Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

Just Visiting Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.

Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.

One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.

My Review: 5 Stars

I read Behind the Scenes and liked it and then read Under the Lights, and I loved it.  After Under the Lights I thought there was no way Dahlia Adler could top that book, not because I don't trust in her ability to write good books, but because I just loved Under the Lights so much.  Then I read Just Visiting.  I know without a doubt that this is easily my favorite Dahlia Adler book yet, as well as making it into my top favorites list of all time.  (Now I need to go add this to all my end of the year lists).  Something I did not expect going into this book was that it would almost make me cry.  I don't typically cry reading books, so almost making me cry is as close as I get to crying at a book.  I am always impressed when books are able to do that because it is so rare for me, and this book was able to do it, so I love it for that as well.

First, I have to talk about Reagan because she is my favorite character in this book and I loved her so much.  There were also so many times in the book when my heart ached for her and I just wanted to go and give her a hug and tell her everything would be okay.  She has a super tough life.  She lives in a trailer park with an awful mom, and a dad who's hardly ever there because he has to work all the time.  And there are some secrets in her past that are absolutely awful.  After finding out this secret of hers, it was easy to see why she was closed off some of the time, to even her best friend.  I also loved how well her poverty seemed to be portrayed.  The book showed how she could get application fee waivers, and it showed other things like how important scholarships were to her, and how she had to work to be able to afford things like gas money.

I didn't love Victoria's character as much at first, but she quickly grew on me throughout the book.  At first, she seemed to not really care about the school part of college, and instead only cared about parties, sororities, and boys, which is very much not me, so I didn't relate.  Also, she wanted to study fashion, and me and fashion are not too words that are typically thought of in the same sentence.  At first, it seems like her life is a lot better than Reagan's by far.  Her home life definitely is better, since she has loving parents, including a deaf mom, who she speaks ASL to.  But she has things in her past too.  She is Mexican American, and that has made things tough for her thanks to people bullying her for her ethnicity, and people acting like she was an illegal immigrant and asking to see her papers. 

Now I'm going to talk about the friendship.  This is definitely going to rank as one of my top female friendship books of all times.  I think it could even be my top one, but I'd have to look through which other books had my other favorite friendships to be sure.  This friendship experienced so much growth throughout the book.  At the beginning, Reagan and Victoria were both keeping important secrets about their pasts from each other, though especially Reagan.  Seeing how their friendship evolved once their secrets were out in the open was a beautiful thing to read about.  Sure, it wasn't always easy.  There were times when things were super weird and awkward between the two of them, and when they would fight, but it all read as very real to me.  Throughout the book, Reagan dealt with a lot and Victoria was so supportive through everything, and I loved this and how genuine it was.

This book is way more about the friendship than the romance, but there was a cute ship for both of the girls in this book.  Reagan met a guy named Dave on her first college visit, and they immediately hit it off and flirted with each other.  The two of them were just so cute together.  Reagan had some issues from her past with her ex-boyfriend that made it difficult for her and Dave to have things work at first, but I liked the progression of their relationship.  Victoria also had a cute ship, and I won't say who it's with, but I will say that it's with someone that I wouldn't have expected her to have a romance with, and it's really cute.

Anyway, the basic gist of this review is that you should read this book, because if you do, there is a strong probability that you will love it.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

What You Left Behind It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?

My Review: 4 Stars

I really liked this story, and the characters in it.  The main character was Ryden, a male character, which is fairly unique for YA books since more are typically female characters.  Not only that, but the topic itself was one that I've never read before - the story of a teen dad.  I've read a few teen pregnancy books before, and they've all focused on the mom. The only other one that I've read with a would-be teen dad was a book when the girl got an abortion, so he wasn't actually dealing with being a father.  So I loved seeing this plotline explored.

Ryden read as a very real character to me.  He certainly wasn't perfect, but he was trying to be the best father that he could be for his daughter.  Sure, he made plenty of mistakes along the way, and there were times that he was pretty selfish, focusing on his life and his future while handing his daughter off to other caretakers.  And I didn't really get how he thought that meeting his father who he had never known would be the missing piece that would make him into a good father.  After all, his father had left before he was born, so it wasn't like he was ever a real father to him.  So yeah, I didn't get his fixation on finding out who his father was.  Luckily, that wasn't that much of the story.

Someone in this story who was great as a parent was Ryden's mom.  She was so supportive of him the entire time, and she was also a great grandmother to his daughter.  She had raised Ryden on her own as a single mom, and she really was amazing at it.  I loved her support for him, while also pushing him when it was necessary in certain areas.

I loved reading about Ryden's relationships with people, both in the past and the present.  Meg had already died at the start of the book, but we got to find out more about her through the snippets of the journals that she wrote that were included in the book.  I'm not completely sure how I felt about her in the end, but there were parts when I did like her.  Ryden also had a developing relationship with a girl who worked with him at a grocery store named Joni.  This was a friendship to romance progression that I really liked.  It was also interesting to see how it was really freeing for him to be with her at first, since she didn't know about his past and about his daughter, but eventually this became difficult, since he didn't want to keep secrets from somebody so important to him.

If you like unique YA contemporary storylines, read this book.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

November Releases I'm Most Excited For

November 3rd:
The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens - I loved Faking Normal when I read it last year, so I'm excited to read Courtney Stevens' next book.

The Lies About Truth

November 17th:
Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler - This one is one that I'm definitely going to have to buy a copy of and read soon after it comes out.  I have read two of her books, and I still need to get around to reading Last Will and Testament.  I loved Under the Lights, and I also really liked Behind the Scenes, though not quite as much as Under the Lights.  Also, this has great female friendship, I've heard, so I am excited.

 Just Visiting