ARC Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

nowhereGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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

Advertisements

Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

a-list-of-cagesGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian–the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

review3.5/5 Stars 

+++Triggers for graphic abuse, violence, claustrophobia. 

I had a hard time rating this book. I had to sit and think about it before I could put a label on it. It’s taken me almost 2 weeks to get to this point. On one hand, some sections of this book were so engrossing that I didn’t realize time was passing, sound stopped, everything became about the story and the horror taking place there. On the other hand, the pieces didn’t mesh well, secondary characters were so-so, and it all felt kind of random and strung together. 

A List of Cages is told from two POVs-Adam’s and Julian’s. The first is a graduating senior who seems like he’s on top of the world. He’s likable, full of light and laughter, charisma, and charm. He kind of floats through life on a cloud. Julian’s life is polar opposite. He’s disconnected, scared, isolated, and suffers sickening bouts of abuse. The thing they have in common? Once upon a time Julian lived with Adam before he was placed with his abusive uncle and from that point on Julian has always been influenced by Adam, even if they’re no longer friends and Julian doesn’t notice it himself. What’s interesting about the choice of these two protagonists is that it depicts the discovery, the realization, and the war within that someone so young goes through when they find out that their friend is being abused. But this is also problematic, though realistic. The two narratives, though they collided more towards the end, felt like two very different stories and didn’t combine. It was jarring, the pacing was off, and I kind of got super annoyed with Adam. Though I know he had to live his life and whatever, his character grated on me. Here’s the thing, Adam didn’t resonate with me. Sure, he’s a nice guy, he’s occasionally funny, and always compassionate, but his story was bland. He felt like any other character. He didn’t feel especially developed or complex, he just was. There were some scenes when I almost felt something for Adam, like in the flashbacks to his and Julian’s relationship when they were younger and the climax scene. I think sometimes it’s hard to find a balance when one story is so intense and their voice so powerful. 

One thing I loved was how persistent Adam was. Though I wasn’t exactly a fan of his character, I did respect and adore his actions. He tried to include Julian, to get him out of his shell, and he understood when Julian was getting overwhelmed; he’s deeply perceptive. 

Now for the hard stuff. There is so much I want to say about Julian. His POV broke me every single time. OMG my heart. It kills me how kids live in these situations everyday because of poor screenings or people dropping the ball or because legally a relative might seem like a creep but unless there’s evidence…I just. There are so many wonderful, amazing social workers out there, but there are so many kids that fall through the cracks too. Julian has so much trauma. Developmentally he is behind because his learning disability was undiagnosed and no one has patience with him, on top of the fact that he’s terrified all the time and can’t focus. He gets so scared. He chooses to isolate himself because he doesn’t know how to cope and all the chaos frightens him. He also believes that no one can possibly like him. Just stab me in the heart. On top of these issues, he lives in fear and walks on eggshells. He tries to be the best he can to avoid getting beaten at home, but it’s like nothing he does is right and he can’t win. And the abuse. If you’re sensitive to this issue, I’d probably tell you to avoid this one. It’s like you’re slammed with these graphic, terrifying scenes and the emotions are crippling. Between the imagery and the pleading and confusion in Julian’s voice, it’s chilling and emotionally it’s hard, so hard to read. Some reviewers have complained about this book because they said they feel the author took the violence too far. That it was too graphic, and while I do see how readers would feel that way, it’s not unrealistic and children in abusive homes face violence like this sometimes daily. I won’t lie to you, you know when you’re watching a particularly bloody and scary scene in a movie and you feel that tension building, your heart racing, your stomach bottoming out? This happens several times throughout the book. Be forewarned, you might be consumed by rage and anguish for Julian. There are two scenes in particular that gave me nightmares (if you’re claustrophobic, you might want to step back from this too). And it is a piercing pain that turns into an almost numbness thinking about this injustice in the world. It’s definitely eye-opening and will make you want to act.

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

Thoughtful reading, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt

radiusGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

Release Date: Jan 17, 2017

syn

What happens when you fall in love with someone everyone seems determined to fear?

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself.

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid.

Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.

review

5/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & St. Martin’s Griffin

Do you ever so thoroughly enjoy yourself that you get lost, completely consumed in the moment, and forget everything else in the world? In that period of time, nothing else matters, it’s just you and that utter bliss that is safety, warmth, and contentment. This is that feeling in book form. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a joyful reading experience. This story is beautiful and heartbreaking and reaches into the depths of your soul and asks you to open your eyes, to truly see people past their surface value. There is so much, so many moments that will leave you feeling so full of love and like you can float away on a cloud. At the same time, there’s this crushing sense of dark reality and despair. What Phoenix and Ari went through…it’s enough to break anyone and yet, it’s a reality for so many people in this world. It’s not okay. This will be an experience for some readers, one of learning and opening up to the world around you. Sometimes there is so much bad in the world that it’s easy to forget about the good, but always, even when the odds are slim, there is hope. 

The Radius of Us deals with so many current issues-gang violence, asylum seekers, immigration, PTSD, racial issues, and how the system treats people from specific countries. There’s a mix of court proceedings that give you a broad, but poignant picture of detention centers, how people who show up at the border are treated, the agony and fear when they separate adults from their little ones, the role of parole officers, and how much money it costs to fight for your safety. There’s also a little about the groups that advocate for asylum seekers from countries that are considered high risk. Sometimes we live our lives in a bubble and we become so wrapped up that we forget about what others go through, how they have to fight for the right to live peacefully, safely. This reality hits and it hits hard. 

Gang violence plays a key role in this story. It’s terrifying and brutal. It’s not especially graphic. There are short, abrupt, and blunt scenes that suggest enough without the gore and others that will leave you feeling shaken and sickened. How gangs work, their conditioning processes, what membership means, and what you must suffer to get out are here in brief, but it’s totally enough to understand without getting too specific. From El Salvador to Guatemala to Mexico, each system is different and come with threats.

This book is fantastically diverse in the best way. It calls the characters and the reader out on their perceptions and prejudices. It many ways, it crushes stereotypes. 

Love is a major theme. What love can inspire, how it can keep you holding on when everything falls apart and dares you to hope; it gives you something to live for, just knowing other people want you around is enough to move mountains. There are all forms of love in this story: love between siblings, between relatives, strangers, friends. So much love it leaves you breathless and keyed up. Happy.

Secondary characters. Many times they fade out or fall flat but these characters, you will love them in their own right. They’re memorable, unique, full of life, laughter, heart, and compassion. I loved Bo and Barbie. I mean a tattooed biker couple helping ex-cons remove tattoos from their past. Just wow. They’re gruff and funny and just wonderful characters. So are Phoenix’s guardians. An elderly lesbian couple so in love and with so much to give to a complete stranger. Seriously this story will restore your faith in humanity. 

PTSD comes in all shapes and sizes. Trauma can cause all sorts of debilitating side effects and take over the victim’s life. Ari and Gretchen both suffer different forms. The portrayal of each is so raw, so real, you feel every ounce of panic, fear, and memory.

Ari and Phoenix. I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been dreaming of a story with a strong sibling bond. This story delivers. Phoenix risks everything, literally his life several times for his brother’s safety, to protect him from gang recruitment and all the pain he went through as a kid forced to join. I mean months through Central America in horrific conditions. Death, violence, and evil all around them. Phoenix tried to protect his brother the best he could, nothing mattered but getting him out, even if Phoenix died in the process. That kind of love, that’s something unbreakable. This alone will make you fall for Phoenix. He’s selfless, compassionate, and loves fiercely. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do. The scenes of Ari and Phoenix together are bittersweet. There are laughs, but there are also tears, seeing Ari the way he is, so traumatized he’s unable to speak. I mean it kills him. I think my heart broke a hundred times in as many pages. 

Gretchen’s story also has to do with gang violence. Her whole life was altered by one moment. Everything she used to be was gone, obliterated by an act of violence that made her scared, that left her with memories that crushed her and caused her to fold in on herself and sacrifice a normal life. And yet, Gretchen offers comfort and kindness to everyone she meets. She gives so much of herself without realizing it. What she does for Phoenix with barely a thought-she’s a genuinely good person. 

Phoenix’s story. I’m struggling to find the words for that kind of hardship and sadness. Sometimes there are only two choices and both are bad. Sometimes your surroundings shape your future and you have no choice but to become something dark to save the light in your life-in this case Ari and his grandmother. Phoenix’s past haunts him. He feels guilty. Like he’s a terrible person despite all the good. He has no kindness for himself, only regret and it’s like being suckerpunched in the heart. 

