Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Bibliographic Citation:
Alsaid, Adi. (2015). Let’s Get Lost. New York, NY: Harlequin Teen. ISBN 978-0373211494.

Plot Summary:
Let’s Get Lost chronicles Leila’s epic, cross-country road trip from Louisiana to Alaska to see the Northern Lights. Along the way she meets four individuals, Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia, all with whom she shares an adventure. Leila’s journey to the Northern Lights includes falling in love, going to jail, chasing love, and trying to cross the Canadian border illegally. You won’t discover her true motive for the journey until the end.

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Let’s Get Lost is a good story. I enjoyed reading it, and I read it quickly. All of the characters are easy to relate to, and are quite likable. Leila is sweet, beautiful, and mysterious at times. Hudson is a southern gentleman whose innocence makes him attractive. Bree is an orphaned rebel runaway who introduces Leila to her wild side. Despite, getting our beloved Leila arrested, Bree is an okay girl. You don’t hate her or anything. Leila seems to be really fond of her, and at the end of the story that makes more sense as to why that might be. Elliot is just Elliot. He’s not anything special. Same for Sonia.

What I really didn’t like about this story is that I just couldn’t believe some of it. Leila is seventeen-years-old and her aunt agrees to let her leave and drive from Louisiana to Alaska ALONE? I just couldn’t imagine that actually happening. *SPOILER ALERT* Lets put ourselves in the aunt’s position. Her sister is dead. Her brother in law is dead. Her other niece is dead too. All at the same time, suddenly, just gone. All you have left in this world of your sister and your extended family is Leila, but yeah sure go ahead and leave on your own. See where I’m coming from? Not believable. Bree’s story is more believable because she ran away from home. They didn’t grant her permission to set out into the great unknown unsupervised. Sonia also leaves the country and goes to wedding and her parents don’t even know about it. Sure, she isn’t alone. She’s with her boyfriend’s family but her parents were just unaware she was leaving the country? Maybe that’s not outside the realm of possibility for people who grow up near a border but I can’t imagine crossing state lines in high school without my parents knowing (actually that did happen once) but leaving the country entirely is far-fetched, at least to me.

Other things I don’t like, *SPOILER ALERT* I don’t like how Hudson just shows up in Louisiana at the end of the book. I think that’s too cliché. I feel like he would’ve sent a letter to the campgrounds way before he just set off in search of this mystery girl he met one time. I was glad, however, that she didn’t arrive in Fairbanks to find him there waiting on her. To me, that would’ve been ridiculous. And lastly, I feel like what the book was missing is some kind of connection between Leila’s four new friends. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. Do you want to know my prediction? Honestly, I thought the entire book that she was going to die and that Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia were going to all go to her funeral randomly (don’t ask me how they were going to be notified of said funeral, I didn’t think that far out) and meet each other and share awesome Leila stories about how she changed their lives. But womp womp, all that happens is Hudson comes and tells her, yeah you’re right I don’t want to be a doctor anymore. And then you never hear from Bree, Elliot, or Sonia ever again. . Honestly, I did enjoy this book even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

Author Info:

Adi Alsaid is the author of two novels. Let’s Get Lost is his debut novel and it was a YALSA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee in 2015. His other novel, Never Always Sometimes, was nominated as a Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2015

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Bibliographic Citation:
Nelson, Jandy. (2014). I’ll Give You the Sun. New York, NY: Dial Books. ISBN 978-0803734968.

illgiveyouthesun

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
I’ll Give You the Sun follows artistic twins, Noah and Jude, on two very different journeys of self-discovery and understanding. Told in alternating voices and timelines, this book is one of a kind. Noah’s story is told at age 13, while Jude’s is told at 16. The pair is inseparable until puberty arrives and competition begins to separate the two. In the thick of it all, an unforeseen tragedy strikes and drives them further apart.

Review:
I’ll Give You the Sun is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever had the privilege to read. And that’s what this really was, an honor, to spend some time with The Sweetwine family. To fall in love with Noah and Jude and Oscar and G. This was an easy read, so I’m embarrassed that it took me three weeks to finish it. Not because I wasn’t interested or because it wasn’t beautiful and perfect, but because I was tired and busy. However, once you get in it, like REALLY in it, no amount of sleep deprivation or other responsibilities will keep you away from this book.

The characters are complex, but are not difficult to identify with at all. It is fast paced despite going back and forth between two different timelines. There is a lot going on in this book that the average reader might not know anything about (like surfing, or famous artists, or fatal diseases), but it doesn’t feel like it’s over your head. You learn through Nelson’s storytelling, but not in an academic kind of sense. I’ll Give You the Sun is still very much escape literature. Oh man, does it feel like an escape.

I enjoy when art makes me think. I’m a sucker for quotes and all things feel-y. I like a good cry and I like to be moved. I like when things make me feel maybe just as much as I like it when they make me think. I think the turning point for me in this book, the moment when I realized I had to read and read until I fell asleep or finished it, was page 221 — “Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before — you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of the drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to”. Something about that just SPOKE to me. As did many other parts of Jude’s story, and honestly, that was weird because in the story of my family, my older sister is the Jude. I’m very much a Noah.

This book made me tear up so many times at the end. It doesn’t just make you think about love, it makes you feel love. It floods you with emotion practically nonstop. It is happy and it is tragic. It is funny and it is harsh. It is magical. If I had to divide the world to find my split-apart, I would do it. I would definitely give away the sun.

Awards & Praise:

Winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award
Winner of a 2015 Stonewall Honor
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2014
A TIME Top Ten Young Adult Book of 2014
Boston Globe Best Young Adult Novel of 2014
Huffington Post Top 12 Young Adult Book of 2014
A 2014 Cybil Award Finalist
A 2015 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Book
A 2015 Topo Ten Rainbow List Selection
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2014
A 2014 Booklist Edtior’s Choice Book
A Bustle.com Top 25 Young Adult Novel of 2014

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

Bibliographic Citation:
Haydu, Corey Ann. (2013) OCD Love Story. New York, NY: Simon Pulse. ISBN 9781442457324.

Image from Amazon.com

Plot Summary
Bea is a teenage girl struggling with anxiety issues related to her obsessive-compulsive disorder. When she meets Beck during a blackout at a dance, she immediately knows he is her kind of crazy but she never sees his face. Bea sees a therapist, Dr. Pat, who helps her cope with life after a bad breakup and manage her compulsions. Dr. Pat suggests Bea attend a group therapy session where she sees Beck for the first time. Together the two embark on a troubled and OCD riddled romance with Beck as a gym rat, germaphobe and Bea with stalking tendencies. Together the two get better and worse and better again as they make breakthroughs and fall for each other.

Critical Analysis:
OCD Love Story is a first person narrative told from Bea’s prospective. While it isn’t technically written as a journal, although that would make sense for Bea, it has a journal-like feel to the text. Bea is a personable character at times, but she is more often than not hard to sympathize with. When she became infatuated with Austin and Sylvia and begins stalking them, she becomes even less relatable. At first when she is just driving by their apartment you don’t see any harm in her actions, but when she starts talking to them and making up stories for why she is where she is or even who she is, your feelings for her are strained.

Overall this book was very enjoyable. The pace kept it interesting and I finished it quickly. My range of emotions went from interested, horrified, embarrassed, scared and worried and because I was on the edge of my seat and constantly wondering what Bea would do next, I kept reading. It was a welcome change from traditional love stories.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Bibliographic Citation:
Rowell, Rainbow. (2011). Eleanor & Park. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 9781250012579.

Image from Amazon.com

Image from Amazon.com

Plot Summary:
Eleanor & Park is an unexpected love story between two teenagers who feel that they don’t quite belong. Eleanor Douglas is a plus sized girl with red curly hair and a fashion sense all her own. Park Sheridan is a biracial teenage boy trying to find his place in Omaha, Nebraska. He doesn’t fit in but he doesn’t stand out until the new girl at school, Eleanor, sits next to him on the bus. After sharing his comic books with her and letting her listen to his mix tapes, they enter into a crazy and sweet romance. Ripe with nerves and uncertainty, the pair decides that despite the odds they want nothing more than to be together.

Critical Analysis:
I’ve read a lot of books lately and this book, without a doubt, takes the cake on being the best of them all. I love absolutely everything about Eleanor & Park’s romance. I love how much Park loves Eleanor. I love that he isn’t afraid of it. I love that he hesitates at first but once he’s in, he’s all in. He gives it everything. He fights for her. He fantasizes about her. He thinks she’s perfect and he thinks she’s weird. Park is the kind of guy every insecure high school girl wishes she had in her life.

Author John Green says, “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.” It does that and so much more. From the moment Park holds Eleanor’s hand for the first time, I was hooked. I didn’t put it down again. I devoured their story with girl-like wonder and enthusiasm. I wanted to be Eleanor (except for the whole crappy home situation). I wanted to have Park in my life. I thought how wonderful it would’ve been to be sixteen and have someone love me like that. Something so real, so raw, and so new. Park is a rockstar of a boyfriend. Sure, he doesn’t always do things right, but what sixteen-year-old boy does? Eleanor is a mess. Her life is a mess. And she can’t hold it together on her own. Park becomes her glue and together they are a beautiful pair.

I spent much of the book envying them and cheering them on. When I finished, I cried. Tearing streaming down my face, I told my husband that it isn’t fair! That Eleanor and Park didn’t get a fair shake. That I can’t believe what she did to him. Denying him. Forgetting him. I hated her. I hated her so much that I threw the book across my living room. I’m a librarian, throwing a book is a big no-no but I was angry. I was sad. My heart was broken. I was Park. I don’t want to give too much away, but when I explained what happened to my husband, what Eleanor said, what she did, the path their relationship took he said, “But doesn’t that make sense for a couple of sixteen year olds? Can’t you see some high school girl rationalizing that in her head?” And yes, I can. But that doesn’t mean I like it. Because I don’t. I love love love love LOVE this book. I hate the way it ended. But I love the rest of it and I wish I had that kind of love in my life in high school. But since I didn’t, it was at least nice to imagine what it would’ve been like to have my very own Park. I hope every high school girl out there has a Park one day because the world would be a better place and life would be sweeter.

 Other Information:
2013 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Fiction Book.
As of today, Rated best teen & young adult book of 2013 by Amazon.com (so far)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Bibliographic Citation:
Saenz, Benjamin Alire. (2012). Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9781442408920.

Image from Amazon.com (Click to redirect to site)

Image from Amazon.com
(Click to redirect to site)

Plot Summary:
Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza and Dante Quintana are two teenage boys in El Paso, TX in 1987. Dante and his family are an open, affectionate and forgiving group, while Ari’s family is more reserved and less expressive. The two boys meet at a community pool and Dante teaches Ari how to swim. This is the first of many new trust-building experiences for the pair. When Dante begins to explore his homosexuality, Ari stands by his side as a friend and later as so much more.

Critical Analysis:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a beautiful story about finding yourself, friendship, boundaries, love, family, and everything in between. It is written as a first-person narrative from the point of view of Aristotle. Perhaps the best part of the novel is the dialogue between Ari and Dante, their banter. Their exchange of words is so playful and natural that you don’t expect their relationship to take the turns that it does through out the novel.

The story is subtly edgy. Not that the boy’s relationship is in the background, but that you already love and care about Ari and Dante before you find out the way that they love and care about each other. Sexual orientation isn’t the only deep subject in the novel. Ari’s family is dealing with the incarceration of his brother for murder, as well as some old demons haunting his father from Vietnam. Saenz also touches on some identity struggles for Mexican American youth. Some, like Dante, may have difficulty deciding where they belong, especially if they do not speak Spanish.

A weakness in this novel is that readers may find the boy’s relationship to be inauthentic. Some of their conversations, for heterosexual young males in Texas in the 1980’s, may seem unbelievable at times. Early on Ari compares to Dante’s face to a beautiful map, which is not exactly typical lingo for someone with his demographics. Additionally, when it becomes apparent to Ari, and everyone else, that Dante is in fact in love with him, their friendship does not change. It is a beautiful testament of their relationship and I admired Ari’s loyalty, but again it seemed atypical. However, it could be argued that Dante is really Ari’s first friend so he has a unique and deep fondness for him.

The only true downside for me is that I haven’t heard if it is going to have a sequel yet.  I sure  hope it does because I can’t wait to see what the boys do next together.