Book Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

far from you.jpg

This is a review of a re-read.

 

Favourite quotes:

“But my heart isn’t simple or straightforward. It’s a complicated mess of wants and needs, boys and girls: soft, rough, and everything in between, an ever-shifting precipice from which to fall”.

“But this is the thing about struggling out of that hole you’ve put yourself in: the higher you climb, the farther you have to fall”.

“I want to keep my memory of her untainted, not polished by death nor shredded to pieces by words she meant only for herself. I want her to stay with me as she always was: strong and sure in everything but the one thing that mattered most, beautifully cruel and wonderfully sweet, too smart and inquisitive for her own good, and loving me like she didn’t want to believe it was a sin”.

 

Sophie Winters is an addict. She got hooked on painkillers after a car accident two years ago which wrecked her leg forever. But contrary to what her family, what the entire town believes, she’s been clean for over nine months now. And there was no relapse of any kind. Her best friend Mina wasn’t murdered because of a drug deal Sophie’s orchestrated. There was no drug deal at all, actually. But Sophie’s parents don’t believe her and send her to rehab anyway. Once she comes back four months later, she’s determined to find out who killed Mina and why.

However, very few people are keen to help her. The only one who seems to believe her is Rachel, the girl who found Sophie the night Mina died. Mina’s brother Trev has been in love with Sophie for the longest time, but he won’t speak to her. Her parents won’t believe her. And it goes without saying that Sophie’s time in rehab has done absolutely nothing to help her move on. Mina was her best friend – her other half, even. But some things, some secrets are buried so deep that unraveling them would send Sophie down a rabbit hole  which she has little chance of climbing out of. Can Sophie solve Mina’s murder and stay clean in the process? Or will the secrets they shared with each other, and things that Mina kept to herself and herself alone, wreck Sophie to the point of no return?

 

I first read “Far From You” in January 2015. I remember loving it and being heartbroken by it, and recently, I decided to re-read it. However, I was quite surprised by the fact that I haven’t written a review of this wonderful novel two years ago. So this review is based on both my initial impressions and what I’ve experienced during the re-read.

“Far From You” is both mystery-centric and protagonist-centric. Sophie Winters is a first-person narrator, so the story is shown from her perspective entirely. However, her voice is the kind that makes it clear for the reader the things that she doesn’t state explicitly. This is particularly true when she talks about Mina – Sophie’s pespective of the latter is skewed by many things revealed during the course of the story. However, the reader figures out several things about Mina that venture beyond Sophie’s somewhat romanticised notion of her. This is helped further by the “before” and “after” structure of the novel – flashbacks make up about 50% of the book, which worked brilliantly, even though they were slightly difficult to follow at first. Mostly because they weren’t in the order that you would expect. To reveal more about what the reader learns about Mina through Sophie’s narration and the things left unsaid by Sophie would be quite spoilery, though, so I’ll just say this – nothing in this book as it seems.

One would even argue that the mystery of Mina’s murder is as much of a core of “Far From You”, as it is a plot device. A lot of the book focuses on Sophie’s investigation, but just as much is centered around her relationship with Mina. Even her relationships with other people – Mina’s brother Trev, Mina’s boyfriend Kyle, the subjects of Mina’s newspaper article – they’re all somewhat related to what Sophie had had with Mina. And the way “Far From You” is written doesn’t let the reader forget that. It is also written in a way that makes the reader genuinely feel for both girls, and the words used by the author are weaved into sentences that made me weep both times I read the book. “Far From You” is definitely a story that got to me, made me truly care about the characters, despite their numerous flaws. These flaws are indeed what made them real – the author doesn’t skirt around them but turns them into character traits that make the actors genuinely relatable. And I’m not just referring to the LGBT+ aspects of the book, although books with LGBT+ protagonists are incredibly important today. The author doesn’t make the characters all about their sexual orientations – Far From It (sorry for the pun). All the characters – not just the protagonists – feel like real people, real teenagers with real struggles, their sexuality being one of them, but hardly overshadowing all of their other defining traits. I love books like that. And if they make me cry – well, that’s just a bonus, isn’t it? All stories matter, and stories featuring diverse characters especially. And if they get to the reader, if they make the reader experience strong emotions, that just makes them even more important. “Far From You” is one such story.

