Review: Hysteria by Megan Miranda

 

 

Title: Hysteria

Author: Megan Miranda

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can’t remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn’t charged. But Mallory still feels Brian’s presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past. But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others. In another riveting tale of life and death, Megan Miranda’s masterful storytelling brings readers along for a ride to the edge of sanity and back again.


Review:

Okay, this was a different read for me.  Mallory killed her boyfriend one rainy night during the summer, after he broke into her house.  She isn’t charged because it was ruled to be in self-defense, but Mallory isn’t sure.  She can’t remember what happened that scary, rainy night, and she’s not sure that she wants to.  Unable to sleep without the aid of sleeping pills, she suffers from the emotional trauma that she can’t put behind her.  She feels a dark, heavy presence when she’s alone, and she keeps hearing the ominous boom, boom, boom of Brian’s dying heartbeat.  When her parents send her away to Monroe, the boarding school her dad went to, she doesn’t think things can get any worse.  Boy, was she wrong.

Hysteria is a compelling, character driven story.  There is a steady building of suspense, and you aren’t sure whether Mallory is completely nuts or just suffering from PTSD.  Her escape mechanism when things get too intense for her is to run.  Run as fast and as far away from whatever it is that’s making her uncomfortable.  She runs a lot in this book.  From herself, from her memories, from her classmates.  But mostly she runs from the truth.  What happened that awful night, and why can’t she remember?

I was bewildered at Mallory’s parents’ apparent abandonment.  What the heck?  Their daughter is going through the worst time in her life, and they ship her off to boarding school.  Mallory can barely function because she is so consumed with what she did.  It colors everything in her life, as it should.  She killed someone, and she is being eaten mercilessly by remorse.  What could she have done differently?  Why did she do what she did?  The flashbacks to that night when everything went wrong  are intense and compelling, and kept me wondering how all of the pieces would fit together.  After first I wasn’t sure whether or not I liked Mallory because  she is so emotionally shattered that she comes off as uncaring and indifferent.  As the story unfolds, though, it becomes more and more evident that she is suffering but she has no one to turn to for help.  Her best friend back home isn’t responding to her emails or phone calls, and her parents are emotionally distant.  What Mallory needed was a good shrink, but all she seemed to get was a slick lawyer.  I didn’t get that.  If her parents could afford to ship her off to boarding school, they could have provided her with counseling as well.

Whether or not you enjoy Hysteria will depend on whether or not you like Mallory.  She is one messed up girl, and her coping methods are suspect at best.  Weird things are happening to her, and instead of trying to seek help, she tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  The few times she reaches out to her parents are rebuffed.  When events become too much for her to handle, the authority figures in her life don’t believe her because of her past.  Mallory irritated at times, but I did come to like her, and I wanted her to find peace from her memories and her nightmares. The pacing is a little slow at times, but I found this a hard book to put down.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

 

 

Title: Also Known As

Author: Robin Benway

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.


Review:

When I saw Also Known As on Netgalley, I immediately requested a copy.  I love YA books featuring spies, espionage, and danger, and this title looked like it had all of that in spades.  Plus, as an added bonus, protagonist Maggie is a gifted safe-cracker.  Seriously, it just doesn’t get any more fun than that!  The first chapter kind of bogged me down, but once I hit my stride, I gobbled Also Known As in just an afternoon.  I didn’t want to put it down, and it had me so engaged in the story that I was able to overlook a few inconsistences that would have driven me crazy otherwise.  This is a fun read, with a confident though in over her head heroine, and an engaging cast of supporting characters.  I really hope Maggie will return for more adventures.

Maggie has been living the life of a spy forever.  Both of her parents are employed by the Collective, and they spend their days trying to make the world a safer place by putting the brakes on gun runners, human traffickers, and other nefarious plots designed to shake up the world order.  Maggie has been cracking locks since she was a toddler, and she fully expects to follow in her parents’ spy footsteps, cracking locks and stealing away with evil doers’ plans to destroy peace and stability.  When she’s given her first solo assignment in NYC, she couldn’t be more thrilled.  All she has to do is befriend Jesse Oliver.  Jesse’s father runs a powerful publishing empire, and he’s planning to run an expose outing Maggie, her family, and the Collective.  If she can’t steal the documents that threaten to ruin her family, they will be in big, big danger.

Now, I’m not even going to wonder why the Collective, a super secret spy organization, is putting an inexperienced spy in charge of saving everyone’s bacon.  Instead, I allowed myself to get sucked into Maggie’s upbeat and very entertaining narrative.  She has all of the confidence in the world, and she is going to make everyone proud of her.  She is going to live up to her legacy and steal those damaging documents!  All she has to do is pretend to be friends with Jesse, and she’s in like Flynn!

Only that’s not how things work out.  As Maggie embraces her assignment, she’s determined to do everything in her power to be successful.  But as she makes friends with a social outcast, and gets caught up in going to school and hanging out with kids her own age, she starts to see that it’s more difficult to pretend that she ever had thought.  And after she and Jesse connect on a personal level, she realizes, to her dismay, that she’s not pretending anymore.  She really likes him, and she really likes her new friend Roux, and she knows her parents are never going to understand her lapse in judgment.  They’ve trained her better than that, haven’t they?

I loved Maggie’s anxiety about hurting her new friends.  Now that she actually has some, she is loathe to lose them.  She is lying to everyone, though, and it’s making her miserable.  Being a teen spy is just not as easy as it sounds!  She can’t let her parents know that she kissed Jesse (and that she’d do it again in a second), or that her friendship with Roux isn’t just for cover.  She is dealing with so many issues that she never considered, it’s no wonder she can’t get a decent night’s sleep!

Also Known As lived up to all of my expectations, and even exceeded them.  The pacing is spot on, the plot never lagged, and Maggie is a fun, likable character, even if she did need to be knocked down a peg or two.  Recommended for fans of Ally Carter.  Check back later today for your chance to win a copy of Also Known As!

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

 

Title:  Smashed

Author:  Lisa Luedeke

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

     Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

 


Review:

I am not going to lie.  Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated.  It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck.  While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it.  I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him.  With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness.  When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself  at risk again.  Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec.   Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one. 

Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap.  When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him.  He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family.  Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals.  She just wants to be friends.  But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him.  When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision.  In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger. 

I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made.  There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team.  Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home.  Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care.  Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother.   Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing.  I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s.  I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone.  She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.

I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction. 

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed.  It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Strobe Edge Vol 1 by Io Sakisaka

 

Title:  Strobe Edge Vol 1

Author: Io Sakisaka

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Being in love can light up your life… A sweet love story that will warm your heart!


Review: 

When I first read the book blurb above, I thought it was pretty lame.  After reading Strobe Edge, though, I think it very accurately and very succinctly describes this high school romance.  Ninako is shy and reserved, and everyone thinks she and her childhood friend, Daiki will eventually get together.  Daiki makes no secret of his feelings, but he has never voiced them, leaving Ninako, who is kind of clueless, thinking that they are just friends.  After circumstances have her and school heartthrob Ren cross paths several times, Ninako discovers how kind and thoughtful he is, and she falls in love with him.

Strobe Edge captures all of the awkwardness and exhilaration of falling in love for the first time.  Ninako falls head over heels for Ren, and who can blame her? He’s gorgeous, and better yet, he is nice.  What a combo!  As her feelings for Ren grow, so does her guilt over them.  She has finally picked up on Daiki’s feelings, and she feels awful about her lack of feelings for him.  She blames herself for leading him on, and though she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, she knows that she has to level with him.  So along with the giddy rush she experiences whenever she sees Ren,  she realizes that her feelings are going to hurt one of her closest friends.

I don’t want to spoil any other plot points, so instead I’ll urge you to give Strobe Edge a try if you enjoy series like High School Debut and Kimi ni Todoke.  This introductory volume will leave you smiling as Ninako slowly begins to blossom, shedding her reservations and allowing herself to come out of her shell.  She knows that her heart will more than likely get broken, but for the time being, she is enjoying how she feels about Ren.  Because she is so sweet, and because she is taking this huge risk, you can’t help but cheer her on.  Will things work out between her and Ren, or is Ninako doomed to heartbreak?  I don’t know, but I can hardly wait to find out!

Grade:  wavering between a B+ and an A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez

 

Title:  The Space Between Us

Author:  Jessica Martinez

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.

Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.

     Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.


Contains spoilers!

Review:

Oh. My. GOD!  That is the only way I know how to express myself after reading The Space Between Us.  The book was not what I was expecting.  At all.  From the first page, I couldn’t put it down.  I kept hoping the puppies would go to sleep so I could read without all of their little distractions (like trying to chew on my rugs, dragging boots around the house, and wrestling over the millions of toys they have to play with!).  This is an emotional read, and the drama is built up entirely around Amelia’s feelings for her youngest sister Charly.  There were plenty of times when I didn’t like Amelia, but I always understood her.  She is enraged that Charly has completely derailed her carefully planned out life, and she can’t find it in herself to forgive her.  But even as she can’t forgive her, she wishes that life would go back to normal, that she and Charly could once again share that easy relationship that they once had.  Her resentment keeps getting in the way, though, and just keeps pushing them further apart.

Amelia has one goal in life – to go to Columbia.  Her entire school life so far has been dedicated to this goal.  She has exceled in her classes, studied her heart out, and always been the good girl.  Charly, on the other hand, is her exact opposite.  Fun loving, bubbly, outgoing, Charly thinks that life’s a game to be played all out.  Everyone loves her, and though she gets into a ton of trouble, her antics have been harmless.  Amelia is resigned that she will be bailing her out of one scrape after another, but with Charly’s unpredictable streak, at least life is never boring.  Until she starts hanging out with a bunch of losers, and she winds up pregnant.

Now, not being overly religious and not living in a small town, I didn’t sympathize with Amelia and her grandmother’s reaction to Charly’s condition.  Not even having a pastor father, who is a distracted and distant caregiver at best, could excuse their behavior and how they treated Charly like a tramp.  She’s pregnant, not a criminal!  She’s scared, suddenly alienated from her own family, and has no one to confide in.  The girls’ stern grandmother has decided that they will keep Charly’s pregnancy a secret from everyone, including their father.  They will both be shipped of to their aunt’s house in Canada, where Charly will take online courses for the rest of the year, and Amelia will be enrolled in the local high school.  Really?!  Sending them off to a relative they don’t know and  have only met once, at their mother’s funeral when they were babies, is the answer to Charly’s problem?  I hated their grandmother, I hated their clueless father, and I even hated Amelia for part of the book.  Everyone in her immediate family turned their back on her when Charly needed them the most, and I had a hard time forgiving them. 

Amelia is infuriated that she is being shipped off to the frozen north.  She wants nothing more than to finish out her senior year at her Florida high school, and then she’ll be free!  It’s off to Columbia for her!  Freedom from Charly and her shenanigans, freedom from gossip, freedom from always having to be the good girl.  Argh!  Amelia does not make a good impression on anyone once she gets to her aunt’s house, and she sees nothing wrong with her rotten behavior.  She takes her rage out on everyone.  I could understand how devastated she felt after her dreams shattered one by one, but come on!  You are supposed to be the mature one!  There were times that I was so frustrated with her that I did not like her.  But even then, I could still sympathize with her.  It is so hard to have your entire life shaken up like snow globe, so while I didn’t condone her actions, at least I understood them.

There is a lot of emotion packed into this book.  While it’s told from Amelia’s POV, Charly’s terror and unhappiness are painfully evident.  She’s a sixteen year old kid who, after one careless decision, ends up ostracized by her family.  The only caring adult in her life is the aunt she doesn’t even know.  Bree immediately tries to make both girls feel at home, but Amelia is so resentful and suspicious of her motives that she can only give her a hard time.  Ugh! I kept waiting for her to attain some measure of maturity, and it was a long time in coming.  Almost too late, really.  Amelia made me so angry!  I haven’t been this worked up reading a book in a long time!

When forgiveness does finally come, there is still an awkward strain between the sisters.  Amelia has fallen into a pattern of thinking that constantly blames her sister for everything, and dismisses her unfairly.  I think my only disappointment with the story is that I felt that some of the issues that had pushed them so far apart weren’t settled enough for my satisfaction.  That space that developed between Amelia and Charly, and even between Amelia and her father and grandmother, had grown so great that I am not convinced it could ever be bridged.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Georgetown Academy Book One by Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz

Title: Georgetown Academy Book One

Authors:  Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

It’s the beginning of a new political administration. That might not mean much at most high schools, but at Georgetown Academy, Washington D.C.’s most elite prep school, January 20th means new alliances, new flings, and new places to party.

While freshmen—nicknamed “interns” for their willingness to jump into bed with anyone higher on the D.C. totem pole—navigate the not-so-friendly halls of GA searching for Algebra and Bio classes, the school’s lifers have other things on their minds.

For self-proclaimed D.C. royalty Brinley Madison (of those Madisons), the first day of school is all about establishing the social hierarchy and playing the part of perfect political wife to her boyfriend, the outgoing Vice President’s son. Too bad he has a wandering eye that puts Bill Clinton’s to shame. Can she keep him, and her own secret vice, in check?

Ellie Walker, Brinley’s best friend, floats through the halls on the arm of golden boy Hunter McKnight (the JFK of GA). But when her ex-boyfriend, Gabe, returns to town and her Senator mother’s political nemesis is reelected, Ellie’s life starts to snowball out of control.

Shy, quiet Evan Hartnett is more into books than beer, and her closet is full of t-shirts and jeans instead of Jason Wu and Jimmy Choo. No one’s ever really noticed her—but she’s been noticing them. When her star rises as an intern at D.C.’s most-watched political news show, she soon finds the two worlds colliding in ways that make her question what’s secret and what’s fair game.

New girl Taryn Reyes is all laid-back, California cool; with a father who’s in line to be the first Hispanic president, she’s ready to dive into the D.C. scene with an open mind. But when her fellow students turn out to be more interested in spreading rumors than making friends, she realizes that forging a drama-free path might be a lot harder than she thinks.

With so many new friends and former flames in the mix, things are bound to get a little heated. And while diplomatic immunity might keep the cops away, there’s not much it can do about the press.

In a town where one teenage misstep can turn into a national scandal, the students at Georgetown Academy will have to be on their best behavior—or, at least, they’ll have to make the world believe that they are.

Because there’s only one rule: whatever you do, don’t get caught.


Review:

When I was approached to review Georgetown Academy, I was excited to dive into the book.  Coliloquy, the publisher, is defining itself as a cutting edge digital publisher, and they are actively attempting to engage more reader interaction.  From their website:

Coliloquy is a next-generation digital publisher, leveraging advances in technology to enable groundbreaking new types of books, new revenue models, and new forms of author-reader engagement.”

Now, I love the idea of this, but after reading the first installment of the Georgetown Academy series, I wasn’t impressed with the reader interaction.  There is one point in the story where the reader can choose one of the characters and follow her POV for a short sequence of events.  I found this more tedious than ground-breaking  because I had to reread the same scene four times to get all of the girls’ perspectives.  This just slowed the pace of the story for me.  What would I like to see in future releases?  Maps of key places, including the school, illustrated character bios, even emails and text messages sent by the protagonists.  How about adding some audio, too, and including voice mails, etc?  That would be so cool, and to me, that would more fully engage my attention.

Despite my quibble with the interactive features, I did enjoy this introduction to the Georgetown Academy series. I had a good sense of how each of the characters ticked, and felt that I was able to get into their heads as they each dealt with all of the drama tossed their way.  And each of them is drowning in drama!  If you like books with lots of angst, lots of social pressure, and intense interpersonal relationships, this is the series for you.  Once I settled into the story, I was very engaged in the lives and trials of Evan, Taryn, Ellie, and Brinley.  Better yet, I liked some more than others, and found that they each had a unique personality.  Dealing with their parents’ successes and setbacks, boyfriend troubles, and the press kept each of them on the edge.  These teens are in  a larger than life setting, and not all of them are as well equipped to deal with the stress.

Because Georgetown Academy Book One is so short, I found the initial character introductions the slowest aspect of the story.  Just when I felt that I had a handle on the protagonists, the story shuddered to an abrupt ending.  Was I invested in the story?  You bet!  I immediately wanted to start reading Book Two!  So be aware that the beginning of the book drags a bit, but then, as the mishaps and gossip start piling up, GA is difficult to put down. 

Grade:  Wavering between a B and a B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Demon Love Spell V 1 by Mayu Shinjo

 

 

Title: Demon Love Spell V 1

Author:  Mayu Shinjo

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

By the creator of Ai Ore! and Sensual Phrase

Miko is a shrine maiden who has never had much success at seeing or banishing spirits. Then she meets Kagura, a sexy demon who feeds off women’s feelings of passion and love. Kagura’s insatiable appetite has left many girls at school brokenhearted, so Miko casts a spell to seal his powers. Surprisingly the spell works—sort of—but now Kagura is after her!

Reads R to L (Japanese style) for teen plus audiences.


Review:

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Mayu Shinjo’s works.  Her titles usually feature a douche bag uber alpha hero and a timid, naïve heroine.  I usually don’t enjoy reading stories where the hero treats the heroine, his supposed love interest, like crap.  That’s one of the problems I have with Black Bird, though I find myself helplessly flipping through whatever new volumes happen to end up in my hands.  I don’t want to like it, but I do.  Ugh!  Demon Love Spell reminds me a lot of Black Bird, so if you are a fan of Kanoko Sakurakoji, you might want to give this series a try.

Miko is a shrine maiden, and while everyone else in her family can see spirits, she can’t sense them at all.  Disappointed in herself because she has no sixth sense, she nonetheless studied hard to recognize and banish demons.  So while she is familiar with their characteristics and their powers, she can’t see them, which makes carrying on the family tradition unlikely.  Still, she has hopes and she is dedicated to both the shrine and her family legacy.

When an incubus begins to prey on girls at her high school, a moment of high emotion gives her the strength to seal his powers and confine him into an itty-bitty demon form.  Once the most powerful demon, Kagura is now helpless against stronger demons, and he can’t revert back to his former self, a tall, stunningly gorgeous young man who knocks the ladies dead.  He is a sitting duck, and so is Miko.  Since she was powerful enough to seal away Kagura’s powers, all the demons want to kill him and eat Miko to gain her strength.  Eek!  She can’t even see her enemies unless she is holding chibi Kagura!  How can she defend herself against a bunch of big, bad, ugly monsters?  To make matters worse, she can’t remember which spell she used to seal away his powers, so she can’t change Kagura back to his powerful self.  She isn’t even sure that she wants to; he’ll just go back to preying on innocent women and stealing their life essences, anyway!

Kagura can enter Miko’s dreams when she’s asleep, so he steals into them and seduces her in order to gain back some of his strength.  Miko can’t remember a thing in the morning, but she feels a burning sense of embarrassment, and she’s exhausted.  Like she was up all night long.  Which she was, in her dreams, romping around with Kagura.  She begins to question why she is forming an emotional attachment to the perverted demon, and wonders if he has cast a demon love spell over her.  She doesn’t trust him, but she can’t stop her growing feelings for him.

I enjoyed this introduction to the series.  It’s a fast read, it’s brainless, and it’s fun.  Despite some awkward proportions, Mayu Shinjo’s art is attractive, and her guys are hot, hot, hot.  The characters are engaging, and though the plot is predictable, I found a lot to like in the first volume of Demon Love Spell, and I will follow the series for at least a few volumes to see how things work out for Miko and sex obsessed Kagura.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Falling Out of Place by M G Higgins

 

Title:  Falling Out of Place

Author:  M G Higgins

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Gabby Herrera is not like her perfect sister, Celia–straight-A student, obedient, responsible. Her parents don’t get it. They don’t get er C-average report card. Her love for basketball.
"The three of them think anything is possible if you just try hard enough. Well, I’ve tried. It’s not possible."
She can’t be who she is unless she is just like them. And if she’s not like them, she’s not a real person. She’s a broken person. A broken Herrera. And that is unacceptable.


Review:

Falling Out of Place was an unsolicited review copy, and when I pulled it out of the envelope, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I have had a few issues with other Saddleback publications, and while I have found them all compulsively readable, I wasn’t always impressed with the quality of writing or the presentation values.  I started reading this book because it was short, it looked like a fast read, and I wasn’t really in the mood for anything else.  I am so glad that I did start it, because by the third chapter, I could not put it down.  This story hit all the right spots for me, and I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting.

Gabby is an angry young woman.  Her sisters are perfect compared to her, and her parents keep ragging on her to get better grades and work harder in school.  Gabby hates school.  What she loves is basketball, and when she’s on the court, she hustles and gives her all.  After a series of personal meltdowns, she is forbidden from playing by her father, forced to get a job after school, and she’s grounded for what seems like life.  As her life continues to spiral out of control, Gabby finds herself engaging in reckless, dangerous behavior.  She is compelled to do the wrong thing, to make the wrong decisions, by the demons that are haunting her.  One by one her friends abandon her, leaving her even more angry and isolated.  When her Uncle Mike dies,  everything comes to a screeching halt.  He was the only one who understood her, and now that he’s gone, Gabby hates herself even more.  Will anything save her from herself and the rage that threatens to consume her?

When I finished this book, I had one word to say – wow.  I had such a hard time liking Gabby, because she is so unlikable.  It wasn’t surprising that she was left friendless; she excelled at pushing everyone who cared for her as far away as possible.  Her temper is out of control, and after a few too many flare ups, nobody wanted to be near her.  What if she came unglued on them?  Her unhappiness and self-loathing grew, page after agonizing page.  Gabby sucked at everything except destroying her life and all of the relationships that meant anything to her, and it was very painful to read along as she self-destructed.

Gabby is a complete train wreck, and after her Uncle Mike dies, things only get worse.  She starts hanging out with people who encourage her to do the wrong thing.  She drinks at work, at home, and at school.  She parties like a pro, but only ends up feeling even more miserable.  With all of the stupid stuff she did, I am surprised she was able to survive from one drinking binge to the next.  This girl was hurting so badly, yet nobody in her family was willing to see her misery.  There wasn’t anybody for her to turn to for help, and that was heartbreaking.  When she finally does go too far, it’s almost too late for her.

I’m not usually drawn to stories with suicidal teens because I find them depressing and difficult to read, but this book is told with so much heart that I couldn’t put it down.  It’s a fast, powerful read with so much emotion stuffed into its short length.  The ending is upbeat, probably too upbeat and not realistic, but I liked it.  Gabby was in complete freefall, when finally, miraculously, she was able to grab onto some hope and finally start to like herself again. 

Grade:  A-/B+

Review copy provided by publisher