book cover I'll Tell You Mine by Pip Harry

Magan: I’ll Tell You Mine by Pip Harry

book cover I'll Tell You Mine by Pip HarryI’ll Tell You Mine by Pip Harry
Publication Date: March 28, 2012
Publisher: U.Q.P.
Pages: 264
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: goth, boarding school, friendship, parental problems
Format read: Paperback from Mandee at VeganYANerds

Summary: Kate is sent to boarding school after an unknown event occurs between her and her mother; she begrudgingly goes but has problems connecting with her roommates and conforming to all the rules she must follow.


Kate Elliot is a girl who found her identity when she allowed her friend Annie to give her a makeover. Despite her mother’s blatant disapproval over her new gothic look, Kate won’t falter from dressing this way. While nothing ever seems to please her career-driven politician mother, Kate’s behavior and an unknown mishap (the mystery is unraveled throughout the book) eventually lead her to boarding school. She is no longer welcome in her own home and her parents decide she needs more structure; the time away from her family (they hope) will improve Kate’s attitude and allow their broken relationships to mend.

Kate is forced to room with three very different girls — two popular girls and one rule-breaker with a reputation, Mandy. Kate goes through periods of absolute resentment and distances herself completely from the three girls. Mandy eventually breaks the barrier and forces her way into Kate’s life. They’re an odd pair — Kate stands out because she’s got multiple piercings, dies her hair black, and intentionally wears makeup a few shades paler than her skin tone; Mandy wears skimpy clothes and has a reputation for being a bit slutty. Their friendship was one of the most beautiful aspects (other than Harry’s lovely writing) of I’ll Tell You Mine. Their conversations are full of snark and laugh-out-loud funny moments. Their antics (or rather Mandy’s plans) often lead to trouble.

Mandy is honest and upfront about how she’s feeling; she isn’t afraid of the front Kate puts up to dissuade people from befriending her. Mandy seems utterly naive to Kate’s insecurities and solitary ways. As Mandy begins to strip away the walls Kate has built around herself, we get to know Kate in a whole new way. She’s distraught over the events that occurred with her mother. Why does it seem like she’s always messing things up and doing something to irritate her mom? She misses her dad (who understands self-exploration and calls her mother out on her hypocrisy). Her little sister is one of her favorite people in the world; she wants to set a good example for her.

Kate feels stuck between making new friends and maintaining the old friendships; her two best friends (pre-boarding school) Annie and Noah seem to be moving on just fine without her. She’s heartbroken when she learns that Noah is dating someone new. Will he never see that she’s in love with him? Kate goes through many a transformation and the separation from her life outside of school allows everything to shift into focus. She sees what she was doing wrong, how she could be better, and what she could change.

The question is: Will she ever be given the opportunity to prove she’s a different person or will she just continue to mess things up?

I’ll Tell You Mine is a story I didn’t want to end. Pip’s writing is concise and packed with punch, every word very intentional. I connected to Kate on so many levels — struggling to become your own person but feeling like you’re always coloring outside the lines, being a bit insecure about how you look and what you weigh, and wanting that boy you’ve loved for oh-so-long to finally take notice. The friendship and family aspects were so thoroughly explored and impeccably written; I projected more drama into the book by not always trusting Mandy’s intentions or assuming the worst. Time and time again, Pip proved me wrong and restored my faith in her characters.

Pip’s writing is authentic and realistic. She flawlessly developed a story that everyone should devour. There are a few wonderful surprise gems hidden within the pages of I’ll Tell You Mine (possibly including a love story that made my heart go pitter patter). If you’re interested in a story that’s very true-to-life and will sweep you away, definitely take a chance on Pip Harry’s debut novel.

(Thank you very much to Mandee at VeganYANerds for gifting this incredible book to me!)

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Estelle: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Awaken by Katie Kacvinksy: Review from RatherBeReadingBlog.comAwaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Publication Date: May 30, 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Pages: 309
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: technology, digital age, dystopian
Format read: Borrowed from the library.

Summary: The year is 2060 and the world and everyone’s life is basically run by a computer. Maddie lives her life on a computer screen, getting to formulate just how people perceive her. It’s not until she meets Justin that she begins to get curious about the outside world and decides to meet him at a study group. Instantly, she wants more than just communicating with him through a computer screen.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am constantly checking my phone for Twitter updates and emails, and turning on my laptop in the evening after staring at a desktop for eight hours straight during work. But what if that was all we had? What if no one went out for walks on the beach? Or hung out in a coffee shop? Or went shopping at the mall and just laid on their front lawn reading a book?

Life like that seems pretty dark and dismal, doesn’t it?

Kacvinsky has built a startling world, one that is only 48 years from now. That’s not that far away. In fact, if this book was real life, my generation would be Maddie’s mother, a woman who has her favorite novels from the past tucked away, a woman who gifts her daughter a blank journal and hands off these books like golden treasures when the time is right. Maddie’s mother doesn’t forget the simplicity of the past and hopes to pass that on to Maddie, even if her husband and Maddie’s father has had a huge hand in this push toward the digital life as leader of the digital schools.

While Kacvinsky doesn’t build a world quite as concrete as Megan McCafferty’s Bumped series and goes a tad overboard with the ‘evils of technology’ theme (We get it, we get it, I kept muttering to myself), she does a deft job of creating this character who is a victim of her time and the world’s dependency on digital. But sometimes these feelings pop up and she wonders why she can’t just go outside for a date instead of pretend she’s outside on a date and she’s stuck in this conundrum. Does she even know who she is because she’s so busy creating this image for herself? Has making things so easy actually made life incredibly hard?

Meeting Justin in person changes all of that. He’s part of a group that wants to revive the old way of living. Taking time to enjoy and not rushing through life just because. Connecting with people. Talking to people face-to-face. Spending time near people, looking straight in their eyes and not at a pixelated screen. But there is that problem of who her dad is and how she’s on probation and watched even more than the normal kid. They are both off-limits to each other in ways and it makes their chemistry that much more tangible and fiery.

I’m not normally one for dystopians but Kacvinsky’s premise hit close to home. While I love to learn the latest gadgets and have made some of my closest friends through social media, I still know how much I treasure watching someone’s face when they talk, hearing their laugh, and watching their hands move in excitement or frustration. While I know personally just how well you can get to know someone with all the advancements we have today, I want nothing more to be able to show up in my car and go bowling and out for a glass of wine with them.

Sometimes I fear all of this is just a distraction, one that will cause me to miss the real moments in life and make me lazy when it comes to the important things. Kacvinsky’s novel is also about control and how we have to work hard to believe in our own abilities to connect and not rely on machines to do everything for us. Or we’ll just become robots, or worse, rolling around on a cruise ship in the sky like the humans in Pixar’s Wall-E.

Everyone has something to fight for in Awaken, even if they don’t know it yet. Though at times long-winded, Kacvinsky has introduced a thought-provoking premise with brave characters standing up to powerful forces while managing to smoothly interject a budding romance. I, for one, can’t wait to see how it all ends in part 2 (which comes out November 20).

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