Review: After the End by Amy Plum

Title: After the End
Author: Amy Plum
Series: After the End
Rating: ★★★

I fell in love with Plum’s first series. It had the perfect mix of romance and action. I would swoon on one page, and then be engrossed in a fight on the next page. After the End is a little different. It’s not the same type of story, and I’m thankful for it. This novel and her other series do have one thing in common, though. In both, Plum creates two vastly different worlds existing together but without knowing about the other. When the two worlds are finally reviled to each other, what unravels is amazing.

Juneau has lived her entire life isolated in the Alaskan wilderness. World War III has destroyed the rest of the Earth, save for her clan and a few other people. She knows how to live off the land and has a special connection with the Earth. She has never questioned the story of how her clan came to be. When she is out hunting one day, she hears a dangerous sound. Believing her clan is in danger, she races back to her home. When she arrives, every person is gone, the only clues to their location coming from Juneau connecting to the Yara, the power that fills everything on Earth.

Miles is in trouble. His admittance to college is in jeopardy and his father thinks very little of him. When Miles stumbles across the opportunity to earn back his father’s favor, he jumps at the chance.

That is how the two characters meet.

Juneau is learning just how much of her life has been a lie. World War III never happened. The world continued to evolve as her clan stayed frozen in time. The world is overwhelming and she’s not sure where she can turn. The people she trusted most in her life lied to her. She doesn’t know how to behave in the current world. She’s questioning everything she knows. She’s a fantastic character that is the perfect mix of bravery, innocence, and maturity. I loved that she holds onto her values, even when confronted with how much the world has changed. She might not understand the world, but she understands herself. She’s still learning, but she’s determined to find her own way.

I didn’t really like Miles to begin with. I understood his reasons, but it felt a little strange to me that he didn’t see a problem with using a girl to get back into his father’s good graces. But as the story progressed, and he started to realize what he was doing, I started to like him more. He started to see Juneau as a person and not just a means to an end. I was extremely pleased with his character growth from the beginning to the end of the novel.

The cliffhanger is horrible. I was getting closer and closer to the end and I was desperately hoping that there would be just a page or two more. But Plum ended After the End at exactly the best and worst spot. I desperately want to know what happens next.

If After the End sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: How to Meet Boys by Catherine Clark

Title: How to Meet Boys
Author: Catherine Clark
Rating: ★★

How to Meet Boys is a lighthearted book that deals with friendships, relationships, and growing up. This is a topic that can be done really well, but for me, How to Meet Boys felt a little flat. The characters were flat, even confusing at times, and the relationships weren’t that interesting either.

Lucy and Mikayla are staying at a cabin owned by Lucy’s grandparents for the summer. Lucy is working at her grandparents’ apple store with Jackson, the boy who embarrassed her in 8th grade. Mikayla is working at the local country club. She’s never met Jackson and never seen a picture of him. So when they meet, Mikayla doesn’t know who he is. What follows is a lot of teen dramatics, confusion, and frustration.

The character never really felt flushed out to me. Lucy can’t seem to get a grasp of what her personality was. Mikayla was said to be shy had have trouble talking to boys, but that was never clearly shown. Ava seemed like she was thrown in there to serve as mediator, but she didn’t really fit that role. Lucy’s mother showed up and was a crazed spazz and that didn’t seem to have a purpose. I don’t think any of this would have been a problem if the story had been more worked out and these characters had served a purpose. Instead, they felt like they were filling personality roles, not being people.

The story didn’t draw me in, either. It felt like Clark was trying to make it more dramatic that necessary. Yes, teens tend to do that at times, but it didn’t feel like there was a point other than to make it dramatic. Then there was the situation with Lucy’s mother. Having a parent come to check in on two teens staying by themselves in a cabin for the summer makes sense. But that’s not what Lucy’s mother did. This is all looking past the problems I had with Lucy and Mikayla’s parents agreeing to let them stay unsupervised for a summer. I was a good kid in high school and didn’t really give my parents problems, but there is no way they would have let me stay with a friend in an adult-less cabin.

In the end, How to Meet Boys was not the book for me. There will be people who enjoy it, but I’m not one of those people. The characters didn’t feel fleshed out and the plot didn’t draw me in. It’s not a bad book; it’s just not my style.

If you’d like to read How to Meet Boys, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Title: Tease
Author: Amanda Maciel
Rating: ★★★

I had to take a few days to sort out my thoughts on Tease. From the beginning, I hadn’t expected to like Sara. She’s one of the bullies in the novel, and feels like nothing is her fault. Honestly, I thought I’d feel a lot more anger towards Sara and her friends. Somehow, Maciel created a story and character that made me feel sorry for the bully. Not in a way that I felt like she should avoid all blame, but in a way that made me examine all her characters closely and see what made Sara different.

Emma Putnam was the new girl at school. She was also the target of bullying. She killed herself and now the people who bullied her most are being charged for the harassment that led to her death. Sara doesn’t see how she is at fault when it’s Emma who killed herself. Sara and her friends didn’t kill her, but she fails to see how they were pushing her to do so. The novel jumps between the present and the past, showing the events leading up to Emma’s death and the fallout.

Sara is not a likable character. She’s a little selfish and a little clueless. But she’s also a victim of high school. She wants to make the most of her years there, doing anything to be friends with the school’s “Queen Bee” Brielle. It’s an extremely toxic relationship and Maciel does a good job of showing how that friendship changes Sara. The before and after points of view also do a great job of showing how Sara is different when she’s friends with Brielle. It’s clear that Sara does a lot of the bullying to keep Brielle’s favor. It doesn’t make her bullying okay, but it gives a little context to Sara’s actions.

This is not a book that anyone could pick up and read. It’s realistic, the characters aren’t very likable, and Sara doesn’t do a complete 180 transformation. She has her moments when she understands her part in Emma’s actions, but there’s a disconnect, too. Her intent through the bullying was to make Emma transfer schools. So when Emma kills herself and Sara is charged, it’s clear she can’t understand why people think she wanted Emma dead. And to be fair, reading Sara’s point of view makes it clear that she didn’t want Emma to kill herself. Sara has a lot of typical high school insecurities and getting Emma to transfer, she thinks, would fix them. Plus, by joining in on the bullying, she avoids being bullied.

Tease is not a book that has a happy ending. The characters don’t redeem themselves and find complete understanding about what happened. Sara finds a way to accept her role. She knows that her actions were part of what led to Emma’s suicide, but she also finds a way to move forward with her life in a way that shows she learned something. I didn’t like her character, but I did find a respect for her at the end. I never thought I’d like a book that had unlikable characters and a plot told from the bully’s point of view, but Tease managed to do it. It doesn’t try to make you like or feel sympathetic towards the characters; that would have felt fake. Tease is a good book that will make you consider both sides of every story.

If Tease sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Title: Torn
Author: Jennifer Brown
Rating: ★★★★★

This is the second book of Brown’s that I’ve read. Hate List was the first. That was like a gut punch, in a good way. Torn Away left me with the same feeling. It’s about how a girl struggles to find her place after everything she loves is taken away from her in an instant.

Jersey is a typical teen. She fights with her mom, she rolls her eyes at chores, and she finds her little sister annoying. Her father’s not in the picture, but she has a stepfather. When a tornado sweeps through her town one night, her mother and sister are killed. Her stepfather doesn’t know how to live without them. She’s sent to her biological father’s home, and then her mother’s parents. Nothing in her life is stable anymore and she doesn’t know how to deal with everything she’s been handed. The one person she knows could help her is the one person she can’t talk to, her mom.

Her friends can’t understand. One friend lost his house, but still has his family. Another friend’s house and family are fine. Jersey can’t find a way to grieve for her family because she doesn’t know how she’s supposed to let go and handle her feelings. I felt so much for her. Even though she’s still alive, nothing about her life is the same. The stepfather she had come to rely on doesn’t know how to live life without her mom and sister. He doesn’t know how to handle life without them, but with a daughter that’s not his. He contacts her father’s family and send here there, not wanting to try and salvage the family he had before.

Her father’s family is clear about their feelings on her. She’s not one of them. She’s an obligation. The one person who she starts having a relationship with can’t fill the gap in her life. She’s on the outside with no chances of changing that. When she is sent to her grandparents, her mother’s parents, she is holding on to the resentment her mother passed to her. She still doesn’t feel like she’s found a place to belong.

Jersey is such a strong character in this novel. I had tears in my eyes as I read her struggles. The tornado destroying her house was bad enough. Then her mom and sister are gone. Her stepfather doesn’t know how to live with her. Her father’s family resents her very existence. Her grandparents were always the bad guys as she grew up and now she has to live with them. Any on of these would be tough to handle, but having to work her way through every single one was nearly impossible. I was waiting for her to break.

In the end, this novel is about Jersey finding a way to move forward with her life while not losing touch with where she came from. It’s about finding the strength to live for those who can’t and for letting go of the past in order to face the future. Brown is an exceptional writer and Torn Away only adds to her ability to yank at my heart and cry in my favorite way possible. She’s a must read author.

If Torn Away sounds like you kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

Title: Sleep No More
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Rating: ★★★

I’m sure there will be some people who have issues with this book. It’s a snapshot of Charlotte’s life as an Oracle, not her life story. Because of that, it only details the events that have such a huge impact on her as a teen, that the rest of her life will always feel the effects. I’m glad it’s a standalone novel. It was entertaining, but dark.

Charlotte is an Oracle. She gets visions of the future. After she changes the future to save her aunt, her father dies. From that moment on, she works hard to keep her Oracle side pushed away, resisting visions anytime they start to come. She’s seen how altering with the future can backfire and she never wants to risk that again. Then, she starts getting visions of her classmates’ murders. She feels guilty she can’t save them. To her, what good are visions when she can’t do anything about them? So when someone new comes into her life, claiming to know what she is and how she can use her visions to change the future, she jumps at the chance.

There were moments I wanted to shake some sense into Charlotte. From the outside, I could see how her choices could end up backfiring. I could sense that things weren’t right. But I also felt for Charlotte. She wants to know all she can about being an Oracle. She finds comfort in in knowledge. The unknowns are what make her question everything. Her aunt, the one in change of teaching her how to be an Oracle, holds back information, claiming she doesn’t need to know it yet. It’s because of this that she jumps on the change to learn more, even if it’s from someone she doesn’t really know.

The mystery and suspense in this novel were fantastic. I never really knew what would happen next. It’s clear that there is a serial killer, but the identity is hidden. Even in her visions, Charlotte is unable to find out any clues on who she is fighting against. The entire novel had this feeling of darkness, but it wasn’t heavy with it. There were light moments when Charlotte could just be a teenager before having to try and fight an evil she doesn’t know again. The pace of the novel is perfect, giving just enough information for one question to be answered before throwing in even more questions. This kept me on the edge of my seat, unable to put the novel down.

Sleep No More was a fantastic novel. It was fast-paced, but it never felt like things were moving too quickly. Pike would slow the novel down for a few moments before throwing something new in. It created a novel that ad me engaged and wondering with every page. I’m looking forward to reading more from Pike.

If Sleep No More sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Taking by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Taking
Author: Kimberly Derting
Series: The Taking Trilogy
Rating: ★★★

After reading Derting’s other novels, I knew The Taking was going to be a book I wanted to read. It was different from her other novels, and after starting to read, I could tell it was either going to really pull me in, or I was going to struggle to finish it. Books that are connected to the science fiction genre are not usually my thing. They have to be done really well for me to enjoy them.

Kyra was in the car, having an argument with her father about colleges, when she demands he pulls over so she can walk to her team’s championship celebration. Once out of the car, she vanishes. All she remembers is a flash of light, and then nothing. The next thing she is aware of is her being by a dumpster with no recollection of how she got there. When she returns to her home, she finds a man and a child she doesn’t know there. Across the street, where her boyfriend lives, she finds he is gone and his younger brother has grown up. 5 years have passed since she vanished and nothing is the same.

Kyra is thrown into a new world where she doesn’t know what is going on. People want things from her; they want to know where she went and why she’s been gone for years. She’s become obsessed with time, not wanting to lose anymore of it. Her best friend and her boyfriend have moved on. Her family has been torn apart. She doesn’t recognize anything about her life now. She’s still 16 and trying to cope with everything. I find I was forgiving her for things I’d usually find annoying in a character. To me, her choices were understandable. She’s trying to fall back into a life that vanished. Her decisions wouldn’t always be the best, but she showed a maturity I was grateful for.

The relationship between Kyra and Tyler seemed to develop just a little too fast for my taste. Yes, they had great chemistry and Tyler was a wonderfully sweet boy, it felt a little odd for Kyra tog o from viewing him as the kid brother of her boyfriend to imagining a relationship with him. I would have liked a little more development of the relationship between the two before it turned romantic. At times, despite being great boyfriend material, it felt like Tyler’s attempts to make Kyra happy felt more like a little kid with a crush instead of two equal people finding their way together.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot because this is a book that needs to unfold at just the right pace. In all honesty, if I had known what one of the major plot points would be, I probably wouldn’t have read it. But Derting wrote the novel in such a way that it didn’t feel cheesy or wrong. It felt like it was a perfect piece of the puzzle. I’m really looking forward to what comes next. The cliffhanger has me anxious.

Despite a few flaws, The Taking was a good book that definitely pulled me in and has me ready and anxious for the next piece of the story. Derting has another great series on her hands.

If The Taking sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Barnes and Noble

Thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.