The slant on YA books

Tag Archives: Contemporary

Hello, everyone!

I realize it has been quite some time since I updated the dear ole blog. Truth is, I was super busy and experiencing a major creative slump. But, I hope to put all of that behind me. I can’t say that I will be back to blogging with the same frequency as I used to, but I don’t plan on any long hiatuses in the near future.

With all of that said, I recently read a book that inspired me to write a review, which was huge. It’s smart and charming and perfect. My review won’t do it justice, but I will still give it a try. 

On the Fence by Kasie West

on the fence

Pages: 296

Publisher: HarperTeen

Date Published: July 1, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

On the Fence has everything I love about Kasie West’s books: loveable characters, a swoon-worthy romance, and a plot to make you feel all the feels.

Charlie and her brothers are hands-down my favorite fictitious family. The fact that family is such a huge part of this book makes me enjoy it even more. I love that family is a huge part of what makes up Charlie. It’s refreshing , and it provides some fun sibling pranks. Charlie felt very real, although she struggles with her identity. This book is more a coming-of-age novel than anything else, even above the romance.

I would like to applaud West on how she wrote Charlie. Yes, Charlie is a tomboy, but it is also really evident how she reacts to situations just like any other teenage girl out there. Plus, the fact that she is a tomboy isn’t rubbed in the reader’s face as a point to make Charlie seem oh, so super special; it’s just a part of who she is. It felt very natural and true. After reading On the Fence I picked up another book featuring a tomboy, and it just didn’t compare. While other contemporaries featuring tomboys come across as contrived, On the Fence knocks them all out of the park with it’s authenticity.

There is a slight element of mystery, but I do feel many readers will figure it out pretty quickly. However, it didn’t make me frustrated so much as more sympathetic to Charlie.

I really only wish this book was longer. I would have loved to see the book continue for another twenty pages (or two hundred). In the midst of many, many contemporaries, On the Fence remains new and heartwarming.

P.S. Can I have my own Braden?


Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt

Pages: 320 right 

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Date Published: July 9, 2013 

Source: ARC given to me from Willa at Lit Up Review 

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

Can a road trip repair a romance gone wrong? Find out in this standalone companion to Lauren Barnholdt’s Two-way Street

Here are Peyton and Jace, meeting on vacation. Click! It’s awesome, it’s easy, it’s romantic. This is the real deal. 

Unless it isn’t. Because when you’re in love, you don’t just stop calling one day. And you don’t keep secrets. Or lie. And when your life starts falling apart, you’re supposed to have the other person to lean on. 

Here are Peyton and Jace again, broken up but thrown together on a road trip. One of them is lying about the destination. One of them is pretending not to be leaving something behind. And neither of them is prepared for what’s coming on the road ahead… 

Review: 

Right of Way is filled with so much wrong, wrong, wrong.

Having read the companion novel Two-way Street I knew to expect a drama-filled road trip novel. However, Right of Way is an illogical, angst-y jumble.

Let’s first take a look at what I did like about the book.

-It’s fast paced. The book is a quick read, which is what I want in a road trip book. 

-It delivers what it promises. This is kind of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I hate saying this, but it is a pretty fluffy novel. Any time serious issues arise, the characters avoid confronting it directly.

Some of the things I had an issue with were: 

-The Characters. Jace is the valedictorian of his high school, yet he couldn’t care less about school or graduation. As a student who works hard for every grade I get, it didn’t endear me to Jace at all. It’s also not reasonable that someone who doesn’t care about school would be the valedictorian. Plus, he didn’t strike me as being especially intelligent. (Jace acts surprised that his mom found him through his credit card charges.)

Peyton is very immature. She just kept avoiding her problems, and even in the end she still hadn’t changed. Honestly, her personality was aggravating. I didn’t care about what happened to her.

Both main characters had a few exaggerated characteristics but didn’t feel dynamic. 

-The Conflicts. The conflicts of the book were blown out of proportion. The reason Jace and Peyton “broke up” was ridiculous, and I found it hard to take the story seriously. 

