ARC Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Release Date: October 10, 2017

syn

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Simon Pulse 

+++ Trigger warnings for sexual assault, violence, general skin-crawling misogynist ideologies and vulgarity

This book has no rating because it is without a doubt the most difficult book I’ve ever had to rate in my history of being a reviewer. Interpret and make your own judgments about what you think my rating of the book is based solely on this review and nothing as limited as a star rating. 

The Nowhere Girls is a battle cry, an ode, a bittersweet mourning, and a rage-inducing awakening. This book is more than necessary, it should be required reading for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or political leanings. Here’s the thing, The Nowhere Girls reads a little Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The Breakfast Club mixed with profound, contemporary questions about society and feminism. At times it feels like your run-of-the-mill coming of age story split in various POVs and as someone who generally loathes coming of age, it lagged for me, despite the eye-opening questions and they way it made me think (which is what marks great, life-changing books for me). I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters, which with so many POVs and an US POV that had the voices of several girls, it’s puzzling that none of them resonated with me. Not that the characters weren’t defined. They were more than multi-dimensional, they practically screamed from the pages with their unique and interesting personalities and their determination to succeed. 

I absolutely dislike the synopsis for this book. It makes the story seem like something it’s not-a revenge plot or some weird, let’s get back ALL THE MALES story. This is far from that. It’s an exploration of what it means to be female in our society and then breaks that down further into all the ways that sexuality, race, and choice intersect with that. 

Here is a list of the many important and critical pieces of what it means to be female that this book discusses in its short number of pages:

  • No means no. 
  • Why we think that if you’re dating someone and they force you that it’s not rape. 
  • How saying yes is a choice and it can be an empowering one. 
  • That girls should not be afraid of their sexuality or that they enjoy sex. 
  • The double standard of “boys will be boys” but a girl who actively explores her sexuality and enjoys being sexual is a slut. 
  • Trans girls and whether they feel they have or can find a place in feminist culture. Transitioning girls and the same sort of questions. 
  • How girls who are known “sluts” are ignored when they “cry rape,” how women are treated differently and their allegations taken less seriously if they’re a certain “type” of girl or from the wrong “side of the tracks.”
  • Differing perspectives on virginity. 
  • Why a sex strike is problematic. 
  • Why we think that if we’re drunk and we say no and are ignored, that it’s our “fault.” 
  • The many many reasons that women fail to report their assault.
  • The many levels of fear women face every single day that men do not ever consider. 
  • Why we feel the need to pass judgment on other girls. 
  • Small town mentality. 
  • Privilege and “getting away with it.” 
  • And many, many more. 

I can’t even count the number of times I found myself nodding at the scenarios discussed, all the many feelings and experiences females go through in every encounter they have with males and even other girls. So much of this book made me remember and reflect and that is the reason WHY I put a trigger warning on this apart from the constant references to rapes and assaults and the feelings associated with these events well after they occurred (because how can anyone forget? This is another thing that’s discussed). 

I was also so angry after I read this. Angry that women have to deal with any of this stuff. Angry that men think they have the right. Angry at all the misogynistic, horrible, and derogatory ways that women are looked at as possessions or to be used and discarded. It’s sickening. 

I feel like I should say that you need to be in the right frame of mind to read this without completely losing it. That if you don’t want to be ragey and heartsick and possibly triggered to put this aside until you’re ready but at the same time, this book is cathartic. It lets you voice everything you didn’t know you needed to say through the proxy of these characters. In a way that is both enlightening and lifts the weight off your shoulders. 

One of the worst and most heartbreaking moments in this book for me is when one of the girls says that she didn’t know she could or was allowed to say no. Holy crap that pretty much knocked the air out of  my lungs. It is so hard to be female. You very well might cry several times and at the end, you might not feel satisfied, but you will feel invigorated and fellowship with every female you see afterwards and that itself is a gift. 

Read, read some more, and for the love of Pumpkin Spice use that reading to inspire change in yourself and in the world. 

Jordan

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ARC Review: What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

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Action-packed and wildly funny, this near-future sci-fi features three teens on an inter-dimensional mission to save the world.


Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA’s mysterious Multi-World Agency. After rounds of crazy-competitive testing they are appointed to Team 3, along with an alternate, just in case Eddie screws up (as everyone expects he will). What they don’t expect is that aliens will arrive from another dimension, and look just like us. And no one could even imagine that Team 3 would be the only hope of saving our world from their Earth-destroying plans. The teens steal the spacecraft (it would be great if they knew how to fly it) and head to Earth2, where the aliens’ world and people are just like ours. With a few notable exceptions.

There, the teens will find more than their alternate selves: they’ll face existential questions and high-stakes adventure, with comedy that’s out of this world.

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Bloomsbury Children’s 

+++Triggers: assault 

WHAT’S TO LOVE:

  • STEM GIRLS. Girls who are smart, own their intelligence like a badge of honor, and are proud of who they are. Rosie is a genius and she knows it. She has worked hard to gain her chance at NASA and despite the claims that it’s because of her famous science-y parents, that’s far from the case. Rosie is a clever problem solver who has the quick wit and innovative mind to solve even the craziest of problems. On top of that, she’s one of the bravest, most selfless characters I’ve seen in a long, long time. 
  • The adventure. From the elaborate mental and endurance tests to the actual high-speed chase and stealing alien aircrafts, it’s like those fun puzzle games that you can’t get enough of. It’s interesting, engaging, and definitely keeps you guessing. I loved all of the cool and creative trials the teens had to go through to make it to the final levels for NASA. 
  • Diversity. Yes. Yes. Yes. A lot of diversity. Financial, LGBT, ethnicity. It’s all there and it’s awesome. I loved these characters so much. Initially, it seems like there will be more people involved but it truly comes down to only a handful and they’re all memorable, unique, and bring something great to the storyline. One of my favorite, favorite characters is Eddie’s grandma. The woman is an icon. Fierce, independent, innovative, and speaks her mind. She shot a rocket launcher off her roof, I mean, come on. Everyone has a story. 
  • Romance is subtle. You kind of expect it, but it takes a while and it’s nowhere near a main arc, there are so many things that are much more important and the focus. Plot-driven. 
  • It reads fast. It’s funny and so enjoyable. 

QUESTIONABLE/SO-SO THINGS: 

  • Quick resolution at the end. With Eddie and with the near apocalyptic, almost destruction of Earth 1 thing. While there are epic and action-packed scenes leading up to the ending, it fell flat. It was so fast. Yes, there are terrible and possibly deadly decisions and all sorts of scary things, but still, oh, this super death to all mankind crisis is never going to be seen again without absolute destruction of source? I don’t think so. And while I’m glad there was a happy ending, especially for Eddie, it was too clean.
  • There is an assault scene. I mean, it serves a purpose. There’s clear motive. It adds “excitement” to the first half of the book, but I’m not sure it was the ONLY option and it’s kinda traumatic. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to disqualify people. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review & Giveaway: Waste of Space by Gina Damico

WASTE OF SPACE9780544633162_hresAmazon/Audible/B&N/iBooks/TBD/Goodreads

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Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality. 

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and HMH Children’s

This book is a train wreck. It’s a total disaster. And that’s exactly what makes it epic, because it was on purpose. Waste of Space is 100% like the blurb. It’s reality TV style trauma drama with a whole lot of offensive, bigoted, and racist casting, but the point is that by calling it out, by labeling it for what it is in the story, it becomes a sort of crazy satire and social commentary and OMG is it entertaining. 

From the initial premise to the casting to the filming, it’s absolute chaos. There’s no order, there are comical twists, literally everyone is at a loss for what it actually happening. Like I said, a mess and all for the sake of entertainment ratings. You know that feeling, when you want to sit back, lounge and put on some Real Housewives or Bachelorette? This is it, in book form. All the drama. All the catfight insanity and suspicion. All of it is crammed on this “space plane” and broadcasted to the world. 

