Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman ( web | tweet )
Published January 20, 2015 by Henry Holt & Co.
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: intersex individual, family, friendship
Format read: ARC paperback from Macmillan. (Thank you!)
Summary: Born with male and female genitalia, Alex has decided to become more public with the fact that she identifies more with being a female. Much to the surprise of her parents, Alex stops taking medication, enrolls in a new school, and is determined to get the sex on her birth certificate changed. In addition to the pressures of her parents and making friends at her new school, Alex is dealing day-to-day with her feelings and navigating a path to self-acceptance and happiness.
This is my first reading experience featuring an intersex character, and I’m mighty proud that Alex as Well is a young adult book. As difficult as it is to put yourself in Alex’s shoes as she stumbles through this monumental and difficult time of her life, void of much support, this book proved to be a fast read — very personable and intriguing — even if it dropped off at the end.
Imagine your parents made a decision about who you were before they should have. This is basically what Alex is dealing with. Deciding she was a male, Alex has been taking medication for a long time and finally decides to stop because of the fact that she identifies much more with being a female. I tried to give her parents the benefit of the doubt. They thought they were doing what was best for their child — making a choice but also filling Alex’s life with many neutralities. So when Alex makes her admission to her mom and dad — her dad bolts out of guilt and her mom acts like this is a personal blow.
It’s interesting, actually, because Brugman folds in chapters of blog posts by Alex’s mom, discussing how she feels about being a mother to Alex and her latest proclamation of her womanhood. Some comments are also included from the sensitive to the “who the fuck do you think you are” crowd, which felt like a true reflection of what people (and the peanut gallery) might be saying about intersexed individuals. Alex’s mom lets it all hang out, not afraid to sound totally unreasonable and make Alex’s life choice all about HER. It’s gross and disheartening, and all I hoped was that this family would receive professional help.
The one bright light in Alex’s life was Crockett, a lawyer Alex seeks out to help her with a change on her birth certificate. Their scenes together are few, but still meaningful, because he’s one of the only people that seems to listen to Alex and want to actually help her. Not in a way that helps himself, but in a way that actually puts her on a path to a happier life. (Smart move on Brugman’s part to tap into the legalities side of a situation like this one too.)
Even though Alex has a ton on her plate, she’s strong and I wish we could have tapped more into that with a longer, fuller story. There were so many aspects of this novel that skimmed the surface and with a lively voice like Alex’s, I would have gladly hung on for more.
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You hear a lot of people talk about turning 30. When my husband had this birthday two years ago, he was a little freaked out and he (the kind guy he is) keeps reminding me of this now. I’m slowly but surely getting to that birthday (about two weeks to go) and I’m not going to deny feeling a little anxious and sweaty about it. Yea, yea, it’s just a number and I have no idea who I am stacking myself up against but I feel a bit behind in the things I want to have accomplished “by now”. But again, wherever I got the this-is-where-I-am-supposed-to-be memo, could never factor in what’s happened to me in almost 30 years either so I can start ignoring that. Right?
Since this is on my mind, I’m going shopping with you guys today. We don’t even have to put on pants or leave our homes! (You heard me.) Here are a few items I’ve been coveting in the last few weeks. What is it about the bitter winter, post-Christmas time that makes me want to shop so much? I have no idea. I’ve been good though and opted to buy myself a coffee a day instead. (Maybe I AM responsible in my old age.) Hope you enjoy this!
Canvas & Leather A Satchel in Crosswalk Stripe ( Saturday.com | $225 ) Right after Christmas my favorite Kate Spade bag broke. The strap literally fell out of the bag, and since I’ve had it for almost 3 years, it wasn’t worth me trying to fix it. Sigh. I was so depressed because I adored that bag and always got a ton of compliments on it. I’m on the prowl for a new one, and this one popped up recently. I love it and it must scream ESTELLE because Andi sent me a link (“you need this!”) without me even mentioning it to her.
Feathered Sky Earrings ( Spool No. 72 | $22 ) No joke. As soon as I saw these, I put them in the cart but I’m being good. Ever since I cut my hair, long earrings have become my favorite accessory to buy. Aren’t these awesome? I love them so much. (In fact, this whole site could put me into large debt. I adore everything.)
Skeleton Key Bangle in Silver ( Alex & Ani | $28 ) I love that this bracelet stands for. POWER. CHOICE. LIBERATION. I can’t think of any other words I would want to use to describe the year ahead.
Too Faced Flush Blush ( Sephora | $30 ) I’m still buying drugstore blush and, you know, it’s not really THAT great. I’ve been eyeing a set like this for a long time. How cute is this packaging? I think 30 is a good reason to splurge on a set like this one. (Please if you know a good blush brand I am ignoring me, TELL ME in the comments.)
Judy Blume Teen Collection ( B&N | $37 ) I love these brand new covers for Judy’s books and I don’t own all of these (even if I’ve read most of them) = BONUS. Judy has been such an integral part of my childhood, and, as an adult, I still look forward to her new books (we get one this year) and enjoy re-reading all her work.
What calms you before a BIG day? Any inspiration advice for 30? I did love this recent article from the New Yorker: An Ode to 29.
Thanks for shopping with me today! I owe you a coffee
Love on the Lifts by Jill Santopolo [twitter | website]
Publication Date: January 22, 2015
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: create your own story, ski resort, recovering from a breakup
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: In this create-your-own-story, you’ve just broken up with your boyfriend and have traveled to a ski resort where your sister encourages you to kiss another boy to quickly get over your ex.
Love on the Lifts is a fun, quick, interactive read because you decide what happens next for the main character. Yep, it’s a create-your-own-story book! (How did I miss out on these when I was in middle and high school? This is my first to have ever read!) The story begins with a girl who has just broken up with her cheating boyfriend. She’s arriving at a ski resort with her parents and older sister. Her sister thinks that the best way to get over one guy is to kiss another, and she encourages the hesitant, heart-broken MC to have fun, meet boys, and kiss one of them.
I decided when I began Love on the Lifts that I wouldn’t read every scenario; since this was my first go at this type of story, I wanted to see how I worked my way through it. Apparently, I chose the shortest route possible. I so, so quickly went from cover to cover. (And I admit I made decisions that I thought would really complicate my ability to meet a kissable boy!) Skimming through the alternate endings was a lot of fun too. I can’t begin to count how many times have I finished a book and really wished the main character had ended up with someone different; at least in this situation, it was all in my control.
If you’re looking for something fun to break up your reading pattern, give Love on the Lifts a try. It was extremely helpful to have something light-hearted sitting on my bookshelves after finishing the topsy turvy Twisted Fate.
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Welcome to our first edition of LITTLE KIDS! Estelle’s been hanging out in the adult aisles for quite a while now and I’ve been squatting on much-too-small stools reading books to Everett and H. Over the last two years, I’ve developed some strong attachments to kids books that I really want to share with you guys. Whether or not you’re looking for yourself, a friend, or if you’re a librarian/mom/kids book lover and have something amazing to share, I really hope you’ll join in on the conversation.
This month we’re starting with winter favorites. It doesn’t really snow much in Texas, but that doesn’t mean we’re not mesmerized by it. I love a good wintery, cold day, snuggling up under blankets, drinking hot chocolate, and reading. I hope that Everett will learn to love it too. I also want to teach her about new things, even if it’s not something she’ll get to experience right now.
Snowflake graphic created by The Graphics Fairy.
The Big Snow • The Snowy Day • Owl Moon • White Snow Bright Snow
Snow • Over and Under • When Winter Comes • Recommend a Book to Us…
A few of these titles (actually, the whole top row, and the bottom-left book) we personally own and have read this year. Owl Moon is probably my favorite of these because it’s about a father and son’s journey into a snowy night in search of spotting an owl. One thing to note is that several of these are award winners. I was very curious about them and why they might have won awards. Snow, in particular, is written a little differently. Here’s a little excerpt:
“It’s snowing,” said boy with dog.
“It’s only a snowflake,” said grandfather with beard.
Over and Under and When Winter Comes, are ones that have caught my eye and I’d like to add to our collection, but haven’t read quite yet. Maybe Everett and I will be adventuring to our local library to check them out soon! My hope is to build our little home library so that as the seasons change, we can cycle through books and what we’re “teaching” Everett.
• • •
Do you have any favorite childhood books? I would love recommendations!
I Was Here by Gayle Forman ( web | twitter )
Published January 27, 2015 by Penguin/Viking Books
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: post-high school, secrets, suicide, mystery, class
Format read: ARC borrowed from Alex. (Thanks!)
Summary: Cody is shocked to receive an email from her best friend, Meg, telling her that she has committed suicide. The Meg she has loved forever would never do something like this. Filled with grief she doesn’t know what to do with, Cody sets forth to get to the bottom of Meg’s mysterious death and stumbles upon some hard truths.
What do you say about a book that is beautifully, honestly written and addictive but doesn’t hit the mark?
I’m not sure but I’m going to try.
I’m a huge fan of Gayle Forman’s writing. Her Just One Day and Just One Year are two of the best books I’ve ever read in my almost 30 years. For me, those books stand out of her canon because they are all about balance. Yes, they are driven by attraction and maybe love but it’s also about growing pains, discovering yourself, and your relationships with the many people around you from your parents to your best friend to the stranger you let into your life. If I tried to pinpoint why I Was Here doesn’t rank as high for me as these two, I could say it was about the balance.
Cody is mystified when she receives an email from her best friend the day after she commits suicide. How could someone as vivacious as Meg end her life? And more importantly, how could she even be thinking about this precisely planned suicide without saying anything to Cody? Forman quickly delves us into the complex feelings associated with a death like this one. There is the despair and disbelief but there is also the selfish side. How could they leave me?
