Review: Trigger Warning


Title: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

Author: Neil Gaiman

Publisher: William Morrow & Company

Publication date: February 3, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

I love Neil Gaiman. Ever since I read Coraline as a kid (and had subsequent nightmares for weeks), I’ve been in love with his books. I re-read Neverwhere on the London Underground; I hurriedly consumed The Ocean at the End of the Lane in line at his book signing in Portland; I spent all last summer tracking down each issue of The Sandman. So as you can imagine, I was PUMPED about this new collection of short stories.

Before my reviews – a quick summary from Goodreads:

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things–which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume…

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements,Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.

It’s hard to judge a collection of stories as a whole, because I loved some and was completely uninterested by others. So like I’ve done for other short story compilations, here’s a brief review of each story separately. It’s a little unconventional, but the best way to do it, I think. I won’t review the poems, but here are my thoughts on the nineteen short stories, in order from least favorite to favorite (so if you just want to hear about the good ones, scroll down or pay attention just to the bolded titles):

19. “Black Dog” – I feel like I would have appreciated this if I’d read American Gods, which has been on my to-read list for years. Since I wasn’t familiar with the characters, I skipped this story as a result, so I can’t comment.

18. “An Invocation of Incuriosity” – I skimmed this one. It was uninteresting to me.

17. “Feminine Endings” – I didn’t get this one. I probably just need to re-read.

16. “The Case of Death and Honey” – Based on why Sherlock Holmes was so obsessed with beekeeping in his retirement. I liked the premise, but the execution (the style, mostly) was lacking for me.

15. “Jerusalem” – Eh. Okay. Not particularly scary or interesting, though slightly amusing.

14. “Adventure Story” – Funny but relatively unremarkable.

13. “A Lunar Labyrinth” – Cool mythology, creepy setting, nice.

12. “Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale” – A dark, modern spin on a fairy-tale-like situation. I enjoyed it well enough.

11. “The Return of the Thin White Duke” – Another great fairytale.

10. “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” – A sweet (and creepy) tribute to Ray Bradbury – and also very appropriately reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451.

9. “Orange (Third Subject’s Responses to Investigator’s Written Questionnaire” – This one is fun because you get only the interviewee’s answers, but not the questions, and have to piece together what happened yourself. A great (and successful) experiment in style.

8. “A Calendar of Tales” – Short stories WITHIN a short story – one for each month. All of them were great, and I’ll be re-reading this mini-collection in the future.

7. “Nothing O’Clock” – Essentially, a mini, written Doctor Who episode, set in the Eleventh Doctor & Amy’s era. Gaiman has written for the show before, and this was just as great as any full-length, produced episode.

6. “‘And Weep, Like Alexander'” – Perfectly over-the-top in its execution. A story about a man who can un-invent things – satirical and hilarious.

5. “Down to a Sunless Sea” – YES. SO GOOD. Short and anti-sweet.

4. “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains…” – A story twisted up in murder and mystery and mythology. This one is longer but it felt like it passed in the blink of an eye.

3. “The Thing About Cassandra” – Cute but also creepy, in a perfect balance. The twist ending actually blew my mind and made me question my own existence.

2. “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” – Supremely horrifying, and definitely a story you won’t want to read when you’re home alone.

And my #1: “The Sleeper and the Spindle” – Combine a kick-ass Snow White with an inverted Sleeping Beauty and you get this story. Absolutely perfect in every aspect. This should be the bedtime story for all children forever.

So while about six of the stories were uninteresting or “eh,” I absolutely fell in love with the other half of my list. The great thing about short story collections is that you don’t HAVE to read them all – you have the power to decide which deserve your attention and which you’ll leave for later (or never). For example, I bolded my must-reads. If you like creepy, if you like funny, if you like mind-blowing, or if you like Neil Gaiman, I’d recommend picking up Trigger Warning.

4 out of 5 stars.



Top Ten Tuesday: Books Recently Added to My To-Read List


Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (a book blogging meme created by The Broke and the Bookish) is themed: “Books Recently Added to My To-Read List.” I haven’t done one of these in a while (mostly because I’m lazy) but this one was easy enough!

1. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. This is the book club book for next month at school, so I’ve got to get this one read!

2. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. No less than three students flailed about this one, so I figure it’s worth reading.

