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Book Report: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Hey there, friends! So it kind of seemed like our joint reviews/book reports fell by the wayside, huh? We took a hiatus from them for a little while, but we’re excited to be reviving this feature because we just miss talking about books together. There’s just something delightful and wonderful and exhilarating about reading the book at the same time as your BFF. Am I right?

Today we’re discussing the latest release by Stephanie Perkins, Isla and the Happily Ever After. Just a little note: we don’t reveal any specific spoilers, but be warned that things could be alluded to.

Joint Book Review for Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (website | twitter)
Other Books Reviewed: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher:  Dutton
Pages: 339
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: Paris, New York, boy/girl best friendship, senior year
Format Read: We both purchased copies!

Summary (from Goodreads): Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Just in case you need a visual reminder of who we are:

Magan Magan
Estelle Estelle

♥ ♥ ♥

 

Magan Well, hello, Estelle! Ready to talk about Isla?
Estelle So very ready! (And happy to be back for our first joint review in awhile. Hooray!)
Magan I know! I feel pretty emotional about this one. I’m so excited for more work from Stephanie Perkins, but I think the anticipation of Isla really carried me through after Lola came out. And now that there’s no more in this little companion series, I’m SO sad.
Estelle I’m a little sad too. It reminds me of graduating high school and all your friends dispersing to different schools for the first time. You’re excited but there’s also a little hole there.
Magan Exactly! Especially with how the characters appeared in Isla, it felt like a giant group hug, and then ended with a sob-fest as we waved goodbye. I think one thing that stood out to me most about Isla was that this relationship with Josh was very different, and maybe because we did the readalong, it was very apparent that Stephanie told their story differently. In the past, Lola and Anna had a lot of buildup and anticipation. In Isla, we see she and Josh connect and then there’s a lot of discord and growth and pain.
Estelle It’s funny we are talking about this tonight (a day after I saw Stephanie at a reading in NYC) because she talked about that and I found her answer very fascinating.
Magan Oh, please share. This is one thing I would love to have a on-on-one conversation with her about.
Estelle She did that on purpose and said so many of Isla’s feelings were parallels with her own and how she felt about being successful or believing people could enjoy her work.
Magan So Isla is ultimately more of a reflection of Stephanie? I wondered while I was reading.
Estelle I think in some part all of the leading ladies were a part of her but (I think I’m remembering this right) Isla was the one who healed her. I thought that was so lovely, and made me love this character so much more.
Magan Oh gosh. Why is that making me tear up? I’m such a girl.
Estelle It’s an emotional story! I have so much respect for Stephanie and how open she was about the rough times she had personally. On top of all of that, she could have published an okay book but was not okay with doing so. That’s some strong work ethic, and this is why she is loved by so many. You can see all of the effort and emotion she puts into her stories.
Magan I’m so glad that Stephanie pushed herself to change things up in her writing-style. It showed a completely different side to what she’s capable of doing. It stretched me as a reader to relate to Isla and really taught me a lot about feeling so much for Josh and not really knowing much of his story.
Estelle This love fest is so much fun.
Magan Oh, man! YES! I loved all the guy hugs and the bromance.
Estelle ME too. (Stephanie has created a lot of opportunities where she could write novellas for us sometime. Wink wink.) Were you worried because we saw him in a relationship in ANNA that ISLA wouldn’t feel legit?
Magan No, because I think that Stephanie gave us enough subtle clues that his relationship with Rashmi wasn’t a healthy one. I liked that we got to see a little pre-Isla with him, actually. It felt more authentic, I think, because many times YA books depict relationships as perfect and we imagine the characters running off into the sunset for their happily ever after… and the truth is that the person they’re with might not be their forever person. I say that.. and I married the guy I dated in high school.;)
Estelle Haha. I actually liked that we got more insight into that relationship because for so long I just thought of Josh as that guy who was always making out with that girl in front of people.
Magan Hahah! Me too! It was so nice to see the larger picture. How did you relate to Isla? Were you understanding of her character and the decisions she made?
Estelle This might have been my only complaint with the book. I bought how she wanted him and the euphoria she felt when it all fell into place, and even her insecurity. I did. But I think we needed a little more background? I wanted to see more of her sisters. There could have been a little bit more depth to all the time we see her alone. Does that make sense?
Magan It does. And it’s what I was hoping you would say because I felt the same. I think a wee bit more of her pre-Josh might have been the answer for me. I think those insecurities would have been realized much sooner as a reader to make more sense when the tension really escalates.
Estelle Same. She just seemed like such a NICE person that there were some characteristics that didn’t seem very Isla to me (not asking her sister about her breakup is one). A little more interference from the outside world of the school would have been the ticket. Though part of me is like Stephanie did achieve something here because she really took her readers out of their comfort zone. The settings of the book changed so much.
Magan Gosh, they did. Their school became so much more to me. I thought about Paris in such a different way.
Estelle It wasn’t exactly the close knit school it was in book 1. It was almost like… it’s definitely time to say goodbye.
Magan Definitely! Partially because Isla was so isolated. Anna’s world opened up with all the friends she made, but Isla really didn’t make Paris her home in the same way. I think a lot of that had to do with her best friend, Kurt. That relationship was so wonderful AND so heart-breaking.
Estelle I agree. I really enjoyed him. I have to redo my list of books of guys and girl best friends because that one really worked for me. But it also made me frustrated with her! I wanted her to be a better friend. (But, friends, please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. All of us are dismissive at times and don’t realize what we are doing and it didn’t change how I felt about Isla but still!!!!)
Magan On the other hand, part of me realized what it can be to depend on a friend so heavily that you don’t open yourself up to other possibilities. Isla, in many ways, was so loyal to him that she didn’t make any other friends.
Estelle Ah. Great point. I can’t top that, Magan. You win. Well, actually, I was proud of Kurt for going out and doing what was best for him.
Magan Yes! I was proud of him, too. But part of me wonders if Isla was holding him back too. Being so protective over him that they BOTH weren’t able to blossom.
Estelle This was one of those occasions where distance is good for both people. They needed to find their own way so they could be better friends to each other.
Magan Absolutely! I love that! I think friendships can be depicted as either perfect or incredibly destructive, and in this instance, it was such a strong representation of how there can be some turmoil, but growth and maturity and a stronger friendship prevail in the end.
Estelle YES. I mean, even Josh was dealing with a lot of change at school with most of his friends away. We see him dealing (or not) dealing with long distance friendships and also starting fresh in his last year.
Magan Gosh, just thinking about his storyline makes my heart pitter-patter. It was so great to experience him longing for his friends. Not that he hurt, but seeing his vulnerability. And getting to learn the WHY behind being such a slacker, what exactly he was working on with his drawings (OMG – loved that part), and his family dynamics, crappy as they were.
Estelle I’m going to be corny but it felt like a meant-to-be moment. Him and Isla striking up this relationship. Like all the signs were pointing to this possibility.
Magan Oh for sure. It was just so delightful. Imperfectly delightful.
Estelle How did you feel about their time apart? Did it do something to the pacing for you or did it build up the tension?
Magan That feels like such a hard question to answer. It made me feel really sad. I felt like there was such a heavy weight on my chest. Because I noticed that Stephanie changed things up in her approach to telling their story, I wondered if Isla wasn’t going to have the outcome I was hoping for. I wondered if Isla’s big happily ever after was going to be accepting herself, believing she had worth, etc., and maybe not getting the boy. Does that even make sense? Sort of like female-empowerment.
Estelle No, it really makes sense. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen either and I so got that lonely, empty feeling when Isla and Josh were apart. But I also felt like… c’mon girl, this is YOUR time. It’s time to get your shit together. This is probably because I’m older than her but I couldn’t help but think of how much she would regret sitting around moping when she looked back a few years down the line. (I was that girl once, and I still get upset I acted that way.)
Magan Oh, absolutely. I felt so sad that she thought so little of herself. I know that is a very valid feeling and often feel like that, too, but she took it to extremes before understanding how they could affect her.
Estelle Is Josh your new favorite?
Magan Oh, dang. You’ve got me there. I loved every single one of Stephanie’s boys. St. Clair’s personality was amazing. His charm! And Cricket’s wisdom and height and great style! And Josh’s artistic eye and sensitivity. Wrap those up for me, please.
Estelle hahaha. I don’t LIKE to choose favorites but I felt like Josh would have been the best match for me. If that makes sense. Like a realistic, that could happen match. So maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for him. Plus he was from NYC so at some point our love story could come true!
Magan Hahah! Is Josh your James? Do you see similarities between them?
Estelle Oh god. I don’t know. I mean they are both artistic and were slackers in high school/college. It’s possible.
Magan Hahaha!
Estelle We’ve said so much tonight. Anything else you wanted to mention? Something we missed?
Magan Hmm. I feel like this has been so therapeutic. It’s helping me accept and find closure. I will forever want there to be more to read from Stephanie Perkins.
Estelle I agree. I’m a fan of hers for life, no matter what she does next. It does feel like the end of an era, especially because I feel SP’s work had such a hand in the birth of RBR.
Magan I think that’s a HUGE part of my sadness. Anna is one of the first books we ever gushed over together.
Estelle BUT it does mean we can spread the love to others FOREVER and reread whenever we want to relive all these feelings. I know they look like silly contemporary YAs but, especially in YA, Stephanie has created some amazing books about young women confronting change, sex, bravery, and more. She’s constantly remembered for the hot guys she brings to the tables but she does just as many fantastic things for the ladies in young adult books. MIC DROP
Magan HAHAHAH! Perfect ending! You’ve said it so well. We’ve seen three very different girls who were all struggling to find their way and their boys. Stephanie gave us three girls we could all find pieces of ourselves in and I think her work will inspire girls to take risks, be bold, make friends, and push the limits. *slow clap for Stephanie Perkins*
Estelle THE END

