Tag: Young Adult

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio

“Of course you can write a book about yourself. That’s your favorite topic.”

“It is not!” he thundered, his eyes flashing. Broody was 5% rain cloud, on his father’s side.

Brooding-YA-Hero_Rainandabook

I’m a fan of the Twitter account @BroodingYAHero, so when Sky Pony Press offered me an ARC of Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (almost) as Awesome as Me, I broke my own resolve of not accepting books for review and jumped at the chance.

For those of you who do not know @BroodingYAHero is a parody account run by Carrie Ann DiRisio that dismantles popular and overdone YA tropes one tweet at a time. Here’s an example:

tweet-brooding-ya-hero-rainandabook

The Brooding YA Hero book is an extension of this parody account. So does it translate well to this longer-than-a-tweet form? Let’s find out.

We are introduced to Broody McHottiePants. He’s the self-centered, narcissistic, brooding male protagonist of (almost) every YA novel, right from Romeo to Mr. Darcy to vampires to zombies to… well, you get the idea. In his words, he’s “the one with the most adjectives.” However, of late he has been out of work. For a while now, authors haven’t been requesting his services. He is so frustrated that he decides to write his own book – a self help guide on how to become a main character just like him. Once in a while, he falls asleep or leaves the room, and his evil ex-girlfriend Blondie DeMeani takes over the narrative. How do we know she’s the evil ex? Cos for one, she’s female, plus she’s blonde, she wears makeup and high heels – basically the opposite of the “main love interest” (who’s usually the demure, non-high-heels, non-ambitious type).

So far so good.

The book is funny and there were several laugh-out-loud moments. It cleverly (satirically) addresses the issues in most YA books, such as the marginalization of POC/WOC characters, how every story is essentially the same with a different setting – a love triangle against some conflict-inducing backdrop, how the same tropes get repeated etc. It also ends up becoming a How To of writing a novel – it describes elements of plot twists, POVs and so on, types of characters (from Broody’s POV of course, so they’re all less important than him). It also helps break certain stereotypes – Blondie reminds us that we think of her as evil only cos the stereotype exists, and throughout the book, her narrative makes more sense (as intended) than Broody’s.

However, there were a few inconsistencies that I noticed. For one, it’s often confusing to figure out whom Broody means by “you”. For the majority of the book, he’s addressing the reader (who, as the title suggests, is becoming Broody himself with the help of the book). There are other parts where by “you”, Broody means his love interest. That got a little confusing for me. I also noticed some repetition – for example, there is a section about the main character’s “rivals” – usually the third corner of a love triangle. This whole section is repeated in a different chapter. Another inconsistency I noticed is how at the beginning of the chapter, Broody mentions he’s traveled through space and time (refer to my statement about Romeo above). However, towards the end, he mentions it was his ancestor Broodington Hottietrousers who worked with Shakespeare. This also calls to question the existence of the Deleted Files Hall, where outdated characters go to die.

For the most part, this book is really funny, but in an attempt to go over the top, Broody begins to sound a little… repetitive and Broodsplainy (although yes, he admits that “as a man, I greatly love explaining things”). But still, consider this:

What if you and your friends uncover mystery revolving around a strange object – a goat. You unravel the mystery…
And it has nothing to do with the goat.
That goat was a red herring.
Not literally.
It’s still a goat.
Not a fish.
Anyway.

As readers (or future authors), we are intended to listen to Broody, but not take him too seriously (given his whole self-important, I’m-the-best air). Blondie of course makes some great points about writing a book. Keeping this in mind, I believe the below paragraph should’ve been part of Blondie’s narrative instead of Broody’s.

Young adult literature gets made fun of a lot by so-called grown-ups for always having love stories (even though it doesn’t) and for over-using “ridiculous love triangles” (even though there are plenty of stories without one) and for “always being about vampires and silly girls” (Seriously, it’s like these “adults” read one YA book ten years ago and based all their opinions on that.)

To these critics, I say, I’m sorry you’re so incredibly bitter and miserable that you can’t feel the rush of joy when your crush at imagine what butterflies in your stomach feel like. Also, please read some YA before insulting it.

I so completely agree with what is written here – I know YA gets a lot of flak that it doesn’t deserve. However, my point is, this is so true that it doesn’t go with the rest of Broody’s attitude towards everything. Now if Blondie had said this, well yeah, Blondie made sense throughout.

