Wed, July 30, 2014

The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor Review

The Things You Kiss Goodbye book cover

The Things You Kiss Goodbye book cover

The Things You Kiss Goodbye
By Leslie Connor
Publication date: June 24, 2014
Katherine Tegen Books, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.

But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.

Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.

When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.

Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.

— Goodreads.com description

I respect The Things You Kiss Goodbye for how it depicted a tough and controlling home situation and an abusive relationship. I think it’s important that these issues be depicted in YA novels so that teenagers can see how quickly things can go south.

Bettina and Brady’s relationship was ADORABLE to start. All cute and fluffy and everything I like to read about in YA. But, wow, did it turn. I think this was a really intense slap in the face for the reader (awful, unfortunate pun not intended).

So, kudos to Leslie Connor on that front.

But the dialogue was so heavy-handed in parts and the drama so overdrawn that I found myself alternating between eye rolls and mental “ughs.” And I just cannot get behind a romance between an underage girl and a guy in his mid-20s. Just…no.

All in all, I’m not sure where I fall here. I guess I’d say “respect, but not like.”

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: abuse, leslie connor
3

Thu, May 29, 2014

Take Me On by Katie McGarry Review

Take Me On book cover

Take Me On book cover

Take Me On
By Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits #4)
Publication date: May 27, 2014
Harlequin Teen, 544 pages
Source: Publisher

Acclaimed author Katie McGarry returns with the knockout new story of two high school seniors who are about to learn what winning really means.

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she’d never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can’t stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she’d stay away from. Yet he won’t last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it’s his fault his family is falling apart. He can’t change the past, but maybe he can change Haley’s future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they’ll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

— Goodreads.com description

If you like your plots gritty, your romances steamy and your characters all sorts of flawed…WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ THIS SERIES YET?

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: What I like most about Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits series is that book after book she surprises me. They’re all entertaining stories by themselves, but what wows me is the seeing characters I either disliked or dismissed in one book take the lead in the next. McGarry totally upturns everything I thought I knew about them!

I didn’t think much of West in the last book, but I loved his strength and loyalty in Take Me On. And Haley! What a kick butt girl. She’s equal parts strong and vulnerable and I loved her sportiness.

I also totally forgot how Crash Into You ended in a cliffie. AHHH! Loved seeing the resolution there — and it didn’t take me long at all to get caught back up to speed.

If you started this series, please continue. If you haven’t yet, give it a try when you’re in the mood for something YA that still feels a little NA. Think Simone Elkeles!

My previous reviews in the series:
Pushing the Limits
Dare You To
Crash Into You

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: abuse, family, katie mcgarry, romance
4

Wed, April 23, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead book cover

Love Letters to the Dead book cover

Love Letters to the Dead
By Ava Dellaira
Publication date: April 1, 2014
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 323 pages
Source: Publisher

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

— Goodreads.com description

Love Letters to the Dead is the sort of book that hits you like a punch in the gut.

You’re off-kilter from the get-go, a bit woozy as you read…but wow does it make you feel something.

It’s a poetic and haunting story that made me feel its highs and lows so very sharply as Laurel shifted between euphoria and depression. It’s a difficult and uneasy read, for sure, but if you are in the right mood to accept and appreciate that, it is not to be missed.

The story structure! How beautiful. Each chapter is set up as a new letter from Laurel to a dead person, from Kurt Cobain to Judy Garland. It’s quite brilliant and ties in so well with the story.

I loved the depth of emotion this story conveyed, its complexity and, ultimately, its characters’ strengths. Highly recommended.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: abuse, angst, ava dellaira, death, depression, family, friendship, romance
10

Mon, June 24, 2013

Dare You To by Katie McGarry Review

Dare You To book cover

Dare You To book cover

Dare You To
By Katie McGarry
Publication date: May 28, 2013
Harlequin Teen, 462 pages
Source: Publisher

Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. “Dance with me, Beth.”

“No.” I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again….

“I dare you…”

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

— Goodreads.com description

Dare You To is the companion to McGarry’s earlier novel Pushing the Limits. Back in 2012, I wrote that I was “very caught up in the storyline and [was] not once in danger of putting the book down” with the first book, but that the terms of endearment went a little overboard.

Well, ditto — sort of — when it comes to Dare You To. Once again, I loved McGarry’s storyline about two messed up kids coming together. It was filled with plenty of romance, drama and entertainment value.

But, like with the terms of endearment in Pushing the Limits, parts were a little too dramatic for my taste. I tend to lean that way, though, in my reading…a LOT of readers who are on the pro-drama side of the spectrum are going to eat this one up because of the drama.

One thing that I think that really worked in my favor was that it had been a long time since I read Pushing the Limits. I vaguely remembered disliking Beth and being upset when I heard the second book was going to feature her. But I’d forgotten many of the bad feelings over time and she grew on me as the book went on. Now let’s hope the same thing happens when it’s time for book three, which is all about Isaiah, whom I REALLY disliked this time around.

Bonus factor: A good boy. Three cheers for all-American Mr. Honorable, Ryan Stone. Loved him!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: abuse, family, katie mcgarry, romance
13

Thu, April 18, 2013

Live Through This by Mindi Scott Review

Live Through This book cover

Live Through This book cover

Live Through This
By Mindi Scott
Publication date: Oct. 2, 2012
Simon Pulse, 304 pages
Source: Borrowed from Ginger — thanks, G!

From the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a mom and stepdad who would stop at nothing to keep her siblings and her happy.

But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted façade. That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now that Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling.

In this unforgettable powerhouse of a novel, Mindi Scott offers an absorbing, layered glimpse into the life of an everygirl living a nightmare that no one would suspect.

— Goodreads.com description

Oh my gosh, Mindi Scott, you just slayed me with words.

Earlier this year, I read her book Freefall and got really mad at myself for waiting so long to read such a beautiful story. Okay, well, ditto for Live Through This. Lesson learned! Mindi, I love you!

Live Through This is a heartbreaking, powerful and (unfortunately) all-too-real book about a young woman’s experiences with sexual abuse. It was a difficult read, but Coley’s story moved me so much that I had a hard time putting it down. I stayed up far past my bedtime until I got to the last page, tears in my eyes and unable to sleep for quite some time after. It really affected me — which I think is a sign of a great piece of literature.

Live Through This is an unforgettable must-read for teens.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: abuse, mindi scott
6