Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

For sixteen-year-old Pea, eating has always been difficult. Some people might call her a picky eater, but she knows it’s more than that, and it’s getting worse. And now there’s a monster raging inside of her, one that controls more than just her eating disorder. The monster is growing, and causing anxiety, depression, and dangerous thoughts.

When Pea meets Ben and they fall crazy-mad in love, she tries to keep the monster hidden. But the monster wants out, and as much as she tries, she can’t pretend that the bad in her doesn’t exist. Unable to control herself, a chain of events thrusts Pea into a situation she’d never imagine she’d find herself in.

With the help of Ben, her family, and her best friend, Pea must find the inner strength to understand that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  For the month of October, Team Midsummer is celebrating LGBTQ History Month.  So for are WOW posts, all the novels we are desperately waiting to be released that are LGBTQ! This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

gayle forman books

 

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
 
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I think that depression and suicide is something that has affected everyone, if not directly then peripherally.  I’ve had ex-boyfriends and friends that suffered from depression and suicidal ideations, and most everyone knows someone who has been affected in one way or another.

I Was Here opens the reader to a lot of emotions that come along with dealing with suicide.  Forman depicts survivor’s guilt, the standard emotions that come along with loss, and showcases an aspect of the mental health community that everyone needs to be aware of.

Cody didn’t handle Meg leaving and changing her life as well as she could have, yes, but growing pains happen in friendships.  However, much of the novel is about Cody and how she discovers Meg’s secret life with depression (I am an advocate of being 100% honest and upfront with your friends about any struggle you might be having with mental illness) and her descent into the pro-suicide internet groups.  Cody struggles with discovering who she is without her best friend, but ends up finding a lot of new ones along the way and ends up exposing her town and the police to the website that encouraged Meg’s iwasherequotesuicidal ideations.

I suppose for me it wasn’t a surprise to hear about the online community for those that have suicidal ideations, because as someone who suffered from an eating disorder for almost 15 years, I am well versed in pro-ana and pro-mia sites that serve as motivation for those suffering.  What was very interesting to me was that Forman drew this story from real life inspiration, and that she was so moved by one young woman’s story that she expanded upon it and created a novel that can help educate as well as it can entertain readers.

This isn’t an easy story to read.  It is hard to read about someone who ended their own life, and I understand that this can be triggering to some readers.  But this is an excellent story and a good platform for readers to learn.

If you or anyone you know suffers from depression or suicidal ideation, please reach out and find help.

4.5 Bards for I Was Here

four.fivebards

Blog Tour Stop & Giveaway: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

findingaudreybanner

 

Audrey can’t leave the house. she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.
Then her brother’s friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again – well, Starbucks is a start.And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she’d thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you . . .

***GIVEAWAY BELOW***

As a reader who devoured Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for her first foray into young adult literature.

Kinsella has expertly tapped into the growing contemporary corner of young adult that focuses on teens dealing with mental illness.  There are a number of narratives out that deal with depression and suicide, but Kinsella takes on the equally complex social and generalized anxiety disorders.

The characterization of Audrey’s family is really a shining point in this story.  I absolutely adore how Kinsella has explored how different parents and children are in relation to technology.  Granted, a lot of this is exacerbated by Audrey’s mother’s obsession with the Daily Mail.  As an American a lot of my knowledge of the Daily Mail comes from my roommate, who is British, and John Cleese.  Both of them hate the Daily Mail and consider it trash news, which is exactly how it is portrayed in this story so it really just firmed up my belief that we shouldn’t read the Daily Mail.  It’s kind of sad that Audrey’s mother is so wrapped up in believing what some article tells her that it dictates what she does in relation to her children, but it isn’t wholly unbelievable or unrealistic.  It makes her a bit ridiculous and endearing at the same time which is why it is brilliant.

Audrey is such a wonderfully complex character.  Her voice is distinct and witty, but still reserved at the same time.  In fact, her voice is one of the things that sets her apart and exemplifies her anxiety almost as well as the situations she describes.  I also enjoyed the breaking of the fourth wall in certain parts of the story.  Frank was what I would consider a typical 13 year old boy to be.  He is obsessed with playing a World of Warcraft type of game and aspires to do that as an official job.  I mean, I think that is a dream job for a lot of gamer kids.  He is snarky, stubborn, and just a bit insufferable.  Frank was an excellent character. The other two family members, Audrey’s father and youngest brother Felix, are the least developed, but it definitely didn’t take away from the narrative.  I actually quite enjoyed the father’s befuddled and somewhat absent-minded attitude.

There is an adorable first love situation going on in Finding Audrey and it is just everything I wish I could have had at 14.  It’s realistic and awkward and really well done.  The synopsis kind of makes it seem like Linus is the whole reason for Audrey being able to start down the path to recovery, but I think that Audrey just needed that little push.  Linus was just a side effect of the push, a good side effect.  Kinsella did such a good job of explaining how recovery and learning to live with mental illness really is like a jagged graph.  There will be highs, lows, stable days, completely messed up days, and everything in between.

Overall I think that Kinsella kicked off the young adult aspect of her career very strongly, and I hope she will continue to contribute to the genre.

4.5 Bards

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Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

I can tell you that I’ve been struggling to really find a good contemporary young adult novel to really kickstart my interest.  I tend to be more interested in fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tale adaptations.  Nothing against contemporary, but I even tend to prefer historical YA over anything set today.  Maybe it’s because I’m just living in today and it seems a bit dull, but Warga’s novel really gave me a push into understanding why contemporary fiction can be so important.  Now I haven’t been living under a rock, so I’ve read YA books that deal with mental illness before (primarily books about teens suffering from Eating Disorders), but the only other contemporary novels I’ve read that feature the treatment of mental illness or anything like that were by Sarah Dessen.  Even then, it wasn’t a main topic of the narrative.

Well, now that I’ve bored you a bit with the ramblings of a book reviewer, I can start the (actual) review:

Warga’s novel doesn’t skirt around the fact that the main character is depressed and suicidal. (It is in the synopsis, btw) But the straightforwardness, not only of the main character, but of the narrative itself is quite refreshing.  I enjoyed the depressed, but thoughtful, voice of Aysel.  She was contradictory, she was absolutely quizzical, she was endearing, she was frustrating, and she felt so REAL.  Roman, also known as FrozenRobot, was a bit more flat as a character, and I found him a bit irritating through a lot of the narrative.  He was just so absolutely determined and seemed to be offended anytime Aysel expressed any type of possible thought that may have been toward the future.

I really appreciated how Warga depicted how depression can manifest in different people in different ways.  Aysel, for instance, was an outcast due to the actions of her father and how the public perceived her in relation to those actions.  This was a contributing factor to her depression, and it resembles a basic “warning sign” of depression.  Roman, on the other hand, isolated himself from his fellow popular friends and even quit playing a sport he loved as a form of punishment. This also led to him being alone with his thoughts.  I loved that both characters had very distinct aspects of their depression, but I appreciate and applaud Warga’s ability to not glamorize suicide and suicidal thoughts.  It is important to seek help for these thoughts, and I really liked that the publisher and author included a lot of resources in case readers need to reach out.

Now, to Warga, it was absolutely inspired to use physics and energy in this.  Not only did it speak to me as a former Science major, but also as a current (not so secretive) science nerd.  Brilliant.  I refuse to give away any of the quotes or aspects of this from the story because it really just made My Heart and Other Black Holes even more heartfelt and enjoyable.

I leave you with one of (that’s right, ONE OF) the dozens of memorable quotes from this story:

“I wonder if that’s how darkness wins, by convincing us to trap it inside ourselves, instead of emptying it out.”

Kudos to you Jasmine Warga, for really showing me that contemporary young adult fiction is not something to be underestimated.

4.5 Bards.

four.fivebards

Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

Release Date: September 30, 2014

This book was one of the top two books I knew I had to get my hands on when I went to Book Expo America this year, and I’m so glad I managed to get a copy.  I put off reading it for a long time, because my anticipation was so high that I was trying to calm myself so I wouldn’t be in danger of having my hopes set too high! Because sometimes that happens, and if you are a regular book nerd like me then you know what it is like.

It might come as a surprise that I was this excited about Belzhar when I haven’t even read Plath’s The Bell Jar, which is a huge influence on the characters in this novel.  I have, however, read Gracefully Insane, which is the story about the mental hospital that Plath was sent to for treatment in her early twenties after a suicide attempt (this is vaguely referenced in Belzhar).

I can understand why some teens might not totally understand or feel connected to these characters, but I think a lot of that megwoliztercomes with the common stigma that mental illnesses like depression, eating disorders, anxiety, etc are something to be feared or ashamed of.  I want this book to become the barrier breaker.  The book that students can read that is set in current day that can show how many different things can lead to “mental fragility,” (a term, much like Mrs. Q, I don’t like) and treatment in teens.  Hell, I think this book would be excellent to teach alongside any of Plath’s works (I have read her poetry).

The story is well constructed and the journey that Jam goes through at the Wooden Barn is similar to what some treatment plans would follow, the idea of immersing yourself in that entire experience and then learning to accept it and move on.  I really enjoyed Wolitzer’s use of other characters to really exemplify how many different things, big and small, can affect a person’s outlook and perception of reality.

Kudos to Wolitzer, for making a wonderful book that I really hope will help peel back the layers of social stigma around mental illness, and hopefully give those that might be suffering the courage to accept help and understand that they are not alone.

4.5 Bards.

four.fivebards

Non-Fiction Friday: Thin by Lauren Greenfield

Critically acclaimed for Girl Culture and Fast Forward, Lauren Greenfield continues her exploration of contemporary female culture with Thin, a groundbreaking book about eating disorders. Greenfield’s photographs are paired with extensive interviews and journal entries from twenty girls and women who are suffering from various afflictions. We meet 15-year-old Brittany, who is convinced that being thin is the only way to gain acceptance among her peers; Alisa, a divorced mother of two whose hatred of her body is manifested in her relentless compulsion to purge; Shelly, who has been battling anorexia for six years and has had a feeding tube surgically implanted in her stomach; as well as many others. Alongside these personal stories are essays on the sociology and science of eating disorders by renowned researchers Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Dr. David Herzog, and Dr. Michael Strober. These intimate photographs, frank voices, and thoughtful discussions combine to make Thin not only the first book of its kind but also a portrait of profound understanding.

With the percentage of teens suffering from eating disorders on the rise, and after having personal experience with an eating disorder, I thought that reading this book after watching the documentary was extremely important.

For those of you that don’t know, Thin was a documentary made by Lauren Greenfield that follows the recovery program at the residential recovery unit at the Renfrew Center in Florida.  If you have access to Amazon Prime or Amazon Instant Video, then you can watch Thin on there for free.

This companion book really gives a lot more depth into the story.  While the documentary is limited to the treatment of four specific patients, the book explores the stories of many other patients, including more teenagers as young as 14 and women as old as 74, bulimia patients, anorexic patients, and binge eating patients.  The stories are heartbreaking, eye-opening, shocking, and bravely honest.

I recommend this book to anyone who may be or previously suffered from an eating disorder.  It helps remind me of how bad it can get and how hard the fight really is.  It makes me feel less alone in my struggle.  I hope this book can do that for others.

There are also a number of Young Adult Fiction novels that focus on Eating Disorders and Recovery if you or someone you know is looking to read fictional accounts:


Wintergirls
by Laurie Halse Anderson

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman

Unwell by Leslie Lipton

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Scheinmel

 

These are only a few of the titles, but they are ones I recommend.

If you know someone who may be suffering please encourage them to get help or to contact http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

5 Bards

fivebards

Book Review: Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. 

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Fact: I read this book in one sitting.

I really wish that there were more young adult novels like this one.  Ones that have a mystery at the center, that the romance takes a back seat, that there is serious consideration for the home life created for Sam by her parents, and that really the whole story was focused on Samantha rediscovering her past and her true self.

I actually have not read any of Armentrout’s work prior to this novel, and now I know that I need to make the time to read the rest of her work if they are all as good and impressive as Don’t Look Back.

The plot was done very well, and I honestly had no idea who I was supposed to suspect the entire book.  I found it particularly frustrating that I couldn’t figure it out!  Point Armentrout.

I do think that some of Samantha’s actions when she was trying to reconnect her neurons to remember the events of that night were extremely risky and somewhat unrealistic to me, but again, I’ve never been in that situation!

Go buy a copy of this book now, you will not regret it!

4.5 Bards

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Book Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Again, one of the definite ways to get me to read a book is to involve a serial killer, because the psychology is fascinating.

So when I heard about Dear Killer, I was really excited because I could finally get a book strictly about a teenager who is a serial killer.  In reality, there have been a few young people involved in serial murders, including the members of the Manson Family and now Miranda Barbour who claims to have taken up to 100 lives.  So it really isn’t as far fetched as some of the reviews I’ve read deem the narrative (although I can only suspend disbelief for so long. More on that later.)

First things first, I really wasn’t sure how this book was going to go when I found a clear typo on the third page. I mean how does this, “I didn’t chv death,” make it through editing? Does Kit not crave death or what? C’mon people.  The other thing I noticed is toward the end of the book, the narration slips briefly into the third person, referring to the first person narrator in third person, but then it quickly switched back.  Since this was the only time this happened, I believe that the narration must have originally been third person and that this instance was missed in the editing process as well, because there is no other instance of this in the novel.

Moving on…I’m glad that the narration was in first person because it really gave the reader more insight into Kit’s character.  I’ve read in some other reviews that people thought that Kit’s voice was too juvenile for someone who is supposed to be passed off as a serial killer, or for a young adult novel.  I’d like to pose that the voice used by Ewell was used specifically to highlight how young and impressionable Kit is supposed to be despite her upbringing as a murderer.  If anything it can also lend itself to her split-personality, Diana serving as an older and wiser voice, versus Kit who is the scared and intimidated teen who is in over her head. And, like with most mental disorders, there is a trigger for this disassociation: the murder of Michael.

Either way, I found this novel to have some very hard parts to believe and that was specifically surrounding Kit’s calling card, the letters that she left at the crime scene.  Really?  With all of the technology now, it is possible to match up handwriting to a suspect, and many of those people wouldn’t have gotten away based on circumstantial evidence.  In addition, there is no efficient way to get handprints and fingerprints off of paper is there? That is the part I had trouble believing.

Overall, I still enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to readers.

4 Bards.

fourbards

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