Review: Never Always Sometimes – Adi Alsaid

Review: Never Always Sometimes – Adi AlsaidNever Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid
Published by Harlequin Teen
Published: August 4th 2015
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three-half-stars

Never date your best friend
Always be original
Sometimes rules are meant to be broken

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review

The thing I love most about Adi Alsaid’s books is the passion he has for them. The first time I met him he was doing press for his debut book Let’s Get Lost. When he talked about the book you could tell he genuinely loved his book and what he does. Because of this (and because I enjoyed his debut) I was really excited for Never Always Sometimes. And truth be told, I really enjoyed this one too. Did I think it had some flaws? Sure. But when it came down to it I thought the story and emotions were strong.

Never Always Sometimes is about Dave and Julia. They have been friends for a long time and refuse to turn into a cliché when they enter high school. So they make a list of things they will never do, a list that they have managed to stay away from for 3 full years. But as the navigate Senior year and life begins to feel too mundane Julia suggests they do all the nevers. Suddenly feeling like they are in a rut Julia decides it to time they do all the nevers. But as the rules they had abided by for 3 years start to disappear boundaries open and things change. Dave and Julia find themselves in uncharted territory and have no clue if they will make it out intact on the other side.

action

I’m a sucker for list stories. Anything that has a list and I’m in. I like the structure of it. I like how you can see things be crossed off and have a feeling of accomplishment. The plot of Never Always Sometimes is based solely on a list and that list changes the path of the main characters. In all honesty that was my favorite part of the book. I loved seeing how each item changed things between the main characters. Even something as simple as dying hair sent them on a path that was unexpected and that was fantastic.

backdrop

This story took place in a lot of different settings. It almost felt like a road trip where the reader was never in one place for two long. We were in high school and in a tree house and on a beach and at the water front. I felt like the backdrop was constantly moving but not at a way that was overwhelming. It actually fit the story in a perfect kind of way.

characters

I guess this is where the struggle came in and it happened for 2 reasons. 1) Never Always Sometimes suffered from a dual POV. The book was really strong in the beginning when it was just told from Dave’s side. I liked him as a character, I liked him as best friends with Julia, I liked him as a person. He was a good narrator/story teller and I found it refreshing to see the inside of his head and what he was thinking. But then after about half the book was done we were given a dual POV of Julia and Dave. This didn’t work for me. It didn’t see natural or organic. I really just wanted to know what Dave was thinking and feeling more than Julia. Which brings us to reason 2; Julia. She wasn’t as developed as Dave. I didn’t like her as much because I didn’t know her as much. I didn’t understand why she did some of the things she did. I had no idea why she wanted to work on the Nevers list. And I sure as hell didn’t understand her attachment to a certain family member. By having me listen to her POV without knowing her it kind of took away from what I loved about the book.

final

All in all I did enjoy Never Always Sometimes. It used a familiar troupe (I won’t say what it was) but did something a little different with it, something I hadn’t read in other books. Even not liking some aspects I enjoyed it for what it was and enjoyed Dave as a character. Are there things I would have changed? Definitely. But I think it is one giving a shot. You never know, what bugged me you may love. A solid second book.

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Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin TalleyLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen
Published: September 30th 2014
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three-half-stars

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever. Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept "separate but equal." Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another. Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review

This book has been on my radar since sometime in May. I was fascinated by the idea behind it as I haven’t read many like it in YA. It was a book that was taking a chance in my opinion and that excited me. And now after finally reading it I can say that although I wasn’t blown away, it was a hard book to read and I imagine to write. It was a slap in the face with culture shock at the way things were in the US what wasn’t that long ago and how easy fear and hatred can turn ugly. But even with something slightly off for me in the story, more on that in a bit, I really thought it was a strong emotional read.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a harsh look at integration in the south in the late 1950s. It’s the story of Sarah, one of the 9 black students enrolled in an all-white school, and Linda, the popular white girl with a father that is for segregation. Sarah and Linda are from two different worlds and know nothing about each other. They have different views on everything and have very different school experiences. Sarah is constantly abused and picked on at school while Linda is snobby and uppity. And then one day the two of them are paired on a project together. What starts out as the two of them debating on the right and wrong of integration turns into something they never saw coming and can change everything they know.

I’m not gonna lie, reading parts of this book was hard and shameful. A few years ago I was lucky enough to go to Memphis and The Civil Rights Museum. Seeing how people were treated because they were perceived as different was hard. And knowing it didn’t happen all that long ago was even harder. So reading Lies was tough. The name calling, the torment, the blatant disrespect of a human, felt like a punch in the gut. I was actually embarrassed that people thought this was okay behavior, that you could treat human beings like they were nothing. It bothered because I know it was truthful. What Sarah and the other characters went through was difficult to read because it was so unfair. And that their parents had them do this just killed me, but I understood.

What I really liked in the book was Linda and Sarah’s relationship. From the get go it was strained. They didn’t see eye to eye on anything. They were stubborn and pigheaded and fought one another on principle. But there was a respect that was there hidden under the surface. Linda had yet to make-up her own mind on anything and Sarah was getting her to do that. Add on top of all of that their attraction and their relationship was brought to another level. They had so much going against them yet they couldn’t fight what they felt for one another. It really was a beautiful part of a rough story.

I guess my problem was that between the segregation/integration part of the story and the ‘taboo’ love story I felt like there was just a tad too much. Neither of these important parts were focused on fully and the book suffered some in my opinion. I almost wish the focus had been on one or the other instead of both. I 100% get what the author was trying to do. I just wish it was done somewhat differently. It’s really hard for me to put this into words. Basically something felt off.

But all in all I enjoyed Lie We Tell Ourselves. It was a hard look at our history and what fear of different can do. It showed the struggles of two teenage girls living in that time and what they were both up against. Definitely one you should pick up.

 

 

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Review: Let’s Get Lost – Adi Alsaid

letsget

 

Title: Let’s Get Lost [Amazon]
Author: Adi Alsaid [website]
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Edelweiss/Digital ARC
Stars: 3.75 of 5

Publisher Description:
Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way.

My Thoughts:
The minute I saw the cover for Let’s Get Lost I was intrigued. You can tell right away that it is a book with travel. Then when I heard what it was about I was even more interested. And when I luckily got to meet the author I was sold. He talked so passionately about his debut novel you couldn’t help but get excited as well. And now that I read it I can say that excitement was worth it and I completely understand Alsaid’s passion. Was it the best book I ever read? No. But I enjoyed it and loved the way the story was told.

Let’s Get Lost is the story of 4 teens that all have an encounter with one girl over the course of her road trip to see the Northern Lights. There’s Hudson, a teen on the brink of getting a full scholarship to become a doctor, Bree the orphan running away from her problems, Elliott the boy with a crush on his best friend, and Sonia the grieving girl feeling guilty for moving on. They each have an encounter with Leila, a complete stranger, that changes their life and how they look at the world.

Hands down, best part of this book, was the narration. This book is not your typical road trip book as you would expect. This isn’t the story of Leila’s travels on the road and who she meets. It is the story of the people that meet Leila. It is actually told from the POV of all 5 characters with Leila being last and the connection with the other 4 people. It was a really cool way to tell a road trip story. It made me, as the reader, feel like I was actually on the journey with her. Truthfully I haven’t read a book quite like this and I was fascinated by it and how well it was done.

I also really liked all of the characters. Each had a special place in Leila’s story. She changed all of them with her kindness, her immediate friendship and her encouragement. She seemed to show up in their lives when they needed her most and them to her. I do have to admit that Hudson and Elliott were my favorites, but Sonia and Bree were interesting too.

As a whole the book gets you thinking about those random connections that you make and how they may or may not affect your life or the life of another. Let’s Get Lost makes you think about the kindness of a stranger, making a memory, or just living life. It was a fascinating story with a really unique narration and characters that were easy to follow. I certainly enjoyed it. And it is something I think many others will enjoy as well.

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Review: Anything to Have You – Paige Harbison

Review: Anything to Have You – Paige HarbisonAnything to Have You by Paige Harbison
Published by Harlequin
Published: 2014
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three-stars

Nothing should come between best friends, not even boys. ESPECIALLY not boys.

Natalie and Brooke have had each other's backs forever. Natalie is the quiet one, college bound and happy to stay home and watch old movies. Brooke is the movie—the life of every party, the girl everyone wants to be.

Then it happens—one crazy night that Natalie can't remember and Brooke's boyfriend, Aiden, can't forget. Suddenly there's a question mark in Natalie and Brooke's friendship that tests everything they thought they knew about each other and has both girls discovering what true friendship really means.

thoughts1

Confession time. I’m a sucker for these kinds of books. I know it is strange and I have no tolerance for cheating nor would I ever want to be in that kind of position. But for reading purposes I’m highly entertained reading books about it. I’m not sure why, but I am. I have read some very good ones and some very not so good ones. Sadly Anything to Have You became a just okay one, somewhere between the rest I’ve read.

Anything to Have You is a story of two best friends Natalie and Brooke. Natalie has always been the good girl. Not into parties, not into dating around, not into hanging out. She is perfectly happy being at home watching an old movie. And then there is Brooke, the wild child and the complete opposite of Natalie. Parties every weekend, not interested in school and flirts with every boy in site regardless of her boyfriend Aiden. One night Brooke convinces Natalie to go to a party where she blacks out and wakes up clothed, but in bed with Aiden. Not knowing what happened Natalie tries to forget the night and leave it in the past. But sometimes forgetting the past isn’t as easy when it keeps creeping into the future.

I know right off the bat what I didn’t like about this book. It wasn’t even a question what my problem was. It was the addition of Brooke’s POV that brought this book down so much for me. I really disliked the use of it and didn’t see the point. It didn’t help me like Brooke or feel bad for her. I actually found the use of it made the characters inconsistent. Brooke was two different people in her POV and in Natalie’s POV and that completely took away from the story instead of adding to it. I’m positive without her voice I would have liked this book a whole lot more then just okay. Because really minus a few small things I really enjoyed everything else. I liked Natalie and Aiden. I liked their story and their relationship. They had chemistry and I wanted more of their story. But the whole Brooke thing just took away from all that and in the end left things choppy.

Basically Anything to Have You is an addicting read that you won’t be able to put down, there was stuff to really like and stuff that ruined things some.  I liked it enough and I think others will to, but this is definitely one case where dual POVs just didn’t work.

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Review: Heartbeat – Elizabeth Scott

Review: Heartbeat – Elizabeth ScottHeartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Published by Harlequin
Published: January 28th 2014
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four-stars

Life. Death. And...Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

thoughts1

I have gone back and forth on some Elizabeth Scott books in the past. The first two I read I really loved and the last one was just okay. It had been a while since I read a book by Scott and when I was trying to pick what to read over Thanksgiving a friend said you can’t go wrong with a Scott book. So I swallowed down how I felt about the last book I read by her and started Heartbeat. Actually, started and finished and cried my eyes out in a day would be more accurate. It was pretty fantastic.

Heartbeat is the story of Emma, a high school student that once had it all. She had the grades, she had the best friend, she had the great family. But now Emma’s grades are slipping, she is fighting with her stepfather, pushing her best friend away, and hanging out with the rich guy with the bad reputation. Emma wishes she could talk to her mom about all of this but the problem is that her mom is the cause if everything that is happening because her mother is dead. She is being kept alive by machines to keep the baby inside her healthy. Emma is so angry at the situation she has just fallen apart and doesn’t know what to do. And when bad boy Caleb enters the scene and there is connection between them Emma may just be in for more than she bargained for in the term of love.

I seriously wanted to just hug Emma from the beginning to the end of this book. My heart broke for this poor kid having to go through what she was going through while being filled with so much anger and sadness. She felt betrayed by her mother for leaving her Dan for making this life altering decision and by herself for having these feelings she was having. She legit broke my heart and as much as I loved her having her bestie Olivia by her side, I was thrilled when Caleb came into the picture. Unlike Olivia, who was supportive, Caleb was able to understand better. He was able to know more about what Emma was going through since he had been through a tragedy himself that led him down a path of destruction to himself and his reputation. To me their romance was perfectly timed and really well done and fit in well with the story. Caleb became her crutch but also just what Emma needed

The part of the book that got me the most was the premise. It actually got me thinking as I read and had me putting myself in both Emma’s shoes and those of her stepfather, Dan. It made me wonder what is the right thing to do in a horrendous situation like this one. What’s fair and what is selfish? Who is the right party and who is the wronged one? It’s both moral and ethical and a position no one ever wants to be in. I understood both sides which to me made the book all the more compelling and cry worthy. It told a story that was filled with emotion and feelings that felt real.

So yes, Heartbeat was a crazy tearjerker but a tearjerker that was worth the heartbreak in the end.

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