You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me
Jenny Downham
2010, 413 pgs
Library

Book Summary from Goodreads

If someone hurts your sister and you’re any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother’s been accused of a terrible crime and you’re the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn’t that what families do? When Mikey’s sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie’s brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn’t do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It’s a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it’s a book about love – for one’s family and for another

My Summary

I read this a couple weeks ago and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it.

The story is told a few chapters at a time from Mikey’s perspective and then from Ellie’s.  I spent the first couple perspective changes trying to keep an open mind and not choose sides and realized that was never going to work.  I just wasn’t going to be able to commit to the book unless I committed to thinking Tom was innocent or guilty.

So I picked a side and was able to get into the book and it wasn’t too long after choosing that the author started to give clues that I picked the right one.

I like books with flawed main characters – they are more relate-able.  Both Mikey and Ellie are flawed, but everything they do that’s wrong is an effort to try to defend family. 

Mikey feels like he failed to protect his sister so decides on revenge instead and that’s how he meets Ellie.  They connect somewhat quickly even with all the baggage between them and their relationship was believable.

The things I didn’t like about this book (in list form):

Karyn – Mikey’s sister and Tom’s accuser is barely in the book and that felt wrong.  And her switch from depressed to recovered felt WAY too quick.

Ellie’s father is a total caricature.  Totally one dimensional.

Now that I think about it – there weren’t any secondary characters that I liked.  Ellie’s mom improved a little at the end, but for the most part everyone really bugged me.

Spoilerish (highlight to read) – I’m not going to say which, but at the end of the book, either Mikey or Ellie has to stop protecting the lying sibling.  And if I were in that position I don’t think I could do it.  Ever

7 out of 10

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The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

The Catastrophic History of You and Me         
Jess Rothenberg
2012, 400 pgs                         
Library                                    

Book Summary from Goodreads

Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning…. Welcome to forever.

BRIE’S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.

But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there’s Patrick, Brie’s mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.

With Patrick’s help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she’s ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

My Summary

Emotionally, Brie was a totally believable teenager.  Everything is life or death – I think that’s what drew me to this premise so much – obviously having your first love break up with you is not fatal, but everything feels so much worse as a teenager. 

“Love is no game. People cut their ears off over this stuff. People jump off the Eiffel Tower and sell all their possessions and move to Alaska to live with the grizzly bears, and then they get eaten and nobody hears them when they scream for help. That’s right. Falling in love is pretty much the same thing as being eaten alive by a grizzly bear.”

I loved how much Brie worried/cared about her younger brother.  They had the exact same age difference as I do with my brother so I could identify.  The scenes where Brie got to get a little payback were funny and I know that I would have enjoyed that opportunity (especially in high school).

Patrick (her guide) is the right mix of mystery and supportive.  He’s almost a combined good boy and bad boy all rolled into one.   Brie also had some cute one-liners (usually when talking to Patrick)

“There’s no such thing as too much Disney.”

 “News flash, Bozo. Don’t ever tell a girl to relax. It only makes us madder.”

I can’t really put my finger on what was missing in this one for me, but I just thought it was cute.  I read it in two sittings (started at 9:00 PM read for 2 hours, slept, and then picked it up again) so I really wanted to know what happen.  And it did manage to surprise me – one of the twists I did see coming, but the other caught me off guard, but I thought it was cool.

Basically a cute novel that felt like it didn’t quite live up to the potential of it’s premise. 

7 out of 10 stars

“Looking for Alaska” and “Paper Towns” by John Green

Paper Towns                           Looking for Alaska
John Green                             John Green
2008, 305 pgs                         2006, 221 pgs
Library                                   Purchase Kindle

“Looking for Alaska” Book Summary from Goodreads

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green’s arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction

“Paper Towns” Book Summary from Goodreads

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night – dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q. Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers.

My Summary

Parallels abound in these two books.  I wish I had read them at least a few months apart – I still would have noticed but I don’t think it would have been quite as distracting.  I read “Looking forAlaska” a few weeks ago on a Saturday and really enjoyed it. I read “Paper Towns” a few days later and it felt like I was reading the same characters.  Miles=Quentin, Alaska=Margo,  Colonel=Ben, etc. 

I also wish I had written my review for “Looking for Alaska” before reading “Paper Towns” because now it’s impossible to separate them in my mind.  So here are just a few bullet points of what I liked

  • John Green’s characters have dimension – hobbies that are interesting and not typical, real conversations, and annoying habits. 
    • Miles in “Looking for Alaska” memorized famous people’s last words.
    • Alaska/Margo/Colonel planned elaborate pranks that required planning and were really funny.
  • Both books made me laugh out loud.  I want to put quotes in here, but I don’t want to ruin the reading experience for anyone else.
  • The boys (not the main character) fixation with Prom in “Paper Towns”.  It was funny to think guys really cared.
  • “Paper Towns” made me think about how much of what I see in other people is just a reflection of myself.  “Looking for Alaska” make me think about life/death – which seems cliché to write that in print, but didn’t feel that way to read it
  • The chants/cheers the Colonel led at the Basketball games in “Looking for Alaska”.  AWESOME!
  • Both books have moments that point out where girls are being objectified. 

So how to rate these books?  I think I would have given “Looking forAlaska” a 7 or 8 on Saturday.  But I think if I had read “Paper Towns” first I’d have given it an 8 or 9, but since I read it second and it was SO similar to “Looking for Alaska” my enjoyment was probably closer to a 6-7. 

First of these two that you read – 8.5 out of 10 stars
Second that you read               – 7 out of 10 stars

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath
Brodi Ashton
2012, 370 pgs
Library

Book Summary from Goodreads

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s…

My Summary

The book starts with Nikki already in the Everneath and as the story goes on there are flashbacks that unravel how Nikki ended up there.  I was immediately immersed in this story wanted to know how and why, and felt like I didn’t come up for air until I was done reading.

I like both Nikki’s – the typical teenage girl who loves her boyfriend, but never feels completely secure (even though he’s awesome) and the one who returns from the Everneath and wants to do as much as she can in six months to make amends to those who her absence has hurt.  Yes, the requisite teen angst exists, but without any accompanying whining.

Ah the boyfriend, Jack.  That perfect teen boyfriend who is equally friend.   You find out fairly early that Nikki voluntarily went to the Underworld with Cole because of something to do with Jack.  And the writer perfectly balances understanding why Nikki didn’t trust him, I don’t think the reader ever thinks it was anything other than a misunderstanding.  Jack is supportive, forgiving, and heroic.

The last main character is Cole the “bad boy” who took Nikki to the Everneath and fed on her for thousands of years (while only 6 months passed in her normal life).  I didn’t hate Cole and I’m extremely interested to get more of his story in the sequels because he’s very mysterious at this point.  He does seem to care for Nikki just not in a way that’s healthy.

The truly amazing thing about this book is that the love triangle didn’t bother me at all. I’m so sick of them in general that some good books lose stars just for having one.  I think it’s because this book is a retelling of Hades and Persephone / Orpheus and Eurydice – the triangle is so ancient that it had to be there.  Plus, it doesn’t really feel like a true triangle, Nikki feels physically drawn to Cole because she was literally attached to him for a thousand years – emotionally she wants Jack.

Overall excellent book – I was highly anticipating this one and it didn’t disappoint!

8 out of 10 stars

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door
Stephanie Perkins
2011, 338 pgs
Purchased Kindle

Book Summary from Goodreads

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Belltwins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

My Summary

Lola Nolan has a pretty awesome life.  Two Dad’s who love her (even if they are a little strict), a great boyfriend (even if he is a little old for her) and an outrageous style that gives her a creative outlet.  But things start to go downhill when the Bell twins return to the house next door.  Calliope is a little snotty, but nothing Lola can’t handle – Cricket on the other hand brings up all kinds of confusing emotions for Lola and threatens the balance of her life.

I LOVED is book and Lola!  I’m going to gush and it will be embarrassing.  I loved that Lola’s dads were very important in her life and in the story.  It’s a refreshing change of pace from the YA trend of missing parents.  Lola’s boyfriend, Max, seems great – he puts up with the restrictions her father’s put on their relationship (Lola has to check in frequently and Max is required to attend weekly brunches with her fathers who aren’t always very friendly).

But even with really liking Max I fell in love with Cricket.  Cricket is tall, a little gawky, but owns it and has a sense of style.  He’s an inventor, but not confident in his abilities and totally supportive of Lola’s fashion and creations.

Here’s the main thing – I read this for the first time on March 22.  I have now (1 month later) read it three times.  I just can’t get enough of Lola and Cricket.

9 out of 10 stars