Review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak |Fiction Friday|

Synopsis

“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.”(From Goodreads)

Rating: 5/5 Crowns
– Superb writing
– Interesting plot
– Great characters

Comparable Book(s): Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

*In depth review contains spoilers

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Review of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng |Fiction Friday|

 

This review contains spoilers.


Synopsis

““Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.”(From Goodreads)

Rating: 3.75/5 Crowns

Comparable Book(s): Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

The Review

 

Everyone has received some amount of pressure from their parents. I’m fortunate enough to have parents that allow me to choose to live my life how I see fit. They love me and want the best for me, much like how James and Marilyn loved and wanted the best for Lydia. However, the weight of their “love” drove Lydia to suicide.

Everything I Never Told You is about what pushed Lydia to kill herself and how that impacts her family. Lydia is the “favorite” child. The child that gets the goodnight kisses and the last slice of cake. The child that is mentioned first to co-workers and friend. The child who bears the crushing weight of her mother and father’s hopes and dreams. Marilyn and James were so desperate to finally get their life right the put the burden on Lydia.

History has a way of repeating itself and by avoiding our past we often run right into it. Marilyn hated the way her mother pressured her to find a husband. She had, what she considered to be, bigger and better dreams. Marilyn wanted to become a doctor. But life and love had other plans and she married James. Without understanding the full context of what she was doing, Marilyn pressures Lydia much in the same way she was pressured by her mother. Lydia is under constant stress to perform well in school so she can accomplish her mother’s dream of becoming a doctor. Marilyn is too blind to see that Lydia never wanted to be a doctor, she just wanted to make her mother happy.

James was never popular or liked when he was young, being the only Chinese American student in school. Children were cruel and racist, so he never had any friends. He never was able to “fit in”. However, when he had Lydia he was convinced that she could be popular. She could live the life he never had. He even gifts her a book on how to “make people like you”, which only causes her to feel like she’s not good enough.

Lydia’s siblings, Nath and Hannah are left to the wayside. Nath feels like he’s hated by his father and that his mother loves Lydia more than him. Hannah is quiet as a mouse and often forgotten by her family. The pressure from James and Marilyn cause tension and a divide between all three children.

Celeste Ng captures so many important real life topics so well – interracial couples, mixed race families, misguided parents and suicide. I’ve read a couple of different books about teen suicide (Thirteen Reasons Why, Love Letters To The Dead) but they never covered the entire families thoughts, stories and emotions. Everything I Never Told You is unique in it’s complete coverage.

And the title of the book is so appropriate, given how many times I wanted to strangle some of the characters. Communication is the key to any relationship but almost every character in this book just bottled what they were feeling until they snapped.

This book made me sad and frustrated, which is partially why I didn’t give it 4/5 Crowns. There were points when I thought I would never feel a catharsis. I almost gave up reading it because I was tired of the way the Lee family talked (or rather, how they didn’t – and it’s okay, everything does finally get resolved). I also had some trouble following the writing because of the way Ng shifted the point of view from one character to another, without much warning.

However, in the end I believe that this book is one that should be on everyone’s TBR. A perfect snapshot of an imperfect family.

Have you read Everything I Never Told You? If so, I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions.

– Queen Celine

Review of Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen |Fiction Friday|

This might be my favorite YA Contemporary book I’ve read this year. Also, 1000 points to anyone who counts how many times I use the word love 😉


 

Synopsis

“Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.”(From Goodreads)

Rating: 5/5 Crowns

Comparable Book(s): I couldn’t think of any

The Review

Did I mention that I loved this book? Because I loved this book. I hope that I can accurately portray how much I freaking loved reading Saint Anything but forgive me if it turns into fangirlish squeals.

Saint Anything is the first book by Sarah Dessen that I have ever read. That’s probably really surprising since she is such a well known YA author but I always thought that her books wouldn’t appeal to me. I have no idea why I thought this, but I just figured that they’d be really shallow or annoying to me. I was sorely mistaken.

One thing that I was blown away by was the writing! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that Dessen’s writing was this great? In my opinion it’s hard to find light contemporary YA with good writing.(Not that Saint Anything very light, I’d say it’s in the middle.) Here are just a couple of gems found in the book.

“With shame, like horseshoes, proximity counts.”

 

“You really only fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together.”

 

“I’d done the right thing. I always did. It just would have been nice if someone would have noticed.”

I was also amazed that none of the characters felt flat to me. With any book there are characters that you love or hate but generally there are also characters that are boring and under developed. The only character that may have verged on the side of under developed would be Ames. I didn’t feel like I knew much about him but at the same time I didn’t want to know anything about him. What a creep.

It kind of scared me how much I related to Sydney in this book. I went in this book blind. I knew next to nothing of the plot or characters. I only knew that Saint Anything was a Young Adult Contemporary novel and that, according to the back blurb, it deals with “how we might suffer the misfortune of someone else’s bad choices”. I had no idea that I would find so much in common with Sydney.

I know what it’s like to feel invisible. I know what it’s like to have a trouble maker older brother. I know what it’s like to feel like a “second place child”. My parents love me, much like Sydney’s parents love her, but both of our older brothers demand so much more attention. We get left to the way side.

Until someone else comes along in our life as sees us. For Sydney, that’s the Chatham’s.

Which brings me to another point, I love the Chatham’s. I love each of their characteristics and quirks. I love their relationships with each other. It just made me so happy that they welcomed Sydney with open arms.

Layla was just a little firecracker. I absolutely loved her incredibly fierce loyalty. She is a “take no shit” kind of a girl when it comes to protecting her friends and that’s something I really admire about her.

I also really loved Mrs. Chatham! She had a strong contrast to Julie (Sydney’s) mom. I loved how all of her children took care of her and how they were such a tight knit family.

Something else that’s interesting, for me at least, is that for once I didn’t fall for the love with the main character’s romantic interest. I liked Mac and I loved his relationship with Sydney but I guess he’s not my type. That didn’t really affect the story or experience for me but I just thought it was interesting.

As I mentioned before I really related to Sydney and I think that’s why this book was so amazing for me. It had a huge impact on me and it made me think about how I feel about my relationship with my parents and brother. (Going to get real personal for a sec – I even fought with my mom tonight with how I feel neglected because she’s always handling my brother’s issues. Later we talked about it rationally and now we have a better relationship because of it.)

So maybe if you don’t have these kinds family issues this book won’t be as amazing for you. However, Saint Anything really resonated with me and will be with me forever. That sounds cheesy but I mean it.

Let me know your thoughts and opinions on Saint Anything.

– Queen Celine

Review of The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban |Fiction Friday|

The real tragedy is that I thought tragedy was spelled “tradgedy”…

Synopsis

“Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their love.” (From Goodreads)

Rating: 3.75/5 Crowns

Comparable Book(s): Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Review

Over all, I’m glad I read The Tragedy Paper. It gave me the opportunity to read from the unique perspective of an albino. The book isn’t entirely about Tim’s albinoism but it definitely affects his personality. It turned him into an outcast. It also made me feel more connected to Tim because I just wanted him to feel loved and accepted. That said, I didn’t connect to any other character except Tim. While I didn’t dislike the others, I also didn’t care about them.

The Irving school was also interesting to read about. School is a common setting in contemporary YA but Irving has a lot of tradition tied to it that make it special. For example, the secret compartment in Tim’s room, the senior games and the “treasure” are all apart of it’s history. There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the school as well. The main mystery being what happened during the senior game? And how did it impact Tim, Vanessa and Duncan?

However, once the big “tragedy” is revealed, it’s underwhelming. In my opinion what happened during the senior games wasn’t a tragedy. From that point in the book and forward, I was left with feelings of “Oh, that’s it?”. What happened was unfortunate but, in my humble opinion, not tragic.

I felt mislead because it seemed like Duncan would have a much bigger role in the tragedy. (SPOILER: he didn’t.)

I also think that Vanessa is too “manic pixie dream girl” for my liking. In some ways it seemed like Tim only wants her because she’s the popular girl who would never fall for the albino. Vanessa acts especially “manic pixie” when we first meet her at the airport. What kind of person – notably, a young girl traveling alone – gets a hotel room with a stranger? Maybe I’m paranoid but I think that’s a dangerous idea.

Multiple times Tim says that “the rules don’t apply” to them simply because she stays in the hotel room with him, orders breakfast for dinner, etc. It’s all very “manic pixie”, for lack of a better term.

We also don’t know much about Vanessa. We know that she has siblings and likes snow and wears one bright color every day but that’s it. It’s like she’s there for the sole purpose of giving Tim a romantic interest and changing his life. Her aspirations, hobbies – any part of her personality that doesn’t involve liking Tim – don’t come up.

I know it sounds like I didn’t like the book, but I was going to give it a 4.5/5 up until the reveal of the “tragedy” occurred. I really enjoyed the idea of the plot, but some of the execution fell flat for me. I’d recommend it to those who liked Thirteen Reasons Why and to anyone interested in reading about an albino character.

If you’ve read The Tragedy Paper, let me know what you thought about it!

– Queen Celine