The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed


I started reading this book with no real expectations about it. And then IT BLEW MY MIND.

Synopsis (Goodreads): Who are the Nowhere Girls? They’re every girl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Review: This book is by far one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. It is a book that deals with so many different issues like rape and rape culture, sex positivity and choosing to be sexually active or not, sexual identity, ableism, racial discrimination, and biased school systems – and these are just a few!

The story is told mainly from the perspective of 3 girls: Grace, Rosina, and Erin. But there are also sections of the story called “Us” and they are from the perspective of various female characters in the book, that remain unnamed. I absolutely loved this approach. Not only did the author give us central characters to focus on and form connections with, she was also able to showcase various other perspectives. By creating anonymity through these voiceless other girls, she allowed other readers to put themselves in their place. It worked for me on so many levels, and gave me the chance to see so many different outlooks on various topics.

The main characters themselves were perfect choices for the story. Grace comes from a religious background, what with her mother being a pastor, and her views were about how her faith influences her choices. I really loved this angle and the way that the author developed Grace; she doesn’t blindly accept beliefs but tries to question them and analyze them so that they are relevant to her current life. These are things that I try to do daily with regards to my own religious views, and it was heartening to see an open-minded and faith-oriented character. I also loved that Grace, while being considered “fat”, never focused on her body issues. Her body did not become the main focal point, and that gave room for the reader to focus on her personality and thoughts.

Rosina comes from an immigrant family and struggles with her sexual orientation. Her worries that her mother will not accept that Rosina has feelings for women is a concern that I think many teens can face. Through her character, we get a glimpse of what it feels like to be marginalized, not only for your sexual preference but also for your race and immigration status.

Erin has Asperger’s Syndrome and her character deals with the struggles that come with being labelled. She has feelings, she has thoughts, and she wants to be able to show that Asperger’s in no ways limits her as a person. I loved how defiant she was about this label, how strongly she would say that this is a part of her that she would never change. There are plenty of times when someone says “I’m so sorry” when they hear about a child who has autism or Asperger’s and it bothers me a lot, because there is nothing to be sorry about. This person is still a person, who has wonderful gifts to offer the world, just like every other human being. Erin embodies this sentiment, and her experiences show that she is just like everyone else – and deserves to be treated that way.

I don’t want to speak too much since I don’t want to ruin this story, but it is an absolutely stunning read. Amy Reed is not afraid to pack the punches and this book has so many of them. I think that everything that this novel covers is relevant to people today – not just girls – and I would want everyone to read this. It’s a near perfect book for me, and I’m giving this a 5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~


As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

The first thing that caught my attention with this book was its title. If you have ever watched or read The Princess Bride, then you know EXACTLY what I’m referencing! I for sure thought the author would put that in somewhere in the story. But the story itself is very interesting, and that’s what made me decide to read this book. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.

Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.

One of the first things I want to say is that the cover I have uploaded is very different than the final cover of the book. While I loved this cover on the ARC, I completely understand why the author changed the final design; the newer look is more relevant to the story. Also, there was no reference to The Princess Bride, which made me sad. But that’s not what the story was about in the first place so I can’t really be upset about it, can I?

Now, onto the story itself. The premise was certainly interesting. Who hasn’t thought about what they would wish for if they could? I certainly have, and I could really understand why Eldon struggled with the anxiety of making the perfect wish. The story is all about Eldon’s journey as the date to his wish day looms closer, and how he tries to figure out what is the right wish for him. Through his experience, the reader gets to hear about others’ wishes, including the reasons behind those wishes and the outcomes.

I think my issue with the novel was Eldon. He is a self-proclaimed jerk and all of his actions show that he lives up to the title. Everyone thinks he’s a jerk, and he certainly acts like one. I thought that the reason for making him like this was so that he would change at the end…. but he doesn’t. He stays a jerk until the very end, and only then does he show that he may finally be trying to change. It was very difficult for me to feel sympathy for him because of his attitude, and his lack of growth. There were times when I felt sorry for him because of what happened with his sister, and there were times when I could understand how his anger and anxiety caused him to behave in a certain way. But overall? I really couldn’t connect with him or like him enough to care. He’s also very judgmental about everyone and it started to grate on my nerves.

There is also no real plot to this story. The same concept is touted throughout the entire book. People make wishes. People aren’t happy with them. Some of the wish stories that are told are a little bit too far-fetched for me, like the one about wishing one’s gayness away and never being able to feel emotions again. What?! How does that even happen?! I get that this story was all about decisions and living with regret, but there was just so much of that and little of anything else. It got tedious.

Ultimately, this novel was trying too hard to be a lot of things, ending with it just not living up to anything. It sounded like an awesome magical realism story, but the writing style, lack of plot and growth, and bad main character bogged the story down. I finished it feeling disappointed, which is a shame because the novel really had a lot of potential. I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp  

When I read the premise of this novel, it sounded like a mystery/thriller to me. After reading it, I have to say that it definitely doesn’t fit that category – at least, not in the conventional way.

Synopsis (Goodreads): Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter..

My thoughts on this novel are mixed. I don’t think I loved this novel as there were a lot of features that really bothered me or weren’t done well, but the story itself – well, it had me hooked.

One of the things that was severely lacking in this story was character development. There was none. Corey started off feeling guilty and angry, and she left that way. She maintained her pigheadedness and her insistence that the town was to blame for Kyra’s death right to the end. It didn’t help that the only way we got to know Kyra was through Corey’s interactions with others in the town, as well as Corey’s own memories; it made Kyra a very one-dimensional character, although the author did try to fix that by including letters that Kyra wrote to Corey. But even those letters didn’t have much substance to them so I couldn’t get a good feel for Kyra.

What I found weird about the novel was the writing style. There are moments taking place in the present, followed by memories from the past, and then random excerpts that read like a script from a play or a phone call, and then diary entries/unsent letters from Kyra to Corey. It affected the flow of the novel a lot. While the author may have been trying to use these different mediums to give the reader a more rounded picture of the scene, it failed in that attempt.

While the plot was intriguing, I wish there had been more of a build-up there. What were the crowning instances that caused the town to change their attitude to Kyra? How did they get to that frenzy point that tipped Kyra off the edge? These were things that were never really addressed. If it had been, I feel like the story would have been better developed and more intriguing and the suspense would have been better. As it were, there was no real mystery to it; everything becomes clear in a short while and there is nothing to really change it up. There were also a lot of details in the story that were mentioned but never reconciled, and this really bothered me. Why mention Corey hearing voices or seeing things if you aren’t going to do anything about it?

My general feelings for this novel are still mixed. There were a lot of things that could have been improved and that would have made this story so much better, because the concept behind this novel was actually really intriguing. It was just the execution that suffered. I’m giving this a 2.5 stars rounded to 3.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi

Synopsis (Goodreads): Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

This was a really great YA novel about what it means to have grit! The book was funny, and sweet, and all about coming into one’s identity.

Scott is a teenager who just doesn’t know what he wants to do and feels the pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately, this pressure causes him to give up quite easily – until he decides to become a “grittier” individual. I really connected a lot with Scott’s character – I know what it’s like to be lost and not know what you want to do with life. This confusion and struggle was depicted in a wonderfully humorous context that kept me interested the entire way. I wanted to know Scott would rise up to the occasion and how his encounter with Fiora would change him.

While I loved Scott’s character, Fiora was a bit too eccentric for me. I definitely understand why the author made her the way he did, and I have no problems with her being crazy and zany…. but there were times when her behaviour really confused me and just wasn’t necessary. I did love her addiction to crossword puzzles; that was a really unique feature of the story and I enjoyed reading about Fiora and Scott bonding through them. I also thought it was awesome that the author made a crossword at the end of the book for the reader to solve!

Overall, this was a really nice coming-of-age story about identity, motivation, and grit! I’m giving it a solid 4/5 stars!

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Merry Christmas! To celebrate this festive holiday, here is a novel that is all about the Christmas spirit! Here is my review:

5 years ago on Christmas Eve, Holly was visited by 3 ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she was to try to get her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

To atone, Holly now works for Project Scrooge, a top-secret company committed to save a miserly grouch every year. Holly’s role? The Ghost of Christmas Past. Holly has stayed frozen at 17, playing this role every year, while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change.

This is a modern twist on the Scrooge story. If you’ve ever read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens or watched any of the movies based off of this story, you have a pretty good idea of what this book will be like. I thought this book had a really interesting premise: what happens when someone refuses to change? What would have happened if Scrooge woke up and didn’t change his ways? I thought this story was really sweet and heartwarming. It is not meant to be something difficult to comprehend or difficult to predict. It’s just meant to bring some Christmas cheer – and it definitely delivers that! I am a sucker for cheesy and happy Christmas movies and this novel was just the right thing for me! It was a great story with good characters that really grew and changed. This novel makes you think a lot about second chances and what you would do if you could get one. Suffice to say, this was an enjoyable read and perfect for Christmas! I’m giving it a 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

Green by Sam Graham-Felsen

The year is almost ending, and Christmas is approaching, and I have soooo many books I want to finish!! I’m home right now with my family, which is great because I can spend some quality time with them, but not so great in terms of getting through my book list. However, I’m going to do my best to keep reading and writing posts. Starting with this one:

Boston, 1992. David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King Middle School. He has no friends, and he struggles to fit in because his hippie parents refuse to buy him anything dope. Unless he tests into the city’s best public high school, he’ll be friendless for the foreseeable future. But when Marlon Wellings sticks up for Dave in the cafeteria, Dave thinks that maybe his luck has changed for the better. Mar’s a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave’s own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave’s assumptions about black culture: he’s nerdy, obsessed with the Celtics, and not down to show off like all the other black kids. Together, the two boys are able to resist the contradictory personas forced on them by the outside world, and before long, Mar’s coming over to Dave’s house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar’s. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he’s been given–and that Mar has not.

I thought that this was a very interesting coming-of-age story that deals with some very difficult issues involving race and religion, but not in a heavy-handed way. I liked that the author maintained the slang and vocabulary from the 1990s and made references to what was hip back then; it made the story relevant and also gave me some insight to what was going on back in those days. I also really liked Dave and Mar’s friendship. Their characters were really well developed and their camaraderie was sweet to see. The story is told entirely from Dave’s perspective, and I liked that a lot because it allowed the reader to see the growth and change in Dave as he witnesses events happening to him and to Mar. However, I found the plot to be a little slow. There was no variety to the events and it seemed that a lot of repetitive instances had to take place before the author decided that he had made his point and could move on. This was really one of the main reasons why it was hard for me to get through the novel. But I think that the entire story was really well-written and had great characters. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars and would recommend this to anyone who likes coming-of-age books that look at divisions of race and class.

Thanks to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I don’t always like reading novels that are sad or deal with grief, but the beautiful cover and the softness of the writing style really had me interested so I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about what happened, why she abandoned everyone and everything.  Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from California, at college in New York, Marin struggles to pull away from her tragic past. Now, months later, Marin is alone in her empty dorm. She is waiting for Mabel to come and visit. With this visit, Marin will have to face everything left unsaid and confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

This novel was beautifully written but it was excruciatingly slow. Now, I understand that this a story about loss and grief and running away from things you don’t want to face. That’s all great. But literally nothing happens in the novel. Nothing. There are millions of inconsequential details mentioned that just bog down an already slow story. There is a softness to everything that, while beautiful, stops the story from actually having any impact. Marin’s character was also not my favorite. I don’t always need a super hyper female character to be the lead but she vacillated between having no real voice to showing teen angst. When the reason behind her avoidance was revealed, I was surprised… but not in a good way. I felt like I was missing something major. She had all of this loneliness, all of these feelings of betrayal… over this? I thought it would be something a lot more upsetting considering the extent of Marin’s behaviour. Maybe that was just me. Overall, I think this was a very beautifully written but boring novel, with nothing really that poignant about it. I’m giving this a 1.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho

I’ve read many adult thrillers but not too many that are in the realm of teen fiction. I thought it would be interesting to see how the author takes this genre and makes it appropriate for this age group. Here is my review:

Fin and Betty have been best friends for longer than they can remember. Even when Fin moved to Manhattan, they continued to maintain their friendship, through phone calls, letters, and summer visits. They even planned to apply to NYU and become roommates. But then, Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out. The town believes that Calder was coerced into giving the confession, and Betty has simply run away. But Fin knows the truth: Betty is dead. She returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, no matter the cost. But Williston is a town full of secrets, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda.

This book was not a good idea. I know that this novel was created for a teen audience but I still had high expectations regarding the quality of the story. And this novel didn’t match my expectations. The story starts off interestingly enough, with Fin attending Betty’s graduation – sans Betty, of course, since she’s dead – and there is a commotion when a female student expresses outrage that no one makes mention of Betty. Through Fin, we are introduced to a whole host of characters, each more ridiculous and convoluted than the next. I didn’t like a single character in this entire novel. They were unrealistic and their motives were so obtuse that it just didn’t work for me. I felt that, for the level of seriousness of the case this novel was presenting, the behaviours of the characters were very juvenile. I also didn’t think there was much happening plot-wise; it was mostly Fin stirring up drama and accomplishing nothing, and then the ending rushed up to the forefront. It really wasn’t a satisfying conclusion because it made no sense. I wish I could talk about this in more detail, but I don’t want to ruin the story for those still interested in reading this novel. Overall, I found this to be an ill-conceived, and not well-executed story that was more about teen angst than anything else. It was quite boring and had an ending that defied common sense. Other reviewers mentioned that this story is based on an actual case; I cannot speak on that since I don’t know of any crime cases similar to the one in those story, and the author also did not make mention of anything. However, based on my experience with this novel, I’m giving it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

This book has been making its rounds in the reading circles, and I’ve been seeing it on every shelf in bookstores and in libraries. It’s been in high demand, and I just really wanted to give it a chance, to see what it was all about. Now that I’ve read it … well … here is my review:

Julia and Cassie have been friends since they were little. They have been a part of each other’s lives and shared every experience together. They’ve talked about their secret desires, including leaving their stifling town Royston. But as the two girls begin their journey into adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger.

Initially, I thought the story would be told from alternating perspectives. But no. It is told from Julia’s perspective only. This really bothered me because the story is really about Cassie. It’s about how Cassie’s life changes as the girls enter grade 7. Julia is really just an onlooker who only receives information about Cassie after the fact. I would much rather have read this story from Cassie’s perspective and seen her struggles through her eyes. I thought this would be a short read but it ended up dragging on for ages. Every time I thought that something important was going to happen, it didn’t. I kept reading and reading, waiting for that closure, for that monumental moment in the novel … but I got nothing. At the end, I wondered what was the point of this novel. Nothing really happens and we don’t even get the true story from the main character! Yes, it is a story that shows how friendships evolve, change, and break apart through various forces but it was nothing new, nothing that blew me away. To be brutally honest, it just felt like a waste of my time. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to give this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Lives of Desperate Girls by Mackenzie Commons

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was intrigued by both the premise and the location of this novel. I really like novels where teens are dealing with something difficult and take it upon themselves to find out what’s really going on. I also wanted to see how the author portrays Northern Ontario; as a Torontonian who has never really gone up north, I was excited to read about what life is like there. Anyways, here is my review:

When 16-year-old Helen Commanda is found murdered just outside Thunder Creek, no one pays any attention to it. All her death does is shed light on the earlier disappearance of Chloe Shaughnessy. Chloe is everything Helen isn’t: beautiful, wealthy, and white. The fact that Helen was from the reservation only seems to make it easier for people to dismiss her. Only Jenny Parker, Chloe’s best friend, seems to think it is important to look into Helen’s death, and so she takes it upon herself to look for answers about Helen’s life and death. But what can a teenage girl really accomplish where adults have failed? And how much is Jenny actually complicit in a conspiracy of silence?

I have mixed feelings about this novel because there are a few things that the author does that I like but an equal amount of things that I don’t like. I really liked that the author highlighted the problems of the First Nations people of Canada. Not many people are aware of their struggles and the things they have endured – and continue to endure – are heartbreaking. And the author really does do justice to them: she tells it like it is. I only wish it had been told from the perspective of an actual Native and not just from that of a white teenage girl. While Jenny is definitely trying to understand and be aware of the oppression and racism that the Aboriginal people face, I don’t think she is necessarily the best spokesperson for it since she really isn’t a part of their community or culture. I wish there had been more emphasis on the way life is on the reserves and the traditions that the First Nations value, as that would have allowed the reader to see some of the wonderful aspects of their culture. However, the idea that a Native girl’s death is not as important as a Caucasian girl’s disappearance was an interesting one and I think the author did a really good job of bringing that to the forefront. I actually found the writing style compelling, even if it was confusing to follow at times what with the various jumps in time that Jenny took; it was hard to tell if something was happening in the present or if it was just a memory. I did not like the love angle that the author tried to force into the situation; it didn’t add anything to the novel and it was not well planned or executed. It was literally just two teenagers hooking up and doing drugs and drinking, none of which screams romance or bonding. I didn’t like the incompetence of the cops, and I’m not just referring to their dismissal over the case of Helen. I’m referring to the almost comical way they question and interrogate Jenny over Chloe’s disappearance; you would think adults would know how to run an investigation and ask the right questions but clearly, that is not the case in this novel. The author also takes on another topic: slut-shaming. While I think this is an important topic to discuss, I don’t really like Jenny’s role in that aspect and I wish the author had made her more … sensible or intelligent. I also didn’t really like how things were resolved in the novel because, well, it didn’t really feel resolved. I understand that not everything can have a happy ending but this just felt messy and unfinished. Overall, I think the author chose 2 very important topics to center her novel around. While the writing was compelling, the main character’s decisions as well as the actual ending of the novel left me disappointed. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~