I’ve got three bite-sized reviews for you today: two YA and a MG. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 17, 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Magical Realism
My content rating: MG (Themes of depression and death)
THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real--and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.
This middle grade book tackles some very heavy topics, focusing on Finley’s anxiety and depression. It also covers divorce, family schisms, mysterious deaths, and secret-keeping. The result is a somewhat dark, but ultimately hopeful middle grade read. First off, I want to say that I think Legrand does an excellent job of describing Finley’s feelings of depression and her self-doubt and anxiety that often stem from that. She realizes that she shouldn’t feel so sad all the time, and she feels a lot of guilt over that—she feels like there’s something wrong with her and that she doesn’t deserve her family’s love or affection because of it. Then, of course, she struggles with her parents’ broken relationship and a whole mess of secrets that unfold as the book progresses.
The mystery aspect of the book is compelling (though I had a bit of an idea of what happened, I was kept guessing on the details), and Finley’s emotional journey is incredibly poignant. There were a few times where I felt like the story moved a little slowly, but I was able to forgive that. My ONLY real issue isn’t actually an issue, but more of a personal concern: I fear my 13-year-old (who suffers from low-grade anxiety—and has gone through times where we’ve gone to therapy because it seemed to be manifesting as depression) might not be able to read this book because it would actually trigger her. She can’t handle intense sadness in books, and she’s pretty good at self-regulating—she generally won’t pick up a book that looks too sad or heavy. This book tackles a lot of heavy topics and it focuses a lot on Finley’s intense feelings of depression. I fear that dwelling on those intensely sad feelings for the whole book might be painful rather than therapeutic for my daughter. And I wonder if this might be even more the case with kids who suffer more from depression and anxiety than my daughter does (since hers has been relatively minor). Obviously, I don’t know, but it’s a thought that entered my mind.
The book straddles fantasy/magical realism and contemporary (it’s not actually fantastical, but the stories within the book are), and I think it’s a blend kids will love.
I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on May 30th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.
This is one of those books that just made me happy while I was reading it. It pulled me out of a bit of a slump, and I flew through the book, smiling the whole way. And now I totally want to watch K-dramas. Sure, there were times when I sort of wanted to strangle Desi for her bad choices (a certain incident with a car made me wish I was her mom so I could ground her!), but she’d already endeared herself to me so thoroughly by that point that I was willing to go along for the ride. (Ugh. Bad pun.) I kind if loved her logical personality, and I could see why she thought what she was doing made sense. So, yeah, there were flaws, but I kind of didn’t care. And that, to me, is a good book! I give it 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via ALA Annual ’17 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Deception So Dark by Clara Kensie
Series: Deception So #2
Also in this series: Deception So Deadly
Published by Snowy Wings Publishing on February 13th 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: The Author
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
Dark as a starless night and black as a cavern of coal…
With no more secrets keeping them apart, Tessa and Tristan embark upon a desperate search to find her missing brother and sister. But not even Tristan can keep Tessa safe from her new—and volatile—psionic power, or from the Nightmare Eyes that seem to watch her even when she’s awake.
As the Nightmare Eyes grow stronger, hope of finding her siblings fades—until a new lead sends Tessa on a dangerous journey, one that a psychic has foretold ends in her death. And one that will force her to choose between Tristan and her siblings—and defeat an enemy she never knew she had in order to save them all.
Originally published as Run to You parts 4 – 6, Deception So Dark is Book Two of the RITA® Award-winning Deception So series, a super-romantic thriller about a psychic family on the run from a deadly past, and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies, and danger.
I absolutely adored the first book in this series, so I was excited to read this second installment. This book focused on Tessa trying to get her brother and sister back and dealing with the guilt and pain of what her parents had done. I really loved the aspect of the book that focused on Tessa’s guilt, since I thought it was very understandable and relatable. Unfortunately, I was frustrated with Tessa for a good portion of this book because of her stubbornness when it came to her brother and sister and her tendency to jump blindly into danger. It didn’t make sense to me that she wouldn’t heed the psychic warnings of the people around her—it’s not like she didn’t know that their powers were real. She kept purposely shoving herself and others into dangerous situations, and I felt a little bit like Tristan did (though we were supposed to feel like he was being smothering and overprotective, I sort of sided with him most of the time!). I don’t know, I guess I just wanted her to temper her impulsiveness with a little common sense. The ending of this book was definitely exciting, though, and had a bit of a twist that made it really interesting. I enjoyed the book overall, even though I had some misgivings. In the end, I gave it 3.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?