Waiting on Wednesday: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Expected Release Date: May 26, 2015

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

(summary via Goodreads)

I loved the first novel in Han’s “To All the Boys…” series (duology? Who knows), despite its many imperfections.  I think Han is one of those charming authors who knows what she’s good at writing and sticks to it, and the result is always satisfying and wholly immersive.  I’m excited to see what the incredibly innocent Lara Jean gets up to in this next installment.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

When Riley and her friend Reid catch their band mates hooking up, they realize they themselves could do with a little bit of romance.  So they make a pact to try to make things happen with their crushes (all while documenting it in a notebook they call The Passenger Manifest).  Though Reid seems to struggle with how to make things happen with the girls he’s interested in, Riley finds it surprisingly–perhaps shockingly–easy to attract cute guys.  It isn’t long before she finds herself with an embarrassment of riches, and that in the process, she might have gotten way more than she expected.

Amy Spalding’s books are funny, smart, and full of heart.  There’s massive appeal here for teens who like their narrators a little quirky but not over the top, and who like their characters fairly well-rounded.  A realistic look at what it’s like to be a teenager navigating the complex world of crushes, romance, and hooking up, there’s plenty to find enjoyable here.

Although the book is ostensibly narrated by both Riley and Reid in alternating chapters, the star of the show here is Riley, a  likable, good kid who is flummoxed by the amount of choices she has when it comes to dudes.  Her ability to find things in common with all the boys she dates and her genuinely authentic interactions with them make for a compelling read.

On the other hand, Reid falls a bit short when it comes to character development.  Much less page time is given to his exploits, and there’s little to delve into when it comes to his character, as well.  These parts of the book don’t detract from the narrative, but they don’t add much to it, either.

Highly recommended.  Spalding is a must-read author for fans of contemporary YA, and her latest offering doesn’t disappoint.

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding. Poppy: 2015. Electronic galley accepted for review via Netgalley.


Waiting on Wednesday: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Expected Release Date: April 14, 2015

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

(summary via Goodreads)

Courtney Summers is amazing, and I cannot wait for this one.  Early buzz has been overwhelmingly fantastic and I have no doubts that this is going to be a knockout of a novel.  It’s one of my most-anticipated reads of the year.  I can’t wait.

Book Review: Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Quincy and Biddy have just graduated from their high school’s special ed program and are forced out into the unforgiving adult world.  Completely different and at odds with each other, Quincy faces her challenges ready to fight while Biddy is much more timid about everything.  They’re placed together as roommates and have to learn how to fend for themselves.  As the girls navigate their first year of independent living, they learn that they might not be as different as they originally thought.

Gail Giles’s Girls Like Us is remarkable in many ways, not least of all because of the treatment of her two main characters.  The vividly imagined Biddy and Quincy are both authentic, flawed, realistic teens being ushered into adulthood whether they’re ready or not, and they face a unique set of challenges.  Balancing some serious, truly terrible stuff with moments of humor and heart, Giles manages to craft a novel that is chock-full of genuine relationships, learning experiences, and truly memorable characters.

Told in very short chapters and alternating the narration between Biddy and Quincy, Giles takes a risk by allowing both characters to speak in specific, deliberate speech patterns that help readers not only understand the characters thought patterns but also how other people might view the girls.  Though it could veer off into sensationalized dialect, Giles keeps it true to the characters, and it never feels exploitative.  Both girls have genuinely funny observations about the world around them, and it helps readers build connections to both, even though they each have their own version of armor surrounding them.

The book deals with sexual and familial violence in very real, unflinching ways.  Giles isn’t afraid to let her characters or her readers grapple with the ugliest aspects of humans, and these issues are dealt with successfully overall.  The book’s only misstep is a brief foray into what happened to the daughter Biddy gave birth to, but this doesn’t derail the rest of the novel.  Overall a very strong piece of fiction that should have enormous appeal to readers across the board.  Recommended.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. Candlewick Press: 2014. Library copy.

Book Review: Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

During the course of her senior year, Gabi Hernandez chronicles all the crazy things happening in her life.  Her best friend Cindy is pregnant, her other best friend Sebastian comes out, her father struggles with his meth addiction, and she has her first experiences with boys.  She also discovers a love of poetry and starts to develop an identity that is unabashedly feminist and unapologetically her own.

One needs only to read the first few pages of this excellent debut by Isabel Quintero to understand why it’s a knockout novel and well-deserving of the 2015 Morris Award.  Quintero’s excellently rendered character of Gabi, as well as the world around her, make this a standout of a novel.  Quintero is definitely an author to watch.

