Book Review: Young Adult: After the Fall by Kate Hart

After the Fall

A YA debut about a teen girl who wrestles with rumors, reputation, and her relationships with two brothers.

Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens. He doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a girl, except when he decides she needs rescuing. But Raychel doesn’t want to be his girl anyway. She just needs his support as she deals with the classmate who assaulted her, the constant threat of her family’s eviction, and the dream of college slipping quickly out of reach. Matt tries to help, but he doesn’t really get it… and he’d never understand why she’s fallen into a secret relationship with his brother. The friendships are a precarious balance, and when tragedy strikes, everything falls apart. Raychel has to decide which pieces she can pick up – and which ones are worth putting back together.

Title: After the Fall
Author: Kate Hart
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Farrar, Straus. & Giroux
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Format: E-book
Length: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0374302715
ISBN-13: 9780374302719

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Literary Awards: N/A

Themes: consent, grief, romance, college, small towns
POV: Dual first-person
Tense: Present

Reviewer: Nick and Marisa

Where We Got It: Marisa bought it after hearing about it on goodreads and loaned it to me to see if I agreed with her.  Spoilers:  I did.

Marisa’s Cover Notes:  Love the colors, but the image is kinda boring, I guess.  It does connect to the plot, but I wish there was more emotion in it or a more concrete image from the story.  This could be the cover of any random YA novel.  (Usually I listen to music when I read, but this time I was watching TV “with” my mom, so no soundtrack.)

Review:

Nick

Technically I’m here to give the male perspective, I guess.  This was originally Marisa’s review, but she wanted to know if being a guy changed my perception of the story and characters.  A little bit, I guess, but not much.

Marisa

I have two main complaints about this book.  One, the pacing was all over the place because the author tried to stuff way too much stuff into one story without doing the enough build-up for it all.  Either the romantic plot, the assault plot, the what am I doing after high school plot or the surprise twist would have been enough to carry the story on their own, especially given the several b-plots in the book.  But all at once was too ambitious.  I don’t think the author had the skill to pull it off, though some authors might have had.

My second issue is that the characters were all annoying as all heck, and I couldn’t really sympathize with any of the main characters.  Maybe that’s because the author didn’t do a good enough job presenting their background?

Nick

I happen to agree with Marisa on both those points.  Further, I think she agreed with me that the so-called “feminist” issues in the book were not handled well.  The assault especially was believable, but the characters all responded way too after-school special to them.  In fact, Marisa pointed out one line in the book was an almost perfect rip-off of the popular quote that girls aren’t vending machines you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.  I am 100% behind tackling these issues in YA.  But I think it’s important to handle the issue in a way that comes off as a natural follow-up the the events of the story and also to not sound preachy.

Marisa

There was a really-strong sense of authorial intrusion in the way the characters talked to Raychel about her assault.  In particular one character was oddly flip-floppy in how strongly she pushed to present the assault as rape but then said reporting it was a waste of time.  And this character did not feel like they were stepping into the narrative naturally.  It felt very forced.  I think that could turn off a lot of readers to the truths the author was trying to convey.  I’ve seen this book compared to Courtney Summers, but it’s miles apart in the way the similar subject matter is handled.  It was very disappointing.

Nick

I think what it comes down to is that this book was all over the place, and that made it hard to address any particular aspect of it with the kind of nuance the topics it covers deserved.  It felt rather slow in the first half, and rushed in the second half, because the author couldn’t seem to decide what was the most important point and so she found herself with a lot of loose ends to tie up.

Marisa

I think Nick’s right.  If the author had picked three of the moderate to major themes/plots threads to focus on, she could have written a really good novel exploring those things.  But as it is, the book just feels shallow in a lot of places.  And I don’t think that gives it enough power to really drive home the author’s points to the audience.  The premise is good, but the execution is severely lacking.

