Wed, August 27, 2014

Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner Review

Can't Look Away book cover

Can't Look Away book cover

Can’t Look Away
By Donna Cooner
Publication date: Aug. 26, 2014
Point, 272 pages
Source: Publisher

Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption.

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident — maybe because of Torrey and her videos — Torrey’s perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

— description

I adored Donna Cooner’s Skinny (click to read my review) and was thrilled that I enjoyed Don’t Look Away just as much.

This book is about Torrey, a popular beauty vlogger who has quite a bit to deal with: a backstabbing ex-bestie, a new school, haters on the Internet, a struggling mother and, most of all, the recent death of her little sister.

Despite the serious subject matter, in reading over my notes, I used the word “adorable” an awful lot. LUIS! It’s all his fault!

Torrey, meanwhile, gosh what a SNOB. This book has a lot of mean girl action, but I enjoyed watching Torrey turn the other cheek, see herself and her actions more clearly and begin to work through her grief.

And I thought it was really interesting and unique how Cooner used the Day of the Dead motif to help Torrey heal.

Two books in, I can definitely say I’m a big fan of Cooner’s work. Fans of contemps, especially with interest in grief and/or Internet fame/bullying, you’ll like this.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: death, donna cooner, family, mean girls, romance

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