When I found out that “Far From You” was a debut novel, I was stunned. The author is incredibly talented with words and story-weaving, and I cannot wait for her next book! My rating for “Far From You” is 8/10.

 

Dreamcast

Sophie Winters – Eliza Taylor

Mina Bishop – Luisa D’Oliveira

 

Recommendations

You might like “Far From You” if you liked:

“Cam Girl” by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake

“Complicit” by Stephanie Kuehn

“Pretty Little Liars” – Mina was no Alison DiLaurentis, yet one can’t help but draw Emison parallels.

 

Have you read “Far From You”? What is your favourite book with a bisexual protagonist? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop!

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Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

leaving

“Rape was violence, not sex”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Favourite quotes:

“Nobody look at me, I’m a fucking mess! I’m going to sue Sarah Jessica Parker. Sex and the City did not prepare me to be a single woman in her thirties without designer heels and amazing sex!”

“Having a crappy job means having money that’s just mine, that I can spend on whatever I want to. I can’t tell you how good that feels”.

“Would everyone remember the times they’d said stuff like ‘that’s so gay’ and ‘don’t be a fag’ in my presence, and suddenly be unable to look me in the eye anymore? Would they even care how it made me feel? Just how different would my life be if the truth got out?”

 

Flynn Doherty’s girlfriend January broke up with him and a few days later, the police are at his house. January hasn’t been seen since then. As the ex-boyfriend, Flynn is naturally the first person of interest for the police of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Of course, it can’t be January’s stepfather – future State Senator Jonathan Walker. Or any of the dumb rich kids at her new prestigious school. Or her pervy stepbrother. Or Kaz – January’s coworker and the guy who’s so much cooler and more handsome than Flynn. Well, that’s what the police thinks. Flynn is shocked by the news but is he really as innocent as he claims? Or are his own secrets something a lot more sinister than the reader initially believes?

As the search for January continues, the situation becomes much more puzzling for the townspeople. And for Flynn. Apparently, he was quite blind to his ex’s relationships with other people. People like her mother and stepfather. And her new classmates whom she made fun of relentlessly to him. And of course, with Kaz. Kaz turns out to be a whole new mystery entirely. Can Flynn handle juggling January’s disappearance, his own secrets and the changing relationships in his life? Or will the story end completely differently from what the reader is expecting?

 

“Last Seen Leaving” is a book that’s been described as “Gone Girl” for teens. Aside from my personal issues with that description (are teens not smart enough for “Gone Girl”?), it is to an extent true. Indeed, you get the “Gone Girl” vibes from the very first chapter – a missing girl, a narrator with a secret who lies to the police, and revelations that don’t exactly cast him in a favourable light. However, “Last Seen Leaving” is more than capable of standing on its own pages, without any comparisons to any bestsellers (no matter how much we all love Gillian Flynn, there are other mystery writers out there!).

Our narrator is Flynn Doherty, a 15-year-old skater who’s quite smart for his age. A little too smart in fact – at one point, he makes a reference to Torquemada. It is my understanding that in America, there is little focus on non-American history until the last two years of school, so I was quite puzzled by the idea that a sophomore would know who Torquemada was. And for a smart kid, Flynn makes a few very dumb decisions – breaking into an apartment of a potential murderer being one of them. However, he is struggling with some very difficult things during the course of the novel. Being fifteen is hard enough, and when you are in the closet with an ex-girlfriend who is probably dead and a strange crush on a dude whom you thought to be after that very ex-girlfriend – well, it’s no surprise that Flynn’s decision-making process is not in top shape. And January McConville is another story entirely. I do think that Flynn somewhat idealised her, which led to him being an unreliable narrator and such a viable suspect for the police and January’s acquiantances.

