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Category Archives: Contemps Challenge

Book Review: The Mockingbirds

Alex is in her junior year at prestigious Themis Academy and has a lot going for her.  Older sister Casey was a star athlete at the school and Alex has extraordinary musical talent that might just be Juillard-worthy.  So when she wakes up in a boy’s bed knowing she was date-raped, her world screeches to a halt and and she must put her future and stability in the hands of a student organization formed to protect other students and insure that justice is achieved.

When I first read the summary of this novel, I assumed that it would focus on the student organization, The Mockingbirds, and be solely about the greatness that is achieved through what they do on campus.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the novel hones in on protagonist Alex’s emotions and daily life after the rape and during the trial process.  As the reader, you see life through her eyes as she struggles to understand what has happened and her role in it.  You see her becoming both weaker and stronger throughout the judicial process and her recovery from the rape itself.  Her past is revealed in a way that makes her truly come alive as a character.

While there is a fair amount of action in this novel, namely The Mockingbirds enacting their processes, it is not a novel that I would say moves in a fast-paced manner.  However, I found myself turning pages quickly and not wanting to put it down because I wanted to know how justice would be served and how Alex would come through it all.  Even through confusion and conflict, I found myself rooting for her and the students that came alongside her.  Although the ending seemed to resolve abruptly, I was still left satisfied in the resolution and the person that Alex had become.

The Mockingbirds

by Daisy Whitney

Published by Little, Brown

November 2010

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Book Review: Fall for Anything

Eddie Reeves is the daughter of famous photographer and revolutionary Seth Reeves.  She has not followed in her father’s footsteps of being an artist, but is so proud of what her father has accomplished and how much he values art and sharing his work with the world.  When her father commits suicide, she finds herself shocked beyond belief, trying to cope and grieve while her mother refuses to take off her father’s housecoat and can’t seem to move on or understand.  Milo, Eddie’s best friend, seems to be the one helping her through her plethora of emotions, but when an old student of her father’s shows up, Eddie believes he is the answer to finding out the mystery of her dad’s death.

Author Courtney Summers has, unsurprisingly, captured beautifully grief and the darkness surrounding death and suicide.  The pacing, wording and description of emotions are perfectly aligned to bring us a revealing novel, yet not one bogged down and held back by the dark side of experiencing death.  As we follow Eddie throughout the novel, there seems to be no interruptions for clarification of night or day.  The novel flows in a way that it never really matters whether the sun is up or everyone else in the town is sleeping, which puts us directly in the mind of Eddie and her mother, who cannot seem to establish normalcy in their lives, rightfully so.

Besides Eddie and her mother, other dynamic characters in the story shine.  Beth, her mother’s oldest and best friend, is practically living with them and trying to get them down a healthy physical and emotional track, accomplishing little more than driving Eddie away.  With her healthy green-tinted morning shakes and her demands for Eddie to get herself together, it becomes very easy to hate Beth.  Yet the author has not kept her a one-dimensional character, as there is more revealed about Beth that helps us peer into her helpful yet controlling heart.  Culler, Eddie’s father’s former student, is also a character to be mentioned.  As he plays a very important role in the grieving process for Eddie, it is critical for us to understand him, but only to a point, as is revealed towards the end of the novel.  Alongside Eddie, we feel the excitement, confusion and doubt in Culler’s presence.

Although every reader may not experience a death so tragic in their lifetime, Fall For Anything is not one to be missed.  The depth to which the author goes into the psychology and mannerisms of humanity is to be applauded and admired.

Fall For Anything

by Courtney Summers

Published by St. Martin’s

December 2010

This novel satisfies both the Canadian Reading Challenge and the Contemps Challenge.

 

Book Review: Girl Stolen

When sixteen-year-old Cheyenne is kidnapped in her stepmother’s SUV, her captor has no idea that she is in the backseat.  He only intended to jack the car, and is in for the surprise of his life finding out that not only has he kidnapped a girl, but he has kidnapped a blind girl with pneumonia.  Forced to make a decision, her captor takes her to his house and proceeds to fix his mistakes under the watchful eye of his father.

Told in alternating POV, this novel gets in to the minds of Cheyenne and her kidnapper, Griffin.  We learn of how Cheyenne lost her sight, as well as the struggles she has had since then.  Griffin has problems of his own, trying to sort through the reality that is his life, living in a home where stealing is like breathing and violence is a part of everyday life.  Author April Henry has seamlessly brought together these two characters, as the chapters flow together in a way that keeps you turning pages quickly.  At the same time that the characters are woven together, there is also a distinct voice to each of them.  Obviously, Cheyenne is blind and experiences the world in an entirely different way than Griffin.  The distinction between the two voices gives light to how our circumstances hinder us or enable us to see the world differently.  However, each character is seeking survival and strength during this tumultuous time, and this is what brings them together.

The plot of the novel reveals the emotions of the characters, as any good novel should.  However, because the two main characters have such depth to them, it is not just the plot that we follow, but also the revealing of inner struggle, doubt and sacrifice.  When it comes to the plot, the pacing might be a little off, but only in order to continue with the alternating points-of-view.

I feel as if Girl, Stolen should be a completely different experience for each reader.  Though short in page count, there is much depth when it comes to emotion, the reality of life, and human nature.  One could most definitely fly through this novel, getting caught up in the kidnapping aspect of it, rejoicing in triumphs and feeling despair with the characters.  One could also read for the character development, possibly putting aside the fact that the novel is told from the point-of-view of a kidnapper and his victim.  This novel is definitely one that I will read again, trying to glean from it what I can.

Girl, Stolen

by April Henry

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

September 2010

 
3 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2010 in Book Review, Contemps Challenge, YA Books

 

Out With A Bang Readathon

I know, I know, I do readathons a lot.  But since I’m not working full time, and my husband is, I thought, Why not?  This readathon is actually intended to focus on the Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren, for those readers who still need to knock some books out to complete the challenge in 2010.  However, it is not required that you read books for this challenge, so I’m joining in.  Here’s a quick vlog for y’all to find out what I will be reading.  I apologize ahead of time for the poor quality (I’m still getting adjusted to my webcam).

Books mentioned:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Deception by Lee Nichols

Evermore by Alison Noel

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 29, 2010 in Contemps Challenge, Read-a-thon

 

Mini-Reviews: Contemps Challenge and Giveaway

As stated previously, I am participating in the Contemps Challenge, hoping to emphasize to my readers the importance of reading contemporary young adult fiction.  This post features a few books from the Contemps list, as well as my thoughts on the novels and why you should read them.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

After being referred to as The Designated Ugly Fat Friend by resident hottie and male get-around, Bianca is determined to prove him wrong by embracing herself and her group of friends.  But as difficulties come her way, she seems to have no choice but to give in to his suave ways and smooth lips.

Keplinger’s genuine yet profound writing will suck you in from the beginning.  While the novel does move at a fast pace, the reader is given room to contemplate what exactly is happening within the minds and hearts of the protagonist and the people that she cares about.

Freefall by Mindi Scott

Just a few months before the story begins, Seth found his best friend dead after a typical night of drinking and craziness.  This novel follows Seth’s thoughts and actions as he works through the implications of what happened to his best friend, befriending a popular yet seemingly different girl that is his classmate.

I wanted to love this book.  I thought it gave great insight into the minds of teenagers going through the difficulties of life.  The fact that they do struggle with real issues and legitimately hard situations was definitely highlighted in this novel.  I just did not connect with the characters at all, though.  Maybe it is because I don’t remember a lot about high school, nor did I necessarily befriend people of different socioeconomic statuses, sadly.  But because I want the book to be given as many chances as possible and I want to support the Contemps authors, I am giving away a copy of this book.  If you would like a chance to a win a copy of Freefall, leave a comment with your favorite high school memory, as well as your email address.  Contest goes until Saturday, December 18th and winner will be announced on Sunday, December 19th.  Good luck!

 
14 Comments

Posted by on December 13, 2010 in Contemps Challenge, YA Books

 

Book Review: Losing Faith

Brie wants nothing to do with religion.  Her sister Faith wants everything to do with God. Though close in age and formerly close in heart, Brie and Faith are as different as night and day and Brie would like to keep it that way.  Until Faith meets an untimely, suspicious death, and Brie is forced to face the reality of her sisters secret life.

Filled with confrontation and the tackling of touchy subjects such as religious cults and grief, Losing Faith shines a light on the importance of family, honesty, and loving others well.

The plot and background to the plot of this novel are incredibly creative.  Author Denise Jaden has taken a leap of faith (no pun intended) in addressing the subject of religious cults.  The one she introduces in this novel is believable and well-constructed.  The fact that I was awestruck at the actions of the characters involved speaks volumes about her manner of description throughout the story.  Though the foreshadowing is quite obvious, I consider this a necessary aspect of the novel, in order to keep from extreme drama in the end.

Brie’s character, while frustrating in the beginning, does bring resolve in the end.  Her lackadaisical, selfish attitude just disgusted me, especially in the light of her saintly sister.  The situation that Brie finds herself in, however, allows her to change and transform into a character you cannot help but root for.  Her parents, on the other hand, are dry and lifeless.  While the story is focused on Brie and her actions, I do wish the parents could have been a little more dynamic.  Understandably, they are grieving the loss of their favorite daughter, but their involvement could have brought a lot more to the story.

Be prepared for some conflict within yourself if you choose to pick up Losing Faith.  The author tackles tough, necessary issues that we could all stand to take some time considering.

This novel is my first read in the Contemps Challenge, as well as my fifth read in the Canadian Reading Challenge.

Losing Faith

by Denise Jaden

Published by Simon Pulse

September 2010

 

24-Hour Read-A-Thon Final Post

Having finished the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, here are my final numbers:

Books finished: 4 (Losing Faith. Grease Town, Henry Huggins and Betsy-Tacy)

Hours read:  probably around 8

Comments written on readers’ blogs:  10

Pages read: 643

And the first mini-challenge:

Where are you reading from today?

From my comfy little apartment in northeast Kansas.  Will be moving from futon to desk chair to porch chair throughout the 24 hours.  I also might spend some time reading at Bluestem Bistro.

3 Facts About Me:

My favorite genre of book is contemporary YA.

I am addicted to coffee, which comes as no surprise as my husband is a barista at the aforementioned coffee shop.

I am a graduate of Kansas State University, with a bachelor of arts degree in geography.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

7 books, one of which I just finished

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon?

Actually, no, I have not set any goals for myself, but I am concentrating on making progress in my reading challenges, keeping track of number of pages read, and being intentional about leaving comments and cheering others on.

I did not choose to do all mini-challenges, but here is the mini-challenge hosted at Intrepid Reader for Hour Seven, in which we are to describe the setting of one of our favorite books or the books we are reading today.

As I have stated previously, I am participating in the Canadian Reading Challenge, and the book I just finished is a historical fiction novel taking place in Oil Springs, Ontario.  Having spent a few summers in Canada, I enjoy reading novels set in Canadian provinces.  Not only is the topography, natural resources and climate as diverse as the United States, but the culture is rich from province to province.  I am very excited to continue reading novels set in provinces from our northern neighbor.

Books read for my Canadian Challenge: 2, bringing me to 5 out of 13 to read before June

Books read for the Contemps Challenge: 1, bringing me to 1 out of 18

Books read for my Top 100 Challenge: 2, bringing me to 33 out of 100 to read before June

Unfortunately, after my second update, I didn’t participate in any more mini-challenges and only finished one more short book, but I am very happy with my progress.  Now I have a huge stack of books to write up reviews/posts about.  Thanks again to the hosts and cheerleaders which made this Read-A-Thon fantastic for myself.