Book Review: The Nowhere Girls

The Nowhere Girls – Amy Reed – Simon Pulse – Published 10 October 2017

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Synopsis

Who are the Nowhere Girls? They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

My thoughts

The Nowhere Girls is an important book. A voice for girls, a book for change. It doesn’t pull it’s punches. This book is brutal, and sometimes horribly honest and upfront. At first I was slightly unsure about this book, it’s message, and where it was going, but by the end I was uplifted and reduced to tears. The Nowhere Girls is a book that provokes discussion that is vital for changing mindsets and empowering young women.

Three girls spark revolution at their high school when they create The Nowhere Girls – a group that protests their school’s misogynist culture in defence of one of their previous classmates who was brutally raped.

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Book Review: Things I’m Seeing Without You

Things I’m Seeing Without You – Peter Bognanni – Dial Books – Published 3 October 2017 

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails.

Jonah, the first boy she’d told she loved and the first boy to say it back.

Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming.

Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse?

As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down.

My thoughts

This novel takes all the sadness and numbing grief of losing someone and presents it in such an upfront and honest way. Picturesque scenery, dry whit in the midst of heartbreak, broken families trying to heal and help in the only way they can, new beginnings, living funerals, dogs in rocket ships, and love – Things I’m Seeing Without You is brutal and beautiful. How is it that I spent so much time laughing while reading this book when it made me want to cry? Amazing.

Tess Fowler has dropped out of school in the wake of her boyfriend’s suicide, her grief and depression overwhelming. Sure, she only met Jonah once but all their online conversations in the past months were no less real or effecting than any face-to-face relationship. She loved him and his death has left her shaken. With nowhere else to go, she turns up on her father’s doorstep. In the following weeks, Tess begins to help her father run his funeral business and meets new people who change her life in ways she never saw coming.

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Book Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel – Penguin – Published 1 June 2017

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Synopsis

It’s been sixty-five painful days since the death of Juniper’s big sister, Camilla. On her first day back at school, bracing herself for the stares and whispers, Juniper borrows Camie’s handbag for luck – and discovers an unsent break-up letter inside. It’s mysteriously addressed to ‘You’ and dated July 4th – the day of Camie’s accident. Desperate to learn the identity of Camie’s secret love, Juniper starts to investigate.

But then she loses something herself. A card from her daily ritual, The Happiness Index: little notecards on which she rates the day. The Index has been holding Juniper together since Camie’s death – but without this card, there’s a hole. And this particular card contains Juniper’s own secret: a memory that she can’t let anyone else find out.

My thoughts

A beautifully written contemporary, Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is the perfect book for readers who enjoy moving stories about grief, romance against the odds, strong friendships, and the daily rituals that get us through all of the above.

Juniper Lemon writes down everything she liked or disliked about her day in her happiness index. It’s something her older sister Camilla suggested and she can’t let the habit go, especially now that there are already so many holes in her life left void after Camilla’s sudden death. So, trying to think of a few things that made her happy gets Juniper through the day. But when she loses one of her index cards, her journey to find it will have her encounter (in no particular order): a whole lot of smelly garbage, a secret letter from her sister, three amazing new friends, a variety of secret notes and letters discarded by her classmates, a boy who is definitely hiding something, and memories of her sister in the most unexpected of places.

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Book Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love.

My thoughts

This amazing books takes mental health and family breakdown and wraps it in a layer of magic and imagery so strong it glows like a thousand candles in the dark. It is a story of family and fear and bravery and love. It is funny and clever and sad and just a little bit frightening.

Esther Solar’s family is cursed. Cursed to die of their greatest fear. It’s why her father hasn’t left the basement in six years, why her brother is constantly surrounded by multiple sources of light, and why she herself has decided to never find her greatest fear. Instead, Esther has created a list of her worst nightmares and has worked hard to avoid each and every one of them. But then an old classmate (and crush) reappears in her life, pickpockets her belongings, and discovers her list. Jonah decides that Esther must face her fears and that he will help.

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Book Review: The Thing With Feathers

The Thing With Feathers – McCall Hoyle – Blink – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

My thoughts

The Thing With Feathers is a sweet and simple story of new experiences, facing fears, and learning to reach out and trust others.

Emilie Day is beginning her first day at public high school after years of being home schooled. Her mother believes school will be good for Emilie’s emotional and social well being – sure, if you don’t take into account all the things that could go wrong. Emilie is worried that her new classmates will find out about her epilepsy – but worse would be if she has a seizure at school in front of everyone. Determined to keep apart from everyone, Emilie isn’t prepared for her charming classmate Chatham York or the friendly girls from the lit mag. Soon, Emilie will have to chose if hiding her secret is worth risking her new-found friendships.

The Thing With Feathers gives young adults with epilepsy an important voice in this novel. It is wonderful to see it so openly discussed. I can totally understand Emilie’s feelings of fear and her reluctance to disclose her diagnosis to her classmates. High school is brutal. But Emilie’s preconceived ideas that everyone else has the perfect life while she alone is different are quickly challenged. As she opens up to her classmates, she learns that they too face broken families, heartbreak, or other challenges.

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Book Review: If There’s No Tomorrow

If There’s No Tomorrow – Jennifer L. Armentrout – Harlequin Teen – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic–one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen.

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

My thoughts

Guilt and grief – a heartbreaking weight to bear. If There’s No Tomorrow is a story about love and life, friendship, self doubt, and learning to keep moving forward.

