Archives

Calvin – Martine Leavitt

Calvin – Martine LeavittTitle: Calvin by Martine Leavitt
Publishing Info: November 17, 2015 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 4, 2015

As a child, Calvin felt an affinity with the comic book character from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes.
He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even had a best friend named Susie. Then Calvin’s mom washed Hobbes to death, Susie grew up beautiful and stopped talking to him, and Calvin pretty much forgot about the strip—until now. Now he is seventeen years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hobbes is back, as a delusion, and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that Watterson is the key to everything—if he would just make one more comic strip, but without Hobbes, Calvin would be cured. Calvin and Susie (is she real?) and Hobbes (he can’t be real, can he?) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track down Watterson.

bookreview1

CALVIN seemed like a really interesting concept as well as a quick read (the book is under 200 a pages!) and with the end of the year drawing near, it was the perfect time for me to grab a book that would keep me intrigued and help me get that much closer to completing my reading challenge for 2015!

CALVIN is the story of a boy named Calvin who discovers that he has schizophrenia. He believes that if Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson would just write one more comic, he would stop having visions of a real (to him) version of Hobbes and his life could just go back to normal. Calvin then leaves on a quest to go find him by walking across the frozen lake from Canada all the way to the US. As interesting as this concept sounded, the book really fell a bit flat for me. I’ve always been interested in psychology so naturally, books with a psychological aspect of any sort tend to grab me. I started out really interested but the book quickly lost steam for me and despite its short length, I had trouble focusing and staying interested. 

Calvin as a character didn’t really seem to have a lot of depth. I suppose it’s hard to have a well-rounded character when the whole point of the story is a single obsession but I would have loved to see more emotion from him throughout the book! I suppose because I knew Calvin was having schizophrenic episodes, I also found it hard to get a grip on what was real and what was being manifested inside Calvin’s head. Obviously I knew Hobbes wasn’t real but I found myself questioning the entire situation and several characters so just the smallest of doubts really threw off my whole reading experience. That’s also how I am when I read books that I know involve psychological aspects or psychological twists — I’m always looking for a twist, even if it isn’t there, so I actually ended up making this book more complicated than it really was.

I was actually not too impressed with the book overall. It should have been a quick read but I didn’t find the writing terribly engaging and (though possibly due to my own faults), I was kind of let down with the ending. I just didn’t really feel like the book was taking me somewhere and the middle really dragged for me. I kept hoping for something to reel me back it but I never quite made it there. I was also sort of upset that the author didn’t really include any information about schizophrenia and what it is. There were some quick passages where Calvin is trying to explain it to Susie but I just always feel like books dealing with mental illness should educate the reader a little bit since most people don’t know details. I feel like CALVIN missed an easy opportunity to just open that conversation up to the readers.

CALVIN wasn’t a bad read for me but I’d have a hard time recommending it. I can usually zip through a nice, short book and I felt like this book actually dragged a bit. It really didn’t impress me on any level and like I said, not bad but just didn’t really stand out in any way for me.
view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

calvin gr updates

character_breakdown1

Calvin // Character Obsessions: Finding Bill Watterson, Hobbes, Susie. 
I felt so disconnected from Calvin and really thought he was lacking the emotion I needed to enjoy his character. I completely understand his obsessions and why he needs to go on his mission but for some reason I just couldn’t connect to him like I wanted to. Hobbes seemed to have more personality, actually.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Quick reads. It was kind of nice that this book was on the shorter side! I always feel more motivated to finish and finish quickly.
Left Me Wanting More: Conversation about mental illness. I’m not usually one to say what “should” or “shouldn’t” be included in a book but I really, really would have liked to see the author touch more on Calvin’s schizophrenia, how it’s handled, what people experience, etc. There was just a bit of talk about it but I had really hoped for more.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

Again, the book wasn’t bad and usually I tell people get a second opinion or try it but I have a hard time recommending this one! I just feel a little let down.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE CALVIN

(Click the cover to see my review!)

BELZHAR    LOUD AWAKE AND LOST

The Lies About Truth – Courtney C. Stevens

The Lies About Truth – Courtney C. StevensTitle: The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens
Publishing Info: November 3, 2015 by HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 22, 2015

Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.
As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she'll always be trapped in the past.

bookreview1

I had heard so many good things about THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH that I simply couldn’t wait for its release and I requested a copy from Harper Teen. The book fairies granted my wish and sent me a copy and let me tell you… the good things I heard? All true and then some! I started and finished this book in just a day because I couldn’t put it down! (Although I do regret that a teensy bit because I already miss the characters!)

THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH is just so well done all around. From the characters to setting to plot to emotion — everything was incredibly realistic and really came across to me as a real story, almost surpassing that feel of it being fiction. Aside from just connecting to the characters, I really got to know them inside and out, feel their grief and their joy, and every reaction just really felt so genuine. I was so impressed with the character development that Courtney C. Stevens was able to include in this book! I absolutely loved Sadie. Even though I haven’t been through nearly anything like what she did, I saw pieces of myself in her and I just felt like I really got to know her so well throughout the book. She was so realistic to me and I felt like she could have been one of my friends and not just a character in a book, which is something that rarely happens to me.
I also adored Sadie’s parents. Any avid reader of young adult will tell you that too often parents are absent in some way (it does amp up a story when putting a teen into that leadership or life-changing role) but it was so, so refreshing to see loving, caring, and present parents. Sadie’s mom was truly amazing and I loved the relationship she had with her mom. She didn’t seem as close to her dad but they were both really awesome parents and incredibly supportive as she went through this terrible grieving process for her friend and the way she used to look.

