Tag Archives: ya contemporary

Top Ten – Book Review

Title: Top Ten

Author: Katie Cotugno

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Published: October 3, 2017

Summary:

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

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Review:

I feel like I can relate to Gabby a lot, which is probably why I liked this book so much. I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book in which people don’t like Top Ten because they can’t relate to the character, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Gabby has some pretty bad anxiety, and while my anxiety is nowhere near hers, I could still sympathize with a lot of what she feels, because I feel the same things to a lesser extent. I think that a lot of times, people don’t understand how tough it is to have feelings like this, and to see a character with such severe anxiety really helped me to feel like what I feel is more normal than I think it is. (I know anxiety is a huge deal, but it’s always hard to feel like you’re not alone in your symptoms.)

One of my absolute favorite things about Katie Cotugno’s writing is the fact that her books are never your “typical contemporary”. I always find that things never end the way you might expect or want them to in Katie’s novels. Sure, you might want things to end happy, with a neat little bow tied around everything, but that isn’t how life works, and it’s not how Katie’s books work either. And I LOVE it! Her characters are always flawed, and that makes them feel so much more real.

The format that this book was told in made it tough for me to grasp where in the timeline I was at times. It is told in an episodic structure, with each chapter being a different memory/story between Ryan and Gabby, and even though they were in chronological order, I was constantly confused about “has this already happened yet?!” I also think this confusion was slightly due to the fact I read this as an ebook, so it was much more challenging to be able to flip back to the beginning of a chapter and see when in the timeline that particular story was taking place.

I am a Katie Cotugno fan for life, and this book is no exception. I give it 4.25/5 stars.

 

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

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Neighborhood Girls – Book Review

Title: Neighborhood Girls

Author: Jessie Ann Foley

Pages: 368 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Harper Teen

Published: September 12, 2017

Summary:

When Wendy Boychuck’s father, a Chicago cop, was escorted from their property in handcuffs for his shady criminal practices, she knew her life would never be the same. Her father gets a years-long jail sentence, her family falls on hard times, and the whispers around town are impossible to ignore. If that wasn’t bad enough, she gets jumped walking home from a party one night. Wendy quickly realizes that in order to survive her father’s reputation, she’ll have to make one for herself.

Then Wendy meets Kenzie Quintana—a cigarette-smoking, Catholic-school-uniform-skirt-hiking alpha—and she knows that she’s met her savior. Kenzie can provide Wendy with the kind of armor a girl needs when she’s trying to outrun her father’s past. Add two more mean girls to the mix—Sapphire and Emily—and Wendy has found herself in Academy of the Sacred Heart’s most feared and revered clique. Makeover complete.

But complete is far from what Wendy feels. Instead, she faces the highs and lows of a vapid, toxic friendship, the exhaustion that comes with keeping up appearances, and the only loss that could hurt more than losing herself.

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Review:

 

Oftentimes when I start reading a book, I don’t like to read the description because I don’t want to “spoil” myself on what the book is going to be about. So while I did read the description before I requested this book, by the time I actually got around to reading it, I had no clue what it was about. Which is exactly how I like it.

Wendy has had a tough life in recent years, and she hasn’t exactly tried to make it any easier on herself. I think that there is so much character growth throughout this novel, not only with Wendy, but with a lot of the other characters as well.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about this book was the way that Jessie Ann Foley captures the strange ways that teenagers (and people in general, lets be honest) act. Sometimes its as if there is no reasoning behind certain decisions, but to whoever is making the decision, it just “feels” right. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve thought something would be a great idea, only to look back or be told by someone else how stupid it was. It’s just a part of life, but it is a part that Jessie Ann Foley captures in the most realistic way.

I am not a religious person, so the fact that religion plays a big part in the main character’s life had me a little hesitant to read this. I don’t really like it when things feel preachy, and like they are trying to push certain beliefs down your throat. A lot of this book takes place within a Catholic high school, and focuses around religious themes. But religion was handled so tastefully in this book, that I found myself almost forgetting it was even a factor.

Some of the pacing of this book felt a little off to me. At times, random stories or memories would be thrown into the main story arc, and it was a bit jarring, leaving me wondering how or why it fit into the overall arc. But overall, I enjoyed the story a lot, and give it 3.75/5 stars.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

Lucky in Love – Book Review

Title: Lucky in Love

Author: Kasie West

Pages: 333 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: July 25, 2017

Summary:

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

Review:

 

I was so excited for this book when I heard about it. I’ve read a few of Kasie’s books and I absolutely loved them. So when I got a chance to read Lucky in Love, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to fall in love with this book. I liked it okay, but I have quite a few problems with this book.

