Solo by Kwame Alexander (2017)

Rating: 4.2 Stars33004289.jpg

Short Summary: Blade Morrison is on the precipice of graduating high school. Blade struggles to face conflict through his interactions with his girlfriend, his substance abuse rock and roll father and within himself.

What I liked: Alexander has an excellent way with words. Throughout the book, I find myself pausing and smiling at the way that the lines are intricately woven together. The characters are real and beautiful, but the real beauty is in the language.

What I didn’t: Not much. I’ve become quite the fan of Alexander through his more recent books. This piece felt a little long, but that might be my only real complaint.

Recommendation: It reads poetically, so if you’re not a fan of that kind of style, skip it, but it’s well worth the time if that style appeals, or if you’re familiar with his previous work.

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Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult (2012)

Rating: 2.5 stars12283261.jpg

Short Summary: Delilah – a fifteen year old book worm finds herself so immersed within reading a fairy tale that she soon discovers that the prince inside the story is trapped and in need of escaping his literary existence.

What I liked: The premise behind the book was interesting. I think that so many of us have fallen in love with story book characters, it’s a question we ask ourselves how we would in fact interact with them.

What I didn’t: The piece felt a little too juvenile for the main character to be fifteen. I know that Picoult wrote the piece with her daughter and it really reads like it. It doesn’t at all read like the Picoult I’ve read and am familiar with.

The characters were predictable and lacking in depth. They fulfilled their roles within the story, but not much more than that.

My biggest problem was that it was riddled with cliché’s and tropes – and not in a cute “blends well with the fairy tale theme” kind of way. Many times I found myself groaning out loud with how overdone some of these clichés were.

Recommendation: The book is “cute” and if you can get past the cliché’s, and it’s the kind of story that interests you, then you might find it more enjoyable than I did. I won’t be continuing the series.

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Rating: 4.2 Stars.32309404.jpg

Short Summary: Gregor heads to Camp Save the World a special summer program for teenage activists who are looking to enhance their cause. When the prize for the demonstration of the greatest activism is announced, things slowly get out of control.

Having read “Kill the Boy Band”, I’ve been deeply intrigued with what Moldavsky would do next. I loved how over the top her first book was, and I was so hoping for more of that fantastic dark humour. I was not disappointed.

What I liked: I laughed. It’s hard to find books that really make me laugh out loud. There are books that make me smile, that make me happy, but I’ve got a unique humour that this book really grabs at that dark humourist in me.

I am a fan of creating and supporting teenage activists, but there is so much out there that gives us a deeply flawed understanding of the world. This book does an excellent job of mocking those fractured ideals. But she mocks them without destroying the reason why we have them in the first place. It’s a fine well executed balance.

I loved the cast of characters. They were perfect for enhancing the mocking tone and it was the actions of those around Gregor that really made the story sing.

What I didn’t: There are definitely believability issues within the novel, but it’s part of Moldavsky’s style. Some are easier to look past than others.

Gregor was an okay character and an appropriate lens in which to tell the story, but he had few redeeming qualities of his own that I would call likeable. In any other setting, I would not have enjoyed following him through a story.

Recommendation: It takes a special kind of person to thoroughly dig this kind of book. If you’re willing to suspend reality and enjoy the mockery, it’s hilarious.

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Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (2017)

Rating: 4 stars.30649795.jpg

Short Summary: Carver’s life falls apart after he texts his three best friends – who while responding get into an accident that takes their life. Carver tries to come to terms with his own guilt over the accident and the impact it has on the people around him.

I was a fan of Serpent King, so I was certainly looking forward to tackling Zentner’s next book. I think I enjoyed this piece more than the last.

What I liked: I appreciated the way that it handled a very relevant moral dilemma. Texting and driving is still too prevalent, so it was nice to see a book that really latched on to this theme.

Zentner crawled us through Carver’s life following the accident and showed how piece by piece he was falling apart and reinventing himself after.

I always love strong female characters in novels, and I was pleased to see that the girls in this book did not let me down. His sister was a great model/defender, Adair was a force to be reckoned with (even if you hate her) and even Jesmyn stands on her own two feet.

The book was beautifully emotional without being trope-y. It was heart breaking to watch the main character face such a horrific aftermath of his friends. It’s a heavy piece, but a heavy well done piece.

What I didn’t: Although there were flashbacks to the boys and their antics, I honestly would have enjoyed getting to know the three dead boys more. I suppose there is only so much you can fit inside a confined word length.

Recommendation: This is a heavy book. You don’t come out of it with happy feelings, but more of a sad (but good) book hangover. If you’re up for some emotions, have at it.

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A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White (2017)

Rating: 4 stars30255973.jpg

Short Summary: Jill Cafferty becomes the first female to be drafted to the MLB as a pitcher right out of high school. She deals with the trials and tribulations of becoming a new recruit with the added pressures of making history for her gender.

What I liked: I really enjoyed Jill as a main character. She was well spoken, she was a great advocator for women in general without assuming that she spoke for all women. Her fears were real, her strength was real, I was totally enamoured with her story and the humour that she displayed in the face of adversity.

The book was very baseball focussed. I’m not a huge baseball fan myself – so even if you don’t love the game, this book is still worth picking up, as it does open your eyes to a world that I didn’t know that much about. It made me wish very much that this story was true.

I also loved that there was absolutely no romance. This book was about baseball, and how the main character survived throughout her beginnings in the MLB. It was really nice to see the book so strongly focus on that element as it really didn’t need the romance to feel complete.

What I didn’t: As the book was drawing to a close, the ending felt very aloof. I would have appreciated a stronger story arch, with a clear conclusion rather than something that felt a little open ended.

Recommendation: Baseball fans, this is your book. The in-depth descriptions of life on the road, the baseball game, the way of life would appeal to any sports fan. Its books like this that give the world hope that women will one day be given the opportunity to try.

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Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg (2017)

Rating: 4 stars27230789.jpg

The story takes off AFTER Openly Straight, so if you’ve not yet picked that book up, you should before starting this one, and in fact, if you plan on reading it at all, quit reading this blog entry right now and pick up Openly Straight if you’re keen on getting your hands on a cute LGBT fiction.

Short Summary: It continues the story of Openly Straight from Ben’s perspective, lending some insight on the internal struggles we see in such a quiet and reserved character. I’m nervous about these kinds of books only because I found Another Day to be such a disappointment after the utterly brilliant Everyday by David Levithan.

The Porcupine of Truth is probably one of my top 10 books from 2015. I loved the humour, the characters, and it just felt like a different kind of story, despite the similarities to so many books I’ve read. Needless to say, I’ve been excited about checking out Honestly Ben for a while.

What I liked: I loved the highlighting of the concept that labels are not necessary. It’s too often that we see labels as required entities and it was really nice to see Ben really stick to his desire for a lack of label. Labels give some of us comfort, while others it provides a box we’re supposed to fit in that doesn’t feel quite right. This book nailed that feeling and I’m so happy to see more of this in literature.

The book is a breezy read that you’ll be amazed at how quickly you finish it. A great dismissal from reality for a little while.

What I didn’t: The ending was a little too abrupt for me. It seemed as though this could have gone in a multitude of different ways, but I wanted a little more closure as it finished.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed Openly Straight, I highly recommend continuing on with this book as it really does provide more depth to the original tale.

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Abertalli (2017)

Rating: 4.5 Stars30653853

Short Summary: When Molly’s twin Cassie gets a new girlfriend, the dynamic between them significantly changes while Molly comes to terms with her own body image and making sense of her own crushes.

What I liked: Abertalli did a phenomenal job creating an authentically diverse cast. It didn’t feel forced or planted, it felt 21st century.

The relationship between the sisters just felt authentic. Although I didn’t connect with either of them personally, this newness of a romance coming into the mix at the edge of 17 and it wreaking havoc on all other relationships is just so common. The resolution that these girls came to is exactly the message I’d want to send to YA readers everywhere. Things will change, permanently, and its not always bad.

What I didn’t: The story is predictable and pretty similar to what I’ve already read. I don’t love it like I love Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but it still made me smile, I was still enthralled with the writing.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a light realistic fiction, and you’re a fan of Abertalli’s writing or Holding Up the Universe – absolutely give it a go.

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