I didn’t connect to some of Sadie’s friends as much but it was so great to see how their friendships devolved, changed, and then evolved all over again throughout the course of the story. There’s such a tension between them after “The Wreck” and it was really great to see these characters go through the stages of working on their friendships as they try to figure out how to work on themselves and find that inner-peace again. I also really appreciated how they experienced this massive, life-changing event and it really did change their lives in the sense that no one was really the same once the book was done. Everyone was still true to themselves and they managed to really work on who they became after this incident but they also really did change and took on new roles even in their own friend groups. It was so refreshing to see that exponential change in the characters and really witness them move forward. A mantra that Sadie kept repeating throughout the book was something like “I do not have a time machine” and I loved how the book really carried this mantra all the way through to the end. The characters had to come to this true acceptance that they could never go back to the way things were and they really had to continue on towards the future, embracing who they are in the present day and who they will be once they’re able to move on from this.

The emotion captured in this book was simply fabulous too. I laughed, cried, and everything in between with Sadie, and these characters really had some dynamic personalities. Courtney C. Stevens did an amazing job of allowing those feelings to flow naturally and really let her characters carry the story to the reader through their experiences. It really was like peeking into their lives and I felt very emotionally invested in them.

THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH even had a few surprises and a small mystery! I’ll admit that a mystery always hooks me so the anticipation of figuring out that answer definitely kept me turning the pages in addition to my connection with the characters. There was even a small yet large surprise (I mean, it’s called THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH so naturally some lies are unearthed…) that I totally didn’t see coming in the book that really changed the course of the book for me for the better. When that little knowledge bomb was dropped on me, I became even more invested!

This book was great from start to finish. It was an emotional roller coaster in the best possible way, but it really flowed so well, allowing me to really experience everything naturally as the characters did. (And emotional… water slide? Terrible metaphor, I know.) THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH was so refreshing with its wonderful characters, meaningful story, and true character growth. This is one of my favorite realistic fiction novels in a while and I’m so glad I didn’t wait to read this!
view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

the lies about the truth gr update

character_breakdown1

Sadie // Character Obsessions: Her scars, avoidance, grief, lists. 
Sadie was SUCH an awesome character. It was so awesome to see her progression and character development throughout the book. I was so impressed with her and how much she changed, eventually finding the strength that she needed to push herself mentally and emotionally to heal and become a better person.
Max // Character Obsessions: Healing, Sadie, family.
At first I hadn’t expected to like Max as much as I did. I was a bit afraid of how he would affect the dynamic of the friend group after Trent’s dead and new romantic role with Sadie but he was super sweet and it ended up not being awkward at all. (Okay, maybe a little bit for the characters but not really for me.)

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Heavier realistic fiction. I haven’t really been drawn towards more serious or heavy realistic fiction lately but I’m so glad I didn’t put this book off! I really connected with it and it was so touching.
Left Me Wanting More: Attachment to Sadie’s friends. There’s not much to complain about with this book but I think the only thing that was really missing for me here was a bit more of a connection to Sadie’s friends. That’s also super hard when everyone is still healing and many of them are on the outs so that might just be how it goes with this book! (Or still could be me.)

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

This is owning-the-hardcover worthy, my friends. I adored this book and it was such a wonderful read. You may cry but you’ll also laugh, smile, fall in love, and really root for these characters. It was such a wonderful reading experience.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH

(Click the cover to see my review!)

NANTUCKET BLUE    THE START OF ME AND YOU

A Madness So Discreet – Mindy McGinnis

A Madness So Discreet – Mindy McGinnisTitle: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: October 6, 2015 by HarperCollins
Genres: Historical Fiction, Psych/Mental Health, Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 29, 2015
Related Posts: The Female of the Species, This Darkness Mine

Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

bookreview1

** Word of warning that I WILL be talking about some minor spoilers for the book. It’s nothing that will give plot or twists away but I will be discussing character relationships, the nature of some which are not revealed until later on in the book. ** 

How amazing is the cover for this book!? As soon as I saw it, I immediately knew I had to read it… BUT this book had a serious case of “misleading cover”! From the look of it and the title, I went into the book thinking it was going to be creepy, paranormal, and take place mostly with the mental patients within a very scary institution (we all know how much I avoid the synopsis right before I start)… and while some of that was indeed true, A MADNESS SO DISCREET turned out to be much more historical fiction meets murder mystery than creepy psych hospital!

A MADNESS SO DISCREET took me a little bit to get into, but once I found out that it was more murder mystery, I was all on board! The beginning started out a bit slow and confusing for me as I was trying to get a grasp on what the deal with the mental hospital was. Readers are thrown right into Grace’s story with little introduction of who she is and why she’s there so I was getting to know Grace as I was getting to know the setting which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but for some reason with this particular book, it was a bit confusing trying to get a read on both.
There were a few hints at some extra-sensory abilities from fellow inmates so I was anticipating that playing a bigger role than it did (especially with the creepy hand reaching out on the cover!) but after finishing the story, I wonder if that was just more of an “illness” thing than actual ability. The confusing part was that the inmate’s ability was accurate so the lack of presence of this character and seemingly realistic powers throughout the book sort of felt like a waste of a mention.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about all of the other things I really enjoyed, which was a lot! I really enjoyed the historical setting. I’m not usually a historical fiction person but I usually do love a gothic horror feel and that always draws my attention. I really got the feeling like I was thrown back in time to where this book was taking place and felt totally immersed in the time period, the setting, and the characters. The setting especially was so vivid and so well done. I really felt like I could picture so many of the locations and the overall tone was consistent and gave a really nice gothic horror feel!

I also really enjoyed the character relationships. Grace Mae actually wasn’t my favorite character of the book and neither was Dr. Thornhollow (it was Nell!) but I just loved the way that they worked together and how much they trusted each other. It was interesting to see how similar they thought and formed ideas and I thought they made a great team. I thought it was great that they had a sort of chemistry going on and they seemed to have somewhat of an attraction but it wasn’t forced into being a relationship. As of right now, MADNESS is definitely a stand alone, but if the series continued, I think I’d enjoy seeing that relationship develop! Because of the circumstances, it didn’t quite make sense or feel right to have those two characters romantically involved but I like the idea that it sets up for a future for them should they wish to pursue it.
Grace also a had a great friendship with her fellow institution gals that I just loved. I immediately warmed to Nell and she became my favorite and I loved how she and Elizabeth really took Grace under their wings. The friendship was just delightful to witness and I grew really attached to those girls.

