Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shine by Lauren Myracle

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.
Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author. 

Cat lives in a small town in North Carolina, where the poverty level is high and the options are low. The story opens up a week after Cat’s childhood best friend - and kindred spirit - Patrick, was attacked at the Come ‘n’ Go, where he worked.

The story unfolds slowly, and Lauren Myracle takes that time to build the relationships and explain Cat’s past while also developing the characters that Cat interact with throughout the novel. Cat had an experience three years prior that caused her to turn away from her friends, Patrick included. However, she feels compelled to find out what happened to Patrick, who was the victim of a hate crime and by doing so it opens doors that she closed three years before.

Lauren handled the telling of the crime and its resolution well. As I am not from a small town I don’t fully understand what that experience might be, however, Lauren details her story in such a way that I feel as though I’m living right next door to Cat. I was concerned that there might be religious bashing or that the story might turn out to be judgmental, however, this was not the case. While she did not candy-coat the emotions, or the effects of the crimes throughout the story, she approached it realistically and somewhat journalistically, allowing the reader to form their opinions about each character. I did not see the end coming until it was unfolding, but I do see now how it was a great ending.

There are a lot of points that could be discussed in this book. Prejudices, self hating and narrow-mindedness to name a few. I highly recommend reading this book! Then, perhaps discussing it with a friend over tea.

[review of arc via netgalley]

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Last Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.
Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits … and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

In her conclusion to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Maureen Johnson wraps Ginny’s story in a sparkly box, drops it on our front porch and flies away via umbrella. If you are reading this review without reading the first book, you will be spoiled, just a little bit.

I was wondering how the thirteenth envelope would find its way back to Ginny. As it was, Ginny didn’t need to find it, she basically figure out what she was suppose to do. However, its contents still hung over our heads, mysterious, giving us no closure. What did Aunt Peg have to say? Where would Aunt Peg have sent her next?

In The Last Little Blue Envelope, we find some familiar characters and are introduced to some new faces. The way in which Aunt Peg’s letters make their way back to Ginny is quite plausible. We’re introduced to the mysterious and aloof Oliver and the fun and spontaneous Ellis, who accompany Keith and Ginny on the wild race to complete the request of the last letter.

I wasn’t sure how she would do it, but Maureen managed to pull out from - seemingly - thin air a great plot, with elements from the first novel that I loved so much, while still allowing this book to be its own story. We travelled to old and new places, gained new experiences and found the final piece to the puzzle of Aunt Peg. The ending came so quickly that it left me wishing there was another envelope hidden somewhere that would allow us to continue travelling with Ginny and the gang.

If you enjoyed the first book, you’d definitely enjoy this one. There were more people involved and so, more relationships to explore, more complexities to deal with and more things to see. It really is true, “you can never visit the same place twice. Each time, it’s a different story” and this one is a good one.

[review of arc via netgalley]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn’t know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel.

Ginny receives 13 envelopes from her aunt that leads her on a wild goose chase around Europe. Along the way she meets a wide array of characters who influence her in some way.

As the story unfolds, we travel with Ginny from New York to London and then hop on trains, planes and various forms of transportation to other European cities. As Ginny’s travels unfold we are given glimpses into the mind of the aunt who wrote her the 13 letters. We face the perils - and freedom - of traveling alone in foreign cities. We feel Ginny’s despair when she needs to figure out what to do next, as well as her triumph when she’s overcome an obstacle, or solved a riddle.

Maureen Johnson did a wonderful job in describing the essence of each location, making it feel as though I was traveling along the streets with Ginny. The story progresses quickly and while there were many funny bits, it was also a story of grieving and acceptance. I appreciated that the reason for envelopes were explained in the beginning of the novel, while still allowing for some mystery of their contents.

The one thing I did not completely understand was the seemingly tangential revelation of Olivia; while it was  good to get to know her I didn’t see the usefulness of her reveal nor of the Knapps to the storyline.

Overall it was a great story with fun characters. I’m looking forward to it’s conclusion.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rage by Jackie Kessler

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was … different.
That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.
A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world. 

Jackie Kessler’s story of Melissa Miller is one part gutting, one part touching with a sprinkle of violence. Even though I haven’t experience first hand what Melissa is going through, after reading this story I can’t help but understand it better. Jackie Kessler does a great job of allowing the reader to view the world through Melissa’s eyes and to experience her pain and her shame. There were times that I felt as though I was walking in Melissa’s shoes, I account this to great storytelling. Now, having read this book, I’m not going to go around saying I know what it is like to be a self-injurer. However, the narrative gives you a glimpse into the life of one, and a realistic one at that.

On the fantasy side, I appreciated Melissa as War. The analogies between the two different blades that she uses were interesting, and allowed more insight into Melissa and what she felt. The story happens over a short period of time, there isn’t much dialogue but for the story, this works. I had a bit of trouble understanding the relationship between Melissa and the Sword, but that was cleared up in the end.

This isn’t a happy-go-lucky kind of book, while it touches on fantasy a lot of the issues it talks about are real. I can see this book (and series) as a great discussion piece on the things that teens (and some adults) deal with but might not necessarily want to say out loud. It’s recommended reading, but not something to take lightly.

[review of arc via netgalley]