“Dare You To”—A Book Review

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Dare You To by Katie McGarry (the spin off book from Pushing the Limits) is another mind blowing story. I’m telling you, people, don’t let the raunchy covers fool you. These books are deep.

Beth’s mom is a drunk and her boyfriend beats her (and Beth) at any available opportunity. In a drunken rage, her mom decides to bust out the windows of the no-good-girlfriend-beater-drug-abuser’s car. When the cops arrive, Beth has no choice but to take the blame for it, otherwise her mom will go to jail for violating probation. While in jail, Beth is faced with an ultimatum: Move in with her uncle (newly back in town) and live life on the straight and narrow, or he will turn her mom in to the police for horrors imaginable and her mom will go to jail.

Ryan is as straight-laced as they come. Town golden boy, he is looking at possibly going pro as soon as he graduates high school. On the outside, looking in, his life is perfect. Behind closed doors, his family hides hurtful secrets.

When Ryan first sees Beth, he asks her out on a dare (the one thing Ryan can never refuse…he doesn’t lose). When Beth shows up at school the following week, Ryan can’t help but try to regain the win and score a date with her. Little does he know, there is much more hiding underneath the surface of her skater-girl, emo, looks.

Will Beth help Ryan to finally see want he really wants out of life and give him the courage to go after it? And will Ryan help Beth to see that she isn’t her mom, nor is her mom her responsibility?

Told in alternate narratives from two teens, this story is sure to tug at your heart strings and remind you to be thankful for what you have, and to fight like hell for what you want.

Five out of five stars! Can’t wait for the next book by this fabulous author!

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“The Symptoms of My Insanity”—A Book Review

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The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf…to be perfectly honest, I’m not totally sure what I thought about it.

This book starts out in the fashion of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison. Thus, I began this novel with the mindset that it was going to be hilarious and have me laughing the whole way through. For example, when the story begins, the main character, Izzy, is in a fitting room at a lingerie store getting fitted for new bras, having already outgrown the ones she got at the start of the school year:

“Mom’s always saying how I look just like dad’s mom, Grandma Rose, when she was sixteen. She dug up and showed me an old picture of her and, she’s right, I do. Which wouldn’t be so bad except that now Grandma Rose is a four-foot-ten-inch-tall, eighty-three-year-old woman with gargantuan breasts that take over her entire bra-less body. Really, I should just bolt out of Lola’s Lingerie right now. What’s the point of spending money on bras when I’m going to end up a short, eighty-three-year-old woman with dangle boobs?”

Funny, right? And you get the impression right away that Izzy’s mom is one of those Stepford Moms that won’t be caught dead without her lip gloss applied and her hair perfect, expecting every girl in school to be perfect models of “young ladies.” So of course, she’s horrified when a rumor goes around school about a girl giving head in one of the bathroom stalls. To which Izzy (as follows with the humor at the start of the book) replies:

“Yes Mom, it’s true. All the girls at school pleasure boys in the bathroom stalls. How else are we supposed to get them to like us?”

But the thing is, I guess I felt like I was mislead into reading this novel. The “funny” wears off quickly and the book takes a dramatic turn. You soon find out that Izzy’s mom has a rare stomach cancer and because of this (and her mom not actually talking to her about her illness), Izzy is a bit of a hypochondriac. Anytime she feels even a little “off,” she automatically jumps to the conclusion that something is horribly wrong with her and that she has one of the diseases that she’s read about on the internet. Izzy’s hypochondria is so bad that several times she mistakes a simple panic attack for some life threatening illness.

“Why am I so dizzy? Why can’t I get in a good breath? I shuffle through what I know. Hypoglycemia? Lyme? Or no—oh, no. Breast lumps metastasizing? If I feel this sick, it has to be in advanced stages. Okay no, just relax, breathe. You can breathe.

Like I said, it stopped being funny pretty early on. There is a lot of school drama and some good heartfelt coming-of-age stuff, but because I felt falsely lead in to reading a comedy that isn’t really a comedy, I found myself not really wanting to read it anymore. I kind of had to make myself finish it.

All in all, I give this book 3 stars. It was a pretty decent book, I was just looking for something that this book was not.

“Twisted”—A Book Review

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Twisted is another exceptionally thought provoking read by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Tyler was your average fade-into-the-background teenager, until he gets busted for vandalizing the school grounds with graffiti. In order to pay back the debt, he spends all summer doing manual labor, which in turn grants him with a killer smokin’ bod.

Back at school with his new physique, Tyler is now attracting the kind of attention he has only ever dreamed of. Most specifically, Bethany (his long-time crush) is noticing him.

Sounds like the perfect high school year, right? 

Perhaps it could have been, but not for Tyler. His home life still sucks, with a verbally abusive father, and a mother who pretends like it isn’t happening. And also, it turns out that the school hottie, Bethany, is still the stuck-up, pretentious, bitch that she always was.

Like things always seem to do in high school, a bad rumor—involving Tyler taking suggestive photographs of Bethany—quickly spirals out of control. So not only does Tyler become the object of high school bullying, but he still continues to take verbal assault from his dad at home.

Twisted does an amazing job of getting inside a troubled teen’s head, and showing the reader that even though you can’t necessarily see it on the outside, someone could be going through hell on the inside. A perfectly painted narrative urges you to ponder your actions of taking out your frustrations on others, because no one can guess at how damaging the side effects may be.

I give this book four out of five stars.

“By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead”—A Book Rant

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By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters just didn’t quite hit the mark. I feel like it could have been a meaningful and deep story, but the main character was too damn annoying for me to feel sorry for her.

Daelyn has been bullied at her old school and tried to take her life by drinking bleach. It didn’t work. Her parents found her and rushed her to the hospital. Now she can’t speak because her throat is still in recovery and she is starting at a new Catholic school.

When she starts this new school, Daelyn decides that she will not make any friends. She will not look at or talk to anyone…because what’s the point in trying to make friends when she plans to kill herself—and actually succeed this time.

Daelyn stumbles upon a website that starts a countdown timer for 23 days. During this time period, it essentially guides her through the steps of purging her life of nonessential things and cleansing everything so that she will be ready to end her life when the timer runs out. Every day she logs into this site and blogs about her life, and reads other blogs about people who are getting ready to commit suicide as well. It gets pretty heavy, as some bloggers talk about being raped and abused.

Then there is this kid who starts sitting with Daelyn every afternoon at the bench outside of her school, where she waits for her mother to pick her up. His name is Santana, and he absolutely will not give up, refusing to leave her alone like she asks. He even ends up getting her to relent and come over to his house one afternoon.

Daelyn resists Santana as much as she can, because it’s too late to let people into her life, right? Throughout the entire book, even as she starts directly interacting with Santana, she still logs onto the suicide site everyday and continues with her preparations to kill herself.

I’m sorry; I just could not get into this book. In my opinion it was entirely ineffective. The main character actually has parents who are trying to be there for her and she is completely stubborn and won’t let them help her. And she likes this Santana kid, but is too f*cking obsessed with her suicidal plans to let him be the friend he wants to be. So she has all of these people (who are not the people from her other school who bullied her) trying to befriend her and help her, but she is too stuck her own pathetic head and feeling sorry for herself to even try to put forth any effort at life. Thus, in my opinion the main character was just whiny and lazy, and by the end of the book, I just kept thinking to myself, “Oh my God, just do it already so I can stop reading about it.”

I feel that books such as Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Hold Still by Nina LaCour were much more affective in their delivery on the issue of teen bullying and suicide.

I give this book two out of five stars.