Adorkable by Sarra Manning: review

10890319Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Stand Alone
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: May 24th 2012
Synopsis: Welcome to the dorkside. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Jeane Smith’s a blogger, a dreamer, a dare-to-dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand and has half a million followers on twitter.

Michael Lee’s a star of school, stage and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie.

They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can’t they stop snogging?

My Thoughts:

“We have nothing to declare but our dorkiness.”

Adorkable is a contemporary novel that I found to be undeniably charming. The book is fun, adorable, and has a really good message. Adorkable also had an uncanny ability to make me laugh, which is always a good thing 😉 This might not be a contemporary filled with emotion and impact, but it was fun.

I admit that the plot is a little ridiculous and the circumstances in the book can be even more ridiculous. I myself probably wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I had if it wasn’t for one thing: Sarra Manning’s great characters.

First is Jeane Smith, who is now one of my favorite characters. Jeane Smith is the blogger (see? She’s awesome already) behind the famous Adorkable, has half a million followers on Twitter, is the queen of jumble sales, and isn’t at all afraid of being her. She can be really terrible, but even then she is sort of fantastic.

“Never shield your oddness, but wear your oddness like a shield.”  

Jeane is one of those people who, upon hearing that you don’t approve of them, will say, “So? I think I’m freaking amazing” and then walk calmly away as if you didn’t exist. I find that absolutely refreshing since there definitely aren’t many characters out there that are like that.

Michael Lee wasn’t as amazing as Jeane, but he was definitely good. I was actually surprised by how believable and honest he was written. Even though he is a genuinely good person, Michael Lee’s thoughts can be pretty unpleasant at times, especially when Jeane is being a little intolerable. But I’ve always valued honest and imperfect more than unbelievable and perfect, so me and Michael Lee got along just fine.

The chemistry and relationship between Jeane and Michael Lee: Perfectly written. Jeane and Michael Lee’s relationship is an undeniably messy one. The way it progresses is not the norm. But that messy relationship was perfectly written, and to be honest, even when Jeane and Michael Lee were verbally battling out, I wished that I was a character in the book so I could ‘accidentally’ push the two together.

Manning’s writing is great, with dialogue and narrative that really made me smile and laugh, making Adorkable a breeze to read. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to write and understood how she was going to do it.

Adorkable is a very good contemporary and is one of the more refreshing stories out of the genre. I would recommend this book to lovers of fun, adorable stories with great characters. Oh, and also people who want to take a step into the dorkside. Because the dorkside really needs some members.

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Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: review

9464733Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Stand Alone”
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Humor, LGBT
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: May 24th 2011
Synopsis: The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

My Thoughts:

Here’s an interesting scenario: A plane filled with beauty queens crashes on a desert island. The beauty queens are left with a very small supply of food, little water, no way to contact help, and, most importantly, practically no beauty products. What do you think would happen?

Well, Libba Bray thought that random, ridiculous, and crazy stuff would happen, apparently.* And that thought is what made Beauty Queens, a hilarious and fun book that is filled to the brim with satire. Bray’s beauty queen survivalist story is addictive and really did bring me more than a few laughs.

A warning for readers: Beauty Queens has one of the most random, ridiculous, and crazy plots I have ever read. No matter how crazy and ridiculous you think things already are, it will only get more crazy and ridiculous. I mean it, guys. The explosive hair remover is the least crazy thing to happen in this book. Beauty Queens is an extreme ride and suspension of belief is obviously going to be required.

The beauty queens… Wow, the beauty queens! They are what made this book. The girls were weird and sometimes acted just plain bonkers. They were over the top and many of them were stereotypical (by design), but boy, were they fun! Those beauty queens had me constantly smiling the whole time I was reading the book.

I also loved that Bray really took the time to peel back the layers of many of the girls’ characters. It made it so you could find them to be believable and realistic (well,as realistic as a group of characters like these girls can get). Lots of the girls’ stories were very thought-provoking and I had no problem with investing in them. My favorite girls were Petra, Adina, and Tiara.

The other characters were just as over the top as our main girls and I think Bray did a great job with them. What can I say? I love crazy 🙂

Bray’s personality really shined through in the way she wrote Beauty Queens. I have never actually met the lady, but from what I have gathered, she always struck me as a fun-loving, hilarious person. And with all the cute and fun footnotes generously sprinkled everywhere and the commercial breaks, I definitely felt that a fun-loving and hilarious person wrote the book.