How did you feel about Isla and the Happily Ever After?
Tell us why you’ll miss this series the most…

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October 8, 2014 - 10:59 pm

Alexa S. - Ladies, it makes my heart so happy that you’re reviewing together again on RBR! It’s been much too long. And every single thing you’ve said about Isla? I’m pretty much in agreement with it all. I personally will miss Steph’s book because she not only crafts delightful, swoony romances, but she also brings to life characters that are real and flawed and wonderful to be around. And she manages to include family and friends and other things too!

October 8, 2014 - 8:01 am

Book Report: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez - […] In the past, we’ve done lots of gushing as we’ve oohed and ahhed over books like ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, but today’s discussion involves a few differing opinions on our overall opinion of KISS KILL […]

September 27, 2014 - 10:52 pm

Danielle @ Love at First Page - Loved reading all your thoughts! I wish I could hear Stephanie Perkins speak in person, because she sounds like such a sweetheart and so genuine and insightful. I can definitely see how this book was an extension of her feelings at the time while writing. It’s amazing all that she went through and was able to give us a beautiful book.
Isla is definitely my favorite of the series – I enjoyed the progression of their relationship, and I like that they get together almost immediately. That happens much more often than YA books would have us believe. :P

September 23, 2014 - 2:37 pm

Meg - Love this! And so glad Isla was a winner for you both. I’m eagerly anticipating my own reading of this one . . . I loved Anna and felt strongly positive about Lola, so I was hoping the series would end on a high note.

September 23, 2014 - 10:56 am

Brianna - What a fun way to review a book. I wish I had a book BFF.

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Estelle: Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle CromptonAdrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 9/23/2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Pages: 192
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: daredevil, therapy, falling in love, family
Format read: ARC paperback from the publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Dyna loves how she feels when she takes risks. When she gets seriously hurt in a fall, her mom forces her into a therapy program that she finds totally laughable. She doesn’t plan on doing anything out of her comfort zone ever again, even if the doctors do say her ankle can get better. But meeting the people in her group especially a war vet a few years older than her makes her wonder if she can find a balance in her life.

So 192 pages is short for a young adult book, right?

The size intrigued me because there’s only one other I can think of (Something Like Normal by Trish Doller) that manages to tell a complete story in a compact book. Could Adrenaline Crush do the same?

For the most part, it did. Crompton gave us a great sense of this supportive and unconventional family, Dyna’s thirst for adventure, and how her fall makes her rethink why she loves to do things that give her a crazy rush even if it means risking her health and her life. She’s never thought about consequences before because she’s never had to. So now what?

Her accident not only changes her own way of thinking but it also alters her mom’s usual easy-going nature. Suddenly, Mom is feeling over-protective and wondering if her and her husband have given their kids too much freedom to pursue what they wanted. The lack of boundaries lands one kid in the hospital and Dyna’s older brother is wasting his time smoking up and avoiding decisions about his own future. On the other hand, Dyna’s dad is confused by this change in his wife and urges his daughter to get healthy and get back on the saddle.

Then there’s Jay — a boy from Dyna’s school who ends up at the scene of the accident, saves her, and becomes her boyfriend. Their attachment to one another is based on Dyna’s accident more so than knowing each other well. Don’t get me wrong — he’s totally devoted but at some point, the two were going to have to discuss how they fell for each other so quickly. Was it a real or was it kind of convenient?

See? That’s a lot for 192 pages and I haven’t even talked about the therapy center yet. An oddball group of people of various backgrounds and ages talking in a circle about their fears and what they want to overcome. Dyna thinks it’s a bit hokey but even her cold heart is melted when she starts to get to know these people and takes part in field trips to help them. The instantly good looking Pierce helps a bit with that too. He was injured in the war, helping out friends and he’s returned to the therapy group to assist. But you can tell he is still healing too.

Obviously, Pierce and Dyna already have more in common than her and Jay. I’m not a fan of love triangle scenarios but I truly believe that you cannot help who you fall for and these two develop a friendship before they are talking about “what this all means”. Crompton handled the boys in this story really well. It was respectful and it felt authentic.

Could Adrenaline Crush worked better as a longer book? In some ways, yes. I would have liked to see a better developed resolution, more dialogue with her family (they are just so great), and more of a glimpse into Dyna’s thinking process as she seesawed between being a risk taker and playing it safe. Interference from her parents would have worked well here too. All in all, the book kept me interested and was definitely enjoyable, even if it won’t be a forever favorite.

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Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | Magan’s review of Blazed by Laurie Crompton

October 8, 2014 - 10:54 pm

Alexa S. - The concept of Adrenaline Crush is pretty neat! I like that it really explores Dyna’s understanding of herself, as well as the relationships in her life. Even though the short length still stumps me, and I couldn’t get into the story well the first time I tried, I’m glad to hear that it was pretty good.

September 24, 2014 - 9:44 am

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton | Review + Giveaway -Katie's Book Blog - […] Rather Be Reading’s review: “All in all, the book kept me interested and was definitely enjoyable, even if it won’t be a forever favorite.” […]

September 22, 2014 - 3:04 pm

Lea @ YA Book Queen - Glad the author managed to fill those 192 pages – short books always make me nervous (although Something Like Normal managed to pleasantly surprise me – that book is amazing).

Nice review! :)

September 22, 2014 - 10:39 am

Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader - I can still remember how shocked I was the first time I learned how short this novel is but I’m happy to hear that (for the most part) it doesn’t negatively affect the depth and resonance of the story itself. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this novel on NetGalley and now I’m even more excited to begin it having read your review. Any sort of examination of familial relationships in YA literature is disappointingly rare, so I was particularly happy to hear that this was something Crompton touched upon. While it may not leave a lasting impression or prove a book I re-read again and again, I’m still really inspired by the subject matter and I can’t wait to experience it all firsthand :) Thank you for the great, balanced review, Estelle!

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Lindsey Lane on Storytelling + Evidence of Things Not Seen

Evidence of Things Unseen by Lindsey Lane

(From Lindsey Lane:) When I go into a school for an author visit, I always tell students that the cool thing about writing is that there are no right or wrong answers. There’s spelling. There’s grammar and punctuation. But really, there is no right way to tell a story. For me, as long as I’m telling a story that is true to a character’s heart then I’m doing my job as a writer.

