Reading YA (AKA How I Used to Read YA vs. How I Read it Now)

This post was brought about by not only some discussion that I’ve seen on Twitter recently but also from an excerpt of a book I read recently. Basically I’m going to discuss how my reading has changed from ages 13-18 to now at age 23 in regards to the young adult genre.

When I was younger, reading was my escape. I mean since kindergarten I’ve loved reading but I think middle school is when I started branching out more than just reading the same few books every year from my elementary school library and repeatedly reading the Harry Potter series. For Christmas when I was 13 my grandma gifted me with two books Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I devoured these books. I reread them almost immediately after reading them the first time and from there out I feel like everything changed.

Now fast forward to high school. My tight knit friend group from middle school split up as half of us went to one high school and half of us went to the other. I was very quickly getting worse with my mental health as I tried to navigate a new school, constant fights with my family, and my need to continue feeding into bad habits that were only made worse by Tumblr… Honestly, Tumblr could be an entire blog post on its own *eye roll*.

Anyways, so despite the fact that my friend group split up, we tried our best to stay close. There were three of us that managed to hang out consistently; my best friend, Panda (I’m going to refer to her by her nickname for the sake of this post), and myself. My best friend went to the newer high school in our town while Panda and I went to the older one. Panda and I were essentially inseparable, we hung out constantly, told each other everything (literally everything) and I truly thought I had found my person. So when our friendship fell apart, I was shattered. I won’t go into details but it was a mess and if I could go back and change what happened, I would in a heartbeat. And what makes that whole situation worse is that I was the floater, I didn’t have the set friend group, I hung onto Panda’s, so when we stopped talking I stopped having friends. Sure I had my best friend and people from my church but more often than not I wasn’t allowed to do anything but go to work and school so I rarely got to see my church friends.

So that’s where books come in. I was a loner, had crippling social anxiety, and took way too many AP classes for my own good. I didn’t do shit. I lived my life through the books I read, it was the only way to escape the life I was living. I didn’t date, no one liked me like that. I didn’t go to dances; I was scarred by freshman year homecoming (too much grinding) and worked both years over prom weekend. I didn’t even touch alcohol until I was 20. Books were an escape. I could read about all these people living lives I wanted to live (or didn’t… ex: The Hunger Games) and I could use them to create these epic daydreams about what my life could have been like.

Nowadays I read YA for fun with more of an objective viewpoint for the purpose of reviewing. I’ve slowly grown to enjoy reading adult novels more but I still have a heart for YA, especially because the market has grown so much since I was younger. It’s been a joy to see the way that YA has expanded and to read all the new stories that have been released. It’s even more exciting to read about upcoming stories and see just how creative authors are. So it kind of sucks when I read YA that disappoints me and here’s where my critique comes in with a slight “review” of an excerpt I read for the book The Best Laid Plan by Cameron Lund. I was highly skeptical about this book after reading the synopsis and so when I had the opportunity to read a 60 page excerpt I figured I might as well give it a chance.

The writing was good but the story itself feels like it could leave an incredibly negative impact on young readers. Essentially this book is about a girl who thinks she is the last virgin in her high school graduating class and that she needs to have sex before she graduates because “being a virgin in college is like having a disease”. Yes, that is an actual quote from the book! This book could have taken on a sex-positive tone in so many less obvious ways. Honestly I’m not even sure if I would call this sex-positive… It’s basically putting forth the notion that one has to have sex at a young age to be normal. Spoiler alert: you don’t have to have sex ever to be normal.

There were so many lines that just felt weird to me and all of the side characters either slut shamed or were misogynistic in their own special ways *another eye roll*. This also has one aspect of YA contemporary that has slowly but surely made me feel uncomfortable the older I’ve gotten. That aspect being that one of the love interests in this book is in college while the main character is in high school. I wrote about this more in depth in this blog post in case you wanted to read my thoughts on this (it’s really not all that positive). It pains me to read in the synopsis for Lund’s book that the main character doesn’t want to come across to this college boy as immature. Again, this puts forth really bad ideas. Let me just put this here IF YOU ARE IN HIGH SCHOOL AND A COLLEGE AGED PERSON TRIES TO GET WITH YOU STAY FAR FAR AWAY FROM THEM THEY ARE NOT GOOD NEWS. This guy isn’t even fresh out of high school, he’s 20… Even me, who was one of the oldest people in my grade had only freshly turned 19 by the time I went to college. I just don’t want any young person reading this book and thinking that they are less than for not having sex or even not wanting to have sex, there are so many reasons for not “getting laid” in high school and I don’t think this book was doing anything progressive by making losing your virginity some sort of game.

