Category: YA

Review: Everything, Everything


Everything, Everything

Life is a gift. Don’t forget to live it.

We all feel isolated at times. Like no one really understands what we’re going through and that there’s no one to talk to. In Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, that isolation is explored in detail through a teenager with a devastating disease, her protective mom, and a nurse who just wants to see her patient happy. This YA novel is beautifully written, an interesting concept, and really nails that teen angst without getting TOO angsty. (I realize that I’m the last person on the planet to read this book, but I’m glad that I did! Movie is up next!)

Madeline has lived her life in a white room in a white house with her physician mother for almost her entire life. Her only contact is with her nurse, Carla, and whatever she can see outside her bedroom window. She was diagnosed with SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) as a young child, which basically means she’s allergic to everything. Her house is airtight, she can only eat certain foods, books are delivered brand new and plastic wrapped, she is homeschooled, and she can’t have any contact with anyone in the outside world. Enter Olly, her new next door neighbor, a boy who runs up walls, wears all black, and isn’t intimidated by Maddy’s condition. From the moment they see each other, a connection forms, and he will either save her life or be the downfall of it. Maddy has to decide whether she wants to play it safe and keep her health intact, or take a risk to be with the boy she loves.

This is a very solid YA novel, and I think anyone can relate to the feelings that Maddy has about wanting to take risks in order to live her life to the fullest. She loves her mom and Carla, and wants to do what she’s supposed to do, but she also wants to experience all the things that life has to offer. If you can’t fall in love and be with that person, are you really living?

The writing is wonderful, but I did find the plot a bit predictable, including the big twist. (And it is a great twist!) There were a few plot holes that bugged me as well, but overall I’m glad that I read it. I am extremely glad that Maddy is a diverse character (half Japanese, half African American) that teens everywhere can identify with. I really loved Maddy herself. She’s sweet and smart and strong and a thinker-what more could you want in a lead character?

All in all, Everything, Everything is a beautiful book, and Nicola Yoon is an extremely talented writer. If you enjoy reading about the human spirit and what people will do when placed in impossible situations, I think you’ll like this one. It’s a quick read, and will definitely make you think!

⭐⭐⭐

Review: Caraval


Caraval

Remember, it’s only a game . . .

To say I enjoy fantasy books is an understatement. I love them. But there has been so much wonderful literary fiction and historical fiction out lately that I haven’t read as much as I would like. When I saw that Caraval by Stephanie Garber was finally available on audio from Overdrive, I immediately checked it out. I’ve seen it all over bookstagram and was so ready to disappear into a creative, fantastical world. (If you love fantasy too, check out THIS blog post from Alisa at Worlds Within Pages-she’s reading ONLY fantasy in February!) Caraval falls on the side of very light YA fantasy, but I really enjoyed it, and I’m glad I listened to it.

Scarlett and Donatella Dragna have been stuck on an island their whole lives, living in isolation with their cruel, controlling father. All Scarlett has ever wanted is to escape her life and see the mysterious Caraval, a once-a year show that takes place in a new, secret location every year. Unless you have been to Caraval, you don’t really know what happens there, but she knows it has to be wonderful. This year, Scarlett receives a personal invitation to attend from the Caraval director himself, Legend. When she gets there, Scarlett realizes that Tella has been kidnapped and that Caraval is a game-this year the game is to find Tella. The winner gets a wish . . . and maybe Tella. Scarlett has to find her sister before the game ends, and before her father figures out what she’s done.

Do you remember those murder mystery dinner party games in the 80s and 90s? Where everyone at the party gets a character, and no one knows who did what, and everyone has to figure it out together? (I’m pretty sure there was even a Golden Girls episode about it.) That’s what Caraval reminds me of, in the most fun way. A mystery that guests are thrust right into. With a slightly higher creep factor, of course, since they’re actually trapped in an entirely different place. This book is truly pure fun, and I had a great time disappearing into this book on audio every chance I got. Some of the writing is a bit over the top, but I was there for the plot so I didn’t really mind.

