Book Review / The Impossible Knife of Memory

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Year Published: 2014
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Length: 391 page

Synopsis:
Hayley Kincain is far from your typical high school senior. After being home schooled for five years as her dad worked as a semi-truck driver, she finds herself back in the halls of public high school. Throughout first, and last, year in high school Hayley juggles a father suffering from PTSD, trying to access her own memories from her childhood, figuring out the rules to dating, and not doing great at actually passing her classes. Hayley skirts on the brink of disaster in her life on a daily basis. Will she let the memories tear her way through and trust that she can recover? Or will the pressure of taking care of her dad become too much to handle?

My Thoughts:
I just have to start out with proclaiming my love for Laurie Halse Anderson. She is seriously the queen of YA. Anderson takes big issues and weaves them into incredible heart-wrenching tales of love, loss, and belonging.

The ways in which Anderson explained Andy and Hayley’s relationship was so realistic. She didn’t try to sugar coat their dynamic, but showed how complex it was. The constant turmoil Hayley went through of loving and wanting to help her father, but also wanting to just be a normal teenager for once felt was so genuine.

I also loved seeing the highs and lows Andy went through from Hayley’s perspective. This book was a very real exploration of a child living with a parent suffering from PTSD.

I can’t talk about this book without talking about Finn. Hayley and Finn’s relationship was precious, and just as complex as everything else in Hayley’s life. Again, Anderson succeeded in create genuine, realistic relationships between her characters. I think insta-love is all too common in YA. And sure, sometimes it works. But, it wouldn’t have for Finn and Hayley. The fact that Hayley had never really dealt with the realm of boys and relationships became very real in the way she approached her relationship with Finn right from the start. Seriously though, that date he tricked her into? Adorable. Also, the fact that Finn had his own emotional baggage was perfect for Hayley. Sure, they were kind of crap at communicating, but that’s pretty typical for a high school relationship. They definitely learned to be what the each other needed.

For me the sign of a good book is when it makes me emotional. If I am so attached to the lives of these characters that I can’t hold it together, that’s a good sign. This book did just that. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and I yelled. The Impossible Knife of Memory was just as fantastic as any of Anderson’s other works.

A Really Awesome Mess / Book Review

Author: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Year Published: 2013
Publisher: Egmont
Length: 275

Synopsis:
Justin is a sixteen year old with daddy issues and a sex drive. Emmy, an adopted Chinese girl, desperately seeks love to the point of developing an eating disorder. Both of these teenagers land in Heartland Academy, a therapeutic boarding school. Thrown into a rag tag group for therapy these two find themselves in crazy adventures, making new friends, and even confronting their own issues.

My Perspective:

I was not the biggest fan of this book. I got it for free for volunteering at a book sale on my campus, so no harm no foul really. Emmy and Justin both annoyed me. I know they were dealing with very valid issues, but they just seemed so whiney. The character change throughout the book felt forced and sudden. They were both so reluctant to work on their own life issues, that when they finally started to it felt ingenuine. I sort of liked the all the other characters in their therapy group, mostly because they were funny. I just had the hardest time getting invested in their lives. Typically, I love books about kids in therapy because usually the characters are complex and I really enjoy trying to figure them out. But, Emmy and Justin just seemed flat and cliche and boring.

Same with the plot. I was not invested in what was happening. It was definitely fun. The kids were all about crazy hijinks. More than they cared about their own character development honestly. Their adventures were a bit unrealistic though.

Overall, I just think this book wasn’t my cup of tea. Or a wrong book at the wrong time type of deal.

My Rating: 1 jailbroken pig out of 5.
You’ll like this book if: You enjoy fun reads full of hijinks and shenanigans.
You’ll dislike this book it: Typical characters that fall flat.

Like a Thorn

Author: Claire Vidal
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction
Year Published: 2002
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Length: 119 heart-wrenching pages

Synopsis:
Melie is a strange child with an interesting relationship with her mother. Her mother goes from “Rosey Mother” to “Dark Mother” in a blink of an eye. Melie begins to invent rituals she believes will counter her mother’s erratic behavior. This slowly, but surely spirals out of Melie’s control.

My Perspective:
I got this book for free a few months ago for volunteering at a book sale on my college campus. The cover is beautiful and the blurb intrigued me. When I decided to start this whole read my book shelf in a year thing, I figured this was a good place to start. It’s tiny, only 119 pages, and the print is pretty big. But, oh man, does this book pack a punch. I don’t think I have ever felt so many conflicting and confusing emotions before in one little book. I couldn’t decide if I was on Melie’s side or I thought she was over-reacting. I couldn’t decide where exactly to place her mom in the middle of all this. I also feel as though I was missing so much of the story. It was so small and simple that I felt like I needed more information to decide what my emotions were.

That being said, I did think that even though it seemed simply written it was beautifully written. It probably sounds even more beautiful in French. Like a Throne is a simple, yet complicated story of a young girl spiraling into mental illness and how those in her life react to them. This quick, but heart wrenching read will keep you thinking for days.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 antique gifts
You’ll this book if: You like thinkers. If you like dark books and psychologically challenging reads.
You’ll dislike this book if: Happy reads where everything turns out ok in the end.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

Hello Book Lovers,

 I recently read a book that can easily be summarized by one simple quote from it:

“‘You’re joking right?’ Then she’d turned to me and said, ‘Scav Hunt sounds like a bad teen comedy. One called something lame like Scav Hunt. I wouldn’t even want to play myself in that movie.’”

And that is exactly what The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando is, a bad teen movie written down.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is about high school senior Mary and her group of misfit friends. This team of outsiders decide to participate in a long standing senior class tradition, The Scavenger Hunt. Mary is extra motivated to win in order to defeat her “arch-nemesis” and somehow find a redeeming quality from the last four years of her life. Throughout the journey to the finish line Mary has to deal with crushes, and friendships, and fights, and all sorts of high school drama wrapping up as her year ends and graduation scoots closer.

Here’s the deal, normally I am a HUGE fan of stupid teen movies. I have been known to sit on Netflix all day watching one poorly written, terribly acted movie after another. And calling it a great day. Stupid teen movie in book form? Even better! So that aspect of this book didn’t bother me. What did was how incredibly annoying Mary is.

Throughout the whole book Mary is pining over a guy who was never even a potential in her life. Like actually though, she spends a good 75% of the book complaining about how he needs to just admit he is in love with her. Oh yeah, and he doesn’t even know how she feels. Sorry hon, but that typically isn’t how it works. And he is kind of a massive jerk anyways.

Also, Mary is willing to give up everything to win this scavenger hunt. Another boy on the team, Patrick, is a little more reasonable and continually tries to tell her she is going to far. That is isn’t worth it. But there is no convincing Mary. She will go to the end of the earth to win. I just don’t get it.

 Mary has a pretty decent life from the looks of it, but she finds everything wrong about it and focuses on those little things. It drives me crazy.

 I couldn’t even find it in me to cheer for her team to win. I didn’t care. In fact I kept telling myself how funny it would be if they lost.

Basically, I think this plot could have been interesting. However, it was just a bunch of pointless high school steered by a whiny teenage girl. I did not enjoy The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando. I give it a two out of five stars.

Let me know what you thought if you have read this book!

Happy Reading,

Sam

Gated

Hey Book Lovers,

If you read my review on The Beckoners you have a slight understanding of my love for stressful books. I love a book that is so fast paced and unpredictable that I am pacing and fidgety while I read it. Is that weird? Oh well, I am kind of a weird person. Anyways, I recently read Gated by Amy Christine Parker and this book was just that. At one point I was standing in my kitchen and bouncing up and down and gasping every few pages while I read. I am pretty sure my housemates think I am insane. That being said, Gated was a fantastic read.

Gated centers around 17 year old Lyla who has lived in The Community for the last 10 years of her life. The Community, a cult lead by a mysterious man name Pioneer, is preparing for the end of the world, which they are told by The Brethren will be in a mere three months. The Community is all busy preparing for the end of the world, meanwhile Lyla is beginning to have doubts. Her whole life she has been the gentle soul in The Community. She most definitely is not ready for the end of the world to come. And with the introduction to a cute Outsider she begins to rethink everything she has ever believed.

Let’s just start off by saying a book about a cult is basically automatically interesting. Pick up a book about a cult and you know things are going to get crazy. And Gated definitely lived up to that expectation.

Lyla was a very relatable, and quite frankly awesome main character. It was very easy to get into Lyla’s mind even though I have never been in a situation even remotely close to hers. First she is struggling through being the weak link of The Community. And then she meets a cute Outsider, Cody, and doesn’t really know how to handle a crush. Plus she’s basically engaged to someone else who she doesn’t actually love. (Once the youngest child in The Community turned 12 they had a ceremony in which Pioneer paired every child with their “Intended” a.k.a who they would marry once of age). So many teenage emotions! And growing up around the same 20 families with your future planned for you from the beginning doesn’t exactly teach you how to handle hormones. But seeing Lyla struggling through these emotions makes her seem normal even though her situation is kind of crazy.

And then there is Pioneer. The fearless leader of The Community. At first I didn’t hate Pioneer very much. What if he genuinely believed he was getting visions about the end of the world from some alien race? What if he wasn’t just a crazy, manipulative, control freak? However, it is made very clear that that is not the case. About half way through the book it becomes evident that Pioneer is a psycho, manipulative maniac! And then things get interesting.

This plot kept me wanting more the entire time. I had a hard time doing normal people things like working and sleeping and cleaning. I just wanted to read! Although ultimately, it is kind of easy to see how it is going to end I still found myself stressing about if everyone was going to be ok. Also, I could have done without the little love triangle, but it does not distract from the storyline. Cody ends up helping quite a bit so I am not too annoyed.
I give Gated by Amy Christine Parker 5 out of 5 stars and I would highly recommend it. If you’ve read it let me know what you thought! I would love to hear.

Happy Reading,
Sam

The Beckoners

Hey book lovers,

I really like reading bully books. This might sound really weird, but bullying is just such an interest topic to me. I love getting a look into the brains of the tortured and their tortures (although most bully books are in the point of view of the bullied). These are usually the books that I don’t want to put down until I know every last detail. The Beckoners by Carrie Mac took the world of bullying to a whole new level.

The Beckoners is about sixteen year old Zoe whose slightly unstable mother moves her family around A LOT. With another move comes another new school. Zoe kind of falls into this vicious clique (or small gang, whichever you prefer) called, you guessed it, The Beckoners. Lead by the always brutal Beck, this group of high schoolers teeter on the fine line between bully and criminals. Zoe quickly realizes she does not want to live the life of a sixteen year old gang member. The need to get out is intensified by her growing friendship (?) with The Beckoners favorite viction, April (also known as Dog). However, once initiated into The Beckoners it’s not so easy to get out.

This book had me pacing and clenching my fist the whole time I read it. I am a big fan of a book that stresses me out (in a good way) while I read it. If I am so invested in a book that I don’t even want to sit down then it’s a good one.

I have never read characters as crazy as Beck and her followers. I had to keep reminding myself that these are 16 YEAR OLD GIRLS. What? That’s insane. I have never in my life met a 16 year old girl as intense and terrifying as Beck. Maybe I just grew up in a nice little happy bubble with nice bullies? No, I just think these girls are psychotic. That being said, they were so interesting to read! Also, Zoe was a great main character. Mac really captured the thoughts of a girl who is used to moving. A girl trying to muddle through high school and the dilemma of which side of the line was better to be on: the victims or the bullies. Mac shows that not everything is as black and white as it may seem. We get to see Zoe’s whole thought process. Zoe had to learn who she really was and what she wanted to stand for. Although, Zoe does have a little life in the Beckoners I think she is a great role model.

The plot of this story was great. There was never a dull moment. Like I said, I was literally pacing while reading parts of this book. The books opens with an introduction to Beck and Dog before launching into Zoe’s story. And it’s probably one of the nicer things she does to Dog in the whole book. It’s a great introduction to just how crazy the book gets.

I give The Beckoners by Carrie Mac 4 out of 5 stars. I would highly recommend this book. If you’ve read this book let me know what you thought. I would love to hear your opinions!

Happy Reading,
Sam

This Is What I Did:

Hey Book Lovers!

The other day I ran to the library to return a few books, but despite all logical arguments my brain tried I ended up leaving with even more books (of course). One of which being This Is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis. I was drawn in by the mysterious blurb on the books inside flap. While it did not give very much information on what the book was about I was intrigued. And it turned out my gut instinct to check it out was right considering I could not put it down!

This Is What I Did: is about 13 year old Logan. After witnessing some terrible events involving his very best friend, a girl they both liked, and his best friends dad, Logan’s family relocates to the other side of town. This means new neighborhood, new school, new friends, and new bullies. This book centers around Logan adjusting to the new setting, coming to terms with what he saw, and trying to appease his parents. Right from the get go when Logan moves he begins getting bullied. Deemed “Crapstock” by a classmate he spends the rest of the year being terrorized by a group of students. Luckily, he finds somewhat of a friend in class dork Laurel. They bond over obscure palindromes and it’s rather adorable.

When I began reading this I wasn’t sure how much I was going to get into it. Seeing as the main character is a thirteen year old boy I thought I was going to have a little trouble connecting (seeing as I have never been a thirteen year old boy). But I was proved wrong fairly quickly. I was drawn in by Ellis’s simple writing that easily conveyed everything Logan was going through. I feel like thirteen year old boys tend to be fairly simple so I felt the writing style definitely fit the character. Also, Ellis kept you wanting to know more and more and more. She would drop little hints at what happened through the book. She gave you pieces of the puzzle one at a time before finally revealing the secret towards the end. I love the way she kept me curious. Even as the book ended I continued to be curious. I still want to know what happened after I closed the book!

In the author biography at the end of the book it says that Ellis came up with the concept from “not knowing how to be. Not knowing what to do.” I think that is so interesting and she really did convey this through the eyes of Logan.

And This Is What I Did: I cried.

I would definitely recommend this book. It was a great read!

Love,
Sam