Book Review: I Hate Everyone But You


Book Review: I Hate Everyone But YouI Hate Everyone But You by Allison Raskin, Gabby Dunn
Release Date: September 5th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Source: ALA

Dear Best Friend,I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.Sincerely,Ava Helmer(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We're still in the same room, you weirdo.Stop crying.G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I Hate Everyone But You, the debut novel by two emerging major talents in YA, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn, is a story about new beginnings, love and heartbreak, and ultimately about the power of friendship.

I’ve been sitting on this book and mulling over how I feel for a couple of days now. I loved the idea of the premise. As someone who has moved a lot, a story about dealing with those long distance friendships was a welcomed sight. And while this book did deal with that a bit, it also had things that weren’t so welcomed.

First things first, this a modern-day epistolary book. The whole things is told via Ava and Gen’s emails and texts. This makes for a quick read and generally works okay. You get the basic story and the general emotion of each girl. The emails and texts are sometimes a bit over the top, but that’s to be expected. However, at the same time, I did wish for more details at times. I felt like I was missing something by not being in the moment. I’m also hoping the final version will have dates and time stamps attached. It was really hard to gauge the passage of time between communication unless one of the girls drops a season/how long it’s been in one of their messages.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD

There are a couple of things that made the book go south for me. One, is the relationship between Gen and her TA, Charlotte. One moment, Charlotte is simply helping her edit her piece for the paper. Innocent and appropriate enough, right? Well, you blink and they’re suddenly lovers, in the loosest sense of the word. I can hear you saying, what’s the big deal, they’re both adults? Well, yes, but it still feels wrong. For one, Charlotte is in a position of power both as her TA and later as faculty advisor for the paper. Two, Charlotte is 32. That’s a huge difference, especially at that age. Three, Gen is not the only student she is sleeping with. There is at least one other girl, who Gen was also sleeping with, but it definitely sounded like it has been more. It just utterly and completely rubbed me the wrong way, especially when you throw in a transphobic storyline. Without telling the whole story, Charlotte is accused of writing transphobic pieces in the past, which ultimately leads to Gen quitting the newspaper, the whole reason she picked the college she did. If the Gen and Charlotte line had ended there, I would have chalked it up to being at college and experimenting. However, even after all that, Gen ditches Ava, who is visiting over Thanksgiving, to go have a weekend tryst with Charlotte. Considering how much of the book revolved around this pretty unhealthy relationship, I wanted to scream.

With Ava, it was her mental illness. Something about how it all was handled felt a bit off the entire book for me. Ava definitely had OCD, depression, and anxiety. I feel like there may be more going on, but if so, it’s not given a name. I have my own theories, though. The general portrayal is not my issues, but how past events are thrown in. For example, she’s also a cutter. There is a slight edge of urgency to it, but it’s only mentioned a couple times and dropped completely once Gen tells her mom. There’s also this weird spot where it’s nonchalantly mentioned that Ava tried to kill her mom in 6th grade once. It’s meant as a ploy to show how important it is for her to be on the right medication, but it still felt a bit odd. This, however, may go back to the epistolary-no-details issue I had above, but at times I felt like there was just a check list of all the things wrong with Ava mentally.

I’ve debated on if I wanted to mentioned this, but thought I would at least briefly. When Gen comes out, there’s a lot of mislabeling on Ava’s part. Repeatedly, Ava calls her gay. Gen does correct her by saying she still likes boys and does bring up bisexuality, but Ava to a point still implies she’s gay since Gen is mainly sleeping with women. It does seem to stop once Gen labels herself as queer, but it still irritated me a little. Especially when there was a whole passage about how could Gen fantasize about a man when she was gay! I know a lot of this is supposed to be that Ava is a poor sheltered girl (there are several other painful questions especially about trans stuff), but it’s a little unbelievable considering she’s in modern day L.A. I don’t expect her to be fully enlightened, but I would expect her to know more at her age.

In part, a lot of that may have to do that this book felt like Dunn and Raskin maybe took their own college experiences or YouTube stories and crammed them into this book, especially since they name/link dropped their own YouTube channel in the middle of the book.  Honestly, I’m not really sure I would consider this a teen book. Maybe more NA? I don’t know the voices used just didn’t feel too authentic to me. It felt a lot like 30 year olds pretending to be college students.