Conclusion: 61/100 (Author’s reach exceeds her grasp)
Premise: 8/10 (So much wasted potential)
Plot: 4/10 (Ugh?  Ugh.)
Setting: 7/10 (Very solid, but could have used more development)
Main Character(s): 6/10 (All kinda jerks and unlikeable cutouts)
Romance: 5/10 (Liked him, but didn’t get her attraction)
Twist: 4/10 (Out of nowhere and seemed kind cheap)
Supporting Characters: 7/10 (Better than the MCs)
Writing: 7/10 (Competent but lacking spark)
Themes: 6/10 (Points for ambition, no cookie for execution)
Resolution: 7/10 (Strongest part of the book?)

Buy Or Borrow:  If you must read it, we recommend you borrow from a friend of the library.

Similar Books:

All the Rage or anything from Courtney Summers

Other Reviews:
GoodReads
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
TeenReads
Portrait of a Book
YA Bibliophile
Pretty Deadly Reviews

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

E-Books:
iBooks
Kindle UK
Kindle US
Kobo
Google Play
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Book Review: Young Adult: Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

farizan cover

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

Title: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
Author: Sara Farizan
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary with a side of romance
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Format: NetGalley DRC
Length: 306 pages
ISBN-10: 161620284X
ISBN-13: 9781616202842

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Literary Awards:
N/A

Themes:GLBT
POV: First person
Tense: Present

Reviewer: Marisa

Where I Got It: I asked Nick to keep an eye out for interesting contemp novels on NetGalley, especially involving diverse authors or characters. He gave me the summary for this one, and it sounded fun. Even though the cover was pink and had lips on it, it didn’t seem like a standard romance, so I figured why not?

Cover Notes: I really liked the cover here, although it was a bit pink. I think it implies a more classic romance plot than is really present, but that might just be me. I wish there had been more of an actual image here.

Review:

There were a lot of things to like about this book. The main character, Leila was a very good YA MC. She was a bit clueless, and a little privileged; which is fairly standard for YA protags. She also had a bit of a social misfit vibe, which Farizan handled very smoothly. It never felt forced or overdone. Despite Leila going to a fairly elite school, Farizan managed to make the story and Leila’s school life feel accessible to me, a middle class public school kid. That’s something I really like in an author.

Leila’s family, was also well-written, from my perspective. I felt like there was a strong theme of unreliable narration there, in the sense that at first, you really only see them through Leila’s eyes, but as she grows throughout the book, you realize she’s just as clueless about everybody else’s true selves as any teenager. It’s a common theme in YA, but only because it’s pretty common in real life.

The romance plot in the book was also great. Better than many YA romance plots I’ve come across. Saskia is exactly like many of the girls/boys who seem most alluring as a teenager. Now, there are a few cliches common to GLBT romances (and straight ones, too, to be fair): the clueless straight best friend with a crush, etc. But they’re handled pretty well by Farizan. There are some fun twists and turns, and they all felt pretty natural.

I said earlier I didn’t see this book as a classic romance; I think I should elaborate a bit. What I mean is that there’s so much more going on here than a straight romance plot. Many (but not all!) romance stories have way more focus on the romance than I’m interested in. Especially with love triangles–(I’m looking at you, Twilight!). There’s absolutely a strong romance component in this book, and it’s marketed that way. But there’s more than just that romance plot, and I think that gives a book more depth. I think a fair number of readers who aren’t romance fans could still enjoy this book.

Finally, this is a coming-out story. Not only is Leila not out, but she’s also a bit naive about the whole thing, and she believes many stereotypes about lesbians. The coming-out plot itself is fairly standard. There’s nothing shocking or unique about Leila’s experience, although her cultural heritage–she’s Iranian–does add some flavor to it. Farizan telegraphs many of the developments coming-out-wise fairly early, although she manages to keep the romance aspect of it a bit less obvious to the reader. That said, I’m not really criticizing her handling of it. Any readers not familiar with the coming-out narrative in modern fiction will find Farizan’s version accurate and interesting, and there are no real stereotypes perpetrated by the author herself.

