Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.
Release Date: February 28, 2017
A couple disclaimers before I get started. Jessica originally agreed to write an honest review of this book in exchange for an advanced copy. As someone in recovery for ED, she jumped on the chance to review a new book with positive representation, especially about a relatively unknown ED. However, before she received the book she read this anonymous review by another ED survivor. We talked about it and decided it might be too triggering for her to read it, so we had the book sent to me instead. Full disclosure, I do not have an eating disorder but I am familiar with Jess’s story and one of my best friends from high school almost died because of her struggle with her ED.
Okay, so I slept on it before writing this review and I’m still angry but I’ll try to keep the yelling out. First things first, I am not a fan of second person narration. While overall it was a quick read, it was irritating trying to get through it. Second, Pea spends this entire book putting down other girls, and even gets this idea reinforced from her boyfriend who says, “Maybe that’s what I expect girls to do, pick girlie colors, but you’re different,” and, later on, the quintessential quote, “You’re not like other girls.” Excuse me while I go scream for eternity that THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH OTHER GIRLS.
And that’s just what I thought was disappointing about this book. But Sad Perfect is more than just disappointing, it’s damaging on so many levels. When Pea first gets her diagnosis of ARFID she immediately starts one on one and group sessions of therapy. There’s not much focus on either of these things as part of her recovery. The things we do see of group therapy are her continued thoughts of otherness. She repeatedly mentions that her ED is different than the other girls (only girls, because obviously only white girls can have ED) and therefore somehow worse. This opinion does not change by the end of the book.
While she does continue therapy throughout the book, it seems that the only real help she gets is from her boyfriend whom she met in the very first chapter. She decides that he helps her so much that she stops taking her anti-depressants. So when they get into a fight, she starts self harming with a safety pin (way to glorify that by putting it on the cover of the book, btw). While self-harm can coexist with ED and other mental illnesses, her self-harm was literally a plot device to get her admitted to a hospital on suicide watch, where Elliot vilifies almost all hospital staff and makes gross stereotypes of the people that “need” to be there.
Pea’s stay in the hospital was her catalyst for wanting to get better and taking responsibility for her “monster.” She talks at length about how she created this monster and that really the monster is her and that her ED is her fault. She then goes on to say that she doesn’t deserve to be in the hospital when she has her family and Ben (who she has known for approximately 10 seconds) who love her. But these stereotypically low-income people need to be in the hospital because they don’t have anyone who loves them. There were multiple times that I wanted to throw this book, but during her whole hospital stay I had to physically restrain myself from actually doing so.
At the end of the book, we’re left with the message that Pea is still different from everyone else and that the power of a boy loving you will make you want to get better. I understand that Elliot’s daughter suffers from ARFID and she wanted to shed light on what her daughter and her family went through. However, it’s glaringly obvious that she has no knowledge whatsoever about any other ED and doesn’t care to.
Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Holy Hell in a hand-basket.
Stephanie Garber has created a world that I don’t want to leave, and characters I want to follow throughout their life stories.
I started this book on 9PM on a Sunday night, after I’d been sick for a week and sleeping as much as possible to get over it. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. I found myself saying, “One more chapter,” okay, “Now, one more chapter,” over and over again until it was 1AM and I closed the book with a sigh. This doesn’t include the extra 30 minutes I sat there considering the ending and the complications that came along with it. I think in reality I maybe got 5 hours of sleep this night, but what is important is that I LOVED this book.
This world was created in such an organic way that nothing in the plot seemed like it was out of place or sudden. Not only was Caraval such a richly developed story but the description of the characters and the locales within the novel were exquisite. I wish I could have seen the canopy bed in Scarlett’s room, had a sip of that crisp cider that enhances vision, or even run my hands over the gowns in the store where she sells two days of her life.
While I was totally proved wrong about who I assumed Julian was from the beginning (*shakes fist* tricky Garber, tricky!) he was a great example of a male character who comes off as such a…how to I put it…douchebag that really turns out to be a character with so many more layers than initially shown. In fact, he was the saving grace for Scarlett (and the narrative) in many spots.
