Title: Perfect Escape [indie bound] [amazon]
Author:
Jennifer Brown [website] [twitter] [facebook]
Genre:
Contemporary
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: none
Format:
Hardcover
Source:
Purchased
Reviewer:
Andi
Parental Advisory:
Mental illness, OCD, talks of suicide, cheating, runaways
Teachable Moments:
suicide, OCD, runaway

“Right there, by the car, I realized that sometimes you don’t have to say you love someone for it to be true. Sometimes you just have to hang out in that person’s shadow and be okay with it.”

Summary(from the publisher):
Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art — until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.

Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all — with enough distance, maybe she’ll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.

Opinion:
I first became a fan of Jennifer Brown’s writing in March of 2011 when I read her first book Hate List. To say that book was remarkable really wouldn’t do it any justice. Brown had such a fabulous way of telling such a horrid story that you really couldn’t help but be enthralled. Then there was Bitter End. I loved it as much as Hate List but in a very different way. And now I can add Perfect Escape to the list of marvelous Brown books because as much as I loved the other two, Perfect Escape was by far my favorite Brown book to date. I apologize in advance for any spoilers that slip by. I just loved this book too much not to gush.

The book is about Kendra and Grayson, siblings about 3 years apart. Kendra has always been the “perfect” child. She has gotten the best grades, stayed out of any sort of trouble, basically kept her head down, but not because she wanted to, but because she felt she had to to compensate for her brother who had a severe case of OCD. Living in a house with someone with massive compulsions Kendra quickly learned how to make herself invisible. Or so she thought. When a cheating scandal is brought to light showing that Kendra may not be the perfect person she claimed to be she does the one thing she thinks she can do, she runs, and she takes Grayson with her. Now on the road the two of them must figure out just how far they are willing to go to “fix” themselves.

When I tell you this book was fabulous, I mean it was FABULOUS! There wasn’t one part of this story that I could complain about. The characters were so well developed and likable, the plot was paced perfectly and the road trip aspect added a little bonus. I seriously fell completely in love with both Kendra and Grayson and the struggles they both faced. Kendra was this normal high school girl. She got good grades, had a group of friends, had a boyfriend. She got to go to sleepovers and to friends’ houses and on dates and live a normal life. Yet through all of that she felt like she was in the shadow of her older brother. In her head she had to over compensate and be exceptional because Grayson was anything but. Grayson was the kid with “difficulties”, the kid with OCD. He was so wrapped up in his own anxieties that he just couldn’t function like a typical teenager. He was always being fawned over or put into a treatment facility. He never got to go out with friends or dates or sleepovers. His head wouldn’t allow him to no matter how much he just wanted to be “normal”.

But even with their differences Kendra and Grayson had maybe one of the best brother/sister relationships I have ever encountered in a book. Simply put, they loved each other unconditionally. Kendra put up with a lot for Grayson. She was picked on, had her best friend ripped out of her life and had pressure put on her that no kid ever should have had. And Grayson carried a huge burden of guilt on his shoulders for everything he put his sister through and the things he couldn’t control. But when push came to shove they were there for each other. Grayson stepped completely out of his comfort zone and runaway with Kendra and Kendra realized she didn’t want to fix Grayson as much as she wanted him to be able to fix himself. What started as the two of them running away turned into a trip of self discovery and of realizing they would always have each other to count on no matter what.

Brown really wrote a compelling novel that felt very realistic. Never having had OCD I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like. Sure we all have our things that drive us nuts like someone squeezing the toothpaste from the wrong spot or money going in different directions. We call them ticks or quirks. But the way Brown wrote Grayson I actually could feel his anxiety coming off the page. It was very emotional and connected me to the pages in a very real way. She really crafted an amazing novel about the sibling bond and how that bond translates into love. If you haven’t picked up a Brown book yet, trust me and do so. Whether it is this one or one of her others, you won’t be disappointed. And if you have, jump on my float for her as we wait (im)patiently for her next wonderful story!

Title: Where I Belong  [indie bound] [amazon]
Author:
Gwendolyn Heasley [website] [twitter] [facebook]
Genre:
Contemporary
Publisher:
Harper Teen
Series:
none
Format:
eBook
Source:
purchased
Reviewer:
Andi
Parental Advisory:
language
Teachable Moments:
materialism, fiscal responsibility

“Sixth-grade sweethearts. Wow. New Yorkers only commit to that type of monogamy with the Yankees or Giants”

Summary(from the publisher):
A heartwarming and witty debut novel about a spoiled city girl whose life is turned upside down when her father loses his job and she’s shipped to Broken Spoke, Texas. Who knew country-living could melt this snobby ice-queen’s heart?

Opinion:
I actually really enjoyed this book. I had had it on my list for a while and completely forgot about it. One day I was looking at my to-read list and the boy in the cowboy hat jumped out at me and I was sold. You can totally see where my loyalties lies.

Anyway Where I Belong is about Corrine, a rich, uppity, spoiled girl form New York(think Gossip Girl on crack!) that thinks the sun rises and shines on Bergdorf’s and Barney’s. She has it all. Fancy clothes, money, a horse and a first class trip to boarding school with her bestie, the equally snobbish Waverly(her name even smells like money. HEHE). Suddenly though everything comes crashing down on Corrine. Her family is broke and they are forced to more to Broken Spoke, Texas, the small town her mother ran far far away from. Set in the amazing dessert background of Texas, Corrine feels like an alien roaming the earth and is completely out of her element. She has no idea how to fit in with small town life and small town values. But before she can even blink Corrine finds herself with a friend, Kitsy, and an adorable sparring partner in the form of country Bubby. Soon the world isn’t so black and white for Corrine. Now she has to figure out where she fits in in both worlds.

Man I wanted to hate Corrine, I really truly did. She was spoiled and obnoxious and thought the world revolved around her. She treated everyone but her horse like they were beneath her and thought the world owed her something. But under that shell she really was a good girl with a good heart and I loved that her time in Texas allowed us to see that. Bravo Ms. Heasley for giving the readers the chance to get to know the real Corrine. Because seriously as the book continued on I really found myself liking this girl more and more. Between her friendship with Kitsy, her evolving relationship with her grandparents and her banter with Bubby, Corrine became a person and not a caricature. She kind of found her niche in small town Texas realizing she was actually good at something. And she found an honest to goodness real friend in Kitsy who I just adored! She was such a stereotypical small town girl and I wanted to eat her up with a spoon. Her and Bubby actually. They were the perfect yin to Corrine’s yang and are what to the ultimate growth of her.

Where I Belong is truly a great coming of age story about a girl that thought she knew everything and understood her place in the world. Heasley really wrote a great story showing how material items aren’t everything and sometimes you just need to reach inside yourself and really find out who you are when everything else is stripped away. I would definitely recommend a read through of this one. I can’t wait to read Kitsy’s story and I have a feeling you will feel the same way.

categories : Review

Title: Pretty Amy [indie bound] [amazon]
Author:
Lisa Burstein [website] [twitter] [facebook]
Genre:
Contemporary
Publisher:
Entangled Publishing
Series:
None
Format:
Paperback
Source:
Purchased
Reviewer:
Andi
Parental Advisory:
drug use, underage drinking, language
Teachable Moments:
self-awareness

“Unfortunately, I am only myself.”

Summary(from the publisher):
Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she’s somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands—earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx—Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating “rehabilitation techniques” now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing—like she is nothing.

Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it’s worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.

Opinion:
Man, oh man did Amy break my heart! This book wasn’t what I expected honestly. From the description I thought we were going to get a story of whacky hijinks and awkward situations.  Instead Pretty Amy was a story about a very emotionally broken girl that hit rock bottom and finally had to decide to put the pieces of her life back together.

The book starts out on the night of the senior prom with Amy and her two “best friends” Lila and Cassie. Lila, the leader of the group and the only one with a boyfriend, has fixed Amy and Cassie up with their prom dates. Unfortunately the girls are stood up and a rash decisions changes Amy’s life. Instead of having the best memories of her senior prom she finds herself in jail and her life at a crossroads. Slowly Amy has to start examining what it truly means to hit rock bottom and is she thinks she is worth it.

Truthfully Amy made me really sad. She was so broken on the inside. She had no self esteem and no emotional support from her family. She had no true friends in the real sense of the word and she worried so much about how she looked to people that she never really got to know herself. Here she was this good, amazing girl and she was wrapped up in her own head that she only saw the negative. She thought she could do no better then Cassie and Lila so she let herself be lead around by them like the dog she so desperately wanted. There was so much more to Amy then a delinquent but with a mother like hers, who plain sucked, and no one to confide in she had no chance of believing in herself. All I wanted o do was so and give her a hug, or better yet yell for Joe to do it because Amy just needed someone to tell her she was worth it. Just a simple sentence a long time ago was all this poor girl needed and it broke my heart that she wasn’t getting it.

Burstein really nailed teenage angst down. I could feel it leaping off the pages as I read. I was slightly disappointed with the lack of romance, because really who doesn’t love a cute boy, but I get why it wasn’t a main focus. Amy had to be the main focus and Burstein did that pretty flawlessly. I wanted Amy to succeed and to see how she was capable of being and I think you will too. I look forward to hearing about Cassie in her next book. What did you think of Pretty Amy?

Title:  The Westing Game [indie bound] [amazon]
Author:
Ellen Raskin [facebook]
Genre:
Middle Grade
Publisher:
Puffin
Series:
None
Format:
Paperback
Source:
Purchased
Reviewer:
Andi
Parental Advisory:
Talk of death/murder
Teachable Moments:
distinguishing reality

“Who were these people, these specially selected tenants? They were mothers and fathers and children. A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.”

Summary(from the publisher):
When an eccentric millionaire dies mysteriously, sixteen very unlikely people are gathered together for the reading of the will…and what a will it is!

Opinion:
I don’t even know where to begin with this book. The first I read it was over 20 years ago. I was in the 5th grade and we had to write a book report. I have no idea what led me to this book but something did and I was hooked. I read the book, did my report and loved it some much I suggested it to my teacher as a class read and she readily accepted. For years I have been suggesting this book to people. Some listened and sadly some did not. After getting back into reading myself I thought it was high time that I picked up The Westing Game once again and see if it still had the same spark it had for me when I was a kid. I was nervous to say the least. The last thing you want is for something you loved at one point to be ruined the next time around due to your age. Luckily Ellen Raskin wrote not only an amazing story, but a timeless one as well. I can happily say as much as I loved this book in the 5th grade, I loved it even more in my 30s.

The Westing Game is a straight up mystery. It’s a story about 16 heirs that have been called to the house of millionaire Sam Westing to take part of a game to figure out who would want him dead. They are split up into pairs and are given strange clues, at the reading of his will, that they must decipher and figure out who the culprit is. Each of the 16 people involved has a bit of a back story and connection to the Westing family in one way or another but as Mr. Westing likes to remind them, it is more about what you don’t know then what you do.

I must admit that both times I have read this remarkable book I had no clue what the final result of the mystery would be. I remembered small parts from the first time I read it, but Raskin did such an amazing job of weaving the clues together that I couldn’t put the pieces together even the second time around. She wrote such interestingly intriguing characters that I sometimes found myself more wrapped up in their lives then in the mystery that surrounded them. And by far the most annoying and my absolute favorite character was Turtle. She made the story extra special I think. Surrounded by the biggest group of misfits around, Turtle was able to be herself, the biggest misfit of the misfits. She walked to the beat of her own drum and didn’t care what anyone really thought about her. She was kind of ingenious.

But really, The Westing Game is a fantastical read. Whether you are 12 or 40 you will find yourself wrapped in the Westing mystery trying to figure out exactly who did what to who and why. You’ll read the clues over and over, write things down and become one of the ‘heirs’ yourself! So whether you have read it before a million years ago, or you’re a newbie to the world of Raskin and her game, pick it up! You won’t be disappointed, even the second time around.

Title: Gimme A Call [indie bound] [amazon]
Author:
Sarah Mlynowski [website] [twitter] [facebook]
Genre:
Contemporary
Publisher:
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Series:
None
Format:
Paperback
Source:
Purchased
Reviewer:
Andi
Parental Advisory:
low self esteem, eating disorders, sexual situations
Teachable Moments:
self-acceptance, individuality, independence

“I wonder-maybe the key is balance. Maybe it’s about living in the moment while still keeping your eye on the big picture-on all the pictures.”

Summary(from the publisher):
Devi’s life isn’t turning out at all like she wanted. She wasted the past three years going out with Bryan—cute, adorable, break-your-heart Bryan. Devi let her friendships fade, blew off studying, didn’t join any clubs . . . and now that Bryan has broken up with her, she has nothing left.

Not even her stupid cell phone—she dropped it in the mall fountain. Now it only calls one number . . . hers. At age fourteen, three years ago!

Once Devi gets over the shock—and convinces her younger self that she isn’t some wacko—she realizes that she’s been given an awesome gift. She can tell herself all the right things to do . . . because she’s already done all the wrong ones! Who better to take advice from than your future self?

Except . . .what if getting what you think you want changes everything?

Opinion:
What a really cute story! At first I wasn’t sure I would get all that into it. I was confused as it went back and forth. But in true Mlynowski style she pulled me in and kept me there. I ended up not only loving both Devi’s but hoping that things would work out!

Gimme A Call is the story of broken hearted Devi, a high school senior that is dumped by the boyfriend she dumped all her friends for. Completely lost and miserable things get worse when she drops her phone in the mall fountain. Now Devi finds herself without a boyfriend, without friends and without a phone. But wait, her phone seems to work, but it will only call one person, it will only call 14 year old Devi! Through a series of conversations and the slight changing of things in the past by younger Devi, older Devi’s life changes, some for the better, some not so much, causing older Devi to figure out what its exactly is that she wants in life and want changes are worth making to get it.

I must admit it was so entertaining to see what kind of trouble the Devi’s managed to get themselves into by changing one small thing. I smiled and giggled and my heart even broke a little at times. I enjoyed the way the Devi’s interacted with one another. They were the same person but after 3 years it was nice to be able to see how much she had changed and grown as a person. What was important when she was 14 was suddenly something she could do without when she was 17. And by Devi talking to her 14 year old self she was able to finally realize what really was important. It started out as a wish over a broken heart but it became a lot more then that. It became a story about figuring out who you are and what you really want out of life.

Mlynowski really knows how to tell a great coming of age story. Gimme A Call is the prefect example of her talent. She knows just how to tell a story at the right pace and how to make the characters likeable and enjoyable. If you are looking for a fun, quick read that makes you wonder what you would tell your younger self to make something in your life different, this definitely is a good pick for you. I enjoyed it and I think you will too.

Better In Pink