Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Reads: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake (website | twitter)
Publisher: Tor Teen
Format: Hardcover316 pages
Publication date: October 17, 2011
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Buy it:  Indigo.ca | Indiebound | B&N | The Book Depository | Amazon

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas's life.
 

Review:


Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter who inherited his powers from his father, who died in the act of killing a ghost. Cas and his mother move around to different places based on tips about ghosts, and his latest mission is to kill the ghost of Anna Korlov, or Anna Dressed in Blood. But when he ends up at her house, she bypasses him, and he discovers that he is the only person that Anna has ever not killed.

What follows is a horror story, with a lot of classic elements done well - haunted houses, voodoo, ghosts, and magic all play a part here, and the paranormal parts were interestingly and uniquely used. Anna's house was particularly well described and I liked how much it played a part in the atmosphere of the book.

The classic YA tropes of being an outsider, being special because of a certain power were laid bare here - maybe a little too bare? While I enjoyed the story, it was quite predictable. It wasn't hard for me to figure out what was going on or what was going to happen. I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more twists and turns.

In particular, the major romantic plotline of the book was a serious case of insta-love. I don't want to give a lot away, but it was a big part of the book, and I just didn't feel like that relationship had payoff at all. The two characters spoke to each other two times and it seemed like they were already in love. It was hard for me to believe in, and because of that, I was never fully immersed in the story.

I think a big part of my disengagement with the story was the writing - especially the voices of the characters. I never felt like any of the characters had really distinct voices - everyone just seemed like an extension of one voice. While this works for teens who want to put themselves in the characters' shoes, it made the story a lot less believeable for me.

Anna's voice also didn't really work for me; her way of speaking felt anachronistic. She talked like a regular teenager, and given that she was a Finnish immigrant from 1958, it just didn't feel authentic. One of the first things Anna says to Cas is that he hasn't shown her all his best "moves" yet. I felt like a girl who died in 1958 might not have that grasp of slang already.

Overall, I did enjoy Anna Dressed in Blood and I felt like it was a good Halloween book. The gory elements worked and I appreciated the setting of Thunder Bay, Ontario (Canada represent!). I will probably pick up the second book, Girl of Nightmares, just because I'd like to know what happens next - it doesn't quite end on a cliffhanger, but there are definitely loose threads that I want tied up!

Bonuses: 


Kick-Ass Secondary Characters: I loved the secondary characters in the story. Cas' mom, his new friend Thomas, Thomas' grandfather Morfran, and cool girl Carmel had great dialogue and really made the story come more alive for me and made it feel very much like a teen experience.





The Final Word: 

I'm usually an incredible wimp when it comes to horror, but this one wasn't so much scary as gory occasionally. For those of you who are interested in reading but don't like horror, I would say that this is like horror-lite - both in the story and the writing. It's a fun read, and it's one that you can read quickly - if you haven't read a scary book yet this October, this might be the one for you.

Have you read ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD or the sequel, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES? Did the voice or story work for you? If not, have you read any Halloween or scary reads lately? Let me know in the comments!

Want to win an OCTOBER NEW RELEASE? Hop over to my giveaway!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Heir by Kiera Cass (spoilers for series!)

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Author: Kiera Cass 
Publisher: Harper Teen
Expected publication: May 5th 2015

Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought.

-----
This is probably the easiest Waiting on Wednesday I've ever done. LOOK AT THAT COVER.

If you know me and this blog, you know that I'm kind of obsessed with The Selection series. I love the frothy mix of angsty romance, a dystopian world, and pretty dresses. It's not a perfect series, but no one can say it's not addictive.

I'm so excited that there are going to be more books - and that this next book is gender swapped! So much fun!

Have you read The Selection series? Are you completely into it like me? Did you love America and Maxon? Are you mega excited for THE HEIR? How do you like the cover?! What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Want to win an OCTOBER NEW RELEASE? Hop over to my giveaway!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source/Format: Rachel from Hello, Chelly gave me this ARC that she picked up at BEA14! (thanks, Rachel!)
Publication date: September 30th 2014
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Buy it:  Indigo.ca | Indiebound | B&N | The Book DepositoryAmazon 

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Review: 


Lies We Tell Ourselves is an illuminating look into integration of black kids into segregated white schools in 1959 in the US. It definitely skewed towards the liberal view of things, but for the most part, the discussion is balanced because of the dual narratives of Sarah, the black girl, and Linda, the white girl. 

