BOOK REVIEW : WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU

Author: Marisa Kanter
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository.
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Romance; Contemporary; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: April 7th 2020.


synopsis

Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.


review

“Because engaging with adults who think YA is for them? It’s exhausting.”

I almost took this comment by the protagonist personally. Because this book clearly conveys the message that YA is not meant for me. Since I’m and adult and all.

Okay, do I think that YA is meant for me? No. But do I still enjoy this genre? Yes. And although I am a huge consumer of YA books; these days, I do find it harder to relate to teenage characters from YA books. But I still feel that the author went at it in the wrong angle with the messaging of this book. While YA is marketed towards teenagers primarily, a large chunk of its readers do comprise of adults. And the messaging of the book would definitely alienate its adult readers.

The story follows Halle Levitt, a YA blogger who plans to be follow on the footsteps of her grandmother and be a Publicist in the future.

A significant portion of the story is centered around an online controversy about a YA book that Halle loves and hyped in her blog. The fictional author of the book referring to Halle’s review says in an interview that her book should not be boxed into a category, and should be enjoyed by people of all age and not only teenagers.

Outrage and hurt ensues. Halle is upset. Her teenager followers are upset.

But here is the thing. The fictional author with the supposed offensive comment? She did not say anything that I felt justified all that outrage. She did not insult her teenage readers but rather just requested that her book not be boxed within a certain age-group.

This book not only was disparaging towards adult readers of YA but I felt that it also carried a problematic message towards teenage readers too. I mean, teenage readers will one day become adult readers. So, you are basically saying that they can only read certain books for a small scope of time and then they are thrown out of the YA club? Hmm.

Anyways, let’s put aside me being an adult reader of YA. I do think that the outrage would have made more sense if the author had made a more insulting comment towards its teenagers. On the other hand, I did find this whole plotline a very interesting reflection of real life scenarios of this age where  a comment is taken out of context made a huge deal of in social media. Even if it was done unwillingly on the part of the author.

Believe it or not, if this plotline was the only problem I had with the book, I still would come out of this read a happy reader. That did not happen.

The book started on a promising note. I liked Halle’s family dynamics. I also found the details about the blogging very interesting. Halle incorporates her cupcake making skills into her YA reviewing. Being a blogger myself, the time and effort she invests into her blog struck a chord with me.

I liked her at the beginning too. I empathized with her lack of social skills due to moving around a lot with her parents who are Oscar nominated documentary filmmakers. I found the equation between her online persona Kels and Nash cute. I also really liked Nash. He was adorable. But when she meets Nash in real life, things start to go downhill.

The story suffers from the usual curse that books with this double-identity plots suffer from. It is stretched too thin. I could understand and empathize with Halle suffering from an identity crisis and not disclosing her online identity to Nash at the beginning.

But then her attitude gets worse. One day she is nice to Nash and his friends, the next day she is rude. Then suddenly she is ghosting her online friends. Her behavior and her lies got on my nerves. At one point, she starts dating Nash. And she still continues to feel insecure about him liking her online persona more. Umm, you two are the same person! And then she has the audacity to blame him for lying to you? I seriously got secondhand embarrassment for her.

The only character I could relate to by the end was Ollie, Halle’s younger brother who kept saying things from my mind. But Halle, sadly, was far too gone. I just wanted to shake her till I could bring some sense into her.

Honestly, these characters and this universe had a lot of potential.  But by stretching the lies too thin, the author lost her protagonist’s likeability and my patience as a reader.


ratings

★★

 

ARC REVIEW : CHASING LUCKY

Author: Jean Bennett
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: May 5th 2020.


synopsis

In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.

Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…


review

This is the second Jean Bennett book I read. It’s also the second book with ‘Lucky’ on its title (the other being Lucky Caller). Incidentally both made it to the list of my favorite YAs of the year so far.

There is so much to love about this book! Josie is moving back to her hometown with her flighty single mother. It’s supposed to be only for a year, as she keeps reminding her mother, before her grandmother returns from a trip to Nepal. But Josie has plans of her own that her mother doesn’t know her. She wants to graduate her high school and move to LA to be apprentice to her famous photographer father. Her life has been a blur of one city after another, when at 12 years of age, her mother took her and left town after a fight with her grandmother. So she wants stability for once, even if it means breaking her mother’s heart. But she didn’t foresee Lucky.

Lucky was Josie’s best friend until she suddenly left town. Now he’s a mystery with danger written all over him. Josie goes through wariness, annoyance, guilt, and fascination towards him. I, however, was fascinated from the start, and became more and more besotted with each page. Much of the book is spent on Josie and us getting to see the layers of his character get peeled slowly. And that kept me glued to the pages all along. Josie can be a little impulsive and selfish, but her heart is in the right place. And I adored her. But Lucky is the real scene stealer for me. He has my heart, okay?

