Book Review: Our Song by A. Destiny and Elizabeth Lenhard

At the beginning of September, I was at the Decatur Book Festival, where I moderated two panels, including Thicker Than Water with Una LaMarche, Katie M. Stout, Elizabeth Lenhard, and Marie Mardquart.
Our Song by A. Destiny and Elizabeth Lenhard

Author:  A. Destiny and Elizabeth Lenhard

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: July 7, 2015

240 pages, paperback

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Our Song is a super quick, light read. Nell doesn’t want anything to do with her family’s business – her family is “folk music royalty” and everyone at the camp she’s sent to knows it. She’s rebelling against her family and trying to figure out who she is. And then Jacob shows up – he’s a fellow musician at the camp, and through their interactions, Nell realizes she might be more in love with her family’s ways than she thought (but in her own way), and quite possibly in love with Jacob.

This book was cute, you guys. It has that distinct summer-book feel with its light story, cute romance, and summer camp shenanigans. I read it quickly and laughed a lot. Nell and Jacob’s banter was adorable. I really enjoyed the focus on music – Elizabeth includes a lot of musical sounds in the book; in fact, Elizabeth described her book is these six words: Grumble; Stutter; Clang; Sigh; Sizzle; SING! How cool is that?

Our Song also has a distinctive focus on family. Nell may be rebelling against her family and everything that means, but throughout the book, she also comes to realize that they might mean more to her and who she is than she originally thought. I loved this. The book may have a few clichés and such, but it was cute and I enjoyed it.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

Waiting on Wednesday: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

Everything, Everything by Nicola YoonPublisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Author: Nicola Yoon

Release date: September 1, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads: This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Why I’m excited: You guys know how much I love books with non-traditional storytelling methods (like diary entries, letters, texts, etc), and this one has SO MANY. I’m so excited to see how the narrative of Everything, Everything comes together through all of these methods. Plus, a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world? This entire book sounds completely imaginative, unique, and seriously creative, and I CANNOT wait to read it. I can already tell it’s going to be incredible and I’m looking forward to falling in love with all of these characters, because how could you not?!

Book Review: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

None of the Above by I.W. GregorioAuthor:  I.W. Gregorio

Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication Date: April 7, 2015

352 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

None of the Above is incredible. I finished reading it more than two weeks ago and I still can’t quite figure out how to properly tell you why you should read this important, incredible, entertaining, beautiful book.

Kristin is in her senior year of high school and she’s the star of her track team and loved by both her friends and her boyfriend. But when Homecoming night doesn’t really go the way it should, she makes an appointment with an ob-gyn and finds out that she’s intersex. Her life, identity, and world are completely turned upside down and she must figure out who she really is while everyone else does too.

Like a lot of people, I didn’t know much about what being intersex meant. I had a general idea, but this book taught me so much (I love when I can learn about something real when reading). This book is so important for that very reason – not only is it a well-written, entertaining, heartbreaking, uplifting story about a fictional character, it’s also a book about a real condition and realistic reactions to it. None of the Above is exactly what a book about diversity should be. Yet another book I wish I could make everyone read.

Something that has come up in conversations recently (I posted about books that feature characters with mental illnesses which sparked conversation in the comments but also with friends) is a certain lack of empathy that some people have, which is disheartening in a lot of ways, but that’s not the point. I’m bringing this up because I am not intersex. Nor do I know anyone that is (as far as I know). But I connected so well with Kristin because of her struggle with identity throughout the book. Her identity (as a woman, as herself) is challenged several times throughout the novel. (Quick note to say how heartbreaking it was to read the sections in which Kristin is bullied, which felt so, so realistic; I hated it, but I’m glad that nothing felt exaggerated nor sugar-coated). Kristin no longer knows who she is (her doctor tells her that she is a woman, but is she when everyone tells her she isn’t? When she has male chromosomes?). Is she Kristin because of her chromosomes? What makes you you?

The bottom line: None of the Above is important, and you really don’t want to miss it, not only because it will teach you more about something you may or may not be familiar with, but because everyone can relate to Kristin’s struggle to figure out how she is. We all deserve to be reminded that we can get through anything.

Book Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was my first read for Bout of Books 12, read to fit the cold weather and take me on an adventure. It did and didn’t satisfy my hopes.

Dash and Lily's Book of DaresAuthor:  Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Genre: Young adult, contemporary

Publisher: Ember

Publication Date: October 2010

288 pages, paperback

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

This is probably going to be a pretty short review, as Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is a pretty short book. Plus, I’ve not got much to say about this one, I’m afraid.

I loved the bookish nature to this one – beginning and ending in The Strand, a giant, amazing book store in NYC that I have a deep desire to visit. It begins with a scavenger-ish hunt in which Dash, the boy, finds a red notebook belonging to Lily, the girl, on a shelf in The Strand. He must decipher the clues left there to possibly meet her, but when he does, leaves clues for her to figure out. On and on it goes. You get the idea. It’s definitely a cute idea, and the romance was kind of adorable. I liked Dash and Lily together and I somewhat enjoyed their journey to finding one another. Basically: the book is fluffy.

Dash has a friend nicknamed Boomer who is strange. I don’t know how else to describe it. I couldn’t relate to him at all. Honestly, he felt forced and fake, unreal. I didn’t believe him, if that makes sense.

I was kind of surprised how long this book felt for something so short. This was my main problem. While I did enjoy the romance and such, I got a little bored every now and then and the book felt long; I started to not care if they got together. I think this is in part due to the fact that we are constantly reminded of how smart the characters (i.e. Dash) are. Dash felt a little pretentious to me, constantly quoting long dead authors. Also, Dash is “a Decemberist, a Bolshevik, a career criminal, a philatelist trapped by unknowable anguish.” Here, let me just throw out some big words and try to sound clever. However, I must say that I actually really liked Lily’s character and thought she was adorable and realistic, a regular girl.

The bottom line: If you are looking for a short (in length) book with a cute romance to curl up with one cold night, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is your book. However, don’t expect a really interesting plot. I doubt it will leave a lasting impression or change your life, but Dash and Lily’s adventures are pretty fun. Fair warning that Boomer is annoying, and Dash is a pretentious git.

Rating: 5.5 – Between Take it or leave it and Good, but not great

Waiting on Wednesday: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!I'll Meet You There

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Author: Heather Demetrios

Release date: February 3, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads: If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Why I’m excited: This sounds deep, you guys. Everything I’ve read about it so far has said how real and flawed the characters are, and I love flawed characters. This sounds different from your average contemporary and like something I’d really like. Sometimes you want easy-to-read fluffy romances and sometimes you just don’t. This is one of those times. I’ll be checking this one out for sure.

Add I’ll Meet You There to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.