Sex and Violence Review

Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian Sex and Violence Cover

AT FIRST YOU DON’T SEE THE CONNECTION.

Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan Carter. He has a strategy–knows the profile of The Girl Who Would Say Yes. In each new town, each new school, he can count on plenty of action before he and his father move again. Getting down is never a problem. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time.

AND THEN YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING ELSE.

After an assault that leaves Evan bleeding and broken, his father takes him to the family cabin in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota, so Evan’s body can heal. But what about his mind?

HOW DO YOU GO ON, WHEN YOU CAN’T THINK OF ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER?

Nothing seems natural to Evan anymore. Nothing seems safe. The fear–and the guilt–are inescapable. He can’t sort out how he feels about anyone, least of all himself. Evan’s really never known another person well, and Pearl Lake is the kind of place where people know everything about each other–where there might be other reasons to talk to a girl. It’s annoying as hell. It might also be Evan’s best shot to untangle sex and violence. – Jacket Synopsis

This book is centered around 17 year old Evan Carter. Evan and his father move from town to town never laying down roots and never staying long. Evan is continually the new kid. Evan’s mind seems to focus on one thing, The Girl Who Would Say Yes. The Girl Who Would Say Yes is a girl that is not a “normal” girl but usually an alternative girl that will say yes to sex. That all changes with Collette. Collette doesn’t meet Evan’s typical Girl Who Would Say Yes profile, Collette is what Evan would refer to as a ‘’normal’’ girl, but a relationship starts between the two of them anyways. Unfortunately, Evan ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and is severely beaten because of a jealous ex in a community shower in the private school dorms. Evan is beaten so brutally that he loses consciousness and wakes up in the hospital with acute injuries. The worst injury that Evan sustained ended with the removal of his spleen. In light of his son’s experience, Evan’s father feels that it would be for the best if they take a break from their constant travel and return to their family home in Pearl Lake, Minnesota so Evan can recuperate. As Evan’s body heals however, it becomes apparent that the damage was far beyond physical. Traumatized by his assault, Evan develops an intense fear of showers, even when no one is around to hurt him. Evan undergoes therapy, resulting in part of the novel being written through the letters he has to write as part of his recovery.  The rest of the novel focuses on Evan’s recovery in Pearl Lake with the locals who can’t seem to mind their own business.

One thing that is continually mentioned in other’s reviews and something that I had noticed as well is the treatment of women in the novel. So many times in books, especially in the YA genre, a girl will find a guy and all her problems are solved. Nothing can go wrong because she caught the eye of a guy from across the room that she has had a crush on since kindergarten; life is great and always will be. Not so in this book, the characters feel more real, like they are actually capable of making logical decisions. I really loved how the characters were represented, I felt like I was reading someone’s diary or in their head. Probably the best part of the book for me was the characters.

Another that that I thought this book captured really well was the sense of community. Evan has moved around from place to place for years and has never really had to deal with anything quite like the community at Pearl Lake. Evan before moving to Pearl Lake would make a decision and not care about the consequences of that decision because he would be out of there before anything happened. With the community at Pearl Lake and the fact that he is still recuperating Evan for the first time in years has to deal with the consequences of his actions and who might be hurt because of it.

I feel I should mention that this book is one of the finalists for the William C. Morris award. For those who don’t know the Morris award celebrates debut authors with impressive new voices in the world of Young Adult literature.

What are your thoughts? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between? Do you feel that it is deserving of the Morris nomination? Let us know in the comments below.

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: The best YA book of 2013 according to Mary Lou.

The best YA book of 2013 according to Mary Lou Cover AKA as Fangirl

“Quit reading that crap and pick up a book for heaven’s sake!” said I to my fanfic reading daughter at least a thousand times.   But after reading Fangirl by the practically perfect Rainbow Rowell, I say: No More!  This book took this reader deep into the world of fanfic and made me fall in love with it.  This is the world of Cath, the main character who is hobbling through her freshmen year in college.  It takes a while for her to find her footing, but once she does, we know she is going to take off in wonderful ways.

First, a little about the plotline:

Cath and Wren are identical twin sisters.  Unhappy to find herself pregnant, their mother is too overwhelmed when she gives birth to twins to even come up with a second name, so she just breaks the chosen name of Catherine in half.  And not too many years later, she takes off, leaving her daughters to care for their loving, sweet and bipolar dad.

