Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Fan Art by Sarah Tregay (ARC)

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
Katherine Tegan Books (an imprint of Harper), 368 pages
Expected US Release Date: June 17, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

When the picture tells the story…

Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.

As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?

This book is about what happens when a picture reveals what we can’t say, when art is truer than life, and how falling in love is easy, except when it’s not. Fan Art explores the joys and pains of friendship, of pressing boundaries, and how facing our worst fears can sometimes lead us to what we want most.
----------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
“Does someone not liking you back break your heart?”
I’ve tried to write the beginning of this review so many times, but I can’t decide which element to talk about first since I loved them all so much. I want to tell you all at once how much I adore Jamie and how much I adore Mason and how adorable this book is, filled with the lovely tension of crushes and loves and best friends-but-wanting-more and the complexities of being Out but not really out. I want to say all at once because I simply can’t make the decision what to say first.

I’ll start at the very beginning, because it is, indeed, a very good place to start. Jamie is just the best main character ever. He is sweet and friendly and open and confused, and I felt like he was immediately my best friend. I loved all his interactions with people, all his thoughts and considerations and doubt. I’m nowhere near Jamie or whatever he finds himself in, but I related to him on almost every level, and it was lovely.

I would never be his best friend though, but that’s because that spot belongs wholeheartedly to Mason. And I support and love them, all the jokes and touches and “I love you, man”s that are and are not said. In fact, I love most of the friendships in this book—even the ones between all the popular jocks, even if I’m not a real fan of those jocks themselves. I really liked Eden and Jamie, since it’s a friendship built on secrets and outsider understanding. I’m not quite a fan of Eden, actually—she’s a little too much for me—but I like what she and Jamie had and become.

Perhaps one of the reasons I loved this book as well is the incorporation of the Gumshoe—I am a journalism girl at heart (and by diploma!) and ran the school newspaper in high school and was Creative director of a non-profit magazine in college (I did the layouts, basically). It was wonderful reliving the memories of planning meetings, going to the printers, finding content, putting everything together…and even the hardships of debating back and forth on when you want a piece in or not. It’s a very hard thing to debate the merit of something for print, especially when it’s something that speaks to you—so I got Jamie. I definitely got him.

Though I do have to say I wasn’t really impressed by most of the poems printed in here. I did like At Night I Dream—but the others weren’t really anything special to me. I did, however, LOVE the comic that started it all, and I can’t wait to see the final version.

I found quite a bit of this story predictable as well, though not in an infuriatingly so way or anything. It was more like…once you read something, you could tell the direction it would go. And while I was more than happy with the way a lot of this works out, sometimes it would have been nice to be thrown off the trail a little bit.

Fan Art was such a fantastic story. I loved the plot and how much fun it was—I feel like it perfectly captured the end of Senior Year so well. The nostalgia of the known and loved for the last 4 years with the terrifying anticipation of what’s to come.  I loved the small road trip, the Senior Ditch Day, the prank, prom, absolutely everything. Everyone should read it, because I promise you’ll find a little bit of yourself in it as well.
4.5 stars

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (ARC)

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Harper Teen, 352 pages
Expected US Release Date: June 3, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern's insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.
---------------------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
I have learned that many people have disabilities they must make their peace with.
There are so many things I can’t say about this book, simply because I feel like there are no words that can accurately describe it. If ever a standout in the YA genre, it is Say What You Will, in almost every aspect.

The obvious way is that it deals with two characters who have their own handicaps: Amy, with her disability, and Matthew, who seems fine but you learn has his own disabilities that cripple him—perhaps not in the same visual way as Amy, but he has them, certainly. And it is astounding to see how they are handled in a young adult book, amongst all the usual drama and stress and emotions of a Senior year.

These characters are also incredibly unique to any book I’ve read. They’re both quite strong, as people and as they are written. Their downfalls and their own handicaps are integrated really well into their personality, and I love that both are much more than their issues. Just as we always hope “cancer books” aren’t just about the cancer, this book is most certainly not just about Amy’s disability.

I want to talk so much about Amy and Matthew, about how they are together and separate, how they really are better with the other…but I really can’t without saying what exactly ails Matthew and how, without saying what exactly they endure. So I’ll have to leave it at this: I’ve never met anyone quite like the two of them, with their quiet, strong demeanors. Who are somehow both closed off and entirely open to new people and things. Who confront being uncomfortable with a resolve I wish I had.

But I can say that this story is beautiful, that this is a friendship built on so much more than days spent together. That it’s written so well, with their words and emails and texts and her Text. That I was caught by surprise in so many instances, both big and small, in big moments and small ones. There is so  much heart and tenderness in these pages, I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to control all the out-of-control beating of my own heart. And I can also mention that I was not impressed with all the parents in this book—not in terms of the writing, that was still great. But the parents themselves and what they do (and didn’t do) in the book make me very crabby when I think of it haha.

Say What You Will is a stunning addition to the YA contemporary world, introducing new characteristics while retaining all the emotions and feelings we crave and love. It is a beautiful story of friendship and love, and friendly love and loving friends. It’s also about confronting and accepting faults and flaws, and learning to not necessarily overcome them, but absorb them into who you are. And that is a fantastic lesson for us all to learn.

5 stars

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (ARC)

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Farrer, Straus & Giroux (an imprint of MacmillanTeen), 355 pages
US Release Date: March 4, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. 

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
-------------------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?
I want to tell you that I have no words for this book…but seeing as how this is a review blog, that wouldn’t do much good, would it?

So I’ll amend it to: I have no worthy words for this book. The Winner’s Curse is brilliant and stunning, clever and cunning and sweet and intense. It made me hold my breathe, it made me close pages because I was feeling so much, it made me tear the book back open because I had to keep going. There are surprises everywhere, games and gambling and taking chances, and every single word and moment gets better than the last.

This is about the realest thing I can say: I stopped reading about 70 pages to the end because I had work the next day and needed to sleep. And I kid you not that my body woke me up at 3:30 AM thinking about it and needing to read…so I continued reading, because I could not leave it as I’d done.

I’ll talk about the components first, because that I can handle. There’s society and slaves, high culture and gritty realism. There’s lovely landscape and blood and gore. There is love, and relationships, and friendship at it’s best and most worthy; there is family at every angle, present and lost and lacking and disappointing. Absolutely everything I could ever think I wanted in a book is here at it’s best, with all the elements I never knew would make a novel better but has.

There’s so much depth to this novel. Every single person you meet, plot point you hit, is part of something else, leads to something even thicker and intense than you can originally see. You get buried in the plot and entirely consumed, and I barely remembered to breathe.

That said, the plot is never confusing or convoluted. Everything is there for a purpose, and it all makes sense in its build and movement. It is nicely linear, and it’s like everything you read just enhances the next moment rather than confuses it.

Kestral and Arin are breathtaking characters. They are so strong and so dimensional. And while I loved them individually for having the flaws and weaknesses and strength they do, I was so blown away every time they were together on the page. From the moment Kestral saw him at the slave market to…well. The end. Even when they weren’t at the same location, but thinking of the other or considering the other, I felt their connection. Their chemistry and tension and pure, raw emotion with the other.

Every review I’ve seen tells you to “clear your calendar” or “set aside hours to read this cover to cover” or some other variation, and I clearly echo that advice. This book is un-put-downable. Take it from me, who did put it down…only to have my mind and body wake me up craving to finish it at an ungodly hour. You cannot escape this novel, and nobody in his or her right mind would ever want to.

The Winner’s Curse is filled with tension and trials, fights and fancy parties. There’s even a duel! But what makes this so incredible is how every element is the best it could possibly be by itself, and together make something as beautiful as this tale. If ever a book to be 5 stars, it is The Winner’s Curse: for making your head and heart know they together love something wholeheartedly, but also battle as you find yourself tangled in the curses and games, too.

Read The Winner’s Curse. Just do it.
5 stars
and so many stars worth fighting for
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