Mon, August 20, 2012

Speechless by Hannah Harrington Review

Speechless book cover

Speechless book cover

By Hannah Harrington
Publication date: Aug. 28, 2012
Harlequin Teen, 336 pages
Source: Borrowed from Magan

The story of a girl named Chelsea Knot who takes a voluntary oath of silence after her gossip-mongering ways yield unexpected consequences…

Saying she’s sorry isn’t enough.

— description

Phew. Hannah Harrington wowed me with Saving June and really delivered with Speechless. She seems to have found the perfect balance between serious, gut-wrenching topics and sweet romances.

In Speechless, we meet Chelsea. Chelsea is a mean girl. Sure, she’s not Regina George, but she’s definitely part of her posse, whether she intends to be or not. When her actions lead to some pretty serious consequences, she has a crisis of character. Realizing that her big mouth has gotten her (and others) into loads of trouble, she takes a vow of silence.

The story is very real and very powerful. Okay, sure it’s an exaggerated storyline, but the underlying issues likely touch every teen in some way: lying, secrets, bullying, peer pressure, drinking, friendship and more. It felt so plausible that it made me sick to my stomach in some parts.

But, don’t get me wrong, Chelsea’s story is ultimately a positive one, as she slowly begins to get her priorities in order. There’s some great lessons here, many of which are delivered by a stellar cast of supporting characters. Oh, and did I mention there’s a sweet love story? Silly me, of course there is.

Speechless by Hannah Harrington is a lovely book that definitely struck some chords with me. This is a novel I’d recommend to any teen girl.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: bullying, friendship, hannah harrington, romance

Fri, June 1, 2012

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger Review

A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger book cover

A Midsummer’s Nightmare
By Kody Keplinger
Publication date: June 5, 2012
Poppy, 304 pages
Source: Publisher, via NetGalley

Whitley Johnson’s dream summer with her divorced dad has turned into a nightmare. She’s just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée’s son? Whitley’s one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin’ great. Worse, she totally doesn’t fit in with her dad’s perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn’t even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she’s ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn’t “do” friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn’t her stepbrother…at least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

— description

The third time must be a charm, because A Midsummer’s Nightmare is the third Kody Keplinger book I’ve read, and it’s also the first one I’ve LOVED.

I think my problem in the past is that her main characters definitely have a “type.” They’re wilder, more sexually active and angrier than I ever was as a teen, and I just have a hard time relating to them.

But not with Whitley Johnson.

I think Keplinger’s writing has progressed so much because, though Whitley is similar in many ways to the main characters in The DUFF and Shut Out, I cared about her so much more. Keplinger wrote Whitley to be tough and reckless, sure, but the layers in her personality were so much more evident. She’s just so hurt and lonesome and sad that you can’t help but feel for her.

Plus, I gotta admit: I love that Whitley’s latest one-night-stand turns out to be her future stepbrother. It’s sort of gross, but also SORT OF AMAZING. You can’t not be dying to find out how that turns out. And her future stepsister? One of my favorite characters I’ve read in a while.

There are some surprises in there that longtime Keplinger fans will love. And for those on the fence about her writing? Give this one a try. I’m pretty glad I did!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: bullying, family, kody keplinger, romance

Thu, January 20, 2011

One Night That Changes Everything by Lauren Barnholdt

One Night That Changes Everything
By Lauren Barnholdt
July 6, 2010
Simon Pulse, 256 pages

Two years ago, when Eliza Sellman was in ninth grade, her dad found out he was being transfered and the family was going to move. Having always been shy and not so confident about her body, Eliza took that opportunity to start a list in her private notebook of all the things she planned on doing when she moved but had always been afraid to—like wearing a miniskirt and asking guys to dance; singing karaoke in front of strangers; posting a photo of herself on her Facebook wall in a bikini…you get the idea. New town, new Eliza, right?

Well, she’ll never know because the transfer fell through and they didn’t move. But Eliza kept adding her goals and secret fears to the list in the notebook. Now it’s two years later, and in that time Eliza has had and lost her first boyfriend. But this was more than your average breakup…turns out the sweet and cute Cooper was only dating her as a hazing stunt by a secret society. Eliza got her revenge by posting some pretty nasty (and only sort-of true) stuff about Cooper online. That posting has had major consequences and now Cooper and his buddies have stolen her private notebook and won’t give it back until she performs all the things on her list in one night. It’s torture…until Eliza steals something from the boys she knows they’ll want to trade her notebook for.

What starts out as a night of humiliation turns into a night of revelations as Eliza learns what Cooper was really thinking when they dated, the real reason he’s stolen her notebook, and how freeing—and life-changing—it can be to do the things you fear the most.

— description

Dear Lauren Barnholdt,

Hi. You don’t know me, but I’m Anna and I’m pretty sure we could be best friends. Do you agree? Please say yes. TTYL!

Your Future BFFL

Oh, I’m sorry, was that creepy? WHO CARES. Because if the dialogue in this book is any representation of how Lauren Barnholdt actually talks/thinks, our friendship is a done deal.

The characters are hilarious, frank and, best of all, realistic. I could not stop laughing out loud. Eliza’s thought processes are genius, and she holds nothing back.

“I’m starting to a little bit warm inside, and it feels good, but I know enough to realize that there’s a fine line between feeling all warm and good insane and ending up puking into the bushes while people shake their head sadly at you and mumble things about how you can’t hold your liquor. Not that that’s happened to me before. But I do know some people it has happened to, cough, Jeremiah, cough.”*

The cast of characters was superb: Eliza’s two best friends are loyal, quirky and endearing,** and Cooper is the perfect mix between popular and geeky-awkward. I read it in just two hours, so I can’t recommend this book enough for someone who wants a quick read with plenty of laughs.

If you like this book, you might also like: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, another book set over the course of one crazy night.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

*For my favorite part and further evidence of her super awesome dialogue, please check out the exchange regarding “OMG” that begins on page 168. Thank you.

**Please note that Marissa and Clarice reminded me of two of my blogger friends, who shall remain nameless. This made it beyond enjoyable to picture them while reading about the girls’ hijinks.

Posted by: Anna   •   In: 4 stars, bullying, lauren barnholdt, romance

Mon, November 29, 2010

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

The Duff
By Kody Keplinger
September 7, 2010
Poppy, 288 pages

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

— description

I spent more than half of The Duff extremely pissed off. “This is an awful lesson for young girls about self-esteem. Even this book’s title is insulting. How could ANY of my friends actually like this Wesley jerk? (Ginger, I’m looking at you!) How could Bianca show any romantic interest in a guy who puts her down so much? Why can’t she just learn to talk out her issues?” I wanted to slap the girl.

Then she actually gets slapped by her father and I remembered: She’s just a kid. It was a real aha! moment. My thoughts on the book did an instant 180.

Of course I think this Wesley guy is crap for her and she needs to work on her self-esteem—I’ve grown up and learned all these lessons already. She can’t know this stuff at age 16; she’s got to learn it herself the hard way. And, as a reader and as a former miserable teenage girl, I feel like I need learn to give main characters some more slack and stop judging while I read.

Haven’t you ever fallen for a boy who was bad for you? I did. A few times! When I was her age, I made a lot of the mistakes Bianca made in this book, though in a less dramatic and literary way that didn’t involve the whole sleeping around thing and instead involved quite a bit more of homework-doing and sucking up to teachers and reading.

It wasn’t told in the most poetic way, and I felt there were plenty of shortcuts taken with the storytelling. But, in the end, the characters grew. And in this particular instance, that was enough to make me overlook this book’s many flaws and feel pleased when I got the last page.

I’m not saying everyone should like Bianca or support her choices as a character. I’m just saying that if you really look at her, you might see a little bit of yourself at age 16. I did, and it reminded me that if I’m ever going to really “get” YA lit as an adult, I sometimes just have to give in to the teenage mind-set and go along for the ride. Even if I know better.

A great, unexpected lesson from a book I was convinced I’d hate.

If you like this book, you might also like: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian. Click here to see me read from the book.

PS: The teens in this book all got together at a teen-only club. Is it just me, or is this a total urban legend? Did anyone actually hang out at one of these when they were teens besides Buffy, Willow & the gang?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: 3 stars, bullying, kody keplinger, romance, self-esteem