Tag Archives: contemporary

Review Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: October 16, 2008
Page Count: 305
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

There’s a few things I’ve learned about John Green’s books reading Paper Towns:


-I don’t agree with the common opinion that all Green’s characters are the same.
Quentin Jacobsen (anxiety) is very different from Will Grayson (typical) who is very different from Miles Halter (the great perhaps) who is extremely different from Augustus Waters (oblivion). However:

-I do think that Alaska Young and Margo Roth Spiegelman have a lot in common, or are, essentially, the same character.
And I don’t get it. Not that they are the same really – that’s fine, it happens – but I don’t get their appeal. As Miles is with Alaska, Quentin is absolutely enamored with Margo. And I understand she’s beautiful and popular and spontaneous and adventurous and all of these wonderful things that might lure in a teenage boy, but she’s also really self-absorbed. She’s careless about the ones who love her. She knows that Quentin is actually obsessed with her (and that’s what this book borders on, obsession) and she doesn’t care. She actually plans to hang out with him and blow him off in the same night. And maybe, maybe I can understand their appeal a little bit – on the outside these girls are these free, beautiful spirits, but that’s not enough if you’re just going to walk all over everyone to get what you want, while thinking you’re better than everyone else. The point is, while I may never understand because I’m obviously not a teenage boy, I think there are plenty of beautiful, eccentric, free girls out there that won’t stomp all over your heart the first chance they get. I guess I’m rooting for the underdog. And this is mainly where my rating comes from. Because I truly dislike Margo, and therefore dislike Quentin for stooping to her level.

-I read Green’s books in the wrong order.
Unfortunately, I only discovered John Green last year. The Fault in Our Stars, my favorite book, was the first book I ever read by John Green. Then Looking for Alaska, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and finally Paper Towns. I’m sure every author wants their next book to be better than their last, and such was the case. Except I read them backwards.

To conclude, I never really thought I’d rate a John Green book three stars. But as it turns out, Paper Towns is my least favorite. And that’s not saying it’s a bad book – there are plenty of books I rated three stars that I really liked – just not my favorite.


Review The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

A few “sexy” bullet points about Jay: 
– He is in love with a cheerleader named Cameo “Appearance” Parnell 
– He is forever losing “Love-15” to tennis-playing goddess Caroline Richardson 
– He rocks a touche array of pop-culture references, jokes, and puns 
– His family-life cookie is about to crumble. 

Live vicariously through Jay as he faces off against his mortal enemy, gets awkward around his dream girl(s), loses his marbles in a Bermudian love triangle, watches his parents’ relationship implode, and, finally, learns to get real and be himself(ish).

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Page Count: 272
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

I really liked this book. I liked Jay and his quirks, and loved (most) all of the supporting characters. He suffered from some serious teenage boy syndrome during his rival with Mike and the bad choices he made where Cameo was concerned, but he made up for it in character so that was okay.

I had a real hard time connecting with Cameo, who is mostly responsible for the loss of rating. I know the author tried to portray her as a mistake-prone girl with good intentions, but I just wasn’t buying it. She wasn’t sincere to me.

Caroline, however, I loved. I was able to picture her perfectly and could definitely see myself being friends with her. I know that the author’s fiancee is named Caroline (and he is Jay), so one can only hope that she is like Caroline in the novel, because she is really down to earth. I do wish that we could have experienced the development in their relationship though, rather than “it’s one month later and we’re dating”.

Ms. Lambert was probably my favorite character though. Funnier than even Jay, I thought she was witty and very intelligent. Anyone who has a teacher like this, who cares about their students as much as she did, is really lucky.

I knew going into the novel that its main plot point was a love triangle (which I usually stay away from at all costs) but it wasn’t overdone so it turned out okay. Plus, it was told from a boy’s perspective which is not as common, so I was interested to see how that would play out.

Wholly, The Edumacation of Jay Baker is a humorous, witty contemporary that does deal with some real issues (divorce, etc.), but is not a tearjerker or anything like that. I would recommend it for a pretty light read.


Review The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

There are those who don’t get luck handed to them on a shiny platter, who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, who don’t get saved.

Luck was not on Callie’s side the day of her twelfth birthday when everything was stolen from her. After it’s all over, she locks up her feelings and vows never to tell anyone what happened. Six years later her painful past consumes her life and most days it’s a struggle just to breathe.

For as long as Kayden can remember, suffering in silence was the only way to survive life. As long as he did what he was told, everything was okay. One night, after making a terrible mistake, it seems like his life might be over. Luck was on his side, though, when Callie coincidentally is in the right place at the right time and saves him.

Now he can’t stop thinking about the girl he saw at school, but never really knew. When he ends up at the same college as Callie, he does everything he can to try to get to know her. But Callie is reserved and closed off. The more he tries to be part of her life, the more he realizes Callie might need to be saved.

Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: December 13, 2012
Page Count: 296
Source: My copy.
Rating: 2/5

Can I just say how much I hate fucking cliffhangers? Because, really, there’s a cliffhanger, and there’s a Cassandra Clare cliffhanger, and then there’s this cliffhanger. And the first two I can deal with, but there’s something very immature and noncommittal about ending a novel in the middle of the story. And that’s exactly what the author did here. She did not finish the story. And, series or not, that is unacceptable.

Two stars seems harsh for this book, especially since I liked the characters and the story they had to offer me, but two stars is for “it was okay”, and, with the amateur writing, the book turned out just okay for me.

I thought this novel could use an editor. Between the constant knitting of eyebrows and the lack of originality (see “knight in shining armor” or “think with your head and not with your dick” – so cliche), I thought the language could use some work.

This is one of my first experiences with New Adult and I thought that went alright. I fully expected it to read like a YA book but it didn’t – it fully encompassed the elements of a new adult’s life. So that was good. Like I said, I liked the characters and thought their connection was believable. I thought Kayden could be a little bit over the top at times, and despised Callie for expecting Kayden to do something about his life while she was on a downward spiral herself, but these were forgivable instances. Most of the time, I really liked them as human beings and felt for their circumstances and the pain they went through.

All in all, I thought the story flowed well and the writing needed work. I hated the ending (or lack thereof) and am kind of on the fence about reading the sequel. Like I said, it was okay.


Review Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City;and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be;and where the next great band is playing.

Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Page Count: 208
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4/5

Having seen Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist The Movie, and loving it (except the emphasis on Norah’s non-orgasms, that was weird [and I’m glad there was only a single mention of it in the book]) I really wanted to read this book. I also liked Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (mostly), which made me want to get my hands on this book even more. And I really did enjoy it. Even more than I did Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.

I could see how the overuse of the word “fuck” or any variation of it could make readers want to shy away from this novel (especially being teen fiction and all), but I thought it was appropriate. My views on swearing and sex in teen fiction is this: teens swear. A lot. And sex is part of their lives as much if not more so (with the pressures that go with teen life) than adults. And I don’t think the adults writing the teen fiction should censor these novels to a point where the elements of these teens’ lives are not present. And so, the passionate swearing in this novel worked for me. I think both characters were really passionate in their lives and it made sense for them to express themselves with such passion. But I’ll tell you right now, if the word “fuck” bothers you, you’re not going to want to read this book.

I thought, at times, that Nick was a bit sensitive for a teenage boy, but he had just broken up with his girlfriend so it wasn’t totally unwarranted. But I absolutely loved Norah. She was strong, yet aware of her weaknesses and the mistakes that she made. She had loving parents, which was refreshing – I realize not all teens have that perfection in their lives where parents are concerned, but the reality is that some do, and it was nice to see that. I think Nick and Norah had amazing chemistry – especially in that one scene, whew! – and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. Somehow the authors did not enter insta-love territory, despite the fact that the entire novel is the course of one night, they kept it classy – these teens were actually interested in getting to know one another. I loved the backdrop of the music scene – it all felt very genuine. The novel was really short, but not too short to develop the characters. I thought the whole thing was executed brilliantly.


Review Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors ofNick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: December 26, 2010
Page Count: 260
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

The simple truth is, I loved this book until That Thing Happened. I thought Dash was an intelligent, unique, rooted boy who I could very easily relate to and I thought Lily was quite charming. I think Levithan and Cohn make a sensational team and frankly, I cannot count on two hands how many times this book made me laugh out loud. Really, laugh.

But the book was a bit pretentious. The reason I say it like that is because I read a review in which the reader rated it lowly because of its pretentious nature and I didn’t really believe it. But now I understand. The story goes from Dash wanting to meet Lily to Lily making a fool of herself to Dash thinking they shouldn’t have met, not because of what Lily did but because they just… shouldn’t? Why? And I don’t know if I’m just being naive or if I just wanted them to work so badly or what, but I feel like I don’t understand his reasoning. I mean, I understand that the girl in his head probably doesn’t exist and if she does, Lily is most likely not that girl, but if he realizes that the girl in his head doesn’t exist, then what is wrong with Lily, if her fault is not her actions. This is where the book felt pretentious to me. I felt like that there was an inner meaning to the whole girl (or boy) in our heads, but I don’t think that inner meaning really shined through in this novel. It was never really achieved.

And Lily. I really liked her, but what she did, how she acted in that one instance that served as a first impression, was unforgivable. Not only was it out of character, but it was as if she had completely given up on herself, not to mention Dash. And she just declined from there. I had gained so much respect for her and her morals, I was completely floored by her. And its in instances like this where my opinion conflicts with that of the entire book population. Sometimes, I don’t feel that a story needs conflict. For me, it would have been okay to tell Lily and Dash’s story without forcing for Lily to do something stupid to delay the whole thing. I think it would have been okay for them to stay true to themselves instead of make the mistakes that they made. And everyone makes mistakes – I understand that – but personally, I can’t stand in books when one person becomes two different people. And because Lily was That Person, I don’t feel that she really was right for Dash, and therefore disagreed with the rest of the book.

