Review: 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

 

Title: 34 pieces of You

Author:  Carmen Rodrigues

Publisher:  Simon Pulse

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie…Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance—and kept watch.

     Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are thirty-four clues she left behind. Thirty-four strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. Thirty-four secrets of a brief and painful life.

     Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they confront the past, they will discover not only the darkest truths about themselves, but also what Ellie herself had been hiding all along….

Review:

If I hadn’t received a review copy of 34 Pieces of You from the publisher, I never would have read this book, and that would have been a shame, because it is a moving and compelling read.  The subject matter didn’t appeal to me prior to receiving the ARC, and the thought of reading about a girl who overdoses, leaving her friends to grapple with their confusion and hurt, just seemed too depressing for me.  Which makes me wonder why I did pick it up, the same day it arrived in the mailbox.  Why did I start reading this, and why couldn’t I put it down?  What I found between the covers kept me turning the pages; there are so many flawed characters packed into this story, and there were so many opportunities for things to happen differently, but they didn’t.  Everyone is so caught up in themselves, that they all ignored the signals that Ellie was so clearly broadcasting.  Then again, in retrospect, everything is crystal clear, isn’t it?

I don’t want to give away any of the plot twists, so instead, let’s talk about the damaged protagonists in 34 Pieces of You.  It seems that everyone in this book is crying out for help or attention, and even when they get it, they stubbornly dig in their heels and refuse to accept it.  Ellie is so emotionally ravaged, unable to trust anyone, after she is the victim of abuse when she is a young girl. Her mother deals with this betrayal with alcohol.  Emotionally distant from her children, her coping method turns out to be one of avoidance.  Just don’t talk about it, and everything bad will go away.  Just ignore the bad things, and everything will be fine.  Ugh.  I found myself so angry and irritated with her mother.    By pretending not to see how self-destructive Ellie’s behavior was, she added to Ellie’s feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. Even her own mother didn’t care enough to acknowledge that things weren’t right with her family.  It’s the realization that if only someone had done something, paid the slightest bit of attention to Ellie’s behavior, that makes this story, and the cascading repercussions, so tragic.  Ellie may have ultimately found some peace, but her friends and family were left reeling in the wake of her death, and ouch, not one of them emerged unscathed or unchanged.

Jake, Ellie’s older brother, is left with the most guilt, I think.  After being the rock for his mother and sister in the wake of his mother’s string of failed relationships, he finally is able to experience the enticing sense of freedom that comes with going off to college.  No longer the man of the family, he can finally do what he wants, when he wants, without all of the drama and pressure that he’s constantly under at home.  When Ellie calls him, begging him to come home to her, he is resentful.  Why can’t he just go to school and be left alone?  Why does he have to get sucked back into all of the drama? A moment of selfishness will haunt him for the rest of his life, and of all of lives affected by Ellie’s carelessness, Jake’s is the most compelling.  He can’t hide from his guilt, and like Ellie, he doesn’t have much of a support network to help him cope.  I wish Jake’s chapters had been longer and more in-depth.  I liked Jake, and felt that his POV was complex and multi-layered, because he was under so much pressure to be strong for everyone else. 

Sisters Sarah and Jessie also had complex relationships with Ellie, and each other, and as the story unfolds, they are both forced to realize that neither of them knew Ellie half as much as they thought they had.  All of the characters in this book are flawed, and at first, hard to like.  I couldn’t relate to any of them, but as one painful secret after another is revealed, I began to feel sympathy for each of them.  Events were so out of control, it was like everyone was riding a rollercoaster with broken brakes.  The more you fight against the impact at the end of the ride, the more you tense up and the more it’s going to hurt.  Despite all of the pain, the ending manages to capture a sense of hopefulness, and the realization that some how, some way, things might just turn out okay.  But only for the characters willing to set aside their fears to embrace the uncertain future waiting ahead of them.

