Book Review: A Heart in a Body in the World

A Heart in the Body in the World – Deb Caletti – Simon Pulse – Published 18 September 2018

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Synopsis

When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

My thoughts

Achingly poignant and beautifully written, A Heart in a Body in the World is a book that everyone, man, woman and teen, must read. I truly do not have words adequate enough to describe both the importance and the beauty of this incredible story. It brought me to tears (multiple times), it had me on the edge of my seat, it had me raging at the world, and it had me smiling in hope and joy and hoping that maybe, just maybe, through stories such as these of strong, brave men and women, we can make a difference.

After everything that happened, everything that has been taken from her, Annabelle isn’t sure what to do. What can she do? So she runs. One night just takes off and starts running. She doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t expect her younger brother to create a route for her from Washington State to Washington DC. Doesn’t expect her mother to agree. Doesn’t expect her Grandpa Ed to travel with her in his RV as her support team. She also never expected to become an unwitting activist with a message to share. All Annabelle knows to do is to put one foot in front of the other – because after you’ve lost everything, what else can you do.

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Book Review: Damsel

Damsel – Elana K. Arnold – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

My thoughts

A deeply dark and twisted fairytale reimagining, Damsel takes all the usual fairytale gender roles and dials them up to eleven, creating a shockingly reflective story about the worst of gender roles and subjugation.

From the cover and synopsis of Damsel I expected a sweet and adventurous novel about a girl who didn’t fit the damsel mould, who was brave and fought and showed the world how awesome strong girls can be. I expected a celebration of female strength. Instead, going into this book with nothing but the cover and synopsis as a guide, I found a deeply disturbing story about the worst of human behaviour. When Ama is rescued from a dragon by Prince Emory, she must accompany him back to his castle and prepare to become his wife. But Prince Emory is not a kind nor gentle man and Ama wants to discover the truth about the way he freed her from the dragon.

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Book Review: The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

The Last Wish of Sasha Cade – Cheyanne Young – Kids Can Press – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

The day Raquel has been dreading for months has finally arrived. Sasha, her best friend in the whole world — the best friend in the whole world — has died of cancer. Raquel can’t imagine life without her. She’s overwhelmed and brokenhearted.

And then a letter from Sasha arrives. Has she somehow found a way to communicate from the afterlife?

In fact, Sasha has planned an elaborate scavenger hunt for Raquel, and when she follows the instructions to return to Sasha’s grave, a mysterious stranger with striking eyes is waiting for her. There’s a secret attached to this boy that only Sasha—and now Raquel—knows.

This boy, Elijah, might be just what Raquel needs to move on from her terrible loss. But can Raquel remain true to herself while also honoring her friend’s final wish?

My thoughts

A powerful beginning hallmarks what can only be described as a beautiful, heartbreaking and very sweet story. A story of sad endings transformed into just-the-beginnings, a story of broken hearts slowly healing, a story of friendship bonds so strong that time nor death holds any sway. The Last Wish of Sasha Cade is an ode to friendship.

Raquel knew this day was coming, but the death of her best friend Sasha still hits her hard. In the midst of her grief she receives a surprise letter from Sasha outlining a series of adventures that will unfold over the next few weeks – a scavenger hunt of memories and fond moments. But Sasha has one other big secret that she shares with Raquel – a boy with whom she shared a special connection. As Elijah and Raquel complete Sasha’s adventures, they become close, brought together through shared grief. But a future together would mean revealing Sasha’s secret.

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Book Review: What If It’s Us

What If It’s Us – Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera – HarperTeen – Published 9 October 2018

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Synopsis

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them? Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated. Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited. But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third? What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough? What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?

My thoughts

What If It’s Us is a cute boy-meets-boy, missed connections, do-over, sweet, funny, charming kind of book. Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera are huge names in YA fiction right now and they pull off this collaborative work seamlessly.

