Estelle: The Truth about You and Me by Amanda Grace

The Truth and You and Me by Amanda GraceThe Truth about You and Me by Amanda Grace ( tweet )
Amanda Grace is also writes as Mandy Hubbard.
Publication Date: September 8, 2013
Publisher: Flux Books
Pages: 235
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: student/teacher romance, family pressure, sibling rivalry
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: When Madelyn is given the opportunity to take college level courses at 16, she never thought she would fall in love with her professor. Bennett is 26 years old, and totally aware that he should not be dating his student. What he doesn’t know that Madelyn is actually still in high school. Through her letters to Bennett, we watch as they grow closer in friendship and wonder just how it will all end.

I know a lot of people who are going to be turned off by The Truth about You and Me because of the assumed teacher/student affair plotline. Chances are if you look at the crime section of any news website, you are going to see similar looking stories. I obviously don’t condone these relationships, but they do happen and Amanda Grace has taken this story and really spun it on its heels.

Here we have a responsible adult (who happens to be a professor) who knows just how much engaging in a relationship with his student could jeopardize his career and his entire life. So he trusts in who Madelyn is, and they decide to wait until the semester is over to do anything about their feelings for each other. Only Madelyn is the one who doesn’t unveil all the facts. She’s only 16; she’s still in high school.

And Bennett has absolutely no idea.

The Truth About You and Me is a really fast-paced read (I got through it in a few hours) but it really made me think about the level of maturity we need to have to be a part of certain relationships, how easy it is to hide who we really are, remaining in control (or so you think), and just what happens when the truth comes out. This is not a story about an older man preying on a younger woman, a child. I believe that Bennett and Madelyn had the makings of a solid relationship but there are so many “ifs” involved… and originating from her own dishonesty? So interesting.

I was incredibly wrapped up in this romance and its complications, and so impressed with how carefully they treated their situation until their deadline. But Grace also sheds some light on the pressure parents place on us to be perfect, and what happens when that product of perfection runs free. Being book smart does not necessary mean being street smart, and what Madelyn made up for in brains, she certainly lacked in maturity.

I definitely suggest giving The Truth about You and Me a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised at your reaction. Two other books that popped in my head when reading this were Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally and Where You Are by J.H. Trumble. Sometimes people’s actions are not so clear cut and all three of these books are examples of that.

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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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Estelle’s Shelve It: 1/6/2013

weekly feature focusing on the books we bought, borrowed, and received from publishers

Oh howdy! And happy new year!

Sorry for the lack of v-log tonight, but it’s a busy weekend! Hope you are wrapped up in some good reading, and finding time to relax. Monday begins the first full week in awhile for most of us, I’m guessing? We will need the books to get through! Here’s what’s happening on my bookshelf.

Rather Be Reading Blog Shelve It - 162013

From NetGalley:

15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins + Riptide by Lindsey Scheibe are two books I requested from Flux Books, the publisher of Beautiful Music for Ugly Children — a book I absolutely loved from last year. So I have high hopes for these two reads. (Doesn’t Riptide remind you of Blue Crush?)

My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling is actually part of a series (not normally my thing, but I didn’t know + I am willing to take the chance with a title like this one.)  Release date for this one is in April.

From used book store shopping:

Man, oh man. Discovered a small used book store near my job and the YA section is so small, I’m shocked I found anything. Especially these.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, a book raved about by Magan.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky, pretty much a miracle that the store had this title. I had just gotten through reading Anatomy of a Single Girl on my way to the book store + there this beauty was. (I gobbled it up in two days.) If you haven’t checked out this author, you really have to. (My review for Single Girl will be live on Wednesday, and it’s out in bookstores on Tuesday!)

All You Never Wanted by the great Adele Griffin. I really really enjoyed reading this one last year, and hey, it was 5 dollars and in perfect condition!

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And in case you missed it on the blog this week:

Our official happy new year with bookish resolutions!
Review of The Julian Game by Adele Griffin.
Review of Falling For You by Lisa Schroeder.
Review of Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy.

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Well, that’s it for me! Anything exciting happening with you guys? Hope you have a fantastic week! Thanks again for stopping in!

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Themed Gift Pack

I can’t stop reminiscing about my favorite books when working on this themed gift pack series we have going this month.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills is so sweet, so endearing, so inventive yet tackles a pretty unconventional subject in the young adult genre. I’m skimming through to refresh my memory of the little details, and I keep getting distracted because I love the main character, Gabe, so much. He was born Liz but has just told everyone he is Gabe. His parents don’t take it too well, his best friend Paige is accepting, and the only place he can be himself is when he broadcasts the program “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children”. This character is like a walking music encyclopedia. I love it.

The book is a lot about acceptance and moving forward, and creating a new life for yourself — but it never feels weighed down by drama and sadness.

There’s a lot of hope buried in there, and I hope you’ll take the time to check it out if you haven’t already.

I’m pretty sure Gabe would get a real kick out of this series. He is definitely someone who appreciates themes! Happy shopping!

1. Handcarved Cassette Stamp: I actually have one of these, and love it. It’s a nice way to personalize notes or give them a fun look. In MNFUC, Gabe loves his music, truly identifies with it + is always taking about his A and B side (since people have yet to discover these two parts of him).

