Magan: Tease by Amanda Maciel

books about bullying Tease by Amanda Maciel

Tease by Amanda Maciel (twitter)
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 336
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: bullying, suicide, lawsuits, book told from bully’s perspective
Format Read: ARC received from the publisher.

Summary: Sara is being tried for the death of former classmate, Emma, whom she and her friends Brielle, Tyler, and Dylan bullied. The story is told from Sara’s perspective as her trial nears and she reflects back on the past leading up to Emma’s death and present day.

Hello again, friends! I’m back with another vlog review, and –wow!– what a book Tease was. I’ve seen a bit of differing opinions about this one because author Amanda Maciel takes you (uncomfortably) inside the bully’s mind. As a reader, you’re going to want to wring Sara’s neck in hopes that she could see that she’s done wrong and made some major mistakes. Does that happen? You’ll just have to find out for yourself. But do know that you’ll feel frustrated with Sara. She thinks her actions are justified; she felt threatened by Emma and had a hard time standing up to her best friend, Brielle, when she suggested something particularly nasty to do/say to Emma because Sara felt like her friendship with Brielle was slipping away.

Simply stated: Tease is complicated. It’s a difficult read, but it’s very relative and important. Read it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHruyZS7ob0

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Magan: If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

book cover for if i lie by corrine jackson

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (website | twitter)
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 276
Target Audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: Military towns, cheating, reputations, bullying
Format Read: eBook purchased for my Kindle.

Summary: Quinn’s boyfriend, Carey, is serving our country in Afghanistan. Shortly after his deployment, a photograph was taken of Quinn and another guy, proving that she was cheating on Carey. She’s trapped in a world of bullying because she’s protecting Carey by not sharing his secret.

I mentioned in my Shelve It vlog on Sunday that I was recently in a deep book slump because I was having a really difficult time making it through a book. (Don’t worry. It wasn’t If I Lie.) I was super hesitant to pick up another book because I really needed something solid, something that was sure to be an absolute win. And guess what? If I Lie was the perfect book for me.

Quinn is in her senior year of high school, shunned by her entire small Military town because they think she’s committed the ultimate crime: She cheated on her boyfriend, Carey, right after he went away to serve our country in Afghanistan. Did you catch what I said? They think she’s done this. There’s photographic proof that she was with another (unidentifiable) guy, but no one except for Quinn knows the absolute truth. Or the secret that Carey’s asked her to keep.

The backlash that Quinn faces from her father who was abandoned by her mother while he was at war, or from her classmates who vandalize her school locker, or from Carey’s parents who want absolutely nothing to do with Quinn will make you feel appropriately uncomfortable. But I fully believe Jackson does a brilliant job of balancing the bullying by showing us how resilient and dedicated Quinn is to Carey. There’s no way someone could face all the turmoil Quinn does without feeling deep, sincere love for another person.

But things only become more complicated for Quinn once Carey goes MIA after being out on a mission. But you know what I found most wonderful about If I Lie? Yes, we’re learning about Quinn, and yes, slowly Carey’s secret is being revealed to us, but there’s just so much more meat to the story. There’s also George, her wonderful elderly companion at the VA Hospital who is teaching her how to become a better photographer and doesn’t succumb to the rumors he has heard about Quinn. And there’s her messy relationship with her father and how desperately Quinn wants to be seen by him again. The speculation about who this other boy is also made my heart pound a little harder, but the final few chapters (our foster daughter can vouch for me as I was reading aloud to her while she played) really tugged on my heart strings and I balled my eyes out. My point: If I Lie is so incredibly well-rounded. The focus isn’t just on this one relationship, but has so many lovely gems that propel the story forward and make it flow effortlessly, especially when the subject matter gets a little tough.

I’m really, really not sure why I waited over a year to read If I Lie. I suppose that’s what happens when you let books pile up on your kindle because you get buy-happy. I sincerely hope that if you haven’t read this book yet that you’ll give it a whirl as soon as you can. Don’t be like me and wait too long to read a really wonderful story.

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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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book cover for Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Magan: Blaze (or Love in the Time of …) by Laurie Crompton

book cover for Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) by Laurie Boyle Crompton (web | tweet)
Publication Date: February 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 309
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: superheroes, sexting, comic books, divorced parents
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thank you!)

Summary: Blaze retaliates against the boy, Mark, who uses her for sex by drawing and publishing a comic about their brief entanglement. Mark leaks a photo of Blaze in lingerie that ruins her reputation and causes her classmates to bully her.

Once upon a time, I was mere high school freshman. I had a crush on an older boy (Travis). My brother played pee-wee football on a team with Travis’ younger brother (whose name I cannot remember — odd, I know). I attended every practice and football game I could once this good-looking boy with perfect pearly white teeth, dimples, and a great laugh was introduced into my life. We talked. We flirted.

Fantasies looped through my mind about this gorgeous boy becoming my boyfriend. I thought about how I’d tell my friends when we started dating, what it would be like to kiss him, and my parents would tease me about my sudden interest in football.

Guys, I asked this boy to a dance. (Unfortunately, he was going with someone else by the time I struck up the nerve to ask. Can you say devastated? This was probably the first and last bold boy-move I ever made.)

Travis consumed my life…much like Blaze’s fascination with her younger brother’s soccer coach, Mark, who is a classmate of hers. Blaze is the offical chauffeur to and from practices and games for her brother and his best friends. Her mom is incredibly busy working long hours since their father skipped town to chase after a career as an actor. For a teenager, Blaze carries a ton of responsibility and often doubles as a secondary mother-figure. She doesn’t really mind sitting at the games because she works on her comics and admires Mark from behind her mirrored sunglasses.

She, too, makes up fantasies about this boy and wonders what it would be like to date him. (Reading this snapped me back to all my Travis fantasy days and oddly enough, I ran into his mother in the grocery store.) Blaze’s daydreams tended to be a bit more crude and sexually-charged than mine ever were — at one point pondering what Mark’s boy parts were like as she sees him running across the field. While I thought she would be a relatable character for me, there were a handful of these times that I really couldn’t connect with her. She is most definitely not a girly-girl — her interests lie in geeking out over superheroes and comics, both by creating/drawing her own and being a connoisseur of all things Marvel. She’s a bit nerdy and has a small social sphere.

When Blaze catches Mark’s attention, her obsession reaches a whole new level. She mentally inflates their relationship to be more than it is and things progress rapidly. Without so much as a real date, Blaze finds herself in the back of her minivan with Mark. (Which is where I must mention I was extremely put-off. While I know unprotected sex happens, I feel Crompton could have used this platform to address Mark’s “reputation” and the possibility of pregnancy and STDs when he is coaxing Blaze into having sex without a condom. Blaze was more concerned with him fondling her boobs.)

After their minivan tango, Mark refuses to reply to her texts, IMs, and barely makes eye contact with her. Blaze is forced to realize she’s been used, just as she’d been warned by her little brother. She seeks revenge by publishing a comic in which she outs Mark the Shark. In reply, Mark leaks a photo that goes viral of Blaze in barely-there pink lingerie. The story shifted gears here. There was bullying and how the kids at school were responding to the photo, a side story about her father, a spontaneous road trip, Blaze’s two best friends who were pretty crappy after the photo went public, and a new boy at the comic book store. There was so much to wrap up in such a short amount of time.

Ultimately, Blaze handled the whole bullying situation with a lot of grace; she said some things at the end that made me really proud. But, I needed more resolution with Mark and the viral photograph when unnecessary emphasis was placed on her father. Throughout the story, there were definite times I found Blaze’s character refreshing and she made me laugh out loud, but overall I wish there had been a bit more balance that undoubtedly would have made me feel more invested in her well-being and all the intermingled story lines.

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<<< Extra, Extra>>>

For those of you who may love comics, you’ll be excited to see some original artwork by Anne Cain within the pages of Blaze!  Below is a gorgeous example of some of the Blazing Goddess sketches you’ll see!

blaze by laurie boyle crompton - blazing godess sketches

© 2012 Anne Cain

Thank you to Sourcebooks for sharing Anne’s amazing sketches with us!

book review for Empty by K.M. Walton

Magan: Empty by K.M. Walton

book review for Empty by K.M. Walton

Empty by K.M. Walton
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 256
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: depression, obesity, divorce, bullying
Format read: ARC from S&S via Edelweiss (Thank you!)
Previously read book by K.M. Walton: Cracked

Summary: Dell is kicked off her softball team for continuing to gain too much weight and no longer being able to perform athletically; her best friend, Cara, is distancing herself to get in with the popular crowd and uses Dell to make them laugh.

Adelle (Dell) is an obese girl who has lost everything – her father (to an affair), her softball team (she’s been cut because she can no longer play well due to her continuously increasing weight), her mother (to working too much and having a pill addiction), and is soon to lose her best friend, Cara (to the popular crowd). The only light amidst all the darkness is her baby sister, Meggie, who she helps care for after school, and the food she continues to sneak behind her mother’s back.

Dell is bullied at school and neglected by both parents. No one listens to her or asks how she is. She tries to deflect the ridicule of her peers and join in on the laughter, but inside she’s a girl breaking into a million pieces. She makes self-depricating jokes to make people laugh with her instead of at her, but she continues to turn to food to take the focus away from her pain. Many, many times I just wanted to say Put the food down. Don’t make jokes about yourself. Don’t care what they think. She needed someone to let her guard down with.

