The Program by Suzanne Young [website • twitter]
Published April 30, 2013 by Simon Pulse
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: depression, suicide, losing memories, destiny, soul mates
Summary: Life for Sloane isn’t perfect. Her brother committed suicide, her best friend was taken into The Program because she was showing signs of suicidal tendencies, and her boyfriend seems to be slipping away as each day passes. While The Program may have been started with the best of intentions, it seems no one is safe from its grip and erasing all their memories.
• • •
Have you ever wondered if you had to choose again — boyfriend, spouse, college, best friends, etc. — if you’d choose differently? What if you were given the opportunity to try? Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, but my hope is that no matter what I’d always be drawn to my husband, Dustyn. He’s the peanut butter to my jelly. He really and truly is my better half. I realize this means I’m saying I believe in soul mates, and I’ve got to be completely honest and say I hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought before.
Since reading The Program by Suzanne Young this has really been on my mind a lot. Sloane is a girl living in a world that’s trying to rid depression because there’s been a suicide epidemic they believe is related to it. Admittedly it isn’t terrible to hope for change, but the treatment involves erasing pieces of the person’s memories to reset them. Sloane’s living in a state of non-existence as she’s afraid to show too much sorrow (over the loss of her brother to suicide and a best friend to The Program) or too much excitement (about her boyfriend James, her one true confidant).
Any sudden shifts in behavior can flag the system and send her to The Program. When a series of events happens that sends James away — after promising he’ll always protect and take care of her — Sloane can’t help but break down. She’s sent away and she desperately tries to hold onto any piece of her memories with James that she can. The Program is manipulative and tricky. They strip everything away. (Note: I thought Young handled the subject of depression really well by tackling how some people assume it just means sadness and exploring that it’s more than just that. The Program was potentially started with the best of intentions, but begins to “fix” people who aren’t broken. This could be so, so interesting to discuss for a book club.)
When’s she’s released back into the real world, she begins to mingle with her peers again at school. She re-meets her former best friend and she clashes heads with James. The strongest draw was seeing whether they would be destined to love each other again. Would their love be strong enough to tie them together despite all the missing information that had been taken from them?
Sloane was a great, strong character who was so determined not to lose herself. She wanted to feel all the good and the bad. Her parents were so overwhelmed with the possibility of losing another child they didn’t really “see” Sloane. They were so broken they’d do anything to make sure she was okay to protect themselves from repeat loss and pain. Destiny, making blind decisions, and fighting against the system for what you believe in are extremely strong elements of The Program that make it such a page-turner and a definite conversation piece.
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Anything Could Happen by Will Walton ( web | tweet )
Published May 26, 2015 by Scholastic Point
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: coming out, best friends, early high school, family
Summary: Tretch’s life in a small town is filled with family, his best friend, and (secret) dancing. Despite his supportive parents, he has yet to tell them his truth: he’s gay. And in love with his best friend (who is most likely not). During winter break, Tretch deals with changes in all corners of his life from the mundane to the enormous — with hot chocolate and some good tunes.
I’m just going to say it: I’m in love with this book.
The holidays, awesome family characters, and a solid best friendship? Pretty much the perfect combination. Debut writer Will Walton plunks us into the winter break of main character Tretch — a good (tad emotional) guy, a hobby choreographer and Taylor Swift worshiper who gets bullied by the kid of his dad’s work colleague. He’s also gay (a secret to everyone else) and in love with his best friend, Matt. (Who could blame him? He’s pretty great.) It sounds pretty tragic, right? I mean, sure. When you’re in high school and don’t have your license yet and you’re unsure of yourself, parts of this list sound pretty bad but even Tretch knows he has it pretty good. He firmly believes if he decided to tell his parents about being gay, they would be totally cool with it. But still, he resists.
I loved that Tretch wanted to hang out with his family and his older brother, Joe. That he loves holidays spent with his grandparents and family time is so special to him. Anything Could Happen brought me back to my early high school years in a way I haven’t experienced in my reading in a long time… it was the most nostalgic hug. Your parents are still embarrassing and you still have to ask permission to spend the night at your best friend’s house and who can forget the lack of independence because you don’t have a car? It wasn’t always so magical but there’s something about those boundaries that felt comforting like a cocoon too.
When so much in life is uncertain, it was great (and so familiar) how much Tretch depended on music, his dancing, and love of literature to get him through. I can’t forget the hot chocolate either. There’s no way I could not be rooting (against all odds) for Tretch to find so much happiness. I cried with him, I laughed with him, and I sure as hell wished I was hanging out with his family during their traditional viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life. Anything Could Happen is as much about weathering the storm with friends and family, as it is about taking the time to understand yourself and sharing that awesome person with people who love and accept you.
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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
I’m sitting in my living room curled up in a blanket (I’m not cold, I just like them) and whew, not believing another month has flown by. WE ARE ABOUT TO HIT THE HALF-YEAR MARK ALREADY. Doesn’t anyone else feel like they haven’t done enough this year yet? Time to get cracking on those resolutions, that’s for sure. M & I have had a pretty active month — my husband graduated from law school, she went on an epic Hawaiian trip to photograph a family wedding, Texas storms, NYC heat, and BEA of course. Here are some of our favorite pics:
Shopping List Musts:
Magan: Kissing in America by Margo Robb / Estelle: Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center
What to Click:
On the Blog:
Reviews | Buy It
Reviews | Worth It
I love that our reads this month were SO fantastic. Has me looking even more forward to June, which is going to include some memorable book events, planning a possible reunion with M, and I’m sure a lot more surprises. Be sure to stick around! Oh — and let us know about your top reads of the month. We want to read them too!
Psst. Don’t forget — Dive Into Diversity check in (with special guest!) on June 9.
We made it! Another week in the bag — and I hope it was a great one. I’m so excited for this month’s PUB DATE theme. We’re roping our friends (outside of the #pubdate square) to pair their own books and brews. Today I’m happy to feature Nisha, one of my closet friends and someone I’ve known since kindergarten. (In fact, she’s no stranger to the blog. She helped out for this Dive Into Diversity Q&A from earlier in the year.)
Like me, she’s a beer and book nerd but like she reminded me many times during her guest posting duties, she is an accountant for a reason. (I say BLAH to that. She’s being way too hard on herself.) Other things to know about Nisha? She’s a jetsetter (my mom is always inquiring about her next trip), she’s mega close to her family, and she allows me to lend her 20 hardcovers at a time. (I am a walking library!) But let’s get to the real stuff… welcome Nisha as she takes the floor…
For me turning 30 is a big deal so I’ve decided to start it off with something a little exciting. My birthday is less than a month away and I’m headed down to New Orleans to celebrate! I’ve never been and am excited to make new memories with my cousins, seeing new sights and experiencing the New Orleans culture. I’m also really excited to try the local beer! This is a must every place I visit and after doing some research, at the top of my list right now is the NOLA Blonde Ale. It was the very first ale created by the NOLA Brewing team and is described as traditional American blonde ale with floral and citrusy hops. I can already taste it!
This beer represents the start of a new chapter in my life. Change is on its way and I have to learn that I can’t control everything. It’s similar to what Julia experiences in Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill.
She isn’t one to break the rules. She is so prepared for everything that she plans her school trip to London down to the very last detail. Until she is paired up with Jason… her complete opposite. He’s very laid back and spontaneous, probably Julia’s worst nightmare. When Julia starts receiving messages from a secret admirer, she enlists Jason’s help and we get some more rule breaking and chance taking. Jason’s methods allow Julia to experience London much differently than she had planned and learn that you can’t always be prepared for everything thrown your way. You just have to enjoy the ride. A lesson we can certainly all be reminded of every now and then.
Thanks so much for stopping in, Nisha! Hope you pack some great books for your NOLA trip and keep us posted about all the local beer you get to sample.
Cheers & happy reading! xo
Asheley takes over Book Addict’s Guide | Andi ABCs | Just a Couple More Pages
Greetings, book pals! I’m so excited to have YA author Anna Banks on Rather Be Reading today to chat about her new book: JOYRIDE (Feiwel & Friends, June 2, 2015). If you are looking for a book with a great “opposites attract” friendship, complex family relationships, and something I’m surprised I don’t see more in YA — pranking! — then you are going to really enjoy this one. I hope you’ll read through my chat with Anna about the core relationship of this book, her inspiration, and pranking tips. No fear, you won’t find any spoilers here. BUT if you do read to the end, you can enter for a chance to win a sparkly finished copy of JOYRIDE to add to your summer reading list.
Anna, I really enjoyed Joyride. It was the perfect companion for a bit of a traveling I did recently. My first question is probably an obvious one. What inspired you to write about a family torn apart because of deportation?
Gosh, there are so many answers to this. One, it’s been a big subject of debate especially in the news as of late, and I found that many people took a harsh view of the matter, instead of a human view. Complete jackasses, if you ask me. I wanted to show people what it’s like to be in that position, and force them to at least admit that immigrants, documented or not, are living breathing people with interests and goals and anxieties just like the rest of us.
Two, over the years, many of my jobs put me in contact with Mexican immigrants, documented and undocumented. The ones who were undocumented shared their stories with me on how they were able to get to the U.S. and what they left behinda, their hopes and dreams of bringing their family over. Their experiences were amazing and heart-wrenching, and the dangers they faced getting here and the everyday risk of getting deported really left an impression on me. The writer in me began to wonder what it would be like living as a teen and going through this. That’s how JOYRIDE started unfolding in my little brain.
Even though Carly and Arden didn’t start their friendship in a super conventional way, I loved that their relationship wasn’t on the fast lane to falling in love with each other either. What are some of your favorite books that feature guys and girls that start out as friends?
My favorite book with friends-first is Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, with Mal and Alina. They are close to each other, and loyal, but it takes a while for the romance to kick in. Mal drove me freaking crazy at first, but it kept me turning the pages. There was a point in my reading life where I devoured books with insta-love or at least insta-attraction plot themes (I’m a complete romance junkie) but now I’d rather have that push and pull, that testing and challenging and slow realization that there are feelings deeper than friendship there. I thought it would be more realistic with Carly and Arden, since they are pretty much opposites in every way.
