Cyberbullying in a strange, future New York | The Takedown by Corrie Wang [ARC]

The TakedownKyle is a queen bee. She and her three best friends are the most popular girls in school. On top of that, she’s also on track to be school valedictorian and is working to get into all of her top choices for college. But all of that comes crashing down when a video is leaked of her having sex with her English teacher. Except…it’s not her. As the video goes viral, Kyle watches everything she’s built come crashing down. Nobody believes that it’s not her in the video, so it’s up to Kyle to prove that somebody’s out to get her.

This book first came to my attention because one of my favorite authors (Ryan Graudin) has been raving about it. Unfortunately, I found it to be pretty disappointing. First off, the setting is this really strange, future New York but it’s not really apparent that we’re in the future until a few chapters in. Was it necessary for the book to be set in the future? I don’t really think so. It just made it confusing because I had to learn about a completely new set of technology, social media, etc. And the way they talk was also really strange. It’s like…they would swear, but without the vowels? It was just super weird–I don’t actually think the English language is going to evolve like that.

Kyle, the main character, is not likable. I didn’t feel sympathy towards her or bad for her in any way. She just wasn’t likable and she didn’t really experience any growth. So if that was the goal, then the author definitely accomplished that. But if it wasn’t, then I think she needs to rethink how she writes her characters in the future. Kyle was just really entitled and selfish the whole book. She’s so focused on “me me me me me me” that she doesn’t notice anything that the people around her are doing. Her life is crashing down and she feels like everyone around her needs to be worrying about that as much, if not MORE, than she is.

The secondary characters were just okay. I didn’t really like any of them more than I liked Kyle. I also didn’t like that her brother was also named Kyle. The author gave a reason for that and I understand why it was “necessary” for the plot, but…just no. Figure out another way to accomplish that plot point because having a brother and a sister both named Kyle is just too weird and confusing.

The plot was also just okay. I’ve read a lot of books that are supposed to be a type of mystery, but there’s no way for the reader to solve it on their own. I’d like to read a book where the reader can take an active role in solving the mystery along with the characters. As it is, most books that involve a mystery just expect readers to sit back and enjoy the ride. This book was no different. Sure, there were clues. But in the end, there was really no way for the reader to decide who the “bad guy” was with any certainty. We just don’t get all of the facts until the very end. We’re left trailing the main character instead of working alongside them.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book. There were too many elements that just weren’t working for me. That being said, this book does have a rating of 4.03 on Goodreads, so take my review with a grain of salt I guess. I didn’t like it very much, but you might still enjoy it.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing very explicit, but this book is all about a sex tape so it’s talked about a lot.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling series

I have something to get off my chest…these are not YA books. They’re classified all over the place as YA, but they truly are not. They’ve got a completely different tone (you can just tell they’re meant for older audiences) and the content would not be appropriate for most teenagers. Now that that’s been said, I only read the first two books in this trilogy and I really had to drag myself through them. I felt that the first book had a promising beginning, but then we start to learn more about the world and its history and the main character herself…basically everything just starts to get SUPER confusing.

The plot moves very slowly and the second book has a ton of flashbacks which just serves to make the plot even slower and things in general to become more confusing. I’m sure everything starts to make more sense in the third book, but I just can’t do it. Getting through the first two books was hard enough and I just can’t do a third one.

I felt like the characters were complex and, for the most part, interesting. The only problem was that there were so many of them. There are a lot of names being tossed around and I had a hard time keeping track of anyone who wasn’t Kelsea, Mace, or Pen. I don’t know, maybe my problem is just the genre in general. Maybe I’m just not meant to read fantasy (or would this be classified as high fantasy?)

This is what I’ll say about them. The second book leaves you with this massive cliffhanger, but I have no desire to find out how the story ends. I just don’t care enough to force myself to read the last book.

The Queen of the Tearling/The Invasion of the Tearling
Overall Ratings: 3/3
Language: Heavy/Heavy
Violence: Extreme/Extreme
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate/Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate/Heavy (the second book deals a lot with a physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually abusive relationship)

Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

9781402291449_9b451First off, the author admits on Goodreads that the way the book is presented (cover and marketing-wise) is a little misleading to the reader. For anyone looking for a nice contemporary romance kind of book, this is not that book. This is a book about a boy named Taco who has a positive attitude about literally everything. His mom has died, his dad is nowhere to be found, and his older brother is a drunk. Yet, Taco is still determined that every day is going to be the best day and tomorrow will be even better. He also calls the reader dingus. A lot.

I could not relate to Taco at all. He was too optimistic. Too sunny of a person. I just could not understand him or how he thought about things. I also just felt like he was an unrealistic character because I don’t think that ANYONE can be as unfailingly optimistic as he is. I also don’t understand how he can be dumb enough to not understand how he got his girlfriend pregnant, but he’s on the honor roll every year… I just don’t get how that works.

Things I did admire about Taco: the fact that he was so positive, he’s a hard worker, he loves his family even with their flaws, he’s willing to do the right thing even if it’s not what he would prefer. So yes, there are some things that make Taco an admirable character. I really did appreciate his work ethic and that he’s 100% committed to his family and to being a dad.

The other characters in this book are kind of strange. I did not like Maggie at all. She was so erratic and treated Taco like crap. Even if Taco was dumb enough to not understand how people really get pregnant, I feel like Maggie should have known. In the end I just feel like she was this really immature and selfish character who had zero growth and development.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy, one character is an alcoholic.
Sexual Content: Heavy, mentioned a lot but no explicit descriptions.

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Angsty Teenagers and The Bubblegum Reaper (Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick [ARC])

Every Exquisite ThingNanette is a typical high school girl. She’s co-captain of the soccer team, goes shopping with her mother on the weekends, and sometimes enjoys school. When her favorite teacher, Mr. Graves, gives her an out-of-print cult classic for Christmas, everything changes for Nanette. She develops a friendship with the quirky and reclusive author and starts to rethink all of the choices that she’s made in her life. Soon Nanette has quit the soccer team (with much cursing and bird flipping) and starts talking in the third person (as suggested by her therapist). As Nanette continues to reread The Bubblegum Reaper she will try to figure out what, exactly, she’s supposed to do with the rest of her life.

I’ll admit, I’m surprised that I requested this book on NetGalley as I don’t really feel like it’s my kind of book. But then The NOVL sent me a copy in the mail too and so I had to read it. I thought this book had a lot of really great ideas in it. The whole book within a book is very meta and it added an interesting layer to the overall story. I liked the “quotes” that the characters would mention because you think about them in the  context of what’s happening in the story, but then you also start thinking about them in general too.

The characters were really lacking to me. They all just seemed a little too much–too extreme. I don’t think there were any characters that were just normal. Having a “normal” character isn’t a necessity, but when all of the other characters are so extreme, the “normal” character gives readers the opportunity to catch their breath a bit. All of the relationships in this book were very strange to me too but that might also be due to my overall dislike for the characters.

The plot was okay. I felt like it was really supposed to be reflective of the plot from The Bubblegum Reaper but then at times it was really different. In the end, it really just felt like nothing had happened. Sure, Nanette grew as a character, but not as much as I think she should have.

Overall, I’m not sure how this book compares to his other books. The writing was quirky and had a distinct tone, but everything else about the book was just okay for me. I get the feeling, though, that if you generally like this author, you’ll probably like this book too.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy
Violence: Moderate. A couple characters are physically bullied.
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy. Talked about a lot, but no really explicit descriptions.

Note: I received this book free from both NetGalley and The NOVL Newsletter in exchange for an honest review.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

IMG_0099Hermione is at the top of the high school food chain. She’s popular, she’s dating one of the hottest guys in grade 12, and she’s a cheerleader. And in a small town where the sports teams repeatedly lose, cheerleading is a big deal. She’s ready to have the best senior year ever, until someone slips something in her drink at camp. The next thing she knows she’s waking up in a hospital bed and her best friend delivers the bad news–she was raped. Now Hermione has a new label. Instead of “queen bee” or “cheerleader co-captain” she’s “that raped girl”. And in a small town, that’s a label that’s going to stick.

This is not my typical book. I usually steer clear of anything that deals with tough issues that are going to make me sad. I appreciate that that kind of thing is available, but I am not usually in the mood to read that kind of thing. That being said, this book felt too important to pass up. This is not like anything I’ve ever had to deal with, but Johnston does such a good job making Hermione likable and it almost feels like her group of friends is also your group of friends too.

I loved that Johnston made this story feel real. It could be really easy to have characters react in predictably Hollywood ways, but I feel like each character had a raw and honest reaction to Hermione’s sexual assault including Hermione herself. I love that she had so many supporting people surrounding her from her parents, to her best friend Polly, to her teammates, to her coach. In an author’s note at the end, Johnston recognizes that in this way she did write about an ideal situation where the victim has a lot of support and cooperative and respectful police officers involved in the investigation–she notes that this is not usually the case. However, she does say that she purposefully gave Hermione a Polly (who is AWESOME by the way) and that she believes there is a Polly out there for all victims of sexual assault.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book but just be conscious that it deals with a really heavy topic and may not be suitable for younger readers. That being said, the relationship between Hermione and Polly is one of the best I’ve ever read and in the end the main feeling I get from this book isn’t sadness, but triumph.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. A couple of scenes with brief, strong language.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Heavy. Due to the overall subject matter, but not explicit.

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy [ARC]

Jaycee’s brother Jake died the day of his high school graduation and every year since then, Jaycee has revisited Jake’s favorite hang-out for a macabre homage to her brother. This summer, she finds a map left behind by her brother with a list of dares and she decides to complete each of his dares in order to feel closer to him. What Jaycee doesn’t count on is the people who decide to tag along and the truths that she will discover along with the dares.25679559

I was not expecting this book. McCarthy deals with some heavy topics such as death, abusive relationships, and uncertain futures. The characters in this book are much deeper than I usually see in Young Adult fiction because a lot of the time the plot is the main focus. The book switches off between five different perspectives so we really get to know three of the characters very well. Only three because Mik’s chapters are graphic novel-esque and Bishop’s feature a piece of art that he’s created. I just want to say that I LOVE the variation in the chapters. I enjoyed reading the book, but I also felt really eager to reach one of Mik or Bishop’s chapters.

The characters were well thought-out and I liked that nobody and nothing was black and white. There were some “bad” characters, but things also weren’t as simple as they may have seemed on the surface. McCarthy has the reader dive into each of the characters and as the book progresses, each character learns something(s) about themselves. The character development in this book is CRAZY and even the secondary characters have depth. Characters did have a tendency to be a little immature at times, but not necessarily in an unrealistic way.

The settings in this book are excellently described and it makes me want to do a little bit of urban exploring myself. The different places that the group visits match the mood of the overall book and the characters themselves in a haunting way.

Overall, I thought this book was a good read that dealt with some important themes and issues. There was quite a bit of content, however, and because the issues are so heavy I would only recommend this book for older teen readers.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Several scenes throughout with teenage drinking.
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing too explicit, but a big part of one of the story lines (talked about a lot).

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Cage by Megan Shepherd

One second Cora’s in the car with her brother driving to meet their parents at a ski resort. Next thing she knows, she’s waking up in a desert in someone else’s clothes.

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This book is CRAZY right from the beginning. I guess in the Goodreads summary, you find out right away that Cora and the others have been abducted by an alien race. I did not know that coming into this book. So when the aliens are introduced I was just like, “Umm….okay….well, I guess I’ll see how this plays out…” As you can tell by all of the ellipses, there was a lot of hesitation on my part, but I think it turned out pretty good. I’m not really a big Sci-Fi/Alien reader so I just wasn’t sure whether this would be my kind of thing.

Right off the bat, the reader and the characters are all really confused (maybe I would have been less confused if I’d read the summary more carefully, but I didn’t). The story is told from multiple perspectives so we’re privy to private information about the characters that the other characters don’t know yet. The voices of the characters were all pretty distinctive, so that was nice. I hate when you have multiple perspectives, but the voices are all the same so you can’t tell them apart.

The whole situation that these characters are in makes the reader pretty uneasy. I mean, these humans are basically being treated like animals and that can be a bit unnerving. It really made me think about how I would react in this situation. Would I be like Cora and try to escape? Or would I just accept my fate and play games all day?

Even though I enjoyed the book, I didn’t find any of the characters to be particularly likable. Nok and Rolf were both pretty annoying to me. We don’t see too much of Leon or Mali so I’m still up in the air about them. Lucky is okay but kind of weak as a person (which I find unappealing in a character). And then there’s Cora…she’s okay, but she does a lot of freaking out throughout the book. I just don’t know how I feel about her. Mostly I just need her to calm down and be a little more rational about things.

Overall, I did like this book. I know my review kind of sounds negative, but there were a lot of things to like. There’s a big plot twist at the end that I totally did NOT see coming. Like, it’s so big that I wanted to immediately reread the book with this new information in mind. The book was just kind of lacking in character development. As it is, even though the book itself is great, the characters just felt kind of flat to me.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy, but it’s mostly in a breeding context. No explicit scenes.
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate