#ReadADessen Campaign: Dreamland

Hey all you lovely folks! I’m so excited to be participating in the #ReadADessen countdown/campaign as one of many  #PRHPartner’s. Today’s post is going to be a fancasting of Dreamland – one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books. In addition, the bottom of this post will contain a link to the huge giveaway going on as part of the count down. YOU CAN WIN A WHOLE SET OF SARAH DESSEN BOOKS!

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The Word for Yes

Something real had happened last night. Something horrible had happened to Melanie.

Title: The Word for Yes

Author: Claire Needell

Series: Standalone

Publication: February 16th 2016 by HarperTeen

Pages: 256

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

After their parents’ divorce, Jan, Erika, and Melanie have to get used to the new world order: a father who’s moved to another continent and a mother who throws herself into moving on. Jan, off at her first semester of college, has plenty to worry about, including an outspoken roommate who’s kind of “out there” and an increasingly depressed and troubled long-distance boyfriend. Her younger sisters, left at home in New York City, and dealing with all the pressures of life in high school, aren’t exactly close. Erika is serious and feels awkward and uncomfortable in crowds, though her beauty tends to attract attention. Melanie is socially savvy and just wants to go out—to concerts, to parties, wherever—with her friends. The gap between all three girls widens as each day passes.

Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence.

And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal.

At once touching and raw, Claire Needell’s first novel is an honest look at the love and conflicts among sisters and friends, and how these relationships can hold us together—and tear us apart.


My Thoughts:

This is one of those reviews that is immensely difficult to write. First of all, I want to begin by saying that my view of the book as a whole in no way reflects my opinions on the topic itself. When it comes down to the meat of the pie, as it were, the writing just couldn’t hold up to my expectations, leading this book into a downward spiral all of its own.

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The Way I Used to Be

As the girl closes her eyes, she was thinking of him. Thinking that maybe he was thinking of her, too. But he wasn’t thinking of her in that way. He was holding her in the palm of his hand, wrapping her around his fingers, one at a time, twisting and molding and bending her brain.

Title: The Way I Used to Be

Author: Amber Smith

Series: Standalone

Publication: March 22nd 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pages: 384

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.

My Thoughts:

The Way I Used to Be is a hard book to read because it is a missed opportunity. What could have been a poignant novel following in the footsteps of Courtney Summers’ All The Rage and Aaron Hartzler’s What We Saw ended up becoming a one way road of self destruction and a lack of care for a serious subject.

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Dreaming of Antigone

“I can’t ever be the blazing star that Iris was. I’m still just a cold, dark satellite orbiting a star that went super nova.”

Title: Dreaming of Antigone

Author: Robin Bridges

Series: Standalone

Publication: March 29th 2016 by Kensington

Pages: 304

Source: Netgalley
Summary from Goodreads:

Andria’s twin sister, Iris, had adoring friends, a cool boyfriend, a wicked car, and a shelf full of soccer trophies. She had everything, in fact—including a drug problem. Six months after Iris’s death, Andria is trying to keep her grades, her friends, and her family from falling apart. But stargazing and books aren’t enough to ward off her guilt that she—the freak with the scary illness and all-black wardrobe—is still here when Iris isn’t. And then there’s Alex Hammond. The boy Andria blames for Iris’s death. The boy she’s unwittingly started swapping lines of poetry and secrets with, even as she tries to keep hating him.

Heartwrenching, smart, and bold, Dreaming of Antigone is a story about the jagged pieces that lie beneath the surface of the most seemingly perfect life…and how they can fit together to make something wholly unexpected.

My Thoughts:

You hear that?

That’s the sound of all my expectations, hopes, and dreams being flushed down the drain. Oh lordy… Dreaming of Antigone is sort of like that food that smell delicious and tastes like complete and utter shit. It sounded interesting, it started off on a good note, and then BAM! It makes you want to puke, gag, and forget you ever started in the first place. To be perfectly honest, I cannot believe I actually forced myself to read – and finish – this mystery meat sandwich. But, on the other hand, I did have some pretty high expectations when I started this book – damn you internet.

This book, besides being poorly written (more on that later), just felt like a conglomerate mash-up of too many things where none of it was working. A book is a machine, you see. It is a delicate, wonderful machine with so many complex, itty-bitty moving irreplaceable parts that it’s noticeable when those parts aren’t working right. Dreaming of Antigone is one of those books where none of the parts worked, at all. Goth girl stereotype? Check. Trying to force some sort of diversity through illness that clearly wasn’t researched? Check. Trying to avoid instalove by having instahate instead? Check. Just… ugh, I wanted to rip my hair out. I am so sick and tired of reading the same pieces in the same stories over and over again – but each time it’s getting worse and worse.

Everything in Dreaming of Antigone felt forced.  The reader is forced to care (which still didn’t work on me) by employing various tropes and sympathy cards. The “romance” was so forced it should probably be illegal. The family dynamics or lack thereof was probably one of the worst parts, too. Actually, this book is sort of like a “Worst Ideas In Book History” awards show.

As for the writing, are you sure you want to watch me go down this rabbit hole? I advise both caution and possible parental advisory if you find yourself easily offended by other people’s opinions. (Yes, that’s supposed to come off whichever way you just took it. Deal with it.) Okay….. WHAT THE HELL!?! This book houses some of the laziest, unimaginable, poor writing I have ever had the displeasure of laying my eyes on. I’ve seen first graders with better grammar and language usage than this. My biggest issue, besides everything else – of course- was the sheer laziness Bridges employs. Antigone”, a play I’m sure most of us have read sometime during our lives, is the main tool for delivering everything here. Andria wants to explain how she feels (telling, not showing), she does so through relating her life to “Antigone”. The play “resonates” with her on a very, very, very personal level. Oh no, I’m weeping already. Jesus, this was such bullshit. If you’re going to use a play that’s already written to help you along through EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN IMPORTANT EVENT in your novel you might as well put your characters in the play and call it yours. Andria cannot feel a damn thing for herself unless she tells the reader about it through “Antigone”. Just, what the hell? I mean, honestly, how do you expect a reader to get behind this sort of thing when your characters have no autonomy and rely on a freaken play to tell them how they feel even though it’s comply irrelevant and wrong. No, no, and no.

Overall, Dreaming of Antigone was predictable, written by a two-year-old, and a horrible attempt to handle something serious. This book is laughable. It handles serious issues too lightly, so lightly in fact that you barely even pick up on the actual impact. A glossed over and half-assed attempt to do something other people have done a million times better than you – that’s what this is. No plot, no care in the writing, nothing. Just a whole lot of nothing.

Finding Hope

“Dangling
From a thread
Suspended, breath
Catching in my throat.
That Drop won’t kill me.
But how will I catch
What I lost?

Title: Finding Hope

Author: Colleen Nelson

Series: Standalone

Publication: April 12th 2016 by Dundurn

Pages: 200

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

Hope lives in a small town with nothing to do and nowhere to go. With a drug addict for a brother, she focuses on the only thing that keeps her sane, writing poetry. To escape, she jumps at the chance to attend Ravenhurst Academy as a boarding student. She’ll even put up with the clique-ish Ravens if it means making a fresh start.

At first, Ravenhurst is better than Hope could have dreamed. She has a boyfriend and a cool roommate, and she might finally have found a place she can fit in. But can she trust her online boyfriend? And what can she do after her brother shows up at the school gates, desperate for help, and the Ravens turn on her? Trapped and unsure, Hope realizes that if she wants to save her brother, she has to save herself first.

My Thoughts:

What first caught my eye about this book was the cover. The cover – minimalist, metaphorical, and attention grabbing – is simply stunning, as is the book as a whole. I’ve never read anything by Colleen Nelson before this book, but boy, am I glad she is now on my radar. This book is not an easy read by any means, it deals with hard hitting topics like sexual abuse, drug addiction, bullying, and hazing – but it is so, so worth it.

Told through dual point of views, Finding Hope is a lyrically beautiful tale of a young girl looking for an escape and her brother who is entirely dependent upon her and his addiction to meth. This book, as I have said and will likely say again, is simply stunning. It is a delicate puzzle, a dainty lattice work of carefully crafted prose and beautiful poetic interludes. It is a glimpse into the mind of an addict and their loved ones. It is a balancing act – what point does the truth become too much? When can you no longer hide what is truly going on, even from yourself? This book is powerful. It is a whirlwind of emotions, heartbreak, and hope.

The characters were just as complex as the story itself. Our two narrators – Hope and her brother, Eric – are two completely different ends of the spectrum. Hope is naive, Eric manipulative. Hope is a supporter, a provider – and Eric is a leech. Hope, while naive, is strong willed and unafraid to do what needs to be done. She goes on, she fights and puts one foot in front of the other – trudging from one hell into the next. She is incredibly brave, she is a misfit, she is a poet. Her writing helps her through all of the bullshit she has to deal with on a daily basis – it is her livelihood, it is her escape from reality. It was beautiful.

This is a really dark book, so I don’t recommend going into this if you’re in a bad mood or a reading slump. But, overall Finding Hope was a profound story of a girl that will sucker punch you right in the gut and keep doing so until it is all you can do to take in a deep breath. It was morbid, heart-wrenching, and completely riveting. It is a small tale, but it sure as hell packs one hell of  a punch. I feel honored to have gotten the chance to read this. Finding Hope is brutally honest, as all books should be.

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This Is Not A Test

“The thing no one tells you about surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens. They also don’t tell you about how you can share your deepest secrets with someone, kiss them, and the next hour it’s like there’s nothing between you because not everything can mean something all the time or you’d be crushed under the weight of it.”

Title: This Is Not A Test

Author: Courtney Summers

Series: This Is Not a Test # 1

Publication: June 19th 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 326

Source: My bookshelf

 

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Courtney Summers is an absolute goddess and the complete queen of my bookshelf. I fell in love with her work last year when I read All The Rage, a book that tore my heart and soul to shreds. Her writing never ceases to amaze me in the powerful message that it carries – and This Is Not A Test is no exception. While reading the synopsis might make you uneasy and question how a book about zombies can be as hard hitting as I claim it to be, trust me when I say this – This Is Not a Test is so much more than just another book hightailing it through the zombie craze. It is raw, unflinching, and it will make you question everything about what makes us human. 

Summers has this amazing ability to basically destroy every single plan you’ve made for a day as soon as you read the first page of her books. This Is Not A Test completely grabbed me by the throat and dragged me around kicking and screaming right form the first page – I was hooked before I’d even reached chapter one. The opening sequence of this book was intense – there is no other word for it. It doesn’t get any better from there to tell you the truth. We’re thrown straight into this complete chaotic mess of the world, starting with a regular morning in Sloane – our protagonist’s life – and then we’re off to the races as it were. There is no break, no time to catch your breath. While certain scenes might not be physically brutal or taxing, those in between the fights for survival are filled with emotional battles that are almost more intense than the ones against the zombies or even each other. This book… just wow.

Sloane. I don’t even know what to say about Sloane. When we first meet her, she has no intention of wanting to live. Her sister abandoned her to an abusive father. The world is ending. She is alone. She wants to die – but she holds on. She holds on despite her best efforts to have it end any other way than with her own survival. It was a very strange, eye opening experience – reading a book from the point of view from someone that doesn’t even want to be there. I am so used to a strong, badass heroine doing everything in their power to keep on kicking – and Sloane was the complete opposite. She is still badass, ruthless, and utterly compelling – but for entirely different reasons. She will make you think. She will make you question everything you’ve ever thought about what it means to survive.

Then there are the other students: Cary, Rhys, Trace, Grace, and Harrison. All of them end up trapped together in the high school. They are together, struggling to survive… and boy, do they add to the story. I think this is part of Summers’ mastery – she has this ability to make supporting characters who are so raw and undeniably essential. We get to know them all. We see them cry, we learn their weakness and their vulnerabilities. They are all simply exposed in this new version of hell. It was heartbreaking. I’m still trying to figure out just how I feel about all of them because they just add so much. They turn an already harrowing scenario into a full throttle mental mine field just waiting to blow up at the slightest provocation. The addition of the supporting characters, and the role each individual plays, really nails down the main question of this book. Who is the real enemy? What if the real enemy is you?

Courtney Summers has once again created something worthy of every possible award known to man. This Is Not A Test will make you question everything you think you know about yourself and what you think you are willing to do to survive. This book will rip your chest open and never let the wound close. What are you willing to do to survive and can you live with the answer?

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Teaser Tuesday # 17

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading

This weeks Teaser Tuesday is for This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers!

“The thing no one tells you about surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens. They also don’t tell you about how you can share your deepest secrets with someone, kiss them, and the next hour it’s like there’s nothing between you because not everything can mean something all the time or you’d be crushed under the weight of it.”

“This is not a test. Listen closely. This is not a test.”
But I think she’s wrong. I think this is a test.
It has to be.”

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