Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall // Satisfying and Quick, Though Not As Good As Her Others

Saturday, 30 July 2016 2 comments
Been Here All Along, by Sandy Hall
Publication: August 30, 2016, by Swoon Reads
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do.
Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong…

My Thoughts:

This is extremely cute and fluffy, just like everything Sandy Hall has previously written. I admire Sandy SO MUCH for taking a risk with this new release (that will be out in a month!) by writing a LGBT romance. In her past two novels, we experience a straight boy-girl romance and I swooned. This time? I could say I completely began swooning again because Hall's writing is just adorable and satisfying. Once you begin reading her work, you feel obligated to finish it in the same sitting that you began it. I would pick this one to read during a time where you're just seeking a quick, nice story that will make you smile. If you don't end up smiling during the time you've been reading this, you're a very mean person. Seriously. Been Here All Along is a story that really has been there with you all along, because somewhere deep down, you have been seeking a story about two gay/bisexual best friends who unexpectedly fall in love.

Something lovely that Sandy Hall does time after time is write without an instant romance. I really thank her for that. I find that these days, books that are imprinted and are stamped with the genres "contemporary" and "romance" seem to almost always have instalove. I honestly rather have a love triangle than instalove. Just like with Signs Point to Yes, we have a relationship between two people who have known each other for the longest time, since childhood. That's something believable. As usual, Sandy Hall's writing is completely believable, and I couldn't stop reading and creating a film in my head, clear images of what each character—Ruby, Gideon, Kyle and Ezra—looks like and how their personalities actually come to life. 

This, as mentioned before, is about a pair of characters, Gideon and Kyle, who have known each other since they were five. Gideon is legitimately your perfect character (somehow even too perfect, which I'll get to later), who cares so much about schoolwork and organization. Kyle has his own schoolwork issues of his own (which was a true highlight of this story), and he is dating the most popular girl in his senior class, Ruby. He reveals to her that he is bisexual, and soon after that, Gideon realizes that he is developing feelings for his best friend. 

I felt so bad for this pair of characters, friends. SO MUCH SADNESS. Hall really explores the LGBT world well and explores the struggles of people realizing their true feelings. I really loved how this was a gay romance, instead of our average straight thing. I occasionally read LGBT romances, and this is seriously a great one, minus Gideon's character, who I really disliked.

Gideon and I would not be great friends. He has the personality of people who annoy me in reality: the uttermost craziest perfectionists. I am an overachiever, I am a true perfectionist, I love school... but I do not take my adoration of work to the extent that Gideon did in the book. He keeps complimenting himself and thinks that he's perfect, minus the whole gay thing. His family was too perfect, unlike Ruby's family, who is having issues with money, or Kyle's family, having to deal with Kyle's learning disabilities. Every family had something to debate with, minus his. And his personality is so annoying and ugh. His character didn't go well with my likings. Kyle, on the other hand, was adorable and I loved how Hall explored his personal demons. She took it to a real, eyesight level where we were able to see the initial, middle and ending steps of him discovering what is going on with him. Yay. 

I really don't have much more to say about this book other than the fact that it's really short and enjoyable. Sandy Hall writes about a high school experience for the first time, and she did it pretty well, minus occasional cheesiness. We have our popular group, our nerds, the cheerleaders and football players. Of course, there is also a huge dilemma on the subject of drama, which gets a little out of hand. I am in high school, and I would like to admit that the experience really isn't like what the book is about. I've read many books similar to this (with similar drama, I mean) and it isn't anything special or different, to be honest. I truly do wish it turned out to be a longer, more broad (and explored) story, because it HAD THE POTENTIAL TO BE 500 PAGES. It just... stopped and ended up with a predictable ending, nothing major.

Been Here All Along explores a friend-to-couple romance, that throws away the cheesy, predictable instalove romance that don't really end up swoon-worthy in the end. I hated Gideon, but loved Kyle and the rest of the side characters who made this quick, enjoyable story up. Most of all, Hall, as always, explores some themes that many authors never choose to touch on—like learning disabilities, perfectionism and LGBT romances with your best friend. This is so, so real and I could just picture Kyle and Gideon in their New Jersey town right now, speaking Elvish and watching Lord of the Rings.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is your favourite LGBT romance? What do you think of fluffy romances with best friends?

