Life and Death

Author: Stephenie Meyer 
Pages: 442 
Publisher: Little, Brown 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Packaged as an oversize, jacketed hardcover “flip book,” this edition features nearly 400 pages of new content as well as exquisite new back cover art. Readers will relish experiencing the deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful love story of Bella and Edward through fresh eyes.

Beau is new to the dreary little town of Forks. He's resigned himself to a boring eighteen months with his father before he goes off to college so that his mom can spend some time with her new husband. 

But Forks is not as simple as it seems to be. Hidden under the moss and the ivy are secrets that go back generations. As he struggles to figure out what is going on in his new home, Beau can't help but fall for the mysterious Edythe Cullen - the person on whom all mysteries seem to converge.

I'm not going to lie, the moment I found out about Life and Death, I grabbed my keys and headed to the bookstore. Hey, no shame here: I was a die-hard Twilight fan for years. Remember the days before you could find multiple editions in every bookstore? Way back when I first found out about it, the only way for me to get my hands on a copy of Twilight was ordering it online from the publisher. 

Like most fans, it broke my heart that Stephenie never published Midnight Sun. I so badly wanted that glimpse into Edward's head, and I wanted to see the sides of the Cullens that Bella never got to see. 

Life and Death isn't Midnight Sun, but it's a consolation of sorts, and I'll take it.

And, if I'm being honest... well, I kind of liked it more than I liked the original. 

No, you didn't read that wrong. Life and Death was more enjoyable to me than Twilight. I think it was the fact that the story ended the way I thought it should've all those years ago, without being drawn out and complicated. In short, Life and Death was the simple paranormal romance that Twilight started off as.

I loved the genderflip. It changed the story a bit, but most things were the same. And this version was definitely more humourous - did anyone else laugh out loud at the "antiquated gender roles" line? - than the original. I loved the way the end deviated from the original story, and I think any fans of the original series will definitely see the appeal.


Proof of Forever

Author: Lexa Hillyer 
Pages: 352 
Publisher: HarperTeen 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)Joy, Tali, Luce, and Zoe were once best friends. Now they barely speak. That is, until the fateful flash of a photo-booth camera transports them back in time, to the summer they were fifteen—the summer everything changed. Photos fade. Friendships dissolve. Summers end. But this one will change the girls forever . . . again.

My Summary: Joy, Tali, Luce, and Zoe are the kinds of friends that come from years of secrets told in the dark and months spent together away from the rest of the world. the four have been best friends since they were young, meeting for the first time at a nearby summer camp. After their last summer at camp, the girls promised to remain friends forever.

Forever turned out to be a lot shorter than any of them expected.

The reason? Joy - the "glue" that held the group together - disappeared, leaving behind no indication that she ever wanted to speak to her friends ever again. But now, two years later, Joy is back and making a single request: that all four girls meet at the camp one last time to say goodbye.

None of them could have predicted what happened next, or the way it would change them forever.

My Thoughts: So many people were pushing this novel on me that I had no choice but to give in and read it, and I'm a little angry with myself for waiting as long as I did. 

First off, this was the perfect novel to close out the summer with. It had everything you could possibly want from a summertime contemporary YA and then some - beautiful, lyrical writing; intricately woven plot lines and heartwarming moments of friendship, love, and loss.

Joy, Tali, Luce, and Zoe were amazingly complex characters and each felt extremely real and dynamic - something that is usually a bit harder to pull off with multiple shifting points of view. Hillyer manages to make each girl feel like someone you've known for years, getting you inside her head and sympathizing with her before you even know what's happening. I loved the strength of the characters, and the exploration of what Zoe thought she knew about herself. My heart broke for Joy and the rest of the girls as they tried to figure out why they had drifted apart so easily, and why "forever" was a lot shorter than they thought it would be. I really liked that although each individual character had her own slew of problems to deal with, they all found time to offer strength and support to the others as they struggled with their issues. 

The time-travel aspect was also a really fun element of the story, although I kind of wish we got more explanation as to how/why it occurred. For some reason, I can't help but picture this novel as a movie - something like a cross between The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and Camp Rock (and yes, I know the former is a book as well. Sheesh, come on guys!). 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to fans of Sarah Dessen, and those looking for a heartwarming read to finish off the summer with.


Fans of the Impossible Life

Author: Kate Scelsa 
Pages: 368 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby. 

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye. 

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives. 

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

My Summary: Sebby and Mira are best friends forever. They are inseparable, witty, and totally out of this world. Nobody is on their level - nobodies soul meshes well with theirs, which already fit together perfectly. 

There is no room in their world for anyone else, and they wouldn't have it any other way.

That is, until Jeremy shows up. Quiet, shy, and gentle, Jeremy is like the missing piece that completes their little group. Soon Jeremy is tied up in Mira and Sebby's world, losing sight of what exactly is real and what isn't. 

But as more is revealed about his new friends and each begins to spiral, Jeremy is torn between saving himself from his friends and saving his new friends from themselves. 

My Thoughts: This was not an easy book to read, and it's not an easy book to write a review for. At the base of this novel is a very codependent, toxic relationship, and how it looks to an outsider. This book hit me where it hurts.

It's also one of my favourite novels of all time.

