THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

4/5

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 3.12.38 PMSo, I’m really on the fence with Fangirl. I enjoyed reading it — hence the 4/5 — but once I put it down I felt a little…meh. I didn’t quite dislike it — I just doubt I’ll ever read it again.

I guess I’ll start with the things I liked. First, the relationship between the MC, Cath, and her twin sister, Wren. It’s the twins’ first year of college and Wren is ready to branch out and make some new friends, while anxiety-prone Cath feels left behind. Very realistic dynamic. I also liked Cath’s relationship with her father, who suffered from bipolar disorder (I’m assuming), and with her roommate Reagan.

But while I liked all the relationships, I’m not sure I liked Cath herself. She felt a bit… whiny, I guess. Nothing was ever her fault, she was always the victim, and she didn’t seem to change or grow that much over the course of the book. And while I love love love to see portrayals of mental illness in YA books, I have no sweet clue what Cath is supposed to be portraying. Generalized anxiety disorder? Social anxiety disorder? Avoidant personality disorder? If you know (maybe Rowell has clarified somewhere?) feel free to let me know in the comments.

Honestly, at the end of the day, I think this is just a classic case of It’s Not You, It’s Me. This is a great book, and I can totally understand why so many people love it. It’s just not for me. I found the Simon Snow snippets boring, I couldn’t really relate to Cath, and I think it ran about 10 or 20K too long. But this is just my opinion — if you’ve read it, feel free to sound off in the comments, and if you haven’t, pick up a copy and see what you think 🙂

Happy reading!

xo Elizabeth

 

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THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

4/5

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.33.33 PMI’m branching out from YA/NA reviews with this little gem — Neil Patrick Harris’s autobiography, Choose Your Own Autobiography – a second person POV autobiography written like a Choose Your Own Adventure book (!!!).

So, yeah. Needless to say, it’s amazing. Even if the content weren’t interesting (which it is), the mere interactivity of it, with pathways that lead you to drowning in quicksand with Big Bird at your side… it’s just a hoot and a half. It’s fun without being gimmicky (or maybe it’s so blatantly gimmicky that it’s fun?) and the second person POV works brilliantly.

The only hiccup preventing a 5/5 is not NPH’s error, but my own. I downloaded this and read it on my (er, 2007) Kindle, which for some reason would not let me move within the book that easily, resulting in lots of grumbling as I flipped through things I’d already read. So if you decide to read this, I would recommend buying the hardcopy. Or maybe just reading it on an eReader that is not from like, the ice age.

If you’d like to buy NPH’s awesome book in hardcopy, click here.

If you’d like to hear me rant about second person POV, click here.

If you’d like to watch a video of an abusive baby goat, click here.

xo Elizabeth

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Half Bad by Sally Green

4/5

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 10.49.15 AMSixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late.”

So, let me first say, this description did not really appeal to me. It sounds kind of vague and dry, but the book had gotten so much buzz, and I’m always on the hunt for YA/NA with male protagonists – so, I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did, because Half Bad is pretty darn good. (I really really wanted to say “it’s not half bad!” but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.)

The main character, Nathan, is pretty likeable, his sister Jessica is deliciously awful, and the rest of the side characters are great (although does anyone else sort of dislike Annalise, for no specific reason? No? Just me? Mmk). Honestly, the whole thing is very well-written, and I would have no qualms recommending it to anyone looking for a great YA read.

That being said, can anyone explain to me why the first few chapters (and then a few random chapters in the middle) are written in second person while the rest is in first person?? It’s not that I didn’t like it, exactly, I’m just confused. Is it just a gimmick, or is there some sort of meaning to it that I’m missing? Anyone??

xo Elizabeth

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

4/5

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 10.00.45 PMSo, I realize I’m a little late to this party. I’ve heard people talking about this book for quite some time, but I only just got around to reading it this week, on a flight back from DC (shout out to my weird seatmate who alternated between blatantly reading over my shoulder and elbowing me in the side as he enthusiastically played Candy Crush).

And honestly, after reading it, I’m torn. About 95% of me absolutely loved it — it was so original and clever, and the main character, Tana, was fantastic. I was SO close to giving this 5/5 stars, but unfortunately, the 5% I didn’t like kept nagging at my brain.

For one thing, I think it should have been written in first person. I hate saying that, because I’m bored to tears with all the first person YA, but in this book, I think it would have worked brilliantly. To me, it actually felt like it might have been written in first person originally, then changed. There were also a couple of awkward moments where it jumped from third-person close to third-person omniscient.

Another thing that bothered me were the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I just found them a little bit too showy, like they were trying too hard to be meaningful — but that’s completely a personal thing.

And last but not least, there was Tana’s little sister, Pearl. I feel like this is a under-recognized YA cliche — the little sister who we (the readers) are supposed to love, simply by virtue of the fact the main character loves her. Like The Hunger Games‘ Prim — do we ever see any evidence that Prim is worth all the trouble Katniss goes through? I don’t think so. And in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I really liked the main character, Tana, but her little sister Pearl annoyed me to no end. I skimmed impatiently through each of her (mercifully short) chapters. But I’m a huge cynic, so this one’s probably on me 😉

Anyway — at the end of the day, this is all super nit-pitcky stuff, and should in no way deter you from reading this fantastic book. The writing is brilliant, the characters are vivid and unique, and the romance is awesome. An easy 4/5 — and the closest I’ve come to giving something 5/5 in quite some time.

Read and enjoy!

xo Elizabeth

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Hushed by Kelley York

4/5

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 2.03.12 PMOh, this book… what fun. Creepy, serial killer fun, but fun nonetheless.

I decided to download this after reading the review over on Writability — it was about twelve midnight, and I had to work the next morning at five (med school: I would not recommend it). I thought I’d read a few chapters and see if it was any good.

Cut to two hours later, when I finally finished it and went to bed. What a fun, addictive little read. It’s a bit creepy (the main character is a Dexter-esque serial killer), and the event that kicked off his killing spree is quite dark (and might be off-putting for some readers, just a warning). But it isn’t so dark/creepy that you put it down feeling icky.

In terms of writing, it wasn’t perfect — there were a few things I thought could have been fleshed out a little more, and I felt some of it suffered from White Room Syndrome — but overall it was fun and interesting and unique. And it gets two huge thumbs-up for diversity. It’s quite a tricky feat, walking the line between a NA LGBT romance and an eerie serial killer story, but Kelley York pulled it off quite nicely.

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

4/5

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.35.18 PM

All right, so, I feel like I’m going to enrage die-hard Eleanor & Park fans by only giving this a 4/5, but I’m hoping you’ll all hear me out.

Honestly, I think this is an excellent book. It’s unique, it’s engaging, and its characters are believable. Eleanor, in particular, shines. She’s not always likeable (who is?) but she’s sympathetic and realistic. And I loved that she was fat. Not ‘curvy’, not ‘she thinks she’s fat but she’s really a goddess’, but actually overweight. If I had a teen daughter/son, I would force-feed them this book (“See, kids? It’s not only glittery vampires** who fall in love. Real-life people do it too.”)

So, why am I only giving it a 4/5? Well, mostly because I’m saving my 5/5s for books that I, personally, could not put down. Books that I stayed up till 3AM to finish, even though I had to work at 5AM the next day. I liked Eleanor & Park – and I can see why so many people love it – but I didn’t stay up till 3AM to finish it. And I think there’s one simple reason for that.

I’m old.

I mean, okay, I’m not actually old. I’m 25. But inside, I’m about 80. And – confession time – I’m kind of over teen romance. I know, I know – being a YA writer who’s bored of YA romance is kind of like being a soccer player who’s sick of running. But it’s true. Exchanging mixed tapes, giving long passionate speeches about why you love someone, using words like ‘endless’ and ‘eternity’… it’s all just a little much for me. I’ve been with my boyfriend – now fiancé – for several years now, and I’m of the old-fashioned opinion that real-life love is a lot less dramatic. It’s explaining why you’re annoyed, instead of being sulky and moody until they ask you what’s wrong. It’s driving them to work at 5AM even though it’s your only day to sleep in (and only complaining about it a little). It’s a million little boring things that would put my 16-year-old self to sleep.

So, at the end of the day, did I like Eleanor & Park? Yes. Would I recommend it? Definitely. Did I fall head over heels in love with it and want to make it a mixed tape? Well, no.

But maybe if I was 16.

xo Elizabeth

**Full disclosure: I have never actually read Twilight. But the vampires in that glittered or sparkled or something, didn’t they?