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky // Hilarious But Real

Friday, 29 July 2016 0 comments
Kill the Boy Band, by Goldy Moldavsky
Publication: February 23, 2016, by Point
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher

Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying.
We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him—his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets.
We were not planning on what happened next.
We swear.
From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make—or break—the people we call “celebrities.”

My Thoughts:

This is literally the funniest book that you will ever read. With all of the fandoms, bands and fangirls out there today, and how "Tumblr" or hipster these things have become, more hipster than wearing pink or wearing lip gloss, this is the best book for the modern age. When I grabbed a copy at BookExpo America last year, I knew that I would be in for a good, entertaining read. I was definitely correct. This is such a hilarious, though honestly real book that I could imagine seeing on the news right now. A group of fangirls running after a hot boy band in New York City? That's absolutely hilarious, and I would buy this book for every single teenage girl in the world. This is a mystery, absolutely, but from the start, it was very not-serious and everything was like a joke... until it wasn't. Goldy Moldavsky intelligently uses a boy band to create a mystery with a group of girls who each have their own adorable personality and who just form this book perfectly. I loved each of the personalities and their HUGE obsessions with this hot band based on One Direction called The Ruperts. 

So there was this slight transition as us readers kept reading. We began reading a kind of fan-fiction like thing where we expected all characters to be merrily happy with their lives and all BFFs forever. We see that a lot on Wattpad and it could get really annoying. GUYS. AND THEN THE MURDER MYSTERY COMES TO LIFE. How? I do not know, Moldavsky just implanted it together and my life just became complete. I finished this in a sitting and I loved the plot, characters and every bit of this. I couldn't take it seriously at times, but when I did, this was simply fabulous.

Kill the Boy Band makes us think that the characters are psycho-maniacs who are so obsessed with this band. That's true. And the best thing is that I could honestly relate to this book. Would you care to listen to the bands/singers I was a crazy fan of back in the day? Let's begin! *says too cheerfully* Taylor Swift, One Direction, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus... Guys, it was serious. I wanted to go to all of these artists' concerts, and I frankly remember my first arch of sadness when I wasn't able to get tickets to One Direction's Up All Night tour. Ah, good times, good times. I FREAKED OUT. I loved those guys to death and I can totally relate to their situation, though don't think I would ever turn this to some murder investigation.

It just made my day, you know? There is no books like this in the world, and there will never be. We have a groovy (that word just makes me feel so old) set of teenage girls us our entertainers, quite diverse if you ask me, and a protagonist whose name we never even really discover. Sloane is a cover, just letting you know. Using something that's so in, creating a thriller-like thing out of it, with comedic moments and drama that Gossip Girl would definitely approve, everyone needs to purchase this dark story.

I guess the only romance you would be able to imagine is one between one of the girls and one of the members of the band, if they ever found/met them after staying in the same NYC hotel as them. Yeah, the chicks did find the guys, but they held them hostage (at least, one of them) and one gets murdered and stuffed into a suitcase, leaving the girls having to deal with the situation. It's utter chaos. There is no real romance. Our heroine does try to make something happen, but it's a hallucination, sadly and happily. I would barf if it did occur because come on, when in the world would a singer date a fan? FANGIRLS, PLEASE DON'T ARGUE WITH ME. You all know this is true. *giggles*

I loved the fact that this was so fast-paced. One minute we're laughing out loud, being so shocked that this book exists in the YA section of our bookstores, and the next, we're biting our nails, wondering who the murderer could be. Because obviously, it could be any of the girls in the room at the time. We are seriously stunned in the end when things come together. The girls could seriously be the end of this band, which makes us readers rethink our stalker-like actions with bands. I don't think we would want to break One Direction up, would we? (Although I'm feeling that they may be over already. Heh). 

