Why in 5: Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan

Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan

Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan (twitter | website)
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Pages: 272
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: best friends growing apart, life of an actress, filming a TV series
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Emma loves acting and knows there’s nothing else she’d rather do, but she wishes that people could look beyond her celebrity status to see the real her. Even her best friend, Rachel, seems wrapped up in her fame. When Emma begins filming Coyote Hills, she has an instant connection with Jake, her co-star, but she tries to maintain a friends-only relationship with him.

  1. Maturity. The characters are college-aged and Emma, the main character, is particularly thoughtful and mindful of how her actions will affect other people. I loved that she tried to think things through before acting on impulse, but there were times she still found herself in uncomfortable situations.
  2. Friendships. Two points here — Emma’s best friend, Rachel, revels in Emma’s success; she’s jealous and very passive aggressive. It’s clear, even to Emma, that their friendship isn’t working anymore. It’s never easy to make the decision to move on, but I think that was handled really well here. Rachel is also “in love” with Jake based on the modeling photographs she’s seen of him; Emma feels like he’s off-limits to her (though their connection is so strong) because she wants Rachel to have something since her own acting career isn’t working out. What this leads to is Emma and Jake forming this awesome friendship; yes, there’s amazing tension and yes, we see Rachel is terrible so we root for Emma just to GO FOR IT, but as I mentioned in bullet point #1, they’re mature.
  3. A not-so-cheesy look into an actress’s life. I admit that I’ve read a few books about celebrities and actors. And many of them have felt a little too inauthentic. They skimmed the surface, but didn’t dive into the details. Not in the Script shows how Emma battles with her mom-turned-manager, how misleading the gossip magazines can be, and how everyone is looking out for themselves. Emma seems like the most NORMAL girl who happens to be a celebrity. She’s good at what she does, but it doesn’t define who she is. (Except that this is how most people see her, as a celebrity, and she wants people to look beyond that.)
  4. Great secondary cast. Kimmi, Brett, and Jake are Emma’s other co-stars in the television show they’re filming, Coyote Hills. McGregor is their director who reads people extremely well, doesn’t handle drama well, and keeps them all in check. Kimmi appears to be the biggest drama queen, seems to maybe be the cause for paparazzi showing up in unexpected places, but often gives Emma solid advice. Brett chases Emma, but doesn’t pick up on the clues that she’s not reciprocating the love-fest. Perhaps best of all is Jake’s mom, who suffered from a stroke, and connects well with Emma. She doesn’t see Emma as a Big Celebrity.
  5. Perfect balance. Not in the Script isn’t a light and fluffy read, but it’s not crazy heavy and overwhelming either. One thing is guaranteed, you’ll be drawn to keep reading to see if Emma and Jake finally give into the feelings they both so strongly have for each other. You’ll want to know what happens with Rachel, and you’ll want to smack Brett because the poor guy just can’t take a hint. (PS — don’t judge this book by the cover, which I interpreted to be a lot fluffier than the book actually was.)

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Book Report: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Hey there, friends! So it kind of seemed like our joint reviews/book reports fell by the wayside, huh? We took a hiatus from them for a little while, but we’re excited to be reviving this feature because we just miss talking about books together. There’s just something delightful and wonderful and exhilarating about reading the book at the same time as your BFF. Am I right?

Today we’re discussing the latest release by Stephanie Perkins, Isla and the Happily Ever After. Just a little note: we don’t reveal any specific spoilers, but be warned that things could be alluded to.

Joint Book Review for Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (website | twitter)
Other Books Reviewed: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher:  Dutton
Pages: 339
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: Paris, New York, boy/girl best friendship, senior year
Format Read: We both purchased copies!

Summary (from Goodreads): Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Just in case you need a visual reminder of who we are:

Magan Magan
Estelle Estelle

♥ ♥ ♥

 

