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ARC Review: Who She Was by Stormy Smith

Who She Was by Stormy Smith Book Review blog header

Published: May 4th, 2017 by Perfect Storm Publishing (self-published) | Series: N/A | Length: 320 pages | Genre: New adult, romance, contemporary | Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. | Possible Triggers: neglectful/abusive parents, domestic abuse, alcoholism, suicide (none of this happens on the page, but is mentioned)

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Summary from Goodreads:

Trevor Adler loathes the music he used to love, but it’s the key to his full-ride scholarship and the ticket away from his dysfunctional parents. To kick off their freshman year, Trevor’s roommate drags him to a frat party, where he ends up face-to-face with his childhood best friend and finds himself entrenched in memories he’d rather forget.

Unable to let Charlie go again without understanding the truth of why she disappeared from his life and chose to become the type of person they always hated, Trevor is relentless in his pursuit of the girl he once knew.

Charlotte (Charlie) Logan is broken. Under her perfectly-crafted exterior are the shards of a shattered heart. A handful of angry words changed her life completely and Charlie’s never been able to forgive herself for the truth she’s hidden from everyone.

While Trevor pushes Charlie to remember the music that lit her soul and the laughter they shared, they find themselves reverting to a banter-filled rhythm that feels all too familiar, yet different now. When Trevor’s own secrets come to light, it becomes clear he and Charlie both must face their tragic pasts if they have any hope at a future together.

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ARC Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord book Review blog header

Published: May 16th, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens | Series: N/A | Length: 400 pages | Genre: YA contemporary | Source: I was provided a copy by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. | Possible Triggers: abuse*, teen pregnancy, suicide*, transphobia, cancer, parental death*

*these don’t happen during the course of the book, but are mentioned

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Summary from Goodreads:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

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Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Book Review blog header

Published: February 28th, 2017 by Balzer + Bray | Series: N/A | Length: 464 pages | Genre: YA contemporary | Source: Bought | Possible Triggers: Racism, violence, police brutality, child abuse (no on-page scenes)

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Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

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Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray book review

Published: May 24th, 2011 by Scholastic Press | Series: N/A | Length: 396 pages | Genre: YA, contemporary, satire | Source: Borrowed from the library | Possible Triggers: Racism, dieting/diet restriction, transphobia (not a lot, but it’s there a little), girl goes “crazy” (very stereotypical, inaccurate portrayal)

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Summary from Goodreads:

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

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Review of Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens

15726915Rating: 4/5

Release Date: February 25th, 2014

Length: 336 pages

Source: borrowed from the library

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An edgy, realistic debut novel praised by the New York Times bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys, as “a beautiful reminder that amid our broken pieces we can truly find ourselves.”

Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool. Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does—and deal with the trauma.

When Bodee Lennox—“the Kool-Aid Kid”—moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own. As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up about the rape that has changed the course of her life.

Trigger warning for sexual assault/rape, abuse, and death.

When I first read the blurb for this, I thought I was going to love it. I’ve always enjoyed reading books about difficult topics like this one (although have recently been neglecting them). Then I started reading it and wasn’t so sure. Luckily, it ended up getting much better from there on out and I ended up really enjoying it.

What I most appreciated about this book was that it showed just how difficult it can be to open up about a traumatic event not only to your friends and family, but even to yourself. Alexi really struggles with admitting to herself the severity of what happened. She makes excuses for her rapist and blames herself, believing that since she didn’t outright tell him “no” that it’s her fault she was raped and that it was all just a big misunderstanding. Stevens did an excellent job portraying how difficult it can be to acknowledge things like this and to learn to cope and move on. Readers get to see how much the trauma affected Alexi’s life and how certain phrases or situations can be triggering and difficult to deal with.

I loved the friendship between Alexi and Bodee. They both have experienced trauma and are attempting to cope with it and both help the other do this. They draw strength from each other in a wonderful way. What I really liked was that neither one of them really expected the other to tell them everything that had happened, but instead respected that the other would tell them what had happened if/when they were ready. In the meantime, they offered their attention and time as a way to show they were there for each other and wanted to help/support their friend.

Faking Normal 1

I honestly really didn’t like Heather, Alexi’s friend. I’m not entirely sure what it was about her character, but she just came across as very self-centered and didn’t really seem to respect Alexi’s boundaries and wishes. I didn’t like Kayla, Alexi’s sister, very much either but she at least partially redeemed herself (which was a huge shock to me, to be honest).

One small complaint I have is that there were a couple of moments of slut-shaming of one character, Maggie. It didn’t happen often enough for me to be really bothered by it, but there were two or three comments that Alexi made in the narration and to Heather looking down at Maggie for sleeping around. It didn’t serve any purpose either, so it was not only a crappy thing to say but completely unnecessary.

If you start reading this and think you have everything figured out early on in the book: you probably don’t. I remember at about 80 pages into the story, I thought I knew who had raped Alexi and I was getting really annoyed because I thought the book was too predictable. But I was completely wrong!

This is a good book about a topic that can be incredibly difficult to talk about, but is so important. As far as I can tell, it deals with the topic pretty delicately and accurately, but as I have never been a victim of rape, I’m not the most qualified to make a statement on that. If you like reading books that deal with tough topics, I would absolutely recommend this to you. It deals with difficult situations but is ultimately a story of how with the support and strength of friends, you can get through anything no matter how impossible it may feel at the time.

4 stars

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Review of Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

18304322Rating: 5/5

Release Date: September 15th, 2015

Length: 384 pages

Source: borrowed from the library

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Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

I honestly can’t believe that when I first heard about this book, I wasn’t interested. I read about it and thought it sounded boring and didn’t think I would enjoy it. But then I started seeing people praise the representation of a fat main character and, being overweight myself, I had to read it.

I am so, so, so glad I did.

Willowdean is a fantastic main character. I loved her narration so much because she is hilarious. I don’t often laugh while reading, but there were several times when I was reading this book that I laughed out loud. Not only is she funny, but she’s a very believable teenage character. Her banter with the other characters is totally realistic and doesn’t seem odd, forced, or out of place. She’s also a character that very clearly has strengths and weaknesses and we get to see these change and develop throughout the course of the book.

The thing I appreciated the most about this was the representation of a fat main character. I honestly can’t think of a single other YA book that I’ve read where the main character is fat and I so appreciated seeing an overweight character (and not only is the main character fat, but there are other characters who are as well). Besides there simply being fat characters, there’s also the fact that while Willowdean really doesn’t care about being fat and accepts her body as it is, there are certain situations and people that make her feel insecure about it. It was so nice to see this because that is exactly how I feel about my own body. I generally don’t give a crap that I’m fat until other people judge me or make me feel like I should be insecure about it. Seeing this in a book was so awesome.

Dumplin 1 jpg

As always, I feel obligated to tell you guys that there is a love triangle. As I’ve mentioned before, I kind of like love triangles. This one was different for me though because while most of the time, I’m very clearly “this character is better and the MC should be with him,” with the two potential love interests in Dumplin’, I really liked them both. Bo and Mitch are different, but they both care about Willowdean and I didn’t really feel like either one was clearly a better match.

Dumplin’ is such a fun and heartfelt read. I enjoyed it from start to finish and really didn’t want it to end. Now I feel as though I need to recommend it to every person in existence. I also noticed on Goodreads that Julie Murphy has a Dumplin’ #2 book listed under her books that is scheduled to be released in 2018 and I kind of want to cry because I don’t want to wait that long, but it was a nice surprise because I thought this was a standalone. Anyway, read this book! Regardless of what you normally read, I would recommend this because it is just so fantastic.

 

Star Rating