Joyride explores so much about obligation — obligation to your family vs. yourself and what happens when you might have to make a choice between the two. This is constantly something that pops up in life whether you’re in high school or a big kid like me. Who do you think was in the tougher spot here: Carly or Arden?
Geez, these are great questions! I think Carly has it a bit rougher than Arden. Family is an essential part of Mexican culture—doing what it takes to make sure everyone is cared for. With Carly, there was this internal struggle because she wanted to be true to that, to what was ingrained in her since childhood, and that is completely understandable and totally admirable. But I think for teens and big kids ☺ it’s important to find a balance between your happiness and your responsibilities. Carly goes from one extreme to the other before finding that balance, and that may be what we all need in order to find peace with our circumstances.
Even though Mr. Shackleford and Carly don’t know each other so well, he’s still a special adult in her life. He watches out for her without even knowing her story. Did you have someone like this in your life? A blessing in disguise?
I’ve had many. My sisters have been my saviors more times than I can count, and probably more than I even know about. My dad died when I was 14, and my mom and I were pretty poor. I know we couldn’t have made it without my sisters’ help, both financially and emotionally. Of course, Mr. Shackleford isn’t exactly based on my sisters—they’re not philosophical town drunks who have a tendency to urinate in convenience store aisles….So….
What’s the key to a successful prank?
There are so many keys. Keeping a straight face while you watch it being executed is a biggie, because if not, you’re totally caught and you’re a complete amateur. Targeting the right people is also important. If you’re scaring people, you don’t want to go after the elderly—can we say heart attack? Instead shoot for high school kids or unsuspecting middle aged Walmart shoppers. Also, go for people who won’t throat punch you. That may be the best advice..
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Note: The above giveaway is open to U.S. & Canadian readers, 13 & up.
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Thanks to Macmillan Kids for providing an early copy of this book & the giveaway copy!
KISSING IN AMERICA by Margo Rabb [web | tweet]
Published by Harper Teen on May 26, 2015
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: first love, parental loss, airplane crash, detached mothers
Summary: Not many things have gone right for Eva, but when she meets Will and they connect over personal losses they’ve both suffered through, she feels like she’s finally piecing herself back together again. Until Will has to move across the country and she’s not sure how or when she’ll ever see him again.
• • •
Kissing in America was my in-flight book of choice a few weeks ago. Usually I do a little bit of reading about the book before I jump right in, but I’d momentarily forgotten to download my review books to my kindle so I quickly did that moments before I was told to temporarily turn off my devices. I hadn’t even read the summary when I began, and I’m pretty sure that made reading this book even more special — I had no expectations.
Eva is a pretty typical teenager — she struggles with fitting in, is angered by how detached her mom can be one moment and how suffocating she feels the next, and has one solid best friend, Annie. But there’s something that sets Eva apart, too. Her father died two years ago in an airplane crash. The piqued curiosity she received when telling people about his death infuriated her so much she began to tell people he died peacefully in his sleep from a heart attack. (Meanwhile her mother never, ever mentions him and discarded any trace of him weeks after he died.)
When she begins tutoring Will by proofing his college essays and English papers, they connect over their personal tragedies. His younger brother died as an infant and his mother has never recovered from the loss. As Eva’s adoration for Will grows, she can’t lie to him anymore about her dad’s death. She spills the truth to him and this bonds them even more; she loves that she can be honest about all of these pieces of her no one except Annie knows: how she secretly reads messages in a forum for the surviving family members of the airplane crash or how she hoarded some of her dad’s belongings before her mother could toss them out. Their love for reading and poetry, their losses, and their easy banter bind Will and Eva together over the course of the school year.
Just when things have hit their stride, Will’s forced to move to California. How will these two ever reunite (especially considering she could never fly there)? Kissing in America is a strong tale about first love, healing, heartbreak, parental struggles, not always seeing eye-to-eye, and best friendship stress when you suck at life and let someone down. Eva and Annie find a way to road trip to CA by entering in a game show competition to find the Smartest Girl in America. Annie is a brilliant girl destined for MIT, but she’s overwhelmed by the cost of it and knows her parents couldn’t afford it. This could be her ticket to her dreams.
With much hesitation and a few embarrassing rules in place, Annie and Eva are allowed to road trip from New York to Los Angeles. This was by far my favorite aspect of the book. They meet a crazy bus thief, a few Texas cowboys (who were severely over-exaggerated, but still so fun), and get some solid advice from Eva’s mom’s best friend Lulu. There were moments of such extreme realness in Kissing in America that made me feel like an eavesdropper/stalker along for the bus trip.
The remainder of Kissing in America needs to be experienced by you and I should stop babbling on. (But believe me I could chat forever about this one.) It made me giggle, brought tears to my eyes, made me think about the type of mother I hope to be, and even frightened me a little bit as the details of her father’s plane crash were revealed. It’s one of those books that gives you a whole lot of story in the best and simplest of ways, with characters you love, and a great sadness when it’s all over.
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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.