If you want a quick, fun fantasy book, give Caraval a try. I think listening to it as an audiobook is perfect-the narrator narrated a portion of one of my favorite books of 2017, Echo, and she did a wonderful job here. She’s a great narrator and really gives each character their own personality, and I really hope she narrates the sequel, Legendary, which comes out in May!

⭐️⭐️⭐️

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YA Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Thank you to Texas Reader Girl for loaning me her Advance Reading Copy of Girls Made of Snow and Glass!

Heartless. But that’s what I am, she thought. That’s what I’ll always be.

Let me start off by saying that I am an unabashed fan of fairy tales. I watched The Little Mermaid so many times as a kid that I wore out the VHS tape (Oh, yes. I had it on VHS. Twice.) and we had to wait until it came out of that precious Disney vault to replace it. I love fluffy fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm. All are fair game, including re-tellings. I really enjoy fantasy fairy tale re-tellings. (Is that a thing? Let’s make it a thing.) Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust is a re-telling of Snow White, and this is a perfect fit for that long-winded genre.

Mina, whose glass heart has never beat and who is convinced she is unable to love anyone, moves from the southern kingdom to Whitespring Castle in the north with her magician father at the age of sixteen. She hatches a plan to make the king fall in love with and marry her so that she can experience true love for the first time. Lynet, the king’s daughter, is the spitting image of her dead mother, and for good reason: the magician created her out of snow for the king after his wife died. Mina, the only mother Lynet has ever known, has been a strong, loving role model all of Lynet’s life. When the king makes the decision to pass the crown of the southern kingdom to Lynet, instead of to Mina as promised, Mina’s feelings about her step-daughter begin to change, and Lynet must decide what is more important: wearing the crown or keeping her relationship with Mina.

I loved this book! It was an excellent re-telling of Snow White, as well as a good story that was easy and fun to disappear into for awhile. Parts of it were a bit clunky and a little too simply written, but it was the perfect tone for a YA novel. The plot was well-developed, but so were the characters. I kept trying to guess what Mina and Lynet would do next because I felt like I knew them so well. The descriptions of the two kingdoms (Whitespring in the north and the southern kingdom) were beautiful, and I wish I could visit them both. I absolutely loved how Bashardoust took details from the original story (like the magic mirror) and twisted them to create a whole new perspective. The inner struggles of both women were well thought out, and it all leads up to a thrilling ending. If you enjoy fantasy, fairy tales, or stories about female relationships, this is THE book for you!

Girls Made of Snow and Glass will be published on September 5, 2017!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

EXTRA!
My one caveat is that this book is being marketed as a feminist fairy tale, and I didn’t find the story to be very feminist. The female characters were definitely strong, and represented roles not usually portrayed in fairy tales, including the palace surgeon being a woman. But all of the women were still reliant upon men to be successful. This didn’t alter my enjoyment of the story at all, I’m just not sure it should be marketed as full-on feminist.

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Review: The List


The List

“Language is what makes man ungovernable.”

Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for providing me with a digital galley of this book – all opinions are my own.

As a lover of both YA and dystopian novels, I was very excited to read The List. I’m always interested to see how different authors portray their view of the world after a major disaster. I think we as a society have an obsession with end of the world scenarios, and I am particularly interested in the aftermath of those events, rather than what leads up to them. In The List, Patricia Forde explores a society trying to rebuild in the aftermath of a colossal natural disaster. This book is a great addition to the growing narrative of dystopian YA/middle grade novels.

Letta lives in Ark, a city that has been re-built after a natural disaster wiped out much of society many years ago. Some of the older citizens remember the way the world used to be, but many of them have been born and raised in Ark. To ensure the survival of humans, Ark citizens are only allowed to speak List, a language consisting of 500 approved words. Except for the Wordsmith, Benjamin, who is entrusted with the task of documenting and saving words beyond the list, and Letta, who is his apprentice. When Benjamin disappears and Letta becomes the Wordsmith, she starts to discover things about Ark and its leader that make her wonder if this society is actually the utopia it is meant to be. She must decide which is more dangerous: language or the lack of it.

I loved this book! The description immediately brought to mind The Giver, and I’ve since seen it compared to that book several times. The premise is the same: a homogenous culture with a select person who knows the truth. As in any dystopian novel, the government wields extreme power to control and establish a new world. The List uses words and language as that power. It very much reminded me of parenting. We teach our children certain words and try to keep them from others. It is a form of ultimate control. Along the way, outside influences introduce those words whether we like it or not. There are always rebels out there. I will say that the device used at the end of the novel to exert total control is a little convenient, but it didn’t detract from the overall story.

“The here and now is only the smallest part of who we are. Each of us is all that we have been, all our stories, all that we could be.”

Words are so basic that it is easy for us to take them for granted. We teach our kids to describe feelings, emotions, surroundings. We give names to the most subtle of emotions. What would it be like if we were forbidden from using those words? Would it dull the senses, or sharpen frustration? Forde shows us what might happen if language became a contaminant, rather than something to be celebrated. This novel is so relevant today, and I think it’s a great way to introduce some important ideas to kids, in an incredibly entertaining way!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Extra Note!

This is classified as a middle grade novel, but I think it fits pretty neatly into the YA category. It’s certainly meant for at least ages 10 and up, and while it’s not as complex as some other dystopian YA novels such as The Hunger Games, I do think kids all the way through high school would really enjoy this. The storyline of purposefully eliminating language is also a great way to introduce some thoughtful discussions with older kids.

 

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Review: Echo


Echo

“Music does not have a race or a disposition! Every instrument has a voice that contributes. Music is a universal language. A universal religion of sorts. Certainly it’s my religion. Music surpasses all distinctions between people.”

 

Every once in awhile a book comes along and surprises me by just how much it makes me feel. All books make me feel something, good or bad, but sometimes one is so special that it presses on my heart. Do you know what I mean? That almost physical pressure that is a combination of excitement and emotion and wanting to shout your love for the book from the rooftops. (I didn’t have a heart attack, I promise.) Echo is the kind of book that I want to force everyone I know to read, but that I’m afraid to recommend in case someone doesn’t love it. In which case I guess I’d be down a friend. (Just kidding. Sort of.) This book absolutely moved me and I cannot recommend it enough.

Echo braids together the stories of three children living during the World War II era. Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California. Through different circumstances, each child comes into possession of an enchanted harmonica. Stay with me here. That is the lone element of magical realism in the story, and Pam Munoz Ryan weaves it in perfectly. This is a WWII novel, but different from others that I’ve read. Instead of focusing on the war itself, the story is centered around people who have personal struggles in addition to the war (rescuing a father, finding a family, waiting for a brother to return), and these particular kids are trying to find a way to keep music in their lives at a time when music and instruments were seen as unimportant. In Germany, only Hitler-approved composers were allowed. In America, all available money was thrown at the war effort, and music was a more of a hobby for wealthy families or the lucky ones who had instruments pre-war. Music plays a huge role in Echo, and the characters’ lives are entwined using music as well.

Echo is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and uplifting book all at once. I was in tears by the end, and was not ready to let any of the characters go. While this is stellar middle grade fiction, I don’t see how adults wouldn’t love it too, even if you don’t usually read in this category. I do think it would be better for around age 10 and up. A cursory knowledge of WWII is necessary to understand parts of the book. I listened to this on audio, and I wasn’t comfortable listening to it around my 6- and 8-year-olds because there were some difficult topics (namely Hitler) that would have been upsetting to them, and they aren’t really able to comprehend an explanation for that yet.

Echo is truly a masterpiece, and Pam Munoz Ryan is a brilliant writer. This book is one of my favorites this year, and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come. Please let me know if you’ve read it so we can talk about it!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

*I listened to this as an audiobook, and let me just say that the narration is the best I’ve ever heard. I mean, the BEST. Audiobooks are a recent addition to my reading life, and I loved the audio for Echo so much that I bought it (Somehow it’s only $3.95 on Audible!) and I do intend to listen to it again. There are several narrators, and the production is amazing. The audio version incorporates beautiful musical elements and performances that add another layer that only reading the book cannot. I truly think, in this case, listening to the book and then reading it would add so much to the experience of the story. Just click on the Audiobook version in Amazon and download it directly to your Audible app, or get it through your library on Overdrive!
Echo on Audible

 

 

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