Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Therapy

Book Review: The List of Things That Will Not Change

The List of Things That Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead – Wendy Lamb Books – Published 7 April 2020

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Synopsis

After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy

My thoughts

List of Things That Will Not Change is a beautiful uplifting novel about acceptance and family of all shapes and sizes. Perfect for those looking for a middle-grade novel about LGBT families, step-siblings, divorce, making mistakes and growing up.

Bea keeps a notebook that contains the List of Things That Will Not Change. Ever since her parents’ divorce she knows that some things are now different and some things will stay the same. When her Dad announces his engagement to his boyfriend, Jesse, Bea couldn’t be happier. But the best news of all is that she will be getting a sister. Meeting Sonia, Jesse’s daughter, is exciting for Bea, but Sonia has a lot of changes in her life and she isn’t exactly sure how she feels about those changes. Bea is sure she can help, but Bea is hiding her own secrets.

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Book Review: On A Coastal Breeze

On A Coastal Breeze – Suzanne Woods Fisher – Three Sisters Island #2 – Revell – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

Everything happens for a reason, Maddie Grayson believes. But her motto gets sorely tested when the new minister parachutes into town and offers her a chance to change what happens next.

My thoughts

On A Coastal Breeze returns readers to the Three Sisters Island and the Grayson family. This second book in the series picks up where book one left off and continues the story with a new romance.

Cam and Seth are a couple, but waiting to plan their wedding and tell Cooper the truth about his parentage while Cam buries herself in the writing of grants to fund a power source for the island. Paul, the father of the three girls is unsure he has made the right decision in becoming a camp owner. Blaine has returned home from her first semesters of culinary school, but she is carrying a dark secret. And Maddie has started her own family counselling practice. But just as she gets her first clients, the island is graced with their new pastor and he is no less than the boy who tormented her right the way through kindergarten until she last saw him after senior prom. She is surprised to see him and the way the townspeople rally around him. Maybe he’s changed, but Maddie is sure they share too much history to kindle a friendship or explore what she might have felt for him before he broke her heart.

I loved that this book, this series, while featuring each of the Grayson sisters, really continues the whole family’s story. Maddie is the feature sister of this novel, as is her relationship with Rick, the new pastor. But it’s clear, that despite the way we left Cam and Seth in book one, that they don’t get an automatic happily ever after.

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Book Review: This is My Brain In Love

This is My Brain in Love – I.W. Gregorio – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.

Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.

Then Jocelyn’s father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it’s up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.

My thoughts

This is My Brain in Love celebrates family and is a wonderful representation of mental health in YA. From everything from a positive experience of therapy to overcoming the stigma of a diagnosis, cultural and family expectations and denial, this is a positive and inclusive portrayal of anxiety and depression. It’s also a wonderful mix of cultures and the wonderful food that comes with those cultures. If you enjoyed The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, this is the perfect book for you.

Jocelyn Wu is surprised to learn her family’s restaurant is facing closure. Sure, it’s old and kind of rumpled around the edges, but it’s home. To prevent having to move away from her best friend, she sets out to improve the restaurant, including adding social media pages, new features and employing someone to help out and build them a website. Enter Will Domenici. They click and working together is fun, but both Will and Jocelyn are hiding secrets and saving the family restaurant might not be enough to save their budding romance.

Whoa. That prologue kind of threw me, giving this book a sort-of trigger warning for suicide. And while the narrator tries to reassure the reader, it kind of did the opposite. It certainly had me intrigued and ready to jump straight into the book to find out more.

And, actually, things never get as serious as hinted at at the start and a few times foreshadowed in the book. It’s a light book, despite the overtones of mental health and depression, financial difficulties and the possible failure of a family business.

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Book Review: The Happiness Quest

The Happiness Quest – Richard Yaxley – Omnibus Books – Published 1 August 2018

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Synopsis

Tillie Bassett is sad, and she doesn’t understand why. Her parents and friends suggest very different, allegedly helpful, remedies. But it is the suggestion of her counsellor, Gilbert the Goldfish, that the answer may lie in finding the nature of happiness. 

As Tillie embarks upon her project she discovers that, when it comes to family and friends, nothing is quite as it seems. Secrets are uncovered, old tensions resurface, relationships tangle and untangle, and Tillie realises that everyone struggles balancing sadness and happiness, and living truthfully.

My thoughts

Surprising, unexpected. The Happiness Quest caught my eye with its bright yellow cover. The story inside – unique, slightly disjointed and searching – was not what I expected. Yet, ultimately, it’s hard not to like this quirky story about family, accepting yourself, and, yes, finding happiness.

Tillie’s sad. She’s not sure why, doesn’t really have a reason and anyone’s attempts to help – from yoga, sleeping tablets and mindfulness to ‘its time to move on and shake it off’ – aren’t really helping. Until Tillie and her mum find the Happiness Clinic where Tillie is encouraged to start a quest to find out what happiness is. As she asks her friends and family what happiness means to them, she is surprised by their responses and how, maybe, it’s starting to help her discover what happiness means to her.

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Book Review: How To Disappear

How To Disappear – Sharon Huss Roat – HarperTeen – Published 15 August 2017

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Synopsis

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

My thoughts

This book had me laughing and nodding my head in shared understanding by the first chapter. Loneliness, social media, and friendship are all key themes which are handled beautifully in this novel. How To Disappear is funny, moving, and so very realistic.

Vicky’s best friend Jenna has just moved away, exposing Vicky’s social anxiety in a way she’s never before experienced. Now, there is no one to answer for her, no one to talk to when she can force words out of her mouth, no one who understands how hard it is to traverse the high school hallways and sit through class. And when Jenna begins to find new friends, Vicky feels even more alone. In an attempt to convince her mother she is doing fine without Jenna, Vicky Photoshops herself into an image with other teens. The success of the image gives her the idea to try it again, this time in disguise and on social media. Soon, Vicurious, Vicky’s new anonymous Instagram account, goes crazy and Vicky realises she is not the only one out there feeling #alone, and that maybe she can do something about it.

