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Book Review: Thoughts & Prayers by Bryan Bliss

Thoughts & Prayers: A Novel in Three Parts

Publisher’s description

Fight. Flight. Freeze. What do you do when you can’t move on, even though the rest of the world seems to have? 

For readers of Jason Reynolds, Marieke Nijkamp, and Laurie Halse Anderson. Powerful and tense, Thoughts & Prayers is an extraordinary novel that explores what it means to heal and to feel safe in a world that constantly chooses violence.

Claire, Eleanor, and Brezzen have little in common. 

Claire fled to Minnesota with her older brother, Eleanor is the face of a social movement, and Brezzen retreated into the fantasy world of Wizards & Warriors.

But a year ago, they were linked. They all hid under the same staircase and heard the shots that took the lives of some of their classmates and a teacher. Now, each one copes with the trauma as best as they can, even as the world around them keeps moving.

Told in three loosely connected but inextricably intertwined stories, National Book Award–longlisted author Bryan Bliss’s Thoughts & Prayers follows three high school students in the aftermath of a school shooting. Thoughts & Prayers is a story about gun violence, but more importantly it is the story of what happens after the reporters leave and the news cycle moves on to the next tragedy. It is the story of three unforgettable teens who feel forgotten.

Amanda’s thoughts

I finished this book feeling both so, so angry and so, so hopeful. Angry because of the state of things and hopeful because of the awe-inspiring resiliency of humans. Angry that school shootings happen and hopeful that expanded conversations and movements regarding gun violence may one day lead us to a better, safer place. Angry as I think back to every library I’ve worked at, whether school or public, and had moments of fear, had lockdown drills, had spots picked out where I would hide, where I would shove kids. I finished the book angry at some characters, hopeful because of others, and really just profoundly sad that this fictional story is the true story of so many schools, so many communities, so many children.

Told in three parts, we meet Claire, Eleanor, and Brezzen. All three survived the school shooting together and now are in very different places in their lives. Claire moved from NC to MN, where she lives with her brother and seems to hope to skateboard her troubles away. It’s at the skate park that she meets God, Leg, and Dark, three boys who quickly adopt her as their friend. But Claire is wary of everything these days. She worries about monsters lurking around every corner, worries who she can trust, and worries that pretending to be fine is maybe not working out so great. Her new friendships are tested when she discovers deeply disturbing notebooks full of horrific art and now has to worry that she could be missing the signs or the chance to speak up and prevent something like a shooting from happening again.

Eleanor is still in NC and has become “the face of a new generation of teenagers who would save the world” after she began wearing a shirt that says fuck guns. This third of the story was probably the hardest for me—to see her peers and her community ridicule and harass her even though they too lived through this awful event. My politics are hardly a secret and while I can certainly understand that plenty of people can have something involving gun violence hit so close to home and yet not see guns as a problem (I mean—I can’t understand that, but I do understand this is how some people feel), it is gutting to see the fallout for Eleanor, who has very reasonably taken the stand that our country’s relationship with guns is a problem. Her story is very much about people trying to make her face the consequences of her “choice.” You know, her choice to be outraged, horrified, broken, loud, and hurt.

Meanwhile, Brezzen, the third student we meet, has been out of school for the past year. Going back has been just too scary. He has undergone extensive therapy, and when he does return to school, he can only face it if he approaches the whole ordeal like something from Wizards and Warriors, his favorite role-playing game. He makes maps, rolls his d20, and is always on the lookout for traps and monsters. He doesn’t know if he can actually handle being back at school.

These are teenagers in pain. We watch them remember to breathe, pretend to be fine, try to feel “normal,” and fall apart. Their stories are filled with pain, fear, rage, and grief. But no one is any one thing, no matter what our trauma or seemingly defining moment may be. The characters change, grow, and heal. They need help and they get help. They are not okay, and readers see that that’s okay. They have supportive teachers, parents, and friends. There is talk of therapy and trauma-informed practices. The characters show what is possibly the only true and universal part of grief and trauma: that healing and progress are not linear. In Bliss’s capable hands, we see their stories as intensely personal and individual while also being part of a larger narrative, a shared experience. We see them as broken and scarred but also as brave, fighters, warriors. They are survivors. They are coping. They are made-up characters, but their stories are those of thousands upon thousands of teenagers who live through these school shootings. A deeply empathetic, emotional, and infuriating story full of unforgettable characters (Dr. Palmer, I love you!). This affecting story is not to be missed.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the author

ISBN-13: 9780062962249
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/29/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Book Review – Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith

5198d45tByLI said yes to an ARC of Sherri L. Smith’s new novel Pasadena solely on the basis of my deep enjoyment of her last one, The Toymaker’s Apprentice. She is a marvelously gifted author, but I had no idea what I was getting into. What Smith has produced this time, in Pasadena, is a devastatingly honest exploration of loss, grief, trauma, friendship and family – both the kind we are born into and the kind we choose.

It is the summer before their senior year, and Jude is on the east coast visiting cousins when she gets the phone call letting her know that her best friend Maggie has been found dead in her family’s swimming pool. She rushes back to California to confront any number of situations she was trying to escape. There is the failed attempt at a relationship with her other best friend, Joey, that she is trying to ignore. There is the situation at home with her mother’s boyfriend, Roy. And there is the fact that she must confront, now that Maggie is gone, that their group of friends was really only held together by Maggie. Maggie was the center of the wheel, and all her friends, including Jude, are the spokes. Just as Jude has a secret that she has only shared with Maggie, so also have the others confided in Maggie. IT seems that she was everyone’s best friend, and now she is gone.

There are so many things to adore in this novel. Foremost is the voice of the narrator, Jude. Through her, we see and feel both the devastation of her loss and her determination to discover what really happened the night that Maggie died. Through Jude’s lens, we see the disparate lifestyles of Pasadena, from mansions to seedy rentals to crumbling but cozy beach houses, from teens driving cars that cost more than I make in a year to teens driving camper vans to surf at the beach to teens like Jude, with only her feet for transportation. We also see the disparate parenting styles of the families of her group of friends through the honest and cynical veil of Jude’s adolescence. Everything in the novel feels so immediate and real, including the heat, smoke, and ash from the wildfires.

While there are innumerable things to dissect and discuss from the novel, I want to focus on only one point that it drove home with great accuracy: never, never ignore someone’s jokes about suicide. Having spent 20+ years as a public school librarian, I was well versed in our yearly training on suicide awareness and prevention. On multiple occasions I referred students to guidance counselors, social workers, and school psychologists simply because they made an adolescent joke about suicide. Because you never know. For me, it was second nature. Is it for today’s tweens and teens, though? I know that the school I last worked in did yearly suicide screenings of every 7th grade student. But were they teaching the students how to look for signs in their friends? Without being preachy or didactic, Smith does an excellent job of driving home this point.

I think this is both a beautiful and important novel and would recommend it for any collection serving teens in grades 8 and up.

From the publisher:

When Jude’s best friend is found dead
in a swimming pool, her family calls it an accident.  Her friends call it suicide.  But Jude calls it what it is:  murder.  And someone has to pay.

Now everyone is a suspect—family and friends alike.  And Jude is digging up the past like bones from a shallow grave.  Anything to get closer to the truth.  But that’s the thing about secrets.  Once they start turning up, nothing is sacred.  And Jude’s got a few skeletons of her own.

In a homage to the great noir stories of Los Angeles,  award-winning author Sherri L. Smith’s Pasadena is a tale of love, damage and salvation set against the back drop of California’s City of Roses.

Pasadena will be available from G.P. Putnam and Sons on September 13, 2016.

Book Review: GEMINA, the sequel to ILLUMINAE, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

geminaIn October, the greatly anticipated sequel to Illuminae, Gemina, will be released. Our TAB reviewer, who just left for her Freshman year of college, was very excited to get an advanced reading copy of this book to review for you today.

