Review: The Female of the Species

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

I think to start there needs to be a sort of notice. While this is technically labeled as a YA, it certainly isn’t. There is murder, metal illness, rape, and molestation. As well as terrible language, drug use, and a lot of questionable behavior by minors.

I really don’t understand how the age of the character is what determines the genre for YA and NA books.

All that being said. This book was so compelling and well written and I couldn’t put it down.

McGinnis has written about some really dark things, but always focuses on survival. And while I wasn’t too big of a fan of her historic novel, she jumps her game up exponentially with this book. She uses some of the darkest aspects of human nature as a setting, but somehow brings humor and life to it.
I really enjoyed the variety of characters, their personal struggles with their own identities and how they are expected to be perceived by society. Beyond the more troubling aspects that I mentioned in the disclaimer, this novel takes on daily struggles like social status, slut shaming, and the social reactions to behavior by males and females.
As I said before, I could not put this down. These three messed up, genuine, and various degrees of truly good people are so captivating and well developed. It’s about a girl whose irreparably damaged by the murder of her sister; a boy having trouble separating who he is based on what society expects and what he expects of himself; and a girl who’s let people walk over her most of her life and is now finding her voice.
McGinnis does so well at pointing out social inequalities in the way behavior is perceived between boys and girls in such a real and unarguable way. It would be so easy for people to write this off as a feminist rant, but it is so much more and is done is such a relateable way that I don’t see how people can’t see the truth in her examples.
All of the characters go through so much growth. Finding ways to be the people they want to be, while understanding that certain aspects can never truly change. The fact that Alex feels guilt and regret shows so much of how she’s changed. And how Jack and Peekay react to her actions show so much of how they have grown outside of their small town bubbles. They seek change in personal growth, becoming better versions of themselves with the help of their friends, who see the best in them. I loved this book, I loved it’s truth, and I loved the dark humor that made it all a little bit easier to swallow.
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Review: We Were Liars

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

This was one of those books I saw a lot of last year, and one with really mixed reviews. I was never that interested in it so I never bother to pick it up. Until I saw it on super sale through Kindle, and figured I’d see what all the fuss had been about.

Well, I’m not going to say I really loved it, or that I have been affected by it in any deep way. However, I couldn’t put it down, it was such a fast read, with really well ended chapters that I kept saying, “well, one more.” And as I got deeper into it, the twisted complicated relationships these people all had were intriguing, as well as our Liars and how they responded to it all.

The ‘thriller’ aspect of this really wasn’t that all thrilling, or very surprising when it came down to it, but I did like the way we followed Cady as she pieced her mind back together, and the revelations that came along with it.

So overall, it was an enjoyable and fun read, but I can’t say I will be revisiting it in the future.

Review: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

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Goodreads Summary:

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

This book was interesting. Though short and a quick read it took me longer than I expected to get through. I lost interest part way through, partly because I’m sick and kept falling asleep while reading, but primarily because I was not a fan of the MC for a large chunk of the book, or he and Earl’s bawdy language.

I will say this though, I got it. It’s a book that takes on all the tropes that come along with any “cancer book” and shows that, like in real life, these big dramatic, life-altering events don’t always have that big of an impact on you. Or you don’t automatically find an emotional well you had originally walled off. And that it’s awkward to deal with these sorts of situations, especially with people who you never had a very deep connection with.

There were also moments of hilarity. The first quarter of the book had me laughing out loud constantly.

However, it quickly becomes obvious just how flawed our MC is, and though he thinks he understands these flaws, he doesn’t. He’s a loner, scared to care about anyone or have anyone care about him because he’s terrified of not fitting in or being hurt. I can understand parts of this, as Greg notes several time – High School Sucks. Earl is the closest thing he has to a friend, and I loved that Earl was the blatantly honest moral compass of the duo, especially with his unconventional family life. Earl said all the things to Greg that I wanted to say. As Greg hangs out with Rachel though he also unveils an extremely selfish side of himself, and he can’t admit that he likes this girl even a little as a friend, and that drove me crazy. She’s the only person who listens to him, she doesn’t judge, she doesn’t try to make him change, she simply listens.

And while Greg points out numerous times throughout the book that there was no amazing connection between he and Rachel, that she didn’t change his life, that watching her die had no profound effect. It’s all a lie.

It’s all a lie while still being able to avoid the tropes of those Other Books though, and that’s where the charm of this really shines through. It was certainly not one of my favorite books, but I am glad that I read it, and it’s interesting POV is certainly refreshing and makes it worth the read.

Review: The Devil You Know

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Goodreads Summary:

Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it’s just the risk she’s been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

This isn’t something I would usually pick up, so the 365DaysofYA Challenge gets another feather in its hat for making me step outside of my box. This book wasn’t anything fantastic or profound, but I was entertained while college football games droned on in the background, because that’s about as long as it took to read this – a football game.

The synopsis was intriguing but the thrills were suspended until the last 40 pages or so. I felt like the central theme of this book was more a journey of self-discovery through a stint of possibly earned rebellion. Cadie forced herself to shirk what was expected of her and to listen to her intuition – to see what she was capable of without the weight of her normal responsibilities, and I can respect that.

What she does is so beyond stupid though. Even though we all know this, and she knows this, Doller is still able to play execute this adventure without the normal clichés, making it a fast and entertaining read. The romantic element I think was well balanced; there was an obvious connection between the two characters, but it was never chalked up to love or fate or any of the YA tropes we see relationships take on in this genre most of the time. And overall I felt it was pretty responsible between the characters, they understood the levity of their decisions when it came to their involvement and in the end it was a bit more established.

Beyond the self-discovery of this novel though, I felt a bit let down. The thrills promised with this malevolent character were pretty non-existent the whole time. While hints at the terror were obvious to everyone but Cadie, emphasizing a naivety on her part. Also, for anyone who has watched a serial killer/profiling show (Dexter, Criminal Minds, etc.) it was glaringly clear who the killer was from the start. That was the biggest let down of this book, the utter obviousness of it all.

It was an enjoyable enough afternoon read, but by no means the dark, twisty, exciting story that was promised.

Review: The Vanishing Season

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Goodreads Summary:

Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter’s come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I’ve watched the danger swell.

The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I’m the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I’m tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town.

I’m tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don’t know why. I think it’s because death is coming for one of them, or both.

All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried.

This book is by the same author who wrote Tiger Lily, which I read earlier this year. It had the same great writing, the same bittersweet notes, and the same penchant for an unusual MC, one who lives on the edge of a social circle.

I liked this one more than TL though. Honestly, not much happens, the murders going on are more of an eerie backdrop, not a main event. But I really loved the dynamic between the three central characters. And I empathized with Maggie; all the heartbreak, the uncertainty, the need to be in control of her life and her options.

I also really liked the dual narration – narration is one of the things that makes the authors work so unique. Every once in a while we would get this “other” perspective, of the “haunting,” and it was kind and inquisitive and caring. Then the way the two narratives merged in the end was done really well.

Overall, I think this can be said to be an unconventional coming of age story. We see Maggie plan for her future, make life long friends, and experience first love. It was touching and emotional, quite enjoyable in one of those heart wrenching ways.

Review: Emmy & Oliver

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Goodreads Summary:

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

It took me a lot longer to pick up this book than it should have. I saw it floating around my goodreads reviewers pages and the blogosphere, but like others I was deterred by the cover that makes this seem like it’s just going to be a cheesy teen romance. How wrong I was!

This book it so moving and sweet. Both Emmy and Oliver are thrown into new lives when Oliver is kidnapped, and they never really face the ramifications of the event until Oliver returns. Even then, the only people they are able to confide in are each other.

I loved the relationship between Emmy and Oliver, it wasn’t overwhelmed by their romantic feelings for each other one bit. With the aid of periodic flashbacks it’s clear that these two would have always been connected as deeply no matter what, and that their relationship would have eventually evolved to something more romantic anyway. Furthermore, it’s clear that Emmy never lost her connection to Oliver, who after some stumbling finds his way back to it as well.

Watching them deal with trying to grow up under the oppressive thumbs of their parents was so interesting and something every teenager can relate to. I also really enjoyed that while Emmy was keeping things from her parents, it was clear that they had a good relationship – too many books have teens and parents not getting along. I also really enjoyed watching the dynamic between Emmy, Drew, and Caroline (I hate it when people shorten my name – though when I lived in England they called me Caro because as Emmy states, they thought three syllables was just too much). They were what was left when Oliver left, and seeing them trying to figure out how to react to having him back in their lives was interesting. And the fight between Emmy and Caroline about Oliver brought back some memories for me too.

I think that was what made this book so amazing. It reminded me of that period in my life when I was dealing with growing up, trying to figure out who I was in the world outside of my family, and dealing with new love and old friends.

Anyway, this book was fantastic. It was a really fast read as well, I read it in one evening. I feel like this will be a go-to book for me whenever I need a pick me up. Emmy and Oliver are just so mature and connected and it’s so touching.

Review: Everything, Everything

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Thanks to Nicola Yoon and Net Galley for this ARC!

Goodreads Summary:

This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved this book! It’s creative, heart warming, and important. The whole point of the book is to live. To find those things in your life that are worth the risk and to leap head first into that adventure. It’s a unique coming of age story that’s still relatable.

It evokes such emotion and I love how diverse it is; with its characters and with its storytelling in general.

It was so hard for me to put this book down and until I could pick it up again I couldn’t stop thinking about it and Maddie and Olly. It is a YA romance, but it was so much more than that, and it was such a healthy real relationship between Maddie and Olly that it made me love it all the more.

I basically can’t stop gushing about this book and it’s level of swoon and adorableness and inspiration to take those leaps for the things you believe in.

You all need to read this book as soon as it comes out in September!