Maddie, our main character, is likable. She’s smart. She works hard for what she wants, and has a close group of friends. But once she wins the lottery and has $30+ million at her disposal, she makes a lot of bad decisions. She says she’ll go see a financial advisor as soon as the money comes through, yet she puts it off over and over again. She lets people talk her into giving them money for the stupidest things. The more bad decisions Maddie made, the slower I found myself reading. I have very little patience for stupidity, and Maddie is just so darn trusting and gullible. When I had about 50 pages left, I seriously considered not finishing because I just couldn’t deal with Maddie any more.

The crazy thing is, though Maddie’s instincts when it comes to giving people money absolutely suck, her instincts about people in general are pretty spot on. Which makes it so much more difficult to believe that she’s making such bad choices. I fully believe that she has the best intentions, and that she just needs a little help. Nevertheless, it was still tough to read. A contemporary that’s as long as Lucky in Love takes me less than a day to read usually. This, however, took me three whole days to get through.

There were some redeeming aspects to Maddie. She does give each of her parents and her brother a million dollars apiece, to help with their financial struggles. She thinks that this will fix all of her problems (i.e. her parents’ marital issues and her brother’s depression over not being able to continue college because of money), and while the money makes things better for a while, it’s only a temporary fix.

I did really like the romance in this book, which is probably why I rated this book as high as I did. I loved that Seth and Maddie didn’t have instalove, and their romance developed throughout the course of the entire novel. Their romance is really cute, and gave me all of the feels.

Overall, I didn’t hate this book, but I wanted to smack some sense into Maddie so many times that it made it a bit difficult to get through at times. I give Lucky in Love 3/5 stars. Definitely not my favorite book of Kasie West’s.

What to Say Next – Book Review

Title: What to Say Next

Author: Julie Buxbaum

Pages: 272 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: July 11, 2017

Summary:

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Review:

 

I was so excited when I got an ARC of this book. If you’ve read my review of Tell Me Three Things, then you know how much I absolutely love Julie Buxbaum’s writing. I went into What to Say Next with pretty high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. I flew through this book so quickly, and instantly fell in love with the characters.

The first thing that I fell in love with about this book was the diversity of the characters. Both of the main characters in this novel are diverse: David is on the Autism spectrum, and Kit is half Indian. While each of these characters are unique, their personalities work extremely well together. Seeing their friendship develop throughout the book made me love these two so much. You know those books where you never want to leave the characters behind, even after the story is long over? This is most definitely one of those books. Kit and David’s story sucks you in and leaves you feeling so many emotions.

I also really loved the alternating perspectives in this book. It helps to show the back and forth between Kit and David, as well as what they are both thinking and feeling as things happen between them. Especially in some scenes, it was so great to see both sides of the story and really understand how things can be meant to come off a certain way, but are completely changed by someone else’s perspective on the matter.

I give What to Say Next 5/5 stars. On a side note, I am absolutely LOVING all of the diverse reads that we have been getting lately, and all I can say is “Give me more, please!”

Tell Me Three Things – Book Review

Title: Tell Me Three Things

Author: Julie Buxbaum

Pages: 328 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: April 5, 2016

Summary:

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Review:

 

I am utterly obsessed with this book. From the very first page, I fell so hard for the story and  the characters. If I’m being completely honest, I really only picked this book up because the cover was adorable, and I thought it would make a great addition to photos on my bookstagram. But Tell Me Three Things is so much more than just a cute cover.

“My voice is smiling. I didn’t even know it could do that.”

-Tell Me Three Things, Julie Buxbaum

Buxbaum’s writing is so incredible. She manages to put words to thoughts and feelings that I’ve felt, but definitely couldn’t have described as eloquently. So many times throughout this book, I related to Jessie on such a deep level. It was almost as if Buxbaum had gone into my head, lived there for a while, and then wrote a character based off of her time there. There is really something special in reading about a character who you relate to so completely. Buxbaum also does a fantastic job of capturing an outsider’s perspective of Los Angeles and all of the weird, “trendy” things that people are into. I’ve lived near LA my entire life and I’m still amazed by some of the things that are considered completely normal here.