I don't think I need to describe how awful the situation is in this book. What happens to Sarah and her trail-blazing black friends is horrific and upsetting. What's scary about the bullying and extremism is that it's an everyday thing for them. They had to learn to live with the whispers, the spitballs, the terror, and in some cases, the physical abuse. 

Where the book shines, though, is in looking at gay teens and how to deal with something that was so prohibited at the time. The relationship between Sarah and Linda felt more authentic than the rest of the book - the desire for one another with the backdrop of the late 50s and the idea of the suburban housewife and getting married young looming made the relationship appropriately angsty. The strengths of the characters really worked there, and Talley writes clearly and boldly about their feelings for one another. 

I also liked that the book allowed the teenagers to have teenage views - for Linda, a major part of her annoyance with integration is simply because it's "ruining her senior year." I can imagine that that might be how the majority of teenagers feel in a bad situation that's getting worse. Sure, there are probably kids with extreme views - but for the most part, it seemed like most of the kids just saw integration as a complete inconvenience that put the focus solely on the issue and not on, say, prom. 

For me, Lies We Tell Ourselves was a little too issues-driven to be a book that you sink into. I never got "the feels" because the book felt more about what the characters stood for than who they actually were. The characterizations of Linda and Sarah were thin, and I think the writing contributed to that - the characters had very little subtlety. Every thought they had was exactly what they were thinking. Because of that, I never fully connected with either Sarah or Linda.

Nevertheless, it's impossible to ignore the importance of this issue and the amount of research and thought Robin Talley put into this book. Small details, like the meetings that the students had with the NAACP every week, and the descriptions of Sarah's old classroom leant credulity to the book and gave me a glimpse of the 50s and how heroic those first integrationists were. 

The Final Word: 


Lies We Tell Ourselves is a hard read, and one that doesn't completely work in marrying story with history, but it's one that will get you thinking. Its strengths lie in its portrayal of gay teens and its descriptions of situations that integrationists experienced, and I would definitely recommend it for a classroom. I think it would be a great way for teachers to discuss discrimination and how the US has gotten to where it is - and how much farther the country (and many other countries) needs to go for equality.

Have you read LIES WE TELL OURSELVES? If not, are you interested in reading it? Are you into issues-driven books? What about LGBTQ reads? Do you have any good ones to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Psycho Killer...Run, Run, Run Away" Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals (The Naturals #1)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes (website | twitter)
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Format: eAudiobook
Source: Toronto Public Library
Publication date: Nov 5, 2013; Paperback release: Oct 7, 2014
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Buy it: Indigo | IndieNext | Amazon | BookDepository | B&N 

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.


Review: 


Do not read The Naturals at night. Especially not when you're audiobooking it and trying to fall asleep. I had to keep resetting my sleep timer each night because I couldn't stop listening- I needed to get to a point in book where I wasn't creeped out.

The story follows Cassie Hobbs, who was born with a natural gift for understanding behavior. Cassie is a bit damaged because her mother was murdered when she was twelve, and her father is a senator whom she hardly ever sees. So when the FBI - in the form of Michael, a hot emotion-reader - shows up at her summer job with an offer to train her as a profiler, along with other "Naturals", she jumps at the chance to meet other people who are like her. What she doesn't realize is that being in the program will put her right in the line of fire with someone who knows all about her mother's murder.

While the plotting is familiar and somewhat predictable for a mystery, what made this book stand out was the research that the author did into profiling. We learn a lot about Cassie's gift for behavior analysis, and what makes a killer tick. It's both frightening and completely fascinating. Cassie joins another natural profiler in the program, Dean, who is not pleased that Cassie has decided to join up. He makes it clear that getting into a killer's head can destroy you emotionally.

And yet, I felt that, like Cassie, I would have stayed anyway - not only does Cassie need to know more about her mother's killer, but this is the only place where she feels like she can be herself. It's exciting for Cassie to be around people who might not completely understand her, but at least know how it feels to see the world very differently.

What I liked most about this book was how pitch-perfect the characters were, and the surprisingly solid love-triangle - yes, there is one, but it doesn't take center stage. Even though I know who I'd choose in the triangle, I definitely felt like it was a balanced rendering of love interests.

For me, the writing felt a bit cliche - I never felt wowed by it. I also found that Cassie was a little bit too angsty at times for me - when I felt she needed to act or if there was a clue, she was often distracted - a classic mystery tactic, but one I felt that I could see through.

Nevertheless, I still found the story compelling and at times, terrifying. Jennifer Lynn Barnes knows her subject, and isn't afraid to make the story brutal and real. The audiobook version I read was excellent, with narrator Amber Faith taking the time to create distinct voices to each of the characters, giving weight and drama to the climax of the story. I didn't expect this to be a Halloween read for me, but it totally was. And yes, I'm a wimp.

The Final Word: 

The Naturals is like CSI or Criminal Minds for teens. If you're a fan of those shows, or you like dark  YA thrillers, this one might be for you. The subject matter is strong, and the love triangle is solid. The second book in this series, Killer Instinct, comes out November 4th, and I will probably be reading it, but I'm definitely going to have to psych myself up for it!

The NATURALS just came out in paperback! Have you read it? If you have, will you be picking up the sequel, KILLER INSTINCT in November? Are you interested in serial killers, procedurals, or FBI books like I am? Do you read mysteries?  Do you get more scared by "real-life" horror stories than paranormal ones like me? Hit the comments and let me know!

Win an October 2014 new release!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Contest Giveaway: Win an October 2014 YA, NA, or MG book!


Hey guys, so many great books out this month that I can't even keep up with my ARCs, much less the books I want to buy! So, of course, I'm giving you the chance to win one...because it's Thanksgiving here in Canada, and I'm super thankful for you!

You know the drill: I'm giving away one young adult, middle grade, or new adult book released this month. In the interest of not making myself crazy, I'm only posting covers for the ones I'm super interested in reading, but feel free to comment with your own choices!



         Review to come!                   My review of Rain Reign

Review to come!                     Review to come!

Review to come!                      Review to come!






Rules:

  • Giveaway open internationally provided you can receive shipments from The Book Depository.
  • You're welcome to choose a book I didn't mention here as long as it's an October 2014 YA, MG, or NA new release.
  • I will not be responsible for lost or damaged packages from The Book Depository or Amazon. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Waiting on Wednesday: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

We All Looked Up  
Author: Tommy Wallach
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Expected publication: March 31st 2015

Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.


This is one I've been quietly lemming since I first saw it - it's completely a case of Amazing Cover Steals My Heart because there are NO WORDS ON THE COVER.

It's like the book - and what the characters are going through - is so profound that words like the title and the author's name don't even matter. What matters is the faces on the cover, and the journey that the characters will take to figure out what they're going to do with the time they have left.

I'm expecting great things from this book. I'm expecting to learn a lot. I'm also expecting to think a lot about what matters to me now.

What's on your can't-wait-for-it list this week? Are you as excited as I am by WE ALL LOOKED UP? Is this cover blowing your mind, too? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Way Better Than Lassie: Early Review - Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin


Rain Reign
Author: Ann M. Martin (website | twitter)
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Raincoast Books in Canada!)
Source/Format: ARC from BEA14
Expected publication date: October 7, 2014 (next week!)
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In her most powerful novel yet, Newbery Honor author Ann M. Martin tells the story of girl with mental/emotional challenges and the dog she loves.

Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

Review:


Check out my expectations of Rain Reign before reading!

A compelling character study of a girl with high-functioning autism, Rain Reign is a middle-grade novel with a deceptively simple writing style. When I first started the novel, I immediately thought it might be a little too young for me. Middle-grade readers might feel the same, but teachers/parents/librarians should encourage kids to stick with this one: Rose, the narrator and protagonist, is fully developed, with a completely authentic and unique voice. Rain Reign illuminated how it might feel to have Asperger's, and made me really understand and sympathize with Rose's obsession with homonyms, rules, and prime numbers.

Rose's dog, Rain, is almost a secondary character in this book - Martin establishes Rain as the one source of unconditional love in the life of a pre-teen with an alcoholic father who doesn't care about her, a mother who left her, classmates who tease and don't understand her, and an uncle who is kind, but is always being told to butt out. Rose' obsession with precision in her words makes it easy to see Rain in your head from her descriptions.

As someone who has a pet, it's hard to see how anyone wouldn't sympathize with Rose when Rain goes missing, but the added element of Rose' need for routine and order just heightens the panic and distress. What I took from this book is Rose' determination - which lands her in hot water because of it makes her unable to see a rule broken without speaking out - but also gives her the strength to doggedly (sorry) pursue Rain despite her own discomfort with social interactions. What Rose does with what she finds out speaks to that loyalty and determination, and is nothing short of inspiring.

If I have one criticism of this book, it's that it's built for success - there's no way you won't feel for Rose and want her to succeed. There's no moment where you're not on Rose's side, and as a reader, I want a little more complexity.

But there's a lot to like in this novel. Martin gives Rose a clever way of foreshadowing what will happen in order to keep momentum going, and the way that Martin inserts homophones to sometimes mix and change a sentence will delight readers.

Bonuses: 


Animal Love: Like I said before, if you're a pet owner, you will feel for Rose, and you might cry...


TeachersPayTeachers.com
Quirky Words and Numbers: Not only is Rose obsessed with homophones, but she also likes prime numbers. It's very interesting and telling how her obsession manifests in her behaviour, but aside from that, it's just darned interesting!





The Final Word:


If I'd read Rain Reign at age eleven, I know I would have adored it - it has literary merit, heart, and taps into the mind of such a unique character. As an adult, I felt like it was a little manipulative with my emotions. That said, I can definitely see Rain Reign becoming a favourite of middle-grade teachers and I truly hope it ends up in tons of classrooms and libraries: it would be great for discussions of identity and autism, as well as more technical discussions of how to write and build a story.

Recommended for: middle-grade readers looking for feels, animal lovers, teachers looking to discuss autism, identity and/or storytelling

Are you interested in reading RAIN REIGN? Be honest, are you half interested because Ann M. Martin is the creator of Baby-Sitters Club (not gonna lie, that's what drew me to this book first)? How do you feel about animal cruelty in books? Have you read any other animal-centric books in YA? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Expected publication: January 27th 2015

A new series of global proportions -- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay -- in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.


NEW ALLY CARTER SERIES!

That is all. Carry on. 

In all seriousness, Ally is the master of  YA thrillers - no one plots a book like she does. She's definitely on my auto-buy, immediate-read list, and this book looks to have the same jet-setting adventure and girl power that I loved so much in the Gallagher Girls series (which really got better as it continued) and the Heist Society series. Ally knows how and when to put the feels pedal on, then pull the brakes and U-turn into action. I can't wait for this series, especially because I helped name a character!

Are you also a huge Ally Carter fan like me? Are you desperately waiting for ALL FALL DOWN? Are you into YA thrillers? What's on your "waiting impatiently" list this week? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Under A Painted Sky
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin Canada)
Expected publication: March 17, 2015

A powerful story of friendship and sacrifice, for fans of Code Name Verity

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.


At first glance, this looks like a totally out-of-left-field pick for me: it's historical, it's about something I know nothing about (the gold rush and the Oregon Trail), and I've never been a huge fan of cowboys. But as a Chinese girl who wanted to be a musician in high school, I was immediately drawn to Samantha's story.

Add to that a ton of adventure, and what sounds like an amazing friendship, and well, at the very least, I'm intrigued. All of the elements in the synopsis for Under A Painted Sky are supposed to work together, and I am so darn curious as to how author Stacey Lee is going to pull this thing off.

Also, how often do you hear about a YA western? Um, never? The early Goodreads reviews for this book are amazing, and I'm looking forward to delving into something completely new for YA.

Are you interested in reading UNDER A PAINTED SKY? Are you into westerns and cowboys? Do you sometimes read a synopsis, and like me, just want to read the book because you need to know how the whole thing is going to work? What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson (website | twitter)
Publisher: Dial (Penguin Teen)
Source/Format: ARC from BEA14
Publication date: September 16th 2014
My rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars. 

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.


Review:

I don't think I can properly review this book without just throwing flails and gifs and barbaric yawps into the air. It's that lovely, that exquisite that any review I write will just pale in comparison to the writing in the book. That said...I want you to read this book, so I have to try.

P.S. I borrowed all the quote gifs from Penguin Teen, because who doesn't want to see more of that gorgeous cover?!


I'll Give You The Sun is probably the most literary and imaginative YA novels I've ever read. Everything works - the writing is expressive and nuanced, with unique imagery. You can really tell that Jandy Nelson thought and thought, and thought again about every word in the novel. Every metaphor, every description fits in with the themes of breaking and remaking, family and relationships, art and inspiration. It's an incredibly tight novel, and it's one that could easily have been placed in the literary fiction section of a bookstore.

The themes of I'll Give You The Sun are explored exquisitely - and the plot follows in a very sophisticated manner. This is a definitely a form-follows-function book - but it's done so damn brilliantly that you'll be in awe. The premise/form of the book is that Noah and Jude, fraternal twins, each have their own side of the story, Noah at age 13 and Jude at age 16.  As a reader, we see both sides and how mistakes and choices change and shape each of them. The brilliance comes through how each reveal is made - to the reader and to the characters. And what makes the book even more complex is how each of those reveals follows the themes of breaking and remaking, of splitting apart and coming together that shape the characters and the novel.

The characters and relationships between them are full and clearly realized. I already mentioned the premise of the book, but let me just say that Noah and Jude are probably the most flawed and complex teen characters I've read EVER. I honestly can't think of more broken, fragile and alive characters that exist in YA fiction. We get every crazed, messed-up thought in their heads, all of their stupid actions, all of their esoteric behaviors...and it's just gorgeous to behold.

I'll Give You The Sun has one of the most realistic - and sexy - LGBTQ relationships I've ever read. This sounds weird to say, but in most YA I've read, I've never had to fan myself at a gay relationship - maybe that says more about what I read than what I don't read. This book, however, had what I imagine to be a very realistic gay relationship in its teens, and it's tumultuous and hard and beautifully steamy at a few moments.


The portrayal of art and the way it touches people will leave you inspired. I am probably the worst artist in the world (I can't even draw a straight line), but I was amazed and gratified by how art shapes the characters, how it changes and hurts them, and how it strengthens them. Art is almost like a secondary character in this book, and the way that Noah and Jude create and destroy is not just a metaphor for what they do but it almost turns into a way of living for them.

The romances are soul-crushing and soul-illuminating. Here's the thing: when Noah and Jude meet their respective partners, it's pretty much instantaneous intrigue. It's not quite total insta-love, but it's close. You guys know how I feel about insta-love (and one of them is a bad boy!)...but somehow, Jandy Nelson's writing can break all my rules and make me believe. I'm just going to give you one unbelievable passage, and you tell me you're not intrigued and kind of in love:
I know he's taking a hundred pictures, but I don't care anymore. A hot series of shivers is running through me as he continues clicking and saying: Yes, thank you, this is totally bloody it, perfect, yes, yes, sodding hell, God, look at you. It's like we're kissing, way more than kissing. I can't imagine what my face must look like.
 "You're her," he says finally, putting the cover over the lens. "I'm sure of it."
"Who?" I ask.
But he doesn't answer, just walks down the aisle toward me, a lazy, lanky walk that makes me think of summer. He's completely unwound now, went from high gear to no gear the moment he covered the lens. As he approaches, I see that he has one green eye and one brown eye, like he's two people in one, two very intense people in one.


Jandy Nelson perfectly understands how closely entwined joy and sadness are. Guys, Jandy Nelson KNOWS. She understands why exquisite happiness is sometimes achieved only through understanding loss. She understands how grief can engulf and change and break a family, and how art can save and remake us.  I don't know how else to explain the mingled feelings of happiness, bittersweet joy, and infinite sadness that engulfed me while reading except to say that Jandy Nelson is the YA Walt Whitman.

The Final Word: 


I could go on and on about I'll Give You The Sun, but honestly, it won't hold a candle to the book itself. If you like literary novels, if you want all the feels, this book needs to be on top of your TBR list. Read it now. Bask in the beauty. And then give it to a friend, because a book this good demands to be shared.

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is out now. Are you reading it or will you be reading it soon (read the first 55 pages here!)? Are you into literary books? How about art in books? Have you read Jandy Nelson's first book, The Sky is Everywhere (I haven't, but I will be soon)? Is that not one of the most gorgeous covers you've ever seen? Let me know in the comments!