The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Target audience: young adult/verse fans
Keywords: senior year, family secrets, pressure from parents, football, small town
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Lauren is suddenly living in the small town when her aunt and uncle take her in. Colby is a star on the high school football team and as pressure to pick a college mounts, he wonders if anyone close to him knows him at all. A friendship forms between Lauren and Colby, unable to go any further but as they both have difficulties to face, they may need each other more than they think.
The two things I really love about verse books done right is how swiftly they move, and how much emotion they can evoke in a short block of words. Schroeder took an different angle with verse in The Bridge from Me to You: Lauren got the verse chapters and Colby’s was written in regular prose. This is where I wish I would have read a finished copy of this book because the formatting of Lauren’s pages were all over the place and I didn’t realize it was poetry vs. prose until a bit of the way in.
Anyway. Lauren and Colby are two really nice people. Even though Lauren has been shipped off to her uncle’s by her mother and Colby lost his mom, they are both people who are positive, fiercely care about their friends and family, and are determined to have great futures. It’s all the other factors in their lives that are affecting those happy endings. Not only has Lauren been cut off from her mom but her younger brother, and Colby can’t seem to stand up to his dad about his desire to study engineering in college and retire his football jersey for good.
Despite a great time hanging out the first time, Lauren and Colby’s friendship isn’t instantaneous. When Colby’s best friend gets in a terrible accident, he’s distracted and distant and it takes time before they find themselves in the same place. Colby and Lauren are very at ease with each other; I think it helps that Colby has someone to talk to who isn’t associated with their small town and vice versa, Colby doesn’t know Lauren’s mom. For both, it’s a blank slate.
Focused on having something instead of nothing, Lauren and Colby decide to focus on friendship even though they clearly want more. On each side, there is building pressure as Lauren must come to terms with the truth about her family and Colby has to make some serious decisions about what he will be doing next year. Verse and prose combination made the 300-plus pages fly by so fast, and I loved getting to be a part of this tiny football-loving town for a little while.
That being said, the writing style of the book made the characters feel younger than seniors. I wonder if Lauren’s poetry should have been a supplement to her own prose because there could have been so much more meat to her story. Same with Colby. With his best friend in the hospital and the trouble he has being honest with his dad, there was definitely more of an opportunity to dig deeper in this story. All “issues” seemed to solve themselves pretty quickly, and I would have loved to get more from the secondary characters.
The Bridge from Me to You was a welcome break to a long-string of prose books. In fact, it’s the first verse book I’ve read all year. It was a sweet, feel-good read, and the many mentions of junk food and baked goods (berry pie!) made me wish I had one by my side at all times.
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Make It Right by Megan Erickson ( web | tweet | facebook )
Part of the Bowler University series but can be read as standalones.
Publication Date: September 8, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse
Target audience: Young adult/new adult
Keywords: college, forgiveness, post-graduation plans, trust
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: After mistakes he made last year, Max has sworn off girls for good. His focus is graduation and a job with the family business that he is not looking forward to at all. But a few chance run-ins with Lea, a girl from school, makes him rethink his break from dating. Can he ditch the cocky attitude and have a meaningful relationship?
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t much of a Max fan when I read Make It Count. In fact, it surprised me that author Megan Erickson decided to have her next book in this companion series focus on him. I knew that Max would have a lot of work to do for me to me to not only care about him but believe in his transformation.
Well, I’m happy to say that Megan did another standout job with her characters in Make It Right. Most importantly, learning more about Max did not get him off the hook for past actions either. By hitting his lowest point, he was almost putting more pressure on himself to do better and think more about other’s feelings. In the beginning of this book, I was glad to see Max is actively creating boundaries between who he was and who he wanted to be. I think that was an important first step to getting him as a character. We all make mistakes, but it’s what we do next that means the most.
Did I mention he takes in a homeless cat, bakes like a champ, and can sing?
While Max is dealing with just about everything, he keeps bumping into Lea. In fact, he gets totally beat to a pulp by her when he volunteers to be an attacker during a self-defense class. (I liked this plotline!) She’s really good at reading people, and she wonders which side of Max is the real one: the cocky lady killer or the guy who will drop everything to bring her to the hospital when her friend is hurt? She hopes it’s the second one, and her curiosity gets the best of her when she decides to go on a date with him.
Lea is wrestling with some overarching trust issues from a horrific childhood accident that caused her limp. But she doesn’t let her disability get the best of her. No way. She’s totally kick ass, black belt, and all powerful. I loved that she had this tough exterior while her insides were working to catch up. (There are some other sexy details about her but I’m going to let you discover those yourself.) Her strength and sensitivity make her the most ideal match for Max. That’s for sure.
Here’s what I have grown to adore about Erickson: all of her characters have baggage but it’s the relatable kind. (Revolutionary, I know.) Learning to stand up to your parents, carve your own path, learning to trust yourself and your instincts. While Max and Lea do gain a lot as they get to know each other, their efforts to find happiness don’t end with the promise of romance.
Again, Erickson has delivered a sassy, sexy, and addicting new adult story. Make It Right belongs in your queue.
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Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton ( web | facebook )
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: pregnancy, miscarriages, fertility treatment, unconventional families
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: After suffering two miscarriages, Laurie and Alan are thrilled when their fertility treatment takes & “Buddy” is on his way to them. But news from the treatment center changes things, challenging their marriage, and altering how the two think of their family and Buddy’s future.
One thing that really struck me about Laurie and Alan’s marriage was how laidback it was. They laughed together, they went on adventures, and it’s not until they are about to embark on a different adventure that things start to unravel for the two. Ann Lewis Hamilton gives us an honest and (at times) heartbreaking look into how partnerships are affected when unexplained tragedies occur. Why do some couples conceive so easily and why do others not have that same kind of luck?
Post-happy news after a visit to the fertility treatment brings some unusual revelations. An angry employee has switched all the vials, and it seems that Laurie is not having Alan’s baby but someone else’s. Now, Jack, 5-year college student, juggler of multiple girlfriends, enters their lives. Laurie is focused on making the best of the situation and having some sort of relationship with him, while Alan can’t help but feel insecure about his role in the family now. (One of Alan’s big concerns is how his son will most likely not look like him because Jack is Indian.)
Expecting shifts POVs between Laurie, Alan, and Jack so the readers are privy to their innermost thoughts — sad, happy, angry, and mean — and it was a treat to watch how these three took an accident and made it work for them. There were a ton of road blocks along the way, but Jack injected a breath of fresh air into the story and really made it work for me. I loved his growing friendship with Laurie, and how much he thought about Buddy, even when Buddy was someone he never imagined caring about. (Not cool he was dating two girls at once but the personalities of both girls were fantastic and made for some very comical moments in the story.)
There were parts of the story that dragged for me, and Expecting took me longer to read than usual. Was it the lack of urgency? Sometimes a lack of connection with the characters? I think so, but it didn’t stop be from enjoying the high moments and sympathizing when life was so messy and out of control. Hamilton allowed us to see the weaker sides of these characters, and I appreciated the authenticity.
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Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Military Academy, sexism, hazing and bullying
Format read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: Dared by her older brother, Amos, to join the military academy when they agree to accept females, Sam accepts. Life in the academy is far from easy. Is there a point where Sam says ‘enough is enough’ or can she prove herself despite the extra harassment?
What if you were dared by a sibling you greatly admired to do something that was so freakin’ hard you’d want to quit before you even began? Would you still go forward or just bow out?
Sam joins the DMA (military academy) on a dare from her older brother, Amos. When he passes away and the academy agrees to begin accepting females, it feels like more than just a dare to Sam. She’s gotta prove herself and not let him down. She becomes one of only four girls accepted. The majority of the guys do not want the girls there, but Sam is specifically targeted because of the military position her father holds and who her brother, Jonathan, is on the DMA campus, the corporal cadet. Sam doesn’t want preferential treatment, but many, many things cross the line, especially with her leader, Matthews, who wants her to suffer and quit.
Sam’s roommate, Katie, constantly finds ways to finagle her way out of workouts, and her friend, Kelly (a boy), seems to be on her side until Sam doesn’t want to break the strict no-dating policy. Everyone’s already watching her like a hawk, so why toe the line with something she could easily prevent? Sam is tough and strong and fights like hell to prove herself. Though her hard work is often overlooked, she is able to make some allies who commend her. Those allies, however, aren’t always around to protect her.
Let me break things down into a little Why I Loved Rites of Passage list:
- Sam and her determination are absolutely unbeatable. Maybe she joined the academy on a whim, but she’s got a lot of fight and stamina. She’s probably one of the bravest female young adult characters I’ve encountered; I would have fled home because I couldn’t have mentally taken the torment.
- I loved seeing a female succeed in a man’s world. Though there were countless times her achievements were overlooked (and I wanted to punch someone in the junk because of it), I was doing mental fist pumps cheering her on as she endured not only the physical training and workouts, but school and the ridicule as well.
- There’s this subtle storyline that had me wondering what happened to her brother Amos. You can tell how much Sam is missing him and really working hard to make him proud, but why did he pass away?
- Sam’s other older brother, Jonathan, is in a ranked position at the military academy. I wondered from the very beginning pages how he would treat his sister amongst a group of guys who clearly were so opposed to having females around. Would he be ballsy enough to stand up for her (assuming he wanted her to be there) or would he only make things worse and overlook any harassment?
- Hensley’s writing flowed so, so well. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with the military (aside from attending Texas A&M for a year and seeing my fellow classmate suffer through his first year in the Corps) so the story really needed to be written well for me to grasp the environment and regimented lifestyle. And it was. Perfectly. The details were so crisp and I understood every ounce of Sam’s story.
To be fair, I did have one uncertainty about Rites of Passage:
- The end felt a little abrupt. BUT, my adrenaline was also pumping and I had to finish before bed so the story buildup was there and my anticipation was high…but I needed a little more. My personal hope: that Hensley will continue writing Sam’s story. I just don’t feel like her story is over yet.
Absolutely, 100% add this book to your Must Reads of 2014 list. I think it’ll be one of my top ten favorites for the year. I’d be willing to bet on it.
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“Underrated” is pretty much an Estelle buzzword. I love talking and sharing books with people but nothing gets me more excited than sharing a less known title and author, and having others fall in love with them too. Almost 4 years into the blog and it’s still the best high in the blogging universe. So I’m back for Top 10 Tuesday by the brilliant folks at The Broke and the Bookish!
Today I’m talking contemporary young adult (so dear to my heart) and decided to divide my list in half: books and authors. I can’t wait to discover some new writers and books this week, and — fingers crossed — hope this list does the same for you! xoxo
(five) underrated authors
1. Miranda Kenneally: I’m still shocked when I hear readers haven’t picked up a book in the Hundred Oaks series. Is it the titles? Is it the book covers? I have no idea. I’ve reread the books for the third time through this year, and I was even more amazed by how sex positive they were, how much they had their characters exploring their beliefs in tough, sometimes self-destructive ways, and, especially, strong imperfect female characters. Miranda’s writing continues to get stronger as the series goes on and her latest, Breathe, Annie, Breathe, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. It’s a book I believed in so much that I gifted it to 4 people who don’t read a ton of YA but I thought would get something out of it. (I’ve heard from 3 of the 4 so far and it’s been a hit; if that doesn’t say something then I don’t know what will.) From friendship to healthy family to moving on to college and dealing with all the pressures of teenage life? This series has you covered. (Tip: you don’t necessarily have to read these in order.)
2. J.H. Trumble: If you are looking for some seriously great, multi-dimensional gay characters who feel like they are practically your best friends at the end of of your reading experience then I can’t recommend J.H. Trumble enough. Her books are addicting, and I love how her characters explore love, sex, complications with family, and making friends. Like Hundred Oaks, all the characters tie into each other but they don’t necessarily have to be read in order. I am dying for an announcement about her next book.
