Friday, August 31, 2012

Jessica Darling: The High School Years

Well...I'm trying something new again this week! I've seen a lot of bloggers do a series review, so I decided to give one a try. Since you all know how "good" I am at writing short reviews, I thought I'd split up this series, which takes place over a ten-year span, into multiple sections of Jessica Darling's life. I hope you enjoy it, despite its length, and don't worry - there are no spoilers for the first novel in my review of the second book, hence the reason it's much shorter. I'd love to know what you think of this series review as I am planning on doing one for the Lux Series so far as well (Obsidian and Onyx), so do leave me some feedback about how you find the formatting! Would you prefer if I just quoted the summary from GoodReads, like I did with my mini-reviews earlier this week? Let me know! :)

Title: Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling, #1) 

Author: Megan McCafferty 

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

If you haven’t heard of the Jessica Darling Series before then…well, you’ve been living under a rock, that’s what. If, however, you’re like me and have seen the gushing reviews for this all over the place and somehow never picked it up…well, don’t make the same mistake I did of waiting for months before reading this: pick it up now. Seriously, this series is just that good. It’s funny, it’s quirky, and it’s hilarious, but it is also deep, provocative, compelling, and is most certain to strike a cord within your heart.

When Hope, Jessica’s best friend moves away, Jessica is heart-broken. She must now suffer through sophomore year alone, stuck with a group of “friends” who she secretly despises, a mother who is more concerned about her lack of a boyfriend than anything else, a father who is constantly behind her back to train for track, a sister who is getting married in a matter of months, and bad-boy Marcus Flutie who is giving her an unusual amount of attention. It might just be sophomore year, but Jessica is stressed beyond belief and she must struggle to find who she is beneath all the layers of ‘fake’ she wears to please everyone else in her life.

Jessica Darling has quickly become one of my favorite protagonists of all time. I kid you not; Jessica is sensible, she is intelligent, she is sarcastic, she is quirky, she is funny without meaning to be, she is dramatic when she wants to be, she is observant, and she is so afraid to be herself that I just want to give her a hug. Jessica Darling is like every teenage girl in the world; she has her insecurities, her embarrassing moments, her random crushes on older guys, her difficulties with finding true friendships, her bad days, and the days when she just wants to get rid of her family altogether. I don’t think I’ve ever clicked with a protagonist so easily and I loved that about Jessica. I loved that she could understand me and I could understand her and more than a book-character-and-reader friendship, it felt more like a best-friend-friendship. Jessica’s narration is one that you cannot help but love and believe me, you won’t want her story to end or stop; you’ll just want to keep reading, even until the early hours of dawn.

While Sloppy Firsts is an utterly character-driven novel, steered by a protagonist I absolutely loved and who wasn’t afraid to point out and notice all the flaws in herself, what made me love this novel as much as I did were the issues it undertook. Admit it: High School was the worst four years of your life. It’s a jungle of people trying to fit in and 99% of the people you meet only care about themselves; so really, it’s just a brutal climb to the top of the social ladder or, if you attend my high school, the top of the ‘Highest GPA’ ladder. So, while many novels tackle on the hidden truths behind real high schools, I feel as if McCafferty does it the best. She does it in a way that is funny, but also drives her point across. She uses Jessica not only as a character that is easy to understand, but one that is easy to look up to, admire, take inspiration from and learn from as well, which I love. Sloppy Firsts is not only the type of book you finish wanting to read it again (or pick up the sequel because of its cliffhanger ending), but it is also the type of book you finish feeling wiser about the world in general and I love that. It isn’t just another chick-flick-high-school-drama – it has a purpose and it fulfills that purpose beautifully.

Nevertheless, the best part about Sloppy Firsts is the fact that the two most influential people in Jessica’s life, Hope and Marcus, are conspicuously absent for most of it. Hope is literally in a different state, but Marcus (who is so sweet and smart and funny and ohmygosh swoooon) only makes an appearance during the second-half of this novel. I loved this, simply because it left so much more room for Jessica to grow and learn by herself. Furthermore, sometimes, the best people in our lives aren’t and simply can’t always be with us, which I found so realistic. Even your crush, who you think is always with you, is really only in your brain 99% of the time. Seriously, think back to all your crushes – how many times did you really interact? While Marcus and Jessica interact quite a bit in the second-half of this story, they have their distances too which I appreciated. I loved how their romance was a slow build-up of the sexual tension between them, a deeper understanding of their personality, and the ability to make a marked impact on each others lives. In other words, it totally sucked me in and I’m flying high off the drug character that is Marcus Flutie.

In summary, Sloppy Firsts is a must-read. It’s a novel that you will instantly connect with, instantly love, and will constantly re-read. It’s funny while tackling serious issues, hilarious while representing a true form of high school and teenage life, and it has one of the best female heroines to grace Contemporary YA Fiction. Far from being sloppy, Sloppy Firsts is a riveting beginning to a series that is sure to become a favorite and will leave you anxiously waiting for more. (I do mean this in the literal sense because until you get your hands on Second Helpings, you will lose sleep over Marcus and Jessica. You don’t think characters can affect your life so deeply? Yeah, tell me that after you finish this novel!)

Title: Second Helpings (Jessica Darling, #2) 

Author: Megan McCafferty 

Rating: 4 Stars

I have to admit it: Sloppy Firsts was better. Yet, that doesn’t mean that Second Helpings wasn’t a brilliant follow-up novel, because it was! Jessica Darling is back and this time, she’s about to start her senior year of high school. Hope, her best friend, is still miles away from her, her mother still wants her to find a boyfriend, her sister is now expecting a baby, her relationship with her father continues to get worse, and to make matters worse, it’s time to apply for college. If that wasn’t enough on her plate, Jessica wants to can’t think of Marcus Flutie…not after what happened before. Thus, Jessica’s last year of high school starts and if you thought Jessica had things figured out after Sloppy Firsts, think again!

So, why was Second Helpings not as good as Sloppy Firsts? It has the same quirky and hilarious narration, the same unforgettable characters, the same high school problems…so what changed? Well, I guess in one word, it would be…Jessica. I still love Jessica Darling to death and she seriously is my literary-soul-sister, but Jessica’s thoughts begin to change in this one. For one, she begins to think about sex way too much. Nope, she isn’t having sex, she’s just thinking about it on practically every other page, which is not only vastly unrealistic, but became rather annoying too. I felt as if some of the discussions she had about sex were even repeated from time-to-time and was rather confused about this new direction of thought. Furthermore, there was one rather predictable mystery in this story that Jessica took awhile to pick up on, so while it didn’t ruin the story in the least, it was a little disappointing to see such an intelligent character fail to see something this obvious.