Publisher’s Book Description

The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller that critics are calling “out-of-this-world awesome.”
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless. (October 18th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Lexi’s Thoughts

“When you fight a monster, be careful you don’t become the monster.”

It took me three days to process what the hell i had just read. Not only does this book have such a peculiar format but it also has such a crazy plot that the events of the book gave me whiplash.

For starters, i’m gonna touch up on some things i really loved about this book. I say somethings even though i literally loved the whole darn thing.

The strong female characters

Because not a lot of authors think they have a successful book where there are independent, kick-ass female characters that save the day.

The endless sarcasm displayed by the characters

I feel like the authors legit wrote me in this book with how much sarcasm was dripping off those pages.

Flawless character descriptions

These character descriptions of the House of Knives gang members and the descriptions of the soldiers on ship got me all hot and bothered over some fictional booty. What has this world come toooooo!!!

Finally, i must say that this book was the best emotional rollercoaster i have ever been on. When i think it goes one way the authors pop out of nowhere with a “but wait folks, there’s more!!!”

I recommend this book to everybody because this is one of the best science fiction books i have ever read and it’s even better than the first book. I have high expectations for the next book.

Book Review: Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

bewareYou guys. I can’t even with this book. It is a psychological thriller on steroids – mesmerizingly creepy from first to very last page. It kept making me anxious enough to have to put it down, but it’s so fascinating I kept picking it back up. I think this one is going to be big. Really big. Colossal.

Kate O’Brien is a scholarship student at the prestigious Waverly School in New York City for her senior year of high school. She’s spent her entire childhood bouncing from one private school to another to avoid the foster care system (or worse). This new school, though isn’t a boarding school so she lies and tells them she’s living with her aunt. In reality she’s living in the storage room in the basement of a Chinese market. But Kate knows how to play the game, and these accommodations are only temporary. From day one, she is on the hunt for a best friend. She’s looking for a rich girl who is slightly broken who needs a new best friend. Someone who will become so dependent upon her that she will ask her to move in with her. She finds the perfect mark in Olivia Sumner.

Olivia is rich, exquisitely beautiful, and very troubled. As a bonus, she lives with her father and housekeeper in a penthouse only a few steps from school. Her father, who travels constantly, worries about Olivia. You see, Olivia is actually repeating her senior year after having had some kind of breakdown the previous year and spending much of it in a hospital. Having a bright scholarship student who is her new best friend move in seems to be a win-win proposition. Olivia has played right into Kate’s capable hands. Or has she?

Throw into this mix the devastatingly handsome Mark Redkin, Waverly’s new advancement director (fundraiser.) To everyone but Kate, Mark seems to be the consummate player. Charming in the extreme, he has every female on campus wrapped around his finger. Kate can see past that, though, and recognizes something much darker going on behind the facade he presents to the world. When he goes after Olivia, Kate loses her detachment from their relationship. Instead of just using her friendship with Olivia as a means to an end, she begins to care. Both girls have secrets that Redkin exploits to his own advantage.

Olivia and Kate are both strongly drawn characters with intricate personalities and personal demons to overcome. At first, it’s natural to believe the title refers to Kate…but then you begin to wonder as you follow the girls deeper into their relationship and their secrets are revealed. Even to the very end of the book, the question we’re left with is to whom the title refers, and who needs to beware.

*On a side note, I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a publisher’s dinner last week, and she is delightful. (I wrote the review before I met her.)

Beware That Girl will be available from Delacorte Press on May 31st, 2016.

Post It Note Reviews, by The Teen


It’s time for another installment of The Teen’s Post It Note Reviews. This post is Penguin heavy because I took her to a Penguin Teen panel and she decided she really liked the sound of the books after hearing the authors talk about them so she read a couple. It also includes one ARC of an upcoming title because she steals them from me. For those of you new to the blog, I allow each of our Teen Advisory Board members to develop their own personal review style and this is what The Teen has chosen.


Publisher’s Book Description:

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

Post It Note Review:  I loved this so much. One of the best things ever.


Publisher’s Book Description:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Post It Note Review: Perfect, beyond compare. Great and fun.


Publisher’s Book Description:

Sidney and her friends must race to find the origin of a storm that has hit their small island home—turning every animal into savage weapons—in this suspenseful thriller from New York Times bestselling author, Thomas E. Sniegoski.

The future is looking bright for Sidney Moore as she as she gets ready to leave the small island of Benediction behind for one of Boston’s top veterinary schools. Only a few small bumps in the road to navigate before she can go—her father’s recovery from a debilitating stroke, and her own guilt for ending her relationship with her high school sweetheart. But she’s always been strong willed, and she’s not about to let anything stop her from achieving her goals.

Now a storm is bearing down on Benediction, a hurricane that will bring devastating winds and rain, rising tides…and something else. Something deadly; something that will transform all the things that creep, crawl, and flutter into instruments of terror and death.

The future is looking bright for Sidney Moore…if only she can survive the storm.

Post It Note Review: A lot going on but good details.

Karen’s Note: So this book comes out on May 31st from Simon Pulse. The Teen actually had a hard time reading this book because she is a HUGE animal lover and as you can read from the description it involves bad things happening to animals. She stuck with it and finished it, which surprised me.

Book Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

thewwayiusedtobeThe Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith (368 pages)

About the Book

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

Lexi’s Thoughts

My body is a torture chamber. It’s a fucking crime scene. Hideous things have happened here, it’s nothing to talk about, nothing to comment on, not out loud. Not ever. I won’t hear it. I can’t.”

This book is about changing yourself into someone you can actually stand to look at in the mirror every morning.

This book is about trying to forget. Forget how it happened. Forgot how it felt.

This book is about being empty and trying to fill yourself back up to full capacity again. Only, you can’t.

Eden’s story is like many others. Her fears and pains sing a familiar tune that many people know. This book is relatable in the way that we have all experienced something in our life that made us hate so strongly and want to change so badly. Some of us can relate to her abuse. Some of us can relate to her inability to look at self the same. Because no matter what situation we have been in, no matter how different, we have all experienced some kind of event that made us question why things happen the way they do and make us even question who is looking back at us in the mirror.

Eden is a strong girl. Brave in her words when able to speak them. Her story is beautifully written. SO much emotion was written in every word that it rippled through me as I read it. I could feel Edens loss of herself. Her struggle to make it to another day is both admirable and saddening. Her secret made my heart clench and my lungs restrict. She was too young but it still should have never happened to her. No person should ever have to experience sexual assault, and yet we still do everyday. And this is why we need books like this.

We need books that break that barrier. We need books that will tell a story of the world’s real horrors. Because the real monsters don’t live under your bed. No. The real monsters bide their time, waiting to get your trust so they can manipulate you. People like Kevin Armstrong are the real monsters. People who prey on other people are the ones our horror stories should really be about.

This novel reminds me a lot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. That book shredded me apart. And as that one did, so did The Way I Used To Be. While reading this book i felt completely empty. Way past the point of sad, I read this book like it was the only thing I could do. Because after all, it was the only thing I could do. Reading this fictional, but probably true for someone else, story reminded me of the terror women face everyday. It reminds me to not always be so trusting, to only lock my door at night, because if Eden had she wouldn’t have been raped. She wouldn’t have had to endure the worse experience in her life. Maybe, if she would have locked her door, she could have prevented her own assault. But also, this book made me realize that she shouldn’t have had to lock her door. She should have felt safe in her own home.

We need these words to be spoken out loud. We need people to acknowledge that someone is sexuallay assaulted ever 107 seconds in the united states. We need rape victims to not be blamed for their rape. And we especially need to prosecute the monsters who do the assault no matter who they are.

This book needed to be written. I thank Amber Smith for writing it and I thank every other author who is brave enough to speak out about the silence victims face every day. Because with these books, with this book, we actually get hear from the victim.

10 out of 10 would read again.

Book Review: The Awakening of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

awakeningofsunshubegurkPublisher’s Book Description

Having passed her test in Book One, Sunshine’s Luiseach powers are now fully awakened: for months now, Sunshine has felt spirits everywhere: heard voices, felt emotions – intense and sometimes overwhelming. She tries to ignore them, but it is impossible. Hoping to get her powers under control – and hoping for answers to her never-ending questions – she agrees to undergo training with her Luiseach mentor, even though she still hopes to give up her powers someday.

She and her mentor clash left and right; he doesn’t understand or approve of her attachment to the humans in her life; and she can’t understand how he could give her up so many years ago, only to endanger her mother’s life as part of a test.

Sunshine’s training is every bit as terrifying and creepy as her test was, and along the way she meets and befriends another young Luiseach, forcing her to confront her feelings for Nolan. Though her mentor is reluctant to answer her many questions, she finally learns more about her lineage, as well as the rift that threatens the future of Luiseach and the human race… and the crucial part she has to play in repairing it. (Published March 1, 2016)

Lexi’s Thoughts

Saving the world is the greater good. Maybe it’s the greatest good there is.”

Sunshine has found her destiny. A destiny that separates her from everyone else, making her unique and different. A destiny that could lead her to a sacrifice of everyone she loves.But it is her decision on if sacrificing herself is for ‘the greatest good there is’.

The book starts off with yet another ominous third party person whose identity is obscured from the reader, but whose ideas are very clear.

“Sixteen years to plan it.

Sixteen years to envision it.

Sixteen years to steel myself for the task that’s fallen at my feet.

I’m ready to eliminate her. I just have to find her first.”

Much like the first book, this sequel captures the reader with not only the point of view of young, quirky Sunshine Griffith but with also the mysterious man who watches her. However, unlike the first book this mysterious man isn’t as friendly as the man in the first one.

Between becoming a trained Luiseach, an ancient race who protect humans from the demons who set out to harm them, and juggling the truth of who she is and where she comes from, Sunshine finds herself in the middle of Mexico isolated from her family. Aidan, her biological father, teaches her everything she needs to know about fighting demons and helping ghosts. For Sunshine her life has taken a turn from the ordinary Texas girl who shops at vintage stores and who over uses the word ‘creepy’. She is now taking a journey to becoming a full fledged fighter of all things that go bump in the night. Alongside her love interest and protector, Nolan, her biological father, and a fellow Luiseach, Lucio, Sunshine will go through trials and obstacles in order to save the world.

The Awakening of Sunshine Girl is a very decent sequel to The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. Aside from the constant need for the main character to emphasize how different she is and from the monotonous voice of the writing. The book seems better than the first.

The writing is still a little mediocre compared to the usual taste of books i read but it doesn’t take away fully from the plot of the story. While reading these book i had an overwhelming urge to read R.L. Stines books because of how spooky this book is. I recommend it for anyone who likes quirky ghost stories that will leave you with a cliffhanger almost every time.

Book Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

The first thing you need to know about this book is that I cried multiple times while reading it. And yes, that is a positive endorsement. It was real, it was compelling, and it was profound. I believe that everyone should read this book.

Book Summary:

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

I feel so strongly about this book, we’re going to have a Book Club Reading and Twitter Discussion. Here’s the info:


So here are some of the things I like about EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR. Though I would avoid this section until after you read the book if you want to avoid spoilers.

1. Cheerleading as a Real Sport & Non Stereotyped Cheerleaders

Hermoine and Polly are best friends and co-captain of their cheerleading squad. And they take cheerleading very seriously; they recognize it for the sport that it is and are in it to win it. These are not cheerleader stereotypes, they are intelligent, committed athletes who work hard and value teamwork and competition.

2. #SVYALit Discussion (Sexual Violence in YA Lit)

Our story opens up at cheerleading camp the summer before senior year. It’s the last year and they want to make it count. But then a horrific crime happens: Hermione is drugged and raped by a fellow camper. Everything that follows highlights the intense emotional and legal journey that Hermione takes as she wrestles with the fact that a crime has been committed against her, even though she has no real memory of that crime because of the drug that she was given.

3. Female Friendship Done Right

Exit, Pursued by a Bear (from here on out referred to as EPB), is an intense emotional journey. There are rumors and there are whispers in the hallway, but Hermione is also fiercely supported by some key characters in the book, including her best friend Polly and her parents. Polly makes it very clear every step of the way that not only will she stand by Hermione through every step of this emotional journey with her best friend, but that she will not allow anyone to suggest that Hermione is in any way responsible for what happened to her. There is one scene where Hermione and Polly are being interviewed by the school paper and Polly says every thing we are thinking about rape culture and the way we talk to and about rape victims. Reading it was a sort of catharsis for me.

The friendship between Hermione and Polly is strong and fierce. It is hands down one of the best parts of the book and one of my new favorite friendships in YA lit.

4. Complexly Realized Parents

There are lots of other great characters in this book as well. Hermione’s parents are strong, committed (and still together!) parents who work hard to navigate their own emotions while taking care of their daughter. These are the type of parents you don’t see very often in YA literature. They are complex and compelling; through them you get little glimpses of how Hermione’s experiences affect not only her, but the people that love her. These are perhaps my favorite parents in YA lit ever.

5. #FSYALit (Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit)

There is another small character that really stood out to me, that of a pastor. At the beginning of our book Hermione goes to him and asks him to please stop asking the church to pray for her because she wants to stop being the focus of attention so that she can deal with her issues more privately. They have a incredibly profound discussion and I loved the way this spiritual leader was characterized and how respectful he was of Hermione and the choices she was being forced to make.

RED ALERT *****This Section Has HUGE Spoilers******

As a result of her rape, Hermione ends up being pregnant. Johnston does some remarkable things here that almost never get discussed in YA lit and certainly not so explicitly and without stigma: not only does Hermione choose to have an abortion, but she is supported by the people in her life in this decision and the entire process is depicted in the text. In the end, Hermione feels no guilt, only relief that she has a renewed sort of ownership over her body that this boy who raped her took away from her.


Johnston takes great pains to meticulously show us all the medical, legal and emotional ramifications of Hermione’s rape. From the police officer who is working on her case to the therapist who is helping her process the emotions of it, it seems as if Johnston has taken great care to make sure readers are able to walk this difficult emotional journey with Hermione with realistic and unflinching honesty. This is not an easy read, but it is a good read and, I feel, a very important one. Hermione gets some closure that most victims of rape don’t get in real life, which is very satisfying as a reader. In a time when we as a culture are really discussing rape, rape culture and female empowerment, THIS is an important and timely read for us all.

Book Review: Dreamfever (Dreamfire #2) by Kit Alloway, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

Book Synopsis:

Dreamfever (Dreamfire, #2)Finding out that she is the True Dream Walker hasn’t gone at all the Joshlyn Weaver would have expected it to. The only special gift she seems to have is an ability to create archways, which really isn’t that special. In addition to her inability to connect with the Dream, she has also started having nightmares that are so terrible she can’t tell anyone about them. Not even Will.

Just when Josh thought her life couldn’t get any more complicated, the lost dream walker princess returns to claim her parents’ right to the throne, right as the Lodestone party threatens to take control of the government during the upcoming Accordance Conclave.

With the clock running down, Josh must rely on not only her friends, but also her enemies, to stop the radicals from taking power and controlling the Dream. But how can she expect to save everyone else when she’s struggling to pick up the pieces of her own shattered life? (Releases February 23 by St. Martin’s Griffin)



Lexi’s Thoughts:

As goes Rome, so does the empire.”

I don’t really care for this book.

I don’t like the characters or the writing or the plot. The idea behind it doesn’t even peak my interest in anyway.

The writing for me was dull and tasteless. Half the time I was confused on what was going on and who it was speaking about because of how much it flip flops in time frames. I always enjoy third person point of view but this was just ridiculously unorganized for me to read. I quickly became frustrated with this book.

I had nothing that I could sink my teeth into with this story. I had already expected how Josh’s and Will’s relationship was gonna turn out with her secret nightmares and his stifling obsession. There was no unexpected outcome in the relationship part of this book. However, i will admit i didn’t expect the political outcome of the Dream World.  Other than that, and the reappearance of our mysterious madman, this book had no luster. No oomph. The characters didn’t have any life in them. They seemed flat and boring to read.

The whole dream world and dream walking thing isn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy the content nor its plot. It’s not your average hero quest archetypal novel, and I’m a diehard for cliche and epic hero’s with epic adventure and this had none of that.

I wouldn’t recommend this book personally.

School Library Journal says, “A solid purchase for YA sections, especially where the first installment was popular.”—Jane Hebert, Glenside Public Library District, Glendale Heights, IL

Book Review: Other Broken Things by Christa Desir, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

When I read OTHER BROKEN THINGS by Christa Desir, I thought it was one of the most authentic teen voices I had read in a while. And now that we a TLT Teen Advisory Board, I thought I would ask one of them to read it and tell me what they thought. Lexi’s review follows the summary.

other brokenSummary:

Nat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

Lexi’s Review:

“ Life can be crap sometimes and it’s best you know that early. Then you won’t be surprised when things go to hell. If you recognize nothings perfect, you won’t drink to make it go away, because you realize it never goes away. There’s constant suffering.”

This book.

I have never read a book that has ever gotten close to depicting how life can be for a real 17 year old girl.

Until now.

Natalie struggles through her addiction of not only alcohol but her addiction to everything else she does in place of it. She fights and sometimes she doesn’t win but she still gets back up and continues fighting the battle of living.

I admire the author for this. I admire her because out of every book I’ve read, I’ve never felt like the author had actually remembered what it was like to be a teen.

Every generation is different. It just so happens that my generation is known for our substance abuse and promiscuity. Other Broken Things captures this. This book tells a story that feels all too familiar for me. It’s brutally honest and doesn’t hold back or filter the harsh truths about our youth. The author wrote this book telling a fictional story that could so easily be true for many of us.

And this is why it caught me by surprise that I enjoyed it so much. I read to get away from reality. Reading this book made me think about everything that I experience in a single day of high school. Rather than escaping reality, this book threw me head first into my own. Sometimes I feel like adults forget how hard it is for teens. How much we go through. The crap we put up with everyday from our parents, our friends, and from our teachers. I think adults forget that we are still kids trying to find a way out of the madness and instead of helping they ridicule us because back in their day they made it on their own and they came out just fine. But they forget that we aren’t them and we need guidance for our own path.

Natalie’s story is such a perfect description of these feelings. Her pain and wrong turns could have easily been mine or a friends. This realization stuns me. Her whole story seems to be a representation of people I know. Friends who abuse alcohol or other illegal substances to forget about their stress and about how crappy their lives are. Friends who have gotten abortions because they were too young and still kids themselves to try to raise one. Friends who seek out attention from older guys to replace the love their fathers never gave them.

But Natalie’s story also teaches us a lifesaving lesson: if you’re willing to fight for it, you can make it. Life won’t get better unless you work for it. You can’t change unless you want to. Our mistakes don’t define us. But by acknowledging that we make them will help us learn from them as well.

I think every teen should read this book. Every kid who feels broken. Every girl who feels like they can’t make it. Every boy who feels like giving up. Every and any person who feels like they are the only ones broken, because they’re not.

This book is so painfully honest that it hurts to read at points. But it’s so worth it.

Other Broken Things by Christa Desir will be released by Simon Pulse on January 12th, 2016. She will be sharing a post with us about addiction as part of the #MHYALit Discussion on this day.