3. Jessica Martinez: The Vow, about two best friends who decide to marry so one can stay in the country for senior year, blew me away last year. I went back and read Virtuosity, and I can anxiously awaiting Kiss Kill Vanish. I don’t see too many people talking about Jessica, and I’m not sure why. First of all, her tweets are honest and amazing and second, she brings such depth and a fresh voice to the young adult genre. You want diversity? Read The Vow. You want focused, strong female characters? Read The Vow or Virtuosity. (I haven’t read her second book, but I swear it’s on my list.)
4. Terra Elan McVoy: Terra has written a lot of books, and I’ve read four of them and have a fifth sitting on my bookshelf. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, Being Friends with Boys, Criminal, and this year’s In Deep? She’s a genius because each of her books are so different, and keep me captivated just the same. Her characters are well-developed, imperfect in the most relatable way, and you can see (especially if you read them back to back) how much she challenges herself in each piece. I love that because it also means she is making her readers work too. I am so jealous of all of you who get to read her for the first time.
5. Tara Altebrando: YOU GUYS. I went to Coney Island for the second time in my life last weekend, and all I could think about was Dreamland Social Club — this gorgeous book that Tara wrote years ago. This year, she wrote a middle grade (loved it) and last year she wrote an amazing in-between senior year and college book with Sara Zarr called Roomies. Her books hit me right in the heart. I love the writing, the characters, the lessons, the relationships. I want all of her books in my collection and I want her to write forever.
(five) underrated books
1. Starstruck series by Rachel Shukert: 1930s Hollywood, different female perspectives, well-researched, and so readable. I just realized I shifted from contemporary to talk about a historical YA but oh well. I talk this one up as much as I can because I think Rachel takes this glam time (fashion! stars!) and manages to integrate the political nature of the time too. It’s a very smart book, and does not talk down to its readers.
2. Bumped series by Megan McCafferty: Whoops. I messed up again. Yes, this is young adult. But it’s also dystopian. The author known for the Jessica Darling series took a leap writing about two girls with such varied beliefs stuck in a world where having a baby super young is the way to be because people are buying babies right and left, and glamorizing the whole thing like you wouldn’t believe. In our internet, celeb-saturated world, McCafferty provided some interesting commentary on who we are today and where we can go.
3. The Comeback Season by Jennifer Smith: I cringe when I hear/read that Jennifer Smith’s debut was The Probability of Love at First Sight because no dammit, The Comeback Season is and it is ah-mazing. Jennifer parallels the history of the cursed Chicago Cubs with a young girl dealing with the delayed grief of her dad’s passing, as she meets a boy (a fellow cubs fan). The prose I have come to love from Smith is so superb here; I read the book in close to one sitting and it cemented by ultimate devotion to this author and her work. For baseball fans, for those who love some gorgeous, visual writing, you must check out this gem.
4. Past Perfect by Leila Sales: This book needs a new cover. Pronto. I never reviewed this book on the blog, but it was a lovely birthday present from Hannah (So Obsessed With) and I loved the dialogue between the two best friends, the historic village summer job wars, great romance, and ugh — I flew through it, marking a ton of quotes I loved. Read it, read it, read it. It’s my favorite Sales book (and I was a huge fan of This Song Will Save Your Life).
5. Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Schiedt: Another one I didn’t review but oh my god, if you love really crisp, amazing, emotional writing styles, Uses for Boys is a must for writers. Yes, it’s painful and heartbreaking and we don’t always understand why the main character does what she does (I mean, do you understand all the decisions your friends make) but I like to think the main character was searching for home, searching for a place where she could be herself. She took a lot of detours but I couldn’t put the book down. The language was beautiful despite all the darkness of the story.
I could probably keep adding and adding to these lists until I have an ungodly number of recommendations.
So basically, it’s just a little taste. (But if you want some more check out Marisa Calin, Jason Myers, Colleen Clayton…)