3. Ru by Kim Thúy. This book won Canada Reads this year – and I’ve heard such good things!

4. Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien. I need this one for my reading challenge (Tim O’Brien shares my initials)!

5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Gotta catch this one while it’s hot.

6. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. It sounds weirdly intriguing.

7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Snagged this at a book sale! So it’s going on my physical to-read shelf.

8. Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman. The sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog, which I already reviewed!

9. All the Rage by Courtney Summers. I just love Courtney Summers. That’s all.

10. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt. Because the school library had this one on display and I immediately went “YES I NEED TO READ THIS.”

What books are y’all looking forward to reading in the near future (hopefully)?


Review: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)


Title: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)

Author: Ally Carter

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication date: January 20, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

I bought this book right after it came out because of some great reviews from friends – but I only just got around to reading it! Once I started it, I finished in less than a day, because it was completely not what I expected but was instead way better.

First, a quick synopsis from Ally Carter’s website:

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her–so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door who is keeping an eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace–no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do.

Her past has come back to hunt her . . .  and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world all stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

Disclaimer: I’ve never read anything else by Ally Carter, but All Fall Down absolutely blew me away. The story is set up so that Grace, the protagonist, returns to a place called “Embassy Row,” where all the foreign embassies in the country of Valencia sit side-by-side and tensions between neighbors are – as you may imagine – high. The book started out slowly as Carter unravels who Grace is (army brat, granddaughter of the American ambassador, PTSD sufferer after she witnessed her mother’s murder at the age of thirteen) and how Embassy Row is set up, but once it gets into the action, it never slows down again. Although all of her relatives and friends keep telling her that her mother’s death in her bookstore fire was an accident, Grace is adamant that a man with a scarred face shot her mother in front of her. When she sees the same man in Valencia – as a close companion to the prime minister, no less – she sets off on a mission to get revenge and ensure that no one else faces the same fate as her mother.

I absolutely loved all of the characterization. Grace is a girl who tries so hard to be independent and has a difficult time realizing when she needs to rely on her friends for support. Likewise, her newfound friends on Embassy Row (and some old friends as well) all have detailed personalities that lack any visible stereotyping. Plus, there’s hints of romance with a few different characters but romance definitely isn’t the #1 priority in the novel – political intrigue and character development are.

I found myself fist-pumping and cheering aloud for the characters more than once, which is probably embarrassing. But I couldn’t believe how into the novel I got, and the twist ending completely threw me for a loop in the end. Yet while there is a definite resolution to one major mystery in the book, the ending is a clear cliffhanger for a continuation of the series, which I’m really looking forward to.

The one thing that bothered me was that, looking back, I can see that Grace wasn’t asking herself the kinds of questions that she really needed to be asking (you’ll understand if you read the book). So in that way, I think that her POV as the narrator was slightly unreliable in retrospect, which made me feel just a teeny, tiny bit cheated. That being said, I only came to that conclusion afterwards – while reading, I had no complaints, and I also (reluctantly) see why that particular avenue was necessary in order to make the book work.

But overall, if you like thrillers, mysteries, female characters that are strong as hell, or books that will make you physically shout while reading them, you should add All Fall Down to your future reading list. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think in the comments below!

5 out of 5 stars.


Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye


Title: The Last Time We Say Goodbye

Author: Cynthia Hand

Publisher: Harper Teen

Publication Date: February 10, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

I’m going to be honest – I picked this book to read at the Starbucks at Barnes and Noble and finished it in one sitting, and I chose it solely because the cover has this really nice – I don’t know how to describe it, but almost – matte? This really nice-feeling matte. Whatever. It turned out to be a great choice and one of the most striking books I’ve read recently.

A brief summary from the author’s website:

There’s death all around us. We just don’t pay attention. Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye is another book about the aftermath of loved one’s suicide. At the point that I read this book, this was the third about this topic I’d read in about the span of a week, which was concerning. Why is this such a popular topic for new YA novels? Is it because teens are dealing with this more frequently? Is it because the authors have gone through this? Why? I don’t quite know.

At any rate, the book was well-written, no doubt about it. The imagery was vivid, the dialogue was sharp, and Lex was just the sort of complicated character that I am drawn towards. She’s not particularly likable, but in this case it’s understandable. She’s put up a wall of sorts between her and the rest of the world, and for good reason.

Throughout the book, I knew Lex felt guilty about her brother’s suicide – but I just didn’t know why. That mystery catapulted my interest, especially because it’s another one of those situations where no one’s going to forgive you. You have to find the strength to do that yourself, in that instance, and watching Lex’s struggle was difficult but emotionally cathartic. Raw guilt, raw grief, raw pain – it was hard to get through, sometimes, because my heart hurt by association. But I think the unfiltered emotion is what really lets this book shine.

This isn’t exactly a feel-good novel, but it might be just what you need. I didn’t enjoy reading this book – instead, I felt privileged.

5 out of 5 stars.


Review: I Was Here


Title: I Was Here

Author: Gayle Forman

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

I’ve been excited about reading this book for weeks and weeks, ever since I saw the twitter campaign for it online. And I’ve loved Gayle Forman’s previous works, If I Stay being one of the romantic staples of YA lit ever since I read it years ago. However, this one let me down.

Before I get around to why, here’s a brief summary from Gayle Forman’s website:

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated.

She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

This suicide, unlike the other suicide-focused YA books I’ve read and reviewed recently, is more a mystery than anything else. Cody tries to understand why her best friend killed herself – what exactly led to that? And (mini-spoiler, though you find this out fairly early in the book): one thing that contributed was Meg’s participation in a pro-suicide forum of sorts online. Cody, then, makes it her mission to track down the person who she believes talked Meg into killing herself online. An interesting take, and one that I didn’t anticipate (mini-spoiler over).

So the mystery aspect of the book was great, as was Cody’s realistic emotional trauma over losing her best friend. Anyone who’s lost someone close to them unexpectedly would be able to relate with a lot of what Cody goes through in the novel. Although I do have to say that if you have any sense of foreshadowing at all, you can tell almost immediately the “reveal” at the end of the novel. Authors don’t mention things for no reason, and the hints were all laid out for the reader almost obnoxiously.

But what was really annoying was the introduction of a romantic angle – I was 100% thrown off by the unrealistic, unnecessary love interest. Ben and Cody have no chemistry, and their relationship makes zero sense. I understand that Gayle Forman is a romance writer, but also I’d like to see a book where romance isn’t unnecessarily thrown into the mix just for the heck of it. Without the awkward love addition, this book would have been way better. Even if Ben and Cody were just friends, his character would have accomplished the same purpose. An appropriate tweet from my fav, @BroodingYAHero:

I am still left with a residual sense of confusion about my feelings for I Was Here. It was an interesting enough read, and I still like Forman’s writing style, but overall I think my annoyances outweighed the positive aspects of the novel, so much so that I can’t even tell what kind of reader I’d recommend this book to.

3 out of 5 stars.


Review: Playlist for the Dead


Title: Playlist for the Dead

Author: Michelle Falkoff

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: January 27, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s twitter

I always love the idea of books that incorporate music, because I think music is so relatable to almost every reader. So I picked up Playlist for the Dead as part of my accidental teen-suicide-extravaganza. Anyway – unfortunately, this book fell a little short, in my opinion.

A summary from the HarperCollins website:

There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand. To figure out what happened, Sam has to rely on the playlist and his own memory. But the more he listens, the more he realizes that his memory isn’t as reliable as he thought. And it might only be by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he’ll finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

When Sam’s best friend commits suicide, it comes as a major shock. The only thing he’s left is a playlist of songs. Each chapter title is a song on the playlist, and to make my reading experience more authentic, I listened to each song (on YouTube) as I read the chapter. It added a nice ambience to the story, though most songs were either too long or too short for the time it took to read the chapter, which was annoying but obviously an unsolvable issue (and I doubt anyone else would even care, other than me). Throughout the book, Sam investigates to try to figure out exactly what happened the night Hayden died and how to move on from there.

On a concept level, I really liked the idea of Playlist for the Dead. But the execution fell way short. Mostly because the main character in the story other than Sam was the textbook definition of a manic pixie dream girl. Such characters should have been banned from literature decades ago. Also, I feel like the conclusion of the book didn’t particularly solve anything. I just… didn’t buy into the emotion that was supposed to be happening, and I didn’t have any attachment to what was going on. If I can’t care about the characters, there’s no point in reading the book.

For creativity alone, I’ll give the book two stars. I think that there might be an audience out there for this type of novel, but there are so many other better books about suicide, especially in YA literature lately, that I remain distinctly unimpressed by this one.

2 out of 5 stars.


Review: All the Bright Places


Title: All the Bright Places

Author: Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: January 6, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

My local bookstore has been promoting this book like CRAZY for weeks and weeks – so I finally bit the bullet and gave it a shot, only to be 100% captivated.

A quick  summary from the author’s website:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising—just like life.

Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a bold, funny, live-out-loud guy, who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.

All the Bright Places is about a boy and a girl who meet, try to help each other, and fall in love along the way. However – it’s not all sunshine and flowers. This book hurts – a physical, visceral hurt that doesn’t abate even when the last page has been turned.

The book shifts between Violet and Finch’s point of view, both of whom have extremely different perspectives and both of whom are suffering in their own way. This is one of the rare occurrences where I didn’t have a preference of one narrator or the other – both of their ways of telling the story are compelling. And you can tell, as you read, how each character shifts and grows in response to the other – or how, completely independent of one another, their growth is cut short.

I’ve seen a few complaints on Goodreads (I can’t help but browse other reviews sometimes, especially when I see that they’ve rated the book so much lower than I did) about Finch as a “good” character. Some people have said that Finch is manipulative, that he pushes Violet too far, that he doesn’t back down, etc. I didn’t see this as being too vicious an issue in the story. Sure, he pushes her outside her comfort zone, but sometimes you have to be pushed beyond your limits in order to break free from the rut that you’re stuck in. Plus – no character is perfect, and I don’t think that this aspect of his personality was romanticized in any way, though each to their own opinion.

All the Bright Places also takes a very real look at mental illness, which really resonated with me because I’ve been there. It’s take on mental illness is genuine, and I think this book has the ability to help readers see hope, or at least see the need to get help for their own issues – the lack of which was the most frustrating part of the story. I’ve read an almost alarming number of YA books about depression and suicide lately (though why, I don’t know – that seems to be the trend in the newest releases, I guess) and this one hit the mark in terms of really showing the realities of both depression and suicide.

(And as an added bonus, the story takes place in Indiana, and the state plays a fairly large role in the actual plot of the book, too. Hoosier pride, represent.)

In sum: I loved it, I’ll read it again, and I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind crying through their reading experience.

5 out of 5 stars.


Review: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley


Title: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

Author: Shaun Hutchinson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: January 15, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

I picked this up on impulse because I’d heard good things through the Goodreads grapevine. It wasn’t anything like I expected it to be – and I think that ended up being a good thing.

First, a summary from the author’s website:

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night, just like the rest of his family. Now he lives in the hospital, serving food in the cafeteria, hanging out with the nurses, sleeping in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him. His only solace is in the world of the superhero he’s created—Patient F.

Then, one night, Rusty is wheeled into the ER, half his body burned by hateful classmates. Rusty’s agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together though all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside of the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But to save Rusty, Drew will have to confront Death, and life will have to get worse before it gets better. And by telling the truth about who he really is, Drew risks destroying any chance of a future.

Drew feels a sense of guilt for what happened to his family – the details of which aren’t revealed until much, much later in the book. The entire book, except for flashbacks and stories told by the characters, takes place inside the hospital where Drew is a stowaway. Much of the story reminded me of Gayle Foreman’s If I Stay, though Drew’s purgatory is one of his own making. He wants to punish himself – so he does. Life can be hell if he makes it. And along with the self-imposed-purgatory theme, the book also deals with religion in a way that is more complex than most YA novels I’ve seen lately.

Minor characters also find their time to shine in this book. The ER nurses, the cafeteria cook, the patient that Drew falls for – they all have their own lives that leap off of the page. I don’t quite understand how Hutchinson achieved this effect, of every single character having an entire life and background and story without overpowering the main narrative of the book, but I’m in-freaking-love with it.

I also loved the fact that Drew draws a graphic novel throughout the book, the plot of which is intertwined with his own life – and Shaun Hutchinson includes these actual graphic novel pages into the text of his book, usually at the ends of chapters. This added another element to the story that went above and beyond, and I found it extremely compelling.

