“Why Do You Read YA?”

April 23, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Piece of Mind20 comments

pom

Where I share my thoughts, musings and bookish questions.

I get asked this question a lot, by people who are just honestly curious, by people who are secretly judging me, by people who don’t even attempt to hide their disgust. Because answering this question is getting old, I have decided to tell you why, exactly, I like to read YA. Because apparently we need to write an explanation of sorts to have people understand why we love books for this age group, whereas people who only read classics never have to do this. I’m not going to go into that right now, although I think you are pretentious and sad if you judge people for what they read.

I think that people have the wrong idea of YA books and to be honest, it bothers me that people are overgeneralizing when it comes to YA. Like a well-known actress who will soon portray the female lead in a YA book to movie adaptation pointed out (*cough* Chloe Grace Moretz *cough*), the first thing people think of when they think of YA is love triangles. They think all YA books are Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or City of Bones, and while there is nothing wrong with those books (don’t you dare bash HP and THG in front of me!), YA has more to offer than these incredibly hyped series, and I hate that people don’t see this. Of course, the Twilight franchise is so famous (or infamous, if you will) that this is something people think about. But let me tell you this: not every YA book is like Twilight. And if you judge a book by another book that just happens to be written for the same age group, I think you’re doing something wrong.

Who said that a book can’t have literary value, just because it’s written for young adults instead of adults? Why think less of adults who read YA for fun, when it’s perfectly acceptable the other way around? Part of the reason I started a YA blog is that while I think that it’s a great thing to write impressive stories for teenagers who can learn from them, that does not mean they are the only people who can learn from these books. I think people need to be aware of the great stories that YA has to offer, instead of being put off by something that is really just a guideline. There are fluffy and literary, emotional and logical, straightforward and insightful YA books, just as there are fluffy and literary, emotional and logical, straightforward and insightful adult books. YA books are about life and struggles and romance and friendship and family and society, just like adult books are. The only difference is that they’re written for a younger audience, which does not mean that this is the only audience for this book. (Dont believe me? Check out Gillian’s recommendations!)

My personal reason for reading YA is that it makes me happy. This does not mean that all YA stories are happy-go-lucky fluff stories with no real content or literary value. It does mean that I like reading about characters who, damaged or not, are for the most part still hopeful, have not given up on life, are not in the middle of a midlife crisis, are characters I can still relate to but also learn from. These are characters that, despite their issues, still have their whole lives ahead of them, and are at that defining moment in life where they get to decide who they are and who they want to be. This fascinates me. I love reading about characters growing up and learning to deal with disasters, while still having some youthful hope and positivity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all adult books are depressing, or that I don’t like dark books (the opposite is true, really), but I like where these characters are at in their lives. I think it’s an interesting time.

I don’t even exclusively read YA. I will read pretty much anything that speaks to me, no matter which age group it was written for. But it still bothers me that I have to keep explaining why I mostly like young adult books instead of adult books, as if this is something that makes me somehow less than people who only read classicss. I’m not saying you have to like these books, but to judge books for one age group by other books meant for that same age group is pretty narrow minded. I’m not giving up on classics just because I hated - hated - Heart of Darkness, am I? All I’m saying is give these books a shot before you judge them, and don’t judge people on what they read. It’s ridiculous.

Review: Dear Killer

April 22, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 3 comments

Review: Dear KillerTitle: Dear Killer
Author: Katherine Ewell
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Crime, Young Adult
Source: Edelweiss
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 1.5 Stars

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

my thoughts

Oh, Dear Killer. I don’t know where it went wrong. Books about assassins are usually right up my alley, but I had a lot of problems with this one, which is disappointing, because I was really looking forward to it. I think my biggest problem with this book was that I just didn’t find it believable. I know what you must be thinking, “it’s a book about a teenage assassin, Judith, of course it’s not believable”. Well, I was still expecting more. For a book with such an awesome concept, Dear Killer had a pretty interesting main character, but underdeveloped side characters, weird relationships, unbelievable assassin skills and a lot of strange interactions that made me dislike it a lot. In fact, I honestly skimmed a lot of Dear Killer. After about one hundred pages, I had difficulty focusing on paragraphs that weren’t killings.