Probably an unpopular opinion: Dante? *fans self* A body covered in tattoos and a beautiful face to boot? *swoons*
Now, as someone who has had a struggle with her relationship with her sister (we are doing so much better as we’ve aged, by the way *Love you, Ginger!*), I think that for me what really made this story so impactful was the demonstration of absolute love and devotion between the two siblings. Obviously it seems very one sided at the beginning as it is third person limited point of view, but the reader discovers it is a very equal love and something that both sisters suffered for.
All I can think of as I remember my mind blowing and wonderful late night read is that this is a story that I will come back to and re-read many times. Plus, who wouldn’t want to lose themselves in a fantasy world with Scarlett, Julian, and Tella?
**Trigger warning for parental physical abuse**
Pre-order a copy of Caraval now, I promise you won’t regret it.
Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Release Date: January 26, 2016
I’m going to guess that you may have reacted the same way I did when you read the title of this book. I remember thinking, “Wow, that is a bit dramatic.” But now that I’ve finished the novel, I can tell you that my personal reaction to the ending was something like this:
So now I firmly believe that the title was really just a metaphor for what the story did to my heart. Henry should just rename it The Love that Split Jessica’s Heart.
This book has the absolute wonderful ability to showcase some of the lesser known Native American myths, mixed with common anglo-saxon religious stories, some time travel theories, and alternate realities. Whew, that sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well, it seems like it would be, but it all comes together extremely well.
Henry did such a great job with the characterization in The Love that Split the World, and I have to say that most teens and young adults I know can definitely understand and identify with Natalie’s main problem: trying to find who they are and where they fit into the world. Seriously, I’m in my twenties and I completely identify with those questions. Granted, Natalie has some pretty specific reasons behind her need to find herself and her place, but they can be universally applied and it really causes you to be emotionally invested almost immediately.
Quickly the reader will realize that Natalie isn’t exactly a run of the mill teenager. She has been visited off and on her entire life during her sleep by a mysterious entity she calls “Grandmother,” and on her last visit Natalie is warned that she has three months to save HIM. Naturally we all assume that the him is the guy mentioned in the synopsis, but there are actually three other male characters not mentioned in the synopsis that this possibly applies to!
Beau is the typical bad boy with a good heart, but that doesn’t make him any less complex or interesting in this context. He comes in and out of Natalie’s life in flashes and their time together is precious and full of ALL the romantic and sexual tension (Kudos, Henry).
I’m not going to give away any other spoilers but there’s definitely a River Song and Doctor vibe going here with Natalie and Beau’s relationship. If you are a Whovian then the correlation should be pretty obvious and make you want to read this even more. If you aren’t a Whovian, then read this book and go watch Doctor Who! It’s on Netflix for crying out loud!
4.5 Bards for The Love that Split the World! Don’t forget to enter to win a copy below!
Sweet, innocent Coco has always been the good one. But when she catches her boyfriend cheating on her, she decides it’s time to break bad.
Coco swiftly goes from spending all her time baking and reading to working nights in (and dancing on) a bar, falling in and out of love (and lust), stealing education – and along the way discovers that she is stronger than she ever knew… In a time when her best friends are suddenly plunged into break ups, break-downs, big breaks, and on the verging of quitting New York City altogether, it’s up to Coco to keep them together and find herself along the way.
Gemma Burgess’ The Wild One: A Brooklyn Girls Novel is the inspiring story about the turmoil, uncertainty, and heartache that every twenty something faces and survives – with the help of her friends.
Release Date: November 10, 2015
FINALLY, the third book in the Brooklyn Girls series has arrived! Don’t go too much further without checking out my reviews of the first two novels (click on the titles to see), Brooklyn Girls and Love and Chaos.
Not going to lie, Coco wasn’t exactly my favorite character in this series up until this novel. She kind of fades into the background of Pia and Angie’s respective stories with the exception of one or two important details about Coco’s past. She was basically glazed over as the young, pretty, baking enthusiast roommate that is shy and keeps kind of to herself.
This novel, however, really shows a different side to Coco and breaks down her walls and gives her much more depth than in the previous books. So shit hits the fan pretty hard for Coco right at the beginning of the novel when she finds her boyfriend cheating on her in a crowded bar. Not one to confront problems head on, Coco just ignores him and doesn’t bother telling her friends how she has been hurt. Eventually, of course, she does and some pretty epic embarassment happens for her cheating ex which really was his “just desserts.”