Grade:  B+

In stores Sept 2012

Review copy provided by publisher

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Interview with Jacqueline Gardner, Author of Thoughtless

Jacqueline Gardner is the author of Thoughtless, a suspenseful YA novel with a heroine who can read minds.  Jacqueline stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her book.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jacqueline Gardner] I’m a mellow, easy-going, sarcastic (at times), fitness nut with a cupcake obsession.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Thoughtless?

[Jacqueline Gardner] During a high school football game, Bridget accidentally stumbles upon a dead cheerleader in the janitor’s closet.  There’s a killer out there.  And worse, somehow the killer knows Bridget’s secret.  The one time she actually tries to embrace her talent, it’s useless.  Bridget can’t figure out who’s blackmailing her, who killed Stacey, and why she can’t hear her boyfriend’s thoughts!

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Thoughtless started with a random thought that popped into my head one day.  What if I could have read my friend’s thoughts in high school?  From there I wrote a chapter with the characters in my head to see if they had chemistry, and they did!

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing Thoughtless?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Deciding how far to go when it came to hearing other people’s inner self talk.  I wanted it to play a comical part in the book but I also wanted to bring in a lot of honesty.  I did my best to find a happy medium of the two.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Bridget?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Quiet, skeptical & sarcastic!

[Manga Maniac Café] What is Bridget’s single most prized possession?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Her BF Emma (although Emma is a person)!  Bridget realizes throughout the course of the book just how lucky she is to have an honest and loyal friend.  For a while, she takes Emma for granted.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jacqueline Gardner] I’d say things I dream about and music.  I keep an idea journal next to my bed and I can’t write without my music.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Music (anything but absolute silence), a notebook to doodle in, and gum.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Jacqueline Gardner] I just started the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  It’s fantastic!

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jacqueline Gardner] The Witches by Roald Dahl

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jacqueline Gardner] I live in the Rockies so I love the outdoors – hiking, camping, biking.  I’m also an amateur cake decorator.

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Jacqueline Gardner] website/blog: www.jacquelinegardner.com
twitter: @Writer_Jacque
facebook: www.facebook.com/authorjacquelinegardner
And I’m on Goodreads!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can order Thoughtless from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.

[PR] VIZ Media Debuts New Shojo Manga Series JIU JIU

{ED. Wolf shapeshifters? Count me in!}

PRESS RELEASEFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LEAP INTO THE FANTASY AND ROMANTIC INTRIGUE OF A TEENAGE GIRL’S DEEPENING BOND WITH TWO WOLF SHAPESHIFTERS, IN JIU JIU

High School Gets Complicated For A Girl From A Family of Demon Hunters In A New Shojo Series From VIZ Media

San Francisco, CA, June 19, 2012 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest publisher, distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, unleashes the demon-hunting romantic fantasy of Touya Tobina’s shojo manga series, JIU JIU, on July 3rd. The new series will be published under the company’s Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

Born into a family of “Hunters,” Takamichi’s destiny is to pursue and slay demons. When her twin brother is killed, she is saved from despair by a pair of Jiu Jiu – shape-shifting familiars – in the form of two wolf pups named Snow and Night. Now Takamichi is in high school and an active Hunter. Snow and Night can’t wait to attend school in their human form to "protect" her. But are they ready to go off leash…?

“JIU JIU is an intriguing new series that offers a strong combination of romantic drama, supernatural action, and humor centering on the deepening bonds between a girl and two wolf shapeshifters,” says Annette Roman, Editor. “Growing up in a family of demon hunters isn’t easy. Things become more complicated when the pair of cute wolf pups grow up into her bodyguards, learn to shift into (hot!) human form, and decide to follow their mistress to school. Don’t miss this new rhapsody of swords, fangs and romance from Shojo Beat this summer!”

Manga creator Touya Tobina is originally from Tokyo. In 2005, her series, Clean Freak Fully Equipped, won the Grand Prize in the 30th Hakusensha Athena Newcomers Awards. Her series Jiu Jiu originally debuted in Japan as a one-shot manga in the shojo magazine, Hana to Yume.

For more information on JIU JIU, or other shojo manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit ShojoBeat.com.

About VIZ Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan.  Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular monthly manga anthology SHONEN JUMP magazine and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages.  VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products.  Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at www.VIZ.com.

Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

 

Title: Hereafter

Author: Tara Hudson

Publisher: HarperTeen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.

Review:

I did not find this ghost story very compelling.  Amelia is a ghost with no recollection of her past.  All she knows is that she met a watery end in a river.  After she saves Joshua from drowning, she is astonished to discover that he can see her and hear her.  Even more amazing – she can touch him.  Can a ghost discover love with a living, breathing guy?

I love the premise of Hereafter, because I am a sucker for love stories where the odds are so firmly stacked against the protagonists that it seems impossible for them to ever get together.  It doesn’t get much harder to find a happy  ever after than for a ghost to fall in love with a living person.  Unfortunately, the narrative style just did not click for me.  Amelia’s endless and overly verbose inner dialog did not engage me in the story.  Amelia’s lack of memories didn’t work either, and I found that being firmly anchored to the present, with no chance of reflection on past events or mistakes, a plot device that didn’t work for me.  She did constantly relive her death, but because she kept running away from the memories, she never stopped to think about why she materialized in the exact same place every single time she had the nightmares about her death.  If she had only looked around herself, she would have discovered many key answers to the questions that were burning in her mind.

Joshua’s relatives are Seers, and they have exorcised lingering spirits for generations.  When his grandmother sees Amelia, she immediately wants Joshua to get rid of her. Permanently.  This would have been a great conflict if it hadn’t been pushed to the background midway through the book.  I am sure that the Seers will play a larger role in Arise, but I would have liked to see them meddle more with the protagonists this volume.

Eli, the evil ghost, came off as a creepy stalker.  He was one-dimensional, and very boring.  I found his aggressive behavior toward Amelia disturbing and his comeuppance lacking.  After your character has been painted to be so evil, I think you need a really memorable end.  I don’t think Eli’s was harsh enough, given his cruelty to Amelia.

I was looking forward to enjoying Hereafter, but the book just didn’t work for me.  Many other reviewers did enjoy it, so it was disappointing that I did not.

Grade: D+

Available in Print and Digital For a limited time, the eBook is only .99 and includes bonus materials!

Review copy purchased from Amazon

 

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Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

 

 

Title: Unbreak My Heart

Author:  Melissa Walker

Publisher: Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1599905280

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

,

Review:

I read and enjoyed, with a few reservations, Melissa Walker’s Small Town Sinners.  The religious framework occasionally frustrated me, but Lacey’s coming of age was compelling.  I was curious to read Unbreak My Heart, to see if I would have similar reservations with this story about a high school student who betrays her BFF.  I did not.  I was immediately engaged in this book, and couldn’t put it down. This is a great summer read with compelling characters and rapid-fire pacing.

The book begins with a very sad, very depressed Clem.  She has made herself a social outcast, and worse, she has betrayed her best friend.  A school year of forbidden attraction and inappropriate flirting has alienated her from all of her friends.  She thinks that the world has ended, as she suffers from soul-shaking sighs of regret and beats herself up over selling out Amanda.  She is the star of her own pity-party, and this is one party that seems as though it is never going to end.

To make matters worse, she is going to be stuck on her parents’ sailboat with her younger sister all summer long.  The thought is enough to send her over the deep end.  All Clem wants to do is mope around and relive every lapse of judgment she exhibited the entire school year.  She doesn’t like herself, and she now believes that she deserves to be a universally despised.  Poor Clem!

Thankfully, Clem has a run-in with James and a basket of bananas early in the book, a scene that actually had me laughing out loud.  For all of Clem’s angsty dramatics, her younger sister, Olive, and the always smiling James, lighten the tone of the story and kept Unbreak My Heart from being a total downer.  Clem is a whiny baby-face for the first few chapters, but she is so pathetic that I couldn’t find it in myself to dislike her.  She already disliked herself enough for the both of us.  Seriously.

As the story unfolds, alternating between her summer prison term on the sail boat and her unwise but understandable behavior during the previous school year, Clem begins to accept that she isn’t perfect, and that she isn’t the sole cause of her year of indiscretion.  After all of the events are revealed, I found it difficult to blame her for anything.  She is never the instigator, and she is constantly stressing about her feelings for Ethan.

I loved the setting of this story.  Clem’s family is sailing part of the Great Loop for the summer.  Clem is disconnected from the internet, and even her cell phone can’t pick up a reliable signal.  Instead, she is stuck interacting with her family and the people they meet along their journey.   When I was younger, my parents had a small cabin cruiser.  I went with them to Cedar Point one year, and had one of the best family bonding experiences ever.  I got to know my younger brother better, and I still snicker when I remember the night he sat up, yelled, “Let’s ride it one more time!” and rolled over, still fast asleep.  Despite running out of gas in extremely choppy waters, being stuck in Toledo due to inclement weather, and the occasional frayed nerves, that really is a trip I will remember for the rest of my life.  As Clem got to know her family better, I felt assured that she, too, was making memories that would last her a lifetime.

While Clem’s family was a little too perfect, her flaws more than made up for their lack of them.  James was just what Clem needed, too.  He is a walking ray of sunshine, always ready with a smile and a laugh.  Despite her vow to stay away from boys, Clem can’t help but be drawn to him.  I liked James, too.  He’s open, kind, and fun to be around.  I never suspected that he had dark troubles of his own, but once they were revealed, I liked him even more.

Unbreak My Heart is a fast, satisfying read.  It’s a perfect addition to your beach bag book collection.  While  Clem was occasionally irritating as she struggled to forgive herself for betraying her BFF, but I just couldn’t find it in myself to dislike her for being such a drama queen.  As her summer drifted by, she discovered insights about herself and her friends that helped her cope with the decisions she made that altered her relationships forever.  I liked the Clem at the end of the book, and enjoyed seeing her mature.  I think you will, too.

Grade: B

Available in Digital and Print

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Revived by Cat Patrick

 

Title: Revived

Author: Cat Patrick

Publisher: Little Brown

ISBN: 978-0316094627

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency’s true goals, she realizes she’s at the center of something much larger—and more sinister—than she ever imagined.

Review:

Revived is so not what I was expecting, based on the vibes I got from the cover.  I was expecting something creepy and scary, but this book isn’t.  It’s the story of a girl who finally learns how to make emotional connections with her peers, how to trust others, but more importantly, it’s the story of a girl who finally realizes how precious life really is.

Daisy has a rather skewed view of death.  She’s died five times, and been Revived every time.  Starting with a tragic bus accident when she was a young girl, she has been part of a top secret government experiment most of her life.  She’s an orphan, and she’s being raised by two agents working on the project.  Her life is shrouded in secrecy, and because she has to keep so many things private, she has never really had a friend.  When you are constantly forced to up and move, changing your identity, it’s hard to put down roots.  In the past, Daisy never really minded.  Once she meets Matt and Audrey, her idea of what’s important in life changes abruptly.  Life is precious, especially if you only have one life to live.

I liked Daisy a lot.  She’s smart and mature for her age, distant emotionally and not sure what to make of kids her age.  Audrey and Matt completely change her life.  She starts to feel comfortable in her new home, and she doesn’t want to have to move again.  She wants to be like a normal kid.  The problem with Daisy is that she’s not a normal kid.  No matter how you slice it, she is different, and after she learns that her new best friend is terminally ill, she has a very rude awakening.  After most people die, they are dead forever.  Being part of the Revive project, Daisy never really grasped the concept that death is final.  Her deaths never are, so she has developed a blasé attitude towards life and living.  It’s not until she sees, first hand, how brutally painful death is that she begins to appreciate the lives she’s been given.

Parts of the book did disappoint me.  I thought the background on the Revive project was minimal at best,  but as the focus of this story is Daisy and her friendships, this was a minor quibble.   There were too many convenient coincidences, but overall, I enjoyed getting to know Daisy.  She is likeable, and I found her voice compelling.  This was an engrossing read for me, and I polished it off in just two reading sessions.  While the ending is satisfying, I would not be opposed to revisiting Daisy in the future, and that’s saying a lot, because I am normally not a fan of series.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

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Review: Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley


 

Title: Cat Girl’s Day Off

Author: Kimberly Pauley

Publisher:  Tu Books

ISBN: 978-1600608834

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Natalie Ng’s little sister is a super-genius with a chameleon-like ability to disappear. Her older sister has three Class A Talents, including being a human lie detector. Her mom has laser vision and has one of the highest IQs ever. Her dad’s Talent is so complex even the Bureau of Extra-Sensory Regulation and Management (BERM) hardly knows what to classify him as.

And Nat? She can talk to cats.

The whole talking-to-cats thing is something she tries very hard to hide, except with her best friends Oscar (a celebrity-addicted gossip hound) and Melly (a wannabe actress). When Oscar shows her a viral Internet video featuring a famous blogger being attacked by her own cat, Nat realizes what’s really going on…and it’s not funny.
(okay, yeah, a frou-frou blogger being taken down by a really angry cat named Tiddlywinks, who also happens to be dyed pink? Pretty hilarious.)

Nat and her friends are catapulted right into the middle of a celebrity kidnapping mystery that takes them through Ferris Bueller’s Chicago and on and off movie sets. Can she keep her reputation intact? Can she keep Oscar and Melly focused long enough to save the day? And, most importantly, can she keep from embarrassing herself in front of Ian?
Find out what happens when the kitty litter hits the fan

Review:

I have read all of Kimberly Pauley’s books to date, and I have enjoyed each one of them.  Her Sucks to be Me series is a tongue in cheek take on vampires (they are also Bargain Priced on Amazon as of the writing of this review here and here), and when I saw that her next project was about a girl who could talk to cats, I was all over that.  I love animals, and the thought of being able to talk to cats sounded like a fun plot device, considering how humorous I hoped that the book would be.  Turns out, I wasn’t disappointed in the least.  I hope I get to spend more time with Nat in the future.

Natalie Ng feels like she’s the under-achiever of her family.  While her sisters have cool Talents, like being a human lie-detector and being able to levitate things, hers is just plain dumb.  Nat can talk to cats.  She’s afraid her classmates will find out and start making fun of her, so she keeps her Talent under wraps.  It’s also grating that her younger sister is a super-genius and already in a higher grade than she is, and that her older sister and her dad both work for BERM, the organization that monitors Talents, so they stick together like glue.  Nat is adrift in her own family, and she feels like she doesn’t fit in.

When she and her friends discover that a celebrity blogger has been kidnapped, they spring into action.  They cat-nap (rescue?) Tiddlewinks, aka Rufus Brutus the Third, and using her special Talent, Nat gets the scoop on the truth.  Easton West has been kidnapped, and Nat’s celebrity obsessed BFFs are determined to save her!  Whether Nat wants anything to do with their rescue mission or not!  Hijinks ensue, which include an epic food fight in the high school cafeteria, skipping classes, breaking into a creepy house, and random discourse with strange cats, only one of which is pink.

I loved Nat and her relationships with the animals she meets during her adventure.  Her own cat, Meep, is genetically engineered so that her mother’s allergies don’t get out of control.  Meep is snarky, but she can’t hold a candle to Rufus.  Rufus is a prima donna in pink cat fur, aloof, demanding, and temperamental.  He also loves his person and wants to save her from the clutches of the evil woman who has kidnapped her and taken over her identity.  The cats are a lot of fun, and their diverse personalities added some laughs when tensions ran high.  I am a sucker for animals, and I loved the idea of being able to communicate with them.  They don’t pull any punches, either!  These cats can be brutally honest.  Nat can only talk to cats, though there are those occasional times when she can understand a dog, usually one that lives with a cat (so maybe the dog is really speaking cat?).

While I did find Nat’s friends too stereo-typed and uber annoying, overall, I thought Cat Girl’s Day Off was a fun, fast read.  I was engaged in the story from beginning to end, and even had a few stressful moments when it looked like Rufus might meet an untimely end. Gah!  Thankfully, Nat cleverly, albeit reluctantly, races in to save the day, as well as the cranky cat.  This is the perfect book to pack in your beach bag; it’s a quick read, it’s light, and it’s a great escape from reality.  I hope Nat has more adventures, because this really is a fun read.

Note: Nat’s footsteps follow those of Ferris Bueller, but since I haven’t seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in forever, most of the nods to the movie went right over my head.  That didn’t stop me from enjoying the book anyway.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by {teen} Book Scene

 

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Review: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell


 

Title: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe

Author: Shelley Coriell

Publisher: Amulet Books

ISBN: 978-1419701917

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

Review:

I enjoyed this book so much because I found the protagonist so likeable.  Chloe is one of those perpetually happy people, and she finds the good in every situation.  Because she is a “the glass is half-full” kind of girl, people are drawn to her open and friendly personality.  She doesn’t judge others, which I found refreshing, and she tries to be a friend to everyone.  It’s when her own BFFs ditch her that she finds herself alone and unhappy, because Chloe is such a people-person.  In order for her to be happy, she needs to be around others, so her friends’ defection leaves her reeling.

My biggest hurdle to overcome with this read was the reason for the breakup with her BFFs.  It just did not sound convincing, and to me, the tone of this plot point would have felt more at home in a Middle Grade book.  I really did feel that she was better off making new friends, because she isn’t the kind of girl to enjoy all of the drama her BFFs were putting her through.  They were not worthy of her loyalty, but Chloe’s refusal to acknowledge how petty they were being is one of the things that I admired about her character.  She truly wants to get along with everyone, and she goes out of her way to make people happy.

When she is forced to accept a new topic for her junior project, a paper that her school year hinges on, she is angry.  She doesn’t want to have anything to do with the school’s radio station, and she has no passion for the topic.  As she is slowly enmeshed in the lives and hopes of the radio station’s staff, though, she begins to enjoy learning more about it.  With low ratings and the threat of their funds being revoked, the kids running the station are just as wary of Chloe as she is of them.  They don’t have a good opinion of her, they don’t have time for her, and they doubt that she can bring any useful skills to the table.  As she struggles to complete her project and save the radio station at the same time, she begins to make allies among the radio station staff.

She is attracted to Duncan, who is content to keep her at arms length, but as Chloe warms up to her new acquaintances, she strives to become a friend to them, too.  She just can’t ignore people, and the more they try to push her away, the more she turns on the Chloe charm.  Duncan has a horrible home life, and he is wary of letting Chloe see the truth about him and his mother.  Chloe’s parents are both successful doctors, her brothers are all following in their footsteps, and Duncan can’t help but think that she has every advantage available to her.  What he doesn’t know is that Chloe is just as adrift as he is.  She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, and the pressure of figuring it out is causing her a lot of anxiety.

Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe is a book about relationships.  Chloe is defined by her relationships with her friends and her family.  When all of her relationships skitter out of control, she is desperate to fix them.  Just like Chloe, this book has a lot of heart, and that’s what I enjoyed about it.   I found it to be compulsively readable, despite some quibbles with the major conflict between Chloe and her BFFs. Chloe is such a fun character that I ignored many of the unlikely plot points.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by the {teen} book scene

 

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