The book is set up kind of like Illuminae with the premise that some sort of disaster has already occurred and a case, with evidence is being made. There is video footage and all sorts of documents, phone records, etc., all scattered through the book. And even some memes. 

The characters are “token” characters and the author is actively mocking the clichés. They’re even labeled by their stereotypes when they’re initially introduced. Somehow this worked and did not come off as offensive and wrong as it could have because comedy. 

The characters themselves are interesting. They have well-defined personalities and back story. The voice is ON POINT. 

And then the twist. Towards the end there’s something that will make you question everything. Circumstances change on the fly and you wonder if real danger is on the horizon. 

If you like to be kept guessing, laugh off offensive material, and/or are a sucker for trash reality tv, definitely pick this up!

authorginadamicoWebsite | Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads

Gina Damico is the author of Croak, Scorch, and Rogue, the grim-reapers-gone-wild books of the Croak trilogy. She has also dabbled as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. A native of Syracuse, New York, she now lives outside Boston with her husband, two cats, and one dog, and while she has never visited hell in person, she has spent countless waking hours at the Albany Regional Bus Terminal, which is pretty darn close. Visit her website at www.ginadami.co.

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3 winners will receive a hardcover of WASTE OF SPACE! US Only.

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Read, read, and read some more, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Bang by Barry Lyga

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One shot ruined his life. Another one could end it.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one—not even Sebastian himself—can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend—Aneesa—to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out.

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

+++Triggers for suicidal thoughts, gun violence, infant death

THINGS I LOVED:

  • The vocabulary. The English major in me was internally happy dancing for joy. Honestly, if I could get away with it, I would totally use this to teach SAT vocabulary. It’s awesome. And oddly enough, it works for the main character. He’s quirky and collects antiquated tech like no one’s business, so embracing elevated vocabulary suits his complex personality. 
  • The conflicted, debilitating slew of guilt, depression, and uncertainty weighs on Sebastian heavy enough to rival Atlas. The emotions are poignant, gut-wrenching, and you kind of just want to hug him and tell him it’s not his fault. It’s impossible to escape your past in a small town and to be blamed and ostracized for something you did as a toddler? It’s completely unfair, dangerous, and totally happens. Even if you break this story down to bare bones foundation, living with the catastrophe results of a mistake can be too much, too haunting, and crush you from the inside  out. Bang explores these heavy ideas in a way that’s relatable and so incredibly honest.
  • The mystery. Throughout the book, there is so much leading that you’re basically being tugged along on this train of thought. You know that Sebastian plans on doing something terrible, ending it all with a gun in a perfect circle of how his life metaphorically ended as a toddler. But there’s a twist. I did not see it coming. There’s just enough to keep you hanging on, desperate to know how it ends. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • Aneesa. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Aneesa and the fact that she calls people out on their stereotypes, is honest about her fears, and is 100% a proud Muslim young lady. I adored how vocal she was about misconceptions about Islam, how she called out the haters, and truly loved who she is as a person. That sort of confidence and openness is inspiring. In some ways, I did like that Aneesa, having her as a friend, was helping Sebastian deal with his suicidal thoughts; I didn’t like that she was the ONLY thing. Sebastian’s so-called male best friend was a fleeting character that had little to no presence and everything was on Aneesa-not that she knew Sebastian was suicidal. Aneesa isn’t really that interesting. Despite the fact that she’s nice and opinionated, she’s pretty bland, at least for me. There weren’t any particularly memorable lines or scenes that made me say, Aneesa is a character that will stick with me for a while.
  • The focus. This book is all over the place. While it does do a fairly good job of getting back to Sebastian’s thoughts when he’s going to bed at night and thinking about his life, the book turns into pizza after pizza for ages as he builds his YouTube channel and it felt like so much of that could be cut because it slowed the pacing and made me want to close the book.
  • Nowhere near enough confrontation with his parents. They don’t talk about it. They ignore everything and have for years. No wonder Sebastian is flooded with emotions that he doesn’t know how to express or positive ways to deal with his overwhelming sense of guilt and failure. The two big scenes that do happen were…explosive. I felt rage. So much rage.