Arthur is in New York for the summer. Ben lives in New York year round. Arthur is working as an intern at his mother’s law firm. Ben is hoping to pass summer school so he doesn’t have to repeat his Junior year. Arthur has never been on a date let alone had a boyfriend. Ben is reeling from his first breakup. When Arthur and Ben meet, they both feel something, but they leave without exchanging names or numbers. So begins a search across New York to find each other again. But when they do meet again, will they be able to start a relationship?

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Book Review: The Healer

The Healer – Donna Freitas – HarperTeen – Published 9 October 2018

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Synopsis

Marlena Oliveira has—mysteriously, miraculously—been given the power to heal all kinds of ailments. People around the world believe she is a saint. But her power comes at a price: she can’t go to school, she can’t have friends her own age, and she certainly can’t date.

Then she meets Finn, a boy who makes her want to fall in love. For the first time, she begins to doubt whether her gift is worth all that she must give up to keep it.

My thoughts

The Healer is a compelling and unique book. It is a very different coming of age story, yet despite Marlena’s special abilities that set her apart in the world, her story of falling in love for the first time, discovering who she is and is meant to be and learning to stand up for herself is universal.

Marlena is a Healer. Some say she is touched by God, others say she is a saint. For years, her mother has decided how she will live and what she will do. But as Marlena begins to stretch her wings, she must decide if being a healer defines her or if she can heal on her own terms.

At first, I was expecting a book similar to The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee, but The Healer is not about plants or potions and is far more mystical and religious. Marlena isn’t sure where her powers come from, some days she’s not even sure she really has powers. But her mother is a firm believer that Marlena has been touched by God and a church and religious group has risen up around Marlena. The constant attention is something that Marlena hates the most. She longs for connection with people not awe and fear from afar. She wants to be able to walk down the street of her hometown without seeing her face on souvenirs in the windows of shops. She wants to live a normal life.

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Book Review: West

West – Edith Pattou – East #2 – HMH Books – 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

When Rose first met Charles, he was trapped in the form of a white bear. To rescue him, Rose traveled to the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon to defeat the evil Troll Queen. Now Rose has found her happily-ever-after with Charles—until a sudden storm destroys his ship and he is presumed dead. But Rose doesn’t believe the shipwreck was an act of nature, nor does she believe Charles is truly dead. Something much more sinister is at work. With mysterious and unstoppable forces threatening the lives of the people she loves, Rose must once again set off on a perilous journey. And this time, the fate of the entire world is at stake.

My thoughts

West is a delightful fantasy novel, gorgeously pieced together with adventure and folklore it is sure to please fans of East and new readers alike.

East (though it will always be North Child to me) is one of my most favourite books. I love its beautiful writing, elegant and so very imaginative in its simplicity. I love the fairytale remix. I love the strength of Rose, her curiosity, wandering spirit and determination. I love the short chapters written from the perspectives of multiple characters which detail the story. I love the White Bear and I love Rose’s love for him. And so, when a sequel was announced, some 15 years after the publication of East, to say I was excited might have been a huge understatement. And yet, sometimes a new title after so many years, an extra part of a story which you thought completed, can sometimes be a disappointment. Fear not, because West is every bit as beautiful, magnificent and wondrous as East. It continues Rose and the White Bear’s story as if the ink on the pages of East had only freshly dried. It carries the same heart, the same creative storytelling in its unique and simple way. It doesn’t undo any of the happy ending of the first book, but simply continues the story. And it has made this reader very, very happy.

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Book Review: Lovely, Dark, and Deep

Lovely, Dark, and Deep – Justina Chen – Arthur A. Levine Books – Published 31 July 2018

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Synopsis

What would you do if the sun became your enemy?

That’s exactly what happens to Viola Li after she returns from a trip abroad and develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity — an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn’t just have to wear layers of clothes and a hat the size of a spaceship. She has to stay away from all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat when its screen burns her.

Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He’s a funny, talented Thor look-alike who carries his own mysterious grief. But the intensity of their romance makes her take more and more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life — and love — as deep and lovely as her dreams.

My thoughts

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen is a brilliant novel about chasing life even when what that life might be dramatically different from what you were expecting. Lovely, Dark, and Deep is beautifully written, with a likeable heroine and a nice mix of uplifting messages and humour.

Viola has her life all planned out – first travel overseas with her Aunt, then major in journalism before becoming an international foreign correspondent traveling to war zones and other dangerous places to expose and report the truth. But when Viola develops a reaction to the sun, her whole world shifts – first with sizeable hats and an abundance of sunscreen to blackout curtains and limited screen time. Her diagnosis coincides with meeting Josh – graphic novel writer, Thor-look-alike – who carries his own secrets and grief. Viola is sure that her condition will not limit her, but testing the boundaries brings many risks for which even Viola could never have planned.

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Book Review: Meet The Sky

Meet The Sky – McCall Hoyle – Blink – Published 4 September 2018

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Synopsis

It all started with the accident. The one that caused Sophie’s dad to walk out of her life. The one that left Sophie’s older sister, Meredith, barely able to walk at all.

With nothing but pain in her past, all Sophie wants is to plan for the future—keep the family business running, get accepted to veterinary school, and protect her mom and sister from another disaster. But when a hurricane forms off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and heads right toward their island, Sophie realizes nature is one thing she can’t control.

After she gets separated from her family during the evacuation, Sophie finds herself trapped on the island with the last person she’d have chosen—the reckless and wild Finn Sanders, who broke her heart freshman year. As they struggle to find safety, Sophie learns that Finn has suffered his own heartbreak; but instead of playing it safe, Finn’s become the kind of guy who goes surfing in the eye of the hurricane. He may be the perfect person to remind Sophie how to embrace life again, but only if their newfound friendship can survive the storm.

My thoughts

Meet The Sky is one part adventure survival story, one part romance and one part story of self-discovery. It’s about learning to survive and, in the face of life’s storms, learning to live.

Sophie likes things under control. It’s the only way she can continue to function now that her dad has abandoned their family, her mother relies on her to help keep their horse riding business afloat and her sister sustained brain damage in the car crash that tore their family apart. The last person Sophie needs messing up her ordered control is Finn, the guy who stood her up and then disappeared. But when a hurricane heads for Sophie’s home on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Sophie finds herself stranded alone with none other than Finn Sanders.

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Book Review: When Elephants Fly

When Elephants Fly – Nancy Richardson Fischer – Harlequin Teen – Published 4 September 2018

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Synopsis

T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia.Genetics are not on Lily’s side.

When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.

My thoughts

An incredible story of survival and finding something to believe in and fight for, When Elephants Fly will have you laughing, crying buckets and wildly cheering for Lily and her battle to save elephant calf, Swifty.

Lily is working off a tight plan to control the likelihood of her developing schizophrenia. The genetic odds are not in her favour but by living carefully she hopes to avoid following the same journey her mother took. But, when on assignment for her journalism internship, she witnesses an elephant reject her calf and Lily can’t help but see the parallels between their stories. Lily must decide if it is worth risking everything she has worked so hard to control to try and save the life of the elephant she is quickly coming to love.

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautifully written, beautiful message, beautiful characters (and yes, that includes elephant calf, Swifty). Alone, Lily’s story or Swifty’s story would be enough in themselves to be both moving and motivational, enough for any book. Yet together they become phenomenal. The compassion between humans and animals, the loss Swifty and Lily both share, and they ways in which they help each other is stunningly conceived and written.

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Book Review: Wildcard

Wildcard – Marie Lu – Warcross #2 – G.P Putnam’s Sons – Published 18 September

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Synopsis

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

My thoughts

In Wildcard, Marie Lu once again plunges readers into the neon-coloured sci-fi world of Warcross, where computer gaming is taken to the next level and where the tech that enables a fully immersive experience is now a threat to the freedom of humanity.

After her accidental and startling exposure to the Warcross Championships that led to a fight that put her life on the line, Emika Chen is still reeling from her discovery about tech genius and love-interest Hideo Tanaka’s intentions for his NeuroLink technology. Torn between the boy she has always admired and recently fell in love with and her gut that tells her what he is doing is wrong, Emika is forced to join with the shady Blackcoats. But has she put her trust in the wrong people?

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