Tuesday, April 26, 2016

ARC Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She's determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can't help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself--including her past. But Amanda's terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda's been keeping? It's that she used to be Andrew.

Will the truth cost Amanda her new life--and her new love?

If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different--and a love story that everyone will root for.

Review: 5 Stars

At the time of starting to write this review, it is October 2015 and I just finished this book a day ago.  I was lucky enough to receive this as a bound manuscript, and I read it pretty much as soon as I got it, and I couldn't put it down.  I loved this book.  It had a storyline about a character that is currently pretty rare in YA books, which needs to change.

The narrator of this book is a trans girl, and the author is also trans, so this is a book that fits the #OwnVoices that was started on Twitter in 2015.  I have read very few books with trans girl narrators, or really with any trans person as a narrator.  I think this is definitely underrepresented in YA, and there are people out there who need these stories.  As someone who is cis, I do not understand what a trans person experiences, but books like this are helpful to me to have more insight into this so that I can understand better.  Also, this book avoids the problematic "acceptance narrative" of a trans person, which is in a post here: http://www.gayya.org/?p=3108. Instead of having this issue, this book has a trans character telling her own story.

Anyway, the narrator of this book is Amanda, and I loved her character.  She was a really good person, and a great friend.  She definitely had struggles, especially with figuring out whether or not she wanted to tell people that she was trans.  She didn't really want people to see her as anything other than the girl that she really is, but she also didn't want to feel like she was being dishonest with people that she really cared about. 

I also really loved the friend group that she met when she moved to the new town.  She found a great group of female friends, who loved her, though they didn't know her secret right away, of course.  Not all of her friends are perfect.  They are flawed but they are good people to her, and they are the kind of friends that she needs.  I love the message of acceptance that was prevalent in this book.  I also loved that there was some other diversity among her friend group.  

I also loved getting to see her developing relationship with Grant.  Watching him fall for her showed that a straight boy can fall for a trans girl.  Of course, he didn't know that she was trans when he first started falling for her.  I don't really want to give away how everything with their relationship happens, but I can say that the book ends on a hopeful note for them, after he knows that she is trans, but still loves her.  It shows that this doesn't make any difference in love.

Her relationship with her dad, who was the parent that she lived with during this book, was a complicated one.  He hadn't been particularly accepting of her back he thought she was probably a gay boy, and he always had tried to get her to do masculine things with him to be more masculine.  He has trouble accepting the fact that the person that he thought was his son is actually his daughter.  But, though it takes him some time to really show it, he definitely loves Amanda. It is nice to see his progression throughout the book. 

I recommend this book for:
-trans people
-people who want to learn more about what life is like for trans people
-people who want a good story


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

The First Time She Drowned Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.

But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?

A bold, literary story about the fragile complexities of mothers and daughters and learning to love oneself, The First Time She Drowned reminds us that we must dive deep into our pasts if we are ever to move forward.

My Review: 5 Stars

This was a powerful and dark book that wasn't necessarily an easy read, but was definitely a very good read.  It dealt with familial relationships and about learning to navigate the world again after being put into a mental institution by your own family when they don't really have your best interests in mine.

The story of Cassie's family was a sad and painful one.  Cassie's mom was abusive to her, not physically, but verbally.  She made Cassie feel like she wasn't worth anything while she doted on and acted like best friends with Cassie's older brother, Matthew.  Matthew seemed like a good brother to Cassie when he was younger, but he was turned against her by their mom and was always on the mom's side.  Cassie's dad wasn't a bad guy.  He wasn't able to protect her from her mother, since everyone in the family just kind of walked all over him.  The extended family was bad too.  Cassie's mom had her mother who was also awful to her daughter.  That's probably part of why Cassie's mom became the way she was, but it doesn't excuse that.  Then Cassie's mom was good friends with her aunt, who was Cassie's Great Aunt Dora.  She never seemed to like Cassie when she came to visit, and there might have been something that she did to Cassie, a memory that she had managed to suppress for many years. 

When Cassie leaves the mental institution that her parents put her in, she goes to college.  Her college experience doesn't start off too well, thanks to a near drowning incident and a sickness that happened after that.  She meets Zoey who lives across the hall from her and moves in with her.  I thought Zoey was a good friend that she really needed.  She was able to learn how to have fun and be herself again with Zoey.   

I also thought her developing relationship with Chris was a good one.  I liked how he was patient with her and stuck around, even when it seemed like she was pushing him away.  But he also wasn't pushy and trying to force her to be around him.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.


Review: Right of First Refusal by Dahlia Adler

Right of First Refusal (Radleigh University, #2) On the lacrosse field, Cait Johannssen gets what she wants. Off the field is another story. Because what she wants is the school's hot new basketball student-coach, Lawrence Mason, who also happens to be the guy who broke her heart in sports camp two years earlier.

But it's Cait's new roommate who's got him.

Cait and Mase agree it's best to keep their past a secret, but she doesn't expect him to completely ignore their history...or how much it'll hurt when he does. So when a friend on the basketball team asks her to pose as his girlfriend for a night, Cait can't turn down the opportunity for distraction. (Okay, and a little spite.) But what starts as an evening of fun turns into a fake relationship with more lies than the usually drama-free Cait can handle, and it's only keeping her from the one truth that's nagged at her for years: Why did Mase cut her out of his life to begin with?

And is it really too late to get him back?

My Review: 5 Stars

Dahlia Adler is officially one of my favorite authors of all time.  I have read all her books so far, except for Last Will and Testament, which I will be sure to read soon.  I loved three of the four and very much liked the other.  I just want to keep reading more Dahlia Adler books, because they are seriously so good.  Everything about this book was just so good.  The characters were fully developed, the voice was strong, and the pace was great, making it easy for me to speed through this book.  

My favorite thing about this book was, without a doubt, the Cait Lizzie Frankie friendship trio.  They were supportive of each other, and I loved how it was clear that they really knew each other, including random details about the other's lives from before they knew each other.  Also, I loved Lizzie and Frankie both so much in this book, so I now definitely need to read their books.  The interactions among the group were often hilarious.  

This book also dealt with some family issues.  Cait's dad is marrying his receptionist who he got pregnant.  He also scheduled the wedding for the day of the lacrosse championships against Cait's wishes.  Cait isn't happy with him for this.  He also is moving all the way across the country and wants Cait to transfer to a school in California, which isn't what she wants.  The book shows the contrast between Cait's relationship with her dad and her sister, Cammie's, relationship with him.  Cammie doesn't care if she ruins her relationship with him because that already happened a while ago.  She has been against their dad for a while.  Cait, on the other hand, had a good relationship with him, but it is becoming messed up by the choices that he makes in this book. 

The romance was good, but it wasn't my favorite thing about this book.  Mase was a good guy though, and I did like seeing the development of his romance with Cait occurring for the second time.  The situation was awkward at first, due to him dating her new roommate.  I thought this was dealt with realistically in showing his relationship with Andi vs. his relationship with Cait and the differences.  I also thought the problems between Andi and Cait due to this were dealt with well and made sense.

I also really enjoyed the plot with Jake.  He was Cait's friend and a really nice guy.  I really liked him and their friendship.  There was a period of time that they pretended to date to hide that he was gay.  They were really good as friends and supportive to each other and to their relationships.

If you like NA, or even if you don't like the usual NA, read this book.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Symptoms of Being Human The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

My Review: 5 Stars

This book was the first that I ever read that has a genderfluid MC.  It is an important and educational book, while also being a good story.  

Reading Riley's story was interesting.  While I will probably never truly understand what being genderfluid is like, it helped provide a window of understanding.  I felt like I was really able to get into Riley's head and feel what they felt.  Riley didn't have it easy, especially worrying that being in the public through their dad being in Congress would be a problem.  They also struggled with anxiety, which was tough too, probably.  I felt like that part of the story was also done well.

Bec and Solo were both good friends for Riley.  Solo understood what it was like to not always fit in from when he used to be made fun of.  He may have been friends with the meaner football players due to being on the football team, but that didn't mean that he was like them.  He was really supportive of Riley, especially in some extra tough times for them.  Bec was also a good friend and there was a cute potential relationship between her and Riley.  She wasn't always there for Riley, especially at an important time.  Yet, she apologized for that.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

Up to This Pointe She had a plan. It went south.

Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.

Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.

My Review: 4 Stars

This was certainly a unique book because I've never read a book set in Antarctica before.  I really liked the development of the characters throughout this story, as well as getting to read a book in such a unique setting.

Harper's character development was a big part of this story.  She didn't know what to do with her life when her ballet plan didn't work out for her.  So she ended up going to Antarctica in a science program when she wasn't even interested in science.  She ended up discovering a lot of things about herself there, like a direction for her future.  I really liked seeing how she changed over the time spent in Antarctica.  She really found out what she wanted from her life.  

I enjoyed seeing some of the friendships in the book.  Kate was Harper's best friend who did ballet with her.  They had a plan to be in the San Francisco ballet company together.  They both said some things that they regretted before Harper went to Antarctica.  Their friendship wasn't just automatically better, but they had to work on fixing what had gone wrong.  Vivian worked with Harper as another research assistant.  She took a while to warm up to Harper, but once she did, she was a really good friend for her.  Charlotte was the person who was doing the research that Harper was an assistant for, and she and Harper genuinely became friends during the book, and Harper was there to help Charlotte during some tough times.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.


April Releases I'm Most Excited For

April 5th:
When We Collided by Emery Lord - This book is by Emery Lord, so, having loved her other two books, I am, of course, very excited to read this one.
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum  - This looks like a really cute read that I am very excited for.  I've seen it compared to Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda which is a book that I love.

When We CollidedTell Me Three Things

April 19th:
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas - I enjoyed her other mysteries published under the name Kara Taylor, so I'm looking forward to another mystery by this author.

 The Darkest Corners

You should be excited for:
South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf - I read this book as an ARC and really liked it.  It dealt with being LGBT in a small town in the South, and I really enjoyed this.

South of Sunshine