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!