Dear Rachel Maddow by: Addrienne Kisner

Summary:

Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?

The Review:

Trigger Warning: This book contains scenes dealing with abuse and homophobia. 

This is an author I saw at Boston Teen Author Festival, and while I didn’t get a chance to pick up her book there I decided to add to by TBR. This was a very quick read, which I sometimes enjoy especially with YA Contemporary.

I would describe this as a sort queer-girl version of Perks of Being a Wallflower, with a young girl dealing with everyday life, while sort of writing letters to Rachel Maddow, a reporter for MSNBC.

Brynn, is entering a new school year after the death of her old brother and a very bad break up from an ex-girlfriend, Sarah. She spends most of her time as a loner just trying to get through the year, and also dealing with her mother and her stepfather, Fart Weasel.

I like the concept that the book is told through her draft emails to Rachel Maddow, and I think it makes the book or her actions seem very therapeutic, as if she is writing to Rachel Maddow herself. Throughout the book she sends about a few actual emails to Rachel Maddow, sort of explainiunbg about her life. With the format of emails, it helped me feel for Brynn and form more of a connection with her.

The main plot of the book is dealing with a student receiving a seat on the selection committee of the new superintendent of schools, and while ex Sarah, and Adam, the school’s popular jock want to only open up the selection to honor students, Brynn wants to make sure everyone has a voice.

Throughout the book, she also tries to run for student body president against Adam, and she has to deal with a lot of negative campaigning and homophobia directed at her.

At home she deals a lot with her abusive stepfather, and neglectful mother and some of the abuse scenes could be triggering and effects her mentally.

She also starts to form a relationship with Micheala, a new girl at school who she begins to like, and rebound from Sarah. I though their relationship was very cute and it was nice to see some f/f relationships that didn’t end bad. I found myself rooting for her constantly.

She also has some great friends, such as Lacey, who helps tutors her for her classes and Justin, who tries to get Brynn back on the school paper and also help deal with an arson that Adam may have done at the War memorial.

I felt the ending was a bit rushed, and while it was satisfying, I would have liked to see it more fleshed out.

In the end, Dear Rachel Maddow, was a nice sweet read taking a journey with a young girl navigating through life with the help of Rachel Maddow. I though Brynn was a very compelling character to take this journey with

Grade 4/5

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They Both Die at the End by: Adam Silvera

Summary:

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day. 

The Review:

After finishing this book, I just keep asking myself, why did I do that to myself. This is the third book I read by Adam Silvera this year and each one if just as devastating as the last one. But I do appreciate the fact that tells you in the title how devastating it will be.

The main plot of the book is a 24 hour period after both Mateo and Rufus receive their calls from Death Cast to inform them that they will die in the next 24 hours. After getting their calls they of course are both real devastated, and try to make the best of their last days alive.

Both Rufus and Mateo are both very different characters. Mateo is more reserved, while Rufus is more of a go getter. Adam Silvera does a good job at giving them both distinct personalities and it really shows in their POV chapters. By having them both meet each other through the Last Friend App, it sort of brings out the best in each other. They both seem as if they have nothing in common, you really get a sense of their friendship throughout the day.

The supporting characters were also well developed. Lidia, a friend of Mateo who lost her boyfriend a year earlier and now has to raise a child alone. Also the Plutos, friends of Rufus who he meet in the foster. I like how Silvera puts in their own POV, just to a little more information about the characters, and it also puts into context who Mateo and Rufus are leaving behind.

The concept behind the book is also very interesting. It kinda begs the question if you found out you only had 24 hours to live what would you do? It also ties heavily with the world around them. Deckers, those who get the death notice, get special deals and opportunities that they normally wouldn’t have. I also like the concept of the Last Friend App, for those who worry about dying alone, and they don’t have to.

In comparing this book, with other Adam Silvera’s books; History is All you Left Me and More Happy Than Not, I think this one has a more optimistic outlook. While it is a very devastating book its not as emotional as his other two. It sort of has the common message of live life to the fullest and any day could be your last, but the story is framed differently.

In the end, They Both Die at the End is another great book by Adam Silvera. He is basically 3/3 in great books. You will feel attached to both characters of Rufus and Mateo as they are really great characters. It also has a really good message.

Grade: 5/5

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by: Mackenzie Lee

Summary:

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. 

The Review:

This was another anticipated read of 2017 and it was also a genre that I don’t really gravitate towards which is a period fiction that doesn’t have a lot to do with fantasy.

This was also a very fun read, and it had a lot of great comedic moments within the book. Monty, who is the main character is a someone who was born to be a gentlemen and to also run his families estate. He is set to go on a European tour before he trains to manage is families estate. He is someone who has a carefree attitude and spends most of his free time taking parts in vices; such as gambling and drinking.

Monty has a sister, Felicity. Even though she is a women living in the 18th Century she challenges the gender norms such as reading, and learning. She does not want to go to finishing school in order to become a proper lady. I love the relationship between Monty and Felicity and they have a great sibling bond, especially when dealing with their father. She was also very smart and used a lot of her brilliance on their journey and always knew an answer to something.

Percy, is Monty’s best friend, but also crush. He is bi-racial, which is nice to see in a book especially with the 18th century setting. Even though is a friend of Monty’s, he still deals with a lot of racial issues that was going on in 18th century Europe. There was places where he couldn’t go  and also some of the back handed compliments he would receive. He also has epilepsy, and of course during that time period, having epilepsy meant that “you had the devil in you” and it wasn’t properly treated as it is right now.

The main plot of the book deals with Monty stealing something that a lot of people want, including highway men and rival Dukes who wants it. It is suppose to be a “cure all”. Monty is hoping to us the “cure all” to maybe cure Percy of his epilepsy. So Monty, Felicity and Percy go on an adventure to find the “cure all”. There is also several obstacles in the way, my favorite being them getting captured by “pirates”.

The pirates were one of my favorite aspects of the book, and I want to see more of them. I think in the second book, which is mainly be from Felicity’s perspective they will be in it. There is also a huge story of how they became pirates is actually pretty compelling.

Mackenzie Lee, also takes full advantage of its setting, and the book takes you to London, Marseilles, Spain and Venice and it feels as if I was also taking part in the European tour, and I would love to go on a tour of Europe, but lack of funds is keeping me from doing that.

While the plot was good, the main strength of the book is in its characters. The main three characters are all fully fleshed out characters. The relationship between Monty and Percy was also well done. While yes, most of it was them playing “I love you” chicken, I the entire book shipping them and hoping they will finally tell each other how they feel.  It also ties a lot to abuse which Monty went thorough at the hands of his father and how he wants to try to be his own man, and not be like his father.

In the end, Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a fantastic read and I loved every page of it. The characters are all enriching and fleshed out. It deals with a lot of complex issues such as, racism, mental health and abuse in the 18th century. I really hope to see what this author puts out.

Grade: 4.7/5

History is All You Left Me by: Adam Silvera

Summary:

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

The Review:

This was another book on my TBR. Earlier this year I read Adam Silvera other book, More Happy Than Not and I really liked it so I was glad that he wrote another book also dealing with gay themes.

History is All you Left Me, like More Happy Than Not deals a lot with grief and death, but does it in the best way possible. It begins with Griffin dealing with the death of his ex-boyfriend Theo, and Griffin feels a lot of grief towards it especially when he meets Theo’s current boyfriend Jackson at the funeral, and they start to sort of befriend one another.

The book also uses the narrative of flashbacks which gives us a glimpse into the relationship between Griffin and Theo, which includes their entire courtship from them both coming out and dating to them breaking up after Theo leaves for college. I thought the relationship was extremely well developed and you actually care about both of them even though you know whats going to happen.

Griffin, was also a well developed character. After the death of Theo he is going through a lot of emotions, and a bulk of the present day narrative he is “talking” to Theo, and is acting like all of his actions Theo is watching him. Throughout the book he is dealing with not only the break up between him and Theo but also his death and him trying to get over it. Griffin trying to befriend Jackson and their relationship was also pretty good with both of them having a shared grief towards Theo.

Another relationship Griffin had is with Wade, a friend of his and Theo’s. It was nice to him have a best friend especially when his relationship with Theo deteriorates and they even are about to enter a relationship until Griffin gets a call about Theo’s death.

What makes the book great is how Adam Silvera writs characters, especially LGBTQA+ characters as normal people and makes them relatable. Griffin was an average teenager who likes video games, comics and Harry Potter. But writing grief was also very well done and seeing Griffin’s inner turmoil is what made the book great.

In the end, History is All You Left Me was a great book that really sets up Adam Silvera has a great YA contemporary author. It gave us well developed characters and I want to see more books by him.

Grade 5/5

 

Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda By: Becky Albertalli

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

The Review:

For the past two years, I kept seeing this in bookstores and I always pick it up, then put it down and never actually buy the book. Last week I decided to finally buy the book. I confess, the reason why I grabbed the book this time is because of the movie that is about to come out soon and I wanted to finally see what the hype was all about, and it didn’t disappoint.

The story is basically a coming of age coming out story, in which Simon is secretly talking to someone online named “Blue” in which he talks about his problems to and they develop a good relationship. He also deals with being blackmailed by one of his classmates, to basically be a “wingman” to him. Simon is a sort of the normal YA contemporary male protagonist, he deals with most problems that high school boy faces but it did a good job at also weaving in a good coming out story. I also liked how much of a Harry Potter fanboy he was.

I felt it was a bit cliched to have a coming out story mixed in with a blackmail plot. That was always a pet peeve of mine in LGBTQA+ story lines in which it always has to deal with blackmail, in terms of coming out and the book already had a good story without blackmail plot.

I also like the use of the internet and how he meets “Blue”, being though Tumblr. It shows how an online can be helpful especially for those who want to escape their actual reality. I also liked Simon’s relationship with his family, especially his sister who pretty much knew he was gay.

The “Blue” reveal was also pretty good. While the relationship seemed a bit rushed once they meet each other in real life, it did seem real and genuine.

In the end, Simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda was a very good book that lived up to the hype. It had a great main character in which you care about and a pretty good story about coming out and self-acceptance.

Grade: 4/5