From the very beginning, you could tell Sebby and Mira were more in  love with one another than they could ever be with the rest of the world. This novel is described as a "love story" between Jeremy, Mira, and Sebby, but in reality I think it's more about the love between Sebby and Mira and how it went wrong.

The dynamic between Sebby and Mira is slowly revealed to be incredibly toxic and unhealthy, although to Jeremy and the rest of the world it appears to be an "ideal" friendship. Along with this portrayal of an unhealthy relationship, this novel also does an incredible job of showing mental illness for what it is: destructive and debilitating. There are no cute descriptions of sad people finding solace in one another and everything being perfect and everyone living happily ever after - instead, we have Mira: clinically depressed and unable to function. Locked in her room for days on end, missing months of school because she can't get out of bed without feeling like she's about to die. And we have Sebby: struggling with bipolar depression in an unsupportive environment, leading him to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Sebby lashes out; Mira implodes. They both hurt everyone around them despite their best efforts to keep the damage contained.

I loved Jeremy. His innocence and love for Sebby and Mira was beautiful. I hated that he was thrown into the toxic mix and torn between the two. I also liked that this novel explored bisexuality and didn't try to show it as something outlandish or strange. 

Yes, this was a book about friendship and love. But it was also a book about knowing when to let go of relationships that break us more than they build us up. 

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to fans of contemporary lit and those looking for a novel that deals with realistic issues such as bullying, homophobia, and mental illness.

The Start of Me and You

Author: Emery Lord 
Pages: 384 
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

My Summary: Paige has had enough.

It's been a year since her boyfriend died, and Paige is sick of the pitying looks and the sympathetic head tilts. She can't help but feel guilty for wanting to move on with her life, but she knows it's time to get on with it.

So she creates a step-by-step plan to maneuver her way back to normalcy. The first step? To get her old crush interested again. Seems easy enough, but things start to go wrong almost immediately. And instead of spending some quality time with Ryan, Paige finds herself spending more and more time with his hilarious cousin Max.

They soon form a group of sorts, and Paige finds herself relying more and more on these two incredible guys. But which one has her heart? And will she be able to let go of her past in order to let something amazing begin?

My Thoughts: Oh man. This was one of those books that hit me in all the right places and made my heart so incredibly happy. The Start of Me and You is an incredible, feel-good story perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson. 

Paige is an extremely relatable, likable character. Her inner monologue was so funny and familiar, it was as if I was listening to a friend relate her day to me over the phone. Emery Lord definitely knows how to write dialogue, and there's no doubt that she knows her way around the mind of a teenage girl. 

And Max? Let's talk about this beautiful collection of words for a second. If Max was a real person I would wrap him in a blanket and never let him go. Basically, he will have my heart forever and always. I loved all the characters, but Max was special.

I adored all the Pride & Prejudice references in this novel, and the amount of times I laughed out loud had me wondering how a book with such a sad premise could have me cracking up so often. This book touched on a lot of serious issues without feeling like a cheesy self-help book, which I am so thankful for.

I couldn't put this novel down from start to finish. I was hooked, and I loved every minute.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this to anyone I haven't already (figuratively, of course) thrown it at.

The War Against the Assholes

Author: Sam Munson 
Pages: 261 
Publisher: Saga Press 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Contemporary fantasy meets true crime when schools of ancient sorcery go up against the art of the long con in this stunningly entertaining debut fantasy novel.

Mike Wood is satisfied just being a guy with broad shoulders at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan. But on the dirty streets of New York City he’s an everyman with a moral code who is unafraid of violence. And when Mike is unwittingly recruited into a secret cell of magicians by a fellow student, Mike’s role as a steadfast soldier begins. These magicians don’t use ritualized rote to work their magic, they use willpower in their clandestine war with the establishment: The Assholes.

My Summary: Mike has grown up in New York City knowing that he's nothing special. Sure, he has broad shoulders and can hold his own, but that doesn't really mean much in a place where everyone is twenty different types of talented. Especially not at his school, where there are hundreds of other guys just like him - all destined to grow up to be completely mediocre.

But that's before Mike is pulled into a shady club of sorts by a fellow classmate, and everything he thought he knew is proved false. Now, with something to prove and something to aspire to, Mike finds himself realizing just how disgusted he is by the life of mediocrity he had previously resigned himself to. 

He's determined to help win The War, even if he has to die trying.

My Thoughts: I had no expect when I cracked open The War Against the Assholes, but if the title was any indication, it was going to be a wild ride. 

I loved the dark, gritty atmosphere of the novel - it really made you feel as if you were experiencing the shady underside of New York City. Days later, thinking about the novel summoned up visions of Mikes New York: smog and grey skies, skyscrapers and dreary streets.

I really enjoyed the Fight Club-esque vibe of the novel, and fans of the novel will definitely be able to find similarities; Mike is an everyman kind of character - a little bland, kind of difficult to connect with (for me personally) but as the story continues you see him twisted and shaped into something new and slightly terrifying. 

The "ancient conflict" aspect was also really interesting. I love anything to do with historical cults or groups and this was right up my alley. It also kind of posed (and answered) the question, "what if meat-heads were given magic powers?". You'll have to check this book out for the answer!

Although the plot was really engaging, I had a little trouble (at first) getting into the choppy writing style. This was entirely due to my own preferences though - not a problem with the writing itself. Once I was a few chapters in, the writing melted away and the plot took over. I think others will definitely enjoy it as it is.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to fans of adventure novels, as well as mystery and suspense. Fans of Fight Club should check it out as well!


Follow Friday!

Happy Follow Friday, everyone!

If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?

I feel like every time I get asked this question I go into long rambling tangents about why I would ask for each thing. So in an effort to keep it to under a thousand words, I'll try to be brief.

Wish #1: An end to world hunger and disease and horrible things in general. Self explanatory, I hope. This counts as one wish, right?

Wish #2: A library like the one in Beauty and the Beast, but every time I thought of a book I wanted or a specific genre I was in the mood for, it would appear in front of me.

Wish #3: Probably some sort of superpower. Like flying or mind-reading or being invisible. On second thought, maybe I'd just wish Hogwarts was real and that I was eleven years old again and able to attend.

That's it for me! Let me know what your wishes were in the comments below, and have a great weekend!


The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

Author: Jenn Bennett 
Pages: 304 
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists.

On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?

My Summary: Beatrix is a bit ... strange.

She's an incredibly talented artist, but instead of painting landscapes or drawing portraits, Beatrix like to sketch anatomical diagrams. As in diagrams of body parts and dead people.

Determined to become a world-renowned medical illustrator, Beatrix engineers a plan to get into the cadaver lab at the hospital and draw diagrams based on real dissected bodies. The only problem is the director of the hospital seems to have forgotten about their meeting, leaving Beatrix to take the night bus home.

All Beatrix is worried about is avoiding the major creeps that seem to frequent the bus late at night. But on the way home, she makes an unexpected acquaintance: a boy named Jack, who seems to be in possession of more than a few cans of gold spray-paint - a rare kind that only San Francisco's most mysterious graffiti artist uses.  

Determined to figure out if he's actually responsible for the beautiful art she's seen around town, Beatrix sets out to find Jack and confront him about the paint. What starts as a wild goose chase turns into the adventure of a lifetime as Jack reminds Beatrix what love and art are all about, changing her life as she knew it. 

My Thoughts: This is one of those novels that I predicted I'd love after just reading the title. I wasn't wrong. 

Having been an aspiring medical illustrator myself once, this novel was perfection on so many levels. And there were so many amazing elements that made the story what it was! First, the setting: San Francisco. If there was ever a place for love and art to mix, San Fran is where it would go down. I loved the rich descriptions of the city, and the way that Jack's art (don't even get me started on the whole art vs. graffiti argument) only served to enhance the settings. I can only imagine how beautiful these works of art would be in real life, as Bennett's descriptions pretty much made me drool. I mean seriously, can someone get on drafting some of these designs? I'd probably love you forever if you did. 

Beatrix was such a relatable character. I loved the chemistry between her and Jack, and I liked that he pulled her out of her shell. Beatrix's art was incredibly important to her, and you could almost see the beauty in the anatomical drawings as she attempted to perfect her craft. (I know what you're thinking - how in the world could pictures of dismembered body parts be beautiful? And to that I say: Google "grey's anatomy medical illustrations" and you'll have your answer.)  

Despite all the beautiful art and the relationship heating up, I felt like the first half of the novel was a little more enjoyable than the second half. That was probably only me though, as I tend to cringe whenever shit hits the fan for the main characters. Beatrix and Jack were great characters, but a few of their choices were a little foolish. But nobody's perfect, right?

Jack and Beatrix's story had me hooked from the very first page. Their struggles to deal with their own issues as well as help each other find strength made these characters feel incredibly realistic. The romance element was also very well-written, and I loved the role reversal when it came to sexual experiences. I also really loved the family aspect in both Jack and Beatrix's cases, especially the way Jack's sister's illness was approached. 

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to fans of Isla and the Happily Ever After as well as Graffiti Moon

Left Drowning

Author: Jessica Park 
Pages: 399 
Publisher: Skyscape 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. 

But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

My Summary: Ever since her parents died, Blythe has barely been able to keep herself from drowning in grief. She goes through the motions every day, hardly aware of time passing around her.

Until the day she meets Chris Shepherd. Somehow, he seems to understand exactly what Blythe is going through. Little by little, he and his brothers and sister accept Blythe into their family and show her how to be whole again. 

But problems arise as Blythe begins to fall for Chris, who can't seem to shake his own demons. Unfortunately, Chris's inability to let Blythe in may mean both their hearts will be broken before anyone is able to tread water again. 

My Thoughts: This book was like a punch to the gut. The raw emotion packed into every page had me wide-eyed and sleep-deprived late into the night, refusing to put the book down until I found out what happened to Chris and Blythe. I've never read anything of Jessica Park's before, but after having my (emotional) ass kicked by Left Drowning, I think I'll be grabbing the rest of her novels as soon as possible. 

Trust me, you're going to be needing a box of tissues if you decide to check out Left Drowning. A lot of the relationship dynamics are very intense, and the novel does delve deep into a situation of domestic abuse and how it affects those involved even after it's over. Chris's family was very tight-knit and supportive, but each of them carried their own emotional scars, and more often than not these led to an inability to form connections with those who didn't share their past experiences. I found the author's approach to the Shepherd family's abuse to be jarring and incredibly realistic, bringing me to tears more than a few times. There was a line near the end in which Sabin - Chris's brother - is drunk and reminiscing about two dogs his father used to abuse that made me sob like a little baby. This book is not for the faint of heart. 

