Bite-Sized Reviews of The Pain Eater, Just Another Girl and Toward a Secret Sky

Posted April 5, 2017 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Reviews / 12 Comments

Today I’ve got bite-sized reviews of two YA contemps and a YA paranormal I’ve recently received for review. Hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Pain Eater, Just Another Girl and Toward a Secret SkyThe Pain Eater by Beth Goobie
Published by Second Story Press on September 13th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 236
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: Mature YA (Sexual assault depicted)
My rating:
4 Stars

She hadn’t told anyone. Not a single soul. Not one word about that night and what had been done to her had ever passed Maddy Malone’s lips. She’d thought about it at first - had been desperate, even frantic, to tell. But then had come the shame, and the intimidation from the boys who raped her - and the one who held her down.

Now it’s the beginning of a new school year and Maddy is hoping that she can continue to hide, making herself as quiet and small as possible. She is consumed with keeping the memories at bay, forcing them down through small cuts and the burn from the end of a cigarette. But when her English class is given the assignment of writing a collaborative novel about a fifteen-year-old girl, The Pain Eater, fact and fiction begin to meet up. When the boys spread rumors about Maddy, she realizes that continuing to hide the truth will only give them more control, and she slowly gains the courage to confront them.


This book is an incredibly painful read because of the traumatic events that Maddy has lived through (and continues to relive). Maddy has become a shell of herself ever since she was raped—she barely speaks, never makes eye contact, and causes herself physical pain in order to block out the emotional turmoil she’s constantly experiencing. She’s tried so hard to forget—but she can’t.

The book follows Maddy’s emotional journey and healing, and her story is paired with a class project: a short story that the the class is writing together (each student writes a chapter) about a girl who is forced to “eat” (basically, endure) the pain of the people of her village. The parallels are obvious, and the story soon becomes an allegory for Maddy’s situation. She is expected to suffer in silence, threatened with further reprisal if she speaks. The story is painful but powerful.

I did have a couple of small issues with the book. First of all, Maddy views the idea of seeking psychological help very negatively (she doesn’t want to be viewed as “crazy”), and her opinion doesn’t evolve in any way. Instead, she finds healing through art. While I do think art can have therapeutic properties, I was saddened by the negative portrayal of counseling and I had a hard time with the idea that only art would be necessary to help her find healing. The second issue I had was with the fact that the teacher seemed to be overly permissive with her students’ story—I felt like some things were expressed in the story that were pretty inappropriate in a school setting and I didn’t understand why the teacher wouldn’t address it more.

Overall, I found this to be a powerful read, full of pain but also portraying hope for healing. I give it 4/5 Stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Pain Eater, Just Another Girl and Toward a Secret SkyJust Another Girl by Elizabeth Eulberg
Published by Scholastic on March 28th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 256
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
My rating:
4 Stars

You resent her. You can't stand her. You might even hate her.
But you don't know her at all.

Hope knows there's only one thing coming between her and her longtime crush: his girlfriend, Parker. She has to sit on the sidelines and watch as the perfect girl gets the perfect boy . . . because that's how the universe works, even though it's so completely wrong.

Parker doesn't feel perfect. She knows if everyone knew the truth about her, they'd never be able to get past it. So she keeps quiet. She focuses on making it through the day with her secret safe . . . even as this becomes harder and harder to do. And Hope isn't making it any easier. . . .

In Just Another Girl, Elizabeth Eulberg astutely and affectingly shows us how battle lines get drawn between girls -- and how difficult it then becomes to see or understand the girl standing on the other side of the divide.

You think you have an enemy. But she's just another girl.


I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. It seemed like it might just be a light contemporary, but it ended up digging deeper into some tough issues than I expected. Honestly, Hope was a little hard to like—I wasn’t a fan of her plan to try and steal her best friend away from his girlfriend, Parker. But I did feel for her—she had spent years pining after this boy who seemed to understand her so completely and knew her better than anyone else. In her mind, it was only Parker that was keeping them apart.

When the book switches to Parker’s POV, you start to see how wrong we can read people and how often in conflicts it’s all a matter of perspective. When we see Parker through Hope’s eyes, we see a needy, standoffish girl who rarely smiles and expects her boyfriend to sacrifice his time and energy for her whims. When we see the world from Parker’s POV, we realize just how wrong Hope has been reading her (and, also, in some ways, how Parker is making incorrect assumptions about Hope). I LOVED this concept and Eulberg’s revelations about how we can so easily misinterpret another person’s words and actions, especially when we don’t know their whole story. This concept was fascinating to me, and the fact that Hope truly learned some lessons on perspective salvaged her character for me. This book gets 4/5 stars from me.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Pain Eater, Just Another Girl and Toward a Secret SkyToward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
Published by Blink on April 4th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 368
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)

Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.


Toward a Secret Sky just didn’t resonate with me for some reason. First of all, I felt like the story was a little too cliche—it felt too much like Twilight or many of the other paranormal books I’ve read. But the real problem was that I just didn’t connect with the characters. The romance was a classic case of extreme insta-love—I felt no actual connection between the two leads which made it hard for me to care what happened to them. And the rest of the story just didn’t have enough going for it to keep me completely interested. I liked Maren’s friend Jo, but she was the only character I was particularly attached to. The worldbuilding also felt a bit rushed—we got a lot of the information in one fell swoop when a total stranger spilled everything (including lots of “secret” information). They became fast friends, but it felt almost as abrupt as the insta-love.

In the end, because I wasn’t connecting with the characters, I had a hard time caring about the plot, even though the action picked up significantly and there were lots of new revelations. I found myself skimming once I got about three-quarters of the way through. Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me. I give it 2/5 stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***



12 responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of The Pain Eater, Just Another Girl and Toward a Secret Sky

  1. I had not heard of The Pain Eater before! I like the idea, but I do have a BIG problem with the stuff about therapy. It doesn’t really sit well with me, especially since her ideas didn’t evolve. But, the topic itself is important, so I might check it out! I like the theme of the second one, because it’s so true- it IS very different to live in someone else’s shoes, and I think a lot of times we forget that, and this sounds like a great reminder. And yeah, HARD pass on the last one. I can’t with that cliched type of book anymore. Too many books, too little time! Great reviews, Nicole!!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy: Guest Post & Giveaway
    • Yes, I was definitely disappointed about the stance on therapy. It was another case where the MC seems to think that talking to someone about their (very real) issues will make them seem “crazy.” And unfortunately that didn’t change by the end of the book. She sort of healed herself, which didn’t feel completely realistic to me. (Though it looks like the author’s gone through some things herself—so maybe that was her experience? I have no idea. It’s so hard to judge an author on something like that because we all deal with things differently. But the “crazy” thing bugs me either way.)

  2. You have been reading some pretty “too-real” book lately! I don’t know how you do it. Truth be told, I’ve never heard of any of these books, but now you’ve got me curious. Especially about that latest Elizabeth Eulberg one. 🙂

  3. The first book would be a little hard for me to read, for many reasons. But it seems so important and it looks so well written that I think I would still want to try it.

    The second book – I am glad it surprised you. It sounds interesting, despite the heavy subjects.

    The third book – well thats a shame ;/ I was looking forward to it… but a lot less curious when you compared it to Twilight lol

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