Magan: Tease by Amanda Maciel

books about bullying Tease by Amanda Maciel

Tease by Amanda Maciel (twitter)
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 336
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: bullying, suicide, lawsuits, book told from bully’s perspective
Format Read: ARC received from the publisher.

Summary: Sara is being tried for the death of former classmate, Emma, whom she and her friends Brielle, Tyler, and Dylan bullied. The story is told from Sara’s perspective as her trial nears and she reflects back on the past leading up to Emma’s death and present day.

Hello again, friends! I’m back with another vlog review, and –wow!– what a book Tease was. I’ve seen a bit of differing opinions about this one because author Amanda Maciel takes you (uncomfortably) inside the bully’s mind. As a reader, you’re going to want to wring Sara’s neck in hopes that she could see that she’s done wrong and made some major mistakes. Does that happen? You’ll just have to find out for yourself. But do know that you’ll feel frustrated with Sara. She thinks her actions are justified; she felt threatened by Emma and had a hard time standing up to her best friend, Brielle, when she suggested something particularly nasty to do/say to Emma because Sara felt like her friendship with Brielle was slipping away.

Simply stated: Tease is complicated. It’s a difficult read, but it’s very relative and important. Read it.

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Magan: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

courtney summers book this is not a test reviewThis is Not a Test by Courtney Summers [twitter | website]
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: E-galley received from NetGalley
Why I read it: Oh, I only love everything written by Courtney Summers.

Summary: Sloane finds herself locked in her high school with five other students, hiding from the zombies that are lurking outside. One bite from a zombie can end a life and transform the person into a zombie. Sadly, Sloane doesn’t find that appalling. She’s got demons of her own she’s trying to run from, and death doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

If you had asked me at the beginning of last year if I would read a book with zombies, my response probably would have been a firm, “No.” Here we are in 2012 and I’ve gone all wild and crazy and read about zombies.

The reason?

Simply because Courtney Summers wrote This is Not a Test. She’s one of my most favorite contemporary writers; I had a Courtney Summers love fest at the end of last year and read Some Girls Are, Cracked Up to Be, and Fall for Anything. You might be wondering how a contemporary fiction author could write something about zombies. You see, this story really goes much deeper than zombies.

Sloane is our main character; on the day chaos ensues and the zombies begin taking over the world, she had already planned to die. Her sister abandoned her; Lily left town without so much as a backward glance and Sloane has been stuck in her own hell living with an extremely abusive father. She has missed weeks of school after the last beating. She had already written out her suicide note and tucked it in her pocket. Fast forward several hours. She finds herself barricaded in her high school with five other survivors, students from her school.

Are you wondering what the outcome of Sloane’s story will be? I definitely was the entire time I was reading  This is Not a Test. I was chatting with Estelle when I was about mid-way through the book; she asked me how it was. This was my response to her, “Reading about zombies is really interesting, but I’m way more invested in what is happening with the characters.”

Summers’ characterization and ability to make me connect with the stories she writes is unbelievable. The story was about zombies, yes, but ultimately, it was about fighting for your life. Sloane had barricades built all around her. No one knew her secrets. She didn’t know how to escape her hell. While my adrenaline was pumping and I was nervous for their lives, I was so concerned with the well-being of Sloane. Only Courtney Summers could take a story about zombies and add a contemporary spin.

Of course having a kind and caring boy want to connect with Sloane didn’t hurt either. Rhys was that guy; he was nice and protective. He knew there was more to Sloane than she let on (she was very standoffish and didn’t care about any of the other people). He wasn’t pushy but he encouraged Sloane to make plans and move forward. He had his own secret that no one else knew. In fact, each of the other characters was struggling with some emotion, action, or event that happened in their lives. There was a major “WOAH, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” moment for me when things clicked and fell into place.

Maybe you’re not thinking this is for you. Maybe you’re turned off by the zombies. I encourage you to give it a try; it is definitely a book that is outside my normal comfort zone. I have so much faith in Summers’ writing, though. She won’t let you down, and I guarantee you’ll be thinking about This is Not a Test days after you’ve turned the final page.

Check out these reviews of This is Not a Test

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book cover with blue pills in white cup, cracked book cover, book about two guys in psych ward

Magan: Cracked by K.M. Walton

book cover with blue pills in white cup, cracked book cover, book about two guys in psych wardCracked by K.M Walton [twitter | website]
Publication Date
: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 311
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: ARC received from the Debut Author Challenge ARC Tour
Why I requested it: Loved the idea of two unlikely characters being roommates.

Summary: Victor and Bull are sworn enemies. Bull terrorizes Victor, and Victor roams the hallways of his high school seemingly invisible. His home life isn’t any better; his parents remind him each birthday that he was an accident and was never wanted. Bull’s grandpa and mom are always drunk, there’s very little food, and he hangs out in the cemetery to avoid the regular beatings he receives. Bull and Victor become roommates in the psych ward after an incident goes wrong with Bull and Victor swallows too many sleeping pills.

Cracked is K.M. Walton’s debut novel, and she’s coming out with a bang. While Cracked seems to be a very serious book according to my summary, I found Walton did an incredible job balancing the serious with laugh out loud moments. I breezed through the pages and couldn’t get enough of Victor and Bull.

Victor felt invisible. He would sometimes go days without speaking to anyone but his dog, Jazzer. He was never good enough for his parents, and while they were never physically abusive, their treatment certainly took a toll on him mentally. It didn’t help that Bull ridiculed him, hit him, and called him names at school. It just didn’t seem like he had much to live for so he tried to overdose on sleeping pills when his parents fled to Europe for vacation without him.

Bull, real name William, really made me upset when I read about him from Victor’s point of view. (Each chapter alternated between their two points of view.) However, when I got into his world, I felt so disgusted by his living conditions and the almost daily beatings his grandfather put him through. I didn’t excuse his actions and mistreatment of Victor, but I did understand how he was displacing his anger on someone else. When he comes across a gun he tries to devise a plan to make things “better” but things backfire (no pun intended) and he ends up in the psych ward with Victor.

What an unlikely situation that two enemies would be roommates. Their inner dialogues had me laughing out loud when they realized there was no way they could change their circumstances. They both have secrets no one else knows, but they’re forced to sit in group therapy sessions and reveal all their emotions. These were the times I was so glad Cracked was written in first person – I got to know every single humorous or sad thought that crossed through their minds. In the short time they were in the psych ward, both were forced to come to terms with their feelings regarding two pretty ladies. (Well, three if you include the nurse Bull was crushing on.)

I really, really enjoyed Cracked. It felt extremely realistic. I love how it focused on the boys being worth something. They realized they had something to live for, and they became fighters (not in the physical sense, of course). Cracked came out in January, so you should definitely check it out!

Check out these reviews for Cracked:

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Magan: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Release Date: November 22, 2011
Pages: 336
Target Audience: Young Adult
How I found out about it: NetGalley
Format: Sent to Kindle from NetGalley
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Harper’s sister, June, commits suicide by overdosing on pills; no one has answers about why she did it. Harper knows she has to do what June always wanted to do – go to California. She road trips with her best friend, Laney, and a boy, Jake, that was somehow connected to her sister.


Saving June has left me emotionally raw and ripped to pieces.

We are introduced to Harper after June’s funeral. June is her older sister who committed suicide – she and Harper were night and day different. June was very willing and eager to please, make perfect grades, and was surrounded by tons of friends. Harper was disobedient, a less than ideal student, and had only one close friend. When June dies, no one knows why. She leaves behind no note. Harper rummaged through her room and found something that reminded her how badly June wanted to escape Michigan to live in California. It’s then that she realizes that she has to find a way to scatter her sister’s ashes there.

She and her best friend, Laney, devise a plan to road trip to California, but have no means of transportation. A boy June used to tutor, Jake, offers to drive them in his van. The unlikely threesome set off on an adventure to discover answers about why June might have chosen to take her own life.  There’s such a mix of tender emotion and rage – Why would June do this? Is God real? How could everyone have overlooked the signs?  Harrington did a beautiful job setting up the story so that we would feel exactly how Harper would have. Lost, confused, hurting, mad, depressed, dejected – but most of all, ignorant.

There’s so little we know about June and Jake. Did they date? If they didn’t know each other well, why would he offer to drive over two thousand miles to help out these two girls?  Jake’s character was so mysterious and multi-layered. I really enjoyed getting to know more about him. One of my favorite character traits was his love for music – I constantly have music playing while I work, but I wouldn’t say I’m a music snob. Jake kind of was. He tossed out so many bands and songs that I felt like I should grab a notebook to scribble them all down. (Instead, Harrington did something incredibly awesome – before her acknowledgements, she included several playlists!)

Jake and Harper do not have an easy relationship; by all outer appearances, these two would seem to hate one another. Their banter is humorous and they’re brutally honest with one another. So many things go unsaid between Harper and everyone else in her life – Jake seems like a breath of fresh air, telling her exactly how he feels and laying everything on the line.  Laney was such a supportive best friend, in many ways even Harper couldn’t see or understand. I loved the dynamic between them and the ways they learned to be supportive and strong together.

This story is so beautifully written. When I wasn’t reading, I was constantly thinking about it and when I’d have my next chance to sit down to read.  I read all through Thanksgiving day while my family sat down to watch football.  It’s just that wonderful. Kudos to Hannah Harrington for such a beautiful debut novel!

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