This was a great start to the new year for me, books-wise (where I hope to do better than last year). I do believe this book could have been edited better, to iron out those inconsistencies I was referring to. But overall, it was a good read, poking fun at all those YA tropes and stereotypes.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads | Amazon

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this book from Sky Pony Press. My review is honest and unbiased.

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I Hate Everyone But You, by Gaby Dunn; Allison Raskin

I Like Every Book But This.

hate everyone but you - rain and a bookRemember back in 2014-15 when my book reviews used to be snarky and I ended up offending a bunch of authors? Yeah, good times. This book makes me want to go back to who I was back then.

This book has good reviews and in particular, I fell for the one by Francine Pascal, whose books I devoured as a teenager. Given the premise, I should have loved this book: Two best friends starting off their first semesters at college and starting a “long distance friendship”. The book is written as a series of texts and emails exchanged between the two and even talks about issues that a lot of teenagers face. Did I mention both best friends are feminists? In theory, this should have been a good book.

But here’s the thing: almost all of it is problematic. On every level. I could take each of the aforementioned teenage problems and dissect it to present to you its offensive bits. But should I give this review any more time than it deserves? Should you take longer to read my review than I took to read the actual book? No and no. I’ll just address a couple of them here to make my case and let you decide for yourself.

Frankly, it’s my personal belief that for fiction to be realistic, it can be raw and flawed and the characters can be unlikable etc. That aside, you know that feeling you get when you read about a character and feel they’re a token character? The character is present throughout the novel, but just isn’t… represented correctly? In this book, Ava Helmer suffers from anxiety and OCD, Gen has come to the realization that she’s bi. While reading I had two thoughts

Thought # 1: Are these characters here solely to bring these facts to the front? Because a) there’s no other character development so this basically becomes their identity b) if yes, couldn’t this have been dealt with more depth and sensitivity (and sensibility) instead of just skimming the surface.

Thought # 2: This representation is so damn offensive and the portrayal is complete rubbish. Ava uses her anxiety to act like an utter douchebag. People, anxiety is something that some of us real people live with and try hard to cope with (I know I do). It isn’t a convenient excuse to be rude and judgey. As for Gen’s sexuality – I get that she’s experimenting and doesn’t wanna be tied down etc., but that isn’t an excuse to hook up with basically anyone (including her transphobic teacher) and it is certainly not an excuse to cheat. Gen represents a trope that is SO not okay – one where bi and non-monogamous people take everything as a license to cheat. Nope, not done. It’s like a narrow-minded straight person wrote this character (and incidentally, I came to know a lot of this is autobiographical, so I’ve NO idea how that happened). And may I add, Ava’s ignorance of bisexuality was SO cringeworthy.

I don’t even know why this book has side characters; they were all useless – present only to show who hooked up with whom. Ava and Gen’s friendship was a little too much for comfort. Actually, let me rephrase that – Ava’s clinginess and Gen’s apathy was hard to read about.

Goodreads tells me a 2* rating means “It was okay” and I guess, to be generous or whatever, it was. With that said, I wouldn’t really want a teenager or young adult to read this book. Poor representation of the LGBT community; poor portrayal of those with mental illness.

Goodreads | Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley/St. Martin’s Press. The review is honest and unbiased.

Paper Hearts, by Ali Novak

paper-hearts-ali-novak-rainandabookHave you ever read a book in which all the characters seemed like filler characters? That’s what Paper Hearts felt like.

We have Felicity, the so-called MC, who is really stupid and needs obvious things spelled out for her. With a brain as slow as hers, I’m surprised she gets to be a character in book (that was written and published) at all.

The male lead is Alec Williams, member of the “world famous” boy band The Heartbreakers. Like every YA hero since the dawn of time, he’s the brooding, reserved kind and only the female lead can “save” him. How Felicity would ever accomplish this with her terrible IQ is beyond me.

We have Asha, the “hot best friend”, and token POC character. Actually, I’m not sure of the POC bit – Asha sounds like an Indian name, and she wears saris (what teenager wears a sari to a masquerade ball!?), but her surname is Van De Berg, which is… Dutch? It isn’t important whichever way, cos we don’t have any background info or character development.

Then there’s Boomer, and all we know about him is he loves cars and Asha.

Plus some of Alec’s band members thrown in for good measure.

The story begins with Felicity telling us her sister’s been missing since four years. Conveniently, around a few pages in, she finds out her sister had actually been writing to her. She decides to go search for her and Alec (whom she’s only met twice before) offers to drive her all the way from LA to Seattle. Lots of random stuff happens, like water gun fights, hide and seek games. You know, usual stuff that happens in YA novels. Not. (Seriously, what 20 yo plays hide and seek ffs!)

There is nothing about this story that’s believable. It is full of grammar errors, but since this is an ARC, I’m willing to give it the benefit of doubt on that front. It ends abruptly and then you begin lamenting all the time you wasted on this.

A little note about the blurb I saw on Goodreads – it mentions Felicity’s best friend Lucy, who has some plans and designs of her own; there’s no Lucy in the whole book.

Rating: 1/5

Goodreads | Amazon

I received an ARC from Netgalley/Sourcebooks Fire. The review is honest and unbiased.

 

 

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

“All I have are the songs crashing together in my head. They’re all sad. They’re all bitter. And they’re all I have.”

rain-and-a-book-nick-norah-infinite-playlist-cohn-levithanIf you saw my little note on Goodreads, then you know that I was not sure if I was going to review Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But it occurred to me that not talking about this book on my blog would be highly unfair. Not in recent times has a book moved me so much or, for the lack of a less cliched phrase, filled my lonely, dark, black hole of a heart with so much joy.

Whenever I talk about David Levithan, this is the first book people point me to (although I don’t know why I still pushed it a little far down my list). David Levithan as an author is not just someone I admire and look up to but also someone who has some kind of influence on me. When I read him, there have been times when I’ve felt it’s something I wrote, or if it was something written exclusively for me. I don’t just mean that in the sense that I connect to it or relate to it in a way we do with so many writers. It’s more like his work is like my security blanket. I discovered him last year and although I’d resolved to read only one book each by the authors I chose (in order to increase the number and genres of books I read), I ended up breaking that resolve for Levithan. I think, if I may be so bold to admit it, I’m a little bit in love with him because of his writing.

I had not heard of Nick and Norah before I started reading Levithan, or even the movie of the same name (which is, I hear, quite popular). I was skeptical at first because this is a collaboration project, and I wondered how it would turn out. In the past I’ve tried to get two writers to do collab projects with me, and they both politely declined stating “What if it doesn’t work out” as the reason. Oh well. I’m glad Levithan and Rachel Cohn did not say that to each other. (Speaking of Cohn – I’ve not read any of her works, so reccos are welcome!)

A lot of us are against books with their movie tie-in covers (I still have quite a few in my collection. I generally try not to look at the cover if it bothers me.) But in the case of Nick and Norah, I fell in love with the cover as well. Not that I have any particular liking for Michael Cera or Kat Dennings (I’ve seen way too much Arrested Development and Two Broke Girls for that), but seeing that cover made me feel things that other authors of this genre have failed to. I’m not being partial here. I’ve seen the original cover as well, the one that looks a bit like Eleanor and Park (which still gets credit for being the book through which I eventually discovered Levithan – it was a whole YA trail I had to walk through), and I still like the movie tie-in cover of the edition that I have better.

The story begins with Nick asking Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes, and her responding with a kiss. They are both avoiding the same person – Nick’s ex Tris. Later, as Norah goes searching for her friend (who’s passed out drunk somewhere), Nick’s friends ask her to take him out for the night, because he has been spending too much time pining for Tris. They promise to drop her friend home safe and sound. And thus begins a very memorable night – for Nick, Norah, and the readers.

The story is intermeshed with music – Nick is a member of a band, he’s written songs for Tris, songs whose lyrics Norah had read even before she knew who Nick was. There are also numerous references to other popular bands (“The Cure. What do they think they’re the cure for? Happiness?”). Even the Acknowledgments page is a playlist. It’s one of the books I danced with, and swayed along with the music. There may be other books with their own “soundtrack” so to speak, but this is the one that transported me to that night. Norah’s indecisiveness regarding whether to give Nick a chance, Nick’s heartbreak that slowly heals during the course of the night – all of it was almost magical to read.

It is difficult to explain why this book made me feel all the things it did (yes, the point of this review should be to explain that, but sometimes words fail), but the main reason, it seems, is that it’s a story about moving on. It’s a story of two healed hearts. It’s a story where things change drastically in one night for the better for two lost, heartbroken people. There, right there, is a story worth reading, a book worth recommending. So go on, mend your broken heart. Find your cure.

The Cure. For the Ex’s? I’m sorry, Nick. You know. Will you kiss me again?

(PS: After reading Nick and Norah, I also read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by the same authors. There’s a reference to the above quote – a happy reminder of how all these characters are in the same universe, which makes them more real somehow)

Goodreads | Amazon

 

Sad Girls, by Lang Leav

rainandabook-sadgirls-langleavAt the outset, let me mention I didn’t finish Sad Girls. Let me rephrase that a little bit – I couldn’t finish Sad Girls. I rolled my eyes so many times while reading about the lives of these (terribly sad) girls that I was worried they would fall out of their sockets. At one point, I rolled my eyes so hard that I think saw the edge of my brain!

Some may argue it is unfair to review a book that I abandoned midway. You wouldn’t be wrong – it is unfair. But here are my reasons to go ahead with my thoughts anyway.

To summarize, Sad Girls is the story of Audrey, who lied to her friends about their classmate Ana and the lie spread like fire. Unable to stand the rumours, Ana committed suicide. At the funeral, Audrey meets Ana’s boyfriend, Rad (I tell you, I hate even the names of the characters in this sad book). Audrey and Rad hit it off instantly, and decide to leave the funeral and hang out elsewhere.

All of these people live in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business (to a level that can only be described as creepy). The whole town is now talking about Audrey and Rad (if the hot topic in your town is the whereabouts of two teenagers, you need to move to a better town). They are even talking about it in the grocery store, where Audrey’s mother hears about it. She forbids Audrey from speaking to Rad, but hello, rebellious, angry, mother-resenting teenager at work here. Later, Audrey’s boyfriend (oh, did I not mention that she already has a boyfriend?) gets uncomfortable and tells her not to see Rad again, and she reluctantly agrees. The more she stays away from Rad, the more she misses him, and the more she feels her current boyfriend is “not the right guy for her.”

From a literary standpoint, Sad Girls has way too many issues to even keep a track of. The plot is blah. The dialogues just keep running one after the other. They are inane, the characters drone on and whine on. The language sounds like it was written this way to appeal to the YA crowd, but most YA isn’t written half as badly. Young Adult books aren’t supposed to be stupid; you don’t need to dumb anything down for its audience – but that’s how it is in this excuse of a novel. There are characters in this novel who don’t have much to do. They sit along in the sidelines, mouth a few dialogues, create a bit of drama, cry a few tears, speak a few pretentious profound things, then just vanish. Sad Girls is a literary fiasco.

What bothers me most isn’t the above points though. The literary reasons aren’t why I decided to go ahead with this post in spite of not finishing the book. My biggest problem with this book is how it trivializes things like suicide, panic attacks, anxiety, depression etc. We live in a world that’s finally waking up to the true horrors mental disorders and of late a lot of emphasis is being given on seeking out help and getting the right treatment. As someone who has suffered from depression, I find it most irritating when a book – especially a book whose targeted audience is of the age that’s most vulnerable to these disorders – treats it like it’s a silly thing. Nope. Not done.

This isn’t just me getting triggered either. Lang Leav is a subpar writer with a ridiculously wide reach. Her audience mostly consists of an impressionable crowd – is this the message you want to give them? I mentioned in my review of Lang Leav’s book The Universe of Us that she confuses abuse for love. In some of her other works (I refuse to call it poetry) as well she has glorified sadness and grief. I understand that some good art comes out of pain, but to glorify it? To be so addicted to it? Not a healthy message to send out to the world.

I never had much respect for her (so called) “poetry”. After reading whatever I’ve read of Sad Girls, I have no respect for her fiction either. What I do have is anger and disappointment, but I’m gnashing my teeth and swallowing it for now.

Note: An ARC of this book was available on NetGalley. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

Goodreads | Amazon

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

Local Teen Trapped in Parental Vortex of Expectation and Disappointment

28763485Natasha Kingsley is about to be deported. Daniel is on his way to attend an interview to get into Yale, pursue medical studies and become a doctor. Their paths cross thanks to a series of coincidences. Although, no two people could be less alike – one is a science geek, who believes love is just chemicals in the brain and nothing more; the other is a dreamer and a poet (who has absolutely no interest in becoming a doctor). But now that their paths have crossed, how do they spend the one day they have got with each other? Is it just one day, or does Natasha somehow manage to stay in the country? Told from alternating POVs of the main characters, and punctuated by the histories of the sub-characters, we watch this light-hearted story unfold.

My interest in The Sun is Also a Star was piqued because it gave off a distinctly Eleanor & Park vibe when I read the blurb on Goodreads. Now that I’ve read it, I know I was wrong. Aside from the simple fact that both the male protagonists are Korean American, the two stories don’t have anything in common. I’m choosy about YA – either I enjoy the books tremendously or I’m left utterly cold. TSIAAS lies somewhere in between. Of course there were things that I would normally call out as issues – such as the instalove between the two characters, Daniel’s conviction that everything is rosy and poetic (it’s VERY unrealistic – he’s always dreaming!), the fact that despite being blatant opposites, in their individual narratives their voices are strikingly similar. I have to admit though that it’s a cute story. It’s not badly written; by that I mean, while I don’t believe anyone could fall in love with anyone in a day (love is a big word), I didn’t feel as cynical as to not enjoy the book either. It allowed me to suspend my disbelief and as far as books go, that’s not a terrible thing. It’s not a terrible thing at all. So I forgave the instalove and the dreaminess, and I closed my eyes and enjoyed it. Maybe you will too.

Mind you though, it is no Eleanor & Park. It’s a book that’ll get rid of reality for a few hours, in a complacently pleasant way (if that makes sense).

Note: I received an ARC from Netgalley/Penguin Random House Children’s Publisher. My review is honest and unbiased.

Every Day, by David Levithan

“Where do you want to go?” I ask again. “Tell me, truly, where you’d love to go.”
I don’t initially realize how much hinges on her answer. If she says, Let’s go to the mall, I will disconnect. If she says, Take me back to your house, I will disconnect. If she says, Actually, I don’t want to miss sixth period, I will disconnect. And I should disconnect. I should not be doing this.

But she says, “I want to go to the ocean. I want you to take me to the ocean.”

And I feel myself connecting.”

13262783May I say how much I hate Levithan right now. This man makes me break my book resolutions. And this man not only makes me read books from a genre I dislike (and scoff at), he makes me enjoy them. Worst of all, this man caused a conflict, nay, a war! Just look at this:

Brain: A genderless-bodyless entity that wakes up in a new human body each day. What a premise! This ought to be good.
Heart: Whatever, really.
Brain: Um… This is a love story.
Heart: *indistinct humming*
Brain: OK. Why am I reading this? This is YA. This is romance. Let’s close this and read something else.
Heart: Could you shut. Up. For. One. Minute?
Brain: Beg pardon?
Heart: SHUT UP.
Brain: …

.

Heart: Ohmygod, this is so beautiful, I have tears. I’m crying. This is… awww.
Brain: ???

Heart: *weeps* Oh, A. Oh, Rhiannon.
Brain: Blech. Oh, come on! “It’s the way you looked at me – it couldn’t have been anyone else.” Seriously? That is SO cheesy.
Heart: *sulks* Yeah, okay, just shush.
Brain: !!!

Heart: I have to make a phone call!
Brain: Dontdoanythingstupid!!!
Heart: NO, I really do!
Brain: This is NOT an Adele song!
Heart: Hang yourself, you stupid brain.

Brain: Why aren’t they explaining why A is this smoke entity person thing? Why is this happening? Are there others like this? Can it have feelings? What about the bodies it goes into, why don’t these people notice that entire days from their lives have just gone missing? This makes no sense!
Heart: Really, I couldn’t care less right now.

Brain: OK, that was a weak ending if I ever saw one.
Heart: So what if the ending wasn’t great. It couldn’t have ended any other way.
Brain: I’ll be the judge of that.
Heart: You jealous, emotionless, ROBOT!

*Heart walks off stage, leaving a trail of warm fuzzy feelings behind; brain, feeling useless, dejectedly plops down on a bed*

PS: I have to say though – only Levithan could have pulled this story off. Any other YA author would have turned it into a disaster. Do give it a read for the warm fuzzies. And keep your phone far, far away.

Goodreads | Amazon