Now, what else did I love about the book? Josie’s relationships with her mother and cousin Evie, for starters. Lack of communication runs in the family. There is love between Josie and her mother, but the latter’s unwillingness to communicate has turned Josie bitter. Evie has her own problems – a toxic relationship with the town’s golden boy. But this is a family that simply doesn’t talk with each other. I also loved Lucky’s family, who are polar opposite to Josie’s, but just as lovely. Most of all, though, I loved Josie and Lucky, and their relationship.

If I have a complaint about this book, it’s that it could be longer. I wanted to see certain characters like Josie’s mom and Evie being explored. Their arcs felt unfinished. Also, there is this whole thing about their family being cursed in love, which is mentioned a lot, but not explained enough in my opinion.

Despite these flaws, I loved the writing, the characters and this universe. It’s only a good thing when you don’t want a book to end. But it’s a bad thing when you can’t have a Lucky of your own! Be back bawling.


ratings

★★★★★

 

BOOK REVIEW : LUCKY CALLER

Author: Emma Mills
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company.
Genre: Young Adult; High School; Contemporary; Romance.
Warnings: None.
Release Date: January 14th 2020.

synopsis

Lucky Caller

When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.

The members of Nina’s haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she’d hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.

The show is a mess, internet rumors threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina’s family is on the brink of some major upheaval.

Everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control―but maybe control is overrated?

With the warmth, wit, intimate friendships, and heart-melting romance she brings to all her books, Emma Mills crafts a story about believing in yourself, owning your mistakes, and trusting in human connection in Lucky Caller


review

Emma Mills has somehow decoded the art of writing consistently good Young Adult books, because she keeps doling them out year after year, never compromising on the quality. And Lucky Caller might just be my favorite book by her. Honestly, this is how every story about high school life should be like. Lots of warmth, some teenage angst, family drama, romance and humor. 

Nina’s mother is getting married. And although she genuinely likes Dan, the guy her mom is marrying, she’s still on the fence over how to take the new changes coming her way. She’s also starting her final semester and decides to take the elective class on radio broadcasting, where she is forced to be in a group with Sasha, Joydeep and Jamie (her ex-best friend who she has some history with).

I loved every bit about their radio broadcasting course. The course is basically about every group coming up with their own radio show for the school radio, which would air in hourly slots on every school-day. Although Nina and co. treat it as a walk in the park at first, but after some hilarious hijinks it’s clear that they need to step up their game. And desperate times call for desperate actions. Which leads to even more hijinks. It’s just too entertaining and somewhat realistic.

Even though the parts with the radio assignment were my favorite, I enjoyed the bits with Nina’s family no less. The author created a relatable family, particularly the equation between the sisters resonating with me. And I liked how each of the 3 sisters – Rose, Nina and Sidney had their own colors and their own arcs even if small. The author uses flashbacks to show us the small cracks between them and their dad who’s a radio show host living in LA. It’s also through flashbacks that we see what exactly transpired between Nina and Jamie.

Emma Mills is a great writer of the Young Adult genre, because she can write teenage characters well. Joydeep, for instance is as teenager highschooler as you can get. He is also the most hilarious character I’ve read in a long time and made me laugh out loud too many times. Sasha also won me over with her no-nonsense attitude. But it was Jamie who melted my heart – just as he did Nina’s – at every opportunity he got. He’s just the sweetest and most adorable hero, his personality perfectly complementary to that of Nina’s sarcastic and reticent nature. Theirs is a friends-to-lovers romance. It’s a slow burn and I enjoyed it very much.

If I had to talk of any issues I had with the story, it would be how little the character of Nina’s dad was explored, his history unexplained, and how some plot points were not wrapped up neatly. This made for an ending which wasn’t tight and has me wishing for a sequel. But ultimately, the story and the characters resonated with me, despite some minor flaws. The writing was impeccable and the storytelling was solid, albeit a little loose. My love for Emma Mills’ writing has only increased, as has my love for her habit of leaving references to her other stories in every book, like Easter eggs to be spotted by her regular readers. Anyways, I definitely plan to revisit this story and this world in the near future.


ratings
★★★★★

BOOK REVIEW: THE MAP FROM HERE TO THERE

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.


review

I wasn’t surprised when I heard some mixed reactions about this book before starting it. Because it would be difficult to attain the perfection that The Start of Me and You did for me. And my excitement for this book was more to do with my wish of revisiting this universe and the group of characters who I came to love.

