The Sin-Eater’s Confession: One Of The Most Disturbing Books I’ve Ever Read

The Sin-Eater’s Confession is written by Ilsa J. Bick. It was published in 2013 by Carolrhoda Lab. Bick’s website can be found here.

Genre: Young Adult, Tough Read, Realistic

Summary/Blurb:

“To Whom It May Concern:

People in Merit, Wisconsin, always said Jimmy was…you know. But people said all sorts of stupid stuff. Nobody really knew anything. Nobody really knew Jimmy.

I guess you could say I knew Jimmy as well as anyone (which was not very well). I knew what scared him. And I knew he had dreams—even if I didn’t understand them. Even if he nearly ruined my life to pursue them.

Jimmy’s dead now, and I definitely know that better than anyone. I know about blood and bone and how bodies decompose. I know about shadows and stones and hatchets. I know what a last cry for help sounds like. I know what blood looks like on my own hands.

What I don’t know is if I can trust my own eyes. I don’t know who threw the stone.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

My hand shook as I dragged off my glasses, closed my eyes. My head had gone airy and my stomach fisted. In another moment, I thought I just might be sick all over those beautiful pictures in that stupid magazine.

I like candids. That’s what Jimmy had said. Because it’s when they don’t think you’re looking that you catch people being themselves.

Well.

Jimmy had caught me.

~Bick 39-40

Yeah, bag the clothes in a black contractor’s bag, so no one can see inside. Sunday was bagel morning in our house. I could set my alarm, be sure I got up before anyone else. Hell, before the bagel place even opened. Then swing by the pizza place first. That’s on the other end of town. No one will be there. Stuff the bag into a dumpster, then head the other way, grab bagels, be back home in a half hour, tops.

Or maybe not. I could just wash the scrubs and sweatshirt. So what if I’d ripped the knee? The only blood was mine, and that wasn’t a crime. I could even throw the Chucks into the machine. Yeah, pitching them was stupid. What if someone found the bag? Then they’d wonder why I needed to get rid of my clothes, and how would I explain that?

~Bick 129

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, murder, violence, graphic imagery

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked:

I love Ilsa J. Bick. I love her Ashes trilogy. I love her writing, even though I don’t much like her content material.  I also like her ability to really portray the inside of the adolescent mind and its confusion and worries. I liked the emphasis she placed (through Ben) on the fact that he couldn’t really remember what happened, that he might be making things up to make his conscience feel better. The confusion and the terror were portrayed really well; she’s a top-notch writer.

Yeah, I don’t know what this is either.

What I Didn’t Like:

Wow, Ben. You’re really, really stupid. You’re possibly the first first-person narrator that I’ve actively disliked.

This book just did not sit well with me. Graphic murder, graphic description of the body two days after the fact…ugh. The whole topic was just unsettling. Also, the way she portrayed Christians just made me sick to my stomach. There were no sympathetic Christians in this book (Brooke was okay, I guess, but she was more New Age-y than anything); they were all emo-goth fundamentalists with a penchant for black (seriously? At least it wasn’t long skirts and beards), rock music, and child abuse, with an emo-goth hippie pastor (who may or may not be a molester and murderer). And I’m not denying that there are Christians out there who are like the ones portrayed in the book, but there are also many, many others who are not like that and who never get portrayed positively, because Christians are Evil, Crazy Folk. The only bright light is that it’s only Ben’s assumption that the Christians stoned and axed Jimmy to death, and it’s brought up several times that Ben’s memory is not to be trusted. But, still, like I said—no Christians were portrayed positively. And that’s just smacks of propaganda.

Overall Review:

The Sin-Eater’s Confession is a tough book to get through. The content is unsettling (to say the least) and Ben is not a very likeable first-person narrator. Bick also seems to be mostly trying to make a point (or several points) with the book rather than tell a story and so it gets very heavy-handed at times. But at least the writing is great?

