October 27, 2013

Review: Goodbye, Rebel Blue

What first attracted me to this novel was that cover—I mean, how awesome is it? I am so jealous of her awesome hair.

But also the plot. It sounded interesting, like a book I would really enjoy. I did.

Title: ‘Goodbye, Rebel Blue’
Author: Shelley Coriell
Pages: 320
Publisher: Abrams
Available: NOW
Source: requested from Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be dead girl. Rebel (as she’s known) decides to complete the dead girl’s bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed—a world of friendships, family, and faith. With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy—particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself. Perfect for fans of Jay Asher’s blockbuster hit Thirteen Reasons Why, Coriell’s second novel features her sharp, engaging voice along with realistic drama and unforgettable characters.

My Thoughts:

Who knew a stint in detention could change someone? Well, if you’ve seen ‘The Breakfast Club,’ you already know this is possible. That is the feel this novel had for me—it was a John Hughes novel on paper.

Detention: the bane of teenager experience. What happens when teens are asked to make a bucket list while sitting in detention? Is the assignment taken seriously, or is it just something to do to pass the time? For Kennedy Green, it is a time to discuss belief and the afterlife. Rebel, not so much. It’s just one more hurdle.

When a peer is lost, it shakes teenagers. It reminds them that they are not invincible. For Rebel, she is not only shaken but also curious. After all, she just talked with Kennedy the day before, and it wasn’t just random teen banter.

After being called to the principal’s office to discuss the loss of this young lady, Rebel becomes curious. Whispers are that the girl make have taken her life, and Rebel wonders: “What was on her bucket list? Was there something there that could have shown that she was willing to give up on life?”

Rebel decides she must find that list, and she sneaks back into the detention room. The list seems normal enough. But what happens when that list haunts and keeps finding itself back into Rebel’s hands? Is the universe trying to tell her something?

Is it time to take a different path and do more good in the world?

And thus the novel goes…

Rebel is a character I can get behind. After losing her mother and having to live with family, she finds her own beat and continues to thrive on that beat. But she also recognizes that the universe has different plans for her.

At first, working through Kennedy’s bucket list is daunting. This is not the life Rebel was planning, but she quickly learns to embrace what she can change and that her one life can make a difference.

While Rebel is the star of this storytelling, Nate is the one who steals the show. He is the big man on campus, the do-gooder, the all-around American high school boy. Why would someone like him be interested in someone like Rebel? It’s simple: he sees the real her. He has faith in her ability to change the world, in her own way. He understands her…but can she open herself enough to allow him in?

The on-page flirtation between Rebel and Nate was almost too much to take. I do not understand why authors play with readers in this way. I mean I do, I get it: you have to keep the reader engaged, turning that page, but man it is torture to wait.

The secondary characters in the novel really enhance the story in one way: they are there to help Rebel (and Nate) shine. They remind readers that even in high school there is a system, and when an outsider tries “invading” that system, both sides of the coin have strong feelings.

I did mention this was like a John Hughes movie on the page, right? Think ‘Pretty in Pink’ meets ‘Sixteen Candles’ meets the modern day bucket list.

And I loved it.

I recommend this to all readers of YA but most especially to fans of Stephanie Perkins because it has that same feel to it.

What has been your favorite YA novel lately?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

October 26, 2013

Review: Lost in London

I am always looking for a fun read, and  Aladdin Mix novels fit this for me. The reads are usually fun, deal with tween issues in a light-hearted way, and leave me feeling good about life.

'Lost in London' is no exception.  

Title: ‘Lost in London’
Author: Cindy Callaghan
Pages: 240
Publisher: Aladdin
Available: NOW
Source: received from publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve-year-old Jordan isn’t unhappy, but she’s definitely bored. So when she gets the chance to take part in a London exchange program, she’s thrilled to ditch her small town in Delaware and see the world across the pond.

Unfortunately, Jordan’s host sister in London, Caroline, isn’t exactly enthusiastic about entertaining an American girl. Despite the chilly welcome, Jordan finds herself loving the city and Caroline’s group of friends, who are much nicer than Caroline herself.

And then a major misstep leaves Jordan and Caroline trapped together overnight, inside Daphne’s, the world’s largest department store. Given they have complete access to all the fancy shoes, designer dresses, and coolest makeup around, there are worse places to be stuck. But when the girls’ fun has not-so-fun consequences, Jordan’s wish for excitement abroad turns into a lot more than she ever bargained for..

My Thoughts:

What an adorable tween read.

Jordan wants a bit of excitement in her life, and nothing says excitement like a trip abroad to London. But can she convince her parents? Of course. I mean, it wouldn’t be a story if the answer was no, right?

But what happens when Jordan arrives is nothing she is prepared for. After all, she is there for an adventure, and she finds one. One that is more than she bargained for.

Tween readers will find themselves thrown into the plot quickly. Callaghan does not wait to build her story; after all, she has to get her readers to London, right? By chapter two, that is where we are—and we do not stop until the novel’s conclusion.

While reading, I found myself giggling out loud as well as face palming. I mean, we are dealing with characters that are thirteen, so some of their choices are just…ridiculously ridiculous. But, I am not the audience of this novel, and the true audience will eat it up.

Jordan is a likeable character. She wants to be friends with everyone, live life to the fullest while in London, leave nothing out. Readers will see her transform throughout the novel into a more confident young lady, and that is what I really enjoyed about the novel. She is not a stagnant character—she grows, much like her adventures, and Callaghan shows readers what growing up is really about: taking life and going with it. It will not always be fun. The best decisions will not always be made. But, you deal.

As for Caroline, I really enjoyed her. After reading the description I was afraid she would be really unlikable, like ‘Mean Girls’ unlikeable. But that was not the case. She is just a typical teen is who forced to hang with someone when all she wants to do is do her own thing. How many of us can relate? I think tween readers will as well.

All of the characters brought a fun feel to the novel—Caroline’s friends quickly accept Jordan and take her under their wing. They are all fun. I want to hang out with them because they are smart, clever, and have British accents. What more could a girl want in friends?

I recommend this novel for fourth grade readers +. It is fun. It has a great message. But mostly, it is fun.

If you are ever looking for a fun tween read, the Aladdin MIX novels are always a go-to for me.

Note: There is a discrepancy in the summary—it says Jordan is twelve, but in the novel she is actually thirteen.

What tween read do you recommend?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

Review: Losing It

First, look at that cover. Seems harmless, right? Wrong.

This book is full of such feels I cannot fully express them. 

Title: ‘Losing It’
Author: Keith Gray
Pages: 194
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Available: NOW
Source: requested from Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

A travesty.
A violation.
An ecstasy.
A disappointment.
An instant.
A lie.
A theft.
A rite of passage.

Whatever you call it, there's only one first time.

A.S. King, Melvin Burgess, Keith Gray, Patrick Ness, Anne Fine, Sophie McKenzie, Bali Rai, Jenny Valentine, Mary Hooper, and Andrew Smith. Some of today's leading international YA authors contributed to this hard-hitting collection of original short stories: some funny, some moving, some haunting but all revolving around the same subject—virginity.

My Thoughts:

When I requested this, I thought I was going to get a novel about awkward moments of losing virginity. I was not prepared for what was waiting for me. Not. At. All.

This collection contains ten short stories that bring readers into the lives of teens in a vulnerable time in their lives, dealing with sexuality.

And I do not mean that the characters are trying to figure out if they are gay. I mean they are trying to deal with life, and sex happens to be a part of that.

Each author deals with a different element of “losing it”—but all of their stories revolve around the emotion that surrounds it.

The strength in the storytelling lies in the heart and honesty of each one. From dealing with sexuality to an honor killing, these authors do not hold back. There is something here for every reader.

In some stories sex happens consensually. In one it does not. And in one, miscommunication leads to the loss of life.

Each story was memorable to me for numerous reasons, and I did not have a favorite. I felt that all of them carried equal weight, but some left me feeling sadness.

With that said, this was a powerful read. The pacing of the stories, their placement within the anthology, it was a whole package for me.

This is a great source of discussion when it comes to sexuality in the world—not in America—and how it is perceived differently, especially the honor killing.

I would recommend this for any teen who is looking for raw emotion when it comes to reading about sex, but I especially think it is a powerful read for parents of teens. It is a reminder that no matter how we feel about sex and teens decision to have it—and for those who have the decision taken from them—it is important to remember that this is an element of growing into adulthood, and that the doors of communication need to be open, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us. Our kids need to be able to communicate with us, with each other, and we need to be willing to listen.

What YA short story collection have you read lately that you really enjoyed?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

October 25, 2013

Author Interview: Lisa McMann

YALLFest is just around the corner. This festival is held in Charleston, SC and celebrates all things YA and authors and readers and everything in between. Think good food, good conversation, and your favorite authors galore. It is a paradise.

You can click here to see what awesome authors will be there.

To help celebrate, Book ‘Em! will host author interviews with some of the authors that will make an appearance. Today, I am hosting author Lisa McMann—squee!

What one thing do you need to have when you write?

Best writing tip you ever received?
“Think of the one thing your main character would never, ever do. Now make her do it.”

What are you working on now?
We’ll be ramping up the releases of books 5, 6, and 7 in the Unwanteds series, so I’m working on Unwanteds book 5 right now.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To Read?
I really enjoy writing in a variety of genres, from realistic to paranormal to dystopian fantasy. At the moment, fantasy is winning, but that could change at any moment. My favorite genre to read is memoir.

At what point in the development of an idea do you know that it will become a full-length novel?
As soon as I have a one line concept that gives me a little shiver.

To learn more about Lisa McMann, her writing, and/or where you can catch her on tour, visit her website.

You can also find McMann all over social media: Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Thank you to YALLFest for providing the interview.

Happy Reading!

     - The Hodgenator