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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The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2017)

Rating: 4.7 Stars

Short Summary: Senior year of high school forces Sal to examine the many aspects of his life that he does not understand against a backdrop of many of life’s hardships.

I’ve been so excited for this book for some time. I loved “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” – we even put it on our school book club list this year – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this.

What I liked: What hits me most about this piece is the brilliantly developed relationships between characters. Finally, a brilliantly written book where the two main characters – a straight male and a straight female are actually REALLY GOOD FRIENDS and that’s it. It was refreshing and beautiful to see the way that Sal and Sam just understood each other on all the right levels. The writing of their friendship as siblings was superbly executed and at no part of the book did I find myself wanting more out of their incredibly close friendship.

Sal’s aimlessness is just so common, it was elegantly displayed in the book in a way that so many could relate too. I also adored how this book did not focus overly on romantic entanglements. Its hard to find a YA book without them that is done well, or worth reading, but this was certainly done well.

What I didn’t: Even though my favourite part of the book was the excellent character relationships – I found the relationship between Sal and his father to be a little too “Leave it to Beaver” at times, too perfect and too absent of conflict. It was beautifully idealistic, and adorable at times, but there were a few occasions where believability became an issue for me.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a strong realistic fiction that’s a bit of a break from the usual formulaic drama/boy meets girl/snowflake syndrome type of books, this is a brilliant piece to add to your roster.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber (2017)

Rating: 5 Stars.27883214.jpg

Well, let me just begin with this: Caraval will more than likely be one of my top five favourite books of 2017. I’ll probably go through about 100 more books this year and I still feel comfortable saying that so early on in 2017.

Short Summary: Scarlett is thrown into the show that is Caraval – a yearly magical performance piece, a game that turns into a lot more than she had expected when her sister is kidnapped.

Things I loved: There was a lot I loved about this piece. Firstly, the whimsical and magical writing style that pulled me in deep into the world of Caraval. The book plays with themes and images of night, colour, darkness, that are intricately woven throughout the piece creating a truly multisensory experience. It felt like this book gave me synesthesia.

“He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue. Colors that made her feel safe and guarded.” 

The romance was beautiful. I haven’t had a romance that’s really made me feel feelings in a while, and it was really nice to get lost in the connection between the main characters. The tension was real, the conflict pushed the story forward, it was exactly what I’d wanted.

“Not quite sure how far she’d already fallen, she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.” 

“He mumbled words against her lips, too low for her to hear, but she imagined she got a strong impression of what he wanted to say, as he coaxed her lips apart, letting Scarlett taste the coolness of his tongue and the tips of his teeth as he grazed her lower lip. Every touch created colours she had never seen. Colours as soft as velvet and as sharp as sparks that turned into stars.”

Things I didn’t like: It’s hard to say. One of the greatest assets this book has is its ability to keep you guessing, keep you in the mystery of what it all means and how everything will fit together. Part of me wanted a few more hints throughout the book so there wasn’t such an info-dump so close to the end. But, it’s not unlike the way that Harry Potter all seems to come together in the end with information we didn’t know yet. Its more about personal preference.

One thing I hear a lot is its comparison to the Night Circus, which doesn’t surprise me. There is a lot that is similar, but this book sacrifices the descriptions for intrigue and character. While magic plays a central role, the main character wields no real magic of her own. The Night Circus is more of an extension of the reality we all know, understand and question, where Caraval is an entirely separate reality.

Recommendation: I would definitely throw this into my middle school library. I’d call it a mix between a character and setting driven book – so if that’s your thing, sink your teeth right into it, but be prepared for that book hangover.

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