November 30, 2011

What I want to see more of in YA - Just Contemporary, week 5!

Just Contemporary

What I want to see more of in Contemporary YA

Characters in COLLEGE!
YA novels primarily feature teenage characters.  This is all fine and dandy, except nearly every single one of those characters is in the Hell that we know as High School. But here’s the thing – teenagers are also in college! And I don’t know about you, but I go crazy when I see a YA novel that features its characters in college; I devour it.  Considering I’m not a teenager anymore, I’m starting to crave more mature stories, or at least stories set in a more mature setting.  I’m not quite at the stage where I’m ready to be reading about mid-life crises or divorces or having babies, so I need something in between. Having characters in YA novels attend college would be that something.

REAL love.
I’m tired of seeing the stories that begin with Girl liking Boy That is Way Too Hot for Her, but then Boy That is Way Too Hot for Her suddenly sees what he’s been missing all along and returns feelings for Girl.

Or, Girl is inherently beautiful and is stuck choosing between two or more love interests.

I’m sure these situations have proven true for some people, but I’m tired of reading about them. I want a romance that lasts, that’s true. I don’t want a surprise kiss to come out of nowhere. Sure, sometimes it’s cute, but at the same time, I know it’s not very likely to happen in the real world. I’d rather read about a genuine relationship blossoming and forming, even if that means I don’t get to see the kiss until the very end of the novel.

Stable families.
I realize not every family is stable and that some come from bad home lives – but does it have to be everyone? Why are the parents almost always away or uncaring? Why are the kids almost always neglected? Why do the siblings almost always watch the others getting into trouble?

Not everyone hates their family, and I think it’s time that this is shown in Contemporary YA. We need some family love every once in a while. I know the drama within a bitter, failing family is easier to work with, but I also know it’s possible to create something from the good.

What do YOU want to see more of?

November 29, 2011

"New Adult" Challenge: 2012!


What are "New Adult" books, you ask? They're books with characters primarily past their teenage years; they're graduating, going into college, are in college, looking for jobs - you get the gist. Isn't that fabulous? Isn't that what I've been looking for?! It is. I'm very excited for this year-long challenge.

The rules and levels, as per Danya's post:

The rules:
  • The book must feature a protagonist who is past the average age for graduation from high school (18 in most places). If they're sitting on the fence at precisely age 18, then you can make the judgment call on whether it is more YA or New Adult. (If the majority of it is set in high school, I'd classify it as YA.) The protag should be younger than 30, just to give a maximum limit as well (otherwise we're getting into Not-So-New Adult literature!)
  • This does *not* mean the book must be of the contemporary genre. If it's a fantasy or dystopian or something and there *is* no concept of "graduation" in that world, then just go by our world's standards in deciding if it counts.
The levels:
  • Just Graduated: read a minimum of 3 New Adult books
  • Moving Out: read a minimum of 6 New Adult books
  • Living On Your Own: read a minimum of 9 New Adult books
  • Fully Independent: read every single New Adult book you can get your hands on

The challenge will run from Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2012.  Interested? Want to sign up? CLICK!

November 24, 2011

REVIEW! Saving June.

SAVING JUNE by Hannah Harrington
Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why.

Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going—California.

Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession…and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down—again.
My rating: 3 stars.


I had high hopes for Saving June, but it ultimately let me down.  The writing is swell, as well as the characters.  But here's the thing: they could've been anyone, and the story would've been the same.  The thing I just couldn't get past in this book is that every moment of it feels like one I've read before.  Nothing seems outright original, or exciting.  In other words, nothing captured my attention.

And I couldn't get past Harper, Laney and Jake's ages.  Throughout the entire story they seemed much more mature than their given ages: 16, 17 and 18.  And when it was made known that they were so young, the believability of the plot plummeted.  Everything suddenly seemed too convenient to make up for their youth.  This immediately distanced me from the characters and story.

