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: 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: 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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