The girls have grown up completely intertwined.  They do everything together.  Their biggest project is the creation of fan fiction about a book series called Simon Snow, which has major similarities to Harry Potter.  This story occurs during the year of the publication of the last book in the series, and Cath is racing to finish her version of the story before the release of the final installment.  This aspect of the story will bring back sweet memories for those of you who lived through the years that the saga of Harry Potter was slowly revealed.  The anticipation was intense and sometimes painful.  Rowell captures this anticipation in all of its frustrating glory.

Cath is head and shoulders above the average fanfic writer.  She has literally tens of thousands of followers, some who love her stories better than the original.  Those of you who read Harry Potter fanfic will recognize her thread.  The protagonist, Simon Snow falls in love with Basil, who bears some resemblance to Draco Malfoy.  Significant sections of this book are passages of Cath’s fanfic that she reads aloud to the young man, Levi, best friend of her roommate Reagan.

But that is later in the story, so let me back up.  The book opens with Cath and Wren leaving for college.  Cath is anxious about her father, concerned about whether or not he will remain stable without his girls to anchor him.  But she is excited too, as she will be studying creative writing from a renowned professor.  The shock that blows her excitement is Wren’s announcement that she wants some space apart from Cath.  She wants to start forming an identity as a person separate from her twin.  She does not want to room with Cath.  She does not want to help her write fanfic anymore.  She changes her appearance so they no longer look identical.  Cath lacks Wren’s social ease, and feels abandoned and terrified.

Cath lands in a dorm room with the older and unpleasant Reagan, who always has her boyfriend Levi hanging around.  It is clear that Reagan has a lot more worldly experience, and Cath is intimidated.  She is also mortified to always have the eager, puppylike Levi in her room.  Her lack of confidence is so great that she won’t even go to the cafeteria to eat, and so survives on protein bars for the first few weeks of school.  At some point, Reagan figures out that Cath is not doing well, and reluctantly takes her under her wing.  Levi, who, we find out is actually Reagan’s ex (but they are still best friends), is happy to bring Cath into their little circle, and she begins to adapt to life on campus.

The novel follows Cath’s first year as a college student, and her hard work of figuring out who she is when she is not tied at the hip to her sister.  Wren starts trying to rebuild a relationship with their mother, which infuriates Cath, who has no intentions of forgiving her for abandoning them.  Wren, like a lot of freshman, is spending heavy time on the party circuit and seems to be thriving on her own.  Cath hits a lot of bumps, even after she settles into a pleasant friendship with Reagan and Levi.  A possible romance with a fellow student in her writing class, conflict with her writing professor who has no respect for Cath’s fanfic, and several family crises make for a difficult year.  But Cath is a woman who was meant to write, and that becomes her rock solid bottom line.

I love this book.  Rowell’s first YA novel, Eleanor and Park was a great piece of writing, and I loved every word of it.  What amazes me is how quickly she released a second YA book.  I expected the quality to be poorer (Eleanor and Park was released in February 2013, Fangirl in September 2013 – just 8 months apart) but Fangirl is at least as good, if not better.  The stories are very different, as are the characters. But the world she creates, and the emotional honesty of her characters make this story fly off the page, yanking  the reader out of her/his chair and right into the world of Rowell’s stories. This woman is a great, great writer.

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The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Memory is a slippery thing and something you don’t think too much about until it flexes its darker power to haunt you with things you would rather forget. When loss has been a major part of your life, is memory friend or foe? Do you savor the memory of sweet times with people you love who are now gone or transformed into someone you no longer recognize?   Or do you push it away because it hurts too much to contemplate all that you have lost? What about when you cannot control memory, when it controls you and takes over your life, tormenting you with visions that are unbearable – yet bear them you must, as they will not go away? These are some of the themes that Laurie Halse Anderson explores in her newest: The Impossible Knife of Memory.

17 year old Haley’s single father is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome after multiple deployments in the Middle East. He has seen too many horrors to digest and tuck away. Memory for him is a monster and as the book progresses, his methods of managing this monster become less and less effective. Haley has her own issues with abandonment. She is doing all she can to play the adult in her diminished family, managing their home and taking care of her rapidly deteriorating father. So, when the possibility of a new love, new friendships, and perhaps even new family life appear, she must decide whether or not to move beyond her own painful memories and try again to form loving relationships.

This book presses deep into the questions of how we manage our pasts and our memories. It examines the possibilities and consequences of both giving control of our lives over to memory, and limping along while we try to suppress it.   Obviously, there are no easy answers, though a less gifted writer might try to make it so. What Anderson offers here are some paths that might move one beyond tightening the lid over painful memories. I have one criticism of this dark and powerful story: it ended too quickly. The book moves to a final crisis and climax, followed by a wrap-up chapter of about four pages. I wanted to see a more careful unfolding of these possibilities. I wanted to see Hayley construct her path, not just describe it in a paragraph. But that is only about 1% of the book. The other 99% is wonderful.

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A Smarty-pants Guide to Summer Reading

Let me just start by saying that there is nothing wrong with reading fluff in the summertime. Fluff is delicious and fun, but in this season, I also like to sink into something more challenging than I would dare during a school year. So, if you, like me, want books with both summer themes AND substance during these months with greater leisure, here are my suggestions.

 

Death in the summertime

First, it seems like a lot of YA fiction that deals with death is set in the summer. My guess is that authors choose this season for stories about death because time slows down, and the normal distractions of school and extracurriculars are absent, allowing the characters to reflect more deeply on what is happening to them or around them. My first suggestions all deal with death. (The Fault in Our Stars is not on this list only because, if you live on Planet Earth, you already know about it.)

 

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder – actually published a month before TFIOS, these two outstanding novels have some similarities. Both feature a smart and snarky teenage girl who is dying and is surrounded by people who love her and are trying in often inadequate ways to cope. In Probability, Campbell has had many losses and not much joy in her short life, but she discovers love and other glorious things as her time begins to run out. It is an easy book to fall in love with, and is pretty much guaranteed to wrench your heart. Be prepared for some magical realism. Things happen that are outside our understanding of reality and are never explained. Sort of like life.

 

Last Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – Taylor is forced to return to her family’s lake house, something she has not done since she was 12, to fulfill her father’s dying wish that the family be together during his last summer. Taylor would prefer to run away from her family, from death, and from the thing that happened all those summers ago. This is a slowly unfolding story of a young woman who is forced to confront pain, enabling her to discover the growth and beauty that can come as a result.

 

Going for the Record by Julie A. Swanson – Leah has a great future just within her reach. She is a gifted soccer player with Olympic dreams on the horizon. But when her dad picks her up from a training camp, he gives her the awful news that his death from cancer is imminent. Life stops as the family gathers to care for him

during his final days. I have a special love for this book as I have cared for three family members through death. Of all the books I have read, this one comes closest to capturing what it felt like, for me at least, to be totally absorbed in the experience of loving and caring for someone as they die. A beautiful and authentic book.

 

Going Bovine by Libba Bray –This unusual book may not be for everyone, but I loved it! Sixteen year old Cameron is not a likeable guy. Friendless (for a reason) and usually stoned, I did not want to spend much time with him, and felt more than reluctant as I contemplated its hefty 500 pages. But, like the sucker that I am, I was drawn in by the cow holding a yard gnome on the cover. So, I stuck with it, and was so glad I did! Cameron is diagnosed with mad cow disease and a difficult death is not far off. Don Quixote and a pink-haired angel send him and his hospital roommate off on a quest for a cure, resulting in a truly unique and fantastical road trip novel.

 

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – Frankie’s family has not been able to move on after the death of her little brother four years ago. Frankie has carried a heavy load of guilt as she was the one caring for him when he drowned. But this summer, she is ready to move on. She wants to experience joy and find love. And she receives a sort of cosmic blessing when she lands a job caring for a four year old boy that she is convinced is the reincarnation of her little brother. Mixed in with the usual romance and family drama is a thoughtful exploration of one person’s attempt to find meaning in death and life.

 

Sweet Summer Romance & Other Delightful Drama

Summer reading really does have to include some good romance. Several of the books listed above do have some swoon worthy moments, but the ones I am going to offer now – lip smacking love is pretty much the focus.

 

Just One Day by Gayle Forman – Allyson is kind of OCD about life. Time is to be planned, rules are to be followed. But when she encounters a charismatic street actor, Willem, while touring Europe, she does something that is way beyond her normal boundaries: she takes off with him on a trip to Paris. This great adventure fills the first half of the book. What happens after – assimilating the experience and its impact on her life, is the second half. This is an unusually fine romance that features a not-so-predictable trajectory of growth and self-discovery.

 

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour – A fine road trip book about Bev and Colby, best friends who have a long standing pact: after high school graduation, Colby will go with Bev on her girlband tour, and then they will head off for a yearlong trip to Europe. But they barely get started when Bev announces that she has new plans and that Colby will be on his own after the band tour. This book captures the difficulties of unfulfilled love and the transition from the teenage years into adulthood.

 

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – Another great road trip book, and the one that made me fall in love with John Green. Colin is graduating from high school having not reached his potential as a math genius. He takes off with his best friend, Hassan, on a quest. He has been dumped by 19 girlfriends, all named Katherine. He is determined to create a mathematical formula that will accurately predict at the onset of a relationship which party will be the dumper and which will be the dumpee. Hilarious!

 

The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante – Shaken by the revelation of a family secret, Julia abandons her summer internship to follow her sister to Vermont. Julia is the good girl – follows rules, makes good grades, bright future, etc. Her sister Sophie is the rule breaker, the rebellious one, the single mom who is now trying to open her own bakery. It is Sophie who rips off the cover that has hidden important truths from Julia, sending the whole family into crisis. Julia is determined to understand what has been kept from her and why. This is a very fine book that explores all kinds of love and relationships with compassion.

 

That is my list. There are so many more great summer reads and I do hope you   will dig in with gusto! Please add your own suggestions in our comment section.

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Lexington Author Sarah Combs Serves Up Some Good Stuff

   Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs

For some, those “carefree” days of high school are not so carefree or blissful. Not everyone fits into      those tightly defined categories that seem to rule the social structures of just about every high school in America. For some of those kids, the KY Governor’s Scholars Program (affectionately referred to as Geek Camp) can be a real godsend, a place for bright, geeky kids to meet other bright, geeky kids. And that is what Sarah Combs’s debut novel, Breakfast Served Anytime explores.

Gloria is a rising senior that lives in Louisville with her single dad, and is still bruised and tender after the recent death of her grandmother. She has one good friend, Carol, who, like Gloria, longs for a career in the performing arts. They have a plan – graduate from high school and get as far away from KY as possible, preferably to New York City where Carol can study dance and Gloria will pursue acting. Except for her friendship with Carol, Gloria prefers her own company and great books for companionship. How will she fare with her Geek Camp roommate Jessica, a bubbly motor mouth from eastern KY? And Jessica’s best friend, Sonya, the striking beauty who dates the state high school basketball star? Gloria is a sophisticated, progressive thinking city girl. What, she wonders, does she have in common with these bumpkins, these Barbie dolls, that grew up in the coal mines?

And then there is her literature class, a very small group of just four students who agreed to unplug from all communication devices for the duration of the camp. Each student is unique and has had his/her own trouble navigating the unfriendly waters of their respective high schools. Most annoying is the arrogant and showy Mason, who insists on wearing a stupid top hat and pretending to be the Mad Hatter. Why does she get so warm and fluttery around such an irritating guy?

This is a novel of discovery, about the widening of one’s world when one encounters those who are different in an environment that supports and celebrates differences. Gloria and Jessica get into an unpleasant argument about mountain top removal and the role of coal mining in the economic survival of eastern KY. As a result, Gloria’s thinking becomes broader and more nuanced on issues about which she thought she already possessed full knowledge. There is no attempt to resolve or even deeply explore these complex issues, but all the characters allow their minds to be opened to new ways of seeing and thinking about them.

This lovely novel, full of beautiful prose and fully formed characters, will be especially fun for those who have attended or hope to attend Governor’s Scholars, or anyone who lives in Kentucky. This reader hopes that Sarah Combs will be serving up some seconds in the very near future!

Lexington KY author Sarah Combs

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Welcome!

Welcome to our blog! It’s nice to see you here.

As is customary when meeting new people, we’d like to introduce ourselves. There are four of us “Librarian Bibliofiles” here, and though we are of different genders, ages, passions, and interests, we all have bonded over our mutual love of young adult novels. Their compelling plots, dynamic characters, social commentaries, and amusing anecdotes have captured our hearts, and we’d like to share our love with you. Not in creepy way, we hope. More of a “GOOD GRIEF, THIS BOOK…..I JUST HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT” kind of way.

What this means for you, dear reader, is that we are going to be reviewing young adult books as we read them. It may not always be a good review (what fun would that be?), but it will always be honest. Your responses are welcome! Whether you agree or disagree with our reviews, we’d love to hear what you have to say. Discussion makes books so much better.

If you’d like more specifics about the four of us, or would like to request one of us to review a book, please visit our about page!

Thanks for checking us out, and introduce yourselves in the comments! Tell us who you are, and what you like reading… that’s always a good pick-up line with us.

 

Happy Reading!

-LB

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