“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!

“Butter”—A Book Review/Rant

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Butter by Erin Jade Lange provided a new way to view online bullying and childhood obesity.

Butter is a big boy…and I mean BIG. I know that’s supposed to make the reader feel empathic and sad and all, but I really just couldn’t find the sympathy. Butter’s weight issues actually kind of pissed me off and got my blood boiling.

The opening scene is of him pigging out on a shit ton of junk food, and then seeing a story on the news about how airlines are going to start charging obese people for two tickets, since they take up more than just one seat. This upsets Butter, and he goes into a pouty fit and puts down the food, running up to his room to do the one thing (other than eating) that brings him joy…play his saxophone.

But in almost the next paragraph he says how he won’t keep his resolve to not eat crap food because it’ll never work and he’ll always be fat, blah blah blah. And how his mother is an enabler (and I’m not saying that she isn’t) and it’s her fault he’s so fat and his dad’s fault for ignoring him.  

“Mom’s mouth twitched in a sad smile, but she didn’t say anything. Somewhere around the time I turned eleven, she’d stopped talking to me about food or exercise or anything to do with my weight. And the bigger I grew, the more she pretended not to see it. I used to think she was embarrassed by me, but I eventually figured out she just felt guilty—like she was a bad mother for letting me get so big.”

Again, I know this kid being ginormous and not having any friends is supposed to make me feel sorry for him, but the book just infuriated me more than anything. He just gorges himself on food and whines about being fat. It literally just made me yell inside my head, “STOP EATING ENOUGH FOOD FOR 10 PEOPLE IN ONE SITTING AND GO EXERCISE! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”

You may think I’m a horrible person for thinking this, but seriously, self pity and laziness will get you nowhere and one of my biggest pet peeves is people making excuses for their own crappy decisions. Grow a pair, own up to your mistakes, and be proactive to change!

 And Butter didn’t even try to make any friends at school. He just hid away in the corners (well as much as a giant kid can hide).

“I was rarely picked on at school. At a whopping 423 pounds, I was just that pathetic—that pitiful. Most people couldn’t bring themselves to be cruel to me.”

And even worse, he uses his own self loathing and eating habits to punish his parents (and I’m not saying his parents are completely blame-free with his condition, but blaming them for your own crappy state is so not the way to go about it…that won’t solve anyone’s problems).

“The food didn’t taste as good without an audience. If I had to be the one to carry the weight, it was only fair that they be forced to watch.”

So after humiliating himself at school one day, Butter comes home all upset and sees that people have made a list of “most-likelys” from his school. He’s listed as “most likely to die from a heart attack” and next to the prediction is a picture of him stuffing his face in the cafeteria.

What happens next? Does he decide to prove those kids wrong and start living a healthier life by exercising and watching what he eats? NO! Of course he doesn’t…he decides he’s going to kill himself online (so everyone can see it) at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. How is he going to do this? By eating himself to death. One last meal for the fat kid.

“I couldn’t control the kids at school. I couldn’t control my parents or my weight or my life…but I could command the conversation online. I could make sure the only things people said about me in cyberspace were the things I invited them to say. And if I could control that, then that would be all that mattered.”

The website Butter created in a moment of anger goes viral around the school, and before he knows it everyone wants to talk to him, the most popular guys in school want him to sit at their table and hang out with them on the weekends. But not because they truly like Butter as a person—it’s because they are morbidly obsessed with his suicide mission. They want to discuss things like menu of everything he’s going eat for his last meal.

The sick thing is, Butter likes the attention—even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. All he ever really wanted was attention, but he goes about it in the most cowardly way. Instead of trying to win everyone over with his insanely good sax-playing skills, or his kind heartedness, or his brains, or with humor, he gets their attention with his suicide plans.

The “protagonist” (I use this term as loosely as I can) is nothing but a whiny coward. If he wouldn’t have had his panties in a bunch in the first place and hung out in the corners, like a dog with his tail between his legs, and have actually put himself out there and TRIED to make friends, he wouldn’t have had to resort to such ridiculous antics to get attention.

Some of you may think I’m a complete bitch (and I’m not denying that fact), but all the spineless bullshit just irked me. I get that high school sucks (everyone is insecure in high school and anyone who says otherwise is lying), but you put on your big girl (or boy) panties and get through it. Don’t just throw a fucking tantrum.

This book was a quick read…I got through it in a few hours, and if people making excuses for their all of their problems doesn’t completely piss you off (like it does me), then you will probably enjoy this book. It does address issues like social media bullying and depression. So even though this novel pissed me off, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

“Crash”—A Book Review

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Crash by Nicole Williams was an okay read. It was fairly entertaining and quick, but I wasn’t overly impressed.

Lucy has just moved into her family’s cabin lake house permanently, after tragedy struck her family and her father lost his business and emotionally checked out. Lucy has to start a new school her senior year and has had to make a lot of sacrifices and changes. But the one thing she absolutely refuses to give up is dance.

Jude is your stereotypical “bad boy” that makes all the girls swoon. And he has the reputation to boot—multiple arrests, a trail of one night stands several miles long, etc.

Of course, Lucy is enraptured by Jude and wants him even though everything in her is screaming that he is just bad news and she should stay away…even Jude tells her to stay away from him, that he is no good for her.

There were some pretty steamy romantic scenes, but the overall plot was very anticlimactic. It was an entire novel of a back and forth ping pong game of:

“I love you, but you’re bad for me. I love you, but I’m bad for you. I love you, I don’t care that you are damaged. I love you, you can’t fix me. I can’t be with you, you’re bad for me. I can’t be with you, I’m not good enough for you. I can’t be with you, I can’t trust you. I can’t be with you, you deserve better. I love you, I’m sorry. I love you, too. I love you, I can make you better. I love you, you’re better off without me.”

Quick read. I don’t regret reading it, but I’m not particularly thrilled either. I give it 2 out of 5 stars. I doubt I’ll read the other two books in the trilogy.

 

“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.

“The Beautiful Between”—A Book Review

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The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel is a beautifully told story.

Connelly’s dad died when she was two. Her mom won’t tell her how, and because of the icy response got when she was in third grade, she hasn’t asked again since. And ever since that night, her mom has been distant; the nightly ice cream in bed while watching TV snuggles have stopped. These two women just kind of coexist in the same high-rise apartment in the heart of glamorous NYC, having very little actual interaction with each other.

“My mother and I never fight. I can’t remember any major fights or childhood tantrums. She never assigned me a curfew and I never came home late until the other night, after Brent’s party, and then she didn’t ask where I’d been. We get along fine this way.”

And so, having lived this way since she was a little girl, Connelly developed a way of living that helped her cope with life and with the answers she doesn’t have—answers that don’t seem likely she will ever receive. Connelly views her entire life as a fairytale. After that fateful night, as a curious eight-year-old (when she made the wrong decision to ask her mother how her dad died), she created an imaginary fairy godmother to keep her company and to keep her safe. She lied to the kids at school and told them her parents were divorced to make up for the embarrassing lack of information she had about her dad.

And so, Connelly lives in her fairytale world, seeing high school as fairytale kingdom, where Jeremy Cole is the prince, and she is Rapunzel, locked away in a tower. These imaginary scenarios are how Connelly has gotten along for so long that when Jeremy Cole breaks into her life, offering to tutor her in Physics in exchange for SAT vocab help, she almost doesn’t know how to handle life anymore.

It isn’t until she and Jeremy start to become close friends and she sees the way Jeremy interacts with his close, loving family that Connelly even really starts to question her mother. She begins to truly wonder why she has kept any information regarding her dead father away from her for so long—making Connelly afraid to even ask about him.

“Maybe the witch thought she was protecting Rapunzel, not punishing her. Maybe she thought that if Rapunzel was locked away, no one could ever hurt her. Maybe the witch kept Rapunzel because she loved her, because she was scared that if other people could get to Rapunzel, they would hurt her. And maybe Rapunzel didn’t understand the witch; maybe she was angry at her—but maybe she loved her too.”

Over the semester, Connelly finds an unexpected best friend in the most popular boy in school. At first, she continues her fairytale analogies, wondering why the beloved prince would pay attention to the lowly peasant. But the truth soon reveals itself: Jeremy seeks solace in Connelly’s company and perhaps she is the only one that can help him find comfort.

As the duo spend more and more time together, Connelly finds herself living less in her fantasy world and more in the real world:

 “I’ve always fantasized about something or other before I could fall asleep, played a fairy tale in my head to entertain myself. But I haven’t for a while now.”

Stunningly narrated, this book reminds you how important communication is. Things that go unsaid can eat a person up inside. While fantasies can be great, even though it can be harsh at times, the real world is always a better place for truly living.

I give this quick, but thoughtful, coming-of-age story five out of five stars!

“The Future of Us”—A Book Review

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The Future of Us written by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler was kind of a letdown for me.

I won’t say it was horrible, because it wasn’t. It was really well written and smart, but all-in-all I just felt kind of “meh” about it.

The setting is the year 1996, when the internet is just becoming prominent and not many people have their own computer in their home. Emma received a computer from her dad for her birthday (sort of a guilt gift since they don’t see each other often since the divorce) and she uses her neighbor Josh’s AOL CD to create an email address. Then a mysterious website pops up on her computer prompting her to enter her email address and password.

The website is facebook, which wasn’t founded until the year 2004. On facebook, Emma sees the profile and constant status updates of her future self. She gets excited and wigged out by this all at the same time and soon calls Josh over for examination. The two quickly become obsessed with their future selves’ profiles and constant status updates and changes.

The thing is, Josh future is pretty ideal and awesome. Emma’s, not so much.

The duo soon discover that they can change their future statuses by making minute and resolute decisions in their current lives. Emma keeps doing things or making mental decisions NOT to do something so that her future status will change. Josh gets kind of annoyed at this, because he doesn’t want the decisions that Emma is making to affect his seemingly perfect future. This goes back and forth in switching narrations from Josh and Emma’s points of view for the entire novel.

It was weird (and kind of surreal) to hear all of the 90’s references in the books about things that children of the 90’s grew up with (like walkmans, for example). But truthfully, I think the references are way lost on today’s generation of young adults. The people most likely to pick up and read this book are teenagers—since this is a teen book—and they were mostly raised in the 21st century, which is rapidly becoming overcome with the latest technological advances.

Like I said, the book wasn’t complete crap, but it just didn’t “wow” me. I guess my standards were set pretty high for Jay Asher after reading his debut novel, 13 Reasons Why. I give this book 3 out of five stars, mostly just for the fact that it was well written.

 

I did find this to be a very amusing quote, because it helps to paint the picture of how diluted and relevant personal connections have become.

“Why does it say she has three hundred and twenty friends?” Josh asks. “Who has that many friends?”

“Death and the Girl Next Door”—A Book Review

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Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones was a surprisingly entertaining read.

The plot is pretty much ridiculous, but the writing is very smart. The wit and humor in this book had me laughing out loud on nearly every page.

Lorelei’s parents disappeared ten years ago, and she has been living with her grandparents ever since, in the small town of Riley’s Switch, New Mexico. With her (also incredibly short) best friends, Brooklyn and Glitch, life isn’t completely horrible. At least her band of misfits keep her entertained.

Oh yeah, and Lorelei sometimes has visions when she touches someone. While at their favorite coffee shop hangout one day, Lorelei accidentally touches a stranger’s arm on the way to the bathroom and has the most bizarre vision ever—one that involves said gorgeous stranger battling a beast-monster.

And to top of the weird vision, her classmate since kindergarten, Cameron, has taken to stalking her. Like really stalking her, lurking outside of her house all night and whatnot. And when the gorgeous new stranger shows up at their school as a new student, it appears that Cameron has a bone to pick with him. The new guy, Jared, is interested in Lorelei and Cameron is determined not to let him get anywhere near her.

Sounds like your typical teenage love triangle novel right? Wrong.

Turns out Jared is some kind of Reaper and comes to Earth to collect souls…or something like that. And Cameron is some kind of not-quite-entirely-human being, hell bent on not letting Jared take Lorelei.

Like I said, the plot isn’t really all that great, but the fun and quippy dialogue more than makes up for it. It at least amused me enough to want to read the sequel. All in all, I give this book three out of five stars.

 

Here is a steamy scene to tantalize your taste buds:

 “And Jared’s hand on my back pulled me closer, molded me to him. The kiss deepened. He slid his tongue along my mouth, and I parted my lips to let him enter. When his tongue slipped inside, a tingling sensation raced through me. It pooled deep in my abdomen, liquid and hot.

He pulled me tighter and walked me back to a wall, pushed me against it and pressed into me. His body, solid and strong, felt like molten steel against mine. His lungs labored as he explored my mouth with his tongue. I savored his taste, sweet like candy.

Bracing one hand against the wall, he tore away from the kiss. But he didn’t let me go. Instead, he placed his forehead on the wall beside me, panting, his muscles constricted as if in pain. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice husky and soft.”