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review 2017-08-16 11:47
Review: Be True To Me
Be True to Me - Adele Griffin

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I actually had a request wish granted for this one. An enjoyable read, though very meandering and almost no plot until right before the end.

 

The novel tells the story of two different girls on an exclusive island during the summer of 1976 and the boy they both want the attention of. I don’t quite get why it had to be set in 1976, the setting didn’t really do anything for the story. The setting didn’t really make much difference, the plot could have easily worked as a modern day summer story.  

 

Jean has been living in the shadow of her prettier, popular, older sister Daphne for her whole life. Only this summer Daphne is off to Europe, so Jean can have some fun without having to be compared to Daphne. She’s really looking forward to it. Jean comes from a very well to do family who are summering on the exclusive Fire Island. She has a couple of best friends and meets a good looking boy, Gil, the nephew of one of her parents’ snooty friends. Gil’s friendly and easy going. They share a night out in New York before heading to Fire Island for the summer, but it’s enough for Jean to be head over heels for him. It’s kind of insta-lovey and she’s obsessed pretty quick.

 

Jean was nice enough, if a little dim. She’s sheltered, spoiled and very naïve. Whether it’s a rich people thing or whether the drinking laws in 1976 were less strict, I don’t know, but there were lots of parties and everyone was drinking, even the teens. (Might be a rich people world thing, I vaguely remember something along the same lines in the modern day Gossip Girl series of the parents not caring too much if their teens drank at social functions).

 

Jean has a habit of shooting her mouth off and speaking no inhibition regardless of hurting anyone when she drinks. She does this quite a bit. She can also be very selfish, but I don’t think she realises this. This shows more towards the end, when she does something that appears on the surface to just be her wanting the cute boy for herself, but if she hadn’t done it, then an outcome that was tragic might have been different.

 

Fritz was the more outgoing, can’t remember her background, but she came from a family of lesser standing, army kid I think. There were definitely some class issues when Fritz got friendly with Gil and was given a cold reception by his family simply because she wasn’t from a family as well to do as theirs. Fritz joins her best friend for the summer on Fire Island, and hits it off with Gil too. Fritz had a lot more personality than Jean did. She was friendlier and more outgoing.

 

The novel is told in alternating points of view from Jean and Fritz as they both try to get Gil’s attention. I can’t say I liked Gil much at all. While he comes across all polite and friendly, charming and good looking with a great potential future, he was clearly playing these two girls against each other. Telling one something different to the other one. He gets them both pretty obsessed with him, even though he does eventually choose one over the other, the other can’t let go. There’s very little interaction with the two girls together, there’s hints that could be a rivalry but it’s not really explored.

 

It’s very slow and meandering. And as I mentioned earlier the plot is almost non-existent. Until the end when things take a rather surprising turn. Didn’t see it coming at all. I did think it was well written, and while I can’t see the point of the 1976 setting, the actual place the girls were summering in was lovely. The setting was well described, the characters were all well fleshed out. Despite being rather slow at points, I did enjoy the novel. Don’t know if this is something I would read again, but I would definitely read something else by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers for granting my wish to read the title.

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review 2017-08-03 15:23
Review: Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index
Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index - Julie Israel

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This wasn’t necessarily a bad book, I certainly didn’t flat out hate it, it just did nothing for me. I wasn’t’ wowed by the storyline or the characters. The novel tells the story of teen Juniper who is trying to cope with the death of her older sister Camie. Juniper’s parents aren’t really coping well at all, her mom is in a state of zombie like shock, and her dad seems quite passive. All understandable given the circumstances. Juniper copes by writing down the positive things about her day on a series of index cards she keeps hidden.

 

I remember very little about the plot really, nothing about it stuck with me. It felt almost like this was something in some variation or another I have read before. Juniper wasn’t a bad character really. A reasonably nice girl though she did have some anger issues and was a bit sneaky in some respects even though she was trying to help others her actions wound up doing needless emotional damage to other people.

 

She finds a letter her sister wrote to someone addressed as You. No names. The bulk of the novel centers around Juniper trying to work out who You is and how to get the letter to them. As well as dealing with her own actions the night Camie died. The other storyline involves one of Juniper’s index cards going missing which sends her on a hunt to find it which involves going through the school dumpsters. She winds up connecting with a troubled bad boy with a snarky sense of humour who becomes more of a friend than she would have thought possible given the way they seem to antagonise each other at the start of the novel. She meets another cute boy in joining the school Booster club. She makes a few other friends. There’s a mean girl who keeps popping up being nasty.   The search for her index cards leads her to learning some things about other students’ secrets. She tries in her own way to help the more troubled students. Which of course goes wrong at some point.

 

The end was quite touching when she finally figures out how to do a tribute to her sister’s memory.  

 

Not bad, as I said, but just kind of okay. There was nothing remarkable about the story that stood out for me as a reader.  

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review 2017-07-13 23:15
Thief - Elena Dillon

For a star rating and full review please visit InD'tale magazine online, July/Aug 2017 issue. http://indtale.com/reviews/young-adult/thief

Source: www.indtale.com
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review 2017-07-07 11:46
Review: The Names They Gave Us
The Names They Gave Us - Emery Lord

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I had pre ordered this one ages ago, but I have a habit of pre ordering finished copies of Emery Lord books and requesting them on Netgalley as soon as I see them. Usually I start them as soon as I’m approved, but in this case it took me a while to get round to starting this one. Mainly because of the subjects it dealt with – faith and cancer.

 

While it took me a while to get into the novel, by the end I did love it to pieces, and as with every Emery Lord book I’ve read by the end I was in floods of tears. Beautifully written, and I thought it handled the tough subjects excellently. A+ points for diverse characters, transgender rep and friendships as well. The characters were fantastic and well fleshed out. The romance was adorable. The adults were likeable as well.

 

The novel tells the story of teenager Lucy who has learned that her mother’s cancer has returned. Lucy’s dad is a pastor, she’s very religious. She has a great relationship with her parents, she has a steady boyfriend of several years Lucas. Though on receiving the news, she falls to pieces. She starts to question her faith. It’s all handled very thoughtfully and manages to do it without being preachy at all. So bonus points for that.

 

Lucy’s parents run a Christian themed summer camp and she usually helps out as a councillor, but her mom convinces her to try being a councillor at the camp the other side of the lake, Daybreak. Which is a camp helping troubled children. Her mom thinks this may help Lucy deal with some of her own issue. She’s in pieces in private, but determined to put on a strong face around her parents. Though she’s acting out and getting overly amorous with the boyfriend. The boyfriend was also very religious and frankly, a bit of a dick. He was trying to be patient and understanding, but it didn’t come across very well – then – he puts their relationship ON PAUSE over the summer. Jerk.

 

Lucy is a bit reluctant to try Daybreak, she just wants to be with her mom. But she finds herself getting to know the other councillors her age, and dealing with the children, from all sorts of different backgrounds with all sorts of problems. As much as I liked Lucy and her voice I did find her to be kind of sheltered, maybe something to do with her deep religious beliefs. One of the kids, a girl of 14 is pregnant, and Lucy is quite shocked by this. She turns out to really connect to the girl and help her a lot.

 

Lucy makes friends in the camp, though the other councillors have known each other for years, she struggles to find her way into the close group of close-knit friends. It’s very sweet as she learns to accept the other kids who they are, find things in common with them, and gets to know them. She finds herself attracted one of the councillors her age, a boy named Henry. They bond and develop a close friendship with the potential for something more. Lucy has to figure out if she really wants to make the relationship with Lucas work, or go for something new with Henry. It works really well and adds a lot of depth to Lucy’s character as she struggles to make her decisions.

 

Lucy has to deal with a lot of different emotions and manages to handle them extremely well. She has her moments where she does fall apart. I did find I really liked her views on her struggle with her faith as well. A lot of it made a great deal of sense as she pondered it out. And there really were some beautiful passages on faith towards the end of the novel.

 

Tough subjects, but well worth reading.

 

I loved it.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-07-03 12:01
Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful - Eric Lindstrom

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Not entirely sure what to say on this one. This is a contemporary YA novel about a girl with bipolar disorder. I know almost nothing about how bipolar disorder works, so I feel like I can’t judge how good the representation was. I liked the author’s debut novel. I liked this one too, but not quite so much.

 

It tells the story of Mel Hannigan, who is struggling to cope with bipolar disorder. She works at an old people’s care home, has a few friends, reluctantly sees a therapist, takes her meds, though seems more comfortable talking to one of the doctors at the care home where she works than confide in her regular therapist. She keeps a track of meds and how she’s feeling in a somewhat complex routine noting how she’s coping and feeling. Each chapter starts with a list of Mel’s tracking routine. (Which seemed complex to me, it was explained in the novel though I can’t say I understood it).

 

Mel had a brother who met a tragic end, who also had bipolar disorder, she lives with her mom and dad and her aunt who also has the disorder. They each deal with it differently. The aunt is very outgoing and loud, where Mel is quite quiet and while she connects to a few friends she can’t bring herself to tell the truth about her disorder.

 

Her family moved at some point, and Mel found a great group of friends, but a fight and falling out with one, lead to the others getting some false information and cutting her off.  Though at the start of the novel the girl she had a fight with drops a bombshell on her leading her to have to try and speak to the others again. While this is going on Mel is getting to know David, the grandson of one of the residents at the care home. They have a somewhat rough meeting which leads to a cute romance.

 

The novel dealt with Mel’s ups and downs, struggles reconnecting with her old friends, and the truth about what really happened and why they all fell out, dealing with her disorder, falling for David, realising that the therapist isn’t so bad and is there to help.

 

Of course nothing is quite so smooth and everything goes wrong at some point. It seemed to me at least to be handled quite realistically, Mel was a likeable character, she had good moments and bad moments, times when she did stupid teenage things which caused problems in other respects. Like partying and drinking which had a big effect on her meds. Fights with her aunt. Surprising things came out when Mel reconnected with her old friends. One thing I did like was the parental input from Mel’s parents. Not overbearing, but understanding and helpful, which was nice to see.

 

A decent contemporary read.  I did buy a finished copy (The UK paperback has a really nice bright pink eye catching cover, I couldn’t resist).

 

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children's for approving my request to view the title.

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