Mon, June 9, 2014

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal Review

My Last Kiss book cover

My Last Kiss book cover

My Last Kiss
By Bethany Neal
Publication date: June 10, 2014
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 358 pages
Source: Publisher

What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy?

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss–the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died–is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made–good and bad–that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal’s suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

— description

Within the first few pages of My Last Kiss, I had a pretty visceral reaction to Bethany Neal’s writing.

First of all, Cassidy has just died and part of the details there are just plain gross. Plus, it’s confusing and sad and a little bit harrowing to read along as a young girl struggles to deal with that fact that, well, SHE JUST DIED. Not an easy pill to swallow.

So I loved how — BAM — I was feeling a lot straight away.

And I loved how Neal evolved the mystery of Cassidy’s death. It’s a thrilling and compelling whodunnit — so layered, it’s hard to predict for much of the book.

My only complaint is that I had a hard time keeping a handful of characters straight: her two best friends and her boyfriend’s two best friends. That made it particularly difficult for me to piece together the mystery and follow along.

Still, once I did get things straight enough to follow along, I liked it overall. I’d say give it a try if you’re into mysteries!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: bethany neal, death, mystery, thriller

Wed, May 14, 2014

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner Review

The Summer of Letting Go book cover

The Summer of Letting Go book cover

The Summer of Letting Go
By Gae Polisner
Publication date: March 25, 2014
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 316 pages
Source: Publisher

Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca’s little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can’t have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it’s possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she’d never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.

— description

More summer books! Tis the season, y’all!

Like I said yesterday on my Rules of Summer review I KINDOFSORTOFMAYBE went overboard at the start of spring and binge-read a bunch of summery books and then forgot to write my reviews and they all sort of blended together…

…and, well, my thoughts on this one are scattered. But here they are:

- The writing was beautiful
- Torn on the romance
- The secondary characters made the book (you will fall in love with little Frankie Sky)
- Gritty & heartfelt, but also quite readable for younger teens

Did the story stick with me bigtime? No, obviously, but I was definitely engaged and I’d read more from Gae Polisner in a second. The fact that she is fully dressed in a pool in her author picture only adds to that desire. Did any of you read her 2011 book The Pull of Gravity?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: death, family, friendship

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.

— 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

Mon, April 7, 2014

The Last Forever by Deb Caletti

The Last Forever book cover

The Last Forever book cover

The Last Forever
By Deb Caletti
Publication date: April 1, 2014
Simon Pulse, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

Endings and beginnings sit so close to each other that it’s sometimes impossible to tell which is which.

Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all she can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. And then there’s her dad. He’s stuck in his own daze, and it’s so hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.

Her father’s solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town at Tessa’s grandmother’s. Despite all the warmth and beauty there, Tessa can’t help but feel even more lost.

Enter Henry Lark. He understands the relationships that matter. And more importantly, he understands her. A secret stands between them, but Tessa’s willing to do anything to bring them together—because Henry may just be her one chance at forever.

— description

One of my biggest delights as a reader is when a book genuinely shocks me. And oh boy, did that happen with The Last Forever.

It was one of those instances where something about a book just isn’t feeling right and something is niggling around in the back of your head when — aha! — it all adds up and you are equal parts mad at yourself for not thinking of it earlier and so very pleased that the author was able to pull one over on you.

Ahh, good times.

Okay, so clearly I enjoyed that feeling. But I can’t say I loved what it was about. *Tries to be vague*

Pros: I loved how Deb Caletti starts each chapter with a factoid about a plant. I was thoroughly impressed with how well she was able to tie this in with the story.

Cons: I also had some issues with the latter half of the book, when certain problems were resolved quickly and others were resolved totally unrealistically…but for that “WHOA” moment alone, I have to say I enjoyed this one.

Has anyone else read it? Without spoiling — did you have a similar experience or am I the only slow one out there?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: death, deb caletti, family, friendship

Mon, February 17, 2014

Me Since You by Laura Wiess Review

Me Since You book cover

Me Since You book cover

Me Since You
By Laura Wiess
Publication date: Feb. 18, 2014
MTV Books, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

Laura Wiess captures the visceral emotion of a girl’s journey from innocence to devastating loss and, ultimately, to a strange and unexpected kind of understanding—in this beautiful and painfully honest new novel.

Are there any answers when someone you love makes a tragic choice?

Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old—a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.

If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother — and herself — from the endless replay of heartache and grief.

Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?

— description

WARNING: Do not read this book if you want something light and fluffy.

Me Since You is a lot of things, but it’s not that.

What it is: A really sincere book about grief, guilt and depression.

The book description indicates something awful is going to happen in this story — there’s no disguising that. I was just surprised by the author’s pacing and decisions on this (not in a bad way), so I am going to keep this review vague to not mess with your reading experience.

What you do need to know: Based on early reviews I read, I excepted to sob my eyes out. I did not — perhaps because the book felt less surprisingly, shockingly upsetting and more dully, realistically painful. So I didn’t have the intense emotional connection other people did, but I still really appreciated how this book made me think.

I think Rowan’s story is a powerful, important one that will stick with me for a while. If you think you’re in the mood to handle it, I highly recommend it.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: death, family, friendship, laura wiess, romance