Things I Should have known

Things I should have known – Claire LaZebnik

I feel like I inhaled this! It helped that I was left alone on a sunny Saturday and had nothing to do but sit in the breeze and read this! So what we have here, is a fun, engaging, easy read about teenagers and high school romances with a difference, because it also has characters on the autism spectrum and idk about you, but I haven’t come across many books about kids on the autism spectrum.

Things Chloe knew: Her sister, Ivy, was lonely. Ethan was a perfect match. Ethan’s brother, David, was an arrogant jerk.
Things Chloe should have known: Setups are complicated. Ivy can make her own decisions. David may be the only person who really gets Chloe.
Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.
Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own, so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen-yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

So the thing is, the bare bones of this is about kids dealing with stuff, and what is a YA novel if not a book about kids dealing with stuff. I’ll start with our narrator, Chloe. Chloe’s older sister Ivy, is autistic, so she kind of has to parent her a bit, add to this mix the fact that her dad died of cancer and her mum has remarried someone that although means well, Chloe isn’t all that keen on. Despite this, Chloe is sociable and fairly happy with her high school life, she has lots of friends, gets good grades and has a super cute athletic boyfriend, all the standard teen drama stuff. The story really kicks off when Ivy sees Chloe with her boyfriend and comments that she’ll never have a boyfriend which makes Chloe decide to play matchmaker by sizing up the other kids in Ivy’s class at a school for teens with special needs and picking one at random, who just happens to be the younger brother of one of her classmates. Who she doesn’t like. Do you see where I’m going with this?
David and Ethan’s story is equally as interesting even without the added dimension of Ethan and Ivy seeing the world differently. They live in a world where their parents are living separate lives which barely involve either of them and their new step mother in particular has difficulty accepting Ethan.
While there are some aspects of this story that are a tad predictable, of course Chloe is going to form a special bond with the guy she’s hated this whole time, of course there is going to be bumps in the road of her match making, there is a lot to like about this book, namely the fact that it deals with autism and it deals with LGBTQA+ aspects of autism.

The only other book I’ve read with a similar character to that of Ivy and Ethan is the Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime, which is a great book, if you’ve not read it before, but this is the first one I’ve come across featuring autistic teenagers trying to navigate dating and socialising. Slight disclaimer – I don’t know many people with autism, so I don’t know if they would have a different opinion on how well Ivy and Ethan are portrayed and I would love to hear their thoughts on this book, but for me, I thought it was well done and about time that characters like Ivy and Ethan were featured in books and on TV. It was also great seeing Chloe and watching how protective and caring she is and how she reconciles how frustrated she gets with Ivy and the situation and the guilt that follows. I just feel that now having finished it, that this book was so heartwarming and well presented and I want to see more stories like this.

Windfall

Windfall – Jennifer E Smith

If you’ve stumbled across this blog before and any other reviews I’ve done for books by Jennifer E Smith there may be a touch of repetition involved here, sorry not sorry. The thing is, I LOVE Jennifer E Smith’s writing style, I love her stories, they are cute, fluffy balls of YA goodness and lets be honest, everyone loves a comforting romance story now and again and she is the queen of comforting, cute, fluffy, YA romances.

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.
At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.
As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined… and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

Much like I said before and in literally every other review of Smith’s books I’ve done before, (she isn’t a relative. At least I don’t think so… Anyway, the point is that there is no bias here.) I might have to reel in the fangirling and much like her other books, this is similarly a romance between two teenagers facing a bit of adversity with some fluff thrown in for good measure.
This time around, we have troubled teens Alice and Teddy. Alice, an orphan who has been living with her aunt and uncle and cousin, Leo, for the past nine years during which time, she has befriended and subsequently fallen for her best friend, Teddy. Who, in typical Smith fashion, has his own baggage. He is currently living in a cramped one bed apartment with his mum following his dad abandoning the pair of them with huge gambling debts.
The story begins on Teddy’s eighteenth birthday, Leo and Alice both buy him gifts that can only be legally used by eighteen year olds, a pack of cigarettes and a lottery ticket and that lottery ticket, well. That’s when the excitement begins.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am attempting to keep the inner fangirl under wraps. I don’t know how much I am able to express how much I love this woman’s books BUT as much as I enjoyed this, I have to be honest, it isn’t my favourite of hers (I think This is What Happy Looks Like will always hold that title), but don’t let that put you off, this had so much going for it. The teen romance and angst is there and the connection between Alice and Teddy is slow building and then there is the added drama of being a high school kid with nothing suddenly getting a ridiculous amount of money and how they handle that situation. Storywise, there is a lot going on here and in some ways, Windfall has a bit more substance than some of her previous stories, because of the different elements being presented, I guess, there just isn’t as much fluff as usual and I do love me some Jennifer E Smith fluff. So if like me, you love the cute romances of This is What Happy Looks Like or The Geography of Me and You, then be warned that Windfall isn’t on the same level.