I also really enjoyed the mystery aspect! I always feel like there’s a lack of young adult mysteries and I just love how this pieced together in a historical setting. There were some nice clues, great teamwork, and some interesting suspense! The only complaint is not the lack of twist but lack of anticipation of the murderer’s capture. I don’t really need a twist in all of my mysteries (though they are fun) but I thought it ended rather quickly and easily. While that may have been a realistic conclusion, I think I would have appreciated a bit more storytelling as far as wrapping that mystery up.

There is one more thing I have to touch upon before I close out the review that I think I just can’t pass up and it was something I battled with the whole book… The whole incest thing really was hard for me to read. If I had known it was a part of the book, I’m honestly not sure I would have read it and I really think it hindered my reading experience. It’s just something that I find truly appalling and my brain tends to immediately turn off not just from the offending character but from the whole book. There’s a sort of cloud that sits over the whole book and it was just really hard to get over. I’m not saying it’s something that shouldn’t be talked about, but for me personally, it just really creates an “ick factor” for the whole book. It does make the offending character that much more of a monster and that much more “hateable” but I couldn’t shake that overall gross feeling because it’s actually a consistent part of the book.

A MADNESS SO DISCREET was a really enjoyable read for me and I was left wanting so much more of this world! I think in part because I took a while to feel out the characters and I also think I’d enjoy another book in this world without the constant reappearance of incest hanging over it. I’d love to see Grace and Thornhollow solving more mysteries or even something else taking place in the asylum. I just loved the atmosphere and would love to spend more time in it but even if this is the last we see of MADNESS, it won’t be the last I see of Mindy McGinnis! Now I have to worked my way backwards and read her previous works!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

a madness so discreet goodreads updates

character_breakdown1

Grace // Character Obsessions: Survival, revenge, resolutions, justice.
I actually didn’t connect with Grace a lot. I guess it’s hard since she’s kind of closed off, given what she’s been through, and she was actively shutting herself down in the very beginning. Even after she started opening up more, I didn’t quite make a connection to her, though I appreciated her goals (I was on her side, of course) and thought she was interesting to get to know!
Dr. Thornhollow // Character Obsessions: Science, medicine, mysteries.
I would love to learn so much more about Thornhollow. He was so interesting and intelligent and I wished I could have gotten to know him better! I wonder what things would be like from his POV…

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. It’s always great when I can find a historical fiction novel that I enjoy. It’s not my genre of choice so I’m so glad I found another one that I just fell into!
Left Me Wanting More: Personality. I think I was drawn to the characters who were more outwardly emotional. Nell was very outgoing and she was my favorite, but I dare anyone not to like her! She was fantastic. I think Grace is just more reserved, as is Thornhollow, so it was a bit harder to get to know their true personalities.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I had a lot of fun with this one! The atmosphere was great, the plot was interesting, and it felt like a pretty quick and fun read while at the same time staying a little dark.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE A MADNESS SO DISCREET

(Click the cover to see my review!)

BORN    The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter #1) – Megan Shepherd

We’ll Never Be Apart – Emiko Jean

We’ll Never Be Apart – Emiko JeanTitle: We'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Publishing Info: October 6, 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 2, 2015

Murder.
Fire.
Revenge.
That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.
Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

bookreview1

I’m always interested in a good psychological thriller so I was really excited to start WE’LL NEVER BE APART, especially when I was looking for something with an edge to read around Halloween time (you know… for those horror-chickens like me)! As with most psychological thrillers, I went into this one nearly blind so I could be surprised by any twists that might occur.

WE’LL NEVER BE APART definitely had its thrilling moments but… maybe I’ve read too many psychological thrillers recently… I totally guessed the twist after the first chapter. This was one of those books I was hoping I was wrong and that there would be something more surprising coming but turns out my guess was accurate. It was kind of a bummer because then I spent the rest of the book reading it assuming what the twist was and it made it a bit anticlimactic instead of exciting and mysterious.

I did appreciate that the story really dug into deeper layers as the book went on. I struggled for a bit in the middle because, well, once you know the twist, the suspense deflates a bit so I didn’t feel as hooked as I had hoped. Things really start to pick up around 50% to 75% in and the pacing really picked up! I found out so much more about the backstories of the characters and there were some very shocking revelations about their backgrounds and how their past affected their present/future.

I think the thing I was disappointed in was that even guessing the ending or not, the middle of the book didn’t seem to develop as much as I had hoped. I’m sure being in the dark would have left some suspense and I would have felt more of a pull to read but even still, I feel like there wasn’t too much going on in the middle. I’m not sure what I was expecting — more action? More thrilling moments? More hints at backstories earlier on? — but the book as a whole just didn’t quite grab me. I enjoyed the ending and thought it culminated nicely but again, it just didn’t feel like anything original for me.do like when books end on a sort of open note like this — it’s all tied up in the end as far as plot goes but there’s juuuust a little jab that makes the reader think twice and I kind of love when horror/suspense books do that!

WE’LL NEVER BE APART felt a bit like it fit the mold of the other psychological thrillers I’ve read so it was nothing too new for me, BUT I think if you’re new to these sorts of books, this could be a really fun one! Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a perfect fit for me.
view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

we'll never be apart gr updates

character_breakdown1

Alice // Character Obsessions: Cellie, Jason, defeat, escape.
Alice wasn’t a very deep character for me… I guess I shouldn’t say deep but I just really didn’t connect with her like I had hoped. I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable had I been able to get a better feel for her character and really get into her head but I felt really disconnected from her. She never quite panned out to a real person to me and just felt like a story.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Psychological thrillers. As much as I felt this one was a bit too predictable, it did leave me with a craving for more books like this. I love when books mess with my head and take me totally by surprise and I think it’s always a good thing when a book leaves you wanting more of anything.
Left Me Wanting More: Surprises. I just really wish this could have been something I couldn’t have guessed. Or maybe I could have been led off that path to be surprised that what I had guessed really was the ending. It’s hard to say!

