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

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

I’m back!

Sorry for the delay. New posts are on the horizon!

Reviews coming soon (probably not in this order):

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Bibliographic Citation:

Green, J. & Levithan, D. (2011). Will Grayson, Will Grayson. New York, NY: Speak. ISBN 978-0142418475.

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson follows high school students in the Chicago area both named Will Grayson. The two find each other on their own but end up sharing a common, but very different love, of the same person, Tiny Cooper.

Critical Analysis:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson was an easy read (I read it in about 7 or 8 hours on a slow day at work), and it was a cute story, but it isn’t — brace yourself — in my Top 10 Best Books Ever category (see previous post for more information). I read it because I had just read Looking for Alaska and the whole world seems to be in love with John Green at the moment so I thought I’d give it a shot. I wasn’t disappointed but I’m not in love with it either. I checked it out from my local library but when I got home and actually read the synopsis I was disappointed. I thought to myself that I should’ve read that before I brought it home because I was sure I was going to hate it. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good musical as much as the next gal, but I couldn’t imagine reading about one. I’m glad I was wrong.

Maybe it is because I’m from Louisiana, and I’ve only ever taught in Texas but I cannot actually imagine a school funding a musical about LGBT relationships. Sadly, I doubt anything like this would happen at the high school where I teach now. They don’t even have a GSA and it’s 2014. Can you believe that?! Anyway, I’m glad that Tiny’s school did, I think our kiddos would all be better off if we showcased diversity a little bit more, but I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that it happened and this isn’t a book set in the future. If this is how things really are in Chicago schools, let me know and I will be sure to add it to my list of potential places to relocate to one day. So it might just be my frame of reference, but I found the book to be a little far fetched because of that.

The characters were simple and easy to relate to for the most part. Jane is pretty awesome, probably my favorite character in the story. I’m also very fond of both WG’s parents. I really enjoyed that this book is told in alternating voices. Since Green and Levithan are both the authors, each one writes as a different Will Grayson. I thought that was pretty cool although I’m not sure which author wrote which Will. The different voices was a welcomed change to my typical novel choices. Basically, if you want a book you can read quickly, you enjoy YA literature, and you aren’t one of those people offended by homosexuality, then you might want to check out this book. It’s pretty decent. You probably won’t be disappointed.

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Looking for Alaska by John Green

Bibliographic Citation:
Green, John. (2006). Looking for Alaska. New York, NY: Speak. ISBN 978-0142402511.

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary
:
Looking for Alaska follows high school junior Miles “Pudge” Halter through his first year at Culver Creek, a boarding school near Birmingham, AL. Pudge leaves his “minor life” in Florida to attend his dad’s alma mater in search of the Great Perhaps, but what he finds is a labyrinth of life’s big questions that may or may not have answers. He meets the Colonel, Takumi, Lara, and of course, Alaska Young that year and he is irreversibly different.

Critical Analysis:
Looking for Alaska has been on my personal Want to Read list for as long as I can remember. It is just one of those books you hear about often (You haven’t heard of it? Seriously? Where have you been the last decade-ish?) and you once you do it just pops up everywhere. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t crack this open until 2014 but in a way, I think this is also the year I needed it. Not to overuse the phrase, but this is definitely in the Top 10 Books I’ve ever read category*. Pudge is such a likeable character and so are his friends. In the back of the book there’s a Q&A with John Green and a reader asks whom the enemy is in the novel and he said that there doesn’t have to be a bad guy to make the story worth reading. This novel really drives that home. There is no bad guy in the story. Sure the kids aren’t the fondest of The Eagle, but he has a good heart and he loves those kids. Like Alaska says, he loves them but he loves the school more. The Weekday Warriors aren’t bad people either and they all band together at Speaker Day. Overall each character in the book has some really good qualities. Which I can’t say about many any other book I’ve ever read. Alaska is probably actually the least likeable character in the whole book and she still isn’t too bad. She’s just so damn moody and vague and she tries too hard to be mysterious. If Pudge isn’t a complete idiot than Alaska is smokin’ hot and so she doesn’t have to do this whole like me because I’m mysterious thing. But she does it anyway and eventually it just gets played out and you are so tired of her being all over the place emotionally.

Things I liked about this book: 1. All of the characters are relatable. 2. It is sexual but not overly sexual. I can’t believe this book gets banned for the sexual content. The underage drinking is a way bigger deal in this novel than the sex. 3. I like how little details are important but you don’t know that they’re important until they smack you in the face with their importantness. Like Pudge and his last words obsession. I had no idea *SPOILER ALERT* that he would become obsessed with one of the last phrases of a main character in the novel. Maybe, I’m dumb but I did not see that coming at all. Another example, I didn’t realize that Best Day/Worst Day was going to be such a big freaking deal or the white flowers or the labyrinth or basically any of it. John Green has a definite writing gift.

Things I didn’t like about this book: There’s actually just one, okay, one and a half. I knew so far before the ending what Alaska freaked out about on the phone. Like way before. It was almost pathetic that Pudge and the Colonel needed Takumi to tell them about January 10th. I had to read like 50-60 more pages of the book just waiting for the boys to figure it out when in my eyes it was glaringly obvious. I mean, flowers in the backseat and Jake mentioned the anniversary. If it was a snake (or the swan? haha) it would’ve bitten them. The half is just because I think it isn’t believable that the kids didn’t have RA’s. Seriously a bunch of horny teenagers in a co-ed dorm need to have RA’s. It didn’t make me hate the book or anything like that but I just thought that was a lost detail.

I have a thing for endings. Endings ruin books for me all the time because I’m a person who likes closure and doesn’t like to connect the dots on my own. Sometimes the ending is good but it leaves me begging for a sequel and sometimes the ending is bad and it leaves me begging for a sequel. Looking for Alaska was just perfect. I couldn’t have wanted anything more from it. When I finished the novel I posted on my facebook, “I just finished Looking for Alaska and it was so damn good. Beautiful and perfect and sad.” And that is really it in a nutshell. A story that is beautifully perfect and perfectly sad. And you should all go read it right now. What are you waiting for? You’re already nearly a decade behind!

 

 

*I had a student once who made a display in the school’s library that said “Best Book Ever Book of the Month”. I need to do this. I keep reading so many great books that it is hard to pick a favorite.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Bibliographic Citation:
Tropper, Jonathan. (2009) This is Where I Leave You. New York, NY: Plume. ISBN 978-0452296367.

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary
This is Where I Leave You follows The Foxman family during a particularly rough time for all of them. The main character, Judd Foxman, has just discovered that his wife has been having a year long affair with his boss, Wade. Shortly after Judd witnesses his wife’s betrayal firsthand, his father, Mort Foxman, passes away. To honor his father’s last wishes Judd, his mother, and his three siblings, Paul, Wendy and Phillip, are forced to sit shiva in their childhood home. Their dysfunction is painful and hilarious.

Critical Analysis:
This is Where I Leave You might be the best book I’ve ever read. (Have I been throwing that phrase around too much lately? I don’t think so. I think I just keep stumbling upon some bomb-a books lately.) No joke. Judd Foxman — which I mistakenly read as Jude the whole novel — is so normal and lifelike (maybe not the right word?) you forget that he’s a character in a novel and not your buddy just going through a hard time.

The book spans just a week but you cover so much ground that it feels longer, in a good way. You get up close and personal with each Foxman. You live and breathe Foxman. You grieve with them. You’re embarrassed with and sometimes for them. You love with them and laugh with them. When Phillip punches Wade at the hospital your fist hurts too because you had been wanting to deck that jerk the whole time. This family is so real and personable. It moves you. I wasn’t ready for This is Where I Leave You to leave me.

When the book ends there isn’t any closure for Judd. I’m often a person who hates when stories let you fill in the blanks and draw your own conclusions based off of dots that may or may not have actually connected. This isn’t one of those times. This was just open enough. It leaves you with a sense of hope. Do Judd and Jen reconcile? Does Alice get pregnant? How does Phillip and Paul’s work relationship pan out? You don’t know, but that’s okay.

This is Where I Leave You is just good writing. It is a good story about good people going through a bad time. Sometimes the characters surprise you and sometimes they’re predictable. All in all they’re perfect. The Foxmans are like the literary equivalent of The Bluth family but with less money and felony offenses. Thank you Jonathan Tropper for giving the world The Foxman family. Be sure to watch the movie when it comes out in September! Did I mention that Judd is played by Jason Bateman? Yep, Michael Bluth is Judd Foxman.

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Bibliographic Citation:
Hornby, Nick. (2005) A Long Way Down. New York, NY: Viking Press. ISBN 978-1594481932.

Plot Summary
Martin, Maureen, JJ, and Jess are four London residents who, for very different reasons, have all decided to end their lives on New Years Eve. They meet by chance on the roof of Topper’s House, a famous last stop for the suicidal in the area. Martin is a television personality who has come into some legal and martial trouble, Maureen is a single mother to a disabled child, JJ is an American stranded in London without a girlfriend, his band, or a job he finds respectable, and lastly there is Jess a young girl with exboyfriend trouble and a missing sister. These four people who seem to have nothing in common help each other hold it together.

Critical Analysis:
A Long Way Down is told from the point of view of each of the main characters. The novel spends just enough time on each character as to not bore or overwhelm you. I found the layout of the book to be refreshing and engaging. Hornby denotes each person’s thoughts with their name but each character has such a unique and distinctive voice that you would know who was doing the talking without that.

Maureen is without a doubt the most relatable character in the novel because you understand where she’s coming from even if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. Even the other characters say that they can’t blame her for wanting to commit suicide. Jess is an infuriating character because she is selfish and irrational. In the beginning you think she’s foolish for wanting to kill herself but as the story progresses you often want to kill her yourself. JJ is at a low point in his life so the reader may identify with him and can probably remember a time in their life where they felt they couldn’t rebound and recover, much like how JJ feels. But, deep down you know he will because you did and so you pull for him to get back on his feet. And then there is Martin, an aging man who had it all but is out of touch with reality. If I was Martin I would probably want to end it all too but he doesn’t really help his situation. He could reclaim some semblance of his former life but he can’t or won’t or doesn’t want to. I’d probably push him off the roof with Jess. And then JJ can help Maureen take care of her son and be bff and live happily ever after.

I won’t say that A Long Way Down is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but it was definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. I couldn’t put it down. Page after page after page of the train wreck that is their life sustained me. I finished it in two days and was sad to see it end. I wanted more. The pace was perfect. The detail too. The character development was spot on. Bottom line, this book is fantastic. Hornby took some gloomy situations and turned it into something hilarious and beautiful. Read it before the movie comes out (Sometime in March in the UK but I don’t know about the US).

Sidenote:
You can watch the movie trailer below! Pierce Brosnan is Martin, Toni Collette is Maureen, Imogen Potts is Jess and Aaron Paul plays JJ. I’d be laying if I didn’t say the sole reason I chose to read this book is because I heard Aaron Paul was in the movie adaptation. From the trailer it looks like this movie will not disappoint. Having read the book I think the casting for this is freaking perfect.