Jessie thought that she and Chris needed a break. Just for a week. Just to get a little perspective before graduation. Chris seemed to think they should get married right away, but she thought he was wrong. Why? Because Chris was being scouted for a full-ride baseball scholarship and could likely end up playing in the big leagues. She thought that she would just weigh him down, regardless of how often he told her that she would only make his life complete. And she was pretty sure her own college and career aspirations would not work out if she followed Chris off to college, since his school didn’t have the environmental conservation major she had her heart set on. Besides, she wasn’t really sure what she could truly offer him since she thought of her upbringing as “white trash” and was embarrassed to even bring him into her home, which was dangerously full of her mom’s hoarding piles.
When Chris disappeared, though, Jessie had to find the courage to speak out about the secrets Chris had been keeping and to dig deeper. She knew that Chris had been jumped a few weeks prior, by some other local baseball players who accused him of only getting a scholarship because he was black. Even though she told the police about how they had used hate speech while they attacked him, and that she was concerned that those same guys were involved in his disappearance (since he was running in that same area when he disappeared), the police seemed content to think he ran away. After all, those other guys came from good families and had an alibi for the night in question…
Every week, Chris had written Jessie a love letter. As she struggled to work through her emotions and to try and figure out what happened to Chris, she decided to write him a letter of her own — but she insisted that it was NOT a love letter. If he wanted a love letter, he would need to come back to her. This book would make a great conversation starter about racism, mental health, friendships/relationships, communication, and more.
I am NOT the kind of person who enjoys spoilers, and I *never* flip to the end of the story to sneak a peek… but I somehow really enjoy stories that start out telling you how things are going to end and then go back to the beginning to show you how it all went down. I had forgotten the synopsis of this story when I started reading, and it started out innocently enough. Ben was talking about how he and Rose came to be a couple — with her basically picking him and telling him she was going to be his girlfriend. A little abnormal, but not scandalously so. I am a sucker for love stories, although I was pretty sure the title meant they had broken up, but then it became clear something had happened to Rose. She had died in some tragic way, and Ben’s story was going to tell the reader how it happened. What I wasn’t prepared for, nevertheless, was when Ben ended the first chapter asking, “So why’d I kill her?” Say WHAT?!?
I was recently talking with a colleague about Nancy Pearl’s “four doorways” into the book — characters, language, setting, and story — and I think this book had all four but story was my primary doorway. I was sucked right in because I just had to know more about Ben and what could compel him to kill the girl he claimed to love, let alone claim that he wasn’t sorry, felt absolutely no guilt, and was not looking for absolution. I especially liked how we got to glimpse into Ben’s past to see how he had been shaped by both the injury and tragedy of his childhood to become the young man he was when this story took place. If you are a fan of mysteries that don’t follow a typical crime show formula, you should check this one out.
The concept of a “soul mate” has been around for practically forever, but something strange started happening a few years ago. No one knows why, but people started getting names on their chests. Not like a tattoo, per se, since they didn’t choose the name and/or do it themselves. Names just started appearing. Signatures, actually. Though no one knows why or how this started happening, many people honestly believe that the signature belongs to the person they are Meant To Be with (their MTB). People believe in this phenomenon so much, in fact, that there are even services to help you scan in your signature and your MTB’s signature so that you can find each other more quickly. And I guess that is great if you believe in the whole MTB thing, but what if you don’t?
Agatha isn’t so sure about the whole MTB thing. In fact, she prefers to use the term “Empties” (MTs) instead of MTBs. She was probably a little jaded by the fact that her high school boyfriend immediately dumped her and went in search of his MTB when a signature appeared on his chest, but it is more than that. She just doesn’t know how she feels about love and relationships in general. Is there really such a thing as fate and destiny? Could it possibly be that easy to find the person who is right for her? Sadly, her MTB has a very common name, so she doesn’t exactly have an easy time searching for him online to find out more of what he might be like. And then, to complicate things just a bit more, she starts to fall for a guy at work. This witty coming-of-age story is a great blend of humor, romance, and magical realism. Just an FYI, though — based on the mature content, some people might be more comfortable labeling this New Adult rather than YA.
Sadie was more than prepared for a boring summer. Her best friend was going away to work at a summer camp and she was going to work at a farm stand selling fruits, veggies, and $12 chunks of cheese to “citiots” who were on their way from NYC to the Hamptons. Then, something completely random happened. When a drunk and belligerent man pulled in to the farm stand, Sadie became a bit of a hero. Rather than let him drive away with his toddler screaming and crying in the back seat, Sadie physically stopped him from leaving. It wasn’t all that simple, though. As she struggled to take away his keys, she actually had her head smashed off a toolbox and ended up with a major concussion and a terrible scar to show for her efforts. Video of her daring deed went viral and she was nominated for an award at a “homegrown heroes” luncheon that honored local teens.
Though they would have been unlikely to come together on their own, these teens felt an instant connection and decided to start hanging out as a group. Before long, they were working together to take down internet trolls while leaving care packages for the people who had been bullied. I don’t want to give away too much, but I think it’s fair to say that their good deeds soon escalated with the help of a generous benefactor. Though I was glad to see a book featuring brave and generous characters from a wide variety of backgrounds (both ethnic and socio-economic), I have concerns about the dangerous situations into which these teens placed themselves and can only hope that readers will know better than to emulate those particular acts of heroism.
Danielle had always planned on going to Ohio State. And, since her mom was renowned for her work as a “college psychic” (who helped families pick the perfect school), she didn’t bother applying to any back-up schools. Although no one was surprised to find out that she got accepted, she wasn’t sure what to do when she was notified that they rescinded her acceptance. How could that even happen? Well, Danielle failed AP English. So, she had to find a way to replace that failing grade if she wanted to earn back her acceptance. Plus, you know, find a way to tell everyone that she was no longer going away to Ohio State in the fall. Ack!
I was very pleased to see that Danielle took it upon herself to come up with a new plan and that her new plan involved redemption rather than admitting defeat. I was also happy to see that, though this is definitely a romance, Danielle didn’t intend to rush out and find herself a boyfriend… It just kind of happened when she least expected it. Readers who enjoy a coming of age story with light romance and family/friend drama should definitely check this one out.
When Corey moved away from Lost Creek, Alaska, she promised to come back to her best friend Kyra. And Kyra promised to wait for Corey. But, only a few days before Corey was scheduled to go back, she received word that Kyra had died. In the middle of the harsh Alaskan winter, Kyra had supposedly fallen through some ice and drowned. To Corey, who knew that Kyra suffered from Bipolar Disorder (and how very thick the ice could get in the middle of winter), it seemed much more likely that Kyra had chosen to break that ice and taken her own life. The insistence that it was an accident wasn’t even the most bizarre thing, though, as far as Corey was concerned. Even more bizarre was the way the small town’s people reacted to Kyra’s death. For her entire life, the people of Lost Creek had never cared for Kyra or her art, but they were suddenly displaying her artwork all over the place and talking about how well liked and respected she had been. Instead of acknowledging that Kyra had been suffering from depression, her mother insisted that Kyra was truly happy near the end. And, even though Corey had grown up in Lost Creek and only moved away a short time ago, people suddenly treated her coldly, called her an outsider, and warned her not to “pry into other people’s business.” When she carried on asking questions to try and understand what had happened, Kyra’s mother simply said, “Her death was inevitable, and so be it.” Say what?!?
I absolutely loved Nijkamp’s first book, This Is Where It Ends. I saw on Facebook that a friend had read this ARC, so I immediately messaged her and asked if she had an actual physical copy and, if so, whether she would *PLEASE* send it on to me. Luckily, it was and she did! Just like TIWIE, I could not put this book down! I read the first 150 pages in a single shot and only stopped at that point because my husband would have been upset if I chose my book over dinner with him and our daughter. 😉 I read the rest of the book in one more sitting and almost considered re-reading it to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Sadly, this book is not slated to be published until January 2018, so it looks like most of y’all will need to wait to read it. But just trust me and put it on your TBR list now… It will be worth the wait.
Kyla Cheng is NOT a likeable character, and she is just fine with that. She knows that people are sure to be jealous of her for many reasons, including but not limited to her valedictorian rank, popularity, and beauty. What she didn’t expect, nonetheless, was for someone to hate her so much that they went above and beyond to ruin her life. How did they ruin her life? First of all, they found a way to edit a video to make it look like Kyla had been caught having sex with her young/hot English teacher — which most people wouldn’t believe because they didn’t think there was good enough technology to make such a seamless video even though Kyla swore it wasn’t real. As if that was not enough, they also managed to hack their way into her college applications to submit them early… and with completely horrifying answers to the personal essay questions! All of this, of course, is multiplied by the fact the viral video is connected to her social media profile, which is also linked to those of her family members. She is determined to figure out who made the video so that she can get it removed from the internet, but will she be able to befriend her hater and/or track her [she is *sure* it is a her] down in order to delete the original file?
This is a great book for opening a conversation about the implications of living in the digital age and using social media, since it shows just how quickly a picture or video can go viral and how impossible it can be to get these things off the internet once they’re out there. I recommend this book to fans of MT Anderson’s Feed.