Addiction Rating
Try it

I’d recommend this if you’re more of a newbie to psychological thrillers. If you’re a veteran to these types of books, you’ll probably guess the ending as well and I’m not sure the rest of the story is appealing enough to really stay suspenseful and shocking. For me personally, I just wasn’t as connected as I had hoped.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE WE’LL NEVER BE APART

(Click the cover to see my review!)

WE WERE LIARS    VANISHING GIRLS

Blog Tour: Finding Audrey | Review + Giveaway

BDD_FA_KinsellaBlgTour_Social_Twitter

Welcome to the blog tour for
   FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella!

I am VERY thrilled to be on the blog tour for FINDING AUDREY today! A big thank you to Random House for asking me to be a part of this tour, especially since I’ve been reading Sophie Kinsella for quite literally almost half of my life. This book holds a special meaning for me having gotten into young adult in the past two years!

Today on the blog tour, I’m sharing my thoughts on the book with my review! I’m so happy to have read it so I hope you’ll take the time to read it and hopefully it stirs up some interest for you to pick it up! I thought it was a really great read but… I’ll let the review do the talking!

Blog Tour: Finding Audrey | Review + GiveawayTitle: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Publishing Info: June 9, 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: May 17, 2015

    From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.
An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

bookreview1

FINDING AUDREY was a really interesting read for me! It was meaningfully complex and yet still maintained the trademark Sophie Kinsella humor and wit. I really enjoyed meeting Audrey and finding out more about her story and it was just so nice to read Sophie Kinsella’s work again!

FINDING AUDREY primarily deals with a teenager named Audrey (of course) who is currently in the midst of trying to get a handle on her anxiety. After a recent and tumultuous incident at school, Audrey ended up in a tailspin of emotions which eventually resulted in her current state of anxiety. FINDING AUDREY picks up her story after she’s returned home from the hospital and is currently seeing a therapist to help her overcome and push past her fears. I personally thought that this aspect of the story was handled so, so well. The reader gets to know Audrey and her personality while she’s in the safe space of her home and amongst her family but also gets to see how crippling anxiety and panic can be for a person. The smallest thing can trigger the biggest fear and my heart went out to Audrey as she struggled to retrain her brain to not immediately react to these things as panic-inducing triggers. It was very interesting and informative to see how her brain had her reacting and how much effort it really does take to not only stay afloat but to fight back. I think it’s great to have this mental health awareness and allow readers to see how anxiety affects people on many different levels and also how hard someone can work to overcome it.

It was really interesting to witness Audrey with her family as well. She and her brother seem to have a good relationship and I liked how there were a few key moments in which he wasn’t afraid to speak up to her when everyone else was too afraid to. Their relationship felt very natural and I really liked how they got along! Their mother, on the other hand, was a bit much for me sometimes. (Most of the time.) Audrey’s anxiety disorder is the focus of the book but I think her mother has her own form of anxiety throughout the book. She’s so OVERLY concerned with her kids — especially Frank and his video games — that it became very hard for me to read. She was so worried that she outwardly obsessed and overreacted for nearly the entire book and where I felt it was supposed to lend comedy, it ended up turning me off from her character quite a bit.

FINDING AUDREY was a really interesting read overall and it went through its fair share of ups and downs. I loved how the characters, especially Audrey, had to figure out the nature order of things after their lives got shaken up by this traumatic event. I was so happy to watch these characters strengthen their relationships by supporting each other to help each other grow. The little romance that developed was also so cute and heartwarming! I absolutely loved how it formed and evolved throughout the course of the book.
I did struggle a bit with the mother character as I had mentioned before and I was a bit frustrated at times with how much her struggle with Audrey’s brother took center stage. Sometimes it felt like Audrey got shoved to the background and this plot point took over, but it really was an important focus of the book as well. Really, that was the only (minor) downside for me because I just really enjoyed the book overall!

If you love Sophie Kinsella — YA reader or not —  I think FINDING AUDREY will be a really solid read for you! I was so happy with how well all of these elements blended together and I was left with a positive and happy feeling when I was finished instead of the heaviness I sometimes feel when I finish a book that deals with mental health and issues. I really hope readers enjoy this one and I hope Sophie Kinsella continues to write more YA because I’d love to read more books like this from her!

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: A lighter side of mental health. I don’t mean that that mental health should be taken lightly, but I appreciated that I was able to read a book about a girl who’s struggling to overcome a serious anxiety disorder and there was still an overall levity throughout. I feel like people tend to steer clear of books with important issues because they’re too “serious” or “heavy” so I really liked that there was a lighter tone throughout FINDING AUDREY!
Left Me Wanting More: Of Audrey’s story. I was a bit sad that we didn’t seem to get the full story on exactly what happened to Audrey. It’s not necessary for the book — clearly it was a traumatic event — but it did leave me hanging a bit. I also wished there was a bit less focus on her brother’s story at times because it seemed to take away from hers.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

FINDING AUDREY was a really enjoyable read and I loved how well serious and comedy blended! Sophie Kinsella did a great job with these characters and bringing more anxiety awareness to YA.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE FINDING AUDREY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

SISTERS IN SANITY     all the bright places

GIVEAWAY

Random House is also providing a very fun giveaway for this blog tour! One winner will receive a copy of FINDING AUDREY and a promo coffee sleeve! (The coffee theme definitely comes into play so this will make more sense once you’ve read the book too!)
All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter form below! US residents only, please! Must be 13 years of age or older to win.

 Coffee Sleeve Image     Coffee Sleeve Image 2

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ll Meet You There – Heather Demetrios

I’ll Meet You There – Heather DemetriosTitle: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Publishing Info: February 3, 2015 by Macmillan
Source: Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 15, 2015
Related Posts: Bad Romance

    If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

bookreview1

With all of the praise I’LL MEET YOU THERE has gotten — before and after its publication date — I knew I had to pick it up fairly quickly. I ended up starting and finishing it in one afternoon because I just didn’t want to put it down and although my love for this book may not be AS high as others, there’s no denying that I was totally engaged and all together hooked.

I’LL MEET YOU THERE is the story of Skylar who has just graduated high school and is dying to get out of her middle-of-nowhere town — that is, until her mother falls off the wagon again and she’s not sure if she can leave her alone. Josh has just returned from a tour in Afghanistan where he lost his leg, his friends, and a piece of the boy he used to be.
Now this may be an unusual review or an unusual thing to say, but really not much about that description appealed to me at first. I didn’t even include this in my requests to Macmillan because I was afraid it wasn’t a “me” book so I didn’t want to take the chance that I wouldn’t like it (I thought I wouldn’t). I feel like I’ve read the “stuck in a middle of nowhere town” story too many times and I’m not usually one for books surrounding war (pre, during, or post) but that was also what I thought with Something Like Normal as well… Looks like my tastes may be changing and/or I’m figuring out that my pre-conceived notions of how these stories will go are being proven incorrect! Long story short, I just LOVED that this was another book that took all of my expectations and shoved them right back in face.

I think the reason everything worked for me is that whenever I hear about themes like these, I always expect clichés and I’LL MEET YOU THERE was anything but. Skylar was instantly a likeable character for me. She’s “the girl from the trailer park” but she’s not “trailer trash”. She doesn’t drink. She has two best friends. She’s well-balanced, loves art, and wants nothing more than to go off to college. Little things pop up here and there that could easily have turned cliché (a teen pregnancy, for example), but Heather Demetrios does a fantastic job bringing each of these characters to life so no one ever feels flat or boring or stereotypical. Every character and every scene just felt so realistic to me and I was so grateful that I could just fall into this book and be wholly absorbed.

The romance here is so well done. I really liked that Skylar and Josh knew each other before he went off to war but they were never close. They had worked together but Josh and Skylar really weren’t very similar so their friendship was more an acquaintanceship and everything was mostly superficial with some real connections every now and then. Once Josh returns home, he’s not the same person he once was. Not only is he missing a leg, but as anyone does, he saw a lot in the war. He made friends and he watched the die. He matured and yet became even more vulnerable once he returned home. And though Skylar’s changes aren’t as obvious, she’s a bit different since Josh had left as well. It was so interesting to see how they end forming a friendship that really turns into a bond, and I think that’s why I enjoyed their relationship so much. I just really appreciate those romances that really show how the two characters end up bonding with each other and showing each other such unwavering support. I just loved watching that unfold between Skylar and Josh.

I also really enjoyed the alternating points of view! After finishing the book, it really did feel more like Skylar’s story but I really liked being able to see things from Josh’s POV. I think it really helped me connect with him and see all of those things he was refusing to share with other people. I don’t think I would have been as invested without his perspective!

While I didn’t fall totally head over heels, I did still fall in love with I’LL MEET YOU THERE. It was such a special story and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a book that really finds its way to your heart. I’m SO glad that I picked this one up (even pre-ordered it for myself on the faith that my fellow reviewers loved it!) despite my initial impressions! It just goes to show you that you can’t always just a book by its cover — although this cover is pretty stellar so maybe you should! ;D

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

Untitled

character_breakdown1

Skylar // Character Obsessions: Leaving, college, collages, friendship, not falling victim to the stereotype.
I really loved Skylar. I loved everything she stood for and everything that she did. I have definitely not been in many of the situations that she has but there was just something so real about her that I felt a connection with her and I really felt like I was going on this journey with her. An outstanding character!
Josh // Character Obsessions: Getting back to normal, sanity, finding a new peace.
UGH, Joooosh. Just thinking about him gets the feelings all FEELSY again! (Okay, these aren’t even words. Just roll with it.) My heart just really went out to him and really, I can’t even imagine going through what he did (and what men and women in the services do every day. That just takes all kinds of mental and physical toughness). I was totally rooting for him and Skylar the whole way. Where they ended up after Josh came back home was just… they needed each other.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Military themes. Once again I find myself surprised that I really enjoyed a military theme. I don’t know why I always shy away from it! Clearly it’s something that I should start trying more of!
Left Me Wanting More: What everyone else felt! I REALLY enjoyed this book but I didn’t seem to come close to the heart-melties and OMGs that everyone else had! Either way, I’m still glad that I did enjoy it so much and I’m happy to have it on my shelves!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This one was really great. I think there’s so much to take from it and it really stuck with me! (The secret and extra-fun pre-order note from Heather Demetrios — I mean, JOSH — also totally got me even MORE invested!)

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE I’LL MEET YOU THERE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL     WHERE SHE WENT

All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places – Jennifer NivenTitle: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Publishing Info: January 6, 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: January 9, 2015

     Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
     Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
     When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

bookreview1

If there’s anything you need to know about ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, it’s that it’s a book that will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. I actually didn’t get around to writing my review until about a month after I finished reading and yet all of the emotions I felt as I was reading quickly came flooding back to me once I began to reflect on the book once more.

The tagline for ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES describes it as a mashup of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park and while I see elements of both and feel like it’s a lot to compare a new release to these two giant names in contemporary, I feel like those comparisons really don’t do the book justice. I can spot where the pieces of these two books that could have drawn up these comparisons but ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES is a book that easily makes a name for itself and stands on its own two feet, offering a unique and emotionally-charged story that reaches out to a wide audience.

When the book first opens, we’re presented with two characters: Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. What do they have in common? They’re both on the brink of suicide… and yet their stories are both very different. Immediately was invested but it actually took just a little bit for me to get into the book because I wasn’t quite sure where it was going — but that was a good thing. ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES wasn’t predictable, or at least it wasn’t for me. Violet seemed to be suffering for a depression after the loss of her sister about a year prior but Finch… he had a bit of a different situation going on. He describes his struggle in unique way that I didn’t quite understand at first, saying he goes from periods of being asleep and struggles to find the periods where he can feel awake. This causes him to miss weeks of school, to seem like an oddball to his peers so what does he do? He shrugs it off. Plays into the “weirdo” comments of his classmates. Tries on new personalities. Finch is so unique and so wonderful and I got to know this charismatic guy who was really struggling with something in his life and didn’t know how or why he was feeling the way he was and couldn’t surface long enough to do anything about it.

I don’t want to retell the whole story because it’s a really wonderful experience that I want readers to have for themselves, but I will tell you that I absolutely fell in love with these two main characters and how they ended up forming a bond with each other. Violet and Finch were two kids who may have never come together without going through these incredible struggles in their lives and how they end up working through things with each other just really warmed my heart and soul.

That being said, the book isn’t without a dark side. Both Violet and Finch have their own personal demons and it’s no common sadness. They both have serious issues to work through on many levels and although it’s hard to watch them experience, it’s such an incredible story to witness. I absolutely love what they discover about themselves through their friendship and experiences. They learn how to open up to each other and to the world. They learn how to laugh again, how to let go, how to speak, how to enjoy each day. I just really loved both of them so much and they ended up feeling like real people to me. This wasn’t just the story of Violet and Finch, but every person — young and old — who has been in their shoes.

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES was a home run for me. I was an emotional wreck after this book, having experienced some real highs and some true lows. I laughed, I cried (so hard), and I loved. This book has stuck with me since I finished reading and I know it will stick with me for a long time. It already holds a special place in my heart and truly the emotions come flooding back to me just thinking about the book or hearing the title. It’s one I truly recommend for so, so many reasons and I can’t stress enough the importance of what you’ll learn from these two characters.

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 7.19.29 PM

character_breakdown1

Violet // Character Obsessions: Her sister, her fears, her grief.
I really felt for Violet. After losing her sister in car accident, Violet suffers from depression and survivor’s guilt… Except she does the best job that she can to hide the depression side of things. Her parents understand that things haven’t been the same since Violet’s sister died and yet I don’t think they really understood how bad things were. For that, I’m so thankful for Finch. He happened to have the same motives as Violet and yet, he went out of his way to save her that day and everything in her life changed. I was just really happy to see that person show up in her life that could really make a difference when she had shut everyone out.
Finch // Character Obsessions: Personas, living in the moment, Violet, words.
Oh, Finch. I really didn’t know how to understand him at first. He seemed a quirky — which he was — and I wasn’t sure how to take that. But the more you get to know Finch, the more you understand why he acts the way he does. What makes him tick. And I really just fell in love with his character. I loved the relationship he and Violet started. I really just felt for him in general and his story was just so heartbreaking.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Mental Health Awareness. ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES really demonstrates how mental health issues can really go unnoticed or even hidden. It’s really important to acknowledge that just because it’s an issue or disease that’s not physically manifested, it doesn’t mean that it’s not equally important. Both Violet and Finch struggled with psychological and mental health issues that were too easily kicked under the rug or not addressed. They found each other to help them through a lot but it cannot just be brushed off.
Left Me Wanting More: Hugs. I need a hug after reading this book. I want to give hugs after reading this book. It really put my emotions through the wringer but in a good way! It was such a powerful read for me.

Addiction Rating
BUY IT!

Buy this book. Read this book. Love this book. It was an instant favorite, an emotional journey, and a book I will be recommending for a very long time.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        ALTHEA & OLIVER     THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING

Legion (Legion #1) & Legion: Skin Deep (Legion #2) – Brandon Sanderson

Title: Legion (Legion #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Completed: December 13, 2014
Source: Audiobook purchased from Audible
Find it Online: Goodreads // Amazon
Related Posts: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) // The Well of Ascention (Mistborn #2) // The Hero of Ages (MIstborn #3) // The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4)

     Stephen Leeds, AKA ‘Legion,’ is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his ‘aspects’ are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society.

Title: Legion: Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson
Completed: December 13, 2014
Source: Audiobook purchased from Audible
Find it Online: Goodreads // Amazon
Related Posts: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) // The Well of Ascention (Mistborn #2) // The Hero of Ages (MIstborn #3) // The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4)

     Stephen Leeds, AKA “Legion,” is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the new story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are hired by I3 (Innovative Information Incorporated) to recover a corpse stolen from the local morgue. But there’s a catch. The corpse is that of a pioneer in the field of experimental biotechnology, a man whose work concerned the use of the human body as a massive storage device. He may have embedded something in the cells of his now dead body. And that something might be dangerous…
What follows is a visionary thriller about the potential uses of technology, the mysteries of the human personality, and the ancient human need to believe that death is not the end. Legion: Skin Deep is speculative fiction at it most highly developed. It reaffirms Sanderson’s place as one of contemporary fiction’s most intelligent—and unpredictable—voices.
.

bookreview1

Well, let’s first say OOPS. I was so excited about getting the free ebook from Audible for LEGION: SKIN DEEP that I didn’t realize that was book two in stead of book one in this series of novellas (also an issue I have when series titles end up being book titles too) so I listened to the second one first and the first one second. Actually, I think I ended up liking LEGION: SKIN DEEP better because of that! (Though I would have liked it better either way… Okay, I’m just rambling.

Anyway — I really enjoyed these novellas! They were a bit more science-fiction than fantasy with a psychological twist. Since I actually read the second one first, I got more info about Stephen Leeds than is divulged in the first book (obviously) but I didn’t really feel lost either. His aspects were incredibly interesting and there were some hints at what exactly they were — or weren’t — that kept me guessing. I really loved the various characters — both real and imaginary — and it was really interesting to see how the scenes unfolded when Leeds was the only person who could see and interact with this aspects.