Magan Well, hello, Estelle! Ready to talk about Isla?
Estelle So very ready! (And happy to be back for our first joint review in awhile. Hooray!)
Magan I know! I feel pretty emotional about this one. I’m so excited for more work from Stephanie Perkins, but I think the anticipation of Isla really carried me through after Lola came out. And now that there’s no more in this little companion series, I’m SO sad.
Estelle I’m a little sad too. It reminds me of graduating high school and all your friends dispersing to different schools for the first time. You’re excited but there’s also a little hole there.
Magan Exactly! Especially with how the characters appeared in Isla, it felt like a giant group hug, and then ended with a sob-fest as we waved goodbye. I think one thing that stood out to me most about Isla was that this relationship with Josh was very different, and maybe because we did the readalong, it was very apparent that Stephanie told their story differently. In the past, Lola and Anna had a lot of buildup and anticipation. In Isla, we see she and Josh connect and then there’s a lot of discord and growth and pain.
Estelle It’s funny we are talking about this tonight (a day after I saw Stephanie at a reading in NYC) because she talked about that and I found her answer very fascinating.
Magan Oh, please share. This is one thing I would love to have a on-on-one conversation with her about.
Estelle She did that on purpose and said so many of Isla’s feelings were parallels with her own and how she felt about being successful or believing people could enjoy her work.
Magan So Isla is ultimately more of a reflection of Stephanie? I wondered while I was reading.
Estelle I think in some part all of the leading ladies were a part of her but (I think I’m remembering this right) Isla was the one who healed her. I thought that was so lovely, and made me love this character so much more.
Magan Oh gosh. Why is that making me tear up? I’m such a girl.
Estelle It’s an emotional story! I have so much respect for Stephanie and how open she was about the rough times she had personally. On top of all of that, she could have published an okay book but was not okay with doing so. That’s some strong work ethic, and this is why she is loved by so many. You can see all of the effort and emotion she puts into her stories.
Magan I’m so glad that Stephanie pushed herself to change things up in her writing-style. It showed a completely different side to what she’s capable of doing. It stretched me as a reader to relate to Isla and really taught me a lot about feeling so much for Josh and not really knowing much of his story.
Estelle This love fest is so much fun.
Magan Oh, man! YES! I loved all the guy hugs and the bromance.
Estelle ME too. (Stephanie has created a lot of opportunities where she could write novellas for us sometime. Wink wink.) Were you worried because we saw him in a relationship in ANNA that ISLA wouldn’t feel legit?
Magan No, because I think that Stephanie gave us enough subtle clues that his relationship with Rashmi wasn’t a healthy one. I liked that we got to see a little pre-Isla with him, actually. It felt more authentic, I think, because many times YA books depict relationships as perfect and we imagine the characters running off into the sunset for their happily ever after… and the truth is that the person they’re with might not be their forever person. I say that.. and I married the guy I dated in high school.;)
Estelle Haha. I actually liked that we got more insight into that relationship because for so long I just thought of Josh as that guy who was always making out with that girl in front of people.
Magan Hahah! Me too! It was so nice to see the larger picture. How did you relate to Isla? Were you understanding of her character and the decisions she made?
Estelle This might have been my only complaint with the book. I bought how she wanted him and the euphoria she felt when it all fell into place, and even her insecurity. I did. But I think we needed a little more background? I wanted to see more of her sisters. There could have been a little bit more depth to all the time we see her alone. Does that make sense?
Magan It does. And it’s what I was hoping you would say because I felt the same. I think a wee bit more of her pre-Josh might have been the answer for me. I think those insecurities would have been realized much sooner as a reader to make more sense when the tension really escalates.
Estelle Same. She just seemed like such a NICE person that there were some characteristics that didn’t seem very Isla to me (not asking her sister about her breakup is one). A little more interference from the outside world of the school would have been the ticket. Though part of me is like Stephanie did achieve something here because she really took her readers out of their comfort zone. The settings of the book changed so much.
Magan Gosh, they did. Their school became so much more to me. I thought about Paris in such a different way.
Estelle It wasn’t exactly the close knit school it was in book 1. It was almost like… it’s definitely time to say goodbye.
Magan Definitely! Partially because Isla was so isolated. Anna’s world opened up with all the friends she made, but Isla really didn’t make Paris her home in the same way. I think a lot of that had to do with her best friend, Kurt. That relationship was so wonderful AND so heart-breaking.
Estelle I agree. I really enjoyed him. I have to redo my list of books of guys and girl best friends because that one really worked for me. But it also made me frustrated with her! I wanted her to be a better friend. (But, friends, please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. All of us are dismissive at times and don’t realize what we are doing and it didn’t change how I felt about Isla but still!!!!)
Magan On the other hand, part of me realized what it can be to depend on a friend so heavily that you don’t open yourself up to other possibilities. Isla, in many ways, was so loyal to him that she didn’t make any other friends.
Estelle Ah. Great point. I can’t top that, Magan. You win. Well, actually, I was proud of Kurt for going out and doing what was best for him.
Magan Yes! I was proud of him, too. But part of me wonders if Isla was holding him back too. Being so protective over him that they BOTH weren’t able to blossom.
Estelle This was one of those occasions where distance is good for both people. They needed to find their own way so they could be better friends to each other.
Magan Absolutely! I love that! I think friendships can be depicted as either perfect or incredibly destructive, and in this instance, it was such a strong representation of how there can be some turmoil, but growth and maturity and a stronger friendship prevail in the end.
Estelle YES. I mean, even Josh was dealing with a lot of change at school with most of his friends away. We see him dealing (or not) dealing with long distance friendships and also starting fresh in his last year.
Magan Gosh, just thinking about his storyline makes my heart pitter-patter. It was so great to experience him longing for his friends. Not that he hurt, but seeing his vulnerability. And getting to learn the WHY behind being such a slacker, what exactly he was working on with his drawings (OMG – loved that part), and his family dynamics, crappy as they were.
Estelle I’m going to be corny but it felt like a meant-to-be moment. Him and Isla striking up this relationship. Like all the signs were pointing to this possibility.
Magan Oh for sure. It was just so delightful. Imperfectly delightful.
Estelle How did you feel about their time apart? Did it do something to the pacing for you or did it build up the tension?
Magan That feels like such a hard question to answer. It made me feel really sad. I felt like there was such a heavy weight on my chest. Because I noticed that Stephanie changed things up in her approach to telling their story, I wondered if Isla wasn’t going to have the outcome I was hoping for. I wondered if Isla’s big happily ever after was going to be accepting herself, believing she had worth, etc., and maybe not getting the boy. Does that even make sense? Sort of like female-empowerment.
Estelle No, it really makes sense. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen either and I so got that lonely, empty feeling when Isla and Josh were apart. But I also felt like… c’mon girl, this is YOUR time. It’s time to get your shit together. This is probably because I’m older than her but I couldn’t help but think of how much she would regret sitting around moping when she looked back a few years down the line. (I was that girl once, and I still get upset I acted that way.)
Magan Oh, absolutely. I felt so sad that she thought so little of herself. I know that is a very valid feeling and often feel like that, too, but she took it to extremes before understanding how they could affect her.
Estelle Is Josh your new favorite?
Magan Oh, dang. You’ve got me there. I loved every single one of Stephanie’s boys. St. Clair’s personality was amazing. His charm! And Cricket’s wisdom and height and great style! And Josh’s artistic eye and sensitivity. Wrap those up for me, please.
Estelle hahaha. I don’t LIKE to choose favorites but I felt like Josh would have been the best match for me. If that makes sense. Like a realistic, that could happen match. So maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for him. Plus he was from NYC so at some point our love story could come true!
Magan Hahah! Is Josh your James? Do you see similarities between them?
Estelle Oh god. I don’t know. I mean they are both artistic and were slackers in high school/college. It’s possible.
Magan Hahaha!
Estelle We’ve said so much tonight. Anything else you wanted to mention? Something we missed?
Magan Hmm. I feel like this has been so therapeutic. It’s helping me accept and find closure. I will forever want there to be more to read from Stephanie Perkins.
Estelle I agree. I’m a fan of hers for life, no matter what she does next. It does feel like the end of an era, especially because I feel SP’s work had such a hand in the birth of RBR.
Magan I think that’s a HUGE part of my sadness. Anna is one of the first books we ever gushed over together.
Estelle BUT it does mean we can spread the love to others FOREVER and reread whenever we want to relive all these feelings. I know they look like silly contemporary YAs but, especially in YA, Stephanie has created some amazing books about young women confronting change, sex, bravery, and more. She’s constantly remembered for the hot guys she brings to the tables but she does just as many fantastic things for the ladies in young adult books. MIC DROP
Magan HAHAHAH! Perfect ending! You’ve said it so well. We’ve seen three very different girls who were all struggling to find their way and their boys. Stephanie gave us three girls we could all find pieces of ourselves in and I think her work will inspire girls to take risks, be bold, make friends, and push the limits. *slow clap for Stephanie Perkins*
Estelle THE END

♥

How did you feel about Isla and the Happily Ever After?
Tell us why you’ll miss this series the most…

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book cover for 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

Why in 5: 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

book cover for 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen (twitter | website)
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 352
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: best friendships, dating and kissing, depression
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Netgalley. (Thank you!)

Summary: With a ton of responsibility weighing on her shoulders because of a depressing family situation, Claire turns to her best friend Megan for support. When new-boy Luke enters the picture, he threatens to rip Megan and Claire’s friendship apart by forcing the girls to choose friendship or love.

Note: 17 First Kisses is full of complicated, messy relationships, mistakes, and heartbreak. With so many thoughts running through my mind after finishing, I decided I needed to break this down Estelle-style and do a “Why in 5” post.

1. The beauty of 17 First Kisses is that it’s focused on things that are so realistic and hones in on the complexity of relationships and life. Claire’s home life is less than desirable; her family went through a situation that was new to me in the YA world. It’s left her mother severely can’t-get-out-of-bed depressed and her father has also checked out and disengaged. Claire becomes the glue that holds everything together, but ultimately this means she’s the third parent in her family. That’s a lot of responsibility for her to carry.

2. Without the support of her best friend, Megan, Claire would be treading through her difficult home life all alone. Megan is the person Claire turns to when she needs someone to talk to. The friendships felt extremely authentic. (Even the supporting friendship between Megan and her childhood friend, Sam, who was a nice balance to the catty situations the girls sometimes wound up in. He was calm, steady, and level-headed throughout.) Megan and Claire both screw up. They’re both responsible for hurting one another. In terms of teenage decisions, I felt they were spot on — they’re sometimes too selfish and don’t think things through, but ultimately, I was pleased that their friendship always, always pulled them back together (even after the worst of situations). What two friends have never suffered from saying or doing something awful that hurt?

3. Speaking of hurt, let’s just cut right to the chase and talk about boy trouble. Luke enters the picture as someone new, charming, and automatically draws the attention of both Claire and Megan. His interests perfectly parallel Claire’s, but Megan is the striking, gorgeous, popular girl all the guys fawn over. Though the girls make a pact to stay away from him, he’s persuasive and… how could they stay away?

4. I admit that when I learned we were going to learn about all of Claire’s 17 kisses, it seemed like she’d done an awful lot of kissing. Allen, however, uses a great storytelling tactic and progressively pieces everything together with flashbacks to those middle school spin-the-bottle days. It just worked. Now, I’m not condoning that all of Claire’s kisses were worthwhile (ahem, the band members), but every flashback gives us the opportunity to learn more about Megan and Claire’s friendship, family life, and really gives us the full picture.

5. The ending wasn’t tied in a perfect bow. There’s room left for interpretation and growth and the more time I spend away from 17 First Kisses after finishing, I realize this is exactly what Claire needed. After all the drama and change that occurs throughout the course of the book, she needs some time to heal, become her own person, and not have everything figured out as she leaves for college.

♥

Final thoughts: I’ve seen a few negative reviews for this book, but felt so intrigued by the story as I was reading it. Don’t be deterred by the sometimes messy friendship or the bad decisions the characters make. To me, they were realistic depictions of everyday life. Things aren’t always so perfect, and I was so glad to have felt differently than the reviews I read prior to beginning the book.

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Book Cover for Winger by Andrew Smith

Magan: Winger by Andrew Smith

Book Cover for Winger by Andrew Smith

Winger by Andrew Smith (Website | Twitter)
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 448
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: boarding school, rugby, male POV, friendship, love, bullying
Format read: ARC received from S&S (Thank you!)

Summary: Ryan Dean, a 14-year-old rugby-playing high school junior, is determined to make something of himself instead of just being the skinny kid. And he hopes that his friendship with Annie will blossom into more if she can look past their two-year age difference.

I have to be honest. I’ve kind of felt like Debbie Downer around here on the blog. Why? Well, I’ve read a few “meh” books lately that have really just left me feeling a little let down. I’ve been needing something well-written and addictive. A five-star book.

Well, friends, I found it.

Winger by Andrew Smith was all of that and more for me. The story is about a boy, Ryan Dean, who attends a boarding school. He’s a fourteen-year-old junior. Yep, that’s right — he’s smart and was able to skip ahead a few grades. His best friend is sixteen-year-old Annie, and he’s also extremely in love with her. (Will she ever go for the younger guy?!) At the end of last year, Ryan Dean was caught doing something that was against the rules. That means he’s exiled to O-Hall, away from his best friends JP and Seanie, to live with his Rugby teammate, Chas, who is an extreme bully. And somehow, Ryan Dean has decided that junior year will be the year he quits being a skinny nobody. How will things play out for him when his friendships get complicated, he finds himself in trouble (again), and Annie refers to him as a “little boy”?

In a nutshell, that’s all the information I feel you should have going into Winger. So, so, so many things happen, but it wouldn’t have the same effect if I blabbered on and on and ruined all the surprises for you. This was my first Andrew Smith book, and now I feel like an addict who needs to devour absolutely everything else he’s written. He taps into the mind of Ryan Dean so well — he’s funny and a little perverted, but very self-aware and insecure, too. Shamefully, I was a bit nervous about reading from a 14-year-old boy’s perspective. I’m a girl who likes the older, more mature YA books. Never fear! His age didn’t turn out to be a problem for me at all. In fact, I sometimes had to remind myself he was so young.

And for those of you that appreciate books that told in a completely original way, I think you’ll love what you find in Winger. Ryan Dean’s voice will suck you in, but the drawings and illustrations (!!!) done by Sam Bosma add a little something extra to the story that pushed my love for Winger over the edge. Their inclusion seemed so fitting and necessary. I can’t imagine the story without the comics or the bar graphs.

I really try not to make too many book comparisons, but I say the following because I have so much respect for Andrew Smith and Stephen Chbosky. Winger, in many, many ways, reminded me of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Please don’t think I’m saying the stories are the same (because they’re not), but they both consist of characters that you embrace and want to protect, friendships that feel so full and authentic, character growth that makes you proud, moments that simultaneously make you want to laugh out loud and cringe, and the desire for there to be many, many more pages so the story can continue once you’ve reached the end. Winger is an amazing coming-of-age story that made me wish I knew all of the characters in real life and all of the emotions I felt while reading (and watching) Perks came flooding back to me.

Really, friends, you all MUST read this book. Have a friend do a read-along with you because you’ll NEED that person to talk to when you’ve reached the last page. If you need me to be that person, I absolutely will be. Now go… order Winger already so you can meet one of my favorite male MCs ever.

(And hallelujah! My reading drought is over!)

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series review for The Ruby Oliver Series by E Lockhart

Magan: The Ruby Oliver Series by E. Lockhart

series review for The Ruby Oliver Series by E Lockhart

The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver
The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon—and me, Ruby Oliver
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren’t Complicated, I Wouldn’t Be Ruby Oliver

The Ruby Oliver Series by E. Lockhart
Publication Dates
: 9/26/2006 | 4/22/2008 | 7/28/2009 | 12/28/2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 229 | 208 | 248 | 225
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: high school, friendship drama, seeing a therapist, dating relationships
Format read: First three borrowed from my library, the fourth purchased for my kindle.
Summary: Ruby Oliver is just a normal girl with two best friends — until she begins having panic attacks and has to see a therapist because her boy life is out of control and her best friends are no longer speaking to her.

Things I Know About Ruby Oliver and Why You Should Read This Series:

  1. Ruby is a little bit (okay, maybe a lot) crazy. She is boy crazy. She doesn’t interact with people well because she is so self-conscious and feels like she’s doing and saying the wrong things all the time. She blurts out whatever comes to mind and doesn’t think before she speaks. (This makes for some great laugh out loud moments while reading.)
  2. Ruby just doesn’t understand boys. She wants to date them, but is pretty judgey and particular about them. She gets herself in awkward situations and The Boyfriend List portrays how it seems like she’s had lots of crushes on boys and really gotten around, but that’s just not the truth. When she finally does get a boyfriend (hello, Jackson!) — things are anything but easy. Especially when…
  3. Ruby’s best friends aren’t super trustworthy. Her BFF Kim? Yeah, she kind of gets in the way and steals Ruby’s boyfriend. And you know what? She turns things around and makes Ruby seem like the bad person. So what happens to poor Ruby? She has panic attacks because school starts to suck so bad when all of her friends turn on her. And that leads to…
  4. Ruby begins to see a therapist. She doesn’t really know what to talk about and she’s a bit ADD in her thought process, jumping (leaping) from one topic to the next, but her therapy sessions are quite entertaining (especially as she begins to understand herself a bit more and doesn’t want to listen to what she knows needs to happen). She begins to realize that she’s got way more than just boy issues. For instance…
  5. Ruby’s parents are also crazy. Her mom is extremely self-involved and is always experimenting with some new diet. She dapples in Ruby’s life in the worst possible ways, and while she thinks she’s being helpful, she’s really not. Her dad is really into plants and has a greenhouse and Ruby’s just not into that, but does connect with him more. (It’s really easier if Ruby just avoids her mom because their relationship is just… complicated.)
  6. Ruby’s seclusion leads her to make a new friend. Or two. Noah and Megan are two people Ruby doesn’t ever socialize with much, but while she’s got no one else to talk to because her life is crap, she is kind of forced to get to know these two better. Turns out Noah’s got a lot of attractive qualities and Megan’s not the person Ruby pegged her to be (funny how that happens, right?).
  7. Ruby is relateable, funny, sarcastic, self-depricating, pure, and original. There’s really been no other character for me that has rivaled Ruby Oliver. I could have breezed through all four books in one day because I just ate them up. After waiting (months) for the last book from my library, I finally broke down and purchased it for my kindle because I just had to know how Ruby’s story ended. Each book dictates a year of Ruby’s high school life, beginning freshman year.
  8. You’ll only grow to love Ruby more throughout the series. Sure when Rub is a freshman and she’s going through all the stupid things she’s done, you might shake your head and say, “SILLY GIRL!” But, she grows up, she gets wiser, and becomes more comfortable in her own skin. She becomes a bit more daring and bold. (If that’s possible — she has some guts, I tell ya.) The more I read, the more I wanted to continue to read.

If you want a fun series that you’ll breeze through quickly and laugh out loud multiple times while reading, Ruby Oliver is your girl. These books made me remember all those times when I didn’t know what I said wrong that made my friends upset with me. It made me laugh at how naive I was when it came to boys, and how monumental every emotion seemed to be back in high school. You’ll remember what those times were like for you, but from Ruby Oliver’s  humorous perspective.

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The Boyfriend List (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Boy Book (Goodreads | Amazon)
Treasure Map of Boys (Goodreads | Amazon)
Real Live Boyfriends (Goodreads | Amazon)

book review for Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Magan: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

book review for Sweethearts by Sara ZarrSweethearts by Sara Zarr
Publication Date: February 1, 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 217
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: childhood friendships, first love, growing up, emancipation
Format read: Bought a signed copy at TLA.

Summary: Jenna’s life is happily trucking along until her assumed-to-be-dead childhood best friend, Cameron Quick, enrolls at her school and causes memories and unanswered questions to overwhelm her.

 

Every once in a while, a book comes along that’s so different and beautifully written that it sweeps me off my feet and makes me ignore my husband until I’ve completely absorbed it. Sweethearts was just that for me.

If you think back to your childhood, do you have friends that stick out to you that maybe you wish you were still in contact with today? I’m fairly lucky that I’m still friends with a lot from my childhood, but Jenna feels the void of her missing friend Cameron Quick. These two were inseparable as kids – two social outcasts who had no other friends – until one day, when Jenna was nine, Cameron quits showing up to school. He disappears.

Rumors fly around school that Cameron has died. Jenna is forced to believe this is true because her mom does nothing to deny the lie. For eight years, Jenna goes through a transformation: switching schools, moving houses, and becoming a stronger person. Things are going along just fine until Cameron enrolls in her school.

When I imagine the scene where Jenna first sees Cameron, I can’t help but imagine how I would have reacted. I probably would have fallen out of my chair. Jenna and Cameron quietly and privately reconnect. She is filled with lots of questions she wants answered. He’s reluctant to tell her what she wants to hear because there’s something they’re both burying – an event that occurred shortly before his disappearance. Jenna becomes a confused mess – her relationship with Ethan (her boyfriend) becomes disastrous and she withdraws from everyone, needing time to figure things out on her own without the influence of her friends.

Jenna feels as if she’s completely reinvented herself since Cameron left. She never wanted to be called names for being overweight or too sensitive without Cameron by her side. (In fact, Cameron knows her as Jennifer. Jenna is what she calls herself when she switches schools.) She is conflicted because she feels Cameron is the only person who knows the “true” her. Will her friends accept her if they know her secrets and what she used to be like? A sub-plot is Jenna’s relationship with her mother, who for much of her childhood was absent as she worked and put herself through school. Cameron’s appearance forces Jenna to be honest with her mom about the past, about what happened.

My biggest takeaway was from Cameron’s reintroduction into Jenna’s life. Their story is about love and what it can mean to love someone who makes such a profound impact on our lives, even at such a young age. To love even from a distance. To continue to love when the truth surfaces, when life changes us. Jenna and Cameron’s teenage friendship is much more complicated than their childhood one, but I loved seeing two old friends pick back up where they left off.

Sara Zarr is absolutely one of my favorite authors. If you’re looking for a gripping story that is sure to capture your attention, pick up Sweethearts (or any of Sara’s books for that matter).

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