Dell has a crush on popular boy, Brandon, and there’s a very awkward (and disturbing) situation that happens with him. This was the point that I began to realize that Dell’s story wasn’t going to be a happy one. With no one to turn to and gossip spreading like wildfire about her, Dell’s downward spiral begins. No one ever takes the time to uncover her side of the story — not even Cara, who chooses to believe what the popular girls say about Dell. (There were bits of this twist in the story that sometimes had me wondering how they could believe the rumors, but I think it’s important to remember that people will believe what they want to hear. And teenagers don’t always make the most logical, sensible decisions.)

Empty is a fast-paced, absorbing story. It was a very difficult read for me because it’s most certainly not about a girl who learns how to cope and seek out help. I feel I must emphasize that this is not a happy story. (If you want a realistic, happy-ending story about an obese girl, read Skinny.) I feel, however, that my expectations for Empty were a bit skewed upon reading the summary of the book, or maybe I assumed this would be about a girl with anorexia or bulemia, but that wasn’t it at all. It’s full of sadness and grief, and ultimately, loss. It’s about being unloved, depression, and the affects of bullying.

K.M. did a phenomenal job tapping into the mind of a very lonely, dejected girl. So many people are facing different forms of bullying each day and we’re allowed to witness the huge risk K.M. takes by showing us the detrimental effects of that on a person’s life.

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book cover for speechless by hannah harrington

Magan: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

book cover for speechless by hannah harringtonSpeechless by Hannah Harrington
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Pages: 336
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: hate crimes, gossiping and secrets, bullying, vow of silence
Format read: ARC received at ALA.

Summary: After Chelsea lets someone’s secret slip and the person is hospitalized, she takes a vow of silence.

 

Have you ever told a secret you had no right passing along?

Chelsea is in the business of telling everyone’s secrets. She’s kind of known for it. She sits at the top of the popularity totem pole with her BFF Kristen until she disastrously tells someone’s secret. The person ends up in the hospital, almost dead, and Chelsea is forced to speak up and tell everything she knew that led to the attack. Finally feeling the weight of her gossiping ways, she decides to take a vow of silence so she won’t be able to hurt anyone again. She doesn’t realize how quiet her life will become until she faces the attacks and bullying Kristen and her old crowd are now focusing on her.

I was absolutely blown away by Harrington’s writing in Saving June last year. When I saw Speechless at ALA I was beside myself excited to get to read more of her work. I noted the vow of silence and thought, “Hmm. Definitely haven’t read anything like this before!” This did bring up a few particular concerns, though. For a girl who likes to read dialogue and not chunks of unbroken description, would Harrington’s no-speaking thing intrigue or bore me? And also — what would this resolve?

Never fear, friends. My worries were absolutely unnecessary. Harrington manages to speak volumes without necessitating normal dialogue. Chelsea’s inner dialogue is full of emotion — confusion, anger, hurt, hope. Though she chooses not to speak aloud, she has to find a way to communicate, especially with her teachers at school. Thanks to a dry erase board she’s able to minimally say what she needs to. She learns how to communicate with more than just her words — she lets her emotions show via facial expressions and also drops the act of being just like her ex-BFF Kristen by dressing like she wants to.

As for resolution and what Chelsea would learn through this — let’s just say she had a long way to go for redemption. She was not high on my list of favorite characters in the beginning because she seemed shallow, self-absorbed, above status quo, unfazed by her actions, and ridiculously naive. Her silence was necessary; it provided time for her to reflect on her actions. Chelsea needed to grovel and unfortunately, she learned much from the backlash she received from the popular crowd. Silence teaches Chelsea to experience life differently than she ever has — she’s faced with a new set of acquaintances (some of which despise her because they were best friends with the person who was hurt), occupying her time with school instead of parties and shopping as she used to, and getting a job because she’s got nothing else.

What I love most about Harrington’s writing is her refusal to keep things simple; she took away the speaking ability of her character, but also put her through hell. Chelsea was being bullied and there was a very strong message about hate crimes that stayed at the forefront of my mind the entire time I read Speechless. Harrington spotlights how powerful (or hurtful) the spoken word can be and how easily we take it for granted to gain popularity, how we should be more thoughtful and considerate – weighing our words much more carefully than we do.

In my notes I wrote, “Harrington battles it out for the meanest bullies with Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are.” If you’re a Courtney Summer’s fan, please allow me to introduce you to Hannah Harrington.

Speechless is an incredibly powerful book and I’m even going to go so far as to say that I enjoyed it even more than Saving June. Harrington’s writing just keeps getting better and better.

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