Kit’s mind intrigued me. Her moral nihilism was definitely interesting to read about, because I have never read a book from the perspective of the villain, and it was pretty creepy. While I didn’t particularly like her as a character, I felt sorry for her. She had only been brought up this way, and therefore couldn’t really help the way she thought. What I didn’t like, though, were the letters. I mean, anonymously hiring a killer to kill someone you hate? It could have been a good concept, but unfortunately, the letters were nothing but petty excuses. I was expecting them to make sense and make the murders sort of validated. But these people who sent Kit the letters, they were pathetic. They wanted her to kill people because they annoyed them, or because they hadn’t paid them money, or because they were simply in the way. I get that Kit didn’t mind whether they were valuable reasons or not, because of her moral nihilism, but I got angry.

One thing I really couldn’t wrap my head around was Alex and Kit’s friendship. From what I remember, Alex is a thirty-year-old cop and Kit is a seventeen-year-old high school girl. Kit’s attraction didn’t surprise me, but I do not understand why Alex would spend his time with this high school girl and tell her all these details about a serial killer case. If Alex had been a little younger and there had been some sort of romantic potential for them, then maybe I would have understood, but the fact is still that Alex is a cop, and the leader of the Perfect Killer case, no less. In my opinion, a person like that would not run to a high school girl for advice, nor would he tell her all the details of his case. Their friendship annoyed me, because it was unbelievable and over-the-top.

Furthermore, there were Kit’s dad, who was nothing but a name on a page, Maggie, who felt more like a puppy than Kit’s “friend”, and the teacher, who immediately suspects Kit because well, it’s obvious Kit is the Perfect Killer, right? Oh, and I almost forgot evil Michael, who is very important at first until he isn’t anymore. It felt all over the place. I’m big on characterization, and while Kit was pretty well developed and interesting, the rest of the character fell incredible flat, which caused their interactions to feel forced as well. I also wish we’d seen more of Kit’s assassin skills and that they’d been a bit more realistic, because she was a bit TOO perfect a killer, especially for a seventeen (sixteen?) year old. And I’m not even talking about Kit’s encounter with singer Cherry Rose View Spoiler »

I didn’t hate Dear Killer, but that’s about it. I still thought Kit was an intriguing protragonist, but her moral nihilism and assassin skills didn’t do anything to make this book a better read for me. The story was both cluttered and flat for me, and that is very disappointing.

memorable quotes

“You learned it.”
“What?” I said again, dumbly.
“What I was trying to teach you. It’s not something I can just tell you. You have to learn through experience. You have to see for yourself. Some things are like that. The important things.”

“The world is full of chaos. And it’s that chaos that joins people together. Scared people are more cohesive than people who aren’t scared. It’s so clear – right there, in the way they hold on to each other. They need me. Because the people here in London start feeling so safe. And every once in a while they need a murder – just a tiny fragment of chaos – to remind them that they aren’t safe, to remind them that they need each other, to remind them that in the end it’s human relationships that matter.”

“But the cold truth is that not everyone is meant to be important. As we grow older, more and more people slip through the cracks, lose that hopefulness. In a way, losing hope and losing importance are the same thing. It is that youthful vibrance, that eternal longing and believing, that makes youth so important – if you grow old and lose that without finding another way to be important, you will slip away, fall into insignificance, like one sheet of paper. 

Joint Review: Open Road Summer

April 20, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 2 comments

Joint Review: Open Road SummerTitle: Open Road Summer
Author: Emery Lord
Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Netgalley
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 5 Stars

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

judith’s thoughts

From the moment I started Open Road Summer, I knew this would be my kind of book. I read most of it with a huge smile on my face, probably scaring everyone within a few meters of me. When I had only just finished the first fifty pages, I was already fangirling on Twitter and to Ellice and Alexa, forcing telling them both to read it because I knew they would love it. It’s a bold thing to force someone to read a book after only fifty pages, but the thing is, this book just made me SO HAPPY. It has been a long time since I felt this way while reading a book. It is not necessarily a happy book though. It has some darker themes, which I like in contemporary books, because that always makes me more emotionally invested. And quite simply, Open Road Summer is one of my favorite books ever.

Open Road Summer is mostly a road trip book, although Reagan and Dee’s Southern background is a huge part of the story as well. Both are some of my favorite settings in books. I could just imagine these girls meeting when they were kids, spending long summers playing around under old oak trees and eating ice cream, growing up in a loving, protective small town. I may be idealizing this, but I don’t care. I loved it. Throw in a road trip, and you have the perfect setting. It’s different from other road trips as in that Dee and Reagan travel in a couple of giant tour buses with an entire crew and band tagging along, but who cares. They’re still travelling across the country, and the whole summer road trip things just makes me happy. Definitely a book I am rereading as soon as I plan my next road trip myself.

My favorite thing of this book, by far, is the friendship. Reagan and Dee are very different, but so wonderful and loving. They always have each other’s back and they are like sisters. Their friendship is one of my favorites ever in books, and that says a lot. Reagan is an interesting character and I don’t think everyone will like her, but I personally loved her. I could understand her feelings even when they were out of place, because she’s just a teenage girl. I might not have been able to relate to her, but I liked being in her head a lot. And Dee is just lovely! She’s a very bright and bubbly character, but we also see some of her darker sides, especially when her life in the spotlights is beginning to take its toll. I think Emery Lord did a great job portraying both the beauty and the difficulty of the public life that Dee leads, and I felt so sorry for her. But I also admired her ambition and independency. And what I like most about these characters is that they are so complicated and real, instead of the cardboard characters I so often find in YA. They are broken and hurt, but they also have each other, which makes up for all of it.

The romance was amazing because it was so honest and real, both adorable and passionate, surprising and familiar, but also because it takes a step back from the friendship story, which I loved even more than the romance. What I liked most about Matt and Reagan’s relationship is that they are very similar in the terms of being “broken”. They both went through some horrible things, and they can relate to each other in this sense. This made their friendship and later their feelings for each other very real and honest, and I liked it a lot. Now if someone could tell me where to find Matt Finch, please. (Check out this interview I did with Emery to find out!) The other romance in this book was more background and not a big part of the story, but I can’t stop thinking about Jimmy and Dee. Their relationship is not the same as Matt and Reagan’s, because it’s quieter and sweeter, but I LOVED it. View Spoiler ». It reminded me a lot of this song.

Speaking of songs, Emery Lord proves to be a pretty amazing songwriter as well. The lyrics in between the text were lovely, and I like how different Dee’s songs were from Matt’s. I had some minor issues with the ending – not in the way it actually ended – but because I think I was expecting it to go differently. The Corinne thing just didn’t really work for me, though I can imagine why it would be a good aspect because of Reagan’s suspicious personality. But I just don’t care: Open Road Summer is one of my favorite contemporary books ever, and Emery Lord is right up on my favorite contemporary authors list with Morgan Matson and Huntley Fitzpatrick. I can’t wait to read more from her. For now, I will just keep daydreaming of this perfect mix of Southern summers and road trips, of loving best friends and catchy songs, of adorable romance and great character growth. Trust me when I say this book is amazing.

ellice’s thoughts

I’m a total country music fangirl y’all, and Open Road Summer by Emery Lord made me feel as if I had a VIP pass for the Lilah Montgomery Summer Tour. I loved it! Everything about this story and these characters felt so authentic. Even the songs were original; Emery Lord should really consider writing country songs because I could totally imagine an actual country artist on stage singing Lilah’s songs!