Tana French has said it best – “teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods”. I’ve already pointed out the novel’s similarities to “Gone Girl”, but I will tell you one thing – that is not a spoiler. The mysteries may have a few things in common, but I was still quite engaged in “Last Seen Leaving” because I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen until the very last page of the epilogue. I’ve suspected several things that came to be, but I was quite surprised (and devastated) by many other revelations.

“Last Seen Leaving” is a very strong debut and an interesting YA mystery. Caleb Roehrig is certainly one author to keep an eye out for! Plus his Instagram pictures are beautiful! My rating of “Last Seen Leaving” is 7/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Last Seen Leaving” if you liked:

“As I Descended” by Robin Talley

“The Secret Place” by Tana French

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

 

Have you read “Last Seen Leaving”? What are your favourite YA mysteries and thrillers? Drop me a line in the comments, I love them! 🙂

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop before you go!

Book Review: Break Your Heart by Rhonda Helms

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Favourite quotes:

“Math is constant. It’s ordered. It’s comforting. And, frankly, it gets a bad rap. I think we need more women in math. We need more people of color in math”.

“Strength doesn’t mean doing everything alone. It can also mean knowing when you need help. Even if it’s just another person to talk to”.

“Sometimes you have to silence the noise around you to listen to what your heart is whispering”.

 

Megan Porter is a senior at prestigious college in Conencticut and she is very excited to start her mathematics graduate program in a few months. She loves math, she loves socialising and she is driven to succeed. But first, she has to get through senior year. And that means taking on brand new classes, meet new people, perhaps rekindle a few flames in between, and of course say goodbye to her roommate Casey who has plans to move in with her boyfriend soon.

One of the many exciting new things Megan is tackling is her cryptography class, and the teacher just happens to be her advisor. At least he was until he had a heart attack. The new teacher is Dr. Nick Muramoto, a professor who is ten years older than Megan, very enthusiastic about math and cryptography, and just happens to be very smart. And incredibly handsome. Obviously he is overseeing Megan’s thesis now. An attraction develops between them throughout their interactions, and soon they are unable to stay away from each other. But Nick just got tenure and he has a lot to lose. And so does Megan. But the more they try to pull away, the stronger they gravitate towards each other. Are their feelings worth risking what each of them has been striving to achieve their entire lives? And can Megan and Nick deal with the inevitable crash and burn when it comes?

 

The reason I haven’t written reviews in a while is because my tablet broke last month, and I couldn’t fix it until two days ago, so I didn’t have access to the majority of my books for almost a month. Yes, it was torture. But I was over the moon when I finally managed to fix it! And all by myself too! “Break Your Heart” was the first book that popped out on my newly restored Kindle, and I was in the mood for more New Adult after having finished the amazing “Off Campus” series.

Teacher-student romance are either a hit or a miss for me. “Break Your Heart” was most certainly a hit. Not only was I immensely pleased to read a book with an African-American protagonist with STEM aspirations and an Asian-American love interest, but I also appreciated that the book was well-written and characters weren’t caricatures and there “just to score diversity points”. They felt real and relatable, especially the women. Megan was obviously the star of the book, but her friends Casey and Kelly weren’t just there to fill in spots on the background. They had their own backstories that didn’t make the narrative all about Megan, which I really liked. And the female friendships in the book were also wonderful to read about. The male characters were a bit bland – there is a “nice guy”, an “uneducated entitled jock” or five, and other stereotypical college males. But this story wasn’t about them.

The character of Megan Porter is that of a modern young woman who is ambitious, driven and yet knows how to have fun and to capture a guy’s attention, and values life outside of work and academia. She might be a math enthusiast, but we can clearly see that family and friends would always come first for her. Before math, and most certainly before a guy, even one as amazing as a hot college professor who is very, very good in bed.

When it comes to romance, I understand that in a New Adult book, it is one of the primary subjects, but I don’t like when that’s all the book focuses on. Luckily, the author didn’t do that. True, the relationship between Megan and Nick took up a lot of the novel, but there were also subplots that focused on Megan dealing with issues many young women deal with today. Family, friendships, the future and other things that were important to Megan might have all been affected by the relationship, but we got to see how Megan dealt with them without making her life all about Nick, and that’s what’s important. The romantic scenes and the sex scenes were okay – I’ve read better, but I’ve been spoiled by Dahlia Adler, Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy who are so damn good at writing them they basically ruined sex scenes for me that are written by other writers.

I would certainly recommend “Break Your Heart” to fans of New Adult and to those who are looking for a nice way to spend an afternoon.

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “Break Your Heart” if you liked:

“Last Will and Testament” by Dahlia Adler

“Easy” by Tammara Webber

“Pretty Little Liars”

 

Have you read “Break Your Heart”? Do you have a favourite teacher-student romance? Leave me a comment and tell me all about it! 🙂

Book Review: Stained Glass Shards by Rosemary Rey

stained-glass-shards

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Favourite quotes

“I’d never intended to release my identity. I didn’t want to go on a book tour, read passages at bookstores and libraries, or attend author signing events. I just wanted to write, spilling my innermost desires and fears so I didn’t have to make them a reality or live a lesser quality of life”.

“While looking through the glass, the mirrors reflected the brilliant colors he allowed me to see: his beauty, charming personality and sexual prowess. But in darkness, the kaleidoscope was just shards of glass reflected by angled mirrors”.

 

Griffin Belanger is a Hollywood heartthrob about to secure a role in a movie based on a romantic novel by author Claire Lark. Little does he know that the author of the book is his old college lover. The woman he loved yet could never tell her that.

Elyce Claire Fielding’s life used to be ordinary, her lover Griffin who pushed her to her limits being the most intense thing to ever happen to her. Upon realising his toxicity, Elyce lets him go and focuses all her energy on writing a romance novel about Ilieana Gardner and Tucker Frost. The story does have a happy ending, but not the way most traditional romantic stories do. No, the story of Ilieana is a story of growth, development and moving on. Which has been Elyce’s goal all along. Now that her book’s a bestseller and is being optioned for a movie, and Elyce is in a happy relationship with her agent Ritter, she believes that she can finally leave Griffin Belanger where he belongs – in the past. However, nothing stays in the past in Hollywood. Griffin is determined to win Elyce back. Elyce is focused on her new book and all her efforts to avoid Griffin seem to be in vain. Can the two ever reconcile? Or are the wounds of the past still too raw?

 

I’ve gone out with several guys who could only be called arseholes, but I am very fortunate to have avoided someone like Griffin Belanger. The male love interest in the book is a scumbag the likes of which can be compared to Christian Grey. The fact that “Stained Glass Shards” features chapters from his perspective, as well as Elyce’s, does very little to make him appeal to the reader. I can understand how Elyce can be compared to Anastasia Steele, but she is much less of a doormat. She had had to do quite a bit of growing up after Griffin ditched her, and also throughout the course of the novel – she did annoy me some by not standing up to Griffin, but by the end of the book, she’s found her footing. Not to say that I’m happy with how the book ended. In my opinion, neither Griffin nor Ritter deserved to be in the life of a girl like Elyce, who’s come a long way.

I’m not sure what annoyed me about Griffin the most – his sense of entitlement, the way he uses people, or his “manpains”. However, I could tell that unlike “Fifty Shades of Grey”, we are not meant to like the love interest. The author of “Stained Glass Shards” clearly intended for the reader to hate Griffin, even though, as I pointed out earlier, I didn’t really root for the other guy either. I rooted for Elyce and, apart from several second-hand moments of embarrassment (when Griffin was too good at manipulating her), she was worth rooting for. Not least because she is a writer who relied on her craft to get her through tough times, like I myself have done on many occasions.