Nevertheless, those petty qualms aside, I devoured Second Helpings in a matter of hours. Jessica is still struggling between being who she is and fitting in at high school – a conflict I found equally as compelling in this sequel. I really liked that despite her growth, Jessica still had so much more to learn, not only in school, but from her family at home too. McCafferty shows us this so perfectly that we can’t help but love Jessica, even for all her flaws and mistakes in this book.

Marcus Flutie (*cue swoons*) also plays a larger role in this novel, but perhaps not as large as some readers would have liked. Yet, I loved this aspect of the book. Once again, the most influential people in Jessica’s life are absent, so whenever Marcus did make an appearance in this book, it was like a wonderful treat. I’ve never been a big fan of sexual tension or cheesiness, but I ate up the sexual tension in this one and grinned like an idiot at the eventual cheesiness at the end of this. I know, I know, Marcus Flutie has made me into a pile of gush, but I can’t even bring myself to care. I love the guy and even more than that, I love how McCafferty makes you see just how right these two are for each other.

Second Helpings has so much going on in it, but it’s a wonderful follow-up to Sloppy Firsts. It also has a conclusion that wraps everything up beautifully and leaves the reader utterly satisfied, so it will definitely be awhile before I pick up the next Jessica Darling book, Charmed Thirds. Still, I know that when I do read it, it’ll be like meeting an old friend all over again. McCafferty’s book are absolutely wonderful and I think part of the reason why I love them so much is because my best friend and I attend different schools as well, yet, she is still the most influential person in my life and I can connect with and understand Jessica on a deeper level because of it. Don’t worry though – Jessica has a little bit of everyone in her and there is no way you cannot fall in love with this series. Marcus Flutie will ensure that, even if Jessica doesn’t! ;) I really can’t recommend these books enough as they are absolutely hilarious and wonderfully quick reads at the same time, so I know this is one series I will constantly re-visit, even as I grow old. Yup, it’s just that good.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

ARC Review: Eve and Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant

Title: Eve and Adam 

Authors: Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant 

Rating: 3 Stars 

Release Date: October 2nd, 2012

Eve and Adam is...well, it wasn't what I was expecting. I went into this novel confident that it would be yet another sci-fi novel that would fail to surprise me and after the first few chapters, I thought I had the romance and plot figured out. Well...I hate to admit this, but I was wrong and I am so glad I was! Eve and Adam, contrary to my expectations, did manage to be an exciting, intriguing, and unique novel - all aspects that make it stand out in its over-populated genre. Yet, despite its redeeming qualities, I am sorry to say that in the end, I still felt as if Eve and Adam was simply...missing something.

Eve and Adam starts out with its main protagonist, Evening, getting into a bad car accident and consequently, barely surviving in a critical condition. When her mother, the owner of a well-known genetic research lab whisks her away from the hospital and to her own facilities, Evening doesn't question her. Instead, she heals at an alarmingly quick rate and resorts to working on one of her mother's latest gadgets - designing the perfect human. While there, Evening meets Solo, the handsome son of her mother's now-deceased business partners and an unlikely friendship is struck between the two. Yet, dangerous - and possibly illegal - things are happening at the research facility her mother owns and while the truth lays before her, Evening has to make the choice whether to accept it or not.

I've said it before, but it demands to be repeated: Eve and Adam was very unexpected. For one, I did not expect this novel to be told in dual narration, switching from the perspectives of both Evening and Solo and later on, Adam, the human Evening unknowingly helps create. Unfortunately though, this dual narration falls short simply because Evening's perspective is dominating. Solo has very few chapters dedicated to his narration which I believe is one of the more egregious flaws in this novel, simply because Solo's narration is far more interesting, compelling, and intriguing.

Yet, even beyond the issue of the narration, I was surprised to see that the first-half of this novel was practically entirely dedicated towards character-development. I am all for character-development, but nothing truly happened during the first-half of this story and everything that did happen revolved around Evening's best friend, Aislin. Aislin's boyfriend, Maddox, is involved with drugs and this issue is then used as an excuse for Solo and Evening to bond together while also developing the friendship between Evening and Aislin. I truly appreciated the friendship between Evening and Aislin - especially as the novel progressed - and I even liked how the relationship between Solo and Evening was developed quite well too, but I think this could have been done in a manner that contributed to the plot opposed to one that veered off from it rather randomly.

Thus, comparatively, the second-half of this story had a tight, concise, and fascinating plot that the first-half rather lacked. It was fast-paced and interesting, but it also showed the inner dilemma Evening faced between the truth of her mother's genetic facility and her own confused feelings towards a mother who obviously loved her, but never spent enough time and affection on her. I especially loved this conflict as well as the issues that stemmed between Aislin and Evening as well as between Solo and Evening. I think more than just the plot of the second-half, the relationships took an interesting turn that I definitely wasn't expecting and I loved that. What else wasn't I expecting? Well, let's just say that there's a major jaw-dropping moment nearing the end of this novel that completely made my day. It took me completely by surprise and although I think I should have seen it coming, the fact that I didn't went in favor of this story.

Still, despite the fact that I enjoyed reading this novel immensely, I have to reiterate that it lacked something; something was simply missing to take this incredible idea from a great concept to great execution. I doubt that many others will have this same feeling, but for a reader who plans on becoming a Biology Major with a specialization in Genetics, I just wanted more. I loved the setting and idea for this novel, but I wished we could have gotten more details, particularly about the genetic lab. We are told that horrible things occur in this facility, from green pigs to dogs with human ears, which is obviously disgusting and terrible, but I never quite felt the horror we were meant to experience. Furthermore, I wanted Eve and Adam to focus on the motivations behind these scientists, on the corporate politics clearly taking place in this situation, on what other functions the lab served for, etc. It simply could have given us so many more details and the lack of world-building made this story feel flat to me, so I wasn't exactly invested in  this.

Overall, Eve and Adam is a remarkable story that is unique, intriguing, and definitely has its fair share of plot twists. Yet, in the end, it is also a novel that seems to lack just a little something more to take it from good to great. While I wasn't overly impressed with this book, I am still curious enough to want to pick up the sequel, especially due to all the unanswered questions the reader is left with at the end of this novel. It is a short story and one that I wish could have had a little more in it as it had the potential to be a lovely stand-alone, but I'm interested to see in which direction its plot goes. It also helps that there isn't a love triangle at all in this one and that the characters and lively, headstrong, vivacious, and actually intelligent. Eve and Adam has a lot going for it and I am confident that even newcomers to the science-fiction genre will fall in love with this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This meme highlights some of the books whose releases bloggers are most anticipating this year.

The book whose release I am most excited for this week is...