I can say with absolute certainty that Open Road Summer will be included on my Best of 2014 list at the end of the year. It contains so many things that I love in a YA contemporary: a healthy female friendship; country music as a main theme; a cross-country road trip; a true Southern gentleman; and a believable romance. Normally if a book has just one of these elements I love it, but the fact that Open Road Summer has all of them? It made my heart explode with happiness. The friendship between Dee and Reagan is truly great. Anybody who knows me knows how much I love kissy scenes and romances in my books, but honestly, I have to say that the friendship is what makes it such a special book. Reagan and Dee are so honest and supportive of each other; there’s no cheating, lying, or drama like we often see in young adult fiction.

Then there’s THE BOY. Matt Finch. HOLY HOTNESS. He’s a Southern gentleman; he sings; he writes his own music; he plays the guitar and the piano; he’s close to his family; he takes his girl on picnics or to carnivals or just to get the cast taken off her arm. Sigh. Talk about the man of my dreams (and everyone else’s, judging from the talk I’ve seen on Twitter!). Emery Lord, thank you for giving us Matt Finch and Open Road Summer.  I plan on re-reading this one as soon as I have a finished copy in my hands. <3

memorable quotes

Taken from the ARC.

“She jokes that she keeps bail money in her nightstand; I joke that she’d be my one phone call. Only I’m not joking. She would be.”

“It’s the unwritten rule of small-town folks: we guard one another. That Southern brand of trust is stronger than whiskey, and, when broken, it burns even more.”

“I owe Dee for so much, for the pinkie links and the kindnesses and phone calls and bail-outs. This is the currency of friendship, traded over years and miles, and I hope it’s an even exchange someday. For now, I do what all best friends do when there’s nothing left to say. We lie together in the darkness, shoulder to shoulder, and wait for the worst to be over.”

“We’re saying a lot within the silence: We can’t and I know and But I want to and Me too. The effort of restraint burns in my chest — a physical ache from holding back.”

“It takes a long time to learn someone. It takes a long time to see a person as a whole spectrum, from worst to best – from the mismanaged heartache that lands them in AA to the pancake dinners, from the hurtful things shouted in a dressing room to the huge-hearted strength that only a best friend can understand. Once you get there, it’s forever.”

How To Dutch: Yer A Wizard, Harry

April 18, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: How To Dutch9 comments

howtodutch

Welcome to How to Dutch, where Ellis (The Random Transliterator) and I combine two things that are very important to us: our books and our heritage. Two weeks ago, Ellis taught you how to thank us properly for the awesomeness that is this feature, which you seem to enjoy very much. Seriously, your response has been overwhelming and enthusiastic and just overall incredible: HEEL ERG BEDANKT! Today, I’m talking about a series that everyone knows and loves (and if you don’t, you may now leave, thank you): Harry Potter.

While I have read the Harry Potter books in English as well, I have read my (well, my dad’s) Dutch copies over and over again. I grew up with the Dutch version, and to this day, it is my favorite translation of a series ever. Translator Wiebe Buddingh didn’t just translate the text, but the names, places and puns as well, to make it fit for a Dutch audience, and he did so perfectly. Though nothing beats the original stories, Buddingh did a hell of a job with this translation. (It will also be quite hard for non-Dutch people to understand, because it fits our culture so well.) Because this series is so massive (and awesome), we decided to split it into two parts. This week, I’ll show you ten translated sentences from the first three books, as well as ten brilliantly translated names, and next week, Ellis will talk about the other four books and other noteworthy translations. You can thank us later.

hp

Read more »

Review: Life by Committee

April 17, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 4 comments

Review: Life by CommitteeTitle: Life by Committee
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Edelweiss
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars

Some secrets are too good to keep.

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

my thoughts

I just finished reading Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu about five minutes ago, and, oh my gosh, my mind is REELING. As I’m typing this review, it is currently two months before this book’s publication date, and I may go crazy waiting until I can discuss it with other readers! The story is so unique; I don’t think I’ve ever read one quite like it. And I can’t say enough about Haydu’s brilliant writing. I somehow missed her debut novel, OCD Love Story (I will definitely be reading it soon), so her wonderful writing was such a pleasant surprise. If you enjoy contemporary YA, I definitely recommend that you get your hands on a copy of Life by Committee.

The story is told in the first person by 16-year-old Tabitha, who is learning to handle the effects of growing up and “getting hot.” As is the case with most 16-year-olds, she begins wearing cute clothes and focusing more on her outward appearance. Her lifelong best friend, Jemma, dislikes the new Tabby and is somewhat of a bully to her, telling her that she is “going in the wrong direction as a person.” Then, with no best friend, Tabitha seeks comfort from the cocky hockey player, Joe. At first, she chats with him online, and then they become more intimate and start meeting in person (and no, not just as friends).

The entire time, Tabitha is aware that Joe already has a girlfriend—Joe and Sasha are the “it” couple of the school. Not exactly a great argument against being the “slut” that her classmates accuse her of being, right? Additionally, Tabitha’s parents have their own problems that prevent them from really being there for her. Feeling completely alone, she stumbles across a website, and upon further investigation, discovers that it is a members-only secret-society-type group called Life by Committee. It doesn’t take long for Tabitha to be immersed in this group since it feels like a safe haven for her. The cost of membership? Tell the group a secret, complete the group’s corresponding assignment in 24-hours, and voila!—problem solved. Could it really be this simple?

Now, this isn’t the type of YA contemporary that I usually enjoy. I want the romance. I want to fall in love with the characters. I want sweet friendships; healthy family relationships; lovely settings. Life by Committee has none of these things, but guess what? I really, really liked it! Though I didn’t love Tabitha (cheating annoys me!), I absolutely sympathized with her. She has to deal with a lot of things that would break most any 16-year-old. Her friends dumped her, her classmates spread rumors about her, the guidance counselor teams up against her, the guy she “loves” is using her, Paul (her father) stays high all the time, and her pregnant mother keeps referring to how they are going to “do things right with the next baby.” No wonder she turns to a group of strangers for support and friendship.

After Tabitha discovers the Life by Committee website, the story turns into a total roller coaster ride. When I was about halfway into the book, I started carrying my Kindle with me everywhere. I had to know what Tabitha’s next secret/assignment was going to be. The concept of having an anonymous support group that helps you decide how to handle complicated life situations seems like a brilliant idea, right? I’ve wished on more than one occassion that I had somebody to make a tough decision for me!

Tabitha almost loses sight of reality once she gets involved in LBC—she is literally living her life by the decisions of the “committee.” Everything she does becomes for the purpose of sharing it with the group, and no amount of discussions with actual people in her life could trump the advice given to her by a group of anonymous people. The things the LBC asks her to do go from trivial to titanic in a short amount of time. I really ended up hating her and LBC over one Assignment in particular, and if the book hadn’t ended the way it did, my rating/review would be a lot different. It actually has a hopeful ending, and I was so pleased to see major character development in most of the characters. I can’t say any more about the ending because I don’t want to give anything away—the element of surprise is what made it so enjoyable for me.

My first experience with a Corey Ann Haydu novel was a good one, and I definitely plan to pick up OCD Love Story now. If you’re a fan of YA contemporary, I recommend giving this one a try. Just keep in mind that it isn’t a warm and fuzzy romance or friendship story, but it DOES have a secret society in which people tell their deepest and darkest secrets. ;)

memorable quotes

Taken from the ARC.

“Cate says it’s the mountains that make me feel trapped sometimes. Sometimes it’s cozy, like the perfect nook in the expanse of the world, but right now, when everyone hates me, it’s more like a crawl space I can’t properly stretch in. Poking around [Life By Committee] makes me feel like I found a trapdoor, Tabitha-sized, to let me out of here.” 

“‘Stay,’ Cate says to me. She points a finger. Not only am I the crappy child they raised all wrong, not only am I their guinea pig preparing them for their real baby, I am also, apparently, a dog. I stay.”

“I am a vacation. I am the Caribbean, and a fruity drink and a sunburn and a break from real life. But I am not real life. No one lives in the Caribbean. No one wants a fruity drink every day. I’d rather be water: necessary.”