-The Romance. What romance? This relationship is very unhealthy. The characters don’t open up and talk to each other except for maybe one occasion. Jace and Peyton seemed obsessed with each other rather than being in love. 

Right of Way disappointed me on several levels. I went in hoping for more than I got.

 


Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Pages: 352  Untitled-1

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Date Published: January 7, 2014

Source: ARC provided by Random Buzzers in exchange for my honest review. 

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life. 

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over. 

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself. 

Review: Being Sloane Jacobs is a cute, yet predictable, story.

In order to truly enjoy this book, you have to suspend your belief for a lot if, which is something I’m not good at doing. I had a hard time believing that a) no one would notice the girls switched, considering Sloane Emily’s face has been in magazines and the like and b) they are attending camps for experienced skaters and hockey players. No way would someone not question the girls’ lack of experience when they are supposed to be the best of the best. The book tries to be logical, and, while I appreciated it, some things were a little too hard to swallow.

Putting aside the lapses in logic, I enjoyed how the book focused on hockey and figure skating, two topics I don’t know much about. I haven’t ever seen hockey come up in a YA book about girls at all (though I am sure they are out there somewhere).

The hockey and figure skating really do play a large role in the novel. Reading about practice after practice became monotonous and slowed the pace of the book. Constantly, I was waiting for some new development to occur, but it was usually just more of the same thing again and again.

The romance takes a back seat to the friendship between the girls, but it made things much more interesting. Sloane Devon’s romance was sweet, and I wished we got to see more of her with her love interest. On the other hand, I wished Sloane Emily’s would just walk off the page. He is a real piece of work and shows little to know character growth, going from one personality to another without explanation.

While the transitions between each girl were needed and well-placed, I found myself liking Sloane Devon’s perspective more than Sloane Emily’s. Sloane Devon had more personality and a developed backstory that Sloane Emily was missing. Still, both girls were likable and reading their antics was always fun.

The cover of the book is misleading because this is, above all else, a story of friendship, not a romance. However, the title couldn’t be more accurate. The book takes a look into the lives of both Sloane Jacobses at an important moment in their lives. The story isn’t anything new, but it would be a good contemporary to read if you are tired of romances dominating the plot.

Honestly, I think this book ended up being a case of It’s Not You, It’s Me. Readers who are okay with crazy, unbelievable shenanigans will probably adore this book, while those who enjoy more realism in their stories might want to pick up something else.


Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell 

Pages: 320 rebel blue

Publisher: Amulet Books 

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be dead girl. Rebel (as she’s known) decides to complete the dead girl’s bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed—a world of friendships, family, and faith. With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy—particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself. Perfect for fans of Jay Asher’s blockbuster hit Thirteen Reasons Why, Coriell’s second novel features her sharp, engaging voice along with realistic drama and unforgettable characters.

—  

Review:

After reading a fantastic bucket list novel earlier (The F-It List), I couldn’t wait to start Goodbye, Rebel Blue due to its somewhat similar premise. 

Rebecca’s (aka Rebel’s) story is a vivid one, full of emotion and angst. I had to adjust to her personality at the beginning because she was more annoying than quirky. Luckily, she grew out of this pretty quickly.

Reading about Rebel completing another’s bucket list wasn’t as exciting as I hoped. A lot of the action seemed to happen “off screen”. The novel isn’t truly about one giant life-fulfilling adventure so much as one teen’s coming-of-age story.

Along the way of her mission, Rebel starts to see and hear the ghost of the author of the bucket list. This element just didn’t work for me because Rebel had enough making her feel isolated that it just felt like overkill. These scenes were just odd and unnecessary.

I wanted more from Nate than I got. I think parts of his development were missing. He would jump from one decision to another without really explaining why. It was mainly a problem at the end of the novel because he changes his mind without any hint of doing so.

I think a stronger conclusion would have really increased my appreciation of the novel. Rebel’s motives and story are all wrapped up, but not Nate’s nor their respective family’s.

The unique bucket list element was enjoyable, but in the end it just joins the pile of angst-y finding yourself novels. 


