Review: Bright Before Sunrise

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt. Walker Books, an imprint of Bloomsbury. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Is it possible for one night to make a difference in a person’s life?

Jonah and Brighton are about to find out.

The Good: First things first: I loved this book. I loved Jonah and Brighton, separate and apart.

Jonah, a senior, is counting down the days for the school year to end (eleven, if you’re curious.) He hates his snobby new town, Cross Pointe, and just wants to be in his old town, with his friends, his girlfriend, and they way his life used to be. Before. Before his mother met someone new, got pregnant, divorced his father, and took Jonah with her.

His mom now has her perfect new husband, and new baby, and new house, in a new town, and Jonah has — . Well, Jonah has a grudge so big it could have its own zip code. He’s angry, he’s mad, he’s rude, he’s OH SO MANY FEELINGS AND HURT. Jonah has every reason to be hurt and betrayed. Did I mention that the new husband, Paul, was Jonah’s physical therapist? So, yes, it’s because of Jonah that the two met. Jonah’s guilt over this is compounded by the fact that his father agrees; it’s why Jonah isn’t living with him.

Man, I hated Paul and how he treated Jonah. And this is one reason I love Bright Before Sunrise: yes, Paul is a bit brusque with Jonah. (Actually, the word I wrote in my reading journal begins with “a”.) But, but, but. But Schmidt, over the course of the book (so some of this is spoilers), gives enough over the course of the book to help the reader realize that Paul isn’t that bad. That Jonah’s mother may have left her husband, yes, but only because she was human. His mother was only nineteen when Jonah was born; she and Jonah’s husband fought. Jonah’s father is never shown, but that he blames and abandons his son is enough to make me think he wasn’t the nicest. Paul, I think, is both feeling guilty about this but also, quite honestly, is someone not used to what teen boys are like and so isn’t as understanding as he could be.

All this matters because its shaped Jonah, as he is now. Which, basically, is a sulky, broody boy who has reason to be so, but not to be so for so long. Jonah has a lot going for him: he’s smart, he’s going to college, his mother loves him, his baby sister adores him. Bottom line: it’s time for Jonah to “snap out of it”, and that is where Brighton comes in.

Brighton could practically be Miss Cross Pointe. She’s a junior, super involved, under a lot of self-imposed pressure to be perfect. (Truth be told? I pictured her as Tracy Flick like, and I LOVE Tracy Flick, so that’s a compliment.) To Mr. I Hate Cross Pointe, she represents everything he hates. Because it’s not just his mother’s remarriage that makes him hate the town. He hates it because he comes from a blue collar town, and Cross Pointe is privileged and preppy and snobby.

When a classmate sees Jonah’s baby sister’s sock, she asks, “Is it your daughter’s? It’s so cute. She’s smiling, but there’s something off about the question. Besides the fact that it’s none of her business, she looks too eager, almost hungry, for my answer. “You’re from Hamilton, right?

Because in the Cross Pointe world, Hamilton is that scary place with teen parents. Those kids aren’t like Cross Pointe kids. A well meaning teacher, himself a native of Cross Pointe, describes Jonah with “some people are takers,” because Jonah has refused to become involved in any volunteer projects. I love the privilege, the elitism, represented in that simple statement — and I love it all the more because it’s just a fact in the book. It’s not something where there are any great changes in that viewpoint.

There is one person, other than Jonah, who changes, and that is Brighton.

Here’s the thing about Brighton — and Jonah, only five months in town, doesn’t know it — Brighton may have the house, clothes, money like any other Cross Pointe family, but she doesn’t have a father. He died five years ago. His loss, and its impact on her mother and sister, is what has driven Brighton to be the perfect daughter; or, at least, the perfect daughter she thinks he would want her to be. I love Brighton because she’s a bit snobby, but in the way that teens from a town like Cross Pointe may be (and will be, well into college.) I love her because she’s good hearted: part of it is because that is what her father would want, and part of it is because that is just who she is.

Brighton and Jonah spend time together, over the course of twenty four hours. In that time, yes, the fall for each other (of course!). Being with Brighton, and what they share, also helps Jonah realize that he’s been biting off his nose to spite his face; that in freezing out his mother and new town, he’s frozen himself. For Brighton, she realizes that — just like Jonah — she’s painted herself into a corner. She doesn’t quite know herself. One thing she is — and this is why I see her as Tracy Flick — Brighton is angry. She is so angry she doesn’t know what to do with it, so keeps it buried so deep she doesn’t even know she is angry. It’s all internalized, because she’s the “good” girl.

I won’t talk about how Brighton and Jonah get from two people who barely know each other to two people who become something more; or the events of the night they share that bring them closer together. I mean, read the book!

I will add this: I hate, hate, hate — did I say hate? cheating. As much as I sympathize with Jonah’s mother, I wanted to shake her and say, she should have left his father years ago, instead of waiting for a new man to come along — but, some people are like that. They need someone; and they can’t tell when something is over until there is a new someone. So, when I began Bright Before Sunrise, knowing there would be a romance between Jonah and Brighton, and then saw mention of Jonah’s girlfriend, I was like WHAT???? I won’t give details, but I’ll say this: there is no cheating. And it’s very believable that Jonah could start with a girlfriend, yet end up with Brighton, in the course of one night.

This is a Favorite Book Read in 2014. Because I loved Jonah and Brighton, even if at times I didn’t like them. Because I love the flawed parents and adults. Because a good romance is hard to find — especially one that takes place under such a short time frame.

Other reviews: Stacked; Forever Young Adult; Ex Libris.

Review: Roomies

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2013. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: It’s the summer after high school graduation, and EB and Lauren are both looking forward to college.

EB is looking forward to leaving her small New Jersey beach town, her mother, her circle of friends and their expectations.

Lauren isn’t planning on going far from her San Francisco home, but she is still going to live at college. Leaving loving parents and many younger brothers and sisters, she looks forward to privacy.

Which is why Lauren requested a single.

Instead, she gets a roommate: EB.

Over the course of the summer, EB and Lauren exchange emails, gradually getting to learn more about each other — and themselves.

The Good: This is the exact type of book I wanted to read in high school, wondering and worrying about college.

