The End of YA?

I think Harry Potter and Twilight popularized the YA genre, one which is coveted by many. Readers adamantly defend YA’s depth, maturity, and optimism, themes which many YA proponents claim are not reflected in general fiction. Due to this, many readers opt to read a YA novel over fiction. I was once such a reader, but I have found myself changing.

It started when I came home from college on Fall Break. The prospect of being reunited with my bookshelf was too much to handle. On top of that, I had five whole days with no responsibilities which equated to five interrupted days of reading. Upon getting home, I sat in front of my bookcase for twenty-five minutes attempting to find a book which suited my interests. To my surprise, I picked a regular fiction novel. And then, another fiction novel. And again, another fiction novel. Surprised, I assumed that by Thanksgiving break I would be back in some YA. I wasn’t it. This pattern has seemed to repeat itself with each novel I pick up.

Is this the end of YA for me? I don’t know. What I do know, is that I picked up The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong just recently, a YA novel featuring paranormal elements, and I found the book to be loathsome. To be honest, I am curious. Is this the end of YA for me? Or are my book tastes diversifying? Or am I maturing? To be honest, I don’t know.

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Book Review: If He Had Been With Me

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If he had been with me everything would have been different…

I wasn’t with Finn on that August night. But I should’ve been. It was raining, of course. And he and Sylvie were arguing as he drove down the slick road. No one ever says what they were arguing about. Other people think it’s not important. They do not know there is another story. The story that lurks between the facts. What they do not know—the cause of the argument—is crucial.

So let me tell you…-Goodreads summary

Publication Date: April 1, 2013.

Favorite Quote from the Book:

“I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again.” 

My Thoughts:

Don’t be fooled by my favorite quote; this book is not about the love of books.  However, the main character, Autumn is an avid reader and writer so there are many quotes in this book dedicated to her two passions which I find most enjoyable.

I purchased this book on a whim from Amazon because it was priced for approximately $3—a bargain I could not pass.  Upon receiving the package, the book retired to my bookshelf for a year only to be picked up a couple of days ago.  As I have not heard much about this book, I went into the reading with little to no expectations.  Admittedly, I was hoping for a novel similar to 7 Souls, ones of my favorite books.  Yet, this book is far from that.  Rather than watching my protagonist try to defeat her death like in 7 Souls, Autumn discovers love and its implications and limitations.  Yes, very different than my slight anticipation.

Autumn is not a typical teenage girl.  She craves being different, enjoys being known as “the weird girl,” and is perfectly okay with settling.  Rather than find her irksome, the novel reveals reasons as to why she is so different from her peers, and it breaks the reader’s heart.  Throughout the novel, Autumn reveals pieces of herself to the audience which definitely demonstrates the many dimensions she has as a character.

While this revelation of Autumn is necessary, I, unfortunately, find it to be a bit too slow for my taste.  Many scenes were unnecessary.  There are frequent tense changes.  Other pivotal scenes are cut too short with little explanation.  Additionally, the ending, the most pivotal moment of the book, fell extremely short of my expectations.  I feel that Nowlin quickly wrote this ending scene and left it totally ambiguous that it is frustrating to readers.  Together, these elements make the novel a bit frustrating to me at times. 

Despite my frustrations, Nowlin’s writing is decently easy to follow and rather addicting.  While I read this book, I got lost for hours in this world many times.  This book is a great summer read that you can quickly finish.    

My Rating:

★★★ 3/5 stars!

Recommendation:

I’d recommend this to those who enjoy realistic and contemporary young adult fiction.

 

The iPhone of Books

You know the book model to which I referring.  Girl meets boy.  Boy is flawless.  Girl and boy begin an immediate attraction and relationship within the first 75 pages.  Bad boy enters scene.  Girl swoons over bad boy.  Girl begins a flirtatious escapade with bad boy while maintaining her relationship with angelic boy.  Girl must choose one boy.  Girl chooses who we all knew she was going to pick.

As someone who reads a lot of YA, I have become pretty familiar with this formula.  This model is so implanted in 70% of YA fiction that I’m beginning to reconsider deeming these novels as “creative writing.”

As certain YA books receive popularity, I see more authors yearning to receive similar attention; this is where the book model strengthened and multiplied.  Obviously, the popular authors must be doing something correct; therefore, aspiring authors must imitate.  Unfortunately, popular authors gain their recognition from developing innovating ideas.  It’s like when the iPhone hit the shelves.  It was a new touch screen smartphone capable of things that other phones never were able to do.  Other phone companies saw Apple’s raging success and sought to make similar smart phones.  However, let’s be frank.  the iPhone is always the smart phone because it was first.  Therefore, these other aspiring authors are falling in the shadows of the popular authors because readers have already read “this book” before.

To all aspiring authors, the writing process is discouraging.  However, readers appreciate the iPhone of books.  Do not be constricted to a book model; make your own.  Then, you’ll have everyone wanting to copy your book model.

Myth Busters: The “Reading Slump”

All over the internet, my fellow bibliophiles succumb to this virus known as the reading slump.  Before I continue, let’s broadly describe a reading slump as a period of lacking the desire(s) to read.  Anyway, many people use this term, reading slump, to blame their lower completed book counts.  At times, I find myself admitting that I’m in a reading slump.  Lately, though, this term has started to irk me.

A bibliophile is one who loves reading.  As a football players loves to play football, a bibliophile loves to read.  For us, reading offers temporary moments of escape from our chaotic lives.  Therefore, reading becomes a hobby and passion which means our moments to read should be enjoyable moments for us.  

Now, whenever I hear people use the term “reading slump” to describe their inability to currently read, I cringe.  To me, the use of this term subliminally alludes to reading being more a chore and less of a hobby and passion.  Unfortunately, I think many of us get caught up in the numerical book challenges and lose reading’s true intentions which is to provide pleasure.  Therefore, I think using the excuse, “Oh, I’m in a reading slump,” is a way for us find a scapegoat for our lack of reading to our fellow bibliophile peers.  This leads me to believe that reading slumps are not a “thing,” and I believe it is time we embrace the fact that we are human beings who have very busy lives.  Our hobbies and passions are not limited to one activity (reading).  Rather, we should embrace these different activities to become more well-rounded individuals.  So, what??  You haven’t read in two days but decided to watch the first whole season of Sherlock?  Good for you!  I hope you enjoyed your time!

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many books you completed and how many pages you read in a month, what truly matters is the content that you read.  Perhaps you read a novel this month that filled you with an immense feeling of evangelical zeal that you cannot fathom picking up a new novel for the next few weeks for fear of disappointment.  Don’t worry about it!  Honestly, we read for the content, not the numbers.  So, fellow bibliophiles, happy reading!

The “Reading Slump”: BUSTED!!  

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Publication Date: January 10, 2012.

Favorite Quote from the Book:

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” 

My Thoughts:

Sadly, I did not fall for the hype of this book like so many others.  To me, it was an average book.  It is not awful, but I do not deem it a favorite like so many others.

One aspect of this book that I can appreciate is John Green’s overall writing-style.  Having read Looking for Alaska (and also deeming it an “average book”), I can see how much Green has developed as a writer and author.  The prose in this book is phenomenal and some of the best in Young Adult literature.  Sentences and metaphors (which seemed to annoy many people) seamlessly flow together creating a relatively pleasant read for readers.

However, I could not let Green’s beautiful prose distract the content within the book.  Mainly, I have an issue between the romance of Augustus and Hazel.  Sadly, I would have to label their relationship as the stereotypical “insta-love.”  Since Green is such a renowned writer, I never believed he would stoop to writing insta-love in his stories, but I appear to be wrong.  In my opinion, I think the novel would have been better if Augustus and Hazel remained friends.  For a majority of their relationship, they acted as merely best friends and less like lovers.  I feel as though Green included the romance element in the book to make the story more heart-wrenching.  Simply, the romance is a distraction for a majority of this plot.

One of the biggest issues Augustus and Hazel face is their battles with cancers.  However, one is not completely aware of the severity of their cancers and what exactly their cancers entail.  Rather, the book placed a lot of emphasis on the “sick lovers” aspect.  When a child is diagnosed with cancer, falling in love is one of the last things on their mind.  There’s issues of treatments, finances, and death.  These are so overwhelming that a sick child cannot even begin to comprehend or tackle a relationship in the way Augustus and Hazel did.  I hate to say this, but it is a rather unrealistic portrayal of children with cancer; I know Green is highly praised for his realistic portrayal of teens, but this just wasn’t cutting it for me.

Additionally, I found the dialogue between Hazel and Augustus to be unlikely for two teenagers.  Do not get me wrong, Hazel and Augustus’s conversations are beautifully written and make great quotes, but no teenager talks so eloquently.  Admittedly, I cringe for the day when I will read the word “swag” in a young adult book, but at least that’s how some teenagers talk.  A majority of the young adult population talks in slang, and many do not possess the knowledge or vocabulary that Augustus and Hazel exhibit throughout this book.  In my opinion, Augustus and Hazel are character versions of Green himself; I have nothing against Green, but there is a slight generation gap between him and teenagers which make his “typical conversations” very improbable to the conversations high school students have.

I do not want people to get me wrong.  I appreciate this book.  In fact, I firmly believe there need to be more books written about cancers, diseases, and illnesses.  Unfortunately, many Young Adult authors write books with perfect characters, perfect worlds, and perfect situations when this is hardly the case in many teens’ lives.  Many teenagers struggle with a variety of imperfections, and Young Adult authors should strive to demonstrate the commonality that exists in their problems.  After all, reading unites us!  However, I think that The Fault in Our Stars, while it details the account of two children with cancer, fails to completely recognize that life isn’t always perfect.  I applaud Green for his attempt, and I encourage him and others to continue to write books to the younger generation that demonstrate the imperfections we all face.

Overall, this book is an average contemporary read for me.  It is probably not one that I will reread in the immediate future, but I will always appreciate it as it is the first novel that I have read about cancer.

My Rating:

★ ★★ 3/5 stars!

Recommendation:

I would recommend this book searching for a contemporary novel detailing illnesses.  I would not recommend this book to those wanting to read a beautiful love story as I feel like the relationship between Augustus and Hazel is more of a friendship.

Book Review: Projection

It’s time for a book review!  Tuesday Book Reviews are a part of my Daily Post; to learn more about it, click here.

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When 13-year-old Gretchen Harris’s mother is murdered at Gretchen’s 8th Grade graduation party, everyone in the town of Delphi, California, suspects a power struggle within the Oculus Society: Delphi’s version of the Junior League.  Gretchen’s best friend, Jessica Shaw, might even hold the key to finding the culprit with The Plotinus Ability: the Oculus Society’s jealously guarded secret power to trade souls, which hinges on a kiss. Gretchen’s hope at finding the murderer ends in tragedy when Ariel Miller—the class outcast—stalks Gretchen and Jessica and surreptitiously films them exchanging a kiss to test if the Plotinus Ability is real, not knowing their motives. The ensuing YouTube video (“Popular Girls = Secret Lovers”) goes viral, Gretchen’s and Jessica’s lives are further shattered, and they vanish from Delphi.

Flash forward two years later: Ariel is suddenly the most popular junior in town, but wracked with guilt over what she did to Gretchen and Jessica.  When both girls reappear after their mysterious absence, Ariel finds herself pawn, suspect, and key player in their scheme to bring the murderer to justice.-Goodreads summary

Expected Publication Date: September 3, 2013.

Preorder your copy here: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository

Favorite Quote from the Book:

‘Our trust and our faith shall bring justice…This is the promise we solemnly keep.’

MY THOUGHTS:

Judge the Book by its Cover:

While I think the girl and overall design is beautiful, the book’s cover holds no relevance to the story.  In fact I believe that it is just a typical pretty YA cover designed with the intention to sell more books when it’s published.  It’s okay but not one of the best.

Things that Made Me Happy:

I absolutely loved how this book was told through dual plots: the ancient Romans’ invention and use of projection and the modern society’s continuation of projection.  Creatively, Green conceived this magical act of projection, the power to trade souls with another person, in the early Roman Empire.  While women were suppressed in this society, this power gave them a sense of sovereignty against the men’s oppressive authority.  Since then, women had secretly passed this power among generations, where it was found in the modern times of this book.  Still, women honored this power and found it was fundamental to their lives.  Both the ancient women and current women created a strong sense of female empowerment that made for a great read.

This book was full of many plot twists, which were unexpected by readers.  Combined with the tense mystery element, the plot’s zigzagged development constantly kept the audience on their toes in anticipation for what was to come. Nothing was predictable, which made for an overall entertaining read.

Wow, what a gripping ending.  Initially I was concerned within the last 50 pages because I felt that the novel would end unresolved; however, the novel quickly pieced together that created an intricate sub-plot story, which was entertaining and riveting. 

Things that Made Me Unhappy:

At times I felt that there were inconsistencies to the personalities of the characters, as if they were not fully developed.  While their development was not terrible, I believed that Green had the potential to create more three dimensional characters.  Considering this book was a mystery novel, implementing deeper well-developed characters would have further enhanced the mystery element and generated more suspicions.  Overall, their actions and mannerisms never fully created genuine characters, which was frustrating.

Lastly, Green overemphasized the true criminal.  Suddenly, all of his or her actions became suspicious, which aided in my belief that the people in this book sometimes acted out of character.  It was upsetting, as I was hoping for a more unsuspecting mystery.  While placing together the final pieces of the puzzle and capturing the criminal were fantastic, the suspect’s actions became increasingly annoying as they were too obvious and detracted from the mystery elements, which created more of a suspense novel.

My Rating:

★★★★ 4/5 stars!

Recommendation:

I’d recommend this book to those who enjoy simplistic young adult suspense and mystery novels.

*This book was sent to me via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!* 

Mention Monday: Red Riding Hood

Mention Monday is the day where I give a book recommendation.  Additionally, they are a part of my Daily Post; to learn more about it, click here.

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The blacksmith would marry her.
The woodcutter would run away with her.
The werewolf would turn her into one of its own.

Valerie’s sister was beautiful, kind, and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home.

After her sister’s violent death, Valerie’s world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the Wolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no one is safe. When an expert Wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them–it could be anyone in town.

It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of the creature. The Wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes…or everyone she loves will die.

Based on a screenplay written by David Leslie Johnson.-Goodreads summary

After reading this book I was extremely dumbfounded with how to rate and review it.  One one hand the book frustrated me.  The beginning was a tad slow.  The plot summary ruins a huge plot twist.  The book was a piece of advertisement for the then upcoming movie.  And, yes, it involves a stereotypical love triangle with paranormal elements to complicate matters.  

Beyond this I was hooked.  I adored all of the characters; since there was a huge mystery element in this book, I found myself questioning every character and his or her motive.  Since every character fell under suspicion, their life stories became imperative to solving the mystery.  Not only did this generate interest in the characters, it also gave the characters depth-something I believe is imperative in successful character development.

Additionally, I enjoyed how the overall mystery was completely unpredictable; it left me with my jaw dropped and the inability to read for a few days.

While not many people like the complete novel, I enjoyed these elements of the story.  For some reason these aspects enabled me to look beyond the “typical frustrations” and appreciate its good portions.  No it is not a groundbreaking YA novel, but it is an enjoyable read-one that I read in one sitting, and for these reasons I would recommend this book.

*What is a book that you would recommend?  Comment below!*