(No actual dueling—or even arm-twisting—was involved. Don’t worry, this is a dual review, not a duel review. Sorry if you’re disappointed.)
Today I have another dual review of a book from my Make Me Read It Giveaway (as part of the Wrap-Up Round-Up). Danielle Hammelef was once again my winner (which just goes to show that entering often is well worth it!) and she chose to make me read The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things. Once I read the book, I sent it along to her.
Once again, Danielle took me up on the option of doing a dual review, which I was really excited about since it’s such a fun way to review!
Read on to see what we thought of the book…
The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Published by Feiwel & Friends on April 7, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.
Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.
But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…
Danielle and I disagreed about this book somewhat (which sort of makes this review more fun, in my opinion). I think it mostly came down to whether or not we connected to the characters—I did and Danielle didn’t. It’s interesting how that happens sometimes. Let’s see if we can figure out why…
NICOLE SAYS: This is the type of book that tugs at your heartstrings in unexpected ways. I didn’t know what to expect going into this one, and I was very pleasantly surprised at what an emotional journey the book took me on.
DANIELLE SAYS: This book had the promise of being so much more. I’d hoped for more of a deeper insight into the main characters but I never got invested emotionally.
What Fed Our Addiction:
A sweet romance. I wasn’t sure at first how much of a connection I was going to feel between Shane and Sage. Sage was so instantly drawn to Shane that I was worried we were going to get instalove. But it didn’t feel that way at all. Sure, Sage was interested in the mysterious new boy, but Aguirre took plenty of time to develop their relationship in ways that made sense. Shane was quiet and a little withdrawn and Sage had to draw him out a bit before he was willing to take a chance on even a friendship, much less a romance. In the end, these two were incredibly sweet together—just what I hope for in a teen romance.
While I did enjoy the sweetness of their romance, I found it to be too fast for these cautious characters to be believable. I just never really connected to the romance which felt forced and even awkward at times.
I see your point about their backgrounds and how that pain might have made them even more cautious. I still connected to their relationship, but I can definitely see how that might have held you back.
Troubled pasts. Both Sage and Shane suffer from past hurts that make them wary. For Sage, that manifests in her constant desire to be perfect. She doesn’t ever want to mess anything up because she’s afraid that might be the tipping point—the thing that makes her aunt decide she just isn’t worth all the trouble. Shane’s past hurts make him incredibly cautious, and he has trouble trusting people. Both Shane and Sage fear that their worlds could come crumbling down around them if they make a wrong move. They have to learn to find freedom in their lives and to learn to trust that others will be there for them, even when things go wrong.
The author really did gives these characters a lot to deal with from their pasts and I did enjoy how the author created ways for each to respond to the hurt. It made sense and was well-played.
Family dynamics. The actual biological parents in this book are non-existent for various reasons, but Sage’s aunt is a wonderful parental figure. Her unconditional love is inspirational—there is one scene where her support of Sage actually made me cry.
Sage’s aunt was my favorite character! Wow this woman is to be admired and yes, she managed to surprise me in one scene and I wanted to hug her. Nicole and I are probably talking about the same scene. Aunt Gabby, despite not having her own children, has parenting skills that would make a kind, socially responsible, loving adult out of any kid. Aunt Gabby was my silver lining.
The Post-It Princess. Sage is known as the Post-It Princess because she leaves words of encouragement on post-its on people’s lockers. She honestly tries to brighten someone’s day—every day. Imagine if we all did that? How much better would the world be? I also loved Sage’s environmental activism!
Yes, I loved the post-its and Sage’s idea to do small things to brighten people’s day. I truly believe small good deeds multiply. And yes, I also love the environmental activism in this book and the concrete examples and scenes played out showing teens at work making the earth a better place.
What Left Us Hungry for More:
Bullying handled in not the best ways. This is a me issue, I think. I never like it when bullying is dealt with via retaliatory bullying or with physical confrontation, and that’s basically what happened here. I get why Sage, Shane and Lila (Sage’s best friend) were pushed to the point where they just broke, but I couldn’t get behind their responses completely. Was it justified? Yeah, probably—but this just never sits well with me.
I disliked this part of the book most. Starting with the stereotypical jocks as the bullies and untouchables as far as getting away with bullying to the way retaliation to bullying, especially from Sage, happened in the book. I just never believed that Sage wouldn’t report the bullying when it started escalating and especially disliked her vengeance on Dylan. Maybe if the author had given us more insight into Sage’s dark secret well beforehand instead of keeping it a secret from the reader for way too long, it would have been more believable to me. Still not acceptable, but it would have made more sense. Then maybe it would have been easier for me to root for Sage to keep her past hidden and make more sense to me why she had to be perfect. After all, I was in Sage’s head for this book, yet kept in the dark.
I actually guessed about Sage’s secret (though not the specifics), so maybe that helped me be a little more sympathetic toward her? But I 100% agree with you about the way the bullying was handled. It frustrated me.
Another thing I disliked was the fact that even after Sage made more friends at school, with the exception of Ryan, Shane, and Lila, the entire school suddenly thought she was so awful based on one article from her abusive/neglected childhood. This just didn’t seem believable to me.
This is a very good point. I remember thinking it was a little weird too, though they did jump back in and come to her defense with a sweet gesture that I loved.
So, Danielle and I didn’t completely agree on this one, but that’s okay. Like I said, I think it came down to how well we connected to the characters. While we both had similar issues with the book, my connection to Sage and Shane made it easier for me to overlook them. So my overall enjoyment level was higher than Danielle’s. In the end, here’s how our ratings ended up:
NICOLE’S RATING: 4/5 Stars
DANIELLE’S RATING: 3/5 Stars
***Disclosure: Nicole received this book from the publisher via RT 2015 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. She likes books, emo music, and action movies. She writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens.
Thanks so much for joining me in reading and reviewing this one, Danielle! Dual reviews are so much fun!
Now, make sure you go friend or follow Danielle on Goodreads so you can see what she thinks of lots of other books too. And watch for future dual reviews with Danielle!