Title: Chantress
Author: Amy Butler Greenfield
Release Date: May 7th, 2013
Sing and the darkness will find you. Shipwrecked on an island seven years ago, Lucy has been warned she must never sing, or disaster will strike. But on All Hallows Eve, Lucy hears tantalizing music in the air. When she sings it, she unlocks a terrible secret: She is a Chantress, a spell-singer, brought to the island not by shipwreck but by a desperate enchantment gone wrong. Her song lands her back in England — and in mortal peril, for the kingdom lies in the cruel grasp of a powerful Lord Protector and his mind-reading hunters, the Shadowgrims. The Protector has killed all Chantresses, for they alone can destroy the Shadowgrims. Only Lucy has survived. In terrible danger, Lucy takes shelter with Nat, a spy who turns her heart upside-down. Nat has been working with his fellow scholars of the Invisible College to overthrow the Lord Protector, and they have long hoped to find a living Chantress to help them. But Lucy is completely untrained, and Nat deeply distrusts her magic. If Lucy cannot master the songspells, how long can she even stay alive? Beguiling and lyrical, dangerous and romantic, Chantress will capture readers in a spell they won’t want to break.
*hyperventilates* I know many of you will find this hard to believe, considering how many contemporary, paranormal, and dystopian novels I constantly read, but fantasy is my favorite genre. Ever. So, needless to say, I am extremely excited about this one. While I'm not a huge fan of the color pink, and the cover definitely has that in abundance, I think it's a beautiful and eye-catching cover that really pops out at you. Yet, even better is the fact that Lucy, the main character, seems to have unique abilities! I feel as if her gift is a combination of the mythology surrounding sirens and time travel - both which I love. Plus, a tyrannical leader who has killed off those with powers, a love interest who is also a spy, and a rebellion in the making? Gosh, can May 2013 come any sooner? I can't even express how excited I am about this so I hope it lives up to all my expectations and some ARCs start trickling in soon! :)

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? 
FYI - I'm at Six Flags with some friends today, so it'll take me awhile to get back to your posts. I will check them all out though, so please leave a link for me to visit! :D

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ARC Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Title: Crewel (Crewel World, #1) 

Author: Gennifer Albin 

Rating: 2.5 Stars 

Release Date: October 16th, 2012

I think we’re all familiar with the saying, “It’s not you, it’s me!” and while I would love to claim that my disappointed feelings concerning this book stem from me, and not the book itself, I honestly don’t think I can. Yes, my unusually prolific knowledge on dystopian and science-fiction novels definitely played a role in my lack of amazement at the so-called creativity of this novel and that same understanding enabled me to predict the ending of this novel far before the half-way mark of this book was even reached, but overall, I really do think it’s the book as well, not just me. Yet, then again, with my reputation of being a black sheep, you could just say this book wasn’t for me, but who knows? Ultimately, the point is that Crewel was a disappointing read with a lot of potential which failed to live up to the immense amount of hype surrounding it.

Adelice lives in Arras, a world where unmarried women with weaving talents, known as Spinsters, can control time and matter. Ever since she was young, Adelice has discovered that she has this power as well, but she has struggled to keep it suppressed due to her parent's fear of Adelice becoming separated from her family and taken away to the lone towers where the Spinsters live their lives. On the day of testing, however, Adelice fails to fail and when The Guild, the totalitarian government which controls every aspect of their lives, comes to take her away, her parents force her to run away. Nevertheless, Adelice is soon caught and taken to become a Spinster where she causes as much trouble as she possibly can. Yet, as she will soon find out, there is more to The Guild than what meets the eye and her parents just may have been on to something when they begged her to run away…

Wow, a dystopian novel where women control time? Awesome! Original! Creative! Riiight? Wrong. I’ve heard all those three words used to described this novel, but in reality, Crewel is no different from any other dystopian book. We have our classic government which controls everything, from who you marry to what you study to what you eat and how many children you have. We all know that dystopian novels are about fixing the wrongs on Earth and restoring control, so really, this is nothing new. Furthermore, the whole idea of being able to kill people at mere whim isn’t anything new either! Lois Lowry did it in The Giver, Kurt Vonnegut did it in his short story “2 B R 0 2 B” and I’m sure countless other authors have done it in the past as well. While I’m not denying that Crewel does have an immense amount of originality in its conception – which we see only after the 50% mark of this novel has been passed – for the most part, this story just focuses on a dystopian government like any other. If anything, I found it to be formulaic and extremely typical, which was all rather disappointing.

Speaking of disappointments, I think the characters where what ruined this story for me. On the surface, Adelice is an amazing heroine – she’s a strong protagonist, she’s clever, she’s intelligent, and she sticks up for what she believes in. Yet, like any building, her foundation was off, which only made her overall character topple down as the story progressed. In Crewel, Adelice is credited for running away from The Guild on her own and for being a rebel – a role she quickly assumes without much reason. I think we were supposed to realize that the reason Adelice caused so much trouble was because her parents were killed, but this was hardly mentioned. It felt, to me at any rate, that she lacked true motivation for her actions and was falsely perceived as a rebel throughout the novel when she made it quite clear that she wouldn't have run away if it wasn't for her parents. Thus, the question for much of the novel which begs to be answered is why does Adelice do what she does and cause trouble for herself and for others as a Spinster when she doesn't even know why her parents hated The Guild? We never find out and while Adelice receives plenty of answers later, for the most part, her actions lack logical reasoning. 

In addition to Adelice though, the villains in this story were mediocre at best. If anything, they were predictable, unoriginal, and almost cartoon-like in their anger, misbehavior, and evil deeds. In general, they failed to impress me and didn’t add anything to this novel. Furthermore, they were vastly underdeveloped – much like the love interests in this story as well. Yes, that’s right, love interests, plural. We have, ladies and gentlemen, another love triangle on our hands! While this wasn’t as bad as some I’ve read previously, it was still extremely irritating. Still, I have to admit though that Jost was an extremely developed character and I loved him throughout the story, although I did think the “problem” between him and Adelice was way too easy to see coming. Erik, on the other hand, was as flat as paper and seemed to pine after Adelice for no reason, so that aspect of their romance irritated me. Overall though, the love triangle really could have been worse.

Crewel is one of those novels that had so much potential, but just fell flat. I really loved the manner in which Albin revealed to us that this novel was a dystopian and some of the cruelty she exposed and horrors of the The Guild and the life in Arras were beautifully written, as was the character of Adelice’s mentor. Yet, despite all those good qualities, it still remains that this novel was predictable, contained mostly underdeveloped characters, lacked originality, and had an extremely slow pacing to start with. I feel as if so much of the beginning could have just been cut out and if the second half of this was better edited, it would have been a much better story. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I’m going to continue with this series. I really do think I can predict most of what will occur in Book Two already, so that definitely does not bode well. If you haven’t read a lot of dystopian or science fiction novels in the past, I think this will blow you away, but if you have, this might just wind up being another typical dystopian story for you. Ultimately though, Crewel joins my pile of extremely disappointing reads – after all the hype, I think I was just expecting more.

