Tell Me Three Things

By Julie Buxbaum

5 out of 5 stars

When I think of picking up a new book by Julie Buxbaum, I smile. I read her two books, The Opposite of You and After You, in record time. I smile just thinking about them. I smile just thinking about this wonderful new book. I would put a thousand smiley, hearty emojis across the top of this review, if I could. My heart was smiling as I turned the last page.

Jessie’s world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has passed away and 733 days later (she keeps count), she is whisked away from Chicago to Los Angeles to live with her father’s new wife, one she didn’t even know about. He met her online in a support group and they are now married. She has a very flamboyant stepbrother who doesn’t even look at her and now she has to start her junior year in high school in a new, very preppy, very exclusive school. Her first day doesn’t go well and she’s feeling extremely low when she gets an email from Somebody Nobody. He says he saw her and thought she would need someone to help her navigate this new world. He won’t say who he is and at first, she’s apprehensive because what if it’s one of the snobby mean girls playing a trick on her? She decides to trust him. He helps her make friends and their conversations are just so sweet. They start telling each other three things about themselves. As she wonders if she will ever meet him, she starts wondering just who he is. Is it Liam? The boy who works with her at the bookstore? Is it Caleb, a senior and friend of Liam.s? Is it Ethan? Oh, she wants it to be Ethan. Ethan is the guy she is working on her English paper with. There is just something mysterious about him. All the while, Somebody Nobody helps her find herself in her new home and surroundings.

Love, love, love, love this book. I turned that last page and I had a smile on my face and a few tears running down my cheek. You will just love these characters. I had to stop myself from looking ahead to see just who he was. That was difficult for me but I loved following them along throughout the whole book. Amazing job on your first YA book, Julie Buxbaum. Now I am going to make like Billy Idol and cry “More, More, More”!

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

By Cynthia Hand

4 out of 5 stars

The feels! I am still feeling them this morning after reading until 12:30 last night.

Lex is a very smart teenager with big plans for MIT and being in love and all those wonderful teenage things. But then….her dad leaves her mom for his secretary and the family changes. But then….her younger brother Tyler kills himself in the garage. If only they knew. If only.

Lex breaks up with her boyfriend. She retreats within herself. Her mother starts drinking a bit and taking pills. They co-exist and don’t really let anyone else in. Her mother starts having Lex see someone. Dave tells her to write things down, whatever they may be. She balks at first but she starts writing slowly but surely. She starts seeing Ty in the house. She dreams of him dying in different ways every night. There is something she hasn’t told anyone. There is something she blames herself and her boyfriend for.

There is such honesty in the grieving process in this book. It’s not all neat and tidy. Lex is a tough nut to crack. She is not used to dealing with feelings on the usual level. She’s so smart that she’s almost clinical at times. It was so interesting to watch her go through letting go and letting people in. I loved when she reconnected with an old friend. All her friends were great characters. And the tears. I shed many. I also laughed. These characters had a wicked sense of humor. I believe that we must find laughter even in the face of loss.

This is a beautifully written book about family, heartbreak, love and death. I would recommend it to teens, for sure, and all us teens at heart.

Everything, Everything

By Nicola Yoon

5 out of 5 stars

I am on a roll! The past two books I have read have been some of best books I’ve read this year.

Madeline has a rare disease, think the bubble boy, and has spent her life encased in her home with her mother and nurse. When Olly moves next door, her interest is piqued and she watches his family. Olly and his sister bring over a bundt cake but aren’t allowed in and this piques Olly’s curiosity. He begins a series of pantomimed deaths  with the unbreakable bundt cake that Maddy watches through the window. A friendship is struck and they start emailing and chatting with each other. Maddy invites him over and her nurse lets him in, following protocol, but things go further for the two of them. Their romance starts off a chain of events that changes everyone in the story.

Oh the joy and heartbreak of young love. You may think this is one of those “sick girl meets boy and falls in love then sadness” books but it is so much more than that. The ending threw me for a loop! And I think that was the icing on a very delicious cake. The story is told in Maddy’s voice but also with emails, pictures, short book reports. Very cleverly, I might add. I loved how The Little Prince was incorporated into the story. I just loved this book period!

I happily received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll Give You the Sun

By Jandy Nelson

4 out of 5 stars

This books is filled with so many different emotions, from first love to death, to anger and to forgiveness. It really takes you all over the emotional gamut.

Noah and Jude are twins and as close as you always hear that twins are. They can communicate with only a few words. They have their own games like I’ll give you this for that. (Hence the title) They are both getting to that awkward age at 13 where they are discovering feelings for others and finding competition between themselves for their mother. Noah is an incredible artist. He sees everything in colors. He sees words in colors. He’s constantly creating pictures in his mind. He’s also in love with the new boy who’s moved down the street. Jude is rebelling against her mother and her believed favoritism for her brother. Wen tragedy strikes the family, they lash out at each other and create a rift that might never be healed.

The story is told as Noah is 13 and everything leading up to the split. It’s also told in present day in Jude’s voice at 16. She’s searching, for what, she’s not sure, but it leads her to a reclusive sculptor who just might hold the answers to everything.

This is so beautifully written. My heart just broke for Noah as he tried to feel “normal” and find that he was worthy of any relationship he had. Jude was a little tougher so I didn’t find myself feeling as sorry for her until everything kind of fell into place. I was upset by the anger they took out on each other, knowing just how much they truly loved each other and really loved their parents. I will definitely read more from Jandy Nelson.

Love Letters to the Dead

By Ava Dellaria

4 out of 5 stars

One of Laurel’s first assignments in her English class for her first year of high school is to write a letter to someone who is deceased. Laurel writes a letter to Kurt Cobain because he was her sister’s favorite singer and her sister May passed away. But Laurel doesn’t just stop at writing to Kurt Cobain, she writes to Judy Garland, Elizabeth Bishop, Amelia Earhart, River Phoenix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Allan Lane (the voice of Mr. Ed), ee cummings and John Keats. With each letter, a different side of Laurel comes out and a lot of secrets are revealed. Laurel’s mother moved to California after May’s death and Laurel splits her time between living with her dad and her Aunt Amy.

Laurel’s letters become a kind of therapy for her and each letter really embodies who she is writing to and how they parallel her own life. She becomes friend with Natalie and Hannah. Her relationship with them opens her up and them as well. She also falls for a boy named Sky. Sky seems to see the real Laurel.

This is really a lovely book. Your heart breaks for Laurel, especially when her deepest secrets are revealed. You just hope that the letter writing brings her the healing that she really deserves. It’s so sad how everyone blames themselves for the actions of others and that’s hard to let go but Ava Dellaira has found a wonderful way for Laurel to open up. It’s very original and had me in tears by the end.