Gretchen and Phoenix. While I wasn’t exactly happy about how and why they met-because wow that is not okay but it is addressed in the story-they’re perfect for each other. They soothe and comfort, they complete one another. They’re in sync. Their radius is the same. There’s chemistry and resistance and such heated tension. You might want to throw the book waiting for them to happen. 

I honestly could go on forever about the merits and awesomeness that is The Radius of Us but this is probably the longest review I’ve ever written. Just do yourself a favor. Read this. Give it as a gift. It’s worth every minute. 

author

Marie Marquardt is an author of young adult novels, a college professor, and an immigration advocate. Her debut novel, Dream Things True (St. Martin’s Press), was a 2015 YA BEA Buzz Panel choice praised in Kirkus as a “worthy examination of undocumented immigration in the American South through the lens of young love.” Her second novel, THE RADIUS OF US, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2017. Uplifting and hopeful, THE RADIUS OF US reflects the experience of Latin American teenagers fleeing gang violence and seeking asylum in the United States and the possibilities for change. It’s an issue that Marie Marquardt cares about profoundly, and she believes that connecting to it emotionally it can be a powerful antidote to the hate, fear, and misunderstanding that plagues our society.

“When I speak to groups about immigration and the need for immigration reform, I can offer clear, rational explanations and data on why our immigration system needs to be repaired,” Marquardt says. “But they only begin to care when they meet and get to know someone who is stuck in between. Writing a fictional (but very real) story brings readers into intimate, personal engagement with a messy, complicated, political situation.”

Dr. Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and has been an advocate for social justice for Latin American immigrants in the South for two decades. She has published many articles and co-authored two non-fiction books on the issues involved and has been interviewed on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and BBC America, among many other media outlets. She is also the co-chair of El Refugio, a Georgia non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families.

Marie Marquardt is a proud member of the We Need Diverse Books team and lives in a busy household in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse, four children, a dog and a bearded dragon.

For more information, visit: http://www.mariemarquardt.com http://candler.emory.edu/faculty/profiles/marquardt-marie.html

Follow her on Twitter: @MarieFMarquardt

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mariemarquardtauthor.

If you like any of the following (really if you like any book in the world, really) you’ll enjoy this:

Read on, 

Jordan

Review Tour: Something More Series Box Set by Danielle Pearl

reviewtour_banner

This box set is FREE on Kindle Unlimited and contains three amazing new adult books that you need to read NOW!

somethingmore-box

Amazon US | Amazon UK

something-more-teaser-2

It’s the kind of situation most people would dread. Starting at a new high school, in the middle of my senior year, in a new town, in a new state. I know no one. No one knows me. That’s what I’m counting on.

A year ago, Aurora “Rory” Pine was just a normal teenage girl – just as sweet and naive as the fairy tale princess she was named after.

But this isn’t a year ago.

Rory is broken, and suffering from a new debilitating anxiety disorder, wrought with precarious triggers, she moves across the country to escape the source of her troubles. Her plan is anonymity, but that’s easier said than achieved for the new girl having a panic episode outside of calculus. The worst part? There’s a witness – and a gorgeous one at that.

Sam is a walking trigger for Rory. Incredibly handsome, built like the star athlete he obviously is, and undoubtedly popular, Sam outwardly represents everything Rory despises about high school. But as the fates keep throwing them together, a connection sparks that neither ever expected, and certainly can’t ignore.

But Sam has issues too, and Rory’s past won’t just stay in the damned past. When friendship evolves into something deeper, can a girl utterly destroyed by the worst kind of betrayal and a boy battling demons of his own ever have a normal relationship? Is that even what they want? Find out in NORMAL, a gritty story of trust and abuse, heartbreak and salvation, and if they’re lucky – love. This is not a flowery romance – not for the faint of heart.

review

5/5 Stars 

***I received this book in exchange for an honest review via the author

+++This book does contain triggers- sexual, physical, and psychological abuse as well as MATURE content

Normal is the kind of book that opens your heart, examines its parts and then stomps all over it only to put it back together again, better than before. It’s feels overload. The flashback scenes are gut-wrenching, horrifying, the sort of paralyzing trauma that leaves you breathless in sheer fear and trembling with tears. Rory’s suffering is incredibly moving and heartbreaking. Every remembered incident is an open wound and your heart will bleed right along with her. Grab your tissues. Lots of them. 

