Tag Archive | thought provoking

Review: All Things New by Lauren Miller

all things new -lauren millerJessa has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn’t help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels.

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, where she meets Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

ALL THINGS NEW is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world, perfect for fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.


4 Drink Me Potions


**All Things New comes out August 1, 2017**

Thank you NetGalley and Three Saints Press for this copy in exchange for an honest review

 

What if we could see how people are on the inside, the real, invisible truth, literally painted on their faces? Some people would look hideous, like Dorian (Gray). Awfulness telegraphed as ugliness in paint. But most of us would probably just look damaged. Broken in places. Bruised and cut and scarred.


Lauren Miller is a master of crafting ideas into stories that portray truths that we can all relate to. I’ve been a fan of both of her previous works, Parallel and Free to Fall. So with fairly high expectations, her latest work All Things New managed to still surprise me (in a delightful way) with the depth of the newest truth displayed in a beautiful YA story.

Jessa (what a beautiful name!) has anxiety. Not your run-of-the-mill stress. But a true anxiety disorder that affects daily living. I loved having her as the main character. I myself know what it feels like to have panic attacks, but the absolute emotion evoked in Jessa’s feelings when she was stressed gave me a glimpse of what it would be like when this kinda anxiety lived under the surface all the time. Her anxiety and fear defined her. She could try to hide all this mess inside of her as best as she could, but anything hidden deep down is going to be disastrous when they explode out into the visible light. And with her accident, now there were more problems added to her plate: hallucinating bruises and scars on other people’s faces.

The one thing that made me drop my rating a little was the little bit of slowness in the beginning. From the synopsis, we all know that the bruises and scars she sees on other people may be a representation of bruises to their inner self, to their soul. However, Jessa doesn’t get to that conclusion for a long time. It’s just another thing she’s deeply ashamed about herself, adding to the fear and another thing she has to hide from those who care about her.

But beyond this little thing, all else was AMAZING. Period.

There weren’t many secondary characters that really mattered in this story. The two people we get to know are twins, Marshall and Hannah.

Hannah wasn’t simply just Jessa’s “new friend”. She can’t be so simply defined. She wasn’t so two-dimensional. Hannah was broken inside herself. It may not have been so easily seen, as we all go through life trying to hide what we suffer on the inside, but going through this story, it wasn’t just a story of Jessa learning to deal with her mess, but the same went for Hannah. I loved that there was more focus on Hannah than other novels would put the effort into “the friend” character. Even if we didn’t relate to Jessa, maybe we could relate to Hannah’s type of problems. I know I could. Academic stress and being the twin less focused on by the parents. Different things stress different individuals, but this novel showcases the unity in learning to deal with our individual problems.

As for Marshall, he’s not just “the boyfriend”. He’s not just the twin with a physical hole in his heart. He’s good-natured and always looked at the bright side. He was one factor in pushing Jessa to deal with her problems instead of avoiding them. He’s not the only one, as life doesn’t always necessarily revolve around a magical solution in our significant others. But they can be at least one powerful motivator.

At the end of the day, All Things New demonstrated poignant ideas such as soul and mind, seeing the visible and the invisible in others’ lives, and the bruises we carry inside. Lauren Miller has done it again, and if you like stories that make you think with hints of hope and love weaved throughout, her stories are something you need to read.

Overall Recommendation:
All Things New tackles a difficult idea of symbolic bruises on our souls from the various stresses in our lives, becoming visible to our protagonist Jessa who herself has a lot of issues to deal with inside. While this story centres on this young woman’s journey in facing the scars she has – both physical and emotional – it also deals with influences of family, love and support groups for those with mental health illnesses. In the YA genre, all works of Lauren Miller’s is outstanding but All Things New is definitely recommended.


Have you read any other good books that deal with mental health in a similar way?

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

a mad, wicked folly -sharon biggs wallerWelcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


A Mad, Wicked Folly has been on my to-read list for a long while, but I kept putting it off for who knows what reasons. So to my utter surprise, I realize I had set aside this long a book that spoke volumes to me. The historical YA genre has started picking up with better books lately, so if you like a dose of history (with clear evidence of research into the time period) along with a strong protagonist fighting for a cause, this is the book for you.

Set in the early 1900s, the women suffragist movement was picking up in both America and England. I always love a good novel set in London, and this Edwardian era novel is no exception. The times are changing and women are fighting for more freedom and equal opportunities as men. More education, getting their own wages and doing something more substantial than just hosting the next dinner party for their husbands. I never considered myself a huge feminist and just briefly studied the history of women’s rights. But this book really opened my eyes to the very realistic struggle that such women went through in order to make a better life for their daughters, their nieces and any woman who was radical enough to want something more for themselves for a change.

Vicky Darling was no exception as such a protagonist. She yearns to go to art school, to exhibit her work in galleries and get paid for it. She dreams more for herself than just being a docile wife to a man who thinks she has no brain or useful purpose beyond being an arm candy.

I loved Vicky. She was already bold for a girl in her social circle. Being an upper middle class young woman meant more pressures into being the traditional kind of lady. Marrying for title and for money. It was harder to break out of the mold. But she posed nude. For the sake of art! I’m not sure even I would be bold enough to do such a thing now, 100+ years after.

Not only was she courageous enough to do such a thing, she faced the resulting consequences with her head held high. She grew immensely through the events of the book. Sharon Biggs Waller did a great job of documenting the events of Vicky’s life after that single moment. Vicky initially didn’t align herself with the suffragettes but the focus of this book is mostly on their fight for equality.

Now, normally, I would think such a premise would make it kinda boring, right? And of course, there’s tons more to this story beyond the historical accuracies of the women rights movement for voting. However, this surprisingly (and I’m glad for it) took my breath away, at the emotion of the fight. It might connect more if you are also a woman, to understand that real women fought such things so that we could do things we take for granted now.

If that doesn’t satisfy you enough to want to pick up the book, A Mad, Wicked Folly also revolves around a love triangle of sorts. You know I abhor those, but this was more of a complicated situation. On one hand, Vicky needed to get out of her father’s control, and marriage to a suitable husband could provide that. Even if she didn’t love him.

On the other hand, you’ve got Police Constable William Fletcher. Ah, Will.

The blooming romance with him was amazing. And it mainly stems from how great (and hot) of a model he makes for Vicky’s drawings. Here is where the other great aspect of the book comes in. Wait for it? Is it the romance? Sure, it played a decent role in the plot and was very enjoyable, but what blew my mind? The art.

I don’t confess to know much about art, or have the greatest passion for it. I’m more of a writer, if this doesn’t already surprise you. But the details that went into describing Vicky’s work and seeing her world through an artist’s eye made it all the more breathtaking.

I think there’s a bit of everything all wrapped up in a beautiful novel set in Edwardian London. Don’t make the mistake I did to wait so long to read it. Sharon Biggs Waller writes in a manner that draws you into the time period and into the emotions of our protagonist and those surrounding her.

Overall Recommendation:
A Mad, Wicked Folly is another example of how amazing well-researched historical YA books can be. Vicky Darling is an artist, or at least she hopes to be if she could ever get the chance to learn more. But in Edwardian London, women aren’t allowed the same opportunities. Set in the time period of the women’s rights movement, it gives a wonderful picture of how hard real-life women in the past fought for things we may take advantage of now. Vicky’s journey and self-growth as she learns what it takes, what sacrifices she may need to make, in order to pursue her dream as a young woman in the early 20th century. Add a sweet romance with her model, I’m sure this book has something to draw just about anyone in. Who ever said history couldn’t be fun to read about?

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I was here -gayle forman

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.


4 Drink Me Potions


I Was Here left me breathless and stunned with the simplicity of Cody’s journey. It left me wishing that there was more after the last pages faded from sight, although it did end on a good note.

Cody was left devastated after the sudden – and unforeseen – death of her best friend, Meg. Now, I haven’t personally been touched by a loved one who even made an attempt on their life, and I generally don’t read a lot of novels on suicides, but I Was Here resonated deeply with me. Meg was her best friend, her better half. To not have known something so huge happening in someone who played such an integral role in her life left her shattered.

 

“I recently lost someone. Someone so integral to me, it’s like a part of me is gone. And now I don’t know how to be anymore. If there’s even a me without her. It’s like she was my sun, and then my sun went out. Imagine if the real sun went out. Maybe there’d still be life on Earth, but would you still want to live here? Do I still want to live here?”

 

I may not personally understand that feeling, but Gayle Forman writes in a way that realistically draws you in. Even without having read the Author’s Note at the end, it was obvious that this novel was inspired by someone who might have actually gone through an experience like this. It was poignant and, well, real.

Cody was also a very interesting heroine. Right off the bat, you knew she wasn’t some scared, weak girl who wanted to cry. She was tough as nails. And maybe more than a little bit angry at herself and Meg for killing herself.

 

“Meg’s parents look blasted into heartbreak, the hollows under their eyes so deep, I don’t see how they’ll ever go away. And it’s for them I find my least stinky dress and put it on. I get ready to sing. Again.
Amazing Grace. How Vile the Sound.

 

But she also was fighting a lot of grief and guilt. She was the best friend. Shouldn’t she have known? Shouldn’t she have been the one telling Meg life wouldn’t be the same without her?

Enter Ben McCallister into this turmoil. He had history with Meg, one that Cody personally did not like. They had a rough start, but there was something drawing them together. Maybe it was this shared guilt for Meg’s decision. Whatever it was, this romance wasn’t some silly-nilly attraction. It was based on a shared understanding on how messed up their lives can get, the same need for someone to just listen and get it. Get them.

I loved how they interacted and the fact that they’re both imperfect. Ben’s not some great guy. He used girls, albeit regretful and a little ashamed afterwards. Cody’s…well, she’s just angry deep inside. Mostly at herself, but this causes her to lash out and distance others. Oh, and both have mouths like sailors.

But together? They lit a tiny spark. A spark that may just be hope for the future. And realizing that Meg’s death wasn’t their fault. They just had to learn to forgive themselves. After all, forgiveness is a miracle drug for the soul.

With this thought in mind, I Was Here was the perfect name for this novel. ‘Cause at the end of the day, what better message for anyone to leave behind than “I was here”?

Overall Recommendation:
Gayle Forman does it again with another sweeping tale of heartache, guilt and a personal journey in finding a way to forgive. Cody was an imperfect heroine who went in search of the reasons why her best friend would kill herself. Without telling her. Without even knowing it could happen. Although she hoped to find a way to give justice to her best friend, if not in life then in death, it leads her to finding herself, as well as a particular guy who may just understand exactly what she’s going through. I Was Here is a poignant story that dives deep into the psyche of someone considering to kill themselves, and how people closest to them would deal with the aftermath. I would definitely recommend you read this touching novel.