“Stained Glass Shards” is a book-within-a-book – Elyce’s novel is being optioned for a movie and the book we’re reading features quite a few extras from that novel. Elyce based the plot on her own love affair with Griffin, and I appreciated how Rosemary Rey’s “Stained Glass Shards”‘ writing style and “Elyce’s” writing style were quite distinctive, which is a testament to the author’s writing talent. This is a romance novel, but it is definitely character-centric. My rating is 6.5/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Stained Glass Shards” if you liked:

“The Year We Fell Down” by Sarina Bowen

“The Key” by Victoria Darkins

“The Pentagon Group series” by Rosemary Rey

Have you read “Stained Glass Shards”? What are your favourite NA novels? Leave a comment and tell me! 🙂

Book Review: Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

girls on fire

Favourite quotes

Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved the woods, the cool sweep of browning greens, the canopy of leafy sky. Hidden in the trees, she picked flowers and dug for worms, she recited poems, timing the words to the bounce of her feet in the dirt. In the woods she met a monster and mistook her for a friend. Into the woods they went, deeper and darker, and carved a sacred ring around a secret place, where the monster dug out pieces of the girl and buried them in the ground so that the girl could never truly leave, and never bear to return”.

“What it would be like to be one of them. To have power, be seen, be heard, be dudes rather than sluts, be jocks or geeks or bros or nice guys or boys-will-be-boys or whatever we wanted instead of quantum leaping between good girl and whore. To be the default, not the exception. To be in control, to seize control, simply because we happened to have a dick”.

“Girls today had to be made to believe. Not just in a higher power, a permanent record, someone always watching – girls had to believe that the world was hungry and waited to consume them. <…> Girls had to believe there were limits on what a girl could be, and that trespass would lead to punishment. <…> They had to believe that life was danger and that it was their own responsibility to stay safe, and that nothing they did could guarantee that they would.”

“Girls had to believe in everything but their own power, because if girls knew what they could do, imagine what they might.”

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Girls on Fire” is a story of three girls whose complex relationships have taken them places they could never forget and put them through hell from which they can never recover. Hannah Dexter is practically a nobody in her junior year of high school. After a particularly nasty incident of bullying performed by Nikki Drummond, Hannah meets Lacey – a rude, abrasive, gorgeous Kurt Cobain fan. Soon the two girls become practically inseparable. Hannah becomes Dex and transforms into a badass, brooding girl who is up for any challenge Lacey throws her way. The bond that soldified in dtheir shared hatred for Nikki Drummond is getting stronger and stronger with each passing day. How intense can a friendship of two girls get and how will they deal with the fatal consequences of their activities?

Meanwhile, a tragedy strikes Hannah’s town. A popular guy Craig, who happens to be Nikki Drummond’s boyfriend, shoots himself in the woods on Halloween night for seemingly no reason. The town is terrified – there are rumours going around about a Satan-worshipping gang of misfits who really drove Craig to suicide, and secrets that remained buried until now by Dex, Lacey, Nikki and everyone else in town are threatening to emerge, destroying the girls in the process. How much are they to blame for everything that’s going on? Will Dex and Lacey be able to save each other from everyone around them or is it each other they need saving from?

 

I must warn you – this is not a happy book. It is very intense and deals with very, very dark subject matters. The themes featured include Satanism, bullying, sexism, homophobia, suicide, murder and rape. So if you feel like spending a day reading a heartfelt novel, put “Girls on Fire” aside for the time being. If, however, an intense mystery with an all-female leading cast is what you’re after, Robin Wasserman’s latest novel needs to be in your hands right now.

Robin Wasserman uses tropes we’ve all seen many times – a teenage party gone wrong, a suicide that’s not all it seems as a flap of a butterfly wing that sets events in motion, a (literal) Chekhov’s gun, a disturbing relationship of a teenage girl with an older man, a transformation of an unpopular girl, parental neglect, and several others. This amount of tropes might seem overwhelming at first, but Wasserman entwines them so masterfully into one long, emotionally draining story you never feel like there’s “too much” going on at the same time. On the contrary – you’re emotionally exhausted at the end of every chapter, but not enough to make you stop reading, and you’re too addicted to the story and invested in the characters to stop at any point, whether it’s just after Hannah meets Lacey and becomes Dex, or after Lacey goes one, two, three steps too far as the book progresses.

The aforementioned tropes work exceptionally well in the atmosphere Wasserman masterfully pushes the reader into. “Girls on Fire” does tell you explicitly a couple of times the time period it’s set in, but even if it didn’t, Wasserman’s incredibly atmospheric writing tells you pretty much from the first chapter onwards. The early 90s were not a good time anywhere in the world to be a girl, and apparently Pennsylvania was no exception. Sexism, racism, homophobia, bullying were much worse back then than they were today, and not once does Wasserman try to gloss over those subjects. In fact, she makes them run through the veins of the book and be the primary cause of the events that transpire in the course of “Girls on Fire”. Everything in this book – fashion choices, music choices, attitudes, expressions, relationships and so on – are so incredibly 1990s. It is a testament to Robin Wasserman’s writing talent that the reader feels as though they’ve been sent back 25 years and are faced with the grim reality of that setting. “Girls on Fire” was very emotionally draining for that very reason and I still feel the chills I got from certain chapters (well, the majority of chapters, really) when I read them. You can see that my “Favourite quotes” section is unusually long this time – that would be because there are so many compelling, chilling passages in almost each chapter, I had a very hard time picking them out.

The author presents us with three very different main characters – Hannah “Dex”, Lacey and Nikki. The first two girls are first-person narrators, and up to a certain point, we only see their “antagonist” – Nikki – through their eyes. Hannah is the misfit who transforms into a badass, Lacey is the headstrong Nirvana fan accused by the town for being a Satan worshipper, and Nikki is the mean popular girl. Except when they aren’t. Hannah and Lacey desperately need each other, but would they have if it weren’t for Nikki? This question, buried underneath the layers of faux Satanism, complex relationships and emotional intensity of obsession, does appear to be the very question the author poses to the reader. Of course, “Girls on Fire” wouldn’t have been the book it is if there was a short answer to that question. First of all, the characters are incredibly complex and multi-dimensional, and even by the end of the book, we still don’t know them well enough to answer the author’s question. Second of all, all the narrators of this book – Hannah, Lacey and the third-person “parent” narrator – are incredibly unreliable. They’re in fact so unreliable that they could give Gillian Flynn’s narrators a run for their money, in my opinion. And finally, the reader doesn’t know the answer to the questions because the characters don’t have one either.

“Girls on Fire” was a disturbing, provocative, dark and emotionally exhausting ride. And I am not ashamed to admit that I rode the wave of all that emotional intensity over a weekend with very few pauses. However, I did need a long break from emotional books after I finished it. I could write a lot more about “Girls on Fire”, but instead I suggest that you buy the book when it comes out in a month.

 

Recommendations

You might be interested in “Girls on Fire” if you liked:

“Some Girls Are” and “All the Rage” by Courtney Summers

“Dare Me” by Megan Abbott

“Dangerous Girls” by Abigail Haas

 

Have you read “Girls on Fire” yet? Do you like stories of destructive female friendships? Let me know in the comments!

 

Book Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

unteachable

Favourite quotes:

“Part of falling in love with someone is actually falling in love with yourself. Realizing that you’re gorgeous, you’re fearless and unpredictable, you’re a firecracker spitting light, entrancing a hundred faces that stare up at you with starry eyes”.

“None of us actually grow up. We get bigger, and older, but part of us always retains that small rabbit heart, trembling furiously, secretively, with wonder and fear. There’s no irony in it. No semantics or subtext. Only red blood and green grass and silver stars”.

“That’s how you know someone loves you. When they want you to be happy even in the part of life they’ll never see”.

 

Maise O’Malley hasn’t had the easiest life – what with a drug-dealing mother and her countless pervy boyfriends. What she wants the most is to get out of the small Missourri town and go to a good film school. A hook-up with an older guy at a carnival, no matter how erotic, intense and emotion-filled, isn’t going to get in the way of that – Maise likes to leave them before they leave her. However, the older guy turns out to be none other than Maise’s film studies teacher, and an amazing one at that. Maise is eighteen, Evan is in his early thirties, but what they feel for each other is too intense to be avoided. He sees beyond the tough exterior she projects on the people around her, and he appreciates her wit, her courage, her strength of character and her vulnerability that she hides so well. He makes her feel emotions that go way beyond sexual attraction – although the passion is as sizzling as the fireworks that seem to feature throughout the book. Staying away from each other until Maise graduates doesn’t seem to be an option. However, secret make-out sessions and rendes-vous are on the verge of being discovered, and Maise’s and Evan’s burning bliss is about to be shattered. Will their romance have a “Casablanca” ending or will it be even more doomed?

 

I’m celebrating International Women’s Day this year by reviewing “Unteachable” – a novel with one of the most real, flawed and well-rounded heroines I’ve ever come across in New Adult novels. First things first – I’m drinking champagne right now and I should say that this book goes amazingly well with it – and it’s not just the sparks on this beautiful cover. Maise’s story (I am hesitant to call it Maise’s and Evan’s story for several reasons) is not your conventional student-teacher romance. She isn’t looking to be saved – initially, all she’s looking for is good sex, but later she can’t get enough of whatever is between her and Evan. She is a very self-aware character, having a pretty good idea that their romance is part forbidden and doomed, part addictive, part wonderful. She’s seen the effects of addiction first-hand growing up, and the last thing she wants is to be hooked on something, even if that something is amazing sex. I really appreciated the insight the author provided in Maise’s inner struggles with this and thoroughly enjoyed the vivid, imaginative writing throughout which this was conveyed.

In fact, the writing style was one of my favourite things about the book. True, it is riddled with f-bombs, but they fit strangely well within the overall intensely bright picture “Unteachable” presents to the reader. Colours, fireworks, lights, videoframes, and other devices of the kind were used in clever ways to further highlight Maise’s inner struggles and the intensity of her romance with Evan. I really loved how “Unteachable” is presented as a love story that has gone off-script – Maise references “Casablanca” (a classic I’ve yet to see, unfortunately) on several occasions, and wonders about the parallels in her story and Ingrid Bergman’s. Characters enjoy film art on many occasions throughout the novel, and the juxtaposition of movies against the ongoing storyline of Maise’s own life has worked really, really well.

The relationship is obviously the central point of the book, and it is a student-teacher relationship, which I normally have mixed feelings about – for example, I hated how it was handled in “Slammed”, and “Pretty Little Liars” has a myriad of issues attached to the relationship of the kind that occurs within the story. However, “Unteachable” approaches it bravely, unabashedly, and doesn’t shy away from the problematic aspects. Statutory rape isn’t an issue – Maise is 18 – but illegality and unequal positions of power are very much an issue. Evan’s past is an even bigger of an issue, and is the reason why I hated him by the end of the book and hoped for the “Casablanca” ending. However, the fact that the author didn’t just ignore the issues I mentioned, along with many others, but demonstrated the characters’ struggles with them, made this novel much more compelling than your average student-teacher romance. For that reason, my rating is 7.5/10.

 

Dreamcast

Maise O’Malley – Saiorse Ronan

Evan Wilke – Ian Harding (surprise surprise)

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “Unteachable” if you liked:

“Slammed” by Colleen Hoover

“Last Will and Testament” by Dahlia Adler

“Easy” by Tammara Webber

“Pretty Little Liars”

Have you read “Unteachable”? What did you think? What are your favourite student-teacher romances? Let me know!

Book Review: Learning to Fly by Misha Elliott

learning to fly
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Sophie Marshall is a product of a teenage pregnancy, and her mother’s emotional maturity hasn’t advanced past the date of her sixteenth birthday. Growing up and being the top student in your class is hard enough as it is, but when you add a mother who’s really a kid at heart, you’re the one who has to be there for her instead of the other way round. Sophie’s childhood and teenage years mostly consisted of moving around the country following her mother’s one failed relationship after another. She’s only managed to make some friends during her junior year of high school, but on the last day, her mother tells her that they have to move. Again. Understandably, Sophie is pissed – she’s certain that finishing senior year in some strange place, away from her support system in the form of her friends is going to be awful. However, a girl doesn’t have too many options and her mother needs an adult figure in the house.

 

Despite her reservations, Sophie’s new home and school turn out to be a lot different than she expected. At first glance, it starts all over again – her mother gets a new boyfriend and Sophie is shunned by the popular kids. However, when the school’s handsome basketball star Alex takes an interest in Sohphie, her life takes a very different turn. Will their relationship survive? Or has Sophie been too emotionally scarred by her mother?

 

“Learning to Fly” is a book that has previously been self-published, which did explain a number of typos and errors in the text (e.g. “Sophie” and “Sophia”). In this case, I didn’t have as much of an issue with it as I normally would in case of a self-published novel. I had, however, a number of other issues with this book – which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the two train rides that it took me to finish.

 

First of all, I was counting on a book that focuses primarily on a mother-daughter relationship and character development. Did I get that? Yes, but in a much smaller dose than I was hoping for, and it was very much a “tell, don’t show” narrative, rather than a “show don’t tell”. Second of all, I was wrong – this is a romance novel, instead of a YA that focuses on the parent-and-child dynamic. Long-time readers of my blog know that romance is not my favourite of genres (which is not to say I don’t read romance novels when I’m in the mood for them), and “Learning to Fly” has ticked many boxes next to the reasons why I am not too fond of romance.

 

Let’s start with the love interest. Alex is your quientessential popular high-school jock who has the eyes of every girl at school on him. He is the definition of “cliche”, and as his relationship with Sophie progresses, he fits the definition more and more. Perhaps I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be seventeen and in love for the first time, or perhaps my problem is that I never liked sporty guys that much anyway, but I thought that Alex was pretty darn awful. And that’s saying a lot, given that the book is from Sophie’s , a.k.a. his adoring girlfriend’s perspective. I absolutely hated how he treated her and pressured her into things she didn’t want, and yet that made her want him more and more.  Perhaps it’s “realistic” for a teenage girl to feel that way (although I don’t ever remember feeling that way, which probably makes me very lucky), but it doesn’t mean that that’s OK. I really hate it when love interests in romance books pressure someone (or are pressured) into sexual relations or any other things. This sort of thing does not sit well with me and it never will.

 

Also, I really hated how Sophie was willing to give up going to Brown to follow a guy she only met a few months ago to a college called FSU (which, as far as I understand, is far inferior to Brown). While I did think that that was one of the most realistic ways for her to act, given her background and what she had to have learned from her mother, that was another thing that didn’t sit well with me.

 

Finally, I hated how the author constantly alluded to Sophie being asexual/demisexual, and did a complete 180 towards the end of the book. If she were confirmed to be ace, perhaps I would’ve enjoyed “Learning to Fly” more than I did – books with interesting asexual characters are rare, particularly in contemporary romance books.

 

I’m sorry to sound so negative – “Learning to Fly” was a good way to spend a couple of train rides to and from work, and I was interested in what was going to happen to Sophie, but the bad things about the book just outweigh the good ones for me.

 

Favourite quotes
“I learned to cope by getting lost in the pages of a good book. The problem comes when you realize life isn’t anything like the tales you read”. 
  
“A woman shouldn’t give up her dreams to follow a boy who isn’t willing to alter his dreams for her”.

 

Dreamcast
Sophie – Sophie Turner
Alex – Alexander Ludwig
Angie – Lauren Graham

 

Recommendations
You might like “Learning to Fly” if you liked:
“Last Heartbeat series” by T.R.Lykins
“One Tree Hill”