The violence is graphic and brutal. The details physically are coupled with Rory’s internal dialogue. Her thoughts are she was in the moment are scattered and conflicted as she tries to process the reality of her situation and to understand how something so horrific can happen. Some scenes may have you averting your eyes or skimming. It’s hard to read because it is emotional chaos. The scenes in the car, omg, and the locker room. I’d never been so scared for a character in my life. The terror will consume you and open doors to understanding.

When you get to the back of the book, there’s an explanation of the inspiration behind this novel. Danielle Pearl said she wanted to write a book about abuse that is not black and white but the perfect shade of gray. Pearl exceeded by expectations. There are times when you want to be mad at Rory, that you want to shake her and scream for her to get out of there but her thought process will have you pausing, rethinking. Rory’s mentality, her youth and inexperience are highlighted and very believable. For a girl who was just coming into her sexuality and unsure of what it means to have a boyfriend let alone a sexual relationship, her innocence and confusion really challenge the notion that everything is black and white. Rory doesn’t know, she feels alone, diminished, and broken with no one to talk to because she has been taught to feel shame. My heart broke for Rory and the rage was intense. Every time I hear the justification for assault as someone was asking for it incites my fury. It’s ridiculous and Rory epitomizes how this notion sinks under the skin, making girl question whether or not rape is their fault. Also, the excuse for cheating as “I have needs.” UGHHHHH.

Rory’s anxiety, her triggers, her life-preserver of just knowing her pills are there if she needs help are accurate and insightful portrayals of PTSD. That Rory should have to feel paralyzed to be alone in a room with a male, that she has to constantly adjust her life so as to not aggravate her triggers is unfair and honest. Every ounce of uncertainty and how it comes over her in sudden waves of fear granted more psychological understanding of a character than I’ve experienced.

Rory is brave. Her courage is an inspiration and made of awe. That she, knowing the possible consequences and the Golden status of her abuser, had it in her to make a report is powerful to read. Despite everything she’s suffered and her severe psychological and physical scars, she took a stand to save herself. Rory is that character that forces you to think, to feel, and experience. She’s the kind of character that will leave you all over the place, bogged down with emotion. Rory is a tiny broken bird, thirsting to disappear into the background but when she shines, she’s a phoenix. Rory is resilient in body and spirit, she’s an example of hope that everyone should read.

Sam is a lesson in patience and compassion. He cradles and soothes Rory. He understands her on a deep level that transcends his years and his playboy attitude. He gets it. His own story is sad and violent, he struggles with control but realizes that he is a better person, that overcoming is an everyday challenge. 

Sam and Rory together are therapeutic. They’re a wonder couple. They have their challenges, every day is a little better when their together and in each other’s arms they can move on from the past that haunts them. They’re playful and real, they share their secrets and feel safe with each other. It’s beautiful and a little tragic but the kind of love that speaks of forever.

teaser-normal

Rory and Sam fell in love in NORMAL, and we all fell in love right along with them. Now see it all unfold through Sam’s eyes, and learn just how the new girl with anxiety issues stole the heart of the gorgeous heartthrob, and turned his world upside down.

You already heard the story. The one of how Rory and I fell in love, supposedly, even if she couldn’t handle it in the end. You know how it all went.

Or you think you do.

You only know her side. But I have my own point of view, and even Rory couldn’t know my thoughts in those few months it took for her to go from being a stranger to my whole entire world.

Every moment is permanently ingrained in my memory. In my goddamned soul. From the moment I stumbled upon the girl panicking outside of calculus – the one with the tight little body, the angelic face, and the fierce attitude – to the night she abandoned me in Miami. It was the sum of those moments that changed me irrevocably.

Our story isn’t over. I won’t let it be. But this, this is what happened so far, the way I saw it.

I’m Cap. Or Sam, to Rory. And this is my story.

review

4/5 Stars

***I received this ebook as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author.

From the first page of this series, I’ve been hooked. I love everything about Rory and Sam, their complex relationship, the past trauma, how they heal each other’s wounds and see how strong they truly are just by being loved. It’s beautiful, uplifting, heartbreaking, everything you could ever want in a story and so so so important. The Something More series deals with crucial issues that are not voiced enough, that people look away from rather than take action against like domestic abuse and rape. In many ways, when we do hear these stories, they’re from one side, or maybe two, the victim and the attacker, but what about the people who are there after, those who love and cherish those who have been hurt so deeply? ReCap is that other story. The powerful and life-changing POV of those who fall madly in love with someone who has been abused and the everyday struggles that come up.