At first, Cody is prepared to go to Meg’s apartment and pack up her things (as a favor to the Garcia’s, who have always been a family to Cody) and try to move on. But something is nagging Cody. Meg’s note was a little strange, even her little brother notices. Did someone force Meg to do this? Suddenly, Cody finds herself jumping into this mystery by reading Meg’s emails, meeting her friends in Seattle (Alice, Robert, and Harry were GREAT), and trying to figure out what was going on in her head. It’s difficult to realize your best friend has qualities and tendencies you never knew about but an entire new life in a new city? It seems the girls are being pulled even farther apart as Cody throws herself down this rabbit hole.
The rabbit hole leads her to Ben, a boy that was friends with Meg. Cody is hardwired to be independent, in a way that means brushing off help from others all the time. But Ben really knew Meg, even if they weren’t on the best terms in the end, and Cody can’t help but let him take part in whatever she is trying to do. She seems to be taken with him, and he seems to be surprised by her but there is so much fucked up complication here, at times I didn’t know what to think. This is one of the parts of the book where I needed more. I was so wrapped up in Cody’s detective skills that the chemistry between these two was a little rushed and lukewarm especially because Ben felt like a caricature of Forman’s past male characters and not his own person.
I Was Here is a tough story for many reasons but one of them is that readers only meet Meg in flashbacks. Forman always does this amazing job of presenting these tiny nuances in human relationships that so many other authors pass over, and it helps us to better understand these characters but, at times, it was hard to really feel the connection between Cody and Meg. Maybe this is because Cody was struggling with it too. She hadn’t imagined she would be separated from Meg when they graduated high school but plans changed and that distances was, in fact, inevitable. The opportunity of getting over those weird transition conflicts was cut short, and, perhaps, that is the most heartbreaking part of all.
All in all, this book presented the darker, edgier side of Forman that I love. All of her characters have this inner badass and act as imperfect humans do — a plus. But another 100 pages and a departure from a few overused young adult troupes would have made this a whole other ballgame.
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Beneath Beautiful by Allison Rushby [ twitter | website ]
Previously Reviewed by This Author: Shooting Stars
Publication Date: November 1, 2014
Target Audience: New Adult
Keywords: modern art, self-discovery, artist’s muse, NYC, Paris
Format Read: ARC from the Author (Thank you!)
Summary: Cassie agrees to sit for modern artist, Cameron, so that he may study her and create a sculpture inspired by her. Cameron is known for overstepping boundaries, taking things too far, and making people feel slightly uncomfortable with his nudist art. Though she’s unsure why, Cassie agrees, but lives a life of secrecy as she stumbles into this self-discovery opportunity.
• • •
Approached in the middle of a Parisian cemetery where she sits reading, Cassie is ripped from her quiet time by a handsome stranger. As they wander around together, Cassie vaguely recognizes him but has difficulty recalling his name. When it dawns on her that he’s a famous nudist artist, Cameron, she flees the cemetery.
Cameron seeks her out by discovering her favorite cafe; he proposes that Cassie become his muse so that he can create a sculpture of her. Though Cassie is taken aback by his stalker-like tactics, she’s intrigued by the idea. What did Cameron see in her that he would want to capture? After some time contemplating his offer and discussing it with her sister (because there could be severe repercussions depending on what Cameron decided to sculpt since her father was in a political position), Cassie agrees to accept Cameron’s offer. He asks her to show him who she is so he can encapsulate this in his sculpture; all Cassie’s expenses will be covered by him as he does his research.
They journey to her family’s summer-house, then they’re quickly whisked away to New York. Cassie’s days become filled with stillness and being analyzed from head to toe in Cameron’s studio. She’s filled with confusion as she thought the process wouldn’t be so sluggish. Cassie’s unable to disclose her reason for being in New York for fear of this ruining her father’s reputation. She develops an attraction to Cameron that she doesn’t feel she can act upon, and is threatened by his ex-girlfriend’s presence and interference in his life. To distance herself from her “work,” she begins seeing a nice acquaintance, Jason.
Perhaps this is where Cassie’s whole journey began to disinterest me as a reader. She becomes so wrapped up in the secrecy, in being perfect for Cameron, and lying to Jason. The original concept of showing Cameron who she was really transformed into something else entirely. I was so intrigued by the trip to her parent’s summer house, but things got a little stale as Cameron had deadlines to make and Cassie began to juggle lies that eventually spun out of control.
I really, really did enjoy the self-discovery aspect Cassie went through — having to strip away all her walls to do what she felt was best for herself and to stand up to a father who maybe had too much influence in her life — but wish that a few situations had been a bit more fleshed out and less chaotic. (And ideally, that they would have continued to travel a bit more before Cassie burrowed her head in the sand and became so introspective.) Overall, Beneath Beautiful was a welcome change because I haven’t read a ton of New Adult books; there were some definite highlights, a nice dose of sexy tension, and it’s such a steal for $2.99 from Amazon.
Add BENEATH BEAUTIFUL to Goodreads • Amazon ($2.99)