When I started writing EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, it was a series of linked short stories, all of which occurred around a patch of dirt by the side of the road, which is called a pull-out. You see, I woke up from a dream and saw a boy standing in a pull out and wondered what the heck he was doing there. Then a lot of different characters showed up at the pull out, each for a different reason, each with a different desire. Eventually I discovered Tommy, a brilliant, socially awkward high school boy who goes missing from that pull out. Once I ‘found’ Tommy, I knew his absence could pull all the stories together. In a weird way, Tommy would be the negative space at the heart of the novel around which all the stories of the people in the town revolved, only their stories would be a bit off course in the way that things go a bit wobbly when someone is missing.

That’s also when I added the fist person sections of the kids talking to the Sheriff about Tommy. I needed the urgency of their voices and their knowledge of Tommy to weave the world of the novel together. I took a risk interjecting first person sections with the third person stories. I mean, in the end, the reader of EVIDENCE steps into the perspective of twenty-one characters. That’s a lot to ask a reader but I think we live in this crazy exciting time as storytellers. Graphic novels. Fan fiction. Flash fiction. Novels in verse. It’s insane. And that’s just the reading format. If you turn on the television or go to the movies and plays, writers are taking big risks with story telling. Leaps in time, point of view shifts, simultaneous realities are all pretty common now. Do they all work? Probably not. But if your story is true to a character’s heart, your reader will go anywhere with you.

About EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN: When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pullout off the highway, so maybe someone snatched him. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it may be true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

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Lindsey Lane AuthorAbout LINDSEY LANE:  Award-winning author Lindsey Lane is proud to announce her debut YA novel EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers on September 16, 2014. Her picture book SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN (Clarion, 2003) is now available as an iTunes app, which Digital Storytime describes as “heartwarming and adorable with rich illustrations and lyrical text.” In 2010, Lindsey received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Lindsey is a featured presenter at many schools where she gets kids (of all ages) excited about writing. When she is not writing, reading or being a mom, Lindsey loves sweating at Bikkram yoga, seeing movies and plays, and enjoying some of the outrageously good food at Austin restaurants with friends.

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October 8, 2014 - 10:50 pm

Alexa S. - I really agree with Lindsey – there’s no right or wrong way to tell a story! There are just plenty of different ways that will work in different mediums and for different people. Really enjoyed reading her guest post!

September 25, 2014 - 2:11 pm

Lindsey Lane - Thank you for letting me stop by and share my storytelling thoughts with your readers.

September 25, 2014 - 12:01 am

Guest Post: “Room With A Chair” by Lindsey Lane - […] 17, 2014 – Gone With the Words September 18, 2014 – Katie’s Book Blog September 21, 2014 – Rather Be Reading September 22, 2014 – Alexa Loves Books September 23, 2014 – The Book Cellar September 24, 2014 […]

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Pub Date: Fall Fest (Brews + a Book)

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Our apartment windows are open; there’s pumpkin spice everywhere. Did you ever notice how people don’t know how to dress when seasons change? Some in shorts, others in boots while all the beer taps have had Oktoberfest and pumpkin-whatever for the last four weeks. (Sigh. The damn holiday creep.) Anyway, I’m glad the cooler weather cooperated with my round of Pub Date. Last week, Brittany kicked us off with a fall brew and I’m up to bat next with one of the books I treasure the most.

Here we go…

Narraganset Fest Lager and Openly Straight by Bill Konisberg

Narragansett Fest Lager = yum. I have never had a fall beer in a can (this is a new development) and I liked that even though this beer was heavier than I’ve been used to all summer, it was still on the light side. This beer is New England’s oldest beer and the official beer of the Red Sox  (I know this makes Andi happy) which segues perfectly into my book pick: Openly Straight (my review from last summer).

Bill Konisberg has created one of my favorite books in the world about a character named Rafe who escapes his open town in Colorado where he is a celebrated gay teenager to a boarding school in New England where he doesn’t want to be defined by his sexuality at all. It works for a time, until it just can’t anymore. New friends, new feelings, and dealing with all he has left behind = a book full of such heart and honesty. Everyone needs to red this, and then pop open a Narragansett. (Lots of baseball jokes in the book too.)

For me more than any other season, fall feels like a new beginning. After sweating through the summer, it’s nice to snuggle into the comfort of your warmer clothes, seeking out the drinks and snacks you forgot about in the summer, and breathing in that fresh air. People go back to school, leaves start to fall from the trees and nothing beats an autumn in the Northeast. (I’m biased, probably.) Rafe’s time at boarding school, and his extreme efforts to keep who he really is a secret because he’s not sure that’s who he should have to be pair so perfectly with a less intense first brew for your fall.

As a bonus recommendation, try out Peak Organic Hop Harvest Oktoberfest.

As always, cheers and happy reading!:)

Psst. Don’t forget to leave any of your own fall beer recommendations below!

October 8, 2014 - 10:48 pm

Alexa S. - I just love seeing what beers you guys pick for each Pub Date post! That’s the fun part for me (and a great way for me to find recommendations from y’all). Also, I’ve not yet read Openly Straight, but I definitely want to. Add it to the TBR pile threatening to fall onto my head at any moment!

September 20, 2014 - 3:22 am

Cassie - FALL BEER IN A CAN!?? Can that sentence get better??? I THINK NOT! Plus, I’ve wanted to read this SINCE your review! :-D I continue to ADORE this feature!!! <3 <3 xxoxoo

September 19, 2014 - 10:49 am

Brianna - Fall is my favorite time of year. We are not yet having fall in Northern Nevada, but I hope it hurries up. I want to wear pants and boots and sweaters. I am tired of dresses and sandals.

September 19, 2014 - 10:17 am

Mary @ BookSwarm - I’m in love with this post concept! As a beer & book lover myself, I have to admit that a good brew with a good book equals a near-perfect afternoon for me. I’m adding both the book and the beer to my to-try list. Cheers!

September 19, 2014 - 9:18 am

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - This book wasn’t on my radar before but it sounds really interesting! What do you think… Brittany book?
Ahh I get so jealous of everyone else’s local beers. I always feel like Chicagoland doesn’t have a lot of good local brews. But maybe I’m just used to them haha! They both look great! :D

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Estelle: Jessica Darling’s IT List 2 by Megan McCafferty

Jessica DarlingJessica Darling’s IT List 2 by Megan McCafferty ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 9/16/2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 208
Target audience: middle grade/JD fans!
Keywords: making friends, middle school, big sisters, family
Format read: ARC from Elena at Novel Sounds. (Thanks!)

Summary: Despite the “luck” she had with the last IT list her sister passed on to her, Jessica needs all the help she can get as old friendships change and new ones in emerge.

While reading Jessica Darling’s IT List Part 2, I was reminded of how much Jessica marches to her own drum. Even though she gets comments on the old band t-shirts she loves to wear and how she wants to dress up like the Periodical Table of Elements for Halloween, she doesn’t change.

The fact that those things stay put when she is literally (I used it right!) questioning everything about her life? Totally admirable.

In the second book of this middle grade series, Jessica is navigating friendships like whoa. Her best friend Bridget seems to be relying more and more on the popular crowd and putting a lot of effort into her boyfriend. Then there’s Hope, who is someone Jess really clicks with but can be so hot and cold. And what about the girls on the track team? How does she know what’s real and what’s not when it seems like her longest and most important friendship is crumbling?

One of the the biggest highlights of this book for me was Jessica’s relationship with her grandma. With her parents so occupied, her grandmother is staying with them for a few weeks and I loved the sounding board she provided when Jessica was feeling a little lost. Not going to lie — made me tear up in some spots because of my own close relationship with my grandma at that age. It was a nice touch to have her a part of the story.

Once again, reading this brought me back to so many of the titles I loved at this age and also made me want to dust off my copy of Sloppy Firsts and get addicted to this heroine from the beginning I know best. I love that these books serve two purposes: entertaining young readers with realistic story lines and a pinch of humor and reminding us Jessica veterans why she is so important to us.

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September 17, 2014 - 11:57 pm

elena - you review made me re-affirm that i REALLY need to re-read the jessica darling series!! this sounds like a delightful middle grade and yay grandma relationships. sounds like the perfect amount of nostalgia!

September 17, 2014 - 2:52 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I recently brought the first book in this It List series home. I’m excited to read it. It looks soooo cute!

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