Sam is…I mean, he’s amazing. That word somehow seems less. Sam is empathetic, strong, fierce, protective, and soul-crushingly, swoon-inducing, devoted to Rory. He sees her scars and worships at the altar of her strength. Rory is something holy and angelic to him. No matter how broken she sees herself, she’s the epitome of perfect to Sam because she has overcome so much.

It’s intense reading Sam’s emotions as he watches Rory fight for control of her PTSD. The thoughts that race through his mind, his struggle to understand, and the way he beats himself up when he makes mistakes are incredibly raw and honest. The fine line between treating her like she’s fragile and comforting her is hard to master and Sam makes tons of mistakes. 

It’s all the things you don’t think about that are brought to your attention in this book. The way we take things for granted, like casual touching, or grabbing someone when you want to get their attention. It’s eye-opening to witness how things we brush off can trigger someone who has been through trauma. 

How Sam sees Rory. It’s like seeing the sun for the first time. That bright, almost startling brightness, the magic of its beauty, the way it warms and occasionally burns, but brings so much comfort. That is what Sam feels every time he looks at Rory, like he’s awake for the first time. The emotions are off the charts, almost too much. I might be a little in love with Sam. 

teaser-okay

After the horrors she’s survived over the past year, Rory never expected to find the one thing she certainly wasn’t looking for – love. But after the painful realization that her past has left her a dangerous liability to the person she cares for the most, she finally understands that for her and Sam, love means letting go.

Can two people hopelessly in love with one another ever revert back into just friends? Neither Rory nor Sam know for sure. But the one thing they do know – it’s the only choice they have.

As Rory recovers from a devastating assault, Sam will do anything to make sure it never happens again. But how far will he go to keep her safe? Their choices will change everything, and they will either bring them back together, or destroy them irrevocably.

review

5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author.

+++A few words about genre and context: Okay can be classified as Mature YA or early New Adult. In both cases it is a drama, romance, and contemporary. It does contain mature themes that are better suited for older YA so 18ish+. The content deals with issues of domestic and sexual abuse.Contains triggers. 

It’s taken me a while to write this review not because I was busy or lazy but because I had so much to say and this review was harder to write than others. When I first read NORMAL, I was absolutely stunned and impressed with Danielle Pearl’s voice. The way she captured the anxiety, the terror, and just how debilitating living with PTSD is on a daily basis was precise, accurate and showcased a substantial amount of research and understanding. Generally when people think of PTSD, I think they assume soldiers. PTSD has many faces and many levels of distress. Danielle Pearl does an amazing job informing the reader of the little things, the tiny day-to-day activities that those who do not suffer from PTSD don’t think about and sheds light on the strength it takes to endure when anxiety and memory strike. OKAY is a continuation of Rory and Sam’s romance and hones in more on self acceptance, learning to love in the face of a traumatic series of sexual abuse, and discovering that no matter how dark and horrendous the past can be, hope is as resilient as the human spirit. 

I appreciate so many things about what Danielle Pearl has done with this series: her endeavour to write about sexual assault from a gray area, to address ignorant assumptions about sexual violence and whether or not it can be okay. It’s never okay and no girl is “asking for it” despite what she wears or how beautiful she is. I think it’s crucial to address this mentality that is somehow drilled into people from a young age. The idea of dressing promiscuously as a gateway or okay for sexual assault. Where did this concept come from? Asking for it? The guilt, the questioning, the deliberation that women have to go through before throwing on clothes. Every aspect of care and thought so that she not look too tempting, that she not tease the men with too much cleavage or leg because they have no restraint. How is that acceptable or okay? OKAY made me question how I view sexual assault and the grounds on which abuse is determined. The argument that short skirts and flirting is justification is weak at best but even Rory questioned whether she was at fault, if she was indeed asking for it? How many girls go through this after assault? How many don’t report it because they believe they did something wrong? Danielle Pearl asks hard questions that we as humans need to address and ask more of.

Rory’s insecurities are real and relatable. Having never been in a non-abusive relationship, she doesn’t know what is expected or how she should behave, she also doesn’t feel worthy of love and it is devastating. Rory’s emotions are a chaotic mess of longing and memory, she’s haunted and doesn’t know if she’s capable of love after her abuse. Sometimes Rory makes decisions and interprets things in ways that seem foreign or strange to me but Danielle Pearl clearly outlines Rory’s thought process so that you see where she’s coming from. Rory is terrified of a future where she’s have to open her heart and share her body and because of this fear she pushes Sam away. I think what makes Rory so compelling is that she’s a survivor. It’s not that she’s super confident or smart, she’s not perfect, she’s scarred and weighed down by her past but she’s REAL. Her beauty shines through her brokeness and though occasionally emotionally fragile because of her PTSD she has a lot of fight in her when she lets it show.

Secondary relationships became a major plot element this time around. In the first book, one of my critiques was that friendships were almost an afterthought. In OKAY relationships between the main characters and their parents and the protagonists and their friends were complex and grew as the story progressed. Sam’s relationship with his father was gripping. All of Sam’s animosity, his violence and anger stems from his horrendous feelings towards his father. The therapeutic interactions between them allowed for Sam to understand, to open his mind, and forgive, not fully but he’s on his way. 

Sam’s feelings for Rory are transcendent, pure, heavenly. You feel every ounce of his attraction and respect towards her. From the way she looks, to her tiny mannerisms, and even when she’s throwing him off, he knows when to give her space. Sam’s anger is explosive, deep-seeded, and volatile, but the memory of his father’s actions ground him. Knowing that he is just as vulnerable and attached as Rory added another level to their relationship. 

The romantic scenes between Sam and Rory are molten hot bouts of ecstasy and carnal heat one moment and perfect love and mutual understanding the next. They care about each other’s happiness and that attentiveness intensifies their already steamy romance. 

The off and on, push and shove of Sam and Rory’s romance/friendship was infuriating. I understood Rory’s interpretation but I couldn’t get past the fact that out of everything Sam had done for her, the adoration and comfort he had shown her that she would believe she was better off without him or that he didn’t love her. It just didn’t make sense. 

author1177095_origDanielle Pearl is the Amazon and iBooks best-selling author of the Something More series. She lives in New Jersey with her three delicious children and ever-supportive husband, who–luckily–doesn’t mind sharing her with an array of fictional men. She did a brief stint at Boston University and worked in marketing before publishing her debut novel, Normal. She writes mature Young Adult and New Adult Contemporary Romance. Danielle enjoys coffee, wine, and cupcakes, and not in moderation.

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Instagram

Life changing reading, 

Jordan

Theme Reviews: Even If the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia & The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Even if the Sky Falls and The Sky is Everywhere are both wonderfully whimsical contemporaries that deal with loss in entirely different ways. Both feature an off-beaten cast of characters and love that feels like magic. 

even-if-the-skyiBooks/Amazon/Kobo/B&N

syn

All she needs is one night to be anyone she wants.

Julie is desperate for a change. So she heads to New Orleans with her youth group to rebuild houses and pretend her life isn’t a total mess. But between her super-clingy team leader and her way-too-chipper companions, Julie feels more trapped than ever.

In a moment of daring, she ditches her work clothes for DIY fairy wings and heads straight into the heart of Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, where she locks eyes with Miles, an utterly irresistible guy with a complicated story of his own. And for once, Julie isn’t looking back. She jumps at the chance to see the real New Orleans, and in one surreal night, they dance under the stars, share their most shameful secrets, and fall in love.

But their adventure takes an unexpected turn when an oncoming hurricane changes course. As the storm gains power and Julie is pulled back into chaos she finds pretending everything is fine is no longer an option.

review

3/5 Stars 

Even if the Sky Falls is an atmospheric dream. The hazy, magical euphoria that cloaks New Orleans is captured in all of its glory. From the wild randomness and go wherever the wind takes you attitudes, the story bursts with life and inspires the reader to give in to spontaneity. It’s worth the risk.

Even if the Sky Falls is unexpected and dreamy. The Mid-Summer Mardi Gras is a more laid back version of the insanity that is normal Mardi Gras, this feels like a light drizzle of crazy. The characters are charming and unique, they leap from the page and invite the reader to engage. The story is both an adventure and drama. The characters are complex and developed. They each have their own drama, heartaches, and pasts that define and dare them to make life worth living every moment of every day. 

Julie is a vixen and the best part is, she has no clue. Though parts of her back story were less fleshed out than I would have liked, particularly the situation with her best friends, Julie in the now is fiery, adventurous, and takes chances that she never would have before. She’s an inspiration to the quiet, introspective girls to let loose every once in a while, you never know what might happen. 