And ironically, it was the characterization that was one of my main problems with this book. One of my favorite things about the first book was how every character got the chance to shine. But I felt that we don’t get that enough here. For example, I’d been rooting for Paige’s bestie Tessa and Max’s cousin Ryan, because of their flirty equation and Ryan’s obvious interest in her, in the last book. I mean, a main part of that book was how Paige and Max were like Jane and Bingley, while Tessa and Ryan were like Elizabeth and Darcy.

But we find out at the very beginning that Tessa got herself a girlfriend over the Summer. I didn’t know whether to be happy that this was introduced so naturally and not made a big deal of (a big yay for LGBT); or be disappointed that we didn’t get more details about how a character who gave no signs of being homosexual in the first book, just suddenly went through such an important transformation over a span of 2 months and we didn’t get to be a party to this character development.

Speaking of Ryan, a character who we got to see have some major moments in the first book, doesn’t have that big of a role to play. I also felt that we didn’t get enough of Morgan and Kayleigh here. There is a part where Morgan drops a big bomb on Tessa about herself drunkenly, and that’s it. There’s no more discussion on it,

Almost everything takes a backseat in this book to Paige. We spend half the book on Paige overthinking every little thing. While I found that endearing in the first book, this time the author just took it too far. Yes, she’s a teenager. She’s right to be flawed and be indecisive and self-involved. But we already saw her doing this in the previous book and overcome it to a large extent. And when we see her doing the same things again, and regressing on her own, what was all that character growth from the first book for?

It also didn’t help that a whole lot of the plot is reliant on Tessa’s overthinking. She has decided over the Summer that she wants to study script-writing in New York or LA. She’s worried that this will cause friction between her divorced and currently dating parents. She’s worried about how it will impact her relationship with Max. Then when Max tells her he’s also applying to the same areas, she’s worried of the pressure it puts on her. And all that’s fine and realistic. But the main conflict was stretched too thin and at one point, the charm was lost.

For all my complaining, I still loved the friendship between Paige, Tessa, Kayleigh, Morgan and Ryan. Paige and Max were really cute initially (when they weren’t being stupid). Their relationship was also realistic. I loved Paige’s family again too. And I’d have been happier had the ending been satisfactory. But that ending was abrupt with one major plot point still being unresolved.


ratings★★★☆☆

ARC REVIEW : 100 DAYS OF SUNLIGHT

When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down.

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down.


review

I really tried to like this book. And I failed.

I could compare my feelings towards this book to that of what I felt after The Fault in Our Stars. Two young teens, both with their own diseases (disabilities in this case), finding solace in each other. And here also, I struggled to connect or relate to either of the two.

Okay. Here’s the first thing that I was not impressed by – Weston suddenly out of nowhere deciding that he would be a friend to Tessa. We see him right off the bat decide to make Tessa see the beautiful things in life, even in her temporary blindness. Okay. But why? They didn’t know each other beforehand, and Tessa was horrible to him from the start. I get the idea that it’s supposed to be because Tessa is the first person who can’t look at him pity for his condition, because she’s blind, and he likes that. But the writer does not expand on these feelings, except maybe a line or two.

Second thing that I didn’t like was how quickly Tessa and Weston grew an attachment. I get that they’re forced by their proximity and in Tessa’s case, isolation from the rest of the world. But I still would’ve liked them to take some more time to build their connection towards each other. But this is not any major issue.

My major issue was not being able to connect Weston and Tessa. Weston came off as a little too self-righteous and self-assured on his decisions when it came to Tessa. That was a turn-off. Tessa, on the other hand, was just unlikable. I get that she has a lot of problems but her character development felt lacking to me. I just couldn’t bring myself to sympathize with her.

I commend the author for touching upon many difficult and serious themes in this book, particularly that of mental health, family, etc. but I think that the quality of the writing needed to be better for these themes to have more of an impact on me. There were some genuinely cute and funny moments. It brings me back to my first point. I wanted to like the book, because it had an important message. But the writing made that difficult.

definitely think that this book would appeal more to younger newer readers. But I’ve read too many YAs in my days to have found anything novel or unpredictable about this book.


ratings

★★★☆☆

Publication Date: 7th August, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  Amazon Goodreads Book Depository

 

BOOK REVIEW : SPIN THE DAWN

 

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.



review

Normally, the word ‘Mulan’ is enough to tempt me to start a book. But then you add ‘Project Runway’ to it? Color me intrigued. Besides Mulan, I could also find elements from stories of ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Spirited Away’. There are other myths explored in this novel, mainly from Chinese origins. I particularly liked the re-imagination of the silk road.

The beginning was promising. I found myself invested in Maia and her family very fast. Her family slowly descends towards its ruins, after she loses her mother, and her brothers to the war. It’s the same war that forces the emperor to marry the enemy’s daughter as a truce. And to please his bride, he arranges a competition for her to choose her master tailor.

Maia’s father is also summoned to participate in the competition or send his son to represent him. But her father is a mere shadow of his former self from a series of emotional loss, and her brother unskilled in the family business. It had long before fallen upon Maia to take on the reins as the main tailor in the family business.

We move to the castle when Maia goes to the castle disguised as her brother, a capital crime. I enjoyed the competition with all the mysteries, the competitors, the politics, and the details of all the dressmaking. I was also torn between feeling sympathy and suspicion towards the princess who’s forced to wed her enemy and does everything in her capacity to delay the wedding. The best part of the book came at the end of the first part where the author totally subverted my expectations by doing the unexpected.

The pace slowed down a lot in the second part, with Maia going on an unimaginable journey in order to collect the materials to make an impossible wedding gown for the future empress. I found my attention wavering from here on. I also could not find myself invested in the romance between Maia and Edan. It’s probably because I just could not find Edan’s whole character arc to be unconvincing from the start. But my loyalty towards Maia remained constant throughout the book. I loved her courage, vulnerabilities and mostly the conviction of following her heart.

Although the pace picked up in the third and final part, and there were some very unpredictable twists, my interest could not be restored to what it was at the beginning.  I also have qualms about how someof the plot unfolded. Some resolutions felt unearned. I’d really like to vent about them but can’t because of the spoilers. But I’m hoping that the second book will give us better explanations to, though. And I’m certainly interested in reading the sequel because of how the book ended.

It’s interesting if you look at my breakdown of rating for the three parts of the book –
5- stars for the first part, 3-stars for the second part, and 4 stars for the third part. Heh.


ratings

★★★★☆

 

RE(AR)VIEW : THE START OF ME AND YOU

Hello all! I’ve found in my life that the best way to cure a reading slump is rereading old favorites. So I thought of starting a new corner where I could discuss my favorite books after rereading them. First book to be featured here – Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You!

Also, good news! I’m officially over my reading slump. Thanks to this book!


rearview



It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

 


The Start of Me and You has created a place in my heart as one of my most favorite YAs. And I loved it even more when I reread it on perhaps my 3rd reread.

Let’s discuss my favorite parts about the book!

  • Mr. Bingley and Jane – Paige and Max are characters you’d usually see as the best friends of main characters in other books. In fact, the more you read, the more you feel that Ryan and Tessa (Paige and Max’s best friends) are the characters you’re used to seeing as protagonists. There is a running comparison even to Jane and Mr. Bennett. At the very beginning, Paige rejects a comparison to Jane and calls herself Elizabeth. After that Max calls her Jane. It was adorable. Their friendship was adorable.
  • The unlikely pair – Paige is the quiet girl who just wants to fit in. Max is the resident geek who’s been bullied in the past. I was so used to seeing characters like Paige being paired with jocks like Ryan, Max being paired with the likes of beautiful and popular Tessa, that I enjoyed the novelty a lot!
  • The friendships – The friendships in the book was my favorite thing! Be it Paige’s strong friendship with Tessa, Morgan and Kaeleigh, or Max’s friendship with his cousin Ryan. Then Paige’s growing friendship with Max was also endearing to read. I loved how Paige slowly embraced her inner geek, hanging out with Max. I wanted to be part of Max and Paige’s gang by the end. Whatever struggles each of the characters had, none of it was because of their friendships. There were no jealousies or insecurities. And all the characters did have their own distinctive arcs that I enjoyed as a reader.
  • Miscellaneous – Altogether, there’s a lot to love about the book. There are small moments and distinctive character traits that make that endear you to the story. Like Max’s love for airplanes, Max and Tessa’s common taste of music, Max and Paige’s Quizbowl, Paige’s well intention-ed crush on Ryan, the realistic sibling love-hate relationship between Paige and Cameron. It was all just so cute!

And you know what else I love about this book? There was a surprise announcement (three years after the release of the first one) of a sequel this year! And it’s got a release date for January next year. I’m so excited! I plan to reread this one again when the release date for the sequel is nearer. Aaaaa!

Would you look at the cover for the sequel? ADORABLE!

 

BOOK REVIEW : STARFISH

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.


review

Two pages into the book, I thought to myself ‘The writing is so fluid and effortless!” And it was. I come across my fair share of pieces of writing that I find disjointed and forced, so I know when to appreciate and enjoy it when reading masterful writing such as this.

Let’s backtrack to how I discovered this book. A few weeks ago, when reading entries of Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly blog meme, with the week’s theme being being characters we could relate to, I saw the protagonist Kiko from Starfish in quite a few lists. The description had me curious although I wasn’t too drawn by the blurb when I googled the book. I’m so glad that I ultimately picked the book up!

It would be unfair of me to say that I relate to Kiko. I don’t quite share her form of social-anxiety. Rather, I suffer from some sort of post-social anxiety. That is, I find social encounters taxing because I feel exhausted after the encounters instead of feeling nervous before them. I spend a large amount of time dissecting and analyzing the things I did and said, and suffering from embarrassment. Unlike Kiko, I am impulsive and just say whatever comes to my mind. That is why, whenever Kiko would think one thing and say another thing, letting others overpower her, I kept getting frustrated wanting her to speak her mind and go all guns blazing!

Kiko wishes she could look like everyone else. She wishes she could be effortlessly social like her peers. She wishes she could have her mother’s attention and love. Most of all, she wishes she could get into her desired art school Prism. But Kiko is a product of emotionally abusive parenting. And she suffers from serious self-esteem issues.

I might not relate to Kiko, but I felt for her big time! I just wanted to hug her and tell her that she’s loved. Her loneliness and helplessness jumped out of the book and engulfed me. The mother seemed past the point of redemption the moment I realized that she didn’t believe her daughter in her most vulnerable state. I found her to be a hateful character!

I was mad at the father because he left Kiko and his two sons in the hands of a woman who he knows to be manipulative. He is also partly to blame for the identity crisis that Kiko faces as a half-Japanese because he didn’t try hard enough to get her acquainted to his culture. His being a passive and acquiescent makes him no less guilty than the mother in my eyes.

I could totally understand Kiko’s crush on Jamie. Who wouldn’t crush over this adorable boy? There is a bit of a mystery over why he didn’t contact her after moving away back when they were 11 when they were such best friends. I didn’t expect the revelation that came at the end. I liked it even though it made me only hate certain characters even more.

If I could point out a few complaints I had about the book, it would be how things seem to fall a little too conveniently into places  for Kiko, after she goes to California. I also wished the author took a different approach rather than using romance initially to bring in a transformation for her. Having said that, I loved how she understood her dependence on Jamie and wanted to come on to her own without using him as a crutch.

But these are only little things. I can say that the author’s writing was beautiful and makes me want to pick her second book asap. I felt strongly for the book – the story and the characters. Kiko will definitely with me for a long time. And as a reader, that’s all I can hope for – the story to leave a mark on me.


ratings

★★★★★

BOOK REVIEW : IF I’M BEING HONEST

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.


review

This could also be titled “Self-taming of a self-proclaimed shrew”.

Cameron Bright is a mean girl. She thinks her friend Andrew is the one for her. But when he sees her being unnecessarily harsh to a classmate of theirs, he calls her a ‘bitch’. Cameron can’t bear Andrew having such a low opinion of her and wants to get into his good books again.

A discussion on ‘Taming of the Shrew’ in her English class makes her decide to tame herself à la Katherine. First step is apologizing to people she’s wronged. However, at first, it’s all because she wants to get Andrew back. Eventually, though her intentions become genuine. She even finds good friends and a potential love interest along the way.

What I liked most about the story was that Katherine is very self-aware. She knows what she is and does not pretend to be something else. She also knows why she is the way she is. She’s got a deadbeat mother and a rich absent father who are unmarried. Although her father lives in another city and is busy looking after his empire, and too busy to say two words of kindness to his daughter, Katherine wants his approval.

It’s him who fixes the mess that her mom makes and will always send the money for their living. Katherine admits to herself that it’s her father’s honest and harsh way of dealing with her that makes her the way she is. Katherine also, although harsh, never shies away from the truth. She also is hell bent on getting her father’s approval, even if it means studying Maths to get into the top business school, rather than the subject appeals to her – pursuing graphic design and arts.

Despite understanding where the character was coming from, I was frustrated and did not agree with many of the things she did. I also had mixed feelings about some of the secondary characters. I just could not connect with them. Having said that, all the characters were really well-fleshed out. The romance started off with great potential but I was not happy with the direction it took in the end.

What won me over in the end, though, was the organic character growth of Katherine. Her self-reflections and transition were a pleasure to witness, despite my frustrations with certain decisions she took. Also, I really liked the honest discussions and discourse on the topic of The Taming of The Shrew by the characters. These intelligent and intuitive insights turned it into an engaging read, even if not a perfect YA by any stretch.


ratings

★★★★☆