Everything, Everything

I read this YA novel at the recommendation of a coworker and because of the recent movie staring Amandla Stenberg, who also played Rue in The Hunger Games. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is the story of Maddy, who is sealed off in her house due to an extreme illness. Literally, anything from the world could kill her. But then Olly moves in next door and she has to ask herself what she would do for love.

One of my favorite parts about this novel is the multiple formats used to tell the story. There are journal entries, blogs, plane tickets, drawings, and many other creative ways that Yoon created the narrative. This also made the novel pass extremely quickly. Most of the “chapters” were just a few pages. It felt almost more like a scrapbook of her experience. While a device like this can feel kitschy, it actually drew me deeper in to the novel. It was like I stumbled upon a stranger’s mashed-up diary and learned about her through it.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It could have easily gone on too long, but I felt like one complete story. I can’t wait to watch the movie so I can compare the two. I feel like this story will translate extremely well to the big screen.

4/5

The Moth and the Flame

This short story is the tale of Despina and Jalal, two characters from Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn series. I originally started this series for three reasons: the covers are pretty, the story is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, and the author and the characters are Middle Eastern, like me.

This series feels like the stereotypical YA to come out of Penguin recently. Which isn’t a bad thing, but they all start to run together a little bit. The two characters of this short story are minor characters in the original series. I think that a digital release was the right route for this story. Print would have been too expensive and an overkill.

Despina’s drama revolves around a boy- Jalal. She teases and flirts with him and gets pregnant, falling in love in the process. But she is strong and makes her choices on her own terns. She wants to make the world a better place for her child. Despina decides that telling Jalal about the child means that he would have power over her. She is a rough idea of a strong woman. She is what someone would call “feisty” and sticks up for herself. She isn’t perfect and she shows vulnerability.

Overall, I enjoyed this short story for what it is. It’s not elaborate or literary, but it’s fun, short, and satisfying.


3/5

Crosstalk

I’ve heard good things about Connie Willis’s writing and science fiction for a few years. Maybe I set the bar too high when I picked up Crosstalk, but I didn’t enjoy this novel. To me, it felt under-edited. The story meandered and certain elements were closer to tangents than something relevant to the plot.

Crosstalk is set in the future, when people are uber-connected to their phones and smart devices. Every single thought is conveyed immediately and no one has a private moment. Briddey, our protagonist, works for Commspan, a smartphone company that is competing with Apple. She is dating Trent, an executive at the company and he wants for them to get a device implanted in their brains that will allow them to share their emotions. When she wakes up from the procedure, she has full-on telepathy. Briddey struggles to come to terms with her new ability and gets help from her reclusive coworker, C.B.

I thought Willis was heavy-handed in her treatment of the interconnected culture that has emerged with new technology. It felt like the Old Man Yells at Cloud bit from The Simpsons. It seemed like this was the most important bit of the book to her and she repeated it time and time again. C.B., the most sympathetic character, hates the interconnected culture, even though he works to develop new technology for it.

Overall, I wasn’t impressed by this novel. The pacing was terrible and it felt like the author was just looking for an excuse to rant about how much she hates cell phones. This book did not inspire me to read any of Willis’s other books, which is definitely a disappointment.

2/5

The Thousandth Floor

Let me start by saying that love the cover of The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee. I think it represents the content perfectly: shiny and youthful. There wasn’t a lot of weight or substance to this novel, but if you like the mindless Gossip Girl style or you are looking for a ‘palate cleanser’, then this is a great novel to read next.

It follows the stories of five different teenaged characters that live in a 1000-story tower. It seems like they are mostly ignorant of each other, but as the novel progresses, their stories are more and more intertwined. The novel starts with all of the main characters on the roof of the tower and then a girl drops to her death. Then it backtracks to how all of them got there.

I think that this novel will make a great teen movie or TV show. I could easily see it on Freeform or The CW. Plus, I saw the author at TeenBookCon in Houston and she said that a sequel will be coming out in August 2017. She also said that in the sequel, another character dies, even connecting it to Game of Thrones.

There is a shadow of diversity in this one. One of the main elite girls is at least queer, but indeterminately so, and several of the characters are people of color. As for the feminist perspective, there wasn’t anything that stood our to me as markedly feminist or anti-feminist. Overall, this book was bland and perfectly consumable all around.

2/5

For the Roses

I read this book after one of my coworkers recommended it to me. Julie Garwood was my introduction to romance literature. I grew up with her Highland paperbacks scattered around the house, cracked and dog-eared. It’s been years since I’ve read her books, but the recommendation of my mother and coworker were enough for me to try this one.

For the Roses is the story of Mary Rose, a baby thrown into an alley in Late Reconstruction New York City. She is adopted by a rag-tag gage of four orphans: Travis, Douglas, Cole, and Adam. All of the boys have their skills and fulfill certain stereotypes. In the novel, the boys move West with her and they form a family. To me, Adam, the runaway slave who committed murder to escape and is the intelligent and soft-spoken patriarch of the family, was the most fascinating.

For a novel published in 1996, Mary Rose is less of a caricature than I expected. She’s story, willful, and stubborn. She is treated more like a child than an adult, even ignored by the men surrounding her. But, all of her decisions are her own. There are a few ‘rapey’ scenes, but it’s a bodice-ripper romance.

This novel feels like four stories in one. There is the story of Mary Rose’s childhood, her romance with Harrison, her reunion with her father, and Adam’s trial. While all of the stories find their own resolution, they do it independently. Garwood could have had at least two of the stories converge, tying the ends together instead of moving from one thread to the next.

Personally, I though Adam’s trial was the most engaging section. I would have cut Mary Rose’s reunion with her family in favor of more pages spent on the trial and its implications. But, this is a romance novel with some history thrown in, not the other way around. Overall, I found the novel to be mostly readable, with very few cringe-worthy moments.

3/5