real-talk YA book reviews

Monthly Archives: October 2013


Enjoyability:       smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain2brain2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 336    Copyright: 2013

               Park does not want the weird red-headed new girl to sit next to him on the bus. He lives in fear of the day that his popular childhood friends realize he’s no longer one of them and stop leaving him alone. But nobody else will let her sit down, and finally he gives in. If you had told him that day that they would form a tentative friendship during their bus rides, bonding over comic books and mix tapes, he would have scoffed. And if you had told him he would grow to love her…. but Park begins to learn that he and Eleanor are more alike than he ever could have imagined, and also more different. Because Eleanor lives in a world of darkness that he’s never known and can only try to save her from. Set in 1986 Omaha and told from alternating viewpoints, this is a story of love, friendship, and the various definitions and rules of family.

      ***Warning: this review talks in very vague terms about the outcome of this story. If you want to go into Eleanor and Park completely knowledge-free, you may want to stop reading.***

                Can I review a book separately from its ending?

                This book was downright beautiful, poignant, and impeccably written. It’s one of those books that you handle gently because it inspires a sense of reverence. Eleanor and Park climbed out of the pages and breathed, what they had was so believable, so true. The progression of their relationship from its chilly beginning was enthralling to follow.

                And then the climax of the story happened, and it totally stomped on my heart and I cried my eyes out for the rest of the day and augh. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when I read, I want to be left feeling happy and uplifted. That’s just my personal stance. I can find enough to be depressed about on the front cover of the newspaper every day.

                The thing is, the very very ending of E&P is hopeful, some might even say definitively positive. But it’s so little to grasp onto that it only somewhat helped me.

                My goal of this site is to avoid cold professionalism, so I guess I can’t really give you an ultimate value judgment on Eleanor and Park, I can only describe my experience with it. I’ve decided I’m not sorry I read it. It’s really a beautiful book, and the horrible things you’re probably imagining in the plot based on my dire statements are inaccurate, there’s no apocalypse or anything. It’s just that I wasn’t prepared for how things turned out in the story, and it quite upset me. It’s one of those books that you have to be sure you’re in the right mindset for before you start it.  But if you like books that make you feel something powerful and speak volumes of universal truth, this is definitely the book to choose.

                If you have further questions about the vague and confusing things I’ve said, leave a comment, or if the question involves elaboration on specific plot points, shoot me an e-mail at

Special Awards:

music notes Lyrical award for beautiful prose.

sqee Definitely a squee for romance. So so sweet.


City_of_BonesEnjoyability: smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp graysmile transp gray

Intelligence: brain2brain2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 485    Copyright: 2008

             “When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…”

             I’m having trouble settling on a pro/con opinion for this book. This is partly because it got better near the end, so my fresh, recent positive feelings are conflicting with the less exuberant feelings that I had for the larger part. So I’ll try to just present all of my thoughts.

            The beginning and middle of the book were, for me, pleasant to read, but not earth-shattering. My front-most feeling was that it needed more rigorous editing. There were little rough edges that bothered me— for example, there was too much exposition sometimes, and I felt like characters were hammering backstory too hard and repeating clarifications I already understood. And there was a sense of urgency lacking from the plot movement. The kids were dealing with the fate of the world as we know it, and they just didn’t seem as concerned about it as they should have.

            On the subject of the characters, I think they could have been rounder and richer. I could never entirely forget that they were characters, and not real people. They seemed a little formulaic— Shadowhunter Isabelle the commanding femme fatale, her brother Alec the suspicious traditionalist, Clary’s best friend Simon as the friendzoned good guy, and Jace— I, as a teenage girl, was of course in love with him, but he so dutifully hit literally EVERY single lustworthy-hero trope (tragic back story, tough trustless exterior, smirky sarcasm, etc.) that he came off a smidge cheap, like the literary equivalent of an exotic dancer. I did like Clary. But even her personality could have been brought out more. For instance, there’s a fleeting reference once to her watching anime; tell us more about that!   

             At around the final quarter of the book, the action really picks up, and that’s where I got truly engaged and stopped noticing flaws in the writing, focusing on the actual story. It began to gain momentum and pull me in the way the earlier parts failed to. The pace was good, and the twists were exciting. There’s some weird stuff that was making me lose interest in the story, but I ended up seeking spoilers online and was reassured that it gets resolved, so I do plan to continue with the series. I’ll leave that vague to avoid spoiling anything. If you’ve read the book, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

            So, final sum-up— most people I’ve talked to about this series loved it, and I was at worst undecided, and at best on board. Maybe book two will help me solidify my stance, whenever I get the chance to read it. But for the overall reading experience, I think it’s safe to say I was more pro than con.

            By the way, I saw the movie before I read the book, something I almost never do. The book definitely made a lot more sense. There was a lot squeezed into the movie. And they changed a ton of stuff. Go figure. The actors did a really good job, though.

            Opinions? Questions? Leave a comment!

bumpedEnjoyability:       smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain2half brain outlinebrain outline transp 2

Pages: 323  Copyright: 2011

             The blurb: “A virus has swept the world, making everyone over the age of eighteen infertile. Teenagers are now the most prized members of society, and would-be parents desperately bid for “conception contracts” with the prettiest, healthiest, and smartest girls—cash, college tuition, and liposuction in exchange for a baby.

             Sixteen-year-old Melody has scored a record-breaking contract with a rich couple. And she’s been matched with one of the hottest “bumping” partners in the world—the genetically flawless Jondoe.

             But her luck is about to run out.

             She discovers she has a sister—an identical twin. Harmony has grown up in a strict religious community and believes her calling is to save Melody from her sinful intentions. All Melody wants is to meet Jondoe and seal the deal—but when a case of mistaken identity destroys everyone’s carefully laid plans, Melody and Harmony realize they have much more than DNA in common.”

             The average YA reader knows Megan McCafferty as the author of the Jessica Darling series. But when I picked up Bumped in a beach-town bookstore during a North Carolina vacation to supplement my book supply for the long trip home, I had never heard of her. So this book was actually my first experience with her work. I’ve since read and loved Jessica, and Bumped is definitely very different. That was probably obvious from the summary alone. However, I’m happy to say that it brings much of the same magnetic wit and easy style.

            Speculative future-of-our-society plots can be repetitive or hackneyed, but the world of Bumped is memorable. It doesn’t just rely on the surface-level “teens are having babies” premise— McCafferty really goes all the way with it, thinking out the new norms, attitudes, and figures of speech that would go along with that. “Pretty” becomes “reproaesthetical”. Baby bumps become attractive, and pre-teen girls wear fake bellies instead of gratuitous eyeliner. Chips are advertised with “now 20% more folic acid!” If you’re wondering what would happen if teen pregnancy really came into style, this book is a solid reference.

            Melody and Harmony, though twins, were very distinct from each other. Their meeting completely changes both of their lives, and that was very interesting to watch. The supporting characters were no less strong. It was a great cast.  

            Bumped lays a solid foundation of a fascinating setting and then brings it to life with juicy, unpredictable characters and intrigue-filled, page turning human stories. I was never sure what was around the corner, and could never guess how everything would shake out, but I wanted to find out. There was romance in the story, but it was just one component woven in proportionately, so this book should appeal to a wide audience, unlike many YA books, which are essentially love stories (although we know I love a good love story). Bumped is part of a pair of books; the sequel is called Thumped. 


Special Awards:

lightbulb Illuminator for thought provocation.