Book Review: How to Be Brave


Book Review: How to Be BraveHow to Be Brave: A Novel by E. Katherine Kottaras
Release Date: November 3rd 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 272
Source: Library

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

I’m a bit mixed on how I feel about How to Be Brave. There are so many good things about this book, but at the same time there are some problematic things as well. The heart of the story is about Georgia and her dealing with the grief of her mother’s death. In a note that Georgia forces her to write, her mother tells her to do everything and to be brave while doing it. This sets Georgia to make a list with her best friend, Liss, of 15 things she’s always wanted to do/thinks she she should do.

The list itself is fine, but I questioned how the list made her tailspin out of control. Georgia is painted as a good girl who rarely, if ever gets into trouble. However, one day of cutting class and eating a bite of pot brownies sends her off the deep end. After that first time, she states she doesn’t cut too much “just once or twice a week”;getting high is the main event for these days as well. Last time I checked 2 times a week, even for a couple of weeks, is a lot. And the thing is she doesn’t stop on that day she’s called out by the teacher. As a goody-goody, it just seems so out of character that she would have a 180 that fast. Being brave or not, just seems like a really quick spiral and slightly unrealistic that no one at school would notice how many days are adding up and not mentioning something more about it. Her dad doesn’t even find out for another month and a half later when her art teacher calls and rats her out. (At least about the cutting class, the pot-use doesn’t come until much later)

The relationships (family, friends, & romantic) ring quite true. I love the ups and down of her and Liss’ friendship. Even their fight was highly realistic. Who wouldn’t get mad at a friend for screwing up like Georgia did, even if the bad pot was to blame. I love how honest Liss always is with her. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which makes her an often abrasive, but awesome character. And her relationship with her father. That whole having a parent be in your life, but not really seeing you and expecting you to be something that you’re not. I’m sure every teen can relate to that. It wasn’t even that he didn’t care/had a bad relationship, her dad was just too busy to see the truth. It was obvious that he loved her, he simply needed to be more proactive in her life, especially now that her mother is gone.

The idea of weight is where we get back into the problematic area. I want to start with Georgia first. She’s a size 16 and considered fat. I have no problem with that. As someone who fluctuates between a size 16 or 18, I do consider myself fat. However, it’s the descriptors that follow that size 16 that don’t work. First passage appears on 27

…I hoist my one-hundred-and-blah-de-blah self (the exact number is irrelevant and supersecret)…

This is where height is totally needed. If you’re say me, at  5’6, well,  I was a size 16 at 220. However, if Georgia is 5’3 or shorter than it’s plausible.  This is why height is so, so, so important. They paint a more accurate, although still not perfect, picture.

Then on page 242 we get this

..It’s called minus ten pounds…By all official medical charts, I should technically lose another 15 pounds.

There is no way that someone who only needs to lose 25 pound is a size 16. Using myself as the example again, when I’m a size 16 to be considered normal by medical standards I would need to lose another 70 pounds. I know this will vary from person to person, but the numbers just don’t add up! [edit: I should have said again this is where we need height/body shape instead of just dismissing it completely. It’s still important to press that a size 16 isn’t the same for everyone. We need more as a reader than just a few random numbers to make it believable/realistic.]

However, on the flip side, some of the things that Georgia has to go through are so relatable. Of course, she’s teased, which can happen at any size, but there’s a scene that took me straight back to my own childhood

I was twelve and I couldn’t find a pair of jeans in the Macy’s junior department that could fit me. I sat on the floor of the dressing room, sobbing. She had to take me to the adult section, where all I could find were this ugly, old-lady jeans that gave me high water.  pg 135

Oh man, I’ve been there. Although, for me it was that I was stuck in stretch pants (yes, I was a child of the late 80s/90s), but the rest rang true. When you’re a plus-size person shopping for clothes is so hard. A+ to Kottaras for capturing that so well. There are also plenty of passages where weight does not hold Georgia (or her mother) back from living life. And by the end, Georgia seems pretty solid in the skin she’s in.