I think that teenagers are going to do whatever they want to do or can do. It’s also incredibly important to have books out there that talk about things like safe sex or things like that. Looking back at my teen self I feel like this book would have made me feel weird about my decision at the time that I wanted to wait until marriage, granted there was a very quick sentence that mentions reasons that people might stay a virgin… Yeah, one sentence, not much of an explanation or anything because they sped past that real quick *third eye roll*. Overall I think that YA has made many strides over the years with OWN Voices novels and being in general more expansive within every subgenre. So when something like this book comes up where it’s putting forth ideas that could be potentially harmful it just feels weird. And granted I only had access to the first 60 pages of Lund’s book but I don’t think much of anything could get me to love this book by the end of it but if anyone wants to say otherwise I would be willing to hear out your arguments for the book.

I’m grateful that I still feel like I can escape into YA and I’m also grateful that I can use my very small platform to review books that I read. It’s always interesting to read about teens and get a peek into other experiences and I don’t think that’s something I’ll ever get sick of.

This post is at a marathon length now so I’m going to sign off. Have a nice day everyone!

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

“Broken people don’t hide from their monsters. Broken people let themselves be eaten.”

When I say that this is the book that I have been waiting my whole life to read, I don’t say that lightly. Like there are some books that you read and you enjoy and you move on from and then there are books that open your mouth and crawl down your throat and into your soul… This book crawled into my soul and stuck its tendrils in every nook and cranny and I’m not sure if I could expel it if I tried.

I am…. Very emotional right now. Genuinely cannot stop thinking about this book. Wow. Wow. Wow.

So I read Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia this week. I had heard of this book a few times before now, but I never actually knew what it was about. I knew that it had been compared to both Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman; both of which are books that I related to immensely. It was on the shelf at my library when I was there last weekend so I decided to finally check it out.

Here’s the blurb for the book on Goodreads:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

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I started off with this book not really having any high expectations of the story. Of any sort of these fandom-centered books, Fangirl was still the one that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. But after reading this, well, that’s all changed.

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I rated this 5/5 stars and I will make my claim here that I genuinely do not think that any book that I read for the rest of the year will top this one. This is- and I cannot stress this enough- my new favorite book.

So I’m going to do this review in two parts. An objective part, which I’ll do real quick first, and then my own personal review in the secondary part.

Eliza and Her Monsters hits on so many aspects of living life as someone who is very online. There are great storylines, good character development, an adorable first romance, intense backstory, this was a familiar story and yet so unique… The mental health representation is spot on and the fact that the author portrayed therapy visits and actually put a character on medication. *Chef’s kiss* For anyone that has grown up in a fandom, grown up loving books or comics or been part of an online community, I highly recommend. It weaves together both the good and bad parts of being online and really highlights the inner strength that it takes to be able to get up and move forward when you really, really don’t want to be around anymore.

This is also a great book that talks about passions and the choices that young people have to make in deciding whether to go on to further education, what to do for work, how to decide what we really want to do for our future. I think it is so important to see books where young people don’t follow the “traditional” path of going to college right out of high school. Not everyone needs to follow that path and it’s important to know that we have options.

On a personal note, this book struck a chord with me that no book ever has before. There were so many parallels within this story that coincided with events in my own life that on more than one occasion I had to set the book down and take a lap around the store that I work at because I was getting overly emotional. (Like I genuinely felt like I was reading my own story and it was the creepiest and most emotional thing I’ve ever felt).

I have never related to two characters more, never seen myself in a book the way that I saw myself in Eliza and Wallace. It tore me in two and then slowly glued me back together. I can’t even say that this is a book that I needed back in high school because genuinely, this is the book that I needed right now. I want to tell everyone to read this book but at the same time I want to keep it to myself because this story felt so personal.

Oh gosh, I’m getting emotional again. *deep breaths* Okay!

So there is a trigger warning for suicide in this book, and while I’m glad I didn’t know about that going into my initial reading, I also know that I probably would have saved myself from a less extreme panic attack when reading the scenes in which this trigger is relevant.

Again, 5/5 stars. Already bought my own copy of this and will probably be rereading before the end of the year.

If you want to pick up your own copy (which I highly urge you to do) here are some links for you:

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Review: Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan

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I recently received an ARC of Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan from NetGalley in order to review.

Before I get into my thoughts, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

It’s 1992, and there’s a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…

When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.

Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.

Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.