The power of social media. It can connect, reveal, hide, and isolate. Vicky is a wonderfully relatable character. I think anyone who has ever suffered some form of social anxiety, whether that is chronic or occasional, will relate to the embarrassment and fear Vicky feels. Despite her fear, every time Vicky opens her mouth something amazing (or funny or, yes, totally embarrassing) comes out. I loved her. I want to be her friend and just hang with her.

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Book Review: Our Broken Pieces

Our Broken Pieces – Sarah White – HarperTeen – Published 8 August 2017

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Synopsis

The only thing worse than having your boyfriend dump you is having him dump you for your best friend. For Everly Morgan the betrayal came out of nowhere. One moment she had what seemed like the perfect high school relationship, and the next, she wanted to avoid the two most important people in her life. Every time she sees them kiss in the hallways her heart breaks a little more.

The last thing on Everly’s mind is getting into another relationship, but when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s waiting room she can’t deny their immediate connection. Somehow he seems to understand Everly in a way that no one else in her life does, and maybe it’s because Gabe also has experience grappling with issues outside of his control. Just because they share so many of the same interests and there is an undeniable spark between them doesn’t mean Everly wants anything more than friendship. After all, when you only barely survived your last breakup, is it really worth risking your heart again?

My thoughts

Our Broken Pieces is a passionate YA romance, light, fun to read, and with a touch of sentimentality.

This book begins with the flip side to the usual YA happily-ever-after, found-my-soul-mate story. Everly lost her boyfriend and her best friend at the same time when they began a relationship behind her back. Now, she is battling anxiety and dodging them in the school hallways rather than fulfilling her dreams of senior year. But when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s office, they begin a new friendship that, amidst the trauma in their lives, soon becomes much more.

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Book Review: Goodbye Days

goodbye-days

Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner – Andersen (Aus/UK) (Crown – USA) – Published 6 April 2017 (Aus) 7 March 2017 (USA)

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Synopsis

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

My thoughts

Hilarious and heartbreaking, Goodbye Days is a winning combination. Perfection itself.

Goodbye Days is an incredibly poignant and relatable story. How many lives have been affected by the tragic deaths of teenagers – friends, classmates, sons or daughters? How many stories of death and grief are punctuation by questions of why, what if, if only? Guilt and sorrow mixing to form a potent poison. Goodbye Days captures all of that emotion and mixes it with a friendship so strong it can only be called a brotherhood. Mixes it with humour and levity and life so bright it dances in front of your eyes. I was crying one minute and laughing the next.

The day Carver Briggs sent a simple text message irrevocably changed everything. Now his three best friends are dead after a fatal car crash – a crash that may or may not have been caused by Carver’s text message. With a pending criminal investigation and guilt heavy enough to level him, Carver begins to form a new connection with Eli’s girlfriend as they both cope with their grief and he accepts Blake’s grandmother’s request to spend one final day celebrating Blake’s life.

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Book Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful – Eric Lindstrom – Poppy – Published 7 February 2017

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Synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. And when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.

As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst–that her friends will abandon her if they learn the truth about what she’s been hiding. Can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?

My thoughts

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful was a must read for me after I read and absolutely adored Eric Lindstrom’s first book Not If I See You First. As a result, I went into reading A Tragic Kind of Wonderful with a mix of trepidation and excitement – could it possibly live up to Not If I See You First, would it be different??

And it is different in a way, but it carries that same incredible power. I’m not sure how he does it, but Eric Lindstrom has a knack for understanding the psyche of teenage girls and bringing that to the page.

Mel Hannigan has everything under control. No one outside her family and doctors know about her having bipolar disorder, she balances her meds, keeps track of her cycling and segments her life so her friends will never find out. But when old friends question her over how their friendship ended, a new relationship sparks and her moods start cycling faster, Mel may have to confront her past.

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Book Review: Afterward

Afterward

Afterward – Jennifer Mathieu – Roaring Brook Press – Published 20 September 2016

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Synopsis

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.

My thoughts

Afterward is as much about relationships as it is about the story of two teens. It’s about diverging paths, alternate universes and yet it’s certainly not a sci-fi. It’s about coping with the situations with which you are dealt, serious trauma and other types of trauma and coping with them both and never comparing which is worse, and with just getting through as best you can.

The day Caroline’s brother was kidnapped was day that changed everything for her family. But it also changed everything for another family because it led discovery of another boy kidnapped four years ago.

Afterward is the story of Ethan and Caroline. How they meet, how their lives converge, the choices they make that bring them together and how they become friends, test boundaries and learn to laugh again.

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Book Review: How It Feels To Fly

How It Feels To Fly

How It Feels To Fly – Kathryn Holmes – HarperTeen – Published 14 June 2016

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Synopsis

A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.

Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?

My thoughts

I’m not sure how to review this book. Not because I’m in any doubt about how powerful and all-round fantastic it is, but because hits hard on some big issues.  Reading it was challenging and confronting. It deals with serious topics, from body image, anxiety and therapy, to bullying, self perception and relationships, both good and bad.

I was immediately drawn into Sam’s world. She narrates the story and it gives readers the perfect insight into her head and thoughts. She struggles with a nasty, little voice constantly telling her that she’s no good, too fat and will never achieve her dream of becoming a professional ballerina. The majority of this book takes place at a summer camp for teens who are elite performers and athletes with anxiety issues. None of them want to be there and certainly don’t want to identify with the others. It takes some rocky starts and shouting matches for this loveable group to learn to work together.     Continue reading

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