Gabi tells her story through diary entries that are compulsively readable and full of authenticity and emotional rawness.  Gabi’s world is wholly unbalanced and there is a great deal going on, but the myriad issues never actually overwhelm the book’s narrative, which is a tricky balance to achieve.  Quintero does it wonderfully here, allowing Gabi to grapple with some truly heavy adult stuff while also letting her be a teenage girl, too.  The normal teen trials and tribulations are present alongside the truly dramatic, and they’re woven together seamlessly.

Full of heart and humor, Gabi is a real character and feels like a real teen.  Her life is messy but full of hope, and her future is full of promise if she can survive her senior year of high school.  Quintero isn’t afraid to explore a burgeoning feminist identity and clashes with traditional culture.  She lets Gabi struggle with what it means to be a sexual being in a culture that tells her it’s wrong for girls to have wants.  She lets Gabi deal with how she sees herself and how others see her, and the result is fantastic.

On the whole an excellent debut novel.  One of my favorites of last year.  This belongs on all library shelves and should work for a wide range of teens looking for an honest, complex piece of fiction.  Highly recommended.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Cinco Puntos Press: 2014. Purchased copy.

Waiting on Wednesday: Everybody Knows Your Name by Andrea Seigel & Brent Bradshaw

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Everybody Knows Your Name by Andrea Seigel & Brent Bradshaw

Expected Release Date: March 10, 2015

Meet Magnolia.

Her father’s dead, her boyfriend’s ditched her to commit himself more fully to surfing, and her mother’s depressed because she can’t get cast on The Real Housewives of Orange County. All Magnolia wants is to reinvent herself.

Meet Ford.

Half his family is in jail, the other half probably should be, he shoplifted his way into a job at a record store, and his brother pawned his 1953 Telecaster for a quick buck. All Ford wants is to reinvent himself.

Ford, meet Magnolia.

When the two teens are cast in Spotlight, a reality TV singing competition, both see it as their chance to start anew. With each episode, as they live together in a Hollywood Hills mansion and sing their hearts out, Ford and Magnolia fall in love. But how genuine can that love be when a television audience is watching their every move—and when their pasts are catching up them so much faster than they can run?

(summary via Goodreads)

I mean, this looks like totally ridiculous fluffy fun.  Right now, it’s like 3 degrees outside and all I want is to escape into a book, so this fits the bill perfectly.  It helps that I’ve loved Andera Seigel’s other works (The Kid Table and Like the Red Panda are both excellent, and I even watched–and liked–her movie Laggies), and will pretty much check out any creative work she does.  I’m generally wary of any book that has more than one author (unless we’re talking about a graphic novel or anthology, obviously), but it might work really well here with two distinct characters.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Riveras have arrived in Delaware after emigrating from Mexico.  Hoping to get their daughter Maribel the special education she needs after an accident in their home country, the family struggles to make ends meet in a rundown apartment complex brimming with other immigrants.  It is there that the Riveras meet the Toro family and forge a deep friendship.  The Toro’s son Mayor and Maribel forge a friendship and a tentative relationship is born.  But the impact of their newfound feelings has greater ramifications than they first realized.

Cristina Henriquez’s latest book offers an unbelievably fresh take on the immigrant experience in America.  Told in alternating perspectives, including those of Maribel’s parents as well as brief vignettes with other residents of the apartment complex, Henriquez gives readers authentic insight into living in America after coming from somewhere else.  The interspersed stories of other immigration stories provide a beautiful (fictionalized) oral history of sorts, and they are full of real moments and truths.

Also interesting to note is how Mayor and Maribel’s budding relationship mirrors untrue beliefs about immigrants in America.  Because Maribel suffers from a TBI, people believe her to be dumber than she is, and many misconstrue Mayor’s interest in her as something much more dangerous than it is.  The truth is seen when the two are together: Mayor is drawn to Maribel’s insight, sweetness, and life.  It’s a sweet and tragic little love story, and holds immense appeal for teens and adults alike.

Henriquez writes prose that offers profound ruminations on coming to a strange place.  Readers will be compelled by the stories of these vivid characters as they navigate a world in which they don’t speak the language and many of the customs are foreign to them.  The novel is full of moments that hold the beauty and richness of life and family in them.  It’s a moving experience, and though the end veers toward the overly-dramatic, it still packs an emotional punch.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez.  Knopf: 2014. Library copy.