Thank you to NetGalley and MacMillan for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for a honest review!  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mini Reviews: Endlessly, Wander Dust & Across the Universe!

I've decided to try something new and write a set of three mini-reviews. In all honesty, the only reason these reviews are mini-reviews are because two of these novels are DNF Novels for me and one of them is a the conclusion to a trilogy, so really how much can you say about that, right? I'm not very good at writing short reviews - in case you've noticed from the size of my reviews usually - but I hope you enjoy these, so be sure to leave me some feedback in case I decide to write some mini-reviews again in the future! :)

Title: Endlessly (Paranormalcy, #3) 
Author: Kiersten White
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Evie's paranormal past keeps coming back to haunt her. A new director at the International Paranormal Containment Agency wants to drag her back to headquarters. The Dark Faerie Queen is torturing humans in her poisonous realm. And supernatural creatures keep insisting that Evie is the only one who can save them from a mysterious, perilous fate. The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its fate rests solely in Evie's hands. So much for normal.
Endlessly was a wonderful conclusion to White’s debut series. While I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I loved Paranormalcy, it was much better than Supernaturally was and is the type of ending that leaves the reader wholly satisfied. I loved how plot lines from both the previous novels intertwined and came together in this stunning conclusion, forcing Evie to own up to her powers and use them once and for all.

I think what strikes me the most about this series, either than its quirky narration, is the romance. It’s not like most trilogies where a love triangle is prevalent and one team walks away grinning while the other team cries their eyes out after the third novel. Instead, Evie and Lend have been together ever since they fell in love in Paranormalcy and their relationship, while tinged with paranormal elements and disasters for sure, is also filled with normalcy. Furthermore, their love story grows throughout each novel and progresses through real conversation which I adore. It is evident, especially in this novel, that Evie and Lend accept each other for who they are and don’t expect one another to change. It’s a sweet and unique romance which is one of the primary reasons I love this series so much.

Evie too, is a formidable and fun protagonist and I love her relationships with each and every one of her friends. She yearns to be a normal teen and while she does face paranormal threats, her journey to find herself is just as compelling as each of our own. In addition, I think the best aspect of this book in particular was that White allowed her characters a chance at redemption. She made them far more realistic and three-dimensional in this manner by showing us that they weren’t all evil. I do have to point out though that this transition could have been more developed and some of the conversations featuring the Dark Queen were too cliché and overdone for my liking, but overall, Endlessly is an ending that will satisfy fans of this series and compel new readers to give this unique trilogy a go. I can’t wait to see what Kiersten White has planned next! Bleep! ;)

Author: Michelle Warren 
Rating: 2 Stars/DNF 
Ever since her sixteenth birthday, strange things keep happening to Seraphina Parrish. The Lady in Black… burns Sera’s memories. Unexplainable Premonitions… catapult her to other cities. The Grungy Gang… wants to kill her. And a beautiful, mysterious boy… stalks her. But when Sera moves to Chicago, and her aunt reveals their family connection to a centuries old, secret society, she is immediately thrust into an unbelievable fantasy world, leading her on a quest to unravel the mysteries that plague her. In the end, their meanings crash into an epic struggle of loyalty and betrayal, and she’ll be forced to choose between the boy who has stolen her heart and the thing she desires most. Wander Dust is the breathtaking fantasy that will catapult you through a story of time, adventure, and love.
Wander Dust is a novel that not too many people know of and now I can see why. I think my issues with this book stemmed, not from the book, but from myself. I have read more than my fair share of novels with protagonists performing strange/paranormal acts and then learning that they have magical powers, so I was extremely bored for the first third of this story when Seraphina Parrish goes back and forth in time and fails to realize that she is a time traveler.

Seraphina’s apparent stupidity aside, I just didn’t feel anything for her. This is a character who lost her mother at a young age and whose father is rude, mean, and virtually doesn’t care for her, but I still didn’t care about Seraphina. Somehow, the author failed to make me have that connection with her which I craved and if I don’t feel connected to a character within the first-half of a novel, the chances are slim that we’re really going to connect during the second-half.

Nevertheless, I think Wander Dust has potential and I might have moderately liked it or given it at least 2.5 or 3 Stars if I had finished it through. Its ideas are nothing original and its execution is bland, but non-prolific paranormal/fantasy readers would definitely find something to love within these pages, as would middle-grade readers. For me, however, this book was not.
Author: Beth Revis 
Rating: 2 Stars/DNF 
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.  Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next. Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming. 
I am sorry to say that I was extremely unimpressed by this novel. I read a little over half of it and found myself to be skimming it quite a bit when I realized that perhaps Across the Universe just wasn’t a novel for me. In fact, I think the best aspect of this book is its cover. Once you begin reading though, the characters of Amy and Elder are flat and lacking, the pace is slow and it takes the reader over a hundred pages to reach the dilemma hinted at in the synopsis, and the romance is your usual insta-love. In other words, while this novel may be set in space, it has absolutely nothing new to bring to the table.
I have to admit that I enjoyed the science fiction elements of this tale and find the concept extremely fascinating, but beyond that, the execution of this story fails to do justice to its ideas. Amy is, for the most part, asleep and her narration is unnecessary until she wakes up. Yet, we are given descriptions of her nightmares which play absolutely no role in the plot or development of Amy’s character. Elder, on the other hand, is quite irritating and falls in love with Amy because of her red hair, not to mention other lustful qualities about her appearance. I didn’t feel anything for these characters and can only question why this novel has been given so much hype.

If that wasn’t enough, the mystery element to this plot line is dull, lacking, and utterly predictable. I hate it when authors write as if their readers are stupid or don’t read between the lines, because we do! I can count on one hand the number of books whose plots I haven’t guessed this year and unfortunately, Across the Universe is not one of them. I’ve heard phenomenal things about this book and I am sure that this novel does merit the hype it gets; if, that is, you’re interested in a typical YA story which lacks character development, contains a huge dose of insta-love, and has a predictable plot line. Or, if those elements don’t bother you, you’ll like this. I, on the other hand, am dying for something original, creative, and new which I just didn’t find in this novel. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Giveaway Winners and Other Miscellaneous News!

