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Review – Dirty Little Secret – Jennifer Echols

dirty little secretDirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Echols

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
I was being given the chance to do the one thing I wanted most in the world. The chance was presented to me by a guy so gorgeous, he turned my skin to fire when he touched me. And joining a band was the one thing I was most forbidden to do, the thing that would ruin my future forever.

There are too many secrets in eighteen-year-old Bailey’s life. Not just the obvious one: that she told her grandfather she was going on a date, and instead is playing fiddle in a Nashville bar. There’s all the stuff that makes it worse. Like how her younger sister, Julie, was offered a recording contract, and her family is terrified that Bailey is going to mess the deal up. Like the way that Bailey has been acting out. Like the way they’re all mad at her, even Julie.

Bailey’s parents don’t want her playing any gigs at all, but when they leave her with her grandfather in Nashville for the summer so they can tour with Julie, he lands her a music job that’s beneath the radar, playing old country songs in cheesy costumes at a local mall. That’s where she meets Sam. . . .

Review:
I have to admit that I primarily requested/downloaded this book because I fell in love with the cover. It just was to me, eye-catching. You could tell by looking at it, that the story behind it was going to be interesting – so many different elements – the violin, the picture of two people kissing…I wondered how it was all going to play out. And I’m pleased that say that it was well-worth it. In this case, the picture on the cover lived up to the story in the book (it is always disappointing when it doesn’t…).

It was also nice to see a young adult/new adult romance (since it kind of falls into both worlds), where there wasn’t a root story that involved rape (attempted or occurred); molestation; kidnapping etc. But rather, an almost normally, albeit slightly screwed up family. Sure Bailey probably got the wrong end of the stick and I felt back for her – but it was nice to see some semblance of normalcy.

I will have to admit though, that the blurb available on the authors website (as well as Amazon and other book-related ones), basically gives away the entire story. For what its worth, I edited out what you see here so it was shorter. Which is kind of disappointing…there wasn’t really that much mystery into how everything was going to play out…I wish that cover designers would go back to a more limited description, so that there is some surprise to the story…but back to the story.

The romance that developed between Bailey and Sam was sweet (there isn’t really any other way to describe it). It is definitely a book that I would recommend for older teens, because there are scenes that involve sex that would make it inappropriate for the younger people in the age group. But there was also some teenage angst (I mean, what would a YA romance novel be without the angst ;) ). But it wasn’t overdone, it felt more believeable than some of the scenarios that I have read about in different books.

This was my first book by Ms Echols, and it definitely won’t be my last. I think I have two more by her waiting on the pile at home. I gave Dirty Little Secret a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan – Seth Rudetsky

the audies

awful awesome popularity planMy Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan
Author: Seth Rudetsky

Narrated by: Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, James Wesley
Run Time: 5hr and 15 minutes
Produced By: Audible, Inc

Description:
Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the “in” crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann, who doesn’t shave her armpits). And Chuck? Well, he’s not gay; he’s dating Becky, a girl in chorus with whom Justin is friendly.

But Justin is determined.

In detention one day (because he saw Chuck get it first), Justin comes up with a perfect plan: to allow Becky to continue dating Chuck, whom Becky’s dad hates. They will pretend that Becky is dating Justin, whom Becky’s dad loves. And when Becky and Justin go out on a fake date, Chuck will meet up with them for a real date with Becky. Chuck’s bound to find Justin irresistible, right? What could go wrong?

Review:
One thing I have loved about listening to books nominated for the Audie Awards is that it made me find authors that I had never before read and narrators I had never before listened to. And in the case of My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan, I got a double dose – with a new author, plus getting to listen to his narration/interpretation of his characters. I got to also listen to the fabulous narration by Megan Hilty (who stars in my favorite, although now cancelled show, SMASH – boo hoo). I think I spent almost the entire time chuckling at Justin’s antics. He was the epitome of the high school geek. I have to wonder how much of the book was based on the author’s experiences. There seemed to be a sense of realism that doesn’t always appear in books (that, or he never truly left his teenage years…).

To say where the plot put forth by Justin was insane, would be an understatement…I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. It was like listening to a comedy of errors as the school-year progressed. Rudetsky managed to pack nearly a full-year of high school trials and tribulations into a relatively short book (I mean, the audiobook was just over 5 hours long). I enjoyed the various narrators who participated in the book. I thought that the director found the right blend of youthful innocence and snarky humor in their voices. I also appreciated the fact that at the beginning of the book, the various narrators were introduced and the characters that they were portraying was mentioned. This really helped me be able to put a voice to a character rather than all of the various narrators blending together. This, to me, is something that I have discovered to be important in multi-narrator books.

I gave My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan a solid 4 stars and I know that I will be seeking out more books by the author in the future.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – UnWholly – Neal Shusterman

unwhollyUnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: #2 in the Unwind Trilogy

Description:
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Review:
Sometimes there are books that just stick vividly in our minds and even a year or so after reading it – you can recall what happened in certain parts. For me, Unwind, the first book in this trilogy was like that. So I was excited to see the second book come out late last year…I pre-ordered it and everything…and then it sat, gathering dust on my bookshelf. I wanted to read it, but was too scared to, for fear that my memories of Unwind, would be ruined by a not so good second installment (I mean, it had been like 4 years since Unwind came out). Reviews among my friends were split – some loved it, others found it ok, but the majority of the reviews had the word BUT in them…like something was missing and that was concerning to me. However, I finally sucked it up and read it (or I think devoured might be a more appropriate description).

But moving on – the one thing I really liked about UnWholly was how it took the same issue, but looked at it from a wider perspective. While Unwind really focused on the micro-issues of the kids who were subjected to being Unwound, Unwholly focused on them, as well as society. I liked the touches of written ads (very similar to those we see during elections) campaigning both for and against unwinding and the various “groups” who were contributing for/against it. There was also a lot more history involved in this installment.

Plus, Shusterman introduced Cam – who might be one of my favorite characters in the series so far. He is the complete opposite to an Unwind – someone that has been created from parts of kids that were unwound. It was kind of freaky (for lack of a better word)…but he was certainly intriguing.

I can’t wait to read the third book in the trilogy that is due out later on this year and see how he ties up all the bits and pieces. Overall, I gave UnWholly a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – City of a Thousand Dolls – Miriam Forster

city of a thousand dollsCity of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Series: #1 in the Bhinian Empire

Description:
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Review:
When I first started to read City of a Thousand Dolls, I was reminded in part of the Kushiel series’ by Jacqueline Carey. There was something about Nisha that reminded me of Phaedre – the idea of the abandoned girl finding her way in the world and eventually knowing where she belongs. I also liked the idea of the city being the place where the abandoned children are sent. It made me wonder, in places like China, where there is a limit on how many children families can have, what would have happened, if children couldn’t be adopted or what to do with them. So it was an interesting take on a problem that I see could easily occur in the world in the future.

I have to admit that the reveal for the ultimate mystery was a bit of a disappointment – I had the potential suspects narrowed down to three, early on in the book, so for me it was more of a confirmation rather than a reveal. This was a bit disappointing for me – I was hoping for some out of the blue antagonist – even the ultimate actions of the main characters were fairly obvious as to what was going to happen. However, the world building was intriguing, I definitely want to read more in the series when the books are released. Overall, I’d give it 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Sanctum – Sarah Fine

sanctumSanctum
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: #1 in the Guards of the Shadowlands series

Description:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

Review:
Its times like this, that I am thankful for recommendations from friends on Goodreads – because I can say for certain that I would never have found this book, let alone read it, without their recommendation. I am still conflicted over my final star-rating, but it has the potential to be one of my first 5-star reads for the year (and yes, I know its already 3 months into the year…) At first I was skeptical how the theme of youth suicide would be handled, especially when mixed with a fantasy type world – but I felt that the author managed to walk the fine line pretty well. It wasn’t until I looked at her biography and realized that she was a child psychologist that I realized why she did it so well – it (youth suicide) is obviously a topic that she is passionate about and has done research about/likely worked with children who have been affected by it.

It did raise a lot of thought-provoking ideas – most religions, if not all, have a form of heaven – but how many of them address whether people who commit suicide end up there – are they buried on un-consecrated ground (like the Catholic church) or what happened? And is there anyway for them to move from where they end up to heaven for real. I know that I had never really considered any of it until reading Sanctum – which to me is a sign of a great book.

However, about 2/3 of the way through, it did start to hit a bit on the teenage angst that was fustrating – I think the book would have automatically been a 5 star without that, and from how it ended, I have to admit that I am a bit concerned about where book 2 in the series is going to go…hopefully it will stay clear of the total teen angst/love triangle that seems to be so prevalent in a vast majority of YA books recently…Right now, I think I am going to give it 4.5, but rounding down to 4 on the Goodreads scale.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Keeping You A Secret – Julie Anne Peters

keeping you a secretKeeping You A Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters

Description:
With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden’s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of young love.

Review:
Holland Jaeger is the girl who by all appearances has it all – the girl that everyone wants to emulate. But life isn’t always as simple as that, especially when she discovers that she is gay. Suddenly her whole life changes in the space of an afternoon – the loss of family and friends, of all that is known to her was written in such a way by Ms Peters that it was terrifying and yet this is what many GLBT youth go through when they come out. I felt for Holland, I got teary-eyed when everything in her life started to change, and yet at the same time, when she picked herself up and said screw it to everyone, I cheered for her.

I felt that the author did a good job of exploring not only the teenage psyche (am I or aren’t I? what is going on?) as well as society’s acceptance/non-acceptance, and the different facets within (family, friends, school community, GLBT community). You (or at least I) could tell from the writing that this was something near and dear to the author’s heart, and that it was something that she likely had experience in. Which was confirmed when I finished the book and read her letter to the readers. She discussed the idea of writing a coming-out book and what risk it was to her and her partner, and the fear of what it might incite. Stuff that was similar to events in the story itself. You can easily see why this book was not only a Lambda Literary Award Finalist in 2003 (losing to Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan) and an ALA Stonewall Honor Book (an award given by the American Library Association every year for GLBT books). I know that I will most likely be looking for more books by this author in the future to try. Overall, 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Moon Over Manifest – Clare Vanderpool

moon over manifestMoon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool

Narrators: Jenna Lamia, Cassandra Campbell, Kirby Heyborne
Run Time: 9 hrs and 31 minutes
Producer: Listening Library

Description:
The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Review:
I typically don’t play much attention to books that win the Newberry Award (or similar), but after listening to Moon Over Manifest, I am intrigued to check out more of them (I think the last one I remember reading was The Giver – Lois Lowry). My purpose for picking up this book…I was looking for an audiobook that had 2 or more narrators that my library had available immediately…and thus, I grabbed Moon Over Manifest to listen to (yes, I know, a hugely scientific method of picking which book to listen to next).

My initial reaction/thoughts, when I heard the name of the main character, was Abilene – I wonder what the etomology of that name is, since it isn’t one you normally hear (and the last i heard it was in The Help). According to Think Baby Names, the origins of the name is one of Hebrew origin and it is believed to have been derived from the hebrew word for grass – which now that I think about it kind of fits the character of Abilene. She was truely a girl that I would love to sit down and have a meal with to talk – the whole idea of her existing (along with her father) in a state of perpetual motion moving from place to place.

But the story in itself is a coming of age, finding out what your place is in the world – which in part means, where did you come from? And for Abilene that is the purpose behind her summer in Manifest – finding out the story of her past. But tied in with finding out her past, understanding the history of the town and the time period itself. It is really hard to say more about the book without revealing any spoilers, and I don’t really want to do that, so I am just going to leave my review of the book as is…

When it came to the narrators, the only one of the three that I had previously listened to – Kirby Heyborne – and when I saw that he was one of the narrators I jumped at the narration. I had also heard good things about Cassandra Campbell, although I had never listened to anything done by her. I was also a bit confused at the beginning because Overdrive listed Justine Eyre as the main narrator, but the audiobook listed and stated Jenna Lamia – so I thought at the beginning that maybe they were a pseudonym of each other, but I found out I was wrong.

I have no real complaints about the narration – I thought that all three of the narrators fit their roles well and added to the depth/texture of the story. If I was to make one comment, I think that Kirby Heyborne was a bit under-used. He, specifically, was the voice of Ned, one of the boys from Manifest who was fighting in WW1. While I think his voice was great for. However, some of the other flash-backs I think could have used his voice – especially since they were told from the perspective of a young boy. While a bit nit-picky, that was my biggest complaint about the overall narration.

I was a bit conflicted overall with what to give Moon Over Manifest – I was wavering at a 3.5, but not sure if I should round up or down and now sitting down and thinking about it – I think I am going to go with the round-up option. This is the type of book, while written for a young-adult audience, can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Death and the Girl Next Door – Darynda Jones

death and the girl next doorDeath and the Girl Next Door
Author: Darynda Jones
Series: #1 in the Darklight series

Description:
Ten years ago, Lorelei’s parents disappeared without a trace. Raised by her grandparents and leaning on the support of her best friends, Lorelei is finally beginning to accept the fact that her parents are never coming home. For Lorelei, life goes on.

High school is not quite as painful as she thinks it will be, and things are as normal as they can be. Until the day the school’s designated loner, Cameron Lusk, begins to stalk her, turning up where she least expects it, standing outside her house in the dark, night after night. Things get even more complicated when a new guy—terrifying, tough, sexy Jared Kovach—comes to school. Cameron and Jared instantly despise each other and Lorelei seems to be the reason for their animosity. What does Jared know about her parents? Why does Cameron tell Jared he can’t have Lorelei? And what will any of them do when Death comes knocking for real?

Review:
I have to admit when I started Death and the Girl Next Door, i wasn’t sure what to expect. I think I was one of the few people who didn’t fall madly in love with the other series by this author (Charley Davidson), although it has grown on me as it has progressed. And when i saw the description of D&tGND (since the title is too long to continue typing), I was worried that it was going to be super similar to Charley Davidson but more YA-ish. Thankfully, it was not so, and I ended up enjoying it a bit more than I expected.

At first, the whole angel of death thing, I wasn’t so sure about…but as you got to know Lorelei as a character, I came to like her, and then having 2 sexy guys (protectors) looking after her (Cameron and Jared), whew. Her friends were also entertaining and I’m really want to find out more about them in the future. The say the book was action-packed was an understatement – it was definitely a roller coaster of a ride, with more ups, than downs through-out.

I think my biggest complaint about the book is that some of the world-building was a bit confusing – while I realize that there are going to be several books in the series – I felt a bit lost, and it wasn’t until I got closer to the end that I saw how much development had gone on. while I don’t want an info dump on the world-building, it needed a bit more…either way, I am intrigued enough, that i will be picking up the next book when it comes out in March. Overall, I’d give it a solid 3 stars. A good but not great intro to a new series (yes, I am very picky), but I think anyone looking for a YA paranormal/urban fantasy will like it.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – A Mango-shaped Space – Wendy Mass

mango-shaped spaceA Mango-Shaped Space
Author: Wendy Mass

Description:
Mia Winchell appears to be a typical kid, but she’s keeping a big secret—sounds, numbers, and words have color for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way. But when trouble at school finally forces Mia to reveal her secret, she must learn to accept herself and embrace her ability, called synesthesia, a mingling of the senses.

Review:
It was funny, when I was talking to my friend Naomi about the book I was currently reading (this one), she made the comment back that I find the weirdest/interesting books to read and how did I do it (of course, there was various other friendly banter in the convo, but that was the gist of it). And I came to realize that is true – so many of my book recommendations come from lists off goodreads and they are ones I never would have picked up before. Case in point, I found A Mango-Shaped Space on a thread called, the best books you never would have read except for this challenge – talking about the Seasonal Reading Challenge, I have done for nearly two years now (and it was the first time I have looked at that thread).

The thing I loved the most about this book was the pure simplicity of it – while so many YA books now a days are so complicated with family issues; or world building – Mia’s life was about as close to perfect as you can get, except for the fact that she sees colors in everything around her – not in the way that most of us see colors (trees are green etc), but rather that words have colors – her name and those around her; numbers; dates in history. I vaguely remember learning about synethesia when i was taking psychology in college, but haven’t read/heard much about it since then – so I was intrigued. You could tell that the author had really done her research and managed to balance telling about the disease through the characterizations; but also just letting the story play out.

I have to admit that I did see the ending coming relatively early on, but then, since it was a YA book that doesn’t surprise me – they normally are fairly telling if you can pick up on the clues. I would probably recommend that parents preview the end before letting their kids read because of one thing that happens (death is a theme through-out and something that parents should be aware of because all kids react differently). I’ll definately be looking for more books by the author in the future. 4 stars overall.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – The You Know Who Girls: Freshman Year – Annameekee Hesik

The You Know Who Girls
Author: Annameekee Hesik

Review Copy Provided by Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley

Book Description
Abbey Brooks, Gila High freshman-to-be, never thought a hellish day of shopping at the mall with her best friend, Kate, could change her life. But when she orders French fries from the flirtatious Hot Dog on a Stick Chick, she gets more than deep-fried potatoes. Abbey tries to ignore the weird, happy feeling in her gut, but that proves to be as impossible as avoiding the very insistent (and—rumor has it—very lesbian) players on Gila High’s girls’ basketball team. They want freakishly long-legged Abbey to try out, and Abbey doesn’t hate the idea. But Kate made Abbey pinky swear to avoid basketball and to keep away from the you-know-who girls on the team.

Sometimes promises can’t be kept. And sometimes girls in uniform are impossible to resist.

Review
Its hard for me to preface why I requested this book to read because I can honestly say that non-romancy LGBT fiction normally isn’t my thing. But there was just something that drew my attention in the description. And I am glad that I took the chance. It has been a while since I was in high school (but I’m not going to tell you how long…lol), but I still remember being that awkward freshman, trying to make new friends and find myself in the hierarchy that is a high school. I can’t imagine struggling with my sexuality, while going through those normal high school trials. While I was reading, I found that Ms Hesik managed to walk the fine line between the dramatic without being too angsty.

While for me the ending was only so-so, I enjoyed the vast majority of the book and I hope that she plans on writing more focusing on Abbey’s other years at Gila High, or if that isn’t possible, then maybe at least her senior year. Overall, I’d give this a solid 4 stars and will definately be looking for more by this author in the future.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Book Review

 

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