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url 2014-05-21 21:19
Review: We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

I can see why everyone is raving about this novel. I'll do my best to talk about it without spoiling any of the elements crucial to maintaining the suspense.

Okay, first off: writing. This, I can see, generating a mixed response, though I loved it for the most part. It's like a mix of the purple prose Tahereh Mafi used in the Shatter Me series and the sparse, tight prose that Kiersten White used in her thriller, Mind Games. Something has obviously happened to our main character, Cadence, and Lockhart shows this through several metaphors, short, snappy sentences, line breaks in the middle of sentences, and nouns as adjectives (e.g when Cadence is feeling extreme emotion, she often describes herself as bleeding all over the place; one character is described as ambition and strong coffee). And, of course, the unreliable narration, and how Cadence flips back and forth between present and past timelines. If you can handle that and it sounds appealing to you, you're basically set.

Despite this being a very tight piece, a book you've heard has lots of suspense, the plot takes a little while to kick in. First the setting and familial background has to be set. Then we're introduced to the main plot event and the mystery surrounding it. So, basically, what I'm saying is keep reading if you were unsure of the beginning; I found myself growing more and more invested as the story continued (rather than being immediately invested). This novel is probably most fun for people, like me, who couldn't guess the plot twist. Though, if you do guess the plot twist, you're still in for an emotional tale, especially since it parallels fairy tale fables with Cadence's current understanding of what happened to her and that adds quite neatly to the drama and heartbreak. The ending will probably generate some extreme response in you. I fall in the camp that likes it; if you've read the novel and wish to discuss, please mark the spoilers and I will discuss with you.

Probably my favorite aspect of the novel is not even the unpredictable ending or the thrilling undertone of the suspense. It's the way Lockhart has painted this rich, privileged family with a seemingly perfect life but one nonetheless shrouded in mystery and brokenness. Plus, you see the effects of several generations on this idyllic lifestyle. Lockhart touches on issues of race and class and sex among other topics that are ripe for discussion. The humor and sadness and waste in her discussion of privilege evoked portrayals from some of my favorite authors like Maggie Stiefvater.

Read this if you're a fan of books with unreliable narrators and familial drama and the whimsy of summer romances. Read this for a twist on the idyllic summer spent in rich beach houses. Read this and be prepared to read it again to appreciate its complexity. A thoughtful, arresting piece in YA, and perfect for book clubs.

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review 2013-12-31 12:00
Review: Being Sloane Jacobs - Lauren Morrill

Ten Likes/Dislikes:

 

1. (+) Protagonist, Sloane Emily - Sloane Emily is a former figure skating Olympic front-runner who isn't sure she wants to return to the sport, especially given what she discovered about her rich, broken, politically-oriented family. She doesn't know where to turn, what to do... until she meets Sloane Devon and comes up with a plan that will thoroughly change her and her summer. Sloane's determination and bravery really take center light when she swaps places with Sloane Devon. Except for one prank that Sloane Emily played, I actually really liked how the hockey program brought out a lot of qualities - her ferocity, her team-playing habits - that might have remained hidden had Sloane not lost her posh clothes and figure skating diet.


2. (+) Protagonist, Sloane Devon - Sloane Devon is a hothead hockey player looking to get recruited by scouts but unwilling to admit that she needs help because of her recent setbacks in games. If she's not recruited, her family can't afford to pay for college because they are dealing with other issues beyond financial problems. Sloane Devon is snarky, fierce, angry yet laid-back. I found it easier to relate to Sloane because of her anger. Though she clearly needs to manage her anger, it also reveals and maker her easier to understand: she cares so desperately for her family, for her sport that she's psyching herself out. That and well, the pressure of the game. How quickly that can make you question your love for the sport (see #4). I particularly liked how Morrill took a chance by giving one of her protagonists a serious anger issue and how she'd resolved it through figure skating (and other things, of course). Another thing I really appreciated in both Sloanes was how they accentuated each other, especially with regard to stereotypes and gender assumptions.


3. (+) World-building / Sports - It is clear that Lauren Morrill did her research on both sports and Montreal. The most I know about figure skating is from an occasional Olympic match that I'll watch. Hockey is one of those sports that I have no interest in and have actively avoided... And yet Morrill makes both sports interesting and easy to understand for those who aren't entirely familiar with the mechanics. Plus Montreal! I had the feeling that either Morrill had been there before or she's just a pro researcher and knows how to seamlessly incorporate her results into her work. My only complaint would be wanting more of both -- which definitely isn't a bad thing.


4. (+) Nostalgia - Even though I've never played either of these sports, this book brought back memories of when I did play basketball. If you've ever played a sport competitively, I think you'll identify with how these girls feel about their sports and the character arcs they have to address their feelings. Personally I miss the feeling of the game, but I don't miss the stress. Morrill captures both the good and bad in playing a competitive sport, and I applaud her for that, especially since you don't read a lot of YA (contemporary) where the protagonists are actually good at sports.

 

5. (+/-) Plot/Pranks - Before you read this, make sure that you are someone who can let go of a premise that might not be entirely believable. Both girls work hard to learning the other's sport, but getting to scouting/recognition level in one month is questionable. Truthfully I didn't mind that, and I actually admire how much Lauren Morrill managed to squeeze into this novel: programs for hockey and figure skating and their dynamics, two protagonist character arcs, two romantic subplots, subplots for each girl's background, etc. However, one of the pranks played nearly made me stop reading the novel. I discuss this spoiler under the highlighted region if you're interested. First off - let's be honest here: how many young adult characters actually have big breasts? I'm looking at my shelves right now, and I can name two out of so, so many characters. Do you know how much people make fun of girls with big boobs? I didn't have them in HS, but the girls who did were the brunt of a lot of mixed reactions. So I don't think the name-calling (for Molly) by Matt and others is unrealistic. What I take issue with is that I'm supposed to be rooting for the girl who froze Molly's sport bras when she desperately needed them. Changing hair color, that's fine -- it doesn't actually hurt. Running without a sports bra, especially when Molly wears two of them, hurts a lot. You can't tell me that Molly deserved that prank after kicking Sloane from that room; they are nowhere near equal actions. What Molly did was not nice. What Sloane Emily in retribution felt rather close to glorifying bullying. I hated that moment so much that I almost stopped reading because of it.


6. (+/-) Romance - Both boys are swoon-worthy in their own way, completely adorable romantic interests, but I honestly never felt much for either romance because I didn't get the feeling that I knew either guy or that they were realized characters. They were given a set of problems, and that certainly helped distinguish them and the character growth they needed to go through, but we didn't get to see them go through their character growth. They're cute, they're fun, they have back stories, they help advance both Sloane Jacobs's character arcs, but they fell short for me.


7. (+/-) So What? - I had this vaguely unsatisfied feeling when I finished the book. Of course I liked the book, but my experience with this wasn't the same as mine with Meant to Be. Julia got to address her problems head-on; her character growth was directly related to the issues raised. These girls grow and gain strength and faith in themselves over the course of the novel, but neither really has the chance to address the issues that bothered them from the beginning (e.g. a hockey match without feeling the tingles/anger problems; Sloane's dad) - they're sort of patched up, a HEA without seeing some of the things they'd learned from that summer being applied. This is one of those times when I actually wanted a bit more from a book. It all fits well with the cute, light read, and I knew what I was getting when I started, but I still wanted a bit more.


8. (+) Writing - Lauren Morrill did a great job at distinguishing both girls's PoVs and keeping the conflict high throughout the novel. The writing is smooth, easy to read, and completely appropriate for the novel.


9. (+) Pacing - I hesitated to write that I wanted more from the novel (#7) because it was a perfect length. It was wonderfully paced, pushing us forward with little snippets of how the girls had advanced in their programs and steadily building towards the climax. The only time it seemed slightly rushed was after the programs, when the sort-of HEA was introduced.


10. (+) The Cover - This cover does a great job of giving you the tone of the novel... and doesn't have to deal with how to portray both Sloane Jacobs and romantic interests without confusing a reader.

 

Lauren Morrill delivers another fun, cute contemporary romance. Recommended for a light read and especially for former sports players.

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url 2013-10-28 18:22
Book Review & Giveaway: the Anatomy series by Daria Snadowsky
Anatomy of a Boyfriend - Daria Snadowsky
Anatomy of a Single Girl - Daria Snadowsky

If you've been looking for some more realistic contemporary YA, you'll probably find it in this book (Anatomy of a Boyfriend). I would post my review here, but since I'm also giving away my copy of the series, that won't work. Head on over to the blog if you're interested.

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