Windfall had a lot of serious issues that were dealt with well, survivor’s guilt, death, coming into money and trying to process what to do with it, plus there was the whole unrequited love with your best friend thing…. These three main characters had a really wonderfully written friendship, I love stories about friendship and watching relationships blossom and Jennifer E Smith does these so well!

Basically, I love this woman, I love her books, this wasn’t what I thought it was going to be but I enjoyed it anyway, so check it out! Windfall is published at the start of May, so keep a look out!

Yes, Please

Yes, Please – Amy Poehler

Here we are, another episode of Leah actively continues on her quest to read more non fiction.

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

Fun fact, I went to the library the day after International Women’s Day and grabbed this off the shelf of female authors before they started dismantling it, partly because I’ve heard it’s a good book but also because I have two goals and they are to read more non fiction and to read more female authors, so I figured I’d tick two things off at once and I had a jolly good time doing it.

So, Amy Poehler isn’t someone who’s work I’ve seen a  lot of, of course I’ve seen Mean Girls and of course I catch snippets of SNL and obviously we all love Parks and Rec, but other than that, I don’t think I can even name any other project she’s been involved in. If you’re like me and don’t know that much about her work, don’t expect too much of her life story from this book, this was more of a collection of essays anchored in experience than an autobiography and was honestly a really enjoyable way to find out more about being a woman in Hollywood and a woman in the entertainment industry. I’ve said before that autobiographies are great because they’re a really accessible form of non fiction and they’re even better when they’re about someone you already have some knowledge or an appreciation of, but I think this style of biography, if we can even call it that, might be my new favourite form of non fiction.

Aside from the fact that Amy has a really engaging and witty voice, the book is really nicely put together, the pages are all glossy and there are images and diagrams, more like a scrap book than a traditional piece of prose, we get lists, scripts, life advice and all sorts which made it seem much more like sitting down and having coffee with someone than just listening to them dictate their life history to you. Real talk, I did spend a lot of time just flicking through and stroking the pages. They feel nice and I like bright colours, don’t judge me!

Basically, if like me you’d like to read more non fiction but you’re not really sure where to start because its a big, intimidating genre, this is a great step in the right direction. A biography without being too much of a biography, mini essays about a range of subjects and badass women doing badass things and teaching you a bit about life on the way, what more could you want?!

If anyone else has read this or can think of similar style books, let me know, I want to consume them all!

The Dead Inside

28389304

The Dead Inside – Cyndy Etler

I was sent a copy of this from Netgalley, I figured if I wanted to continue my quest to read more non fiction, getting a memoir in in January would be a good way to start, this was difficult reading and you know me and my trigger warnings, there are going to be LOADS of them in this review.

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious “tough love” program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”
I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.
From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.
All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.
To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.” 

I don’t really know how to start with this, it’s kind of hard to review a memoir, like, this is stuff that happened to someone and they are presenting you with themselves, not characters and plot for you to critique. Also, this isn’t really the kind of book you enjoy, its the sort of thing you experience. That said, Cyndy’s story is extraordinary and very eye opening. As well as that, the subject matter of this is pretty harrowing in places.

The book starts in Cyndy’s mid teens, she is living with her mum and step father, who she has a very abusive relationship with and chronicles the moments leading up to her incarceration at Straight Inc, which is primarily a drug rehabilitation centre, where she found that she and her fellow in mates were treated terribly. I think the thing that makes all this so harrowing is the fact that its all true, these are things that actually happened. Cyndy actually was abused by her step father, something her mother seemingly didn’t notice or didn’t mind. She was regularly assaulted by the group of people she was hanging out with and when she enters the Straight programme, things go from bad to worse. I don’t want to talk to much about it, I think the power in the words lies in their shock factor, but I will just say that this isn’t an easy book to read, it certainly isn’t light bed time reading, it is, as I said earlier, an experience.

As always, when I read something and talk about it here, I do like to warn you guys if I think it might be triggering, so just so you know, we have brainwashing, sexual assault, drug abuse and domestic abuse. So if any of those things affect you, probably best to give this book a miss. If though you, like me, fancy spreading your wings into the realms of memoirs and non fiction and want something with a bit more substance than your traditional celebrity autobiography, do consider this. While it was harrowing and difficult, seeing how Straight Inc was run, seeing how the brainwashing worked, was fascinating, in a morbid kind of way. My one criticism of this was that I felt the ending didn’t have much closure, though goodreads tells me there is a sequel, so I’m hoping that everything will be wrapped up there.

Anyway, thank you to Netgalley for sending a copy over and should Cyndy see the reviews for this, I’d like to thank her for sharing her story and I sincerely hope that she is in a much better place physically and emotionally now.

Seven days of you

26138370

Seven days of you – Cecelia Vinesse

I was sent this by the folk over at NetGalley and I was super excited because TOKYO. I love all things Japanese. Like, hand me something Kawaii and I am all over it. I love anime, I love the snacks, I love it all so when I saw that this was a book about a girl leaving Tokyo I was like sign me the frick up.

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.
Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

Ok. Where to start?
So, while there were a few things about this that made me roll my eyes, this was essentially a cute, teenage, angsty romance novel. If those are up your street, stick around because this is out at the beginning of March and you might want to know a little more about it.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first shall we?
This is the story of Sophia, who though technically born in Japan, is from an American family who has spent her life moving around between the state and Japan, her dad has left the family and now lives in Paris and now having spent the past five years in Tokyo at a school she loves, in a city she loves and with a group of friends she loves, she is faced with having to move back to America, a country that she now has nothing but distance memories of. Sophia spends the first half of the novel upset about the fact that she will be leaving her two best friends, Mika and David and the fact that another of their friends, who had left for America a year ago on a bit of a sour note, was now back and diverting their attention away from her. That and she and him have history and she really doesn’t have time for this when she is leaving in a week and is very sad about it. However, it doesn’t matter how many times Sophia tells me she how much she loves Mika, I just don’t believe it. They are awful to each other. We learn that she has long harboured a crush on David. David is also a horrible person who doesn’t appear to really care about Sophia at all. The pair of them also for some reason call her Sofa… Which, like… is a bit of a weird nick name to give someone… Don’t get me wrong, I love my sofa, it’s very comfy and I enjoy sitting on it, but I don’t think its a particularly good nickname for a person.
Aside from the fact that the group’s friendship didn’t come across as good as the narrator would have us believe, it doesn’t make nearly as much use of the incredible city that is Tokyo.
Tokyo is known for being a vibrant, exciting city and really, this book could have been set anywhere and it wouldn’t have made any difference. Tokyo could have been a central character in this book and it is really underused and being that I am so interested in the place and its culture, I think that’s a real shame and it did hamper my enjoyment a little.

That said, if you ignore the gaping hole where Tokyo should be and the slightly toxic friendship group, this is a fairly enjoyable angsty teen story. You have a pinch of family drama (divorced parents, bitter older sibling, moving away from home), you have the school drama, you have the friendship drama (moving away from friends, realising they’re already far away from you, people coming in and out of your life) and relationship drama (falling for someone when you’re leaving in seven days is a bitch right?). It is a little generic, but sometimes that’s all you want. If you want something easy to read, with a tried and tested formula that is entertaining and pleasant enough then this is the exact thing you’d look for.

Seven Days of You is released in March this year, so if you happen to have holidays planned this summer (lucky you) this might be something for you to consider, you always want something easy to read and a bit fun to take away with you!
Thank you Netgalley for the chance to read the book, and thanks in advance to the first one of you that can recommend me books set in Japan that actually takes advantage of its fascinating culture!

Saying Goodbye to London

31259053-1

Saying goodbye to London – Julie Burtinshaw

DAT COVER ART THO.
This was an ARC downloaded from Netgalley and I selected it entirely on the cover art and the fact that I love London. I need to start reading the blurbs of these things more often! This was about an entirely different London, London in Canada and then London, the person. Am I explaining this properly? Give me a sec.

Francis Sloan is a shy fifteen-year-old boy. When he meets edgy sixteen-year-old Sawyer, sparks fly…and Sawyer becomes pregnant. Their relationship is still so fresh and new, they decide they will put the baby up for adoption. As the story unfolds over the nine months they wait for their baby, London, to be born, Francis and Sawyer grapple with the responsibility of becoming parents and the accelerated path to adulthood they now find themselves on. With the absence of their own fathers in their lives and the evergreen challenges of first love, will they even make it together to the point where they have to say goodbye to London?

So, this is the story of Francis, who is super shy and more into hanging out with his bud Kevin and playing computer games at home than he is anything else. Seeing as he is perhaps one of the worst people I’ve ever had the mispleasure to read about, maybe he should have stayed in his room and not inspired anyone to write about him. Anyway. Francis goes out one evening with Kevin, who is going through some stuff and deserves way better friends, despite the fact that he is super shy, he manages to talk to, impress, dance with and then make out with a cool older girl, Sawyer. Anyway, he and Sawyer despite not knowing each other all that well, living on opposite ends of the city, not having anything in common and having you know, school and friends and stuff, decide to spend all their time hanging out in Sawyer’s room having sex and then being surprised that they’ve ended up withchild, because apparently, contraception isn’t a thing that they’ve thought about all that much.

Now, I was intrigued by the initial premise of this story, the only other book I’ve read about teen pregnancy is Trouble by Non Pratt, which was a first person narrative from both the point of view of the mother to be and her friend who was pretending to be the father, so although I picked this thinking it was to do with saying goodbye to London, England, I was a bit excited to read someone else’s prospective on the teen pregnancy front. Sadly, there was something about this that I just couldn’t get into. I don’t know if it was the simplistic narration or just the fact that Francis is by far the most awful, immature person I have ever come across, but I just… I couldn’t. This is a boy who can’t even say the word condom without getting flustered. Firstly, you are fifteen, wtf is wrong with you? Secondly, all you seem to want to do with Sawyer requires the use of one. Freaking say the word! He came across so terribly, Kevin’s storyline was so interesting, he was dealing with the fact that his dad is dying and still managed to be there and support his friend and Francis literally couldn’t be even the slightest bit grateful.

The cover art for this is beautiful, the story is an interesting, its just a shame that I didn’t click with it better. If anyone else reads this, give me a shout and let me know what you thought! We could swap notes on how awful Francis is!

Paperweight

23361172-1

 

Paperweight – Meg Haston

I don’t really know how this review will go or even if it will resemble a review of just a pile of words, I just kinda felt that this needed more than a paragraph in a round up, so before I start rambling, let’s put out a few trigger warnings shall we? This is a book about a girl with an eating disorder in an eating disorder unit who is contemplating suicide after the death of a family member. There are mentions of several other mental illnesses, addiction, suicide attempts, that sort of thing. So you know, cheery stuff. Just make sure if any of those things are difficult for you that you keep yourself safe if you choose to read this or keep this book aside.

Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.
Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.
Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.

The main thing I took away from this book was just how raw it was. I’ve read a couple of books about mental health and eating disorders but this one really stuck with me. I felt like I needed to do it justice by explaining it properly, even though I don’t think I’ll really be able to do that.

Paperweight is just such a complexly written account of eating disorders and how destructive and consuming they are. The other two books about this subject I’ve read were Laurie Halse Anderson’s Winter Girls and Portia Di Rossi’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, both of them read were well written, (Portia Di Rossi’s of course being an autobiography makes the whole thing much more harrowing, those were her actual thoughts and feelings), but came across to me a little like how to books, which I think is a danger with books on this subject. It’s hard to explain that someone is starving or purging without explanation. Paperweight on the other hand had none of the how, it focused much more on the why. Why had this disease taken control, why was Stevie letting it keep its grasp on her? It was the why that really fleshed out not just her story, but those of the other girls around her at the treatment centre. It was also interesting to see why each of the girls she was with had come to embrace this way of life, how each of their motivations for both their illness and their recovery differed.  I found the whole thing so sensitively written and well researched, it seemed to so realistically portray Stevie’s triggers and reading it felt a lot like going on the journey with her.

If I had to pick a fault – which I guess is only fair – I’d say the big secret took a little too long to come out. But other than that, I wrote a post about books with mental health as their subject for mental health awareness week where I pointed out all the things I was tired of seeing in books about mental health and honestly, I didn’t find a single one of them here.