Here's my first book review round up for my 24 Book Reading Challenge. I finished all of these a while ago but have been dragging my feet on writing up this blog post - surprise surprise.
The funniest part of this is that the first three books I read for my challenge have very similar titles: Insert Name & Insert Name. Despite this trend, all three books are quite different and all have very poignant themes that you wouldn't necessarily gleam from their titles. When you look at them you think, oh a boy and a girl's name, must be a YA romance.
And yes, they are YA romances, but once you turn past the title page, you find there is much more than that.
17. A book set in another Country: Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts
If you're like me at all, you'll look at the description of this book and think, "Oh, another The Fault in Our Stars," but set in Australia.
It's really not. Not that it would be bad if it was. That book was amazing, obviously, but despite the fact that both Green and Betts told a story about two cancer patients finding love, their books have different vibes.
The story telling is different. We get varying POVs between Zac and Mia and I think this gives both characters more understanding. I got to know both of them through their own voice, as well as from the opposite individual and piece together their personalities that way. Sometimes I feel that, when a book is told in one person's POV, the other main character of the book becomes more mysterious, like with Augustus in TFOS.
When it begins, the majority of the first part of the book is from Zac's POV. He sees Mia and she's mysterious; much too cool to have cancer and be in this ward to be treated. Mia is anything but this, however. We see the cracks in her cool exterior when we are put in her head to see her perspective. She's fragile and shaken to point of breaking from the cancer that's rocked her world.
We also see from her POV that she thinks Zac is the strong one. Zac is the fighter and the one that will get out of all this alive. Both characters think the other one is strong and unbreakable, when in reality, they are both broken.
And yeah, this is a romance, but their romance doesn't take up a huge role as you would think. It's chapters and chapters in that the author says, "Yes, it's here but it's not the point." I like those sort of subtle takes on romance in YA novels, rather than the all in for life loves that start three pages in. It gives the author more time to talk about these kids and how unfair it is that they have to go through these life-threatening illnesses.
And okay, I'll be honest. I totally picked this up because I have a friend named Mia. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the book was. (I also listened to in audiobook form and the readers were fantastic, though weirdly, American and not Australian. A little weird.)
19. Any Book Published in the Last Year: Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway
Okay next up. Once again, I have a friend named Emmy and this caught my eye. It was only released in the late summer, which qualifies it for number 19. This summary really caught my eye. In essence, it is about two childhood friends - you guessed it, Emmy and Oliver - that live next door to each other and when they're young, Oliver is kidnapped by his father to get sole custody.
He's found nearly a decade later when they're both nearing 18.
I wasn't sure if it was going to be like Criminal Minds or not, but don't worry, it's not so extreme.
It's another love story and the build up is well done for the pay off of these two friends primarily getting to know each other again after so many years apart. The line into romance was crossed in a way that you don't usually expect for a YA novel, I feel, and it was definitely rewarding.
That was early enough in the book to leave you wonder: what else is left?
Well, it's a lot of character building and especially building these characters up to see how they interact with each other as well as apart. Oliver is dealing with being back home with his mother, a stranger now, and a new step-father and half siblings. Emmy has been dealing with over protective parents for years, due to her friend's disappearance and wants to break free from that.
My favorite thing about this book was the dialogue. Benway has a real gift for comedic timing. Emmy and her friend group have the best dialogue together and are a bunch of witty, sarcastic assholes, like my friends. They quickly become favorites.
21. Read a Book of your Choice: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I've been so excited to read this book since I read Fangirl by the same author. I bought it in my last week working at Barnes & Noble for employee appreciation and finally have time to read things I want in the down time from my new job at the library. It definitely did not disappoint.
Rowell is really, really good at characters. She's good at creating characters that are unique and yet, people can relate to them.
(And yes, I think I did just hear my college writing teacher groan at using the word "unique" to describe a character. That was a no-no in discussions.)
At the same time, I think the opposite is true. Sometimes the characters - especially Eleanor - will do something that just doesn't make sense. I kept thinking, "what the heck are you doing?" But I was a third party, completely removed from Eleanor's difficult situation that only became more clear as the book went on, which in turn sort of justified Eleanor's actions later on.
I feel like the reader is in Park's mindset a lot of the times. He'll view Eleanor and think, why is she dressing like that? Why is she making people make fun of her? But we know, through Eleanor, she doesn't have any other clothes to wear.
Rowell peels back the layers on each character, exposes them, then pulls back another layer that explains the ones before, if that makes sense.
The end was...okay, I admit, I wanted more. I read that last line and was like....is that it?
But then I re-read it. The end was, from the point of view of an English major reading a book and examining it on a structural scale, perfect. Poetic. It was perfect for these characters to come to this conclusion.
Did the absolute fangirl in me want there to be more after that last page? Absolutely. Like, running into each other's arms and making out for like a solid page. Then sitting down and having a lot talk.
The thing is, Eleanor and Park don't need that. All they needed were those three words from Eleanor. The words that Eleanor didn't say the entire book and then, when she had come to know herself for who she is and removed herself from her awful situation, finally could allow herself to feel and say.
I still have a lot of questions, like what happened with her family, but that wouldn't be fair to this novel. This novel was all about how much shit happens to Eleanor and her family. They really struggle and to wipe it all away in a few pages and wrap the end up in a nice tidy bow would insult what they went through.
The books was amazing. Again it has shifting POVs and was seamlessly done. What can I say? I'm all heart eyes over these three books.
Next up: I'm currently reading my western from my challenge. It's....interesting, having never read one before. But more on that in my next round up for this challenge!
I'm so touched that I've gotten messages from other people saying that they are doing this challenge as well. If you are, please let me know and if you're doing reviews like this, I'd love to read them!