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review 2017-10-03 21:14
Review: Zenn Diagram
Zenn Diagram - Wendy Brant

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I snagged a copy of this one when it was a Read it Now on Netgalley. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I wound up enjoying this book. Early on I very nearly DNFed, the concept just wasn’t getting through to me, and I found Eva’s young siblings incredibly annoying. As the novel progresses, the depth of the two main characters and emotional connection between them was pretty amazing.

 

Eva is math genius. She has a bizarre condition (possibly as a result of a car accident when she was a baby) where when she touches people, she can see patterns in the form of mathematical fractals that tell her things about people. She can see feelings in the form of colourful mathematical patterns that show her emotions about a person. She can learn things about someone by a touch. Which makes her very uncomfortable about touching people. With a gift like that you never know what you’re going learn. It’s understandably quite scary. And beyond uncomfortable to have this happen every time you accidentally touch another person.

 

She has a best friend, Charlotte, but doesn’t really interact with other people much. She lives with her mum and dad, her dad is a Pastor for a local church, and she has four quadruplet siblings all of whom are very young, very lively (and very very annoying at least to this reader).  Eva makes some money by offering to tutor kids failing in math.

 

One of the guys she tutors is popular sports star Josh whom her BFF Charlotte has an epic crush on. There’s a sweet little side plot about Eva fixing the two of them up. Which turns out to have a not so great impact on their friendship when the fix up is a success.

 

The second guy she tutors is moody but very hot artist Zenn. Zenn and Eva connect pretty well. They find themselves getting to know each other a bit more, helped along by an incident where Eva decides the church van her family drives needs repainting - Zenn is an artist. Zenn agrees to repaint the van. Zenn’s a really good artist.

 

As they get to know each other and Eva’s feelings deepen, at the same time she’s dealing with her friendship with Charlotte deteriorating. Now she’s dating Josh, Charlotte is instantly more popular than she’s ever been and doesn’t really seem to have much time for Eva anymore. There’s still conversation, but it’s sparse and not as frequent and they’re not hanging out or having lunch together as much as usual. Eva’s naturally disappointed but at the same time this allows her the opportunity to spend more time with Zenn.

 

Eva and Charlotte’s friendship is actually very well written and quite realistic, it’s not all over the top drama, there’s a certain amount of emotional turmoil, but also some really sweet bits as well.

 

Likewise with Eva’s growing relationship with Zenn. They take time exploring their feelings, Eva gets to know Zenn’s home situation which isn’t all that great. Parents divorced, Dad just come out of long term prison sentence, Mom is an alcoholic who goes from bad boyfriend to bad boyfriend. The mom was actually quite nice but not very bright.

 

Both are struggling with decisions of what to do after high school. Zenn doesn’t really see much option other than to work to support his mom who can’t really take care of herself, while Eva wants to go to college. But with four small children and herself, Eva knows money is tight, and unless she can get a scholarship or something, her MIT dreams are just that – a dream. As fun as the flirting and growing romance is with Zenn they have some serious discussions as well.

 

There’s a really surprising twist as well which impacts both Eva and Zenn’s parents greatly. Which also has a big consequence for Eva and Zenn as well, but they both have to decide whether they love each other enough to get past it. Eva’s touch ability works differently with Zenn as well, opening her to sensations and experiences she never thought she would have. It’s not all swoony romance, there’s some pretty serious drama.

 

A really excellent contemporary YA. I would definitely read another book by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Kids Can Press.

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review 2017-09-28 11:45
Review: Love and Other Man-Made Disasters
Love and Other Man-Made Disasters - Nicola Doherty

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I snagged a copy of this one from my Hatchette Children’s auto approval at some point last year. It’s a cute light hearted contemporary, easy and quick to read, but only okay for me. There was nothing particularly outstanding about it.

 

It wasn’t a bad book by any means, just a little bland for my tastes.

 

It tells the story of 17 year old Juno who’s on a skiing trip with her family, her mum and mum’s second husband and her two annoying twin step brothers. Juno’s very nervous and seems to be freaked out about everything. She’d much rather spend her holiday at home with books and studying but her mum has decided she spends too much time studying and needs to get out into the real world. Juno would rather be anything else.

 

After a disaster at beginners skiing mum gets her private lessons from a good looking instructor who appears to be around Juno’s age nick-named Boy. The bulk of the story is Juno and Boy getting to know each other and become something more than friends. They have some nice snarky banter between them, Juno struggles with developing feelings for a romance that will probably go nowhere. At the same time she finds herself making friends with Tara, the young woman assigned to look after their cabin – cooking and cleaning, etc.

 

The novel deals with Juno’s worry at the increase of adventure in her life as she makes new friends and has new experiences at the same time dealing with her mum and her added new family. It had some fairly good emotional depth. Juno was a likeable enough character and the family interaction was quite believable.

 

Boy just irritated me, that name for one thing drove me up the wall. I’m guessing it was meant to be cute, but it was really just annoying. He wasn’t a bad character either, just had stupid name. You do actually learn his real name right at the end of the book and considering you can understand why he would have a nickname. But I didn’t like the nickname and that sort of sapped my enjoyment of the story whenever Boy was in the scene.

 

A quick contemporary read. Only okay for me. Not something I would read again.

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review 2017-08-31 16:25
Review: Words on Bathroom Walls
Words on Bathroom Walls - Julia Walton

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Never expected to get approved for this one and was quite surprised and pleased when I was. (I so rarely get approved by Random House). Really impressed with the book as well. (Always kind of makes me feel a bit guilty when I get approved for something by a publisher I don’t get approval from and then find I don’t like the book. Thankfully not the case this time.)

 

This novel tells the story of teenager Adam who suffers from schizophrenia. Adam has quite a unique personality, he knows he’s schizophrenic. He sees illusions, people who aren’t there but the interesting thing I found was while each of these illusions of his seem to have their own personalities and speak to him, he’s actually quite aware of the fact that these people aren’t real. They seem to be some form of emotion he can’t express.

 

The novel follows Adam as he struggles with his illness and a new experimental treatment drug and starting at a new private Catholic high school. Dealing with the bullies, the geek who winds up becoming a good friend and the girl he has a crush on who becomes a friend and something more.

 

The novel is told in diary entries through Adam’s therapy sessions – he refuses to speak to his therapist and writes down what’s been going on in his daily life. He’s got a brilliantly blunt tell it how it is attitude, and can be deliciously snarky. Added in some complicated family drama – dad not in picture, mom has new husband. The mom’s new husband was actually pretty decent if a bit dim. Though step dad’s mom was a nightmare.  Some interesting ideas on faith as well considering Adam attends a Catholic private school without being too preachy.

 

Quite realistically handled as well, I though. Some deep emotional turmoil, a sweet romantic storyline as well.  Well handled, without being sickly sweet, fair amount of drama, but not too over the top. Ups and downs, sad and funny. Likeable characters, believable parental involvement. A really good read.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s for approving my request to view the title.   

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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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