Lena plans to enjoy her senior year of high school. Once last year of parties, special events, volleyball games, time spent with her friends Abbi, Dary and Megan, and treasured moments with her best friend (the boy with whom she has been secretly in love with for years), Sebastian. But a tragedy none of them saw coming shakes Lena’s life. Now, nothing is like she planned. Worse is the grief and guilt she doesn’t know how to deal with and the simple fact that she doesn’t know who she is anymore or how to keep moving on with her life.

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Book Review: You Don’t Know Me But I Know You

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You – Rebecca Barrow – HarperTeen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life.

Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, consisting not only of the greatest family ever but of a snarky, loyal, sometimes infuriating best friend, Rose; a sweet, smart musician boyfriend, Julian; and a beloved camera that turns the most fleeting moments of her day-to-day routine into precious, permanent memories.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something—a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart—crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder—what does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

My thoughts

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You is another book that has left me with very mixed feelings. It has a writing style that is easy to read, but without characters who really grabbed me, I struggled with reading this book. In the end, I would pick it up only to put it down and distract myself with another book. I guess I was expecting something different. Something that broke all the moulds and would make me care about this story, care especially about this girl and her journey through a surprising discovery and hard decisions.

When Audrey discovers she is pregnant it forces her to evaluate her life and what she wants from it, who she wants to be. It brings into focus her relationships, with her supportive, musician, going-places boyfriend, her snarky, infuriating best friend, her wider group of friends, her adoptive mother, and even her biological mother, who has always remained somewhat of a mystery.

There are a lot of things to give the author points for in this book. Her main character is a person of colour. There is a bisexual best friend. There are plenty of other characters from diverse ethnicity. But sometimes it felt a little like they were also just boxes on a checklist that had been ticked off. There was nothing new or groundbreaking to make this story or the characters’ stories within jump out and grab me by the heartstrings.

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Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns – Courtney C. Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 22 August 2017

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Synopsis

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

My thoughts

There was one reason I chose to pick up this book – it was written by Courtney C. Stevens. I have been hugely impressed with her books so far, I love sharing them with our readers and our readers love reading her books.

Dress Codes For Small Towns is a magnificent book. It is so heartfelt, honest, and true to itself, just like its main character. And Billie truly is the star of this show. It is her story and she won over my heart almost instantly.

Billie McCaffrey is the preacher’s daughter in a small town in Western Kentucky most famous for its harvest festival and annual Corn Dolly competition. Despite the many rude comments and judgemental looks, Billie dresses and acts in a way that is true to who she is. An artist. An adventurer. A member of the Hexagon, her group of friends who she has collected over the years. But as her feelings for two of her best friends grow and change into something unexpected and her relationship with another friend brings new experiences and freedom into her life, who Billie is and what she thinks about herself collides with her father’s (and the town’s), expectations.

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Book Review: How To Disappear

How To Disappear – Sharon Huss Roat – HarperTeen – Published 15 August 2017

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Synopsis

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

My thoughts

This book had me laughing and nodding my head in shared understanding by the first chapter. Loneliness, social media, and friendship are all key themes which are handled beautifully in this novel. How To Disappear is funny, moving, and so very realistic.

Vicky’s best friend Jenna has just moved away, exposing Vicky’s social anxiety in a way she’s never before experienced. Now, there is no one to answer for her, no one to talk to when she can force words out of her mouth, no one who understands how hard it is to traverse the high school hallways and sit through class. And when Jenna begins to find new friends, Vicky feels even more alone. In an attempt to convince her mother she is doing fine without Jenna, Vicky Photoshops herself into an image with other teens. The success of the image gives her the idea to try it again, this time in disguise and on social media. Soon, Vicurious, Vicky’s new anonymous Instagram account, goes crazy and Vicky realises she is not the only one out there feeling #alone, and that maybe she can do something about it.

The power of social media. It can connect, reveal, hide, and isolate. Vicky is a wonderfully relatable character. I think anyone who has ever suffered some form of social anxiety, whether that is chronic or occasional, will relate to the embarrassment and fear Vicky feels. Despite her fear, every time Vicky opens her mouth something amazing (or funny or, yes, totally embarrassing) comes out. I loved her. I want to be her friend and just hang with her.

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Book Review: The Way It Hurts

The Way It Hurts – Patty Blount – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 August 2017

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Synopsis

Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program―and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and his swooning face is captured on camera and posted with an out-of-context comment. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life.

My thoughts

The Way It Hurts is a story about music and the passion to take that music to as many people as possible. It is also a story about the impact of social media. The Way It Hurts is a novel with plenty of drama and characters with very strong emotions.

Kristin is counting on a summer music program to give her an edge when it comes time for her conservatory application. For Kristin, singing, performing, and dancing is everything. Elijah wants to take his heavy metal band all the way. He dreams of fame. When he sees Kristin perform, he knows her voice could be the thing to promote his band. He posts a picture of her and a comment about wanting her in his band. But convincing Kristin to sing with them might be hard after she discovers he is the one she spars with online and his post quickly sparks a derogatory backlash. But Kristin decides that performing with Ride Out could benefit her, and so starts to use the social media outcry to her own advantage. But when the comments online become increasingly sinister and her relationship with Elijah’s band mates struggles from the beginning, Elijah and Kristin will have to decide how much they will risk for what they want.

Firstly, let me state that I found the synopsis originally provided with this book misleading. There is no picture taken of Eli’s swooning face, he takes a photo of Kristen and posts his own, easily misconstrued, comment. And I don’t think Elijah and Kristen finds themselves in the midst of a social media maelstrom – they have a large part in creating it. As it escalates, Kristin is forced to bear the brunt of rude comments and disgusting photos and suggestions, which Elijah largely dismisses until it begins to effect him.

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