Bang

Read Crash, the first book in Lisa McMann’s Visions series, before proceeding. These are definitely not stand-alone books. The second book, Bang, will be extremely confusing if you haven’t read book one.

I’m not going to give much of a prelude to Bang, the second book in the Visions trilogy. (I just closed a book fair–which I unknowingly scheduled during the full moon–and I’m so far beyond tired that I can barely think straight.) If you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll love Bang just as much…if not more.

In Crash, we met Jules DeMarco, a sixteen-year-old plagued by disturbing visions of the future. She saw a truck crashing into a rival Italian restaurant and exploding, killing up to nine people. Thanks to lots of investigating and a bit of luck, Jules was able to prevent a horrible tragedy. One of the lives she saved was Sawyer Angotti, the son of her father’s most hated enemy.

Now, Jules and Sawyer are a couple, but this couple is facing something that most don’t. It seems that Sawyer is now having visions of the future. Jules doesn’t know how or why this mess was passed along to Sawyer, but she’s determined to help him figure things out and do whatever she can to stop another tragedy from occurring.

While Jules saw visions of a truck running into a restaurant, Sawyer sees something very different, and he’s having trouble coping with his visions and how he can possibly turn things around. He sees what appears to be a classroom, a gunman in black, and bodies piled all around. Yes, his vision seems to be pointing to an eminent school shooting, and the thought that it’s up to Sawyer to stop it is enough to send him into a panic.

Jules knows how Sawyer feels, but she’s also frustrated that she can’t see the visions herself. All she can do is guide him as best she can and trust in this boy who has come to mean so much to her.

Even though they have the odds stacked against them–visions of a disturbing future, a family feud, abusive parents, etc.–Jules and Sawyer do what they must to be together…and to stop a lunatic from taking innocent lives. Will they be able to solve this mystery before tragedy strikes again, or will they get embroiled in a situation so dangerous that they are caught in the crossfire? Read Bang by Lisa McMann to discover the truth for yourself!

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If possible, I think I enjoyed Bang even more than I did Crash. I liked seeing how the relationship between Jules and Sawyer developed. Things were quite steamy at times, but I honestly believe this was a realistic depiction of two teenagers in love, especially when the relationship is essentially forbidden by their parents. (There’s definitely a Romeo and Juliet vibe here…but, you know, without the senseless suicide.) They had to sneak around to be together, lie to the people around them, and take whatever time they could get. I think all the secrecy added yet another element of danger to their relationship–because the terrible visions weren’t enough–that made their being together even more appealing.

*Note: The “sexy times” in this book, while not terribly graphic, are frank. Jules, the book’s narrator, doesn’t hold her feelings back, and the reader sees just how Jules feels about her first foray into a romantic relationship. Some middle grade readers–I hope–are probably not ready for this, so use caution when recommending this book to tweens and younger teens.*

Another thing I appreciated about this book and its predecessor was how close Jules was with her siblings, Trey and Rowan. That closeness extended to Sawyer when he was experiencing the lowest of lows in his life. These kids had to deal with more than most their age, and they did it with maturity. Sure, they had to break some rules, lie, and sneak around, but what do you expect when their parents are unreasonable, crazy, and even downright abusive?! I’d probably do the same thing! Through everything, though, they stuck together and presented a united front. I find that admirable.

I am looking forward to Gasp, the next book in this series. Given that these strange visions are seemingly passed from person to person, I’m curious to see who will be cursed with this “ability” in the next book. I guess I’ll find out on June 3rd!

If you can’t wait until June 3rd to learn more about Bang, Crash, and more from author Lisa McMann, check out the author’s website, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Hate List

I don’t even know where to start when it comes to my latest read, Hate List by Jennifer Brown.  Given the recent shooting in Arizona, this book was especially powerful.  It looks at a point of view not often considered–someone who loved the one responsible for such a tragedy.  Hate List deals with a school shooting, and I’m sure that some educators, parents, community members, and students will want to keep this book out of school libraries, but I strongly urge those people to take the time to actually read this book.  It provides readers with a very real view of the guilt someone could feel in not seeing what someone was capable of, in still loving the person that committed such atrocities, in feeling responsible for what happened.  Most of all, Hate List is about forgiveness, which is something all of us could stand to learn a little more about.

Everything changed on May 2, 2008.  On that morning, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in the commons area at their high school.  He killed some and wounded others, including Valerie, before turning the gun on himself.  Valerie is now left to deal with what happened in the aftermath, including facing her own actions leading up to the shooting, saving an enemy’s life, going to school again, and simply surviving each day.  She knows Nick’s actions were monstrous and destroyed many lives, including her own, but she still remembers the loving boyfriend only she seemed to know.  How could she have not seen he would do something like this?  And why did he seem to think, just before she stepped in front of his gun, that she supported his actions?

As Valerie reflects on what happened, her relationship with Nick, and facing going back to school, she is forced to face some harsh truths.  Was she somehow to blame for what happened?  Yes, she and Nick had a Hate List, filled with the names of people who bullied or wronged them in some way, but they never really took that seriously.  At least, she didn’t think so.  Could she have stopped him or seen what he was planning?  Can anyone forgive her for her part in the shooting, or for loving Nick?  Can she even forgive herself?

Read Hate List to discover what it’s like for one girl who truly loved someone who committed horrible acts and how she learns to cope with the guilt that comes from surviving, especially when so many around her wish she hadn’t.  Can Valerie move on?  Does she even want to?  Read Hate List by Jennifer Brown to find out.

I really think Hate List is a wonderful book.  It is by no means a comfortable read, but it could serve to open up discussions in high schools and beyond about dealing with bullying, violence, and the aftermath of tragedy.  It could also help people to really see that those who commit these crimes have loved ones, too.  These are often the forgotten victims that no one really wants to see.  Something to think about.

For more information on Hate List and author Jennifer Brown, visit http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/.