Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby • Magan Reviews

Book Review for Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby


Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: death of a boyfriend, transplant donor recipients, moving forward
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Quinn feels unable to move on until she has closure about Trent’s last donor recipient, Colton, who received a heart transplant. When their two worlds collide, Quinn knows she should tell Colton who she is, but it’s easier said then done when she starts developing feelings for him.

• • •

Quinn’s boyfriend is killed in a freak accident while he’s out for a run early one morning. Quinn wasn’t with him, but any other day she would have been. When Things We Know by Heart opens, it’s been 400 days since Trent’s death. 400 days of Quinn’s life being on hold — removing herself from her activities, failing to apply for college, sleepwalking through graduation, and distancing herself from her friends. The one thing she’s successfully managed to do is meet four out of the five donor recipients.

But the fifth one puzzles her; why hasn’t he responded to her letters? Consumed with finding him, she pinpoints where he is by the magic of the Internet and stumbling upon his sister’s blog. Colton received Trent’s heart and Quinn feels if she could just see him, maybe she could finally feel some closure. She goes to his home town to catch a glimpse of him, but her startled clumsiness causes them to do more than bypass one another and begins a sweet friendship.

As the days tick by and Quinn’s silence becomes deafening, she knows she’s gotten in too deep with Colton. She knows she should have been upfront about who she was, especially once she can’t seem to think of him as just a friend. Though their relationship isn’t an honest one, she just can’t seem to back away. Kirby did a phenomenal job creating a complex storyline — How does Quinn reveal herself and not risk heartbreak (again)? — but she peppered Things We Know by Heart with great adventures, an awesome connection between Colton and Quinn that just made me smile, and really, really strong family dynamics. (The bond between Quinn and her sister Ryan is so authentic; when Quinn least wanted to get out of bed, Ryan was there to shove her out of it and to speak truth when it was the hardest thing to say.)

Things We Know by Heart is ultimately a simple story of moving on when you’re not sure you should or are able. Plus a sweet romance. The strength is in all the small details that are layered with beautiful moments and pacing that feels so effortless. I love that Jessi honed in on heartbreak and moving on and did it so, so well.

(My really, really minor complaint would be that I would have liked to have seen some of those friends Quinn neglected for the last year filter back into her life, but really — such a teeny tiny thing to have hoped for in a darn near perfect book.)

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Magan: On the Fence by Kasie West

Book Cover On the Fence by Kasie West

On the Fence by Kasie West (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: The Distance Between Us
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: strong sibling relationships, athletic female, single-parents
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!)

Summary: Super athlete Charlie finds herself having middle-of-the-night conversations with her next door neighbor, Braden, whom she’s always considered to be like a brother. Neither of them can sleep and find solace in discussing things (such as who knows who better) between the fence posts when no one else is around.


First impressions and crazy thoughts that went through my head about On the Fence:

  • Holy crap this is so so so so so so so good.
  • I love the relationship between the siblings. There are four of them. Hmm. Would Dustyn want four kids? I want my children to grow up close and protective of one another like them. (Truth: I did talk to Dustyn about this possibility after finishing On the Fence. Second truth: I’ve never considered having four kids before. I’ve always had a “we’ll see what happens” mentality.)
  • Whyyyyyyy did it have to end? I just wanted to keep reading forever and ever.
  • Must. Preorder. Finished. Copy.

Cohesive thoughts to justify my fangirling:

Sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom is a copy of The Distance Between Us. Estelle loved it last year; she recommended we all buy it. So I did. And I’ve had nothing but the best intentions for wanting to read it since then. Yada yada yada — I was pregnant and a foster mom and blah blah blah — fast forward to now. As we were discussing the review books we had to read, Estelle suggested I be the one to read On the Fence. (I think she knew I needed something REALLY good to pull me out of full-time-mommy-mode so I could enjoy some much needed reading time.)

And crap. Now I’m 100% irritated with myself that I haven’t read TDBU because I feel like I have sincerely missed out on greatness. Kasie’s writing in On the Fence is undeniably fantastic. Within a few paragraphs, I was hooked and completely ignoring all life responsibilities. (Don’t worry; Everett was already in bed for the night.) Charlie is the youngest sister to three older brothers (four brothers if you count their neighbor, Braden, who practically lives at their house); she’s tough and fast and very un-girly. She’s eager to hop into a football or soccer game. She doesn’t expect the boys to take it easy on her because she’s a girl. Charlie’s never had a boyfriend, but her brothers would give any guy she brought around the third degree. Her brothers are her best friends.

When Charlie finds herself with another speeding ticket (oops?), her father forces her to get a job to pay him back for it (and the others). The place she finds unemployment is very un-Charlie-like with clothes she’d never be caught dead wearing in front of her brothers and makeup she doesn’t know how to use. Despite her anxiousness to do her time and pay her dad back, she finds herself becoming friends with girls she never would have expected to and creating outfits she didn’t know she was capable of.

But Charlie also has this other thing: she doesn’t sleep well at night. She stays as active as possible so she is completely worn out when she goes to bed in hopes that she’ll have a good night of sleep. More often than not, she finds herself awake in the wee hours of the morning. Oddly enough, she soon realizes that Braden is up at strange hours too. They find themselves outside on either side of a fence, having candid conversations about things they’d be too shy to discuss in the daylight. (Swoon.)

On the Fence has every element I desire in my books: family background, strong friendships, a believable relationship, a great sense of time and fantastic pacing, and a strong setting. I became so wrapped up in Charlie’s life that I felt they were real. I wanted to know these people. I wished I could visit them and watch Charlie kick ass in a football game. I greatly admired Charlie’s dad and how protective he was of his baby girl, but also how hard he tried to be the parent he needed to be for her, especially with the absence of her mother. Every aspect feels so perfectly authentic and real; I laughed out loud and I really never wanted On the Fence to end. I think it’ll be topping the charts as a 2014 favorite for me.

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book reviews of Destroy Me and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Double Review: Destroy Me and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Beware of spoilers below for Shatter Me!

book reviews of Destroy Me and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Destroy Me and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
Website | Twitter
Publication Date
: October 2, 2012 / February 5, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 103 / 465
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: dystopia, powers and abilities, broken government
Format read: ARC from HarperCollins (Thank you!)

Summaries: Told from Warner’s perspective, Destroy Me begins after Juliette, Adam, and Kenji make their escape from Warner; he finds Juliette’s journal and we’re given more information about who he is and what his true motives are. In Unravel Me, we reconnect with Juliette after her arrival at Omega Point where she learns that war against The Reestablishment is imminent.

» » » Destroy Me » » »

Guys. Remember back when I had cute bangs and brown hair and I called Warner detestable in my vlog review of Shatter Me? I was super hesitant to read Destroy Me because, really, why would I want to know about a character that I disliked so much? There had never been a villain that made my stomach churn as much as Warner. But I did it. I read it anyway.

Here’s what I wrote in my notes:

– Want to dislike Warner.
– Don’t want him to end up with Juliette.
– He’s twisted as a result of how he grew up. (But yes, I do see he has a heart underneath all the evil.)

So there I was … realizing that Warner had a messed up childhood and not wanting him to say all the lovely things he did about Juliette or understand how he connected to her as he read her journal that she wrote while she was locked away in the asylum. I was perplexed, but still very Team Adam. I wanted to fight for the Good Boy (and I am not very good at being wrong) so I very diligently tweeted about how I would see this journey through with Adam.

Aside from the confusing realizations I came to about Warner, I felt like I got to know even more about Juliette through her journal entries. It was great to connect with her even though she wasn’t an active character in Destroy Me. My biggest piece of advice to you as readers is to read Destroy Me before you move on to Unravel Me. It helped me get back into Tahereh’s writing style with so much ease and while reading Unravel Me, helped me understand all the Warner complexities that arose. This is a short novella, so remember that while you’re reading — you’re not going to receive a huge plot reveal, but you’re reading for character development.

Goodreads | Amazon

» » » Unravel Me » » »

I’ve discovered that I have Aversion to Middle Book Syndrome. I get really antsy, anxious, and nervous for the sequels to be released, but then I just. can’t. do it. It takes tons and tons of willpower for me to pick up the book and carry on. With Unravel Me, I just knew there was going to be something that made my heart stop which would then transform into anger at having to wait so long for another book.

What I didn’t expect was that this Huge, Big Thing was going to be abandoning Adam in the midst of tons of grief and running to Warner with wide open arms. (Yes, I know. That makes me sound like a terrible person.)

Before jumping into the million reasons why I cannot stop thinking about and love Warner, let’s reflect on Juliette. I found her character to be so unique and refreshing in Shatter Me, but this time around I was a bit thrown off by her. Mafi does an incredible job molding her into a girl that I completely understand – I get why she doesn’t trust people , why she feels so isolated, and why things never seem to go easily for her. But I reached a point where I just wanted to say, “ENOUGH! Accept this and move on.” I wanted her to fight for herself and to not be the small, fragile girl she had been molded into. Thankfully, Kenji was around to balance out my frustrations, put Juliette in her place, and provide humor by referring to himself as sexy all the time.

Omega Point is where Juliette should have been learning more about her ability and meshing with people who have powers like hers. Time passes by quickly as Juliette is struggling to gain control of her life and make friends there, but despite the good things she has going for her, she remains isolated. I felt a bit like Juliette was a psychological study – lock a girl in isolation and see how she deals in the world when she’s released (and furthermore – immerse her in a world that’s underground and see how she handles it).

Part of the complication is Adam. He and Juliette hit a crossroad. It’s one of those things where you throw your hands in the air and wonder why. There are so many revelations (with Adam and Warner, specifically) that will have you icing your jaw because it’s dropped so many times.

Speaking of the whole Adam v. Warner debate… let this be my two cents: For all that I am supposed to love Adam, I feel I am not fully convinced Warner isn’t better. I no longer feel like I know Adam’s character – I didn’t see enough of him and there are just so many complications. I was constantly frustrated with the tension and how on-edge Juliette always was. I hope so badly that I am not wrong about Warner. I feel like I’m being lured in to love him and quite possibly, something will happen to him or he’s going to prove me wrong and leave me weeping in a dark corner.

This fear of Warner proving me wrong? The not being able to know what happens for a whole year? That, friends, is why I have Aversion to Middle Book Syndrome.

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Just in case you want to see how hard I’ve fallen for Warner, check out this twitter-convo with Makeshift Bookmark’s Jen and Tahereh Mafi and for your amusement, I’m including a few spoiler-free texts between Elena (of Novel Sounds — which is also where you should listen to her Unravel Me soundtrack) and myself while I was reading:

falling in love with warner in unravel me by tahereh magi

(The next two images are my texts to her and then her reply to me.)

unravel me by tahereh mafi review

(And yes, I did intentionally cut off the screenshot so you couldn’t tell what chapter we were referring to — I couldn’t ruin that delicious surprise for you. ;))

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book cover for before i fall

Magan: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

book cover for before i fallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Pages: 470
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover borrowed from the library.
How I heard about it: I previously read Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

Summary: On February 12th, Sam dies. She re-lives the same day seven times, and each time has the chance to fix things that went wrong or to make things right that were so incredibly broken in her life. She learns a lot about her friends and how her decisions can impact everyone around.

In June 2011, I read Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I was on a huge dystopian kick and didn’t fall in love with Oliver’s work in the same way everyone else proclaimed to. Since then, I was hesitant to pick up Before I Fall. What if it was something I just didn’t enjoy? Or maybe Oliver’s writing just didn’t resonate with me?

I have to say, dear readers, that I am humbled to admit I was grasping for more and left in awe after reading this book.

I finished Before I Fall with tear-stained cheeks. I was choking back more tears. I stayed up until almost 2AM to finish this book, and couldn’t stop thinking. It’s like I could not turn my brain off. It made me think so much about how our decisions, even the most mundane, can impact someone else’s life so deeply.

When I was first introduced to Sam and her posse of best friends, I couldn’t stand them. They epitomized the term mean girls. They were obsessed with Sam losing her virginity that night to her “perfect” boyfriend. They were fixated on calling one another sluts and were so drunk and wasted. They were a huge turn off, to say the least. I didn’t know how Oliver would turn Sam into a likable character because she was beyond pathetic.

It was a gutsy move on Oliver’s behalf to make the characters so unlikable. However, the progression of the story was beautiful. It took time before Sam understood that each day she would wake up and relive the previous day over again. When things began to click in her head that what she did could alter how other people’s days would go, I wanted to jump up and down. Slowly I began to understand how little Sam really thought for herself, how intimidated she was by the thought of not being popular, and how her idea of perfect was shaped by her best friend Lindsey.

There was a lot of brokenness and hurt in Before I Fall, and much of it stemmed from Lindsey. She intentionally made life a living hell for Juliet. Sam’s clique called her Psycho and they hated her something fierce. Anna was another girl Lindsey antagonized and defamed. The questions that were always in my mind (and eventually in Sam’s) were why does Lindsey despise these girls so much? What happened?

Sam has to come to terms with the unpopular girl she used to be. A boy named Kent was a huge part of her life before Lindsey adopted her into the popular crowd. There were scenes with Kent that broke my heart and I cried big, sloppy tears. I was crushed by the idea of falling in love with someone and not being able to ever be with them. Kent has a deep love for Sam. He wants to be her protector. He, in all his nerdy gloriousness, is what every girl wants in a guy. He’s so dedicated to Sam, and in the beginning of the book I didn’t get it. I thought he was a weird, creepy geek that drooled over pretty, popular Sam. I loved that I came to know Kent’s true character in the same way that Sam did, slowly and tenderly.

I can’t express in words how much I feel impacted by this book. Usually I pick up another book almost immediately after I’ve finished one. I’ve waited more than 24 hours because I’m still letting things settle after finishing Before I Fall. There are two takeaways I have after reading this book:

  1. I have now re-read Delirium (and Pandemonium) because I think I may have just read it at the wrong time. I read it right after Divergent, another dystopia I loved, and I unrightfully compared these two books. Lesson learned: don’t read two like books back to back.
  2. The choices we make, no matter how big or small or how right or wrong they seem, still affect other people. I should remember Sam’s transition from selfish to selfless and pay more attention to how what I’m doing affects those around me.

Please, if you haven’t read Before I Fall, stop what you’re doing right this second and start reading it. I guarantee you won’t regret your decision and you will feel like you learned a huge life lesson when you’ve read the last page.

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Magan: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, a vlog review

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (website | twitter)
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Pages: 338
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover gifted to me by my in-laws for Christmas!
How I heard about it: Um, this book is awesome so everyone’s talking about it.

Shatter Me is buzzing.

Everywhere. It’s kind of a big deal.

And Tahereh Mafi is awesome. (Understatement of the year.)

If you’re a big book blog follower, maybe you’ve already read several reviews of Shatter Me. I wanted to attempt to do something a little different this time. I love making vlogs and I LOVED this book… I put these two things together and here you have a vlog review of Shatter Me.

And just in case I wasn’t clear: Shatter Me IS AWESOME. You must read it right now.

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Magan: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas

The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas 
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 351
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover borrowed from Ginger at GReads!
How I heard about it: Originally, from James at Book Chic

Summary: Rose’s mother loses the battle to cancer, leaving her with a dad that’s resorted to drinking too much to cope with the pain and a brother who has to return to college. She finds a Survival Kit left behind by her mother for her, which leads her to meet Will who helps her work through the grief.

I’m not entirely sure where to start this review, other than to simply say that I LOVED THE SURVIVAL KIT. There were so many strengths. It was full of emotion and beautiful writing. There were scenes that took my breath away. Others left me gasping for air as I tried to fight back the tears. There is a scene with kites where I had to close the book for the night (even though it was much earlier than I wanted to stop reading) just to let the effects of it sink in – pure. beauty. Let me attempt to break down the many, many reasons I loved this book…

In a lot of young adult fiction, we see brokenness in the form of broken families. Rose’s family is floundering at the loss of her mom, and while her dad is dealing by drinking too much, at its core, The Survival Kit has amazing family values built into it. The flashbacks Rose would have of her mother, the way her brother and grandmother tried to intervene to make life easier, and even the way Rose took care of her father made me want to be a part of her family. I loved the support system.

It wasn’t just her family that was amazing; the support also came from a group of incredible friends. I have to admit there were times I fully expected things to be super cliche where things would just continue to get worse and worse. Rose abandons every remnant of her life before her mother’s death. Despite that she puts months of separation between herself and her friends, they are there ready to help her carry on. One of the most outstanding characters was Rose’s best friend, Krupa. That girl was a rock. I need a Krupa for when my life goes to crap. She could read Rose like the back of her hand and never once expected more than Rose was able to give. She was just there. All the time.

There’s a little bit of a love tango in the mix, too. I don’t want to spoil an ounce of this story for you so I’ll be vague. Chris is Rose’s boyfriend. Will is a hottie boy who lost his father and takes care of Rose’s gardens after her mother dies. You might be thinking love triangle, but let me stop you right there. No, no, no love triangle. Frietas handled the boy situation so perfectly. Every time I was cringing thinking some awkward situation was about to go down, I found myself exhaling with relief. Freitas gave Rose so much strength and maturity. I wanted to applaud Rose for how she handled so many situations. This girl is an awesome example for teenage girls today.

I could just go on and on with things I loved (and clearly I haven’t even mentioned the actual Survival Kit), but I might end up stumbling over my words in a rush to declare my love for this book. I wrote down a list of things I loved, so I’ll just stop and advise you to read this book right now. Oh, and of course, here’s my list if you need further convincing:

  • Will was slow-going to get to know, but wow did I love this boy.
  • Loved the hockey element. I don’t know a thing about hockey, but this book convinced me hockey should be more widely written about.
  • Discovering what was included in Rose’s Survival Kit was awesome. Each thing was so unique and tailored specifically to her. I loved the role music played in this portion of the book, and how well her mother knew her to be able to create something so awesome.
  • It’s a story about caring, the effects of death, loving and moving on after a death in the family, learning how to live, and also learning how to love.

If you don’t like to cry when you read, if you don’t like contemporary fiction, and even if this doesn’t sound like something you’d like – I beg of you that you’ll give The Survival Kit a chance anyway.

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