Category Archives: ARC

Knockout Games by G. Neri [ARC]

Knockout GamesAfter reading and enjoying Surf Mules and Ghetto Cowboy, I was looking forward to seeing how Neri would handle this topic.  Once I downloaded the ARC and started reading it, though, I second-guessed my decision.  Some of the depictions of violence literally made me sick to my stomach.  When I got to the very first knockout, I had to put the book (well, Kindle) down and just read something else because I was so utterly disturbed.  I was talking to a friend about it and saying that I didn’t know if I could handle reading this story, but he reminded me that this is an important story to have available to teens and that pushing myself beyond my comfort zone to finish this story would make me better able to recommend it to those who needed it.  After all, this isn’t a fantasy or science fiction story with gratuitous violence; this is a contemporary, realistic story about an actual problem in urban neighborhoods.  Real teens are “playing” the knockout game, and Neri’s story can help people — whether players or outsiders — better understand the factors that lead people to play and the faulty logic many players use to justify their participation.  People who don’t actually read the story might fear that Neri glorifies the game, but anyone who reads the whole book will understand that, though he humanizes the players and explains the motivations they might have in playing this deadly game, he makes it clear that their cop-outs and excuses do NOT justify their destructive actions.  So glad I made myself go back and finish this one.  Hopefully, the timely publication of this book will succeed in educating and deterring would-be players.

Happy Reading!

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

We Are the GoldensNell and Layla were extremely close when they were little.  So close, in fact, that Nell got confused and started calling her sister and herself by the collective name Nellaya.  Now that they’re both in high school, things have started to shift.  Though they attend the same school and play on the same soccer team, Layla has become more closed off and secretive.  Nell is doing her best to be her own person instead of living in her sister’s shadow, but she misses the closeness they once had.  Though Layla used to tell her everything, she feels like Layla isn’t telling her *anything* anymore.  Nell wonders what could be causing this change in her sister and fears it has something to do with the rumors that Layla is dating the cute, young art teacher whose supposed conquests of students are frequent fodder for gossip.  She wants to know the truth, but she is also afraid of what she might learn.  After all, what will/should Nell do if she finds out the rumors are true?

Though I don’t think this book was written as well as The Things a Brother Knows or Harmless, I thought Reinhardt did a good job writing about the struggle between loyalty and honesty.

Happy Reading!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsI’m thinking I Read YA Week is a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on some blogging…  and I may even actually use my Twitter account to tag my posts!  ;-)  Day 1 is supposed to be something I recommend, and this book definitely fits the bill.  I have read several of E. Lockhart’s other books — my favorite of which was probably The Boyfriend List — and I was over the moon when my friend Molly got me the ARC of this book.  Although I slacked when it came to posting a review, I handed it off to a friend immediately upon finishing and was happy to hear that she passed it along as well.  This book has legs!

Cadence has spent every summer of her life on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her entire extended family.  Hired help does all the work while the family enjoys a life of luxury and leisure.  She missed last summer, which she spent in Europe with her father, but she is back and trying to piece together what happened two summers before.  All she knows is that she sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and now suffers memory loss and crippling headaches.  No one in the family is supposed to talk to her about it because it upsets her and then she ends up forgetting anyway — the doctors have decided it’s best if they let her recover those memories on her own.  I almost couldn’t get over the shock of what had happened when her memories finally sorted themselves out, and I was in awe of how well everything that seemed so strange finally fell into place.  This is a great summer read for people who like mysteries and don’t mind shedding a few tears.

Happy Reading!

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel [ARC]

break up artistBecca Williamson has a rather unique job.  Instead of working after school in a fast food restaurant or at a clothing store in the mall, she breaks up couples for money.  Of course, she can’t just tell everyone what she does.  That would be pretty dangerous — at least socially, if not literally.  So, she advertises anonymously (on the school bathroom wall), wears a disguise when she meets with clients (via webcam), and collects payments via PayPal.  You may wonder, “Why Becca is so anti-love?”  Well, it has an awful lot to do with the fact she’s had to deal with the fallout from her sister’s fiance calling off their wedding only hours ahead of time [about a year before the beginning of the book].

The premise of this book was pretty interesting, but I thought the delivery fell a bit flat.  I don’t usually give spoilers, but I can’t explain what I didn’t like about this book without saying that Becca didn’t seem to learn anything from her experiences as The Break-Up Artist.  At the end of the book, I would have expected Becca to have a little remorse over what she had done and a better understanding of how relationships require work and honesty.  Instead, she seemed to still feel justified for what she had done.  REALLY?!?  Some people might enjoy this story for all the drama, but I can’t see myself specifically recommending it to anyone.

Happy Reading!

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican [ARC]

brutal youthThis was one of the most messed up books I have ever read.  (I don’t mean that as an insult, by the way.  I am referring to the content, not the writing.)  It was like driving by a terrible car accident — you know you shouldn’t look, but you just *have* to see for yourself what’s going on.  And although I did think it was a bit hyperbolic, it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility either.  I mean, the Catholic Church is pretty well known for brushing things under the rug and covering things up to save their reputation, so why wouldn’t it be possible for a Catholic school to have insane hazing issues and major problems with student discipline in general?  Let alone the fact that there have been so many darn hazing stories in recent years — many of which involved high school students and adults who looked the other way.  Part of me wanted to reach into the story to slap the snot out of the so-called adults who let the insanity continue, and part of my wanted to stop reading in case something truly horrific happened because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it.  I think this story is like a more modern version of Lord of the Flies — only with adults who just stood by and watched everything unfold.

Happy Reading!

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Here And NowI am pretty sure the only Ann Brashares books I had read before this ARC were from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  It looks like I never reviewed them on this blog, though, so I can’t simply link to what I thought of them.  Instead, I will quickly summarize by saying that they are basic contemporary “chick lit” books.  They primarily dealt with friendship, dating, and body image — and they were both realistic and well written enough that I’m not surprised to see that they’re still popular.  While this book was also well written and has a romantic element to it, it was VERY different in that it has a science fiction angle.

Prenna James is an immigrant, but she didn’t come from another country — she came from another time.  She, along with the rest of the people in her tight-knit community, traveled back in time from a future in which global warming had destroyed the world.  Warmer temperatures melted the polar ice caps, caused massive floods, and also allowed mosquitoes to thrive.  Even though cancer had been cured, human existence was threatened by a blood-borne plague reminiscent of AIDS.  Prenna’s time-traveling community has many rules, but the most important rules are to blend in, to avoid making any changes to “the past,” and to avoid intimacy with outsiders.  Despite worries about getting in trouble, Prenna has a hard time following the rules.  She just can’t understand how they can just sit by and watch people destroy the world instead of trying to make a difference.  Plus, of course, there’s the fact that she’s falling for an outsider named Ethan…

Happy Reading!

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

fat boy vs the cheerleadersIn honor of Teen Tech Week, I decided to review a book that I read as a digital ARC.  (If there are any teachers/librarians out there who would like to get digital ARCs, by the way, I highly recommend checking out Edelweiss and NetGalley.) Though I was reluctant to use an e-reader, I really have come around.  Though I still prefer “real” books, I am learning to appreciate my e-reader — especially when it means that I will have a better chance of receiving, and sometimes even instant access to, a review copy!

I don’t recall where I first saw the cover of this book, but I was intrigued by both the title and the cool cover.  I wanted to find out more about it and whether it might be a good fit for my library’s YA collection, but I couldn’t find any professional reviews.  So, I decided to get a digital review copy from Edelweiss and read it myself.   I am SO glad I did!  I loved the main character, Gabe/Chunk, and thought the unique way the story was told — in the form of a written statement/police interview — worked surprisingly well.

Gabe’s “friends” call him Chunk [a reference to a character from an 80s cult classic, The Goonies], and he has long accepted that moniker.  After all, he is fat.  Huge.  Beyond hope.  After his mom left, he and his dad both began to feed their feelings.  One of Gabe/Chunk’s biggest problems is his addiction to soda — but the money from the soda machine in the school cafeteria helps to fund the school pep band, so he is OK with wasting his money and drinking all the extra calories… until the day he finds out that they’ve been bamboozled.  Without public knowledge, the school board decided to take the money from the soda machine and give it to the cheerleaders for a new dance squad!  Gabe/Chunk decides that he is not only going to enlist the help of his friends to win back the money for the band, but he is going to let his grandfather [a former champion body builder] help him win back his body.  Though I admit that the description sounds like it could get a little preachy, I am pleased to report that this story was often hilarious and that Gabe/Chunk had an authentic teen voice.  I’m definitely hoping for more from this author.

Happy Reading!