The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea

Bibliographic Citation:
Donlea, Charlie. (2017). The Girl Who Was Taken. New York, NY: Kensington. 978-1496701008.

thegirlwhowastakenSynopsis:
Dr. Livia Cutty, a medical examiner fellow, is on a search for answers about her sister, Nicole, who disappeared one summer. The same day Nicole went missing, so did another girl, Megan. However, after two weeks she returned, but Nicole never did. Together, Livia and Megan begin to piece together what really happened the night the two went missing.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I really enjoyed this book. I like how it alternated timelines and voices. We see the present mainly through the point of view of Livia, a medical examiner. We see the past mainly through Nicole’s eyes, Livia’s missing sister. Nicole’s chapters really feel like a YA novel, but it was a nice way to break up Livia’s narration, which at times is very scientific and technical.

I do feel like this book was slightly predictable. I love it when I don’t see things coming, but that wasn’t the case with this book. I had it mostly figured out, except for the the identity of who kept Megan. It was a good read, a quick one too. If you like suspense, consider reading this book. There was this really awful typo at the end, and it bugged me (they said Livia Jennings instead of Elizabeth Jennings). I just couldn’t imagine how they missed that in editing, but oh well.

I liked both Megan and Livia’s characters. For many readers, it is important to feel like characters are easy to identify with or relate to in some way. Nicole felt like an authentic teenage girl on a rebellious streak, to the point where I was surprised to realize the author was male and not female. I particularly enjoyed the forensics aspect of the story. At times it was gruesome, but it felt original. In novels you are often introduced to the detective side of things, so the medical examiner part was a fresh and intriguing. I generally read YA novels, and like children’s fiction, they are typically packaged all nice and neat at the end. Literature for youth needs a sense of happiness and closure, I guess. This wasn’t like that and I was glad . Once I got to the point where Megan knew who her captor was, when she knew the sound, I couldn’t stop reading.

Overall I would give this book 4/5 stars.

Check it out.

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Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil

Bibliographic Citation:
Denzil, Sarah A. (2017). Silent Child.  978-1542722827.

silent childSynopsis:
Emma Price lost her six-year-old son, Aiden, during a record breaking flood in their small town, and her world falls apart. Fast forward ten years and she is finally moving on with her life. She’s happily married and expecting a baby. The suddenly, Aiden returns. But now he is mute and won’t tell anyone where he’s been.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
So I’m just going to come right out and say it, this is my favorite adult fiction book that I have ever read. Friday of last week my coworker told me to download it on Audible because she was really into it. She was on Chapter 7, and gave me a bit of a rundown of it. I was hooked. On my lunch break I listened to a sample, and then I downloaded it. By the end of the day I was past Chapter 7 and itching for more. This book consumed my weekend. I listened to it while I cooked, while I ironed my hair, while I played on my computer, while I laid in bed, while I drove. Monday morning on my way to school I finished the 45 chapters, and I was speechless. I felt myself needing to call everyone I knew and tell them to get this book. I think I ended up only telling 3 or 4 people, but seriously, READ THIS BOOK. Or listen to it, whatever.

The story takes place in England so the narrator has that wonderful accent, if you go the audiobook route, like I did. I was never really a huge audiobook fan, but this book may have changed that. Or at least this narrator. I could honestly listen to her say anything. The entire time I am imagining these characters in my head. How would they really look? Who would play them if there were to be a movie adaptation? (Please let there be one eventually!) It is suspenseful and enthralling. It is beautifully written and the story it tells draws you in, breaks your heart, boils your blood, and makes you want to hug your children a little tighter.

Read this book.
You must.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Bibliographic Citation:
Thomas, Angie. (2017). The Hate U Give. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray. 978-0062498533.

the hate u giveSynopsis:
A sixteen-year-old girl, Starr Carter, witnesses the death of her best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a biased police officer. This is the second of her friends to be murdered in front of her. Before the murder, Starr lived as two people. Two versions of herself. One in the poor urban setting where she is raised, and the other at her affluent suburban private school.  The already delicate balance between the two is destroyed after the shooting, and she is torn between speaking out in the name of justice for her friend, and maintaining anonymity for her and her family’s safety.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I can not say enough good things about this novel. It moved me to tears often, many times I actually had to stop reading to regain my composure. However, when I wasn’t crying, many times I was laughing. I loved how relatable these characters are here. As a teacher, someone who is surrounded by young people day in and day out — Angie Thomas GETS them. This book is so real. I felt like I had behind the scenes access to a documentary or a personal narrative. I felt like I really knew this family. Starr is so real, and while I love her, it is gut-wrenching how real she truly is in our society. How many Starrs we have, how many Khalils. Real in a sense that this is too common place. It is sad how familiar this story has become in headline news. A young, unarmed black man gunned down because a peace officer was too quick to shoot.

For anyone who knows me, they know that social justice, race relations, and civil rights are things I am passionate about and are very close to my heart. Honestly, what really drew me into this book is that I had a really good friend named Khalil for years. While he hasn’t been murdered, he too chose a very dangerous path for his life. Since I started reading this book, he has weighed heavier on my heart than usual. A few years ago I read a list of books entitled “Books About Race Every White Person in America Should Read” or something to that effect. This book needs to go on the list. This is an absolute must read.

I love this book.
You’ll love this book.

I can’t wait for the movie.

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Bibliographic Citation:
Smy, P. (2017). Thornhill. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 978-1626726543.

thornhill

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
Thornhill tells the story of two girls, Mary and Ella, in two different times. Their stories merge as Ella unravels the story of Thornhill’s dark past.

Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I honestly thought this book was weird. I like the way it was written though with Mary’s story told in journal entries and Ella’s told in pictures. However, I didn’t really like it. It was definitely suspenseful and hard to put down, but it was sad and isolating and left me with questions.

I’m not really sure what the point is of this book. Sure it talks about bullying and that’s such a buzzword these days, but its a pretty dark story line for the intended audience. I don’t really know what the author expected the reader to take away from this? I honestly don’t even know what the point was of this book. The format is pretty much it’s only redeeming quality. If you like suspense, check it out. It’s a quick read and you’ll be done in no time. You’ll also be glad you were done in no time. It’s a no go for me, to be frank. It’s a one or two star book in my opinion.

 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Bibliographic Citation:
Lockhart, E. (2014). We Were Liars. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0385741262.

(Image from Amazon.com)

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
We Were Liars tells the story of summer vacations with The Sinclair family, a miserably well to do bunch with their own private island. The narrator is Cadence “Cady” Sinclair, the oldest grandchild, who is trying to unravel a personal mystery.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I don’t want to say that We Were Liars was short and sweet because it really wasn’t sweet at all, but it was short and I really enjoyed it. I had it sitting at the top of my stack of books for weeks and finally picked it up yesterday. I read it quickly but I was ready to see it end. Mysteries aren’t really my thing and I could only go so long wondering what the heck happened to Cady to make her lose her memory before I would get bored. I feel like you discovered the truth once and for all at the perfect time.

I thought this book was written really well. It had a unique and fresh voice. I enjoyed how Lockhart interwined the fairy tales Cady was writting or bouncing around in her head between chapters. I thought it was interesting. This book just seemed smart to me. I like how everything came together. Every character was so distinct and authentic. It seemed like they were real people and the author was telling us something that maybe actually happened. It was a quick read, and it was difficult for me to put down.

I read a really bitter, hateful review for this book on Amazon that really aggravated me. I didn’t know how this story was going to end, but once I finished it there were so many signs that this was where it was heading. I cried at the end though. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I keep picking sad books. I really liked all of the main characters, well the Liars anyway. I rarely like every main character, but I liked Johnny, Mirren, Gat and Cady almost equally. Gat, of course, was my favorite. I think I was the saddest for him more so than anyone else. Harris, the grandfather, was a stingy, old man on a power trip and I think he should’ve died instead of the grandmother (that’s not a spoiler by the way). His daughters, Carrie, Bess, and Penny are annoying characters. But I guess they needed to be for the story to go the way it went. There are a few things I questioned in this book or “saw coming”, but I just attributed it to the characters being spoiled, pretentious trust fund babies who are clueless about everything.

My students ask me all the time to recommend books that are sad. This one is going on my list.

Quick summary:
Pacing? Perfect.
Characters: Likeable? Yes. Relatable? No.
Things to remember: This is a YA book. While it can (and does) appeal to older audiences, remember the characters are teenagers and this was written for teenagers.
Should you read it? Sure, why not.

Author Info:

Emily Lockhart is the author of several books including children, YA, and adult titles. Her book Disreputable History was a Printz Award honor book, a finalist for the National Book Award, and recipient of the Cybils Award for best young adult novel.

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