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.