Book Review: If Birds Fly Back

If Birds Fly Back – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 27 June 2017

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Synopsis

Linny has been fascinated by disappearances, ever since her sister Grace ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

Sebastian can tell you how many galaxies there are, and knows how much plutonium weighs. But the one thing he can’t figure out is the identity of his birth father. 

They’ve never met, but Linny and Sebastian have one thing in common: an obsession with famous novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrera, who went missing three years ago and has just reappeared. As they learn more about the mystery of Alvaro, Linny and Sebastian uncover the answers they’ve been searching for.

My thoughts

If Birds Fly Back is a poignant debut. This book is refreshingly heartwarming. A little sad, a lot realistic, and something a bit magical.

Linny is obsessed with people who disappear and then reappear again. Her sister Grace left home one night and hasn’t been seen since. Linny believes if she can study enough reappearances she might be able to bring Grace back somehow. So, when Linny spots Alvero Herera – missing, presumed dead for three years – at the nursing home where she volunteers, she knows she needs to learn his secrets. Sebastian too wonders why people leave, why they can turn their backs on their families. He, too wants to know Alvero, to know his secrets. But Sebastian has a secret of his own.

At first Sebastian and Linny repel each other. They get in each other’s way, they think they are so different from the other. I love it when characters begin by disliking each other. It brings so much more growth to the story. As Sebastian and Linny start to share their secrets, they learn that they have more in common than they originally thought. And, through a summer of piecing together secrets, they form a strong relationship.

If Birds Fly Back is told in alternating chapters, which switch between Sebastian and Linny’s points of view. They both have experienced the grief of losing someone who disappears without warning. They both are compelled by mysteries and questions, disappearances, theories, and reappearances. They are both wonderful characters. And yet their voices are unique. Sebastian has a colourful imagination, enhanced by his love of science and theories and testing the unknown. Linny has an artful creativity. Added to her chapters are sections from the screenplay that she is writing about losing her sister and trying to find her again.

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Book Review: Stray

Stray – Joni Johnson – Independently Published – published 22 March 2017

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Synopsis

Lila Baxter, 17, is abandoned at a gas station in a small town when her father, who was taking her to live with her grandmother, has a lapse in sobriety. Lila is left alone, unsure of where she is, with no money, and no cell phone. Gas station cashier Vance Larson, 18, offers to help the unwanted girl. And how does Lila repay him? By unwittingly unhinging Vance’s whole life. Fixing the trouble she’s caused is next to impossible. And will any of it matter when her father returns?

My thoughts

Stray’s synopsis promised exactly what I love in YA fiction – tortured teens and a touch of romance. It reminded me of a story I read and loved many years ago by Cindy C. Bennett.

Lila has just graduated high school. She knows she only has a few days until she must find her own place to live, but she doesn’t expect her father to pack her into his truck and drive halfway across the country. And, despite his disinterest over the past years, nor does she expect him to abandon her in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Alone and unsure what to do she accepts the help of Vance, a (admittedly handsome) guy she meets, who takes her home. There she experiences the love of a family for the first time as Vance and his mother, Vicki, welcome Lila into their home and lives.

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Book Review: Once and For All

Once and for All – Sarah Dessen – Viking Books – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

My thoughts

A summer of weddings, a girl with a damaged heart, an annoying guy, and a bet – what could go wrong? Once and For All is a delightful new novel with Sarah Dessen’s trademark mix of romance, summer, and starting over.

Louna works for her mother’s wedding planning business. Every week she witnesses the pinnacle of true love. Or at least that’s what it should be. But Louna herself knows how badly love can end, leaving her cynical and sure that romance doesn’t come around all that often. Then she meets Ambrose, a serial dater who enjoys the first few perfect moments of a relationship but never commits to more than a day or two. Ambrose drives Louna nuts with his eternally cheerful and haphazard ways. So she is shocked when her mother employs him to help with the summer weddings. But Louna finds herself enjoying spending time with Ambrose (sometimes, when he isn’t making her crazy) and, even stranger, finds herself making a bet with him – she will agree to start dating again and he will try to commit to a relationship that lasts for seven weeks.

This book was described as sugar and effervescent champagne. But I didn’t get that feeling at all. Yes, there are weddings, flirting, and summer days, but it was far more somber than I was expecting. And yet it perfectly fit the Sarah Dessen mould – sweet romance and a light story, tempered with sad tragedy or hard circumstances with which the character must wrestle. I found Louna’s story to be far sadder than I expected. When it says that her last relationship, her first taste of a true and epic love, ended badly, they mean badly. The reader slowly pieces together what happened and how it changed Louna. Meanwhile, we get to know Ambrose. At first, Louna can’t stand him. But as they work together they build a sweet friendship.

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Book Review: Girl Out of Water

Girl Out of Water – Laura Silverman – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

My thoughts

Girl Out Of Water is an easy YA contemporary novel about an unexpected summer, family commitments, new relationships, and hanging onto old friendships.

For Anise, surfing is everything, so her summer plans consist of surfing, spending time with her friends surfing, attending the Surf Break festival, and more surfing. So, when her dad informs her that they will be spending the entire summer in Nebraska caring for her cousins as her aunt recuperates from a serious car accident, she is more than a little upset. But the summer ends up being not so bad as she reconnects with her cousins, meets a new guy, learns to skateboard, and finally has a chance to learn a little more about her long-absent mother.

Anise loves the ocean, and you can see why with the way in which the author describes it. The freedom of the sea, the thrill of riding waves, and the connection that it brings to her friends. For Anise, everything pretty much revolves around surfing. Although I did find a few inconsistent details – you actually have to paddle to catch the wave rather than just wait for it to pick you up – the author captures the scenes of Anise’s life well.

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Book Review: Made You Up

Made You Up – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 19 May 2015

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Synopsis

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

My thoughts

Made You Up has been on my to-read list for a while but I only picked it up after reading Fancesca Zappia’s new book Eliza and Her Monsters which is AMAZING!! So I had high expectations for Made You Up. And it certainly lived up to them in terms of writing style and story and characters, obviously it doesn’t have the extra story and accompanying webcomic panels, but it shares the refreshing honest and up-front way of talking about teenage mental health within a totally authentic setting.

Alex is starting at a new high school after an Incident at her last school involving spray paint, the gym floor and the possibility of communists. Alex is hoping that she will be able hide the fact that she has paranoid schizophrenia from her new classmates. But that might be hard when her new principal could be crazy, the school’s scoreboard is haunted and the boy from her childhood, whom she previously thought was a hallucination, might actually be real.

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Book Review: Someone Else’s Summer

Someone Else’s Summer – Rachel Bateman – Running Press Kids – Published 9 May 2017

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Synopsis

Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?

My thoughts

Can you fall in love with a book because of its dedication? Because that’s when I first knew I was going to enjoy Someone Else’s Summer. I cautioned myself to actually start reading the book before judging it, but, it turns out, I was right. I enjoyed this book of road trips and love finally realised, summer lists, larger-than-life big sisters, shared memories, shared grief, and unanswered questions. Someone Else’s Summer was refreshing and fun.

Anna’s sister was tragically killed in a car accident just after her high school graduation. Anna and her family are devastated. So when Anna finds one last summer list that her sister left behind, she knows she must complete it. She recruits her sister’s best-friend, boy-next-door, Cameron, and together they set off for a summer of skinny dipping, tattoos, Polaroid photos, and kisses.

I have to say I loved the romance in this story. Anna and Cameron know each other. They have too many shared childhood memories not to. But they drifted apart over the past few years, just like Anna drifted from being her sister’s little shadow. They reconnect through their shared grief and their time on the road trip. Their relationship starts with a familiarity and comfort that comes from being a perfect fit. So it only makes perfect sense when their relationship turns romantic. And boy, does their chemistry leap off the page. Their kisses were literally heart-pounding.

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Book Review: Other Breakable Things

Other Breakable Things – Kelley York and Rowan Altwood – Entangled:Teen – Published 4 April 2017

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Giveaway:
Click here to enter to win an Other Breakable Things Prize Pack.

Synopsis

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

My thoughts

Hmmm. What can you say about a book that attempts to pick you up, take you on a roller coaster of emotions and then rip your heart out? I wasn’t sure which path this book would take – ultimately hopeful, focusing on the joys and hurts of living or a complete and utter sob fest? Even after finishing I’m still not sure – a bit of both, maybe? Either way, Other Breakable Things is a very interesting book and quick to read, perfect for contemporary fiction fans.

Evelyn has always loved Luc. Loved him throughout their stilted friendship and then the past three years of silence when she moved away from him. Now she is back in the same town as Luc but still isn’t sure if he will reach out to her, or include her in his life. She is used to being the second choice in people’s lives. But to Luc, Evelyn was never the second choice, just a choice he never allowed himself to make. Luc’s heart is failing. The second time in his short, nineteen-year life. He knows that he doesn’t want to try another transplant, and is sick of hospitals and tests and doctors. So, instead, he takes off on a road trip – one last effort to really live. And he takes Evelyn with him. Evelyn has always suspected that Luc was unwell, but it isn’t until she is on the road with him that she finally, fully begins to understand as she uncovers everything he has been hiding.