Coming Up Next: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Compromised: Don’t Ever Be A Runaway

Compromised is written by Heidi Ayarbe. It was published in 2010 by HarperTeen. Ayarbe’s website can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, Tough Read, Young Adult

Summary/Blurb:

“Maya’s life has always been chaotic. Living with a con-man dad, she’s spent half her life on the run. Whenever her father’s schemes go wrong, Maya finds a scientific way to fix it. But when her dad ends up in prison and foster care fails, Maya grasps at her last possible hope of a home: a long-lost aunt, who may not even exist.

So Maya formulates a plan, and with her wits, two unlikely allies, and twenty dollars in her pocket, she sets off in search of this aunt, navigating the unpredictable four hundred miles from Reno to Boise. Life on the streets, though, becomes a struggle for survival—those scientific laws Maya has relied on her whole life just don’t apply. And with each passing day, Maya’s definitions of right and wrong are turned upside down when she’s confronted with the realities and dangers of life as a runaway. She can’t help but wonder if trying to find her aunt—and some semblance of stability—is worth the harrowing journey or if she should compromise and find a way to survive on her own.”
~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

I hate when that happens, when the observer becomes the prey. I wonder how I’ll deflect the attack when I blurt out, “This is definitely an issue of territorialism.”

The three of them stare.

“You know,” I say. “When an animal stakes its claim to an area. It has to suss out its possibilities to win the battle, depending on the size of the other animal, maturity, which one already possesses the territory, and value of the territory in relation to other available locations.” They continue to stare, so I continue to talk, never taking my eyes from Nicole. It’s like we’re in some kind of staring contest.

I won’t lose.

~Ayarbe 29-30

“This is kinda fun.” Nicole adds another stick to the fire. The man dropped us off at a campground on the outskirts of Boise. We were pretty lucky that he took us all the way from McCall to Boise. That’s like a hundred miles. In Nevada, that took Nic and me about three days to cover. We never got real long rides.

The only thing that sucked was crouching down in the back of a metal truck bed for two hours, trying to keep from freezing in the wind. We huddled to cover Klon and tried to protect his chest. I can’t believe I didn’t steal those cough drops.

~Ayarbe 280

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, violence, description of abuse

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

I’ve noticed that each viewpoint character in Ayarbe’s books so far have some sort of obsession or in-depth knowledge about something. In Freeze Frame, it was movies; Compulsion, numbers; and in Compromised, it’s science.

The ending was super sweet. Loved it.

I suppose Ayarbe was trying to show what it’s like in foster care and what it’s like to be a runaway, and she definitely succeeded. It’s just downhill from the moment Maya decides to run away.

There’s nothing near this level of cute in this book

What I Didn’t Like:

What the heck does Ayarbe have against Christians? Every (named or in some way significant) Christian in this book was some sort of abusive maniac. I’m not saying that Christians are all angels of goodness and light (unfortunately), but still. Put some balance and subtlety in there so it’s not so obvious that you’re trying to rag on Christians.

This book was overall meh. It wasn’t as gut-punching or sad as the other two books I’ve read by Ayarbe. It wasn’t really that thrilling or exciting, either. It wasn’t memorable, and it wasn’t bad enough to get me ranting about how bad it was. It was plain vanilla; that’s it.

Overall Review:

Compromised will probably evoke some sort of feeling in you about foster kids and runaways, but overall, it was uneventful and forgettable.  It was so forgettable that I’m having trouble finding words to write this. You know what? Forget it.

Coming Up Next: A special one-year anniversary post on Friday! Then,  Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Compulsion: Take A Leap Into An Obsessive Compulsive Mind. There’s Spiders.

Compulsion (also known as Compuls1on) is written by Heidi Ayarbe. It was published in 2011 by Balzer + Bray. Ayarbe’s website can be found here.

Genre: Tough Read, Realistic

Summary/Blurb:

“Saturday will be the third state soccer championship in a row for Jake Martin. Three. A good number. Prime. With Jake on the field, Carson City High can’t lose because Jake has the magic: a self-created protection generated by his obsession with prime numbers. It’s the magic that has every top soccer university recruiting Jake, the magic that keeps his family safe, and the magic that suppresses his anxiety attacks. But the magic is Jake’s prison, because sustaining it means his compulsions take over nearly every aspect of his life.