The surprises in The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley kept throwing me for a loop, and though I never fully understood everything (I can’t say much more without giving it away), I think I liked it better that way. The entire book was an emotional read, from cover to cover.

I’m giving this four stars, only because I’ve read so many great books lately and I just didn’t connect with this one on the same level. But the story will stay with me, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is in need of a purging of emotions, because the catharsis is real.

4 out of 5 stars.


Review: Vivian Apple at the End of the World


Title: Vivian Apple at the End of the World 

Author: Katie Coyle

Publisher: Houghton Miffling Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Publication date: January 6, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s blog / Author’s twitter

I’ve been looking forward to reading Vivian Apple at the End of the World for ages! I’ve heard nothing but good things, and of course the cover is gorgeous. (Plus, I really needed a “V” title to fill out that slot in my Alphabet Challenge.)

A brief summary of the book from Amazon:

Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

First of all, I have to say that this is one of the most ingenious YA stories I’ve ever read. Crazed religious fanatics sweep America as the world is about to end, and one set of teens decides to take the apocalypse into their own hands and brave the elements – and the converted – to try to find out what really happened to their families? Yeah, count me in.

Of course, I couldn’t fall in love with every aspect of the novel. Hurricanes and earthquakes sweep the nation, there are snowstorms in May, and crazy fog in California – which, when you find out what’s happening in America at the end of the novel, doesn’t make sense. Also, Viv & co. reach one specific town and literally nothing has changed about it. If the world was ending, wouldn’t there be a greater reaction? There’s never any mention of widespread panic to the extent you’d expect, or looting, or… well, it just doesn’t seem to mesh, even in this alternate/near-future universe. Also, almost every adult is ridiculous/crazy/over-the-top, which was just annoying.

But the characters were so compelling that in the end, I was able to overlook the (minor) annoyances and (many) plot holes. Vivian is kick-ass, even though it’s a constant struggle for her not to fall apart while the world is doing so around her. Her best friend, Harp, is equally lovable, the more “rebellious” of the two friends, and one who actually serves a purpose rather than just being a sidekick. Peter is cool, too, but less so than the ladies of the book. Together, these three and the cohorts they run into along the way made me actually, literally laugh out loud too many times to count.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where Katie Coyle takes the story next, so I hope the sequel gets published soon. If you like slightly unbelievable comedy with a heart of near-gold, I’d recommend this one.

4 out of 5 stars.


Review: I’ll Give You the Sun


Title: I’ll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Publisher: Dial Books

Publication Date: September 16, 2014

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

[[NOTE: I’m so confused – I had this review posted about a week ago and for some reason it disappeared off of my blog, and it’s no longer in the draft records of my posts. STRANGE. Anyway, I re-wrote it, because I genuinely loved this book and I want to keep a record of it on here for posterity.]]

I picked this book up back in… October? And fell immediately in love. It took me ages to write this review, initially, because I didn’t quite know how to put into words what I felt about this book, but I gave it a shot anyway.

A brief summary from the author’s website, first:

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

The story is split into two perspectives, Jude and Noah, and both of the twins have distinct writing styles. Noah’s chapters were my favorite because his words flowed like rivers and he saw everything from an artist’s point of view, so much so that his descriptions made me think about ordinary things in new ways. Also, I’m always excited to get a queer narrator in YA lit.

I struggle to think of a book where I’ve gotten so attached to the characters as I was with I’ll Give You the Sun. I wanted to love both Jude and Noah, and I got so involved with their stories that at some points I was almost shouting at the book because they were about to make stupid choices that would make me not-love them so much anymore. In fact, at turns, I hated both of them – though I always came back around in the end, because that’s real, and that’s life.

Their struggles with grief, with growing up, with growing apart, and with growing to understand themselves are 100% relatable for anyone who has ever… lived, basically. The twists and turns just kept on coming. And in the end, I looked back on the whole story and thought, “Wow, this was beautiful.”

I had a book hangover for days, and all I wanted to do was re-read it. It’s realistic fiction, but I’ve rarely read anything more magical. Please, give this book a shot. It just won the 2015 Printz award, if my words don’t convince you. But Nelson’s words will pull you in and feed you a story you’ll never forget.

5 out of 5 stars.