All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven Review

Started: March 26, 2016

Finished: March 29, 2016

Rating: 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.


 

How do you beat your built-in ending?

All the Bright Places was a fantastic book. I could hardly put it down, and when I finished it, I wished I hadn’t finished because I wanted it to keep going.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this story hurt. A lot.

I could tell what was going to happen from about a third of the way in, and I did not want anything to happen to anyone in this story. Sadly, that’s the pain of being a reader.

This book, while being painful and fantastic, was simply beautiful. A beautiful cover, beautiful writing, and beautiful characters. I was impressed by the quality of the writing, and how Jennifer Niven handled all of the issues that she presented in this novel. She handled issues such as mental illness and the stigma surrounding it, child abuse, and grief in a seamless way that made it feel like everything fit together.

The story was flawless to me. I couldn’t stop myself from reading just so I could find out what happened on the next page. I was on edge most of the time because I just had no idea what to expect from any of the characters, and that is what makes a perfect story for me.

Speaking of the characters, they were a big part of what made this book so wonderful. They were real, imperfect, and they felt like real teenagers. As I said before, they were beautifully written and they were so well-characterized that at times I forgot that I wasn’t reading about real people. Violet and Finch’s relationship was wonderful and felt real to me, and that was a big part of this book’s appeal.

Now, let’s talk about my favorite part of this book: Theodore Finch.

Finch, for me, was what a YA protagonist should be. He was raw, real, and relevant. Finch as a character was instantly lovable. I fell for him hard and fast, and his character was just all-encompassing for me. But that’s not what made him my favorite part of the book.

Theodore Finch as a representation of the stigma around mental illness made him my favorite part. It is clear almost from the start that Finch has a mental illness that he doesn’t know about. All he knows is that sometimes he’s “Awake” and sometimes he’s “Asleep”. We don’t find out until much later what the illness actually is. But Finch himself puts so much stigma around his illness, and those around him put even more around it by calling him “Theodore Freak”. This book, through Finch, shows how dangerous this stigma can be, and how dangerous it is to feel that there is a removal of choice.

Overall, I loved this book. It was different, and special, and real to me. I would recommend this to any fan of contemporary YA because this is one of the best ones I’ve read in a long time.


 

NEXT READ: We Were Liars by e. lockhart

 

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Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy Review

Started: March 19, 2016

Finished: March 26, 2016

Rating: 4 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?


Side Effects May Vary is the last of the books that I picked up when I went to SE-YA 2016, and it did not disappoint.

I enjoyed this book. I loved Julie Murphy’s writing. It was exactly the type of writing that appeals to me: short, fast-paced, quick-witted, but also has deep meaning embedded in the words. Her writing was beautiful, and almost lyrical at times. I absolutely adored this writing, and I look to read more of her writing in the future.

Another thing I liked was the story. This different kind of twist on the classic bucket list story was refreshing and interesting to read. The story was fast-paced, and I liked how it switched between the past and the present almost seamlessly. Murphy’s handling of that structure was masterful, and I applaud her for it.

One thing that I had a love/hate relationship with was the characters. I loved almost every character that I was supposed to like in this book (meaning not the antagonists). I loved Harvey, Dennis, and everyone else associated with them. I loved nearly all the characters, with one glaring exception: Alice.

Alice was a well-written character, and she had so much depth. But I just could not like her. She seemed like the antagonist to her own story (which is another example of Murphy’s brilliant writing), but she just wasn’t redeemable to me. I couldn’t bring myself to like her when she used characters for her own personal gain. But that’s just my opinion.

One shining point for this book was the relationship between Harvey and Dennis. I’m a sucker for any well-written best friendships. Of the ones I’ve read, the relationship between Harvey and Dennis is one of my favorites. They seemed like they connected to each other, and they seemed like they were just platonic soulmates. I loved this relationship, and it made the book just that much better because of it.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the writing, I loved the story, and, for the most part, I liked the characters. This book was a great read, and I recommend it for anyone looking for a happy story that is just a little bit like The Fault in Our Stars meets Mean Girls.


 

NEXT READ: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

 

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff Review

Started: March 12, 2016

Finished: March 19, 2016

Rating: 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): From acclaimed YA authors Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff comes The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories. A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck. Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing. A world where fires never go out (with references to vanilla ice cream). These are but a few of the curiosities collected in this volume of short stories by three acclaimed practitioners of paranormal fiction. But The Curiosities is more than the stories. Since 2008, Maggie, Tessa, and Brenna have posted more than 250 works of short fiction to their website merryfates.com. Their goal was simple: create a space for experimentation and improvisation in their writing—all in public and without a backspace key. In that spirit, The Curiosities includes the stories and each author’s comments, critiques, and kudos in the margins. Think of it as a guided tour of the creative processes of three acclaimed authors. So, are you curious now?


A week ago, I had the wonderful experience of getting to go to a YA book festival and meeting my favorite author: Maggie Stiefvater.

I was so excited, and when we got there, I saw that she had a panel with two other authors: Brenna Yovanoff and Tessa Gratton.

Pictures of me meeting all of them are below!

I had heard their names before, but I had never looked them up or read their books. I thought they didn’t write novels that I would want to read.

Boy, was I wrong.

They were two of the most interesting people I’ve ever heard speak, and I was just waiting until I could get my hands on some of their writing. Luckily, the festival had a bookstore.

I found The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories in the bookstore and I thought it was the perfect way to introduce these two authors into my reading and see if I liked their writing (Spoiler alert: I loved it all).

I loved every story in this book. There wasn’t a single one that I was bored with while I was reading it. But I had a dilemma about how to review this book. And then I figured it out. I’ll give a review of the book as a whole, and then decided to pick my favorite story by each author.

First, the overall book.

I loved this book. I couldn’t stop reading it in my free time. The annotations were probably my favorite part, because seeing the notes from the authors made my reading experience even better than it would have been. Even if it was just a short, snappy joke comment, it made my experience a little bit brighter. The little tips about writing and the illustrations were great, and they made this book so entertaining.

Now, the stories.

“Dumb Supper” by Tessa Gratton: This story was interesting. It gripped me from the moment I started reading because I just had no idea what was happening. I didn’t know what a dumb supper was (I do now), and I didn’t know a short story could be creepy and a little romantic at the same time (I do now). Gratton’s writing was a different style than I was really used to, and I will be trying to read more of her writing in the future.

“Another Sun” by Maggie Stiefvater: This was the last story in the book, and it was the perfect story to close out the collection. This story was the most intense by far, and I just took it all in. It was unique, interesting, and suspenseful because I just had absolutely no idea where it was going. Maggie Stiefvater is my favorite author, and this story is up in my list of favorite works by her.

“Scheherazade” by Brenna Yovanoff: THIS IS MY FAVORITE SHORT STORY EVER. And that’s not exaggeration. I loved this story. I loved this story more than most things I’ve read this year. It wasn’t necessarily exciting, but it was suspenseful and unsettling. It was everything I look for in a short story and I loved it. I had never read Brenna Yovanoff before, but after reading this story and the other stories she authored in this collection, I can say with absolute certainty that I will be reading more of her writing in the future.

All in all, I loved this collection and I recommend it to everyone. It’s fantastic, and perfect if you maybe don’t have the time to read full novels. Every part of this collection gets a five star rating from me, and I’m so happy that I have this book in my personal library now.


 

NEXT READ: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy


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Maggie Stiefvater
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Brenna Yovanoff
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Tessa Gratton

The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie Review

Started: February 18, 2016

Finished: March 12, 2016

Rating: 3 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Bindy Mackenzie believes herself to be the smartest, kindest girl at Ashbury High. Unfortunately, she is alone in that belief. To prove her likeability, Bindy decides to document her life in transcripts, essays, and e-mails. What this reveals is a girl who’s funny, passionate, hilariously self-righteous…and in danger. Someone wants to kill Bindy Mackenzie. The clues are in the documents. The detectives are the very students who hate her most. And time is running out.


 

Wow, this book took a long time to read.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this book was slow. It had so much material that just seemed irrelevant. This book could have been a hundred pages shorter and still gotten all of the important information and character development that was needed for the book. The book was just too long, and there was too much information.

The characters didn’t make the length any more bearable. The main character, Bindy Mackenzie, was just so annoying. There were times that I had to stop because I just couldn’t take her anymore. As the novel went on, I started to see parts of myself in Bindy. I started to hate her a little less, and even started to root for her a little bit more.

The last forty-ish pages of the book were the best part. The book suddenly took a twist (not going to spoil it!) and the made the book instantly easier to read. The story moved quickly, information got told in a timely way, and the characters improved immensely. It kept me interested in the story and the characters, and I actually wanted to turn the page to know what was going to happen next.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book nearly as much as I wanted to. It was an okay read. It had a creative story, and an interesting twist, but the writing was not even close to telling the story in a way that I could enjoy. For people who love details more than an overall story, this book may be nice for you, but for me it was something that I just couldn’t get into. I probably won’t be reading anymore Jaclyn Moriarty in the future, but the overall story was enjoyable if I put aside the extraneous details.


NEXT READ: The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff