Tag: Young adult

ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (2015)

ARC Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (2015)The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Books on March 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Law & Crime, Magical Realism, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

“Ori's dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She's dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices--one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there's Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls' juvenile detention center, there's Amber, locked up for so long she can't imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls' darkest mysteries.We hear Amber's story and Violet's, and through them Orianna's, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture--which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.Praise for Imaginary Girls:“A surreal and dreamy world where magical thinking is carried to a chilling extreme.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review.

First Impressions:

Wow!

That’s my first impression of a book that I couldn’t put down and pretty much raced through. This story’s lyrical tone and beautiful language gripped me, and I was first intrigued by the fact that it’s referred to as a “ghost story” in the GoodReads summary. This is true. The atmosphere in this book is at time chilling and ominous, and though I’m fairly sensitive to really scary books, this one didn’t bother me in the least. I was happy to slip into this story world the days I was reading this book, a world featuring killer ballerinas, the ghostly remains of a women’s only juvenile detention center, and the injustice of a person wrongly accused of a crime.

Ori and Vee were best friends until those days came to an end after a terrible crime took place in the midst of one of their ballet rehearsals. Ori is the one who gets locked up, while Vee is free to pursue her dreams of attending Julliard one day. Will those dreams come true? Will Ori’s innocence be proven? These are some of the questions posed for the reader in the book.

Some Spiritual Aspects in This Book:

One example of spirituality that was immediately apparent to me in the story is the desire for an injustice from the past becoming revealed and reconciled. Someone was wrongly accused, and obviously that affects the lives of multiple people in the story. I won’t give anything away about how and if that injustice is righted, but I’ll just say the presence of supernatural forces does come into play.

There’s also the issue of guilt and innocence. How do we navigate a world where the innocent are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit? When friends betray friends, destroying a life in the process? There are pretty heavy issues that come up in this story, and I think that adds to its appeal—how can things get better, we ask? Especially when it looks like wrongs will not be righted?

But wait. Events take place in the story—events that probably would not take place in our own world. But the world of The Walls Around Us is that of magical realism. And this makes this one unique story. Some readers might be confused by what’s happening at any given moment in this book, but hang tight—events should come into focus (or not).

Who Should Read This Book:

I haven’t read other books by Nova Ren Suma but I’ve heard that her other titles are good, so I assume that if you have read and enjoyed her other books, you might like this one as well. Do you like stories of ballerinas, stories from the barre? Multiple pov’s and a women’s juvenile detention center? Any of these reasons would probably be enough for you to test out The Walls Around Us.

There may be some aspects of the story you want more from, if you’re like me. For example, this didn’t affect how much I liked the book, but I definitely would have LOVED to read a few chapters from Ori’s perspectives. Sure, we get Vee’s and Amber’s, and those are both important perspectives, but I wonder how the narrative might have been different if we had received a deeper glimpse into Ori’s mind?

The Final Illumination:

I finished this eerie and unique story satisfied, but at the same time, wished it was longer with THREE voices (including Ori’s) instead of just two, Amber and Vee. At the same time, in real life, we don’t always have the advantage of getting all perspectives in a situation, so maybe the gaps left in the book are ok. I actually didn’t anticipate what happened in the end—I was expecting something—but not quite the resolution we receive. Tweet me or comment on this post when you finish the book, but I do have to say that what did happen was really interesting! And though I do have questions about the workings of all that happened, I suppose that’s where magical realism comes in.

The Walls Around Us impressed me with its plot that drew me in, its magical realism, and its grappling with what happens in a world where the innocent are found guilty.

 

four-stars
What Katie Read

ARC Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

ARC Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren OliverVanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Published by Harper Collins on March 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Family, Siblings, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late. In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

*Thank you to my OTSP Secret Sister for this ARC!* This in no way affected my honest review.

Spirituality in Vanishing Girls:

The bonds with our siblings can be incredibly strong, and Oliver explores the strength of this bond with the relationship between sisters Nick and Dara. Not only are they sisters, but we discover in the first chapter, they’re also best friends. It seems fitting that the books features diary entries from Dara and switches back and forth between the girls’ perspectives, even providing flashbacks. This seems to suggest help for the reader to puzzle together what happened between Nick and Dara, but it also gives us deeper insight into the perspectives of both sisters. The switching between perspectives made me feel as if I was getting to know both Nick and Dara, as opposed to just Nick, but at the same time, I wondered how reliable our narrator was. I knew a terrible accident had taken place, and that the book often flashed back before the accident to both sisters’ perspectives. However, the exact nature of that accident is hidden from the reader, so the withholding of details added to the story’s suspense.

The story illuminates how a tragic event can affect a family in far reaching ways—so much so that the unit is forever changed after the event, no matter how much time passes. We may have strong relationships, but there are forces and events that take place that shock and surprise those relationships, changing what we thought would remain solid and constant. That’s another theme Oliver explores in the book, and I think it provides good ground for discussion concerning how much of our identity is shaped by our family, and what it means when that begins to change.

Further Thoughts & Who Should Read This Book:

There are certain aspects of the ending that really bothered other readers, and obviously I’m not going to spoil it here by revealing those aspects. Suffice it to say that this book did remind me, in some ways, View Spoiler » After the big reveal, I did think that there weren’t enough hints earlier on to lead up to the resolution, but I could understand why the author chose to go this route. My mind was spinning, trying to piece together what I had just read, combing the pages for clues, but I decided not to go for a re-read just yet. This is the kind of book that I most likely will re-read, in light of its ending. At the same time, I can solidly say that I enjoyed the book, resolution aside.

If you like a mystery that keeps you guessing (Where exactly did Madeleine Snow disappear to?) and you enjoy multiple points of view in a YA, you’ll probably want to give Vanishing Girls a chance. But be warned, because the plot twist could be hard to swallow. However, if you’re a fan of Oliver’s writing, I would suggest you give this one a try. The inclusion of texts and online news reports makes the narrative even more interesting.

I love Oliver’s language and imagery–that alone will always be enough to get me to read her books. She has this wonderful way of effectively placing me right in the middle of a scene with vivid imagery, whether it’s a shift in Nick’s job working at Funland, complete with all the sights and smells of a carnival, or that moment at the end of the day when the crickets begin to sing. She captures the spirit of what it feels like after a breakup and the difficulty of having a sister who just isn’t there for you the way she used to be.

“Sometimes people stop loving you. And that’s the kind of darkness that never gets fixed, no matter how many moons rise again, filling the sky with a weak approximation of light.”

The Final Illumination:

Plot twist aside, I enjoyed this book immensely and was kept up late turning the pages. I also often find that the themes Oliver explores are spiritually rich and thought-provoking. Though she may not intend her books to reflect spiritual dimensions, I think there’s enough there (when thinking about spirituality in a broad way) to warrant discussion that leads (me at least) into deep and meaningful conversations.

Though there are mixed reviews on this one (see Goodreads), I can say that I solidly enjoyed it, in spite of being a little suspicious of the conclusion, and the way things were wrapped up. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll definitely re-read this later on, and revisit my initial thoughts.

What about you? What did you think of Vanishing Girls? Was it all you hoped it would be?

 

four-stars
What Katie Read

Top Ten ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years (#TopTenTuesday)

TopTenTuesday5 BorderYou see the topic in the title of this post. You gasp. You fall back.

You are astounded!

loki forlorn7350d0b9b34c825Only TEN of our ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the last THREE YEARS? How did I approach such a monumental task?! How did I ever narrow down this list to ten titles? I don’t know. In fact, I didn’t. I have eleven.

These are ten (eleven) of my all time favorite books I’ve read in the last three years. I’ve mixed things up–I’ve got THREE Adult reads, THREE Middle Grade Reads, and FIVE Young Adult Reads. Click on the image to check out my thoughts on each book.

As usual, this weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish. Be sure to link up this week so we can visit your Top Ten!top adult

 

StationElevenbyEmilyStJohnMandel

meaning of night

Guernsey-Literary-UK

middle grade

ASnickerofMagicbyNatalieLloyd

AllFourStarsbyTaraDairman

knots

young adult

CinderScarletCress-620x350

girl 2

code name collage

winner-curse1-624x936

night and fog

So I wanted this list to be longer, but I did what I had to do. What’s on your Top Ten List for this week?

What Katie Read
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