WoWBanner

To find out more about Waiting on Wednesday, check out my first post here

To All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

jennyhan

Expected Publication: April 22, 2014 

Synopsis from Goodreads:

 To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all. 

 

I really just want to read this one for that cover alone. The synopsis does sound entertaining and fun. I have liked all of Jenny Han’s work before, so I expect nothing less from this one too. 

Do you plan on reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? What books are you waiting for?


The F-It List by Julie Halpern

Pages: 256 TheFItList

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends 

Source: ARC provided from publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl’s battle with cancer.

Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again–Becca has cancer.

So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend–you do it.

Review: 

The F-It List is a book that makes me reconsider why I don’t read contemporary more often.  I can see that some people may be turned off because of the title or the cancer, but I highly recommend you give this one a try.

The core relationship is between two best friends, Becca and Alex, who are absolutely hysterical together. Every chapter made me laugh, which I didn’t expect from a book with cancer in the plot. In my opinion, The F-It List has one of the best friendships I’ve ever read.

Becca and Alex would do anything for each other, which I love reading about in friendships. This is put to the test when they try and check off the items of Becca’s version of a bucket list. I really don’t want to spoil any of the fun from discovering the items on the list, but they are all funny, immature, insightful, or a crazy combination of them all.

The relationship between Alex and Becca is far from being the only in the story. Alex meets Leo, who helps her deal with all of the crazy events of her life. Their romance was a perfect addition to the novel and a main reason I read this book as fast as I did. Both girls also have difficult relationships with their moms that are portrayed very realistically and complexly.

Some moments I was crying from laughter and others just crying. At times I forgot this was a tale of tragedies, grief, and recovery, but then it would hit me all at once. I felt ALL THE FEELS with this books. The effects of cancer aren’t glorified or romanticized, which made some scenes of the novel even more difficult to read, but were beneficial to the telling of the story.

Overall, I highly recommend getting The F-It List as soon as possible. It’s hilarious and sad and amazing.


The Vow by Jessica Martinez

Pages: 432 thevow

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Source: pulseit.com

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends? 

Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him. 

Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love? 

Review: 

I didn’t know what to expect from a book about a false marriage. I could only picture something like that Sandra Bullock movie The Proposal, and The Vow is nothing like that at all.

Mo and Annie are best friends, with really only the other to count on and trust. (Their lack of friends, or even other acquaintances, was a bit hard to believe. Mo has one friend besides Annie, but Annie has no one else.)  So, when it’s a choice between marrying each other or having Mo get deported, I could see why they made the decision they did.

The platonic boy/girl friendship is almost unheard of in the contemporary genre, so I really liked the unique perspective. On the topic of perspectives, the narration flips between Annie and Mo. The transitions between each chapter are very odd though and interrupt the flow of the story.

As much as I wanted to, I didn’t like Mo. He’s incredibly whiny and quick to play the victim. It was very, very frustrating. And, for being a supposedly intelligent guy, I found it unbelievable that he wouldn’t know marriage fraud was a felony. He even researched it before making any decisions! Also, towards the end of the novel he starts acting out of character and it really undermined the message of the book.

I found Annie much more pleasant to read. She is the one always saving Mo and seemed to be the far more loyal friend. When she meets her own love interest, Reed, I wanted her to drop Mo and say hello to him instead. Annie and Reed’s romance was so sweet that I wished there would have been more to it since it was a bit underdeveloped.

Overall, I just found too much of this book to be unbelievable. The ending was predictable and, like I said earlier, a bit undermining to what I thought was the theme of the novel. I really liked Annie and want her to have her own story with Reed, whom obviously cares for her more than Mo. The book explores some difficult themes, like racism and true sacrifices. If you do have the opportunity to read The Vow, take it. As much as the book annoyed me, it was nice to read something unlike anything I had read before. 


Premeditated by Josin L. McQuien 

Pages: 336 Premeditated

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Summary from Goodreads: 

A week ago, Dinah’s cousin Claire cut her wrists.

Five days ago, Dinah found Claire’s diary and discovered why.

Three days ago, Dinah stopped crying and came up with a plan.

Two days ago, she ditched her piercings and bleached the black dye from her hair.

Yesterday, knee socks and uniform plaid became a predator’s camouflage.

Today, she’ll find the boy who broke Claire.

By tomorrow, he’ll wish he were dead.

Review: Premeditated was one of my most anticipated reads of 2013. Last year, when I read the synopsis for the first time, I couldn’t wait to have this book in my hands. Unfortunately, I think all of my high expectations led to disappointment.

The beginning started off strong. Dinah broke out of the gate with a strong personality that I instantly liked. Her anger rose off the page as did her loyalty.

It was almost painful to read about all of the malicious acts Dinah and her friends commit, though I didn’t have any sympathy for the villain. The whole revenge plot is cleverly thought out and devilish, which was exactly what I wanted. On that front, Premeditated went above and beyond what I had hoped for.

Dinah isn’t alone in kicking butt and taking names. The secondary characters in Premeditated steal the spot light on more than one occasion. Brucy had me laughing hysterically nearly every time he spoke. Dinah’s father was also a favorite of mine. I loved these secondary characters sometimes more than I did the main characters.

What kept me from really loving Premeditated is just a bit spoiler-y. Guessing the major plot twist of the novel is incredibly easy and something I spotted a mile away. Yes, it added tension to the plot, but for me it made me cringe and want to slap some sense into the characters more than once. I can’t tell if McQuien wanted readers to guess the truth or not. Either way, this made the book lose some of its appeal.

It seems that the curse of revenge books has struck again. I am always eager to read them and am always sadly let down. The writing, the characters and the suspense are all there, but the predictability coupled with my unreasonable high expectations made Premeditated a bit of a lackluster read. 


Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Pages: 308 WhereTheStarsStillShine

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Summary: 

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility. 

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

Review:

A bittersweet tale of finding your family, Where the Stars Still Shine is incredibly well-written and a compelling contemporary.

The characters are a little unconventional. Callie reads like an actual person, one who has feelings and emotions. Sometimes she snaps at those who are trying to help her, but this only works to strengthen her characterization. I could see how some readers would misunderstand her emotional distance, but for me, it is really a non-issue and helped the story.

The Greek culture in the book is always present, but never overbearing. The culture made the characters pop and the setting seem a bit magical with its uniqueness. Doller even adds a glossary of Greek terms in the back to help readers out and learn some new phrases. Ultimately, I loved the big Greek family in this story.

The only weak moment in this story comes from one of the main conflicts. For me, it felt a little blown out of proportion. It made sense to the story, but left me with some questions.

The ending of the story doesn’t wrap everything up nice and neat. While I wanted a happily-ever-after for Callie, I’m glad that Doller didn’t take the easy way out. The ending was honest, and left me wanting to read more of Callie’s story, though I am also happy with how it left off.

The writing, the characters, the setting – all were beautifully executed. I am so happy that my expectations were fulfilled and then some! Where the Stars Still Shine is easily one of the best contemporaries I’ve read all year.


To find out more about Waiting on Wednesday, check out my first post here.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Expected publication: April 15, 2014  what i thought was true 

Summary: 

From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.
Gwen Castle’s Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is. 

A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

I thought My Life Next Door was a beautifully written contemporary with a great plot and amazing characters. I was ecstatic when I heard about her newest book. Huntley Fitzpatrick’s debut really impressed me and put all of her future books on my must-buy list.

Fitzpatrick’s covers are just as gorgeous as the story inside. I am in love with these covers. 

Did you read My Life Next Door? What did you think? And are these covers beautiful or what?



The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

The Nomadic Book Hoarder

Not all those who wander are lost

Literary Lushes

ARC Tours and #LitLush Twitter chats!

The Girls in Plaid Skirts

Bibliophiles and Spies

Such a Novel Idea

A Blog About Books

j i l l i a n & h e r b o o k s

her heart was a river that carried her to the sea - leigh bardugo

Bibliophilia

The ramblings and reviews of a book-lover

Fangirl Friends

We're your Fangirl Friends, updating you daily and sharing our thoughts

Ode to Jo & Katniss

Exploring great stories and creating great stories.

%d bloggers like this: