Anything Could Happen by Will Walton | Estelle Reviews

Anything Could Happen by Will WaltonAnything Could Happen by Will Walton ( web | tweet )
Published May 26, 2015 by Scholastic Point
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: coming out, best friends, early high school, family

Summary: Tretch’s life in a small town is filled with family, his best friend, and (secret) dancing. Despite his supportive parents, he has yet to tell them his truth: he’s gay. And in love with his best friend (who is most likely not). During winter break, Tretch deals with changes in all corners of his life from the mundane to the enormous — with hot chocolate and some good tunes.

I’m just going to say it: I’m in love with this book.

The holidays, awesome family characters, and a solid best friendship? Pretty much the perfect combination. Debut writer Will Walton plunks us into the winter break of main character Tretch — a good (tad emotional) guy, a hobby choreographer and Taylor Swift worshiper who gets bullied by the kid of his dad’s work colleague. He’s also gay (a secret to everyone else) and in love with his best friend, Matt. (Who could blame him? He’s pretty great.) It sounds pretty tragic, right? I mean, sure. When you’re in high school and don’t have your license yet and you’re unsure of yourself, parts of this list sound pretty bad but even Tretch knows he has it pretty good. He firmly believes if he decided to tell his parents about being gay, they would be totally cool with it. But still, he resists.

I loved that Tretch wanted to hang out with his family and his older brother, Joe. That he loves holidays spent with his grandparents and family time is so special to him. Anything Could Happen brought me back to my early high school years in a way I haven’t experienced in my reading in a long time… it was the most nostalgic hug. Your parents are still embarrassing and you still have to ask permission to spend the night at your best friend’s house and who can forget the lack of independence because you don’t have a car? It wasn’t always so magical but there’s something about those boundaries that felt comforting like a cocoon too.

When so much in life is uncertain, it was great (and so familiar) how much Tretch depended on music, his dancing, and love of literature to get him through. I can’t forget the hot chocolate either. There’s no way I could not be rooting (against all odds) for Tretch to find so much happiness. I cried with him, I laughed with him, and I sure as hell wished I was hanging out with his family during their traditional viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life. Anything Could Happen is as much about weathering the storm with friends and family, as it is about taking the time to understand yourself and sharing that awesome person with people who love and accept you.

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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Magan: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, A Vlog Review

Howdy, y’all! Man it feels so incredibly wonderful to type these words. It feels so good to be here talking books. And yes, quite literally below, I talk books in my vlog. I’m really wanting to mix things up a bit and as I’m just on an altogether different schedule with a newborn, vlogs seem like the best solution for me right now. My hope is that it’s a) not boring for you and b) fun to watch. I really want your feedback about what you think so if you’ve got some, leave it below in the comments. Okay? Alright, let’s get started!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77jdtxAvM6E

Book Review for Open Road Summer by Emery LordHighlights of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord:

  • Incredible friendships — something I want to see much, much more of in the books I read. I get kind of bogged down by the drama sometimes. Reagan and Dee are friendship gurus.
  • Mucho, mucho hotness in the form of Matt Finch. He’ll make you swoon. And laugh. And want to know him in real life.
  • A girl who is incredibly relatable because she’s made some stupid mistakes. Who hasn’t done something they regret? * cue the crickets*
  • ORS made me feel just about every emotion and made me miss my BFF, Estelle, somethin’ fierce.

A few quotes, as promised:

“He’s kind of beautiful, in an understated, comfortable-looking-way — the kind of guy who doesn’t mind seeing a rom-com with you and gives you his hoodie when you’re cold.”

“We’re saying a lot within the silence: We can’t and I know and But I want to and Me too. The effort of restraint burns in my chest — a physical ache from holding back.”

“Laughter feels like our flotation device — it won’t pull us out of the storm, but it might carry us through, if we can just hang on.”

“If we could capture feelings like we capture pictures, none of us would ever leave our rooms. It would be so tempting to inhabit the good moments over and over again. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives backwardly, who memorializes moments before she’s finished living in them.”

And a shameless photo to introduce you, officially, to my daughter Everett:

I spend a lot, lot, lot of time holding this little lady. How could I NOT? Sometimes when I’m really craving some reading time, I rock her and read my book aloud to her. She did, in fact, hear a good chunk of Open Road Summer. I hereby vow to turn this girl into a book-lover. Or try my darnedest. 😉

Everett

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Estelle: Riptide by Lindsey Scheibe

Riptide by Lindsey ScheibeRiptide by Lindsey Scheibe ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 1, 2013
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: surfing, college, best friends, family secrets, immigration
Format read: ARC on NetGalley via Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Ford and Grace are best friends, but best friends who aren’t so secretly in love with each other. While Ford makes moves, Grace pushes him away. She can only focus on one thing this summer: winning the surfing competition to hopefully ensure her admittance to the college of her choice. In the meantime, Ford trades his wet suit for a suit suit at his law internship at Grace’s dad’s firm. His focus? Make a difference with immigration reform.

