girls hang out, and if she’ll give video games a try that’s really cool.”

Kylee: “I think girls playing video games is cool.  I don’t like to play, but I love to watch the boys play.  I just like to talk on the mic on X-Box Live, but sometimes I like to attempt to try so I think more girls should try it.”

Ana: “I think that playing video games is a lot of fun.  Sometimes me and one of my best guy friends get together and play Skyrim all day long.  Sometimes he forgets that he’s at my house.”

Alicia: “I actually do like playing video games.  I have a brother and a boyfriend who both play them so I will sometimes play with them.  They both think that it’s cool that I play with them even though I am extremely bad at some.  For me it’s a way that I can hang out/bond with my brother.  It’s sometimes kind of fun too.”

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