The Season

Finished The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

She can score a goal, do sixty box jumps in a row, bench press a hundred and fifty pounds…but can she learn to curtsey?

Megan McKnight is a soccer star with Olympic dreams, but she’s not a girly girl. So when her Southern belle mother secretly enters her in the 2016 Dallas debutante season, she’s furious—and has no idea what she’s in for. When Megan’s attitude gets her on probation with the mother hen of the debs, she’s got a month to prove she can ballroom dance, display impeccable manners, and curtsey like a proper Texas lady or she’ll get the boot and disgrace her family. The perk of being a debutante, of course, is going to parties, and it’s at one of these lavish affairs where Megan gets swept off her feet by the debonair and down-to-earth Hank Waterhouse. If only she didn’t have to contend with a backstabbing blonde and her handsome but surly billionaire boyfriend, Megan thinks, being a deb might not be so bad after all. But that’s before she humiliates herself in front of a room full of ten-year-olds, becomes embroiled in a media-frenzy scandal, and gets punched in the face by another girl.

The season has officially begun…but the drama is just getting started.”

You guys, I am totally obsessed with this book.  It’s incredibly smart and funny and also pretty sweet.

It’s being billed as an updated Pride & Prejudice, and believe me, I understand if that makes you roll your eyes.  I rolled mine too, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have read it if it weren’t for the blurb from Jojo Moyes.  I’m so happy I did because this book is AMAZING.

I’m more than a little in love with Megan.  She’s sarcastic and super smart and obsessed with soccer.  She is NOT a debutante…until her mom secretly signs her up and her dad asks her to go through with it.  She’s not thrilled for herself, but she’s willing to go through with it for his sake.  Given her own choices, though, she’d be happy to let her twin sister handle it.

This book could’ve been horrible.  It could’ve been a YA version of Miss Congeniality, but instead it’s just perfection.

Highly recommended.

How to be a Person in the World

Finished How to be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky.  This book is a collection of Dear Polly columns.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A collection of original, impassioned, and inspiring letters by the author of the popular advice column Ask Polly

Should you quit your day job to follow your dreams? How do you rein in an overbearing mother? Will you ever stop dating wishy-washy, noncommittal guys? Should you put off having a baby for your career?

Heather Havrilesky, the author of the weekly advice column Ask Polly, featured on New York magazine’s The Cut, is here to guide you through the “what if’s” and “I don’t knows” of modern life with the signature wisdom and tough love her readers have come to expect.

How to Be a Person in the World is a collection of never-before-published material along with a few fan favorites. Whether she’s responding to cheaters or loners, lovers or haters, the depressed or the down-and-out, Havrilesky writes with equal parts grace, humor, and compassion to remind you that even in your darkest moments you’re not alone.”

Ever since I read Tiny Beautiful Things, I have loved reading collections of advice columns.  (Okay, to be fair, I have always loved advice columns.  But Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar made me not be ashamed of it anymore.)

While not quite on that level, there is a lot to love here.  If at lease one of these letters doesn’t apply to you, I’m not sure I’d want to know you.  And I think we can all relate over not knowing how to make friends or date or stop dating or whether to stay in our job or not or whether to have a baby or not.  We are all bundles of indecision and we all want someone smarter than we are to take our hand and tell us that it will all be okay.  Especially if we just follow these simple steps.

And Heather Havrilesky is hilarious and her advice seems to be dead-on.  I will let you know for sure after I start following the ones that apply to me.

Recommended.

Boy Meets Boy

Finished Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.

When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.”

This is now my second favorite book of David Levithan’s, behind Every Day.  I loved Paul and I wanted him to be able to work things out with Noah but even more than that, I wanted everything to be okay for Tony (whose parents are super religious and very strict and who are not at all good with having a gay son).  And I wanted Paul to make up with his best friend Joni.  (Basically, I wanted everyone in this book to have a happy ending.)

Everything David Levithan writes is gorgeous.  And everything he writes must work wonders to convince gay kids in high school that everything will work out for them.  We need more books like this.

Recommended.

Two Boys Kissing

Finished Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

New York Times  bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.”

This is an excellent book but the best part about it is the fact that it’s narrated by gay men who died of AIDS.  That lends such a poignant touch to the novel and makes it feel almost like the end of Our Town.  (You know, the part after Emily dies and she comes back and relives a day of her life and is horrified to see how nobody treasures their lives while they’re living it?)

But there’s a lot of other things to notice and appreciate it.  David Levithan shows us the gamut of gay lives: those recently out, those who aren’t out at all; newly-coupled, recently broken up, contemplating suicide—everyone is represented here and everyone will find at least one character to identify with.

David Levithan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and I have one more unread book of his, so check back tomorrow for my thoughts on Boy Meets Boy. :)

Recommended.

Wide Awake

Finished Wide Awake by David Levithan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“I can’t believe there’s going to be a gay Jewish president.”

As my mother said this, she looked at my father, who was still staring at the screen. They were shocked, barely comprehending.

Me? I sat there and beamed.

Everything seems to be going right in Duncan’s life: The candidate he’s been supporting for president has just won the election. Duncan’s boyfriend, Jimmy, is with him to celebrate. Love and kindness appear to have won the day.

But all too quickly, things start to go wrong. The election is called into question… and Duncan and Jimmy’s relationship is called into question, too. Suddenly Duncan has to decide what he’s willing to risk for something he believes in… and how far he’s willing to go to hold on to the people we hold dear.

Perfectly weaving together a heartfelt love story and a possible political future, David Levithan has crafted an insightfully drawn novel that reminds us how history is built – one action, one person, and one belief at a time.”

I very much enjoyed this novel, one that really shows that line about the personal being political is very much true.

This is set in the not-too-distant future, and things are much better then (although they got much worse before reaching that point).  The country’s elected its first gay and Jewish president, and things are awesome.  Except that there are still a lot of hateful people, and those people are reluctant to give up their power, so they claim that one of the states that President-elect Stein won (Kansas) was via cheating and there will be a recount.  So everyone from both sides descends on Kansas to see what will happen next.

It’s political but it’s also very personal and about how all of us have the power to make the world better (or worse), as we choose.

Recommended.

If I Was Your Girl

Finished If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.”

I got a copy of this book at ALA on the first day.  The second day, I ran into Meredith Russo while she was in line for Beast and I was on my way to somewhere else.  I am so happy that I hadn’t read this book when I saw her, because I already fangirled plenty.  (“I GOT YOUR BOOK YESTERDAY I AM SO EXCITED TO READ IT”)  She gave me a hug, but if I had already read it, my level of enthusiasm would’ve gotten me a restraining order.  I am not even kidding or exaggerating.

I knew when I started it that it would become one of my favorite books.  I immediately loved Amanda, even though my heart absolutely broke for her.  (And she’s lucky, comparatively speaking! Her mom is supportive and so is her dad, even if he’s incredibly overprotective*; she’s conventionally pretty and can afford surgery and also can pass as a girl.)  But I spent the entire book scared that her secret would come out and that she’d be hurt.  Although, to be fair, I ALSO spent the entire book incredibly proud of how much she was blossoming in her new town—making friends and getting a sweet boyfriend.  (Team Amanda!)

Highly recommended.

* = Which he has to be because, statistically speaking, Amanda is much more likely to be beaten or killed, just for being transgender.

As Brave As You

Finished As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally.

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?”

Oh, you guys, this book.

I am a huge fan of Jason Reynolds anyway, and this is his middlegrade debut. It’s about family and it’s brilliant.

I love Genie and his older brother Ernie so much.  And I love their grandparents.  And Tess.  Everyone, really.  But everyone has that one summer where they do a lot of growing up (think Stand By Me) and this is Genie’s.  I don’t want to go more in depth than that, because spoilers, but trust me: you need this book.

The book feels like magic and was just what I needed.  If you want to start reading diverse books, this is a great place to start.

Highly recommended.

Product Review: Zzzquil

I was lucky enough to receive a Zzzquil VoxBox from Influenster in exchange for an honest review (thank you, Zzzquil & Influenster!). 

My box contained a sample of Zzzquil (two pills) and a coupon for $2 off if I buy more. 
It came at an ideal time because my dog has been sick so sleep has been in short supply. He’s better now and what better way to reset my internal alarm clock? 

Before this, I’d been going to bed early and waking up throughout the night to check on Sam, then waking up too early and then going to bed early. 

With Zzzquil, I went to bed at 11, slept through the night and woke up at 8:30. I wasn’t at all groggy (which can happen with sleeping pills) and feel better than I have in ages. 

I am definitely making use of that coupon!

Thanks again to Zzzquil and Influenster! I needed that. 

Every Single Second

Finished Every Single Second by Tricia Springstubb.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From acclaimed author Tricia Springstubb comes an incredibly powerful and timely novel about how a single act impacts a community, a city, and the way a young girl views the world around her.

A single second. That’s all it takes to turn a world upside down.

Twelve-year-old Nella Sabatini’s life is changing too soon, too fast. Her best friend, Clem, doesn’t seem concerned; she’s busy figuring out the best way to spend the “leap second”—an extra second about to be added to the world’s official clock. The only person who might understand how Nella feels is Angela, but the two of them have gone from being “secret sisters” to not talking at all.

Then Angela’s idolized big brother makes a terrible, fatal mistake, one that tears apart their tight-knit community and plunges his family into a whirlwind of harsh publicity and judgment. In the midst of this controversy, Nella is faced with a series of startling revelations about her parents, friends, and neighborhood. As Angela’s situation becomes dangerous, Nella must choose whether to stand by or stand up. Her heart tries to tell her what to do, but can you always trust your heart? The clock ticks down, and in that extra second, past and present merge—the future will be up to her.

Tricia Springstubb’s extraordinary novel is about the shifting bonds of friendship and the unconditional love of family, the impact of class and racial divides on a neighborhood and a city, and a girl awakening to awareness of a world bigger and more complex than she’d ever imagined.”

Powerful novel dealing with an officer-involved shooting (very appropriate timing, given recent events). But it’s also about friendship (new friends and outgrowing old friends) and family. So basically it’s about life. 

My feelings about this book are complicated and I’m not sure it’s fair to say I liked it. But it’s definitely a good book and worth deciding for yourself. 

Run

Finished Run by Kody Keplinger.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and — worst of all — confronting some ugly secrets.”

Kody Keplinger has been one of my favorite authors since I read The DUFF the year it came out.  I have read and loved every single one of her novels, although The DUFF stayed my favorite—until now.

This is a lot darker than her earlier books, but it’s also quite a bit better.  And I love the friendship between Bo and Agnes (and the fact that their friendship is the focus of the novel).  Which makes sense because how many people would you literally run away for?

I won’t tell you why they run away or if they manage to escape their tiny town but trust me when I DO say that this is a journey you absolutely want to be on.

Highly recommended.