Tag Archive | thought provoking

Review: The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

the secret history of us -jessi kirbyGorgeously written and emotionally charged, The Secret History of Us explores the difficult journey of a teenage girl who must piece her life together after losing her memory in a near-fatal accident.

When Olivia awakes in a hospital bed following a car accident that almost took her life, she can’t remember the details about how she got there. She figures the fog is just a symptom of being in a week-long coma, but as time goes on, she realizes she’s lost more than just the last several days of her life—she’s lost her memory of the last four years. Gone is any recollection of starting or graduating high school; the prom; or her steady boyfriend Matt. Trying to figure out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

As Liv tries to block out what her family and friends say about who she used to be, the one person she hasn’t heard enough from is Walker, the guy who saved her the night her car was knocked off that bridge into the bay below. Walker is the hardened boy who’s been keeping his distance—and the only person Olivia inexplicably feels herself with. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t remember living.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


**The Secret History of Us came out August 1, 2017**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

A heartfelt and fast-paced read, The Secret History of Us had me guessing along with Liv as she tried piecing her life back together without her memories. I’ve enjoyed many of Jessi Kirby’s previous books for their grit and ability to make readers think about the deeper questions in life, and likewise this one has been another interesting novel to ponder over.

What if you lost 4-5 years of your life’s memories? Do those experiences shape who we are today or is there something about you intrinsically that defines you?

The emotional journey Liv takes captured me. How loved ones who have your best interests at heart may still want to define you in a way that they think is best. How some relationships may come out of a single moment that might not be reformed in the same way again. These were things plaguing our protagonist and I’m glad that it was the focus of the book.

Relationships were a huge deal too. I liked that her family wasn’t your typical dysfunctional group, but your average American family with 2.5 kids. The family dynamic was still real as they too dealt with the loss of those years almost as personally as Liv did. The exploration of changing friendships such as with middle school besties was also interesting and posed the real question about how one can lose people without really intending for that to happen.

But the highlight of this story was on finding ones identity. Whether that be with what Liv loved to do or the guy she was dating, what made her her? The romantic aspect was present as she couldn’t remember her boyfriend, and there seemed to be a new love interesting forming, but this added to everything else the book was exploring. Can we find our way back to someone we fell for without the relationship history there?

It’s so hard to explain still, but the feelings and emotions reading Liv’s story was truly thought provoking. The only thing that could be improved was the length. Everything happened quite fast and organically, but I kind of wish that the ending was developed more. The romance with Walker was almost non-existent. Honestly, I would’ve been fine if she had decided she needed some quality time alone and single in order to better find herself again.

Whatever it may have lacked near the end, the journey throughout the rest of the book was quick and deep. Jessi Kirby is a master of producing stories that tug at my heartstrings with her almost-lyrical prose and expertly weaved plot that makes the romantic in me sigh.

Overall Recommendation:
The Secret History of Us was a compelling story that I flew through, a story about a girl finding out who she was again. Liv had lost 4 years of her life’s memories, crucial years in high school where so many things had shaped her into the young woman she was. Forgetting both people whom she loved and how she lost a best friend, the emotional journey she takes in figuring out what made her her was poignant and heartfelt. Though the story was a little short and the ending could’ve been developed more, Jessi Kirby makes another thought provoking book, and I’m still a huge fan of hers.


Reading this book made me really think. And the below is a question I’d like to pose to you too.

What events in your life do you think defines who you are? What if you one day lost them? Would you still be you?

Review: Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno

everything all at once -katrina lenoFrom the author of The Half Life of Molly Pierce and The Lost & Found comes a magical new YA novel about 24 dares, 3 weeks, and taking a leap into the unknown.

Lottie Reeves has always struggled with anxiety, and when her beloved Aunt Helen dies, Lottie begins to fear that her own unexpected death might be waiting around every corner.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the best–selling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers.

In her will, she leaves one last writing project—just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions designed to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Soon, Lottie’s trying some writing of her own, leaping off cliffs, and even falling for a boy she’s only just met. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fear once and for all.

This gorgeous novel is perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven, with the scavenger hunt feel of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and a dash of magic that evokes Tuck Everlasting.


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Everything All At Once came out July 25, 2017**

[Books] help with everything. Books can make you live a thousand lifetimes, a thousand different lives. Books make you immortal.

Everything All At Once was a poignant novel that took a deep look at life, or rather, how short one’s life can be. Lottie’s aunt whom she was really close to had passed away, leaving her with 24 letters instructing her on different tasks to carry out after she was gone. This was a unique concept that really drew me in. The voice of Aunt Helen was so real, it didn’t matter that she had technically never breathed a single breath during the time span of this novel. Her fears and hopes for Lottie were made clear and her love for those she left behind was written everywhere, both explicitly and implicitly.

Besides that wonderful fact, Aunt Helen was a novel writer, a famous one akin to J.K. Rowling in this world. The little snippets and excerpts from her children novels at the end of each chapter was so cute and the story of Alvin and Margo Hatter drew e in as much as the main story did. In fact, sometimes I looked forward to those little paragraphs more than the book itself.

Now, I absolutely adored Katrina Leno’s writing and prose. It was heartfelt but simple. The characters came to life. From Lottie’s funny but smart brother who had the most realistic sibling relationship I’ve read in a long while, to the family dynamic with the parents, I came to know this family. Not only that, but I bled for Lottie as she struggled with her anxieties, what made her different from the rest of her immediate family aside from her aunt, and the aftermath of the loss of a loved one.

Panic attacks and anxiety wasn’t made the forefront of this story, but its presence was still just as crucial as Lottie learned to take a risk occasionally, to be brave, and to seek help when needed. This was powerful. Especially with the way it ended.

And what an ending. I did not really see that strange aspect coming. The big secret Aunt Helen had kept from everyone. And likewise, how this interesting boy who came into Lottie’s life would also be more meaningful than just a love interest to check off for the protagonist. That brought up my excitement for sure.

That being said, I felt the book dragged a lot. I loved the idea of the 24 letters, and there’s one chapter for each task that Lottie embarked on for that specific letter. Occasionally, I just wished it went by faster so we could get to the exciting parts. At the end of the day, this book was 100% heartfelt but 20% suspenseful in carrying you through all of Lottie’s pain. It just needed something more in the beginning and middle to really get readers excited.

To close, I did enjoy this book no matter the crazy slow pace. It made me think a lot. About life and death. Big themes like immortality and what we leave behind when it’s our time. I think they’re important to discuss and this book did it beautifully.

The possibilities [of death] were endless, and it didn’t matter if you played it safe or not. Here one minute, gone the next.

Overall Recommendation:

Everything All At Once is one of those books that just seems to have a little bit of everything that may attract different audiences. It was heartfelt and real about loss, while also being a little bit explorative and fun with the letters Aunt Helen had left behind for our protagonist, Lottie, to carry out. With a cast of down-to-earth and genuinely real characters, this book would’ve had it all if not for the EXTREMELY slow pace it was set at. While I encourage you read this book for its overall big themes such as death and life, it may not be the easiest book to get through. But the little book within a book element may just be the thing to keep you going.

Note: all quotes are subject to change when published

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?