Jake’s convinced the magic will be permanent after Saturday, the perfect day, when every prime has converged. Once the game is over, he won’t have to rely on his sister to concoct excuses for his odd rituals. His dad will stop treating him like he is some freak. Maybe he’ll even make a friend other than Luc.

But what if the magic doesn’t stay?

What if the numbers never leave?

Passages/Quotes:

Just focus.

I know, though if I can work out the numbers, the numbing pain will go away and I’ll be able to hear what Dad has to say. The world will become clear again. So I turn, slightly, and glance at the time.

7:43

Seven forty-three. Seven plus four is eleven minus three is eight plus seven is fifteen minus three is twelve divided by three is four.

7:44

Seven forty-four. Seven minus four is three plus four is seven. OK.

~Ayarbe 17

“I stare at the numbers on the clock, working them out, making the patterns.

A heavy silence until Jenny Roark talks into the microphone. “Apparently, M&M, the greatest athlete to come out of Carson High, is concentrating? On—” She taps my shoulder. “What are you doing?”

“Winding. My. Watch.” I try to keep my voice steady. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

“Winding his watch,” she says.

Mera squeezes my arm. “Are you okay, Jake?”

Are you okay?

No. I don’t think so.

Wrong answer.”

~Ayarbe 112-113

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

I read Ayarbe’s Freeze Frame about two summers ago and loved it, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading some of her other books until now. I reviewed Jennifer Brown’s Perfect Escape which was about a girl who had a brother with OCD; Compulsion takes place from the point of view of someone with OCD, and boy, is it a rollercoaster. Don’t read this book if you don’t like to cry when you read; in fact, don’t read Ayarbe because I’m 2 for 2 with her books.

Very intense, very angsty. You can really feel Jake’s confusion and his determination to be normal. The ending was perfect—almost. I wanted more openness with his dad. But I loved the “I don’t think so” as the last line

Not much more I can say—it’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Freeze Frame was more angsty, but this one has its moments. Ayarbe, I will definitely read more books by you.

Handy thing I found about the editorial process for Compulsion.

What I Didn’t Like:

Good gravy, there was a lot of swearing. There was one or more swear words on every single page, it felt like. A lot more than what is usually in the books I read.

The last scene with his dad was a little confusing. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on there. Was it just a moment of comfort between them or what?

Overall Review:

Compulsion dives deep into the head of someone suffering from OCD and tells a story that is stark, gripping, and compelling. Be prepared to cry. A little too much swearing for my tastes, but overall, wonderful.

Coming Up Next: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

If I Lie: Don’t Waste Your Time Reading This. Seriously.

If I Lie is written by Corrine Jackson. It was published in 2012 by Simon Pulse. Jackson’s website can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, Tough Read

Summary/Blurb:

“Quinn’s done the unthinkable: She kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Shunned by everyone she knows, Quinn loses her friends, her reputation, and her identity. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s a Marine who’s serving overseas, and beloved by everyone in their small military town.

But Quinn didn’t cheat. She could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. So she stays silent and waits for Carey to come home.

Then Carey goes MIA, and Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.”

Passages/Quotes:

“Twenty minutes of winding road later, I’m at the overlook. The last time I sat here, Carey and Blake were both beside me. We were just us, and things hadn’t blown all to hell.

Squinting down at Town Hall, I see they’ve lit the candles. Our school is small—only 429 students total—but a lot of the students will be down there, along with their parents. I can’t make out the individual flickers, but hundreds of flames shimmer and burn together. IT’s beautiful and eerie and sad. My eyes never leave the sight as I climb out of the Jeep and pull myself up to sit on the warm hood.

Holding a vigil feels like we are saying good-bye. Giving up on Carey. I wish I could talk to him right now. Not to hash out what happened before he left, just to be with him. Wherever he is, if he is able to, he is worrying about me, Blake, and his parents. It’s his way.”

~Jackson 58-59

“George looks frail today. More so than usual.

Today’s lesson—how to shoot a textured photo in dim light—creates deep valleys of frown lines on his forehead and neck. His room sits in shadows with the blinds cracked on one window so we can control the sunlight dancing on his food tray. He shifts from his wheelchair to the hard-backed chair at the table. I have to force myself not to help him when he groans in pain. My hands want to ready themselves to support him. My body tenses to catch him if he falls. The fact that he gets there on his own doesn’t make it any less painful to watch.”

