Book #79: When Everything Feels Like the Movies

Raziel Reid, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, 2014, 176p

This is an uncomfortable read. There, I said it.

I typically don’t read gutting books. Like terrible, horrible, soul crushing, losing my faith in humanity types of books. I read SAD books. I read BITTERSWEET books. But not like this.

There is so much hype surrounding this one. It won the Governor General Literary Award – and people have actually demanded it be stripped of it. It was a finalist on Canada Reads in 2015. It is vulgar and sweary and graphic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.

Jude, a gender queer teen, pushes the boundaries of their homophobic small town, with makeup, dresses, and a Hollywood attitude.  Their best friend, Angela, is a self proclaimed slut, and Jude pines after the most popular jock at the school. Jude copes with their own life of endless bullying and cruelty by living in denial – envisioning themselves s a beautiful starlet. Those bullies and name callers simply ‘paparazzi’. With graphic sexual content, violence, drug use, and language – it is clear why there was such controversy surround this title.

It’s a tough read. But, it is an extremely honest, brutal portrayal of youth have to face every day.

Not every book has to be beautiful. And sugar coated.

Sometimes it’s good be uncomfortable.

Book #78: The Jewel

Amy Ewing, The Jewel, 2014, 358p

If you have read ANY of my blog posts or if you even remotely have discussed books with me at any time, you will know that I’m beyond addicted to dystopian teen fiction. It is my book crack. I tried to count up the number of dystopian series I have read and the list was crazy long.

I like what I like. And I liked The Jewel. Is it cheesy and predictable? You bet. But it was an entertaining quick read, yo.

The first book in the “Lone City” series, the Jewel follows Violet, a powerful surrogate purchased by royalty to essentially propagate human kind. The royal bloodlines are tainted. In order to have healthy children, the rich purchase surrogates from the poorest communities – but these are no ordinary girls. Each have special powers over the “auguries”– being able to change somethings colour, change its shape, and encourage it to grow. Violet, now know simply as #197, is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake and is isolated and beaten. She is simply trying to survive, until she meets Ash – a paid companion to the Duchess’ niece. While the forbidden romance grows between Violet and Ash, the other surrogates begin dying after childbirth. Violet attempts to escape her fate, but things become much more complicated when she realizes she is pregnant…

If you’re reading this blog and are like “wait haven’t I read something like this before?”, the answer is clearly yes. Is this a new age, low grade version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? Obviously. Are there any new stories out there? Likely not. Is this going to be a classic? No. But I read it and will devour the rest of the series like a bag of chips.

Book #76: All the Rage

Courtney Summers, All the Rage, (2015), 321p

Gasp. There are some times where the library hold gods do not shine upon me. I am finished a book and stuck waiting for another. Yeah, I could pull one of the hundred TBR books from my bookshelves… OR I could creep through the eBooks that are available online until I find on that I can read right then and now that sounds remotely interesting.

Which is exactly how I fell upon All the Rage.

We meet Romy – a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. We don’t meet Kellen Turner – but we learn a lot him. The town’s golden boy isn’t so golden after forcing himself upon Romy. But no one believes her, so Romy is left to build up walls around her and continue on with high school. Romy creates a secret life for herself working at a diner in another small town, where no one knows her story. But when a popular girl, who is linked to both Romy and Kellen, turns up missing after the annual high school bush party – the town takes notice.

So. This book tackles a pretty tough subject. Does it do it well? Maybe…

This entire book is filled with bullying – bullying of Romy for having a drunk dad, being a slut, being a liar. Bullying of Romy’s mom’s new boyfriend because he has a disability. These people are dicks. The whole idea of people not believing a rape victim isn’t new. The whole idea of the separation of classes isn’t new.

I don’t know how I feel about it. The ending of the book is touted as shocking – but I almost want to call it lazy. Summers leaves a trail of breadcrumbs throughout the story which doesn’t pan out. Maybe it was trying to be twisty. I feel like it was blah. The characters weren’t super developed. You never really get a good sense of Romy – she is too busy applying her armor of red lipstick and nail lacquer.

I give some shits about this book but not a ton. It’s okay. At best.

Book #73: Grave Mercy

Robin LaFevers, Grave Mercy, (2012), 550p

Welcome back, teen fiction. I have missed you a little, while trying to be a quasi adult and read adult-like things (well, not adult like things, cause I haven’t read anything really dirty in a while).

Ismae is only a young pup when she is sold to a disgusting, abusive man to be his wife. When he discovers her secret (a nasty red scar on her back that marks her as Death’s daughter), he flips his shit. Ismae is whisked away to safety and brought to the coolest convent ever – St. Mortain’s, where they serve Death. Ismae is trained to become an assassin to serve Death however is deemed necessary and is given a smattering of murderous goodies, including garrote bracelets (Bad ass!). Her first mission: spy on Duval, a handsome dude smackdab in the center of a political uprising. The catch? She also may have to assassinate him. The other catch? She kinda digs him.

I don’t think I’m too keen to read the other two books, which are both told from another girl’s perspective. It works for the Lunar Chronicle novels, but I don’t know if it will work for these ones. Not really wanting to know anything about the other girls – kinda itching to see what goes on with Ismae and Duval… cause I’m a creep, yo.

This one is wordy and long. It’s worth a read though, if you can get past some of the predictable cheesiness. Cause seriously, you should read it for the garrote bracelets and various other concealed weapons alone.

 

Did Not Finish #2: September Girls

Bennett Madison, September Girls, (2013), 352p (I got maybe half way thru…)

Even the lure of mermaids couldn’t persuade me to finish this garbage. (Note: this is a sentence I never thought I would ever write.)

Filled to the brim with sexist, conceited young boys and young, vapid, blond mermaid-turned-earthy girls with busted feet, I don’t even know why I got as far as I did. I’m not sure what I expected when I started reading this one, but it wasn’t this.

Barf.

Book #68: All the Bright Places

Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places, (2015), 388p

Some books just punch you so hard in the feels that it takes you a significant time to uncurl yourself and move on.

All the Bright Places is on the short list of books that left me in agony – along with The Fault in our Stars and Eleanor & Park.

I KNEW this book was going to devastate me. That lead me to place it on hold about three times, reading the back of it, and returning it because I figured I wasn’t emotionally ready enough to dive in.

I was right. It wrecked me.

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey connect on the ledge of their school bell tower. Both surrounded by darkness. Both unsure of how to live. Finch is labelled a misfit, outcast, and nut – marred with depression. Violet – former cheerleader, blogger, and all around miss popular – is reeling from her sister’s unexpected death. Told from both their POV’s, ATBP tells the tale of mental illness, longing, love, loss, and life.

There is much talk online of how Niven exploited mental illness, how her characters aren’t developed beyond their depression, how it seems fake… but I don’t care. It kicked me in the gut and left me reeling for a long time.

Is it real life? No, it’s a book. And you should give it a read.

Book #67: Winterkill

Kate Boorman, Winterkill, (2014), 323p

Hello Alberta Readers Choice Award that was written practically for meeeee. Yes, it feels that way.

Dystopian? Check.
Questioning teen who just doesn’t quite fit in? Check.
Set in the LITERAL FROZEN TUNDRA IN WHICH I INHABIT? Check.

Like seriously. Typically when I read any Canadian award nominee lists, my eyes glaze over and flip back into my head where I dream of a world where bleek, dingy settings mix with teen drama and a sprinkling of Canadiana. Rarely do I find anything that I really, really want to read on those lists. Except this year!

Hello Winterkill!

Emmeline lives in an isolated gated community, thought to be surrounded by dark mysterious forces. The community is closely watched by the Council for acts of waywardness and uprising. Emmeline’s sixteenth birthday arrives –  and with it her opportunity to be bonded, also known as being arranged married off. Emmeline is stained by the actions of her wayward grandmother and is not really a hot commodity in the community. Somehow she catches the eye of a community leader. But, when her dark dreams encourage her to explore the woods surround the settlement – with the help of a mysterious boy named Kane –  she discovers that things may not really be as they seem.

I liked this book. A lot. The creepy religion. The mysterious lost people in the woods. The stigma and stain of family secrets. A mysterious cute boy.

I put the next book, Darkthaw, on hold and (surprisingly) it came in pretty quickly, but soon was submerged in the dark pit of my TBR pile with more pressing stories piled on top. It IS a book I will get to. Eventually. Because I’m anxious to know more about Kane. Swoon.