Conclusion: 79/100 (Not brilliant, but very enjoyable)
Premise: 8/10 (Interesting, though not unique)
Plot: 8/10 (Engaging)
Setting: 8/10 (Well-depicted)
Main Character: 8/10 (Standard teenager, fun and not irritating)
Coming out plot: 7/10 (Nothing new or unique, but well-written)
Romance plot: 8/10 (Strong and realistic, but still cute and fun)
Supporting Characters: 8/10 (No cardboard cut-outs here)
Writing: 4/10 (Engaging)
Voice: 5/10 (Very realistic)
Themes: 8/10 (Well-executed)
Resolution: 7/10 (Very optimistic but not contrived)

Buy Or Borrow: If you’re looking for a contemp with strong romantic or GLBT themes, this is definitely worth a buy. If not, you might be better off borrowing it.

Similar Books:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

Other Reviews:
GoodReads
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
YA Midnight Reads
Good Books and Good Wine
Writer of Wrongs
Little Hyuts

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

E-Books:
iBooks
Kindle UK
Kindle US
Kobo
Google Play
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Book Review: Young Adult: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

rites cover

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Format: Paperback ARC
Length: 402 pages
ISBN-10: 0062295195
ISBN-13: 9780062295194

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Literary Awards:
N/A

Themes: Military, Family, Sexism
POV: First person
Tense: Present

Reviewer: Marisa

Where I Got It: Another paperback ARC from Atsiko. I was a bit reluctant to read this one, because it did’t seem like my usual type of book. I was wrong.

Review:

I’m glad I read this book. The main character was a true strong female character. No excessive whining, knew how to handle a challenge, and was almost never unfair to her friends. That’s not to say she was perfect, which I would have hated. She had her flaws, but I was rarely angry at her for them. Plus, she felt completely like a real teenage girl, and not a stereotype, or an exaggeration.

The supporting cast was also wonderful. One of the great things about having a single limited perspective is that you get to see the various facets of a character, and you can really get in the shoes of the perspective character. For example, Sam’s brother was an incredibly frustrating character for most of the book, and I could understand why Sam felt the exact same way. And Kelly, one of her main trio of cadet friends had a similar feel. I loved how Hensley dealt with the idea of a good person causing trouble and pain for those around them. There are other characters I loved who I don’t want to spoil for you, but there was another female character in the book whose original connection to Sam only made the relationship they later developed more awesome. I happen to consider myself a feminist. And that means that the way this relationship passed the Bechdel test with flying colors made me really happy.

The only supporting character I disliked as a character was the love interest. He was a very nice person, and quite supportive, but I found him a bit dull, and while the relationship was perfectly healthy, I just didn’t care for it. I would have liked it better if Sam had just stayed single for the book. Especially because of the emphasis made on cadets not dating. It seemed like there was plot pressure and authorial intrusion because, as several other reviews have called it, the relationship was “off-limits”. A good way to describe the relationship without spoilers is that it greatly resembles Beatrice’s relationship with Four in Roth’s Divergent. So I’m sure many readers will like it. Take my dislike with a grain of salt.

Finally, I disliked the melodramatic lengths the story went to at the end. I think it could have been dialed down a bit without losing any of the impact. I just got really, really tired of the frustration I felt for the last two thirds, and I think it was unnecessary for the obstacles to be as huge as they ended up being. If you’ve ever seen any other military school stories–another review mentioned Cadet Kelly with Hilary Duff–or stories about crossing the gender barrier, you won’t find anything unique or original in this book, but the quality of the execution is very good. Definitely worth a read.

Conclusion: 77/100 (Loved reading it. Quite a roller-coaster.)
Premise: 7/10 (Not the most original, but very well-executed)
Plot: 7/10 (Standard and a bit melodramatic at the end)
Setting: 8/10 (Very well-portrayed)
Main Character: 8/10 (Awesome)
Love Interest 7/10 (Fairly standard)
Romance Sub-plot 7/10 (Sweet, but seemed a bit forced)
Supporting Characters: 9/10 (Loved or hated most of them. A compliment either way)
Writing: 3/5 (Good, but not inspired.)
Voice: 4/5 (Spunky!)
Themes: 8/10 (Fit with the story and were well-executed)
Resolution: 9/10 (Loved it, but it wasn’t perfect)

Buy Or Borrow: I’d say this one is definitely worth buying.

Similar Books:
It’s fantasy, but Mercedes Lackey’s Talia novels have a similar vibe and structure.
Divergent by Veronica Roth, for reasons explained in the main review.

Other Reviews:
GoodReads
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
Lit-Up Review
Alexa Loves Books
The Bookish Owl
Reading Lark

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

E-Books:
iBooks
Kindle UK
Kindle US
Kobo
Google Play
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Book Review: Young Adult: Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

anatomy cover

Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?

Title: Anatomy of a Misfit
Author: Andrea Portes
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Harper Children’s
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Format: Paperback ARC
Length: 330 pages
ISBN-10: 0062313649
ISBN-13: 9780062313645

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Literary Awards:
N/A

Themes: Child Abuse, Family Problems, Slut-shaming
POV: First person
Tense: Present

Reviewer: Marisa

How I Found It: Atsiko got his hands on a stack of illicit review copies, told me I might like this one, or at least enjoy reviewing it.

Cover Notes: Simple but effective. Very literary looking. If only the book had lived up to it more.

Soundtrack: After 10 pages, I decided on some late 90s/early 2000s teenager punk indie rock. Kind of like this book, catchy but not that good.

Review:

Several of the other reviews I’ve read have called this “Mean Girls Meets…” It is something like Mean Girls, but nothing like the John Green/Perks of Being a Wallflower second half of the comparison. It’s quirky like Green, but not cute like his books tend to be. It’s got darker themes like Perks but lacks the adolescent insight, and intriguing characters. Really, it’s got quirk and not a lot else. There’s lots of potential in the set-up, but the handling as the books goes on is not that great. For example, the big reveal at the end and the theme it plays on are really great. Anika’s response to it has some great moments and also a place or two where Portes edged too far into melodrama.

The romance sub-plot is a fairly standard love triangle with cliche reasons why Anika can’t just jump into one or the other of her options. The hot nerdy guy who would lower your social status has been around since before YA, and there’s really no new twist on it here. But! LOgan is actually maybe my favorite character in the book, and one of the few I actually liked, besides Anika’s mother. He’s actually a complex character with a great personality and a believable personal problem that flows into the only interesting conflict in the story. And Anika actually has a fairly believable relationship with him. He makes one cringe-worthy remark early on, but if you remember his relationship with Anika a few years before the story starts you could make a good argument it’s kind of cute, in context. I actually sort of like seeing such thin lines in novels, assuming the author doesn’t bumble the scene.

The main antagonist in the story is school Queen Bee Becky Vilhauer. If you can manage not to take her too seriously, she’s quite amusing as a character in a “yeah, right!” sort of way. But as a foil to Anika, she’s a bit ham-handed. And the in-betweener of the popular girls trio, Shellie, is also fun, even if her background is a bit ridiculous. I did wish she had a bit more agency, as she tends to switch back and forth between Anika and Becky.

I don’t think you can take the novel seriously as a realistic portrayal of young adulthood, and I don’t think it deserves all the buzz it’s apparently been getting. I can’t tell if Portes is just new to this whole YA scene or purposely playing on the conventions of the genre. I tend to think the former. But it wasn’t unreadable, and once I accepted is was not really anything like my favorite authors of realistic contemp YA, I did enjoy it in many places.

Conclusion: 75/100 (+10 for kind of enjoying it anyway)
Premise: 5/10 (Cliche)
Plot: 7/10 (Decent, if not inspired)
Setting: 6/10 (Not exciting, very shallowly-developed)
Main Character: 8/10 (Fun, but didn’t like her)
Romance Sub-plot 6/10 (A little too convenient)
Love Interest(s): 6/10 (Standard fare, no flare)
Supporting Characters: 4/10 (Caricatures, really, but consistent)
Writing: 9/10 (Liked the voice and writing)
Themes: 7/10 (Bad execution)
Resolution: 7/10 (Would be higher except for the too-“empowering” ending)

Buy Or Borrow: Probably borrow, but maybe buy if you really like these kind of books.

Similar Books:
Anything by Courtney Summers is like this but actually good.
Gossip Girl is similar but with more melodrama and less quirkiness.

Other Reviews:
GoodReads
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
XPresso Reads
YA Midnight Reads
This Blonde Reads
Turning Pages

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

E-Books:
iBooks
Kindle UK
Kindle US
Kobo
Google Play
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Book Review: Young Adult: The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder

thebridgefrommetoyoucover0

Lauren has a secret. Colby has a problem. But when they find each other, everything falls into place.

Lauren is the new girl in town with a dark secret. Colby is the football hero with a dream of something more. In alternating chapters, they come together, fall apart, and build something stronger than either of them thought possible–something to truly believe in.

Title: The Bridge from Me to You
Author: Lisa Schroeder
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary/Contemp Romance
Publisher: Scholastic (Point)
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Length: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0545646014
ISBN-13: 9780545646017

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Literary Awards:
N/A

Themes: Family Problems
POV: Alternating First Person
Tense: Present

Reviewer: Marisa

How I Found It: I’d heard a fair amount about Lisa Schroeder before reading this, particularly about her habit of writing verse novels. In fact, I assumed before reading this that both characters would have their chapters in verse. When Nick said he had an ARC from NetGalley for Schroeder’s newest book and would I like to review it, I was very excited.

Cover Notes: I’ve used the hardback edition cover here. My ARC had a different one. To be honest, I didn’t care much for either of them. They just seemed so generic. I wanted a cover that better represented Lauren and Colby.

Soundtrack: The book is set in the Pacific Northwest–Oregon specifically, and Lauren has just moved to a new town from Seattle, Washington. Naturally I went for some indie folk and rock. Lisa Scroeder apparently had the same idea, because I found out a few chapters in that Lauren’s best friend in her new town loves The Head and the Heart.

Review:

This is going to be a complicated review. I’ve heard a lot of people praising Schroeder’s use of verse in novels. I also saw a few reviewers compare Bridge to The Fault in Our Stars. Neither of these assessments are accurate in my view. The book does not live up to the quality I expect in YA literature these days, and it certainly isn’t the next TFIOS.

The first problem I had with the book was that Lauren’s poetry chapters were too short. The poetry wasn’t very good, although it had a few nice moments. It would have worked just fine as stream of consciousness prose in instead of “poetry”. I liked Lauren’s character, and there were a couple chapters in my ARC where hers was in prose. I loved the chapters much more than any of her others. I think I would have liked the book more if Schroeder had used that format. It seemed kind of like the poetry in this novel was a gimmick more than a well-thought out stylistic choice. And as I said, Lauren’s chapters were so short. I felt like she was the real main character of the story, and I wish she had gotten more page time.

Lauren herself was a very interesting character. She had a dark event in her past, and it was not what I was expecting. I felt like it did a great job of informing her character, and differentiating her from many other YA Romance protags out there. That’s one of the things that made this novel so disappointing for me. It had such potential. That might be the major theme of this review, really. I also liked Lauren’s relationship with her uncle’s family. It was very realistic, and it informed a lot of my opinions on Lauren’s character.

I did have one nit to pick, which was how hard the author beat the “new girl” drum. Being the new kid, especially in a small town, can be tough. But it never actually seemed to cause Lauren any trouble. Perhaps if we’d seen a bit more of the characters’ school life, it would have been different. But it wasn’t.

Colby was also an interesting character, though I didn’t like him as much as I liked Lauren. He’s a football star, which is a bit cliche, and his issues on the field were similarly cliche. But there were some hints at something deeper. Rather than planning on a football scholarship to college, Colby wants to study engineering. He loves bridges, and there’s a sweet moment where he takes Lauren to a local covered bridge. Naturally, this desire causes a great deal of tension between Colby and the rest of his football-loving small town. Especially when his best friend Benny gets in an accident. But, I did wish there had been a deeper exploration of his character. Like many other initially intriguing aspects of the story, Colby’s character arc felt rushed. I think the novel could have done with another hundred pages or so of development, both of the plot and the characters.

As another example, Colby’s friend Stasia, who later becomes Lauren’s best friend after Stasia’s moved to Berkeley, gets barely any time. Just enough to commiserate a bit about Colby’s apparent disinterest in Lauren. It annoyed me that while Colby got page time with both his friend Benny and their families, Lauren barely gets any time with Stasia, and spends most of it dealing with her uncle or Colby.

I heard somewhere that the novel might be something of a send-up to one of the author’s favorite TV shows, Friday Night Lights. Having seen some of that show, I have to say if that was the intention, it failed. FNL is more like what this book could have been, or should have been. In fact, I would have liked the book a lot more if it was closer to FNL.

In the end, The Bridge from Me to You felt more like the rough draft of a novel to me than a finished piece. While it was a sweet romance, and the characters took their relationship intentionally slow in a away I wish more YA romance characters did, that wasn’t enough to save it from its many flaws.

ETA:  All of that said, I’m not writing off the entire author.  I’ve heard great things about her other books, and I do love the concept of a verse novel.

Conclusion: 60/100 (I wanted to like it, but I couldn’t)
Premise: 4/10 (Not the most creative)
Plot: 6/10 (Potential un-reached)
Setting: 6/10 (Standard small football town)
Main Character(s): 8/10 (Stood out in an otherwise mediocre novel)
Love Interest 6/10 (Had potential, didn’t reach it)
Romance Plot 5/10 (Didn’t live up to it’s potential)
Supporting Characters: 6/10 (The ones I really liked got very little page time)
Writing: 3/5 (Did not care for the poetry or the prose, but it was readable)
Voice: 2/5 (Lauren was decent, didn’t buy Colby as a teenage boy)
Themes: 7/10 (Great themes, but poor execution)
Resolution: 7/10 (Sweet, but a bit cliche)

Buy Or Borrow: Borrow from the library or a friend if you must, but I didn’t find it worth the cost.

Similar Books:
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Sky Always Hears Me by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Other Reviews:
GoodReads
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
YA Books Central
teenreads
rather be reading ya
Candace’s Book Blog

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

E-Books:
iBooks
Kindle UK
Kindle US
Kobo
Google Play
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Book Review: Young Adult: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

lolaandtheboynextdoorcover

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion…she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit–more sparkly, more fun, more wild–the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket–a gifted inventor–steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dutton Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Length: 338 pages
ISBN-10: 0525423281
ISBN-13: 9780525423287

Series or Standalone: Series: Anna and the French Kiss

Literary Awards:
N/A

Themes: drug addiction, family
POV: 1st Person
Tense: Present

Reviewer: Marisa Greene

How I Found It: I read the first book in this semi-series because everybody was raving about it. It wasn’t awful, but I didn’t really connect with it beyond a cute love story. But the writing wasn’t bad, and I liked the characters okay, so I thought I’d give Perkins another shot. I’m glad I did.

Cover Notes: I used the photographic cover because I felt like the other covers for this “series” imply they’re more connected/similar than they really are. I prefer the individuality in the photographs.

Review:

(Note: This is my first review here on Notes, and I’m still struggling to get used to the format.)

I’d read Anna and the French Kiss a few months before reading this book, and although I knew intellectually they were part of the series, I wasn’t expecting Anna and Etienne to show up quite in the way they did. I know it’s weird to start a book review talking about another book, but with this series, you can’t really help it. I suppose it’s going with the crowd, but it’s a topic I noticed in all the reviews I read before deciding to pick this one up. If you’re looking for more lovie-dovie from Anna and St. Clair, you’ll be disappointed. This is definitely Lola’s story. Which is another difference from Anna: This time it’s the MC with a decision to make, and Lola is much more strongly together with Max than Anna was with Toph.

I realize writing the above paragraph that I’m going to ahve to review Anna right after this!

Anyway, there are two obvious things that have to be said about this book, and neither of them have to do with Lola’s deadbeat mom, or her gay “uncles”. I really enjoyed this book. If you like contemp romance, if you liked Anna and the French Kiss, you’ll probably like this book, even if Lola is quite a different character. But I did have a few issues with it.

Lola’s boyfriend Max is a very… interesting character. There’s a lot of noise made about his age compared to Lola, and I really believed her claim that age doesn’t matter at the beginning of the book. But later, I started having some doubts. There’s a kind of tension between Max being pretty much just a bigger teenager, and simultaneously pressuring Lola to be older than she really was. There are definitely benefits to dating older men, and I wish Max had made a better case for it.

The second issue is the apparent insistence that your one true love exists, and should always be easy to be with. I can’t read Stephanie Perkins’s mind, but it seemed like there was a bit of authorial intrusion pushing that ideal, and that Max’s character was treated a bit shabbily to make Cricket seem like that one.

I believe in being transparent in my reviews, and so I wanted to get that out of the way before continuing.

I love Lola as a character. She’s a bit self-centered, and very dramatic, and just a perfect example of many girls I knew when I was that age. And I mean that in a good way. I liked that she had some quirks, including her love off off-beat fashion, or costume, as she is careful to distinguish. I also thought Perkins did a good job of developing her character throughout the novel. She did some growing up, but not too much.

Naturally, the main thing here is: who did she end up with and how was it? I think that, given only two choices, she definitely made the right one. Personally, I would have been fine with her being single, too. That’s a bit heretical when talking about a romance story, but I felt there were some possible issues with either guy.

Max was much older, and had different priorities than Lola. And she pushed him to date her, even though there was some initial reluctance. Given the beginning of their relationship, I think there was plenty of tension and a suggestion that they could make it. I even, in isolation, liked the development of their relationship, and that the sexual part of it was handled so well by Perkins. Obviously, Lola’s dads were against it, especially considering some of their family history. But Lola actually handled her sexual relationship with Max more maturely than maybe anything else in the book. I don’t think Perkins could have had a better set-up for the beginning of the story.

Cricket was more similar to Etienne than I would have liked, in the sense of his well-off family, but he did have his own issues, and I think that in the first half of the book, he was very well-written. I really liked his as a character and as a love interest. That said, as he started to get closer and closer to Lola, I started to like him a little less. Not that I thought he was a bad person, but that he had slightly more of a book-boyfriend vibe that I prefer. The reader was clearly supposed to think everything he did was so cute and romantic, and that’s often how it seems with young love (I can’t believe I just said that, they’re not much younger than I am). Maybe I’m just jealous. Anyway, Cricket is definitely endearing, and I can’t say I’m upset that Lola decided to be with him.

While there are many things I liked in this story, one I really noticed was the comparison between the family lives of Lola and Cricket. There’s an adorable scene where Cricket expresses frustration about his ancestor stealing the idea for the telephone (Yes, the Bells of the book are those Bells), and comments how he feels guilty for what his ancestor did that ended with with him having so many opportunities. And he should probably feel a little guilty, I think. But then Lola makes a heart-aching point about what that says about her, and her relationship with her mother. It can definitely suck for the kids to be declared guilty of their parents’ sins. Although it was an awkward moment, it definitely made me feel not only empathy with both characters, but that they were hitting a more mature point in the development of their relationship.

So I guess look forward to the Anna review, and now that this book has convinced me to try the third one, I guess I might end up reviewing that, too. I’d really like to thank Nick for giving me the chance to guest review on here. I don’t have the time to manage a blog myself, but I like that I can now say I’ve done a formal book review visible to the vast mass of the internet. I’m really looking forward to this being a regular thing.

Conclusion: 78/100 (A nice fun read)
Premise: 7/10 (Cliche, but fun)
Plot: 8/10 (Well-plotted, only a bit cliche)
Setting: 7/10 (Didn’t feel incredibly grounded in San Fran, but described well)
Main Character: 9/10 (Quirky, but not obnoxious; realistic portrayal)
Love Interest(s) 8/10 (Cute, fun, a bit arhcetypal)
Romantic Plot 8/10 (Cricket was a bit too perfect, but it’s a romance story, after all–in a good way)
Supporting Characters: 7/10 (A little weak, but good enough)
Writing: 4/5 (Better than servicable)
Voice: 5/5 (Nailed it.)
Themes: 7/10 (The family trouble on each side of the romance was a nice contrast)
Resolution: 8/10 (Strong, but a little too perfect)

Buy Or Borrow: This story was definitely worth the buying. No regrets.

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Other Reviews:
GoodReads
Pretty Books
The Busy Bibliophile
Kirkus Reviews
CuddleBuggery
Reading Lark
Alexandra’s Scribblings

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