Kill the Boy Band is lovely. Absolutely memorable and such a treasured ARC in my collection. If I would have to create a movie out of a book that I have recently read, I would certainly pick this. Don't mind me, but I now feel to go out into NYC and seek my favourite bands and celebrities. BRANDON URIE, PANIC! AT THE DISCO, I WANT TO STROLL THE STREETS WITH YOU! (Not in a creepy way or anything).

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Have you ever read a book about bands like this? What is the best fanfiction you have read?

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten // Not the Greatest Psychological Thriller

Thursday, 28 July 2016 2 comments
Beware That Girl, by Teresa Toten
Publication: May 31, 2016, by Doubleday Canada
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, "Thriller"
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

For fans of We Were Liars, The Girl on the Train, and Gone Girl, this powerful psychological thriller with multiple mysteries is set against the backdrop of the megawealthy elite of New York City. Toten delves into the mesmerizing yet dysfunctional world of those who manipulate but seem ever so charming. With its gripping pace and Hitchcockian twists, Beware That Girl will keep readers guessing until the very last line.
The Haves. The Have-Nots. Kate O’Brian appears to be a Have-Not. Her whole life has been a series of setbacks she’s had to snake her way out of—some more sinister than others. But she’s determined to change that. She’s book smart. She’s street-smart. Oh, and she’s also a masterful liar.
As the scholarship student at the Waverly School in NYC, Kate has her work cut out for her: her plan is to climb the social ladder and land a spot at Yale. She’s already found her “people” among the senior class “it” girls—specifically in the cosseted, mega-wealthy yet deeply damaged Olivia Sumner. As for Olivia, she considers Kate the best friend she’s always needed, the sister she never had.
When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he immediately charms his way into the faculty’s and students’ lives—becoming especially close to Olivia, a fact she’s intent on keeping to herself. It becomes increasingly obvious that Redkin poses a threat to Kate, too, in a way she can’t reveal—and can’t afford to ignore. How close can Kate and Olivia get to Mark without having to share their dark pasts?

My Thoughts:

Welcome to my review of the newest psychological thriller I have picked up in my psych-thriller craving-obsession period of time. Yes, seriously. Compared to all of the recent grand thriller-mysteries I have picked up in the latest span of time, Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten, an author who is highly praised about after her novel, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, this wasn't the greatest, only because I found that there was no point. No plot. There was no plot, honestly. Read the summary, for starters. This is a catty book about two catty characters who are best friends, but they know that they shouldn't be. It's all about competition. But when you look at this book from a real perspective, you'll find that this is honest-to-God relatable, because all we see around us these days is competition. Businesses trying to beat others with new innovations, people trying to get better grades than others, people trying to have more riches than the other. I have dealt with competition all of my life, but I didn't want to. It's like people implant competition on others who don't even want nothing to do with them frequently. Anyways, excuse me for my rant. 

This is really similar to books like Private by Kate Brian or Gossip Girl, from my viewpoint. There is so much dark drama occurring, but note that: DRAMA. Damn, I shouldn't even say "dark." I agree with all of the lower rating reviewers out there, because this book promised us something else. The only part where a "thriller" or "mystery" kind of situation pops up is in the ending, the last few pages where Olivia and Kate actually get the guts to do something scandalous. IT'S FAKE, THE SUMMARY IS FAKE. What secrets are here, honestly? Olivia, the rich kid out of the two, who lives in an Upper East Side posh condo with her single father and maid, Anka, has this weird secret, but it's not something that is worth going crazy over because guess what? We readers know the secret because we have to deal with reading Olivia's perspective—so what's the point, then?

Where is the "Hitchcockian pace" as mentioned in the synopsis? This was a slow-moving story that was just about betrayal and scandal. Kate and Olivia had a cute relationship at times, yes, but it only had to do with Olivia's riches. They would share clothes, and that was the main part because they actually spent so many chapters going off with Mark and doing things that I cannot even explain at the moment. 

Kate and Olivia were good characters (not having the worst attitudes possible) but they were gross when you thought about it. I can't really understand the attraction between Olivia and Mark, but whatever. They were just characters who were influenced by older men and not trusting anyone. I certainly have never read anything similar to this, but I don't know if that's a good thing.

"I didn't have top choices. Just Yale. Nothing else mattered. My life would begin when I got to Yale, and everything would make sense. I'd kept my eye on the prize all these years above and beyond anything else, beyond all the horseshit. And then I blinked. I should have gone with my gut. I was done" (138).

Beware That Girl had a setting and mood to me that just screamed out "eerie." I mean, it turned out pretty weird in the end when we're looking at the twist that was supposed to scare the heck out of everyone. I just imagined grey skies for the whole book in the city that I love. I expected so much more to come from this, overall, but there were these tweaks that really made me interested, especially Kate's dedication to Yale and her future life. Nothing else mattered to her, and that was great. 

We really see Kate's struggles throughout the story. Now I would call her development the best out of her and Olivia. Kate is a scholarship student at Waverly, the ultra-preppy private school she and Olivia attend, and we see her character working hard throughout the story to make things happen. She skips out on a trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico with Olivia, and would rather work and prepare for her future. Things get really chaotic in the end when she's basically forced to do something that wasn't supposed to happen—something she got saved from. 

Beware That Girl wasn't horrifying, compared to other recent books I have read, but there certainly were issues that without any doubt, upset me. Please watch out for the synopsis of this book—I expected something completely different. I am not the only reviewer out there who thinks so. We have a dedicated protagonist, as well as another who is completely scandalous in an entertaining way. There certainly is an audience who could give this a five star rating, but I felt like I went into this for a Gone Girl-like read, not Gossip Girl. 

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some books that promised something else, and made you disappointed? What is the most recent psychological thriller you have read? Do you like the setting of NYC?

VIP Blog Tour

Wednesday, 27 July 2016 2 comments

Last year, I received VIP: I'm With the Band to review from BEA, but I never ending up getting to it, and my younger sister ended up reading it instead. In a sentence? She adored it. When I realized that the sequel was being released, I decided to sign up for the blog tour hosted by Hannah at The Irish Banana. I loved this series! Here are my reviews for the two:


VIP: I'm With the Band (VIP #1), by Jen Calonita
Publication: December 1, 2015, by Little Brown BFYR
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

Twelve-year-old Mackenzie "Mac" Lowell's dreams have come true. Thanks to her mom scoring the coolest job EVER, Mac is going from boy band fanatic to official tour member of her favorite group, Perfect Storm. Good thing she's brought along her journal so she can record every moment, every breath, and every one of lead singer Zander Welling's killer smiles in written detail and daydreamy doodles.
But between a zillion tour stops and pranks gone wrong, Zander and his fellow band members, Heath Holland and Kyle Beyer, become more like brothers to Mac. When the boys' differences start to drive them apart, can Perfect Storm's biggest fan remind them why they're perfect together? It'll be up to Mac--and her comic-book alter ego, Mac Attack--to keep the band together and on the road to stardom
Chronicling her experiences on tour, Mac's journal springs to life with black-and-white illustrations and comic-book panels throughout its pages.

My Thoughts:

My sister is obsessed with this series, guys. My sister is not a reader whatsoever unless my mom tells her to read, so her adoring VIP: I'm With the Band was something new and interesting for me because I am the reader in the house. Who would have known that she would get an obsession with Perfect Storm, a fictional band that features three cute guys who are around my current age, fifteen (almost sixteen!) and who keep getting into trouble. I seriously adored reading this first book of this series, and as I am writing this review, I am gearing up for reading the sequel. I am so excited to head back into the world (a few hours later after completing this) of Mac, Zander, Kyle, Heath and Jilly, characters who I now love for their different, fun personalities and how they seriously made this book comedic. 

VIP: I'm With the Band is exactly what you think it is, and perhaps a little more than what we all would presume, too. Jen Calonita, a frequently read author of mine, especially when I headed through my tween-cool-middle-grade phases when I was twelve, created a fangirl protagonist named Mac, or Mackenzie, who is the biggest fan of boy band Perfect Storm. Her and her two best friends, Iris and Scarlet, spend the beginning of the book trying to score tickets for Perfect Storm's show in Long Island the next day. They don't succeed, but Mac's mom surprises the three with tickets that she retrieved secretly. Mac fangirls, meets the guys, and has the best time of her life at the concert. The next day, her life changes once more when she discovers that her mom will be Perfect Storm's manager, and that she and Mac are going on tour with the band. 

I WOULD'VE FANGIRLED TOO. This book, as a whole, just made me feel happy. Mac was a happy heroine who just fangirled wherever she went and made the best of the situation. VIP is written through the perspective of Mac, obviously, but in a journal format which makes things even more fun for the younger audience. The illustrator, Kristen Gudsnuk, also did a fabulous job at showcasing her image of Mac and the gang. This is honestly such a cute book as a whole.


After I finished reading, I told my sister that I will be rating this four stars out of five. She freaked out. "Why? I'm not talking to you anymore," she said. I'm not twelve, I cannot relate to this book a hundred percent. Back in my day, three years ago, I wasn't obsessed with any boy band. One Direction came a year later, but not at twelve. This was such a cute read, don't get me wrong, but it's completely unrealistic, because seriously, who in the world of entertainment (like Mac's mom) will get the chance to do what she does. IT'S RARE. And bringing her twelve-year-old daughter with her? That's extremely rare. I just inwardly wish that Jen could have focused a touch bit on realistic issues that are hinted at in the novel. For example, where is Mac's father? We all know that Mac's mother is single, because no man is ever mentioned and they wouldn't leave a father at home to go on the road, and that seemed important to me, since Mac is still young.

I loved Mac as a protagonist. She had this carefree attitude, and I loved how she was striving to be mature around enemies like Lola. (I HATED THAT GIRL) Back to the unrealistic thing, the "romance" is completely unrealistic, as well. It is noted a few times that Zander, Mac's initial crush out of the three members in Perfect Storm, is fifteen years old. I'm fifteen, and I would never romantically pay attention to a seventh grader. I'm turning sixteen next month, so that's a different example. Okay, picture this: a ninth grader crushing on a seventh grader. Although you may not see it at first, it kind of happens. 

I like middle-grade to be realistic, knowing who the audience is. The story is fluffy, cute, and definitely entertaining where tween girls can learn about show biz (because it seems that Jen has experience with this after interviewing people), but there's the part where you know that girls won't learn anything from this: it's practically impossible to occur. Anyway.

KYLE IS ADORABLE. HEATH IS ADORABLE. ZANDER IS... MEH. I loved Perfect Storm's attitude as a whole, but I loved Kyle and Heath the most. Zander is your ordinary, snobby member who is in it completely for the fame. We see how he wants the spotlight and all of the solos. *rolls eyes* I just cannot picture how a romance (or fling) could stem out of this series. I wonder what the next book will provide us with.

"Seconds later Heath joined in. Zander was the only one without an instrument. I guess he doesn't need to play one when he has the voice of an angel. When Zander started to sing, I closed my eyes and listened without really trying to hear the words. It was always hard to catch them all on the first listen of a song, but I got the gist pretty quickly" (188).

VIP: I'm With the Band would seriously be loved by any tweenage (haha that word) girl who loves contemporary and funny books. I am so excited to read the sequel (RIGHT NOW) and see how Calonita's writing continues and how the series unfolds. Will the romance happen? Will Kyle keep being my crush? I hope so for the latter. 

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*


VIP: Battle of the Bands (VIP #2), by Jen Calonita
Publication: July 26, 2016, by Little Brown BFYR
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Mackenzie "Mac" Lowell is living a dream come true on tour with her favorite boy band. Spending time on the road with Perfect Storm hasn't been what Mac expected, though-it's even BETTER!
But with screaming fans and big-time recording sessions come haters and copycats, like Thunder and Lightning, a new band on the label whose first single sounds suspiciously like the song Perfect Storm's guitarist wrote for Mac. As the two bands set out on a joint summer tour, more and more of Perfect Storm's secrets are leaked to the public.
Where's the one place all these lyrics and secrets are supposedly being kept safe? In Mac's journal, of course! Can Mac-and her comic-book alter ego, Mac Attack-stop the leaks and nab the culprit?
With black-and-white illustrations and action-packed Mac Attack comics throughout, Jen Calonita's VIP series is more exciting than a backstage pass!

My Thoughts:

What an achievement it is to say that I finished this series in a day. I actually read the two VIP books in a matter of hours because they were oh-so-good and so entertaining. Parents of girls who are not really interested in reading (and you want them to be), Jen Calonita's VIP series is the series that will satisfy your kids and have them commence reading like maniacs. I wish that this series existed when I was a kid, because I swear that I would've enjoyed it so much. I would have been so satisfied, so excited, obsessed with the characters and most especially, obsessed with Perfect Storm, a trio of cute guys that fangirls need to be real. Anyway, I'm getting too ahead of myself, because obviously these guys don't exist. Battle of the Bands is a lovely sequel that touches base with the previous book, reaching the same level and still being really good and enjoyable.

This sequel kicks off a few months after Mac's Spring Fling, and things get right into the action. Perfect Storm is still successful, causing teenage girls to awe and ooh over everything they do, which means that Mac and her mom are still able to tour with them as long as they are successful. Drama begins off right away, especially because as the title states, there is a battle between bands, and Perfect Storm is caught in it. We readers are introduced to Thunder and Lightning, a rip-off band of Perfect Storm who are signed with the same label. PS soon discovers that Thunder and Lightning has stolen a song that Kyle has written for Mac, and it goes viral. Next thing we know, a vlogger gets in the way, gossiping and creating a false, negative image of Perfect Storm.

I liked how Jen Calonita created this novel. The first book was about the introduction to the characters, to the show business, to tours, and especially to Perfect Storm and its members. Now, since we readers know the characters well and what they're up to, the real drama begins. I loved the catfights, how tough Mac became, and everything in between. We don't really see a broad character development for anyone (which I would have loved)—that would be a flaw for me. Mac deserved that extra push since she does have an Alter Ego for herself, this comic book character called Mac Attack. Comics are included in the book, but I wasn't really entertained by them since they didn't mean/add anything to the plot.

That's why I have occasional issues with books. Authors like to add, add and add more, but in the end, the reason they added something in is senseless because it doesn't help with development, details or anything in particular. I loved Mac, as I did in the first book, but nothing changed about her. She was tough, but not confident to the extent that she wanted to see herself as. 

There certainly was development with friendships. I love Jilly and Mac's friendship, and how from the first book to this sequel, they have gotten tighter and closer. NOTHING NEW WITH KYLE AND MAC. Like yeah, this is middle-grade, but there's nothing cute. *cries* We also see a nice relationship between Mac and her mother—one that is rarely featured in middle-grade fiction. Occasionally in the past, I have even read books where there is no parent present, but Mac and her mom are just great in this book, just how some mothers and daughters realistically are.

I really liked the Bad Kitty addition. It's fun for kids to wait and guess who a mysterious person could be from one of the characters that they know. It was predictable for me, but from what my sister told me when she read this, it wasn't for her. I guess younger kids would love the ending, ten times more than I did. That's a definite good sign. 

VIP: Battle of the Bands is exactly the kind of sequel I have been looking for in a middle grade series. In fact, it has been a while since I've read a middle-grade series, and I thank Jen Calonita for teleporting me back. There are so many young girls in the world who would appreciate this humorous, lively series filled with characters who you just cannot get out of your head. Go grab the two books now and fall in love!

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the latest middle grade series you have read? Have you read anything by Jen Calonita in the past?

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan // A Nice LGBT Story

Tuesday, 26 July 2016 0 comments
You Know Me Well, by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Publication: June 7, 2016, by St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ
Pages: 248
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

My Thoughts:

You Know Me Well is a book that really actually does know me well: I love books like this, that have a bit of unique substance in it that we can never really find in real YA. Honestly? I enjoyed it so much because an amazing author contributed to the story, and added in his own perspective (most definitely Mark's perspective, which I enjoyed reading more than Kate's), David Levithan. This is a book that I unfortunately was not able to pick up at BEA this year, but was sent it straight to my house a few weeks later from the publisher. This is a two-perspective novel written with the concept of pride and LGBTQ happiness. Our two protagonists, Kate and Mark, both explore their opportunities in the lovely setting of San Francisco (I WANT TO GO THERE NOW) and the Bay Area. And the best thing? They are not in love with each other. Kate is lesbian while Mark is gay, and they both become unexpected friends when in a club one night. 

This was written spectacularly. As always, two amazing YA authors collaborating turns out fantastic. This was poetic, lyrical, and had that interesting use of language that captivated me from the first page. I had a few issues with the plot, momentarily becoming boring at times, but the writing is important for me when I'm reading these kinds of inspirational stories. This seriously is an inspirational story. Although you may not be LGBTQ, it is a story that will make you have pride and look at things from a different perspective. We see two characters striving to get a good ending in the end, wanting to be getting the person that they initially wanted and wished for, and it just turned out pretty great.

We are first introduced to Mark, who is in love with his best friend, Ryan. They both aren't an official couple, but they have had their bright moments when things got better than Mark would ever expect. One night, during Pride Month, they head out to a club, and things get out of control when Mark parties so hard that he stands on top of the bar and goes crazy. He then meets his Calculus seating partner, Kate, and they instantly become friends, both battling their relationship issues together.

"I am looking into Ryan's eyes and I know I am going to take that public kiss, that kiss that would have changed everything, and I am going to fold it up until it id too small to ever be found again" (143).

I really enjoyed reading both sides of the story. I preferred Mark's, as mentioned before, because I normally always prefer to read a guy's side of the story, because men think things and do things differently than us gals do/think. Mark was hilarious, contained every characteristic that David Levithan's characters usually have. I just wanted THE SHIPS TO HAPPEN, TO SAIL. Ryark needed to occur. And then Kate was pretty great too, though I couldn't relate to her artistic personality. Kate is set to go to UCLA for art (very ambitious, am I wrong?) and she's obsessed with her best friend's cousin (I'm pretty sure it was that, it was so complicated to be honest), Violet, who is also lesbian. FOR ONCE WE HAVE A STORY WHERE THE GIRL/BOY DOESN'T TRY TO MAKE THEIR TRUE LOVE GAY. That happens quite often in many books I have read, and it honestly either turns out one way or the other, but Levithan and LaCour just made this so natural.

The whole book was natural. There was nothing absurd or weirdly explained about it. It's teenagers being teenagers, friendship blooming. There is so much buzz revolving around this newly-released story, perfect for Pride Month (which just happened!) and it's definitely worth it. I would say that this is one of the better LGBTQ books out there, because we readers immediately understand, and it doesn't fully have to do with everything gay and rainbow. But it stands with a perfect message that I need everyone to pick up and figure out for themselves. I loved the friendship between Kate and Mark—even though they were boy and girl, not in love with each other, their connection was inevitable, was precious. It's rare for us to explore adventurous friendships these days in novels, but I feel like we just did.

Something that could be debatable is the setting of the book: the timing specifically. This is very fast-paced, and although it's not so relatable in terms of actual reality, I enjoyed the novel anyway. THIS WAS THE PERFECT SUMMER READ. I just want to travel to San Fran and explore and hang out with the cutest friend group ever.

"We grow up and we lose ourselves. Sometimes when my favorite songs are on I have to stop what I'm doing and lie down on my carpet and just listen. I feel every word they're singing. Every note. And to think that in twenty years, or ten years, or five even, I might hear those same songs and just, like, bob my head or something is horrible" (130).

You Know Me Well is a coming-of-age novel that is simply about growing up and friendship, and most importantly: about taking risks. Lately, I've been feeling adventurous, wanting to experience things that my normal self wouldn't want to, and this story by two fabulous authors was really out of the blue for me. With a great setting, interesting (though sometimes un-relatable) characters and beautiful writing, this is the book for this summer and beyond.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the latest LGBTQ book you have read? Which author's writing do you prefer more: David Levithan or Nina LaCour?