Skinny

I’m not quite sure how I feel about my latest read, Skinny by Ibi Kaslik. I’m not even sure I would have considered reading this book if it had not been on sale…or if my book club wasn’t reading green books this month (books with green covers, “green” in the title, or by authors with the last name Green…you know, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day). With a green popsicle on the cover, I kind of expected Skinny to be sort of lighthearted. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Skinny is told from the perspectives of two sisters.  Giselle, a former medical student, is struggling with anorexia and quite a few other problems. Holly, an eighth grade athlete, is watching her sister, who used to be so strong, totally self-destruct.  Both girls are dealing with very different memories of their deceased father, relationships with guys, and the general business of living. Holly seems to want to help Giselle, but how do you help someone who is so bent on ruining her own life?

The character of Giselle is at once sympathetic and repellent. The reader wants her to turn her life around because she has so much potential, but it’s not easy to even read about someone who doesn’t want to help herself.  One minute it looks like she’s making a turn for the better; the next, she’s returning to her same old patterns. And soon, those patterns will manifest in Giselle’s entire body breaking down.

Holly, the younger sister, has her own issues. She’s partially deaf, she’s prone to acts of spontaneous stupidity, and she crushes on her sister’s boyfriend. But when you see what she has to deal with at home, Holly’s actions at least make a little bit of sense. She’s worried about her sister, but she’s also still a girl focused on her own life…which is going through a rough patch at the moment.

As the story progresses, and we get to know Giselle and Holly a little more, the reader roots for things to change. It doesn’t quite happen, though. This story is not a delightful romp through the park.  There is no happy ending or magical cure for the many issues plaguing Giselle or those who have to watch her downward spiral. As a matter of fact, I found much of the book to be depressing, and only occasionally did I even crack a smile while reading. But that’s okay. This book deals with some pretty serious issues, so it follows that the general tone of the book is serious as well.

Did I get what I expected when I started reading Skinny? Absolutely not. Did I like the book as a whole? Some of it. It was an interesting story, but it was a little hard to follow at times.  I don’t know if that’s because it was hard to nail down an exact setting through much of the book or because Giselle’s thought processes were so scattered.  (I honestly don’t know if the problem was with the character of Giselle or with the author’s writing.) Several times while reading, I asked myself, “What is the purpose of that word or sentence?” Some things just didn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’m alone in that, but I had to reread some passages a couple of times, and things still didn’t become clear.

I do appreciate that this book didn’t have a happy ending. That may seem weird, but, when you’re dealing with issues as serious as eating disorders and everything that results, sometimes happy endings just aren’t realistic. Anorexia takes a toll on the body, and we definitely see that in Skinny. Giselle wasn’t the only one to suffer because of her illness, though. Those around her did as well, and I imagine that many readers with similar experiences will relate to the pain depicted in this book.

Despite the age of Holly’s character, Skinny, in my opinion, is not a book that belongs in the hands of middle grade readers. (Some may be able to handle it but not many.) Much of the content (drugs, sex, drinking, etc.) is for mature audiences, so I would recommend this for high school students who have some modicum of maturity.

The Comeback Season

A couple of days ago, I finished reading The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith.  (If that name rings a bell, it’s probably because she also wrote The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight…which I reviewed in March of this year.)  As a baseball fan, I was intrigued with the idea of a love story that essentially centered on a baseball team—even one that I’m not crazy about.  (The Chicago Cubs are featured in this book.  I’m a life-long Atlanta Braves fan.  Sadly, fans of both teams have grown accustomed to disappointment.)

Anyhoo, I was prepared for a light, fun read with lots of sports metaphors and a couple growing closer through their love of the game.  In one sense, I got what I was expecting.  In another, however, I got so much more.  The Comeback Season is much more than a love story.  Yes, there’s a tale of young love, but it’s also a book about moving forward and surviving…even when all hope is seemingly lost.

Ryan Walsh loves the Chicago Cubs.  It’s something she shared with her dad.  She loves the Cubs so much that she’s skipping school to catch opening day at Wrigley Field…on the tenth anniversary of her dad’s death.  (She’ll probably have more fun there anyway, even if the Cubs lose as they so often do, and even if this day brings back some pretty painful memories.  School is not exactly a good experience for Ryan.)  She doesn’t know what to think, though, when she runs into Nick, the new kid in school, also trying to score a ticket to watch the Cubs play.  Sadly, neither Ryan nor Nick gets a ticket to the game, but they do strike up a tentative friendship based on their mutual love for the Chicago Cubs.

When Ryan returns to school the next morning, she’s not quite sure how to act around Nick.  Are they school friends or baseball friends?  Will he be like every other person in school—even people Ryan once considered friends—and act like she’s invisible?  Much to Ryan’s surprise, Nick acknowledges her existence and seems to not care that she’s an outcast.  Their mutual love for the Cubs—and the hope that the team will have a good year—brings them together like nothing else could.

There may be something else, though, with the power to tear Ryan and Nick apart.  Something that neither of them knows how to fight.  Something that makes them question everything they’ve ever known or hoped for.  Nick is hiding a big secret, and when Ryan discovers what’s going on, she begins to lose faith in everything…including the baseball team that’s carried her through some of her toughest moments.

Ryan doesn’t think the Cubs will be enough this time, and she doesn’t know how to deal with the turmoil that is sure to come.  Ryan is losing the hope that is a part of every Cubs fan’s world, and she’s not sure how to get it back…or if she can, especially when it becomes clear that Nick—her only friend in the world and the boy who’s stolen her heart—is about to face something much more difficult than a baseball game.  Will this be a losing season for Ryan and Nick, or will they be able to come back from the biggest slump either of them has ever faced?  Read The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith to learn how true Cubs fans hold onto hope even in the toughest of times.

I did enjoy this book, even though I was less than thrilled with the ending.  I hate to say this, but The Comeback Season reminded me a little of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (probably the best book I’ve read so far this year).  I didn’t like this because, even at the beginning of this book, I had a feeling that I knew what was coming…and how I was going to react to it.  (I was right.)  Now, The Comeback Season, in my opinion, wasn’t nearly as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but the trials of at least one of the characters were similar to what happened in TFiOS.  Do with that what you will.

For more information on The Comeback Season and other books by Jennifer E. Smith, visit her website at http://www.jenniferesmith.com/, or follow her on Twitter @JenESmith.

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Before I begin telling you about Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door, I must urge you to read the amazing Anna and the French Kiss.  A couple of notable characters from Anna appear in Lola’s story, and it might be helpful–but not totally necessary–to read about their story before diving into Lola’s.  And, honestly, Anna and the French Kiss is a funny, romantic, beautiful novel that you really need to read anyway.  So do that.  Now.

Moving on to Lola…I loved everything about this book.  It’s got it all:  quirky, memorable characters, teen angst and drama, humor, and, most importantly, a love story that readers can really root for.  I also enjoyed that, unlike many other YA novels, Lola’s parents had a presence in her life.  They had rules they expected her to follow (which she didn’t always do, of course), and, in my opinion, Lola respected her parents and wanted their respect in return.  That was a nice change of pace from what I normally read.

Lola Nolan is a true individual. She dreams of being a fashion designer, and she sees clothing as a way to really express herself.  Lola’s appearance may change from day to day, but some things will always stay the same.  She will always be a loyal daughter, friend, and girlfriend.  She loves her dads, she supports her best friend, and she’s devoted to her boyfriend, Max.  In fact, she and Max (who is much older than her) have big plans for the future.  She’ll design fabulous costumes, and Max will enjoy success as a rock star.  All the while, love will keep them together.  (Anyone else have a Captain and Tennille song playing in their heads right now?)

Well, as you know, plans have a way of unraveling…especially when Lola’s first love–the boy who broke her young heart–moves back into the house next door and makes it clear he’s never forgotten Lola.

Cricket Bell was the first boy Lola ever loved, and, now that he’s back in town, Lola must face him, the past, and the rather confusing feelings Cricket inspires.  Can Lola and Cricket put the past behind them and be friends (even though one–or both–of them wants more)?  If they can be friends, how will Lola explain this relationship to Max, the boyfriend who’s been the center of her life for months?

Lola is becoming more conflicted by the minute.  She and Cricket are closer than ever, and it’s clear that there are strong feelings on both sides.  But Lola is still with Max.  Max, an older guy her parents and friends hate, a guy who’s not always nice or there for Lola, a guy who may not be as perfect as Lola once thought.  Will Lola wake up and see what’s obvious to everyone else in the world?  Will she give the boy next door the chance to be the boy that captures her heart?  Read Lola and the Boy Next Door to find out!

This book is an absolutely perfect example of young adult romance.  Stephanie Perkins has captured the very essence of young love and the drama that goes along with it.  Lola, like most teenage girls, is confused yet determined to go her own way, and she wants to be loved by those closest to her…and sometimes she makes things more difficult than they need to be.  I think we can all relate.

I’ll admit that Lola takes second place when it comes to my favorite character in this book.  I fell in love with Cricket Bell (and I think most readers will, too).  He is the perfect guy–not brooding or moody like most guys in YA novels–and he’s my new standard for, well, everything.  Move over Edward Cullen.  Cricket Bell has just taken your place.

If you’d like to read some truly stellar love stories, you must check out both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door.  We can also look forward to another book to join these two, Isla and the Happily Ever After, due out in the fall of 2012.

For more information on author Stephanie Perkins and her wonderful books, visit http://stephanieperkins.com/index.html.  You won’t be disappointed.

Crescendo

Warning!  Read Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick before proceeding.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

In April of this year, I read an amazing book.  (Actually, I read several amazing books in April, but that’s beside the point.)  The book I’m talking about is Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.  It had everything–bad boys, forbidden love, fallen angels, mystery and intrigue.  It was awesome, so I was stoked to find out that it was the first book in a trilogy (as so many of them are these days).  Well, I finally finished reading the second book in this series, Crescendo, a few minutes ago.  While I like Hush, Hush better, I think Crescendo is still a great book.  I think it’s a typical second book in a series in that it serves as a bridge between the first and third books.  It set up a lot of what will happen at the end of the series, but it still had enough going on to keep readers interested in what the characters are currently up to.  A couple of new characters were introduced, but they only added to the mystery surrounding our main characters.  I’m definitely interested to see how the author will conclude this series, especially since Crescendo ended with such a cliff-hanger.  Now, on with the show…

In Crescendo, readers return to the world of Nora Grey.  After a harrowing experience, she’s trying to get on with her life, and a big part of that is her boyfriend and guardian angel, Patch.  Things aren’t exactly perfect, though.  Patch seems to be putting distance between himself and Nora.  He’s even spending time with Nora’s worst enemy, Marcie Millar.  What is going on?  Nora doesn’t really know, but she’s sure something’s going on, so she and Patch go their separate ways for a while…sort of.

As if Nora’s tumultuous relationship with Patch wasn’t enough to throw her for a loop, she’s also got to take chemistry in summer school (with the hated Marcie as her lab partner); an old family friend is back in town, and he’s got secrets of his own; Nora’s best friend is now dating Patch’s best friend, Rixon (a fallen angel); she’s confronted with more and more secrets that Patch may be keeping from her; and Nora is continuously haunted by the mysterious death of her father.  How can she deal with all of this, especially without Patch by her side?  How is everything connected?  Most importantly, who really killed her father, and can Nora stop this mysterious figure before she’s next?  Fall into the mystery when you read Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and sometimes it’s hard to keep things straight, especially if it’s been over six months since you read the first book in the series.  I would definitely recommend reading (or rereading) Hush, Hush immediately before starting Crescendo.  I had to go back to Hush, Hush a couple of times to refresh my memory of what happened, and I know I’ll have to do the same thing when the third book, Tempest, comes out.  It won’t be released until the fall of 2011, so we’ve got quite a wait ahead of us.  In the meantime, I encourage you to visit Becca Fitzpatrick’s website at http://beccafitzpatrick.com/index.html to learn more about this author and her wonderful books.  Enjoy!