~Jackson 160

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, kissing, sex.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 1/5

What I Liked:

…Eh. It was a decent book. I’ve read better, but it’s not terrible.

What I Didn’t Like:

The plot is obvious, Quinn’s angst and the treatment she receives is over-the-top to the point where it gets unrealistic/unbelievable/just plain annoying, the resolution is not executed well, and the character development, while blatantly obvious, is not very poignant and doesn’t really instill empathy in the reader. I was tired of Quinn and her situation halfway through the book. The book ends with the reader (or at least, me) feeling as if there was really no movement, no development, no resolution, whatever, even though the book indicates that there is (could be the book’s fault, could be my fault). Are we supposed to be happy about Quinn’s (Sophie’s) “empowerment” at the end? Honestly, I thought she should just get the guy instead of being all “forget everyone–except for the person who started it all.” It would have been a better ending.

I’m using this again because I am not impressed and neither is McKayla Maroney.

Overall Review:

If I Lie is better than All We Know of Heaven (which I hated), but not by much, and it has less redeeming qualities than Where the Truth Lies (which I dubbed as mediocre, but with good writing and character development). Rather than annoying characters, it features flat characters that evoked no emotion in me except boredom. I don’t usually finish a book feeling like it was a waste of time to read and feeling generally “meh” about the thing as a whole with nothing even jumping out at me (a scene, dialogue, character, etc.), but I did this time. I don’t want to say “don’t read it,” since you might like it better than I did, but…don’t read it.

Coming Up Next: Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

Where the Truth Lies: Good Writing and Character Development, But My Least Favorite Type(s) of Romance

Where the Truth Lies is written by Jessica Warman (who also wrote Between, which I reviewed here). It was published in 2010 by Walker & Company. Warman’s site can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, Tough Read

Summary/Blurb:

“On the surface, Emily Meckler leads the perfect life. She has three best friends, two loving parents, and an ideal setup at the ritzy Connecticut prep school where her father is headmaster. But below the surface, Emily is suffering from devastating nightmares—about either fire or water—and nobody knows why.

When Del Sugar enters her life, Emily is immediately swept away. Del is gorgeous and troubled, the school’s bad boy. But their passionate relationship is just the first of many things that aren’t quite what they seem in Emily’s life.

As the lies she’s been told start to unravel, Emily must set out to discover the truth behind her nightmares, a journey that will lead her to question everything she once thought she knew about love, family, and her own idyllic past.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

“I have insomnia. Actually, I have something called night terrors. So it’s not that I can’t sleep—it’s more like I’m afraid to sleep. And when I finally do, it’s almost always that kind of half-awake struggle, a fight to find some rest in between the real world and the part of my subconscious where nightmares unfold and wrap themselves around me. It’s always hard to tell the difference, to know where I really am. Most of the time, I wake up gasping for air. Sometimes—but not very often—I’ll find my breath and wake up screaming .My nightmares are always about the same things: fire or water. Never both at once.”

~Warman 3

I shake my head. “How do you know everyone thinks it’s a bad idea?”

“Because we’ve been talking about it. I know Del is all hot and mysterious and brilliant. But there’s something so off about him. Something isn’t right. What kind of person is involved in beating someone up with a baseball bat?” I’m not sure how, exactly, but by now everyone has heard one version or another of what happened at Del’s last school. I certainly haven’t been the one telling them. “Think about it, Emily,” she continues. “how well do you actually know him?”

~Warman 92-93

Cover Art

Warnings: Drug abuse, drinking, teenage sex, teenage pregnancy, swearing, student/teacher relationship.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Rating: 2.5/5

What I Liked:

This was pretty well-written. I appreciate Warman’s ability to not have to throw in swear words to make something seem more “tense” or “realistic” or whatever. I also appreciate her not throwing in diversity for diversity’s sake, as is oh-so-common in YA these days.

Also, spoiler, thank goodness this didn’t follow the usual good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy-and-she-changes-her-image-because-it’s-love (Grease, I’m looking at you). Emily actually does the smart thing for once and realizes that this is a bad thing what are you doing this is a terrible idea, end spoiler. Her character development overall was very good.

I’m curious as to what really happened to Madeline. Warman never explains, and I’m wondering if it’s explained in Warman’s first book, Breathless, as a character is mentioned that is from that book (Added Note: It’s not). Or if Warman just didn’t want to explain it and left it up to the reader’s imagination.

What I Didn’t Like:

So, I hate good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy romances. I also hate love-at-first-sight and forbidden-love-is-the-best-love romances, and this book was, unfortunately, all three. It handled the three adequately, I suppose, but once spoiler Emily got pregnant end spoiler I was over the whole thing. Also, what kind of name is Del Sugar? Is Warman trying to get some kind of metaphorical thing going here, such as sugar tastes good but is actually bad for you type of thing?

The Big Reveal about the source of Emily’s nightmares was very…meh. I was expecting more for some reason. It was very unsatisfactory after having to slog through Del’s cliché and corny dialogue.

Dreams of fire and water–sounds mysterious, thrilling and scary. Turns out it’s none of the above.

Overall Review:

Where the Truth Lies is a mediocre YA novel. The character growth and the writing were good, but the plot and the characters are pretty uneventful and forgettable. There are better books out there to read.

Coming Up Next: Reached by Ally Condie

Perfect Escape: After Mentioning Her So Many Times, I’m Finally Reviewing A Jennifer Brown Book!

Note: Since I haven’t been able to read and write reviews as much, I have decided to switch from updating twice a week to updating once a week. Until further notice, I will be updating my blog on Tuesdays only. Also, I have a very long list of Victorian/classic literature to read, so I think that I will incorporate some of that into my blog. I read Victorian lit. at a much slower rate than YA books, so it will be spaced out in between my regular YA reviews. If my reading time speeds up, I may do a YA review on Tuesday and a Victorian/classic review on Friday. We’ll see. For now, I’m updating on Tuesdays only and it will continue to be YA with an occasional Victorian novel thrown in there for fun. Expect the next Series Week to be sometime in November. That’s all I have to say for now, so enjoy the review!

Perfect Escape is written by Jennifer Brown (I’m finally reviewing a Jennifer Brown novel!). It was published in 2012 by Little, Brown and Company. Brown’s website can be found here.

Genre: Tough Read, Realistic

Summary/Blurb:

“Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art—until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.

Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all—with enough distance, maybe she’ll be able to figure everything out. But even in the midst of the road trip’s flat tires, gas-station food stops, and detours to quirky roadside attractions, eventually Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

“For a minute, it was if nothing existed in this world but those three people and the slap, slap, slap of my books and notebooks on the tile. Everything else just sort of faded away—the squeak of the west entrance door, the chatter of people on their cell phones, the metallic rattle of lockers shutting, and the shuffle of feet going up and down the stairways.

My arms hung slack at my sides, and my mouth opened as I tried to catch my breath. Someone had sold me out. Chub, probably .Or maybe Bryn. Could’ve been anyone, really. I knew they wouldn’t find anything—I wasn’t that stupid—but the fact that they were even looking meant I had reason to worry. Okay, to panic.”

~Brown 37-38

“I had nothing to say. I turned back to the girl at the counter, my mouth hanging open. Grayson had no wallet. Which meant Grayson had no money. And which also meant we couldn’t stay in any hotel anywhere, because I was too young and he couldn’t prove that he wasn’t.

And we’d be stranded here in…wherever were were…with no money, no gas, no sleep, and no Zoe.

And Mom and Dad would get here and find Grayson stepping on and off a curb over and over, which he hadn’t done in a year, by the way, so don’t think I hadn’t noticed he was actually getting worse instead of better, and they’d be so pissed.”

~Oliver 102

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

So, I’ve mentioned before how much I love Jennifer Brown, and I really loved this book. It was enjoyable, it was funny, it was sad, it was heartwarming, it was heartbreaking…all in all, it was wonderful.

I thought Brown portrayed Grayson and his OCD brilliantly, as well as Lena’s response and feelings towards her brother and his illness. Although, the only thing I know about OCD is what I’ve seen in Monk, so maybeI’m not the best judge.

Sorry for the bad quality (this doesn’t seem illegal at all…). This is, however, very close to what Grayson does in the book while in the car.

Here’s another for fun:

“You can taste the symmetry!”.

Back to the point on hand…I loved the sibling relationship and how it was portrayed.

I loved the plot regarding Zoe. Very realistic, as well as sad (and a moment for character growth!).

What I Didn’t Like:

The writing isn’t quite as beautiful as some I’ve read before (a bit too many incomplete sentences and sentences starting with “and,” although I tend to use these a lot when I’m writing), so it took me a little bit to get into the book. Once I did, though, I didn’t notice it.

Overall Review:

Perfect Escape has great character relationships and development and is also quite an amusing book to boot. Once again, Brown takes a subject and handles it beautifully, really getting her message across in a glorious way. Jennifer Brown remains one of my favorite YA authors.

Coming Up Next: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

All We Know of Heaven: How Many Different Ways Are There To Say ‘This Book Dragged On and On?’ Here’s One: STUPID DANNY

All We Know of Heaven is written by Jacquelyn Mitchard. It was published in 2008 by Harper Collins. Mitchard’s website can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, sort of Tough Read-ish.

Summary/Blurb:

“Bridget Flannery and Maureen O’Malley have been BFFS since forever. Then a brief moment of inattention on an icy road leaves one girl dead and the other in a coma, battered beyond recognition. Family and friends mourn one friend’s loss and pray for the other’s recovery. Then the doctors discover they have made a terrible mistake. The girl who lived is the one who everyone thought had died.”

~Inside Flap

Cover Art

Passages/Quotes:

She picked away at the word for…that shiny thing. The thing on the flat beside her. What was it called?

Flash.

Flashy.

Watts.

What.

Gulls.

Grease.

Gus.

GUH-LUS.

And then she had to remember how you used a thing that was called, for no reason, a GUH-LUS and shaped like a permanent bubble.”

~Mitchard 23-24

Dr. Styles looked up at her. “I’ve seen teeth that were chipped after accidents, but I never saw a chipped tooth get better,” he said.

“What?”

“The kid in the chart has a big chip in her left lower bicuspid. This kid doesn’t. This kid has had four canines removed for alignment. The kid in the chart has her canines.”

“Maybe you got the wrong records.”

“You know I didn’t.”

~Mitchard 77-78

Warnings: Kissing (and everything else), underage drinking.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 1/5

“My life closed twice before its close,” the inspiration for the title

What I Liked:

Mitchard handled the emotions of everyone very well. That was, I think, the most well-done part of the entire book. She captured the grief, the shock, the relief, the joy, the heartbreak very realistically.

Maureen’s recovery is wonderful to read about.

What I Didn’t Like:

The first 100-150 pages of this book are fine. Great, maybe. And then for the next half of the book it just drags on and on…I almost stopped reading it at one point. Danny (a.k.a STUPID DANNY) and Maureen’s relationship was just so over the top and annoying. I hated it every time they were together. This book would have been fantastic if it had ended a whole lot sooner than it did. I just stopped caring about the characters. I felt immensely sorry for poor Evan, who just got thrown over because of STUPID DANNY. I liked Evan. I wanted Maureen to forget about STUPID DANNY (you’re fourteen, stop talking about “true love”), but she was so obsessed that I started hating her.

Overall Review:

All We Know of Heaven goes on for way too long, sucking the characters dry of any charm they had once held. While a remarkable tale of heartache and recovery, its length and the attitude of boredom I acquired because of it reduces it to the shelf of books that I will never read again.

Coming Up Next: Matched by Ally Condie

Wherever You Go: Uncommon POV Makes For An Interesting Read

Wherever You Go is written by Heather Davis. It was published in 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Davis’s website can be found here.

Genre: Supernatural, Realistic, and I suppose a hint of Tough Read

Summary/Blurb:

“Seventeen-year-old Holly Mullen has felt lost and lonely ever since her boyfriend, Rob, died in a tragic accident. The fact that she has to spend most of her free time caring for her little sister and her Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather doesn’t help. But Holly has no idea that as she goes about her days, Rob’s ghost is watching over her. He isn’t happy when he sees his best friend, Jason, reach out to help Holly with her grandfather—but as a ghost, he can do nothing to stop it. Is his best friend really falling for his girlfriend?

As Holly wonders whether to open her heart to Jason, the past comes back to haunt her. Her grandfather claims to be communicating with the ghost of Rob. Could the messages he has for Holly be real? And if so, how can the loved ones Rob left behind help his tortured soul make it to the other side?”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

“Holly raises her head, and for an instant, just a nanosecond, your heart swells with hope. She glances around as if someone had called her name, but then the moment passes and she slips back into her page turning. You’re alone, again.

It’s bluish late afternoon outside as the spring rain begins to pound against the wall of windows. I’m here, you whisper into her ear again—even if she’s not listening. I’m still here.

~Davis 2

“Are you my granddaughter’s friend?” he asks, scratching at his thinning gray hair.

“You can see me?” Your voice sounds like it’s echoing across a broad, empty hall.

Holly’s grandpa nods.

For the second time that night, you’re actually freaking happy. He can see you. You’re not invisible.

You’re not alone.”

~Davis 56

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, kissing, depression

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

The format was odd, but not really in a bad way. Davis wrote from three different points of view, Holly’s, Jason’s, and Rob’s, and for each person she used a different type of POV. Holly was first person, Jason was third person, and Rob was second person (shown in the quotes section above; it’s the “you” POV). I’m curious as to why she chose to do it that way. Perhaps to give each person their own distinctive voice? It was a bit strange from a reader’s perspective, switching around like that.

What I think of when I see second person POV.

Holly and Jason’s relationship was sweet. I loved every minute of it. All the relationships in this book were very well done. This was essentially a book about relationships and connections and love and friendship and Davis handled it all beautifully.

What I Didn’t Like: 

Rob was perhaps my least favorite character and POV. The “you” narrative was so very different that it felt strange, and Rob himself was annoying (although he does redeem himself a bit at the end).

The three different types of POV can take some getting used to.

Overall Review:

Wherever You Go is a unique, sweet book about familial and romantic love. The relationships are the best part about this book. I will be looking for more books by Davis.

Coming Up Next: All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Drowning Instinct: What Is Bick Really Trying To Say Here?

Drowning Instinct is written by Ilsa J. Bick. It was published in 2012 by Carolrhoda Lab. Bick’s website can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, Tough Read

Summary/Blurb:

“There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after.

This is not one of those stories.

Jenna Lord’s first sixteen years were not exactly a fairy tale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother—until he shipped off to Iraq. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire.

There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and everyone cries for his innocent victim.

This is not one of those stories either.

Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain…magnetism.

And there are stories where it’s hard to be sure who’s a prince and who’s a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after.

These are the most interesting stories of all.”

~Inside flap

Passages/Quotes:

“I had turned to stone. I just…Bob, I just couldn’t move. You have no idea, or maybe you do. Like when you first saw the girl who would be your wife….Maybe it wasn’t a thunderbolt moment for you, but even my parents, as messed up as they are, remember the instant they first laid eyes on each other. So I remember every second o that first time.

He was…

He was beautiful, like something out of a dream. When he shrugged into a pale blue button-down, sunlight rippled over valleys made of muscle and that smooth, smooth skin. His hair, dark and curly, fired with red and blond highlights. His movements were fluid and graceful and utterly unselfconscious because he thought he was alone. He was a demigod, and I was, well…awed. Like someone this perfect just couldn’t be.

I know that sounds hokey to you, Bob. But that’s how I felt. That’s the truth and that very first moment of sun and light and beauty is one I will never, ever forget.”

~Bick 22

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, mentions of self-harm, teacher/student relationship, drinking, abuse, violence, and other material of that kind.

Recommended Age Range: Hesitant 16+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked: 

I always wonder why I keep reading books like these when I know I’m not going to like the content. Well, I know the answer. It’s because they’re so well-written. Even I don’t like the content of a book, I still enjoy reading it because of the way it is written. And this book is very well-written. Bick used a unique style and it really worked well.

What I Didn’t Like:

So…what am I supposed to think? Was Mr. Anderson lying or was he telling the truth, as Jenna believes? Was Jenna just deluded and being used? What was really going on with Danielle? Is Bick trying to say that a romantic relationship between a teacher and a student is okay because they apparently love each other? Because, if so, I completely and utterly disagree. Violently so. I don’t want to get into a whole rant about it, but suffice it to say, I think that if Bick’s intention was to say that love is the only thing that matters and not age or maturity or appropriateness or anything else, then that is an incredibly dangerous and damaging message. Of course, she could have just been trying to get into the mind of a psychologically damaged teenager, or saying how easily teenagers can be led astray by adult figures, but Jenna doesn’t think she was led astray, and the readers will more easily associate with Jenna. But maybe I’m underestimating the readers.

McKayla is not impressed by Drowning Instinct.

Overall Review:

Drowning Instinct is very well-written, but the topic it addresses leaves much to be desired and, in my opinion, is incredibly damaging if taken the wrong way. I hesitate to even recommend this book to teenagers.

Coming Up Next: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Before I Fall: Same Song of Content, Third (or Fourth or Fifth) Verse

Before I Fall is written by Lauren Oliver. It was published in 2010 by Harper Collins. It is her first novel. Oliver’s website can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, Tough Read

Summary/Blurb:

“Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.”

~Inside Flap

Cover Art

Passages/Quotes:

“Then all of a sudden there’s a flash of white in front of the car. Lindsay yells something…and suddenly the car is flipping off the road and into the black mouth of the woods. I hear a horrible, screeching sound—metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two—and smell fire. I have time wonder whether Lindsay had put out her cigarette—

And then—

That’s when it happens. The moment of death is full of heat and sound and pain bigger than anything, a funnel of burning heat splitting me in two, something searing and scorching and tearing, and if screaming were a feeling it would be this.

Then nothing.”

~Oliver 80

“Maybe you should come away from the road,” I say, but all the time in the back of my head, there’s an idea growing and welling, a horrible, sickening realization, massing up and taking shape like clouds on the horizon. Someone calls my name again. And then, still in the distance, I hear the throaty wail of “Splinter” by Fallacy pumping from someone’s car.

“Sam! Sam!” I recognize it as Kent’s voice now.

Last night for the last time…you said you would be mine again…

Juliet turns to face me then. She’s smiling, but it’s the saddest smile I’ve ever seen.

“Maybe next time,” she says. “But probably not.”

~Oliver 324

Warnings: So, so many. Swearing, sex, drinking, smoking, death, suicide, drugs. I could go on and on.

Recommended Age Range: 16+ (hesitantly)

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

…well.

Good theme of redemption. Sam’s struggle to make sense of this Groundhog Day-esque thing that’s happening to her, and her attempts to change it, are very well done. You can really see her change as a person.

Also, it was quite well-written.

Oh, and Sam and Kent are cute. Too bad she’s, you know, dead.

What I Didn’t Like:

The content.

This should be old news by now, but in case there are some first-timers floating around here, I’ll once again reference my reviews of Willow and Ashfall and reiterate: I don’t like teenage sex. I don’t like teenage alcohol or drug abuse. And this book was chock-full of it. Way more than Willow, way more than Breaking Beauty or any other YA novel I’ve reviewed on this blog so far.

I read the book completely (I didn’t stop reading once I encountered the hated teenagers-go-down-the-road-of-destruction-and-it’s-taken-as-“normal” ideas). I liked the book (despite its content); more specifically, I liked the theme, Sam’s development, and the way the book ended. But I despised the content. I do my best to be objective, but in cases like this, it’s very hard. It was a good book, but I thought some parts were unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely read some more Lauren Oliver. She proved herself to be a talented writer. But this was just a bit too much for me.

You’re a very good writer, Lauren Oliver; I just don’t like your content

Overall Review:

Before I Fall has a good theme of redemption and a good show of character development, but there are other books that have the same theme with less destructive decisions involved. I hesitated to even recommend this for sixteen and up.

Coming Up Next: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick