Book Review: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

zoe

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried….

Release Date: June 30, 2020

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Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Grade: A

Review:

This novel has been receiving a lot of buzz in the past few months, and with good reason. Thrillers for me are always a hit or miss since some thrillers latch onto the systematic formula and then I’m capable of figuring out the killer 30% into the book. This book is different though. We know the narrator is unreliable, but at the same time, we also know that everyone else we meet is just as unreliable. Plus, we’re given memories that we’re unsure whether they’re true memories or merely false memories. Thing is, I could never truly tell what was going on in this novel and that’s a good thing! I like being puzzled and pretty much suspecting EVERYONE for murder rather than it being easy and having the one creepy person in the book be the killer.

I rather enjoyed the varied story-telling that was provided in the book. The past was told in the first person present tense by Anna, a girl who bears a striking resemblance to the dead girl in question, Zoe Spanos. While the present is told in the third person and we also get a podcast transcript. So the book has a lot of variety in story-telling.

The book is marketed as being a cross between Courtney Summer’s Sadie and the gothic novel Rebecca. This is what this book has in common with those two novels: Sadie: There’s a missing girl and the book is told in podcast transcript 50% of it. But that’s where the comparison ends. Rebecca: The protagonist loves to sketch, so does Anna. The protagonist is also a middle-class girl who marries a rich widower. Anna is a middle-class girl who is hired to be a nanny during the summer for a wealthy family in the Hamptons. The novel Rebecca is plagued by the memory of Rebecca and the maid who is obsessive about her. This novel is plagued by the memory of Zoe Spanos and her ex-boyfriend’s mother who is obsessed with her. Again, this is where the comparisons end.

I Killed Zoe Spanos is a taut thriller and has you second-guessing every character in the novel and for that I LOVE IT. This thriller is twisty and will leave you guessing, and like I said, NO ONE IS SAFE. Anyone could be the killer and trying to figure out what exactly happened to Zoe Spanos that fateful New Year’s Eve night will have you reading way past your bedtime.

Read this if you love twisty thrillers with unreliable characters.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Livingston Girls by Briana Morgan

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“I see something in you, Miss Abbott, something I recognize. The potential for greatness, for channeling magic. For bending the world to your will.”

Release Date: March 24, 2020

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Price: $12.84

Plot Summary:

After an affair with her teacher, Rose’s parents ship her off to Livingston Academy, a stuffy all-girls’ boarding school. Ashamed of her past and herself, sixteen-year-old Rose just wants to chill, pass her classes, and make friends. The last thing on her mind is becoming a witch…

Until the enigmatic headmistress gives her the chance to join a coven secret from the rest of the school. Desperate to prove herself and looking for a purpose, the headmistress’s offer seems too perfect to pass up.

Rose puts on her metaphorical pointy hat and becomes a Livingston witch. She quickly discovers that the other witches don’t want her in their group—especially because she’s filling their dead friend’s space—but if they can’t band together, the witch-hunting headmaster of the boys’ school will kill them.

Meanwhile, Rose struggles to understand her growing feelings for her roommate, who may or may not hate her guts.

You know, typical boarding school stuff.

Grade: B+

Review:

Confession: I love witches, especially when they’re more along the lines of the movie The Craft. This book ha everything I enjoy about witch novels: a boarding school, a terrible reason why the protagonist was sent to the boarding school in question, and witches! Oh yeah, and there is a lot of queer rep too, so that’s awesome.

Rose Abbott ends up going to boarding school because she had a relationship with her teacher. Now, she’s ready to start anew and willing to make new friends, even if her new friends happen to be part of a secret coven.

I wished the author would’ve delved more into the history of the coven, although seeing that this book is going to be part of a series, perhaps more will be revealed in book two and book one was more of a stepping stone.

I do appreciate that the author didn’t try to sell Rose’s relationship with her teacher as love, but rather, Rose’s friends helped her see that she actually had been taken advantage of and that helped her grow and move on. It’s important for teens reading books like these to realize what is happening if they’re ever in a similar situation, rather than to misguidedly sell the unbalanced relationship as impossible love, as often is the case in my experience reading other books in the past.

Pros: I loved the queer/bisexual rep, I loved the diverse characters, I loved how poetry was used as a means to cast spells, and I loved the strong female friendships in this novel.

Cons: More fantasy-based than horror (meaning this is more like Harry Potter than The Craft).

This book will be your cup of tea if you ever wondered what a Dead Poet’s Society/Harry Potter mashup would ever look like.

*Thank you so much to the author for the hard copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald

lie

If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?

Release Date: February 4, 2020

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Publisher: Gallery Books

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.

Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.

Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell’s I Found You and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.

Grade: C-

Review:

I read this author’s debut novel last year, The Night Olivia Fell and I really enjoyed that novel. This novel, although it had a very strong premise of having an unreliable narrator (which I’m a sucker for) really didn’t hit its mark for me. My biggest issue with the novel was that for being a thriller, it seemed to fall under the formula of Lifetime movie thrillers. The so-called “bad guy” is clear from the get-go and any twist reveals aren’t very surprising either as I had figured out the whole novel by the 35% mark.

I don’t fault authors for writing about the same location as a previous novel (hell King has made a career out of setting the majority of his works in Maine), but this novel is also set in Washington state, just as her debut. Again, this novel has the same premise as the author’s debut where a low-middle class character has a relationship with an extremely wealthy man. Apart from the novel being highly predictable (for me), the thing that really irked me the most was the fact that the British characters were so stereotypical of how an American believes a British person acts or speaks. I’ve been to England multiple times and have a lot of British friends and have never heard anyone use “Blimey!” as an expression every two seconds as one of the British characters continuously does in this novel.

Not to mention that the protagonist so conveniently discovered things without any hard work. And honestly, how credible is it for someone to be able to travel TO LONDON from SEATTLE right after being struck by LIGHTENING. I am more likely to believe impossible things in a supernatural novel than a novel set in a fictitious reality of the real world.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t quite work out for me, nor did it offer that much entertainment. I honestly couldn’t wait for it to be done. However, if you’re the type of reader who loves cozy mysteries and Lifetime inspired thrillers, then you may enjoy this book very much. It’s not a terrible book and the writing flows easily. The author excels in descriptions about setting but still is incapable of writing compelling dialogue.

If you’re in the mood for a light read, you can give this book a go.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

tigers

“If it weren’t for us, Ana wouldn’t have died and her sisters wouldn’t have been forced to suffer at the hands of her angry ghost.”

Release Date: March 24, 2020

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Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Price: $17.02 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

Grade: A+

Review:

Despite the fact that this novel is being marketed as a modern version of Little Women (there are four sisters after all), that’s the only resemblance the novel had with the literary classic we all know and love. Instead, this novel reminded me more of The Virgin Suicides with the ongoing ennui that the Torres sisters have to deal with after the death of their beloved older sister, Ana. The fact that a group of neighborhood boys are always watching and obsessing over the sisters, adds on to the resemblance between the two novels. Some reviewers have considered this novel as a retelling of King Lear, since the father figure in this book is quite questionable, unreliable, and just lacks any real parenting skills.

However, with all these comparisons being made, Tigers, Not Daughters is a unique ghost story. Because ultimately, this is what the book is about, the ghost of Ana Torres haunting the lives and house of the remaining Torres sisters, Iridian, Jessica, and Rosa. The book is told in four points of views, from Peter’s (one of the boys that’s always hanging out at Hector’s house who lives fairly close to the Torres family as they have a good view of all the happenings that go on in the household), Rosa, Iridian, and Jessica.

I’ll admit that I enjoyed Iridian’s and Jessica’s points of view much more than the other two. Iridian was obsessed with Anne Rice’s novel The Witching Hour, and spent most of the novel re-reading that book and trying to write her own supernatural romance, while Jessica was the so-called mean sister filled with anger, but that after Ana’s death tried to fit into the void that Ana left behind to the point of wearing her sister’s makeup, taking up residence in her former room, and even going as far as dating Ana’s boyfriend.

The haunting is slow like a Southern Gothic novel (although it takes place in San Antonio in a predominantly Latino community). There are a lot of creepy moments and an underlying feeling of dread that coats this novel in a claustrophobic clutch and doesn’t let you go till the very end.

You don’t read this novel merely for the plot alone, but rather to live through the dark chilling ride that it provides.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Twin by Natasha Preston

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Ivy finds out that her twin sister, Iris, is trying to push her out of her own life–and might be responsible for their mother’s death.

Release Date: March 3, 2020

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Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up–Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom’s death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence–the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn’t know what to do. Emmy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.

It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris’s spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she’s being pushed out of her own life. But she’s just being paranoid, right? And Mom’s accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It’s not like she–or Dad–or Tyler–are in any danger. . . .

Grade: C

Review:

The blurb for The Twin sounded utterly fascinating as I’m always on board when it comes to creepy, evil twins. Plus I know this author for the bestselling series The Cellar (admittedly I haven’t read said series but I figure if you reach the NYT bestselling list then you can’t possibly be a bad writer). So what could possibly go wrong? Apparently, a lot.

I’m not here to bash a book or an author, but this book truly moves at a snail’s pace. Sure, there’s some gaslighting by Iris (the supposedly evil twin) but it doesn’t really escalate till you’re 75% in the book. I was tempted many times to simply give up on this book, but I only prevailed cause reviewers who made it through claimed it was worth the wait.

Sure, Iris acts strange and like Ivy, we’re left questioning her strange bi-polar personality, but other than that, we can’t see her as being purely evil. And for being a YA, it is very tame compared to other edgier books I’ve read in the genre. I’m also baffled by all the reviews that claimed this was a fast-paced thriller. Using short sentences and barely any description doesn’t easily equate to fast-paced. And there’s some suspense but then again since not much happens that I found to be too alarming, it doesn’t really elevate the stakes at hand.

Is Iris really trying to take Ivy’s place? And if so, why? That’s the central question and it would be an interesting one if it had merely moved at a faster pace or had some truly terrible things happen to Ivy. Now I know that this author used to post their writing on Wattpad (I’m not judging since I do enjoy A.V. Geiger’s books a lot and she used to be on there as well) but I can’t help but feel as though Preston’s writing is too simplistic and that her thrillers aren’t even on par with middle-grade thriller books (I mean a lot more happens in a Goosebumps book than what occurred throughout this one).

The dialogue was a bit stilted in this book, especially anytime Iris spoke. I get that she’s weird but the way she speaks doesn’t even sound like a normal teen or one that is popular anyway.

I really wanted to love this book or at least enjoy the ride, but instead, I was bored witless and wish I could’ve been Ivy binge-watching Riverdale instead.

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*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

unbreakable

She’s nobody’s flower anymore.

Release Date: June 23, 2020

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Wednesday Books)

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.
But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

Grade: A-

Review:

Wow….what a ride! This book covers very serious topics like sex trafficking, rape, prostitution, and drug abuse. But despite the heavy topics, this book is very enjoyable to read. I really like how the author didn’t try to sugar coat what had happened to Lex, but at the same time had her be hopeful of her future.

Lex used to be your typical teen till she got sucked into sex trafficking by her much older boyfriend who then placed her in a motel for prostitution purposes. When the police find her, she’s unable to think that her life could possibly get much better as she feels she’s damaged goods. And just when she starts to feel better about her new life with her aunt and uncle, something equally harrowing as her past occurs once more, she’s sexually assaulted by five of her peers at school.

But this time Lex doesn’t back down. She stands up for herself and wishes to take down those who did her wrong. I think this book explores very dark topics but does it with so much poise and dignity that you can’t help but root for Lex and her journey.

This is a very timely novel and I recommend this for both adults and teens to read. Lex is a beacon of hope and light in a world that can too often be the darkest shades of black.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

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How do you put yourself back together when it seems like you’ve lost it all?

Release Date: April 7, 2020

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Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her.

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band.

Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.

Grade: A

Review:

This isn’t for the faint-hearted. The way the author depicts grieving in this novel is a true punch to the gut. May simply cannot get over the way her brother Jordan was shot and killed during a school shooting while she hid in the closet and did nothing. Feelings of guilt plague her, but she’s also consumed with anger and vengeance. She thinks that nobody can understand her pain until she meets Zach.

Zach has become a social pariah at his school the moment his lawyer mother took a case that left everyone speechless.

Zach and May become kindred spirits until they each realize who they really are. Zach’s mother is defending the shooter that killed May’s brother. And for months May has been rendering Zach’s family life hell by secretly vandalizing their property and leaving threatening letters in their mailbox.

If you’re hoping for a light YA read with romance speckled throughout, then this isn’t the book for you. Sure, this book has the hopes of a blossoming romance, but it isn’t the heart of the novel. The real purpose of this book is to show the reality of surviving a school shooting and how even when you’re the “lucky ones” to survive your new normal is just as terrible as being dead. A must-read for anyone at any age to see just how prominent and damaging active shooters have become in both schools and other locations.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Leggett

grace

We’re told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds, and drive wives mad with jealousy.

Release Date: October 8, 2019

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Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $13.59 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

No one speaks of the grace year.  It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Grade: A

Review:

This novel is touted to be a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, although to be honest the majority of the book has more of a Lord of the Flies vibe. This novel is mostly about survival and dealing with a group of adolescents. Once the girls in this dystopian society reach the age of 16, they’re sent off to live on their own on an island for a year, dubbed “The Grace Year,” in order to rid themselves of their womanly seductive magic and return as submissive, meek wives for the men in the county.

Tierney’s tale is a highly harrowing and very addictive one. Even in places where the pacing seemed to slow down, it was still interesting. The Grace Year girls not only have to survive four seasons out on a remote island on their own, but must also survive being hunted by poachers as prey, and each other (the girls turn on each other pretty quick not even a few weeks upon arrival). This story is a fascinating one because we see the lengths that girls will go to in order to survive and adapt to a new setting and society. All the girls look to Kiersten who is the alpha female of the group. Unfortunately for Tierney, Kiersten detests her for various reasons and will do anything to alienate her from the group. Some of the punishments they inflict on each other are both brutal and violent.

I really enjoyed this book because it showed the determination that prevails to survive the worst, even when all hope is lost. And ultimately, even in a tale of brutality and discord, you can find some kernels of light and sisterhood. My only complaint is that I would’ve liked more info about the community that the girls lived in. The county didn’t have electricity, nor did it seem modern. And I couldn’t gauge if the people who lived there were in a cult of some kind and made up stories of how life beyond the county was terrible to keep everyone within their walls, or if it was true that life beyond the county was awful.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys survival type books with a feminist edge.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: What Kind of Girl by Alyssa Sheinmel

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Girl in Pieces meets Moxie in this unflinching exploration of all the hurts young women endure.

Release Date: February 4, 2020

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions: Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true? Some girls want to rally for his expulsion – and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.

Grade: B

Review

Full disclosure: I was ready to DNF this book at 25%, mostly due to the fact that it seemed to jump around a lot and that it was slow-moving. But since I enjoyed this author’s other book, A Danger To Herself and Others, at the beginning of the year, I decided to give it another try. I am SO GLAD I DID. Because Maya and Junie’s tale is a memorable one.

I think this book is important for teens because it explores a very timely topic: abuse within a relationship. Maya’s boyfriend Mike hits her, but she remains silent, like so many women do, because he’s the golden boy and somehow she feels like people would think she’s lying about the abuse or that she deserves it in some way. Apart from that, she also struggles with bulimia. I think the author explores these issues without glorifying or romanticizing them, but rather showing how someone truly struggles in those situations.

I also think this book sends out a very positive message for young readers as it shows the power of friendship and the importance of standing up for oneself even when you feel like the rest of the world would be against you. I recommend this book for all those that want to broach these difficult topics with their children but don’t know how. This could be a way to start the conversation.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

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Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.

Release Date: October 1, 2019

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Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $16.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary

Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

Grade: A+

Review:

Ava’s story is both heartbreaking and uplifting. After becoming severely disfigured by a house fire, she not only has lost both of her parents and cousin but also her face. Or at least what her face used to be. For months, Ava fights for her life as she undergoes surgery after surgery but once she’s deemed healthy enough to leave the hospital, her aunt and uncle think it’s time to transition back into high school. But Ava doesn’t think she can survive high school with the face she has. That is until she meets Piper, a fellow survivor with a spitfire personality.