In the end, this book wasn’t for me at all, but considering how many people are raving about it, this may be a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. Or maybe if I had been a fan of Dunn and Raskin’s in general, it may have had stronger appeal. I’ll be interesting to see if things shift once the book is out and more reviews are posted.

Book Review: Flirting in Italian


Book Review: Flirting in ItalianFlirting in Italian Release Date: June 2012
Pages: 322
Source: ALA

Violet is off to a study course in Italy. Her mom thinks she's doing it for her university applications, but Violet has an ulterior motive. After seeing a painting of a beautiful young Italian aristocrat who could be her twin, she is determined to find out if there's a connection between them.     At Villa Barbiano, home of the summer school, Violet meets two American girls, an English scholarship girl, and the daughter of the woman who runs the program, Elisa, who resents the foreigners and undermines them every chance she gets.     Being in Italy is a dream come true for Violet, especially when she meets the dark, brooding Luca, heir to the castle on the hill--the very castle featured in the portrait that brought her to Italy. And Violet is determined to uncover its secrets no matter what the cost.

Short of it: Henderson’s writing is solid, but overall I was disappointed by the lack of action and conclusion for this novel. I feel like it’s sorely incomplete with book two (and three?) and therefore hard to thoroughly enjoy.

Plot: After reading 300+ pages I can’t really say what happened in this book beyond Violet has a mystery to solve and a hot thing for a boy that she meets in Italy. At the end of the book she is no closer to solving her mystery or hooking up with the boy. I felt so frustrated when I got to the last page and was told I should read the next book to see where Violet’s story will go. I don’t mind series, I really don’t, but I would have liked there to be more to Flirting in Italian. I was interested to find out more about why Violet looks so much like this family, but instead all I got was girl bonding, parties, long sighs over boys, and lessons about Italy. Just not enough to wet my appetite. I will continue on to book two, but only because I want to know how it all goes. It does look like this will be a trilogy, so I only hope book two offers more than book one did.

I will note that there is a lot of drinking mentioned, but the book is set in Europe where drinking ages are much different than here in the US. In fact, they are all old enough to be able to enjoying the wine they have. One thing I really liked was the several mentions that Italians do not drink to get drunk. And the one girl who does get hammered gets reprimanded for it the next day. I don’t know if Italian teens are truly that responsible, but I was glad it was handled maturely/as part of the experience.

Character: I don’t know how I feel about Violet. She’s a likable character, but she’s also a bit forgettable. I know she likes to think outside the box and that she likes art, but there isn’t much to know beyond that. Most of her focus is either on the mystery, longing for Luca, or on her fellow classmates/her lessons. While none of the girls are fully rounded, someone like Paige who is loud and proud stick out more in my mind than Violet.

She’s also got this weird wishy-washy insecurity thing going. One moment she is comparing herself to the other girls and how she doesn’t measure up and the next she’s cool with it. The majority of it has to do with her body and is constantly described as having “meat on her bones” but she’s not fat. I would assume she is average, healthy size, but sometimes it was hard to tell. Several times she says she’s not fat, but she’s also not super skinny or athletic and she’s not 100% happy with her body either. I suppose that’s true of all women, but it was weird to her flip-flop so often on if she was secure with herself/her body or not.

Romance: I’ll be the first to admit that Violet and Luca’s moments are HOT, but I’m not sure I’m feeling it yet. Luca is rather standoffish and at times mean. He may be sex reincarnated, but he is not someone I would want my friends to date. I hate how she gets so wrapped up in him and melts at a simple glance. But I know bad boys are still hot, so I’m sure I’ll be in the minority in this opinion. Luca does have several good moments, though, and I’m hoping as the series continues his true side will come out more and he’ll become a love interest I can get behind.

Writing: I won’t lie Henderson has a great style. For all I disliked about the book, it wasn’t until I peeked at the end of the book that putting it aside even crossed my mind. But even with knowing there wouldn’t be a true conclusion I still continued until the last page. Add in the fact, that while disappointed, I plan on checking out the next book. That’s skill. Henderson knows how to tell a story, I just wish there had been more of it in this one. I’ll probably check out her other books in hopes of finding something more satisfying.

