How to Love
By Katie Cotguno
Publication date: Oct. 1, 2013
Balzer + Bray, 389 pages
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.
After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.
— Goodreads.com description
How to Love is definitely a book that grew on me.
I started out this book with a major case of Old Lady Syndrome. I wanted to swoop in and help Reena and Sawyer sort out their oh-so-messy lives. But there was no one to swoop and a little mess turned into a big mess and then an even bigger mess and…you see why it was maybe a little frustrating at first. They kept making poor decision after poor decision.
But the flashbacks between “before” and “after” were so fluidly and compellingly written that a little frustration didn’t eclipse that fact that this is a freaking juicy, drama-filled, awesome story.
And, by the end, I actually felt like there was a lot I could learn from Reena and Sawyer, especially in terms of forgiveness. I see what you did there, Katie Cotugno, and I love it!
How to Love pulled me in so deep I had a hard time putting it down for work and ended up reading it in 24 hours. Definitely check this one out — even if you’re not into books about teen pregnancy. It’s about so much more than that. Trust me!
Oh, and bonus factor: Shelby. If you’re into books with best friends who are amazing, beautiful support systems instead of backstabbing biotchs, you’d going to love her so. I know I did!
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
By Holly Black
Publication date: Sept. 3, 2013
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 432 pages
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.
— Goodreads.com description
Oooh, I haven’t read a horror story in a while. While The Coldest Girl in Coldtown isn’t quite horror, it did creep me out like WHOA.
Now, creepy stories like this aren’t my usual cup of tea, but I’m glad I gave this one a chance. And I’m glad I have FINALLY read a Holly Black book. Took me long enough – I know!
So, some pros, some cons.
Pros: Bloodshed. I love an author who isn’t afraid to kill her characters. Bring. It. On.
Also, the story focuses a lot on kids who romanticize vampirism – they want to be dead. I think Black does a really good job of playing this up. It totally got me thinking about how invincible I felt as a teenager. Love that.
Also a pro: Gavriel. I have no idea why I liked him, but I did.
Cons: For its length, there’s not a ton of action. Things move very slowly. Now, maybe that’s because it’s the first book in a series, but it felt a bit plodding. (UPDATE: I’ve just been told this is actually most likely to be a standalone. WHAT! I’m so confused…it did not read like a standalone at all. Hmmmm!)
I also felt detached from the characters. As much as I oddly enjoyed Gavriel, I couldn’t quite put my finger on Tana and what drew her to him.
I will definitely read the next book, even though my feelings were mixed. It reminds me of Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules — I had similar feelings. If you were into that book, though, you ‘ll probably want to check this one out.
Second Chance Summer
By Morgan Matson
Publication date: May 8, 2013
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 468 pages
From the Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, a powerful novel about hope in the face of heartbreak.
Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.
Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.
— Goodreads.com description
Oh, golly, this book.
When Second Chance Summer came out last summer, I knew I should read it — friends were raving, and I absolutely adored Morgan Matson’s writing in Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour.
But I didn’t read Second Chance Summer, even though I checked it out from the library at least twice. Why? Well, at the time the subject matter hit a bit too close to home — much like Taylor and her dad, I knew my father-in-law had just a few months to live. So it put it off because I was scared, and then, after his death, because I thought it would be too soon, too fresh.
But finally I picked it up and I’m so glad I did.
It was serious, and it was a difficult book for me personally, but the tough subject matter was so, so well handled. Even the smallest details of watching a disease take control over a loved one, from smart to finish, were eerily spot-on. Like, seriously, I don’t want to spoil it, but one of the final scenes? Disturbingly real to life. And when you’re tackling a subject matter like this, you need to nail it.
Plus, it was a lovely mix of romance, family and friend drama — all the teenagery fluff mixed right in with the big-picture issues in Second Chance Summer, just like it does in real life. That’s what I loved about Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour too!
Did I cry? No, because I purposely steeled myself and disconnected from the characters — sort of a self-protection mechanism. But anyone else: Have your tissues nearby.
Truly, Morgan Matson is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and at this point I’d happily read anything she writes.
By Jordanna Fraiberg
Publication date: May 2, 2013
Razorbill, 352 pages
Olive Bell has spent her entire life in the beautiful suburb of Vista Valley, with a picture-perfect home, a loving family, and a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a near-fatal car accident, she’s haunted by a broken heart and a melody that she cannot place.
Then Olive meets Nick. He’s dark, handsome, mysterious . . . and Olive feels connected to him in a way she can’t explain. Is there such a thing as fate? The two embark on a whirlwind romance—until Nick makes a troubling confession.
Heartbroken, Olive pieces together what really happened the night of her accident and arrives at a startling revelation. Only by facing the truth can she uncover the mystery behind the song and the power of what it means to love someone.
— Goodreads.com description
I read Our Song by Jordanna Fraiberg on an airplane. And I have to say…the cover sort of mortified me in public.
But that’s what Kindles were invented for, so let’s all learn from my mistake and move on to the book itself!
Our Song was a tad bit too dramatic for me, and in all honesty I didn’t really get the song motif throughout. Maybe I was reading too fast?
That being said, amid the drama were some very real, relatable issues, and I appreciated how the author handled them. Olive misunderstands her parents’ actions, grapples with mixed feelings about her loser ex-boyfriend because he’s, well, comfortable and totally takes her bestie for granted till it’s too late. Oh, we’ve all been there. Olive might not be the most likable, but her story and path is super interesting.
Readers who like books about two troubled teens who fall in love and learn to heal together will eat this one up. You know who you are, people!
By Hilary T. Smith
Publication date: May 28, 2013
Katherine Tegen Books, 400 pages
Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:
1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.
Things that actually happen:
1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.
Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.
— Goodreads.com description
If you haven’t heard all of the amazing things people are saying about Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, well, no worries because you’re about to hear a TON of good things from me.
Wild Awake is a stunning, riveting debut that made me feel like I was experiencing everything right alongside of the main character — from soaking in the highs of new love to teetering on the edge of despair.
If you’re not open to it, the writing style might take you a bit off guard — it comes so close to stream-of-consciousness that is really thrusts you in to Kiri’s brain. But I actually really loved that. When Kiri feels manic, you feel manic. When she’s lusty, you’re…well, lusty too. I felt like Smith’s writing style so perfectly captured the way someone in Kiri’s unique position would think, and as hard as it was at times, I enjoyed taking what felt like a really realistic a peek into her inner workings.
For fans of serious contemporaries (I can see why Gayle Forman gave the quote on the front of the book!), I can’t recommend this highly enough. There’s a love story, there’s a lot of psychological issues, they’s a mystery…it’s just all-encompassingly good. Can’t wait to read more from this lovely new author!