If you're a regular follower on my blog, you'll have no doubt noticed that I hosted a plethora of giveaways which all happened to end this month. Thus, after much deliberation and excellent advice from my fellow bloggers who have had far more blogging experience than I have, I've decided to post a short, concise, and quick follow-up of all my winners and the novels they won! I would like to thank everyone for participating in all my giveaways - your enthusiasm is infectious!
Kristie won a signed paperback copy of Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren as well as three signed bookmarks! :)  
Elizabeth picked Such a Rush out of all the options I had offered, so she has hopefully received her copy by now. 
Laura wound up winning my most recent giveaway, so Jody Gehrman, the author of Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, will be sending her a copy of this book in the mail soon! 
Finally, Sarah from Catching Books won my 150 Followers Giveaway! I had a lot of entries for this one, so after confirming (nearly) all of them, she was the winner! Sarah picked to win a pre-ordered copy of Crewel by Gennifer Albin from the Book Depository, so that should reach her in October! 
I, personally, find Giveaway Winner Posts really boring, so I thought I'd just go ahead and share some blog news with you all that I probably wouldn't get an opportunity to do otherwise.

First and foremost, September is looming ahead which! What does this mean for the blog? Well, nothing much except for the fact that my posts will be less frequent. I have a ton of reviews I haven't posted as of yet, so I'm not too worried about the month of September, but following that, my posts will definitely become more sporadic. Also, my reading time is going to be reduced by nearly...well, 90% really. It's a tough and crucial school year ahead for me, so I'm going to do my best to keep up with everything and continue to blog as much as possible as it's something I truly love doing. Plus, I couldn't stop reading even if I tried! I'd either drop dead or go insane, so my blog will definitely be up and running despite the new school year! :)

So, with the news of school and classes, I've been thinking about requesting for a co-blogger. I know a lot of blogs have co-bloggers and some of these work really well such as The ReadventurerThe Reader's Den, CuddlebuggeryThe Nocturnal Library, The Midnight GardenVegan YA Nerds, and Young Adults Anonymous to name a few. All of these blogs are extremely successful and manage to co-blog with an ease that I envy and admire. I am actually a very solitary person, so I'm not sure how well co-blogging would work for me, but I would love to have a co-blogger to help out during the upcoming year. For me, co-blogging isn't a necessity so I may not even pick a co-blogger. I want to find someone who I can get along with very well, understand, and who shares a similar passion of books and reviewing like me. I tend to be the 'black sheep' of reviewing just about 85% of the time, so I definitely want a co-blogger who shares similar opinions and writes ridiculously long reviews like me. So, if you know anyone who would be interested to co-blog with me or you yourself want to co-blog with me on Ivy Book Bindings, send me an e-mail at with the following information:
- Name
- Blogging/Reviewing Experience as well as Preferred Genre
- 3-5 Sample Reviews
- Why you want to join Ivy Book Bindings
- Short paragraph about yourself, hobbies, favorite books, maybe even some favorite movies/TV Shows/music...anything to make me get to know you better
Once again, I have to re-iterate: a co-blogger is not a necessity to me. I don't know if I'll get any entries for co-blogging and even if I do, that doesn't necessarily mean I'll pick one. I really want to find a co-blogger who is just right for my blog. I'd love to have one, but it has to be someone I can get along with, trust, respect, and who I know will write reviews that are similar to what you expect from my blog. It's a delicate process and I admire all bloggers who have managed without a co-blogger and those who have made it with one as well, so let's see what category I fall into soon! ;)

Hmm...that's about it! If you have any thoughts/suggestions/comments on co-blogging or managing a blog during the school/work year, please do leave me comments! I'd love to know what you think! For me, both blogging and co-blogging are new ventures and I'd love any and all input you all have to provide, so thank you! :) 

Showcase Sunday (#10)

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicki at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week.

For Review: 
Eve and Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
I was so excited to get approved for these two, so thank you to NetGalley and MacMillan Press for these lovelies! :D

pic name pic name pic name
I had no idea this prequel existed until after I finished reading the firs two, but I can't wait to read it this week! I was originally planning a series review of this whole series since the third novel released in December, but apparently there are two more planned after that, so perhaps I'll just do a series review of these first three books. We'll see! :) 
I went into this totally expecting to hate it, and while it wasn't perfect at all and I hated Daemon throughout it, I still really enjoyed reading it surprisingly enough! 
I thought this was better than the first and Daemon totally won me over, although I did think Katy's personality suffered for the worse. Still, this was a great sequel and I can't wait for the next book. Seriously, cliffhangers = not cool!
I have to admit that this sequel wasn't as good as the first, but I still loved it. I'm planning on doing a review of these first two books, titled "Jessica Darling: The High School Years" this week, so look out for that! 
YES! I am so happy this finally arrived for me in the library today! I can't wait to read it, although I'm a little upset that I have some ARCs pending, not to mention all the beautiful books coming out this week, but I'm hoping to get to this soon! *fingers crossed* 
I've read just about three dozen reviews of this book and can't decide if it's good or bad. I feel as if most people have liked it, but in equally part, many people have hated it. I guess it's one of those, "like-it-or-hate-it" novels, so when I saw this in the library today, I figured I might as well give it a shot. What's the worst that could happen? Another snarky review? ;) 

Kindle Touch! 
I finally bought an e-reader! Yay! It's my birthday tomorrow, so I thought that better than any book would be an e-reader, and I was right! I've used my Kindle to read a ton of books already, not to mention NetGalley ARCs, and I love it! I was too lazy to take a picture of my own Kindle, complete with its shiny new cover, so I just used an internet image. Since I bought this though, I didn't pick up any new books although I might since there are so many wonderful releases coming out soon! :) 

What new books did you get this week? Link me up! :D

P.S. - If you actually bother to read my whole post, I'd love some advice! I had a whole bunch of giveaways recently, so would you like a post with all the winners names and the books they won or not? If you've won, I have already contacted you, but I was curious to see if people would actually be interested to know since many other bloggers do many posts like that. Thanks! :) 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Title: Why We Broke Up 

Author: Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket!)

Rating: 3.5 Stars

I read this novel last week, so I don’t remember much of how I felt while I read it, except from what I have to go by from my notes, but I do remember thinking, the very moment I finished it, that I hated it. I hated this book with a passion. Ironically, it wasn’t even because I didn’t like it – it was because I liked it so much, I was so sucked into this tale and its characters and wrapped up in this crazy, beautiful, teenage dream that was the life of the main character that I forgot what the title of this book was. I forgot how it doesn’t have a happy ending and I felt like a swift kick had been dealt to me. Why We Broke Up isn’t a particularly notable novel because of its unique letter-writing style or its colorful pictures that adorn the beginnings of every chapter or even the fact that it is written by Lemony Snicket. No, Why We Broke Up is notable simply because it is a character-driven novel of such remarkable talent that it makes you feel for the characters, drop into their skin and walk around in their worlds and although you feel completely like the main character herself, this book can’t help but make you recall your own past, your own first “loves”, your own stupidity, your own mistakes, and your own high school traumas. It’s not a book I’d usually enjoy and for much of this novel I was rather indifferent to it, but somewhere in the middle that all changed. Somewhere in the middle, this book ceased being about Min and started being about me or my friends or my family. It started morphing into a deep and provocative look into relationships, the cracks that form even from the beginning, the lies we pretend not to see, and the desperation we have to hold on and regain those blissful moments we had before. To simply put it, it was remarkable.

I think it’s a no brainer what happens at the end of this book: Min Green and Ed Slaterton break up. Min Green, our enigmatic protagonist who is obsessed with old movies, wants to become a director, and is so, so different from Ed Slaterton. Ed Slateron, our swoon-worthy romantic interest who is obsessed with basketball, has a cool older sister, and whose relationship with Min Green is so, so unexpected. When these two meet at a party, somehow, against all odds, they wind up falling for each other. Why We Broke Up is told from the perspective of Min as she writes Ed a letter, pouring her heart out and analyzing everything that went wrong in their relationship, one object at a time. Essentially, she tells them why they broke up and why their beautiful romance, which defied the very laws of high school hierarchy, was torn apart and ruined, despite its prior perfection.

If you’re worried about the narration style of this story, don’t be. It reads like a fluid story and I loved how Min would insert a small bit of cryptic bitterness at the end of nearly every chapter, explaining how that event in their relationship slowly led to her breakup with Ed. While I’ve said this before, I think it deserves repeating: I didn’t think I was invested in this story until I was forced to accept that I was. It’s one of those novels that creep up on you slowly and the characters gradually take their places in your heart. I loved Min – I mean, can she just be my best friend already? I loved how her passion for old movies was so prominent, oozing off of every page and making her such a realistic character. Furthermore, her relationships with everyone, from her parents to her best friends to Ed, are all so heartfelt that you can’t help but be sucked into them. Min is a biased narrator, that much is obvious from the beginning, but her story isn’t all about why Ed Slaterton is terrible. She tells it slowly, allowing it to progress through every stage of their relationship exactly as she felt it then, so you can’t help but want these two to work out despite the fact that you know they won’t. It’s one of the true marvels of Handler/Snicket’s writing and I am seriously in awe of his talent as an author.

What else is absolutely amazing about this book? I think the sole reason it’s so popular is because it’s so easy to connect to. We’ve all had someone we’ve crushed on in the past or went out with or dreamed out going out with (fictional/celebrity crushes, anyone?) and Why We Broke Up makes you recall all those feelings and emotions once again. It makes you feel that same excitement that first love can bring about and makes you feel that same pain that only first love can wrought, but it’s all the better as a novel for that. I don’t think many stories can really claim to do all that, but this one can. Furthermore, I think it provides such a strong sense of closure that you feel satisfied, despite the ending. I do wish though, that there had been more details and development of Min’s grief between the time she broke up with Ed and the time she wrote Ed the letter – what types of situations and hurt feelings did she have to bear before it felt cathartic enough to write this letter to her ex and give away all the trinkets she had saved of their relationship? I wish I knew.

This book isn’t for everyone. In fact, I think the narration will grate on a lot of readers because it has run-on sentences and seems so pretentious at times. It’s also not an easy book to read – I had to set it aside and come back to it after a couple of hours constantly, simply because of all the memories that kept flooding back as I read this and all the emotions it truly made me feel. Ultimately though, I think this only added to the reading experience. It made it that much more unique and special and astounding. Why We Broke Up isn’t a book I’ll ever re-read, but it is one that I won’t be able to forget. Min’s journey has felt so real that it’s hard to remind myself that it was fictional. Thus, I’d definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes descriptive and figurative prose, multi-dimensional characters and slow/creeping themes. It isn’t a novel for everyone, but sometimes it take a certain person and a certain journey or past experience to enjoy a novel and that’s exactly the kind of book this is: the type that sucks you in and makes sure you never forget it.

OH! Before I forget - Ed Slaterton, this one's for you:  
Now, doesn't that feel so much better? ;)

You can read Jasprit's review on The Reader's Den which convinced me to pick up this book here. Thanks Jasprit! :)  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Title: Unwind (Unwind, #1) 

Author: Neal Shusterman 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Unwind is a novel that made waves in the book blogging community when it first released and has continued to do so even now, with the release date of its sequel looming ahead. Thus, I was sure I would love like this novel and while I certainly did immensely enjoy it, I do believe I am the most surprised out of anyone to find that this book - for all its brilliant concepts - failed to "wow" me in its execution or ultimate message, which I believe to be its downfall.

I find it difficult to summarize Unwind in just a few phrases, but long story short, this is a dystopian novel in which the issue of abortion has been solved by a new concept called unwinding. In this world, children between the ages of 13-18 can be unwound and their body parts used for medical purposes, thus, these children are not believed to actually be dead as some part of their body lives on in someone else. Unwind revolves around the stories of Connor, whose parents signed him up to be unwound after he got into one too many school fights; Risa, who is an orphan; and Lev who is a tithe and has been preparing to be unwound every since he was born. When Connor runs away to escape being unwound, planning to stay in hiding until he is 18 and a free man from the law, his life becomes inexplicably interwoven with that of Risa and Lev and the three must struggle to escape authorities or face - not death - but unwinding.

In all honesty, Unwind had a LOT to like. For one, I loved the concept and the pacing is phenomenal, making you flip the pages frantically and switch from Connor, Lev, Risa, and a couple of other perspectives as well. I think a lot of people have difficulty grasping the reality of this concept and while I agree that a war over abortion is a little far-fetched, overall I thought this was handled extremely well. If fathers in the Middle East can sacrifice their daughters to polygamous and cruel marriages, then surely parents are certainly able to sign up their children to be unwound - after all, they're not REALLY dead, are they? So you see, I loved this idea and found it to be so psychologically intriguing. Connor and Risa's perspectives were certainly interesting, but seeing what a tithe like Lev had to say after essentially being brain-washed his entire life or meeting characters who had a part of someone else's brain in their mind was all very imaginative and interesting and I loved it. Yet, for all my praise of this novel and its writing and its psychologically scarring elements - because there is one gruesome scene that may throw off other readers - what really brought down this novel was its ultimate message.

Every author has a point they're trying to make in their work and from the surface, the point of Unwind is quite obvious as a rebellion against this cruel and unnatural mode of living slowly begins. Yet, there were so many discrepancies that made me sit back and think after finishing this book and while I loved reading it, I don't think it's a book that deserves all the praise it receives. Yes it's a new and original idea, yes the writing is great, yes the characters are well-developed, but let's look at what this story ultimately says.

Note: Yes, there are spoilers ahead, but they will not ruin the story for you. In fact, if you haven’t read this novel, they will most likely not make much sense, so you can read them without any harm, but if you don’t wish to read them, skip below to wear the semi-spoilers end. 

