Category Archives: For High School

Review: Mosquitoland

Book Overview:

Title: Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Genre: Teen Contemporary Fiction

Publication Info: Viking Children’s, March 3, 2015

Synopsis: After her parents’ divorce, Mim is unhappily forced to move to Mississippi with her father and new stepmother. But when she hears distressing news about her mother, Mim takes off without a thought on a Greyhound bus and begins an unforgettable journey that will change everything.

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 4.5-5 (let’s be honest, it’s really a 5 for me)/5

Writing a review for this book is difficult. Ridiculously difficult, even. I’ve tried talking about it to friends, family, co-workers, and here’s what comes out: “Guys, this book is just… I mean, it’s so… just unique, and… yeah. You should read it.” I’m a hot mess because of this book, and this book is a hot mess. But a really touching, remarkable hot mess. So forgive me for remaining unable to sound professional and polished when discussing this one.

Plot:

This is easily one of the weirdest plots I’ve ever read. Granted, the premise–a hero’s quest to save a loved one that turns into self-discovery–is as old as story-telling. Mosquitoland really is a contemporary odyssey with a teenage heroine. But nothing that happens on this trip is normal, from a kung-fu fight on a gas station roof to a trip to the vet with a human patient (and that’s all I can say without spoiling anything). However, every abnormal, seemingly random event is woven together in a cohesive whole that feels too weird not to be true. Not once did I put the book down for its sheer ridiculousness; I shook my head and kept reading, realizing that life will throw everything crazy and unexpected towards us. Kudos, David Arnold. You’ve shown true plot prowess here.

Characters:

Like the plot, our main character, Mim, is as strange as they come: medicated for possible schizophrenia, blind in one eye, and instantly judgmental of others based on only their name. Not the typical heroine, right? Yet her idiosyncrasies and quirks make her very real (again, like the plot). Mim is a character anyone can relate to or adore–funny, witty, and blunt. Throughout her journey, she’s flawed and cynical, due to a harsh, discerning perspective of the world and a life’s worth of pain. And she’s so contradictory, acting fearless when she’s terrified of truly being crazy, brutally honest at times and fiercely secretive at others. Because of this, her point of view and her story was a puzzle and joy to read. Mim learns so much through her quest to find her mom, and as she grows, she gives the reader so many deep thoughts and moments of clarity. God, I really love this character.

This book also boasts a slew of unusual side characters, all with important roles in Mim’s story, but I can’t write about them without giving away significant things. (I really want to, but I just can’t. Don’t hate me. Read the book, and then we can talk.) Just know that I love and/or appreciate each’s role and individuality.

Writing Quality:

Finally, Arnold really outdoes himself as a writer. This book is so literary that it’s palpable. Mim’s journey contains allusions to Moby Dick, the Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and probably way more I didn’t catch. And the METAPHORS, guys. Mosquitoland is rife with ’em. (She’s freaking blind in one eye. Just saying.) But beyond providing a literary scavenger hunt that keeps nerds like me happy, Arnold, speaking through Mim (and other characters), gives us so much to think about, to the point that I’m still hashing and rehashing things days after closing the book. That, to me, is what makes this a winner.

(TLDR: While weird and unusual, Mosquitoland is a must read!) 

Who I recommend this to:

  • Honestly, I can’t fit this book into any one category. I suggest everyone should download a sample or flip through a few pages, and then if you’re intrigued, count that as a green light.
  • High school, college, and beyond (warning: language, sexual violence, mental illness, mentions of suicide)

 

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Quick Review: We Should Hang Out Sometime

Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a review copy through Netgalley!

Book Overview:

Title: We Should Hang Out Sometime

Author: Josh Sundquist

Genre: Teen Non-fiction/Memoir

Publication Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Dec. 2014

Synopsis: On a quest to solve the mystery of why he never had a girlfriend, Josh Sundquist shares and analyzes his dating and relationship experiences.

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 4/5

     On the surface, We Should Hang Out Sometime is a funny memoir of teenage and young adult heartbreak. However, with deeper reading, this book actually delivers much more–namely Sundquist’s thought-provoking exploration of what shaped his identity and decisions from teenage to adult life and how we let our emotional baggage influence our lives.
     To me, this was a realistic and, at times, nostalgic portrait of teenage thought. Dealing with attraction and dating in adolescence and early adulthood is hugely frustrating, with lots of conflicting emotions (optimism, pessimism, fear, courage, desire, awkwardness). Sundquist depicts these emotions honestly (and hilariously) with his retelling of failures and grand romantic gestures, and I often found myself giggling uncontrollably or grimacing in secondhand embarrassment. I followed his stories and feelings without second thought, and I think this proves his true talent for storytelling.I was also touched by the deeper message of this book, showing how fear can blind you, disable you, control your mind, make your decisions for you. As something I’ve experienced often throughout my life, I easily related to Sundquist while reading, and I think teen and adult readers will as well.
     Finally, if I had to sum up this book in one sentence, I would choose the wise words of Rafiki from The Lion King: “The past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.” I think everyone needs to hear this message, and so I highly recommend this book.
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Review: Dark Triumph

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Books for Children for providing me with a review copy through Netgalley! 

Book Overview:

Title: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) 

 Author: Robin LaFevers

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013

Synopsis: Placed back into the household of her terrifying and cruel father, Count D’Albret, Sybella must conceal not only her identity as a handmaiden of death, but also her mission to kill the Count. Yet obstacles to her mission quickly arise, and Sybella must decide what is more important, revenge or justice.

(Note: To see a review of the first book of the series, Grave Mercy, click here.)

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 5/5

This book takes the series to a deeper and darker level of politics, relationships, and justice, and as in the Throne of Glass series, the second book is far better than the first. I finished this book in just two days, which (with my crazy life schedule) shows just how absorbing the storyline and characters are. Please make time to read this book–it’s so worth it!

Plot:

My main complaint against Grave Mercy was that I felt the story relied too heavily on dialogue, politics, and romance/infatuation, so at first I was wary of reading this book at all. I can’t begin to describe how shocked I was at the difference between this book and the first in the series; although political issues and romance definitely play their part in Sybella’s story, they’re offset by action and backstory (this is a word, right? I feel like it’s a word. I’ll get back to you on that). And I could talk for hours on Sybella’s backstory–how she distances herself and makes every decision based on not only the trauma she experienced, but also her deep understanding of her father’s nature and others’ ability to overlook his brutality. In a nutshell, LaFevers weaves together Sybella’s past and present beautifully to create a perfectly balanced story.

Characters:

LaFevers continues to make multi-faceted, complex characters, like Beast, D’Albret, and Sybella. In particular, Sybella’s past (increasingly revealed) and conflicting emotions and loyalties make her an intriguing and unique character to follow. As is probably obvious by now, I absolutely adored and supported Sybella throughout the whole book. Although I did also appreciate Ismae’s feisty nature in the first book, I somehow didn’t connect with her in the way I have with Sybella. This heroine is wary of others, untrusting of Mortrain and the abbey’s intentions, and bitter–and all rightfully so. As more and more of Sybella’s past is revealed, the reader can understand her decisions more, and every action of hers that might have been questionable makes perfect sense. But the beauty of LaFever’s characterization is that the reader can see Sybella growing throughout the book, can sense her begin to trust and protect others, instead of only looking out for herself. This, I think, is where LaFevers developed most as a writer, and I can’t wait to see what the next book will hold with Annith.

Writing Quality:

LaFevers continued to use historically accurate language, over which I practically threw up with happiness (hint: slight exaggeration there). She even mentions in her notes at the end (yes, I read author’s notes and introductions because I’m a geek like that) that she researched specific words and usage to stay as accurate and meaningful as possible–super kudos to her for this! This attention to detail was definitely apparent in other aspects of the writing, as with characterization and plot, as well as timing. Her action-filled storyline and romance are not rushed, and I give major props for the pacing of this book. Like Sybella’s character, the story draws you in subtly but strongly, and  I was hooked long before I realized it.

(TLDR: This book and its writing are killer, so you should buy and read it pronto!

Who I recommend this to:

  • Readers who enjoy bada** heroines with well-developed backstories
  • Fans of The Grisha series, Throne of Glass series, Mortal Instruments series
  • Late high school, college, and beyond (warning: strong amounts of violence, death, mentions of sex)

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