Book Review: Our Year Of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Book: Our Year Of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Published January 2019 by Simon Pulse|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

I was pretty excited about this one after reading You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone.  Our Year Of Maybe was okay, and I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

I didn’t care for Sophie or Peter.  Their friendship didn’t work for me at all and it seemed like she needed him a lot more than he needed her.  I felt like she couldn’t function without him, to the point that she didn’t want to go away for a weekend because she couldn’t see him.  Their friendship seemed really one-sided, and it was strange to me that it was so much on Sophie’s end, considering she was the one who didn’t need a kidney.

I do think it’s awesome that she donated a kidney, even though her parents didn’t seem to agree with her decision.  And we do see Peter struggle with taking her kidney, and feeling like he owes her everything for what she did.  But the fact that he seemed to know she had feelings for him, and didn’t really talk to her about didn’t sit right with me.  It’s fine if the feelings aren’t reciprocated, but he acted like things were fine until he decided to say something.  I don’t know why he didn’t say anything earlier…well, actually I do, and I’m pretty sure it’s the kidney she donated.  But still, I just didn’t like it.

I did want more background on why she decided to donate.  I wasn’t completely sure why she decided to it, especially with her parents not seeming happy about it.  She was 18 when she did it, so I don’t know how much influence they could have had, but I know for me, my grandparents still had a pretty big influence on me, and I would have taken their concerns into account.  But maybe that’s just me.  Still, I would have like more on that.

I thought Sophie was pretty bratty, though.  All she cared about was Peter, and as much as she seemed to love choreography and dance, she seemed to not want to do anything with it unless she could stay near Peter.  I did like seeing her eventually start hanging out with others, but by that point, I just didn’t care.  Also, she was horrible to her sister, who was a teenage mom.  I wish we saw a little more with that, but this book was not about the relationship she had with her sister.

2 stars.  I didn’t particularly like Peter or Sophie, and there were some things that I think needed more information.

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Book Review: Girl Made Of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Book: Girl Made Of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Published May 2018 by HMH Books For Young Readers|295 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

For readers of Girl in Pieces and The Way I Used to Be comes an emotionally gripping story about facing hard truths in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

I absolutely LOVED this book.  It absolutely gutted me and I was a sobbing mess by the end of the book.  It is worth reading.  Please please please let this be one of the books you read this year.  It’s very much a look at rape culture, and please keep that in mind if you do pick up the book- or continue reading this review.

I felt so much for Mara, who doesn’t want to believe that her brother did, but she also wants to believe Hannah, especially since Hannah isn’t the type of person who would make it up.  The way people treated Hannah when she came back to school was horrifying but not surprising, and I’m not surprised that a lot of people seemed to believe it didn’t happen the way Hannah said it did.  And it’s horrifying that charges weren’t pressed, at least partially because Hannah and Owen were dating and because they had sex before.  I was so angry, but again, it wasn’t a surprise.

I loved Hannah’s relationship with Charlie, and they both have their flaws and things they’re dealing with, but they rely on each other to get through it.  I also loved seeing Mara’s relationship with Hannah, and how it changes throughout the book.

Girl Made Of Stars isn’t just about Hannah’s rape- it’s about the trauma Mara experienced when someone she trust took away that trust in a society that doesn’t believe women when they come forward about sexual assault.  Mara’s parents believing Owen didn’t do anything, meant that they would never believe Mara if she told them what happened to her.  You see so clearly how everyone feels and what they think and it’s messy and complicated and you see it so much throughout the book.

I loved everything about this book, as heart-wrenching as it was to read.  I know there is no way I can do this book justice, and I’m having the hardest time putting into words how amazing and powerful this book is.  I’m starting to cry just thinking about how I felt when I read this book, and that’s not something that happens often.

Just make sure this book is one of the ones you read this year.

5 stars.  I cannot think of a single negative thing about this book, and it’s one book I’m glad I picked up.

Book Review: Between The Blade And The Heart by Amanda Hocking

Book: Between The Blade And The Heart by Amanda Hocking

Published January 2018 by Wednesday Books|319 books

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Valkyrie #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Re-Telling- Norse Mythology

Between the Blade and the Heart is the first book in a brilliant new young adult fantasy duology inspired by Norse mythology by New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. The balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

As Malin wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought, she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue-eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. Malin, along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend, must decide where her loyalties lie…and whether helping Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and to her heart.

I didn’t like Between The Blade And The Heart as much as I thought I would.  It is a cool idea, but I thought the mythology and world were more confusing than it needed to be.

Yes, you get a general idea of Malin’s world but I thought that things weren’t explained very well…if they were explained at all.  The book was both futuristic and old, all at the same time, but it didn’t work for me.  I think it just made it seem like Hocking wasn’t sure if she wanted something more traditional or more futuristic.  I think it did need a little more direction, because I felt like most of the time, it was unclear where things were going.

And I didn’t particularly care about the characters…or like them.  I don’t need to like characters to like a book, and sometimes unlikable characters are what make me like a book, but I felt like the characters were superficial and boring.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t care about any of them, or what happened to them.  The book was on the shorter side, so maybe the characters didn’t develop as much as they needed to.

It did move fast, and there was quite a bit of action, but I was bored.  I don’t understand how a book with a lot of action can be boring, but this book was.  Maybe I was bored but I didn’t like or care about the characters.  Maybe it’s just me, and not the book.

Going back to the mythology, I did like seeing Valkyries!  It’s not something you see a lot in fantasy/paranormal, and you do see some other paranormal beings that you don’t typically see.  So that was nice, but like I mentioned before, things weren’t explained very well.  I’m not too familiar with Norse mythology (or anything else we see in the book, in terms of supernatural/paranormal beings), so it’s possible that having that knowledge would have made a difference.  Still, I felt like some of the basics should have been explained, because I was left feeling confused and bored.  I know I picked up this book up because it sounded really cool, and not everyone reading this book is going to have enough knowledge of Norse mythology to know what’s going on.

2 stars.  This book was okay, and while I wanted to like it more, I couldn’t.  It had a lot of potential, but it wasn’t the book for me.

Book Review: Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Book: Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Published April 2018 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray|339 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Creekwood #2

Genre: YA Contemporary

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

After reading Simon a couple of years ago, and reading The Upside Of Unrequited earlier this year, I was looking forward to reading this one.  I just didn’t like it as much as I wanted to, and for whatever reason, I wasn’t as into the book as I wanted to be.

I’m kind of wondering if I should have re-read Simon first, just to get back into this world.  I mean, it is a stand-alone, but I think it would have been helpful to read Simon first for a refresher, because there’s a lot I didn’t remember, and I felt like there was some history I was forgetting.

I didn’t particularly care for the romance in the book.  It felt forced, and initially, I thought the relationship between those two seemed to be based on jealousy.  And the way Leah to this particular character was frustrating because it didn’t feel like it was good enough for Leah.

I didn’t like Leah in this book, but I’m clearly in the minority on this one, since a lot of people really like her.  If reviews are indication.  I thought she was horrible to a few of the characters (and I did think some of them didn’t deserve it).  Still, one of the few things I did like about her was how she felt uncomfortable because she and her mom didn’t have the financial stability her classmates seemed to have.  For some reason, that made her seem like an actual person.  She wasn’t really easy to relate to prior to that moment.

It also seemed like a lot happened off-page.  We never find out certain things- like people’s reactions to the new couple, and Simon being nervous to talk to Bram about wanting to go to a different school, but things are magically fine.

Leah On The Offbeat ended up being okay, and it wasn’t all that memorable.  I’m having a hard time talking about it because I can’t remember what happened in the book, and I only finished it a few days ago.  Apparently, it’s a pretty forgettable read.

2 stars.  I don’t remember enough to actively dislike it, and there were a few parts I liked, but it wasn’t enough to actually get me to like it.