Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Published By: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Date of Publication: May 10, 2011

Categories: Contrmporary, Fiction, Mental Illness, YA

Pages: 359

Summary (from goodreads.com):

When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can’t believe she’s finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole’s small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose “love” she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose – between her “true love” and herself.

Review: I’ll start off by saying that I had a really hard time putting this book down. I found myself saying “just ten more pages”, but I couldn’t stop at ten, I had to read more. The pacing was great and it was well thought out.

The descent into the abusive relationship happened slowly and with Alex hardly even knowing what was going on. That’s how it happens in real life too. Once Alex does realize what’s going on, she can hardly believe it. Cole is her boyfriend, he wouldn’t treat her like that, would he? I thought it was very well researched. All the things that Cole does are warning signs for abuse.

I think Bitter End ends up tackling a really tough issue, but does so without being preachy or melodramatic. The characters all felt very genuine, and their actions and how they reacted to things that happened felt very real. Because of the amazing characters (especially Alex) it was a powerful read, one that I think most teen aged girls can relate to.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I received this book for review.

Pants on fire by Meg Cabot

Published By: Harper Teen

Date of Publication: May 1 2007

Categories:Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 272

Summary (from goodreads.com):

But she can’t exactly tell the truth, either—not when she’s juggling two boyfriends, secretly hating the high school football team everyone else worships, and trying to have the best summer ever. At least Katie has it all under control (sort of). Her biggest secret, what really happened the night Tommy Sullivan is a freak was spray-painted on the junior high gymnasium wall, is safe.

That is, until Tommy comes back to town. Katie is sure he’s going to ruin all her plans, and she’ll do anything to hang on to her perfect existence. Even if it means telling more lies. Even if, now that Tommy’s around, she’s actually—truthfully—having the time of her life.

Review:  I’ve read quite a few Meg Cabot books, and really enjoyed most of them. To be honest though, this one has to be my least favorite. I’m not quite sure what it was, but this novel just didn’t hit the mark for me.

Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t connect with the main character, Katie. Part of it I think was her lying – she was doing it all the time, and it was obvious from the beginning that they were going to come back to haunt her. Part of it was that she was cheating on her boyfriend. While I can totally understand that people change, they grow apart, the relationship just fizzles, that doesn’t mean you can date someone else while still being together with your boyfriend. The way that Katie led her boyfriend on just irritated me.

There were definitely  good parts of this book though. My favorite character in this book was Tommy. There seemed to be an air of mystery surrounding him – I felt like I had to keep reading to find out more about him. I felt like he was original, that I hadn’t read about a lot of characters like him before. I kept thinking about how hard it would be to be in Tommy’s shoes – to have something like what happened to him happen, move away, thinking it was all in the past, and then have to come back to the same small town and re-live it all over again. It would be really, really hard.

The setting was great too. Although I’ve never lived in a small town, I did work in one for awhile. And it’s amazing how fast gossip gets around. People know everything about their neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Everyone knows everyone else. It’s so much different from a big city. It was very cool to feel like I was a person in that small community, I haven’t felt that before in other books with a similar setting.

So if you’re looking for a fun, quick read that you don’t have to really think about, I would recommend this book (or if you have the uncontrollable urge to lie and cheat on your boyfriend).

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Published By: Penguin

Date of Publication: September 1, 2006

Categories:Contemporary, Fiction, YA

Pages: 300

Summary (from goodreads.com): My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die.

‘I counted.

‘It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of kilometres away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, “What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?” and my father said, “Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,” and that was the last thing he ever said.

‘We heard her almost straight away. In the other car, wedged into ours so deep that you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. She told us her name was Tate and then she squeezed through the glass and the steel and climbed over her own dead – just to be with Webb and me; to give us her hand so we could clutch it with all our might. And then a kid called Fitz came riding by on a stolen bike and saved our lives.

‘Someone asked us later, “Didn’t you wonder why no one came across you sooner?”

‘Did I wonder?

‘When you see your parents zipped up in black body bags on the Jellicoe Road like they’re some kind of garbage, don’t you know?

‘Wonder dies.’

Review: This book started out a lot like The Book Thief did for me. 75 pages into Jellicoe Road, I wasn’t convinced that it was the book for me. However, I had heard so many people tell me that it was an amazing book, their favorite even, and that they loved it. So I decided to give it a few more chapters to grab my attention. Boy am I glad I did, just like with The Book Thief, it took me awhile to ‘get’ the writing style. Once I got it though, I thought it was amazing.

I think the big thing that threw me in the beginning was that the story switched between two storylines – two groups of teens – I had trouble keeping all the characters straight and ended up confusing myself. But about half way through I was able to keep things straight, and the confusion was definitely worth it by the time I was done reading it.

Melina Marchetta created a cast of amazing characters. Without really realizing it, I ended up pretty attached to a couple of them, specifically Taylor and Jonah. They were very real to me, and I went through all the same emotions that they did as the story progressed.

In addition to the characters, I was impressed with how the setting came alive for me. It was almost like another character. I’ve never been to Australia, but from the way Melina described the landscape, I felt like I was actually there. Because so much of the story takes place outside, being able to imagine myself outside with the characters made such a difference in how much I enjoyed reading it.

Not that this has anything to do with the actual book, but when I borrowed it from the library it was categorized as science fiction. Nothing that I had read about it indicated that it was anything other than contemporary, so I was a little confused to say the least – I kept waiting for a time machine, or aliens, or something to explain why it had a science fiction sticker on it. But, needless to say, I think it was just mislabeled. So maybe that accounts for at least a little bit of my confusion in the beginning.

If you’re looking for a great read about characters that you’ll remember long after you’re finished reading it, not ot mention that amazing setting, I would definitely recommend Jellicoe Road.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Published By: Little, Brown Young Readers

Date of Publication: February 1, 2009

Categories:Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 373

Summary (from goodreads.com):

As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You’re the one who asked-and I repeat-Why not fix your face?

It’s hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She’s tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob’s path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.

Review: Being a teenager is tough. Or at least it was for me. I remember always feeling insecure about how I looked. There were so many changes happening with my body, that some days it didn’t even seem like it belonged to me. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like to have a birthmark 0n your face that is the first thing that people see when they look at you. But that’s what Terra lives with, the main character in North of Beautiful.

One of the great things about this novel is the characters that Justina Chen Headley creates. I immediately felt connected to Terra. She felt so real to me, like she could have been a close friend. Even her dad (who I really REALLY didn’t like) felt very genuine. And I think that it would have been very easy to have him not change at all through the book, but at the very end, you saw little changes in him, and it made me dislike him a little less.

There are quite a few story lines in this book, but instead of making it feel confusing or crowded, I felt it added depth and interest. It’s a tough line to walk, but I think the author did a great job. Quite a few of them revolved around Terra’s family, and I thought it made them feel more real, like they could be your own family instead of just characters in a book.

Justina Chen Headley’s writing is top notch as well. It flows well, keeping you interested while still adding in descriptions that make you feel like you’re right there with the characters, no matter where they are (at home or in China). Having the theme of maps throughout the book really pulled it all together and made it feel unified.

North of Beautiful definitely makes you re-think your definition of beauty, a thing I think we all need to do every once in awhile.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

The Julian Game by Adele Griffin

Published By: Putnam Juvenile

Year of Publication: August 26, 2010

Categories:Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 200

Summary (from goodreads.com): All new girl Raye Archer wants is a way into the in crowd, so when ice-queen Ella Parker picks her to get back at her ex, the gorgeous Julian Kilgarry, Raye is more than game. Even if it means creating a fake Facebook identity so she can learn enough about Julian to sabotage him. It’s a fun and dangerous thrill at first, but Raye hadn’t counted on falling for Julian herself and igniting Ella’s rage. As Raye works to reconcile the temptress Elizabeth with her real-life self, Ella serves up her own revenge, creating an online smear campaign of nasty rumors and trashy photographs. Suddenly notorious, Raye has to find a way out of the web of deceit that she’s helped to build, and back to the relationships that matter. Adele Griffin’s riveting novel explores the issues of generation Facebook: the desire to be someone else, real versus online friends, and the pitfalls and fallouts of posting your personal life online for all the world to judge.

Review: This is the first book I’ve ever read about cyber bullying, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

I graduated high school in 2001, so Facebook wasn’t around back then. Neither was Twitter. I do remember using ICQ a lot though (haha, it makes me laugh even thinking about how simple ICQ was back then, compared to what’s available now). Even with ICQ though, I never hear about anyone being cyber bullied at my school. I think it was such a new and novel technology back then that we (or at least I) didn’t even think about doing anything like that with it, I just wanted to talk to my friends. But it’s amazing how things have changed in ten years.

Anyways, on to the review . . .

I thought Raye Archer was a great character. Several times during my childhood I moved and had to change schools, so I totally understand how hard it is to be the “new girl”, wanting desperately to fit in. It’s a tough spot to be in. Really tough. So I get why she’d want to do what she did. And once she started it, she was so wrapped up in it, it was hard to stop.

Ella was a great villian. She wasn’t just mean, she was really mean. She was willing to do anything to get what she wanted.

While it would have been really easy for Adele Griffin to wrap things up easily at the end, she didn’t – she ended it how it would have happened in real life. It was messy, things didn’t turn out how it “should” have for certain characters, but that’s what happens in life. People don’t always get what they deserve, whether that’s good or bad.

So if you’re looking for a quick read with some great characters, this is definitely the book for you.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina De Gramont

Published By: Atheneum

Year of Publication: March 23, 2010

Categories:Contemporary, YA

Pages: 288

Summary (from goodreads.com): A teenager. A pregnancy. A familiar story. NOT

When sixteen-year-old Sydney Biggs’s pregnancy test shows the tell tale plus sign, she confides in only her best friend Natalia, and Natalia promptly “borrows” her mother’s car so Sydney can confront the baby’s father. But after the car is reported stolen and police bring the girls home, their parents send them away to wilderness camp as punishment. With six weeks to spend in the wilds of Canada, time is ticking for Sydney, who isn’t sure what she wants to do about the pregnancy. As she befriends her fellow adventuremates and contends with Natalia’s adamant opinions on the choices available, Sydney realizes that making the right choice can mean very different things.

Review: I thought Sydney was a great character – and a thoroughly honest one at that. Although I was never in Sydney’s situation, I think I would have definitely been in denial at first too – I think a lot of teens would have. I can totally relate to being terrified of telling my parents. While I know that they definitely would have supported me in any decision that I would have made, it would still be scary.

As much I as liked Sydney, I disliked her best friend, Natalia. I felt absolutely no connection to her. I think it was because I didn’t like that she was pressuring Sydney to make the decision that she would have made if she were in that situation. I think she should have been more of a best friend, and been willing to accept whatever Sydney felt was right for her to do, without trying to make her feel guilty or being mad at her. It’s already a tough situation for Sydney to be in, she doesn’t need to add problems with Natalia to her list of things to deal with.

I loved hearing about the area where they were camping. It was described beautifully. From the sounds of it, I would love to go exploring in that same area. It sounded so serene and remote. You’ll be inspired to go hiking and spend time outdoors after reading this book.

I would have liked to hear more about Sydney at home, both before and after her trip. I felt like I got to know Sydney while on the trip, but I didn’t get a real feel for how she was before, or how she changed when she went home.

If you’re looking for a great book about teen pregnancy while getting a feel for beautiful surroundings, this is the book for you.

Connect with the Author:

Website

Goodreads

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

Published By: Arthur A Levine Books

Year of Publication: June 1, 2010

Categories:Contemporary, YA

Pages: 272

Summary (from goodreads.com):

Here Comes the Bride — If She Can Pass Chemistry.

Eighteen-year-old Bronwen Oliver has a secret: She’s really Phoebe, the lost daughter of the loving Lilywhite family. That’s the only way to explain her image-obsessed mother; a kind but distant stepfather; and a brother with a small personality complex. Bronwen knows she must have been switched at birth, and she can’t wait to get away from her “family” for good.

Then she meets Jared Sondervan. He’s sweet, funny, everything she wants — and he has the family Bronwen has always wanted too. She falls head over heels in love, and when he

proposes marriage, she joyfully accepts. But is Jared truly what she needs? And if he’s not, she has to ask: What would Phoebe Lilywhite do?

Review: I read this book in one day, cause yes, it was that good.

Bronwen and Jared were both great characters. Neither of them were perfect, but that’s what made them so likable. I saw a lot of myself as a teenager in Bronwen. It was great to have such an authentic voice of a teen.

While I really liked Bronwen and Jared together, their relationship wasn’t always easy – as much as they might have liked to ignore that fact. I’m really glad with how it turned out in the end. It stayed true to the struggles that Bronwen had throughout the book, and it felt very real.

The story line between Bronwen and Whitt, her step dad was great. It wasn’t the usual ‘the stepdad is tolerable and in the background for the whole book’ kind of thing, there was actually a relationship there, that was really important to both Bronwen and Whitt. It was different from most other books that I’ve read with step parents in them.

Family was a great theme in this book. Erin was able to write about it without making it preachy or tacky – something that I think takes a lot of skill. When you’re talking about family, it’s easy to want to tie everything up perfectly, even if that’s not how it would happen in real life. But the author managed to avoid doing that. I still felt very satisfied with how things ended, but it felt real, instead of being wrapped up for the sake of the story.

If you’re looking for a quick read that also really well written, you won’t be disappointed with I Now Pronounce You Someone Else.

Connect with Erin McCahan:

Website

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.