Tag Archives: positive book review

“Me Before You” Book Review

Okay, so this is my second week in a row posting a book review, but after reading this novel, I had to share my thoughts with you! (And with the movie being released on June 3, 2016, it might be a good idea to get this book read.)8522901355_96c1bdf450_z

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes blew me away. I laughed. I cried. I experienced the full range of emotions. More than that, I become fully immersed in the characters and story. When I closed the back cover, I felt that I had lost a really good friend.

Eccentrically dressed, small town Lou and once high-powered, adventure laden Will are two people who would have never met, if Will hadn’t been the victim of a horrible accident, which left him a quadriplegic, and if Lou hadn’t been hired as his caretaker (despite being seemingly unqualified for the job).

When the truth behind why Lou was chosen as Will’s caregiver unveils itself – that Will wants to end his life – Lou has six months to change his mind. And, of course, this novel being predominately a love story, Lou and Will begin to fall for each other, and have to deal with the complications that arise with their more unusual circumstances.

The question remains: Will Lou’s attempts to cheer Will up help to change his mind?

More importantly: Will their love for each other be enough?

Yes, this book contains romance, and, yes, it deals with some serious and controversial issues. (You may find you disagree with some of the decisions made in this novel. That’s perfectly fine. The characters certainly didn’t all agree with each other. Or all like each other.) However, the core of this story is about the choices people make in their lives and the impact of those choices, not just to the people who make them, but also to those around them.

(A quick note on the romance: It’s not the mushy, star-crossed insta-love that’s so often seen in romance novels. There’s actually not a huge amount of overt romantic moments. The love that develops between Lou and Will is subtle and realistic.)

A good portion of what made this novel so successful was its combination of humorous situations common in fiction and hard shots of reality that force readers to question their beliefs, ideals, etc.

Engaging and thought provoking, Me Before You is a book, not simply to read, but to experience.

(Photo courtesy of Johnny Lai.)

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“We Are the Ants” Book Review

“We Are the Ants” is a Young Adult semi-science fiction novel by Shaun David Hutchinson. I say semi-science fiction because the novel is more contemporary than Sci-Fi, and it deals with some very realistic and dark issues. However, if I rated this novel on a scale of 1-5, with five being I absolutely loved it, I’d try to cheat the system and give it a six.15785386571_4b0249c2ff_z

At first, I was put off by the amount of cursing within the opening chapters (heads up there’s several f-bombs), but I quickly became engrossed with the protagonist Henry’s personality, trauma, and, most importantly, story.

This novel engages readers, and forces them to witness bullying, mental illness, and come to understandings that they would normally otherwise rather not think about. Shaun David Hutchinson uses Henry to send some very important messages to readers: “Remember the past, live the present, write the future” and that we do matter; maybe not to the universe or in the grand scheme of things – all of us will be forgotten in time – but we do matter and because we live the present, we’ll keep on.

After all, we’re the ants. And what do ants do? They keep marching one by one.

There’s a deepness to this story that isn’t initially apparent, but then showcases itself brilliantly through the pain of loss, the presence of new love and the guilt and fear that sometimes accompany that love, and much more.

This novel begins with Henry telling readers about how he’s been abducted by aliens multiple times, and that they’ve now given him a choice: press the button and save Earth or don’t press the button and on 29 January 2016 the world is going to end. The question remains: will Henry press the button?

Though there is a love story within this book, this novel is so much more complex than a YA romance between Henry and Diego. Henry’s ex-boyfriend Jesse – the love of his life – committed suicide. Henry’s mother is a chain-smoking waitress, who cannot stand her one-time dream of being a chef because that dream reminds her too much of Henry’s dead-beat, door-slamming father, who abandoned them. Henry’s brother is a college dropout. The most popular boy in school alternates bullying and making out with Henry. Henry’s grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s. The list goes on, and it is dark and amazing and heartfelt, and at times when readers need it most, comical.

Insight abounds in this novel, and what’s more is that the insight is conceivable. Usually in YA books, the protagonist possesses an awareness other characters miss, and often that insight is too deep or advanced for that character. However, in this novel Henry struggles with the big life questions. He asks others for answers, and the answers they provide create a well-rounded and realistic picture, with each of their answers reflecting the events that have occurred in their lives and how those events have impacted them. This story and its characters are believable to the point I imagined it as real life. That’s a big part of what makes this novel so engrossing, and what had me smiling, crying, and feeling all the emotions throughout the tale.

This book left my mind reeling with thoughts long after I closed the back cover. Definitely take the time to read this.

(Photo courtesy of Michael Brace.)

“The 5th Wave” Review

8141392940_3f2b5cbeac_zI enjoyed The 5th Wave more than I thought I would. I’d had this book on my to-read list for a while and finally decided to read it with the movie about to come out. (Recently, its seems that many books are being turned into movies.)

From the start, this novel engaged me. Cassie Sullivan, one of the narrators, is intelligent, likeable, and determined. She faces immeasurable odds in her attempt to rescue her brother from the Others, the aliens who are systematically destroying humanity through a series of waves (only one of the waves is literal waves).

5694942227_409d457f75_zBen Parish and Evan Walker are two of the other narrators for this story. Each create new insights and twists to the novel, which bring to fruition the level of distrust that’s required to survive this apocalypse. More importantly, Ben and Evan serve as ways to push past the distrust, to force Cassie to go against what she has learned to do to survive, and in so going against what she’s learned, Cassie becomes more capable of accomplishing her goal of saving her brother.

This book isn’t very original. While reading there are strong hints of other young adult book series, TV shows, and movies incorporated. However, the waves was a refreshing notion to an alien invasion and I was still drawn into the story, especially Ben Parish’s voice. I enjoyed Cassie’s character, until she started falling for the mysterious Evan Walker. Then, she seemed to lose herself and the romance between these two characters felt very insta-love. I didn’t believe their love (all those “abs a-clenching, pecs a-popping” got my eyes rolling…yes, what’s in quotes was taken from the novel), which made that section of the book a slow read. In fact, I found the romance between Evan and Cassie creepy. (If the next book introduces a long triangle between Evan, Ben, and Cassie, I hope Cassie chooses Ben because he’s a much better fit for her and he’s a more developed character than Evan.)

15108436193_49b52bd6d0_zThe story could have done without the romance. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of chocolate smelling breath (which is how Cassie describes Evan’s breath), of guys stalking girls as a form of courting (but it seems to be really popular among young adult novels), of guys being possessive to the point where I think they’d actually tie their love interest to a chair to keep her from leaving (which is an aspect often seen in young adult novels), or of blatant stereotypes, such as when Cassie thinks, “Time for the angrily-storming-out-of-the-room part of the argument, while the guy folds his arms over his manly chest and pouts” (I know multiple guys who storm out of the room when they get mad and many girls who would rather argue than leave the room. I also know people who would take a breath and then calmly discuss the issue. My point is don’t stereotype).23388773201_7dde0f699e_z

I was left with a lot of questions in terms of logical reasoning behind the plot, such as training children – some as young as five years old – to be soldiers while killing off the adults. (I won’t go into further detail on this because I don’t want to give anything away.) I pushed aside these questions and continued to enjoy the novel for what it was: a young adult book written for teenagers, and I reminded myself that there are numerous books on the market that contain plot holes, but were nonetheless enjoyable (like Divergent).

2634149864_4d576da2e0_zA lot of hype surrounded this novel. I understand where some of the excitement stems from, but I guessed the big reveals early on (partly because of the vast number of hints provided in the text; sometimes I felt that the hints were so strong I was getting bashed over the head with them). From reading other reviews, many people didn’t get what was really going on. If I hadn’t figured out the truth, the psychological aspect of this book would have been much stronger.

Either readers loved or hated this novel. Very few people had a meh response. For me, I’m glad I read this book. Give it a try.

(Photos courtesy of Several secondsWarren Antiola, Mary Shattock, Defence Images, and The U.S. Army.)

“Story of a Girl” Review

305379629_0cf039ac22_zIn high school, there’s always that one girl people whisper about, the one that has the reputation of “school slut.” Maybe she got that reputation from being caught on school grounds having sex with her boyfriend, or she’s the type of girl who steals other girls’ boyfriends. Or she could have been the girl that got knocked up and had an abortion. Perhaps she didn’t do any of those things.

It doesn’t really matter what she did or didn’t do. The gossip and labels her peers give her will define her.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr is a young adult story about Deanna Lambert, a girl who was caught, by her father, having sex with her brother’s seventeen-year-old friend, when she was only thirteen. Three years later, Deanna is labeled as the “school slut.” Suffering from low self-esteem, a poor and highly dysfunctional family, and crushing on her best friend’s boyfriend, Deanna is stuck within the past, unable to form any true relationships or move on and plan a future for herself.

By the end of the story, Deanna is able to move on. But how does she break free from her reputation? It’s not because the world she lives in changes. Everyone’s views of her remain the same. She’s still considered the school slut, but what does change is her. By learning to forgive others, she allows herself to be forgiven. By changing how she responds, she opens the doorway for hope and change: “Forgetting isn’t enough. You can paddle away from the memories and think they are gone. But they will keep floating back, again and again and again. They circle you, like sharks. And you are bleeding your fear into the sea, until, unless something. Someone? Can do more than just cover the wound.” (147)

From the beginning Deanna’s point of view is two-fold. Outwardly, she’s extremely tough, but, inwardly, she is a very vulnerable teenage girl. This vulnerability makes her highly self-protective. She’s haunted by a past action she wishes she could undo. This memory pains her every time it arises. Deanna has a realistic voice, full of self-doubt, loneliness, and most of all, a need to connect to others. To be needed and loved. By Zarr writing Story of a Girl through Deanna’s point of view, she is making Deanna an authentic teenage voice and relatable to readers, regardless of whether or not they’ve been caught having sex by their father. Because most people know what it’s like to be labeled and to have those labels stick, and to want to break away from what other people define you as.

In terms of plot, there isn’t any huge climatic ending. There isn’t a major dramatic scene anywhere within the novel. However, the story is powerful. Zarr uses quieter scenes to showcase Deanna slowly overcoming the “slut” label she’s been placed under, revealing a deeper and more accurate view of Deanna. This quiet growth allows for a truer version of Deanna to progress, and shows her maturing in a realistic way. By using subtler moments, Zarr allows for the universal themes of the story to shine: the unfairness of having false identities forced onto you, the ache of being unable to change past events, and the desperate need to belong to a group of people who will love you despite your flaws.

For most of the story, Deanna doesn’t have an accepting family, so she attempts to escape from herself. Zarr uses sub-chapters to weave a story within a story. These sub-chapters act as Deanna’s coping mechanism. In them, she is not Deanna Lambert, but the girl on the waves: “I’d already detached from the conversation. In my head I saw the girl on the waves, bobbing along, thinking my thoughts, feeling my feelings, swimming away.” (30) The girl on the waves acts as Deanna’s emotional buffer, but once Deanna begins to move on, the girl on the waves becomes less of a presence within the story, until she disappears and there’s only Deanna left. Zarr’s use of these sub-chapters gives readers an idea of how fragile Deanna’s internal state is and how lonely and isolated she is. Unable to confront her emotions on her past, Deanna hides behind the girl on the waves, until, finally, she is able to start to take back her emotions and her identity piece by piece.

Story of a Girl is not a happy story. It doesn’t have a fairytale ending. Deanna is not completely healed, but she’s in the process of healing. She’s hopeful and looking toward a future she didn’t conceive of before.

(Photo courtesy of Chris Weisberg.)