Granted, the story has quite a bit of humor that presents itself at the randomest of times.  That definitely keeps it from being drop dead dull.  But other than that, every bit is just as predictable as you think it is.  There are no surprises.  Had there been an unforseen aspect, I think I'd consider the pacing spot-on, perfect.  But since it lacks any such thing, it moves a bit too slow for my liking.

In all honesty I think this one of those books that people will either be into, or not into.  In my opinion, there's a lot of "grey area" that readers either won't mind, or will.  In this case, I minded the grey areas.  Too-young characters (for the situations at hand) and too little setting it apart from other novels ultimately makes Saving June an unmemorable read for me.

November 18, 2011

Follow My Book Blog Friday! (24)

Letter to Santa: Tell Santa what books you want for Christmas!

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan.
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (preorder).
What Caesar Did for My Salad: The Curious Stories Behind Our Favorite Foods by Albert Jack.
Deadly Little Voices by Laurie Stolarz.
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.

*These were both added the week before, but I think they still count!

November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (23).

Waiting On Wednesday is from Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer Hubbard
Ryan spends most of his time alone at the local waterfall because it's the only thing that makes him feel alive. He's sixteen, post-suicidal, and trying to figure out what to do with himself after a stint in a mental hospital. Then Nicki barges into his world, brimming with life and energy, and asking questions about Ryan's depression that no one else has ever been brave enough - or cared enough - to ask. Ryan isn't sure why he trusts Nicki with his darkest secrets, but that trust turns out to be the catalyst that he desperately needs to start living again.

Not too long ago, I read Hubbard's The Secret Year and really loved it. I have high hopes of this one being just as deep and touching, despite the lack of originality concerning the plot.

November 14, 2011

REVIEW! Before I Fall.

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.
The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
My rating: 4 stars.


I wish this could be a one-word review. It'd say WOW.

This book really gets you thinking, in the best ways possible. How would you live your last day? Don't worry, Sam doesn't know either. She lets us, as readers, discover the answer with her. I think this is the aspect that I like most about Before I Fall. Nothing seems to just be told to us; you work through everything right along with Sam, not knowing if the outcomes will be good or bad or inbetween. And in this way, it's not like a book - it's like life. I really like that the feelings Sam's story evokes transcend just the story.

The book does drag. It has to, like a Groundhog Day scenario. But while I understand the necessity, it also bothers me. Sometimes I just wanted to get to the next part because scenes were too repetitive. The good news is the characters make up for the slow timing. At first, they're nothing special - just typical cliches. But Oliver takes them and puts a spin on the repetition that shows their development and their true selves.  It's a lovely unfolding of sorts.

If anything, read for the realness that is Sam's world. You may learn something, and be glad for it.

In a nutshell: Striking, beautiful, thoughtful.

November 8, 2011

REVIEW! Lola and the Boy Next Door.

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
For budding costume designer Lola Nolan, the more outrageous, the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins move back into the house next door.
When the family returns and Cricket - a gifted inventor and engineer - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
My rating: 3 stars.


I can't believe I'm saying this, but Lola just didn't do it for me. Sure, I had very, very high expectations for it, after my book crush on Anna and the French Kiss (thanks to St. Clair). But high expectations aside, Lola and the Boy Next Door simply lacks the Stephanie Perkins magic I grew to love.

Lola herself is the biggest problem to me. Not only could I not relate to her in any way, I also wasn't fond of her choices. I prefer stronger characters, especially concerning girls. The lovesick puppy routine gets old really quickly for me. Plus, she just didn't add up to me - not in any aspect. It's okay if your boyfriend smokes pot, but it's a tragedy that your birth mother gets drunk? Sorry, but I don't get it. To me, Lola seemed to be many things, but none of these things added up to a whole, to an entire being. Her personality is lost on me, and her immaturity acted as a death sentence.

That being said, the remaining characters aren't any better. I actually dislike her fathers, despite loving the concept of two dads, since that's rarely ever seen in YA novels. One's bitter, the other's a pushover - that's all I know about them. However, I like that they are involved within the story. But Lola's best friend, Lindsey? She may as well not exist, because all I got from her is she's a little Nancy Drew obsessed. As for Cricket, well. I don't dislike him. I just feel like there's so much more that he could've been. A relentlessly happy, non-complex love interest gets to be boring after a while. Don't get me wrong - he's absolutely adorable and totally sweet. I just wish he hadn't been as lackluster as Lola. I so badly wanted one of them to shine.

The true stars in all of this, for me, were Anna and Etienne. They were hilarious and genuine and true to themselves as we saw them in Anna. Every time they appeared, I wished a little of their realness would rub off on Lola and Cricket.

I know my ramblings make Lola seem like a terrible book, but that's not at all the case. Lola is a good book - it's got its good writing, love interests, solid plot, etc. It just wasn't for me (for reasons stated above). I expected more depth, and it didn't deliver.

November 7, 2011

REVIEW! The Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.  
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
My rating: 5 stars.


Trust me when I say that this books sits on an entirely different level, separate from other YA novels.  Because it truly does.  The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is written so beautifully, it easily surpasses those like it. Really, the writing itself is what initially drew me in.  The descriptions are fantastical, and the thought behind them is so clear and vivid. I cannot express how impressed I am by the mere writing of this novel - while other YA writings come off almost childish, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone comes off as much more mature - not only in its writing, but also its development.

I think every single character is striking in one way or another.  Really.  I don't think I was disappointed by any.  And that's pretty hard to do for me. But I enjoyed all of them because they all had stories. Backgrounds. Personalities. Taylor made me want to know all of them, and there's a difference between me wanting to know more, and the author simply telling me more.

Truth be told, my only gripe is the ending. I realize it's meant to end the way it does, but I'm just not the biggest fan of its wrap-up.  Plus, cliffhangers are pretty annoying.

That aside, Taylor has gotten herself on my list of authors whose books I will always pick up. I'm really looking forward to the second book.

If you don't read this, you're missing out.

November 2, 2011

Why I love Contemporary YA - Just Contemporary, week 1!

Learn about the Just Contemporary event here.

Contemporary means present or modern.  And in the world of YA books, it typically means teens just living their lives, taking one step at a time, dealing with school, family and boys, of course.  But why is this appealing? Why do I read it when there are blood-thirsty vampires and wizards running about?

Because contemporary YA is real. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, because it can’t. It’s real life. It’s relatable. It’s knowing you’ve got something in common with someone. It’s knowing you’re not alone, no matter the subject.

What would my teenage years have been like without Meg Cabot? The old Meg Cabot. I’m talking Princess Diaries and All American Girl, with their awkward, nerdy female protagonists, looking for ways to embrace their weirdness.  What would I have done without Sam and Mia? They helped me think that just maybe high school could be bearable.

Or what about Rachel Cohn’s Gingerbread series? If not for those, I’d have never gotten an up-close look at the constructs of long-distance relationships, or the matching of fun with work.  I’d also certainly not have longed for a surfer boyfriend.

And I can’t not mention Sarah Dessen, who is probably considered the Mother of all Contemporary YA. (And rightfully so.)  Her stories illuminate the lives of teens everywhere, dealing with issues of friendship to family hardships to medical problems.  She takes the pain and coaxes it, showing that things really will be all right, if you give them the chance to be.

And then every once in a while, you come across those special books – the ones that will stay with you for a long time.  They’re not just beautiful, they’re powerful.  They take your world and turn it upside down, leaving nothing but raw emotion in their wake. For me, this type of special book is, and always will be, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  It deals with a controversial topic, and is often banned, but in all honesty, it’s moving. Touching. Poignant. I can’t imagine anyone reading Speak and not being sucked into the contemporary YA circuit. It’s that wonderful.

There’s a lot to learn from contemporary YA, and I think that’s what keeps me coming back for more. The lessons never end.  I can read ten books about boyfriends and breakups and rotten friends, and still see a different perception – a different angle to the story – every time. It never gets old.

Contemporary YA is me.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...