While I’m on weight, I would be remiss not to talk about her mother. This is a spot where I wish there was more information on her mother. We know that she’s a size 24, but no height or weight mentioned. We know that she’s been sick with diabetes, kidney failure, and heart problems for a long time. Many people say that they took her mother’s weight as the cause of all the health factors plus her death. I’m a bit torn on this one myself. The implications are definitely there, especially when you take in the fact that her mother’s doctor told Georgia “don’t let this happen to you.” However, fatshaming by doctors is a very real thing. I’ve seen it happen to so many of my friends (and to an extent myself) that it’s not even funny. And of course, diabetes is tied often to weight, but it’s not the only cause. I think the one passage that give me a little pause is the following:

She could have done it. She could have controlled her sugar and eaten right and walked more, like she said she was going to, but she never did. Instead, she let herself gain weight and she didn’t control her sugar….pg 256

There are so many ways to read it. You can read it as the weight caused it all. Or you could read it as something bigger. Why wasn’t she controlling her sugar? And was it just sugar in food or was she not taking her medication to get her balance right? There’s such a lack of information surround her mom and her health. With all the stereotypes that being overweight means you’re unhealthy, it’s easy to see her mom and her death as something gross. My gut says there must have been so much more going on, but with the lack of information it’s truly hard to say what.

There is also a bit where someone tries to commit suicide. I wasn’t going to mention this part, but it keeps nagging at me. For me, it felt like a plot device. How it happened and how Georgia was involved allowed her to vent her frustrations about her mother not owning up to her problems/making Georgia and her father handle the final, crucial decision. It felt a bit out of place and nothing more than a way to tie up some loose ends. However, I will fully admit that I may be highly sensitive to this topic and that many readers won’t give it a second thought.

I know that I’ve pulled out quite a bit in the problematic area, but truth be told I did enjoy the story. I want to end with one of my favorite quotes, and one of the many things that readers take away from this book

But being brave isn’t about living every minute exhilarated. It’s about waking up and knowing that despite the worry and the sadness and the deep, dark fear, you’re going to go forth anyway. That you’re going to try anyway. That you have  choice, and you’re going to choose to live, today, bravely.

 

Final Verdict: A decent read, but not one without flaws. In fact, this will still be one I probably tell my teens to check out.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2

I fell a bit behind this week, but I hope to catch up next week. Here’s what I read


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Asking for It by Kate Harding
Release Date: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Pages: 272
Source: Library

Every seven minutes, someone in America commits a rape. And whether that's a football star, beloved celebrity, elected official, member of the clergy, or just an average Joe (or Joanna), there's probably a community eager to make excuses for that person.

In Asking for It, Kate Harding combines in-depth research with an in-your-face voice to make the case that twenty-first-century America supports rapists more effectively than it supports victims. Drawing on real-world examples of what feminists call "rape culture"—from politicos' revealing gaffes to institutional failures in higher education and the military—Harding offers ideas and suggestions for how we, as a society, can take sexual violence much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.

Whew, this was a doozy of a book, but in a good way. This is a book that everyone needs to read no matter the gender. It’s fitting that I read it right before that horrid Bloomingdale’s ad appeared. Rape culture is far from being conquered and the only way we’re going to do so is if we continue to talk about it and correct our behavior.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche
Release Date: September 13th 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 304
Source: Library

Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them. Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.   Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.   After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.   Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first--herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before....   Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.

I enjoyed this one. There were a couple of little things that were problematic, but overall I loved the road trip aspect and the economic differences. Not to mention there were a lot of heartstrings pulled involving absent parents and what it means to be a family. This one easily was added to me booktalk list.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
Release Date: November 3rd 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 288
Source: Library

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

I have a larger review for this one, which will go up on Wednesday. I liked the book, but it did have some things that made me raise my eyebrows. However, some of the scenes and quotes were amazing. It’ll be one I will still tell the teens about, but wasn’t good enough to be one I booktalk.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Non Non Biyori by Atto
Series: Non Non Biyori #1
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Publisher: Seven Seas
Pages: 180
Source: Library

Welcome to the countryside village of Asahigaoka, a quaint town far-removed from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city. You couldn’t imagine a more isolated setting in all of Japan. So when Tokyo-raised elementary school student Hotaru Ichijo transfers to the tiny Asahigaoka Branch School due to her father’s job, she’s in the for the culture shock of her life!
Join Hotaru and her new friends, the eccentric Renge, and the mischevious sisters Natsumi and Komari, as they share daily adventures in the idyllic Japanese countryside.

This one was a cute and silly manga. Easily one that is good for my younger manga-readers. It is rated Teen, but judging from the first volume it’s going to be a mild one that can be handed to 5th grade and up with no issues.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Rose Guns Days Season 1 Series: Rose Guns Days #1
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 195
Source: Library

After suffering unprecedented disasters in World War II, Japan accepts the American and Allied Forces' terms of unconditional surrender. Now the citizens of a ruined nation, the people of Japan come together amid an influx of influences and immigrants and--cunningly, carefully--survive...This is the unrecognizable Japan to which the sharpshooting, sweet-talking womanizer Leo Shishigami returns three years after the war. Against this backdrop, in the spring of 1947, everything is set into motion when Leo meets Rose Haibara, the madam of Club Primavera...

Ahh, this manga totally reminds me of old school type stuff. It has this total Trigun feel to it that I love. It is definitely older teen though. While there has not been any nudity, there are women of the night and the main villain is a complete sexual predator who has made it known he has no problem taking what he wants. However, everything is implied but not shown, which makes me okay leaving it on my teen shelves.

Book Review: If You Wrong Us


Book Review: If You Wrong UsIf You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr
Release Date: October 8th 2015
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 240
Source: Library

"An intricate psychological page-turner that explores the darker side of vengeance and reads like Gone Girl through a teen lens." - Kirkus Reviews
Becca and Johnny become entangled after a car crash steals the lives of two people they love. Officially, the crash is an accident. But Becca and Johnny are convinced: someone did this.
As they plot revenge against the person responsible, a bond—intense, unyielding, and manic—takes hold of them. And in an unexpected turn of events, they fall for each other.
Or so they think.
In an upside-down world where decay is beautiful and love and hate become one, Becca and Johnny find themselves grappling with reality. Nothing is exactly what it seems, including what they've come to believe about the crash. Question is: will they learn the truth before it's too late?
No. The question is: when they learn the truth, will they care?

 

This is one of those books that I wanted to like so much, and tried to, but ultimately just couldn’t. The story itself isn’t bad. It’s a weird and twisted revenge plot where nothing is quite as it seems. The whole Gone Girl for teens is pretty accurate. Becca herself is a highly unreliable narrator and by the end it’s quite obvious that she’s mentally ill.  The ending is a bit rushed and it kind of falls apart as well. There were some “suspension of disbelief” moments , but none of that truly bothered me. In fact, it’s a quick fast read that I could have easily sold to reluctant readers had it not been for some highly problematic lines/issues that start popping up.

These issues started showing up pretty fast. In fact, on only page four we get this

I shift around in my seat, trying to get comfortable. It’s impossible because I’m stuffed into this desk-and-chair combo – much like Rosie is, sitting next to me jammed into her two-sizes-too-small bedazzled jeans.

There are so many other analogies that could have used. Why, why, why does it have to be this one? All it really serves is demeaning a female classmate. Sure, it forms an image, but does it have to be at the expense of a girl? Girls already have so many people yelling at them about their body, this does not need to added to their list.

 

The commentary on women’s body doesn’t end there. Less that 20 pages later, we’re given these lines:

Becca has no idea how hot she is, and that only makes her more appealing. pg 19

“Here, take this,” I add, shoving a granola bar into the chest pocket of her button-down shirt. I like my women with a little meat on their bones.” pg 20

No, no, no. A woman who lacks self-confidence is not sexy, and we do not need to be teaching our girls this. It’s okay, even good, to have self-confidence and know you’re beautiful. Also, can we please stop the commentary on what women should look like. I know this line was in a larger reference to her losing weight because of their revenge plot, but we need to express those words and not comments like “needing more meat on their bones”.

 

Speaking of weight, there are a couple of problematic lines on that as well. The worse offender is:

My brain is like a fat guy at an all-you-can-eat rib joint. Things are going along just fine, I consume, take things in just as I’m supposed to. But then, without warning, I reach out and grab something – a word, a phrase, a number – and it slips out of my greasy hands. pg 30

Again, I get what she is going at, but does it have to be at the expense of someone else. Why can’t it simply be “someone at an all-you-can-eat rib joint”? Why does it have to be someone that’s fat? It’s a stereotype that fat people eat/consume more than anyone else. It’s false and highly insulting.

 

The other line that deals with weight/unflattering description is

Mom checked in with an overweight blonde who smelled like perspiration and rubbing alcohol. pg. 49

This one seems not so bad compared to the other, but it still really bothered me. She’s overweight so she sweats more? I tried to find an angle that maybe she’s just moving around a lot, but she’s a hospital check-in desk person. Most likely, she is only manning the desk and maybe doing other light office jobs. Nothing that should make her reek of sweat.

 

There are other things that bothered me, like calling a psychiatric ward the Nut Hut, but the final nail in the coffin for me was the following passage

Call me sick, but I liked Travis’s dark side and the cloud of mystery and danger than hung over him. Brit didn’t understand this because she always got the attention. For me, it was new and exciting the way he fussed over me. I liked his possessiveness. It made me feel precious or something. pg 76

This passage comes a short time after we find out it’s rumored that he beat up his ex-girlfriend. Perhaps that’s not the dark side Becca  is referring to, but it’s the connection that I made. However, even if it isn’t, a relationship where someone is possessive is never good. This is an emotionally abusive relationship and it should not be spun as something good. Yes, I know there’s a twist to this passage that we learn later, but it still doesn’t make this passage okay. Her sister does try to use this fact to force Becca to break up with him, but it’s spun in a way that Brit just doesn’t want to be linked to the “talk” not that she’s worried he may be abusing her as well.

I know these passages seem small in comparison to the whole book, but I do think it’s still worth highlighting problematic things. It’s by no means an attack on anything, but something I believe we should be talking about.

Final Verdict: A fast-paced read with some problematic passages. It’ll be one that teens can still find on the library selves, but not one I promote/handsell.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1

Okay, I’ve challenged myself to read a book-a-day this month. Each week I’ll do a post on what I’ve read. I figured it’s a way to keep me honest and share my thoughts in a quick style.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton
Release Date: July 28th 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 256
Source: Library

A spine-tingling collection of ghost stories! When a boy finds himself drawn into an empty house one cold night, he enters a room in which twelve unusual-looking people sit around a table. And the thirteenth chair is pulled out for him. One by one, each of those assembled tells their own ghost story: tales of doom and death; of ghostly creatures and malevolent spirits; of revenge and reward. It is only at the end of the night that the boy starts to understand what story he must tell . . .

None of the short stories are super creepy, but most of them are a fun read. This is a great one for those in 5th – 8th grade, especially if they love Goosebumps. The end is a bit open ended and it would be an interesting discussion to see what teens thought happened to Jack at the end.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1FLAWD by Emily-Anne Rigal Jeanne Demers
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher

When you look in the mirror and only see your flaws, it can be hard to be your best self.   FLAWD is your new cheerleader—an energetic guide to seeing your flaws as the doorway to something more.

