book cover for manicpixiedreamgirl by tom leveen

Magan: manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

book cover for manicpixiedreamgirl by tom leveenmanicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen (website | twitter)
Publication Date
: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 256
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: conflicted emotions, male POV, past and present, contemporary fiction
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley (Thank you!)
Other Books Read By Leveen: Zero

Summary: Tyler’s first short story is soon to be published in a literary journal where everyone will find out the truth — that while he’s been dating Sydney, he’s secretly been in love with Becky.

There are a handful of you that will be turned off by the premise of Tom Leveen’s new book, Manicpixiedreamgirl.

You won’t want to read about a boy, Tyler, who is dating one girl, Sydney, but is in love with another, Becky.
You’ll be worried that he’s going to cheat. And cheating isn’t fun to read about.
But you’ll be unnecessarily worried.

Because even though Tyler should let go of Sydney, there’s something so incredibly gripping and magnetic about Leveen’s writing. He lures you into the story with breadcrumbs of information that make your mouth salivate in anticipation for the next bite.

Manicpixiedreamgirl alternates between the past (beginning the first day of freshman year when Tyler first lays eyes on Becky) and the present (when his first short story is being published in a literary journal and he’s in a relationship with Sydney). Tyler’s immediately drawn to Becky; she sits alone at lunch, sorts her animal crackers into interesting piles, and happens to be reading one of his favorite Stephen King books. She’s an enigma. He loves watching her from afar (because he’s too timid to actually talk to her in person).

One day in English class when Sydney mentions that she knows Becky, Tyler bombards her with questions to gather any snippet of information he can. And somehow, weeks later, Tyler finds himself on a non-date with Sydney … which leads to them becoming a couple without an official proclamation ever being made. It just sort of happens.

Tyler’s in an odd position because he never fully intended to date Sydney. He still daydreams about Becky and wants to find ways to spend time with her. Out of respect for Sydney, he’s very cautious when he does interact with Becky and is ever the gentleman.

But in the privacy of his own home, he writes stories. Countless stories are written and revised.

About Becky.

And it just so happens that one of those is being published in the literary journal. Where surely everyone (especially Sydney) will be able to put together that Tyler is in love with Becky.

The only other book I’ve read of Tom Leveen’s is Zero, which I loved so much because of how well Leveen dove into his character’s minds. Tyler’s character was no different. Every struggle he felt seemed so authentic and real. How could he have allowed himself to fall into a relationship with Sydney? How can he love Becky and not hurt Sydney? His best friends were the perfect, humorous balance to the anxiety-ridden Tyler that seemed to always be toeing the line between what he wanted and what he was forced into.

Often I’m frustrated with characters that are pushovers and don’t stand up for themselves. I don’t know how he did it, but Leveen never angered me with Tyler’s passiveness. Tyler was still kind and thoughtful, intelligent, and aware of how all his decisions would affect those around him. I suppose the correct term would be mature. He didn’t make quick, erratic decisions, but instead let things play out naturally.

Leveen’s writing is stimulating and ever so engaging. Just as Tyler was drawn to Becky, so will you be seduced by Manicpixiedreamgirl, desperately hoping to untangle the messy web Tyler finds himself caught in.

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book cover for The Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt

Magan: The Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt

book cover for The Thing About the Truth by Lauren BarnholdtThe Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: lies and secrecy, public school, falling in love
Format read: ARC from Simon & Schuster

Summary: Kelsey and Isaac don’t exactly click when they first meet. However, they’ve both got more in common than they realize. Kelsey was kicked out of her prep school and Isaac has been kicked out of more schools than he can count. They start an organization to connect their public school with Kelsey’s old prep school to help students realize they are all alike, no matter what school they go to.

The Thing About the Truth revolves around the tense, abrasive relationship between Kelsey and Isaac. Kelsey is, at heart, a really good girl. Isaac acts out to capture the attention of his self-centered politician dad. Isaac and Kelsey’s meeting is nothing short of awkward. They’re both new to the public school, but upon seeing Isaac, Kelsey makes quick judgments about the type of guy he is and writes him off. She wants to fly under the radar so she can focus on getting into an Ivy League school. She’s lost the trust and respect of her parents after what she did to get herself kicked out her prep school.

To prove she’s still got her act together, her solution is to start a new organization on campus. While she’s presenting her ideas, Isaac saunters into the room and throws out an idea the principal salivates over. Thus Kelsey and Isaac become the leaders and founders of the new group – spending more time together than either of them would have hoped for. The back and forth banter and constant arguments between these two are so good (so good so good). Clearly Kelsey is attracted to Isaac, but come on. She can’t be that girl and fall at the feet of this wealthy boy who has girls tripping over him. Isaac is drawn to her confidence and screw you attitude. The biggest dilemma is that while they’re pretty candid and honest with each other, Kelsey refrains from telling Isaac something pretty big.

The story navigates the past with chapters from both character’s perspectives, but sprinkled in are chapters that focus on flash-forwards, present day. There’s this sense of them falling in love and falling hard, but then we see that somewhere along the way, things got screwed up and Isaac and Kelsey are on non-speaking terms sitting in the superintendant’s office. While trying to figure out what happened between these two, I fought the urge to jump ahead to discover Kelsey’s big secret.

Oh, the secret.

Usually, characters in young adult books have “big secrets” that don’t really seem to shock me very much and things sometimes feel a little anticlimactic.

Not Kelsey’s secret.

The girl did something that made my jaw drop. It was no wonder her parents had her on a short leash and that she was trying to redeem herself. I didn’t exactly connect with Kelsey in the way that I wanted to because I didn’t fully understand her actions. What she did wasn’t something I would ever find myself doing (I hope). Her character was really great – she’s a wonderful girl who could obviously go places – but her decision-making skills were complete crap. I wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with Kelsey to snap her out of it.

Isaac was definitely more relatable for me; I’m not sure that I have connected as much with a male character as I did him. I understood why he acted out, why he was arrogant. He was so likable and kind to Kelsey (once they called a truce) and their kissing scenes definitely made my toes curl. I could see the growth in him and wanted to be a cheerleader for his team. When Kelsey’s secrets were revealed, my stomach was in knots on his behalf.

There were a few things I wish had been further explored. (slight spoilers ahead) I understood her parent’s reaction to what she did, but Kelsey mentioned daddy issues a few times. I didn’t really see that or understand why she felt the way she did. There also didn’t seem to be a lot of resolution with Kelsey’s (ex) best friend. There were lies and a semi-big misunderstanding and nothing ever seemed to be resolved.

Although there are a few things I would have hoped for, I definitely recommend you check out The Thing About the Truth. Kelsey and Isaac are sure to make you laugh out loud or wish you were smack dab in the middle of their steamy kissing scene.

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Estelle: The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
Upcoming Publication Date: June 14, 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 416
Audience: Adult
Keywords: stalkers, online dating, hypnosis, widows, single dads
Format read: ARC won in Goodreads contest!

Summary: When Ellen, a hypnotist for a living, meets Patrick online, she can’t believe her luck. He’s everything her ex wasn’t and that’s a good thing. So when Patrick admits he has a stalker, instead of being freaked out… she’s sort of intrigued. And that’s when things get a little out of hand.

While only one character is a hypnotist, this book covers 3 people who are in some version of a trance. Hypnotist Ellen, burdened by her past failed relationships and her Type A personality, thinks she understands love when she is just beginning. Patrick, a widowed single dad, has been relentlessly stalked by his ex-girlfriend for way too long and has yet to do anything about it. And finally there is Saskia, Patrick’s ex-girlfriend who realizes she is crossing the line with her stalking but is unable to control it or her love for Patrick and his son.

So Patrick is under a trance of guilt while Ellen & Saskia are dealing with with the ideals and truths of love.

In an engrossing novel, set in Australia, this novel shifts from the POVs of Ellen and Saskia as their lives continue to intersect. While it starts a little slow and sometimes Ellen’s overthinking feels arduous, this love story is worth trudging through the first couple of chapters.

Because it gets oh-so good

There are several references to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and many moments when I feared this book could cross some Lifetime lines. Somehow Moriarty managed to build up such drama without letting the story spiral out of control. It was so creepy yet heartbreaking and I was surprised to find myself relating to stalker Saskia and totally feeling for her. (Yes, I’m admitting that.)

Patrick wasn’t exactly innocent when it came to Saskia either. And this was one plotline I felt could make or break the entire book for me. Why wasn’t he filing a restraining order? (But still keeping diligent notes about Saskia’s intrusions?) I feared the moment this story could go off the deep end and make Patrick out to be a totally ridiculous character. I am here to assure you his reasons are presented very realistically, even if it takes awhile to get there. Moriarty did a great job of creating an unbiased perspective for all of these charactes  and I much appreciated that.

As far as hypnosis goes, I have no knowledge of it at all and found those bits extremely interesting as we got to see Ellen work with her clients and even from the little snippets that began each chapter. The details were never too technical and were mostly told through Ellen’s interactions with her clients. When hypnosis manages to creep into her relationship with Patrick, I just kept thinking… gee, I could never date a hypnotist. While her career was a strength, it was clever how the author made it part of her own self-consciousness too.

It’s been awhile since I read a nice piece of adult fiction, especially after coming down from the high of an amazing YA book (Dreamland Social Club), but The Hypnotist’s Love Story was just the ticket. It kept my attention, toyed with my emotions (yet was constantly amusing), and kept me at the edge of my train seat until the very end.

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