Miles is sexy. An enigma. A perfect fairy tale of a character dressed as a super hot version of Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He’s got troubles and baggage and pain, but he’s playful and made of daring. He’s definitely the type of guy who sucks you in and tempts you to live on the wild side. Smooth, talented, and sensual.

The chemistry is hard to describe. On one hand, you can feel them falling to something-not love exactly, not lust-but it feels natural, inevitable. The heat is intense when it comes. They resist, they tease, they give in and it’s epic.

The pacing was lazy and sometimes too slow for my taste. 

Julie’s brother’s situation cut her deeply, and while it did have a strong presence, I feel like a deeper look into her past, what brought her to New Orleans, her relationship with the church, and what PTSD does to a family would have helped flesh out her motivations and added another layer to her character. 

When the “twist” happened near the end, OMG my heart. I screamed at the book. Shocked and anxious and terrified for their fate doesn’t even begin to describe the feels. 

sky-is-everywhereiBooks/Amazon/B&N/Kobo

syn

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

review

3.5/5 Stars 

The Sky is Everywhere is an epic eulogy. It’s a story of loss and learning to live after a part of yourself is gone. 

Jandy Nelson is a beautifully lyrical and honest writer. She doesn’t shy away from feelings and actions that might make the reader dislike the protagonist. Everything is achingly real. The words float off the page, part poetry, part longing. The poems Lennie leaves wherever she goes for her sister are featured throughout like random inserts that provide insight into Lennie’s mental state. Memories, conversations, fights, they’re all there in vivid color. It’s powerful and heartbreaking. Everything Lennie does is in an effort to remember-an ode to her sister, her best friend, her other half. 

Lennie’s best friend Sarah is a whirlwind. As are all of the secondary characters really. Everyone has a potent and active presence. I wish there was more of Sarah. A chic and confident feminist who is obsessed with philosophy and falling in love with the right guy. Sarah is a force that you want to get wrapped up in. She’s unafraid to tell it like it is, she calls Lennie out on her b.s. and fights for her best friend, even when she unintentionally pushes her away. Big is a lovable giant of a character. He’s weird, so insanely bizarre, but full of warmth and joy-love is his oxygen and his curse. He’s truly unforgettable. Lennie’s grandma, oh my gosh this lady. She’s like a mythical creature. At some points, she’s a lovable grandmother type and others she’s the lady who only paints in shades of green, whose flowers are strong enough to bewitch and ensnare. 

Lennie is a complex character. Half the time she’s a mess who has no clue what she’s doing. She’s hormonal, awkward, and throws herself into situations without thinking and boy is it comical. But you never doubt her love and devotion to her sister’s memory. Lennie has never been in love. She’s never really had a big crush and her emotions are chaotic. She doesn’t know how to process the loss and becomes reckless, confused, and mildly idiotic. Sometimes I literally had to turn away from the book I was so embarrassed for her, other times I wanted to shake her and ask her what she was thinking with some of the stuff she does. She’s absolutely relatable. 

The romance…here’s the thing, I wasn’t completely invested in that aspect of the story. Yes, Joe is a heart throb. He’s sweet, he’s perfect for Lennie, they get each other on a deep, emotional level. They speak too each other through music, how romantic is that? Despite how natural it feels, the love came fast and hit soft. You can’t help but believe they belong together but it was so soon. There wasn’t enough of them together, by themselves, confessing their thoughts, etc. Sure, you can feel the chemistry, Joe’s wonder and complete adoration for Lennie, but the magic fell short for me. 

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

Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

afterwardGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/KOBO

syn

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home.

And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.

review3/5 Stars

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

Afterward is a dual POV story set in the months after two abducted boys were rescued from their captor’s home. Told from the perspectives of Ethan, a boy who was held and abused for FOUR years, and Caroline, the sister of the young autistic boy who was nabbed by Ethan’s predator. This story is about recovery and learning to work through the trauma in a healthy way. Getting back to normal after being kidnapped seems impossible and when everyone treats you like you’re fragile and will disappear again at any moment, it’s a Herculean weight on your shoulders. Caroline struggles to understand what he brother went through when, because of his autism, he cannot communicate what happened to him, he just has severe nightmares and PTSD. Jennifer Mathieu, skillfully, and respectfully shows both sides of the spectrum, the family that is working so hard to help and understand and the victim’s road to being okay again. 

