Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Coming of age (Page 1 of 2)

Book Review: Please Don’t Hug Me

Please Don’t Hug Me – Kay Kerr – Text Publishing – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

My thoughts

This is the book that everyone is talking about right now. Honestly, I was on board with the pink cover and cinnamon doughnuts, but bonus points for #ownvoices, local Aussie author, diverse character voice representation and a realistic story about growing up, fitting in and learning that it is okay to be different.

Please Don’t Hug Me is written entirely in the form of letters from our main character Erin, to her brother Rudy. We readers don’t know where or why Rudy isn’t at home anymore, but Erin is working through a few things and has been tasked by her therapist to write letters. Through these letters, which include enough dialogue and reflection on events to feel like you are in the middle of each situation, we readers learn about Erin’s friendships, her work, getting through the last year of school, looking forward to things like schoolies, but also feeling out of the loop as she is unable to read social cues or properly fit in with her best-friend’s group of school fiends. A new job, a new friend and working through her feelings about her brother and family, might just be the things she needs to make it through the year.

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Book Review: What You Hide

What You Hide – Natalie D. Richards – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 4 December 2018

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Synopsis

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…

My thoughts

What You Hide is one part contemporary, the other part mystery thriller. It is a touching and thought-provoking story of family breakdown and youth homelessness, a coming of age story and a love story rolled into one.

When Mallory’s pregnant mother changes her mind about leaving her controlling and demanding husband (Malloy’s stepfather), Mallory makes the decision to leave by herself. This new plan means that she has nowhere to go. Enrolled in online school, she spends her days at the library and, once her welcome wears out her friend’s home, her nights too. It’s at the library that she meets Spencer. Seemingly living a perfect life, Spencer reveals he is working at the library to serve out his community service sentence and that he is struggling with decisions about the future. But then a body is found in the library and signs show that Mallory isn’t the only one hiding in the library.

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Book Review: The Healer

The Healer – Donna Freitas – HarperTeen – Published 9 October 2018

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Synopsis

Marlena Oliveira has—mysteriously, miraculously—been given the power to heal all kinds of ailments. People around the world believe she is a saint. But her power comes at a price: she can’t go to school, she can’t have friends her own age, and she certainly can’t date.

Then she meets Finn, a boy who makes her want to fall in love. For the first time, she begins to doubt whether her gift is worth all that she must give up to keep it.

My thoughts

The Healer is a compelling and unique book. It is a very different coming of age story, yet despite Marlena’s special abilities that set her apart in the world, her story of falling in love for the first time, discovering who she is and is meant to be and learning to stand up for herself is universal.

Marlena is a Healer. Some say she is touched by God, others say she is a saint. For years, her mother has decided how she will live and what she will do. But as Marlena begins to stretch her wings, she must decide if being a healer defines her or if she can heal on her own terms.

At first, I was expecting a book similar to The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee, but The Healer is not about plants or potions and is far more mystical and religious. Marlena isn’t sure where her powers come from, some days she’s not even sure she really has powers. But her mother is a firm believer that Marlena has been touched by God and a church and religious group has risen up around Marlena. The constant attention is something that Marlena hates the most. She longs for connection with people not awe and fear from afar. She wants to be able to walk down the street of her hometown without seeing her face on souvenirs in the windows of shops. She wants to live a normal life.

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Book Review: Save The Date

Save The Date – Morgan Matson – Simon Schuster – Published 5 June 2018

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Synopsis

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My thoughts

Save The Date is a hilarious novel about family, growing up, and learning to accept change. In the midst of a wedding where everything that could go wrong does, the characters of Save The Date will warm your heart and make you smile.

Charlie Grant loves her big, loud, crazy family. So Charlie can’t wait for this weekend, her sister’s wedding and a chance for all her siblings to return home, for them to be a united family unit again. But when the wedding planner bails, Charlie’s absentee brother actually turns up, and Good Morning America plans to do a home interview upon the conclusion of her mother’s famous cartoon, Charlie knows that she will have to fight to ensure everything is perfect.

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan – Gia Cribbs – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 May 2018

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Sloane Sullivan has survived witness protection by learning three important lessons: blend in, don’t let anyone get too close, and follow the rules.

After nearly eight years and countless identities, blending in is easy. Now that someone has confessed to the murder she witnessed, Sloane’s been given her final identity. All she has to do is turn eighteen and coast through the last two months of her senior year without any complications, and she’ll be officially released from WITSEC. Piece of cake.

Then on her first day she runs into Jason Thomas—literally the boy next door from her childhood. She knows she shouldn’t have contact with him, but she doesn’t expect the feelings that come with seeing Jason again. Feelings of finally belonging somewhere, of remembering who she really is, and of suspicion that there’s more to the crime she witnessed than she ever knew.

Sloane knows the rule for this situation, but telling the Marshals about Jason would mean getting whisked away to yet another new identity, leaving both Jason and the future she’s painstakingly planned behind. If she can keep Jason a secret, Sloane has a chance to take back her life in a way that she never imagined possible. But doing so puts both their lives at risk: the closer Sloane gets to Jason, the more she remembers and the clearer it becomes that someone is still after her.

My thoughts

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is a mystery thriller with some amazing twists that I never saw coming and it touches upon some pretty dark crimes, but on the whole it is quite a lighthearted book, focusing on interpersonal relationships, high-school drama, and romance. The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is an easy book to read and enjoy, with a likeable main protagonist and some intense relationships.

Sloane knows how to stay hidden in plain sight. This move and name change will be her nineteenth in eight years, ever since she witnessed a horrible crime and was forced to enter witness protection. Now Sloane is restarting her final year of high school, counting down the weeks until she will be finally free, but is thrown when one of the first people she meets is her childhood best friend, Jason Thomas. Sloane is convinced she can maintain her new identity to prevent having to move again, but staying means putting Jason in danger and risking her own future.

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan starts with a bang and a seriously awesome prologue. Immediately gripping and then downright clever, I was hooked right from the very first page and couldn’t wait to jump into the rest of the story. The details of Sloane’s life emerge slowly, woven through the story of Sloane starting yet another high school and through flashback snippets from the past eight years.

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Book Review: Zenn Diagram

zenn-diagram

Zenn Diagram – Wendy Brant – Kids Can Press – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn’t do wonders for her popularity, there’s another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them — from clothes to textbooks to cell phones — she sees a vision of their emotions. She can read a person’s fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves … and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it’s because she’s a clean freak — with the emphasis on freak — but it’s all she can do to protect herself from other people’s issues. 

Then one day a new student walks into Eva’s life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn’s skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart.

My thoughts

For some reason I knew I would love Zenn Diagram. Something about the synopsis just hit me and I knew I had to read it. Math genius – check. Paranormal abilities – check. Dark, foreboding secrets – check. And yet it surprised me by being even better than I imagined. It was a combination of everything I love in a YA romance.

Eva is a math genius. But she also has another talent she isn’t so open about. When she touches people or their things she gets flashes of their feelings. She calls them fractals because (insert a complicated math explanation that I’ll leave to Eva to explain here). So Eva has learnt to keep her hands to herself. It has limited her social interactions and greatly increased her notoriety as a weirdo. But that’s okay, because Eva has a good family, a great friend and she can use her gift/curse to help find the solution to anyone’s trouble with math. It makes her a good tutor. But Eva lastest student makes her wish for the impossible – an uncomplicated relationship, a chance to touch and be touched, to have someone see her. But one accidental brush against Zenn’s jacket gives Eva the impression that Zenn has dark and haunting secrets.

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Book Review: Defending Taylor

Defending Taylor

Defending Taylor – Miranda Kenneally – Hundred Oaks – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 5 July 2016

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Synopsis

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

My thoughts

Taylor has a new mantra – no more boys. Well, that’s not going to work for a contemporary young adult romance, now is it… Equal parts coming of age, self discovery and family relationships, and with a heavy dose of romance, Defending Taylor continues Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series.

Taylor has sworn off boys after taking the fall for her boyfriend. But she never could have predicted just how big the fallout was going to be. Expelled from school, dumped from her soccer team, and the reason her father has dropped in polls during the key time in his political campaign, Taylor is ordered back home where she is to start a new school and hide out until the bad press dies down. But the other girls on Taylor’s new soccer team don’t seem to want her there and bumping into her older brother’s best friend only adds more complications to her already complicated life.

Does giving up boys count if it’s a guy you fell for years ago? You can hardly blame Taylor for falling again for Ezra, he with the wicked smile, green eyes and construction worker’s muscles. And the whole brother’s best friend thing usually brings a complication that I enjoy in romances. But their relationship wasn’t all that complicated, really. Once Taylor and Ezra reconnect and straighten out the past miscommunications, their relationship develops quickly.       Continue reading

Book Review: The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson – Simon & Schuster – Published 3 May 2016

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Synopsis

Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

My thoughts

Clearly this is a highly expected book. You only have to see some of the hype surrounding this book to know that readers love Morgan Matson’s writing. And that hype, that excitement is so deserved. This book is outstanding. Nothing and everything like I expected and so much more. This is a story about friendship just as much as it is a love story. But it’s also about family, looking out for and learning to stand up to each other, and about being brave enough to step away from the expected, the planned, and experience something so unexpected it just might change your mind about everything.

Andie is your typical type-A personality. Everything in order, under control and planned to the last detail. It has to be because one little mess-up could have serious ramifications for her father’s political career. But as so often happens, sometimes things spiral out of control even for the most prepared. So when a financial scam rocks her father’s career and her summer internship is pulled as a result, Andie finds herself at loose ends. Luckily she has an incredible group of friends with which to surround herself, manages to find a job walking dogs which isn’t all that bad, and the cute guy she keeps running into has definite crush possibilities. But with her father always around for once and the cute guy looking for more than Andie’s standard three week kiss-and-breakup ritual, this summer is nothing like she expected.    Continue reading

Book Review: The Serpent King

The Serpent King

The Serpent King – Jeff Zentner – Penguin Random House UK Children’s – Published 8 March 2016

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Synopsis

Dill’s father is in jail for an unspeakable crime. Shunned by the neighbours in their small religious Tennessee town, Dill and his mother try to make ends meet.  Dill’s only respite from poverty and prejudice are his two friends: Lydia and Travis. Travis is an oddball, finding sanctuary from his violent father in his obsession with an epic fantasy saga. Lydia is fast-talking and fiercely creative, pinning her hopes on her achingly cool fashion blog. Dill fears his heart will break when she escapes to a better life in New York.

Dill wants to get through his final year of high school in one piece. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of his family, a serpent poisoning his blood, filling him with despair. Dill must confront this legacy of madness and desperation before it tears him apart.

My thoughts

The Serpent King is an emotional and touching novel. Three friends together experience loss, the trials of social segregation, and hope and trepidation for the future. Set in rural Tennessee, Lydia, Dill and Travis fight for their futures against the backdrop of Southern charm and prejudice.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book. The summary suggested a book about friendship, and it certainly is the focus of this book, but it is also about love, coming of age, and fighting the demons that seek to steal your light. It was surprising and totally engrossing.

Lydia, Dill and Travis are a strong trio of friends and yet they are totally disparate. The book cycles through each of their perspectives in short chapters, sometimes picking up right where one leaves off, providing a wonderful insight into each of the main characters’ heads and hearts.    Continue reading

Book Review: The Leaving Season

The Leaving Season

The Leaving Season – Cat Jordan – HarperTeen – Published 1 March 2016

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Synopsis

Middie Daniels calls it the Leaving Season: the time of year when everyone graduates high school, packs up their brand-new suitcases, and leaves home for the first time.

This year Middie’s boyfriend Nate is the one leaving. Nate, who’s so perfect that she can barely believe it. Nate, who makes her better than she is on her own. Nate, who’s promised to come back once he’s finished his gap year volunteering in Central America. And when he does, it’ll be time for Middie to leave, too. With him.

But when a tragedy strikes, Middie’s whole world is set spinning. No one seems to understand just how lost she is… except for Nate’s slacker best friend Lee. Middie and Lee have never gotten along. But with the ground ripped out from under her, Middie is finding that up is down—and that Lee Ryan might be just what she needs to find her footing once more.

My thoughts

What happens when you lose the person who defines you? When is it okay to move on? Is it ever okay? What happens when you realise you’d like to be someone else, someone more like you, the real you, the without-that-other-person you?

I really enjoyed his book. I was intrigued to see where it would go, what its focus would be – grief, romance or self-discovery? We get a little of each, but I’m happy to say that it’s mainly the latter two. And by then, I was captivated by the story.  Continue reading

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