Apart from that, I absolutely loved Dash and all of his friends. Especially Boomer. He was one of the most kindhearted characters I have come in contact with in a long time. I think the book had strong world building – I could really picture New York from where I sat – and I really enjoyed the premise of the story. I thought it was executed well, like I said, until That Thing Happened that really propelled the story in the wrong way for me. But in a way, Dash’s character drove it home for me. Despite my disagreements with the story as a whole, I really enjoyed falling into his chapters and getting to know him as a person. He was very interesting.

I would recommend this book for solid writing, to readers who are looking for a light read, and who may be a bit more forgiving of humans than I am.


Review Every Day by David Levithan

In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. 

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Page Count: 336
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

This book was just okay for me. I’m unable to point out anything that I particularly loved about the book, but wholly, besides a few gripes I have with it, it was a good book.

What stands out to me the most though, was how unrelatable A was. Not being able to pinpoint A’s gender was very frustrating. Had A been a girl with raging hormones, or a laid back teenage boy that just wanted to hang out with his friends, I could relate to A’s emotions. Yet A was in limbo. A’s actions portrayed A as a girl, with how quickly A fell in love with Rhiannon (and yes, this book suffers from insta-love – on A’s part, not on Rhiannnon’s), yet I got the sense that, deeply, A was a boy. This confliction was not only confusing but frustrating, as I said, and I desperately wanted to know which side of A I should hold on to.

I also think A’s expectations of Rhiannon were unrealistic. A expected Rhiannon to accept their situation without question – love conquers all etc. – without really thinking of her feelings. I’m a big believer in true love and destiny and all that, but I just wasn’t buying it. I couldn’t see their relationship ever working.

I had no quarrels with the way Levithan told this story. He certainly can write a sentence. Though I thought the world building could have been better, I have noticed lately that authors in YA contemps are focusing more on their characters than their worlding, so I won’t fault him for that. I can forgive a less-than-perfect storyline. I cannot forgive bad characters.

I thought the ending was very rushed, and totally incomplete. So incomplete that, I think there is enough of an adventure left in A that there could be a sequel. That there should be a sequel. I have no idea if there is a possibility of a sequel, but I think I would definitely read it to find out what happens.

Overall, it was an okay read. I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a book Levithan co-authored with John Green, and I know the man can write. I also admire him. I know he has taken a stand on homosexuality in YA literature and I think the YA community needs more advocates like him. Despite my issues with this one book, I would definitely read more of his work.


Review The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now. 

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. 

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Page Count: 313
Source: My copy.
Rating: 5/5

This has been my second experience with this book. My first, was in Target’s limited YA section, at which time I discovered John Green. I have since read Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and while they have been all at once wonderful and funny and touching, they have not been life changing. They have not altered my perceptions of the world.

The Fault in Our Stars has.

I didn’t write a review the first time. I just didn’t know what to say. I’m not even sure I know what to say now, with tears drying on my cheeks.

I don’t cry for books. Movies, yes, a tear may fall (most recently with Remember Me), but books don’t make me cry. And I’m not a stranger to crying, either. I actually cry about everything. But books – I guess they would have to really shock me with their sadness to make me shed a tear for their characters. And I don’t really remember if I cried the first time, but I can say with definitiveness (?) that, while reading this book, I cried for a solid fifty pages. I never stopped reading – this was not an option – but I cried for so, so long. And I sniveled. It was all very pathetic. So much so that my husband stopped me.

“Baby. BABY!-” when I refused to look up- “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I have said nothing about the book. Absolutely nothing.

I read The Fault in Our Stars the second time around to underline my favorite quotes of the book, because there are so many. I have never done this before. Written in books. But I did it in pencil, so it’s sort of okay. Anyway. In my opinion, The Fault in Our Stars is the most quotable book. And so, I have underlined approximately 39 passages in a 313-page book.

And maybe it’s not about the books. Maybe it never was. John Green once said “Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we’re quoting.” And I think that’s true. I think it’s the way in which the books make us feel, is what really counts. And I think this book makes me feel really sad, but also really real. It makes me feel like fearing something like oblivion or even death is sort of a normal thing – not really that crazy – and yes, we leave behind scars, not legacies, but those scars are remembered and that lets us be true to ourselves even in death because the scars don’t lie. They can’t. They just are. The people we truly love carry those around with them until they die and when it’s over it’s okay because we have lived on vicariously through the people we love. Love… has granted us remembrance.

So, yeah, I like this book. I do agree that John Green is one of the best writers alive and I want to meet him someday. Mostly, though, I want more books like it. More intelligent YA novels that delve into the human condition and electrify our very souls. But that’s just it, I guess. There is no book like it.

I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.

“Augustus,” I said.

“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”