Roomies is told from the points of view of both EB and Lauren, both what they’re thinking and the emails they exchange. There are misunderstandings — Lauren at first believes that EB is more well off than she is. EB thinks Lauren’s delays in response are personal. They not only grow to know each other better, but also to be more honest. The honesty is two-fold: yes, being more honest and real with each other in their emails, but also being more honest and real with themselves.

It’s not that either EB or Lauren have been lying to themselves; it’s that they are both still growing, both still becoming.

For EB, it means that the tight group of friends she has is suddenly too tight. They boy she is dating no longer feels right. She feels distant from her best friend. She meets a new boy, and that brings another level of complication. Her mother is busy with her own life. EB knows she is about to leave her town to start her own life at college; she just didn’t realize how emotionally she’d begin leaving before leaving.

For Lauren, her life has been tied up in her family. Yes, there’s been school and she’s been serious about her studies, enough to win a scholarship. And she has a best friend. But she hasn’t been someone going to parties; when she’s not working, she’s helping to take care of her younger brothers and sisters. Forget privacy; Lauren has rarely had time to think about herself, let alone be by herself. Lauren had thought college would be when she was free to think of herself, and she surprises herself by falling for a boy. Suddenly, Lauren’s life isn’t as simple as it had been.

I love how Roomies is three stories: EB’s story, Lauren’s story, and the story of the two of them beginning to forge a relationship. As a reader, we can see the bigger story that neither of them can see, and that is part of the fun. And “fun” includes some cringing, when someone says something thoughtlessly cruel or judgmental and just not really meaning it, or meaning how it was taken.

One other thing, which is a bit funny: EB is from New Jersey. A beach town. Called Point Pleasant. Have I mentioned that my family is from the Jersey shore? A town called . . . . Point Pleasant. I KNOW. I actually went “oh no” when I read this, because it’s a bit tough to read (or watch) fiction set in a place you know. (See: viewing of the TV series, Point Pleasant.) The good news: no one pumps their own gas! Better news: there are just enough real and accurate details to give one the flavor of the town, without being overwhelmed by unnecessary details. (Oh, and in case you were wondering…. EB doesn’t say whether it’s the Beach or the Borough.) (About five of you got that.) (No, I didn’t graduate from either Pt Beach or Pt Borough but my mom taught at the Beach.)

Other things I liked about Roomies: how race is talked about. Both EB and Lauren are white; the boy Lauren is interested in is black. This isn’t an issue, but it is something that is talked about. The parents have their own lives, in different ways. Lauren has five younger siblings, the eldest who is only six, and her parents are always tired or stretched for money. They are trying, and want what is best for Lauren, but, they are tired. And busy. Meanwhile, EB and her mother have been on their own since her father left the family. He left her mother for another man; but he also left EB, moving across the country to start a new life that didn’t include her. Her mother has made some choices about who she dates that seem rooted in her own insecurities and loneliness. All of these adult issues are always part of the proper background of EB’s and Lauren’s stories, shaping the lives of their daughters, but doing so without overwhelming or taking over.

Even though Roomies ended just as college began, this felt very much like a college story because it’s about EB and Lauren beginning to move away from their high school selves. It captures that mix of wanting to leave and not wanting to leave; wanting independence and fearing it. And figuring out just what independence means. Because of that (and, well, because Pt. Pleasant!) this is a Favorite Book Read in 2014.

Other reviews: StackedBook Brats; Nerdy Book Club; Cite Something.

Review: Charm and Strange

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2013. Library copy. Morris Shortlist.

The Plot: Win, 16, is at a New England boarding school, physically distanced from his family in Virginia, emotionally distanced from his classmates.

Flashbacks show him as an angry child, Drew, sometimes violent.

Win has secrets. Secrets about who he was; who he is; who he may be. And it may involve that body found in the woods near school.

The Good: Can I do this without spoilers?

Charm & Strange is a brilliant look at a damaged child, and the teenager he becomes. It’s about what happens when the world breaks a child, and he’s left alone to pick up the pieces and reconstitute a life and a personality. Even better: Charm & Strange is told entirely from the point of view of Win, who doesn’t recognize the damage or the impact. He is an unreliable narrator who believes he is a telling us the truth.

Win truly believes that he is telling us the truth about what hurt Drew, about why he is now Win, even if he is reluctant or holds details back. Win thinks he is well aware of his own secrets. He doesn’t realize that he embraces a past different from what it really was.

Win/Drew is one of those narrators easily called “unlikable.” I know I did, when I sensed how easily he manipulated those around him, and how little he cared. “The red blossoming beneath her olive skin pleases me.” “She mistakes my distance for mystery, and she wants to know why I do the things I do.” The first flashback to his childhood, to Drew, shows a child angry over the loss of a tennis match. What does Drew do? Sneak up on the boy who won, and attack him so severely he breaks the other child’s jaw.

Win, in his own words, is telling us: I am dangerous. Stay away. Be warned.

Win believes he is a werewolf. Win believes that is his family curse. Win believes he may have changed, and killed the person found dead in the woods by school, and he just doesn’t remember. The reader learns all this on page 23; so, in a way, hardly spoilers.

Why does Win believe this? Why is Win waiting for this to happen?

The flashbacks to Win’s childhood, as Drew, show a privileged and snobby childhood (“our family looked down on everybody“) that is also lacking. The family, we are told, is well off. The father is controlling and judgmental; the mother is distant. There is a sweet younger sister, Siobhan, and a responsible older brother, Keith. Win concentrates on one summer in particular, when he and his older brother stayed with his father’s parents and met his three cousins. This, the summer the boys are almost fourteen and ten, is the summer before the tragedy that leads to Drew calling himself Win and living at a boarding school, before Drew learns things that makes him believe his family is cursed and they are werewolves.

The family is cursed, in a way. And since Win is telling the story — well, I’m not sure if I figured it out before Win because Win is in denial, and Kuehn had him give the reader enough clues that most readers would understand before Win; or if because I’m reading this book as a forty-something reader who brings enough life and reading experiences that I picked up on the clues for those reasons. And, since Win is telling the story, I’m still unsure about who knows what. About just how cursed his family is, to use Win’s own terminology.

What happens, that summer, leads Drew to believe that his family is werewolves and he will one day become one because that reality is easier for him to accept. What happens leads to a tragedy so terrible that Drew is now Win, and has been attending boarding schools since he was twelve.

