“The movie version” Emma Wunsch

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Amulet Books. 354 p.

themovieversionSeventeen-year-old Amelia and her older brother Toby have always been more like best friends than brother and sister. They love watching all kinds of movies, and their movie quotes drive everyone crazy. Toby comes up with fun, silly ideas of things to do, is the life of the party, and always has an entourage of friends.

She and Toby have always been there for each other so, when he starts cutting school, smoking pot, staying in his room, and acting strangely, Amelia covers for him. She starts to put her own life on hold for him, getting mad at her boyfriend and best friend for suggesting something might be wrong with him. When Toby is diagnosed with schizophrenia, Amelia has to learn how to deal with his diagnosis and to live her life without her brother by her side.

It took some time before I could really get into this book. I started it, put it down for a few months, and then decided to try again one more time. The constant movie quotes, titles of movies I’d never heard of, and constant references to movies at inopportune times were very off putting. It wasn’t until Toby was diagnosed and Amelia decided to stop living her life like a movie that the book became bearable. Only then was I finally able to read without the constant distraction of movie titles and quotes. I also didn’t think the author needed to be so explicit when describing Amelia and her boyfriend’s sexual antics. I thought it was an unnecessary distraction, and the book could have stood alone without their relationship.

I wasn’t a fan of this book, and the only reason I gave it two stars instead of one was because I thought it important for readers to learn about how mental illness affects teenagers.

“Someone I wanted to be” Aurelia Wills

Rated 1 star * ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Candlewick. 324 p.

someoneiwantedtobeLeah’s mother is a drunk; her sometime-friends either ignore or pretend to like her, while her classmates call her a variety of fat names. What’s an overweight, insecure, semi-friendless, sometimes drunk 15-year-old smoker to do? Leah’s answer is to eat so she doesn’t have to think, contrast her terrible life with everyone else’s wonderful life, and impersonate her pretty so-called friend Kristy so she could chat with someone who was obviously a pedophile but who she could only see as “handsome.”

“Someone I wanted to be” is a rambling view of Leah’s life, problems (mostly self-imposed) and how she almost wound up as a statistic. I wasn’t a fan, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“Every falling star: The true story of how I survived and escaped North Korea” Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 13, 2016. Abrams. 316 p. (Includes Glossary as well as a list of Places and proper names.)

everyfallingstarSungju lived with his father and mother in a fine apartment in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. His father held a high office in the army and, as devout followers of esteemed leader Kim Il-sung, Sungju and his parents had a happy, easy life. Expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, Sungju went to a very good school and studied tae kwon do with other future leaders of the military.

In 1997, his father was kicked out of the army for unknown reasons. Forced to move to the slums of the town of Gyeong-Seong, life rapidly deteriorated. With hunger as their constant enemy, his father, soon followed by his mother, left in search of food. At the age of twelve, Sungju was left to fend for himself.

In his own words, Sungju tells how he learned to survive on the streets of various cities for four years with his gang of street “brothers,” despite starvation, beatings, and imprisonment. The story of their friendship and love, along with Sungju’s musings on governmental policy, hope, and Korean legends are woven together to create a powerful story of survival that will tug at reader’s heartstrings.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The boy who killed Grant Parker” Kat Spears

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published September 13, 2016. St. Martin’s Griffin. 305 pp.

theboywhokilledgrantparkerLuke Grayson hates the little town of Ashland, Tennessee where he had been sent to live by his mother after a series of unfortunate events at his Washington, D.C. private school. His dad is a Baptist preacher who he hasn’t seen in years, and neither he nor his stepmom are happy to have Luke living with them.

All Luke wants to do is make it through the final months of his senior year and get out of town but, from his first day there, he is targeted by Grant Parker, star football player, son of the richest man in town, and the biggest bully in school. Everyone has learned to steer clear of Grant, but Luke follows the beat of a different drummer. Tired of his forced status at the bottom of the social ladder, Luke turns an unfortunate event with Grant into an opportunity to rise to the top. With his newfound power Luke can be anything he wants to be, so why is he having so much trouble learning to fit into his new role? Isn’t this what he’d always wanted?

The age-old question of “when is a lie really a lie?” is brought to life through humor and teen angst as Luke tells his story. Male readers will find much in common with Luke’s quandaries, questions and continued series of unfortunate events.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Seven ways we lie” Riley Redgate

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2016. Abrams.343 pp.

sevenwayswelieOlivia hates that her mother walked away from her family three years ago. Kat holes up in her room with Internet games. Matt fills his days getting high. Juniper is the perfect queen of Paloma High. Valentine is a loner. Lucas is everyone’s go to guy for beer and weed. Claire wonders why she can’t be like Olivia and Juniper.

When the news breaks that someone is involved in a secret affair with a teacher, everyone is shocked. Each of these students has the power to reveal the truth, yet they all have their own secrets. Are someone else’s secrets more important than your own? As truth and lies blend, this unlikely group of students become bound together in ways they never imagined.

“Seven Ways to Lie” was very thought provoking, with each character having their own chapter to articulate their issues and thought patterns. She challenges her readers to think about the “why” of situations, reminding them that things are not always as they seem.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“All these perfect strangers” Aoife Clifford

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. To be published July 12, 2016. Random House.

AllThesePerfectStrangersIn the late 1980’s a murder was committed in Pen’s small hometown when she was only 15, which implicated her and her best friend Tracey. It’s now 1990, and she is seeing a psychiatrist for some murders that happened at her University. Using her doctor’s suggestion, Pen decides to keep a journal to recount events in her life so she could get to the root of her real problems.

Pen’s diary goes back and forth in time describing the current situation in her hometown, then skipping back to her life at University where someone is attacking females with a screwdriver, and where drugs, sex and drinking run rampant and unchecked. Occasionally Pen’s diary jumps even further back in time to give readers glimpses of her time with Tracey, but that timeframe is not as well developed.

The author cleverly weaved in secrets and lies as people were dropping like flies, which made me suspect practically everyone. I enjoyed trying to figure out what was happening, but I did not like the way the book ended. Are readers supposed to guess at what happened in the last chapter, or is the author planning on writing a sequel? I really hope not, but if she isn’t going to write one why did she leave readers dangling off the edge of a cliff?

I will recommend this book with some reservations. If it weren’t for the ending, and not getting clear answers to my many questions about Pen and Tracey, I would have given this book 4 stars. Its murky ending lowered it to three stars.

Recommended for Adults.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Try not to breathe” Holly Seddon

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Ebook. Published February 23, 2016. Ballantine Books.

TryNotToBreatheAmy Stevenson was 15 years old in 1995 when she went missing. She was found three days later savagely beaten, sexually assaulted, with multiple broken bones and severe brain damage. No suspect was ever found.

It is now 2010 and Alex Dale is writing about a brain doctor’s work in a neuro-disability ward with patients often typecast as “vegetables.” While on a tour of the facility she discovers Amy among the patients, which sets off her curiosity as to what happened fifteen years ago. Alex wants to dig into Amy’s past to locate clues, but her own past stands in the way. Her inability to stay sober has cost more than her marriage and job, as her self-esteem is at an all time low. If she manages to save Amy she may save herself.

As Amy’s foggy brain begins to sift through the events leading up to her attack, Alex tries to conquer her alcoholic demons. Through flashbacks and the present time, Seddon masterfully winds a path of intrigue, which will lead readers to a truth that will leave them reeling in disbelief.

Highly recommended for Adults.