my thoughts on 3 YA contemporaries I never reviewed

I’m so far behind on my reviews, it’s not even funny. A little while ago, I realized that there are 3 YA contemporaries I read but never reviewed on this blog. Sometimes, I don’t have all that much to say about a book which leads to me never reviewing it at all. To combat that, I’ll try to make more of these combined mini reviews. Here are my thoughts on Leah on the OffbeatI Believe in a Thing Called Love, and I Was Born For This.

leah on the offbeatTitle: Leah on the Offbeat
Series: Creekwood #2
Author: Becky Albertalli
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended. 

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When Leah on the Offbeat was first announced, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I loved the first book in this companion duology/series, and wanted to know more about Leah as a character. After its release, the book started to get some mixed reviews which made me incredibly nervous. What if I didn’t like it?

I shouldn’t have worried. I absolutely loved this book, and read it in one sitting. It’s not a perfect novel, which I’ll discuss later, but I don’t really believe that exists. The reason most people didn’t like this book is because they disliked Leah as a character or person. I would be a complete hypocrite if I were to say that though, because Leah is basically me as a teenager.

As a teen, I was horribly insecure. Yes, I’m still somewhat insecure, thank you for bringing that up. I was afraid of being the one in the friend group who didn’t really belong, and couldn’t really talk about my feelings. I pushed my friends away and distanced myself from them instead of talking it out, because that’s all I could deal with. I could see so much of myself in this teenage girl, which is why I loved this book so much. I’m happy to say I’ve grown out of that mindset though.

The reason I can’t give this book 5 stars is because of the way Leah reacts when someone comes out to her. She basically denies their sexuality and claims it can’t be true, and honestly it’s just the worst way to react. It isn’t challenged in the book, which is why I feel like we need to address it.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. I’m so grateful to have gotten to know Leah better.


I believe in a thing called loveTitle: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life.

She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

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I picked this one up because a) the hype surrounding it, and b) the main character tries to win over her crush with tips she got from her favorite K-dramas. Doesn’t that sound wonderful and hilarious? I love K-dramas, no matter how cliche they might be at times, so I figured this would be the perfect light and fluffy read for me.

I was wrong. I ended up giving this 3 stars, but I’m still somewhat conflicted on my rating for this book – even though it’s been a year since I finished reading it.

One the one hand, I enjoyed a large part of this book. I loved all the K-drama references and little tidbits you learn about Korean culture while reading. Desi’s dad is one of my favorite characters ever, and I wish to protect him forever. Lastly, I’m also glad this wasn’t a love triangle. I was kind of scared that would happen when I first started reading. All in all, this is a quick and enjoyable read.

On the other hand, I hated what Desi did. Yes, I’m aware of how cliche dramas can be, and how they are full of tropes that aren’t necessarily healthy especially when it comes to relationships. However, Desi took it to a whole new level in this book. What she did was incredibly dangerous and completely insane. The worst part is that there were really no consequences to what she did. I can’t really accept that as a reader, so I decided to lower my rating. It truly tainted the entire book for me.


i was born for thisTitle: I Was Born For This
Author: Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★.₅ – liked it

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

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I read this before going to YALC in July 2018, because I wanted to read all of Alice’s books before meeting her. I Was Born For This is Alice Oseman’s latest novel. It revolves around the frontman of a band called The Ark and one of their fans called Angel.

Angel is preparing to go to The Ark’s concert with her best friend, who she is meeting for the first time. They’ve been fangirling over The Ark online for ages, and became friends along the way. Now, they’re going to see their favorite band live.

This is a story of friendship, fandom, fame, and family. Ah, the alliteration. I couldn’t help myself. While I think this novel explored these aspects incredibly well, I didn’t fall in love with the book itself. I loved what Alice had to say about how fandom and sexism and (online) friendships. I tabbed certain passages because I was so glad to see my thoughts written in a book.

I was also quite intrigued by some of the characters. Jimmy, the frontman of The Ark, has to deal with fame and addiction as well as being outed against his will by someone else, and the transphobic comments still thrown his way. I wish I could have read more from all the members of The Ark, because I found them to be the most fascinating.

While I loved a lot of the concepts of the book and some of the characters, I just couldn’t connect to the book itself. The entire time I was reading, I knew it would end up as a 3.5 star-read. One that is okay, or just good. Not great, but not bad either. Just okay.

 

Review: The Upside of Unrequited | One of My All-Time Favorite Contemporaries

the-upside-of-unrequitedThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Release date: April 11th, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Rating: 5/5 stars – a new favorite
Goodreads

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

review

When I saw this book on Netgalley, I knew I had to request it. I absolutely adored Becky Albertalli’s first book: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I was delighted when I was approved. After I finished Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop, I knew I wanted something cute to read. So I thought it was the perfect time to pick this up. I was not ready for the emotions this book would stir up in me, though.

This is the story of Molly and her family. Molly has a twin sister, Cassie, two moms, Nadine & Patty, and a little brother called Xavier. She also has a grandma called Betty -and I can’t decide whether I like her or not. They are Jewish, although not orthodox I believe because they do eat bacon. Cassie and Molly were conceived through the use of a sperm donor, so Patty could get pregnant. And their little brother Xavier was conceived with the same sperm donor and Nadine.

I think this family is wonderful for several reasons. First of all, they are so wonderfully diverse. Patty is bisexual. I’m not sure whether Nadine is too, or whether she identifies more as lesbian. Cassie, Molly’s twin, is gay. Patty and Nadine are an interracial couple, which is why Xavier also has a different skin color than Cassie and Molly do. There was this one part where Nadine said that everyone always assumed she was the nanny when she went out with Cassie and Molly when they were children. Because they don’t share the same skin color. I can’t imagine how much that would hurt. That everyone assumes your children are not yours. Second, I love the portrayal of a good family life. This is truly a wonderful family. They are supportive, kind and honest. They are the kind of parents people look up to. And it’s also mentioned that Molly has anxiety, and that she’s been taking medication for a year now.

This family takes shit from no one. And they are hilarious. A quote, to prove it:

She’s never liked him, ever since he asked if Cassie was actually queer, or if she was trying to emulate our moms. He actually used the word emulate. I don’t even want to remember that particular stretch of awkward silence. Actually, I do. It was kind of amazing.

Aside from all that wonderfulness, the reason I adored this book so much was Molly. Recently, I read and reviewed Radio Silence. And I mentioned it was the only contemporary I’d read so far to which I could actually really relate. It’s not the only one anymore. I think if you combine Molly and Frances (from Radio Silence), you’ll have created me. I could have cried for this girl, because I recognized so much of myself in her.

Molly is a plus-size girl. She frequently has crushes on people, but has never had the courage to say anything. While I can’t entirely relate to her journey, I can relate to her feelings and emotions so well. How she is too afraid to say something ridiculous to a crush, so she just says nothing. How she’s afraid they won’t like her, because she’s not a skinny girl. How scared she is of rejection. Her struggle with self-love and body positivity. How you over-analyze other people’s gestures and looks. Girl, I understand you. My heart actually hurt for this girl, because I know who she is. I know what it’s like. I was so invested in her story. So proud of her by the end of it. Molly is a wonderful person, and I want her to be my friend.

Here’s a quote to illustrate Molly being plus-size, and not taking shit

“Okay, I just gotta say it.” The guy touches my arm. “You are fucking gorgeous for a big girl.” I stop short. “It’s a compliment!” I look at him. “Fuck you.”

I also loved the sister dynamic in this story. Cassie meets a girl in the beginning of the book, and quickly falls in love with her. She’s spending so much time with Mina, that Molly feels left behind. I haven’t experienced this with a sister, but I have with friends. On the one hand, you want them to be as happy as possible, and to spend time with the person they love. But you also miss them so much. And I love to see that side explored more. Because Molly does like Mina. And she also says that she is happy for Cassie. But it’s a double feeling, because you’re also sad?

Obviously,  I can’t end this review without talking about Reid. I am in love with Reid. He honestly sounds like the most perfect person to ever live. He wears Middle Earth shirts. He loves Cadbury Mini Eggs. He’s a bit shy, but the kindest person ever. He has cute brown hair and hazel eyes. He loves edible cookie dough with vanilla ice cream. Sign me the hell up, because he sounds amazing. He’s also so kind to Molly. I like that she actually felt comfortable around him, and that he made her feel beautiful. I know, I know, we shouldn’t need a guy to know we are beautiful. But let’s not lie: it’s nice. I also liked that at the end, they discussed how normal it actually is to not have a partner in high school. That there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.



I can gush endlessly about this book
, because there are so many aspects of it I absolutely adore. I love the family dynamics. I love the friendships. I love the fact that there is a little drama but it’s not endlessly drawn out -because high school did have drama, just not as exaggerated as it usually is in books. I love Molly, because I truly understand her. I love Cassie and Mina’s relationship. I love Nadine and Patty’s relationship. I love Reid. I love how the whole thing with Will was resolved. I loved the mini Simon cameo. I love how artistic Molly is, and that her whole focus isn’t on college. I love the many aspects and facets of diversity in this book.  

I just, love it. I will definitely buy a copy of this for my shelf because I have a feeling I will want to re-read it one day.

Review: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

simon vs the homo sapiens agendaTitle: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Standalone
Release date:
April 7th, 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Pages: 320
Genres: YA, Contemporary, LGBT
Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads | Bookdepository

The Bookdepository link above is an affiliate link. I received this book from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. All of the opinions stated are my own.

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.


Review

I was such a happy bunny when I got approved for this book. The synopsis just sold me on the book and I knew I wanted to read it. Lately, I’ve been seeing some reviews pop up and they are all positive! So I picked up my copy and started reading, hoping that I would love it too. And I’m already going to tell you that I think this book is a gem.

Simon is such a wonderful character! He is witty and his internal thoughts made me laugh out loud several times. It makes reading from his point of view such a delight. I don’t know why but often when I read contemporary YA books, I have trouble believing that those teens are actually growing up in this age. I know they are and they use modern technology all the time but in this book, it was so much more detailed and I really believed it. For example, his school has a Tumblr page on which secrets and confessions are posted. I really believed that Simon was a teenager growing up in this day and age, which made him feel all that more real to me. To show you how much I enjoyed his wit, here’s a quote: 

It’s chilly and unnaturally quiet – if Abby weren’t with me, I would have to drown out the silence with music. It feels like we’re the last survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Wonder Woman and a gay Dementor. It doesn’t bode well for the survival of the species.

Aside from Simon, there were several other characters that I really liked! First of all, Simon’s family. This book really shows the family dynamics and the struggles and fear that go with coming out to your parents. I love that the author didn’t skip over this because it is such an important part of his life. His family was hilarious. I love his sisters -who all play their roles in Simon’s life- and his parents too -especially his dad! The family definitely wasn’t perfect, but they all clearly loved each other. Here’s a quote that relates to his family -but you’ll have to read the book to understand what it’s about.

Nothing is worse than the secret humiliation of being insulted by proxy.

Then we have Simon’s friends: Leah, Nick and Abby are his best friends and all have a huge impact on his life as well -which is very realistic. They have their struggles, fights and awkward moments but overall, I enjoyed their friendship. As I said, it all seems very realistic! I did not like how Simon treated Leah from the middle part of the book onwards though… The person -aside from Simon- I loved the most though was Blue. Their emails were so funny, yet they support each other and really get to know each other -without ever even knowing who the other person is. THEY ARE SO ADORABLE.

One other person I feel like I have to talk about is Martin. Let me just say that I think what he did is terrible. Why didn’t he just ask Simon to help him instead of blackmailing him? I will never understand. But maybe he is not as bad as a person as I thought he was in the beginning. Still. I hate what he did.

I really adored Simon’s relationship with Blue. I was so curious as to who Blue actually is! And when I found out, I was not disappointed at all. JUST YOU WAIT. I can’t get over how adorable it all was. And it doesn’t just end when he finds out who it is! The story is really well wrapped up, showing not only how Simon has evolved, but the other characters as well.

CONCLUSION

I loved every single second of this book. Simon is witty and funny, has great relationships with his family and friends and doesn’t make ridiculous decisions -like a lot of fictional teenagers seem to do. This book was an absolute delight to read!

★★★★★