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Book Review: Love and Vandalism

Love and Vandalism – Laurie Boyle Crompton – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 May 2017

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Synopsis

He calls it fate. She calls it blackmail.

Rory has a secret: she’s the vandal who paints graffiti lions all over her small town. If her policeman dad knew, he’d probably disown her. So when Hayes, a former screw-up on the path to recovery, catches her in the act, Rory’s sure she’s busted. Instead, he makes her a deal. If Rory shows him around town, he won’t turn her in. It might be coercion, but at least the boy is hot.

As they spend more time together, Rory worries she made the wrong choice. Hayes has a way of making her want things she shouldn’t want and feel emotions she’s tried to bury. Rory’s going to have to distance herself from Hayes or confront a secret she can’t bring herself to face…

My thoughts

Love and Vandalism is a surprising and heartfelt novel about art, family, emotional overload, and reconnecting.

Rory creates her art in the dark depths of night, spray painting her lions onto vacant walls and overpasses. It helps her control her rage and rebel against her father. Art is the thing she has most in common with her artist mother. But Rory has a plan to escalate her art and paint a lion that is larger and far more visible than all her previous pieces. She knows she will need help to pull it off but the new guy in town is probably last on her list of limited choices. Never mind his city-boy looks and his determination to stay away from trouble (especially the illegal kind), it’s enough that he is threatening to reveal Rory’s identity as the lion graffiti artist if she doesn’t show him around town.

I really latched onto the first few pages of Love and Vandalism. The writing and story line drew me in. And while Rory at first seems like your average ‘bad girl’, she soon reveals plenty of hidden layers, secrets, and reasons for her actions. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that impressed with Rory to begin with. Within the first chapter she heads to a strange guy’s apartment to smoke drugs, so I wasn’t sure how we were going get along. But I’m well aware that often characters who make puzzling and seemingly stupid decisions usually have an interesting and complicated story to tell. I figured Rory deserved to have her story told, and I’m very glad I kept reading because her story is as saddening as it is encouraging.

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Book Review: Eliza and Her Monsters

Eliza and Her Monsters – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 30 May 2017

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Synopsis

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

My thoughts

I’m sharing my review of this book early because it is so amazing I just can’t stop myself from talking about it.

Wow. Wow. Wow! WOW. This book. This book. No words. Actually, so many words, just none of them powerful enough to convey how absolutely perfect and beautiful and amazing and clever this book is. My mantra is simply going to be ‘Read this. Thank me later.’

Some books are so good they blow all other books completely out of the water. How can I give this book five stars when it deserves five billion? This just became my favourite book of the year. Yes, I realise the year is not even halfway through. It’s still my favourite book for the entire year.

Eliza is the creator of the online webcomic Monstrous Sea. Online she is in control, popular, and clever. Outside of the online world she is unpopular, shy, and counts the minutes until she can return to her drawing. Then, she meets a new student to the school. A boy who seems as shy as she is. A boy who is a huge fan of Monstrous Sea. A boy with whom she can finally be honest face-to-face as well as online – just not about her identity as the creator of Monstrous Sea.

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Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited

Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli – Balzer+Bray – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

My thoughts

A forthright book about love, falling in love, that crazy feeling of falling in love, family, dating, and relationships.

Molly had has twenty-six crushes and counting. Her twin sister has had many dates, kisses and relationships, even if they only last a short time. But when Molly’s sister falls in love – for real this time – Molly senses that their close relationship is changing. And then there are the two boys – one, the boy her sister would like her to date and the other her geeky, new co-worker who makes her laugh and not totally tongue tied.

I admired Molly’s voice. It is so authentically and uniquely her. Her character is layered and realistic. I liked how there were so many little things that were just a part of who she is. For example, Molly has anxiety. She takes medication for it and she mentions it offhandedly a few times and feels anxious about some things and laughed about a few times anxiety got the better of her, but her anxiety wasn’t a defining feature of her character, especially not in her eyes. The same goes for her weight. She is totally upfront about her weight but she herself is ok with her size. The only thing she worries about is how others view her. She wishes they could be as accepting of her as she is. Again, just another facet that makes up Molly. But the majority of her focus and that of the book’s is on dating and falling in love.

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