Movies

A Strong Debut: The Party’s Just Beginning

the party's just beginning

The Party’s Just Beginning

Directed By: Karen Gillan

Grade: B

I was super excited to see Karen Gillans writing and directorial debut show up on iTunes. I’ve been a huge fan since her Amy Pond days so I really wanted to check this out and support an actress I love going behind the camera (and writing!)

I think it’s a really strong debut a character study that will stick with me but I can’t say I loved it.

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Books

What Happened to the Cheerleaders?

the cheerleaders

the cheerleaders

by: Kara Thomas

Grade: A

5 years ago a series of back-to-back tragedies involving the deaths of 5 cheerleaders shocked a town shocked a small town. Now Monica Rayburn- the younger sister of the last cheerleader to die that year discovers a series of strange warnings and finds her sisters old phone all of which makes her start to question what actually happened.

Who really killed the cheerleaders?

Continue reading “What Happened to the Cheerleaders?”

Books

The Astonishing Color of After is Lovely

The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After

By: Emily X.R. Pan

Grade: A

On an otherwise good and regular day of high school Leigh returns home to find her mother, whose been suffering from depression, has taken her own life. Lost in grief and shock she soon comes to believe that her mother is visiting her in the form of a bird spurring her to go to Taiwan and meet her grandparents for the first time.

Continue reading “The Astonishing Color of After is Lovely”

Books

The Careful Undressing of Love

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The Careful Undressing of Love

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

Grade: D

When I read the summary about a group of cursed girls doomed to lose any guy they fall in love with I got some very Practical Magic vibes from it and since that is one of my favorite movies I was like, “Oh, yeah. I must read this!” Unfortunately the only thing I wound up feeling for this book was how much it annoyed me.

Continue reading “The Careful Undressing of Love”

Books

More Happy Than Not

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More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam Silvera

Grade: A

Aaron is still reeling from a family tragedy and the aftershocks on his life. When his girlfriend Genevieve goes away for a few weeks he finds himself getting closer to new friend Thomas. And then he finds himself developing much deeper feelings for Thomas. The kind that have him wondering if a revolutionary memory altering procedure might be what he needs to stay straight.

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Books

A World Without You

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A World Without You

Author: Beth Revis

Grade: A

“You are not one person. You are a different person in each moment of time.”

Bo believes that he can travel through time. He believes that the special school for troubled youth his parents sent him to is to help him learn to control his superpower. So when his girlfriend dies he is convinced that she’s really stuck somewhere in time and if he just masters time travel he could save her.

“Doesn’t she understand that the only thing that gives the candles purpose is burning them? That what makes flowers beautiful is the fact that they eventually die?”

Another book that just called out to me. I’ve often thought this- that the people I’ve loved aren’t really gone but left behind. Time moves forward without them but if only it could be bent, broken, manipulated then we could see them again. Save them. Sometimes I can see them so clearly that I almost believe it would be possible.

Yeah, so for me this was a bit of a weird book because I related so much to Bo. And in many ways he’s so understandable. Who doesn’t or hasn’t wanted at one point in time what he wants?

It’s very well written. I liked the supporting characters quite a bit. There is a bit of go between where you do wonder if maybe Bo is right about his life. On a personal level of reading at a certain point for me it was a little too much down the rabbit hole. Bo is a very troubled character and the more the book goes on the more hopeless his situation seems.

Which if you’re relating to a character like I was that’s a fairly uncomfortable feeling.

The other part of this story is told from the POV of Bo’s sister Phoebe and I found her an understandable character but a little harder to connect to. One thing about the brother and sister dynamic and the school itself there were not a lot of helpful adults in this book for some kids who very much needed them.

A World Without You is not just about mental health but grief, suicide, depression, endless hope, family and the many choices and paths a life can follow.

“She missed them in a deeper way, because she knew she’d never see them again. It wasn’t that she was gone from them, it was that they were gone from her.”

Recommend: Yes. I think mileage will vary with this one. It’s a personal book for me but overall I found it very worth the read and could maybe even be helpful in some cases.

Books

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: YA Serious

Grade: A

It’s Leonard Peacock’s eighteenth birthday. He has big plans. He’s going to deliver gifts to the four people he considers important to him. Then he’s going to off his former best friend Asher and kill himself.

It feels like sometimes subject matter you want to stay away from has a habit of finding you. Or maybe you find it because you need it. I wasn’t big on starting this book but I’m really glad I did. Leonard Peacock is not the easiest character in the world. You feel sorry for him because no one remembers his birthday and his parents are to say the least, not good.

He’s precocious. He’s adorable. He’s needy. He’s rude and obnoxious. In his interactions with people you can see he is both insightful and leaving a lot to be desired. Overall though I liked Leonard. Despite his intentions there was never a point in the book where the character didn’t seem believable. Probably the most moving parts throughout the book were the letters from the future that Leonard had written to himself, part of a school assignment which when you consider he didn’t want a future said a lot.

The interesting thing about this book is that despite it’s bleakness there’s still hope. Leonard’s parents might be absent but for once it was nice to see the teachers given due credit. He has a hero in Herr Silverman. But his English teacher also picks up pretty quickly on the problems and the guidance counselor at least attempts to make contact. Plus there’s his old neighbor who cares about him. He’s not alone. There’s hope here.

Also Leonard has real problems. It’s really heartbreaking to read why he’s doing what he’s doing and I liked the fact that the book doesn’t shy away from that either. Leonard needs help and when it comes down to it no one denies or belittles the fact that he might very well need a lot of it. I don’t want to give too much away so I’m going to put some trigger warnings down at the bottom that might… 

 Recommend: Yes. This book is a really well written, fast read and Leonard is a lead who keeps you engaged. It’s got horribly dark subject matter but it never loses it’s humanity or it’s hope. I might have chosen this to fill out one of the Great Imagination challenge blocks but I’m really glad I read it.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Discussions of murder, discussions of suicide, bullying, rape, child abuse, abandonment, and drug use.

Books

I Was Here

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First things first this book tells the story of Cody who is left devastated after the suicide of her best friend Meg. Meg’s parents ask Cody to travel down to the college and gather her things. Faced with a thousand questions and no answers she begins researching the life Meg had that she didn’t know about including following a lead she finds on her laptop that connects her to a pro-suicide group.

Huge Trigger: On a personal note my friend committed suicide last year so I can tell you this could be a book that some people might not be ready for. I found it helpful but overall I have mixed feelings about the book.

Cody comes to learn that Meg was visiting this site and talking specifically with one person who encouraged and helped her. As with most people Cody’s natural reaction is to hunt this person down and confront him. This is the most interesting part of the book and honestly I couldn’t be objective on this guy or anything like it. At one point he tells her (Meg) that her family and her little brother would be free to be themselves without her when you can see the destruction that it roots it’s hard not to hate the guy.

Also- as Meg baits the guy and she spins deeper and deeper down the well she actually starts considering it at one point needing to get rid of her mother’s pills because the urge scares her so much.

Cody does come to learn some deeper reasons why Meg killed herself or get a better understanding of the reasons anyway. I did have to wonder when that comes out why Meg’s parents didn’t tell the poor girl the truth in the first place.

Also the relationship in the book was a little too cliché for me. She meets Ben. She hates Ben. She comes to learn that Ben is deeper, kinder and pretty much Prince Charming. Plus he’s the misunderstood musician. Of course right? I did however like Cody’s relationship with her mother. While it wasn’t great I thought it was honest and reasonable and I really liked her mother noticing and pointing out her strength in the end.

Recommend: I guess I’m fifty-fifty on this one. I would recommend it overall but I have to admit that’s a highly personal bias. Also I would be careful of who may be reading this book. While Forman’s main point is the emotional loss and destruction left behind I would worry that some readers might pick up on things like the urge that takes hold of Cody at certain points in the book.

Books

And We Stay

And We Stay

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard is another book from the YA You Must Read List that I stumbled upon and it’s another one where I’m kind of split on the outcome.

Emily Beam is sent off to boarding school after her boyfriend brings a gun to school and shots himself. You have to feel bad for Emily because trust me there’s a lot more to the story and I found her nearly non-existent parents to be pretty awful for just dumping her. She gets lucky with a friendly roommate, a caring French teacher and a bit of an obsession with Emily Dickinson that spills over into her poems. Emily’s poems punctuate the story and they are lovely. I appreciated the fact that Emily used the poems as an outlet for her pain and survivor’s guilt. There are some illusions to a deeper connection perhaps between both Emily’s but it never really went to far into that in my opinion.

It’s a good book and if you can handle the subject matter probably an important (and maybe even helpful) book. In the end though I felt Emily remained too much at a distance. Hard to explain, I liked reading it but no more than a couple of days out I can’t really remember anything about Emily but the poems and the horrible thing that happened to her.

The story contains suicide, school violence, survivor’s guilt and an abortion that, if not forced, the character was at least ambivalent about undergoing. I’m glad I read the book even though I didn’t love it and thought it could have been deeper.

Having lost a friend recently I kept seeing the title of this book in my head as Why We Stay and I couldn’t help but think because we have too. We have to learn however we can that the only way is forward and after reading the book I did try to write some poems myself. Hence the confusion in my own head- the book and the characters might not have registered but the ideas did and they helped.

Books

if he had only been with me

if he had been with me

I read “if he had been with me” by Laura Nowlin because it was on a list of YA books you must read. This one was frustrating. Was it a good book? Yes. Well-written? Yes. Good characters? Yes. Did it get under my skin? You bet. Have I already talked to friends about it? Yes. I should tell you that on Amazon and Goodreads this book gets mostly great reviews. But it bugged me. If I was recommending it to friends or especially teenagers- it would totally depend on the person.

The story is about Autumn and Finn, next door neighbors born a couple of days apart and best friends through childhood. Until the first day of high school thereabouts when Autumn decides ah, not so much anymore. She doesn’t want to be popular or run with Finn’s crowd anymore and she certainly doesn’t know how to deal with her feelings for him. She’s the story-teller here and it puts you in her head through all four years of their high school experience which does go by a lot quicker than my high school experience did.

Unfortunately I can’t talk about the bugging parts without spoilers so be warned there will be spoilers included below!

1. Teen Pregnancy- I don’t consider myself a prude or anything but I couldn’t help thinking it would be teenagers reading this book… There are two instances of unprotected sex both of which the girl’s blow off protection. One of Autumn’s friends does indeed get pregnant. But the boy is thrilled and they get married and his parent’s give them an apartment and she looks absolutely beautiful during prom at eight months pregnant and he can’t keep his hands off her and everything is wonderful. Hey, maybe it happens and they are only secondary characters but still I was rolling my eyes pretty hard at them.

2. This is the second book I’ve read in a week where the girl wants to wait to have sex and the boyfriend is wonderfully willing and supportive of doing so. Unfortunately it’s the second book I’ve read in a week where you find out said boyfriend is fine with that because he’s doing someone else on the side. Maybe it bugged because it was back to back books but I couldn’t help think it was a good message blown. And come on, not all guys are like that!

3. Autumn has depression in the book and her mom has been hospitalized several times for suicide attempts. This was a great thing to try to tackle but Autumn is very dismissive of it even though she goes to the Doctor and is medicated she doesn’t think highly of him and thinks often that she’s only depressed because it’s winter or whatever. At the end of the book Autumn tries to commit suicide and vows to keep doing it again until she gets it right until she learns that she’s possibly pregnant and then she’ll live for the baby because Finn wouldn’t ever forgive her for that.

I didn’t know what to feel about that part honestly. Was I supposed to think it was romantic? Life-affirming? Sure, I guess. But I found it troubling too. Autumn has some real problems and as a character she felt very real and perhaps close to some of the people I’ve known in my life but tidying up her story with the possibility of a baby wasn’t really a happy ending for me.

So there it is- my issues with the book. But hey, reading is a personal thing and everyone takes from it what they will. The only other thing I would say is that it romanticized some pretty heavy stuff in my opinion and while I found the characters real I didn’t really find the situations realistic.