Sorry for the hiatus everyone! I’ll be back and bringing you many more reviews in the future. My Goodreads challenge is abysmal right now 😦

Jordan

 

ARC Review & Giveaway: Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman

blackCoverBLACKSOULSAmazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Goodreads

synEdward “Teach” Drummond is setting sail to the Caribbean as first mate on the most celebrated merchant ship in the British fleet—until he rebels against his captain. Mutiny is a capital offense and Teach knows it could cost him his life, but he believes it worth the risk in order to save his crew from the attacking Spanish ships.

Sailing on the same blue waters, Anne barely avoids the Spanish attack, making it safely to Nassau. But lawless criminals, corrupt politics, and dangerous intentions fill the crowded streets of this Caribbean port. Soon, Anne discovers that the man entrusted to keep the peace is quite possibly the most treacherous of them all—and he just happens to hold Teach’s fate in his terrifying hands.

Life and death hang in the balance when Teach and Anne are given a dangerous mission. It’s a mission that will test their love, loyalty and devotion, forcing them down a path neither one could have ever imagined.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley, Simon Pulse, and with participation in this tour

Blacksouls is a swashbuckling adventure fit for any diehard Pirates fan. Complete with danger, intrigue, high seas battles, and one epic romance, Blacksouls will get under your skin. 

What I loved about Blacksouls was how real it felt. Dark, gritty, full of the deep underbelly of the pirate world, it is not at all glamorous. There’s scurvy, enemies ready to pillage, plunder, and murder simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being a pirate is not fun, it’s living on the edge of your seat one moment, never knowing if you’re safe, and the next starving or suffering at the hands of a dictatorial captain. 

Transportive (in both the contemporary and 17th century sense of the word). Richly descriptive with strong voice, you’ll feel like you’re on the ship or in the tavern suffering right along with the characters. The story is set in a time when slavery was a major means of import and export, people got rich off of the misery and imprisonment of innocent people because of their skin color or because they came from an island. That atmosphere of fear, prejudice, and loathing is potent and repulsive. Even people who is a little darker skinned, even if freed, are constantly on guard and threatened by those who reign because of money, prestige or simply, their pale skin. There are beautifully poignant messages about how people treat those that are different, how racism can destroy and damage and decimate entire groups of people, but through all that how resilient and proud the persecuted can be. 

Teach and Anne fight against all odds to be with each other, when their lives are in others hands and so much is on the line. Still, they constantly have each other in their thoughts even when they’re not together and that kind of devotion in the sweetest kind of love. 

The action scenes are full of uncertainty and adrenaline that will keep you guessing. Mutiny, betrayal, and worse are always on the horizon. 

Secondary characters, for the most part, were memorable and each had their own story separate from the main characters. Cara and Coyle, Alistair and Beth, and that rowdy bunch of pirates Teach captained, they’ve got scars and things that haunt them, and yet, their loyalty and compassion are front and center.

Intitally the pacing was so-so, but it picked up as the danger grew. Once you get past the first chapter or two the tension builds, the characters are developed, and if you haven’t read the first book, there is summarization but not enough to bog down the story. 
authorNicole

Nicole was lucky enough to come with her very own best friend…she has a twin sister who can read her mind and finish her sentences for her.

At the age of 13, she went to Europe for the first time and it changed her life. She loves learning about different people, languages and cultures and speaks fluent German. She knows enough Spanish to get herself into trouble and can still read the Cyrillic alphabet from when she studied Russian.

She received her B.A. from Brigham Young University and has lived in Germany, Austria and two different places called Georgia. One is located on the Black Sea. The other is the state of Georgia where she now lives with her handsome husband and two beautiful children who continue to amaze her.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest

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1 winner will receive a signed finished copy of BLACKSOULS, US Only.

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TOUR STOPS 

Week Two:
4/17/2017- YA Book Madness- Review
4/18/2017- Good Choice Reading– Guest Post
4/19/2017-Mundie Moms– Review
4/20/2017- YA Books Central– Interview
4/21/2017- Seeing Double In Neverland-Review

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read on, 

Jordan

ARC Review & Giveaway: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

BLLOOD ROSE REBELLIONFinal Blood Rose coverAmazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Audible/Goodreads

Pub. Date: March 28, 2017

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The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

review4/5 Stars 

*** I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & the publisher

Blood Rose Rebellion is a beautifully written thrill ride complete with thought-provoking views on equality, prejudice, and feminism. 

Blood Rose Rebellion is a stunning historical look at Hungary and the politics that sparked the uprising in the 1800s plus fairy tale elements and rich folklore. As a historian who studied Hungary during this period, particularly the poetry that sparked the revolution, I absolutely LOVED how history blended with magic and it still made a point to correct dangerous prejudices that still circulate today. From the food, to the clothes, to the behaviors and mindset of the characters, everything was rich and memorable and made total immersion possible. I felt transported in more ways than one. 

Anna is daring, occasionally naive, headstrong, and so ahead of her time. The way she views social classes, injustices, and what roles a woman should have in society are as revolutionary as the uprising in Hungary itself. Preach girl, preach. Anna is far from perfect. She is stuck in a horrible position, has been manipulated by her heart, and her desire to fit in is a heartbreaking motivation that she can’t resist. Anna says some seriously profound stuff. She owns up to her mistakes, she recognizes that she has been brainwashed by ideology, she apologizes, and what’s best is that she learns and corrects herself. Thank you! Finally. 

The magic, the lore, and the class wars mesh perfectly. This is one of those books you look at and think, how on Earth did this all fit together so well? But it does. It flows, it’s poetic and political, and as whimsical as it is dark. The fire of the revolution burns bright throughout. The fairytale creatures are menacing, twisted, and sometimes scary, but others are full of heart and helpful. Magic is neither good or evil, nor are the creatures. The descriptions float off the page. Amazing. If you’re looking for new paranormal creatures, search no further. 

One of the greatest lessons within this story is that we all have the power to make choices and decide who we want to be-freedom is deserved by every individual, but what they will do with that freedom is up to them. I paused and lingered over this section. There’s a conversation with a demonic creature who is basically the incarnate of the deadly sins and it is he who poses this question to Anna. When you give someone who has been imprisoned their freedom, there’s no telling which path they’ll choose. That’s the beauty of choice. 

The Roma. I have been waiting for someone to get this right. Derogatory terms are corrected through characters and how they are treated today and were treated in the 1800s is a poignant and important history lesson that everyone should learn about. I appreciated the sections that talked about their camps, the way they feel about their children, their beliefs, just wow. 

And the romance. It’s like a magical pulse that beats through the story growing and glowing with anticipation. That kiss is one of the best I’ve ever read in YA.

You’re probably asking why I gave this 4 stars when I clearly loved so much of this story. The major issues I had were with pacing. Some sections dragged significantly, though it picked up fast towards the end. Another was the complete disappearance of her family after she leaves for Hungary. Even the letters, there were so few. I expected more. The relationship is so strong is the beginning and her love for her younger brother so warm that it was weird that they fell off the face of the planet. I also figured out what was going on with Anna at 30% through. So that was mildly disappointing for me, but I think it will be a surprise for many readers. 

authorRosalynWebsite | Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest | Goodreads

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works. Rosalyn is represented by Josh Adams of Adams literary.

Her first novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, first in a YA historical fantasy trilogy, debuts Spring 2017 from Knopf/Random House.

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3 winners will receive a signed finished copy of BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

Week One:
3/20/2017- BookHounds YA- Interview
3/21/2017- YA Book Madness- Review
3/22/2017- Page Turners Blog- Guest Post
3/23/2017- Fiktshun- Review
3/24/2017- NovelKnight- Review

Week Two:
3/27/2017- Once Upon a Twilight- Interview
3/28/2017- YABC- Interview
3/29/2017- Emily Reads Everything- Review
3/30/2017- Two Chicks on Books- Interview
3/31/2017- Book Briefs- Review

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Lovely reading, 

Jordan

Review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

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When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

review4/5 Stars 

Unpopular opinion time. It turns out that there’s a ton of controversy surrounding this book because of some dismissive and rude comments made by the author about the YA genre. Here’s the thing, I did not read anything about this book or any of the Goodreads comments before my rating. This is a 100% unbiased, non-influenced rating on the story alone. While I do not agree with the author’s perception of dystopia YA or some off the offhand comments made by Gwen within the story, authors and characters do not always share beliefs. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the author’s opinions from the character’s and vice versa. I thought I would preface this review by saying that whether or not I like the author has absolutely nothing to do with this review because so many of the Goodreads reviews are attacks on the author not the book. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I loved this book. This is exactly what I’ve been searching for in YA. A thriller. Spies, lies, cover ups, danger, it’s like Bourne Identity for teens. And there are so many important and eye-opening topics discussed within the story about crime, human trafficking, and other terrifying and unsavory aspects of society. While the story wasn’t perfect, it definitely kept me engaged and enthralled with Gwen and her quest to save her father. I kept asking myself how far I’d go to save my loved ones.

Gwen is made of reckoning and a hunger for vengeance. I adore her. She’s of Jewish heritage, thick-waisted, opinionated, speaks multiple languages, and likes jazz. I mean, come on, that alone is enough to keep you interested. When Gwen embraces her new identity at Sofia, we see her transformation and wow, what a switch. The girl she started as is still there, but her alias is a fighter. Sofia is a vixen. She’s manipulative, calculating, more like an agent. She has a huge heart. She will go to the ends of the earth for her father and then some, sacrificing herself in the process. She knows she might die, she might get assaulted or scarred, but she is willing as long as she gets her father back. That’s insane and incredibly brave. Gwen has to shut off her emotions or she’ll break and sometimes it’s truly hard and devastating for her. In several scenes, I almost had to look away because I was so scared for her. But she puts on cruelty like armor and is surprisingly successful for such a small amount of training. 

There are so made shades of women within this story and they’re all powerful in their own ways. From prostitutes to the women who serve the crime bosses, from the trafficked girls to the bully at the introduction of the story, all of these women are fighters and wise to the ways of the world. They accept that sometimes life is dirty and hard and terrible, that horrific things happen but they can’t collapse, they rise and rebuild and take everything for what it is. Every character was memorable, even the fleeting ones and others that I abhorred. They were developed, multidimensional, and made me ask questions. 

Yael. OMG this woman. She’s fierce, hardened, cruel when she needs to be and lives by a do whatever it takes attitude. Suck it up and do what needs to be done. Yael is at times heartless and cold, others she’s mildly concerned. You can tell she feels a little motherly towards Gwen. Yael is the kind of woman, Mossad, who would take her child who can’t swim, throw him in a lake and tell him to find his way out; he’d learn pretty quick. I loveddddd her. She’s an epic badass of a character. 

The story itself is layered and developed. It’s cross multiple countries and gets right into the seedy underbelly of the cities. I have not been to most of the countries mentioned, so I can’t say how accurate the portrayal was, but there wasn’t much in way of description anyway. Scott Bergstrom appears to be more about the character than the setting. I loved the cyphers and the danger. Every edge of your seat moment was a new rush and there are so many. 

What I did not like was the random romance between Gwen and Terrance. He’s barely there, there’s no building, hardly any foundation, and while he is functional, the emotions are severely lacking and then suddenly it’s supposed to be like fireworks for the reader-yeah, no. I was not the biggest fan of the way Gwen was introduced at Danton Academy. While it did function to present her place in the social hierarchy, establish her race and figure, it felt clichéd and predictable. In fact, I don’t really know why it was there at all. School is nothing in this story. It’s gone in like 2 days of book time. 

Sometimes the pacing was slow. When you think of a thriller/suspense, you expect fast, but spy work and investigating is sometimes just pushing paper and waiting for leads, so in that respect, it was accurate. 

That ending. YES.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Suspenseful reading, 

Jordan