Book Reviews

Book Review: Living in Suspension by Winifred Morris

Living in Suspension is about Sky, an unhappy teen who despises high school. At first, I didn’t like Sky very much and felt that his problems were a direct result of his poor choices and bad attitude. He doesn’t put forth much effort academically, he skips school, his group of friends is comprised of dropouts and troublemakers, he acts like a jerk to his parents, and his overall demeanor is angry and mopey. So why the four-star rating? Because by the end of this novel I grew to understand and like this character, who happens to be the perfect portrait of an average kid who simply isn’t hardwired to succeed in a traditional classroom setting. I also enjoy Morris’ writing style. She takes her time letting you get to know her characters, and she has a way with inserting a bit of humor where you wouldn’t normally expect it.

In addition to Sky’s difficulties with succeeding in mainstream classes, Morris highlights his battles with authority, his struggles to be a good friend, and his crush on the popular neighbor girl. I should also mention that there’s a story within this story. The secondary story is a novel Sky is working on for a creative writing class–the only class he’s ever really enjoyed. This novel ends up providing clarity and hope for Sky in the end.

Even though Living in Suspension is geared toward teens, I think adults would benefit from reading it as well. As a warning to teachers who might want to use this book in the classroom (because it would be perfect for discussion related to differentiated learning environments and teen issues in general) and parents, this book contains instances of swearing and drug use. These instances added authenticity to the subject matter, and nothing was over-the-top or added simply for shock value.

A few of my favorite parts:

“Then she does this smile that seems to make the years fall away again. On warm summer nights when we used to play hide and seek, whenever she found me, she would smile just like that. But she shakes her hair the way she did before, and it’s too red, too pretty. All those years since we were friends jump back into place. She’s one of those girls who smiles at everyone.”

“I was the extra luggage my parents insisted on dragging along even though they would probably have no use for it later.”

“I don’t know why I cried, but I remember how it felt–the twisting in my stomach, the tightness in my chest. In fact, now I’m feeling it again, as if memories carry their feelings with them kind of like bad smells. You open one up, and there it is smothering you again. And they seem to work the way worm holes are supposed to work in space, carrying you on to other bad-smelling memories.”

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rating: 4 STARS

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Book Reviews

Book Review: My Life Before Me by Norah McClintock

My Life Before Me is a gripping YA mystery that takes place in 1964. I absolutely adored the orphaned teen narrator, Cady Andrews, an aspiring journalist on a mission to discover her origins. Right before Cady embarks on her journey, she receives an envelope that contains a clue about where she’s from.

This story involves murder, racism (with historic references), classism and buried secrets. There are also quite a few twists and turns, but McClintock did a superb job of laying the plot points out in an easy-to-follow manner. Even though this book covers several mature themes (all presented tastefully, in my opinion), I think it would be a wonderful addition to any middle or high school library.

I read My Life Before Me out loud to my husband while we were on a road trip. We were bummed when we had to stop reading in order to eat dinner. During dinner, we discussed possible outcomes for the mystery Cady was trying to solve. Then, we finished reading as soon as we got settled into our hotel room for the night. My husband and I both loved Cady’s story!

A big thank you to Orca Book Publishers for providing me with an ARC via LibraryThing!

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Skinniness is Next to Goddessness? Lacey’s Story by Julia Keanini

This is a good YA novel that touches on eating disorders, body image, bullying, cliquishness, and suicide. The way the characters spoke and behaved was spot-on for a teen audience.

I really liked Lacey and felt that I got to know her well enough to sympathize with her struggles. However, I didn’t feel as though I really got to know the secondary characters as well (with the exception of Tuck), as there were so many of them.

The eating disorder storyline (such an important topic) had so much potential. I just wish it had been covered more thoroughly. Instead, several side stories were touched on.

Overall, a good, clean YA novel. I’ll likely read more from this author.

Rating: 3 1/2 STARS

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The Kindle version is currently FREE on Amazon!

Book Reviews

Book Review: More than a Moment by Kristin Albright

More than a Moment starts out with Julia’s boyfriend (Tyler) abruptly breaking up with her just before their senior year in high school. As if that isn’t enough, Julia is also a bit on the outs with her friends after being laid up with a horseback riding injury over the summer, and one of her so-called best friends appears to have grown much closer to Tyler than normal. Luckily, she strikes up a friendship with Lucas (a classmate and immigrant farmhand who works for Tyler’s parents) and, in doing so, learns a lot about true friendship, love, following your heart and standing up for what you believe in.

“For anyone who has ever wanted more time.”

I suspected from the opening line that this book would touch my heart, and I was right. However, I wasn’t expecting to feel so many different emotions—from sadness, anger and anticipation to embarrassment for the characters and relief. All a result of the themes covered in this lovely YA novel: friendship, peer pressure, bullying, stereotypes, racism, immigration, young love and romance.

Aside from the range of emotions I felt while reading, I loved the realistic interactions between the characters, all of the interesting information about horses, and the way Albright tackles the topic of illegal immigration. This is the first fictional book for teens I’ve encountered that highlights several current points related to the issue, all of which are seamlessly woven into the storyline so as not to make the book seem like a lesson in sociology or politics.

Two final things that really tugged at my heart strings were the romance between Julia and Lucas, and Albright’s focus on the significance of blinks (and all that can occur with just one) throughout the story. Here are some of my favorite romance- and blink-related quotes:

“Maybe that’s what life is—one giant series of blinks. The problem is you never know which ones will become your story until after they pass. It can make you want to squeeze your eyes shut with fear, never to blink again, or flutter your eyelashes like crazy, just to see what’s ahead.”

“But there’s no rewind and no fast-forward—just blink after unexpected blink. It doesn’t seem fair how fast the good blinks seem to pass us by.”

“His eyes sparkled like a guy who hadn’t had a bad blink day in a long time.”

“I stared at our fingers as they intertwined with one another—a zigzag of caramel and cream.”

“So, in a perfect world we’d say lots of hellos and goodbyes?” I teased. “Millions—all back to back—so we’d never be apart.”

“There are as many little stories in you as stars in the sky,’ he sighed, “and I want to know them all.”

If you’re looking for a clean YA read with serious everyday themes, then I highly recommend this one.

Rating: 5 STARS

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Book Reviews

Book Review: OC Me by Kristin Albright

OC Me is a realistic, clean read for teens. It’s especially perfect for those who may be struggling with OCD or anyone who is curious about what it might be like for someone suffering from the disorder.

What I really like about this story is the slow buildup of Amy’s OCD. It isn’t like *POOF* one day she just has it. First, she suffers the trauma of losing her aunt, and then the disorder begins to manifest. While she copes with her aunt’s death (and an sbsentee mother), she struggles to understand the irrational thoughts that begin cropping up out of nowhere. As Amy’s disorder progresses, she also starts to experience paranoia and repeated “what if” thoughts.

In addition to the OCD storyline, there is a bit of romance. Albright did a great job of weaving Amy and James’s blossoming relationship into the story; the progression was sweet and believable. It was also a good way to demonstrate how scary it can be for those with anxiety-related disorders to disclose their issues to others, as the fear of rejection can be overwhelming.

Each chapter begins with a quote. Here are some of my favorites:

“We tell lies when we are afraid…afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.” ~ Tad Williams, To Green Angel Tower

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” ~ Mark Twain

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~ Earnest Hemingway

Rating: 4 STARS

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Little White Lies (The Girlfriends #1) by Jodie Esch

Little White Lies is a quick YA read perfect for both teens and parents of teens. Rachel, an insecure and impressionable eighth grader with an absentee mother, fails to fully appreciate the loving, supportive family that surrounds her. Feelings of abandonment and discontentment lead her to become a compulsive liar. The little white lies she tells may seem like a mild case of acting out, but things take a turn for the worse when she meets a new “friend” in an Internet chat room.

Rachel’s character is believable and well-developed. She’s not the worst teen imaginable, but she’s moody and yearning for attention. And like a lot of teens, she isn’t able to clearly see how much others care about her. When she begins chatting with the online stranger (who claims to be a high school student) another layer of teen naïveté is explored. I really like how the plotline with the online “boyfriend” was executed, and I appreciate that Esch never took things over the top. All of Rachel’s thoughts and actions were realistic, as was her relationship with best friend Steph.

This is a quick, clean read that touches on issues many teens experience, including feelings of abandonment, loneliness, low self-esteem and creepy Internet encounters. I look forward to reading all of the books in this series.

Rating: 4 STARS

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Don't Call Me Kit Kat

Now Available: Don’t Call Me Kit Kat

Copy-of-Don-t-Call-Me-Kit-Kat-Now-Available(1)

Thoughts from readers:

“I like to read books that I can take something away from when I’m done. Don’t Call me Kit Kat is more than a story about a girl working through her problems. It is more than plot and structure. This book delves deep into what it means to have an eating disorder.” – Rachel Barnard, Author

“Readers learn eating disorders don’t just happen overnight and don’t have economic boundaries…This gripping story delivers believable characters dealing with real issues.” – John Kurtze, Goodreads Reviewer

This book took me right back to junior high. All of the insecurities and fear that young girls have; it all felt so real.” – Alicalynn, Goodreads Reviewer

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