Giveaways, Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review & Giveaway: FOLLOW ME BACK by A.V. Geiger

A couple of weeks ago I won a giveaway for A.V. Geiger’s FOLLOW ME BACK, and as I just read the book in a day, I think it merits a review. Also, for some reason they sent me two copies, plus swag, so I’m doing a giveaway! Details are at the end of the review.

Follow Me Back by A.V. GeigerAgoraphobic fangirl Tessa Hart doesn’t dare tell a soul about the traumatic incident that caused her to drop out of a prestigious summer program, the month after high school graduation. Instead she spends her days immersed in the online fandom of her pop star obsession, Eric Thorn. She knows it sounds crazy, but he’s the only one who seems to understand her, even love her…

That’s what he says over Twitter anyway: that he loves each and every fan. But the truth is he’s terrified of them. Ever since a super-fan murdered the lead singer of British boy band Fourth Dimension, he can’t shake the feeling he’s next. Murderous fangirls may be one in a million, but with 14 million Twitter followers, the odds aren’t in his favor.

When a plan to alienate his fans instead leads Eric to befriend @TessaHeartsEric via a fake Twitter account, the two form a bond that neither could have imagined. For Eric, Tessa is the one honest voice in a sea of fakery. For Tessa, her mysterious online friend might just give her the courage to let go of her traumatic past and untangle herself from the world of online fandom and celebrity obsession. But this is no fan-fiction fairytale come to life. Dark secrets from Tessa’s past surface, and the fanatics in Eric’s fandom get a little too close for comfort. When the two arrange to meet IRL, fake identities are revealed and what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish, turns deadly.

Here are the five things I loved most.

1. The unique storytelling format – The story is told through a combination of police transcripts, Twitter DMs, and traditional narrative. They’re woven together perfectly, so that you’re given just enough information in the present to wonder what happened in the past before you read about it. And with this being a thriller, that’s no easy task!

2. The pacing – While I alluded to pacing above, it’s worth breaking out as its own point. I did not want to put this book down. With every chapter, there was something new revealed, some new piece of information that kept me anxious to read on and discover either what was about to happen in the present or what had happened in the past.

3. The romance – I loved how the relationship developed between Tessa and Eric, even if she didn’t know who he was. In general I like the trope of characters who fall in love from a distance, and I appreciated how it wasn’t all smooth sailing, with misunderstandings that had to be worked out.

4. The twists – I said “What!” out loud more than once reading this book. Not every twist caught me by surprise, but there were a couple, and I love it when that happens. Well done!

5. The ending – Whoa! That’s really all I want to say about it because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I am now dying to read the next book in this series. It’s the kind of situation where I hate that I read the book right when it came out because now I have to wait a whole year :(.

To win FOLLOW ME BACK, plus a tote and bookmark, click on the Raffelcopter link below. North America only, please. The giveaway will be open until Aug. 2. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Character, Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review: EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon

I think the fact I didn’t have much time to read during our trip, combined with my kids being gone for three days last week, put me into a reading frenzy. I read five books in the past week, including two full-length adult books. As I’m sure many of you middle grade/young adult readers understand, adult books seem so long when you’re used to MG and YA, but I still enjoyed them. Sometimes it’s nice to switch things up. I actually have a pile of them because several of the adult authors I still read–mostly romance :)–have had books come out in the past couple of months.

Anyway, I’ve been hearing about EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon forever and kept thinking I should read it, but I confess it wasn’t until I watched the movie trailer that I made it a priority. So glad I did!

Everything, Everything by Nicola YoonMadeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. She is content enough—until a boy with eyes the color of the Atlantic Ocean moves in next door. Their complicated romance begins over IM and grows through a wunderkammer of vignettes, illustrations, charts, and more.

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

 

Here are the five things I loved most.

1. The mixed media – I loved the use of drawings, health logs, IMs, emails, etc. But I especially loved how Maddy looked at life as a science experiment and charted out each potential experience. My favorite was “Kiss Mechanics.”

2. The romance – I love how this romance builds from a distance at first. There’s physical tension, and it’s very well done, but it comes later. The relationship is built on them getting to know each other before they’re even able to be in the same room.

3. The humor – One of the reasons I delayed reading this book was that based on the premise, I mistakenly believed it was going to be a depressing read. It spans a range of emotions, but the one that took me by surprise was humor. There’s a whole sequence with a Bundt cake that’s just hilarious. I won’t spoil it by telling you anything more.

4. Madeline’s growth – I really felt for Madeline as a character–to be trapped in your home for your whole life and to know that leaving could cost you your life. What kind of a decision is that? The end of this book wasn’t the point–it was watching her decide what it meant to live.

5. Madeline’s spoiler book reviews – These sort of go with the mixed media above, but as I was paging through deciding what to highlight, I kept chuckling at them. Example:

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND BY LEWIS CARROLL

Spoiler alert: Beware the Queen of Hearts. She’ll have your head.

There’s so much more I want to discuss about this book, but I will ruin it for you if you haven’t read it yet, so GO READ IT! And then come back and discuss it with me. Now I’m anxious to read Ms. Yoon’s other book, since I loved this one so much.

Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review: IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Hello there!

Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever been away from the blog this long. Sorry about that. Almost immediately after I finished drafting, I started working on a revision that has completely consumed me. And as for reviewing, well, I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. It’s not that I haven’t read anything good. I have, it’s just that I’ve been so focused on revising that reading–and thus reviewing–haven’t been a priority.

Until now. Because this book? It was so fantastic that I wanted to get back to it while I was revising, so obviously it deserves a review. And since it’s been sooo long since my last review (Oct. 17! Yikes!), I’m not waiting until my usual Monday.

It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate StrohmAvery Dennis is a high school senior and one of the most popular girls in her class. But a majorly public breakup with the guy she’s been dating causes some disastrous waves. It is right before prom and Avery no longer has the perfect date. She runs the prom committee, how could she not show up with somebody?

Post-breakup, Avery gets to thinking about all of the guys that she has ever dated. How come none of those relationships ever worked out? Could it be her fault? Avery decides to investigate. In history class she’s learning about this method of record-keeping called “oral history” and she has a report due. So Avery decides to go directly to the source. Avery tracks down all of the guys she’s ever dated, and uses that information along with her friends, family, and even teachers’ thoughts, to compile a total account of her dating history.

Avery discovers some surprises about herself and the guys she’s spent time with just in time for prom night.

Here are the five things I loved best.

1. The format – I love unique formats, and this one was especially unusual, told as a record of Avery interviewing her past boyfriends, with assistance from her best friend, her lab partner, and various people around them. I especially enjoyed her editor’s notes, commenting on what people had said as she gained new perspective on her own past.

2. The voices – It’s hard enough to master one or two voices, but this book had maybe twenty? I didn’t go through and count them :). But they’re all unique, and there’s heart in so many of them. I love how Avery’s best friend, Coco, is obsessed with JFK; her lab partner, Hutch, is full of science references; and his friends are all into the tabletop role-playing games.

3. The humor – I laughed out loud so much at this book, and that’s a main reason why I had to review it right away. There were many passages that got me, but here’s one I made a special note of.

HUTCH: Let the record show that this clown made a horrible kissing noise that was audible over a transcontinental phone connection, like a cartoon chef presenting a plate of tortellini.

4. The boyfriends – I loved all the boyfriends, especially the one in the band, the Italian, and the one with the secret hobby. Each one showed how Avery grew, which I think was the point of the project for her :).

5. The romance – I came across this book on a list of romantic comedies, so I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying there’s a romance. I love how the process of cataloguing Avery’s failed relationships gives the reader an inside look at a developing relationship. It’s absolutely adorable!

By the way, I picked this up at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale, along with an unusually large stack of books. I bet I’ll have many more reviews from my haul in the coming months! And if I don’t have another review before the end of the year, I will definitely post a roundup of my favorite 2016 reads before the end of the year.

Middle Grade, MMGM, Reading, Review

MMGM: SECRETS FROM THE SLEEPING BAG by Rose Cooper

I came across this book as I was looking for stories set at camps, and I really enjoyed it. SECRETS FROM THE SLEEPING BAG is actually the third book in a series, but you don’t need to read the others first. Here’s a brief description:

Secrets from the Sleeping Bag by Rose CooperDuring four weeks at Camp Krakatow (pronounced Crack-A-Toe), Sofia Becker writes all the juiciest information in her notebook, so she can continue her blog when she returns home. S’mores, crafts, bug juice, water sports, boys(!) . . . Sofia doesn’t want to forget one second of sleepaway camp!

And here are the five things I loved most:

1. The format – I loved the way this was written as a journal with her doodles throughout. As a result, it doesn’t really have chapters. It has snippets of things that happen at camp, with illustrations on the side. Sometimes the drawings show Sofia talking to someone with conversation bubbles. Sometimes they illustrate something she learned at camp. Often they are funny asides, almost like footnotes.

2. Her lists – From why she doesn’t want to go to camp, to the items in her “secret survival kit,” to the rules for having more than one crush, Sofia loves to make lists, and they were great for giving insight into her character.

3. The desire to reinvent herself – This is such a universal truth for kids in middle school. They’re still figuring out who they are, and they continually reinvent themselves during the process. Sofie sees camp as a way to make herself popular.

“No one will know if you’re popular. It’s like summer camp erases all your middle-school history for those four weeks. Which means you can be anyone you want. Yes! You can reinvent yourself! So I’m going to totally popularize myself this summer.”

Of course, things don’t go exactly the way she plans, resulting in my next point …

4. The humor – A lot of funny stuff happens to Sofia. Most of the time it’s her own fault, but she’s good about laughing at herself. Like when she boasts about swimming and then gets a cramp, or when she picks up tissue paper with glue all over her hands. A lot of girls would just cry in embarrassment, but she shrugs it off and turns it into a funny journal entry. She also has a tendency to accidentally fling around food, which has some hilarious results.

5. The prank war – Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved THE PARENT TRAP, but I loved that this book featured a prank war between two cabins. It’s funny how it escalates with each side getting more creative and the pranks getting more elaborate. I also loved how the counselor got in on it once she got pranked. What’s camp without a good prank war? (Although as much as I enjoyed reading about it, I’m glad I was never part of one :).)

This was a quick, fun read that I highly recommend. It would appeal to reluctant readers, too. Has anyone read the other books in this series? I’m sure they’re just as much fun!

Reading, Writing

Emails, Footnotes and Tweets: When Authors Experiment with Format

I’m always impressed when an author pulls off a unique format. I’ve read quite a few books lately that stray from the standard narrative format and thought I’d share. Maybe they will inspire you to try something new!

The journal entry. The journal/diary entry is probably the most common detour I’ve seen from the expected structure. You see it in everything from THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK to THE PRINCESS DIARIES series. Now that I think about it, this format is rather popular in middle grade books. I recently read SECRETS FROM THE SLEEPING BAG by Rose Cooper. In addition to text entries, it also included drawings. THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA has a similar format, although it’s presented as “case files” instead of as a journal.

I've Got Your Number by Sophie KinsellaFootnotes. In I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER by Sophie Kinsella, the character inserts footnotes into the narrative. On the first page, you see the little 1, look at the bottom and see Poppy’s explanation that she’s discovered footnotes and aren’t they fun? The footnotes are scattered throughout the book, and they’re pretty brilliant. What an excellent way to throw in asides and extra backstory. You could skip over them if you wanted–they are footnotes, after all–but there’s something engaging about them. I am so itching to try this, but I haven’t figured out how to do it in a middle grade/young adult novel yet.

Strikethroughs. I’m sure Tahereh Mafi isn’t the first author to use this editing mark in her final product, but her execution of it in the SHATTER ME series is brilliant. I love the way it conveys to the reader what’s going on in the character’s head–both the thoughts and the way she’s trying to conceal them from even herself. It reveals an extra piece of her to the reader. Interestingly, Rose Cooper also used this device a bit in SECRETS FROM THE SLEEPING BAG. In that case, it was more to show the character rethinking the way she wanted to describe something.

THE BOY NEXT DOORMixed formats. Meg Cabot’s Boy series is a study in mixed formats. The first book, THE BOY NEXT DOOR, is told entirely in emails between various characters. BOY MEETS GIRLS adds letters, to-do lists, online chats, the text of voice mails, flyers, office correspondence, journal entries, notes taped to doors–basically anything written. And the final book, EVERY BOY’S GOT ONE, throws in notes on a PDA, receipts, airplane tickets, notes passed between two characters, menus, and more. I’m sure it sounds crazy if you haven’t read these books, but it totally works. As an aside, I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER also incorporated text messages. I’m sure Meg Cabot would have, too, if they’d been more prevalent when she wrote the Boy series.

Tweets. Talk about capitalizing on an emerging trend. Teresa Medeiros wrote GOODNIGHT TWEETHEART when Twitter was really picking up speed. The book isn’t entirely written in tweets, but I’d say it’s probably 70 percent. It’s already so important to make each word count, but when each person has to fit their side of the conversation into 140 characters, it amps up the pressure. I imagine she must have written the book with Twitter open to count her characters. I admit there were a couple of times I counted the entries that looked longer. She didn’t go over!

What interesting formats have you encountered in your reading? Any others to add?