Librarian-Mode: This is your classic beach read novel. It’ll go well with Dessen and general chick-lit fans. It would also go quite well with Jenny Hanh’s Summer series.

If you’ve read Flirting in Italian be sure to leave me a comment letting me know what you thought!

 


Book Review: Jersey Angel


Book Review: Jersey AngelJersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman
Release Date: May 14th 2013
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 201
Source: ALA

It's the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She's not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn't sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn't start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn't want to fool around anymore, he wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn't want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself  spending more time with Inggy's boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves.

Short of it: There is something about this fast-paced book that is addicting and hard to put down. However, I’m still not sure that means it is good. There was a lot of promise to Jersey Angel but ultimately I think it fell flat for me.

Plot: Jersey Angel is your classic slice of life story. There is no real conflict, plot, or even ending. Instead, it focuses on Angel’s day-to-day life, which includes hook-ups, teen pregnancy, family issues and parties with friends. While I’ve never been a fan of slice of lives (and still am not) this one is somehow addicting. While I had trouble putting it down, I was ultimately let down. There was so much potential that Bauman could have tapped into but merely glossed over. One of my biggest issues is the lack of consequences. Angel does a lot of questionable things, including betraying her best friend, but never has to deal with any fallout. Internally she does feel guilty, but she doesn’t stop and I had high hopes of her deceit being found out.

The one thing I did like was Angel coming to terms with her future. She’s always known that she’s not cut out for college or some big shot career. While I think her choice is aiming low, it seems to be one she’ll be happy with at least for a while. Who knows, maybe in a couple years she’ll go back to get her degree, but for now, she seems satisfied with the road ahead of her. Personally, I have known a lot of people like this and it was nice to see their choices represented for once.

Character: I can understand Angel, but I can’t relate to her. Honestly, I felt sorry for her. I saw her as a weak female who let sex rule her life. I don’t even believe it was because she lacked a moral compass. She knew what she was doing was wrong, but she didn’t have the willpower to stop it. Angel reminds me a lot of those girls who will do anything for attention/to feel loved and instead of finding love they get empty, meaningless sex. Of course, her mother was basically an older version of Angel, which may explain a lot of Angel’s attitude and actions. Angel is by no means a role model, but I do think quite a few teenage girls will be able to connect and relate to her. My only hope is that they’ll realize this lifestyle won’t give them what they crave and be willing to find the boys that will care for them past sex. By the end of the book, Angel is basically at this point. I’m not sure she’s fully ready to give up her heart, but it does feel like she’ll give up the sleeping around.

Romance: Romance does not exist in Jersey Angel. Seriously, I feel like all the relationships depicted were completely and utterly unhealthy. And in Angel’s case, her life was just one hook-up after another. When I say there is a lot of sex, I do mean a lot. It’s pretty to safe to say there is almost a sex scene per chapter. While I do think that pushes this book into the older teen realm, I don’t feel as if it was overly graphic. There were a few basic details/descriptions here and there, but nothing that made me cringe/blush. Honestly, it wasn’t even that steamy. Angel treated the act of sex as someone else may treat brushing their teeth. It fulfilled a desire, but there was little to nothing sexy about it.

Writing: This is an area I don’t really have any complaints about. The more I’ve thought about Jersey Angel the more I realize it was Bauman’s writing that kept me reading. I know this isn’t the most favorable review in the world, but when I say I couldn’t put the book down I mean it. Had it not been nearing 4 am I would have easily finished it in one sitting. For me, that speaks volumes of her ability to spin a story. While this one didn’t quite work for me, I will be looking into other books she has written.

Librarian-Mode: I don’t know exactly what to pair this one up with. Part of me wants to say Gossip Girls, but I’m not sure that’s completely accurate. I do think teens who like the show Jersey Shore may like Jersey Angel. While not the same, I could easily see the plot of Jersey Angel being an episode on the Jersey Shore, especially when you consider the crazy hook-ups and partying. However, with it being a YA bodice ripper, it will pretty much sell itself to teens.

 

Book Review: Bitterblue


Book Review: BitterblueBitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling #3
Release Date: May 2012
Publisher: Dial Books
Pages: 563
Source: ALA

Short of it:  While it got off to a slow start, Bitterblue was a worth the long wait. Cashore weaved the companion novels together gracefully. My only slight disappointment was I wanted more. The story wraps nicely, but I feel like there is still so much to tell. My hope is that Cashore will decide to revisit the Seven Kingdoms in the future.

