One of Us is Lying by: Karen M. McManus

Summary:
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

The Review:

This is a book sort outside of what I usually read because I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, but I do like a good mystery book, and this book had it.

It started with five students in detention, all of whom look straight out of The Breakfast Club coming from all different walks of life, and while at first they seem like the cardboard cutouts of those characters as the book went on they started to become more fleshed out.

The “death” happens rather quickly with Simon, having an allergic reaction and dying, while it does start as an accident there is people who believe that he was poisoned. Since all of them were in the room, they all became suspects. As the book goes on, you begin to believe that all of them has a reason to kill Simon, mainly because he posts on a sort of Gossip-Girl type website spilling all of the students dirty laundry, and it revealed a lot of their deepest darkest secrets.

I liked that the book was told through all of their POVs, it really fleshed out a lot of their characters, and you begin to realize that they are more than just a Brain, a Jock, a Princess or a criminal.

I also liked how it talked a lot about the age of social media, and how the story became a national news scandal. It actually had some commentary about news media in general and how it affects those who are involved in the story.

Also with the mystery itself, it actually keeps you guessing with a whodunit, but it also evolves into a whydonit mystery, and a how. Because even with the reveal of the killer you still want to know, how and why.

In the end, I really enjoyed One of Us is Lying. It was a good YA mystery, that kept you guessing throughout the book. The characters were very fleshed out and you wanted to root for. It was takes a lot of good twist and turns.

Grade: 4/5

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Tradition by Brendan Kiely (CW: Sexual Assualt)

Summary:

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

The Review:

This book, I sort of picked up on a whim. I knew of Brendan Keily as the co-author of All American Boys that we wrote with Jason Reynolds, and I even talked to him while getting his autograph at Bookcon, and he told me about this book.

The book is mainly told within three parts, a sort of before, during and after, and the book starts pretty much at an event and then goes to how the events lead to that incident. It has two POVs, James and Jules.

James is a transfer student, or a fifth year senior starting at the school and getting a fresh start after what happened at his old school. He has been recruited to play Hockey for them and quickly makes friends with the jock characters. I like that he was already unconformable with a lot of jock characters, who are all basically misogynist.

Jules, is someone who has attended the Fullbrook Academy and is on her senior year, who is basically counting the days until graduation so she could leave that school. She is practially an outsider, with a few friends.

I like that with the two POVs, you got see their own perspectives about each other. I also like how both Jules and James have start of with more of a friendship between each other. and seeing them bond over common interests.

I like the setting of the prestigious prep school, that fosters itself around tradition and order. As someone who has attended an all boys prep school, I can almost vouch for how those boys act, especially towards the young girls.

With the assault itself, it comes right at the middle of the book, and I like that it happened, towards the middle. It really gave me a chance to really recover with the character herself. It actually covers a lot of the beats that deals with sexual assault recovery, and wondering if it was her fault and also the backlash she received from former friends.

With the character of James, his arc revolves around trying to do the right thing with what happened with Jules and to stand up to his misogynist Hockey teammates. I also liked that he was able to be an effective ally without  verging into “not all men” territory.

In regards to the topic of sexual assault, I think more of the book could have dived deeper into the issue. But it did give us, a glimpse into what happens in regards to rape culture especially one that happened at a prestigious prep school, where the school is more likely to protect its reputation than protect the victim. It touches upon how harmful rape culture could be. I also felt that the ending was a bit rushed and could have been a bit more fleshed out.

In the end, I really enjoyed Tradition. It does a good job at tackling a subject such as rape culture, especially at a prep school, through the eyes of two great characters. I think it is a very important read, especially in regards to the #metoo movement

Grade: 4/5

When Dimple met Rishi by: Sandhya Menon

Summary:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

The Review:

This was another book that was on my TBR, since last year, and from the sound of the premise, it seemed like a nice cute YA contemporary romance.

The book is told through two points of view, Dimple, a Stanford bound Indian girl who has enrolled in a summer program, and Rishi, someone is who MIT bound and also comes from an Indian background. It was told to Rishi that he is suppose to have an arranged marriage with Dimple through both of their families.

Their first “meeting” was a sort of meet cute fail, in which Rishi snuck up on Dimple, which leads to of course Dimple throwing an iced coffee in his face. But after that fateful meeting they do begin to get to know each other, through their summer program and is even teamed up for a project.

Both Dimple and Rishi, are also pretty fleshed out characters with their own dreams and goals. For Dimple, she is passionate about computers and wants to build an app, and for Rishi he has a passion for comic books and drawing. It was through their individual passions that they begin to fall in love with each other.

Dimple is also sort of not really into the family pressure of having an arranged marriage or even the pressure of finding a suitable husband. While it does seem like a cliche, I felt the story framed it a little better.

The book touched on a bit about their Indian heritages and also family pressure that both Dimple and Rishi face, and it really added to their character development, which made them more fleshed out.

Yes, the book is very much like a Rom Com, and it goes through the usual tropes of a Rom-Com, with two people who don’t really like each other begin to fall in love. I think that is where its weakness comes in. The relationship between both Dimple and Rishi is what I enjoyed most about the book, but then it had that sort of 2nd act break up, which I felt was kinda a dumb reason for.

In the end, I thought When Dimple met Rishi, was a nice cute story, which could almost make for a summer read. It had a nice romance, even though it did feel like a cliche both Dimple and Rishi was a couple you would love to root for.

Grade: 4/5

Eliza and Her Monsters by: Francesca Zappia

Summary:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart

The Review:

This was a sort of recommendation via Amazon, after making some book purchases and it sort of stood out to me, mainly because of the premise and how it reminded me a lot of Fangirl.  Also if you have been following my blog for a while, you should know that I rarely read contemporary.

The main premise of the book deals with Eliza, who writes a webcomic called Monstrous Sea under the screen name LadyConstellation. She is also very popular online with her webcomic. In her normal world however, she is basically seen as weird and keeps to herself most of the time. Her two friends, Mark and Emmy are basically her online friends and they mostly talk about a show called Dog Days, that they obsess over.

Even though Eliza never meet either Emmy or Mark, you still give a sense of their friendship through their IMs and chats. Especially in this day in age in which your online friends can actually be your real friends and could still from a good relationship with one another.

She also meets Wallace, who is a fanfiction writer of her Monstrous Sea webcomic and doesn’t know that she is the author. I really enjoyed following their relationship. It did start off as bonding over mutual interests, but I think their was a lot of development between them to get me invested. I also liked that Wallace was a fleshed out character rather than just you typical YA love interest.

There is a lot of comparisons one could make with Fangirl, especially how it deals with the online communities and fandom in general. But I like that it deals with the mental health aspect a lot more than Fangirl did. Eliza, throughout the book finds out that she has anxiety after she kind of fainted in school.

I also loved seeing excerpts of The Monstrous Sea, which gives us a little more background of what Eliza created. I also really loved the artwork that the author included. It makes me want to read The Monstrous Sea.

In the end, I really enjoyed Eliza and Her Monsters. It was a nice read that dealt a lot with Fandom and online communities. I really enjoyed the relationship between Eliza and Wallace, and also the relationship between Eliza and her online friends.

Grade: 4.5/5

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Summary:

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

The Review:

This book was another very heavy read, especially after reading Dear Martin. The book is told enterily in free verse poetry, and it really provides a uniqueness towards the book, since I don’t usually read poetry books.

The book is told through the perspective of Will, a fifteen year old black kid, whose brother was shot to death and is now trying to get revenge from those who killed him, and it moslty takes place in an elevator and while he is on the eleavator he keeps getting flashbacks of what has happened.

But it is not just about what happened to his brother but also what happened to some of the other people in his life, and how each of them were affected by violence.  They come in the form of ghosts.

The concept of the book and the main story is basically set within a three minute and it is mostly set in the elevator with WIll constantly having to think about getting his revenge. It really gives him time to think, and really take in the situation.

I was very blown away by this book, and it put me on a whirlwind of emotions and it is a great testament to Jason Reynold’s writing and how you could feel every word on the page come out.

Long Way Down, is another great book by Jason Reynolds. His words always has meaning and delivers a dark and complex story.

Grade: 4.5/5

 

Dear Martin by: Nic Stone

Summary:

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

The Review:

My very awesome girlfriend gave me this book for Christmas, so it was very fitting that this would be my first read of 2018, and boy did my reading year start with a bang (I know very poor choice in words).

Much like The Hate U Give, this book deals a lot with the police violence in the United States especially when dealing with race. Justyce, is a young African American male who goes to a prep school, and is also dealing with being one of the very few black students who attend, a feeling I know all to well. A lot of the book deals with the fallout of his arrest, and him realizing that after everything, people could still arrest him.

While the book is fiction, it does touch on a lor of real life issues. After Justyce’s arrest he learns of other stories about young black men getting killed by the police who are unarmed. He uses his letters to Dr. Martin Luther King in order to come to grasp with his situation.

His issues with racial inequalities also happens a lot in his school with his classmates. Since a lot of classmates are white with the exception of Manny. Most of his white classmates dismiss issues of race and basically claim that white people have it worse, and I have also dealt with them in school. Mainly with Jared, who is most white boys I went to school with.

It also touched a lot of issues of race in regards to Manny’s father, who is a Vice President of a major company and still deals with issues of race.

A major highlight of the book was the “Dear Martin” chapters. I think the use of the letters really gave us a sense of the character of Justyce and what he is going through. I also liked his relationship with Sarah-Jane, or SJ, a white Jewish classmate of his. It kinda falls under the normal teenage love tropes in which they are debate partners and Justyce of course starts to have feelings for her and is very nervous about making a move. I thought is was nice to have a few light moments with them to counter a lot of the heavier moments that the book has.

In the end, Dear Martin is a very powerful book, much like The Hate U Give. It deals a lot of issues with race that is still going on today and Justyce is a great character to see those issues through his eyes.

Grade: 5/5

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