A couple of flaws I found while reading this book is that, while Bray presented great commentary and ideas on many different important issues, I think that Bray could have woven the ideas and commentary more tightly into the story and did more “showing” than presenting. I’m also pretty sure there was a name mix-up in one instance…

But as a whole, Beauty Queens is a book that I adored. I loved the humor and satire. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters. And the explosive hair remover was pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself.

*Okay, Bray might have not exactly fully believed that crazy and ridiculous stuff would happen. But she probably hoped that crazy and ridiculous stuff would happen.

Over The Rainbow by Brian Rowe: review

17792829Over the Rainbow by Brian Rowe
Stand Alone
My Rating: 
3 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: LGBT, Fantasy
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: August 6th 2013
Synopsis: A modern re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz!

Zippy Green never meant to fall in love with a girl, but when she does, her ultra-conservative father tries to send her to anti-gay camp. At the Kansas City airport, however, she hides inside a giant suitcase and sneaks onto an airplane headed not to the camp, but to Seattle, where her online love Mira lives. Halfway through the flight, the plane barrels out of control and crashes into the ground, knocking her unconscious.

When Zippy awakens, she finds that most of the passengers have vanished. She doesn’t know what’s happened, but she’s determined to find out. She begins a quest on foot toward Seattle, and along the way, she meets a teenager with a concussion, a homeless man with a heart condition, a child without a shred of bravery, and a terrier named Judy. Together the group discovers that more than two-thirds of the world’s population have mysteriously disappeared. But that’s only the beginning…

All Zippy wants is to find her Mira, but before she can she has to contend with two outside forces. The first is her homophobic father, who does everything in his power to keep her from the girl she loves. And the second is extinct creatures of all shapes and sizes, including living, breathing dinosaurs, which have replaced the missing population.

My Thoughts:

Looks like Dorothy is going to be walking down the yellow brick road with her well-loved companions again. Oh, wait, it’s actually Zippy who is going to be walking down the yellow brick road with her companions in a world that had just experienced the “rapture”. And, uh, the yellow brick road she’s walking down is cluttered with abandoned cars and… dinosaurs? DUN DUN DUN!

Over the Rainbow has a heck of an oddball story. It’s weird, trippy, and really unbelievable. But hey, Over the Rainbow is a super-fun romp that I enjoyed reading. Oh, and Jurassic Park fans: you just might get a kick out of this book. All those dinosaurs stomping about were awesome and totally appealed me, a lover of the movie. Over the Rainbow actually brought back a lot of memories of when I was a little kid going to my grandparents’ house and watching that dino-tastic (I did just say that) movie over and over.

Besides the dinosaurs, I also liked Zippy, our tiny, fun-sized, protagonist too, and not just because she shares my love of  Jurassic Park. She’s brave, strong-willed, comfortable in her own skin, and fit the role she played quite well. And to be honest, it’s really hard to not be impressed by the girl when she faced and killed a dinosaur with only an ax in hand. Her doing that was one of my favorite scenes in the book, actually.

Zippy’s companions, while they weren’t exactly memorable, were fun. Frankie, Mr. Balm, and Elle complimented each other and had good chemistry. I think that these characters could have had a little bit more work done on them, but they satisfied the roles they were meant to be in. Zippy’s father, however, was a pretty well-made character. In the beginning, he is only portrayed as a bigot who cares more about his job than Zippy, but over the course of the story, you learn that he does care for his daughter but his prejudiced opinions keep him from showing that.

What really gets in the way of Over the Rainbow‘s being a great book is that it was published too soon. I think that some more editing could have been done. The characters seemed to underreact to their situation at times. Sometimes the dialogue was choppy. The emotional scenes could have been polished up some more. And the new, post-rapture world could have been painted more vividly. I honestly believe that Over the Rainbow could have been an amazing book, but the lack of editing got in the way of being that amazing book.

But even though this book has its fair share of flaws, I did enjoy reading it. Over the Rainbow is a weird, fun romp that I didn’t mind spending the evening reading at all. AND THE DINOSAURS! I LOVED THEM SO MUCH!

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick: review

13477676Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Stand Alone
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 13th 2013
Synopsis: In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.

My Thoughts:

Forgive Me, Leonard is an emotional story that deals with some very, very tough issues (male rape, bullying, depression) with skill and will also cause your emotions to keep bubbling up inside you. This book  will hit you hard, make you feel, and keep you reading with the wish that everything will turn out okay. I might have just bought this book because of the snazzy-looking cover, but I got so much more than that.

On his birthday, Leonard Peacock plans to kill his former best friend and then himself with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol. But before that, Leonard wants to says good-bye to the four people who matter to him: His neighbor who is obsessed with Humphrey Bogart, Walt; Baback, a boy who is a master at the violin; the homeschooled girl who is a devoted Christian, Lauren; and his favorite teacher, Herr Silverman. And as Leonard goes through the day, trying to say his good-byes, his secrets and reasons for wanting to kill someone are revealed.

Leonard’s story is undeniably sad. His parents aren’t around, his classmates think of him as a freak, and nobody, except for a few people, seems to even care about the sad situation he’s in. Youth is something that is supposed to be sacred and enjoyed, but all Leonard can think about is how miserable the adults he watches at the train station look and that maybe life just isn’t worth getting through if it just means that it will lead to more unhappiness.

It’s all just very sad, but these kind of stories need to be told, and Quick writes Leonard’s story clearly and with honesty. The serious issues that appear in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock are written about in a straight-forward way and were never downplayed. I really felt as if Quick did the best he could do with handling the issues that he wrote about. And boy, don’t even get me started on how emotional this book was. Even the little things that Quick inserts into his story, like the letters from the future (which were done extremely well and in an interesting way), are well-placed and only makes things more emotional.

Leonard’s character and voice was brilliantly executed. Instead of just seeing a kid hiding a gun in his backpack, you see a poor boy who has been through so much with no help, that he was pushed over the edge. Murder is a terrible crime, a crime that has permanent effects and causes a lot of pain, and writing a character who is planning on sending a bullet through someone’s head requires a lot of thought, effort, and a whole lot of skill. And I think that Quick was able to meet all three of those requirements with Leonard’s character.

The prose was… It was very honest. Emotions, dialogue, thoughts. They never felt forced nor did they feel like they were just there without a purpose. There were also lots of footnotes that showed Leonard’s thoughts and I think that those notes really succeeded in showing more of Leonard’s personality. At first, I found it a little distracting to have to look away from the paragraph I was reading and read a footnote, but I quickly got used to it. I also really loved the letters from the future. They added so much to the story, those letters.

I only have one quibble: the ending. I don’t find much appeal in open endings. I have found some novels that have open endings that I like, but that is rare, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock had an open ending I was not a fan of. Yes, it gave me a feeling of hope, but it was way to abrupt. I wanted more out of the ending.

Quick has written a great book that has a lot of impact. It might be shorter than the average full-length novel, but it sure does have an intense, emotional, powerful, and gritty story. I could easily empathize with Leonard and I really cared for him. So, even if the ending was to abrupt for my taste, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is an amazing book.

 

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark: review

FreakboyFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Stand Alone
My Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: October 22nd 2013
Synopsis: From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

My Thoughts:

Freakboy is the first Young Adult novel that I have read that properly addresses transexuality. And, while I am not going to pretend to know a lot about the subject, I do think that Clark did a great job at writing and portraying transexuality. Her characters are well-written and she obviously put a lot of thought into her story. This book also happens to be the first verse novel I have read in a long, long time, and even though verse novels aren’t really my thing, I have to admit that I thought the verse to be lovely and loved Freakboy even more for it.

Things I Loved:

* The reason why this story was written. In the first pages of Freakboy, Clark writes, “to every Freakboy and Freakgirl out there. You are not a freak. And you are not alone.” My heart melted a little when I read this. By reading those three sentences, I was immediately able to tell that Clark wrote this book because she genuinely wants to help, that she wrote this book for the people out there who feel like they aren’t in the right body. I know that the intention behind the story might not impact the story of it, but I just find it to be touching enough to not care.

*The emotion. Freakboy was a very emotional story that had some moments where I was on the receiving end on a powerful emotion-face-punch. Whether something sad or happy was happening in the story, Clark made me feel every emotion vividly.

* The characters. I thought Clark’s characters to be very well done. Their problems felt real enough that it actually hurt me a little when something bad happened to them (and, of course, my heart soared when something good happened to them). Brendan, Angel, and Vanessa are all archetypes but Clark was able to bring life to them. She was able to make Brendan, the person who felt miserable and freakish because of his sexual identity, Angel, the person who has already fully embraced who she is and going forward in life, and Vanessa, the girl who has devoted herself to Brendan so much so that he is basically her world and is struggling to accept what he wants to be, feel almost tangible.

* The multiple point of views were wonderfully done. Getting into each of the characters’ heads and seeing the world through each of their eyes really added to the story. I do wish that Angel and Vanessa (I know that Vanessa will probably get a lot of hate but I was very interested in her story) had more entries in the book, but that is only a small wish, as what Freakboy did with the multiple POVs is already great.

* The verse. It was lovely and exceptionally executed. I can’t even imagine Freakboy being told in any other form of writing. I didn’t expect to love the verse as much as I do.

Things that were so-so:

* The instances when Clark chose to shape her words into somewhat of a visual form. I do love the verse prose as a whole, but the shaping words into fireworks were a little distracting and could be annoying.

*Freakboy is very open-ended. Which I didn’t exactly like. I wanted more resolution, wanted to see what the characters made of themselves. The story does end with a hopeful and uplifting note so I didn’t hate it, but I wanted more.

Things that I disliked:

* Nothing, really.

Freakboy is a brave and powerful debut and is such of an important book. I can really see this book helping people accept themselves and also helping people learn to be more accepting. The book does have its flaws, but it is a gem and I highly recommend it!

Suicide Watch by Kelley York: review

16240541Suicide Watch by Kelley York
Stand Alone
Age Group: 
Mature Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: December 20th 2012
Synopsis: 18-year-old Vincent Hazelwood has spent his entire life being shuffled from one foster home to the next. His grades sucked. Making friends? Out of the question thanks to his nervous breakdowns and unpredictable moods. Still, Vince thought when Maggie Atkins took him in, he might’ve finally found a place to get his life—and his issues—in order.

But then Maggie keels over from a heart attack. Vince is homeless, alone, and the inheritance money isn’t going to last long. A year ago, Vince watched a girl leap to her death off a bridge, and now he’s starting to think she had the right idea.

Vince stumbles across a website forum geared toward people considering suicide. There, he meets others with the same debate regarding the pros and cons of death: Casper, battling cancer, would rather off herself than slowly waste away. And there’s quiet, withdrawn Adam, who suspects if he died, his mom wouldn’t even notice.

As they gravitate toward each other, Vince searches for a reason to live while coping without Maggie’s guidance, coming to terms with Casper’s imminent death, and falling in love with a boy who doesn’t plan on sticking around.

My Thoughts:

Warning: There is sort of a spoiler in this review. I say sort of since the synopsis makes it quite obvious it will happen.

When I finished reading Hushed by Kelley York, I knew that I absolutely needed to read another one of her works. Then came the day where I found Suicide Watch and bought it and eventually read it. And wow. This author has done it again. In just over two hundred pages, Kelley York made me love her characters, cry for them, and then feel hopeful for them and their futures.

Vincent Hazelwood’s life wasn’t exactly a nice one. Being sent to one foster home after the next, failing to make friends because of his break downs and changing moods. Until he was adopted by Maggie, a strong lady who was determined to help Vincent get his life together. She was his reason to try hard.

And then, on the day of Vincent’s graduation, Maggie dies of a heart attack, leaving Vincent completely alone. Vincent then starts to sink back into himself, reflecting on the day he witnessed a girl throw herself off a bridge and wondering if she was right to do that. During this time, Vincent comes across Suicide Watch, a pro-suicide forum and meets two people through it: Casper, a girl who wants to kill herself before the cancer inside her does, and Adam, a quiet boy who believes his mother wouldn’t notice if he died. These three people begin to bond with each other and also learn from each other.

The characters are the driving force of Suicide Watch. Vincent is a sad character that gave me the same vibes Archer from Hushed did: he gave off a feeling of loneliness. He’s introverted and has trouble creating relationships, though he wants to, and has times where his sadness consumes him, sometimes having to take pills when it becomes to much. I felt very sad for this character and cared greatly for him, constantly wishing for a good ending for him throughout the book.

Casper and Adam were also amazing characters. I loved Casper and her energy and determination to live what’s left of her life as best as she could. Her death made me cry buckets and really made me feel like there was something missing from my heart. The quiet, music-loving Adam felt very real and, while I didn’t find him to be as memorable as Casper, his character had impact.

York writes these characters with depth, and even with only just over two hundred pages, develops them as much as many longer YA novels do. Maybe even more. Their feelings never felt downplayed and were portrayed in a sensitive way. And the bond that the three were able to forge between each other was touching and well-written.

I appreciate that York makes it a point to show that a person’s situation doesn’t matter, that it’s the feelings that do. Sometimes a person feels very sad, though their situation isn’t the worst, and I liked that York addressed this fact.

“It doesn’t matter if it could be worse, because even those people living on the street could still say ‘it’s not as bad as it could be.’ You still feel the pain. It still matters. All this means nothing unless you have people around who understand you. People who get that, sometimes, you’re just…really, really fucking sad and it’s for no reason at all. Then you get pissed off ’cause you realize you’re upset without a good reason, and you feel even worse.” 

If there was anything that Suicide Watch lacked, I would say that it was a well-paced resolution. I loved the ray of hope that comes in the end, but the last couple of chapters felt rushed. Adding another fifty pages could have easily solve this problem.

Suicide Watch is a short emotional novel that I don’t think anyone should missed out on (it’s only 1.99$ on the Amazon Kindle store!). York really has a knack for write dark contemporary that pack an emotional punch. Fans of Hushed should also check this out. (I actually think that Suicide Watch is the better of the two great stories.)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: review

8621462A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Stand Alone
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: September 27th 2011
Synopsis: The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

My Thoughts:

The monster in A Monster Calls says that stories chase and bite and hunt, and can wreak havoc when they run loose. Which is completely true. Stories can fill you up with all kinds of feelings, can inspire you, and stay with you. And A Monster Calls, the story where the monster resides in, is a perfect example of this.

“Stories are the wildest things of all. Stories chase and bite and hunt.” 

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” 

Conor O’Malley, a young boy who has to deal with his mother being afflicted with cancer and going through treatments, a father that lives in America and has a new family, and a school full of kids who don’t see him, has nightmares come with screaming and darkness. Until one night, after midnight, the yew tree takes the form of a wild and ancient monster and starts to walk. Conor tries to believe that the monster is just another one of his nightmares, even though evidence of the monster’s visits always appears on the floors when he wakes up. The monster wants a dangerous thing from Conor: the truth.

Conor is an endearing character that I adored. Staying by his side throughout the story, seeing and understanding his anger and sadness and confusion, was a truly wrenching thing to do, but I felt a strong love for Conor and his story that compelled me to not only read his story but also savor and reflect on it. You really don’t come across such well-written and honest characters that make you do that very often.

I found the presence of the fantastical and strange being that is the monster to be very comforting, surprisingly. I find it hard to explain so forgive me if my explanation of it is sort of useless. The monster is haunting, wild, and dangerous, but it felt like something to cling to. The monster’s stories that seem to capture the different parts of the nature of humanity, the way it seems to accept everything in the world as it is, and even how it spoke. I just found all these parts of the monster to be very comforting. And for me, that is what made the monster such of a unforgettable character.

The supporting characters should also be talked about in this review, I believe, because they are all so very important to the story. If even only one of them was absent, this book would not have felt as complete as it does now. Conor’s mother, Conor’s grandmother, Conor’s father, Lily, and even the bullies at Conor’s school. These characters are all so very important and many of them, like Conor’s mother, will linger inside your mind.

Patrick Ness’ portrayal of grief, loss, and the burdens they can be is flawless, and even brought me to tears. Really, the author wrote human emotions with care and skill. A Monster Calls doesn’t forcefully shove in sadness or any other emotion just to make the reader feel something, the book lets the emotions come naturally, which only makes the story have more impact.

The illustrations and prose fit into the mood and tone of A Monster Calls. Ness’ words flow and never stray from the important things. Jim Kay’s illustrations are intricate, using many things, including beetles and breadboards, to create the pieces of art, and capture the essence of the story perfectly. (Please scroll down to the bottom of this review to see a couple of the illustrations.)

The ending of this beautiful book is sad and made tears form in the corner of my eyes and fall down my cheeks, and it is an ending that will be reread over and over by me. I can’t imagine a better way to end a story like this one.

A Monster Calls is a beauty of a book that is inventive and just oh so incredible. Ness will make you fall in love with everything about A Monster Calls: the story, it’s gorgeous prose, the emotion, the illustrations, the characters, and the sad but beautiful ending. I fully believe that everyone should read this book, especially those who have experienced any kind of grief or loss.

One more thing: Siobhan Dowd created the story of A Monster Calls and its characters, but sadly died from breast cancer before she was able to complete the story. Knowing this fact only makes reading A Monster Calls a more emotional experience, trust me.

Illustrations:

Illustration from A Monster Calls

Illustration from A Monster Calls

Game by Barry Lyga: review

Game (Jasper Dent, #2)Game by Barry Lyga
Series: Jasper Dent #2
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: April 16th 2013
Synopsis: I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jasper (Jazz) Dent, the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer.

When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

Meanwhile, Jazz’s dad Billy is watching…and waiting.

My Thoughts:

I Hunt Killers was filled with bloody murder, dark humor, intriguing characters, and just downright incredible. The story of a boy who is afraid of becoming the killer his own father raised him to be was intriguing, and I couldn’t resist the darkness and suspense that surrounded the book. I was seriously excited for its sequel, Game. But, even though my obvious love for I Hunt Killers runs for miles, I ended up having an up and down kind of relationship with Game.

I want to start this review with the good: Lyga definitely delivered a story that gives a lot of entertainment, keeps the reader on the edge of his seat, and has many moments of surprise. Reading about Jazz take on the task of helping the police hunt down Hat-Dog, a serial killer who brutally kills his victims and carves hats and dogs on their bodies, and trying to get closer to finding his father Billy Dent was thrilling and I really had trouble putting the book down. The investigating that Connie did herself was pretty great, too.

Jazz, the son of a serial killer, is still a deep, interesting character, and getting a look into his psyche is still awesome. The doubt that Jazz has towards his own feelings–does he really love? Does he really feel guilt? Is he just copying what others feel?– and the worry he feels because he thinks that something might trigger the killer that may or may not be inside him felt believable and is often wrenching. “Excellent” doesn’t even begin to describe how well Lyga had written Jazz.

The supporting characters, like Connie and Howie, will practically kick their way into your memory. They are colorful, unique and have plenty of shining moments. The prose is clear and gets the job well done.

And now for my quibbles: I felt that more attention could have been dedicated to the internal conflicts happening within Jazz, because the depiction of a boy who fears what he is capable of becoming is what I read this series for. Game focuses more on the mystery and that’s fine, as the mystery us pretty darn amazing. But, Jazz’s complex character is what I desire to read about the most and I don’t think that giving his internal struggles more page-time would have hurt.

Lyga’s use of multiple point of views could get a little jarring and redundant. Sometimes the transitioning between views weren’t smooth and the amount of different point of views was a bit ridiculous. Game could have easily been told through just Jazz and Connie’s point of views.

I also think that Connie’s chapters could have been polished up more. Her feelings and thoughts don’t fit her character and her relationship with Jazz at times. For example, there was one moment in this novel where it is mentioned that Connie feared for Howie’s life for an instant after Jazz jokingly said something about kidnapping him.

I understand that one could get scared if a son of a serial killer said something along the lines of, “yeah, let’s kidnap a my best friend,” but Connie is portrayed as a strong, confident girl that loves Jazz and doesn’t fear him. Her feeling scared and uncomfortable when Jazz attempts to be funny doesn’t fit. (And if she really is scared, she should break up with him. Being scared of your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t a good thing, guys)

Another example would be when Jazz freaks out and falls out of the bed when Connie tries to take the kissing and groping up a notch. She is hurt and confused, which is reasonable. What is not reasonable is when she goes on to thinking about how other people who have gone through horrible trauma aren’t afraid of connecting to people and that Jazz might be being unfair to her. First of all, Connie should know that people react to trauma in different ways. Second, Connie should know, or at least try to understand, that Jazz is deathly scared of things that might trigger him, sex being one of those things.

Maybe I am being nit-picky but I loved Connie in I Hunt Killers and want a character like her to be written as good as possible. Lyga does get the hang of things around the two hundred page mark, though. And when he gets the hang of things, Connie is awesome 🙂

More time with Howie and Jazz together would have been nice. Howie and Jazz have a good chemistry and dynamics, and they always have me laughing when they interact with each other. Game doesn’t even have Howie and Jazz in the same town as each other for the majority of the story, which made me sad.

The dark humor is another thing I missed in Game. I Hunt Killers had tons of it, but Game only had a handful of sarcastic, dark comments and jokes. Lyga has skill when it comes to dark humor so seeing that skill not being displayed much is a little disappointing, to say the least.

Now that I look at what I wrote, I realize that it looks like Game is only a barely above average novel. But that isn’t true. Game has lots to offer and has a high entertainment value. Yes, it is flawed but also pretty kick butt with its gruesome murders, unpredictable mystery, and amazing main character. I really do think that Lyga will be able to do great things with the Jasper Dent series and am really excited for the third book.