Estelle: The Vow by Jessica Martinez

The Vow by Jessica MartinezThe Vow by Jessica Martinez ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 432
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: immigration, best friends, family
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)

Summary: When Mo’s father loses his job, he decides the best decision is to move the family back to Jordan. But over-achieving Mo is not ready to leave his school during his senior year, his home, or his friends – especially his best friend Annie. When Annie decides the two should secretly get married to keep Mo in the country, they fail to consider how this decision affects their friendship, their families, and their futures.

How far would you go to help your nearest and dearest friend?

Honestly, when Annie and Mo decide that getting married is the best way to keep him in the United States, I thought they were a little loony. Impulsive. Like maybe there were a few other avenues they two could have taken? Especially with Annie on the cusp of a new relationship with Reed at work, the fact that Mo and Annie’s parents do not like the other, and let’s not forget the consequences of being found out. They could be fined and go to jail; Mo could never return to the United States again.

But when Mo’s mom agrees to consent to the marriage, the two make the decision super quickly. Mr. and Mrs., at seventeen and eighteen.

How, oh how will they make this work?

The Vow may be 400+ pages but Martinez makes the time fly by. Chapters alternate between Mo and Annie’s perspectives, the end of each chapter linking to the next chapter’s beginning. (Such a lovely stylistic touch, even when it flourishes in unexpected ways.) There is such an urgency behind the story as it progresses; as the situation that Annie and Mo throw themselves into becomes harder and harder to handle because in order for them to make their marriage look believable, they have to lie to pretty much everyone in their lives and act like a married couple.

This is the thing. Mo and Annie are truly best friends. One of them doesn’t have secret feelings for the other. They both came into each other’s lives when they needed someone the most. With Annie’s sister’s death and Mo being a total outcast in a new country, they just latch on together and their dependence and loyalty to each other becomes the strongest thing in each other’s lives. This friendship is so rare in young adult (and real life, when you think about it) and I loved how Martinez was able to pinpoint their differences but also make us understand why these two needed each other so badly.

But is all the sacrifice worth it? Is it immaturity or idealism that makes Mo and Annie believe that this “secret” can remain a secret, and also not create a domino effect in other aspects of their lives?

I’ve read Virtuosity by Martinez and I really enjoyed it, but The Vow completely blew me away. The conflicts, the tough choices, memorable supporting characters (including the hard-to-forget, Reed), and this unbelievable friendship — there is absolutely so much at stake in this story and I had no idea how it would all end. Definitely a book that deserves a spot on my top shelf.

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Estelle: Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo

Lexapros & Cons by Aaron Karo (website | twitter)
Upcoming Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 240
Target audience: Young adult
Format read: Paperback ARC from ALA (Thanks!)
Summary: Chuck just has to get through a few more months of high school — a place where he was mostly invisible due to his OCD. As his behaviors begin to worsen, his parents convince him to get help before he leaves for college and he is more on his own. But it takes a bit more than his doctor’s advice to steer him in the right direction.

You know what’s exhausting? Reading so many books back-to-back with female protagonists! I’m a girl; I totally get it. We’re complicated. We’re emotional! This is why reading a book like Curveball or Paper Towns and now, Lexapros and Cons, is like splashing cold water on my face ala a Neutrogena commercial. The boys can be just as insecure and misguided as the gals but their voices are so fresh.

Take Chuck Taylor for example. (Named neither for the basketball player or the shoe. A fan of the shoe, and not the sport.) Senior in high school. Total genius. Brother of popular (younger) sister who still won’t accept his friend request on Facebook. Pretty much invisible to everyone except his best friend Steve. And slave to his OCD. He can’t sleep because he can’t stop feeling like he has to pee and he’s always getting up to quadruple check the stove to make sure it’s off. He can’t walk away from his locker without making sure it’s locked at least 18 times. For a kid who is all set to go away to college in a few months, these are definitely behaviors he needs to be able to control. Even the senior trip – the NO CHAPERONES senior trip he has been looking forward to since freshman year – is an issue. It’s camping. How can a kid with OCD go camping? With bugs and dirt? Chuck’s answer: he can’t.

So you can see how this premise has the potential to equal heavy, serious story (i.e. It’s Kind of a Funny Story) but Lexapros and Cons is aware of life. It doesn’t stop because one serious thing is weighing us down. There are still surprises and hilarious moments and friends with their own shit going on. And that’s why this book is just as awesome as its title. Chuck may have real struggles to work through but he’s hilarious. I dare you not to like him. As a reader, I enjoy a book so much more when a character is open and honest about who they really are. With Chuck, nothing is held back. You know how many times he masturbates but at the same time, how swoony he gets over the new girl, Amy. (He also has a shoe collection some of us might die for.)

Amy! She sounds like the coolest girl on the planet (thanks to Chuck). I mean who could wear a camouflage jacket with ballet flats and always say “right on” and get away with it? (Not me.) She’s just a part of the great team of supporting characters, including best friend Steve who is equally funny in his own geeky way. I will admit to liking Chuck’s “courting” of Amy just as much as his friendship with Steve. It’s also interesting how both of these characters each play a role in being a catalyst in Chuck’s attempts to deal with his OCD.

The book also deals with bullying, friendship, and being honest about who you are. It’s about making your own choices. Choices you need to make for yourself and not for others. I’m glad Karo depicted OCD as a disease that cannot be fixed by pills and doctor visits alone. It takes time, patience, support, and sometimes falling on your face.

You know what? I think it’s time to hang out with the boys. Because they say silly and sweet things, have active sex drives, and have just as much trouble working through their own shit as the next girl in your book pile.

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