Review: Arise by Tara Hudson


 

   Title: Arise

   Author: Tara Hudson

   Publisher: HarperTeen

   ISBN: 978-0062026798

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Amelia—still caught between life and death—must fight for every moment of her relationship with the human boy Joshua. They can hardly even kiss without Amelia accidentally dematerializing. Looking for answers, they go to visit some of Joshua’s Seer relatives in New Orleans. But even in a city so famously steeped in the supernatural, Amelia ends up with more questions than answers…and becomes increasingly convinced that she and Joshua can never have a future together.Wandering through the French Quarter, Amelia meets other in-between ghosts, and begins to seriously consider joining them. And then she meets Gabrielle. Somehow, against impossible odds, Gaby has found a way to live a sort of half-life…a half-life for which Amelia would pay any price. Torn between two worlds, Amelia must choose carefully, before the evil spirits of the netherworld choose for her.

Review:

Arise picks up where Hereafter left off, with Amelia still a ghost and a long term relationship with Joshua looking more and more unlikely.  Nobody can see her, after all, and he looks like a nut case walking through the school campus holding her hand or talking to her.  Worse, he is avoiding his friends and starting to lose his social standing at school so he can spend time with her.  This only makes Amelia feel guilty and stressed out.  She realizes that a relationship with her will make Joshua a social outcast and it’s tearing her up inside. 

I thought that the setting and story elements were stronger in Arise than Hereafter.  Joshua’s family heads to New Orleans to spend the Christmas holidays with family, and Amelia is immediately surrounded by a group of young Seers.  Instead of wanting to banish her forever, they seem to want to help her.  Can she trust them?  I was immediately skeptical of their motives.  Joshua’s sister, Jillian, had me the most suspicious.  After Amelia saved her from certain death and her Seer abilities were unlocked, Jillian did nothing but deny that she can see and hear Amelia.  I kept wondering why she trying to be deceptive.  Was it because she was in denial, or was there a more sinister motive behind it?

Without giving too much of the plot away, I did like the voodoo aspects that were introduced to the storyline, but wish that that they were a little more believable.  Amelia’s new friend, Gabby, performs a voodoo ritual that drastically changes Amelia.  The ritual was supposedly learned by reading a spell in a voodoo priestess’ shop, and it just seemed wrong to me that Gabby could alter the dead just by reading a spell in a book.  Even though she was interested in voodoo and even though she was related to a voodoo practitioner, I would have expected that a spell that powerful would demand a lot more effort than waiting for the book to be left open on that particular page.  Maybe by virtue of the fact that they are in New Orleans, the very air that surrounded Gabby gave her the knowledge and the magical powers necessary to perform the spell. 

I felt that this book is guilty of telling, instead of showing, what is going on.  There were huge info dumps after Amelia meets the other Seers, as well as after she meets Gabby.  These scenes of long explanatory exchanges were boring to me, and made me question the believability of the facts being revealed.  It ruined the suspense for me, and bogged down the story.

This series isn’t really clicking for me, and I don’t think I will continue with it.  While the premise is awesome, the writing style doesn’t work for me.  All of those snapping and whipping heads, along with the twisted lips and snarling, growling, and hissing just sounds painful and overdone.  Nobody just says anything in Arise – they shriek, gasp, and choke constantly, which made me relieved that Amelia was already dead.  The constant recoiling, flopping, and clawing would probably have killed her if she wasn’t already a ghost.

If you enjoyed Hereafter, you will enjoy Arise.  If you are new to the series, I suggest sampling a few chapters before purchasing.

Grade: C-

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Interview with Melissa Walker, Author of Unbreak My Heart

Melissa Walker is the author of the enjoyable summer read Unbreak My Heart.  She also penned Small Town Sinners.   Recently, I asked Melissa a few questions about her latest book.  See what she has to say about Unbreak My Heart.

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

[Melissa Walker] Author of teen books, magazine writer and editor, lover of iced-coffee, mix tapes, Friday Night Lights and Tarheel Basketball.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Unbreak My Heart?

[Melissa Walker] Sure! It’s the story of a girl named Clem who is spending the summer with her parents and little sister on the family sailboat. She starts out heartbroken because of an incident that happened last year, and she slowly works through her pain (with the help of the fam and a sweet guy she meets on the river).

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

[Melissa Walker] I broke up with a best friend once, and it was (and is) truly painful. I wanted a way to get at that feeling, and these characters came to me as I thought about that situation.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Melissa Walker] The story alternates between past and present (the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that heals it), so getting that balance right was tough. I rearranged chapters a LOT, and that can get confusing!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Clem?

[Melissa Walker] Introspective, regretful, hopeful

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things James would never have in his pocket?

[Melissa Walker] Ha! Love this question. He would never have: a banana (too smelly), a hole (he’s very put together) or a cigarette (he’s too into fresh air).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Clem’s single most prized possession?

[Melissa Walker] Probably her iPod. She needs her life to have a soundtrack.

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

[Melissa Walker] I do watch a lot of TV and movies, and I read a lot, but I think "real life" is my greatest influence. Walking around, I catch snatches of conversation, see people act a certain way, watch how someone moves. That inspires me to sit down with new characters the most.

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

[Melissa Walker] Laptop, iced coffee, and at least two hours of uninterrupted time.

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

[Melissa Walker] The Difference Between You an Me, by Madeleine George. Best kissing scenes ever.

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

[Melissa Walker] It would likely be Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I could not get enough of Fudge.

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

[Melissa Walker] Read! Yoga. Park walks. Baby snuggles.

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

[Melissa Walker] On melissacwalker.com, on twitter @melissacwalker, on facebook.com/melissawalkerauthor and on pinterest.com/melcwalker

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thanks!


You can order Unbreak My Heart and Small Town Sinners from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the links below

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

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Review: Endure by Carrie Jones

 

Title: Endure

Author: Carrie Jones

Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA

ISBN: 978-1599905549

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

It’s all-out war (and no-holds-barred romance) in the climactic conclusion to Carrie Jones’s bestselling series.

Zara is at the center of an impending apocalypse. True, she’s successfully rescued Nick from Valhalla, but it simply isn’t enough. Evil pixies are ravaging Bedford, and they need much more than one great warrior; they need an army. Zara isn’t sure what her role is anymore. She’s not just fighting for her friends; she’s also a pixie queen. And to align her team of pixies with the humans she loves will be one of her greatest battles yet. Especially since she can’t even reconcile her growing feelings for her pixie king . . .

Unexpected turns, surprising revelations, and one utterly satisfying romantic finale make Endure a thrilling end to this series of bestsellers.

Review:

I have mixed feelings about the final volume of Carrie Jones’ NEED series.  Endure is a page turner, but despite the rapid pacing, there was something missing for me.  The earlier books in the series introduced a scary new paranormal creature to me – Pixies.  Prior to reading Need, when I conjured pixies in my mind, they were little impish creatures, hardly worthy of concern.  This series charged that vision into a nightmare.  Large, powerful pixies, ruled by an all consuming need, turned out to be pretty frightening after all, especially when paired with an isolated, snowy landscape.  I loved the Maine setting, and the pixies,whispering enticingly from the shelter of the woods, freaked me out.

In Endure, Zara has sacrificed her humanity to save Nick from Valhalla, and here is my major dislike of this story.  Nick has turned his back on Zara, and now considers her a monster.  I just wanted him to get over himself!  Dude, Zara gave up everything to bring your sorry butt back to life, so the least you could have done was thank her.  Geez!  Instead, Nick puts on a pout, tells Zara he doesn’t know who she is anymore, and treats her like…well, a pixie.  Really?  This is how you display your love to the brave young woman who was willing to give up everything for you?  Who was willing to face her nightmare opponents head on, to save you? So disappointing!

I liked Astley better than Nick, and that surprised me.  Up until this volume, I loved Nick.  He is so bad ass.  He’s a werewolf, and until his visit to Valhalla, he would have done anything to protect Zara and his friends.  Just like she was willing to do for him.  Until all of that turned out to be a lie.  Then Zara was left with Astley, a kind and good pixie.  A kind and good pixie king.  The kind of guy who accepts you for who, and what, you are.  Astley did not care whether Zara was pixie or human, and that’s when I jumped onboard with Team Astley. He was always there for her, whether she wanted him to be or not.  He was always supportive, always willing to put himself in harm’s way to keep her safe.  Zara wasn’t the only one willing to takes risks for those she loved, and that’s what endeared Astley to me.  Nick, you can learn a few lessons from him.

Romantic triangle and personality shifts aside, the other problem I had with Endure was the sheer density of the plot.  Pretty much every plot device is packed into this book, from evil, psychopathic bad guys, to global goose chases, to cataclysmic shifts in weather patterns,  to Norse gods, giants, weres, elves, and…well, I’m sure you get my drift.  There was just too much for me to absorb at times, and it made the plot feel cluttered.  Sometimes, too much of a good thing is just too much.

Overall, I enjoyed the NEED series very much.  The ending left me satisfied, content that Zara and her friends had saved the world from evil pixies, prophesies, and the rage of Loki.  I’m looking forward to seeing Carrie’s next project, because I find her writing style compelling, and I can identify with her characters.

Grade: B-

Available in both Print and Digital

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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

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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+

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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

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Review: Awkward by Marni Bates

 

Title: Awkward

Author: Marni Bates

Publisher: KTEEN

ISBN: 978-0758269379

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mackenzie Wellesley has spent her life avoiding the spotlight. At Smith High, she’s the awkward junior people only notice when they need help with homework. Until she sends a burly football player flying with her massive backpack and makes a disastrous – not to mention unwelcome – attempt at CPR. Before the day is out, the whole fiasco explodes on YouTube. And then the strangest thing happens. Suddenly, Mackenzie is an Internet sensation, with four million hits and counting. Sucked into a whirlwind of rock stars, paparazzi, and free designer clothes, she even catches the eye of the most popular guy at school. And that’s when life gets really interesting…

Review:

When I first picked up Awkward, I wasn’t sure if the book was  for me.  I have to admit that the first two chapters didn’t totally captive me, and the story started off feeling too familiar to me.  That impression lasted only lasted about 30 pages, and before I was even aware of it, I was completely engaged in Mackenzie’s train wreck of a life.  Awkward in her own skin, she tries to blend into the background, uncomfortable being the center of attention.  She wants to be invisible, because being in the spotlight is mortifying for her.  She just wants to do her time in high school, get good grades, and score a lucrative scholarship for a prestigious college. 

Enter the most embarrassing moment of her life;  in a show of epic clumsiness, she knocks over a football player and, believing that she killed him, freaks out.  Her disastrous attempt to perform CPR goes awry, and worse, she discovers that someone filmed her in her spazzed out glory and uploaded the video on YouTube.  Before she can even catch her breath, Mackenzie has gone viral, and all of the attention she has been trying to avoid lands on her doorstep.  There is no getting away from the embarrassing video.  The paparazzi stalk her, reports call for interviews, and a rock band uses clips of her freak out in their new music video.  Mackenzie begins to despair that her life will never get back to normal.  Then, she starts questioning if she even wants it to.

I loved this book.  It’s humorous, but it also has a lot of heart.  The relationship between Mackenzie and her family is so touching.  Her father dumped them years ago for a new family, and due to an unfortunate incident at a ballet recital, Mackenzie blames herself for the ruination of her parents’ marriage.  She is leery of putting her out there, still stinging from her father’s abandonment.  Even though she bickers constantly with her younger brother, who feels that she is a complete embarrassment to the human race, there is a deep connection between them.  The relationships between her brother and her mother felt real and I loved how they interacted with each other.

I also loved Mackenzie.  She’s smart and witty, and a loyal friend as well.  With her life skittering out of control, she needs her friends more than ever.  As she begins to develop a sense of self, she begins to open up.  It was gratifying to see her mature and blossom as the story unfolded.  She puts up with a lot crap from the popular kids at school, so it only seemed right when her star began to eclipse theirs.  The video and the attempt to completely embarrass her backfires, and before she can blink, Mackenzie is a celebrity.  Suddenly, being on the periphery of life is no longer good enough for her.  Mackenzie wants to be popular, and as her video continues to make the rounds, she learns to laugh at herself and reach out with both hands to grab what she wants.  I wanted her to accomplish every single crazy dream she harbored, and with the help of her friends, that’s exactly what she does.

Awkward is a fun contemporary with great characters, humor, and tons of drama, too.  I can hardly wait to see what Marni Bates comes up with next.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by {teen} Book Scene

 

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