2. All Shook Up Original Broadway Cast Recording: I’m not sure if Gabe would approve of my love of musical theater but he does love Elvis and this is one album I listen to all the time. Cheyenne Jackson (you may know him from 30 Rock) plays the Elvis-like phenom of this jukebox show, and sings most of the tracks. Great for those who love Elvis, and like fun, well-imagined covers.

3. Cookie Radio: Okay this is supposed to be a cookie holder (?) but it pretty much can be used for anything (paperclips, nail polish, etc.). Every night, Gabe is mentored by his neighbor as he talks to people over the airwaves in the dead of night. It’s a place where he can really be himself, and one that keeps him safe. (Until, well… it doesn’t.)

4. Wrecords by Monkey Clock: Gabe would be all over this Brooklyn-based company if he could. Everything they make is from used or broken vinyls. (They currently have a shop in Bryant Park if you are in the area.) Bracelets, iPod covers, necklaces, and more. But I just really like this clock.

5. Kate Spade Live Colorfully Pillow: The “live colorfully” motto totally embodies who Gabe is from his personal life to his love of music. He is such a vibrant person, and I think Kate says it best. Love the pillow but there are also notecards, an iPhone case, and some jewelry pieces that also don the saying.

6. Stay on Track print: Take this as a life lesson or just one that Gabe has to conquer in his professional life, but this print basically says it all. The Joy Goldstein Studio on etsy has a ton of cool prints to check out.

7. Pepsi: Gabe’s drink of choice!

8. I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg: This book is so cute, and captures the romance and pure adorableness that comes out of Gabe’s mouth while he pines away for the unattainable girl. (I have this in my book collection and it always makes me smile.)

Estelle: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills
Publication Date: October 8, 2012
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 288
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: music, LGBT, bullying, life after high school, acceptance, radio, Elvis
Format read: eBook from NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Gabe is so looking forward to the end of high school and starting fresh. He recently came out to his parents as transgendered and is slowly trying to make his way in the world, one song on the radio at a time.

“Maybe there will be a day when this shit will be over and I can just be a dude with normal regular stuff in his life.” – Gabe

Many of us can agree that music can be a haven, a safe place.

For Gabe, who was born Liz, working the late shift at a public access radio station is a place where he can be himself — sharing the music with a small group of people who are just about as passionate about music and its history as he is. John, Gabe’s next door “grandfather-figure” neighbor, has hooked him up with this gig and also serves as his music guru; the two staying up all hours of the night sifting through his extensive vinyl collection like little kids. Gabe’s on-air discussion of our “A-side/B-sides” becomes a theme woven through the entire story; a theme that is not only true to his whole being, but one that also manages to connect us all.

I applaud Cronn-Mills for welcoming us into Gabe’s story, post-coming out. I thought that was a fresh and bold choice. It’s not surprising that his parents cannot bring themselves to fully accept who their daughter really is. Gabe just wants them to be able to look him in the eye but it is understandably tough and the depiction of their behavior and distance was never over the top, did not monopolize the plot of the book… it was just naturally there. (In many situations, Gabe proves to be impressingly patient, knowing that what he is going through can be difficult and confusing to those around him.)

While Gabe is supported by both his best friend, Paige, and mentor John, he knows that not everyone is going to accept him. He can’t wait to escape his town, move to the city, and work for a radio station. When a contest opportunity pops up (or, rather, John enrolls him), Gabe sees his ticket to the future and even participates under the name Gabe. At the same time, his following is growing on the radio (there’s even a Facebook group!) and a girl he knows from school begins calling in and suggests meeting.

This is where we have a problem. Because 1) Gabe is in love with Paige. This was heartbreakingly sweet for me. They two had such amazing chemistry and I just never knew if it would work. The second problem was that everyone in school thought Gabe was Liz, including his date and he wasn’t sure if agreeing to meet her would blow up in his face. (Whew!) Teenagers worry about dates all the time but it seemed like Gabe always had to triple worry because of other people’s judgements and unwillingness to accept him for who he was. I could tell it was exhausting but it never brought Gabe down.

I’ve read many LBGT books this year, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a moving story full of the ups and downs of life, totally magnified. Each chapter begins with clever quips pertaining to Elvis (i.e. “Harry Potter is the new Elvis because they’re both magic”) and the music knowledge seeping from the book was so impressive (the research must have been extensive!). The music genres featured were so vast that I really wish I had a playlist handy to listen to while Gabe worked his own magic.

I really liked how the author was not focusing on some horrific event and how it affected this character and focused more of an every day account and how certain circumstances affected his thought process, decision making, and also the leaps Gabe had to take to be the person who always knew he was. I really felt for him in his struggles. (And really wanted the boys who were threatening him to be exiled to another planet for their smallmindness and insecurities.) I came to care for him so much, enjoy his humor, and just wish the best for him.

BMFUG is one of those books I wish could’ve gone on forever. It has engaging characters, sheds lights on a subject that is not brought to the forefront enough, and also illustrates the varying degrees of acceptance in this world — our own and the people around us.

Here’s hoping you take a chance on Gabe too. 

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