It’s rare when the characters in a book feel so real to me. But Ava and Piper were incredibly real, and the situations they found themselves in were also real for their circumstances. There were so many heartbreaking moments in the book, but it was also very hopeful. It wasn’t all about despair, as it easily could have been considering the topic. Instead, Ava realized that she could either wallow in misery her whole life and not live or decide to live again and find purpose in her new life with her new friends and support group.

I loved how each character was their own person, and that even the so-called “mean girls” of the school ultimately had a soul and reached a growth of their own by the end.

I suppose this was the sort of book that I wish it hadn’t ended because I still wanted to read more about Ava and Piper. It’s probably why after completing the book I took a break from the novel-reading and instead focused on reading poetry books instead. Because a part of me still wanted to hold on to Ava and her strong spirit. This book is a must-read for readers of any age, but especially teenagers so that they can learn how you can overcome the worst in life if you have the right people standing by you.

 

Short Q & A With The Author

Why did you select fire as the source of Ava’s disfigurement?

SCARS LIKE WINGS was actually inspired by Marius, a friend of mine, was burned and severely scarred by a house fire as a child in Romania. Now 20, Marius’ story has always inspired and intrigued me, not only because of the power of his tragedy but because he chooses every single day not to let it define him. He has had children run screaming from him. He has had bullies call him Freddy Krueger. I wanted to write a story that would go to these dark, lonely parts of tragedies like his, but also to the beautiful, hopeful parts. As Marius has told me, the only way he survived was because every time he wanted to give up, someone was there, helping him choose to live. I hope Ava’s story can show readers that we all have a choice after a life-changing event: We can choose to be alone, isolated and angry that our normal is gone, or we can let people in and find a new normal, together.

Reading Scars Like Wings it looks like you did a lot of research in burn victims when it comes to the healing process and medical work needed. Did you speak to professionals that help burn victims or did you solely rely on books about the topic?

Oh, definitely! As I wrote this book, I felt heavily the burden of presenting an accurate, respectful representation of the burn survivor community. I spent a lot of time speaking with survivors, reading their stories, talking to doctors about wound care and recovery, and generally immersing myself in the terrible/wonderful/inspirational/reality of being a burn survivor. Learning about the physical and emotional pain of burns was gut-wrenching at times, but I wanted to preset a story that went beyond stereotypes and pity to the reality of what it’s like to live with physical and emotional scars like Ava’s.

I know that Ava hates seeing herself as a survivor, but she is a very inspiring character. The reader can’t help but want to root for her the whole time. When did Ava’s story first come to you (as in inspiration)?

Well, like I mentioned, Marius originally sparked the idea for this story, but the character of Ava took shape slowly as I started researching and drafting. She has some qualities just like Marius, like her thumbs on her hands instead of fingers, and then pieces of other stories that survivors have shared with me. The more I thought about her and wrote about her, the more she became a fully-formed character with interests like Broadway musicals and a personality all her own. I’d love for readers to see Ava this way by the end of the book, as a smart, funny, talented teenager who just happens to also have scars.

As much as Ava is wonderful, Piper is a true scene-stealer. I feel like everyone needs a Piper in their life. Was Piper inspired by someone in particular?

Not really, but I knew from the beginning that Ava needed someone like Piper to draw her out of her shell and remind her that she has a lot of living and loving left to do. Piper’s loud, out-there attitude is a great counterbalance to Ava’s initial belief that her life is over after the fire. Like a lot of people, though, Piper’s bravado is hiding her own pain and struggles. And when she starts to push Ava away, too, we start to see how deep her pain runs. Both girls finally realize that they can have full, happy lives after their trauma, but they can’t ignore the pain, either.

So many YA novels lately are being made into movies or TV series, which actress would you like to see bring Ava to life?

Oh, wouldn’t that be amazing! If I’m being honest, I’d love to see the role of Ava go to a burn survivor. I think it would be so wonderful to see someone who has actually lived a similar storyline portray this recovery journey!

(Editor’s note: I LOVE Erin’s idea of a burn survivor being the one to portray Ava, although if I had to choose an actress, I think Joey King would tackle Ava’s journey well.)

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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