This is the second time in a row that a vibrant book cover oozing with the feel of summer ended up taking on a much more serious tone than I imagined.

Riptide is told from the alternating perspectives of Ford and Grace, two best friends/surfing buddies, who are so in love with each other but for various reasons cannot get it together. Ford is all for being upfront with his feelings, but Grace’s avoidance makes him question if she likes him like that at all. Of course, we know that she does and the foundation for some mega-tension between the two is set.

But this is more than a romance. Grace has many secrets at home, and her trust for people is pretty non-existant. Her parents pile on the pressure for her to go to an Ivy League school and her mom is constantly worried about appearances. (There’s a certain irony in that detail.) Since forever, Grace’s main escape and passion has been hitting the waves. She’s pretty damn good at it too, and would rather pass up her Ivy League chances to stay close by and be part of an awesome college surf team.

When Ford signs her up for a big-time competition, Grace hones in all her energy (or as much as she can) into succeeding and hopefully finding the courage to stand up to her parents about what she really wants. In the meantime, Ford is embracing his own future by interning at Grace’s dad’s law firm and hoping to learn more about immigration return, after an unfortunate incident that hit close to home.

Scheibe does a great job of injecting diversity into this cast of characters from Ford’s new friends at work to the Spanish frequently spoken at his home. I never see this enough in the young adult genre, and it’s always refreshing when it pops up in my reading.

Unfortunately, at some point, Riptide becomes more of Grace’s story (for good reason) and we lose a lot of Ford’s perspective, weakening the second half of the book considerably. His story was worth fleshing out too, and I wish more balance had been achieved. His friends were intriguing and so were his ambitions. As the book went on, I continued to question whether the book as a whole would have been stronger if Grace had been the only voice we had been introduced to.

Even as the book winds down, despite real change coming to all the characters, everything was sewn up a bit too perfectly for me. Too much emphasis was placed on how surfing related to real life, and, while yeah, that makes a ton of sense… I don’t think the reader needed it spelt out quite the way that it was.

While Scheibe did bring a rare family dynamic to the forefront and forced Grace to make necessary but tough choices, a fair amount of tweaking and buffing up the thinner plotlines would have made Riptide a more impactful, well-rounded story. Rather Be Reading Skip It Icon

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Book Cover for Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Magan: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Book Cover for Meant to Be by Lauren MorrillMeant to Be by Lauren Morrill [website | twitter]
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte
Pages: 290
Format read: ARC borrowed from Sarah at Storybound Girl
Keywords: high school, first dating relationships, traveling to London

Summary: Julia’s trip to London is anything but what she expected when she’s paired up with the resident comedian, Jason. Her class trip is chaotic and exciting as Jason turns all her plans upside down and she begins receiving texts from a person she met at a party Jason convinced her to attend. Will Julia find her Meant to Be in London?

 

Book Licker. I fell in love with this book at the first mention of Book Licker – the ever-so-endearing nickname Jason gave our resident Type-A, obsessive compulsive protagonist, Julia. Much of this book is founded on the understanding that Julia and Jason are complete opposites who are unwillingly partnered during their spring break school trip to London.

Jason is difficult. He’s funny, but secretly smart. He’s a jokester. He picks on Julia to NO END.
Julia is uptight and follows rules to a fault. She’s a goody two shoes. It’s her worst nightmare to be paired with Jason.

I mentioned in my Smart Girls Get What They Want review that there are two types of books – those definitely written for teenagers and those who are for a more mature audience. Meant to Be is mature because of Julia and Jason – they’re two intelligent, worldly characters that are responsible and wise beyond their years. Julia’s character reminded me of who seventeen-year-old me was. The girl who was anxious to do everything right, to be the best at everything, and who sometimes forgot to live a little because she was so focused on aiming for perfection.

Jason pushes forces Julia to step outside her comfort zone and experience the non-guidebook version of London. Morill did a beautiful job making London come alive for me; I’ve never been, but I so hope that I have the chance to in the very near future. Jason showed Julia that it’s okay to go off the beaten path and that life doesn’t always have to be so literal. Julia, in turn, had a great effect on Jason, too.

She showed him it’s okay to be a little nerdy. She fascinated him with the random factoids she had stored away. Their interactions were beyond amusing. I found myself laughing out loud as these two incredibly different people tried to navigate their way around London to complete their homework assignments.

I can’t lead you astray and let you think that Jason is our main man in Meant to Be. Julia meets a random person, Chris, at a party who she spends much of her time texting. She also bears the burden of a long-term crush on resident good-boy, Matt, from back home. At times I felt Julia’s decisions were a little jarring and I desperately wanted her to be confident in her decisions. There was definitely a big dose of confusion over who she liked. In the end, everything worked out really well and I was happy with who Julia became.

Meant to Be is an incredible debut novel by Lauren Morrill. I definitely encourage you to check this one out. It’s every ounce as wonderful inside as the cover is on the outside.

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Celebrating Release Day with Author Marisa Calin

Twitter has an amazing way of connecting people. Not only have I had the pleasure to make some wonderful friends through 140 characters but a few weeks ago as I was reading an August release, Between You & Me, I sent a tweet to the author to tell her I could not put it down. A few days and direct messages later, we were meeting for lunch at one of my favorite coffee shops in New York City. Despite my extreme nervousness, as soon as I met Marisa, who greeted me with a hug, I suddenly felt like I’ve know her forever and was relieved to finally have someone to talk to about this book that left me so touched, so knocked over by its creativity and tone. (Did I mention she has the cutest English accent in the world?) So today on the release day of Between You & Me, I’m so happy to share a short piece about Marisa. Many heartfelt thanks to the author who blabbered with me in a window seat of the coffee shop for an hour. It was such an extreme pleasure.

an exclusive interview with writer, marisa calin on ratherbereadingblog.com

“I’m somewhat of an imposter,” author Marisa Calin admits with a smile over a cup of tea.

This statement would make any lunch companion nervous but I smile back because Marisa and I have just spent the last 10 minutes chatting like old friends about theater and the unfortunate incident that brought Mike Tyson to the Broadway stage. (True story.)

What she means is that she’s a trained actress-turned-writer; someone who has never had any formal training in writing. But if her young adult debut, Between You & Me (Bloomsbury Kids), set to release August 7, is any indication, she has taken her own passion for acting and injected it into this refreshing addition to the genre. Written in the style of a screenplay, Marisa tells the story of Phyre, an ambitious teenager who wants to be an actress, her best friend only known as You, and the theater teacher, Mia, who Phyre develops a crush on.

“I was inspired by the immediacy of a screenplay. I love to write because there’s a finished product. In theater that changes from night to night because you are bouncing off different people.” Marisa laughs. “I sound like a control freak. But there is something about writing. You can sit down and you imagine a scene, imagine a character. You get to do it all yourself and you get to lay out the way you want someone to experience [the story].”

Unlike a play or a film screenplay, Marisa took the basic format a step further by creating moods (with beautiful references to light) and also honing in on Phyre’s feelings from the first person. Both of these are big no-nos on stage and film; it’s the job of the director and the cast to bring both those avenues to life. But in Between You & Me, Marisa takes the reins and delivers an authentic look at three individuals who have tunnel vision when it comes to their respective lives. “I wanted to use things that I had the right to talk about emotionally. I used a style of something I know about and I love in a way that I would want to express myself.”

And despite her desire to sit in the driver’s seat and totally formulate the reader’s experience, Marisa doesn’t reveal all when it comes to Phyre’s story. Readers are never quite sure of the sex of the character’s best friend, You – a detail that manages to remain intriguing and not distracting. “I had to bank on the fact that whoever was reading it was going to make their own assertions. I took a risk and people might feel too taxed. I know my grandmother won’t like it,” she jokes.

While Phyre wears her (heart-shaped) rose-colored glasses and can be a bit self-centered (and who wasn’t at 16?), ignoring You’s quiet moments of kindness and soaking up any bit of Mia she can get, Marisa is happy to have the opportunity to explain that while she lent her character her own emotions, she was never that self-absorbed. (She promises!) “I balanced my imaginary meandering with real life much better but I wanted to be true to the fact that your teenage years are one of the only times we can be that self-obsessed.”

As coffee beans grind and people rustle in and out of the shop, Marisa and I break off into tangents about moving, Disney, her school in England, and spying out the window for a man wearing a yellow shirt. (Read the book, you’ll get it.) I also learn she hates litterbugs (me too), loves bright colors and water, and only finished 25% of the first Twilight book. (This makes me like her more.)

Our conversation drifts back to books and Marisa talks about her second novel already in progress (“I’m not going to tell a story I have no business telling.”), her writing process (“I don’t write with a plan.”), her best writing advice (“Less is more.”) and grand praise for her editor (“My editor is the most amazing person in the world… She knew what I wanted to do better than I did.”)

