The majority of books that I read are YA fiction, so it should come as no surprise that this wrap-up will have the most books save for the wrap up of The Chronicles of Narnia.
The Vishakanya’s Choice by Roshani Chokshi – 5 stars
This short story was so beautifully written and wonderfully explores what it means when someone takes choices into their own hands. I don’t have much else to say other than I can’t wait to read Chokshi’s full-length novel, The Star-Touched Queen, after reading this.
Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley – 4 stars
I still have not read anything by any of the Brontë siblings *hangs head in shame* but I was so excited when I got this in my January OwlCrate. I was especially intrigued by the blending of fantasy and historical fiction. Throughout the novel, it was clear that Lena Coakley had done her research on the childhoods of the Brontës. I liked that even if you have not read the Brontës’ works, you can still see where the characters in Worlds of Ink and Shadow influenced the later characters of the Brontës. I liked the idea of the characters in Verdopolis becoming self-aware and how that affected the stories that Charlotte and Branwell were creating. At times, it was a little confusing to keep some of the characters straight, and the scenes did get a little muddled, but these were minimal.
I sat down and devoured it in about four sittings. Once I started to read, I was gripped by the story and had to know what happened to Charlotte, Anne, Emily, and Branwell.
Fun side note: Whenever they talked about the price of crossing over, all I could think of was Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time saying, “All magic, comes with a price.”
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – 4 stars
Things I liked:
-The ‘pathetic prom’ that Lydia and Dill had near the end of the book.
-Lydia’s parents and how they cared not only for her, but for her friends.
-The fact that Lydia’s father got Dill the help he needed for his depression
-The emotional hangover that I had right after finishing reading (that I honestly did not think I was going to get)
-The geeky perfection that is Travis Bohannon and his adoration of his favorite fantasy novels and how he met the perfect girl for him on an online fandom website and just yes. My precious cinnamon roll
-The fact that Lydia grew up over the novel
Things I didn’t like:
-Travis’s abusive father
-Dill’s abusive parents and how blatantly his mother denied his mental illness by saying he was ‘too blessed to be depressed’
-What happened to Travis
-The negative stereotypes regarding religion in the South (mainly through Dill’s parents)
-The fact that Dill’s parents blamed him for all of their problems and refused to be supportive of his decision to go live his own life
-The fact that Dill’s parents said that he had to pay off their debts and constantly hung that over his head
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – 2.5 stars
There were parts of Thirteen Reasons Why that I knew were true, such as how Hannah giving away her bike was a huge warning sign that she had committed to killing herself. And I thought the idea of sending tapes instead of a suicide note was interesting. There were points, though, where it was confusing to jump between listening to the tapes and hearing Clay’s thoughts. I was glad that I listened to the audiobook version since there were two distinct narrators that helped keep them separate.
I found the representation of depression and suicidal ideations to be problematic in multiple places. I especially found Mr. Porter’s reaction to Hannah’s confession that she was considering hurting/killing herself to be extremely irresponsible and unsetting and wrong. It is a teacher’s duty to report when they are told that a student is thinking about harming him- or herself or another. And the fact that she was talking about it and then made up her mind to ‘just let it go’ and left and he did not go after her was extremely disturbing to me. It was clear at that point that she was not just going to move on and live a happy life.
I don’t want to diminish other’s depression or upset anyone who identifies with Hannah, but there were points where I questioned if she was truly depressed. It seemed like she was just upset that nasty rumors were going around about her. And yes, that is extremely upsetting. And yes, it can lead to depression. But the way that Hannah was portrayed made it seem more like drama and less like a mental illness. I guess I wish there were more than just tapes from her point of view. Because it would have been interesting to see the physical changes that accompany depression and to see her thought processes rather than just hearing what she chose to tell her listeners. If that makes sense. Like I said, I don’t want to diminish depression, especially because it is such a serious illness.
I truly hope that someone had the decency to report the crimes that Hannah relays in her tapes. I think that’s also what made me so upset. Even as she was recording the tapes and saying that she should have done something about the crimes, she never reported them after the fact to make sure that the people who committed the crimes faced justice. I don’t know why, but that really bothered me.
I am still intrigued by the idea behind this book, but I wish that it was handled a little bit better with not so many problematic features.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – 5 stars
Oh dear. All the feels. This is one of the cutest books I’ve ever read. I absolutely adored Simon. I loved the diversity of the main character as well as the supporting characters. I appreciated the positive adults in the Simon’s life from his parents to Ms. Albright, Simon’s drama teacher. I loved that an after-school activity was portrayed as being one of passion. I liked that the friendships that Simon had were not perfect, but they resolved their conflicts in a normal, uncomplicated way. I loved that I was guessing right alongside Simon about who Blue was. I just freaking loved this book. It definitely lived up to the hype.
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis – 4 stars
I had just finished my psych-mental health clinical rotation, so I was excited to pick up this book. I have to say I was not disappointed. I really appreciated that Grace was a strong female who was not perfect and was overcoming true trauma from her past. Her reactions were so real and human and showed that PTSD is a major issue for sexual assault survivors. I also liked that Grace made friends with both females and males and that the male friendships were completely platonic. I was a little worried that Thornhollow and Grace would end up together. It was quite refreshing to find that they did not in this age of insta-love and having males and females only capable of being in romantic relationships. The side characters are wonderful, especially the friends that Grace makes while in the asylum in Ohio. It was difficult to read the first couple of chapters when she was in the asylum in Boston, but unfortunately that was probably a fairly accurate depiction of how some asylums were during the 1890s. Mindy McGinnis treats mental illness with the utmost respect and does not villainize any of the characters who have a mental illness. The murder mystery was intriguing, but I was not the biggest fan of how everything ended up, which is mainly why I took a star off. However, this book got me excited to read other works by McGinnis, and I am looking forward to starting with Not A Drop to Drink.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster – 4 stars
I enjoyed reading the extra bits from Leia, Poe, Rey and BB-8 that were added to provide some more insight as to what the characters were thinking. Other than that, it was pretty much a shot-for-shot retelling of the movie. Nevertheless, it was exciting to recreate the scenes in my head as I read the words rather than watched the scenes unfold. I would definitely say that both mediums are enjoyable and that while I loved the movie a little bit more, I still truly enjoyed reading the book.
The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry – 4 stars
I fell in love with Nat and Beau almost from the beginning. Yes, neither of them are perfect, but that’s what made them so endearing to me. I love that Natalie is Native American and that she is struggling with her identity, because I felt like that was realistic for a teenager. I love her friendship with Megan (I am a huge supporter of strong female friendships) and while her friendships with Rachel, Matt, and Derek are not perfect, I think they were also fairly realistic to how teenagers tend to drift apart from friends, especially during their senior year. I thought the concept of two worlds happening at once was interesting, but I was still confused by the end of the book of exactly what was occurring. In fact, the ending was mainly what took my rating down to 4 stars. I love a vague ending, but for me, it was just a little too vague. Also, I know that someone’s sexuality is not their defining characteristic, but I really did not like how Alice’s sexuality was handled. It felt like it was forced and came out of nowhere that she was a lesbian. For the situation in which it was revealed, I found that it was not necessary for her to quantify that she got pregnant the one time she slept with a man. I honestly felt like she could have just said that she got pregnant at 19 and knew that she would not be able to provide for her child as she was focused on her academic career. Overall, I did enjoy the book, but the ending just kind of ruined it from being more than 4 stars.