First of all, Connor receives an arm from an unwound at the end of this novel which seems to take away the entire purpose of it. You see, Connor is running away from being unwound only to receive a part of that procedure because he's in trouble which is a huge irony and red flag for the ultimate message. I think the saddest thing though, is that this unwound arm he receives was only a part of the tale to further the romance, which isn't even that great to begin with. It's disturbing and bothered me immensely.

Next: Lev. I loved Lev because of the conflicting emotions he went through as a tithe, but ultimately, he never realized the value of life and living. For a tithe, being an unwound means doing a great service and once Lev understood the horror he was about to face, instead of embracing life, he became a human bomb to destroy an unwinding hospital facility. Okay, this is good...right? Yes, he's destroying these horrible facilities, but at the cost of his own life because he still does not see that being alive is better than being unwound or dead and it is his near-death and not near-unwinding experience which enables him to see the light which, again, contradicts the true message of this novel!

One last example: the Admiral. The Admiral unwound his son but wanted to stop it from happening at the last minute, but since he couldn't, he spent the rest of his life finding out where the parts of his son had gone and gathering them together. (Not the parts, the people who had the parts). On the surface, this seems very sweet since he’s just trying to be with his son again, but really, it isn’t sweet at all! What Shusterman essentially does is show us that yes, Unwinds are alive because even if their body parts are not all put together, by assembling a group of people who contain the same body parts as one person, that makes the person whole and alive once again. The Admiral was essentially speaking to his son's brain and seeing his son's lungs of asthma and hearing his son's voice so how was he not alive? The point of this novel was to show that there are things worse than death, such as unwinding and ceasing to be yourself, but then the author went and proved that unwinding really wasn't that bad after all! I think what Shusterman meant to do was something much different with this scene, but its execution and the way it is ultimately interpreted fails to really add to the message he’s building up with his story. 

End Semi-Spoilers 

I liked this book - I really did. It was such an original and creative take on a very pressing and modern issue, but there were way too many plot holes in it. Some of the rebellion mobs made no sense and many of the secondary characters were vastly underdeveloped too. I would still recommend this as most people seem to have overlooked or skipped the plot holes, but I simply cannot. I still don't know what this author planned to achieve with this book, only because so much of it was contradictory, but hopefully the sequel will be better! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

ARC Review: If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Title: If I Lie

Author: Corrine Jackson

Rating: 5 Stars

Release Date: August 28th, 2012

If I Lie is easily one of the better written contemporary debuts I've come across this year, if not the best. It is powerful, thought-provoking, and is beautifully written. While it touches upon a variety of subjects and something or the other is constantly happening throughout the novel, at its core, it is a character-driven story like no other. I guess if I had to, I’d describe If I Lie as a cross between The Scarlet Letter and Speechless, but really, it is a novel that manages to hold its head high and stand all on its own, for although it covers a similar subject matter, it also covers so much more. It is a novel not only about bearing burdens, facing a cold shoulder of shame, torn families, friendship, and the army; it is also a story about hope and perseverance and the ability to find strength and courage even in the darkest of times.  

When Sophie Topher Quinn is caught kissing a guy – a guy who isn’t her marine boyfriend, Carey – it is the worst thing she can ever do in her small town. Where Sophie lives, nearly every family has had, or still does have, relatives in the army, so when Carey goes MIA, far from being ostracized, she is utterly ruined. Yet, the truth of the matter is this: Sophie didn’t cheat on Carey. Nevertheless, despite her innocence, Sophie is forced to take the blame for her heinous act because not doing so would reveal the truth - a truth that would break Carey apart. If that isn’t enough on her plate, Sophie is constantly compared to her mother who left her military father years ago, running away with his brother instead. In a world of lies, where Sophie is branded as a whore, a traitor, and must deal with her broken grief about her ex-boyfriend’s status in the military, it seems uncertain that the truth will ever come out.

If I Lie is an intense and heart-breaking read. I think what struck me the most about this novel though, for all the issues it undertook, was the fact that  every character was multi-dimensional. I don't know how it would be like to have a mother who cheated on my father or have friends who shun me or be a mother who abandoned her child, but I felt all those emotions and understood the reasoning behind these acts so clearly. Jackson paints such a vivid and unforgiving picture of Sophie's life, of what she's been through, of what the people she's known have been through, and of what compels them to make the actions that they make that I am simply in awe of her skill. Here, dear readers, is an author to look out for.

What else is there to look out for in this compelling read? Well, first and foremost, you will need tissue boxes for this novel - I don't care how freaking cold-hearted you are, you will need them. I didn't think I would and honestly, I didn't cry when all sorts of horrible things happened to Sophie, but I did sob my eyes out when it came to George, the old veteran who becomes a father-figure to Sophie and is an integral part of this story. I loved love George and he totally wins the award for my favorite character in this tale, especially because he is the sole person who sees Sophie for who she is and fails to buy into the gossip surrounding her. Sophie too is so incredibly strong that I can't help but admire her. I think most people think of kick-ass heroines as women who have fighting prowess or can take down a man, but I think what makes someone kick-ass is their inner strength and ability to go on in life without letting the troubles of life bring you down and Sophie is truly incredible. More than anything else though, she is an inspirational character and a headstrong woman, possessing all the qualities I love, not only in a character, but in a friend.

Yet, its wonderful characters and its richly developed and realistic relationships aside, I think one of the best things about this novel is its ability to have silver linings despite all the sorrow within it. Yes, it is an intense and emotional read and yes, Sophie goes through some terrible situations both in school and her community, but despite all of that, at the end it is her who comes out as a stronger person and one who knows who her true friends are. Furthermore, the messages and themes that come out of this novel are so realistic and have such a large degree of truth to them that you cannot help but ponder over them for hours afterwards. Even the romance, which is subtle, takes a well-deserves backseat to the other issues this story tackles, and is the very definition of bittersweet; and the rocky relationships Sophie sustains with her parents, which gradually develop into something better while managing to maintain its realistic roots, contain such deep and provocative messages that they will keep you thinking into the wee hours of the night. 