Plot: The storyline for this one starts off quite slow, but for good reason. Bitterblue has been kept under mountains of paperwork since she took her reign and has no idea what is happening in her kingdom. The web of lies and deceit that Lech weaved was enormous and would have been difficult for Bitterblue to sort through with an army of help behind her. It’s near impossible to do when everyone is trying to derail her. Not to mention her own memories are quite hazy. Honestly, I’m glad Cashore didn’t rush that period of awakening, even if it meant a slowly, less-action filled beginning.

However, once Bitterblue starts to take action into her own hands, things really start to roll. I don’t want to give away too much of the book, so I won’t say too much more. Old favorites, including Katsa and Po, will return and the many truths will be revealed. The depths of Lech madness is horrifying, although not surprising. While Bitterblue will never know the full story to his madness, this is most likely for the best. I doubt any reasoning could make his madness okay. Not to mention anything more would have been too much for poor Bitterblue to handle. While strong, I believe knowing everything would have made her crumble.

Character: I liked Bitterblue. She was a bit naive and too trusting, but all things considered it is understandable. She had been thrown into this position when she was only 10 years old with very little training. The people around her were supposed to help build a better Kingdom, not keep her in the dark. Bitterblue does have spunk though. She may not be a Katsa, but in her position she could never be that brazen or bold. However, when she realized how many lies has been fed to her over the years, she had no problem finding out the truth on her own. Yes, she may have been a bit foolish at time, but she learned from every mistake and used it to make herself stronger. Bitterblue has all the makings of a good Queen and the legacy she leaves behind would make her mother proud.

I know this story is about Bitterblue, but I wanted to touch a bit on Po. Out of the characters we’ve seen before he around the most. Po has always been one of my favorite characters, but I felt like some of his charm was missing in this story. I can’t put my finger quite on it, but he felt different. I know a lot had to do with the guilt of hiding his secret, but that was something he had been dealing with most of his life. I know Cashore was trying to compensate for her “cureness” for being blind, but in the process she changed him. Don’t get me wrong, I still adore Po, but he just wasn’t the same. I’d be interested to see if anyone else felt the shift/change in him as well.

Romance: Oh, Saf and Bitterblue. I feel like I can’t say too much without giving anything away with this one. While they were from different worlds, they worked. Saf was the spark she needed to push her out of her shell and truly open her eyes. Without him, I thinks he would have stayed in the web of lies much, much longer than she did. He was her guide, per say, to a world she knew nothing about. His street smarts helped her get around and, honestly, stay alive. Yes, they fought, but there were true, deep feelings for each other. I was pleased with how Cashore handled their relationship, especially the final outcome.

I do believe there is a secondary relationship between Gideon and Bitterblue as well. Okay, so this may be reaching a little, but I think it’s still plausible, especially near the end. In no way, shape, or form does Cashore state they are romantically entwined, but there are little hints that they could be if Saf doesn’t work out. The seedlings are there, but I suppose it will be up to the reader if it ever blooms. (And personally, I think it will, but I don’t want to spoil things for anyone who has not read it yet.)

Writing: Cashore is a brilliant writer and Bitterblue is no exception. All three of her books have been captivating. The worlds and characters she creates are some of my favorite to exist. I was sad to turn the last page as it felt like I was saying goodbye to dear friends. I can’t wait to meet her next week and express my love in person. And I certainly can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

Librarian-Mode: I’m going to assume that anyone who has read Bitterblue has already read Graceling and Fire as well. There are many great fantasy novels out there, but I think Tamora Pierce is one of the best matches for Cashore lovers, especially her Tricksters duo and Beka Cooper trilogy.

 


Book Review: Pink


Book Review: PinkPink by Lili Wilkinson
Release Date: Feb 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 320
Source: ALA

Ava is ready for something new. Tired of a wearing black and remaining outside of the social norm, she wants to reinvent who she is. She wants to wear the pink Argyle sweater hidden in her closet. Maybe even date a boy. When she transfers to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence she thinks she’s found the perfect opportunity; a place where no one knows her and she can try on a new “Ava”. The only problem? She must hide it from her changes from her parents and her girlfriend, Chloe. They’d never understand her new desires, plus they’re a nice safety net in case her new personality doesn’t work. The thing about secrets is they’re hard to keep and Ava risks everything if her two worlds collide. But as the dust settles Ava will discover who her real friends are...and maybe even a step closer to discovering who she truly is.

The Short of It: Hands down one of my favorite books! I’ve been gushing about this book to so many people since I read it in January (including the publisher and author!) I can’t remember the last time I was THIS excited about a book. In other words, why haven’t you bought it yet?

Plot: The first thing that sold me on this book was that it was about a lesbian. Can I say there are just not enough books featuring teen lesbians out there? Seriously, I wish there were tons more, so when I hear of one I usually jump on it. But…but…this book goes way beyond that. It’s not about being gay, bi, or straight; it’s about discovering who you are. Ava’s parents are so much about sticking it to the man and thinking outside the norm, that they have painted her into a new sort of box. The gothy lesbian look is all good and dandy, but Ava really just wants to wear pink. She wants to know what it’s like to be part of the “in-crowd” and maybe even date a boy. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, which is a lesson Ava learns the hard way. There are many bumps–okay potholes–and detours along the way as Ava tries to make things work. Of course, the end of the book was not the end of Ava’s journey. She still wasn’t sure exactly who she was and may not know for a while, but she’ll continue to try to figure it out. Honestly, this is my favorite part; a school year is not enough time to firmly stamp you are and what your sexuality is. Kudos to Wilkinson for keeping it real and not tying it all up in a nice little bow.

Characters: Ava is far from perfect. She makes mistakes. HUGE mistakes. I understand the desire to be someone new/start over fresh though. Been there, done that several times over now. While I don’t condone all the lying that Ava does along the way, I can sympathize and understand how she got to that point. One little secret turns into another and another and pretty soon it’s out of control. However, I love that Ava is brave enough to admit her mistakes and apologize to everyone she wronged. She may have gone about many things wrong, but she tries her hardest to make them right again. And it’s not a quick fix, either; she’ll have to rebuild some of those relations, but Ava is willing to do what she can. I also love that she didn’t buckle under pressure and return to how others saw her. She had the chance to return to how everything was before, but she stick to her instinct, even if it meant losing someone she cared about.

Before I move on, I have to mention the side characters, especially the Screws. Being a theatre stag-crew/props/behind the scenes person myself, the Screws where my people in high school. While none of my friends where anything quite like them, it did bring back happy memories. I will say that Jen was my favorite character overall. The whole geek girl is my world and I kind of wish she were real so I could make her my new BFF (or more). But seriously, if you finish this book and not have an intense love for the Screws, well, something just isn’t right! (I’ll still love you, but I’ll have my serious doubts.)

Romance: Okay, so I’ll be honest. Ava is not single for most of this book. She and Chloe are in a relationship from the get-go, but honestly, Chloe does not have much page time. And when she does, you kind of wish she’d just go away. She’s too stuck in the thought that her opinions are law and is kind of a big bully. Her words are cutting, brutal, and very hurtful, especially when aimed at Jen. Not to mention her ultimatum to Ava is pure bs. So yes, Chloe exists but she is a predominant character.

Now there are other flirtations that are in the book, but nothing that evolves to a full out romance. There is definitely the possibility of more, especially with one character, but Ava still has a lot of figuring out to do before she crosses that line. If nothing else, there is still a great friendship–even if more never comes from it.

Writing: Wilkinson does a superb job at pulling readers into her world and making this world universal for anyone. I know this book took place in Australia, but for most of the book I forgot that detail, except when they mentioned what university they wanted to go with. Seriously, though, I could have seen this story taking place in my own home-town, which is the beauty of it. Wilkinson is quite spot on for the entire book. There was not a single time where I thought the pacing was off or a character would do this or that. And just how realistic everything thing is. . . Ah, really, I’m going to quit now before I get too gushy!

Librarian-Mode: Okay, pairing time. So there are a lot of books I think this one would do well next to. I truly believe it should be a GLBTQ staple and is a nice read-a-like for Keeping You a Secret, Ash, and Geography Club. However, this is a very good coming-of-age story and would work with realistic romances as well.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read Pink? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.