Book Review: Now Is Everything

Now Is Everything – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.

Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.

When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

My thoughts

I’m not sure I will be able to write this review without crying. And I’m not sure if they would be tears of heartbreak, overwhelming relief, or joy. Simple words will not do justice to this incredible book. It captured my attention, enthralled my curiosity, and, most of all, worked its way into my heart. There is something so important in this book, so vital we must share it and shout it from roof tops. The survival, the resilience, the importance of friendship and love in this book, the display of emotions and fear and strength is truly amazing. It all makes Now Is Everything such a vibrant, heartbreaking, and incredible book.

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Book Review: Good and Gone

Good and Gone – Megan Frazer Blakemore – HarperTeen – Published 14 November 2017

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Synopsis

When Lexi Green’s older brother, Charlie, starts plotting a road trip to find Adrian Wildes, a famous musician who’s been reported missing, she’s beyond confused. Her brother hasn’t said a nice word to her or left the couch since his girlfriend dumped him months ago—but he’ll hop in a car to find some hipster? Concerned at how quickly he seems to be rebounding, Lexi decides to go along for the ride.

Besides, Lexi could use the distraction. The anger and bewilderment coursing through her after getting dumped by her pretentious boyfriend, Seth, has left her on edge. As Lexi, Charlie, and their neighbor Zack hit the road, Lexi recalls bits and pieces of her short-lived romance and sees, for the first time, what it truly was: a one-sided, coldhearted manipulation game. Not only did Seth completely isolate her, but he took something from her that she didn’t give him permission to. 

The farther from home they get, the three uncover much more than empty clues about a reclusive rocker’s whereabouts. Instead, what starts off as a car ride turns into an exploration of self as each of them faces questions they have been avoiding for too long. Like the real reason Charlie has been so withdrawn lately. What Seth stole from Lexi in the pool house. And if shattered girls can ever put themselves back together.

My thoughts

Wow. What a tangle of emotions. In the best way. There is an unguarded truth to this story, an earnest rawness that is at times hilarious and heartbreaking. It touches on so many important points – unhealthy abusive relationships, mental health and depression, and when it is time to let go and when it is important to hang on with all your might.

When Lexi’s brother Charlie suggests a road trip to locate missing pop star, Adrian Wildes, Lexi is shocked. Charlie hasn’t moved from the couch since he broke up with his girlfriend and dropped out of college. So despite Lexi’s scepticism, despite the hurt she has been feeling, she agrees. Along for the ride (and actually providing the means of transport for this road trip) is their neighbour, Zack. As Lexi, Charlie, and Zack hunt for the elusive pop star, they begin to work through the emotions, hurt, and actions of the past year.

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Book Review: The First To Know

The First To Know – Abigail Johnson – Harlequin Teen – Published 23 October 2017 (Aus) 7 November 2017 (US)

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Synopsis

Dana Fields’s father never knew his parents. When Dana secretly does a DNA test for her dad, hoping to find him some distant relatives for his birthday, her entire world implodes. Instead of a few third cousins, Dana discovers a half brother her age whose very existence means her parents’ happy marriage is a lie.

Dana’s desire to know her half brother, Brandon, and the extent of her dad’s deception, clashes with her wish not to destroy her family. When she sees the opportunity to get to know Brandon through his cousin, the intense yet kind Chase, she takes it. But the more she finds out about Brandon, her father’s past and the irresistible guy who’ll never forgive her if he discovers the truth, the more she sees the inevitable fallout from her own lies. With her family crumbling around her, Dana must own up to her actions and find a way to heal the breach—for everyone—before they’re torn apart for good.

My thoughts

Once again I am left utterly speechless by an Abigail Johnson novel. How does she do it!?!! Because The First To Know is the most incredible, agonising, rip-your-heart-out-and-then-sew-it-back-together, amazing book. Asdffdhngikaldnvj….I hope the publisher wasn’t expecting a put-together, coherent review, because all they are going to get is swooning, sighs, exclamation marks and fan-girling. Because it really is just. that. good.

When Dana decides to surprise her father with a birthday present to beat all birthday presents, she could never have expected the bombshell she would unleash. The DNA testing kit was supposed to unveil some long-lost family members – parents or cousins perhaps – for her father who grew up in foster care never knowing anything about his heritage or family. Instead, Dana discovers that her father has a son. A son who is not that much older than she is…and not that much younger than her sister. Confused and devastated, Dana keeps her secret while desperately trying to learn more about her brother, even if it means getting close to Chase, her brother’s cousin, a guy who is starting to mean so much to her, a guy she really shouldn’t be lying to.

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Book Review: Eight Days on Planet Earth

Eight Days on Planet Earth – Cat Jordan – HarperTeen – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

How long does it take to travel 13 light-years to Earth?
How long does it take to fall in love?

To the universe, eight days is a mere blip—but to Matty Jones, it may be just enough time to change his life.

On the hot summer day Matty’s dad leaves for good, a strange girl suddenly appears in the empty field next to the Jones farm—the very field in rural Pennsylvania where a spaceship supposedly landed fifty years ago. She is uniquely beautiful, sweet, and smart, and she tells Matty she’s waiting for her spaceship to return to pick her up. Of course she is.

Matty has heard all the impossible UFO stories for all of his seventeen years: the conspiracy theories, the wild rumors, the crazy belief in life beyond the stars. As a kid, he searched the skies with his dad and studied the constellations. But all that is behind him now. Dad’s gone and Matty’s stuck.

But now there is Priya. The self-proclaimed alien girl. She must be crazy or high, right?  As Matty unravels the mystery of Priya, he realizes there is far more to her than he first imagined. And if he can learn to believe in what he can’t see: the universe, aliens…love…then maybe the impossible is possible, after all.

My thoughts

Eight Days on Planet Earth is a down-to-earth yet otherworldly novel – magical, funny, and a little heartbreaking.

Matty Jones has grown up knowing the field he lives next to is a little different. Matty’s father claims that a spaceship landed there on the night he was born. But Matty’s father has since run off with his brother’s sister, leaving Matty and his mother alone, so Matty isn’t all that inclined to listen to what his father believes. When a strange girl suddenly appears in Matty’s field claiming to be from another planet, waiting to be collected by a spaceship, Matty knows it can’t be true. But there is something so ethereal about Priya that she starts to change Matty’s view on life, the universe and, maybe, even love.

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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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