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gone

Gone is the final book in Lisa McMann’s Wake trilogy.  If you’re unfamiliar with these books, I encourage you to check out the previous two books, Wake and Fade, before reading Gone.  This is definitely a series that requires you to read each book in order since the stories build upon each other.  If you’d like more information on Wake and Fade, please look for my previous blog posts on those books.

In Gone, Janie is continuing her struggles with being a dreamcatcher.  She thinks the only options in her life are total isolation or living in the real world but dealing with being blind and crippled by her late twenties.  Janie doesn’t know what to do.  She wants to stay with Cabel, her boyfriend, but she doesn’t want to burden him with everything happening to her, and she’s tired of being drawn into his increasingly disturbing dreams.  Janie is beginning to think her only choice is withdrawing from society completely.

Janie’s world undergoes yet another shift when her father enters the picture.  She’s never met the man and didn’t even know his name until she discovered he was in the hospital.  When she visits him, she is immediately sucked into some seriously disturbing dreams.  She tries to help her father in his dreams, but how can she help him when the experience is so painful for her?  And what do his dreams even mean?

As the story progresses, Janie is faced with some major decisions, and her father’s illness adds yet another twist to a life that, whatever she decides, will be filled with more pressure than one teenage girl is prepared to handle.  What will Janie do?  Will she choose isolation and spare herself the trauma of being drawn into others’ dreams?  Or will she choose to be with her friends and face an uncertain future filled with dreams, nightmares, and eventual blindness and inability to take care of herself?  What would you do?  Read Gone, the final installment in the Wake trilogy, to find out how Janie decides to cope with her “gift.”

Even though the language in this series was a bit too strong for me, I thought the books were good, fast reads with interesting storylines.  I am happy to see it wrapped up in Gone even though the ending is not really nice and neat.  I think these books are great for anyone who wants to read about dreams or about both the ups and downs of having, for lack of a better word, superpowers.  Are superpowers gifts or curses?  You decide.

Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 10:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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Kitty Kitty

First of all, if you haven’t read Michele Jaffe’s Bad Kitty, you need to read it immediately.  It is one of the funniest books I have ever read.  That being said, I just finished reading Kitty Kitty.  (It should be obvious from the way I started this post that this is the sequel to Bad Kitty.)  While it did have it’s laugh-out-loud moments, I thought Bad Kitty was the better book.

In Kitty Kitty, Jasmine and her family (Dadzilla and Sherri!), have moved to Venice, Italy.  Jas has been taken from her friends and her super-hot boyfriend Jack (and she is sure he’s being bombarded with super-hot girls in her absence).  Jas becomes friends with a weird girl named Arabella who eventually ends up dead.  Chaos ensues as Jasmine tries to find out what really happened.  Jas is joined in her quest by the Evil Hench Twins and her friends Polly, Roxy, and Tom (who fly to Venice with Menudo…because that’s how everyone gets to Venice).

Anyone who reads Kitty Kitty, or even Bad Kitty, definitely has to suspend reality.  But don’t we all need to do that sometimes?  I know I do.  If you want to laugh or say to yourself, “What the…,” you need to read Michele Jaffe’s Bad Kitty and Kitty Kitty.  And judging by the way Kitty Kitty ended (don’t ask because I’m not telling), we can surely expect more adventures from Jasmine and her band of weirdos.  Enjoy!

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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