Win is waiting for his transformation. No, really. He studies the moon, truly believing he will change. His relationship with his classmates is odd and tortured, in part because he isn’t very good at making human connections. But, a new girl at school, and his estranged roommate, turn out to be better friends than perhaps Win deserves. (Or, better than Win thinks he deserves.) As Win attends a late night party in the woods, with this girl and his roommate and his classmates, he studies the moon and watches those around him, and something happens and the violence he keeps inside him comes out.

I’m fairly pleased with how much I’ve danced around the truth of Win’s life. That night, though, forces Win to being to deal with his past. And here is why I also admire Charm & Strange: not only is it a terrific, unique unreliable narrator; but it’s also one that, in the latter half of the books, includes looking at mental health and how Win is treated. It doesn’t shy away from what Win’s beliefs mean, and that they are not something simple and easily taken care of. It’s not something that Win can take care of by himself.

Final observation: Win’s family is pretty bad, all things considered. Since Win doesn’t quite realize it, it’s hard for the reader to know all that has or hasn’t gone on. I look forward to discussing with people just what was going on with his parents, his siblings, his grandparents, his uncle, his cousins.

Other reviews: The Book Smugglers; Katie’s Book Blog; Guys Lit Wire; Presenting Lenore.

 

Revisited: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. Little, Brown. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

As promised in August, this is my spoilerific post about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. At this point I assume knowledge: you read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock; you read my initial review; and/or, you don’t care about spoilers.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not about a shooting. While I take Leonard and his pain seriously, I don’t think he’s a murderer or a killer. At the same time, I think he was lucky — had he access to a better gun, had he any experience with shooting guns, he may have become one. But, he didn’t. And this is not a story about Leonard almost killing a boy. It’s about Leonard being alone, and depressed, and suicidal, and having no one and no resources to help him battle that.

As much as I adored this book, and as much as I don’t think books should be messages or morals, the ending is almost not enough of a resolution for me. As I mentioned in my review, Leonard is alone, depressed, and isolated. Since the entire book is his point of view, often the view we get of other characters is not how they truly are but rather how he sees them. For instance, it’s clear to me that he wants Lauren to be his Manic Pixie Dream Girl or his Stargirl, someone who somehow saves him, but she turns out to be a real flesh and blood girl and that doesn’t happen. Yet, all along, one wonders just how much Lauren is like the person he describes to the reader.

And Leonard’s mom! Leonard reveals so few actual details (and I’m someone who notes timelines and such when reading) that while it’s clear she has physically and emotionally checked out on her son by moving to New York City and running a business, it’s unclear the time line on this. Did she leave him at fourteen? Fifteen? Last month? Since Leonard’s father has left the country and the government has seized their assets, and since his mother’s background is fashion, her choice of work and workplace makes sense. Yes, she is self involved and doesn’t realize the depression her son is in; yes, she seems to have dismissed ahead of time what could help him  (she’s a “we’re not the kind of people who need therapy what would the neighbors think and it doesn’t work anyway” type); but I also wonder at what parts Leonard leaves out. Especially at the end, when she refers to “stunts” of Leonard that he himself has not told us about.

It’s not that she isn’t awful. I just wonder if she is as awful as Leonard paints her.

Asher Beal. Why does Leonard want to kill him? I was expecting bullying. I was expecting the betrayal of a lost best friend.

I was not expecting to find out that Asher was molested and raped by a beloved uncle, and that his twelve year old response was to in turn molest, abuse, rape, and manipulate Leonard for a two year period.

The horror of that is almost beyond my comprehension, and the horror I feel is both for Leonard and Asher.

Part of what scares the hell out of me about young adult books such as Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the nightmare situations that some teens have to endure. Some adults deal with this horror by believing, ban the book. Out of sight, out of mind, and they can continue believing that kids’ lives are sweet and wonderful and trauma free. Me, I want these books for teens, for a variety of reasons. And I want them for adults as a reminder that this is the truth for some teens.

Back to Asher and Leonard. Part of Leonard’s anger at his mother is she didn’t realize the abuse was happening. Instead, if anything, she thought her son was gay. Which, you know? I can almost understand. I don’t tend to think of kids doing this to each other, when I think of abuse. And it’s further muddied by Asher being a victim, also.

Herr Silverman becomes Leonard’s lifeline. By seeing Leonard. By offering him a realistic hope, if that makes sense, in the advice of “not letting the world destroy you.” This, then, becomes Leonard’s ending: the last future letter he writes to himself is one that encourages him to believe in a future.

What I wish, though, is that it had been a bit more clear that Leonard needs more than letters to himself. Oh, there is a hint that more will happen. Herr Silverman has contacted Leonard’s mother, who both says they are not the type of people who need therapy but can afford any medicine Leonard needs. So, maybe, despite that contradiction, after the pages of the book he will get more help. Because as it is, I don’t think that Leonard just throwing away the gun, and telling someone about Asher, and writing himself a letter is enough to combat his isolation and depression.

What’s funny, though, is I also don’t like insta-cures for such complex issues. And yes, part of this is just Asher’s personality so shouldn’t be “fixed.” And I’m glad there was no easy answers offered at the end. So I’m not quite sure what more I do want, at the end.

So, your thoughts? On Leonard? His classmates? His mother? Asher?

Review: The Thing About Luck

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Julia Kuo. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2013. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Summer Miyamoto’s family has had bad luck the past year. Summer got malaria and was very sick; her grandmother is having painful back problems; her little brother’s only friend moved away. That doesn’t count things like flat tires. Or her parents having to fly to Japan to help take care of elderly relatives.

Summer and her brother, Jaz, are left with their grandparents, Obaachan and Jiichan. Bills must be paid, and money earned for the mortgage, so her grandparents are coming out of retirement to work the harvest. From May to October, the family will travel. Her grandfather will drive a combine, her grandmother will cook for the workers, and Summer will help her grandmother, watch over her younger brother, and do her homework.

The bad luck continues. Efforts to help Jaz make more friends backfire, Summer’s grandmother is demanding, and Summer begins to worry that her grandparents are no longer physically able to work the harvest. Can their bad luck change to good?

The Good: What a perfect middle grade book. Summer, 12, is a sympathetic heroine. When she got annoyed and frustrated with her younger brother and grandparents, I was right there with her. When she was embarrassing herself in front of her crush, I blushed for her. When she figured out a way to help her family, I cheered.

I also love how wonderfully balanced The Thing About Luck is, perfectly balanced as mirror and window. Summer is such a typical twelve year old, that readers will be able to identify with her. What may not be so typical? Her old-fashioned grandparents. Her grandmother, who hides her feelings with a brusque exterior. Her younger brother, whose anger issues shape how the family interacts with him. Her parents leaving for so long. And, of course, working the harvest. With the assistance of Julia Kuo’s illustrations, the whole process of “harvesting” a farm is explained. This is not an easy or simple job. It takes work and coordination. Anyone reading this book is going to look at their loaf of bread differently. And they may also think, “yes, I could run that combine…” because, just like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Kadohata shares tons of details and explanations of why and how a harvest works.

Because Summer is telling the story, certain details are left out when Summer doesn’t know or it doesn’t matter. Take Jaz as an example. Jaz’s only friend just left. His grandparents decided the answer is to have a LEGO party, inviting all the boys in Jaz’s class. Invitations are sent. Only three say yes. No one shows up. (As an aside, the planning of the party perfectly illustrates the family dynamics. The grandparents doing what they think is right, as opposed to what the parents were doing. How the four individuals talk to each other and plan what happens. It’s a great opening chapter.)

At first it just seems that, well, Jaz has no friends. Slowly, over the course of the book, we learn more about Jaz. It’s more than him being “invisible” to others, the type of shy, introverted kid who has a tough time making friends. “Why doesn’t anybody like me?” he asks his sister. (Books about kids who don’t make friends easily and want friends and don’t have them, that’s my soft spot and it just makes me so sad.) And that’s when Summer mentions to the reader, “He had such a bad temper that when he was angry, he sometimes banged his head on a wall or whatever was handy. And he was weird because he would do things like one time he started singing a song in the middle of a test.

As Summer observes, her mother thinks the singing is cute, “but I doubted the kids in his class thought it was cute.” Later, Summer says that Jaz has been taken to doctors and there is no real diagnosis for Jaz, or at least not one her parents like. Instead, Summer is told to not make her brother angry.

It’s hard to know what, really, is Jaz’s story because this is Summer’s story and whatever she tells us is limited to her knowledge and world view. And that is part of why this is a perfect book because while I, as an adult, have questions about Jaz, most twelve year old readers won’t. What they will know is how unfair it feels that a younger sibling (or cousin or friend) “gets away” with things. Or that there is always a kid in class somehow like Jaz, who doesn’t fit in or has quirks. And they won’t care if it is or isn’t OCD or ADHD, etc. etc.

I loved how class and socioeconomics was addressed in The Thing About Luck. Summer’s family gets hired to work the harvest by people who own the combines. While Summer’s parents may want to go into business on their own one day, financially that would be tough. They are clearly the workers. Probably all you really need to know is that her grandparents, despite obvious poor health, are doing the work of people 40 years younger than themselves in order to make the money needed to pay the bills. Also – -and this is tossed off, as not important to Summer but the readers get it — Summer and her brother share a bedroom, small enough to require bunk beds.

The Parkers (the family they work for) are above them on the food chain, but they have to answer to the farmers who hire them. During the harvest, people are living in cramped trailers, eating meals together. How they all interact is fascinating to watch, especially considering the group of workers will be together, like a family, for several months. Don’t get me wrong, the Parkers are nice and friendly. They take the chance of hiring Summer’s grandparents. But it’s also their business. It’s not charity.

Summer’s grandparents were born in Japan; her mother, as well as Summer and her brother, were born in America. Details about their Japanese heritage, and what that means, are woven through the book. Some of it is when her grandparents talk about their own childhoods. Her grandmother is the group cook, so there’s also talk about food. And now, of course, I want to eat shabu-shabu. It’s not just Summer and her family; some of the workers on the team are Irish, and there’s a reference to craic that made me laugh.

The only problem I had with this book? It ended! Oh, don’t get me wrong — great ending. Perfect journey for Summer. But I want more!

Other Reviews: Twenty By Jenny; The New York Times; SonderBooks.

Review: Picture Me Gone

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin. 2013. Library copy. National Book Award short list.

The Plot: Twelve year old Mila and her father, Gil, are in New York, visiting her father’s friend and his family.

Or, rather, were supposed to be. Matthew has disappeared, and Mila and her father came anyway, and it is beyond awkward being in the house with Matthew’s wife, Suzanne, and baby son. Suzanne suggests that Matthew may be hiding at his cabin in upstate New York, so these two Londoners set off to see if they can find Matthew.

Mila learns a lot on this impromptu road trip with her father — about Matthew. About her father. About herself.

The Good: OK. Heads up. Two things.

First: I loved this book.

Second: The only way to talk about this book is to talk about the book in its entirety. So, yes, massive spoilers. I feel a bit guilty about that, because part of what I loved about the book is how it is told. Mila tells the story, and she boasts about how clear eyed and observant she is — and she is — but she shares certain information on her own schedule, as she deems it important. And, for all her powers of observation, she can also only tells us what she knows when she knows it.

Matthew’s disappearance is a mystery, and it’s a mystery that Mila solves, but I wouldn’t call Picture Me Gone a mystery. I wouldn’t add that little label to the spine. Instead, I’d say this is a book about secrets. Secrets kept and told, and what that means. And it’s about the biggest secret of all, that mysterious thing called “growing up.”

So, for me to get into the why I loved this, I want to talk about those secrets and what Mila tells us and when and what Mila discovers.

Mila is twelve. She’s a cherished only child. Her parents have their own lives and own love, so it’s not that she is made too important in their lives. Rather, it’s just important enough. I won’t say she’s spoiled, but she has the self confidence and self assurance that such a child has. And she is observant, and part of that may be because of who her parents are: both over 40 when she was born, her father is now close to sixty. He is a translator, so words and intent matter to him. A mother is a musician. Here, an early look at how Mila thinks: “This picture [of her father’s childhood dog] fills me with a deep sense of longing. Saudade, Gil would say. Portuguese. The longing for something loved and lost, something gone or unattainable.

Or Mila thinking about how Matthew has disappeared on his family: “The actual running away does not strike me as particularly strange. Most of us are held in place by a kind of centrifugal force. If for some reason the force stopped, we might all fly off in different directions. But what about the not coming back? Staying away is frightening and painful. And who would leave a baby? Even to me this seems extreme, a failure of love.

Up until the past year, she and her best friend Cat played involved make believe games involving spies and secrets. As Picture Me Gone starts, Cat is no longer her best friend, and instead is hanging out with other, older kids. It’s the start of Mila no longer being a child; and also the start of her beginning her journey out of childhood.

Here is the example of Mila saying what she thinks is important when she thinks it’s important. She mentions Matthew’s disappearance; she talks about Suzanne and the new baby and another son, Owen, who Mila met the last time she was in New York. That first night, Mila is given Owen’s room to sleep in, with all his things around her. At first, given the ages — Owen is a few years older than Mila — I think there is some story of a second marriage.

No. Owen is dead; had died three years before, when he was twelve. Mila says this so matter of fact, as if we knew. But, of course, the reader doesn’t. How Owen dies is also told on Mila’s timeline. It’s not that she was keeping secrets from the reader.

Talking about secrets — Mila and her father go to Matthew’s remote cabin and discover another secret. An old friend of both Matthew and Gil. A woman, Lynda. Not just any woman: a woman who, for a time, came between the two men. Lynda is with her fifteen year old son, Jake. A woman who Matthew is letting stay in his cabin, someone he sends money to. Mila, observant, quickly picks up on the reality that Jake is Matthew’s son; and that, since Jake is the age Owen would have been, Matthew had gotten both his girlfriend and his wife pregnant at the same time.

And then Mila finds out that it’s not the first time Matthew has disappeared. He disappeared after Owen’s death. In a car accident. Matthew was driving. Secrets and secrets, but so far, they are all other people’s secrets that Mila is discovering. Oh, she sees her father look at Lynda and realizes there was something once, between them. And seeing them, and meeting them, Mila begins to think of herself as someday not being a child. “Who will I grow up to be like? I wonder at what point a child becomes a person. . . . I can’t imagine living a real life, or how I’ll ever be an adult. . . . I cannot picture me grown up. I cannot picture me any different from the me I am now. I cannot picture me old or married or dead.

Mila discovers another secret, and it shatters her. And the secret — well, basically, it’s a lie. A lie both her parents have told her. A lie that, in all honesty, I don’t see as that big of a deal but to Mila, Mila who is twelve and believes in her parents, Mila who has been so privileged in her type of family: that there is even a lie shakes her faith in everything. Picture Me Gone is about that moment, of realization, of parents not being perfect; of things being bigger than oneself; of not being the center of the universe; and of growing up. “We are all woven together, like a piece of cloth, and we all support each other, for better or worse. Gabriel is just a baby but eventually he will see the world and his father as they are: imperfect, dangerous, peppered with betrayals and also with love.” And it’s not just about seeing the world: it’s Mila realizing that what she does or doesn’t do matters. “I will not always be happy, but perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will be spared the agony of adding pain to the world.” And it’s that realization, as the book ends, that marks Mila leaving childhood.

So, yes. A Favorite Book Read in 2013. It’s amazing, I love Mila, I love the language, I love how and when we are told things. (I wish there were punctuation to be clearer about dialogue, but that’s a minor point.) But, it’s not going to be easy to booktalk this one. Any suggestions?

Other reviews: Teen Librarian Toolbox; Things Mean a Lot; The New York Times.

 

Review: Sex and Violence

Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian. Carolrhoda LAB. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. Morris Award shortlist.

The Plot: Evan Carter is at yet another school. He’s been to six schools since he was 13, traveling frequently because of his father’s job. At his latest boarding school he’s doing what he usually does. Not really making friends, because he know he won’t stay long. But you know what he does, and does well? Scoring with the ladies, planning temporary hookups.

Until the day that some of his classmates don’t like who he’s hooking up with and beat him up so badly he is hospitalized. And what they do to the girl is worse.

Broken and crushed in body and spirit, Evan’s father takes him to the family cabin in Minnesota.

Slowly, Evan begins to heal physically and emotionally.

The Good: Evan! Evan! Evan! I just adored this teenage boy, with his rough edges and his emotional pain, his physical scars, his inability to truly connect with anyone.

Evan, who so wants contact but he cannot articulate that need; so, instead of real relationships engages in numerous superficial physical relationships. Sex and Violence is about both Evan healing, but also about examining his own life. Not to say that it was his fault what happened, no; but to realize that how he was living his life wasn’t healthy to begin with, and to figure out what to change. And why. Part of it is his dead mother, emotionally unavailable father, and lack of any type of roots or community. Part of it is something else — and if you’ve read the book, I’d love to talk in the comments about it.

Part of the reason I loved the character of Evan is his attitude towards girls. “But girls are weird. I’m always amazed at the shit they put up with for a little attention.” It’s horrible, and he’s clearly a player. BUT. BUT. Sex and Violence is about someone who is a player but not quite a user; he isn’t about the seduction, in part because that will take too much time. He doesn’t want a girlfriend. He doesn’t want to invest in getting a girl to say “yes.” Instead, he’s about figuring out which girls will say yes. It’s shallow and it’s not nice, true, but there is a certain level of honesty in his selfishness. And, as Evan’s story unfolds, it turns out that he has reasons to look at sex as a valid way of connecting with people, as a short cut to intimacy. Evan himself looks back at this stage of his life with disgust: “Dirtbag Evan Carter, who lived for that whole game.”

Evan gets the crap beat out of him by a jealous ex. It’s brutal, and part of what I loved about Sex and Violence is that it doesn’t shy away from the impact of that violence on Evan. Sex and Violence takes place over a year: and that’s the reality of recovery. It’s not quick and simple. It’s not about snapping out of it. Sex and Violence has some of the best therapist/therapy scenes I’ve seen in a book, not because it fixes everything for Evan, but because it gives Evan the tools and language he needs to understand himself. It treats therapy not as a cure all, but as part of the process.

Evan’s problems are not his problems alone. His mother died when he was young, and his father is distant and unemotional at best. Evan’s recovery forces the two together and into a relationship, perhaps for the first time ever. So, then, part of Evan’s emotional make up at the start is in part because his only surviving parent models the same type of isolation that Evan lives. The family cabin — a small house by the lake — is not just a physical place where the two can safely retreat. It is also a part of a deep rooted community, and one that includes Evan and his father because it’s where Evan’s father grew up, even if it’s a place and people that is new to Evan. Evan is accepted into the group of teens and, perhaps for the first time, begins making friends.

I realize I am saying very little about the plot, after the first few brutal acts. That is mainly because — while none of it falls into twists and turns surprises — it is not just Evan’s journey to becoming a whole person, it is also the reader’s journey to understanding Evan and his father.

Evan is also funny. Not in a “here is a sentence I can show you” way, but in the way he observes and snarks and comments.

This is a Favorite Book for 2013 because I love Evan, and I love his journey. I love that he calls himself a dirtbag and then makes cupcakes for a little boy’s birthday. I love that he worries about the girl who was attacked. I love how he makes friends, and the people he makes friends with. I love that he decides to learn how to fight. I love the realistic portrayal of a victim of violence. I even grew to love his father.

And I feel weird saying “love” because Evan and the others in the book are so flawed and real. And that “love” may be mistaken for “like.” I don’t like what happened to Evan; I don’t like the place he is in at the start of the book; I don’t like the journey he has to go through. I want to reach into the pages and fix it for him and make it better. No, I don’t like the violence or how Evan treats women. But I love how real and true Evan is, and the things that happen to him, and the people around him.

My only quibble: the jacket copy/ description of the book includes the sentence “Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time.” In my never to be humble opinion, there is nothing “wrong” about the girl Evan hooks up with at school. Wrong place, wrong time, yes. She is someone’s ex, yes. But she is not “wrong.”

Other reviews: Stacked Books; Smexy Books; Between The Lines.

Review: The Ruining

The Ruining by Anna Collomore. Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Group USA. 2013. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Annie wants only one thing: Escape.

She wants to leave Detroit behind her, leave the poverty, her neglectful mother, leering stepfather, dead sister. She wants to start anew. She wants to be a new person.

Annie seizes on college as her way of escape: San Francisco State University. Far away from home, from anyone she knows, she can have a second chance and leave her secrets behind. Especially how she is responsible for the death of her sister.

College costs money, so Annie gets a job as a nanny for the wealthy Cohen family. She sees the photo of mother, father, toddler daughter and infant son and she admires that perfection. She wants that perfection.

Annie will be the best nanny, ever, in order to stay with this beautiful family in their welcoming mansion in sunny California.

Her life is a perfect, a dream come true, down to the handsome boy next door.

And then Annie’s dream turns into a nightmare, and she doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Mrs. Cohen — Libby — runs hot and cold. Annie gets mixed messages. Is Annie an employee, a younger sister, a trusted friend? Why has the door been removed from her room? What are the mysterious documents in the garage? Why does Libby favor her baby, Jackson, and ignore young Zoe? Why does Libby sometimes call her “Nanny” not “Annie”?

There’s something not quite right going on in the Cohen household, but really, what does Annie know? She’s new to the house and family. She’s from a different class of people. Maybe this is just the way rich people are, maybe this is just the way a nanny gets treated.

What does Annie know? Is she imagining things? Is something wrong with Annie….or is something wrong with the Cohens?

The Good: This is one of the “OK, I have to discuss it so there will be spoilers, OK, deal with it” reviews. Not quite yet; I won’t start for a few paragraphs.

This is a psychological thriller where a young nanny gets gaslighted by her employer and struggles to hold onto her sanity and reveal the truth about her employer.

Or, is it?

Annie goes from poverty to wealth beyond her dreams. Except, well, she doesn’t — she’s the nanny. And the first intriguing thing about The Ruining is the examination of the nanny/employer relationship. Perhaps because I’m an adult reader (and I like to do that — to identify what I see in a book as an adult reading a book intended for teens) but one of the first things I saw in The Ruining that gave me pause from the start was the blurry lines between Annie and the Cohens. Or, rather, Annie and Libby.

At the start, Annie says “In California, I would reinvent myself. I would finally have the life I deserved.” Yet that life, at first, is not really her life she’s reinventing. Rather, she’s fitting herself into the life of the Cohens, and it’s their life she wants. Once in California, she doesn’t reinvent herself by applying herself to the area that is “her life,” that is, to college and her studies. Instead, it’s the house and food and luxuries of  Cohes.  This blurring is not one-sided: Libby gives Annie a glass of wine, gives her some of her old clothes, goes through her college course catalog telling Annie what classes to take.

Libby treats Annie almost as a younger sister and Annie drinks that in, wanting more. Libby is a dream come true, so of course it goes wrong.

But here’s the thing: does it?

In other words: just how crazy is Annie?

The Ruining can be read in two ways:

In one, Libby Cohen is a troubled woman who hires Annie because she realizes Annie’s background will make Annie easy to manipulate. Annie’s secret? Annie’s younger sister drowned when Annie was supposed to be watching her. That, and Annie’s fear of returning to Detroit, make her susceptible to Libby’s manipulations. In this reading, Libby gaslights Annie — pushes her buttons — drives her crazy, with Annie ending up in a mental institute. Luckily, the handsome next door neighbor believes in Annie and uncovers Libby’s dark secrets, freeing Annie, and in the end Annie and he are happily living together.

In the other, Annie is a troubled young woman who projects her fears and demons onto Libby. Almost nothing Annie says about Libby can be entirely trusted. Anything Annie says is suspect. Is handsome Owen someone Annie is even involved with? Does he come to rescue her?

And the spoilers start now, because I want to talk about which one of these readings works for me. So if you haven’t read it, be warned.

Be further warned: part of the reason I’m being so spoilery, and so detailed, is that most of the reviews I’ve read take the view of the first reading

Me, I believe that Annie cannot be trusted. Not one bit. Part of why is she tells us not to: “I needed a clean break from my reality.”

Part of it — and this is my bias — there were things that Annie did as a nanny that made me think, “huh.” She notes how she grabs a tote bag from under the kitchen sink to use as a bag for her college books, and nothing said she had permission to do it. She’s given the family car to run an errand and instead takes a lot of time driving around San Francisco. When she packs a gourmet style picnic lunch for the boy next door, I wondered what the Cohens thought when they went to look for the food. These are little things, but little things early on that shows that Annie is from the start thinking “family” not “employer.” Now, some would point to things that what the Cohens did are just as odd — Annie is supposed to be working less than 30 hours a week, but it seems much more. It also seems like she needs to be on call 24/7, even being available on her day off. And, of course, the Cohens as the rich employers have all the power. Still, while I raised an eyebrow or two at what Libby did or didn’t do, I also felt that Annie was just as inappropriate in the relationship.

Annie clearly adores Zoe. She pains herself as a super-nanny. And yet, she uses Zoe to connect with the boy next door, playing outside to “entice Owen out.” Admittedly, even this is murky — did Annie do it, or did she do it because Libby sort of suggested it in a “I hope this isn’t why you want to play outside with Zoe” way? While watching Zoe and flirting with Owen, she gets angry at things Owen says and curses in front of Zoe. Yes, that gave me pause. Also (and sorry, another bias!) when Owen and his parents are over for dinner, and Owen, Zoe, and Annie are alone, Annie’s clear focus is on Owen, not Zoe. This, though, is another example of the blurriness of the whole nanny situation. Is Annie a guest at the diner party, with the Cohens taking advantage by having her watch Zoe? Or is Annie a nanny during the party, ignoring her responsibility to flirt with Owen?

To share just a small bit of how Annie sees the world, here is Annie describing her doctor, someone who she has said only a little older looking than Libby, who is in her early twenties. “He looked like the kind of man whose ambitions had never been connected to the reality he now lived.” Which, first, I love because I can so easily picture such a person. Second, that’s a pretty harsh judgment for Annie to be making on someone who is, by her description, less than thirty. Finally, though, I wonder if it’s Annie herself she’s describing, as someone not connected to her own reality.

Back to Owen, briefly. I’m not sure if he’s made up, entirely; but I do know if he is real (and if the version of Libby as evil manipulator is real) then Owen is not a nice guy. (Spoilers, again, but I’ve read reviews swooning over him!) Here’s the thing: Owen is college age. And when he plays foosball against Zoe, a three year old? He doesn’t let her win. Not once. NOT ONCE. Again, maybe it’s because I’m old, but — no. That’s not the sign of a nice guy with principles.

Instead, I see Owen as the cute, flirty guy next door who Annie wants, who she wants to believe is a guy for her because it fits in with what she wants her life to be, even if it is not. And even as she doesn’t quite connect with the real world, she tries to re-imagine it into the way she wants it to be but the truth bleeds through. So Owen is perfect and handsome, yet she cannot deny that he won’t let a three year old win a game. Annie loves Zoe, and talks of all she does for her, yet keeps peanut butter around the highly allergic child. She finds boxes and clothes marked “Adele – something, maybe Elizabeth, Cohen” and doesn’t acknowledge that Elizabeth is a nickname for Libby and that Libby and Adele may be the same person.

So! Clearly, The Ruining is a book that gave me many thoughts. And feelings. What do you think? Is this a mystery about a girl who is being used by her employer? Or is a look inside a disturbed mind, where nothing can be trusted?

Other reviews: Respiring Thoughts; In The Best Worlds; Daisy Chain Book Reviews.

Review: Just One Day

Just One Day by Gayle Forman. Dutton Books, a member of Penguin Books. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Allyson Healey is on a trip to Europe, a special present from her parents for having done so well in high school. She, along with her best friend, are on a Teen Tour, speeding from one place to another.

A chance meeting with a young Dutch actor leads to an uncharacterstic for Allyson whirlwind day in Paris. When he disappears after they spend the night together, she is heartbroken, returning home to college.

College is not what Allyson had hoped it would be; or, rather, it’s more what her parents had planned than what Allyson wants.

What does Allyson want? As Allyson tries to figure that out, she realizes she needs to go back to her worst, and best, day ever and find out what really happened.

The Good: Allyson! Oh, Allyson. I cannot tell you how much I adored Allyson.

Why? Because she is so real: she is young, and immature, and unsure, and doesn’t realize it. As I read this, and saw just how distanced Allyson was from herself, it almost hurt in it’s truth and rawness.

Allyson may be a high school graduate, but she is one with parents so controlling that Allyson doesn’t realize she has never had the opportunity to be herself. To figure out who she is or what she wants. Part of it is because Allyson is an only child; part of it is because she has the ultimate helicopter parents; and part of it is because Allyson has always been the good daughter and doesn’t realize that this type of “good” isn’t doing anyone, including herself, any good.

Some examples: the unasked for gift of a trip to Europe. Allyson is grateful, of course; but it’s not anything she asked for, or said she wanted, or had any input in. Her parents have decided Allyson wants to be a doctor, so her college courses are selected by them to make that happen. Her mother sees clothes she thinks are perfect for Allyson and buys them for her.

And yes, Allyson is lucky and fortunate to have the opportunities, to have the things, but the one thing she doesn’t have? Is herself. The last day of her trip, that spontaneous day with Willem, was the first time she began to think of herself, of what she wants to do or likes.

When Allyson gets to college, it doesn’t go well. She doesn’t really make friends, she doesn’t do well in her classes, she doesn’t decorate her dorm room. Part of it is depression, part of it is being lonely, part of it is starting to realize that how her parents have defined her is not who she is — and for that last part, she doesn’t know it. She doesn’t know that is why she doesn’t decorate her dorm room with the things they have selected, why she cannot bring herself to care about the classes they have selected. Part of it is Willem’s rejection of her has hurt her deeply. Now at college, she doesn’t quite know how to connect or make a friend.

Thanks to a college counselor, who has seen other students like Allyson, Allyson begins to figure out who she is, what she likes, what she wants. I love this — a true “coming of age” book. It’s not crisp and clean and easy. Sometimes, when I’ve read one too many young adult books in a row, I wonder at just how many of these teen characters have their acts together when in “real life” the process of becoming oneself takes much longer. Just One Day takes a clearer, more honest, true look at that process.

Willem’s role in Allyson’s journey is important because his disappearance is part of what pushes her. It’s a puzzle to be solved; it’s a mystery to be answered; and, yes, it’s a person she wants to find because their connection was real and true. Or, at least, it was to her.

If you’re wondering why, in the age of Google, it was easy for Willem to disappear from Allyson’s life. She didn’t have a cell phone (or, rather, hers wasn’t working properly in Europe.) Willem early on gave Allyson a nickname, Lulu, and didn’t know her real name. Allyson didn’t know his last name. Allyson at first was too hurt and embarrassed by his leaving her to look for him. (I’m sure other reviews will go on and on about the love story here, but to me, the more fascinating story is Allyson’s own personal growth.)

What else? Allyson’s high school best friend, Mel, is similar to Allyson, except Mel is more deliberate and knowing in her own journey to figuring out who she is. It’s interesting to see Mel pop up every few months, to see what Mel is “trying on” in terms of hair and clothes and music. I also think most adults know, from the first time that Mel is introduced, that this is the type of high school friendship that probably won’t survive college.

Allyson’s mother. I tried really, really hard not to hate Allyson’s mother. It’s her mother, more than her father, who dictates Allyson’s choices. She’s doing it out of love, yes, but it turns out there is more than that. Enough for my hate to be softened with pity. Allyson’s grandmother — her mother’s mother — also shows up, during a holiday, and WOWZA. There are some real family dynamics here, and by “real” I mean people pushing each other’s buttons.

Because it’s a realistic look at how some teens experience their first year of college. Because, even when it was the Teen Tour, but more so when it was not,  I loved the parts where Allyson traveled. Because of who Allyson is becoming and her bravery in picking something other than the safe path of her parents’ expectations. For the friends she meets along the way. Because I love Allyson, in all her awkwardness and innocence, this is a Best Book Read in 2013.

I am also eager to read the sequel/companion book, Just One Year, which will be from Willem’s point of view. Since I view Willem as more of a necessary catalyst to Allyson’s growth than a love interest, I’m eager to see what that book will be like and how it may change my perception of Allyson.

Other reviews: Alexa Loves Books; Smash Attack Reads; Queen Ella Bee Reads; Stacked.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Infinite Moment of Us

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams. 2013. Review from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: It’s the summer after high school graduation.

Wren is a good girl, who has always done the right thing, especially when it comes to her parent’s expectations. Come fall, she’s supposed to be going to college and starting pre-med. But is what her parents want what Wren wants?

Charlie’s background is much less privileged than Wren’s. He tries to forget his past (the neglect and abuse) and instead focus on what he has now: a foster family who loves him. A safe place to call home. He, too, has college plans. Can he leave his past behind?

Wren and Charlie have been classmates for years, but it’s not until graduation that they connect and fall in love.

The Good: Looking for a book with love, romance, and angst? The Infinite Moment of Us is perfect.

Some spoilers here, but I promise, I’ll keep the mild. Wren and Charlie have sex. They have sex because they are high school graduates, and it’s the magic of summer, and they are in love and lust with each other and with the sheer wonder of being in love and being loved. The Infinite Moment of Us doesn’t fade to black when it happens. I’ve seen more than one review call this today’s Forever by Judy Blume, and I think it’s an apt shortcut to explain what The Infinite Moment of Us is about and the content.

I love how responsible Wren and Charlie are — they talk about birth control, for instance.

The Infinite Moment of Us, like Wren and Charlie themselves, is about more than sex. It’s about Wren, and Charlie, and how they try to work out what it means to be a couple.

Wren has a secret: not from us, or from Charlie. From her parents. She doesn’t want to start college in the fall. She wants time to find out who she is. She wants to take a gap year and volunteer with a program called Project Unity. More than want: Wren has already deferred admission to college by a year to participate in Project Unity.

Charlie’s secret is a bit more complex. Secret isn’t even the right word. Charlie’s past means that he is incredibly loyal to his foster family and friends. If something happens to his younger brother, or his ex-girlfriend texts, he is out the door to help them. Yes, I did say ex-girlfriend. Charlie doesn’t love her — is no longer involved with her — but emotionally, he is there for her as a friend. He was abandoned as a child and he will not abandon a friend.

See what is happening there? The conflict is both internal for both characters (Wren yearning to discover herself, Charlie wanting security) and external (Wren’s parents, Charlie’s ex) and the conflict is never a flaw in either of them. It’s natural, it’s organic, it’s understandable, and it’s not impossible.

I loved how The Infinite Moment of Us is about class, without being about class, and touching on possibly the last time that people from two such different backgrounds would share space and time. Wren and her friends Tessa and P.G. are fairly well off financially. P.G. may have the biggest house; but Wren has never had to work a part-time job. Wren is privileged, no doubt. I wouldn’t say she is spoiled, but she is often unaware of her privilege. And, yes, while a high school graduate she is still young in some ways. Wren has been protected — part of her yearning for Project Unity is she realizes this and wants to get beyond it and she fears going straight to college would be just more of high school.

Charlie is a foster child, now in a loving family, but not before. He still carries that, emotionally. His current family is wonderful, terrific, loving. They also don’t have much money. Charlie works, and has for a few years. Like Wren, he is smart. He’s going to college. But, because of his background, he doesn’t always fit with Wren. She’ll say something that to her is a joke, or expects shared knowledge, and Charlie doesn’t get it. I loved how The Infinite Moment of Us illustrates those subtle issues of class. It’s also there in how Wren doesn’t understand Charlie’s connections to his family and friends.

Speaking of class, Charlie’s ex, Starrla, could easily have been a caricature. Instead think Tara from Friday Night Lights, only without any support system to help her along. That’s Starrla. In a way, Charlie was lucky to have had such a bad mother, because he got out. Starrla is still stuck with hers. The girl has problems, problems that Charlie cannot fix — but there was just something about that girl that I rooted for her. I understood why Charlie wouldn’t just stop taking her calls. (As a matter of fact, Starrla fascinates me so much, and I am so worried about her, that I want her to have her own book.) Wren’s continuing lack of sympathy for Starrla illustrates just how removed Wren is from any background that is not her own.

And there is a shooting range. How many books have teens visiting a shooting range? And while it’s not that type of book, that The Infinite Moment of Us shows responsible gun ownership made me happy.

There is so much more I want to say. Like how I loved the resolution. And how Wren and Charlie are two good kids. I love books about good kids. And both are smart and kind. They aren’t perfect, but I also loved them for that, also. I loved how they were both also allowed to be immature at times because hello, both are still becoming who they will one do be. So, yes, it’s a Favorite Book Read in 2013.

Other reviews: Stacked; Confessions of a Book Addict.