We both agree that the best books are the ones that hit us after we’ve closed them, the ones that take us over and leave us wanting to know more – the exact force that has brought us together today. As Marisa ventures into this new world of writing, it is her experience in acting and her ability to connect with her younger self that leaves readers with the best gift and one that sets her work apart from the rest of the genre – challenging her readers to fill in the blanks and dig a little deeper.

For more information on Marisa, please visit her website, Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter.

Between You & Me review | Goodreads | Amazon

 ♥ ♥ ♥

Marisa was also wonderful enough to supply RBR with a signed copy of her book to give away to one reader. This contest is open internationally! Good luck friends!

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Estelle: Between You & Me by Marisa Calin

book cover for Between You & Me by Marisa CalinBetween You & Me by Marisa Calin ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury Kids
Pages: 240
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: LGBT, unrequited love, screenplay format, theater, teacher/student relationships, friendship
Format read: ARC from ALA.

Summary: Told in the form of a screenplay, Phyre is a 16-year old girl who dreams of being an actress. When the beginning of the school year brings a new drama teacher into her life, she is positively smitten and wonders what to make of these new feelings for a female. Meanwhile, most of Phyre’s time is spent with her best friend — only referred to as ‘you’ throughout the novel — until her ‘obsession’ with Mia causes her to ignore You’s constant and adoring presence.

I love when authors take creative chances. When they do it right, the book morphs into more of an experience than just some paper bound together in your purse.

Between You & Me is just that. Written in screenplay style, author Marisa Calin introduces us to Phyre, a 16-year old girl, who loves theater and her best friend – a best friend that garners no name, simply known as ‘You’, with no description whatsoever, just movements and words and perhaps a clothing description every now and then.

It may be disconcerting to be kept in the dark about a character who is very much the heart of this novel, but we do get to see You in Phyre’s eyes and get equally frustrated when You’s actions constitute more than friendship and her friend is utterly blind to it.

So this is the thing. We have no idea if You is a girl or a guy. To be completely honest, during my first read through, I thought You was a girl. Once I (begrudgingly) finished the book, I read the Publishers Weekly review where it was mentioned that it was not divulged if You was a girl or a guy. Did I get amped up or what. It was almost midnight and I literally could not sleep because I found that hard to believe.

It’s funny the tricks your mind plays on you when you are reading. Somehow you are filling in the blanks with words that weren’t even on the page. I could swear I read that You was wearing a dress at one point and instead, You was all dressed up. So I went back, two days later, and reread the entire book again. This time, I pictured You as a boy.

And my conclusion? The book certainly works from both angles. But it made me hyper aware of these categories that I place people in. Yellow shirt, crossed ankles, light enough to lift into a treehouse – oh that must definitely mean You is a girl. But does it? Unconsciously we form all of these stereotypes in our head and cleverly and intricately Calin reminds us to forget them, check them at the door. That is not what matters here.

It is the love. It is the playful, intimate friendship between these two characters. It is how You will come over in the middle of the night to paint Phyre’s room because the color is bothering her. You (as in us) don’t meet people like that every day. And despite You’s silent and sweet attempts to show her these blossoming feelings, Phyre is totally crushing on her new theater teacher – the passionate, smart, cute, and encouraging Mia. The way Phyre bumbles around Mia and chastises herself for saying moronic things in front of her is so spot-on. Don’t misunderstand, Mia is clearly the teacher here; she never eggs Phyre on but still she is absolutely enchanting. Calin brings to the forefront various descriptions of light when it comes to Mia and it is breathtakingly clear why Mia is so worth living in this bubble of fantasy, even when it means Phyre taking You for granted.

The script style is, as it should be, very bare bones but Calin weaves in Phyre’s (uncensored) thoughts within the stage direction but manages to keep them simple, succinct and straightforward. The pacing is quick but the moments remain, bleeding into scene after scene. The format is a challenging experiment, but Calin’s writing is genuine and impactful nevertheless. I probably could have highlighted the entire book.

As a theater fan, I love how Calin incorporated parts of a school play that, in ways, paralleled the moments between Phyre and You. I admired Phyre’s passion and dedication to her craft, and so many of the creative elements incorporated into the production. It might be hard to believe that so much emotion could be alive and kicking in a book that isn’t overflowing with monologues or description but it is so there. So many times I had to close the book because the feelings were overwhelming and oh-so familiar.

Between You & Me has easily become one of my top reads of 2012, whether we are talking strictly about 2012 releases or of all the books I’ve read so far. It’s challenging, it’s thought provoking, and an innovative way of looking at relationships and preconceived notions of love and happiness. It just is.

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