Andie had it all planned out.
When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.
Important internship? Check.
Amazing friends? Check.
Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)
But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.
Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.
And where’s the fun in that? – Goodreads
The Unexpected Everything is Morgan Matson’s fourth book, and it is her star. My ARC is littered in highlighted marks of passages and even a few wet marks from tears. Because here’s the thing, Matson writes well. She is one of the masters of contemporary literature for a reason and Unexpected Everything is the book you hold up to the light to remind people that.
The Unexpected Everything is the story of Andie, a girl after my own heart. She has diet coke running through her veins and eats a small variety of very bland foods to the point when my friend read this book there was a passage that made her go “Oh. Hello Ashley.” Andie is methodical and has a list to make her life orderly and easy. Of course her mother dying at a young age wasn’t expected and losing out on an internship was also unexpected. Instead of getting that perfect internship for her college applications she’s instead walking dogs.
Morgan makes it work, while I felt sad for Andie, the growth she had throughout this book was heartbreaking and amazing all at the same time. While she has her friends for the summer she’s a dog walker, which was never on her plan. However, that is another thing that friendships and family. While I could easily focus on the romantic relationship Andie has throughout the book, the relationship she has with her friends and father was of almost more importance to me.
Since her mother’s death, Andie’s father hasn’t been around. He was grieving in his own way and completely dropped the father ball and at page 235, Andie calls him out at it. “I haven’t had a father in five years.” She dropped that ball on him and then, like adults, they figure it out. Their relationship isn’t perfect. It’s messy and rough around the edges but I adored it. It reminded me how much I love parents in YA literature and how I think there needs to be more of it in YA literature.
Another thing that Matson does well is write friendships. Andie has a group of friends who have nothing in common, but also have everything in common. It’s not a perfect group and there are painful friend moments in which I cry. Because if I have learned anything growing up, friendship break ups are often harder than romantic breakups and Matson wrote about it so real that my heart went out to these characters, multiple times. I wanted to hold them and make them laugh.
“What are you saying?” I asked, my voice coming out unsteady. “That we’re all just done? Friendship over?”
She took a long drink and then set her cup back down. “I don’t know.” –pg 439, ARC
Of course, Matson knows how to write romance. There is just something swoony about her romance, and Clark is exactly what Andie needed in her life. She didn’t even know she needed him. Clark pushes her, he makes her summer better, he has his own background story, he gets along with her friends. He made me have heart eyes.
It’s you — of course it is. There you are. –pg 263, ARC
Morgan Matson is easily one of my favorite contemporary authors, hands down, no questions asked. That being said, I worried about The Unexpected Everything, because what if I didn’t love it? Those fears were unfounded, because not only did I love it. I cried and I rarely cry at books. This book had everything I wanted and more. It really was the unexpected everything.
Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.
Vivi and Jonah couldn’t be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi’s zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there’s something important Vivi hasn’t told him.
Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Jandy Nelson, When We Collided is a powerful story of two teens whose love is put to the test by forces beyond their control.– Goodreads
This book is openly going to be hard for me to review. I read it for a buddy read with my bookbff and ended up devouring it when I didn’t mean to. I read this during a point when I was dealing with my own anxiety and ultimately my own grief. During my read of When We Collided I lost my aunt and ultimately didn’t grief because denial is my middle name. I’m saying all of this because When We Collided was the right book at the right time. I bonded with Vivi and Jonah and will probably be offended when people say the characters are too much and didn’t work. I feel the same about Isla and The Happily Ever After because I feel Isla to my bones. Same with Vivi and Jonah. I feel them to my core. I understand their pain.
Vivi is a force of nature who comes into a coastal California town and changes everyone around her. What no one knows is that Vivi is fighting her own demons — which she deals with daily. It is clear from the beginning of the book that Vivi is unique and does not fit into whatever box you try to put her in. Including the labels that have been given to her.
“I keep thinking that I’m a different Vivi than I was just days ago, and I don’t know how to be the new version.”--pg 223 ARC
Then we have Jonah. Jonah’s father has recently died, his mother is falling apart and Jonah is trying to keep his shit together. Between his older siblings and himself they are trying to take care of the family and keep them all together.
“I want to tell her that I will with six heartbroken people, one of whom is catatonic. That kind of heartbreak smells like the aftermath of a car wreck, like hot metal. Oil. The chalky powder released by airbags.” –pg 149 ARC
What Lord did, which is no surprise to me, was pull the reader into a heart wrenching story of grief, love, but also finding yourself. This is one of those rare books that I saw myself in. Not just parts of me. But the sum of me. I saw that girl throughout When We Collided. The girl who debates taking her meds. The girl who loves food and the girl who is annoyed at her mother but still at the end of the day loves her mother with all of her heart. I even wanted to live in the beautiful Verona Cover.
When We Collided burrowed a hole into my cold bitter black heart to the point I’m very protective of it, Viv and Jonah. Both of whom would probably tell me they don’t need me. That they’re doing fine.
The riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Liar.
Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous.
Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.
Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away. – Goodreads
Although not well reviewed here, Nora Roberts is one of my authors. I have tried to read through her backlist, but there are, as you are probably aware..a few. Her newest, The Obsession might be my new favorite. It involves everything I love about Roberts’ books: a dog, a strong heroine, a handsome man, and a serial killer. I’m just kidding about the serial killers, her books do not always feature a serial killer.
What The Obsession did however was show a strong character who didn’t want to rely on anyone after a traumatic childhood.
“Then, in her Sabrina the Teenage Witch T-shirt, she pillowed her head on her hands and studied the shadows.”–1% eARC.
When Naomi was 12 years old she caught her father partake in a violent crime. She saved a girl’s life, but she also ruined her life in her own way. Her whole life changed. Her younger brother and her mother, and Naomi moved in with her uncle and she was always the girl with the notorious serial killer for a father.
16 years later, Naomi is still wondering, does she have that serial killer blood running through her veins? Is she destined to be a serial killer? Or alone, running away from her past? What we see is it’s mostly the later. Naomi has made a good solid life for herself as being a photographer. Her brother works for the FBI and her uncle and his husband are still thriving. Naomi literally has everything going for her but it’s also clear to the reader she is not overly happy. I don’t have much in common with Naomi, my father works for a college..and is not a serial killer but there were aspects of her that I understood. The photography. The keeping to herself. There were moments I wanted to hug her and be like “I understand. I get you.”
“Nine times out of ten I’d rather be alone than with anyone.” — 42% eARC
She’s also made herself part of this small town in Washington. She doesn’t mean to but she begins to mean something to that town. The contractor who works on her house and his wife become friends with Naomi, they also bring Xander into the fold and organically a friendship is formed. Nothing in The Obsession felt forced.
“I should tell you, then, I’ve decided we’re going to be really good friends, and I’m just relentless” –38%, eARC
Oh Xander, the mechanic who reads everything. Let me draw heart eyes on your photo and let’s have a moment together. Xander breaks down Naomi’s walls, but also breaks down his own walls. The two of them shouldn’t work, but they do and it was the perfect Roberts romance that I needed back in my life.
“He went home with her, and late into the night when whatever dream chased her made her whimper and stir, he did whatever he never did. He wrapped her close, and held her” –55%, eARC
I went into this just knowing that it was a Roberts book and I left with a new favorite.
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live? – Goodreads
There was once a time in my life that I avoided this kind of YA like the plague. I don’t even remember what happened to change that, but I’m glad it did. This book, though. I read it because it deals with loss, and I regretted reading it for the same reason. Loss and grief and guilt took over my life a little over 18 months ago, and though I think I’m myself again, or as much of myself as I can be now, the grief still sits there under my skin, waiting to boil over and consume me. Paige knew Aaron for a very short time, and she’s been grieving for only a little over a year, but everything she says still rings true. “The Look,” how people look at her and see Aaron, how when you’re at the beginning you don’t think you’ll ever feel anything other than this uncontrollable sadness ever again, even the fear that comes with the realization that you are still here. You really do have to give yourself permission to become a person again, to enjoy life and other people again. The big differences were what made this book so enjoyable though: Paige is still a teenager, she has so much left to accomplish, and she still approaches things with a teenager-like innocence. I wrote off Ryan Chase almost immediately, reading between the lines of not only the summary but the narrative itself. The only problem I have with YA now is that I’m impatient for them to just figure it all out, like I can somehow project my 30+ years of knowledge of boys onto them. Don’t be so shy! Don’t you understand that your “weird encounter” was meaningful? He’s just not that into you! Alas, as with in-the-flesh teenagers, you have to let them make their own mistakes.
I rooted for Max from the start. I’m always wary of popular boys in books, and even more so when they’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship. Besides, who doesn’t want a guy who can argue the finer points of Jane Austen with you? That can’t just be me, can it? I got kind of mad at Paige for how she saw him. What’s wrong with a kid who builds model airplanes during recess? I think maybe part of it was getting that early glimpse of Max’s mom and wondering what it must have been like for her to have a son who had such a hard time with his peers. As a parent, you don’t want your child to go through any kind of pain, especially if you can’t stop it or explain it away. Has becoming a parent ruined me for YA? I really hope not. But really, I spent a lot of the time wondering where I can get my own Max Watson, or how I can raise my own son to be a Max Watson.
I’m having a hard time articulating my feelings about this book. I have been through what Paige has been through, not an accident, but a death all the same, and it changed me and my life. And yet, at the same time, it didn’t change me. Paige and I are the same at our centers, though a storm rages around us. What I appreciated most about this book was the clear (and very true) portrayal of grief, and how Paige’s friends rallied around her. I swooned when Max called her “a Jane,” and when the big reveal happened at the end, I sobbed. Like truly sobbed. This book is so not me, but it ended up being exactly what I was looking for.
Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it. – Goodreads
This is the final book required for my literacy class and it was one of my favorites. Esperanza Ortega is a privileged girl on her father’s ranch. She has grown up with servants and nice clothes, horses and dolls, everything handed to her. Until her father is killed. Her uncles try to force Esperanza’s mother into some things, so they flee for California, where the land of opportunity awaits. Of course, it’s not exactly what it seems either. Esperanza is privileged, like I said, and spoiled and prejudiced. She treats “peasants” with some scorn, she has never bathed herself without the help of a female servant, and she is startled when one of the field worker’s sons points out that the lighter skinned Mexicans are top tier and the rest work. She doesn’t seem to understand that her family is fleeing to California to work, not continue the life they had in Mexico. She’s bratty, but it’s almost endearing, because you know what’s coming next, and you know it will change her.
Like all the books I had to read for this class, Esperanza Rising is a coming-of-age tale. Esperanza has to leave her old life behind and become someone else, which isn’t easy when other girls call you “Cinderella” and you don’t even know how to sweep a platform. Esperanza also has to try to understand foreign terms like “strikes” and is presented with the other side of the Mexican civil war, the side of those who tried to bring men like her father down. It’s a lot of change happening at once for a thirteen-year-old girl, and I felt enormously sorry for her. But she does rise. Oh, does she rise.
When her mother is sick, Esperanza takes to the fields. She becomes one of the best workers. She transforms. She becomes a real person. She endures hardships, and loss, and sadness. She grows and doesn’t hold onto any grudge or hate. This story was inspiring and eye-opening. One of the best stories I’ve read all year.
Russ is tired of coming in second to his best friend, Garret. Whether it’s in sports, in school, or with girls, he can never get ahead. Something has to change, and when a new girl comes to town he sees his chance. He has to win her over before Garret does, but proving he’s not second best won’t be easy when Garret is a pro.
Russ will do anything to beat Garret, including using his little sister to get closer to the new girl. He has to be careful, though, because if anyone at school finds out he attends anime night (and he might even enjoy it), it would ruin his reputation, just like his secret love for cooking and James Taylor.
But pretending to be something he isn’t will catch up to him eventually, and Russ can only get away with living two lives for so long. As more than one friend reveals they aren’t who they seem, Russ must figure out what and who he really wants in his life. And more than that, he needs to find the courage to make it happen.
NATALIE WHIPPLE has always felt like a sidekick, but has never actually been one. At least not to her bestest friends. Which are the ones that matter. She lives in Utah with her husband and kids, and they spend most of their quality time playing video games together and being proud “freaks” in general.– Goodreads
Sidekick is a delightful novel that reminded me what I love about contemporary YA fiction. Sidekick may be my new favorite Whipple novel. Russ is second best. He knows that he will never be his best friend Garrett and he’s fine with that. This is the life he has in a small down outside of Fresno. But what Russ hasn’t been is honest with himself, his friends, or his family. It’s not that Russ has been living a secret life, because he hasn’t, but he has compartmentalized all of the aspects of his life.
At home, he loves his sister, her “freak” friends, and anime. At work he’s a jock with his best friend, and he could be seen has an ass. There is a part of him that loves to cook, but this is also compartmentalized and not talked about. I understood where Russ is coming from. Could his various worlds mix and get along? Could he ever be seen as first and not second best? Throughout Sidekick Russ learns things not only about his friends, but mostly about himself. Things that he honestly did not see coming and was shocked about. The growth arc throughout Sidekick blew me away because I too was surprised. Russ was surprised maybe there is more to life than being a sidekick and if you’re more than a sidekick to your good friends, isn’t that what matters?
What Whipple did was create a realistic story. I saw myself and my friends throughout this novel. I also saw a huge amount of character growth for not only Russ, but also the secondary characters. Whipple never once wasted time or characters in Sidekick everyone was part of Russ’ story from his parents (Parents! In a YA novel!) to his sister to his BFF Garrett. There is pain, there is humor, but every moment felt real and when I got to that last page I wanted more from Sidekick. I’ll miss these characters.
Inside Out and Back Again is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.” An author’s note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà’s story. – Goodreads
This is another book for my literacy class, but I chose it myself based on the fact that it’s a Jane Addams award winner and the struggle of fitting in has always been something I could relate to. Ha, at 10, is the youngest in her family and the only girl. Her brothers, 14, 18, and 21, make fun of her, and she longs for a sister. War is ravaging Vietnam and only getting closer to Saigon. Ha’s father has been gone for nine years after being captured while on a Navy mission, and her family is preparing to flee.
They are on a boat for a few week, hungry, dirty, awaiting rescue. It finally comes, and Ha is fascinated by the bearded American soldiers. They land in Guam, where they attempt to learn English and watch Western movies. They eventually go to Florida, then are finally sponsored by a family in Alabama, which leads them to their own rented house.
Ha has a hard time in school. She can’t explain that she already understands fractions, and she doesn’t have the words to understand how the other kids are making fun of her. It’s sad and hard to read. Kids can be cruel, especially when it comes to anything even slightly different. The words escalate to pranks and even violence, but then Ha’s family meets Miss Washington, who offers to tutor them all.
This book made me cry, because this little girl feels so much frustration and loss and gets almost no reward for it. She has her moments of childish selfishness, but that’s typical, and she’s a fish out of water in Alabama, of all places. It’s another coming-of-age tale, but it’s also a tale of social justice, understanding, acceptance, and love.