Young Adult Book Review Blog - Book Review of Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Magan: Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Young Adult Book Review Blog - Book Review of Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (web | tweet)
Publication Date
: December 19, 2012
Pages: 391
Audience: Mature Young Adult / New Adult
Keywords: adopted MC, attraction, secrecy and lies
Format read: E-book purchased for my kindle.

Summary: Sky’s never fallen for anyone before. When she randomly meets Holder at the grocery store, a whirlwind relationship begins — they have undeniable chemistry, but quarrel constantly. Unbeknownst to Sky, when Holder appears in her life, so will a flood of unwanted memories and tons of questions.

Holder and Sky. Two characters with one of the most crazy, intoxicating relationships ever.

While out and about grocery shopping, Sky meets Holder. They have an awkward encounter in the parking lot where Holder comes off as a bit of a wacko. Later that evening during her run, Sky stops for a breather in front of Holder’s house. (She had no clue he lived there. Honest!) This begins the series of hot and cold interactions between the two — they bicker and argue like an old married couple.

Always distant and emotionally-removed when making out with someone, Sky desperately wants to figure out why Holder (of all people) makes her heart beat faster and why she’s insta-attracted to him. She’s never felt anything for anyone. Ever. Sky and her best friend, Six, usually have short flings with boys and then toss them aside and move on. Sky describes her make-out sessions as numbing and she counts the glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling the entire time.

Sky is intelligent, funny, and pretty bad ass. She doesn’t let people push her around. Even when she’s being bullied at school for a reputation that is based on lies, she doesn’t give into the peer pressure or let it get to her. And Holder. He confused me a bit because I wasn’t sure if he could be trusted in the beginning. At times, I wondered if Holder was a little unstable. (BUT if I had read the back-of-the-book summary, I would have realized I was misreading his behavior and he was the least of my concerns.) After I began to understand Holder’s erratic personality, I realized I was in trouble. Oh, dang. He’s sexy and deep and takes time to think things through before he speaks them aloud. He always seems to know the right thing to say, even if he’s not sure what to do or what his action should be. Holder is the kind of boy that most of us girls hope to be with.

The witty banter between these two made me wish I were snappier and more clever with my responses. Needless to say, their relationship progresses pretty quickly and with that comes lots of passion wrapped up in the first 60% of the book. Tension, tension. Holy smokes, the tension.

And then there’s the twist.

Things take a 90-degree turn and our focus is completely redirected. The intensity is pushed to the extreme. Everything Sky knew and trusted is flipped upside down. There are secrets and lies — so much to keep the reader sailing through the pages to piece Sky’s story together. I’m not uttering a single word about any of this because I loved that I couldn’t figure out any of Hoover’s twists and turns.

In addition to the toe-curling love story and whiplash-inducing drama, you’ll love all the secondary characters, too. Six is an integral part of the story even though she fulfills her best friend role from afar (studying abroad). Sky’s new gay, Mormon best friend, Breckin, will make you laugh out loud and wish you had someone like him to bring you coffee every day. He’s so carefree and comfortable in his own skin, and while not a major player in the story, he really helps it progress. And Karen, Sky’s adoptive mother, may seem overprotective with all of her rules about watching no TV and maintaining a very … unique … diet, at her core she’s caring and so loving.

Hopeless is a sexy, passionate, and addictive story that you won’t want to put down. (I swear you’ll think about Holder and Sky when you’re forced to abandon Hopeless temporarily.) The e-book is well-worth every cent of its $3.99 price-tag.

(Oh, and fans of Hopeless — get excited! Hoover is writing the story from Holder’s POV and is expected to be out in July!)

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book review for How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Magan: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

book review for How to Save a Life by Sara ZarrHow to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 341
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: death, loss of a parent, pregnancy, adoption, abuse, new beginnings
Format read: ARC from ALA.

Summary: After her father’s passing, Jill’s mom decides to adopt a baby and allows the pregnant teenage girl, Mandy, to move in with them during the last few weeks of her pregnancy.


Jill’s dad is her best friend – they’re two of a kind, they understand each other. He’s the parent she’s closer to. That is, until he passes away. Jill and her mom, Robin, have never been incredibly close. After his passing, they find it even more difficult to communicate and grieve together. One of my favorite quotes (of the many I wrote down) from How to Save a Life best summarizes their relationship:

“Mom and I, different as we are, are twin planets orbiting the same
universe of grief but never quite making contact.” 
(page 41)

Robin chooses to act on something she and her late husband had always considered – adopting a baby. Jill doesn’t understand. She assumes her mom is trying to replace the loss of one person with the life of another. She’s angry and unsupportive – feeling like her mom is distancing herself from raising her since she’ll soon be off to college. She’s not sure her mom has thought through everything and questions how she chooses to go about adopting the baby.

Mandy, the 18-year-old pregnant girl, arrives on a train to Denver. Robin opens their home to Mandy during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Things are quite amiss with raging emotions, unspoken grief, and hidden lies Mandy refuses to bring to light. Jill is skeptical of Mandy and takes every opportunity to tell her mom that she doesn’t believe her dad would agree with her decisions.

