Review: 52 Likes

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Review for “52 Likes” by Medeia Sharif (2015)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I like thrillers, especially YA thrillers, so naturally this book drew my interest. At the beginning, there’s barely enough time to meet Valerie before she is brutally raped and almost killed by an unknown assailant. As horrible as it is (and it is really horrifying and terrible to read), I thought that the author handled this subject matter well. When dealing with unpleasant topics there is always the option to linger and lose the reader in unnecessary, gory details, but thankfully Sharif doesn’t do this. After the rape Valerie is harassed by peers at school, and sent mysterious messages on a social media website that hints of the rapist’s identity. Valerie begins to follow these clues and it leads her into the knowledge of more unsolved crimes by this mysterious man–with a supernatural twist.

Why 3 stars? I liked this, but ahhh…the character. Valerie is a strong girl who (she doesn’t take her fate laying down), but for some reason I never really connected with her. The writing here is flat–the parts of the book when I should have been scared I wasn’t, and where there was supposed to be other emotions (tension, maybe?) I never really felt them. And much of the book, especially the end, just seemed, I don’t know…rushed. Like the author was aware of some deadline and had to wrap it up as quickly as possible. It’s a quick read–one that teens will probably like–and I wouldn’t necessarily be against reading other books by Ms. Sharif in the future. But I wouldn’t put this book on a recommended read list.

[I received this advanced publisher’s copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

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A kinda sorta update post.

Pardon me for my lack of updates lately, I’ve been a bit bogged down with preparing to start my Ph.D. program next week. I’ll be going full time, so there last minute class preps, contacts to make, professors to track down, and materials to buy. I even have to buy a parking permit. I’ll be lucky if I have two nickels to rub together by next Monday.

Realistically I am not sure how much time I will have to update this site when school starts. I know that my pleasure reading time will ultimately dwindle down to a trickle, as most of the time I’ll be highlighting and pouring over required course readings and such. It is a good thing I write a lot when I do read, as I have several dozen folders of reviews for books I’ve previously read already written in my cloud drive. So if you look to the left and the “Currently Reading” widget from Goodreads doesn’t match the last, say, five reviews I’ve given, you know why.

This is all not to say that I no longer care about this site (I do!), that I won’t honor review requests (I will!), or that I don’t appreciate the mounds of support that I already get from you guys who regularly read this site. Just know that the pace of things may change a bit around here. Please please please bear with me. Your patience is appreciated. 😉

Review: Everything, Everything

  
Review for “Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon (to be released in September 2015)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is damn near close to perfect.

I am in awe of first time author Nicola Yoon and her extraordinary talent. It is rare I find a YA book that I truly like, and this was one of those books. From the time I began reading this, I could not put it down. The main character we follow is Madeline, a teenage girl with an extremely rare disease (SCID, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) that makes her allergic to everything in the outside world. She has lived completely indoors since she was young in a kind of artificial, “bubble-like” existence: filtered air, specially cooked foods, and no outside visitors. The only people she communicates with are her mother, her doctor, and Carla, her nurse. Madeline has resigned herself to her housebound fate until she glances out of her window one day and discovers a family moving in next door. She is immediately drawn to the teenage boy living there, Olly, and from there her entire world changes.

I won’t say any more about the plot here because this book will not be released until September 2015 and some of you have to wait for it. But I will say that this book was throughly engaging for me. The romance wasn’t cheesy like a lot of YA books, but completely organic and it fit perfectly in the story. There are also charts, graphs, and illustrations that added a certain special touch to the book that teens will enjoy. 

I’m giving this five stars. It’s not often that I do this, but I actually stayed up until 3:20 am on a school night finishing this, and I don’t regret a moment of it. Beautiful, beautiful book!

[I received this advanced publisher’s copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.]

Review: Made You Up

  
Review for “Made You Up” by Francesca Zappia (2015)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Very interesting YA novel about a teenage girl living with paranoid schizophrenia. One of the first books I’ve read in a long time that takes the unreliable narrator in an entirely new direction I’ve never seen it venture into before. Alex, the main character, is somewhat unlikeable…but man, this girl is a stick of dynamite. She never wallows in pity, whines, or even asks you to understand her. Her thoughts are honest and laid bare in such a way that I came to trust her, even when I knew that her observations may or may not be real. Three pages into this and I loved her immediately.

