Book Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Book: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Published April 2014 by Walker Childrens|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own.

Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

I’ve been in a YA contemporary mood lately, and I figured Open Road Summer was a great choice for my next read. Even though I didn’t love it the way I loved her other books, I still really liked it.

I liked Reagan and Lilah, and they have such a great friendship.  Lilah’s tour was definitely an adventure for both of them, and I think it was a great way for the two girls to get away.  Reagan in particular seemed to have a lot going on, and things with her stepmother, while rocky, seemed to get at least a little bit better at the end of the book.  At the very least, Reagan seems to understand her a little bit better.

There are a lot of ups and downs over the summer, and I liked seeing Reagan and Lilah navigating the tour and fame and how it changed and affected their friendship.  I liked that they have each other, and that it didn’t change their friendship drastically.

I loved that Lilah was the same Lilah mentioned in one of Lord’s other books, and that the t.v. show that Reagan watches is mentioned in another one of Lord’s books.  It just makes me feel like her books are all set in the same universe, and I hope we see things like this in her other books.  It’s a nice touch, and I’m not sure why I like it so much but I do.

It definitely made me cry at the end, and if I need a good cry, her books are always a good choice.  This book was no exception, but not to the degree that her other books did.  I did like it, just not as much as I thought I would.  And not as much wanted to.  Still, it has the complicated family relationships, romance and friendships that I’ve come to know and love, and she’s great at writing very complicated relationships.

4 stars.  I really liked it but I didn’t love it.  I also wish I had a lot more to say about Open Road Summer, but I don’t.   It’s worth checking out, especially if you like books about road trips!

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Book Review: Love And Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Book: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Published May 2018 by Simon Pulse|303 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.

I loved this book!  I loved it a lot more than Love & Gelato, and I’m glad I picked this one up!

Love & Luck (like Love & Gelato) had this Anna And The French Kiss sort of feel.  I’m not sure why I’m reminded of Anna, but I think it’s the girl in a different country part of it.  Addie was mentioned in Love & Gelato, and this book focuses on her.  Lina does make an appearance later on in the book, and it was nice to see her.

To be honest, I’m not sure why I loved this one more than Gelato, but I did.  There’s something about the relationship she has with her brothers, especially with Ian.  I loved seeing Rowan take her on all of these adventures based on a guidebook Addie found while Ian was off doing his own music-related things.  It wasn’t the trip Addie expected, but I think it was a good adventure for her.  I liked that things were able to get better with her brother, and they definitely have a good friend in Rowan.

I really liked the way she explored Ireland, and it’s definitely different, but I think it worked for what Addie needed.  I wish we had seen a little bit more of Ireland, but overall, I didn’t mind it.  I think it’s because Ian and Addie (even if Addie didn’t necessarily realize it at the time), had something in mind for what they wanted to do.

Ian obviously had his own plans, which ended in a music festival.  While the indie music obsessed characters can be a little tiring at times, I didn’t mind in this book because Ian wasn’t a main character.  His adventures led to Addie’s adventures, and I really liked seeing her adventures.

5 stars.  I loved this book, and it was fun and cute and what I needed.

Book Review: A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Book: A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Published October 2018 by HarperTeen|320 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

I really liked this book!  When I heard she was coming out with another book, I knew I had to read it, especially since her Shatter Me series is pretty awesome.  I was curious to see what a YA contemporary written by Mafi would like, and it didn’t disappoint!

I really liked Shirin, and I thought she was a great character.  I understood where she was coming from, and she was pretty guarded.  I don’t blame her for being so guarded, and I probably would be too if I had to deal with everything she had to deal with.  We feel her isolation and how different she feels, and we see how people make assumptions.  I also don’t think I’ve seen a character who liked break-dancing, and it’s different in a good way.

I loved the relationship she had with her brother, and with the other guys in their break-dancing club.  Shirin and her brother are very different people but I liked their bond.  He’s a great character, and while we see him quite a bit, I wish we saw more of him.  He’s definitely one of my favorite characters.

I think I would have been fine without the romance- it didn’t really do anything for me, especially since Shirin was dealing with people’s stereotypes and racism in a post-9/11 world while Ocean’s biggest concern was not wanting to be on the basketball team anymore.  I get they have very different experiences and things going on in their lives, and I do appreciate that dating Shirin was eye-opening to what other people are going through, but I felt like they were at very different points.

And while I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, I think I might have been at least somewhat okay with it had it happened.  But maybe not, considering I would have been fine without the romance.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, and wanting Shirin to be with anyone else.  Yusuf had a lot of potential as a character (not just a love interest for Shirin), and I wish we saw more of him.

4 stars.  I really liked A Very Large Expanse Of Sea, and this book is worth checking out, even if Shatter Me was not your thing.  It’s beautiful and heart-breaking, and Shirin was amazing.

Book Review: Love And Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Book: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Published May 2016 by Simon Pulse|389 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

I went into this book thinking it sounded cute but not sure I’d like it.  Especially since I picked it up on a whim at the library.  But I ended up really liking it!

I wasn’t surprised by a lot of the story- when her mom started talking about this guy, I knew he’d be her dad, and she’d go off to live with him.  I was a little bit surprised by the life-changing secret, but thinking about it now, it should have been a little more obvious.

I liked seeing her learn more about her mom, and seeing her discover Italy.  I expected more gelato, considering it’s in the title, but Lina had a lot of adventures in Italy.

Something about it made me think of Anna And The French Kiss.  Maybe it’s a girl exploring a new country and falling in love and learning more about herself, but there was something about Love & Gelato that made me think of Anna.  I think this book could be a cute book for fans of Anna, but maybe that’s just me.

I love how connected she was to her mom, and how the journal helped her deal with the loss of her mom.  She learned a lot about her mom’s time in Italy, and she met some really cool people along the way.  Things weren’t what she expected, and I really liked seeing her become more open to staying with people her mom trusted and liked and being more open to staying in Italy, even when she was initially just planning to stay there for a few months and trying to get back to the U.S.

Other than what I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have much else to say about Love & Gelato.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I wasn’t expecting to!  It’s cute and fun Lina is a really cool character.

Book Review: All The Rage By Courtney Summers

Book: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Published April 2015 by St Martin’s Griffin|321 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, and it’s one of those books that have been pretty hyped.  Unfortunately, for me, it didn’t live up to the hype, and it didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it.

We see Romy after her rape, and how she’s treated.  No one believes her, and she’s ostracized and punished for speaking up and saying something.  People are terrible to her, and it seems like the entire town is against her.  Especially when something something happens to one of her classmates- and they all wish it had been her instead. I wasn’t expecting things to end the way they did and I hated seeing how no one cared about what she went through.  I was angry at how people treated her, and it’s sad and horrible that there are so many others who have experienced what Romy experienced.

What I thought was interesting was that we don’t really get what happened before- we know she said something, because of how she’s treated by her classmates and some of the people in town.  It seems like her mom and her stepfather know but it’s not clear what they do know.  Well, who I’m assuming is her stepfather, since it’s not explicitly stated what their relationship is, and it seems like this guy is not her biological father, but it’s hard to say, since it’s never clearly mentioned what happened.

At any rate, we don’t know if there were charges pressed or if she went to the police, or if she just told people what happened.  We don’t get that story, and all we know is that something happened, and it might have happened to other girls as well.

I think that was one of my problems with the story.  I don’t need every single detail, but I wish we at least had a little background or a vague idea of what happened.  What happened to her was horrible, and the aftermath was horrible, but I think have a little bit of what happened what have gone a long way.

The timeline was also really weird, and it jumps from now to two weeks earlier to after, and the timeline of when things happened was never really clear for me.  It made it hard to follow what happened.  Everything’s jumbled, and maybe that fits with what’s going on with Romy, but it made things confusing to me.

It also felt like the summary didn’t match what actually happened in the book.  Kellan barely showed up in the book, and I felt like we didn’t see Romy struggle with speaking up or staying silent.  I felt like the book described is not the book we got.

It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend this book, because it worked for a lot of people.  I wish I were one of them, but I do think there are better books out there that deal with the same subject matter, like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Some Boys by Patty Blount.

2 stars.  This book didn’t work for me, but I can see why people love it so much.

Mini Reviews: The Last Four Books I Read For My YA Book Club

I just realized that I never talked about the last few books I’ve read for the YA book club I’m part of!  Now seems like a good time to talk about them.  At least a little, because I’m really fuzzy on a couple of them, since a couple are from a few months ago.  Hopefully, I’ll get a little better about actually reviewing them, but we shall see.

First, there’s Roar by Cora Carmack.  We read this one back in August, and is the only one I didn’t finish, and I didn’t particularly like the love interests.  I thought they were pretty terrible guys, and while I liked the magic, that was pretty much it.  I think there were a few different perspectives that weren’t done well, but I could be wrong, and confusing it with a different book.  I tried to keep reading, but I just couldn’t.  And I couldn’t figure out why it seemed so familiar, and then I realized I tried to read it about a year ago, and it was a DNF then.  I figured I’d try it again, but this read wasn’t any better.

In September, we read Anger Is A Gift by Mark Oshiro.  I liked this one, and I was crying by the end of it.  Usually, I love books where I end up crying, but not for this one.  I didn’t really feel the main characters anger, and he had anxiety, but the anxiety sort of disappeared a little bit into the book.  Parts of it felt really sci-fi- the tech the police had felt really futuristic, which didn’t fit with the book.  I think, if I hadn’t read books like The Hate U Give first, I think I would have liked it a lot more.  I did like seeing how Moss and his friends wanted to make a difference.  I’d rate this book 3 stars.

The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White is my favorite of the books we’ve read so far.  We read it in October, and it’s a great Halloween/October read.  I’ve never read the original Frankenstein- I tried but couldn’t get through it- but maybe one day I can actually finish it.  It would be interesting to see how much she drew from Frankenstein.  I didn’t like Elizabeth at first, but as we got more into the story and her world, I really liked her, and understood why she acted the way she did.  It was more historical/horror/thriller than I thought it would be, but I still loved it.  It was creepy and I can’t wait to read it again.  My rating is 5 stars.

The last book I really wanted to talk about was Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf.  We read it last month, and I ended up really liking it.  I liked the world, and even though I was expecting it to be an Evil Queen origin story, I was still really surprised by the ending.  I can’t wait to read the next one to see where things are going to go.  There was a point where I wanted Zera to the opposite of what she actually did, but at least for now, I’m curious to see how it will play out, even though she didn’t do what I really hoped she would do.  My rating is 4 stars.

That’s all for today, and I’ll definitely be back with more reviews!

Book Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Book: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Published September 2018 by Imprint|384 pages

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

Series: A Blade So Black #1

Genre: YA Contemporary/YA Re-Telling

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

I really liked A Blade So Black!  It’s a really cool re-telling of Alice In Wonderland, and I really liked McKinney’s take on the story.

I’m not going to lie, for a while I thought her dad (and his death) were connected to the Nightmares, and everything going on with Wonderland.  I really thought, at least for a while, there was going to be a connection between the two.  Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, and even though it didn’t go this way (and it probably won’t for the rest of the series), part of me really wants there to be more of a connection between the two.

I really liked seeing Alice struggle with having to leave to fight Nightmares, and leaving her family and friends behind.  She disappears for random periods of time, and you see how much it affects her friendships (particularly with a very high-maintenance best friend) and a mom who worries when Alice disappears and doesn’t answer her phone, it’s because she was killed.

Alice was a little bratty at times, and I don’t blame her mom for being concerned about Alice, especially when a neighborhood girl was killed.  I definitely see where her mom is coming from, and a kid like Alice would drive me crazy.  It’s hard, because I know what’s going on with Alice, and why she keeps disappearing.  But I still really felt for her mom.

It did take me a while to get into the book, and it didn’t get really interesting until the end of the book.  I’m very intrigued by this Wonderland, and I wanted more of it.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of it in the rest of the series, especially with how things ended.  It was slow and a little choppy at times, but overall, it did keep my interest until the end.

4 stars.  Even though the book didn’t get really good until the end, I’m still interested enough to continue on with the series.  I’m hoping we get to see more of Wonderland, because I did like the glimpses of it that we saw.

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Book: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Published September 2018 by Balzer + Bray|285 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary/Re-telling

Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

I really liked this one!  I wish I hadn’t waited so long to review it, because I am a little fuzzy on the details, but I’ll do my best.  It’s not the first time I’ve waited a few weeks to review a book, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

Anyway, onto the actual review!  I really liked it, and I knew I had to read this one.  Pride And Prejudice is one of my favorite books, and after reading American Street (also by the same author), I was really looking forward to reading this one.  It didn’t disappoint, and it was a great re-telling!

I really liked Zuri, and how much she loves her neighborhood.  It was obvious, throughout the book, that her family was important to her, as was going to college.  I really loved that, and I loved the relationships she had with her sisters.  I do wish we saw more of her relationship with her sisters, because they do seem pretty awesome, from what we see of them.  Zuri is fierce but judgmental, and she’s a character I think people will either love or hate.  I’m having a hard time seeing a middle ground with her but maybe that’s just me.  And anything is possible.

I also liked seeing Zuri realize that the Darcy family isn’t as bad as she thought.  She changes her mind about Darius, and even Ainsley is different by the end of the book.

I thought it was a great re-telling, and though it’s been quite a while since I read the original, it was fun seeing how it matched up with the original.  From the characters, to how the story was told, it was overall a great story.  I loved seeing it set it New York, and in a more current time.  We see how gentrification affected her neighborhood, and it’s woven throughout the novel so well.

It does stand on its own really well, and even if you haven’t read Pride And Prejudice, Pride is definitely worth reading.

4 stars.  I didn’t love, but I really enjoyed this modern update for one of my favorite books.

Book Review: Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Book: Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Published September 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books|330 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Based on interviews with young women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, this poignant novel by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani tells the timely story of one girl who was taken from her home in Nigeria and her harrowing fight for survival. Includes an afterword by award-winning journalist Viviana Mazza.

A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone—her mother, her five brothers, her best friend, her teachers—can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach.

But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told. Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.

I thought Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree was okay. I really wanted to like it more, and even though I liked the overall story, how it was told didn’t work for me at all.

I thought the chapters were really short, and I felt like I was reading snapshots of what was going on. The feeling of reading snapshots felt particularly true for this story because each chapter tended to be anywhere from 1-4 paragraphs. I had a hard time connecting to what was going on because I felt like I didn’t have enough time to get into everything that was happening to our unnamed narrator. I felt like I didn’t have time to really process what was going on, even though I knew our narrator, and the girls she lived with, were dealing with a lot of things. Maybe it was meant to show that they didn’t have time to process what was going on. In the case of our unnamed narrator, she knew what was going on was horrible, and she wanted to get out, while the girls around didn’t. Of course, I can’t say for sure if that’s what the author was going for, but I am wondering if maybe that was the case.

I don’t recall our narrator ever being named, and even though what she went through was horrible, I felt really distanced from what was going on. What she went through was horrifying, and it’s even worse because we see her hopes and dreams and her relationships, and you see how what the Boko Haram did changed all of that. Sadly, this was something I didn’t know happened and that it was something that happened recently.

The headlines and news stories you see, particularly at the beginning of the book, worked really well for me. It really highlighted how we might not pay attention to global news. I know I don’t, and it’s sad that it takes books like these to show how little I know of the world around me. It was also sad to see that the world went on like normal while these girls were dealing with being held hostage by these ruthless, cruel men.

It doesn’t shy away from how these girls are brainwashed and indoctrinated into this group and what they believe. There’s violence and sexual abuse (please keep that in mind if those are triggers for you) and you do experience the loss that our narrator does, because you do see everything through her eyes. She, and the men in Boko Haram, are unnamed, which worked pretty well. I did find it frustrating at times, particularly because I had a hard time connecting with our narrator. But it did work because in not naming her, she could be anyone.

I did like the author’s note at the end, though. It explained what happened to the real-life girls that inspired this book, and you get a lot more in depth about what’s been going on with the Boko Haram. It was clear, even before reading the afterword, that Nwaubani did her research. It shows in what all of these girls went through. Even though the book ends not too long after our narrator gets rescued, there was part of me that wanted to see what her life was like after that point. I thought it was open-ended, which is fine, but I wanted a little more closure. Thinking about it now, it seems a little silly, since there probably wasn’t a lot of closure in real life for these girls.

2 stars. I wanted to like this more than I did. The short chapter length didn’t work for me at all, but I thought the author did a great job at showing the horrors these girls went through, and how this group took away so much from countless women and girls.

Book Review: The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Book: The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Published January 2015 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers|272 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

I liked The Boy In The Black Suit.  Like with all of Reynold’s other books, I wanted to like it more than I actually did.

I did like how Matt and his dad were grieving, and also the community that they have.  Matt definitely wasn’t alone, and losing a parent can be hard.  Matt’s fascination was funerals was one of the more unique elements of the book, and while I thought it was slightly weird, it also seemed to help him feel less alone.  It’s different, but it seemed to work, especially when he met Lovey.

I’ll admit, I had a hard time believing that it would be totally okay for a teen to be working at a funeral home.  Granted, he’s helping set things up, and isn’t actually doing anything with the bodies, but still.  It was something I had a hard time believing, and I couldn’t quite get over that.  It did seem to be good for him, and he’s lucky to have a great boss.

And it’s how he really met and got to know Lovey, who’s a great character.  I liked her, and I liked seeing how she wanted to continue with some of the things her grandma did, like Thanksgiving dinner at the shelter.  The connection between Lovey and Matt was unexpected, and I expected it to cause some issues with them, but it really didn’t.

It did end abruptly, in my opinion, but…sometimes life is abrupt and weird, and it somehow seemed to fit the book. Still, I wanted a little more closure than what we got with the ending.  It’s a perfectly fine ending, and it does go with the book, but I think I just wanted something a little more from the ending.

3 stars.  I liked Matt, and he definitely deals with the death of his mother in an interesting way.  It made the book stand out, because you don’t usually see teens who are fascinated with funerals.  Even though I only liked it, I think it’s a good read, particularly if you like Jason Reynolds.