I can say so much more about this book, but I almost don’t want to. I don’t want my interpretation of this story and its characters to influence yours. I want everyone to go into this novel not knowing what to expect and emerge from it a tear-stricken mess, but one whose heart is infinitely lighter and happier than it was before. If you like Melina Marchetta, Hannah Harrington, Markus Zusak, or Kirsty Eagar novels, you'll love this one. It follows the same themes of self-discovery, strength, and family that those authors often write about and If I Lie is a debut that simply cannot be missed. It will make you think. It will make you reflect. It will make you sob. It will make you smile. It is so realistic that I am floored by the unique path Jackson chose to take this novel on and I love her all the more for it. I am so grateful to have gotten a chance to read this novel just days before its release as I might have overlooked it in favor of the other reads releasing on the same day, but believe me, this is utterly remarkable. I don't believe I've ever had occasion to say this before, but if you skip out on this phenomenal tale, then you are truly missing out. Read it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Title: The Disreputable of Frankie Landau-Banks

Author: E. Lockhart 

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

In all honesty, I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, especially since I found the first third of the novel to be excruciatingly boring and hard to get through, not to mention I hated the narration style with a passion. Yet, despite all that, Lockhart's novel truly spoke to me. It's marketed as being a feminist novel and while in some ways it definitely is, in more ways than one I feel as if it is simply a coming-of-age story about a girl who was discovering herself, what she wanted from life, and how she wanted to be perceived. 

Frankie attends Alabaster Prep Academy, the private institution which her older sister and father attended as well. Now a sophomore, Frankie has grown over the summer into a beautiful young girl from the once scrawny kid she used to be and consequently, has captured the attention of Matthew Livingston, the senior everyone wants to date. When Frankie and Matthew begin to go out, Frankie begins to notice that Matthew seems to keep secrets from her, thus, she stumbles upon an all-boys secret society and sets out to beat the boys at their own game, hoping to get Matthew to confess his secret doings to her in the process. What really happens though, is quite different, clever, and can only be described as genius! ;)
Frankie looked into his face. He genuinely liked her, she knew. Maybe even loved her. He just loved her in a limited way.  Loved her best when she needed help. Loved her best when he could set the boundaries and make the rules.  Loved her best when she was a smaller, younger person than he was, with no social power. When he could adore her for her youth and charm and protect her from the larger concerns of life. (Page 313) 
In my opinion, The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks is the perfect novel of today’s day and age. Not only is YA Literature being bombarded with female protagonists who are distinctly weak and rely on men, but it is female authors who are creating characters like these. Thus, the character of Frankie, of a girl who wants to be known and loved for herself, for her potential, for her brilliance and not for her ability to listen to her boyfriend, do what he says, and agree with his every action, is startlingly refreshing. The Disreputable History... is a story of many things - secret all male societies, school pranks, and feminism - but at the heart of it all, it is the novel about the relationship between sophomore Frankie and her senior boyfriend, Matthew. You see, Frankie only infiltrates her boyfriend's secret society because she wants him to trust her, to see her as his equal, and to quit distinguishing her from others solely because of her gender. I think these are qualities that every woman should strive to achieve in a relationship - equality - but in some ways, I almost think Lockhart takes the character of Frankie a bit too far. 

While I loved this novel, Lockhart portrays Frankie as a "type." She is the type of girl who has been underestimated all her life, who has been lied to so that the perpetrators lying to her can feel in power and who has simply been excluded from the close-knit friend circle of the Basset Hounds, the secret society, which she so desperately craves. Thus, because she is this "type," she becomes a feminist and resorts to standing up for herself. I liked this - I really did - but I didn't like how Lockhart categorizes Frankie into one type and other girls as another. I wish she had been able to find a balance because while I admire Frankie and hold her up on a pedestal for exposing the truths that every young woman should strive to attain, she almost goes too far. I guess my qualm with this can be summed up to be that Frankie is that feminist who refuses to let a man even hold a door open for her and what I really wished for this novel to be was about a teenager who found a balance between securing her rights and being willfully feminine and adored, but unfortunately that didn't happen. It isn't the fault of the novel, for it is impeccably written and gets its point across perfectly, it is simply my own fault as the reader. 

Nevertheless, for all my adoration of this story, I can see why many people would be thrown off by it. I, on the other hand, was seemingly able to connect with Frankie due to my own life experiences - I fear that without them, I don't think I would have felt much of a draw to Frankie, which is another unfortunate fault of the narration. (I think the only time when I’ve enjoyed the type of narration where the narrator talks back to the reader in a seemingly cryptic way is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, so if you’re not a fan of this style, this might be a little tough for you to get through.) You see, Frankie feels left out by this secret society her boyfriend attends and while it seems like a silly thing to get so worked up over, I actually understood Frankie perfectly! India, as you may or may not know, has a history of denying equal rights and freedom to women. Thankfully, this is changing in today’s society and women and men are treated equally; nevertheless, there did still remain a few restrictions in more traditional villages, as I learned upon visiting my grandfather’s home when I was merely twelve. While visiting the local temple near his home, which had a very powerful deity, I first became aware of the fact that my being a woman made me so drastically different from my younger brother. How? You see, my father and brother were permitted into the temple to an area where only the priest is allowed. When I went to follow them, I was denied because I was a girl. I know, it seems silly but it made such a marked difference on my life. When I questioned my father about it later, he said it was an old custom, but being a very old-fashioned man, he also added that it was a blessing to be born a girl as he did not have to pay a tax on me. This was the first time I was made aware that my father paid a tax for each member of his family and the money went to our family temple. Rather than placating me though, this only made me angrier as I was now so inconsequential that I wasn't even deemed worthy to be paid money for existing! (I later learned that the reason this was a good thing was because the money paid on behalf of my father and brother went to buying gifts for me, which obviously placated me immensely because that just meant MORE BOOKS, but by the time I learned this it was just a little bit too late for my inner-feminist to recede inside me.) Nevertheless, the point is, I was able to connect with Frankie simply because I had experienced injustice in my life merely for being born a woman. I think most people can relate to similar experiences in their life and thus will be able to connect with Frankie, but based solely on the narration, I would definitely find it difficult to understand where Frankie’s strong emotions stemmed from.
A tiny part of her wanted to go over to him and shout, "I can feel like a hag some days if I want! And I can tell everybody how insecure I am if I want! Or I can be pretty and pretend to think I’m a hag out of fake modesty – I can do that if I want, too. Because you, Livingston, are not the boss of me and what kind of girl I become." (Page 79)
The Disreputable History... isn't a perfect book, but it is one I would recommend to everyone. It deserves to be read and the messages and themes it brings out are ones that every woman needs to understand. Furthermore, Frankie is such a strong, smart, and witty character than you cannot help but want to be her friend and give her a good ‘ol slap on the back for the pure brilliance of her ideas. While this novel definitely did have its fair share of flaws, I think the overall feeling of excitement, hope, and joy that it leaves with the reader, as well as some of the most memorable scenes ever, make this a truly phenomenal novel. It's a book that exudes such power and confidence and femininity that you walk away from it feeling so proud to be a woman. (Take that Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele and every other Mary Sue out there! HA!) In summary, The Disreputable History is just a story of how one girl takes down an all-male secret society and proves that girl power is awesome. Now, who doesn’t want to read a book like that? ;)