Tag Archives: 5-star

Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Elsewhere
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre:  Young Adult
Rating: 5/5

Why I picked it: Never read anything by the author before and this was a bargain book.

Synopsis: Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice. Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

(Mini) Review: Let me begin by saying that I was totally hooked on this book about 5 pages in, and it’s very rare for me to be so into a book so quickly. Having read nothing from the author before, I was very pleasantly surprised by the subject matter of this book, as well as the create world-building.

Elizabeth Hall is dead. Instead of ending up in a heaven-like world where one lives on a cloud and is surrounded by angels, Liz finds herself in a world called Elsewhere that mirrors Earth but isn’t exactly the place that she had left behind.  I found Zevin’s interpretation of what happens after you die to be really original. Part of the reason why this book was such a page turner for me was because of how much I wanted to know about this world.

For a long while, Elizabeth is really depressed and accepting of her status as a member of the deceased. The struggles she goes through are just what one would expect of a person who died to young – never being able to grow up and enjoy all that life awaits them.I felt like I was there with Liz on her emotional journey of denial and acceptance.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. The story works, and the supporting characters really do a wonderful job of really building Liz up as she learns acceptance. Although a book about death, “Elsewhere” brings a refreshingly positive outlook to life, in general, which is always something I enjoy.

Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Chick Lit
Rating: 5/5

Why I picked it: It’s a banned book…so automatic appeal there.

Synopsis:According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie–she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Review: I have to really compose myself before writing this review because “Twenty Boy Summer” really impacted me. And I’m not ashamed to admit that – even being like 13 years older than the target audience. Sarah Ockler really blew me away with her story about love, loss, and that kinda awkward time that being a teen girl is really all about.

On the day of her 15th birthday, Anna’s wish comes true and she gets kissed by Matt – a close friend and also the brother of her best friend, Frankie. The kiss turns into many more as Matt and Anna steal moments of urgency that can only be associated with first lust. The intensity of their moments is conveyed in a way that made me really feel that rush of desire and innocent love. Instead of telling Frankie about their new connection, Anna and Matt decide to keep a secret – for fear of how she will take it. Matt, as Frankie’s brother, decides that he will be the one to tell her during their annual summer vacation to California. With that, he makes Anna promise that she won’t say a word beforehand. Before the secret relationship can be revealed, an accident happens and Matt does not survive. Anna decides to keep her last promise to him and does not reveal her secret to Frankie.

The book really picks up about  a year after the tragedy when Frankie and Anna are getting ready for summer vacation. This year, Anna is accompanying Frankie and her parents to California, and both girls vow to have the best summer ever –  a summer filled with twenty boys, one of whom Anna plans to lose her virginity to. Frankie, the more “advanced” of the two girls orchestrates the plan and puts it into motion, while Anna is more just along for the ride.

What really makes the book is Ockler’s impeccable writing and how she is able to put descriptive words to the exact emotions,  sense of loss,  and of  the not-belonging that teenagers face – especially teenage girls. One of my favorite lines in the book is:

“Tonight, when Frankie sits at the table and innocently knocks over her glass of Diet Coke, Aunt Jayne starts to cry, and the translucent veil of general okayness evaporates to reveal the honest, ugly parts underneath.”

I just cannot gush enough about how well-written this book was. It really brought be back to having similar emotions and experiences, in that sort of cusp of womanhood when you’re starting to realize the power of your sexuality and the impact of lust. I can see why this book ends up on Banned Books lists, but I really don’t think it should. The lessons it teaches far outweigh the implications that it makes. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, especially anyone who currently is, or has ever been, a teenage girl.

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Title:Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre:  YA, Dystopian
Rating: 5/5

Why I picked it: It was on sale for like $4 at Borders and I was really interested in Bacigalupi’s other book “The Wind-Up Girl.”

Synopsis: Set initially in a future shanty town in America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she’ll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

Review:  What an amazing book! I literally could not put it down and finished it in a little over a day.

“Ship Breaker” centers on a young boy, Nailer, who works in a bleak, gray world salvaging the more precious metals on old ships that have long since been out of commission. He belongs to a “crew” and knows very little of life outside of his physical, dangerous job or his abusive drug-addicted father. Nailer is basically the picture-perfect definition of an underdog. Everything has the potential to change when he comes upon a wrecked ship that is loaded with treasures and riches…if not for the fact that the ship has a lone survivor: a beautiful, rich girl who has a story of her own.

The book takes the reader on a whirl-wind adventure through a dark world where New Orleans, and other Gulf cities, are completely underwater, oil and chemical sludge cover the oceans, and the divide between rich and poor is great. Thanks to Bacigalupi’s extremely vivid descriptions and rich – almost poetic – writing, it is a world that seems eerily possible.

While many consider this novel grittier than other dystopian books, I feel that the “grit” is exactly why it works. It is the type of book that stays with you, long after you’ve closed its pages. For all the reasons outlined above, the book gets a 5-star rating for me.