Coco basically reboots her life at 21. It takes a lot of courage to change paths completely at such a vulnerable time and she definitely has no idea what she is doing, but she does that spectacularly. In an attempt to reinvent herself, she takes on a casual sex partner, starts to work at a unsuccessful dive bar, and “steals education” by attending classes without being enrolled. Can I do that? Where do I sign up for free college?
Burgess’ writing continues to be filled with humor, sexual innuendos, and a realistic view of what life is like in your early twenties while you are trying to find your place in life and while you are making mistake after mistake. I think that’s why I relate to this series so much, as I am in my twenties and I’ve made some of the mistakes these characters have.
Anyway, I was so pleased by Coco’s story and I really hope she doesn’t fade into the background with any of the other installments (please let there be more!).
Thanks so much to St. Martin’s for the opportunity to read and review this great book!
Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
First and foremost, thank you so much to Harper Collins and Mindy McGinnis for providing me an advanced copy of this book to read and review! Secondly, look at that amazing book cover that was designed by Brooke Shaden! She is one of my absolute favorite photographers and this cover just scrapes the surface of her brilliance. (Seriously, check her out.)
I will definitely admit that this book isn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. I really wanted it to be a story that delved further into the depths of the terrors in the American Asylum System in the 1800s and Early 1900s. What I got, on the other hand, was a story that kind of scratched the surface of it, but then went off on a tangent that really became about exploring the beginnings of criminal psychology and what would eventually become the subject of Criminal Minds.
I really thought that McGinnis did a great job of characterizing Grace and by hinting at the true nature of her pregnancy. McGinnis took Grace and built her family out of her as a character, and practically everyone but her sister is positively deplorable.
I really do wish that we had spent more time with the patients in the asylum in Boston, because I really think there is a wealth of information and possible storylines there. I enjoyed that McGinnis didn’t straight up name the full frontal labotomy that was taking place in the basement of the asylum, but managed to provide gritty details of the process instead. It was a great way to keep it mysterious and to show how primitive the process was without tainting the description with the loaded title of labotomy.
I couldn’t quite decide if I liked the character of the doctor, but I absolutely adored both of Grace’s friends in the asylum in Ohio. I loved that McGinnis chose to show syphilitic insanity and make it so wonderfully relatable in a world where this isn’t common anymore. This is a part of the book that also covers the topic of suicide, and I think she did it as best as she could and made the healing process for her characters so raw and emotional.
Also, the ending…JUST DESSERTS. Love it. Read the book and you’ll know what I mean.
Overall, I’m giving this book a solid 4 Bard rating!
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.
Why yes, I am kicking my own ass for not reading this sooner. Sure, I chastised myself fairly well in my review of These Broken Stars (which you can check out by clicking on the title), but I just have to keep reminding myself that I made a huge mistake by putting these off (Gob Bluth agrees).
This Shattered World picks up roughly a year after These Broken Stars, to be more accurate I think it is around 8-9 months after based on a comment in the novel, and we are introduced to two new characters immediately. Now, I knew going into this that Lilac and Tarver were not going to be involved in this narrative, which was a bit disappointing, but it didn’t really deter me much considering I legitimately put down These Broken Stars and immediately walked to my bookshelf to pull This Shattered World.
Spooner and Kaufman waste no time putting the reader into the hostile environment on Avon and both of the narrators are introduced in the first chapter. I found it to be interesting that the first novel started with the male perspective, Tarver, and this installment started will Jubilee’s point of view. Jubilee and Flynn share a large amount of the point of view switches, where in the first novel it seemed that Tarver’s narrative voice really dominated the story. I found that I was really wishing for more from Lilac after finishing This Shattered World, because I realized how strong the female perspective was and how much I wanted from her in retrospect.
Jubilee isn’t necessarily the most likable character at first considering she prides herself on being emotionless, dreamless, and unable to be corrupted by Avon. However, she is headstrong and determined and is supremely skilled, which makes her respectable before she is likable. Flynn, on the other hand, was immediately relatable. I saw Spooner at a book event once and she revealed that she and Kaufman would do the female and male point of views, respectively. I love how different their narration was but how they came together as characters.
I like that the POV shifts still included the one page inserts from an outside source. The first novel had interview questions between an unknown and Tarver, and this novel had the details of dreams. I think that the stories tied together extremely well and I was very glad to see a few familiar faces toward the end of This Shattered World.
Seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia. Told entirely from Elena’s perspective over a five-year period and co-written with her mother, award-winning author Clare B. Dunkle, Elena’s memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at a deadly disease, and a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder.
**I originally reviewed this novel for Reading Teen and you can visit their blog as well.
Release Date: May 19, 2015
It seems almost impossible to describe the voice in your head when you have an Eating Disorder. The voice is disembodied, but it seems more tangible than a book in your hands or the food sitting on a plate in front of you. That voice fills up the space in your mind and takes away the silence and peace that you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It tells you all of the things you hate most about yourself and drills them into your subconscious, and the worst part is that you believe every insult it throws at you.
Elena Dunkle’s memoir, Elena Vanishing, is the first book that I’ve ever read that gives a completely honest picture of how hard it is to accept that there is a problem and that help is needed. The authors note at the beginning of the novel that Elena’s story is true, but that there are fictional aspects to the story. Does that sound contradictory? Of course, but so is life with an eating disorder. But the main point of that disclaimer is to recognize how impairing an eating disorder can be and how many memories and moments are distorted through the disease. So when venturing into reading this, remember that parts are embellished based on Elena’s experience. Instead of taking away from the narrative, I believe that these parts make the story even more powerful.
The writing is superb, and Elena acknowledges that the majority of the writing was actually completed by her mother, Clare, but that the collaborative effort was intense and brought them closer together. Be aware that this story is very painful. There are a lot of family issues explored, self esteem, depression, self harm, obsessive compulsive disorder, and a lot more on top of the eating disorder. By no means is the narrative overwhelming, the Dunkles did a fantastic job of displaying the harrowing details of their experience with Anorexia without being too overwhelming. The pacing is excellent and at no point did the narrative lag.
While I find this memoir to have been comforting due to feeling like someone finally put words on a page to describe my struggle, please be aware that stories like these can also be triggering for some who are struggling with eating disorders. I firmly encourage you to reach out to your primary care physician or therapist if you are having trouble. Elena states in the memoir: getting help saved her life. It saved mine. It can save yours.
For more information about eating disorders and treatment options please visit the National Eating Disorder Association.
For more information about Elena, her struggle, and her life now please visit her website.
You can also connect to Elena on Twitter: @ElenaDunkle
Buy the Book:
Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.
Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.
Release Date: March 24, 2015
And to continue my foray into young adult contemporary literature! After reading My Heart and Other Black Holes, which is stellar and you should check out my review, it was nice to kind of continue reading a narrative that still included two characters dealing with tough issues. Granted, neither of these characters were depicted as suicidal, and they were in a different point in their recovery, meaning that both Abram and Juliette were both taking SSRIs or medication to help with their depression/anxiety/etc.
Anyway, I digress too soon. Clark doesn’t waste any time getting into the story, because the meet cute happens within a few pages, and the main characters pretty much explain almost everything from the synopsis within that first chapter. I wasn’t sold at first with how quickly it picked up like that, but I think it really fit with the characters’ narrative as I continued reading. Both characters are understandably damaged by the effect that their parents’ affair had on their lives, but the story becomes so much more than them finding healing from that tragedy. Is it mostly a romance? Yes. Should you be put off by that? NO.
I found Juliette to be much more dislikable than Abram, but I like that she is dislikable. Why? Well, you can read this awesome justification for why literature needs more dislikable heroines. One of the best things from the essay is “These are the “difficult” characters. They demand our love but they won’t make it easy.” I think that defines Juliette pretty well.
Overall, I think that if you enjoy contemporary young adult romance then this book is for you. It’s fairly short, so you can get it read in one sitting and then continue on your contemporary reading journey!
I also have an interview with Jay Clark that will go up later today, so be sure to check back!
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