Book Review

Soon to Be a Satisfactory YA Contemporary

Now a Major Motion PictureNow a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Sourcebooks Fire, for giving me an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’d read her story and began drowning in a loss I’d never known was mine. My grandmother was a brilliant author—and I’d never read her books.

Now a Major Motion Picture is marketed as something that fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl will enjoy. It’s been a few years since I read the latter book, but I can say that the blurb is true to an extent. NAMMP, like Fangirl, features excerpts from a completely original fantasy novel. However, NAMMP is less impactful and more focused on fan culture, particularly in regards to book to movie adaptations. With that in mind, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Otherwise, you might feel a little disappointed.

The premise of NAMMP is actually unique compared to most of the YA contemporary novels I’ve read this year. It follows Iris Thorne, a girl who wants nothing to do with her late grandmother’s popular book series. Despite her protests, Iris is sent to Ireland for the film adaptation of Elementia. She yearns for the film to become a commercial failure, but the possibility of finding love, friendship, and her musical identity gradually shakes her resolve. By the end of the film’s production, she might have to say good-bye to her “Jaded Iris” title.

The first thing I liked about this book was its depiction of fan culture. It was easy for me to relate to how the hardcore fans of Elementia feared that the film would deviate too much from the book series. It is an undeniable fact that although we bookworms love to see our beloved characters come to life on screen, we are rarely pleased by book to movie adaptations. We just can’t help but see the creative license of the film industry as a catalyst for bookish sacrilege. xD

It was also fascinating that NAMMP explored the “dark side” of fandom: it can cause people to emotionally or physically harm others. Iris did have a lot issues about Elementia, but the underlying reason for her hatred was justified. Her life would have been less complicated if a delusional fan hadn’t terrorized her baby brother.

Another thing I enjoyed was the book’s enlightening discussion of sexism in the film industry. Cate, the director of Elementia, was underestimated because of her sex. Her production company was very patriarchal, so it was more than willing to cut her budget or cancel the film (which was supposedly a Feminist take on Lord of the Rings). Thankfully, Cate refused to back down, determined to prove that women were a force to be reckoned with in both film and literature.

My problem with NAMMP was something that I had already encountered in many contemporary books: the Bad Parent(s) trope. Iris’s dad was a complete jerk, while her mom was almost nonexistent. Iris’s dad was practically the antagonist in the story because he was a fountain of stress and resentment. In light of his undignified attitude, I wasn’t surprised that Iris and Ryder treated him like he was anything but their parent. Personally, I really dislike it when contemporary books portray parents as the bad guys because it doesn’t promote a healthy understanding of family life. Some people may say that this trope simply reflects reality because there are many bad parents in the world. Still, what’s the point of further discouraging readers?

In totality, I gave NAMMP 3.5 stars because it was both fun and enlightening to read. If you are interested in literary discussions on fan culture and Feminism, you should give this book a shot. Just tread carefully if you are triggered by the Bad Parent(s) trope.

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Book Review

A Game of Tentative Hatred

The Hating GameThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Every game you’ve ever played has been to engage with him. Talk to him. Feel his eyes on you. To try to make him notice you.

When I first saw this book in one of my local bookstores, I was immediately attracted to the following things:

1. The cute cover
2. The unique title
3. The protagonist who also happened to be named Josh (#Biased)

However, the price kept on pushing me away. I did not want to pay 15 dollars for a paperback. I was finally persuaded to read The Hating Game after I watched Sophia’s review on BookTube. She compared the novel to the popular works of Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell, so I wanted to validate such generous praise. Little did I know that I would be savoring this book like candy.

From the get-go, I want to emphasize that The Hating Game is not the best contemporary novel out there. In fact, it’s full of cliches that normally render me jaded. You don’t even have to read the entire book to know how it ends. Plot-wise, I’m sorry to say that this book is downright predictable.

So what makes The Hating Game special and worthwhile? It’s the characters. The hilarious, adorable, and “shippable” Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman. If you’re fond of sarcastic, witty, and well-developed characters, then this OTP will brighten your day. Lucy has a tendency to be pathetic and annoying, but her playful and intuitive personality will eventually grow on you. As for Josh, I somehow understand why female readers claim him as their fictional boyfriend. He’s practically described to be the epitome of masculine perfection, so good luck finding your own Doctor Josh in real life.

In the end, I assure you that my 15 dollars did not go to waste. Lucy and Josh’s story isn’t that original, but it will fill you to the brim with happy feels. Given this book’s giggle-inducing content, I suggest reading it in private. Otherwise, you might suffer in humiliation as people question your sanity.

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Book Review

#meh

#famous#famous by Jilly Gagnon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know exactly what you want. Exactly who you are. You don’t care what anyone thinks about you. —Kyle

I was so excited to get my hands on this book when it came out. I literally hunted for it in my local bookstores. The catalyst behind my excitement was most likely the cute cover. Plus, I was in the mood for a fluffy yet meaningful YA contemporary.

#famous primarily explores how love can blossom in a typical high school setting wherein popularity is everything that matters. Unsurprisingly, the mean jocks and cheerleaders are at the top of the social hierarchy, while the plain-looking nerds are at the bottom. You don’t have to guess where Kyle and Rachel belong. Regardless of its lack of originality, I suppose this book was intriguing because it was inspired by a real human phenomenon: Alex of Target, an ordinary boy who suddenly became popular when a girl published a cute photo of him online.

It is easy for me to enumerate the things I liked about #famous. I enjoyed the simplistic writing, the short chapters, the dynamics within Rachel’s family, as well as the insightful depiction of social media. I honestly think that this book can be used as an effective cure for a reading slump; it’s possible to read it in just one sitting.

However, it is much easier for me to rant about this book’s shortcomings. The romance was lackluster and even instalovey; Rachel was annoyingly insecure, Kyle was frustratingly insensitive (or naive?), and the author had this weird way of using colons every now and then. Most importantly, this book disappointed me because I found it hard to relate to the protagonists, who kept on making small problems big. Come to think of it, most of the drama in this book was actually pointless.

Taking all of these in consideration, I felt moderately happy about this book. It was cute, entertaining, and quite insightful. However, overall, it was not on par with my favorite contemporary novels. I probably would have loved this book during my early bookworm days. I, therefore, give #famous solid 3 stars.

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Book Review

There’s Conflict in Your Heart

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

I found it hard to decide how many stars I should give this book because I’m not entirely sure whether I liked it or not. It’s written by Stephanie Perkins, and since I really liked the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy, I’m a little biased xD.

Like other readers, I was really surprised that the genre of Perkins’ new book is so different from her fluffy, feel-good books. It was one of the reasons why I was so excited to read it. I’m not really fond of horror novels; in fact, this was the first time that I’ve read one.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a rookie when it comes to horror/thriller novels, but the horrifying scenes from this book really got to me. The gory scenes were very hard for me to read. As an avid reader, I’m so used to imagining the stuff I read as vividly as possible, so when I read those parts, it was horrifying. I wanted to skip those scenes, but I’m also used to not missing any details from a story, so I just had to read them (I never knew that these habits could possibly backfire!).

I was mildly thrilled that the book made me nervous every moment when I knew that a character was going to die, and I wanted to yell, “THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE!” But obviously, they couldn’t hear me. My heart was beating fast every time the victims noticed weird things around their house – an open drawer, a missing object… tell-tale signs that the killer was toying with them. Those scenes always kept me at the edge of my seat.

I think that the killer was revealed too early for my taste. I was expecting more suspense – that both the characters of the book and the readers would become more suspicious; that when the killer would be revealed, it would be really shocking because you didn’t see it coming…and you couldn’t help but exclaim, “IT CAN’T BE!” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Also, the genre of the book might be different from the previous books of the author, but underlying all the horrifying scenes and the suspense, was a swoon-worthy romantic story that Stephanie Perkins’ readers are familiar with…or at least, that was what I was expecting. Unfortunately, there are times when expectations will lead to disappointment, which was the case for this book. I couldn’t help but find the romance a little bit cheesy and out of place. It was quite infuriating that Makani and Ollie couldn’t seem to control their sexual desire for each other when a serial killer was at large! I also didn’t find any swoon-worthy scenes, which I was kinda looking for, because…it’s Stephanie Perkins!

And then there was the last part of the book, which was a big WHAT THE HECK! It was really stupid. Like, why would they do that, when they knew that it was so dangerous. We all love those fantasy books where YA peeps were the ones who save the day, but in a horror/thriller contemporary book, it’s a big NO! The best thing to do is to just leave it to the police.

Okay, so this review has more negative comments than positive ones, so it’s obvious that I didn’t love the book, but there’s still a part of me that really enjoyed reading it. And as I’ve said before, it’s a Stephanie Perkins’ book, so I’m a little biased, and it feels like a betrayal to say it outright that I didn’t like the book (I know, I can be weirdly loyal sometimes xD).

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Book Review

Broken but Just Fine

The Love Letters of Abelard and LilyThe Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Love is about being broken beyond repair in the eyes of the world and finding someone who thinks you’re just fine.

I’m glad that I’ve found another meaningful contemporary novel that deals with mental health. I honestly didn’t have high expectations when I requested this book from the publisher, so I was delightfully surprised by its enlightening and philosophical content. If you’re looking for an Own Voices novel that is worth your time (and money), go ahead and pick this up on December.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily is the story of two “broken” teenagers. Abelard has Asperger syndrome, while Lily has ADHD (like the author). They’ve known each other since childhood, but they only become real friends when they are both detained for “innocently” destroying school property. Since Abelard finds it extremely difficult to talk face-to-face, he and Lily start a connection through texting. They have both love The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse, and they cleverly exchange passages to express their thoughts and emotions.

Unsurprisingly, this book had a character-driven story. Lily was the sole narrator, and her inner musings ranged from dark, to cynical, to downright hilarious. She was a very interesting character because she was caught in a quandary every day in school; even though she had ADHD, her peers and teachers seemed to be oblivious to her special needs and treated her like she was like an ordinary teenager. It was sad and ironic that Lily, one of the brightest students, was mistaken for a truant. I totally understood why Lily hated going to school since it was practically her own version of hell.

One of the lessons that I gleaned from this book is that sensitivity and consideration should never be out of fashion, especially towards people with mental conditions. We shouldn’t look down on them or treat them with condescension in the academe because they can actually have the capacity to be better or smarter than other “normal” students. For example, Abelard was indeed a social hermit because of Asperger’s, but his love for mathematics and science enabled him to participate in regional robotics competitions. Of course, this happened in a work of fiction. Nevertheless, I think that it can happen in real life.

Another great thing about this book was that unlike some of its peers in the YA market, it didn’t depict love as the cure-all for mental illness. Abelard and Lily were head over heels for each other. They made each other happy and secure, but they still had to struggle with their respective mental conditions. In the end, one of them sought the help of science in order to have a shot at “normalcy.”

I nearly forgot to mention how impressed I was by the author’s creativity. It was amazing how she managed to integrate specific, evocative quotes from The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse into Lily and Abelard’s conversations, which were always smooth and coherent. Logically, the quotes weren’t just chosen at random. Otherwise, the book would have been so disorganized and confusing. xD

This book was generally enjoyable and insightful, but there was one thing that I really disliked: Lily and Abelard acted like jerks toward their parents. It was good that family dynamics were included or explored. Lily’s mom in particular was a prominent figure in the novel as she tried her best to meet Lily’s needs. However, I was annoyed that Lily often treated her mother with disrespect. She even had the audacity to say the f word, for crying out loud! Abelard wasn’t as bad as Lily, but his behavior around his parents could be described as…cold. I had already encountered the same problem in Eliza and Her Monsters, another mental health novel I recently finished. With that in mind, I really dislike it when such books seem to use mental illness as a convenient excuse for characters to be so rude or ungrateful.

All things considered, The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily was fun to read. It didn’t please me entirely, but I would recommend it because of it’s enlightening content. Thus, I am excited to read more books by Laura Creedle. 🙂

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Book Review

In Love with the Gorgeous Blue

Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you so much, Penguin Random House, for sending me a finished copy of this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review.

ASDFGHJKL! I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!

I know that we should judge books by their content, but look at that gorgeous cover! I can stare at it for hours and admire how pretty it is. There were times when I just needed to stop reading for moment to take a look at the cover. I know, I was a little obsessed xD.

As for the story itself, it was wonderful! Jennifer Niven’s blurb pretty much summed up how lovely the book was. She blurbed, “One of the loveliest, most exquisitely beautiful books I’ve read in a very long time. (How beautiful? I highlighted and circled and underlined like mad.) I didn’t just read the pages, I lived in them.” That was so accurate! If you could see the state of my book right now, it’s full of colorful tabs and there are a lot of words written on the margins. There were just so many lines that I really liked.

Okay, so here is are seven reasons why I loved this book so much:

First, I loved this book because it was so bookish. By just looking at the cover, I could tell that books would be a huge part of the story. Henry and his family ran a secondhand bookshop, and I thought that it was one of the best places that I could find in a book. I just wanted to get inside the book and visit that bookshop. The concept of the Letter Library was super cool, too! Basically, it was a section of the bookshop where the books were not for sale, and customers could write on the pages, underline their favorite lines, and leave letters for other people to read. It was a brilliant idea, and it made me want to own a bookshop someday and also have a Letter Library. Haha.

Second, I loved this book because of Henry’s love for secondhand books. According to him, Secondhand books are full of mysteries. I agreed with his sentiment, and reading this book made me appreciate secondhand books more than before. I don’t often buy secondhand books because I hardly find one that I would like to read, but still, I really like visiting secondhand bookshops because the books have stories apart from the stories they contain within the pages. You can’t help but wonder, “How did this book find its way here?”, or “Who was the previous owner of this book?”, and the mystery might be forever unanswered, but you wonder anyway. I was quite sure that Henry and the others also thought of that, which is why I loved this book so much. It made me feel like I was personally involved in the story.

Third, I loved this book because of the letters in between the chapters. They were so cute! Again, it made me want to go inside the book and also leave some letters in the Letter Library for my friends and random people to find.

Fourth, I loved this book because of Cal. He was not physically present in the story, but he somehow shaped most of it. I was really sad that he died because he was really cool! I loved that he was a science nerd. Those theories about time? Super cool! I also loved that he and Rachel treasured the ocean, and it sucked so much that it was the reason for his death.

Fifth, I loved this book because of the characters. Rachel, Henry, George, and Cal were people that I would really like to befriend. I just wish that I could teleport inside the book and say “Hi” to them.

Sixth, I loved this book because of the book recommendations. They talked about lots of books, and now I have a few books to add to my ever-growing TBR pile. Haha.

Finally, I loved this book because it was quite emotional. The last parts of the book made me a little bit teary-eyed. Those what-could-have-been’s…they made me so sad T^T

Overall, I believe that there are still a LOT of reasons why I loved this book so much, and you, yes, YOU just have to read this book to know them! I highly recommend this book to all booknerds out there!

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Book Review

A Moment of Blue Reflection

Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Henry, if the love of your life is kissing a moron, it’s probably time to reassess whether or not she’s the love of your life.

—Rachel

As someone who devours literature on a daily basis, I always enjoy reading books that feature similarly bookish people. My reading experience becomes more meaningful and memorable whenever I am able to fully connect with characters, as fictional as they are.

Following this train of thought, Words in Deep Blue is a perfect summer read for us lovers of the written word. It follows two booknerds, Rachel and Henry, who live in this rabbit-and-kangaroo-infested place called Australia (not America, for a change). Rachel and Henry have been best friends since they were children, and Rachel eventually decides to confess her feelings by leaving a love letter in his favorite book. Unfortunately, certain circumstances prevent Henry from reading it and cause Rachel to move to another city. Years later, Rachel and Henry work together in his family’s bookshop, but everything between them has changed for the worse. You can probably guess what happens next.

Unsurprisingly, Words in Deep Blue was character-driven. Since I’ve already read tons of contemporary books, I could see the ending from a mile away. Plus, some of the chapters were uneventful although they shed much light on Rachel and Henry’s personalities. Although the plot was indeed predictable, I really enjoyed how this book tackled relevant themes such as grief, forgiveness, and true love. This wonderful aspect of the book more than compensated for its lack of spontaneity.

Among all of the characters, Rachel was the one who touched my heart. I was so sad for her loss, and I understood the numbness or emptiness she felt because of her brother’s death (this is not a spoiler). If I lost either of my brothers, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself besides moping and looking up. Honestly, familial loss in books never fails to tug at my heartstrings.

Reading Cal’s letters to his crush was both enjoyable and saddening. He was a devoted bookworm like the other characters, and he could have lived such a fruitful life if he hadn’t drowned in the stupid ocean (this only deepened my hatred for swimming). In other words, it was painful to think about the happy ending that he could’ve had. Wishful thinking can be so pleasurable, but it sucks when you realize that it’s futile. Cal’s death was already established from the very beginning. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but stubbornly wish for a shocking plot twist.

Henry was actually my least favorite character. I liked his fondness for poetry and other philosophical literature, but I wasn’t a fan of how he pined for a girl who obviously “loved” him only when it was convenient. I cringed every time he tried to convince Amy to come back to him because it made him look so pathetic, if not hopelessly blinded by puppy love. His redeeming qualities were his sensitivity and optimism. If it weren’t for him, Rachel would have spent a longer time in the cage of depression. Basically, Henry was the type of person who always had a shoulder to cry on.

The side characters in this book were surprisingly well-developed. I didn’t feel that they were just created to function as plot devices. For example, George and Martin had their own unique personalities, and the letters they sent to each other increased the depth and humor of the story. This made me appreciate the book more because it showed how the author was very intentional in her writing.

After all the paragraphs I’ve written in this review, the bottom line is that Words in Deep Blue is a worthy addition to your TBR shelf, especially if you love contemporary novels that are character-driven and emotionally heavy. It doesn’t have the most unique plot, but the book as a whole is something to reflect on.

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