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Feb 6 2016

Breakaway by Kat Spears

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BreakawayNovel: Breakaway by Kat Spears | Goodreads
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Also Published On: Ciao Bella

When Jason Marshall’s younger sister passes away, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates—Mario, Jordie, and Chick—to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who’s not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick.

Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold on to the friendships he has always relied on. 

A witty and emotionally moving tale of friendship, first love, and loss, Breakaway is Kat Spears at her finest.

The graphic designer in me is fascinated with color. Something so simple as a palette of hues is, in actuality, a layered field of study. Some colors work in harmony, while others, in contrast, create chaos. Some colors convey meanings of power and mystery, while others have connotations of youth and happiness. Some colors are in abundance in our natural world, while others are but a rare occurrence. In short: colors define what we see. What prompted this brief lesson in color theory? Breakaway, the sophomore novel from author Kat Spears and a book I devoured in early December. Dressed in bubblegum pink and bright blue, the cover might lead you to believe that you’re diving into a light romance, but Spears’ second published work is heavier, harsher. Writing with conviction, she crafts a story of contemporary’s favorite trifecta: family, friends, and first love, dazzling me – and seemingly every other reader – in the process.

Breakaway opens in grief: the protagonist’s young sister recently passed away, and with his mother drowning in her own sadness and his friends slowly drifting apart, all Jason – known more commonly as Jaz – can do is care for himself. This is not an easy story to read, nor, can I imagine, that is was an easy story to write; in other words, if it’s an emotional roller-coaster for the reader, then it can only be more intense of a ride for the author. Spears writes with no holds barred, finding an authentic style that allows her to take risks without losing sight of the story at hand. Similar to other books that fall under the “gritty” category, this is a character driven novel, but that’s not to say that the plot doesn’t hold substance: Jaz’s growth occurs among soccer games between rival schools, nights at the bar and restaurant in which he works, and the ubiquitous high school gatherings that YA authors seem to know and love.

I’ve always admired authors who write from personas so far unrelated to their own. Not because it’s a method that’s particularly ground-breaking – writing and reading from a different perspective is the definition of fiction, after all – but because when done well, one can forget that what they’re reading is not from the mind of the narrator. Spears does this here, capturing the teenage voice with ease, particularly one wracked with sorrow over the loss of a loved one. Jaz could very well be representative of someone I know; his friends, Mario, who has turned to a rough crowd, Jordie, torn between his wealthy upbringing and the crowd he’s grown up with, and Chick, an innocent, if awkward soul, could be kids from the next town over; Raine, Jaz’s love interest, could be someone a classroom away. Neither Jaz nor his friends are without their flaws, but these “reprehensible” qualities are what bring them to life. A realistic character is much more interesting to me than a perfect one.

What shortfalls arise – that Jaz’s sister, at times, feels like a mere plot device, that the connections and relationships between characters seem to grow only to move the plot along, that what shock factor the ending achieves isn’t matched by the significance of the matter at hand – can be overlooked, because they’re not significant when one looks at Jaz’s story from afar. Spears wields a delicate subtlety in the discussion of love and death, applying no flairs and no fluff to the experiences that humans hold so dear to their hearts. She strips down the rush of emotion that comes with falling in love and the overwhelming crush of feelings that arrives with loss to writing – a clear indicator of her power with words, if I ever saw one. Don’t let the cover fool you: this is a raw realistic fiction worth reading, regardless of gender, regardless of age. I’m incredibly impressed.

Feb 1 2016

The Spotlight Book Club February Selection: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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The Spotlight Book Club is one of the most exciting things we do on the blog! As avid teen readers, it’s hard to find a book online book club with readers like us all over the world. Each month we choose a book, and we will give you the entire month to read it. On the last Saturday of the month we will post a selection of mini-reviews (ranging from one of us to all of us) along with (we hope) an author interview, giveaway, or something else fun! Throughout the month, you can start threads on our Goodreads group to interact with other book club members. The only rule is you can’t spoil the book for everyone else!

February’s selection is Passenger by Alexandra Bracken!


In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger by now. The highly anticipated fantasy novel was released earlier last month to wide acclaim, and we here at Lit Up Review are excited to read it ourselves! If you’ve already gotten to it, we’d love to hear what you think; we’re up for discussion in the comments or on Twitter. In celebration of this selection, we are giving away a signed copy of Passenger! Make sure to enter before February ends and you could have your own signed copy. We hope you read along with us!

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Jan 30 2016

The Spotlight Book Club Presents: The Just Visiting Showcase

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The Spotlight Book Club is one of the most exciting things we do on the blog! As avid teen readers, it’s hard to find a book online book club with readers like us all over the world. Each month we choose a book, and we will give you the entire month to read it. On the last Saturday of the month we will post a selection of mini-reviews (ranging from one of us to all of us) along with (we hope) an author interview, giveaway, or something else fun! Throughout the month, you can start threads on our Goodreads group to interact with other book club members. The only rule is you can’t spoil the book for everyone else!

January’s selection was Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler!


Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.

Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn’t go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won’t stand out for being Mexican.

One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective… only to learn she’s set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they’ve sworn to leave.

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don’t know about each other’s pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they’ll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.

We’re super excited to have Dahlia on the blog today for an interview! Check out her answers below:

1. What was your favorite scene to write in Just Visiting? The most difficult?

My favorite scenes to write are always the romantic ones. With Reagan, that was the scene at the motel; for Victoria, it was the scene in the field. The most difficult were the ones with Reagan’s family; they just made me sad for her.

2. Do you write to music? If so, what’s usually on your playlists?

I do! I try to fit my music to the vibe and themes of the book, as well as the personality of the main character. I tend to write pretty fierce, opinionated girls, which means I end up with a lot of Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless, but I also have old standbys like Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Mother Mother, and Decemberists.

3. Why did you decide to write contemporary? Do you see yourself branching out to other genres in the future?

I’ve never been pulled to write anything but contemporary, and I doubt I ever will. For me, a lot of the fun of writing is getting to live multiple lives, the roads not traveled, etc. and my personal Other Life wishlist doesn’t extend to outer space or a world with dragons!

4. Which character in JV do you feel is most like yourself?

When I started writing, I thought it’d be Reagan. When I finished writing, I thought it was Victoria. So I guess I’m a mix of both? I’m driven, but much more by both my passions and a need to be “worthy” of what I’ve been given in life, like Victoria is. But I have Reagan’s more fiery temper, and though Rae is into fantasy, we’re both book nerds. I’m tuned into my culture (Judaism) like Vic is, but also have white privilege, like Rae does, but from a more financially comfortable place (and also one with siblings), which, once again, Vic. So, definitely a mix!

Interested in what we thought? Here are our mini reviews.



All of Dahlia’s books celebrate diversity, and Just Visiting is no exception. Victoria is a Mexican American who is fluent in ASL because of her deaf mother, and Reagan grew up in poverty and has to work crazy hours to make ends meet. These characters live in diverse situations, but they’re written in a way that their differences aren’t all they are. So often authors focus on making their characters diverse, that there’s no other depth to them at all, especially authors who write outside of diverse situations that aren’t their own, but that isn’t the case with Reagan and Vic. Their struggles and their voices felt incredibly real, especially as I myself am trying to do with my life after high school.
Another thing that was so refreshing about Just Visiting was the strong female friendship. I’ve read countless YA novels where girls are pitted against each other or the friendship is put on the back burner because of a boy, and though Vic and Reagan are so different and they had their issues, this never happened. They supported each other and worked out their problems together, and it was so great to read. These are two girls who grow individually and grow in their friendship, and I loved seeing them learn about themselves and each other throughout the course of the novel.
And just because the novel wasn’t centered around romance, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a cute boy in the mix because there totally was. Dev Shah is a dream. A dorky, nerdy, adorable dream who says the sweetest things. I love that he didn’t give up on Rae.
Another relationship that brought the biggest smile to my face was that between Victoria and her family. I loved that she was super close to her parents and brother and that even though she wanted to get away after high school, she also had trouble with the idea that she would be far from her mom. That’s something else I definitely relate to, and it adds to the growing list of things I loved about this book.
Just Visiting is a beautiful coming of age novel about family, relationships, and friendship that will last. I loved every bit of this story, and I cried (mostly) happy tears.
Just Visiting surprised me in so many ways. I didn’t expect a book that I felt got me in a way few do. It had perfect timing – with college quickly approaching and my future constantly on my mind, Just Visiting reminded me that it all works out. That life, somehow or another, works out for best most times, and that I just have to sit back and be me.
Victoria and Reagan are the kinds of friends I love reading about, and ones I felt really close to. I loved how they grew to know each other so much better over the course of the book, and how they were always there for one another. They had their differences and fought plenty, but they always found a way back to each other. They stood up for each other and were the kind of friends every girl needs.
One of my favorite things about the book, though, was the way Adler approached teenage-hood in the modern world. She discusses drinking, safe sex, the pressures of college, the questions of do I stay at home or go away? She covers abusive relationships, identity, and love. And she does it seamlessly. This book is filled with nerdy love, sweet friendship, and the tales of two strong young women who I fell in love with from the moment they were introduced. Go buy this book. Seriously. Do it.
Jan 28 2016

Ten Illuminations {45}: Books for a Winter Afternoon

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Ten Illuminations is a bi-weekly feature hosted by Lit Up Review where we recommend our ten favorite books that fit under one topic. Inspired by The Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, Ten Illuminations gives you five people’s recommendations in one!

For this Ten Illuminations, we’re taking a look at some of our favorite books to read on those splendid wintery afternoons.



And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard | Goodreads

With its most beautiful and wintry cover, how could I resist picking And We Stay for this Ten Illuminations topic? Even more importantly, the story and the writing are both quiet yet beautiful, full of emotion and spun with poetic words that bring the protagonist’s love of writing to life. This stunning story creates the perfect book to read when the world outside is blanketed with a soft layer of snow.


Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin | Goodreads

If you’re looking for a thrilling book to keep you occupied while snowed in, look no further than Wolf by Wolf. Set in an alternate post-World War II history, the plot follows a protagonist who impersonates a famous biker in a cutthroat motorcycle race in order to assassinate Hitler. The danger is high, the stakes are higher, and the drama is highest – and by the time you’re done reading, you won’t have even noticed that hours have passed.


A Northern LightA Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly | Goodreads

Few activities rival being snowed in with a good book in hand and hot chocolate at your side, especially when your snow day read is as captivating and well-written as Jennifer Donnelly’s debut, A Northern Light. The gripping story – a historical fiction turned mystery when the main character discovers a set of letters of someone recently killed – ties together romance and suspense in Donnelly’s signature manner. Have your Kindle charged and ready; finish this, and you’ll want to have her other books read before the day’s end.

Audacity by Melanie Crowder | Goodreads Audacity

Snow may keep you from going to school, but that is not to say you can’t learn something from a book or two! Melanie Crowder’s Audacity brings you into the life of labor unionist and equal rights advocate Clara Lemlich, who led women workers in the Uprising of 20,000. What may sound like a chapter from your history textbook is anything but when told in Crowder’s gorgeous, compelling prose, and Clara serves as a testament to the power of reform. Snow day boredom has nothing on you with this winner of a story checked out.

Jan 27 2016

Waiting on Wednesday {82}

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Waiting On Wednesday is originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, but we just love this meme so much we had to tag along! Each Wednesday, one of the Lit Up Review writers will post a book she is looking forward to, along with the summary and cover. You can find all of these posts by clicking on the category button and selecting “Waiting on Wednesday,” and fill up your Goodreads shelves with great books to get excited about!

The Passion of DolssaThe Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry | Goodreads
Release Date: April 12th, 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it. 

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

Argue if you must, but I think there are few things that rival the joy of discovering another book – unknown to you! – from an author you love. I consider myself up-to-date on the latest and greatest young adult publications, but novels have still flown under my radar; it isn’t until I read a glowing review or follow a link on social media that I actually find out about them and, consequently, add these hidden gems to my TBR list.

I read and adored Julie Berry’s middle grade mystery The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place months ago, but in my anticipation of new releases, I forgot to look into her other works. As a result, her historical thriller The Passion of Dolssa almost escaped my notice {fortunately, it only took an afternoon of Goodreads-crawling to lead me to it}. Berry’s gripping tale is said to tackle oppression on young women and the power of the Church in the context of medieval France. Even if I weren’t a historical fiction fan, I would be excited to read it – how often do you find a “spellbinding thriller” in YA?

Berry herself has warned that The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place and her newest novel are quite different, but one thing is certain to stay the same: regardless of the situation, subject, or setting, I can count on her for a terrific story. The Passion of Dolssa hits shelves April 12; I’m eagerly awaiting my copy.


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