The characters in Tell Me Three Things are so lovable. Jessie has a lot of development throughout the book, and grows in so many ways. She is such a strong character who is undeniably herself. She is funny and witty, and I saw so much of myself in her character. There are also some very swoon-worthy guys in this book, and one who stands out above all the rest.

I also really loved the game that Jessie and Somebody/Nobody had where they would tell each other three things that the other didn’t know. It was such a cute way for them to get to know one another. Tell Me Three Things basically turned me into a big ball of feels, and I want to read it over and over until the end of time. I give it 5/5 stars, and recommend it to EVERYONE. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go read this book.

#famous – Book Review

Title: #famous

Author: Jilly Gagnon

Pages: 384 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Published: February 14, 2017

Summary:

In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives—and their hearts—forever. But are fame and love worth the price?

Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.

Review:

#famous is an adorable story about a girl whose crush goes from a secret between her and her friend, to something that the entire internet knows about I’m just a few hours. Rachel is a girl who likes to stay under the radar. She’s quirky, and by no means someone who would be considered popular. So needless to say she’s pretty stunned when her post with a photo of Kyle goes viral. After all, she only has 20-something followers.

Once the photo goes viral, it doesn’t take long for Kyle to figure out who posted it. People, both online and at school, are bullying Rachel for dreaming to believe that someone as weird as she is could possibly get someone like Kyle. Kyle ends up getting a ton of positive attention from the incident, while Rachel gets a ton of crap because she’s not some beautiful, perfect supermodel type. This book does a wonderful job of portraying the different ways that women and men are treated in the media.

One aspect that I really loved about this book was the bits about the story being picked up on a talk show, which is basically the book’s equivalent of the Ellen show, and turned into a recurring segment on the show. As someone who studied broadcast communications and knows how the whole television business works, it is always fun to read about characters appearing on tv shows.

There were so many times throughout this book where I just wanted to yell at the characters. If only they would open their eyes and see what was so clearly right in front of them. But alas, that would be too easy.

I think one of the main things that readers should get from this book is that you never really know what is going to happen once you post something on the internet. After all, Rachel obviously didn’t expect her photo to go viral. I know we hear things like this all the time, but it’s so important to think about what we post on the internet, and the potential consequences that these things may have.

I listened to the audiobook of this, which I rather enjoyed, because there is a narrator for each perspective in the book. It really helped to add to the overall effect, because the story is told by both Rachel and Kyle. I give #famous 3.75/5 stars. It was a fun, quick read that I enjoyed quite a bit.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love – Book Review

Title: I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Author: Maurene Goo

Pages: 336 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Published: May 30, 2017

Summary:

Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and never had a B. But in her charmed school life, there’s one thing missing—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a known disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet. When the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides it’s time to tackle her flirting failures. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has watched obsessively for years—in which the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos. All’s fair in love and Korean dramas, right? But when the fun and games turn to feelings, Desi finds out that real-life love is about way more than just drama.

Review:

This book is one of my new favorite contemporaries! From the moment I picked this book up, I didn’t want to put it down. I Believe in a Thing Called Love is sweet and funny. Desi Lee is great at all things, except when it comes to boys. Her friends have lovingly coined the term “flailing” when it comes to Desi flirting: flirt failing. I could relate so much to Desi, because I, too, excel when there is a set list of “rules” for something. When things are left up to chance, Desi fails miserably, and often embarrassingly.

I’ve never seen a K drama before, but after reading I Believe in a Thing Called Love and seeing all of Desi’s “K Drama Rules for True Love,” I feel like I understand the genre a lot more, and might actually appreciate it if I were to go watch some of them. There’s even a handy guide at the end of the novel for getting into K dramas, based off of what genre you’re looking for, which I found to be really unique and helpful.

Have you ever watched a show or read a book that you knew was going to end in a huge disaster, and were just waiting for the bomb to go off? That’s what this book was for me. I just had this feeling that all of Desi’s ridiculous manipulations to try and snag Luca were going to end terribly! I mean, she makes some horrible decisions throughout the book, that no sane person could possible come up with, but I think that she also learns a lot about herself through the course of the book.

Maurene’s writing style is one that I really like. It’s engaging, funny, and kept me immersed within the story. The friendships that her characters share are absolutely amazing, and they are so supportive of one another. I constantly found myself wishing that I had friends like Fiona and Wes.

I give I Believe in a Thing Called Love 4.5/5 stars. Thanks so much to Maureen Goo for the ARC of this book, I couldn’t have been more pleased with it!