Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lizzie     Jun 8th, 2011     Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 372 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (December 2, 2010)
Source: Purchased
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780525423270
ISBN-13: 978-0525423270

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

Before I picked up Anna and the French Kiss, contemporary wasn’t really my thing. I wasn’t really willing to pick up books like this because reading is an escape for me. Why would I want to read about things that happen to people in the real world? Well, that has changed.

As I read this, I actually felt like I was in France, walking the beautiful streets of Paris with Anna and Etienne, going to the cinema with Anna, visiting the sights with her, and getting fat on pastries and French cuisine. Stephanie created such a perfect story here. I now understand why people were saying that if they could eat this book, they would; I would too! I would not be surprised if it tasted like French pastries either!

Before I read this, I didn’t really understand the fascination with Paris. I mean yes, it’s a beautiful city and all but… why are some people so obsessed with it?! But then I read Anna and I undeniably came down with Parisian Fever. No shame, no shame. I would now kill to go spend time in Paris like Anna did (which will never happen but whatever!). I reblog pictures of Paris on Tumblr like they’re they’re the last thing I’ll ever see. Hah!

Anna was a bit whiny but actually, no more than I find myself to be half the time. And with that, I actually cannot say one bad thing about this book. Well, no… I wish it were longer! The companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss is called Lola and the Boy Next Door, which comes out in September, and I know I’ll be first in line the day it comes out to grab it. I’m quite excited to read more of Stephanie’s writing! Who knows… she may just be one of my new favorite authors…

Review: The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie

Lizzie     May 19th, 2011     Realistic Fiction, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 334 pages
Publisher: WestSide Books (December 15, 2010)
Source: Received from publicist
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934813443
ISBN-13: 978-1934813447

After her father’s slow death from cancer, Carlie thought things couldn’t get worse. But now, she is forced to confront the fact that her family in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, her mom has had to sell their cherished oceanfront home and move Carlie and her younger brother Keith to the other side of the tracks to dreaded Las Pulgas, or “the fleas” in Spanish. They must now attend a tough urban high school instead of their former elite school, and on Carlie’s first day of school, she runs afoul of edgy K.T., the Latina tattoo girl who’s always ready for a fight, even on crutches. Carlie fends off the attention of Latino and African American teen boys, and one, a handsome seventeen-year-old named Juan, nicknames her Princess when he detects her aloof attitude towards her new classmates. What they don’t know is that Carlie isn’t really aloof; she’s just in mourning for her father and almost everything else that mattered to her. Mr. Smith, the revered English teacher who engages all his students, suggests she’ll like her new classmates if she just gives them a chance; he cajoles her into taking over the role of Desdemona in the junior class production of Othello, opposite Juan, after K.T. gets sidelined. Keith, who becomes angrier and more sullen by the day, spray paints insults all over the gym as he acts out his anger over the family’s situation and reduced circumstances. Even their cat Quicken goes missing, sending Carlie and Keith on a search into the orchard next to their seedy garden apartment complex. They’re met by a cowboy toting a rifle who ejects them at gunpoint from his property. But when Carlie finds him amiably having coffee with their mom the next day—when he’s returned her cat—she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems in Las Pulgas.

What an incredible book.

From the first line of The Princess of Las Pulgas, I was sucked in. In fact, the first line was one of my favorite first lines from any book I’ve read:

Last night I pleaded with death but he turned a bony back to me, pushed Hope into the corridor and shut the door.

How sad and captivating is that line?

My dad died of cancer when I was nine and even though I was young and I realize now that I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of it at the time, I remember what it was like for the five months of treatment he endured. It was sad, scary, and my mom was always preparing my brother and I for the worst. I remember the day, dark and dreary; the memory makes it seem like all the lights had been turned down in the hospice center. I remember how my grandparents took us kids home but only just minutes after we left, our dad had died.

I’ll admit it: I was scared to read this book. Because I didn’t want those memories to come back. But I read it anyways because I knew I needed to. And I loved it.

The theme of the book makes it sound like it would be pressing and that you’ll be sobbing most of the way through; that’s not the case. It is sad, and the guilt that Carlie feels from wishing her father’s pain would end is enough to make you to want to cry but there is so much more to this book. It is eloquently written, so you feel the hope that things will get better.

When Carlie and her newly smaller moves to Las Pulgas, even I was a bit scared of what could happen there. But as the story progresses, you start to see the softer side of this seemingly rough town. Things do start to get better for Carlie and her family, though it does take time.

The pacing of the story was perfect. I found the characters, from Carlie to Juan to KT, very real and relatable. I love the setting, both Channing and Las Pulgas. The only thing I wish there would’ve been bit more emphasis on was Carlie’s lab partner, who she nicknamed Doc. There probably wasn’t really a great time to stick a little more of him in though so it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment and meaning of the story.

Do I recommend this? Absolutely. For everyone, I recommend it, not just if you can personally relate to the story. You definitely get a realistic look the changed lives of a cancer victim’s family. And the message that is hidden in the pages is one that anyone can relate to: there is always hope and things will always get better, even if it takes a while for it to do so.

Review: Star In The Middle by Carol Larese Millward

Lizzie     Dec 9th, 2010     Realistic Fiction, Reviews     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: WestSide Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934813133
ISBN-13: 978-1934813133

At 16, Star’s life has changed drastically now that she’s become the mother of a baby boy. To learn what’s best for him, Star’s taking parenting classes at a center for teen moms. But she’s having trouble keeping up with the baby’s demands, and her grandmother is threatening to force her to put the baby up for adoption. To top it off, Wilson, a popular star athlete, is in denial about being the father. He doesn’t know about Star’s terrible, painful secrets. But as Wilson’s friends and family push him to accept his responsibility, he learns the truth about Star’s disturbing past, facts that change his life forever. Told from Star’s and Wilson’s points-of-view, Star in the Middle reveals a compelling snap-shot of the difficult lives of teenage parents.

I’m going to honest—I was kind of nervous to pick up Star In The Middle. I received it along with Hope in Patience and didn’t know anything about it. Some of the reviews I read weren’t all that great. The subject of teenage parents is also touchy for me, as one of my childhood friends became a mother herself at sixteen, and despite every challenge against her, she is a wonderful mom. So I was afraid that the book would make teenage parents look ridiculous.

I was totally wrong. Star In The Middle is a great portrait of the struggles of Star, who becomes a mother at sixteen. She is real and relatable, whether you’re a teen parent or not. She’s facing so many difficult tasks and while you can see it’s hard, she does what she can to make the best of it all.

Star In The Middle is told from the view points of both Star and Wilson, who may or may not be the father of Star’s son. I heard a lot of complaints that others just didn’t enjoy this but I did. It was neat to look inside the head of both parents, even though one is in severe denial. You learn a lot more with both perspectives than you would if it were just Star, or just Wilson. It also set the story a lot higher towards the end.

Overall, I loved this book. It was beautifully written, and makes you really think twice when you see teenage parents. There is always more that lies beneath what you can see; there’s always a story that you’ll never understand. I loved how much Star loved her baby, and was determined to give him everything she never had, no matter impossible it seemed. I was so annoyed with Wilson through most of the story but he does things close to the end that made me change my mind about him. If you know someone who’s a teen parent, or you are one yourself, I highly recommend Star In The Middle. I recommend even more if you don’t personally know a teen parent, because this is the most real portrait of teenage parenthood as you can get, and it will certainly make you look at them in a different light and hopefully have more respect for their situation.

Review: Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

Lizzie     Nov 23rd, 2010     Realistic Fiction, Reviews, Things You Should Check Out     0 Replies

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 312 pages
Publisher: WestSide Books (October 27, 2010)
Source: ARC received from publicist
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934813419
ISBN-13: 978-1934813416

Fifteen-year-old Ashley Asher has spent half of her life living in fear. Her stepfather has been sexually abusing her for years, but her mother doesn’t believe her. After his latest assault lands her in the emergency room, Child Protective Services finally removes Ashley from her home, and sends her to live with the father she barely remembers and his new family.

Her new life in Patience, Texas, is much better. She’s in therapy to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is trying to make her way in a new high school. She’s getting used to living with her father, stepmother, and stepbrother, and she’s made new friends in the summer course taught by her stepmother, Bev. She even joins the track team at the urging of her new African American friend, Z. Z. But Ashley is so traumatized by her past that she sometimes scratches herself until she bleeds and sleeps in her armoire, even though she knows she’s safe now. Worse, when her stepfather is finally put on trial for hurting her, she learns that truth and justice don’t always go together.

Will Ashley adjust to a better life? Will she trust enough to date Josh, the cute guy on her track team who likes her? YA readers will be caught up in the heart-pounding story of a damaged girl trying to heal herself and get on with the rest of her life.

Okay, so, first off before I get the good part of this, I just wanted to majorly apologize. This was supposed to be posted on November 2nd but two things happened: my mailman stole my first ARC and I was in internets fail. In other words, my internet went BOOM. Not really, but whatever. Anyways, read on for some awesome words.

When I was offered the chance to review Hope in Patience, I immediately jumped on it. As someone who struggled with self-harm and depression, I’m always willing to read books that bluntly deal with those issues and offer hope in a time of absolute lowness. And despite the issues I had getting my hands on a copy, I’m so glad I read this.

I don’t think I’ve ever related so closely to a character. Why, you ask? Because Ashley is the most real, most damaged character I’ve read about and in some ways, she reminds me of myself. I suffered from self-harm for a long time (but I’m happy to tell you that as of late, I am no longer struggling!) and the things Ashley did—I sometimes did myself. And more recently, I’ve been struggling to gain control of my life with a stalker in it (more recently, two, as #1 now has a friend who watches me too). Charlie reminds me all too much of him; I think Hope in Patience came in my life at an excellent time.

I don’t think there are enough words to tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I don’t usually read contemporary because it’s normally about bubbly teenagers I can’t relate to at all but upon reading the first chapter of Hope in Patience I knew it was more than just your average contemporary. It was brutal and honest and everything a book like this should be. Throughout, no matter how many times Ashley relapsed into self-harm, I could still feel hope pouring off the pages.

As I related my situation with the guy who watches me to Ashley’s, I could see myself slowly rising out of the feeling like a helpless little victim. I’m still working on not flinching when he revs his engine at me and on not letting my stomach fall out of my body when I see him but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. That if I just wait (to quote Ashley’s therapist, Dr. Matt), I’ll be okay.

I’m highly recommending you read this book, guys. It’s elegantly written and the themes, while often difficult and heart-wrenching, will keep you reading until you realized you’ve devoured the entire book in less than 24 hours (not that I did that myself…). Not to mention, the cover is completely beautiful. I don’t know why I love it so much but I do. If I didn’t know about this already, I’d probably get caught by the cover in the bookstore.

Check out the trailer too: