The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor

I was so impressed by this book. I can remember going to little “talks” in high school where they would talk about how many high school relationships are abusive (that statistic is up to roughly 10% according to a CDC article I found while writing this). It seemed so high to me at the time. I’d never experienced anything like what I imagined an abusive relationship was like. I got these ideas–from Law & Order: SVU and from those talks in my health class in high school–that abuse was always rape o physical abuse, that the women and men who take that kind of abuse are just hit one day and afraid to say anything because they’re too surprised. That’s true, and I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen. However a lot of what I’d consider abuse now as a twenty-something isn’t as overt as that.

Plot

This book was a breath of fresh air as someone who’s been in an abusive, controlling, manipulative relationship. This book is important for the very reason that it describes Bettina’s relationship with her boyfriend Brady as picture-perfect. It’s the kind of relationship that all teenage art kids dream of (I know I did) where the basketball star notices you and wants to make you his because he sees how unique you are. You’re his special snowflake that he defends in front of his jock friends. But when he starts to act cruelly, Bettina can’t believe it. She’s so shocked that she doesn’t say anything to him. And when she does he brushes it off, telling her that it’s all in her head, that she needs to lighten up, that it was just a joke. That brushoff is what made this book seem real to me.

She is lucky enough to find someone who gets her through her abuse and who reminds her often enough that she’s better than that abusive relationship that she eventually leaves Brady.

Verdict

This book had me crying on the train to Chicago before a big date night, and my mascara ran all over. It was a mess. Needless to say don’t read this in public unless you’d like to make a spectacle of yourself. I normally totally judge books by their covers, but this one is definitely deceptive. It seems like it’ll be a fun little romp into the land of teen dating and the life of a girl whose parents are Greek (like, Greek Greek) and control most of her life. It was not. It’s a sad book. I cannot stress this enough. But I also know it’s an important book because it describes a realistic abusive relationship between two teens.

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Shatter Me (Series) by Tahereh Mafi

Okay so now that I’ve read the whole series and have time to reflect on these books, I can’t even handle how wonderful they are. Here’s my two cents:

Shatter Me:

For a series with super feminine covers, Juliette is such a badass chick. She’s been locked up for nearly a year in what she can only assume is an asylum all because she touched a little boy and apparently killed him. 245 days of not speaking to a soul, of looking out the window and wishing to be free, of praying she would die just so she could be spared the loneliness she feels every day.

Until Adam comes along. Harsh at first, he soon warms up to Juliette and starts treating her with respect. After Adam, it isn’t long before she is taken to Warner, the chief officer of Sector 45 (a sector of the Reestablishment, a movement to unite the world after ecological disaster). He’s cold and unpredictable, and he soon reveals that Juliette has been very, very wrong about Adam. But when Warner pushes her too far, will Juliette finally snap? Will she touch Warner to try to escape?

This selfless character really reminded me of Valerie from V for Vendetta, suffering for something she couldn’t control. And yet while Juliette seems weak, there are glimpses of a character that is loyal enough to let her ferocity shine. Here is a character who has a haunting past. Here is a girl who might fight for what she believes in.

Might I also comment now on Tahereh Mafi’s prose? It’s a rare thing when I just want to take a book and memorize pages and entire passages so I can remember them when I’m feeling sad or just feeling feelings, but she is absolutely out of this world. I know people have been comparing Shatter Me to The Hunger Games & Divergent, and I get that. I do. Because they’re all dystopian and trilogies and bla bla bla. But honestly this book is on another level entirely. For a much more mature audience because of the emotions going on between Adam and Juliette.

Unravel Me:

I never thought I’d be team Warner, but I’m team Warner. Let me just say.

Warner Warner Warner. Le Sigh.

Ignite Me:

HA!

You made the right choice, Juliette.

Verdict

As you might sense by my digression from analytical and hands-off to complete manic pixi dream fangirl, I’m definitely 100% in love with this series. I’m buying it. And that never ever happens because everything is free at the library. However I need to re-read this series at least twice more before I’m satisfied.

It’s also a rare thing for me to call my best friend in the middle of the night and gush about character development. Juliette is one of those women who really had several “aha moments,” to borrow from Ms. Oprah Winfrey. She listened to Kenji when he told her she needed to stop feeling sorry for herself and pulled herself up out of her self-loathing.

Great friendships, families, and relationships. If you haven’t yet, please get on this series.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demitrios

Before I read this book, I hadn’t thought about the huge hole in YA lit. That hole is books about young adult soldiers. One of my best friends is married to a veteran, and yet it still never occurred to me that there was this missing piece. People enlist at an insanely young age and do brave courageous things for their country and they deserve to have a part in YA lit. To have their stories told. I can’t say it more eloquently than the author, so here’s a link to Heather Demetrios‘s blog post/letter to the reader she posted in August. This book is her favorite one, and it’s quickly becoming mine too.

 I often refer to the book you’re holding in your hands as the book of my heart. It is intensely personal and was inspired by seeing my father’s struggle with PTSD and Gulf War Syndrome, as well as some of the challenges I had in my own adolescence.

So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts.

Release Date:

February 3, 2015

Plot:

Skylar Evans has lived in Creek View, California for her whole life. She’s had her hard times (her father’s untimely death and her mother’s various subsequent addictions) and now she’s looking forward to the good. She’s a scholarship student and she’s getting the hell out of Creek View. Her last Summer isn’t going to be pretty: this novel isn’t pretty. Its realistic. Sky is dealing with poverty on an extreme level every day. So nobody is more surprised or unwilling than her when, at 19-year-old Josh Mitchell’s homecoming party, she finds herself wanting to see him again.

He’s always been the life of the party, but now that he’s back from Afghanistan and traveling to San Francisco for various therapies, he seems different. Sky and Josh’s love story is as real as it gets when it comes to falling for a vet: he’s got PTSD and suffers from all of the terrible side affects of losing a limb.

But this book, guys. Man. I don’t even have a readalike for it. It’s not like anything else I’ve ever read.  I started reading it yesterday and after work I spent hours just reading. This is a stay-up-until-1am-with-your-kindle-under-the-covers read. At least it was for me.

Verdict:

Gecha ass in gear and read this book so I can discuss it with someone. Please.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I highly contest this tagline,

Graceling meets The Selection

not unlike many of the other readers out there that I’m seeing. I can honestly say that ____ meets ____ meets ___ is just as much of a cop-out as “the next Harry Potter” and might be nearly as problematic.

That being said. Mare’s narrow world has her pegged as the underdog, and there’s nothing she can do about it. When she bleeds, she bleeds red, unlike the upper-class Silver elite who bleed silver blood. Side note: This leads to interesting problems later because when she blushes, she blushes a rosy pink color unlike her silver counterparts. A well-developed part of the plot that made it seem more believable. That’s not the only thing that keeps the reds down. Nope. The Silvers have special abilities like telepathy, the ability to control the will of others, or the ability to control elements and objects around them.

So when Mare is offered a job at the Silver palace in order to get out of being conscripted as a front-lines solider in a war she has no interest in, she jumps at the opportunity. Who wouldn’t when you don’t want to die for a lost cause? She soon finds out, however, that she has an ability too: she can make electricity, including controlling the many security cameras in the castle.

With her new found ability comes new responsibility.

Soon Mare finds herself deep in the life of the Silver royals, whether she wants to or not.

All she knows is she better not bleed.

The Diviners (part 2)

I started my blogging journey on Libba Bray’s The Diviners on Sunday December 14th. As of right now, I can finally say I finished the book/audio experience and I have to say, although this book is so beautifully written, I actually prefer the audiobook version, read by January LaVoy. Her voice is so dynamic–accents and the taking-on of both male and female voices enhanced the story rather than taking away from it (like those kinds of things so often do).

This book also has an awesome website with photos of the characters and news on possible sequel(s) and the forthcoming movie.

Plot:

it’s the 1920’s and 17-year-old Evie O’Neill is known in her small Ohio town for starting trouble. She’s perfectly okay with that, thankyouverymuch. After all, “well-behaved young ladies rarely make history.” One night, however, she takes it too far. She uses her gift, called “divining,” to read an item belonging to a young man in her circle of friends. When she tells the people at the party that the golden boy she’s “reading” knocked up a chamber-maid, her parents send her to New York City to stay with her Uncle Will for fear that she’ll be charged with slander.

This is the moment Evie has been waiting for. Once on the train, Evie meets Sam Lloyd and her big New York adventure begins. Although this series is primarily about Evie, there is a beautiful cast of characters that have their own abilities and well-drawn backstories. Miracle Memphis Campbell, the Harlem Healer, is another Diviner featured in the story. He and Evie’s new friend Theta Knight turn heads as one of the first biracial couples in NYC’s club scene. And then there’s Maybel, Evie’s longtime friend and pen pal who is in love with Jericho (Uncle Will’s mysterious assistant).

Everyone in this cast of characters is put to the test when New York City is struck by The Pentacle Killer (Naughty John Hobbes). The city knows him as a ruthless, methodical killer, and no one is safe. Uncle Will, Evie, Jericho & Sam, along with Theta, Maybel and Memphis are all in grave danger as Naughty John stalks his next victim.

I fell in love with these characters and I’m truly sad to have to stop hearing their story. Apparently The Diviners is being picked up by Paramount and is in the developing stages of becoming a movie (EXCITING!). As I said before, I listened to this book on audio, and I really loved the experience. I ended up buying a hard copy (I loved the book that much), but I was still sitting in front of my laptop for hours on end listening to this beautiful story.

Subject Headings:

Paranormal, Romance, Historical Fiction, New York City, 1920s

Appeal:

fast-paced, breakneck, thrilling, suspenseful, well-drawn characters, beautiful language, open-ended, multiple plot lines,

Favorite Quotes:

“‘There is a hideous invention called the Dewey Decimal System. And you have to look up your topic in books and newspapers. Pages upon pages upon pages…’
Uncle Will frowned. ‘Didn’t they teach you how to go about research in that school of yours?’
‘No. But I can recite “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while making martinis.’
‘I weep for the future.’
‘There’s where the martinis come in.'”

“I’m not interested in being polite. It’s false.”

Cinder

I started reading this series for my GSLIS Young Adult Literature class, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I love, love, love fairy tales. And there has never been a story more beloved and retold than the classic underdog story of “Cinderella.” It’s told in every culture. It’s been retold in some of our favorite adventure stories (Harry Potter, anyone?) and yet it’s never been retold with such a Science Fiction twist.

So yeah, when I started reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer I was a bit skeptical. I know this story could get me on the protagonist’s side like no other or I could really not like the way this book takes place in a futuristic society. I really loved it, though. I just finished Scarlet, which features Cinder and Emperor Kai along with Wolf and Scarlet, who are loosely based on the classic “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Plot:

Cinder CoverThis book takes place in New Beijing in a completely new era, where cyborgs (humans that have been modified with robot parts for medical purposes) are marginalized and spit on by society. Enter Cinder, a part-cyborg who’s only friends in the world are her adopted sister, Peony and a robot named Iko who she works with in her family’s mechanic shop. One day, Peony comes down with the plague, a disease that has been rampant in the Eastern Empire for decades. It is the same disease that has the current emperor in the hospital.

So imagine Cinder’s surprise when Prince Kai shows up in her mechanic’s shop (in a disguise, of course. He is the prince of everyone’s dreams) with a robot in desperate need of repair. Kai tries to woo Cinder but is unsuccessful at first. Eventually he asks her to the ball to which Cinder has been specifically banned by her stepmother from attending.

How will Cinder deal with Peony’s death? Will the emperor formerly known as Prince ever find out the truth about Cinder? Why does Cinder black out when she sees the Lunar visitors who have come to Earth in want of peace?

Read Marissa Meyer’s Cinder to find out.

Subject Headings:

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, cyborg

Appeal:

compelling, bleak, chilling, gritty, suspenseful, romantic, eccentric characters, recognizable characters, action-oriented, layered, open-ended, plot twists, futuristic, urban, accessible, engaging, vivid.

Favorite Quotes:

“Even in the Future the story begins with ‘Once Upon A Time.'”

“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & ParkI was told by an annoying person to read Eleanor & Park a few months back. This was way way back in the summer when I had just signed up for my Young Adult Literature class. I was dreading it (and reading YA Lit) because I knew the average near the end of the semester (where we are right now) was about six books a week. So as you do with annoying people, you ignore the advice. What a mistake. I read the book about two months ago now and since then I’ve also read FangirlRainbow Rowell‘s other book, and I’ve fallen in love.

There are those that attempt to write realistic teen romance. And then there is Rainbow Rowell (the link above is to her beautiful blog which is updated on the reg) who simply makes everyone else’s attempts look like fingerprinting next to the Sistine Chapel.

Plot

Eleanor is not your typical manic pixie girl heroine. In fact, she doesn’t fancy herself a hero at all. Her mother and abusive stepdad are finally letting her move back in with them after they kicked her out. So all Eleanor wants to do is blend in. She wants to disappear. She gets on the bus and sits next to a skinny Asian boy.

Park sees Eleanor get on the bus. She’s dressed like a crazy person–her bright red, curly hair is accentuated by her bigger-than-average size, bright clothing, copious accessories and “don’t fuck with me” attitude. Nobody wants her to sit next to them. It’s half-way through the semester and everyone has already claimed their regular seat. But when people start to laugh, park moves his backpack–the universal non-verbal signal for “if you must.”

Fast forward to a few weeks later. Park reads his comics on the bus every day and has started to notice that Eleanor reads over his shoulder. He starts to bring the early Watchmen comics for her to read on her own. How can he know that this is the only kindness she’s been shown in weeks?

This book is pretty heavy, guys. When I say her stepfather is abusive, what I mean to say is that Eleanor is afraid to shower when he’s around because she’s worried he’ll harass her for her size–or worse–try to touch her. She sometimes doesn’t have the means to wash her clothes. And when she finally does see her biological father (yes, that’s right, he’s not dead), she ends up stealing a toothbrush from his house because she can’t afford one.

This was one of those books where 23-year-old Margaux is saying “WHERE THE HELL ARE THE RESPONSIBLE ADULTS?! THE PARENTS?!” I just want to give Eleanor a hug. I also want to give park a fist-bump because he basically found his soul-mate at 16. And I’m not ruining anything when I say that, don’t worry.

Subject Headings

Throwback, teen romance, family issues, bullying

Appeal

Compelling, densely written, relentless, bittersweet, bleak, poignant, moving, sympathetic protagonists, dramatic characters, multiple points of view, authentic, character-centered, accurate, detailed setting, candid.

Favorite Quotes

“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”