Review: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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Review by: Meg

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: 

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Review: Reading the synopsis of this book, I was thrilled to pick it up and start reading, because the subject matter is of such importance in our world today. I was very curious and hopeful to see how the sensitive, and unfortunately, very real, problems of gun violence and school shootings would be breached in a young adult novel.

From start to finish, the writing style of this book was absolutely harrowing, and the way in which Nijkamp let the plot run through four distinct narrators, was brilliant. The mysterious and dark tone of this novel was haunting, and I think this writing style was perfectly suited for the very intense subject matter of the novel. I truly loved the way Autumn and Slyv’s characters intertwined and overlapped, both in their traits, but also throughout the plot of the novel.

Throughout This Is Where It Ends, the author also touched on other very important topics in our world today such as the LGBTQ+ community, abuse, rape, bullying, etc., however, I found the way these important issues were approached extremely shallow throughout the novel. This book had such potential to look at the important issue of the psychology of school shooters, but seemed to be a disappointment every time the question of “Why would the shooter be doing this?” or “What could’ve caused this?” was approached.

The shooter, Tyler, was my biggest letdown in this novel, although (obviously) he is the antagonist in this novel, I was so utterly disappointed that he wasn’t given any type of humanity throughout the plot. In the end, it seemed that Tyler was simply evil just to be evil, and became a school shooter just because he could. This was my biggest issue with the novel because although the book had great potential to really delve into the psychology of a person like Tyler, it was a wasted opportunity because the villain was so inhumanly evil and cruel.

However, I did enjoy the plot of This Is Where It Ends, it was, what I imagine is, an extremely accurate representation of the absolute dread and fear of being a involved in such an intense and dangerous situation. The four main characters all have different roles in the situation inside, and outside, the high school that all correlate beautifully together and create an extremely serious, and anxious, mood throughout the novel.

My favorite part of this novel though, is the development of the high school and the town around it. As a person who just graduated from high school myself, I truly felt the emotions of the anxiety about the future, the sense of unity among the students, and the fear of what is in the world outside of the town you have known your entire life. It is these emotions and situations of the excitement and fear of getting out of their small hometown that have the greatest impact on each of the characters in this novel, which makes for a brilliant way to develop each person throughout the book.

Overall, this book had some huge upsides, but also unfortunately some major pitfalls as well. It was certainly a fast, but dark and intense, read, with such an important set of topics to discuss in our world today. In the end, I think that it could have (and should have) gone deeper into the psychological aspects of school shootings, but still provides an interesting and important platform for this serious issue.

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Waiting on Wednesday #1: Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3) by Libba Bray

With getting back into the book community comes participating in weekly events! We’re so excited to start getting involved in Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

For our first ever pick, we’re choosing Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray, the third book in The Diviners series! This has been one of our favorite series for a long time, despite the long wait for a sequel, and anything Libba Bray writes is glorious. She’s also just one of the kindest, funniest people out there. And, truly, these books just keep getting better and better. If you haven’t read this series yet, you’re seriously missing out. We’re looking forward to October 3rd and all the wicked things in store!

before the devil breaks you

Synopsis: After battling a sleeping sickness, The Diviners are up against a group of new and malevolent foes–ghosts! Out in Ward’s Island sits a mental hospital full of lost souls from people long forgotten. Ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the Man in the Stovepipe Hat also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over New York City, the Diviners must band together and brave the ghosts haunting the asylum to bring down the King of Crows.

 

ARC REVIEW: Of Jenny and the Aliens by Ryan Gebhart

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I recieved this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Publication: August 1st, 2017

Review by: Paige

Rating: ★ ★

Synopsis: When boy meets girl meets alien, the angst of first love gets an extraterrestrial intervention in a tale both outrageously funny and full of heart.

Ten years after Earth sent messages out into deep space, there has been an answer. Music from a distant planet has reached the world’s radios. Are aliens about to invade? No one knows, and almost-eighteen-year-old Derek doesn’t really care, because at a wild end-of-the-world party, Jennifer Novak invited him to play beer pong, and things, well, progressed from there. Derek is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love. He wants it all — marriage, kids, growing old on a beach in Costa Rica. For him, Jenny is the One. But Jenny has other plans, which may or may not include Derek. So Derek will try anything to win her — even soliciting advice from an alien who shows up in his hometown. This alien may just be the answer to Derek’s problem, but is Derek prepared to risk starting an interstellar war to get his girl? Just how far is he willing to travel to discover the mysteries of the universe — and the enigma of love?

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Contemporary

Review: If I could sum this book up in one word, it would be this: juvenile. I was really looking forward to reading it, as I’m never one to turn down a good alien book, but I was severely disappointed.

