Magan: Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell

book cover for Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell (website | twitter)
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: death of a classmate, bucket lists, social outcast
Format Read: ARC received via Netgalley. (Thank you!)
Other Books Read by Author: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe

Summary: Rebel Blue is detached and rough-around-the-edges. That is, until she’s taken aback by Kennedy Green’s death, a do-gooder girl who had a very deep conversation with Rebel just before her death. Unable to get rid of Kennedy’s bucket list, Rebel sets out to complete it for her and makes life-changing decisions along the way.

Remember last year when Estelle and I couldn’t stop gushing about Shelley Coriell’s Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe in Estelle’s Attention, Attention post, my review, and the book-themed gift pack? Truth be told, I prolonged reading Goodbye, Rebel Blue until I needed that absolute win, the guaranteed love affair with a book I was certain I would be granted. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same affection for Rebel that I did for Chloe, leaving me a little disappointed and underwhelmed.

Rebel Blue comes across as a distanced and troubled teenager; she doesn’t care about making good grades, often finds herself in detention, and is less than affectionate with her aunt, uncle, and cousin (with whom she lives after the death of her mother). She adorns her backpack with shark teeth and wears chunky blue streaks in her brown hair. Rebel is not a member of the popular crowd.

One day she finds herself in detention (again), but this time goody-two-shoes Kennedy Green also finds herself stuck in the counselor’s office for a few hours. Kennedy and Rebel have a very distant relationship; they’re aware of who the other is, but wouldn’t be considered friends by definition. When the counselor tells them to make a bucket list of twenty things they want to do before they die, chatterbox Kennedy abruptly scribbles down her list and overwhelms Rebel with conversation. For two near-strangers, they have a very deep conversation about being in the right place at the right time.

The next day, Rebel finds out that Kennedy died in a car accident.

Feeling a bit taken aback by Kennedy’s sudden death, Rebel races to the detention room to find the discarded bucket lists. There’s a bit of speculation about if Kennedy committed suicide. Surely her list would be an indicator, but Rebel finds it to be a reflection of the happy-go-lucky girl Kennedy was and cannot discard it. Instead, she decides to tackle the list and complete the things Kennedy aspired to do.

The majority of my struggle with Goodbye, Rebel Blue lies in the overall execution of completing the bucket list. There were twenty items on the list, and oftentimes, I felt like just as Rebel was making a bit of progress toward completing an item and overcoming huge obstacles, the stage would fade to black and the next scene would be her facing the next obstacle. The transitions often seemed a little bit jarring, as if I had missed a few paragraphs, because there were so many hurdles to jump. I felt little closure and maybe if the list had been shortened, more time would have been allotted to each task. I strongly feel this would have a) given me a better sense of time as it passed, and b) allowed me to accept the character changes Rebel was going through without feeling as if the story was being rushed.

There’s quite a large can of worms that is approached by Rebel near the end of the novel that I also felt was completely neglected when I finished the book. I’m not sure if there will be a continuation of this story, but it seemed rather huge to introduce and then leave it hanging. And the message, while a good one, is definitely reiterated over and over, and quite possibly too literally, leaving little room for interpretation. I really love strong, positive messages, but again, a little more finessing may have made this aspect a little less forced and more organic.

While it was lovely to be distantly reconnected with old friends, Chloe and Clem, via their cameos, I wish I was able to feel as excited and inspired by Rebel’s story as I was Chloe’s. One lovely addition to Goodbye, Rebel Blue was definitely Nate, the go-gooder boy who is intrigued by Rebel, and his huge My Life Next Door-esque family that will melt your heart.

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Book Review of Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King

Magan: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Book Review of Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. KingPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King [website | twitter]
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: death of a friend, friendships coming to an end, childhood friendship
Format read: Hardback borrowed from my library.

Summary: Vera’s best friend, Charlie, died. He was in an accident and Vera knows some details she should share, but she’s working through the tumultuous relationship they had before his death and the abandonment she felt.

 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz was my second A.S. King read, and definitely my favorite so far. Her writing is so perfectly woven together and the alternating points of view between Vera (the primary storyteller), her father Ken, Charlie, and the Pagoda carefully revealed tidbits of the story that had me furiously flipping through the pages. Vera and Charlie were childhood best friends, sort of the two oddball kids who live next door to one another and immediately bond. Charlie’s got a sketchy home life that Vera and her family are very aware of, but they choose not to intervene. As they grow older, Vera develops a crush on Charlie and at points, he seems well aware of her affection for him. He begins doing this weird push and pull of leering Vera in by making her think he feels the same way, and then completely ignoring her after something happens.

Before Charlie’s death, their relationship can be described as rocky at best. Vera keeps up with his whereabouts, but their friendship is only an inkling of what it used to be. A.S. King provides details from the past leading up to present day, allowing the reader to really grasp the struggles and challenges these two characters have faced. There’s a bit of mature content as Charlie gets mixed up in some pretty sketchy business that makes Vera a bit worrisome. Often I found myself speculating about what might have happened to Charlie, why he and Vera had a falling out, and I desperately wanted to see Vera become her own woman. She was a bit afraid of becoming her father, who is a recovering alcoholic, and her mother, who was a stripper, and the fear of making either of those same life choices debilitates Vera.

I connected so well with Vera’s emotions over losing a friend. When I was in third grade, one of my friends was killed in an accident over spring break. The news was terrifying, even at such a young age. This boy sat behind me at school and would often play with my hair (well, actually, he would pull it out, but I think he was probably just trying to flirt) and tease me. I remember the day of his funeral like it was yesterday. Vera went through a similar experience with Charlie — she felt that when she went to the funeral, he was going to walk out like it was a big joke and say, “GOTCHA!” I knew there was no way my friend could have passed away. That doesn’t happen to someone so young, right? I slept in my parents bedroom for ages because I struggled so much; I felt haunted by his death. Vera is trying to work out all the details of their friendship gone wrong, but she’s also got this information that could possibly shed some light on the events surrounding his death. That’s a ton for one person to carry around, and Vera certainly feels haunted by Charlie.

I could gush forever about the beauty that is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but I hope that without revealing too much of the story I can convince you to pick this one up as soon as you can. If you’ve never read one of King’s books, I highly suggest this be your first. I’m very much looking forward to her upcoming book, Reality Boy, to be released on October 22nd.

rather be reading worth it icon

Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon