Friday, March 22, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Contemporary Style

My need-to-review shelf on GoodReads has been out of hand for quite some time.  As I write this, there are 21 books sitting on it.  While I'd love to tell you guys that I have deep and thought-provoking analyses of everything I read, there are some books that I don't have as much to say about.  I thought I'd tackle some of these titles today with mini-reviews.  Today I'm focus on contemporary titles.

Meant to Be Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

(Summary from GoodReads)

With it’s London setting and utterly adorable cover, I knew Meant To Be was a book I just had to own.  I eagerly awaited its release and as soon as UPS dropped off my finished copy, I ripped open the package and started reading.  While I thought a couple of things with the ending seemed a bit too convoluted, this was a fun and enjoyable read that was well worth my while.

Julia reminded me so much of myself in high school—very much a rule follower who didn’t always get along with cocky boys, but still someone who wanted to find love.  If I’d been in her circumstances, I’d  have behaved the same way.  This is a great book to read if you’ve been to London and like to fondly reminisce about the sights.  Morrill mentions a lot of famous landmarks and I found myself thinking back to my own year abroad.

The romance in this story is cute but predictable.  Jason turns out to be an okay guy, but compared to some of the other dudes I’ve seen in young adult literature, I wouldn’t say he really stands out.  I can’t help but comparing him to Wes from Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF and thinking how much more awesome Wes is.  There’s a little twist at the end that over complicates the resolution, but it’s still predicatble.

THE FINAL VERDICT: Perfect if you want a cute, fun read set in England, but on a book I’d pick up if you’re hoping to read the very best of YA romance.

Live Through ThisFrom the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a mom and stepdad who would stop at nothing to keep her siblings and her happy.

But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted façade. That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now that Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling.

In this unforgettable powerhouse of a novel, Mindi Scott offers an absorbing, layered glimpse into the life of an everygirl living a nightmare that no one would suspect.

(Summary from GoodReads)

As we all know, when April from Good Books and Good Wine recommends a book, I will purchase it almost immediately afterwards.  I had been hesitant to try Mindi Scott’s books because they just didn’t look like something that would satisfy me in terms of literary quality, but I bumped this one to the top of my TBR pile.  Live Through This tackles a difficult subject reasonably successfully, but overall I just thought it needed more.

To me, Coley read like a girl who could exist in any suburban, upper middle class in America.  So did every other character in the book, and everything about Coley’s life.  When I read about the things she was going through, I felt bad for her, but a sense of urgency wasn’t there for me.  I wasn’t desperately rooting for Coley to work things out and get better because to me, her feelings of anxiety and hurt just weren’t totally clear.

Lots of people have enjoyed this one, so it’s hard to pin down why it didn’t work for me.  I thin it’s because I was hoping for something truly outstanding, but felt as though I picked up just another run of the mill book.

THE FINAL VERDICT: If tough contemporaries are your niche, I think Scott may satisfy you.  Personally I just feel as though I’ve read tough contemporaries that are more beautifully written and more compelling plotwise.

Catching Jordan (Hundred Oaks, #1)

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?

(Summary from GoodReads)

I wasn’t planning on reading Catching Jordan when I first heard about it.  It was about football, so I assumed it would all be over my head and uninteresting to me. Oh, how wrong I was.

Catching Jordan is not all football talk.  While the game obviously plays a big role in the plot and there are passages that feature it heavily, it’s also about the life of an athlete.   Kenneally talks about the huge amounts of food Jordan can put away, which I can totally relate to as someone who ran cross-country in high school and college.  Jordan is a totally relatable character because she worries about her relationships with the guys in her life as well as the mean girls in school.  This book also did a nice job of showcasing why being a female athlete wasn’t about to get any easier for Jordan, and I appreciated that. The whole story felt like something that might actually happen o a girl with Jordan’s aspirations.

As for the romance, let’s not deny it: this book is kind of insta-lovey.  However, I thought it worked for this story because Jordan’s relationships with these guys were so complex.  It was another scenario that felt true to life.  It took me a while to see the ending coming, but I really liked it once we got there.

If you like stories about football, Catching Jordan will appeal to you.  I really don’t like football (seriously, I like the Super Bowl because I can eat wings), but I flew through this story.   Definitely a cute read

Hold Still An arresting story about starting over after a friend’s suicide, froma breakthrough new voice in YA fiction dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself.

(Summary from GoodReads)

While I’d read lots of positive reviews of Hold Still, it was actually the book trailer that convinced me to read it.  I was in the mood for something depressing earlier this year and couldn’t track down my copy of Thirteen Reasons Why, and thinking this one might be similar, I picked it up instead.  Hold Still was a solid read and LaCour is a great writer, but I’m not her target audience.

Caitlin’s perspective in this book is very realistic: she doesn’t understand why Ingrid committed suicide.  It made a lot of sense to write the book that way as there are probably readers who’ve had that experience.  The story itself is well plotted, and I didn’t have any problems with the writing.

Caitlin is an artistic character.  Photography is one of her passions, something she enjoyed with Ingrid, and she makes friends with other people who are artsy.  I have nothing against artistic people, but it’s a small miracle that I can pull together a craft for my preschool storytime every week, and my flannel board creations are not cute.  I’m serious.  Hold Still is a great read, but you should especially push it on the art lovers you know.

THE FINAL VERDICT: Pass this one on to the artist and the musicians in your life---they’ll have a strong connection with LaCour’s characters.


  1. I really loved Meant to Be, not because it was the most original and surprising book I've picked up, but because of it's predictability and sticky sweet romance. It was adorable and fun and I'd definitely read it again if I could get my hands on a copy. As for Miranda Kenneally's books, I've only read Stealing Parker, but I agree that she's amazing at making sports interesting! Lol! Great reviews, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I always love a good contemporary. :)

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