Each chapter alternates back and forth between Jill and Mandy’s perspectives. We see how cynical and hard Jill has become since her father’s death. We get a sense that she’s searching and cannot figure out how to be the happy, easy-going girl she once was. She’s pushed away all her friends and her boyfriend. Mandy is running from demons – a mom who jumps from boyfriend to boyfriend hoping to find a money-bag to take care of her. Mandy comes across much younger than she is, so innocent, but in fact, her history is much darker than anyone could predict.

This being my first Zarr book, I was completely mesmerized by her writing. I’m not one who usually writes down tons of quotes or re-reads sentences to reflect on the magic author’s create with words. I did with this book. I treaded slowly and cautiously because every word was so carefully weighed. I had a very real sense of Robin’s home, Jill’s place of work (a bookstore!), and the coffee shop Jill visited to meet up with her new friend Ravi. But, I also clearly saw distinguishable characters that were extremely authentic and original.

I admire how Zarr balanced grief with the prospect of hope. Each character had to strip away heavy burdens and went through an internal metamorphosis. While her subject matter was deep, Zarr didn’t weigh me down with agonizing details that took away from her main goal — to show us that we need people to lean on during the hard times in our lives, no matter what the trials or struggles may be.

How to Save a Life is a notable story about how our lives can be shaken up and we have to slowly put the pieces back together — even if those pieces don’t fit back together exactly how they used to.

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Estelle: Daughters for a Time by Jennifer Handford

Daughters for a Time by Jennifer Handford
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Amazon
Pages: 302
Target audience: Adult fiction
Keywords: infertility, adoption, cancer, loss of parent, estranged parent, marriage
Format read: ARC from Little Bird Publicity (Thanks!)

Summary: This book details the emotional journey of Helen, a woman who after years of trying to have a child with her husband, decides to adopt a baby from China. Just as she feels her life has taken a happier and more fulfilling turn, she finds out her sister, the person who brought her up, has cancer.

“Maybe heartache was more normal than the absence of it.”

We are all too familiar with the feeling of experiencing the highest of highs when, out of nowhere, the lowest of lows comes sweeping in and knocks you completely off-balance.

In Daughters for a Time, Jennifer Handford handles that crushing heartbreak with sensitivity and raw emotion. Though I know the book is a work of fiction, Handford’s own experience with adoption elevated the book to a whole new level of realism. There were moments I was so lost in the story I forgot I wasn’t reading a memoir.

Helen had a tumultuous childhood. Her mother dies of ovarian cancer when she is a freshman in high school, and around the same time, her father picks up and leaves. Her sister, Claire, is her support system, her mother, her everything for many years. But Helen remains curious about her father (who, as an adult, she “stalks”) and wants to be able to bring up stories about her mother without Claire brushing them off. At 35, as a successful baker and restaurant owner, even after experiencing her own love story with her husband (Tim), Helen still carries this baggage. Or the complete opposite of baggage, as she puts it. A hole in her heart. Throw in her and her husband’s repeated attempts conceive a child and it’s understandable why Helen is feeling withdrawn and lost.

The true rays of light in her life are Tim (he’s a ROCK), Claire, her niece, and when she can find quiet time in the kitchen. And after much soul-searching, the decision to go forth with an adoption of a baby girl from China. Helen is just counting the many days until their new daughter will be curling up in bed between her and her husband.

You see, this novel ranges from the happy sad to the sad sad. Helen is forced to come to terms with her past, even making moves to fix things with her dad, as well as accept her sister’s cancer diagnosis. Helen questions many times why things in life can’t go right all at the time same. Why can’t she have both her child and her sister? Why does it always have to be something? Handford writes with such honesty and has crafted an engrossing tale from every angle — the adoption, the insecurities she faces as both a mother and a mother of a child who was abandoned, the sisterly bond, even Helen reliving her angsty 14-year old self when her mother was very sick. While the book covers a good span of time, I wondered if there could have been more moments of showing and less telling. In 300 pages, I was connected enough to these characters  that I probably could have read a hundred pages more if it meant some of the key moments were given more meat.

Though Daughters for a Time focuses on the bond between women as sisters, as mothers and daughters, and as friends, it lacked a bit of male perspective in some areas. For a long time, I wondered if Claire was even married. And Helen’s husband was such a great character too but he felt absent from scenes when I knew he was standing there, sharing the moment… except he was silenced. A little more testosterone would have balanced out many emotions in the story and made it even more relatable. I wanted Handford to dig deeper.

Despite minor qualms, this novel genuinely tugged at my heart strings. There’s never a perfect time to pick up a book that screams “disease” and “infertility” but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t experience them. Handford takes every day, powerful issues and skillfully, weaves in bits and pieces of hope even at the darkest moments. It’s surprisingly fast paced for such heavy content too; I found myself thinking about it a lot during my reading breaks. At the core,Daughters of a Timeis about the families we have and the families we create, the ebb and flow of the healing process, and the challenges life throws us and how we react to them.

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