Book Report: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Well, hello! Welcome back for another Book Report! In the past, we’ve done lots of gushing as we’ve oohed and ahhed over books like ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, but today’s discussion involves a few differing opinions on our overall opinion of KISS KILL VANISH by Jessica Martinez. Did we love it? Did we agree? How would we rate it? Read our joint review below to see what we thought! Please remember that we try to be as spoiler free as possible, but tread lightly.

Book Cover for Kiss KIll Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez (website | twitter)
See Also Virtuosity and The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 432
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: runaway teenager, family secrets, young adult thriller
Format Read: We both received copies for review from the publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary (from Goodreads): Valentina Cruz no longer exists.

One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.

She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.

She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Just in case you need a visual reminder of who we are:

– – – –

Magan Magan
Estelle Estelle

♥ ♥ ♥

 

Magan So today we’re talking about KISS KILL VANISH by Jessica Martinez. We’ve both read books of hers in the past we’ve really enjoyed (Virtuosity and The Vow), but I think it’s safe to say that we have slightly differing opinions on this one. In two sentences, tell me what you thought!
Estelle Kicking off with a toughie, huh? I think Kiss Kill Vanish was sexy, addicting, and heartbreaking. I also thought Martinez did such amazing things with story structure and dialogue; I was in awe. (I kind of cheated.)
Magan You sneak! Ok, so let’s maybe start off with the story structure because I felt SO intrigued in the beginning, that Valentina ran away from her family (not saying why!). I really admired her decision. But I lost a lot of faith in her as the book went on and I liked her less and less.
Estelle You should expand on that because I didn’t feel that way. (And I’ll explain why in the best way I can!)
Magan I thought it took a lot of strength to leave the comfortable life that she had. She was a girl who had absolutely everything, and she basically cast it all aside because she couldn’t support the truths that were revealed to her. I checked out a bit when she returned to settle things because her decisions felt very immature and she seemed to get in the way much more than she helped the situation. Her young age and naivety really became apparent to me. I think if maybe there was a bit more backstory in the beginning of the book, it would have made more sense to me why she needed to return and have closure. But her decision seemed more vengeful, especially the more she learned once she was there.
Estelle For me, the book started off very slowly and I had the opposite reaction. I thought her leaving seemed so unbelievable for a teenager. This book definitely was one where I had to suspend my disbelief or I wouldn’t have been able to get invested. I think she was a scared little girl who had nowhere to turn, and knew nothing about her history. As the story goes on, even the little she does know, gets turned on its head. I can’t pretend to know what I would do in that position.
Magan I do agree that the actual book starts off slowly.
Estelle Her character really played with my head because sometimes I pictured her so much older than she was, and other times, so much younger.
Magan I think that’s really interesting. I feel like it takes a lot of strength to walk away from something. I really enjoyed seeing her try to scrape by, especially when it was doing a job she hated. I really, really wanted to see her make solid friendships and stand on her own two feet. I think that’s really what might have been the biggest letdown for me. Where I expected the story to go isn’t what happened. Let me rephrase that — in a situation like hers, it takes strength and courage. I think it can be seen as cowardly if a person continually ditches everything they do and doesn’t ever commit to see something through, but in Valentina’s specific situation, I feel she demonstrated maturity.
Her sisters, for example, were atrocious.
Estelle I just had a thought. Maybe I’m reading into it too much but Miami vs. Canada, rich vs. poor, even the two brothers she comes across… the whole book feels like a contest between these halves. Good vs. evil. Truth vs. lie.
Magan Oh, for sure. There are SO many contrasts throughout the story.
Estelle When Valentina was in Canada, she tried to be plain Jane. But she really had no FINAL plan like what was she going to do… pose for portraits forever? Sure, her endgame was getting to Spain but in reality? It felt like she was at a total standstill. Like you, I did want her to make solid relationships but I felt like the possibility of that was so small because she would continue to be on the run.
Magan Yes! I think that’s where a bit of implausibility came into play. Ultimately, I feel like this is a Catch-22. Her returning home was the ONLY thing that really allowed her to break free. But it also was my least favorite part of the book because she made some poor decisions. (I think you feel otherwise here.)
Estelle Does a character making poor decisions affect the likability of the book for you? I’m curious about this.
Magan No, I actually just didn’t think a lot of things made sense here. I hated the main character in TEASE, but ultimately really enjoyed that book.
Estelle Do we put too much of ourselves in the characters we are reading? (I’m not even sure I would have run away.) Can we explain what didn’t make sense without telling secrets?
Magan I think a lot of things felt contrived for me. I don’t feel like I can say specifically because I don’t want to ruin the book, but things blew up and escalated so much and there were a few surprises that I didn’t anticipate, but one in particular about a character I didn’t really find believable.
Estelle I hope that paragraph piques the interest of every one of our readers because I read it and I’m like TELL ME I WANT TO KNOW WHAT WHAT. I’ve read a few other thrillers this year, and those experiences really shaped how I felt about this one. While I enjoyed them and I’m not sad I read them, I think Martinez really succeeded in places they didn’t.
Magan That makes a lot of sense to me. You have recent reads to compare it to. There were great surprises too. I really loved that there were times I just did NOT know what to think about a character. IS HE GOOD? Do I trust him?
Estelle YES EXACTLY. She kept surprising me, she made me fall in love with Miami when I should have hated it, and she made me suspicious of every single character we came in contact with. I don’t think many authors can make you laugh in the middle of some crazy tale like this one either. That’s why I keep bringing up the dialogue. It felt so pitch perfect and natural. That’s hard to do.
Magan I think the suspicion of the characters was a definite positive for me. Especially when it came to the brothers, I was curious, but also felt a little skeezy when I read about her posing for Lucien’s paintings (and they were so innocent).
Estelle Oh agree. It was so so creepy.
Magan I think this will for sure be a read that people will discuss. A lot of it will come down to how black and white you are when it comes to right and wrong. Do you agree?
Estelle Ah! I don’t know how to answer that. I do? I mean, it almost a little controversial. More than anything I appreciate a book that challenges me to think about why a character is doing something and sometimes why a character doesn’t think things through before they move forth with a decision.
Magan I feel like by asking you that question I had this little self-realization. I think I do tend to categorize things into neat little bubbles. I don’t like grey areas. And for me, the family situation was absolutely wrong. There is no question that I had very strong feelings about it. I think that might be why I didn’t understand her interferences. How could she do what she did when she too felt things were so wrong? That’s when things got messy for me. Am I making sense at all?
Estelle I’m reading those questions out loud to myself. Maybe she just went a little nuts? That’s all I got. I think it makes sense. I didn’t get it either. But maybe that goes back to what we were saying before about her being two different things. She acts adult but also childlike and she was sort of throwing a tantrum and taking control.
Magan I think that’s a really great way of putting it. Honestly. So many contradictions.
Estelle It’s uncomfortable for any reader, which is why (and I say this sadly) I know it won’t be for everyone. This is how I feel about Terra McVoy’s IN DEEP as well. (Two recs in one!)
Magan Woot woot! (Still need to read that one.) That’s the thing — even with my reservations about her decisions, I’m not disappointed I read it.
Estelle You’ve read a few other books by Jessica. Don’t you agree it’s so hard to compare them because they are totally different animals?
Magan Yes! I think I’ve just read this one and Virtuosity (haven’t read The Vow yet). In my experience, the common thread is that she likes to clash family members against one another. That’s where the drama stems from in both of those.
Estelle Also the contrasts in decision making and behavior, too. I was just rereading my review of The Vow and I said “is it immaturity or idealism” that makes these characters decide certain things.
Magan Mmmm. Very nice, E.
Estelle There are truly SO many ways to view a story, and I can’t say enough about being given that opportunity. So many times we are spoon-fed beliefs and reasons behind actions in books. Even though you and I didn’t feel the same about the book, I’m so exhilarated by our conversation and even more blown away. This is what reading and discussing these books are all about.
Magan I agree! I’ve really been looking forward to talking about this one, knowing we felt so differently. In the past, we’ve had very similar feelings on many of the books we’ve reviewed together. I love that I can see and understand how you felt, even if I didn’t relate in the same way.
Estelle Exactly! Any final thoughts on Kiss Kill Vanish? Buy, Borrow, Worth It or Skip for you?
Magan Oh, geez. I think it falls between Borrow and Worth It for me. It would make a great book club book — so many different responses to it, I’m sure!
Estelle One thing I wanted to point out was the diversity of the characters in the book. Martinez always seems to get swept under the rug when it comes to this even when she does it well! So yet again, loved the subtly there. As for my rating, definitely a buy it. First of all, the cover is beautiful and second, I have to read this one again because it seems like a book where you discovering something new each time you read it. (Sidenote: there’s a part with feet that grossed me out and almost made me cry. Had to mention it.)
Magan Oh, geez. Yep, that part wasn’t fun at all. I do think depending on what you’re going through at the time you read this, you might have differing opinions.
Estelle Totally. And if you think this might not be your cup of tea, I highly recommend The Vow (which just came out in paperback!).

♥

Add KISS KILL VANISH to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble

Have you read Kiss Kill Vanish? What did you think? 

If you’re on the fence about KISS KILL VANISH, Barnes & Noble is having a sale! Click the link below to save a few dollars!
Friends & Family Sale: Take 20% off a single item! Offer valid 10/9 – 10/13/14.
(Use Code BNFRIENDS and shop top books, movies, toys & games, and more! Plus FREE shipping on orders $25 or more.)

Why in 5: Far from You by Tess Sharpe

Far From You by Tess SharpeFar From You by Tess Sharpe ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Pages: 352
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: investigation, mystery, friendship, secrets, LGBTQ
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Back from an unnecessary stint in rehab after her best friend’s murder is labeled “a drug bust gone wrong”, Sophie is determined to find out WHO killed Mina no matter what. Her parents no longer trust her, Trev (Mina’s brother and her best friend) can’t figure out whether to hug her or push her away, and Sophie discovers depths to her relationship with Mina that she never expected.

1. Back in January, I made a shelf on Goodreads called “Top Notch Female Leads” so I could keep better track of, well, top notch female leads. Sophie fits the bill. Not only is she working hard to maintain her sobriety (made especially difficult because no one believes her that rehab worked the first time) but she is bravely crossing into unknown places (having to access painful memories) to get to the bottom of Mina’s murder. Sophie is gutsy, smart, unrelenting, focused, and also allows herself to go through all the motions of grief.

2. I very much enjoy books that shift back between past and present, and Sharpe does a sharp (ha) job here. In books like How to Love by Katie Cotugno and Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas (two very different picks, I realize), the timeline is carefully crafted to reveal little by little as you move forward in the book. Things gradually begin to click and it makes for an effective read. Sharpe’s backtracking spans a few years but I thought the scenes worked not only placement wise but also emotionally. As we were roped in to Sophie and Mina’s story, I felt Sophie’s loss even more and just how traumatic all of this has been for her.

3. After I fell long and hard for Dangerous Girls, I’ve been more focused on finding a YA thriller that throws me into a reading tizzy. Far from You is the ONLY one I’ve read that comes close. The mystery of Mina’s death, which morphed into a whole other story, kept me guessing until the very, very end. It was totally suspenseful, without being overly dramatic, and explained very well.

4. At the core, Far from You is a love story — but it’s a complicated one. Sophie has been in love with Mina forever. Not only did she lose her best friend, she lost the possibility of what they could be in the future. It was heartbreaking to watch Sophie come to terms with this, but I’m glad we were also given an opportunity to meet Mina through the flashbacks. She was a caring and fun friend who wasn’t afraid to be honest (especially when Sophie’s drug addiction was at its worst). There was also a lot of fear here too. Mina wasn’t sure she could commit herself to a relationship with Sophie and continually paraded boyfriends around and tried to set Sophie up with her brother, Trev. This was a tough one for me because as much as I loved Mina and Sophie, I was rooting for Trev a lot of the time. He was obviously devoted to Sophie, though unaware of her secrets, and their chemistry was so apparent. Was it a love triangle? Maybe, kind of? (You’ll have to read to find out…) Bravo to Sharpe, who impressively and honestly tackled the layers of these relationships.

5. This last one goes out to the supporting characters. An aunt who goes out on a limb for you and a new friend who believes in you when no one else does — having characters like these folded into the story makes Sophie’s journey more than a solo trip. No matter what she had to work through herself, she still needed people to lean on and Sharpe’s commitment to a solid supporting cast only made Far From You that much better.

↔

Final thoughts: In addition to all the above, I loved that Far From You contained two elements I haven’t seen much in YA: a recovering addict + bisexual main character. Those two qualities might seem too much for one story but Sharpe balanced out each part of Far From You so well; the book was well-paced, dark, suspenseful, and a really strong tale of friendship, learning to believe in yourself, and what it takes to move on.

rather be reading worth it icon

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

Estelle: Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

Truly Madly Deadly by Hannah JayneTruly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 262
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Death, stalking, secrets
Format read: eBook from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: When Sawyer’s popular jock boyfriend dies in a car accident because of his drunk driving, she thinks the secrets of their relationship will be buried with him. But a mysterious note in her locker (“You’re welcome” attached to a newspaper clipping of her boyfriend’s accident) has her wondering what really happened that night… especially when other horrible things start happening right before her eyes.

When I picked up Truly, Madly, Deadly, I expected something along the lines of Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf — a book about a girl who survives a car accident that kills her boyfriend (who wasn’t really the nicest guy). I was completely glued to that book until the very end.

But Truly, Madly, Deadly only grazes what Shaw managed to do in Breaking Beautiful and I really missed that happening here. While main character Sawyer does wrestle with the truths of her relationship with Kevin, the novel focuses on the domino effect of bad events that occur after his car accident. All of these terrible things are somehow connected to Sawyer, are supplemented with a note or flowers, and are downright scary. Instead of going to the authorities, she fears all of these occurrences might be her fault and keeps it to herself.

I really felt for Sawyer throughout the book. Her boyfriend suddenly dies, she feels like she can’t trust anyone, her dad is preoccupied with work and his new baby with his new wife, and her mom lives on the opposite side of the country. The only two people who seem at all on her side are Chloe, her best friend from forever, and Cooper, the new guy in her life who is super sweet. But even so, she doesn’t divulge what is happening to anyone until everything spirals out of control and too many lives are at stake.

Personally, I felt very suspicious of every character I met in this book. (This is probably in direct relation to my reading of the amazingly horrifying Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.) And while the ending semi-took me by surprise, I would have loved to have the book go on a tad longer instead of just dropping off and ending on a semi-joke. There was too much blood shed for a tone change like that. Plus, I’m not sure if Sawyer’s character made the kind of growth that I needed her to make.

A little bit more character development and plot tweaking could have really strengthened Truly, Madly, Deadly. Instead, I felt like I had just finished an addicting but not entirely fulfilling Lifetime movie of the week.

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Estelle: Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green

Truth or Dare by Jacqueline GreenTruth or Dare by Jacqueline Green ( twitter | web )
Part of a series.
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 416
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: high school, town curse, secrets, truth or dare
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary:  Three girls — Sydney, Tenley, and Caitlin — are targeted in a dangerous take of truth or dare, which threatens to unveil their darkest secrets unless they follow suit. In the meantime, Tenley is back in town for the first time in years and wondering if she will fit in like she used to, Caitlin is running for class president and still feeling side effects from her kidnapping, and Sydney maintains her loner existence, hoping to study photography in college next year and deciphering the behavior of her “boyfriend.” With the Fall Festival approaching and the anniversary of “The Lost Girls” curse at Echo Bay, anything can happen.

At one point, I didn’t think I would finish Truth or Dare. But it was sort of like a game of Clue, I just had to figure out who was stalking these girls, making them do outrageous things to prevent their deepest, darkest secrets from being exploited. So I kept reading, I got completely sucked in, and I stayed up until almost 2 a.m. to finish.

And I felt major disappointment.

While Green’s writing is pretty strong (especially when it comes to characterization and navigating these tangled plotlines), I felt like Truth or Dare tricked me. Big time. In 400 pages, there was no reason why the ending had to feel rushed, totally lacking emotion, and left me with a cliffhanger.

THE KING OF ALL CLIFFHANGERS.

This is why I rarely invest my time with a series. It has to be getting RAVE reviews from my most-trusted friends for me to pick it up because I refuse to pay for three books just because. I prefer books in a series to hold on to some of its secrets but for them to also feel complete on their own. I don’t want to feel pushed into reading book two for any reason except I want to continue on a journey with these characters. I should never feel like I lost 400 pages of my reading time to be left with not one single resolution.

With three characters like Sydney, Caitlin, and Tenley, there is no shortage of storyline though. Sydney does not come from a well-to-do family like many in Echo Bay and works hard, using photography as a de-stresser, and figuring out what the guy of her dreams (Guinness) really wants from her. Caitlin and Tenley are old best friends, reunited and starting their senior year together. There are some growing pains because Caitlin has a new close friend (Emerson) and Tenley’s not sure where she stands. But she’s super confident and ready to take the school by storm, yet again. She’s always been known for her killer parties and crazy games of truth or dare, which is how our story get its start. With her squeaky clean reputation, Caitlin is involved in every activity imaginable and hoping to win class president, all the while dealing with flashbacks from her kidnapping, unsure that the right man was framed for the act.

Whew! It’s a mouthful, isn’t it?

Super drama (think Gossip Girl), everyone suspecting the other, and the giant mask a town “curse”… life for these three turns into an even bigger mess than it was initially. It’s pretty terrifying to think that someone knows details about your life that you have never ever shared with anyone.

(One thing I was curious about: how Green would handle new step-siblings with an obvious attraction to each other? Go figure that I found that interesting and hated that a smaller character was sleeping around with the family member of one of our main girls.)

In the thick of Truth or Dare, I felt just as glued to growing mystery and suspense as I did reading R.L. Stine books (Goosebumps and his other thrillers) back in the day. I was slowly going through the cast of characters trying to figure out the culprit before I hit the last page, but, alas, I feel like I ended the book with less knowledge than I had when I started. And the worst part? Less of a desire to find out the particulars.

Cue the big, old sigh.

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon