Book Review

A Roaring Romance

Roar (Stormheart, #1)Roar by Cora Carmack

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

She was a bundle of contradictions, but one thing he understood all too well was her independence.

Roar is one of the most unique and romantic YA fantasy books I’ve ever read. Before this, I hadn’t read anything by Cora Carmack. Hence, I really didn’t know what to expect. Still, looking at the covers of her already published works, I had a hunch that I was in for a lot of cheesiness. :3

Essentially, Roar is a fusion of Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky and Mary E. Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception because it is about a runaway princess who lives in a world ravaged by powerful, fantastical storms. Also, like the latter trilogies, Roar contains a plot that is rich in action, political intrigue, and romance. Despite this lack of originality, I am willing to give this book a high rating because it hooked me from start to finish.

Calling this book “cheesy” is not an exaggeration. From the very first chapter, sparks were already flying between Princess Aurora and a certain fishy man. When Aurora ran away, she met her real love interest, and there were mounds of melted cheese everywhere. With large servings of sugar. Flirty banter was rampant, as well as stolen Xs and Os. Haha. For the most part, it was very entertaining, but there were times that I couldn’t help but sigh and roll my eyes in disdain. It was like this book was the epitome of raging, teen hormones, or better yet, Selena Gomez’s Hands to Myself. Be sure to take some water breaks while reading this novel. 😀

My favorite aspect of the book was its unique world and magic system. Aurora and the other protagonists in this book were Stormlings, special people who could destroy various storms (firestorms, thunderstorms, and more). They were also capable of stealing the jeweled “hearts” of such phenomena, thereby gaining magical powers. In that sense, the relationship between humans and storms was not necessarily bad. The storms themselves were surprisingly sentient, having emotions like the humans they aimed to harm. It was honestly my first time to read a fantasy novel that personified natural disasters, so I found Roar to be a breath of fresh air.

The not-so-major problem I had with this book was its lack of a climax or conflict. Many events happened throughout the novel, and although they were relevant, I kept on waiting for something more serious to happen. The most probable cause of this flaw is, unsurprisingly, the book’s focus on romance. A lot of effort was put into building romantic tension to the point that more meaningful plot points were neglected. Don’t get me wrong; I do love a good OTP. Nevertheless, that’s not the only thing I look for in books.

In totality, Cora Carmack did a good job in writing her first YA fantasy novel. In spite of its shortcomings, Roar is a book worth reading. I particularly loved its fascinating take on the connection between humans and the natural world. If you are an avid fan of the author’s previous, romantic works, you’ll probably enjoy this book more than I did. Happy reading!

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Book Review

What the Fluff

Just FriendsJust Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Their past might be fake, but their future was real. It was theirs to build. It was real, unscripted, and unplanned.

If you’re also one of those readers whose TBRs vary per season, then you’re probably reading lots of contemporary novels like me. Only God knows why love stories are perfect for summer. It must be the HEAT. xD If you want to feel more of the latter, then by all means, pick up this cute book. However, Just Friends isn’t 100% fluffy, so it is actually worth your time.

Just Friends is about the complicated relationship between Jenny and Chase, two teenagers who both struggle with family-related problems. Jenny and Chase also have divergent personalities; the former is a stay-at-home nerd, while the latter has built a reputation of promiscuity at school. When a childish class requirement forces them to pretend that they’re best friends, Jenny and Chase decide to keep up the charade. Soon, sparks fly between them, and they have a difficult time being just friends.

YA contemporary novels are usually written in the first-person POV. Hence, I was surprised and delighted that this book was written in third-person. Also, the chapters were narrated by Jenny and Chase alternately, giving me a balanced understanding and appreciation of both genders. The author’s vocabulary was also very light and comprehensible, so I was able to finish the book rather quickly, in two sittings, to be precise.

Plot-wise, I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened. I bet most readers can also predict the ending of this book. However, I must say that the pacing was flawless. Each short chapter featured events that made me want more.

Despite their opposite personalities, Jenny and Chance were actually very compatible because they managed to bring out the best in each other. Jenny evoked a sense of loyalty in Chance, and Chance challenged Jenny to finally step out of her comfort zone. All in all, these two teenagers had a very healthy “friendship.” 😀

Sadly, I didn’t have a favorite character in this book. Jenny and Chase were very likable as a pair, but I wasn’t a fan of them on an individual level. Looking back, the main conflict of the book wouldn’t have dragged on if they didn’t take everything at face value. Furthermore, I also did not like the characters’ attitude towards their own virginity. I admit that this criticism is subjective, but I need to point it out for the sake of readers who might also be conservative.

I generally enjoy contemporary novels because they often contain a lot of family-related discourse, which I always find to be relatable. However, in the case of Just Friends, this feature backfired. As I’ve mentioned earlier, both Jenny and Chance had family issues. To be more specific, Jenny was quite envious of her divorced mother’s budding romance, while Chance resented his parents, who apparently couldn’t stand each other. Jenny’s hang-ups were somehow understandable, but I struggled to sympathize with Chance’s dilemma. I just couldn’t fathom how his parents supposedly argued 24/7. All that was said about them was that they loved to fight. Such a phenomenon seemed almost fantastical. Essentially, Just Friends delineated parenting in a very pessimistic manner. With that in mind, I probably would’ve liked this book more if it hadn’t bothered to include family-related discourse.

With all that said, I gave this book three stars primarily because of its entertainment value. It did make me smile and chuckle sometimes. Nevertheless, for the most part, it was predictable and even frustrating. Looking at the bright side, it’s possible to enjoy the book completely if you don’t read it too critically. It’s summer anyway, so I guess we readers don’t have to be so serious while reading fluffy literature. xD

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Book Review

You Found Me in a Constellation

Eliza and Her MonstersEliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, HarperCollins, for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Like life, what gives a story its meaning is the fact that it ends. Our stories have lives of their own—and it’s up to us to make them mean something. —Olivia Kane

Before I read this book, I was a stranger to Francesca Zappia. I remembered that my previous boss at work told me to check out a book named Made You Up, but I only made the connection recently. If you’re planning to pick up this novel in light of your love for the said book, prepare yourself for moments of deep introspection. Also, I beg you not to read the blurb/summary on Goodreads because it contains a major spoiler. (I’m currently thinking of using my librarian privileges to fix the latter problem.)

Eliza and Her Monsters is essentially a character-driven novel. It is about a girl named Eliza (like..duh!), who is extremely introverted. Ironically, she has a massive presence online. Under the pen name LadyConstellation, Eliza publishes a web comic entitled Monstrous Sea. Her work turns out to be so popular, having more than a million readers. Despite her success as an artist, Eliza’s life is not perfect. Her relationship with her parents and siblings is unfathomably strained, and her social life outside of the Web is…nonexistent. Everything starts to change when she meets Wallace, the most popular writer of Monstrous Sea fanfic.

I honestly had a difficult time deciding how I should rate this book. For me, Eliza and Her Monsters is the epitome of the term “mixed feelings”. Even though I didn’t love it, the thought of giving it three stars made me feel unsettled, regretful, even. The strengths and weaknesses of this book played a game of tug of war in my mind. The beautiful writing and story were on one side, while the annoying characters were on the other. Basically, the struggle was real, people.

I have always been a fan of stories that emphasize familial relationships, so I had no trouble delving into this book. Being a devoted hermit, Eliza spent most of her time at home. Logically, she had plenty of opportunities to interact with her family. I loved that Eliza’s parents and two brothers (Church and Sully) were given a lot of screen time. However, I was annoyed by how she treated them. She always snubbed her parents, as if they were obstructions to her happiness in life. As for her brothers, she avoided them because she sincerely believed that they hated her. To put it mildly, Eliza was not a good daughter and sibling. Looking back, Eliza’s parents were not exactly victims. After all, they were so frustratingly permissive.

In a similar fashion, Wallace’s family was placed under the spotlight. His family was actually very fascinating because he had both step siblings and half siblings. (You have to read the book to understand how that happened.) Unfortunately, Wallace also had problems with his parents, particularly with his father. :l I will never get tired of expressing my disdain for this Bad Father Trope in YA. Can’t we have lovable fathers for a change? :p

Now in regards to Eliza and Wallace as a couple, I liked that their relationship was excellently fleshed out. If my memory serves me right, physical appearance wasn’t even described as a catalyst for their love. There were cheesy moments in the book, but romance really wasn’t the main focus of the story.

In the end, I decided to give this book four stars because of its depiction or exploration of mental illness. Wallace reminded me of Mouse from The Problem with Forever (one of my favorite books) because he was a selective mute. He was such an inspiring character because, like Mouse, he didn’t let his condition prevent him from living life to the fullest. As for Eliza, she didn’t show clear symptoms of paranoia (severe anxiety) until the climax, so I was initially confused by the book’s marketing. I realized that this was actually a good thing because it did not give a sense of “exoticness” to mental illness. Throughout the novel, Eliza seemed like a perfectly “normal” and angsty teenager. In other words, I loved that Eliza’s condition didn’t make her any less…human. I had a lot of issues with Eliza, but I understood that the story would have lost its essence if she weren’t such a problematic character. Her growth at the end of book thankfully eclipsed my negative feelings.

Ultimately, I did enjoy this character-driven novel because it made me reflect on significant things like family, introversion, and mental health. I encourage you to add this to your shelf of meaningful YA contemporaries. Now that I’m aware of the author’s talent for emotional play, I am excited to devour more of her works.

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Author Interview

Q & A with Erin Beaty

I recently managed to partner with Macmillan International, and they sent me an ARC of The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty. To be honest, I requested this book because of the controversy surrounding it. Still, I delved into the book with an open mind so that I could form an objective opinion. Thankfully, my optimism paid off; I enjoyed the book a lot, so much so that I wished to have a written interview with the author. If you want to know more about my thoughts on TTK, you can check out my review. Overall, I honestly believe that TTK is a great start to a riveting trilogy. I hope that you will enjoy getting to know the author as much as I did. ^^

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  1. What was your inspiration for the not-so-fantastical world in TTK? I actually enjoyed it because it reminded me of The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.

“I get compared to that trilogy a lot, which is a huge compliment, but I honestly didn’t read it until I was in the final stages of editing TTK with my publisher. It was a bit of bummer to see all the similarities because it meant I hadn’t done something as unique as I’d thought. My inspiration was drawn heavily from my background in personality typing, which always made me curious about dating websites that used those kinds of tests in matching people. Coupled with phase of reading a lot of Tudor-era books, both fiction and non-fiction, with all the marriages and divorces for political advantage, it set the wheels in motion for wondering if a matching system would have worked or been handy in those times. I could see it being necessary to hold a weak nation together and also see the women running the system as a way to protect each other. It could easily become more powerful than most people (particularly men) realized. But if one group can game the system to their advantage, so can another. Who would even notice it but the matchmakers? Plot!”

  1. What made you decide to feature colored characters in your novel? What is your take on the importance of diversity in YA literature?

“I mostly created a world with a history of several different cultures and environments, some that were related to each other in development and some that weren’t. When it came to nailing down what people from regions generally looked like, I mostly relied on the geography and climate I’d created. In a couple of cases I made people look specifically unlike the real-world people they were kind of based on or the people they were working with or against. You have to be able to both tell people apart and tell where someone’s from by their looks. When it all came together, it seemed fairly diverse, but there wasn’t really a super conscious effort to make it so. Diversity is important, though, because the real world is diverse. If one particular ethnicity or skin color or gender or sexuality is always the good guy or the bad guy or the sidekick or absent altogether, it’s harmful. Good and bad exist across the spectrum, just like people.”

  1. How did your educational background (your degree in rocket science) affect your writing of TTK?

“Engineering at its heart is about the interaction of forces and the creation of complex systems, and I love that stuff. If that background helped, it was in always looking for the way events interact. Real world societies are a product of engineering – internal and external events coming together and functioning as a team of sorts. It also can make me obsess over getting some details right. My friends are teasing me about how I’m frustrated that the physics of an event in Book 2 aren’t working and need major revisions, but dang it, that’s important to me!”

  1. Sage is undeniably an empowered female protagonist, and her male peers gradually learn to appreciate her true worth. With that in mind, what gender roles/stereotypes did you aim to explore/debunk in TTK?

“You say that like I meant to do it. I love the butt-kicking female protagonists I grew up reading, but I found few friends interested in those stories because they felt intimidated by or unconnected to a girl who likes to hit things. A friend once told me women doctors and fighter pilots and dragon slayers are inspiring, but she hated feeling like she was inadequate or wrong because she didn’t want to do any of those things herself. I totally understand that – nurses and teachers and mothers are just as worthy of admiration. As for me, a 5 foot 6, medium build woman, I only look threatening to my kids, so what made me formidable or a legitimate authority in a male-dominated Navy? Rank will only get you so far. You have to be willing to learn, ready to act, and one step ahead of the crowd. Sage is all of those things, and she does it mostly within the confines of a traditional gender role. In fact, that’s her advantage. There are things only she can accomplish because she’s a woman, and a smallish one at that. Additionally, I think her finding romance with a military man is appropriate because competency is what matters most to them in succeeding. I guess if there’s a message to young women, it’s work with what you got where you are. There are many, many ways to make a difference or save the day – find the one that fits your strengths.”

  1. What inspired you to explore or emphasize the political aspect of marriage in TTK? If you were in Sage’s shoes, would you be willing to marry for power or connections?

“Political marriages were historically important across all cultures, and still are in many places of the world, so everyone is familiar with it. That’s not to say it’s right, just realistic. But I love the idea of “powerless” women turning that system to their advantage. As for being in Sage’s shoes, in her case there’s no real advantage to marrying her, which is incredibly freeing. Anyone who married her would have to really want to. If there were some advantage or peace between nations to be gained, then I might be willing to accept marrying under those circumstances. Might. Possibly sacrificing my own happiness to save lives is a worthy cause to consider. Very logical, in fact: the needs of one versus the needs of many. But I would go into it with open eyes, and I would make sure my husband did, too.”

  1. As a debut author, how do you respond to both praise and criticism?

“I try to avoid seeing much of either, and I respond sparingly, even to the nice stuff. If it’s praise, it can give a false sense of security and pride, which makes you lazy, not to mention high-and-mighty. Or it can make you insecure because you feel you don’t deserve it. Criticism (and praise) often has as much to do with the critic as the work, so it’s important to take it all with a grain of salt. Things that come from outside my target audience matter less, but criticism always hurts. Always. And that can be just as damaging to the creative process, not to mention mental health. But I do need to know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve, so I can’t ignore what people are saying either. I see what others point out to me, mostly. It gets filtered by people with less of a personal stake in the work. Veteran authors have said that’s the best strategy. It helps that I have a busy life outside writing, so I just don’t have much time to deal with it anyway.”

  1. What can you tell us about the sequel to TTK? Does it already have a title?

“I’m hacking my way through the jungle of revisions right now, so I both don’t know what I’m allowed to say and what I can say because plot points are still in flux. I can say that even people who love each other very much still have a lot to work out, and we all carry our own demons. As for bad guys, sometimes they aren’t really bad people, they’re just caught in a bad situation, fighting for their survival. It does have a title (as does #3!), but I think there’s going to be a reveal down the road, so I have to keep it to myself for now, sorry!”

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About the author:

Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, she resigned to pursue her side hobby of populating the Church of Rome. It still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head.

She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.

Visit Erin’s website

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Book Review

Please Don’t Hate Me

The Traitor's Kiss (Traitor's Trilogy, #1)The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The phrasing annoyed Sage. As long as she was pretty and in a good mood, her husband would love her? People needed love most when they weren’t at their best.

You might be wondering why in the world did I give this book 4 stars. After all, many people have given it 1 star because it supposedly reinforces girl hate and racism. Basically, the majority of the YA community claims that The Traitor’s Kiss is a sexist and whitewashed retelling of Mulan. I generally respect the opinions of my fellow readers, but I think that the hate surrounding this book is predominantly subjective. Hopefully, my review will encourage others to be open-minded and give this book a chance.

The Traitor’s Kiss is less like Mulan and more like a Jane Austen novel, such as Pride and Prejudice. Like the latter, this book features an empowered female protagonist who lives in a patriarchal world where marriage makes the world go round. Unlike her peers, Sage is not eager to be a mere political pawn. Deemed unfit for marriage because of her “lack of femininity,” she becomes a spy for the most sought after matchmaker in the kingdom. Sage’s story becomes more intriguing when an enigmatic soldier named Quinn asks her to help him eradicate a political conspiracy.

I was able to read this book rather quickly because I was engrossed by the plot. For me, there was hardly any dull moment, even at the beginning of the novel. The perfect balance between romance and political intrigue piqued my interest. I normally read two to five books alternately, so I was quite surprised that this book monopolized my attention. The climax of the book was particularly intense and well-executed. A lot of things were happening to many characters, but the author managed to connect them in such as way that was delightfully comprehensible.

I’ve always been fond of empowered females, so Sage was easy to like. As her name implies, Sage was a very wise/erudite character. She loved reading, gathering information, and sharing her knowledge with others. Her keen intuition definitely made her a force to be reckoned with. It even came to a point that no one could keep secrets from her. At least not for a long time. xD

As I’ve mentioned earlier, many readers have expressed their indignation for the girl hate in this book, which apparently depicts femininity in a negative way. With that in mind, it is true that Sage and her peers said mean things about each other. However, I believe that this could be viewed as a depiction of society in general, specifically of the struggle between the upper and lower classes. Throughout the novel, both men and women looked down on Sage because of her status as a commoner. In other words, the mean girls in this book weren’t naturally mean because of their sex. Furthermore, like the male population of our own world, not all females are inherently or totally good. I myself have met my fair share of mean girls (and boys). Thus, please don’t judge the author for adding a touch of reality to her book. For heaven’s sake, you don’t have to take things personally!

The next aspect of this book I enjoyed was the absence of instalove. Sage and her love interest had an “organic,” slow-building relationship. I loved that there weren’t any cheesy sparks or internal monologues about fate, meeting their other half, or whatever overrated concept. This is going to sound vague, but I also liked their relationship because it was reminiscent of The Kiss of Deception. It’s no wonder Mary E. Pearson (one of my favorites authors) blurbed this book. That plot twist messed with my mind for more than an hour!

Finally, although this book is infamous for being racist, I actually appreciated its diversity. I honestly couldn’t understand why people described it as whitewashed when many of the characters (both protagonists and antagonists) were people of color. The Kimisar, the secondary antagonists, were indeed “dark-skinned.” However, it is important to note that the main antagonist was “light-skinned.” In other words, both “dark-skinned” and “light-skinned” people were depicted as capable of doing evil. Hence, “equality” was achieved, and you don’t have to be so triggered. :l

Nevertheless, the haters were right about one thing: skin tone was unnecessarily (and sometimes ridiculously) described in this book. Here are some examples:

1. Kimisar were even darker than Demorans from Aristel, and this close he almost faded into the shadows.

2. He had the darker skin of an Aristelan as well as the nearly black hair. She’d never be able to match his color even if she stayed outdoors all summer.

As you can see, the word choice sounds mocking, if not condescending. I would have given this book a higher rating if the colored characters had other distinguishing characteristics worth mentioning. Whether we like it or not, political correctness is imperative nowadays. Sadly, it wasn’t consistently shown in this novel. I wasn’t personally triggered, but I was bothered by how the descriptions made me want to laugh. :3

Overall, I encourage you to read The Traitor’s Kiss with an open mind. It does fall short in regards to its emphasis on skin tone, but it really doesn’t deserve to be hated. Gleaning upon the strengths I mentioned, I can honestly say that Erin Beaty is a promising author. I look forward to reading her future works. 🙂

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Book Review

A Literary Tribute to K Dramas

I Believe in a Thing Called LoveI Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unexpected things happen, but it’s how we react to them, how we learn and evolve from these things that shapes us into who we are. —Desi

The moment I saw the blurb of this book, I was overwhelmed by the desire to get my hands on it. With the exception of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I hardly own YA novels that feature Korean/Asian protagonists, let alone characters who love K dramas. Being a fellow Asian and K drama fan, you can only imagine the happiness I felt when I was given the opportunity to read this book early.

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I Believe in a Thing Called Love has an engrossing premise. Desi, an admirable nerd, is used to setting goals and getting what she wants. She excels at everything academic, but she strangely sucks at love. Inspired by her favorite K dramas (and their formulaic happy endings), she devices a supposedly perfect plan to make Luca, her crush, fall for her.

This book had me hooked from the start. It was so funny, relatable, and downright entertaining. Desi’s romantic bloopers, aka “flailures,” were especially giggle-worthy. I felt sorry for her, but I had a hunch that her choleric (and adorably nerdy) personality would eventually pay off. I had fun analyzing her nearly “sociopathic” behavior; she was somehow similar to Amazing Amy of Gone Girl.

Desi’s remarkable intelligence was my favorite aspect of her personality. Basically, she was a well-rounded character; she was excellent in both academics and sports. As someone who took my education seriously back in my high school and college days, I was able to relate to Desi’s tendency to be adorably nerdy. Luca was erudite, too, in his own way, so I also became invested in his character development.

Desi’s relationship with her father was another thing that I enjoyed. They were practically best friends, but it was still apparent that she acknowledged his authority over her. It was also adorable that Desi’s father was the original K drama fan in their family. Without his influence, Desi wouldn’t have come up with a flawless plan to get herself a man.

The diversity in this book also deserved my applause. Both Desi and Luca were people of color, and Fiona, Desi’s bff, was lesbian. Wes, Desi’s second bff, exhibited behavior that made me suspect that he was gay, too. I apologize in advance if I was simply influenced by stereotypes while I analyzed his characterization. Nonetheless, this novel got an A+ from me in terms of racial and sexual diversity.

In retrospect, Desi’s “talent” for manipulation was the main reason why I didn’t give this book a higher rating. Desi was irrevocably an empowered female in light of her agency, but I found it hard to support her every time she intentionally toyed with Luca’s feelings. In totality, Desi was goal-oriented to a fault. Until now, I cannot decide if her story deserves a happy ending because I do not appreciate the objectification of any sex.

This book’s affirmation of the Bad Father stereotype also hampered my enjoyment. I generally liked Luca because of his sweet and artistic personality, but I was disappointed that he predictably had daddy issues. I can hardly wait for YA lit to overcome this trope! :3

Overall, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a literary tribute to K dramas. Just like K dramas, it will monopolize your attention and give you tons of happy feels. I did not enjoy it to the fullest, but I would recommend it to readers who are looking for a cute and refreshingly diverse book.

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Book Review

Hi again, Sarah Dessen!

Once and for AllOnce and for All by Sarah Dessen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’d had no idea I might be where I was now, on the edge of something with the last person I’d ever expect. —Louna

Once and for All was my second encounter with Sarah Dessen, who’s known as the queen of YA contemporary. Now, I already understand why many people love her books so much. Much like Saint Anything, this book is sweet, light, and pleasantly insightful. I really enjoyed it because it gave me epiphanies about the essence of love, family, and friendship.

Like most of the YA community, I was intrigued by the premise of this book. Louna, the only daughter of a successful wedding planner, harbors a cynical attitude towards true love. For reasons temporarily unknown to readers, she doesn’t believe that it lasts forever. Ambrose, a superficially typical playboy, hopes that he can break down her walls. You might already assume that Louna and Ambrose are endgame. However, there are plot points in this novel that will make you think otherwise. You have been warned. ^^

This book actually caught me off guard because it hit me in the feels so many times. Half of the novel is dedicated to recounting the events that made Louna so reserved and cynical. The said events made my stomach churn with a deep feeling of sympathy. These flashbacks were saddening, but I loved them nonetheless because they really helped me connect with Louna.

I also liked how this book explores the world of wedding planning, which is apparently both fun and stressful. Come to think of it, this book is quite satirical, in a sense that it cleverly depicts how people can be so obsessed with having a perfect and ostentatious wedding, as if it would ensure the success of their marriage. Even in real life, there are couples who spend so much money on wedding planning, only to end up divorced, annulled, or separated after a few weeks, months, or years. Such a high price to pay for a ceremony that affirms a potentially shallow relationship. 😦 Told ya this book is insightful! 😀

Ironically, the last strength of this book is its lack of romance. Essentially, Once and for All has some cheesy scenes, but it is more focused on character development. especially Louna’s. It was inspiring to witness her embrace a new outlook on life and love.

Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the rather rushed ending. Louna hurt the feelings of a certain character, and she got away with it so easily. I didn’t want her to suffer, exactly, but I expected that she would experience a more serious consequence.

Overall, I can objectively say that Once and for All is not your typical YA contemporary book. I was pleased by its touching story, as well as its flawed yet well-developed characters. Personally, I will always remember this book because it made me reflect upon society’s misconceptions about weddings/marriage.

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