SKIN DEEP had much more of a plot than LEGION (it was much longer as well) so that was my favorite of the two. I sort of just felt like I was catching up and there wasn’t a whole ton of substance to the original novella besides the introduction that I’d already received (plus some plot, but the fact that I had the bulk of this knowledge about the aspects kind of slowed the book down a bit for me — my own fault, obviously). Reading these two really had me craving more, though! I can’t wait for the next novella and I love that I was able to read (listen) to this so quickly!

Even though they were novellas, they still had plenty of plot (especially book two) and I was really hooked on the second book! I love that it was a bit more mystery and sci-fi than fantasy this time around and I can’t wait to see where else this series plot goes because so far I’m definitely intrigued and very excited!

Audible also offered me a free clip to include in my review for anyone who’s interested in the books and also the audio! Check out a little slice of LEGION: SKIN DEEP below!

LEGION: SKIN DEEP audio sample

character_breakdown1

Stephen Leeds // Character Obsessions: Mysteries, his aspects, logic.
I really like Leeds. His character is so interesting and I love the concept of the aspects. It’s not quite schizophrenia, not quite dissociative identity disorder… So what is it? Ooh I can’t wait. I really loved this character overall and his though process — along with what his aspects provide to him — really was fascinating.

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Novella SERIES? I’ve never read a novella/short story series before! It’s really interesting and so much fun to zip through and not feel weighted down by another series. (I mean, I LOVE series, but I’m still in the middle of so many!!) It’s a very cool concept!
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. I actually got a lot of plot in the second book but the first felt just a bit slow; however, after finishing LEGION: SKIN DEEP, I cannot WAIT for more of this little series!

Addiction Rating
Read them!

If you’re not quite a fantasy person, these are some great Sanderson books to try out. I love his writing and cleverness and these were really fun mysteries with a psychological twist!

book_recommendations1

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          SHADOWLANDS           FORGOTTEN

Kiss of Broken Glass Blog Tour Scavenger Hunt + Giveaway!

Welcome to the blog tour for
KISS OF BROKEN GLASS by Madeleine Kuderick!

KissofBrokenGlasstourbanner

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for KISS OF BROKEN GLASS! I read the book back in August right before the book came out and I really enjoyed it so I was so excited when Hannah from The Irish Banana contacted me to be a part of a special blog tour and scavenger hunt!

If you’re not familiar with KISS OF BROKEN GLASS, it was released back in September by HarperTeen and you can find more info on the book below!

Kiss of Broken Glass CoverTitle: Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick 
Publishing Info
: September 9, 2014 by HarperCollins
Genre: Young Adult (Realistic Fiction, Verse)
POV: First Person (Kenna)
Find It Online:  Goodreads // Amazon

   “In the next 72 hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for 72 hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.
In the ward, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.
    Madeleine Kuderick’s gripping debut is a darkly beautiful and lyrical novel in verse, perfect for fans of Sonya Sones and Laurie Halse Anderson. Kiss of Broken Glass pulses with emotion and lingers long after the last page.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

mkuderickheadshotMadeleine Kuderick writes contemporary YA fiction and poetry. She is published in anthologies and magazines and has spoken at International Reading Association conferences and similar venues. Madeleine has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and an MBA from Saint Leo University.


So this blog tour is a bit different than a regular tour! Each day a different blogger will host a tour stop with a different question. These questions are trivia asking information about KISS OF BROKEN GLASS involving characters and events. Participants in this fun scavenger hunt are encouraged to read the book, find for the answer and share on social media using the hashtag #brokenglass! 

There is also a GIVEAWAY on this tour which will be a surprise ARC bundle provided by HarperTeen! In order to enter, participants are encouraged to tweet the answer to that day’s question or post on some form of social media. Then participants will fill in the Rafflecopter form with all five answers after the 5th day to enter the giveaway!

After the 5th day, the tour hosts will reveal the answers to all five questions and we will ask the people who participated in the scavenger hunt to share how many they got correct!

I am the FOURTH person on the tour so be sure to stop at the first three stops for the first three questions as well as the final tour stop tomorrow! See below for the full tour schedule and where you need to go for the scavenger hunt questions!

TODAY’S SCAVENGER HUNT QUESTION

Okay, here it is! Today’s question! Grab your books and keep on reading to find the answer to today’s scavenger hunt question:

Colin Krusher, the fallen TV angel in KISS bears a striking similarity to which real television actor and show?

That’s it! Go forth and read, find the answer, and don’t forget to share your thoughts with hashtag #brokenkiss on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! If you’ve already read the book, head on back and refresh your memory if you don’t remember, and don’t forget to to tell me what you thought!

GIVEAWAY!

Want to enter the giveaway? Gather up your answers from the week and enter them in the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I Was Here – Gayle Forman

I Was Here – Gayle FormanTitle: I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: January 27, 2015 by Penguin
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 16, 2014
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way

    Cody and Meg were inseparable.
    Two peas in a pod.
    Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
    When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
    I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

bookreview1It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE Gayle Forman fan so needless to say, I WAS HERE was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015 that I hope to read way before 2015. Firstly, it was Gayle Forman so I knew I WAS HERE would not only bring a new level of intensity and maturity — since I’ve seen her writing grow each book — but also an onslaught of raw emotion that I fell head over heels for in books like IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY.

I devoured I WAS HERE in a single day. Granted, I was home sick with a cold, but in a way, I was kind of thankful for it because this was a book I didn’t want to put down. My first reaction after finishing was that I WAS HERE definitely had a different feel than Gayle Forman’s previous books… But looking back, JUST ONE DAY and JUST ONE YEAR were also very different from IF I STAY/WHERE SHE WENT. I do have moments where reading a new book from a dearly cherished author is hard. Yes, IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY (and their respective companions) both dealt with loss and relatives being taken from the main characters when they were far too young… but I WAS HERE deals with not only loss of life but someone you thought you knew inside and out choosing to leave this world and everyone else in it behind. (Of course those with experience dealing with depression know that it’s much more complicated than a “choice”, but since this is a review, I’m not going to get into that whole discussion!)

I WAS HERE felt quite a bit different than Gayle’s previous books in two noticeable ways for me. The first was that there was much more of a plot driven by the need to find an answer to a mystery. Obviously any plot has to have some sort of need for a resolution otherwise the book seems to have no point… but with Gayle’s previous books, it was much more about the characters finding an answer about themselves versus an outside motive, which brings me to the second big difference for me: the involvement of a third major character. Although Meg has already taken her life at the start of the book, she’s the driving force behind the whole novel and everything that Cody does. Cody and male lead Ben would never meet without the connection through Meg and it creates a sort of triangle (no, not a love triangle, although things do tend to get a little sticky with Ben and Meg being close at one point) or circle of events that tend to loop back around from person to person. IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY certainly had other characters that played their own roles, but the focus was very much on a decision and self-discovery that the main character has to make and their romantic connection to another character. With a third element in the story, for some reason it just held and entirely different feel for me.

It may sound like this is bad thing but it’s definitely not. I think it’s hard to read an author’s work when you sort of sense a “pattern” and start to get comfortable with what to expect. It was a bit different for me to read I WAS HERE with this new “pattern”, new subject matter, and a brand-new feel but that also taught me not to get comfortable with what I read. My favorite authors will always be writing something new, constantly improving themselves and their writing, and bringing fresh topics to their readers and I’m so impressed with how no matter what Gayle Forman has written so far, I’ve fallen in love with each book she’s penned in very different ways. I love how I can read a book by one of my favorite authors and get something a little different each time, knowing that it keeps her growing as a writer and me growing as a reader. I’m getting a bit off-topic here, but from what I’ve heard when seeing Gayle speak at events, I feel like this is definitely something that’s important to her so I feel a small sense of pride when I notice something like that.

I got a bit technical with the review here, but don’t worry — there are also some major swoons! Yes, there is a bit of romance and it’s incredibly interesting to see how it unfolds. Cody meets Ben under some strange and tense circumstances (which makes sense considering she’s essentially looking further into her friend’s suicide and Ben was one of the people she talked to the most) so there’s quite the tension wondering what will happen between the two — and if anything COULD ever happen between the two — due to Ben’s previous interactions with Meg. Personally? I loved how everything was handled. I don’t want to say TOO much about it because it’s best for the reader to discover that for themselves, but I ended up explaining the situation to someone else and I really think it all unfolded in the best way possible.

Naturally in a Gayle Forman book, there is no shortage of gut-punching feels. The loss of Meg is just devastating to everyone she was connected to. I’ve never experienced a loss like that and I can’t even imagine what people have gone through that have felt like, but reading books that deal with topics such as death and suicide, I really tend to latch on to the families and friends of these characters pretty hard and I tend to sort of lose myself in the book. It’s definitely a heavy-hitting book as far as emotional roller coasters go but Gayle Forman knows exactly where to lead you on that journey. It’s really interesting to see different character’s reactions and I think she did a great job of showing a wide range of handling grief. One might thing it manifests only in sadness but some characters — especially Cody — experience anything from confusion to anger to depression to motivation. As always, I just really love how real every character felt and Gayle Forman always does an amazing job at bringing characters, setting, and emotions to life in her books.

When I sat down to write this review, I did NOT plan to write seven paragraphs. In fact, I had no idea what I was possibly going to say. I worried that it would sound like I hated the book since it was so hard for me to rate. I feel like usually “hard ratings” are due to overwhelming emotions for people — which yes, it was for me — but also that “different feeling” for me made it hard for me to assess my true feelings for the book. Obviously once I started writing about it, it was obvious how much this book really moved me and, well, I already knew it was a 4.5 to 5 star book for me, but being able to talk about it only convinced me more. Sometimes reviews just tend to take you on a journey you didn’t expect and my review for I WAS HERE certainly did that for me. Personally, I can’t wait to see what this book helps other people discover! I’m really looking forward to discussing this one with people. (Now that I’ve found the words, I know you can too!)

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

i was here goodreads feels

character_breakdown1

Cody // Character Obsessions: Meg, looking into her suicide, grieving.
Oh, oh, Cody. I can’t even imagine what she went through after losing Meg and then feeling like she had to take it even further to investigate. That’s just so painful. Cody was a really interesting character, though. She possessed such strength and I was absolutely rooting for her as I witnessed her waffling from grief to strength and everything in between. I loved her loyalty to Meg, even after her death, and I was scared for her in more ways than one. I really loved getting to know her in this book and also just wanted to hug her.
Ben // Character Obsessions: Music, his sister, girls. 
There was a period of time that I wasn’t sure if we should like Ben… But the more I got to know about him, the more I did like and the more I found out, the more I got to see beneath the rough exterior. (Okay, it wasn’t really that rough, but he took a while to figure out.) Anyway. I don’t want to say TOO much about him because again — another thing for the reader to explore on their own!

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Being so involved that I can’t stop reading. I love books that I can read in one day. I wasn’t exactly sure where this story was taking me and what I would read and what I would feel but I was just SO involved in what was going on. I couldn’t stop reading and I couldn’t put this book down.
Left Me Wanting More: Familiarity? Honestly, it’s hard to say. I really enjoyed this book a LOT but I was also missing SOMETHING (still not 100% sure what) that “felt” like a Gayle book. It was just a feeling that I couldn’t pinpoint. Like I said, not necessarily a bad thing, but something that happens as authors grow! Things change and hey, they need to from book to book so the books don’t get old and feel like they’re repeating themselves. I just can’t quite name what felt different and a tiny bit less familiar but it did.

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

I mean, it’s Gayle Forman. I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t be let down! I WAS HERE was a very emotional and moving read. I was completely hooked and utterly interested and it certainly made me think about a lot. Gayle’s characters always just feel so real. I think fans of Gayle Forman will love it and people who haven’t been totally sold on her previous books (I mean, I like to pretend that doesn’t happen, but I know you’re out there!) should definitely give this one a shot.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE I WAS HERE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        the sea of tranquility       the sky is everywhere