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Apr 23 2014

Waiting on Wednesday {36}

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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!

18195957Inland by Kat Rosenfield | Goodreads
Release Date: June 12, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

After nine years spent suffocating in the arid expanses of the Midwest, far from the sea where her mother drowned, Callie Morgan and her estranged father are returning to the coast. And miraculously, Callie can finally breathe easily. No more sudden, clawing attacks and week-long hospital stays. No more wary, pitying glances from classmates and teachers. She can be more than a sickly freak, coughing her way between nondescript inland towns every year.

But something waits for Callie in the water. Just as her life begins to feel like her own, with an almost-family and a first love and a circle of loud-mouthed friends, her body starts to rebel in new ways. She finds herself fighting the intoxicating pull of the black waters right outside her window. Her dreams turn wild and real, and she wakes up with salt water in her hair. Family secrets and whispering doubts flood her brain as she leads herself and those around her into danger, jeopardizing everything she once longed for. Is it madness, or is there a voice, beckoning her to come to the sea’s deepest heart; to come home?

This book sounds wonderfully weird, and after getting a taste of the author’s gorgeous writing in her debut, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, I have little doubt that she will be able to pull off this strange, psychological plot. The premise, especially when combined with the great cover, is enough to make me wish it was June already.

Emily
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Apr 22 2014

Tease by Amanda Maciel

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18599901Novel: Tease by Amanda Maciel | Goodreads
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Reviewing

From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

The interesting thing about this book is that it’s a hard book to love.

As much as I want to love it, and profess my undying love for not only the message but also the book itself, I can’t. And I think that’s because Sara is such a hard character to like. I wanted to yell at her about 100 times while reading this. But, I think as hard as it is to read about a character like that, it’s also a good thing to do, because guess what? There’s people like them in our world. There are people like Sara who bullying others and don’t understand that they did anything wrong.

Tease focuses on Sara’s life after Emma kills herself, which for the most part consists of lawyers, therapy, and being bound to her house. The book flips between the present and the past, with all of the past moments being ones that would eventually lead to either Sara making decisions to bully Emma or the actual bullying in action. (I actually have a real problem with books that flip to the past and present so I struggled with this part of the book.) Through this parallel storyline though, you get to know the entirety of Sara’s character, and also see her motivation in action. As the reader you can see the horrible things Sara did from a more neutral point of view rather than just Sara’s description of the events.

The importance of Tease is that it happens. This book is based on true events, and I think that is what is both so difficult and also what is so important about it. Bullying stories like this happen everyday, but we also see the people who bully as these monsters, and in Tease you see them as people. You understand them, as painful as it is. And that is what is so important about this book, and why you should read it.

*Teachers/Librarians: I highly recommend incorporating this into your curriculum and/or purchasing it for your library when it is released. I read Speak for an English class, and I would choose this book over Speak because it is more relevant.*

Willa
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Apr 20 2014

The Weekly Blaze {34}: April 14-20

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Lots of review this week and a bit more than last week!

Monday, April 14th: Grace’s Review of Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg“A smart read with plenty of heart, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality was a quick read that I really enjoyed.”

Wednesday, April 16th: Willa’s Waiting on Wednesday Selection of Mortal Heart by R.L LaFevers: “This series is one of my absolute favorites ever and Annith has always been a character whose story has both fascinated and eluded me.”

Thursday, April 17th: Jessica’s Review of Nil by Lynne Matson: “Though the pacing, romance, focus, and some of the plot and character arcs bothered me, overall, it wasn’t a terrible read.”

Saturday, April 19th: Willa’s Review of The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider: “It’s [The Beginning of Everything] funny, profound, enjoyable, and a treasure of YA literature.”

Have a wonderful week and get your last reads of April in! This month is coming to a close very quickly…. and we all know what that means – a Spotlight Reads Wrap-up coming soon!

Willa
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Apr 19 2014

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

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Novel: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider | Goodreads
Release Date: August 27th, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardback
Source: Library

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

I had been meaning to read The Beginning of Everything ever since reading Jen’s review, and it took me this long to get to it. But oh boy was it worth it. I love books like this one – tragic, lyrical, with a bit of hilarity, and a fantastic plot twist thrown in. And, as Jen says in her review, it’s one of those books where after finishing it you sit back in your bed and stare at your ceiling in awe, trying to process what the heck you just read.

I think what makes it one of those books is that its beauty and significance creeps up on you. It starts off as a book about a teenage guy who’s trying to navigate a new world that he has never experienced, but then it becomes a book about love, loss, learning how to find yourself and how to help other people. It focuses on how little event shape the bigger picture. Ezra, our main character, ends up growing from a bit of a self-centered popular kid to an outcast with a group of friends who like him for him, and a better handle on life. He grows to understand the true meaning of friendship, and sees the suffering of love.

Schneider’s writing style reminds me a bit of John Green’s in the sense that it’s so profound, but many times you don’t realize it, and the humor is subtle. The plot is so unique, and just like in a John Green book you’re so caught up in the world that you don’t – you can’t – think about anything else. I love when I find that in a book, and I think it’s getting rarer and rarer in YA. The ending of The Beginning of Everything also reminds me of a John Green book in the sense that it’s quite open-ended. As the reader you can decide what Ezra ends up doing, and how he approaches the immediate future.

I absolutely adored The Beginning of Everything. It’s funny, profound, enjoyable, and a treasure of YA literature. I can’t wait to see what Robyn Schneider does next!

Willa
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Apr 17 2014

Nil by Lynne Matson

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NilNovel: Nil by Lynne Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed from another blogger

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

I’m not going to lie. I had high expectations for this book, but if anything, I guess I should finally learn to not carry such high expectations. It wasn’t a bad book, per say, but a lot of it just didn’t work for me and for various reasons.

Firstly, I have to talk about the romance. I understand that time is short and precious, but I was never convinced of their supposed love. There were so many times where I felt like Thad didn’t truly respect and understand the fact that yes, of course Charley needs some help, but she’s also a big girl that can figure out how to survive on her own. Their dependency on one another just rattled me in so many ways because I understand their desperation and their need to hold on to one another, but it just felt like there was no connection between them other than that they’re both attractive and sort of get to know one another. And no, knowing about one another’s previous relationships doesn’t count as knowing a lot about them. The thing is, I never saw how their lives outside of Nil came into play (for the most part). None of their past struggles, other than Thad’s problems with his dad (which were barely mentioned) and Charley’s problems with her ex/the kids at school. I just think that there should be more to them as characters than is portrayed. Yes, maybe it’s not as important, but to form the type of relationship and dependency they had, yeah, I needed more.

And not feeling the romance messed up many other portions of the book for me. The pacing was very inconsistent. While I understand the need to have more of the beginning explained so that the reader, and Charley, could be acquainted with the island, it felt as if the beginning and middle dragged on while the end went by extremely quickly. Additionally, while there certainly were other themes and plots, I felt as if everything was just so centered around the relationship between Thad and Charley that it overshadowed everything else, including the need to survive.

Going on from there, I felt as if some of it was too easy. Yeah, I get that it’s hard for them to get by, but I didn’t see much of that. They always seemed to have some type of food and drink, whether they complained about it or not. I mean, come on, there has to be some point where you run out of food or go hungry, right? Then, there’s the fact that for the most part, save for the major deaths later on, it wasn’t completely hard to survive. They had knives from past islanders (but how does one make a metal knife on an island), they all miraculously had impressive skills that would help them survive (sorry but they’re teenagers; most of them should probably be more pre-occupied with school than learning some of those skills, but maybe that’s just me). They could go surfing, play volleyball, run, etc. It just…didn’t sit right with me oftentimes.

Speaking of major deaths, I sometimes felt as if the deaths were just plot devices. Yes, the deaths had an impact, but on such an island, shouldn’t more people have died of other things–perhaps sanitary issues or maybe someone gets sick or maybe even someone has a heat stroke (not necessarily death-inducing).

Lastly, the ending was just so…aggravating to me, and for so many reasons. I don’t want to include spoilers, so I can’t really go into detail over it, but part of the end felt like a cop-out, and the other part just felt…weird. Unrealistic.

But there were aspects that made the book bearable and kept me from completely hating it. Firstly, there’s a diverse cast of characters. Yes, I would have liked to see how differing cultures and life experiences shaped each and changed the way they interacted with one another, but it’s a start. Additionally, I felt like despite the diversity, the ones that were in the main focus weren’t as diverse. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I would have liked to see some more. Additionally, okay, I guess this isn’t a positive, but I would have liked to see people with disabilities or illnesses or other things. I would have liked to see what life was like for someone who isn’t in shape. I wanted to see what life was like for someone that had asthma or allergies to something on the island. We get the sense that Nil doesn’t discriminate, and yes, we have a large, diverse cast in terms of race, but what about other forms of diversity. And I know there’s only so much an author can include without overwhelming the reader, but even one character would have been nice to see. But overall, I liked that there was racial diversity in the novel, and it was all the better for having a diverse cast.

Moving on, I also liked the “mystery” surrounding Charley’s finding out about the Man/Woman in the Maze. That mystery was honestly what ultimately kept me reading towards the end. Charley would figure out a piece of the puzzle, only to find that they were missing something else. I certainly could have never figured out the truth/map, and I believe that this plot arc was extremely well written and integrated. It kept the story interesting when it was starting to get dull.

Overall, I know it makes it sound as if this book was so far from being enjoyable, but there was still an element that I liked about it. I think the premise remains an excellent one, and I’m actually really content with not completely knowing how Nil. I don’t think it needs to be explained. Nil is about more than the island itself, and I think that in the end, Lynne Matson portrayed that well, even if not in a way I would have preferred it. Matson’s dedication to creating a diverse cast was done as best as she could without having been overwhelming. Certain mysteries were integrated at just the right time to create just the right amount of suspense and tension. Though the pacing, romance, focus, and some of the plot and character arcs bothered me, overall, it wasn’t a terrible read.

jessica
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