Tag Archives: book reviews

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: The Impossible Knife of Memory

Book Overview:

Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Teen Fiction

Publication Info: Viking Juvenile, 2014

Synopsis: After years on the road with her veteran father, Hayley must adjust to a “normal” life with a permanent home and public schooling. Yet as she struggles to come to terms with her new life, she must also deal with the consequences of her father’s PTSD and worrying behavior.

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 4/5

This was my first novel by Anderson, and I was thoroughly impressed by her frank and beautiful way of telling such a genuine and heartbreaking story. There are so many layers to this book, from Hayley’s issues to her father’s issues to the walls they build around themselves because of these issues, and I loved how Anderson explored these layers and the complexity of the situations. I would not classify this as a happy, light, or fun summer read, but despite its sad content (and few flaws that bothered me), I think this is definitely well worth reading.

Plot:

Like with Fangirl, I often found myself wondering what the plot was building to, mainly because I’ve become accustomed to the clearly defined plotline of teen dystopian/adventure novels. It seemed that Anderson wanted to portray the reality of Hayley’s life, which was well-written and realistic, but I kept asking myself, “What’s the point? What are we heading towards?”

To me, the point of this novel is change. Like Fangirl, we see Hayley adjust and grow over time, and because of this, I would classify the story as one of growing up and finding one’s place. In the beginning, we meet a bitter and reserved protagonist who cannot stand the people around her and does not want her new life. As Hayley faces different challenges, from friendship to romance to the public school system, she begins to change in demeanor and approach, and at some points, I cheered for her — at other points, I wanted to physically shake and scream at her. And that’s how I knew that I was hooked, not only to this character, but also to her storyline. Although Anderson doesn’t give a clear-cut path towards the end of the book, it’s this connection that keeps you reading to the emotional and climactic ending.

And now, my one true quibble with this book —  not the ending, but the epilogue. I refuse to give any details, but I felt that the story would have been more fulfilling if Anderson hadn’t tacked on an epilogue. The resolution of the climactic ending, to me, gave me hope for Hayley and her future, and that was enough. Because I was already fulfilled (plot-wise), the epilogue felt forced and unnecessary, and after a story so real and genuine, telling what happened to everyone afterwards felt suspiciously like a “happily ever after.” But perhaps I’m too cynical, as some people may truly appreciate this epilogue. I leave that to you to decide.

Characters: 

As stated before, Hayley is incredibly bitter, reserved, saracastic, and stubborn to a fault — which means I absolutely loved and connected with this character! (Although what that says about me I’m not going to explore…) Because of all her faults, Hayley was incredibly real to me: I could see her, hear her, as I read, and that is not easy for a writer to accomplish. Well done, Anderson! Hayley’s characterization also shows moments of true depth and complexity as she veers between immature and mature, teenager and adult, around others, particularly her dad. Having to play the parent to one’s parent is not easy, and Anderson showed how damaging and difficult this was to Hayley, as it is to anyone who endures it.

Because of the emotional connection I felt towards Hayley, I was able to experience and understand her reactions to her father. His PTSD and substance abuse is downright scary at times, and when Hayley felt scared or angry, I felt the same. But despite all that, like Hayley I wanted him to succeed and be a father and see his own worth, and this deep connection I felt to the story and characters shows Anderson’s writing genius.

Finally, the romance between Hayley and Finn reminds me of the romance in Fangirl, because it, too, is genuine and authentic. These two fight and misunderstand and become awkward and ignore each other, but at the end of the day, are obviously good for each other. And the romance doesn’t overshadow any of the story, but rather enhances it, which I was so happy about.

Writing Quality:

Although I have yet to read any of Anderson’s other novels, if they are as wonderfully written as this, I have no choice but to read them all. Anderson does not tiptoe around the realities of life, both good and bad, and I really appreciated this straight-forward, truthful approach.

(Because I’m a hypercritical nut, I do have to point out that I caught a few blatant typos and grammatical errors that hopefully are fixed when this is published in paperback.)

Who I recommend this to:

  • Fans of John Green’s novels
  • Fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and the Anonymous novels (i.e. Go Ask Alice, Jay’s Journal)
  • Realistic fiction readers
  • High school, college, and beyond (warning: language, violence, mentions of suicide, sex, alcohol, and drugs)
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Update: Please Don’t Hate Me

I am a horrible person and blogger.

To clarify, yes, I have only posted one review even though I promised three reviews weeks ago. Yes, I am still working on the promised reviews, not only because I owe it to you, but also because all books are fantastic and deserve to be talked about.

Please let me explain why I’ve been so behind on this blog:

  • My new job position has demanded much of my time and focus, and I’m still trying to balance everything else with this change.
  • My spare time has been filled with obligations to my family, church, home (aka cleaning and grocery shopping), and husband.
  • What little free spare time I had was then devoted to reading what little I could and working on a cosplay for Dragon*Con (which is under two months away).
  • I’ve had the worst case of reader’s block — yes, it is a thing, because I just made it up — in which I started three or four books and could not finish any of them. That’s never happened to me before! Thankfully, I can say that the reader’s block is over, thanks to Silver Linings Playbook (which I’ll be reviewing soon).

However, I heartily apologize for my absence and neglect of this blog. I can’t promise a time frame for upcoming reviews (as we know how well that works for me…), but here are the books I plan to share with you soon!

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Update: Future Reviews

I apologize for not updating or posting anything for a while. I didn’t fall off the face of the earth–instead, I simply went on vacation and am adjusting to a busier work schedule. In the interim, I wanted to share what reviews will be coming in the next week or so! All three books were amazing, and I look forward to sharing what I thought with you.

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