In this day and age, this book and the topics within it are just as important as they would have been back in 1992 when this book takes place. However, I found that the way this book was executed fell very short of any expectations I had of this book. I am very aware that I am not the target audience of this book. I’ve recently turned 23 and very much don’t fit in to the young adult age range anymore but I still feel like this book was bad. From my own context of reading this, I could understand why it might appeal to a younger audience however I personally could not find it in myself to appreciate any part of it.

I’m also going to preface this by saying that in my review I will not be talking about the actual debate of pro choice or pro life. Just the way that this book handles it.

I’ve decided to rate this book 1 star.

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***This review contains minor spoilers***

The feminist aspects of this book did not come across the way that I feel like they were intended to solely because the main character, Athena, did not seem to convey why she felt the need to believe the things that she did other than the fact that her Riot Grrl heroes felt that way. This can easily be explained away by her being a teenager because teenagers very easily blindly believe things (I mean I know I did!) but she has the ability to explain why the people she trusts feel the way that they do. So much of Athena’s inner dialogue was her saying sexist things and then backtracking because she “shouldn’t think like that”. There’s no real motivation to her beliefs, she’s still very much sucked into the popularity contests of high school and she falls on the “not like other girls” spectrum at her Catholic school.

The entire book dealt with issues that Athena’s sister, Helen, was encountering but was all told from Athena’s perspective I’m assuming because Helen didn’t have the same beliefs as Athena did so that’s why Athena was chosen to force feed us her thoughts. I really felt like that this book should have been from Helen’s perspective, even if she was pro life. I think that it could have been an interesting character arc for her to go from being strictly pro life to seeing the reasons why people might be pro choice and possibly even changing her beliefs.

I think all of the characters in this book were flat. They were all stereotypes that played into a dramatic high school story. The mean girls, the jocks, the cute boys, the outcasts, etc. It played at being diverse but things like the fact that Sean (Athena’s best friend) was a star football player but hid his love of comics really played into the “everyone must fit their stereotype” line. Sister Catherine was my favorite character in this whole book and she hardly played a big role at all which was really disappointing. I felt like she was also the most realistically portrayed. The guidance counselor character literally made me want to scream. I cannot believe that there was a character that demeaning and malicious written in to this book… Same with the lady that worked at the “fake abortion” clinic. I am well aware of how much fear mongering goes in to pro life campaigns but I can’t imagine why the pro life characters in this book needed to be so graphically rude. Or the locker scene, oh my dear lord the locker scene literally made me sick to my stomach with rage.

Before I can get too angry, like I’m trying really hard to keep my thoughts straight here… But I just think this book lacked empathy. Athena was one of the most unempathetic characters ever. I understand that she’s a teenager but if this book is supposed to center around her younger sister being bullied because of rumors surrounding an alleged abortion I just think it’s in poor taste that the first 100 pages of this book revolve around a crush. I felt like Helen was the only character who really “grew” throughout the book and I wish that she would have been the main character instead of Athena.

In the end, I feel like the message in this book had the potential to be something really good but I spent the entire book getting more and more frustrated over everything. The overall plot wasn’t even revealed until 100+ pages into the book because the first quarter was filled with fluff about crushes and typical school drama. This also had an incredible lack of empathy towards any character. There was so much cruelness from multiple characters that it physically hurt to read. And if that was the point to try and bring shock value into getting teenagers to believe in being pro choice, well, then I guess this book did that? I wish I could say that I wanted to recommend this but I can’t.

 

August Reading Wrap Up: 2019

August was a pretty good reading month! In general it was a very busy month and I’m surprised that I read as much as I did! Now that I’m back in school my reading has already slowed down but I’m hoping that I can pull out some decent posts and reviews for September.

If a book has ** next to it, that means the book was an ARC that I received from NetGalley or the publisher in exchange for my honest review 🙂

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons**

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2/5 stars

You can read my full review here. It’s a shame such a beautiful cover was given to such a disappointing book. I had such high hopes but it really let me down.

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai**

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5/5 stars

Y’all… Alisha Rai announced her next book in this romance world a few weeks ago and I shrieked when I saw the tweet. I CAN’T WAIT. The Right Swipe was so good and so heartwarming and it just made me feel all the feels. Such a diverse cast of characters and a kick ass main female lead. I found this book incredibly relatable to my own views on love and relationships and I highly recommend picking it up!

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

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5/5 stars

I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. It made me feel full and sentimental. It’s full of magical realism and family and friends and feelings. I highly recommend it. Great LGBT+ representation and while it surrounded a dark topic I felt that it was all handled well and the book was just beautiful in the end. So unique and engrossing.

(TW: Rape)

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern

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4/5 stars

This was available on NetGalley and it’s by the creator of one of my favorite webcomics (My Life as a Background Slytherin) so I had to get my hands on this. It was hilarious!! So satirical about romance tropes and plots and I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions through the whole course of reading.

The only reason I docked a star was just because the pacing and plot was not always easy to follow. I got confused by the characters multiple times and there were some cases where I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Not really sure if this was the intention or if that’s just a result of it all.

Still loved it though and this comes out on September 17 if you’re interested in checking it out for yourself!

Preorder links: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

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5/5 stars

Working on collecting all of Sarah Dessen’s books and rereading them as I go. I actually changed my rating from the first time I had read this book to now. Originally I had rated it 3 stars because I didn’t like the main character. Now though, I could see the reasons why I was frustrated with the main character but I think Dessen wrote this book really well with how Macy dealt with grieving and healing.

I’m pretty sure these will always be my favorite YA contemporaries. This is a good story about learning how to be yourself and make decisions that are good for you and not just following what others want for you.

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

What You Did by Claire McGowan**

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3/5 stars

So I completely forgot that I had gotten approved for this on NetGalley and ended up borrowing it from Kindle Unlimited. At least I realized after the fact and submitted a review on NetGalley *face palm*.

Anyways, this was a really average domestic thriller. The characters were beyond frustrating so if you can’t look past the idiotic choices that people might make because they’re trying to preserve themselves then this might not be the book for you. There were two parallel timelines and also the perspective changed at seemingly random increments and those aspects seemed completely unnecessary. The overall plot started off really strong but went downhill to the point where I was kind of skimming to get to the end. It was really predictable but I say that about almost every thriller I read.

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

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5/5 stars

I did it. I found a good thriller (I’m referencing this post when I say this). Also I wanted to say that apparently I lied in that post because I was going through my Goodreads the other day in order to come up with recommendations for another post I’m working on and I rated a Gillian Flynn book five stars? I need to go reread that now to see what I was so hyped up about with that.

So this book was so gripping and while I figured out aspects of it over the course of the book there was one point that literally BLEW MY MIND and I flew through the rest of the book after that. I stayed up until almost midnight on a weeknight to finish this and while I highly regretted that at work the next morning it was so worth it.

If you’re looking for a book with a good twist, pick this one up and give it a try. This also had really great pacing and I never felt like it dragged which is an issue I’m having with so many thrillers I’ve read.

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner**

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3/5 stars

This book was zooming straight for 2 stars until I got to the ending. This was another pretty standard domestic thriller. While I think that if you’re well versed with the genre you might not enjoy this as much, if you’re new to thrillers I think that you could enjoy this.

The Poison Garden comes out on October 22 and I’ll be posting a review around that date where I go in depth with my thoughts for this.

Preorder links: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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5/5 stars

This is still my absolute favorite book and it was quite an emotional reread. My best friend and I were actually together while I was reading this and she was rereading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and we basically both just sat there reading passages of our books back and forth to each other.

You can check out my post about my reread here.

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt**

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4/5 stars

This book comes out in October and I got an ARC from NetGalley and honestly I was so excited when I saw that I was approved for it!! I absolutely love Disney and some of my favorite non-fiction books involve learning about women’s roles in big industries from the past.

My only issues with this came from confusion of the timeline but I’ll be posting a full discussion closer to the release date. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of women working in animation then I would highly recommend picking this up. I learned so many things and I was surprised at just how much work went into animation back in the day. It’s just amazing what went into those old Disney movies.

Preorder links: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan**

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1/5 stars

This book made me want to chuck my computer out the window so much. I don’t want to say that I hated the book… But I kind of hated this book. This book could have been groundbreaking in the YA community because it completely surrounds the topic of abortion which is a really heavy topic as of late but this missed the mark on numerous occasions.

I’ll be posting an in depth review with spoilers in it once this book is released. And I will say that while I can see why people would like this, I just think that it pushed the wrong messages unknowingly. Oof, just thinking about this is getting me heated. Writing my full review is going to be tons of fun. I’ve been avoiding it because I don’t want to get angry again.

Preorder links: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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5/5 stars

I really needed this reread. Also this second time around I realized that I have a lot of issues with Alex? But also I relate to him a lot so I’m just leaving my rating at 5 stars because I don’t think his opinions and actions are outrageously bad for his age.

Here’s the link to my original review of this!

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

I also did a whole post where I did mini reviews of five poetry collections which you can find here. The five books featured in that post were the ones I’ve inserted the covers of below and all my thoughts and ratings about these are in my post which I’ll link again here.

 

 

And with that, I want to know what you read in August. Anything you loved? Anything you hated? What are you looking forward to reading in September?