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.

Every Exquisite Thing

By Matthew Quick

3 out of 5 stars

Nanette O’Hare is at that tough age where you are about to leave high school and aren’t sure if the path you are on is the one you truly want. A beloved teacher gives her a copy of  The Bubblegum Reaper and it changes her life immensely. Her teacher sets up a meeting with the reclusive author and the two start a friendly relationship. Nanette wants answers to all her questions about the book but he doesn’t give them. He does arrange for another kid, Alex, to have dinner with them and the sparks ignite between them. Nanette and Alex have a lot in common, the book anyway, and their relationship works as a catalyst for Nanette to totally change her life. Alex befriends Oliver, a middle school boy who is being bullied, much like Alex was when he was younger. Nanette doesn’t agree with how Alex handles things but this doesn’t seem to slow down their relationship. He is obviously very manic. There is a black cloud hanging over him and you feel that throughout the story. Will they ever find out what the book is really about?

Oh the lovely teen years. That time in life when you just want to fit in or maybe not fit in. You rebel or you don’t. Thank goodness I had a friend that I talked to every night who would tell me that I shouldn’t listen to anyone else. He would ask me why about a lot of things. Everyone needs that friend and maybe Nanette had that with Alex but I felt he was really not a good thing in her life. And quite frankly, it was hard to like Nanette. I enjoyed the book for the most part and then we come to Nanette going to therapy and she starts speaking in the third person. I would scream if someone talked like that all the time. I wanted to scream at the book. It made me want to skip through those parts but it was a big part of the storyline so I couldn’t. I know lots of people loved this book but it was just okay for me.

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

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.