Q&A Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Q&A

Written by: Jeff Garvin
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Pages: 352, hardcover
Series: standalone
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The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

 

1) Best Part of this Book?

“The fact that it exists” is pretty much a given here–it’s about time YA books started featuring more nonbinary characters and exploring the complexity of gender.

That being said, I loved:

  • Riley’s blog entries, which could easily have felt like infodumps but didn’t, because Riley’s voice was so powerful throughout. 
  • the way Riley’s anxiety was portrayed–the fact that it didn’t magically go away at the end of the book but was something Riley learned to cope with better, Riley’s conversations with their therapists, the depiction of the anxiety medication’s effects.
  • Riley’s heartwarming friendships with Solo and Bec.

2) Favorite character?

Riley is very believable as a teenager who has been through a lot and is trying to figure out what to do next, who is fantastically snarky with great taste in music, who shows a mix of strength and vulnerability and grows so much.

3) Worst part of this book?

Can I say I’m jealous of the fact that Riley got five thousand followers in a week? Does that actually happen to people?

On a more serious note, Jeff Garvin made the decision not to reveal Riley’s assigned-at-birth sex, and I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it means readers will (hopefully) question why the want to know that information when that isn’t the gender Riley identifies with. On the other hand, someone’s assigned sex does influence how people treat them, and that contributes to who they are.

4) Favorite Quote?

“The world isn’t binary. Everything isn’t black or white, yes or no. Sometimes it’s not a switch, it’s a dial. And it’s not even a dial you can get your hands on; it turns without your permission or approval.”

5) Was it what’s Expected?

Honestly, it was. Other than Riley’s gender identity (which I haven’t seen many books feature), this was a pretty garden-variety coming out story, with both the good and the bad that this entails.

PickupI’d say yes!

Polina

Q&A Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Q&A

Written by: V. E. Schwab
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Pages: 512, hardcover
Series: Shades of Magic, #2
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It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

1) Best Part of this Book?

V. E. Schwab’s writing is something that is so masterful. It’s something that I don’t even know how to express properly. It’s not prose heavy like some books but it simply is. The characters feel real, and they let me escape into their heads for a few hours.

2) Favorite character?

Is there ever an answer here that isn’t Lila Bard? C’mon guys.

3) Worst part of this book?

The ending. I just. Nope. Not getting into it.

4) Favorite Quote?

“She bent most of the rules. She broke the rest.”

5) Was it what’s Expected?

In some ways yes, in other ways no. I expected a whirlwind magical adventure, which I totally got. But also feelings? Excitement? Balls? Magical fights? Like the plot of A Darker Shade of Magic was so intense I was expecting this huge thrilling ride of insanity, and it wasn’t like that, but it was so so so good.

Pickup

If you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic GET TO THE BOOKSTORE. If you HAVE read A Darker Shade of Magic and haven’t read A Gathering of Shadows GET TO THE BOOKSTORE.

Sondra

ARC Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Written by: Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Pages: 400, Hardback
Series: Standalone
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Thank you to Philomel Books for the ARC!

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The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war’s most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are  Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

LetsTalk

I finally read a Ruta Sepetys book, and it was exactly the gut punch I have been led to expect.

Salt to the Sea is about four people with their own secrets and goals trying to survive during a very difficult time. It’s told in short, quick chapters through sparse-but-beautiful writing, and sheds light on a piece of World War II history not often discussed. It’s well-researched and character-driven and very very painful. (The real salt here is my tears, okay?)

I was incredibly impressed with this book. It flowed really well; the short chapters made it very difficult to stop reading. The characters were well-developed and I loved the way their backstories were gradually revealed. The writing is deceptively simple, but effective–I can’t count how many times I read a certain sentence over and over because it made me feel a little bit empty inside.

Basically, Salt to the Sea is my first five-star book of the year, and I encourage you all to read it. The sheer brutality of the world can be difficult to get through at times, but it’s incredibly worth it.

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ARC Review: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Written by: Heidi Heilig
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Pages: 464, hardcover
Series: The Girl From Everywhere, #1
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Heidi Heilig’s debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City to nineteenth-century Hawaii to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

In The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig blends fantasy, history, and a modern sensibility with witty, fast-paced

LetsTalk

So The Girl From Everywhere isn’t what I expected. Don’t ask me what I really expected going into this book, probably something along the lines of lots of time travel, something quirky and fantastic. What I got was, well, it was fantastic, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t nearly as quirky and dorky as I expected, The Girl From Everywhere was actually pretty serious and really hard hitting.

While Time Travel is a very large element of the book, the majority of the story actually takes place in Hawaii. The way that Heilig talks about Hawaii makes me want to visit more than I already did, unfortunately I kinda wanna visit in 1886, but that’s beside the point. I just need a good map, right?

Nix is our main character, and I adore her so much. The way that she’s been written has me thrilled. She’s truly written like a girl without a time. She doesn’t obsessively want to use modern day slang, or try and check her cell phone as if she were from 2016. But at the same time she doesn’t talk like she’s from the Victorian era either. She’s written exactly as she is, someone without a true time to call home.

Didn'tWork

Ahh, the dreaded love triangle rears its head again. While this one isn’t as bad as many, many others I have read, it’s certainly an element of the book. Along with the added bonus that I have no clue where this love triangle is going, well that actually is a pleasant surprise. Love triangles tend to be worse because you know the outcome.

DidWork

I really loved the learning I got to do in this book. I didn’t realize I was learning until the end of the book when I read the history of it all and found out that there was history here. Which is probably how all text books should be written, let’s be honest.

We have such a great cast of characters, from our main characters to real people that Heilig plucks out of history. I’ve mentioned Nix already, but I just can’t get over how well everyone works together, and how everyone is so utterly unique. Trust me I could ramble for a while longer but  I really want to let you discover these characters on your own.

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This book is absolutely amazing, the story is so gripping, the characters are wonderful. Best of all, while it is a series, this book rather stands on its own, we’ve got a LOT of unanswered questions, but I’m okay waiting for a year for this one. Which basically means GO PREORDER IT RIGHT NOW.

Sondra