I won’t give any spoilers to the actual story here, because that would completely ruin the beauty of this book. If you are interested in books that thoughtfully (and tastefully!) explore mental illness, then read it for yourself.

One of the reasons I love YA so much as an adult is because it’s one of the few genres that seems to be tackling current issues in new and profound ways. I’ve read many books about mental illness in my lifetime, but lemme tell you, nothing like this before.

Do read this. You won’t be disappointed.

Review: Burn Girl

  
Review for “Burn Girl” by Mandy Mikulencak (2015)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Before I start this review, lemme celebrate a bit by telling you all that this is my first ARC from Net Galley!!! Yasssss!!!

Ok, now that that’s over, I’ll start my review. This title is scheduled to be published on Sept. 1, 2015. Spoilers abound, so umm…

“Burn Girl” is the story of Arlie, a teenaged girl who is disfigured in a meth lab explosion as a child. After her mother dies as a result of a drug overdose, she goes to live with her uncle in an Airstream trailer. Interspersed throughout the narrative are glimpses into Arlie’s sad childhood–her mother’s drug dependency, her friendship with her close friend Mo, and the devastating explosion caused by her stepfather Lloyd. Through Mo, her uncle, and a love interest at her new school, Arlie gradually learns to accept the love she’s missing in her life. 

The premise of this book was good but the slowness of this book made it a three star read for me. The beginning is great–you’re thrust right into the action as Arlie as she discovers her mother deceased. Unfortunately, the story rapidly loses steam from there with slow storytelling and even slower pacing of events. The action does pick up in the last 50 or so pages, but the subplot in the end didn’t seem “right” to me. Why in the world would a man go after his teenage stepdaughter for a ginormous sum of $50,000? Uhh, ok.

Not a bad book, despite its flaws I’d recommend it to teens who are looking for something beyond standard YA subject options.

[I received this ARC via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.]

Quote of the Week

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as collective conscience.”

Despite the ratchet mess that was Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee did manage a few good quotes here. The one that stands out the most was spoken by Jean Louise’s Uncle Jack toward the end of the book when he reminds her that, ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own individual actions. If Atticus is the morality at the center of To Kill a Mockingbird, in Watchman, Jean Louise now assumes her own distinct identity. This “new identity” taken on by Jean Louise isn’t without its own set of issues, as evidenced in the review on this book I wrote a couple of days ago. 🙂

Review: Last Winter, We Parted

  
Review for “Last Winter, We Parted” by Fuminori Nakamura (2014)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I love Japanese fiction–it’s dark, mysterious, poetic. It takes risks, it terrifies, it ponders the universe. It pushes you out of your comfort zone of comfortable characters and predictable plots. I try to read a diverse selection of literature, but I do admit I have a soft spot for Japanese writers.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book. The plot is alright enough: a writer goes to interview a convicted killer, a renowned photographer named Kiharazaka who is on death row for the murder of two women by setting them ablaze. His investigation leads him to a doll maker who makes life sized dolls (weird), to an underground group of life sized doll lovers (weirder), and eventually into a sexual relationship with the condemned man’s sister (the weirdest). He tries to back out of the project, but he is so obsessed by the photographer’s story that he can’t wrench himself free. There is a twist at the end that I won’t give away–other than to say that it’s kookier than a David Lynch movie, and I’ve watched a lot of those. 

Even though the writer was obsessed with Kiharazaka’s story, I wasn’t. There is nothing in this book to engage you, the writing is bland and lacks variety. If I had a stiff drink for every time the author writes that the main character has to “light a cigarette,” “smile,” or “look concerned” I’d be more than three sheets to the wind by page 25. The characters move about the story as lifeless, one dimensional beings. There is an attempt by the author to create a back story, but it’s nothing short of dull and just plain confusing. The structure of this novel also presents a problem, because it mixes the protagonist’s first person narration with Kiharazaka’s narration, as well as related documents and diaries from other characters. It was damn near impossible for me to figure out who was saying what. 

The only reason I didn’t give this book one star is because I recognize that this book was translated from Japanese. This is often the problem with foreign novels, some styles and nuances of the story are simply not going to be carried over and understood, no matter how sincere the translator’s intention. I understand the author’s main point behind this book, but the poor execution here can’t be ignored. Would not read again.