The Love Interest

“Do you think you will fall in love with her?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I say. “She’s the hero of this story, so how I feel is irrelevant.”

Title: The Love Interest

Author: Cale Dietrich

Series: Standalone

Publication: May 16th 2017 by Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 384

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.


Basically:

That pretty much sums up everything you need to know about this book. I am in love with The Love Interest.  I love it, love it, love it. IT IS EVERYTHING I WAS HOPING FOR AND MORE! You want a feel good, squeal-worthy romance that’s also making fun of every trope in YA lit? READ THIS. It is amazing, and wonderful, and hilarious, and swoon-worthy, and the friendship… just ugh. I have so many feelings right now.


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Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda

“People really are like house with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli

Series: Standalone

Publication: April 7th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Pages: 320

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.


My Thoughts:

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapien’s Agenda is a paradox of light-hearted angst. It is the story of Simon Spier, a boy whose choice is stolen from him when a guy from school blackmails him about his sexuality. Simon Spier isn’t so sure he wants to come out to everyone, he hasn’t told his family or even his best friends. His life suddenly changes when he is confronted by Martin, a classmate who has screenshots of Simon’s private emails to his cherished pen pal Blue. This is a story that blasts through the narrow-minded idea, as Simon puts it, that “there shouldn’t even be a default” when it comes to sexuality and personal identity.

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When the Moon was Ours

“But there was everything else. The idea of being called Miss or Ms. or, worse, Mrs. The thought of being grouped in when someone called out girls or ladies. The endless, echoing use of she and her, miss and ma’am. Yes, they were words. They were all just words. But each of them was wrong, and they stuck to him. Each one was a golden fire ant, and they were biting his arms and his neck and his bound flat chest, leaving him bleeding and burning.”

Title: When the Moon was Ours

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Series: Standalone

Publication: October 4th 2016 by Thomas Dunne

Pages: 288

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.


My Thoughts:

If you don’t know this already, I adored Anna-Marie McLemore’s first novel, The Weight of Feathers. I mean, I have an obsessive love over this book. So, of course, when I was offered the chance to read her new novel, When the Moon was Ours, I jumped ten feet high at the chance. I am happy to tell you that yes, When the Moon was Ours is just as astounding, if not better than, The Weight of Feathers.

One of the most beautiful things about McLemore’s novels is the effortlessly lyrical quality the language possesses. It sucks you in, enchants you, and weaves a passionately poignant tale. The magical qualities of the writing only adds to the overall sense of other-worldliness the novel carries throughout. It highlights the ups and downs, the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters, and it makes for such a vivid setting you’ll forget it’s not real.

When the Moon was Ours is a powerful tale and an unforgettable experience. It is full of love, struggle, magic, and discovery. The veil of mystery surrounding certain characters and objects cloaks the plot in the softest velvet. It simply makes it possible to burrow deeper within the mysticism.

Love and family pervade this novel. Much like in The Weight of Feathers, falling in love and internal struggles with family and beliefs provide much of the central conflict. It works. Part of the beauty of McLemore’s writing is that she takes such care with the smallest of details. Everything is important in some way, even if the meaning doesn’t come to light till the end. As a whole, the most hard hitting aspect of When the Moon was Ours is that it ultimately deals with accepting and loving oneself. We are our harshest critics in every sense of the word, and McLemore highlights that beautifully.

The whole of When the Moon was Ours is unique. I have never read anything like it, and I probably never will again. When the Moon was Ours is a singular and emotionally agonizing exploration of some of our deepest fears – mostly the ones pertaining to ourselves that we bury so deep we have forgotten they existed at all. McLemore has created something wonderful once again, and I am so privileged to have been a part of the adventure.


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Labyrinth Lost

We all get scared and want to turn away, but it isn’t always strength that makes you stay. Strength is also making the decision to change your destiny.

Title: Labyrinth Lost

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Series: Brooklyn Brujas # 1

Publication:  September 6th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 336

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…


What I Liked:

  • Labyrinth Lost is basically the love child of The Mortal Instruments (which I adore) and Alice In Wonderland.
  • Actual racial representation, which is often lacking in YA literature. (Yes, I just went there. Deal with it)
  • Filled with shenanigans that would make Loki proud.
  • A delicious balancing act of the good and the not so good, leaving you with awesome in the end.