The story starts with the immediate flash to when her brother was taken. The energy, that crumbling sense of fear as her stomach dropped out when she couldn’t find him. The terror, the anguish, the way she blamed herself were intense and gutting. That scene was a gripping introduction. After that, things slow down, they ease up, and while there are flashbacks for Ethan that are particularly disturbing and haunting, nothing much happens. It drags, you might feel compelled to skim, and get a little bored. It reads a bit like a contemporary, coming of age story in that lethargic, floating way. 

What works is that the story is intensely realistic. The ups and downs, the angst, the general family issues, the class struggles, things like that were all spot on. 

What I didn’t like was how little story actually had to do with Caroline’s brother, Dylan. There are barely any scenes with him and while you do sympathize with Caroline’s heartbreaking quest to understand what her brother went through, I think the focus was skewed. 

There aren’t really any secondary characters and the ones that are there flit in and out and aren’t particularly likable, with the exception of Ethan’s therapist and the dog. 

Ethan’s POV was strong and powerful. He grows and fights to sort through the reasons why he was taken, what he went through, the repressed memories, and all that trauma and clings to normalcy. He just wants to be a teenage boy and yet, he has so much mentally weighing on him that when he gets the opportunity it’s a whole different issue. It’s complex and intense and his thoughts will make you want to read more. 

Caroline was an okay character. She’s a little random, a misfit, she does questionable, rebellious things, but that’s who she is. As the story progresses, she gets a teeny bit more likable, but it’s how she changes Ethan that makes her better.

Overall, Afterward wasn’t what I expected and left me feeling letdown. There were parts that were missing answers and things that still hadn’t been worked through by the end. I didn’t really get the need for so much Caroline. I would have liked to have seen more of her relationship with Dylan. 

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

Emotional reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

girl in piecesAmazon/B&N/iBooks/Goodreads

Release Date: September 6, 2016

syn

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

review

4/5 Stars

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

+++Triggers: Self harm, violence, assault, sexual situations, graphic scenes

From the first few pages, I knew that this book would be something special. At 10% on my Goodreads update my status was: “This book. That voice.” I haven’t read such an emotionally gripping and poignant book in a long time. Charlie’s voice is rich, broken, and beautifully tragic. She bares her soul to the reader and has overcome so much that you’ll want to weep for her pain.

This book is intense and not for the faint of heart. The subjects are raw and gritty and graphic. There are times when, if you’re even remotely queasy when it comes to blood, that you might feel a little sick. Self mutilation/harm plays a major role in this story and the psychological reasoning behind it is dark, honest, and could be dangerous or cathartic to some readers. 

Sometimes contemporary books can feel contrived, this is seedy, and twisted, and full of anguish and suffering that many young people, unfortunately go through. It feels absolutely real and honest. Heartbreaking and yes, it will make you angry and maybe even open your eyes to all of the hurt around you that you overlook everyday. 

The writing style. Holy sinful writing gods. Beautiful. Potent. Full of soul. It’s imperfect. There’s some poetry thrown in here and there, but that voice. It reads like a diary. 

Girl in Pieces reads like two books. The time that Charlie spent during her recovery and the life she builds after. There are flashbacks sporadically as well. The first half of the book is like therapy. You’re introduced to everything that got Charlie into the position she’s in. You meet other girls who also self harm for whatever reasons. Each character is unique and memorable. You’ll want to know them, to get to the heart of why they feel the way they do. 

The second half was not my favorite. It slows down considerably. Charlie is building a new life for herself and everyday is a struggle not to cut. The memories of her past haunt her, but so is oh so strong. She’s a fighter, through every negative thought, every memory, she battles herself. You see the struggle and wonder how she copes, but there’s hope for a future where she’s better, where she can be and love herself. 

There’s a stunning plot twist. I was so surprised and disgusted. Just wow. You never know people. 

The romance is messed up. Toxic in some instances and good for her in others. Through love, Charlie begins to see a new side of herself, a beautiful side. She begins to truly look at herself, but the risks and decisions she makes, the way she puts herself in danger is most definitely not okay. She sees it, but doesn’t feel worthy or secure in herself enough to say no. THIS is so important. An examination of why people stay in bad situations and how to rediscover your worth. 

Side note: I strongly dislike this cover.

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan