book review of Confessions of an Angry Girl

Magan: Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett

book review of Confessions of an Angry Girl

Confessions of an Angry Girl  by Louise Rozett (website | twitter)
Series: Confessions #1
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 266
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: loss of a parent, first year of high school, comical and angry MC
Format read: Purchased digital version for my kindle.

Summary: Rose’s father died right before her freshman year of high school; she’d like nothing more than to wallow in her sadness, but somehow she keeps doing things that make her noticeable to the popular crowd (so not good).

Rose is pissed off. Her father died and he absolutely shouldn’t have. She’s entering her freshman year of high school and she’s overwhelmed with anger and frustration. Her therapist mom uses her “therapy voice” all the time and can’t be real about how she’s feeling. They don’t talk about her dad. At all. Her brother has flown the coop and gone to college, but conveniently, he’s finding ways of disconnecting from the family by dating a new girl and not coming home for family holidays. Popping up unexpectedly at school is Jamie Forta, the boy Rose has secretly (or maybe not so secretly) been crushing on from afar for years. Rose likes him. They kiss. Except they shouldn’t have. And maybe Jamie didn’t just decide to start hanging around Rose; maybe he was persuaded to?

Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe Rose’s freshman year. She’s trying to find her way and fly under the radar, but just can’t seem to get her footing. Her (non-existent) popularity further plummets when her honest, do-what’s-right-self makes her a target. Even though she wants nothing more than to be unseen, Rose just can’t seem to escape center stage. In many, many ways, Confessions of an Angry Girl reminded me of my good pal Ruby Oliver. In no way were the stories alike, but I think Ruby and Rose would have been quite the duo. Rose was full of spunkiness and blatant honesty. She made no apologies for being sad and needing to deal with her grief. Everything she said and felt was so real and honest to me, even if she (like Ruby) said some hilariously off-the-wall things that gave the impression she had no control over her mouth sometimes. Rose is a very imperfect girl who is simply trying to manage all the change that’s happening in her life.

Rose is trying, desperately, to deal with her grief, but she’s also afraid she’s going to forget her dad. She’s in the midst of losing touch with her best friend Tracy, who wants to make a name for herself in high school and is itching to be a cheerleader. (Rose is even more unsettled by Tracy’s constant contemplation over whether or not she should lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Matt. Personally, Rose thinks he’s a d-bag who just wants to sleep with her.) And then there’s her “relationship” with Jamie. She wants to be with him, but doesn’t understand what’s happening with Regina. Are they really together?

Confessions of an Angry Girl  was an unexpected delight — I breezed through the pages and connected instantaneously with Rose. She’s a little down on life (and sometimes herself), but she’s got a lot of insight and fight in her to push through all the bad. Even though Rose’s story stems from the loss of her father, I felt meeting her was very uplifting and delightful. The story does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, which I absolutely wasn’t certain was necessary, but I suppose you’ll have to wait and see what I thought about Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend soon. (I know — what a tease!)

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Estelle: Like Moonlight at Low Tide… by Nicole Quigley

Like Moonlight at Low Tide… by Nicole Quigley
Publication Date: September 25, 2012 (Kindle version comes out 10/2012)
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 256
Target: Young adult
Keywords: bullying, absent parents, high school, popularity, siblings
Format read: ARC from DJC Communications. (Thanks!)

Summary: After 3 years away, Melissa returns to her old town where the whispers and bullying never ceased when she was a kid. Embarking on her junior year of high school, she wonders if she has changed from that tormented young girl and if a new life with the same crowd is really possible.

It’s no surprise Melissa isn’t totally thrilled with her move back to Florida.

After 3 years away, she has no faith that the bullies who made her life miserable have grown up in the slightest or that she is confident enough to ignore their comments.

Despite having the support of her old best friend and her boyfriend, Melissa’s life starts to change when Sam King — the literal king of high school — starts to show interest in her and the murmurings from the peanut gallery start to die down. All of a sudden she’s sitting at the cool kids table, has exclusive invites to the best parties, and best of all, is kissing Sam, the boy she has always had a crush on.

But I wouldn’t call her happy. Sure, she’s coasting through high school now but she can’t ignore her mom’s revolving bedroom partners or the fact that she never knows what kind of mood her brother Robby will be in. She hates her clothes, doesn’t love how she looks, worries about her family’s reputation in town, and still feels happiest and most at home when she is swimming.

Or hanging out with Josh, the mysterious surfer boy from next door. Cue the love triangle! Josh is thoughtful and sweet, and seems to always be watching out for Melissa but she’s never sure if he actually likes her more than a friend. He doesn’t belong to any one exclusive group in school; he’s the kind of guy who is just friends with everybody. I loved how Quigley made Josh an active member in his church youth group as well. His religion never dominated who he was, and only supplemented his character. (This made me think about the role of religion in books and how I prefer to learn about a character’s beliefs without feeling like I’m being preached to.)

A really serious event halfway through the book made me question the paths Quigley chose for her characters. I would rather trade such significant and painful developments for more attention being paid to small details, character voice, and the story’s structure. Because even the aftermath felt a bit incomplete. While the novel reeled me in and I cared for Melissa, I couldn’t help but think how much stronger her story could have been and how much better I could have gotten to know her. Much of the time she felt like a shadow of herself, relying on situations to steer her in certain directions and not her own gut.

Would she ever confront her past? When would she learn to trust herself?

Once I reached the ending, I was still questioning if she had learned much at all.

While the overabundance of storylines gets weighty, Quigley does manage to raise many important questions through Like Moonlight at Low Tide… about bullying, selfish parents, our personal beliefs, and the quest to find our own peace.

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Estelle: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
Publication Date: December 29, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 290
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Breakups, girlfriends, Beatles, cheating
Format read: Borrowed from the library.

Summary: When Penny Lane is betrayed and disappointed by the only guy who has had her heart, she decides to take a stand against all of this bad treatment and start The Lonely Hearts Club (based on the song by the Beatles) and stop dating until high school is over. When the club starts to accrue members and its only set of rules, the whole idea becomes something Penny could have never imagined. But soon she starts to wonder how realistic her “non-dating” rule is when someone catches her eye. Maybe not every guy is as bad as she thought…

For any girl who has been forced to reevaluate her feelings for a guy based on their nonsensical and asshole-ish behavior, this is the book for you. (Hello every girl in the world.) After Penny makes a horrifying discovery about her childhood love, she decides not to sit around and wallow but to do something about it and forms The Lonely Hearts Club. (She and her family are HUGE Beatles fans.) She vows to remain single for the rest of high school and focus on herself, and after a bit of time she is no longer a club of one.

I instantly clicked with Penny Lane. I’m actually not sure if I’ve connected with a character quite so quickly but I easily related to her being head over heels for a guy she’s known since she was young, a guy that has caused her to fantasize so much about their happily ever after that no one seems to come close. I was also disappointed by that same guy. Not in the way Penny was but it hurt like hell. (And continued to for a long time after.) I loved her go-get-em spirit and the way she took a bad situation and turned it into something bigger. In fact, there were many moments in this book where I wished I had started the same kind of group.

I was also reminded of Kody Keplinger’s book, Shut Out. Girls forming unexpected friendships when they band together for the same cause. But Eulberg took the club and the characters to new heights. They were dimensional, so far from cliche and their mission felt relatable. I could SEE girls in my high school (unlike in Shut Out) concocting this crazy plan. And it was crazy. It’s apparent once the rules are set in stone and their group gains notoriety that something’s going to blow up and go wrong. But that was a lesson these girls needed to learn for themselves. They were hurt and created something with zero flexibility to stop that hurt from happening again. They needed to get to the point where they were ready and willing to take a chance in a new relationship.

Because *newsflash* despite the duds, there were nice guys out there.

Penny is enthusiastic, strong, and brave, and I think she discovered a lot about herself once she establishes TLHC. She is able to reconnect with her ex-best friend, who had become one of those girls we hate — so into her boyfriend she loses her identity and drops her old friends. I say BRAVO to Eulberg for including this character. Because this trap that Diane fell into is JUST SO COMMON (hey, I did it too) so I’m happy to see awareness brought to this kind of issue. Diane actually turned into one of my favorite characters. While it’s important to understand a main character, I love with an author takes the time to create supporting characters who are able to leave an important impact on the reader as well. Eulberg did this many times over.

There were also a multitude of great guy characters in this book (the villainous and the good). Undoubtedly, Ryan, the ex-boyfriend of Diane and one of Penny’s good friends, is swoon worthy and epic amongst potential love interests. I don’t want to give too much away but I loved how Eulberg was able to introduce Ryan and each time it felt like a bread crumb leading to a more significant occasion.

I could probably gush about this book forever. I thought it was a true depiction of high school with characters who were so like the ones I spent my school years with. In fact, I had a huge yearning to go back to those days of planning and getting ready for dances with my girlfriends. Those were just the best times and I think The Lonely Hearts Club captured what is so important and amazing about the friendships of women. They require forgiveness, flexibility, understanding, and most of all, support.

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Estelle: Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt

Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt
Pages: 320
Release Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target Audience: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Format: Nook download
Why I picked it up: Total impulse buy!
Summary: After her boyfriend cheats on her on the last day of school and she finds out her best friend is off to camp, Hannah plans to stay in bed and eat ice cream for the remainder of the summer. But Noah, her best friend’s boyfriend, is not going to let her wallow in her misery for long.

I always wonder what it is about writing that actually makes me feel the same stomach flips as the main character. Is it because I have a great grip on the characters? Is the story just so engrossing that it feels real? Or is the chemistry-building just so well-timed?

I have yet to figure it out.

But Sometimes it Happens is full of stomach flipping and secret glances and they feel pretty darn real. This book actually reminded me of a younger version of Something Borrowed (which I was very obsessed with at the beginning of last year). Now I know when cheating comes up people launch into a huge tirade about morals. I don’t blame them. Cheating isn’t the right way to handle things but it still happens. Love can be messy. And sometimes you feel things for the “wrong” person and I like that this book developed that situation in a mature way.

Sometimes people do things that are complicated. For complicated reasons.

There couldn’t be a truer statement when it comes to these characters. Hannah is dumped by her boyfriend before the summer even begins and her best friend, Ava, ditches her for a camp in Maine (which is so unlike her), and assigns boyfriend, Noah, to “watch over” Hannah. Another character named Lacey pops up – she was probably my favorite – who has some problems that parallel Hannah’s. Practically all the stars of this book have these “hidden” complications that unfold as the book goes on.

While it’s not the most original plotline (but then again, what is original anyway?), Barnholdt alternates each chapter between the happenings of the summer and the first day back at school (present day). This tactic just builds up the intensity of all of these characters reuniting after such a crazy summer. The book (even though basically a love story) has a lot to say about friendship too — the details we pick and choose to share with one another, in hopes the other will continue to see us in a particular way.  It’s not the easiest pill to swallow, but sometimes full disclosure ends up being in everyones best interest.

I’m happy to say that I enjoyed reading this book more than Barnholdt’s One Night That Changes Everything. I was actually surprised that both of these books were written by the same author. The tone, the voices, and the style are so different. While One Night was a fun and speedy read, the characters in Sometimes It Happens had more dimension and were more realistic. Plus it felt like there was a lot more riding on the events of this book.

So what happens when secrets are uncovered and truths are revealed? Pure chaos? There’s only one way to find out.

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