Falling for You

Falling for You

Title: Falling for You

Author: Lisa Schroeder

Release Date: Available

I have a thing for romance novels. They’re my weakness. I know that sometimes they can be sappy, cheesy, and completely unoriginal, but (usually) it doesn’t matter – I’ll read them anyway. However, I’ll keep in mind that the average young adult reader is probably not quite as romance-novel oriented as I am, so I’ll do my best to keep this review objective. Falling for You, by Lisa Schroeder, seemed sort of sappy, a little bit cheesy, and not completely original at the beginning. The first half of the book had me a little worried that it was going to follow exactly the same pattern as every single other romance novel that I’ve read, but I was relieved as the author began to branch out and the unique plot evolved into a wonderful, sweet, and hopeful story.

Falling for You is the story of Rae Lynch, a high school junior who lives with her hardworking but oblivious mom, and mean stepfather Dean. At the beginning of the book, Rae meets Nathan, a boy new to her school. His blunt persistence and quirky charm quickly lead Rae, although not initially a romantic person, to give him a chance. Soon, they become the school’s newest couple. But as their relationship progresses, Nathan becomes more dependent on her. He becomes jealous, clingy, and pushy, and takes out his frustration with his life at home on Rae. However, Rae has her own problems at home. Her stepfather Dean has lost his job and starts demanding that Rae give him her paychecks. Rae loves her job at Full Bloom flower shop though, so she continues working, despite having to give up her money. And as Dean grows more abusive, Rae sees some similarities between him and Nathan, two people she never thought would be comparable. When Rae starts spending more time with her homeschooled friend Leo, who works in his family’s coffee shop next door to Full Bloom, she realizes how much she enjoys her time with him, making Nathan more and more jealous.

The two types of interspersed excerpts inserted between chapters made this book even more enjoyable to read. The first type are passages titled “The Hospital.” Through these stream-of-consciousness-style snippets, we can tell that something has happened to Rae to make her wind up in the hospital. Instead of telling the story in parts, (“Part 1,” “Part 2, etc…) the book counts down how many months before (“Six months earlier,” “five months earlier,” etc…) the event that landed Rae in the hospital, each part prefaced with a short scene from the ICU. This technique makes the book more suspenseful and engaging, and readers are curious what happened to Rae and if she will be okay.

The second excerpt comes in the form of poetry. Rae is a closet poet and she expresses her feelings in her poetry journal. At the ends of certain chapters we get to read poems out of Rae’s poetry journal as she decides which to submit for her school newspaper’s poetry corner, grappling with the choice to submit anonymously or include her name with her poems. Many of her poems are poignant and emotional and it appears that Lisa Schroeder is a talented poet.

Although the beginning of the book was a little dry and unexciting, as it continued, I grew more and more interested until I didn’t want to stop reading. The book is a relatively short and easy read, and can provide a nice break from reading textbooks as school picks up again. Although it is mainly a romance, the multiple facets of Rae’s life make for a more dimensional novel, as opposed to simply a love story. I ended up liking this book much more than I initially thought I would, and I definitely encourage those who enjoy romances (and definitely fans of Sarah Dessen) to read Falling for You.

Review by Katie

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Hounded

Title: Hounded

Author: Kevin Hearne

Release Date: Available

I did not really realize going into reading Hounded that it wasn’t strictly YA, and while at first I was disappointed, I soon realized that there were quite a few elements to this mythology-based fantasy that I actually quite enjoyed.

The greatest appeal to readers I think will be its gender neutrality. The main character, Atticus, is a smart and smart-ass druid. If anything, his narration will appeal more to guys than to girls, though I liked him a fair amount. Perhaps he was a little too much of a smart-ass sometimes… but I guess living for over 2,000 years could get to anyone’s head, right? Generally though, I thought he displayed a believable amount heroism and smarts, which made him a very real character to me. I also loved his dog, Oberon. He was hilarious and kind of a cutie (but don’t tell him I said so because it might offend his masculinity). For each character I was introduced to over the course of the novel, I had to evaluate who I could trust and who I couldn’t; it kept me on my toes in a more subtle way than if Hearne had thrown in a bunch of twists.

Yet, I’m doubtless that the main drive behind the book was its plot. The novel took place in urban Arizona, but had quite a few high-fantasy aspects thrown in in a way I think will thoroughly satisfy most people’s fantasy appetites. There was stuff that was disturbing like witches possessing pretty girls; stuff that was classic like werewolves; stuff that was new like the Celtic aspects; and stuff that was just plain cool, namely Atticus and his various powers, especially his connection to Oberon.

The most common problems with fantasy are pacing problems. Probably my favorite thing about the novel was that it did not suffer from these problems for the most part. I didn’t always have a strong urge to pick it up, but once I got into it, I never had the urge to put it down either, as I often do when books begin to drag. I do think, however, that because it wasn’t strictly YA I had a harder time personally connecting with Atticus. While fairly entertained throughout the novel, I felt a bit of a disconnect that kept me from being completely immersed. For that reason, I think that this book would appeal to upper YA readers or those who are interested in branching out into adult, especially the guys. I’ve also heard that the sequels are better, so I will be checking them out!

Review by Casey

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This Is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like pic

Title: This Is What Happy Looks Like

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Release Date: Available

With This Is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith succeeds in creating another cute, fun romance. Seventeen year-old Ellie O’Neill is living with her single mother in “Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine” when she receives a stray email from Graham Larkin in “Middle-of-Everything, California.” The two strike up an ongoing conversation, Ellie not realizing the witty, charming boy with whom she is forming a virtual bond is an actor and teen heart-throb. She remains blissfully ignorant of his identity until Graham decides to step up their relationship by ensuring that his next movie is set in Ellie’s intimate, picturesque town. But Ellie is unsure if she can endure a relationship with a star when the invasive paparazzi might reveal to the world that she is the extramarital daughter of a prominent politician.

This is What Happy Looks Like is in a similar form to Smith’s previous novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Both take almost cliché romance ideas and attempt to refresh them into something more. Unfortunately, Smith succeeds less in her newest novel than in Statistical Probability. The latter is pithy and substantial, with as much attention paid to the protagonist’s relationship with her family as to her feelings for the love interest. But while Ellie’s relationship with her mother, best friend, and remote father are significant in Happy, these plot lines are saturated with Ellie’s thoughts and feelings for Graham, giving no reprieve from the love story. The book is almost twice the length of Statistical Probability, but somehow less seems to happen. The affectionate beach scenes and under the fireworks moments are pleasant and adorable, but not particularly moving or fresh. Overall, the story is quite enjoyable, but not much more.

Review by Sami;

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Dark Companion

darkcompanion

Title: Dark Companion

Author: Marta Acosta

Release Date: Available

Jane Williams used to be a typical charity case: orphaned and poor, living with an abusive foster parent in the slums. But all of that changes when she receives a scholarship to the prestigious Birch Grove Academy for girls, and is all of a sudden uprooted from the only life she has known and thrust into the life of the privileged and glamorous. She is soon introduced to the headmistress’ son, Lucian Radcliff, who is unlike any other boy she has ever met.  However, he and other members of the community may hold a secret that is darker than Jane could ever imagine.

It’s hard to say much about this book without spoiling it, as the main plot twist doesn’t occur until about halfway through. However, I will say this: this dark, gothic-style novel is full of twists and turns that will keep the reader on edge throughout the story. Because it takes until about halfway through the novel to realize what the shocking secret about the school is, the reader literally cannot put the book down due to the anticipation.

Marta Acosta does an excellent job of drawing the reader in, from the appealing yet mysterious looking cover that immediately caught my eye, to the way she drops a huge plot twist on us halfway through the book. I highly recommend this book to all, but especially to those who enjoy gothic era novels and fantasy.

Review by Danielle

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We Were Liars

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Release Date: May 2014

Along with this book came the instructions to lie — lie about the ending, be spartan with descriptions, reveal as little as possible. Yet E. Lockhart’s uniquely beautiful and undeniably stunning book both deserves and demands to be read, and somehow, I don’t think a review completely devoid of explanation is going to be very convincing. So I’ve decided to stick with lies of omission and hopefully that still counts.

We Were Liars pulls back the curtain on the world of the fabulously wealthy and utterly mysterious Sinclair family.  Split and divided into generations of children and grandchildren, every summer the Sinclairs are pulled together to their private island of Beechwood, home to years of memories and sentiment and an abundance of golden retrievers. Beechwood is also the birthplace of the Liars — four friends connected by bonds of both blood and love, united in their penchant for curiosity and mischief, defined by a steadfast faith in one another and the summers at Beechwood that shaped and determined their relationship.

Narrated by the oldest Sinclair grandchild, Cadence, the plot primarily revolves around the enigmatic and hazy summer fifteen,  the vast, unknowable pieces of memory that Cadence has lost from that year, and, of course, the Liars. There is little from summer fifteen that Cadence knows with certainty, and what she does remember is mostly due to the constant reminders and stories from her mother. Everything else is gone, kept hidden from Cadence until she remembers on her own. And she does — often slowly, sometimes blindingly — piece together the shattered fragments of summer fifteen.

From the start, it’s made clear that Cadence is an unreliable narrator — her statements drenched in hyperbole and colored by shades of shock and confusion. She stumbles blindly through unpredictable turns and agonizing, unanswered questions — and as she’s our guide, so do we. We Were Liars is not just unexpected and compelling at every turn, but brilliantly and beautifully written, propelled by the gorgeous and enticing mystery of Beechwood and the Sinclairs, and the undeniable pull of the Liars. It’s something different and something fantastic, full of rich and complex and varying characters that are each fascinating and powerful in turn.

We Were Liars is something new, something startling — a hauntingly memorable and wonderfully gorgeous read.

Review by Kayla

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A Trick of the Light

Title: A Trick of the Light

Author: Lois Metzger

Release Date: Available

Upon beginning A Trick of the Light, Lois Metzger’s new novel, I was instantly intrigued and sucked in to the life of main character Mike Welles. Mike is a normal fifteen year old boy who plays baseball, has a best friend, and gets good grades – that is, until he is visited by a voice in his head, which appears just when his home life begins disintegrating. The voice assures Mike it will “help” him through the struggle, and Mike succumbs to the suggestions of his constant companion, believing that this voice will help him improve himself and provide a way to cope with his unpleasant situation at home.

The facet of this engaging and poignant novel that I found most interesting was the voice in which it was written. Rather than writing the story in the omniscient third person or from Mike’s point of view, Metzger’s choice for narrator is the voice inhabiting Mike’s head. This unique twist renders an eerie, mysterious tone over the book, very fitting of the feeling that will entangle in readers’ stomachs as the voice gets stronger, and the illness it promotes becomes increasingly serious.

Metzger’s novel is a moving, original exploration of a problem plaguing today’s adolescents. By making the protagonist male, readers are reminded that young men can also be plagued by issues of self-consciousness and physical insecurities. Metzger’s writing is intense, creative, and touching; it serves as a reminder of why it is important to love and take care of both one’s body and mind, and the devastating consequences that can result from listening to the negative voices in one’s head.

Review by Katie

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Origin

Title: Origin

Author: Jessica Khoury

Release Date: Available

Origin is an original (hehe, original) book about a girl who lives in a secluded testing facility deep in the rainforest. She is the product of over a hundred years of testing. Pia is the world’s first immortal human, or so she believes. Her skin is impenetrable, she is immune to disease, she won’t age, and she is faster and more agile than any normal human. She has no knowledge of the outside world, nor is she allowed to. But Pia, although curious, stays in the compound, working hard to become a scientist. Her deepest desire is to create more of her kind, so she won’t be so lonely. Yet all of that changes when she finds a hole in the fence surrounding the compound on her 17th birthday. For the first time in her life, she is free, at least for as long as it takes for the scientists to notice that she’s missing. There, in the rainforest, she meets an indigenous boy named Eio, who shows her what life is really like. Yet the scientists aren’t just going to let her walk away. A hundred years of research, money, and blood went into creating Pia. She belongs to them. They’ve killed to create her and they’ll kill to keep her.

This book had a very interesting premise, and a beautiful cover. I was intrigued and read the book non-stop from the moment I got it to the moment I finished it. Origin was very gripping, but I had a few problems with the ending. It was predictable and not very satisfying. It was a little too convenient and easy. Also, Pia wanted to be free so she could do all of these things in the book, but at the end she abandoned all of her goals. In the book’s defense, however, it was probably the only ending that could have wrapped up the book without leaving a cliffhanger. Yes, I know that’s vague, but I can’t go ‘round spoiling the ending, now can I?

Some of the characters were well developed and likeable, but I didn’t really connect with most of them. They were a little too two-dimensional. I say two-dimensional because most of the characters had one general personality trait and one interesting background story. They were all kind of distant, although most of them were evil scientists, so they have an excuse. The actual story, however, was well written and intriguing. All in all, I thought it was a great story that could have been better. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick and interesting summer read.

Review by Annalise

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