The book was heavily focused on sex in an immature way, and perpetuated “nerd culture” to such an extent it made my eyes burn. It may be endearing to others, but it simply wasn’t for me. I was more interested in the alien and war aspects of the novel, but those were so underdeveloped that it made me confused more than anything else. And when the aliens did get more fleshed out towards the end, I found that I didn’t actually enjoy it.

The worst part of this book, however, was the narrator. He was self-absorbed, possessive, and obsessed with the fantastical version he created of a girl who wasn’t even that great, and who he didn’t know at all. He entertained long, drawn out, descriptive fantasies of what their lives would be like together at 85 and it could not have been more annoying and unrealistic. The objectification of women and crass humor was not my speed at all.

I think there are readers who will enjoy this book, but it simply was not for me. I thought by the end there the narrator was reaching a point where he would grow and redeem himself, but it was once again ruined. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t much for me to enjoy about this book.

Add it on Goodreads!

ARC REVIEW: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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I recieved this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Publication: September 5th, 2017

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

SynopsisAt sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, LGBT

Review: I’ve always been a fan of retellings, but what grabbed my interest about this one in particular was the overtly feminist message it advocated from the beginning. The author is fully aware about how this book will be received by readers, and I think, surprisingly, that’s a good thing. The novel takes pains to never pit the two women against each other, instead focusing on building their relationship. As a result, the fallout that occurs is made that much sadder.

Miscommunication is the crux of this novel. What it lacks in obstacles and exposition, it makes up for in exceptional character development. Although often frustrating, there are points in this novel where you see real change occur, and they are special. Seamless transitions between narratives in the past and present allow for the story to flow naturally, to provide important background which leads to development. However, that development, that depth, falls only on Lynet and Mina. I truly wish Nadia had been developed more, as she brought a new component to an often revisited tale. I also thought that for a stand-alone, it was lacking in real progress. It seemed to set the stage for more than what actually occurred. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the LGBT+ representation.

This is a wonderful novel and a wonderful retelling. It sets the bar high for authors in the future who seek to write feminist endings for well-loved fairytales.

Add it on Goodreads!

25 Must-Read Underrated YA Novels

Sometimes it can feel like the YA community is controlled by only a handful of books, right? We know there are incredible, deserving novels which are overshadowed by the most popular ones, but fear no more! We’ve compiled a list of 25 must-reads, of any genre, for all you YA book junkies out there. Don’t see your fave listed? Tell us in the comments and we’ll check it out!

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  • The Body Electric by Beth Revis: When I think “underrated”, this book immediately comes to mind. Beth Revis crafted a brilliant novel about aritificial intelligence based on an old short story she had written, and it could not be better. It barely left my hands once I picked it up, and it’s chock-full of genuinely surprising twists from an unreliable narrator. It’s absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking, and to miss out on it would be a crime.
  • Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton: Cutthroat ballerinas, diverse characters, and New York City is all I need in a book. The first in a duology focusing on three girls at an elite ballet training school, this novel takes on far more than what you would expect. Eating disorders, bullying, and institutionalized racism are to be expected, but by delving deep into the psyches of these girls, you find far more. It does all of this and more, but never at the expense of the core of the novel, which is dance.
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke: Tucholke takes gothic to new heights in this novel. It’s a captivating blend of romance, horror, and psychological thriller that has sadly gone unnoticed by many readers. The characters all come with their own annoyances and faults, but that’s what makes this book so hard to put down: you know they’re doing everything wrong, and you’re eagerly anticipating the fallout.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: I hold this book so close to my heart that every time I recommend it to someone else, I feel like I’m giving a part of myself away. Describing the plot here would equal spoiling it, so I’ll be plain. Set in World War II, it focuses on the friendship between two girls: one a spy, and one a pilot, and how their lives intertwine and change forever. It’s gripping and heartbreaking, and though everyone says it’s about the power of female friendship, let’s be real – we all know Maddie and Julie are in love with each other. Gut-wrenching though it may be, everyone should experience this novel.
  • Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate: Penned by a recent graduate of the college I am about to attend, this book focuses seven high schoolers who all embody the seven deadly sins. While I haven’t read it myself, Meg has, and she absolutely adored it. It’s diverse, scandalous, and impossible to put down.
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I’m always down for a good political thriller, but this one takes the cake. It’s not overly complicated, but it’s fast-paced and weaves a brilliant web of lies, deception, and secrets. Tess Kendrick moves to D.C. and accidentally becomes just like her sister, and is made the “fixer” at her new elite high school. I know it sounds like Scandal, but believe me, it’s insanely better. I devoured it as soon as it was in my hands.
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: Despite winning multiple awards, this book is rarely discussed between the readers of the community. The citizens of Bone Gap, Illinois, are no stranger to people leaving. So when a young woman goes missing, no one thinks the better of it – except one boy, who’s convinced he saw her kidnapped by a man whose face he cannot remember. But when no one believes him, he takes it upon himself to find her. It’s a strange amalgamation of magical realism, mystery, and romance, but it works like no other.
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: My obsession with ballerina books is back, and this time with a twist – murder. Alternating between the perspectives of two girls – one in jail for murder, and one hiding a terrible secret whilst on the brink of her big break – this novel is unbelievably suspenseful. With a hint of paranormal, and a whole lot of questions, Nova Ren Suma crafted a truly brilliant tale with a genuinely shocking ending. Her writing is gorgeous and atmospheric, and each page leaves you wanting more.
  • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill: Meg had to convince me into reading this, and after doing so, I knew I should’ve listened to her earlier. I really, truly don’t want to give the plot away, so I’ll leave you with some key words: time travel, unexpected love, and sacrifice. While it may not be constantly surprising, it is quite the journey, and it left me speechless by the end. Go read it – now.
  • The Merciless by Danielle Vega: I have a soft spot for horror novels (now there’s a sentence!) but this one in particular. I always describe it to people as “Heathers, but if it was Satanic” and that still holds true. It’s just the right amount of stomach-turning descriptions for it to be tastefully young adult, but it does not ever shy away from being outright terrifying. It’s not shocking, but it doesn’t need to be. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat either way, keeping you up far later than you should be while reading a book like this.
    • Fun fact: I got a nosebleed the night I read this, and a perfect drop of blood ended up falling on the cover, right in the middle of the pentagram. Oops?
  • The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness: I will never understand how this book doesn’t get all the love and attention that The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. do. It’s incredibly well written and its language reflects the intelligence and dialect of the characters’ narratives, it refuses to dumb down complex ideas for a target audience, and it’s just all around stunning. I’ve never read another book like it, and I don’t think I ever will. It is unique, captivating, and a literal journey. You’re seriously missing out. And if you read the first one and then gave up like so many do – read it again. I think you’ll find that a fresh eye brings new discoveries with each page.
  • The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti:  I received an ARC of this book and absolutely adored it. I set it aside in my head as a wonderful memory, and never thought to check back up on it after its publication. When I did, I found that the jury was hung on opinions of it. However, I thought it was a gorgeous debut and a very realistic, casual portrayal of what it’s like to be finding yourself in high school when it seems like all the odds are stacked against you. It hits you with reality and its highly affective. Whether in a good or a bad way is up to the reader to decide.
  • The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel: This is one of Meg’s picks, and I admittedly know next to nothing about this novel. But I trust Meg (and the shocking 4.19 average rating this book has on Goodreads) and it certainly sounds like an interesting read. Ivy is determined to kill the president’s son, who just so happens to be her soon-to-be-husband, in a war-torn America in order to restore her family’s legacy. Whew.
  • The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings: Fast-paced and gory, this book seems like it would be predictable and overdone. It’s anything but. It’s a fantastic debut about a future in which the murder rate is higher than the birth rate, and an organization known as “The Murder Complex” sends out trained assassins to keep the population in control. Its short chapters keep you turning the page and itching for more, and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Dare Me by Megan Abbott: In my opinion, this book gets a bad rap. Abbott is a brilliant writer who is highly skilled at crafting an atmosphere, creating feeligs that seem almost palpable at times. She establishes tone with unheard of precision, and this book is the pinnacle of that. So many people say that this book advocates dangerous perspectives on teen girls, but I disagree. I think it does the opposite. It lays out unflinching reality, just with a more murderous background. Plot and characters aside, I think it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a brilliantly written novel.
  • The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz: I’m an absolute sucker for high fantasy and forbidden love. This book is, plain and simple, an enjoyable read. It’s interesting, it focuses intently on many characters, and it causes a whole host of emotions. It’s incredibly sad that there won’t be a sequel, but the memories I have of staying up until 6am to finish this are fond, and I have always hoped more readers would open themselves up to this book.
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman: This is a downright captivating novel about mental illness and the challenges it presents. What makes it especially powerful, however, is that Shusterman was inspired by his own son’s struggles to write this novel. The inclusion of his son’s drawings as representations of the plot only further maximizes the emotion of this book. I’ll admit, I had an easier time reading this than some and that may be why I like it more than many do. It’s is confusing and challenging, but it’s supposed to be. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s hard to distinguish where reality begins and ends. But it is a reflection of the narrator, and that is what makes it so special. Please, please read this novel.
  • The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian: This book turned out to be nothing like I expected, and for a while after reading it, I was disappointed. However, when I think of it now, I’ll admit I get super weepy. It’s based on a true story (even though I’ve tried and failed to find out what that may be) about a town slowly being flooded by the government. You see each resident leave for different reasons, one by one, and the failure of those who try to stay. It has family elements, romance elements, but it is, at its core, a deeply human novel.
  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke: Unsurprisingly, another Tucholke novel has ended up on this list (because seriously, guys, she’s fantastic). Based on an old French film from the 1950s, this book is a masterful web of genres. A little fantasy, a little mystery, and, of course, a dash of murder. It’s twisty and dangerous, and the characters are alluring and complex. It made me question everything at all times, and even when I thought I had it all figured out, I turned out to be completely wrong. It’s incredibly imaginative and beautifully written.
  • Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins: Let’s pretend, for my sake, that Rebel Belle is underrated, okay? I’ve been a fan of Rachel Hawkins since I was in 5th grade, and I’m not kidding when I say that I was looking forward to this book since the moment she posted about the idea on her blog. And it ended up becoming one of my absolute favorites of all time. It’s funny, it’s romantic, and it’s just plain enjoyable. Harper and David have permanent spots in my heart, but it’s Harper who I truly adore. She’s badass and feminine, and she never sacrificed one for the other. It’s contemporary, it’s fantasy, it’s everything you need in a book.
  • The Internment Chronicles by Lauren DeStefano: Call it dystopia or fantasy, one thing is true: people are living on a cloud. A cloud where everything is perfect until someone gets murdered. The death sparks change for the community and the characters – a love triangle, a new desire to see the world beyond the cloud, and a distrust in the life that has always been accepted at face value. It’s a gorgeous book with a gorgeous cover, and it builds ever in complexity.
  • City of Savages by Lee Kelly: Another of Meg’s picks, this is a dystopian novel centered on the island of Manhattan, where two sisters are attempting to discover family secrets, but find ones about Manhattan instead. Gripping, dangerous, and revelatory.
  • Hourglass by Myra McEntire: I read this book quite some time ago, and I always wish it had found its popularity when it was first published. Emerson Cole has always seen people and things which were not there, and when she finally meets someone with the same power, ends up in a time-bending situation – trying to change a death. The trilogy just gets better and more complex with each book, and the focus on different characters in each one allows for wonderful development. Also, it’s a southern novel about time travel – so really, how can it be bad?
  • The Endgame Trilogy by James Frey and Neil Johnson-Shelton: Now, before you bite my head off, no, this book is not The Hunger Games or Battle Royale. This is a complex, unique, and interactive novel that has never been done before. It’s a huge book, but the chapters are short and fairly simple. It’s a stunning mix of history, sci-fi, and dystopia with a diverse cast of determined characters. It’s a page-turner, if nothing else.
  • Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina: Last but certainly not least, this is one of Meg’s picks! Set in New York City in the 1970s, a serial killer is on the loose, and Nora’s life just so happens to be falling apart at the same time. It’s a tense time for the city, and a tense time for Nora, who has to learn to face life head-on even when she doesn’t want to.

REVIEW: Unrivaled (Beautiful Idols #1) by Alyson Noel

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Rating:  ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life.

But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the glamorous and gritty world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a high-stakes competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery

Review: Novels about Los Angeles have always appealed to me, especially those which focus on the illistrious, yet seedy underbelly of the city. Add in a sketchy competition, and it’s was right up my alley. This book felt a lot like something I would’ve read and adored in middle school, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still enjoyed it now. It was fast paced and thrilling, and despite being long and not getting to the nitty gritty parts of the book until the very end, it never dragged. It was a solid novel and a good kickoff to what I’m sure is going to be a series growing in complexity.

However, I anticipated and wanted something far more atmospheric. This might be the one book that I actually craved exposition in, as I think it would’ve helped craft the tone and allow for less explicit description of each moment. There was depth, but it was only just enough for the three main players to not be considered surface characters. And while I normally do not comment on grammar in books, unless it is unique and purposeful or truly horrendous, I must say there was significant comma misuse that interrupted the flow of the novel and was sometimes confusing. I’ve never read an Alyson Noel novel before, so maybe that’s just her style, but either way I was turned off by it.

I look forward to continuing this series, but it has not skyrocketed to the top of my list as I wish it had. It was a solid, interesting read, and I know that the series is only going to get better, especially with that cliffhanger. It was not, however, a standout. Unrivaled certainly left me yearning for more, but I’m just not sure when I’ll want it.

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