Book Review: Mammoth

Mammoth – Jill Baguchinsky – Turner Publishing – Published 6 November 2018

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Synopsis

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

My thoughts

What do you get when you cross fashion with palaeontology? Mammoth is a fun YA contemporary. This summer might be all about Ice Age creatures but it also heats up with a bit of romance and a touch of big discoveries, betrayals and cover ups. In the vein of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, Mammoth carries tones of self-acceptance and finding the confidence to embrace your inner (and outer) awesome.

When Natalie lands a summer internship at an Ice Age dig site she knows she is ready to embrace the awesome. Posting about her days at the dig on her fashion-come-palaeo blog, things get interesting when Natalie’s idol turns up. Then there are the two cute boys and the fact that her sense of style, which doubles as an armour against the bullies and trolls of the world, isn’t always practical for field work. Natalie is determined to prove to everyone that she deserves to be there, even if it means taking big risks, risks that could jeopardise her internship.

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Book Review: That Night

That Night – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

One night in March, a terrible tragedy shakes the Queens neighborhood where Jessica Nolan and Lucas Rossi live.

The year since the shooting has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar, and deeply personal, ways. Lucas has taken up boxing and lives under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, while trying to put good into the world through random acts of kindness — to pay back a debt he feels he owes the universe for taking the wrong brother.

Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, with the help of her elderly next-door neighbor, and tries to make ends meet. Without her best friend, who’s across the country at a special post-trauma boarding school, and her brother, who died that night, Jess feels totally alone in the world.

When Jess and Lucas’s paths cross at their shared after-school job, they start to become friends… and then more.

Their community — and their families — were irrevocably changed by a senseless act of violence. But as Jess and Lucas fall in love, they’ll learn to help each other heal and move forward — together.

My thoughts

What happens when you survived but your brother didn’t? What do you do when your family is falling apart or panic grips you by the throat, when you are not sure why you were the one who survived? That Night by Amy Giles presents a unique perspective on gun violence, focusing entirely on the survivors and the emotional fallout from the loss. That Night is romantic and a powerful, emotional story of surviving and learning to live again.

Everything changed that night. Families. The way people looked at and treated you. You. A year ago Jess lost her brother in a shooting that shattered her world. Now her mother hardly gets out of bed and Jess needs to find a job to pay the bills. Lucas took up boxing after his brother sacrificed himself to save Lucas. But the boxing sometimes can’t control his panic attacks that seem to be increasing in frequency or the consuming guilt. Lucas and Jess are now tied together by tragedy, but when they start working together they find that shared memories might make for a wonderful friendship and even romance.

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Book Review: Four Three Two One

Four Three Two One – Courtney Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 13 November 2018

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Synopsis

Golden “Go” Jennings wasn’t supposed to be on Bus 21 the day it blew up in New York City. Neither was her boyfriend, Chandler. But they were. And so was Rudy, a cute stranger whom Go shared a connection with the night before. And Caroline, a girl whose silence ended up costing nineteen people their lives.

Though it’s been a year since the bombing, Go isn’t any closer to getting over what happened. Since Chan shuts down every time Go brings that day up, she decides to reach out to Rudy. Just like that, the two fall right back into their easy, deep connection. Facing the past head-on with Rudy has opened up a small window of healing Go never thought was possible. So she makes an impulsive decision: Round up the rest of the survivors and head to New York City. There they will board an art installation made of the charred remnants of Bus 21.

But things are never easy when it comes to rehashing the past. Uniting the four stirs up conflicting feelings of anger and forgiveness and shows them that, although they all survived, they may still need saving.

My thoughts

Take an author who is excellent at writing powerful stories about heartbreaking situations. Add a plot line about a bombing, abusive relationships, recovery journeys and the power of human togetherness. Drop in five character: four survivors and one along for the ride. Stir together and shake a little. With that recipe it’s no wonder that Four Three Two One is an incredibly powerful and emotive story of surviving, overcoming insurmountable odds, and forgiving yourself.

Golden Jennings is one of four survivors of a bus bombing. While she is eager to unpack the emotions and fallout from that fateful day in New York, her boyfriend, another survivor, won’t mention it at all. When one of the attending paramedics reconstructs the bus and creates a memorial for those who died in the blast, Golden decides to make the trip to New York again. With a new-found friend and the two other survivors, Golden begins a journey towards making new memories, facing old ones and maybe even find some form of healing.

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Book Review: The Geography of Lost Things

The Geography of Lost Things – Jessica Brody – Simon Pulse – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

After Ali’s father passes away, he leaves his one and only prized possession—a 1968 Firebird convertible—to his daughter. But Ali doesn’t plan on keeping it. Not when it reminds her too much of all her father’s unfulfilled promises. So when she finds a buyer three hundred miles up the Pacific coast willing to pay enough money for the car to save her childhood home, Ali can’t wait to get going. Except Ali has no idea how to drive a stick shift. But guess who does?

Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Nico. And Nico has other plans.

He persuades Ali that instead of selling the car, they should “trade up” the items they collect on their trip to eventually reach the monetary amount Ali needs. Agreeing with Nico’s crazy plan, Ali sets off on a unique adventure that is unlike anything she ever could have expected.

And it’s through Ali’s travels, through the strangers she meets and the things that they value—and why they value them—that Ali eventually comes to understand her father and how his life may not have been as easy and carefree as she previously thought. Because just like the seemingly insignificant objects Ali collects, not everything is exactly as it appears.

My thoughts

The Geography of Lost Things is a fun road trip novel about learning to forgive and starting over. Jessica Brody weaves together a compelling story of second-chance romance and father-daughter relationships, family financial difficulties and learning to see again the value in little things.

Ali has just days until the bank will reclaim her family home and she and her mother must find somewhere else to live. Years of paying the debts of her flaky father, of learning that his promises can’t be trusted and knowing he will never come home have made Ali angry for everything she has lost. So, when a knock on the door reveals her father has left her his most prized possession – a 1968 Firebird convertible – Ali is quick to list it for sale, hoping the money can save her home. The only problem is the buyer is miles away and she can’t drive stick. Her ex-boyfriend Nico can, though, and when he wiggles his way into her road trip Ali is sure it’s going to be a disaster. What will a car, miles of road, too many secrets, lies and broken dreams to count and a possibility of a redo bring?

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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: 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: 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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