3 for 3 | December YA Picks

Why, hello there. It’s actually THURSDAY. I kept thinking yesterday was Thursday, but it wasn’t. So here we are. Ten days into December, only a few weeks left in the year and so much to talk about — the best books, how many books, and, of course, the new titles still releasing this month! Today I’m all about the third option and I’m sharing a few YA reads that are sure to brighten anyone’s holiday or kick off a new year right.

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Not If I See You First by Eric LindstromNOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom (12/1/15; Little Brown/Poppy)

What you need to know: Parker is blind but she doesn’t want any special treatment. Her dad passed away recently, and she doesn’t want to talk about that much either. She wants to go running and spend time with her best friend, dishing out way honest advice to classmates. She seems to be coping until “an old flame” finds his way back into her life, and she’s left to rethink events that happened years ago, just who’s on her side, and how she can’t hide from her feelings (about just about everything) forever.

The best part: Okay, there are two best parts. Parker is refreshingly bold (even if some of this is deflecting her own pain) and her friendship with her forever bestie is so wonderful but almost because it’s not safe from growing pains and misunderstandings. I love how Eric Lindstrom explores the reasons why we share some things with our friends, and hide others. It’s so important.

b&n | amazon

18982137THE TROUBLE WITH DESTINY by Lauren Morrill (12/8/15; Penguin)

What you need to know: Liza is drum major of her marching band, and takes major responsibility for the band’s success. But she’s the only one that knows the band could lose its funding and cease to exist so they are now performing on a cruise ship in hopes of winning some major bucks. Schools trip can be dramatic, surprising, and totally fun but Liza is the last person who puts her feet up and relaxes. Can the band triumph — especially with evil ex-best friends, old loves, and new distractions?

The best part: Lauren Morrill nails the feeling of being in a marching band, and that chemistry when the hard work and sweat and tears come together for some amazing performance. I was instantly transported to some of my favorite times in middle school (just band) and high school (marching band, forever).

b&n | amazon

This Raging Light by Estelle LaureTHIS RAGING LIGHT by Estelle Laure (12/22/15; HMH for Young Readers)

Can I just point out how strange it is that this author’s name is Estelle Laure? This is almost the perfect combo of my & my sister’s names. In fact, I have to keep correcting myself from writing Estelle Laurie. Anyway…

What you need to know: Lucille is forced to take care of her younger sister when her mom disappears and her dad deals. She gets a job, pays all the bills, and still manages to get her and her sister to school. She can only keep up appearances for so long, right? Nothing can distract her from her growing attraction for her best friend’s twin brother; can anything get more complicated? (I may have spoken too soon here.)

The best part: All of it. Every time I had to press pause on this book, I felt like I was being sucked out of some dream. The writing was sharp, thoughtful, and honest. I loved how strong Lucille was; I absolutely adored her friendship with Eden, and her devotion to her sister? As a reader, you want to give as many hugs to these characters as possible. I admired Lucille for advocating for herself so many times, especially when she had been let down by the people who should be taking care of her.

b&n | amazon

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December is certainly impressing me with the books so far. Let’s keep this streak going!

Be sure to share some fab reads of the month below — if you want. xoxo

We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg • Estelle Reviews

We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth EulbergWe Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 1/27/2015
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: friendship, romance, organizing a club, Beatles
Format read: Purchased.

Summary: Penny Lane is dating Ryan and running the Lonely Hearts Club but as things get more serious with Ryan and the club begins to grow beyond their high school, Penny finds herself in a predicament. As great as all of this is, she cannot seem to find a fair balance between the two.

When it was announced that we would be getting another book about Penny and her Lonely Hearts Club, I couldn’t be more ecstatic. My warm feelings for the original book all stem from the fact that the characters felt like girls I went to high school with and I couldn’t wait to experience that again. I’m very happy to say that We Can Work It Out did not disappoint. Here are a few reasons why you should pick it up:

  • When two people start dating, there is always so much thought about how much time she is spending with her significant other (mostly too much) but I love how Elizabeth Eulberg turns this on its head. In We Can Work It Out, Penny is spending less time with Ryan because of her allegiance to the club and also because she doesn’t want to turn into the girl who ditches her gal pals for her boyfriend. It’s so important to be aware of this infraction but when it’s starting to become a problem in your new relationship… it’s time to rethink things.
  • Penny is tense about PDA in the halls and isn’t great about letting Ryan in as much as she lets in the members of the Lonely Hearts Club. I remember feeling weird about kissing my boyfriend in public when I was a sophomore and struggling to feel comfortable with other people undoubtably catching us together. For those reasons, I’m glad it was touched upon in this book because going from liking someone to being naturally physical is not so seamless.
  • I couldn’t have been prouder of all the girls in the Club. It may have started as a tactic to grow stronger after some jerky guys broke their hearts but the focus has totally turned to being there for your girlfriends through thick and thin — for those you know and those you don’t. Their commitment to one another was lovely, and, most importantly, they were able to widen their views when it came to “the rules”. Eulberg shows how these girls are truly in flux, feeling out who they are, and accepting that they don’t have all of the answers. I wish girls showed each other this kind of love and understanding all the time.
  • Penny and her parents are as hilarious as ever with their devotion to the Beatles. I love how the Blooms are such supportive and awesome parents (in fact most of the Lonely Club parents are) and I could not but smile when they pulled out tribute after tribute to those four boys from Liverpool.

We Can Work It Out was like hanging out with your best girlfriends at the diner, you haven’t checked your phone or watch once, and the cheesy fries just keep on coming. It’s a feel-good hooray for the ladies read that understands what makes ladies tick and why friendship is so important.

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Previous review of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB

Estelle: Paper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter

Paper Airplanes by Dawn O'PorterPaper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Amulet
Pages: 272
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: friendship, parents, school
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.

Summary: Even though they are students at the same school, Renee and Flo meet at a party. Kind of. Flo saves Renee from an already embarrassing situation, and soon they find themselves stealing away to have an open friendship with one another. Both are at a place in their lives where they are feeling cast aside and nothing is truly in their hands. Together, they form an honest and undeniable bond but secrets force to break it all open.

Female friendship as the focal point in young adult books? We all know it does not happen a lot, and this is why I was so anxious to read Paper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter. (Added bonus: all the British-isms since the book takes places there.) Unfortunately, this book (deemed gritty and powerful) did not win me over as much as I wanted it to. I’m breaking this one down with a list.

I loved:

  • This book truly depicts what it is like to fall in love with a friend. Even though Renee and Flo keep their friendship under wraps at first, I loved how they were able to be so honest with one another even when it sucked and especially because they didn’t have many people in their lives they could count on. The adventures, the notes, the encouragement: it was real and it was fantastic. I adored the way they loved each other.
  • The author conveys a very normal teenage life filled with tests, drinking, parties, and yes, sex. I thought it was great but because of other books I’ve read that have done it just as well, it did not feel quite as groundbreaking to me. (Though Renee’s “relationship” with a guy who obviously adores her and she can’t figure out why she doesn’t feel the same way? Great, great addition; happens so much and it’s difficult to explain to others and to ourselves.)
  • The time period. Hello, 1990s. Adios cellphones and the internet. So refreshing not to have an interruptions from texts and emails and focus more on how we communicated back then. Calling people on landlines, writing notes on paper airplanes, and sometimes having to wait to talk to someone because you never got their number. Ah, the joys of radio silence.

What didn’t work for me as much:

  • Something in the book truly irked me. It’s a big deal and I don’t want to reveal it here but it was so serious and I thought, not dealt with the way that it should have, especially as readers see how the book is wrapped up. I was so angry on behalf of one of our characters, and while I know not everything is going to be resolved completely, it seemed like it wasn’t taken as seriously as it should. Now maybe that’s just a reflection of our culture today? But still. Bothered. Angry.
  • The pacing. The action in the book truly picks up in the last third of the book, and, by then, it felt way too late. The middle dragged a bit and by the end, when things revved up, I wanted the book to be longer. It felt a off balance and didn’t keep my attention as much as I would have wanted it to.

In the end, Paper Airplanes was a toss up as far as a rating goes. I did get emotional when it came to these characters, and if you want to meet some of the most infuriating families in the history of literature, you will find it in this book. Not to mention one of the shittiest best friends ever. Oh gosh. I wanted to punch her in the face multiple times. I was so relieved Renee and Flo found each other, despite all the complications, because they needed someone on their side badly.

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Estelle: Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman

Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren BjorkmanMiss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: November 12, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 279
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: senior year, San Francisco, Chinese culture, friendships, blogging
Format read: ARC paperback from a friend.

Summary: Three best friends living in San Francisco are dealing with college acceptance letters, secret boyfriends, mysterious online identities, old grudges, and how they can move forward and still keep their bond in tact.

Miss Fortune Cookie was such a pleasant surprise for many reasons but here are a few that stood out:

  • It talked about how to deal with the challenges of threesome friendships in a way where each girl had a different (and well-established connection) with each other. (This is so rare.)
  • The challenges of choosing colleges especially when you want to stay close to your best friends and aren’t ready to make that leap out of your comfort zone quite yet.
  • Great insight into the Chinese culture. It was so unique to have a character like Erin who embraced the culture so much (she was born in China) and wanted to officially be a part of it.
  • Realistic portrayal of the internet. Erin secretly blogs as “Miss Fortune Cookie”, dispensing advice to those who ask and I loved the backstory of how her blog gradually rose to fame.

Okay, so let me set it up. Erin, Mei, and Linny are all best friends except Erin and Mei aren’t as close as they used to be because of some unfinished drama back in elementary school. They never talked it through, were reunited thanks to Linny, and while Erin copes, she is hesitant about trusting Mei with her heart again. Fair enough.

I really liked this look at friendships. It’s hard to be in a threesome because at different parts in your life, one person is always closer to another. Bjorkman does another thing really well. She shows the reader how much of these girls has an individual relationship with the other, which (I think) is so important for a threesome to keep on surviving. (So many of my friendships are based on threesomes so I can relate.)

These girls are dealing with so much: obligations to their parents, college acceptances, secret romances, wanting to lose their virginity, not having money all the time (Erin and her mom are struggling to make ends meet), and more. I liked all of these side stories, especially when Erin meets two very cute boys in one night (one is a great match, and the other is a tad younger — okay super young — but offers her some funny, sweet, cute commentary on life) and orders the most ridiculous virgin drink ever at a club. (I laughed out loud.) All of these characters are in situations where they need advice but Erin is usually the one to dispense it, and when an email from one of her friends shows up in her Miss Fortune Cookie mailbox, she feels even more helpless.

All of this leads to some wacky adventures but it also forces the characters to stand up for themselves and what they really want.

As someone who gives a lot of advice herself, I really understood Erin’s frequent dilemma — that blurry line between giving sound advice to someone and letting them go and figure it out on their own. It’s so difficult especially when all you want is for the people in your life to be happy and do what’s best for them. Then there’s the other possibility: the advice you give is taken and things start to fall apart. What happens then?

Miss Fortune Cookie was a great mix of fun and realistic moments and most of all, I enjoyed its focus on strong female friendships, prep for college, and finding the bravery to make the right decisions for yourself.

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