Review: We Were Liars


We Were Liars
We Were Liars
By E. Lockhart
(Delacorte Press, Hardcover, 9780385741262, May 2014,  240pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

Sometimes, the rich have it all. Most times, they don’t.

The Rest of It:

The Sinclairs. They seem to have it all. Money, power, looks and even a private island off of Martha’s Vineyard. Every summer they head to Beachwood to do whatever the rich do but it’s not all pretty. The adult sisters can’t help but squabble over what one seems to have over the other. The patriarch of the group, their father, seems to have his favorites, and the children, most in their teen years, are the only ones that seem to get along at all.

The story centers around the Liars, Cady (Cadence) and her cousins Johnny & Mirren and Gat, a friend of the family. For these kids, the summers are golden. Even with all of the family strife going on in the background, the summers they spend there are meaningful and wonderful, the way all summers should be at that age. But then, tragedy strikes. One day, Cady finds herself washed up on the beach. She’s sustained a head injury and can remember nothing in regards to how she got it, or what took place before the accident.

Two years pass as Cady is forced to recuperate away from the island. Two years of missing Beachwood. Two years without her cousins. When she returns. Everyone is secretive about what really happened. As bits and pieces of the events leading up to that day float back into her memory, she realizes that she’s forgotten all of it for a reason.

This book grew on me. At first, it seemed to halt along in a young adult kind of way. In that I mean, it seemed a little superficial on the surface but after spending some time with the characters, I found myself completely absorbed by the story. There are secrets of course, which makes this a page turner but the big twist that everyone talks about? Not such a big twist in my opinion. But, there is a lot going on here as far as class and social status.

The Sinclairs are THE stereotypical rich family. Gat, the family friend serves at the voice of reason. He’s a constant reminder that not everyone owns an island, that some people DO have to work to make a living. Cady falls in love with Gat, which further complicates things since her grandfather does not approve of him. So while the adult sisters drink and fight over material possessions, these teens have deep, meaningful conversations about life.

There is a bittersweet quality to the novel even before you get to the twist. That sense of lost youth as you transition into adulthood. Summers on the beach as a kid, are quite different from summers on the beach as an adult. You have a whole set of new worries and concerns and being rich doesn’t shield you from them. Lost innocence and how it’s captured here is what made the book for me.

There is a lot of hype for this book with some reviewers calling the ending “shocking” but if you go into it with an open mind, and just go with the flow, I think you will enjoy it. Bit if you go into it expecting to be shocked, you might be disappointed. Plus, there’s the mystery behind the title of the book too. The meaning of the title is not spelled out in so many words, but as the events unfold, that title means many things. One item of interest is how Cady lapses into fantastical tales to tell the story. Think fables and fairy tales. I found it to be an interesting device.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Here and Now

The Here and Now
The Here and Now
By Ann Brashares
(Delacorte Press, Hardcover, 9780385736800, April 8, 2014, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Every now and then, I reach for something just because I know it will be a quick, fun read. The Here and Now, was that book.

The Rest of It:

Prenna James, born into a world riddled by plague, leaves the 2080’s with her mother and a group of time travelers in order to escape what the world has become. They travel to the present day, where she must mingle with other teens, assimilate, or risk losing everything.

This was a super quick read and if you like time travel, reading this will be a nice way to spend the afternoon. It felt very YA, and I believe it is categorized as such but I still enjoyed it. Some of the story was a little predictable and convenient, but overall it was what it promised to be. I would have liked more of the 2080’s, to get a real feel for what she was escaping from but that is the fatalist in me talking. I love a world riddled by catastrophe so of course I wanted to spend a little more time there.

I could see my daughter reading this and she is only ten so that should give you an idea of the reading level. Overall, simple, quick, fun.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park
By Rainbow Rowell
(St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover, 9781250012579, February 2013, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

You know when you were in school and drew hearts all over everything to express your love for a particular thing or person? Well, if I could actually bring myself to write in a book, there would be hearts all over this one.

The Rest of It:

Eleanor, an awkward, “big girl” with crazy red hair, lives at home with her numerous siblings, her mother and her abusive stepfather. She’s poor. Poor enough to learn how to make do with what she has, and often, what she has is very little. Her crazy outfits make her the butt of everyone’s jokes and the morning bus ride to school is made worse by the fact that no one wants to sit next to her.

However, none of this goes unnoticed by Park. Park observes Eleanor from afar, before offering up the seat next to him. Half-Korean and in a circle of his own, Park is not popular, but not unpopular either. He’s able to blend, mostly because he grew up with these kids. There is a degree of respect for him, so once Eleanor accepts the next to him, the atmosphere changes ever so slightly. Hesitant to talk at first, the two bond over comic books. When Park notices that she’s reading his comic books as they lay open in his lap, he begins to bring them just for her. What happens next is nothing short of magic. These two unlikely characters forge a friendship, which eventually becomes love. Through music and comic books, they come together and once Park gets close enough to know Eleanor’s true story, he does everything in his power to save her.

Sometimes, I think the success of a book comes down to how well an author captures a feeling. Reading this book was like living my high school years all over again and I mean that in a good way. Even with all of the teen angst, the high school years are the ones that stick with you. Am I right? Good, bad, ugly. It’s the stuff of memories and that is why I enjoyed this book so much. Rowell’s ability to strip the characters down to their most vulnerable state is what makes this book so readable and probably why the characters felt so real to me.

I loved Eleanor’s awkwardness but I think I loved Park’s pragmatic approach to life even more. And his parents? So awesome. Loving, supportive parents who aren’t perfect. Sure, there was a heavy dose of sap when it came to the romance itself, but that’s how it is when you are young. You can’t wait to see each other and you do nothing but obsess about it until you do. Rowell captures it all beautifully.

One bonus to reading this book is that it’s set in the 80’s and the musical references are like whipped cream added to a sundae. Delightful! I grew up in the 80’s so that entire decade is near and dear to my heart but this book has a little something for everyone. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Divergent

Divergent

Divergent
By Veronica Roth
(Katherine Tegen Books, Hardcover, 9780062024022, May 2011, 496pp.)

The Short of It:

Reading this is like visiting a theme park from the comfort of your home. Lots of thrills. A fast-paced, adventurous read.

The Rest of It:

When you hit a certain age, you are expected to make a choice that could change your life forever and it’s time for Beatrice to make that choice. The world that Beatrice lives in is divided into five factions:

Abnegation – the selfless

Amity – the peaceful

Candor – the honest

Dauntless – the brave

Erudite – the intelligent

After completing her aptitude test, Beatrice is told that she falls into more than one faction. That she is in fact, Divergent. At the time, this information doesn’t mean much to her but she is told that being Divergent is a danger in and of itself and that she shouldn’t tell anyone, not even her family.

At the choosing ceremony, she is forced to make a decision. Should she stay with her family in Abnegation? Or should she choose another faction? As you can imagine, the factions and how they view each other is key here. Beatrice, after making her decision changes her name to Tris and then realizes that she is in the middle of a much larger plan.

This book is pure fun. It’s well-paced with characters you can relate to. It’s not over-the-top dramatic as some young adult books can be and it rates low on the violence scale which is odd for a dystopian novel. I sat down to read a few chapters and ended up reading it straight through.

A lot of readers compare it to The Hunger Games but I prefer this series over HG. Oh and yes, Divergent is also part of a series but I found it to be more entertaining with better writing and a lot less violence. I just picked up book #2 so I can’t wait to dive in.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
By John Green
(Speak, Paperback, 9780142402511, 2006, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Highly praised, yet failed to deliver in the end.

The Rest of It:

*No Spoilers*

I recently reviewed Green’s latest book, and loved it, so when I saw this one at the library, I immediately snatched it up.

Miles moves from Florida to Alabama to attend Culver Creek Preparatory School. There, he meets his roommate “The Colonel” also known as Chip Martin. Miles wasn’t all that popular at his previous school, in fact…no one really knew he existed so when Chip shows an interest in him, he eases into the friendship knowing that it could disintegrate at any moment. After their brief introduction and receiving the nickname of Pudge (even though Miles is skinny as a rail), Miles is introduced to Alaska Young.

Alaska is witty and beautiful and different from the girls back home but she is also taken. Her college boyfriend is mentioned numerous times but is never seen. This mysterious air is what attracts Miles to her, but it’s also what frustrates him most. Especially when she goes missing and he and Chip are left to figure out what happened.

The story is broken up into two parts, before and after with before being the events leading up to her disappearance, and after, the events that followed it. As a reader, I knew right away that something was going to happen, but I had no idea what. With each chapter breaking it down even further (2 months before, 28 days after, etc), which worked to a degree as I certainly felt the tension build, the end result was not what I had hoped for. The ending left a lot of questions unanswered and to be honest with you, this pissed me off. The structure begs for resolution. You cannot lead a reader down the before/after path and not give them something in return!

My reaction to the ending, affected my overall enjoyment of the book itself. Putting the ending aside, I will say that I enjoyed the dialogue between the characters and the development of Miles over time. He is a likable character and his interactions with the other characters were often entertaining if not, enjoyable. Scores of readers have praised the book for its emotional punch so perhaps its magic was lost on me. After all, I am not a young teen by any stretch of the imagination and that is what this book is geared towards even with its numerous mentions of alcohol and sex.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Speak

Speak

Speak
By Laurie Halse Anderson
(Speak, Paperback, 9780142407325, April 2006, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

Deceptively powerful.

The Rest of It:

Melinda’s first day of high school is even more horrid than she imagined. The friends that she had during the summer, are no longer speaking to her. Her decision to call the police during a summer party has made her the most unpopular person on the planet and no one wants anything to do with her. Once well liked and popular, Melinda finds herself navigating the first year of high school alone. No one knows her true reason for calling the police that night and if they did, would they even care?

Without going into too much detail, Melinda’s situation is not uncommon (unfortunately), but a situation that has the power to destroy and devastate on many levels. Broken and alone, her only option is to become silent. Turning inward, she attempts to make herself invisible and takes to hiding in a janitorial closet at school. As her grades slip, her parents fail her miserably in their poor attempt to understand what she is going through. With no immediate help, she begins to express herself artistically in the only class that she enjoys.

Speak is intensely powerful, yet tastefully done. I’m surprised that so many schools have added it to their banned book lists because it’s a book with an important message and one that deserves to be read. Anderson does a stellar job of conveying Melinda’s pain. There were many times where I found myself thinking about my old high school days, and even though that part of my life took place years ago, not much has changed. Kids can be jerks and “friends” come and go like the tides. The only way to deal with it is to know that you have value and that your voice matters no matter what others think.

Speak has been out for quite some time, but it’s a classic in that it deals with issues that all teens deal with. If you have a teen in your home, I urge you to read it first, share it with them, and then have a discussion about it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars
By John Green
(Dutton Juvenile, Hardcover, 9780525478812, January 2012, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

An amazing, life affirming read. Reading this book is like sitting with your best friend, under a bright blue sky with nothing but love surrounding you.

The Rest of It:

Goodness! This is going to be one of those gushing reviews where not a lot is said about plot, but much will be said about why you should read it. Let me jump right in.

This book is about cancer. Specifically, two teens living with cancer. One teen, Hazel Grace is not doing as well as she probably could be, but she knows, as well as her family, that her days are numbered and that the BIG day will come. Augustus Waters is this beyond beautiful guy that Hazel meets at support group. He’s like no other boy she’s ever met and he sees in her, what no one has seen in her before. Life. Hazel Grace, even in her weakened state, exudes life and this is what makes Augustus (Gus) fall head-over-heels in love with her. The two form a bond that is both heartbreaking and joyous. They know that their relationship cannot go on forever, and yet… they live as if it will.

Sigh.

This is such a lovely book and if you had told me a month ago that I would be gushing over a book about cancer, I would have given you my “You’ve got to be kidding!” look and not given it a second thought but this book is AMAZING in so many ways. Although these characters never hide from their illness, the story itself is incredibly positive and life affirming and while reading it, it felt so good to be alive. Everything seemed more beautiful to me and that is why this book is so amazing. I’d close the book and drive home and even traffic seemed special to me or the bird singing outside my window seemed more important than the day before. It just made me feel good.

The other thing that blew my mind was how much I loved these characters. Hazel and Augustus are these awesome kids that you can’t help but love. They are flawed in that they never realize just how wonderful they are but their love is so pure and so genuine that I shed many a tear while reading the book and I dreaded the end. When I finally turned that last page, I wanted to go right back to the beginning and start all over again just so I could spend more time with them. Such a beautiful story and so well done. I borrowed this copy but now I want a copy of my own.

I know it’s difficult to gather up the courage to read a book about cancer, but seriously, you won’t be sorry. In fact, you’ll be so glad you did, that you’ll come back here and tell me so.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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