Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It feels so real you'll forget it's fiction...these words bleed with authenticity

Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he's willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

Book Review:
Stay by Deb Caletti
4 out of 5 stars

In Stay, Deb Caletti masterfully tackles one of the most disturbing trends in YA literature: obsessive, possessive love portrayed as alluring and romantic and passionate. It's not. It's unhealthy and suffocating and alarming.

Finally. FINALLY we have a book that discusses the seriousness of this type of emotional abuse with realism. Where did Deb Caletti do her research? Her words bleed with authenticity. The way she writes Christian is flawless...the flashes and hints of jealousy and neediness and manipulation that build and build and build until something Clara thought was beautiful turns monstrous. It felt so real. Where other authors may have been tempted to take such a serious topic in a sensationalist direction, Deb Caletti keeps the story realistic with such clear purpose.[For example, other authors may have been temped to have Christian come after Clara with a weapon. While that may have been suspenseful, I think Caletti's approach is much more realistic. (hide spoiler)]

Caletti's lyrical prose is rich with metaphors and gorgeous phrases that had me reading certain paragraphs again and again to absorb their beautiful messages. Her words create layers of meaning without being overly dramatic, and her reflections on serious topics and even the ordinary are poignant and stirring.

Clara. Oh, that voice. That stark honesty. Clara's first-person narrative is so emotionally gripping. With her vulnerability and candor and believability, she became such a compelling character...a person I truly cared about. I admit: the majority of YA female narrators drive me CRAZY. My list of YA heroines I actually like is a small one. But Clara felt so real and so sympathetic and so broken and yet so strong that I became completely invested in her story. Her honesty drew me in, and I felt immersed in her narrative.

Stay is a haunting story with such realism you'll forget it's fiction. It's an unflinching portrayal of the true nature of possessive, obsessive love...a cautionary tale YA literature has been in desperate need of.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read Stay!

Content: Stay addresses mature topics, and several characters cuss like sailors (although maybe Finn and Jack get a pass because they actually are sailors). The serious subject matter and strong language may make Stay more appropriate for older teens and adults

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jellicoe Road: Don't stop reading it--the way Melina Marchetta weaves these plot threads together is brilliant

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

Book Review:
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

5 out of 5 stars

I read this on a coast-to-coast plane trip, and the pages just melted away I was so engrossed. It's my first Melina Marchetta, and I cannot stop thinking about this book--its characters, its messages, its journey of healing and forgiveness are unforgettable.

I'll admit: I was confused for the first 100 pages, but I didn't give up (probably because it was this or the Skymall). The more I read, the more riveted I became until I could not look away. The way Melina Marchetta wove these plot threads together into this profound tapestry of a novel left me wonderstruck.

Where's my copy of Finnikan of the Rock? This woman is brilliant.

Content: This book contains some mature themes probably more suitable for older teens and adults

Thursday, April 7, 2011

13 to Life: Strange pacing and one of the lamest plot devices ever

Everything about Jessie Gillmansen’s life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she’s about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he’s a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie’s small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can’t avoid...

Book Review:

13 to Life by Shannon Delany

3 out of 5 stars

I picked up the sequel, Secrets and Shadows, and I realized I remembered almost nothing from 13 to Life, so I thought I'd read it again. What a mistake. Rereading 13 to Life only reminded me of the three things I hated about it when I read the book the first time.

1. LAMEST. PLOT. DEVICE. EVER. Jessie likes Pietr. Pietr likes Jessie. So Jessie "unselfishly" tells Pietr to be with her best frenemy, Sarah, because that's the "honorable" thing to do. What is honorable about telling the boy you love--and who loves you--to be with your psychotic friend and then kissing him behind her back? YA books seem to have to find a way for the lovers to be star-crossed--a reason why they can't be together--but this is the WORST excuse I've ever seen. I can't be with you because my friend likes you. Even though you don't like her. So pretend you like her and I'll kiss you when she's not around. Ugh.

2. The events of this book take place over, like, two weeks. I added up the days the first time I read 13 to Life, and the book spanned something like 2-3 weeks. Love like that doesn't happen in two weeks. I mean, Pietr's passionately kissing Jessie at the football game after knowing her TWO DAYS. The love and attraction between Pietr and Jessie (as claimed by the book) would be much more powerful if the story actually let them GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER FIRST. They meet. They're immediately in love. With barely even any conversation.

3. Pietr's secret isn't revealed until the final few pages, even though it's obvious to the reader within the first few pages. This created really strange pacing. So much of the plot is wrapped around Pietr finally revealing his secret to Jessie, but the author drags this plot point out for the entire book, and I grew impatient. This should have been revealed much, much earlier--the secret is TOO OBVIOUS to the reader, and I grew frustrated with Jessie for not realizing and with Pietr for not telling her. I felt the story couldn't move forward until Jessie knew, but the big reveal didn't occur until the very end. Much too late.

Despite these issues, I will read the sequel. Let's hope the author dumps the sham Pietr/Sarah relationship and moves the story forward now that Jessie knows Pietr's secret.

Geek Girl: Made me laugh and smile...I couldn't put it down!

"Think I can turn that boy bad?" 17-year-old Jen turns her life upside down when, out of boredom, she makes a bet that she can turn school geek Trevor into someone like her. Instead, the goth girl finds herself sucked into his world of sci-fi movies, charity work, and even-ugh!-bowling. To truly belong with him-and with her new foster family-she must first come to terms with her violent past.

Book Review:

Geek Girl by Cindy C. Bennett
4 out of 5 stars

There four stars are all for the goofy smile I had on my face while I read this book. It's a light, quick read and not particularly original or ground breaking, but I'm ranking this based on my enjoyment as I read. I read it in one sitting and couldn't stop thinking about the chemistry between Jen and Trevor for the next two days.

I started reading the first 10 chapters for free on the author's website after reading Erica's review, and about 12 pages in, I knew I was going to need to find a copy. This work was originally self-published. The author recently got a publishing deal for it, making it difficult to find a copy of this since it's going to be republished. (Goodreads still offers it as an ebook, thankfully!)

Geek Girl does have some thoughtful messages, mostly a "discover who you are and then love yourself" and "don't be afraid to change, but change for yourself and not for someone else" message. As Jen tries to bring Trevor to the dark side, she begins to change, but she doesn't do it for him--she does it because she's discovering who she wants to be and that she's let the terrible circumstances of her life mold her too much. With the love and support of Trevor and her foster family, she becomes someone new. I loved seeing the transformation, even though it was painful and heart-wrenching at times.

Trevor's perfect for much of the book, but he does reveal his big flaw for the last fourth of the book--that boy can hold a grudge! I had to fight to keep liking his character for the last few chapters, but he did redeem himself at the end.

The author does a make-my-heart-flutter job of letting the love simmer and build, creating realistic timing for the attraction and chemistry between the two main characters. They actually spent time together and *gasp* had conversations before falling love. Bennett's pacing kept me coming back for more and more, until I was so captivated by this book that I couldn't put it down without knowing the conclusion.

Yes, Geek Girl's a little cliche and predictable, but if you're looking for a light, make-you-laugh-and-smile book, check out the first 10 chapters on the author's website and see if this book is for you.