  • SISTERS RULE! Seriously. Siblings are a huge thing in this book and it’s amazing.
  • All of the relationships are complex, realistic, and wonderfully fleshed out – just like the characters.
  • Family is basically the main plot. Just… yeah.

  • Beware of how utterly consuming and addictive this book is. It will take over your life and you will love it.
  • The ending is ridiculous and crazy and it will drive you mad with need for the sequel. It’s painful in the perfect way.

If you noticed, there isn’t a “Things I did not like section”. That is because Labyrinth Lost is one of those books where the amazing outshines the little things that I would normally nitpick. It was fun, entertaining, unique, evocative, and everything that it needed to be. I can honestly tell you that Labyrinth Lost is now officially one of my favorite books about witches (which I usually avoid like the plague, so that’s saying something). I can’t wait to dive head first into the next adventure in Los Lagos.


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You Know Me Well

“We’re all on our way to the same party even if it’s taking place in hundreds of different bars and living rooms. We are going out to celebrate ourselves and one another. To fall in love or to remind ourselves of all the people we’ve loved in the past.”

Title: You Know Me Well

Authors: David Levithan and Nina LaCour

Series: Standalone

Publication: June 7th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 256

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author ofNick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.


My Thoughts:

I really don’t know what to say about this book. You Know Me Well has put me into a tight spot, as it were. I loved the writing, and the setting. But, the characters were childish and the plot trivial and, for lack of a better word, ridiculous. I love David Levithan’s work, I really, really do – but this time, not even that could keep me from spilling over to the dark side. You Know Me Well has an amazing moral and goal, but I think the execution or just the details involved took away from the actual power this book had the potential to wield.

My main problem is this: Mark and Kate are focused entirely on finding love. That’s it. They’ve already found themselves for the most part. They’re confident in their own skin, in their sexuality. Hell, within the first chapter Mark is dancing in his underwear on top of tables at a club as part of a contest. I love their confidence, or – if you delve a little deeper – their shield of confidence they use to protect themselves from everything else. But, it is their singular goal that rubbed me the wrong way. Mark wants his best friend, and on again off again lover, Ryan, to love him back. Kate has been fantasizing about Violet for years, has been helplessly in love with this person she has never met but has heard everything about for years – and now it is time to finally meet her. The whole point of their actions throughout the novel is to get together with their significant other, and I was not okay with that. There was so much more that could have been done. So much more that could have elevated this novel from a simple GLBT Romance into a powerful, heartfelt statement. Sadly, Kate was not the only one whose expectations were not met.

Don’t get me wrong, I still liked parts of it. But, the parts cannot equate to the salvation of the whole. When the story itself is inauthentic, overused, oversimplified, and completely outrageous – there is little to stop it from snowballing and destroying the fragile beauty of the rest. People hurt, they feel pain and they often wallow in it.They don’t just let it go, especially not after a few days and after such a big betrayal and heartbreak. Nothing about the emotions within this novel were real; everything was forced, fabricated, and consequently flawed. I wanted to love it, I wanted to fall madly and deeply in love with this book just as I did with Every Day, but it was sadly impossible.

Overall, You Know Me Well had the potential to be breathtaking and, instead, it made me want to rip my hair out and scream because of it’s use of waaaayyy overused tropes and completely ludicrous plot line – not to mention the abundant plot holes. I wanted to like it, I wanted to love it, but I couldn’t bring myself to care about anything other than the fact that I now want to go down to the Pier and watch Sea Lions. The book did not do what it could have done, it did not move away from basic romance and trivial teenage crap – it should have, it could have. It could have been unbelievably profound. It just didn’t work out.

The Art of Being Normal

Title: The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson

Series: Standalone

Publication: May 31st 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Pages: 352

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.


My Thoughts:

Wow.. just wow. I have to tell you, The Art of Being Normal is so far out of my comfort zone – and I think that made me love it even more than I already do. This book is a work of art itself. It is provocative, innovative, unique, and everything a contemporary novel should be. It has opened my eyes to something I knew little about. It has created a new set of standards. It is more than just diverse, it completely diverges from our idea of normal and thrusts readers into a situation some individuals experience every day of their living lives.

The Art of Being Normal focuses on David Piper (Kate), a young boy who has only ever wanted to become a girl. Even since kindergarten, he knew. When the teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up, there was a slew of standard ballerina and astronaut answers – and then there was David, who wrote something that broke the barriers of acceptable answers. While David’s closest two friends are supportive, the school treats him as a pariah and his parent have their suspicions though he hasn’t come out to them yet. This is the story of his journey and his growth – and it was beautiful.

This is one of those books that grabs you by your wrists and ankles and drags you through the muck until the end. There is no escape. You find yourself trapped, captivated, and utterly willing to keep getting muddy. While you might be uncomfortable with certain aspects of this novel, I certainly was, you shouldn’t let that deter you from delving head first into a book that demands to be read. It’s worth it. Trust me.


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South of Sunshine

“What I want is for Bren to press her lips against mine. To see if kissing her is different than kissing the boys I’ve been with.”

Title: South of Sunshine

Author: Dana Elmendorf

Series: Standalone

Publication: April 1st 2016 by Albert Whitman

Pages: 256

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

What is Kaycee willing to risk for the sake of love?
And what will she risk for acceptance?

In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson.

Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.

My Thoughts:

South of Sunshine was sweet, but like that candy that sticks on the back of your tooth and hurts and hurts and hurts. That probably sounds harsher than I mean for it to be, but, oops?

This book is one of those sickly sweet coming out stories that you love but it makes you cringe all at the same time because it is like swimming in a vat of goddamn nacho cheese. Small town Tennesse, hatred of anyone different (in this case homosexuality), hiding in a closet, and then boom! Love, addition, and everything you could have ever wanted to happen just puts the icing on the cake. South of Sunshine was a very good read, if you can overlook some small things – but I’ll get into that later. It is a story of discovery, of fighting yourself and then fighting for what you believe in. It was very good, it was just too much good.

Kaycee McCoy, likes girls, hides behind boys. She tries to fit in, she tries to pretend like she isn’t who she really is – she suffocates herself in her cloud of guilt. Then, all of a sudden, everything in her perfect plan to fit in goes horribly, wonderfully wrong. A new girl moves to Sunshine, Tennessee. A new girl, who, despite the stigmatized view in the town, isn’t afraid to be who she really is and vocalize things that would probably make your grandma blush brighter than a cherry. She is adventurous, she is witty, she is smart, oh, and she’s also gay.

I really did like Kaycee. Though I couldn’t identify with her struggle, I could find myself identifying with her strength. I felt sorry for her, but I never pitied her. Honestly, there was more than one occasion where I sort of got fed up with her Mary-Sue bullshit and I wished she would just grow a pair and stand up for herself. But, I can also see why it would be difficult to do so in her circumstances – and therefore, I found myself respecting her. But, she was also the main issue I had with the book – besides the pacing. Kaycee, while real and surprisingly complex, was also an unavoidable Mary Sue. I couldn’t escape Perfect Kaycee having to be perfect all the damn time – at her own expense. It was actually quite sickening. Additionally, her sweet little romance with Bren (whom I adore) was just… too much. There was too much of everything and not enough of the things we really needed. It wasn’t real, it wasn’t believable, and it wasn’t enjoyable. It was sort of like biting down on a caramel and getting it stuck on a cavity or something equally as painful.

My other big issue was the beginning. While the overall pacing was awful – though it did sort of redeem itself at the end – the start of this book is so damn unbelievable. It was rocky, shaky, and all other possible ways you can call something unstable. It’s confusing, it’s too fast, and it is simply a thorn in my side. I wanted more – I wanted a backstory, I wanted to see relationships build and break. South of Sunshine kind just shoves it up in your face and expects you to both understand and care. Um… sorry, but no.

Overall, while South of Sunshine is a pretty good read if you’re capable of overlooking minute details – it is also an unrealistic, almost sickeningly perfect story that seems to be clinging onto your bare minimum sensibilities for dear life. It was charming, the setting was charming, the characters were charming – but charm is not enough. I needed more beyond the surface layer, and in that respect I found this book to be sorely lacking. But, don’t count this book out of the running just yet – you could potentially like it more than I did. Just… be prepared to read a shallow first draft rather than what could have been a deep, profound final copy.

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