(P)reviews: A Sampling of What’s to Come

I’ve been reading well ahead of publish dates lately. I like to post reviews as close to publication date as possible, even if I read the book months beforehand, because I like to think it helps put the book on the radar when it’s actually possible to buy it. So while I’ve been reading and writing out my posts, I was thinking it might be worthwhile to give a preview to some of the titles I’ve been reading lately. You’ll get the longer reviews closer to pub date, but for now, a sampling of titles to whet your appetite now (and surprise — a couple of these titles I’ll be giving away when the time gets closer and one of them may be up for grabs as part of Lenore’s Dystopian February this week, too). Interestingly, all of these covers feature girls on the front.

Crazy by Amy Reed (June 12, 2012): This is probably the most realistic and painful portrayal of bipolar disorder I think I’ve read in YA lit. The book’s told through two voices — both Conner and Izzy get to have their say — and it’s told entirely through email messages. They’ve become friends and confidants to one another after a summer camp where they bonded, and while it’s never blatant, it’s sort of hinted that Conner wants something more than friendship from Izzy but she’s not receptive. And for good reason. Izzy’s home life is hurting her, and it’s only contributing to the debilitating depression building inside her. Both voices are strong, well-defined, and the feelings readers walk away with, having both sides of depression (the person falling into it and the person on the outside watching it happen) will resonate with anyone who has ever experienced depression. Reed’s writing works for me as a reader, and this, her third book, is her strongest.

The List by Siobhan Vivian (April 1): I got to read this book back in September (I know — lucky me!) and I’m still thinking about it now. Every year on the week of homecoming, a list containing the names of 8 girls is posted at Mount Washington High; the prettiest girl and the ugliest girl in each class is listed. What Vivian does in The List is let us into the minds and lives of each of the eight girls selected this year, challenging our expectations and understandings of popularity, beauty, and ugliness through each of their eyes. There are eight voices in this story, but the third-person present tense style really allows each of their voices to stand out — I didn’t have any trouble keeping them apart. Vivian’s got a way of writing stories that empower girls, and this is no exception. It’s the kind of book I can’t wait to hand off to high school girls; not only will they find themselves relating to one (or all!) of the girls, but they will want to talk about it, too.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (June 19, 2012): Sloane Price has nothing going for her — at least in her mind, there’s no point in continuing living if her home life continues to be an abusive place and her sister, the one constant in her life, has left her to fend for herself. So when Sloane selects today to commit suicide and she’s thwarted before she can, it’s a huge relief that is when the zombie outbreak happens. Her death wouldn’t even be on her own hands. Except she survives, and now she’s stuck, trapped inside Cortege High with five other students who are eager to live, and all she wants to do is die. Sloane doesn’t want to be here, and she doesn’t want to fight for anything, but she has little choice in the matter. And the zombies keep knocking at the door. This is a book that, while about zombies, is much more about character and relationships and just what it means to survive, period. If you’re wary of a zombie story, do not let that be the hangup in giving this one a try because it is much more a book about what it means to be human. I’ve never left a book so physically aching before (maybe even emotionally aching, too).

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield (July 5, 2012): Graduation night was a big one in Becca’s hometown. Not only did she have some pretty memorable celebration sex in her boyfriend’s car, but then he had the nerve to dump her right then and there, leaving her empty in more ways than one. Oh, and that happened to be the same night the body of a strange girl was found on the side of the road, rag dolled and mangled. No one knows how she got there or who she was. Rosenfield’s debut novel is a mystery story, but it’s also a story about growing up and figuring out where you belong. Becca’s being toyed with when it comes to her boyfriend; she wanted nothing but to get out of town and away from everything it is, and she made herself the promise that he wouldn’t be the reason she stays. Despite breaking up, he’s still stringing her along for the summer and she’s unable to make an easy decision about staying or leaving. And when the story of the dead girl comes to light, it’s not at all what Becca — nor the town — expected. The writing and many of the threads about small town life reminded me of Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls; it is lush and a story you can’t help but fall completely into.

Jersey Angel by Beth Anne Bauman: Lest you think I’ve found everything I’ve read lately exceptional, I’ll talk about a book that was a real disappointment. This one was sold to me by the publicist at ALA Midwinter as a book all about sex and sexuality. And it was. Unfortunately, there is a real lack of character or story development at all. Angel, the main character, really spends a year having a lot of sex…and it’s pretty boring sex, to be honest. I think because she’s underdeveloped and doesn’t give me any compelling reasons to care about her and because she doesn’t have any real moments of growth or change, I found myself disinterested in her and what happened to her — and honestly, nothing DOES happen to her. I don’t buy the idea that because she was detached from herself (obvious from the meaningless sex) then she can have a thinly developed character and no arc to her. It wasn’t just Angel I felt this way about either; her friends and family are just as flat and lifeless. Angel’s friend finds herself in a pretty terrible situation in the story, and it should have been an emotionally packed moment, but I couldn’t connect and I didn’t care. It was a heavy, heavy topic and should have conjured up something from me, but it didn’t. Though I found this book a let down because it really was nothing other than a lot of (uninteresting) sex, I don’t think this is a book that’ll be too hard to sell to teen readers because of the sex.

Review copies of each title received from the publishers. 

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    • says

      It's much, much more than a zombie novel. There are zombies and it is part of the plot, but it's a character-driven, realistic title at the same time.

    • says

      I read that one and enjoyed it! I dig Crowley's writing style a lot (and really liked A Little Wanting Song, too). I've got a post prepped, actually, to talk a bit about Graffiti Moon — you're beating me at my own game 😉

      And yeah, the wait. BUT! There is a lot to look forward to, right?

  1. says

    I've got an ARC of The List but I've been waiting…you've really made me want to pick it up. I'm looking forward to all of these! Thanks for the teaser!

    • says

      The List is really impressive, and the undercutting of the idea of beauty is done well. I can see this being a book teens — especially girls — will want to talk about. I'm impressed with the ability to write 8 different voices and make them all unique without making any of them simply stereotypes. They're 3-dimensional.

  2. says

    Yeah, if you're going to run the risk of putting a book with a lot of sex in your library, it should at least be interesting sex (-:)

    I'm actually interested in reading the Siobhan Vivian book – I only read a couple YA books from beginning to end last year and some were hers.

    • says

      You know me — not afraid to put sex in the library. Except I do like it to at least be interesting sex (though really, this one will go and be interesting enough for teens who want that kind of book).

      I think you'd like the Vivian book, and I think it's the kind of book that would do really well in our area. These are your average girls, which I think is part of what makes it such a strong book.

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