Far From the Tree

By Robin Benway

Far from the Tree by [Benway, Robin]

5 out of 5 stars

After teenaged Grace gives birth to a baby girl and gives her up for adoption, she tells her parents that she wants to find her birth mother. They have told her all along that she could do that but what they did not tell her was that she had siblings, a brother and a sister.

Maya is the younger one. She is a sarcastic, quick talking girl who stands out in her family of redheads. She is in a relationship with Claire but even her, she keeps at a distance.

Joaquin is a part of the foster system. He is almost 18 and ready to age out but he is now in a loving home with people who want to adopt him. So why doesn’t he want to be adopted?

As the story unfolds, their bond grows deeper in their search for their birth mother and their fears and secrets are revealed. Will they find what they are looking for?

If you are not in tears at the end of this book, you have no soul. I have no words for you. Your heart will be cut right open as you read their stories. You can see exactly why they act the way they do and you can’t wait for them to realize it. Such great story telling! My dad grew up in the system so stories dealing with it, are always something I tend to be drawn to. It adds some light on what he must have gone through. He too, did not have a loving home until he was a teenager. My heart was with Joaquin and my dad. Even if you are not personally touched by adoption or foster care, this book will pull you in, touch your soul and leave your heart smiling.

One of Us Is Lying

By Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by [McManus, Karen M.]

5 out of 5 stars

Netflix? Get on this right now!

Bronwyn, a brainy girl set on going to Yale, is given detention for having her phone in class. The thing is, it was not her phone but the teacher does not believe her. He also doesn’t believe Cooper, the star athlete, Addy, the beauty, and Nate, I guess you would call the classic delinquent. And then there is Simon. Simon runs a gossip app called About That. He spreads the high school gossip around like butter. When Simon has an allergic attack and things go horribly wrong, the four kids are all suspected of murder. Who is lying and who is telling the truth?

I loved these kids so much. As much as I loved the mystery and the twists, my favorite part was watching all four grow into the people they were meant to be. They throw aside the petty high school cliques and become real friends. Of course, in the back of your mind you are wondering if one of them is the murderer and I am not going to spoil that. I had a feeling that ended up being right, pat myself on the back, but there are a few things that were surprising.  The other characters are so thought out as well, the sisters especially. I loved Maeve’s chutzpah. I had a silly smile on my face at the end. I am sure you will too.

This is such a wonderful debut novel and I cannot wait to see what comes next from Ms. McManus!

 

Turtles All The Way Down

By John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by [Green, John]

4 out of 5 stars

It has been a while since my last book. (Sound like I am going to confession) My son got married and it has been family time. I am so glad I climbed back up on the horse (or should I say turtle) with this book.

I love John Green. I am saying it up front right now. I love John Green’s books. His characters are always so real and you feel as if you are actually in their worlds. Sixteen-year-old Aza’s life is a hard one to live in. She suffers from OCD, among other things, and just trying to live the life of a teen is a hard, hard struggle. When her best friend Daisy wants her to help find missing millionaire Russell Pickett, she is hesitant. Aza went to camp with Davis, Russell’s son, years ago, a camp for kids who have lost a parent. What she doesn’t expect is to find a world outside that she might really like. If only she can let herself.

I cannot imagine living in a world like Aza. Just reading about her thoughts were tiring but to live that everyday. John Green handled it so wonderfully and so gently without making it seem easy or cute. My heart ached for her. It was an eye-opening look into mental illness. The book does have his way with humor between the kids and also his way of making you cry. Damn you, John Green! Loved it and cannot wait for whatever tearful torture he sends me next time.

Aftercare Instructions

By Bonnie Pipkin

Aftercare Instructions: A Novel by [Pipkin, Bonnie]

4 out of 5 stars

17-year-old Genesis and her boyfriend Peter go to the abortion clinic together. She undergoes the procedure and returns later to an empty waiting room. Peter has left. Genesis ends up on the streets of New York , lost in her thoughts, lost in just about everything. She turns to her cousin and eventually is back home facing the aftermath.  Genesis has been through so much in a short time. Her father has passed away, under very sad circumstances, one she tries to hide. Her mother is lost in her own little world, not really wanting to live. Her baby sister has moved in with her grandparents. And now Peter, the one she loves, has abandoned her. She has so much on her plate. Can she find herself, her true self?

My heart just ached for Genesis. Oh, she put on a tough exterior but how anyone could deal with all she dealt with is a miracle. I thought she was written perfectly. I often have trouble reading about angry teens but not this time. I enjoyed the people around her as well, especially Rose and Seth. And I really didn’t even dislike Peter. He had his own issues.  This is a good book for teens to read to understand the enormity of decisions that we make in life. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Goodreads and the review is humbly my own opinion.

 

What To Say Next

By Julie Buxbaum

What to Say Next by [Buxbaum, Julie]

5 out of 5 stars

I am in love. I am in love with Julie Buxbaum’s writing. I am in love with every book she has written. I am in love with this book. But most importantly, I am in love with two characters (I take that back, they are more than characters) named David and Kit. I was in tears at the end of this story and quite a few times during it. My heart is happy.

David is on the autism spectrum. People might say he has Asperger’s but as he will tell you, in the latest edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), instead people are considered to have high-functioning autism.  But people are not linear, they are multidimensional. He carries a notebook where he writes down all his thoughts on everyone in his school and life. It’s a guidebook too, with help from his sister of what to do and not to do.  He is picked on by the “popular” kids. He keeps to himself, walking to class and lunch with his headphones on to drown out the noises. Until one day, Kit sits down next to him. David and Kit and have gone to school together for most of their lives but Kit isn’t usually in his orbit. Kit has her own problems that she is trying to deal with. Her father, David’s dentist, recently died in a car accident. She doesn’t feel like herself anymore but she is surprised to see how good she feels when she talks to the straightforward David. And he begins to feel something too. Oh, my heart can’t take it! As they become closer to each other, David tells her he will help her try and figure out just what happened at her father’s car accident and the Accident Project begins. What will they find out about that and just what will they find out about each other?

If you haven’t read anything by Ms. Buxbaum, why the hell haven’t you?! This is her second YA novel. Her first, Tell Me Three Things, also gave me all the feels. Read it!

You must read this book! You MUST! It is so full of warmth and love and joy and hope. There are some sad parts, yes, I cried. There are some parts that are hurtful and hard to read, yes, I cried but all it’s parts put together make this absolutely one of my very favorite books that I have read this year.

Ms. Buxbaum, you wrote that you hoped that we care about Kit and David as much as you do. Yes we do.

Just Fly Away

By Andrew McCarthy

Just Fly Away by [McCarthy, Andrew]

4 out of 5 stars

Lucy is a regular 15-year-old. She has what she considers a normal family. Her parents are happily married. Her younger sister is rather quiet but very into musicals. She seems to spend most of her time in her room, singing and listening to musicals. Life turns upside down when she overhears her parents talking one night. They sit the family down and tell them that their father is also the father of a little 8-year-old  boy named Thomas. Lucy is thrown. How has her mother stayed with him? Who is her father, really? She separates herself from them, especially her father. She starts a relationship with her friend’s brother Simon, who seems to have some social issues, but is really a good guy. One night, she decides to go by herself to visit her grandfather. He is her dad’s dad and they didn’t have the best relationship. She hops on a train, a bus, a lot goes on to get there. Lucy spends time with a man she hardly knows and when something unexpected happens, things change for Lucy and her father.

Yes, this is THE Andrew McCarthy. I enjoyed his last book, which was nonfiction, and went into this one with a little trepidation. How can a man in his 40’s, speak the words of a teenage girl? I don’t know why I think it would be hard for a man to write in a woman’s voice, when I don’t think it’s hard for a woman to write in a man’s voice. That is my own sexism I suppose. But he did really well with Lucy. There were times I was very upset with the way she acted towards her parents but then again, that happens a lot with teenage girls. (Not mine, thank goodness.) And I had to wonder why she was able to roam all over the town on her own.  (Maybe I was just very overprotective.)  I loved her slow progression into more understanding of everyone involved. I also loved her time with her grandfather. She is at the age where she can start figuring life out for herself. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to her search for that. The chapters are very quick and move the story along at a good pace. I enjoyed it very much and hope he writes more fiction.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Algonquin in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

By Lindsey Lee Johnson

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth: A Novel by [Johnson, Lindsey Lee]

5 out of 5 stars

In lovely Mill Valley, home to some wealthy families,  a group of kids grow up and face their pasts and their futures. The story starts with them in eighth grade, all vying to jockey themselves into some kind of position among the ranks of the classes. There is a tragedy early on and it will just rip your heart out. I almost didn’t want to go on with the book. But once we get past that, the kids are juniors in high school. A new young teacher comes along, not much older than the kids, and she is so idealistic. The other teachers all seem so jaded. Molly  becomes friends with another English teacher who is harboring his secrets. And boy, he is not who he seems at all. The kids have all changed since eighth grade. Cally, Calista now, has become a rather ethereal druggie that seems to float in and around the school. She was front stage and center in the tragedy in eighth grade. Her ex-best friend is trying to get to an Ivy League school, craving her parents’ attention and getting it from someone she shouldn’t. Most of the boys’ parents seem to have their lives planned out for them. Ryan, the jock, sleeps around, not really seeming to care about anyone. Nick, a very smart kid, is selling drugs and taking the SATs for money. Dave isn’t sure what he wants but he knows it’s not what his parents want. Emma wants to dance. Elisabeth isn’t sure what she wants either but with such a flamboyant mother, it’s hard to hide yourself. After an accident, their lives become something else entirely again.

I would not want to be in school these days with all the technology. Some of these kids’ lives were utterly changed by gossip and pictures and posts. They bully without thinking of the consequences for the person they are bullying and even for themselves because eventually, they are the ones who have to live with it. This is a very powerful read. It is sad. It does have some hope. It will make you angry. It will make you think about how to talk to your kids. I think the Most Dangerous Place on Earth is the place that we put ourselves when we try to be something we are not. It’s the place you live in when you don’t know exactly where your place really is.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.