Through dynamic stories and advice from teens and celebrities around the world, FLAWD will help you to: ·       SEE yourself as perfectly imperfect. ·       TREAT life as playfully as possible. ·       THINK about what really matters. ·       EMBRACE all that makes you, YOU. ·       UNDERSTAND influence and how to use it. ·       KNOW you can be part of a flawd and powerful transformation.   Even though we exist in a culture that thrives on bullying us into believing we're never good enough as we are, FLAWD affirms that you are good enough, ready enough and important enough to be a flawd light in the world.   Are you ready to become fearless with your flaws and change the world by being yourself? Then FLAWD is the book for you.

“Not only does Emily-Anne have strong convictions and a beautiful soul, but she has taken action against bullying. Her actions have had such an immediate and enormous impact on the world already.” —Lady Gaga

From the Trade Paperback edition.

This one was so-so for me. It had some fundamentally good advice, but none of it really clicked for me. I like my advice/self-help/esteem booster books to be one where I’m constantly marking pages. I have a few spots I marked, but not a lot. I’m not sure if this is one of those miss the marks because I’m an adult or one that just really missed the mark period.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1If You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr
Release Date: October 8th 2015
Pages: 240
Source: Library

After a car crash steals the lives of two people they love, Becca and Johnny become obsessed with a common cause. Officially, the crash is an accident. But Becca and Johnny are convinced: someone did this. As they plot revenge against the person responsible, a bond—intense, unyielding, and manic—takes hold of them. And in an unexpected turn of events, they fall for each other. Or so they think. In an upside-down world where decay is beautiful and love and hate become one, Becca and Johnny find themselves grappling with reality. Nothing is exactly what it seems, including what they’ve come to believe about the crash. The question is: will they learn the truth before it’s too late? No, the question is: when they learn the truth, will they care?

I wanted to love this book so much, but couldn’t. I’m going to do a longer review on this later this week, but the amount of passages I marked for being problematic bothered me. It was a fast-paced read that I would have easily given to reluctant readers had it not caused me to be so grumbly.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: The Scorpion Rules #1
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 384
Source: Library

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

I love, love, LOVE the concept of this book. I’ve noticed this one is a hit or miss for most people. I’m still not sure where I stand on it yet. The plot I loved, but there’s something about the relationships that is nagging me. I want to do a longer of this one, but I’m waiting for one of my friends to read it first and hash out what I’m feeling with her. I also want to go back and read some of the passages to see if I can get a firmer grip on why they bother me. It’s still one I recommend checking out, even with the possible problematic bits.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Vol. 2 (manga) by Satoshi Wagahara
Series: The Devil is a Part-Timer #2
Release Date: April 26th 2016
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Old Friends, new enemies! In the Sasazuka neighborhood of the Shibuya district of Tokyo, newly minted part-time burger-flipper and former Devil King Satan (now known as Sadao Maou) clashes with Lucifer, a fallen angel who used to serve him! But how will the onetime king deal with his rival now that his magic power's run dry? Now that the devil is one of us, he's going to have to get creative!

I didn’t love this vol as much as vol 1. There’s a lot of new characters and it’s a little hard to keep track of them all. However, I still love the premise of the Devil King Satan becoming a good guy basically because he lost his powers and feel in love with the human world. This whole questioning what is evil and what is not and if there can be a grey area is fun. So, while this one wasn’t as fun as the first one, I’m still highly interested to see where the series goes.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
Series: Tokyo Ghoul #2
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Pages: 208
Source: Library

Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers.

Unable to discard his humanity but equally unable to suppress his Ghoul hunger, Ken finds salvation in the kindness of friendly Ghouls who teach him how to pass as human and eat flesh humanely. But recent upheavals in Ghoul society attract the police like wolves to prey, and they don’t discriminate between conscientious and monstrous Ghouls.

This is easily becoming one of my favorite mangas. I know vol 2 may be a little early to say that, but man, I am loving it so far. This was was less gory by far than the first one. To me this is neither good nor bad, but I know some people had a bit of trouble with the goriness of the first one. This is another manga that is pushing what is good/what is bad lines. With Keneki being both ghoul and human now, he doesn’t know quite where to put his alliance. It’ll be interesting to see how he changes as the series continues.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1First Love Monster by Akira Hiyoshimaru
Series: First Love Monster #2
Release Date: October 27th 2015
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Kaho isn't a thing. You can't treat girls like objects. Although high schooler Kaho and fifth grader Kanade have started dating, Kaho is constantly at the mercy of Kanade's childish whims. And when a mysterious hottie with a Kansai accent--whom Kanade happens to call "Aniki"--arrives, will unimaginable trials await the couple's blossoming love?! A fast-paced super-love comedy filled with madcap heart-throbbing mayhem!

This manga is just….weird. I just don’t know how to feel about it. I mean, it’s a high schooler dating a 5th grader, which just ew. However, I love the innocent sweetness  of exploring your first love time thing. There’s absolutely nothing “more” happening (even though she thinks it’s coming at some points), but it’s still just a bit creepy. I’ll give this one a vol or two more before I abandon it completely.

 

Book Review: Boy Most Likely To


Book Review: Boy Most Likely ToThe Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 416
Source: NetGalley, Publisher

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To:
- find the liquor cabinet blindfolded
- need a liver transplant
- drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To:
- well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.

And Alice is caught in the middle.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this return to the world of My Life Next Door is a story about failing first, trying again, and having to decide whether to risk it all once more

This book is like chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth; the kind you wish would never end. It’s no secret that I loved and adored My Life Next Door and was excited to walk back into that universe. And while I didn’t quite get what I expected, Fitzpatrick delivered a fantastic book and reminded me all over again why I love her writing and these characters.

Before I get much further, let me say that this book does kind of push the YA envelope. Not so much in that it’s inappropriate, because it’s truly not, but the tone and the way it’s written made it feel more like an upper YA pushing into the New Adult region. Tim falls in that definite grey area of life; not really a kid, but not quite an adult yet either. He should be attending his last year of high school, but instead finds himself kicked out of school (yet again), kicked out of his house, and then hit with another big surprise. I often had to remind myself that he was still under 18 due to situation, but there is still plenty that the “typical” teenager will be able to relate to. And while we get dual POV, this is without a doubt Tim’s story.

Tim, under all his bad boy, messed-up exterior, is truly a good guy. He’s been handed a crap sandwich in life and up until this point he hasn’t handled it so well. He lost his himself in drugs and alcohol and no one truly thinks he’ll amount to anything. After all, he is the boy likely to do something stupid. When the book starts, we find that Tim has been clean for several months already, but still has a lot of stuff to straighten out. His father has just given him an ultimatum to get his life back on track in the next 6 months or he’ll find himself cut off completely. Tim has lived so long without anyone thinking positively of him that it’s hard for him to see it either. His “Boy Most Likely To” list broke my heart and just made me want to hug him and tell him it wasn’t true.

Of course, that’s kind of what Alice does. While she is used to seeing him as her younger brother’s screwed up friend, she slowly gets to see another side. She takes the risk allowing him to be “more” and offers him the support he’s been missing in his life. Alice isn’t the one to fix him–only Tim can do that–but she starts to show him all his positives. While their romance is a bit hidden among the other storyline, it’s still an enjoyable one. They work well together and I do wish there had been more of them falling in love/going on dates. I do hope that Fitzpatrick writes another book in this universe because I would love to see them more relaxed and without the heavy burdens they had to handle.  And, of course, it would allow me to see all the Garrett’s again; a family I love and adore maybe a little too much!

Warning: If you don’t want to be spoiled please don’t read on.

View Spoiler »

Final Verdict: Not quite the love story I was expecting, but a great read anyway. I highly recommend it, even if you haven’t read My Life Next Door.