Blythe was an easy character to relate to. Her life was a mess and she had no idea what she was going to do, having been so focused on just getting through the day for so long. I loved the way that Chris slowly pulled her out of her funk, despite his frustrating behaviour (however warranted). 

Basically, I wanted to wrap the entire Shepherd family in a bear hug and never let go. 

This book was so, so powerful. I did not expect the amount of intensity that I found within, but it was there in spades. And I think one of my favourite things was the fact that even though Blythe and Chris comforted each other and tried to heal one another, ultimately they each had to figure things out for themselves. They couldn't use one another as a distraction or a bandage - they brought each other happiness but it was not enough to cancel out the sadness. I loved the realness of this, because often with contemporary YA or NA the ultimate goal is getting the two main characters to their happily ever after with one another. Everything seems to be magically fixed once this happens, no matter how messed up the characters were before they fell in love. I'm so glad that Jessica Park showed that finding love can help, but you can't expect the person to fix you. 

Final Thoughts: Oh my gosh, if you haven't gotten the message from my long, rambling review: CHECK OUT THIS BOOK. Okay? Hug it close and cry into the pages and never ever let it go. 


First & Then

Author: Emma Mills 
Pages: 272 
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first: into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

My Summary: Devon is perfectly happy with her perfectly average life. She has a best friend who she's been in love with for years, two loving and doting parents, and absolutely no idea what she wants to do after high school. But no rush - Devon's sure everything will fall into place by the end of the year.

That is, until her cousin Foster arrives. He's everything Devon isn't: a genius, geeky, and extremely socially awkward. Devon thinks she'll have to protect Foster from the cruel jokes of her fellow peers - and she's right - but everything changes the day that Foster shows he knows more about playing football than how to calculate the velocity of the ball. 

To get Foster ready for the upcoming season, star running back Ezra is recruited to get him into shape. And what begins as a reluctant truce with her cousin's mentor soon grows into something Devon never expected: something a lot like love.

Can Devon and Ezra make it work, or will conflicting priorities and huge misunderstandings end the relationship before it even begins? 

My Thoughts: This is one of those books that I just had to hug after I was finished reading. Devon and Foster were such likable characters, and Ezra had a great heart (seriously, can I get one of my own?). I was so surprised to find out that this novel was actually written by one of my favourite YouTubers, only realizing it after I'd finished. 

The writing alone was enough to make me fall in love with this novel. Devon's voice was so clear and relatable, and I love the retelling aspect of the story: much like in P&P, I was rooting for Devon and Ezra to just hurry up and declare their intense undying love for one another. Ezra himself was very well-written and complex, and I loved the dynamic between him and Devon. 

This was one of those novels that I couldn't put down. It was glued to my hand from the moment I flipped the first page, and I only put it down once I'd read every last word. Mills' writing is addictive, and saying goodbye to Devon, Ezra, and Foster felt like leaving behind a few really great friends. 

Final Thoughts: I look forward to more from Emma, and I recommend First & Then to anyone who is a fan of contemporary YA, romance, and - of course - Sarah Dessen. Check out Emma's YouTube channel "How to Adult" for some great how-to videos and amazingly helpful advice!


Saint Anything

Author: Sarah Dessen 
Pages: 417 
Publisher: Viking Juvenile 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world.

When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

I'm gonna try to keep this review short and sweet so as to avoid spoiling things for anyone. Here goes!

I've been a huge fan of Sarah Dessen for so long that just reading this novel felt like coming home. It's been a few years since Dessen released a new novel, so you can only imagine how excited I was to get my copy and dive right in.

I loved all the little mentions of characters from the past, and - of course - Colby. Sydney was an extremely interesting and complex character, but still very easy to relate to (as all Dessen's protagonists are). I loved Mac and Layla and the rest of the Chathams - their energy and the family dynamic made them seem like that family that everyone always loves to be around: loud and noisy and unquestioningly full of love for one another. The added complexity of Mrs. Chatham's illness ensured that this family was one that would band together no matter what, and the juxtaposition of Sydney's family only served to show just how fractured Sydney's family really was.

This was definitely one of Sarah's darker novels, but still one that is easy to relate to and carries a powerful message. I recommend Saint Anything to all fans of contemporary YA and (duh) Sarah Dessen's previous novels.


The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak

Author: Brian Katcher 
Pages: 336 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): It all begins when Ana Watson's little brother, Clayton, secretly ditches the quiz bowl semifinals to go to the Washingcon sci-fi convention on what should have been a normal, résumé-building school trip. 

If slacker Zak Duquette hadn't talked up the geek fan fest so much, maybe Clayton wouldn't have broken nearly every school rule or jeopardized Ana’s last shot at freedom from her uptight parents. 

Now, teaming up with Duquette is the only way for Ana to chase down Clayton in the sea of orcs, zombies, bikini-clad princesses, Trekkies, and Smurfs. After all, one does not simply walk into Washingcon. 

But in spite of Zak's devil-may-care attitude, he has his own reasons for being as lost as Ana - and Ana may have more in common with him than she thinks. Ana and Zak certainly don’t expect the long crazy night, which begins as a nerdfighter manhunt, to transform into so much more…

My Summary: Ana and Zak have nothing in common. Nothing at all. In fact, the first time they speak to each other, Zak makes a sexually suggestive comment and Ana responds by embarrassing him in front of hi band of nerdy friends. And when Zak joins the quiz bowl team, it's all Ana can do to keep herself from throttling him. 

On their way to a tournament, Zak can't seem to keep his mouth shut about Washingcon, entrancing Ana's younger brother Clayton (a nerd in the making). So when Clayton runs off to the convention, Ana enlists Zak's help to find him and bring him back before their absence is discovered. After all, it's Zak's fault her brother is missing.

What starts as a night with someone she can barely tolerate in a sea of weirdos dressed in costumes soon turns into one of the best nights of Ana's life. And although Zak loves Washingcon, being there with Ana has made it the night of his life. But what happens when they can't find Clayton, and find themselves accidentally stumbling upon the darker side of the con?

My Thoughts: I waited so long to get my hands on this novel that anything but perfection would probably have disappointed me. Fortunately for me, Ana & Zak delivers in every single way. 

First off, that cover is amazing. I love it! And it ties in really well with the story itself, so you know it's a winner. Props to the design team because I was lusting after this book after catching a glimpse of the cover - before I'd even read the summary. 

Ana and Zak were such fun characters. They were both very well written and incredibly relatable. Ana's determination to find her brother and keep him from getting in trouble was touching, and Zak's determination to help her was even more so. I don't think I've ever shipped two more different characters, but Katcher somehow made it happen. The back-and-forth between Ana and Zak really made the novel, and the situations they managed to get themselves in had me laughing out loud. 

I liked the way Ana and Zak's imperfections were out in the open - he was a jerk, she was obsessed with winning and way too uptight - and the way you could see that they sort of smoothed out each other's rough edges. 

I also really enjoyed the whole Con aspect. I've always wanted to go to ComicCon, but this novel cemented it for me. The hilarity that ensues - especially the epic fight scene - made the novel a tiny bit ridiculous but still really fun to read. 

Final Thoughts: If you're a fan of quirky characters and hilarious contemporary reads, I definitely recommend this novel!

Top Ten Clues You're Clueless

Author: Liz Czukas 
Pages: 289 
Publisher: Harper Teen 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day:

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.

My Summary: Chloe has been working at GoodFoods Market since she moved to town a few months ago. It's a boring job, and it's definitely not intellectually stimulating, but it pays well. 

And on a completely unrelated note: her coworker Tyson is gorgeous.

Arriving at 6:30 in the morning on Christmas Eve for her last shift before the holidays begin, Chloe hopes the day will pass quickly and without incident. After all, it's almost Christmas. How bad could things get?

Unfortunately for Chloe, the answer is horrible. Along with her fellow teen coworkers, she's suspected of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the charity collection box. 

Locked in the break room against their wills, Chloe and her coworkers - who might as well be complete strangers, for all she really knows about them - must band together and figure out a way to clear their names before all of their Christmases are ruined.

My Thoughts: This was such a fun read! It felt like I had just begun when I checked how many pages I had remaining and realized I was five pages from the end. Chloe was an extremely relatable main character, and her friends were each unique, complex, and well-written. I loved Chloe's habit of list-writing - not gonna lie, I do it constantly too - and the fact that she messed up. A lot. Main characters who never mess up are almost impossible to connect with, so Chloe's mistakes made it easy to like her. She was also incredibly awkward and quirky, which always makes me love a character even more. 

The mystery aspect was really fun, although I more enjoyed the way the coworkers connected with each other throughout the night. It felt very Breakfast Club, but not in a cliche way. Each one of Chloe's coworkers brought another element to the group, and by the end of the night it was hard not to love every one of them.

Czukas definitely has some insight into the mind of a teenager. The humour was spot on, and I found myself laughing out loud more than a few times. 

Final Thoughts: This was a very quick read, but it was cute and fun and had everything you could want in a contemporary YA novel. I recommend it to fans of romance, as well as fans of Sarah Dessen. 

The Night Gardener

Author: Jonathan Auxier 
Pages: 350 
Publisher: Amulet Books 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious specter and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives.

My Summary: Molly and Kip have not had easy lives. After leaving Ireland during the famine and being separated from their parents, the two children have no choice but to search for work. Luckily, Molly is able to secure a position as a maid in a grand Victorian mansion, and life begins to look a little better.

Starving and tired, they come upon their future home to find that their employer appears to be hiding more than a few secrets. And these secrets are not only affecting his entire family, but Molly and Kip as well. With nowhere to go and no way to escape what is happening to them, the children decide there is only one thing to do: discover the secrets their employer is hiding, solve the mystery, and save not only their lives, but the lives of the family that took them in. 

My Thoughts: I had no idea what to expect when I picked this novel up in the grocery store, but I was certain that it would be just what I needed to get out of my reading slump. There's something about the combination of middle grade novels and Gothic mysteries that gets to me every time, and this book was no exception - the way that the eerie settings and the suspense are woven together so seamlessly pull you back to that age where you were sure there were ghosts and monsters lurking behind every closed door. 

Auxier's writing pulled me into Molly and Kip's story and had me on the edge of my seat, hoping for the best for them. I felt a lot of Edgar Allan Poe coming from this novel as well, which definitely added to my love of the story. Stories themselves seem to take on a life of their own and become characters themselves, as Molly and Kip soon learn. 

The atmosphere of this novel was expertly crafted, and the plot twisted and turned beautifully. I adored every minute I spent enchanted by The Night Gardener

Final Thoughts: Go out and get yourself a copy of this amazing book as soon as possible. Read it in the dark - under the covers - and prepare to be creeped out. 



Author: Lauren Oliver 
Pages: 408 
Publisher: HarperCollins 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do. 

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought. 

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

My Summary: Heather has grown up watching the seniors in her tiny town compete in Panic: a high-stakes game where winning means getting the hell out of Carp, and losing could mean losing everything. She's never wanted to compete before - she's smart, and she knows it isn't worth the risk - but everything is falling apart, and winning Panic would ensure that Heather and her sister can escape their disastrous home life. 

Dodge has been training for Panic since the day his sister entered four years earlier. He's determined to win no matter what the cost, and nothing is going to stop him - not even his new-found friendship with Heather, or his crush on her beautiful best friend.

Because Dodge isn't playing Panic for the money - he's playing for revenge. 

My Thoughts: I'd heard about Panic before, but I'd never had the chance to pick it up. A few weeks ago I was strolling through Barnes & Noble and spotted the hardcover tucked behind a few copies of Vanishing Girls. I pulled it out, finally intent on buying it - and couldn't have been happier about my decision. I hadn't noticed until after I checked out, but the book was signed by Lauren Oliver. Total score, right? I was pumped to read it after that, but I was slightly nervous because I didn't want to be disappointed after all that build-up. 

I really shouldn't have been worried, because Lauren Oliver never fails to impress. 

I fell in love with Panic less than twenty pages in. Heather's voice and the unique premise had me hooked, wondering how the heck such a dangerous game could be played and how it was supposed to end well for her. There were so many heart-wrenching moments and Oliver's writing is haunting. The way her sentences fit together and the words flow like prose hook me every time I pick up one of her novels.

One of my favourite things about Lauren Oliver's novels is that you never really know who to root for, and it's almost impossible to predict how things are ultimately going to play out. I didn't like Dodge in the beginning, and halfway through the second last chapter I still didn't know how I felt about him. Same goes for Heather and Bishop (okay, not so much Bishop. He was a sweetheart despite his flaws). Heather's growth throughout the novel was inspirational, and her resolve to take care of her sister no matter the cost had me teary-eyed more than a few times.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to fans of contemporary lit as well as action. Faced-paced and full of suspense, this is one book you definitely don't want to miss.


The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Author: Sarah Ockler 
Pages: 368 
Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak. 

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one. 

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life. 

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them ....

My Summary: Elyse was born to sing. 

Along with her twin, Elyse has been singing since she was a little kid, enchanting all those who hear her songs. That is, until the accident. 

With no voice and no chance of ever speaking again - let alone singing - Elyse cuts herself off from her family and everything she knows, getting as far away from her old life as possible. When the opportunity to move to Oregon presents itself, Elyse accepts without thinking twice.

But getting away from the ocean is impossible; Elyse has salt water in her veins. So when Christian Kane offers her a position as his first mate in a race to save the Cove, Elyse accepts despite her fear. 

Winning the race could mean saving her aunt's house, her business, and her home. Losing the race? Losing the race means losing everything.  

My Thoughts: I always have such high expectations whenever Sarah Ockler releases a new book, and every single time she manages to surpass them. 

No, let me rephrase that: she tramples them into the dirt.

I have never read a Sarah Ockler book that I didn't love, and The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is no exception. Elyse's story was heartbreaking, and her journey to find her voice was a joy to experience. 

Every single one of Ockler's characters was complex and multidimensional. I loved little Sebastian and his dream of becoming a mermaid; Christian and his love for his brother; Lemon and her willingness to offer Elyse a home where she could bring herself back from the brink and begin to heal. Each one has their own special place in my heart.

The Little Mermaid has always been my favourite fairy tale, so it probably goes without saying that I loved every moment of this book. Elyse's connection to the ocean is such a huge part of her that it was heartbreaking to see her struggle to stay away from it. 

I loved that this novel touched on so many topics. Elyse accepting and learning to deal with her disability was such a huge part of the novel, as well as Christian learning to fight back against his father. Alongside this was Noah's father's sexism and Elyse's resentment toward her sister, and Ockler managed to address each without ever sounding preachy or overbearing. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys contemporary lit, romance, and new adult romance. 

Eight Hundred Grapes

Author: Laura Dave 
Pages: 260 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Georgia's childhood was idyllic. Growing up in a beautiful corner of  California known for its vineyards and elite winemakers, Georgia was no stranger to the natural beauty of her home. Home was where she knew she was safe, protected by her two older brothers and her loving parents. 

So when everything in Georgia's life begins to fall apart, she doesn't think twice before driving the eight hours to her family home. In fact, she doesn't even stop to take off the wedding dress.

But when she arrives, Georgia realizes that her life may not be the only thing falling to pieces - her parents' marriage, her brothers' relationships with one another, and the failing family vineyard take her mind off her own problems and restore her to her roots. Can she keep it all together and fix everything wrong in her family life, or are the last remaining pieces of her childhood - the vineyard and her unchanging family - destined to be lost forever? 

My Thoughts: A book about wine? Uh, need I say more?

I've never read a novel of Laura Dave's, but after Eight Hundred Grapes I know I'll be picking up every single one. Dave's writing was wondrous, and Georgia's voice was like that of an old friend - comforting and warm. I loved the way the story was told in alternating chapters of past and present - it really allowed for each new tidbit of information to sink in, and for the reader to understand every aspect of each character's story. 

I loved that the family aspect was such a big part of the novel, and that Georgia's personality was so visibly shaped by her family life. What do you do when what you built your entire life on - the knowledge that your parents loved each other beyond reason - turns out to not be as true as you once believed? Georgia's reaction to her family breaking up was understandable and heartbreaking: Dave managed to articulate the way that no matter how old we are, we will always feel five years old when it comes to our parents. 

And I know I said it before, but I really loved the Dave's writing. Her way with words had me reading the same passage over and over again, marveling at the beauty of the sentences and the way the words fit together. One word: synchronization

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to fans of contemporary romance as well as those looking for an intelligent summer read. If you haven't already, check it out!

The Fill-In Boyfriend

Author: Kasie West 
Pages: 352 
Publisher: HarperTeen 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley. 

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. 

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

My Summary: Gia couldn't wait to go to prom. Besides the fact that she was going to get to dress up and dance all night, Gia would finally get the opportunity to introduce her boyfriend Bradley to her three best friends and her frenemy. So when Bradley arrives at prom only to dump Gia and take off before anyone actually sees him, she knows she's royally screwed.

Thinking on her feet, Gia manages to convince a total stranger to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. Taking pity on her, the guy agrees, convincing everyone he's Bradley and madly in love with Gia. At the end of the night he disappears without even a name, leaving Gia to wonder who exactly her knight in shining armour really was. 

She searches high and low, finally managing to dig up her rescuer's name. And when she confronts him, he asks her to return the favour: pretend to be his girlfriend for the night to make his ex jealous. 

Gia agrees, but soon life begins to imitate art, and she finds herself falling for him.

The lies start to catch up with her, and as Gia struggles to hold everything together, her fill-in boyfriend shows her there's more to life than putting on a happy face and pretending everything is alright.

My Thoughts: This was one of those contemporary YA romances that feels like a big warm hug. I read this novel all in one sitting and loved every minute, cheering for Gia and Hayden the entire time. 

Gia grows a lot over the course of the novel, going from someone who worried about highschool petty drama to someone who wanted to mature and change. She recognizes her shortcomings as a friend and a person and works to fix them, even if she isn't quite forgiven by all those she seeks forgiveness from. Hayden was a great character, and his sister Bec was probably my favourite overall. The two main characters had a lot of chemistry, and the entire fake-boyfriend situation added an element of humour to the romance, keeping it from feeling too serious. 

The writing was perfect, and the plot flowed wonderfully. I never felt like things were lagging, or that the pace was inappropriate. Kasie West definitely knows how to keep me hooked,

And look at that cover! So glad I have a copy of my own to swoon over. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone looking for a cute contemporary romance or just a great summer read. 

Thor's Serpents

Author: K. Armstrong & M. Marr 
Pages: 368 
Publisher: Little, Brown 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Thirteen-year-olds Matt, Laurie, and Fen have beaten near-impossible odds to assemble their fellow descendants of the Norse Gods and complete epic quests. Their biggest challenge lies ahead: battling the fierce monsters working to bring about the apocalypse. 

But when they learn that Matt must fight the Midgard Serpent alone and Fen and Laurie are pulled in other directions, the friends realize they can't take every step of this journey together. Matt, Laurie, and Fen will each have to fight their own battles to survive, to be true to themselves, and to one another - with nothing less than the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

It's always so incredibly difficult to review the last novel in a series, so I like to keep them short and sweet so as to avoid any accidental spoilers. Here goes!

I loved the group dynamic in this installment. In the previous two novels, the Champions were just meeting one another and figuring out who they were. In Thor's Serpents, the Champions are forced to make the choice once and for all: will they trust each other and stand together, or fight alone? 

As usual, the writing was brilliant. The plot was expertly woven and the characters were amazingly realistic. Armstrong and Marr definitely know their way around the mind of a teen - even those with superpowers and godly ancestors. The Champions' insecurities and doubts shine through, turning them from your stock imagine superhero into real life kids with real life issues, Laurie asks a really interesting question in this novel, and it really made me think: how do you go back to your normal life after living through something so catastrophic? Do you just smile and pretend it never happened, or do you let it affect everything you do?

You can really see the growth of the characters throughout this installment, and the way they've come into their own through the series. As usual, Fen made me want to wrap a blanket around him and protect him from the world. Matt too. Both boys were polar opposites, but they were both examples of what can happen when you don't have a family you can rely on totally.

Final Thoughts: If you haven't read this series yet, you are seriously missing out. I recommend this trilogy to fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and other mythological series. 

Side Effects May Vary

Author: Julie Murphy 
Pages: 336
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that's as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission. 

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she's said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?

My Summary: Alice knew her life wasn't exactly perfect before she got cancer, but it was pretty damn close. She had everything she could have ever wanted, and she knew exactly how to get where she wanted to go.

But when they found the cancer, her whole life fell apart. With death snapping at her heels, Alice decides to right some wrongs and get back at those who have hurt her and the people she cares about. She recruits her best friend Harvey to help get the job done, and soon the list is complete. 

As Alice nears the end of her fight with cancer, it appears that she has nothing left to do. She's ready to go, knowing that she made the world a better place before she left it.

Until she receives what should be the best news of her life: she's in remission, and her cancer is gone.

She's going to live. And unfortunately for Alice, living means facing up to the things she did and said when she thought she had nothing to lose. 

My Thoughts: I've seen a lot of mixed reviews about this novel, so I'm going to start with my overall impression of the novel and work my way into specifics. Personally, I enjoyed the novel. It was a solid contemporary read with good characterization - the characters were realistic and dynamic - and great writing that kept me hooked. I was up well into the night reading, hoping for a happy ending for Alice and Harvey.

I feel like most people have a common issue with the novel: Alice herself. Alice was one of those characters that you wish the best for, but every time they make a horrible decision you can't help but shake your head. Alice's treatment of Harvey in particular made me cringe more than a few times, and my heart went out to the poor guy. However this was not enough to make me dislike the novel as adamantly as some other readers. We're so used to reading novels where we connect with the main character and wish all the best for them, but to me that was more Harvey than anything. I felt as if Alice was meant to be disliked, and that - as she notes herself - the only redeeming qualities Alice had were qualities she displayed when Harvey was around. 

And that's okay, I think. Some characters are just like that. But even the most frustrating characters deserve their happily ever after, right?

I really enjoyed the writing style and the way the author built Alice and Harvey's lives throughout the novel using flashbacks. Alice's voice was clear and sharp and kept me on my toes, crossing my fingers that everything would work out all right in the end. The plot flowed smoothly and the timing was well-executed, but I found myself connecting more to Harvey than to Alice herself - Alice had a mean streak that went a little far at times, but the novel was enjoyable nonetheless.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys edgier contemporary romance.



Author: David Arnold 
Pages: 352 
Publisher: Viking Books 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the "wastelands" of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. 

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

My Summary: Mim has lost a lot in the past few months. First, her mind. Second, her family. And now her home.

When Mim is forced to move to Mississippi with her father and stepmother, she decides she won't take it lying down. She acts up at school and doesn't bother controlling her anger, unable to adapt to a life that is so different from the one she left behind.

But when Mim finds out her mom is sick back in Cleveland and that her stepmom has been keeping her letters from Mim, she explodes. She grabs a few things and sets off, determined to get home to Cleveland to see her mom, consequences be damned. 

My Thoughts: This book has been on my TBR for months and when I came across it in the airport bookstore, I knew it was a sign. A few hours and multiple laugh out loud moments later, I found myself blinking at the world around me in that book-hangover way that only follows when you're completely submerged in a novel. I loved every second of Mim's journey.

I'm incredibly impressed by the author's way with words. Mim's narratives tugged at my heartstrings (even when they were a tad morbid) and read like the ramblings of someone who knew what it was like to take a slight detour from sanity. Mim was an unreliable narrator with a lot of secrets, but her observations and unique descriptions of the world around her all rang with truth. This novel seems to ask the question: when do quirks and personality traits go from being a normal part of life to the symptoms of a mental illness?

I loved the supporting characters (Walt! My heart!) and Mim's moments of clarity were very well-executed. It's so hard to review this novel in a way that makes sense, but believe me when I say you're gonna wanna read this one ASAP. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this book to fans of contemporary YA as well as those looking for a great road-trippy summer read. 

Emmy & Oliver

Author: Robin Benway 
Pages: 352 
Publisher: Harper Teen 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. 

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared. 

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. 

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling. 

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

My Summary: Emmy and Oliver had been neighbours and best friends since the day their mothers met in the delivery room. For seven great years they lived next door to one another, spending every waking moment together.

That all ends the day Oliver disappears with his father - an alcoholic in the midst of a custody battle with Oliver's mother. Nobody realizes that Oliver has been kidnapped until three days later, by which time he and his father are long gone.

Ten years later, Oliver is found and returns to his childhood home to live with his mother. Emmy is ecstatic about the return of her friend, but the Oliver that returned is nothing like the one who left. Despite all the changes, one thing remains: he trusts Emmy. 

As they get to know each other all over again, Emmy and Oliver must deal with everything that followed Oliver home, as well as attempt to repair the lives of those who had been left behind.  

My Thoughts: Reading this book was like fighting an addiction.

I knew I had a bunch of things to get done and a to-do list a mile long, but the minute I started reading, I couldn't put it down. Emmy and Oliver's story hooked me from the very beginning, and I would not be able to rest until they were safe and happy. Benway's writing was wonderful, and the story flowed beautifully. The dialogue between Emmy and her friends was incredibly well written, and Emmy's narrative itself was real and easy to relate to. 

Although this was marketed as a romance, I felt like the romance wasn't as big of an aspect of the novel as you'd expect. A lot of the focus of the novel is Emmy and Oliver trying to put their lives back together again. This novel also centers around familial relationships, and the way that they can be tested. 

The characters were so well-written. I love it when the secondary characters are so fleshed-out and real that you would read an entire book based on them alone. Emmy and Oliver themselves were easy to relate to, and the emotional punch the book packed is not for the faint of heart (I was sobbing at points and I'm in no way ashamed to admit that).

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to fans of YA contemporary lit as well as romance. Definitely one to check out if you're looking for a great new YA release!