Review: The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis

(I received an early copy of The One Thing from Disney Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis follows recently blind Maggie Sanders, a teenager struggling to come to terms with her loss of sight and soccer dreams. Her blindness and her anger toward it fuel a school prank which lands her with a probation officer… whose nephew is Ben Milton.

Whom she can see.

The rest of the book follows Maggie’s relationship with Ben and his older brother, Mason, as well as her healing process. It’s hilarious, angsty, and has a happy ending, so it’s basically everything I look for in a contemporary. I give The One Thing 7/10 stars for the humor, good ol’ teen angst, and happy ending.

Things I Liked:

  • The writing, particularly the humor, is phenomenal. I cannot tell you the amount of times I laughed out loud at Maggie’s sarcasm or Ben’s quirks. In general, it’s important to me that books are funny, whether they’re existential teen crises books or adventurous dystopian novels. The One Thing definitely passed that test.
  • Another thing that’s ridiculously important to me in books is minor characters, and The One Thing delivered on that as well. Maggie’s parents, Ben and Mason’s mom, Clarissa, Samantha, Gramps, Lauren, Sophie… this book had a wonderful, complex cast. I love it when minor characters are just as real and struggle just as much as main characters.
  • My heart has a soft spot for the disabled, so I loved reading a book about blindness. I’ve even had a blind girl in my group before at a special needs camp I volunteer at. I am all about any sort of diverse representation, from race to disabilities.
  • I also loved the way music weaves its way into the story. As a musician, I loved reading about The Loose Cannons, songwriting, and Maggie rediscovering her piano talents.
  • Maggie’s character development is wonderful. She can definitely be a pain, but by the end of the story, she grows so much and I was so proud of her. Her perspective and her attitude improve 110%, and she works on both herself and many of her relationships. Go Maggie!
  • The ending is unexpectedly happy. I was prepared for angst and sadness, and I ended up grinning like a goofball. All’s well that ends well, and The One Thing definitely does.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • I know I literally just said Maggie’s character growth is spot-on… but let’s go back to the “she can definitely be a pain” part. At times, it was challenging or irritating to read her complaints or struggles. I just wanted to grab her by the shoulders, shake her a bit, and yell at her to just talk to her mom.
  • It’s a little predictable at parts. [Minor spoiler alert] I knew from the description on the back cover that Ben was dead or dying. That just felt a little too obvious.

Favorite Character:

  • Because this book has such strong minor characters, it was hard to pick just one, but I had to go with Ben. He’s quirky, funny, and adorable. What’s not to love?

That’s all for The One Thing! Thanks for reading this review; I hoped you liked it!

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I’m Sorry

I’m really sorry.

Part 3 of Senioritis was accidentally published last night when it wasn’t supposed to be. (Those “Save Draft” and “Publish” buttons are dangerously close together.) I took it down almost immediately, but those of you who subscribe to me via email still have it, and it’s y’all that I need to apologize to.

For my readers who aren’t subscribed to me via email, the gist of the post was that I feel that outside sources are putting too much pressure on me in terms of my future (college, major, career choices, etc.). A post that had the potential to speak up on behalf of those interested in the humanities instead of STEM and provide an insightful perspective of a student turned into a blame-fest. It really shouldn’t have been that way.

As I wrote it, the post developed into more of an attack than anything else, and I deeply regret it. I am so, so sorry to any readers who felt blame, guilt, or other negative emotions as a result of that post. It came out of a place of frustration and anger, when in reality I know that college questions and advice are not the result of any desire to pressure me, but rather to relate to me and show interest in my life. I’m glad for that, and I’m sorry I forgot and lost my cool. I hope y’all can forgive me. I’d like to take this opportunity to turn it around and say thank you: to those of you who forward me articles about scholarships, who ask me about what my next steps are, who try to relate to me by bringing up coworkers’ or friends’ kids who are currently enrolled in college. I’m grateful that y’all are investing in my life, and I’m grateful that you’re here. Please, keep forwarding me those articles and giving me advice. I know it all comes out of a place of love, and that’s all I can ask for. I’m deeply sorry for the things I said and the hurt I may have caused.

Because of this little crisis, I’ve decided to take a break.

I know Basically Hermione just got a makeover, but it needs a different one that goes a little deeper, too. Think Cher’s soul makeover in Clueless. I’m taking a step back to really think about what this space needs to be. It definitely should not be a place for self-righteous whining or pointing fingers ever again. So, other than book reviews, you won’t be seeing me until it’s considered an appropriate time for stores to have Halloween merchandise. I’m sorry and I’d like to thank y’all for sticking with me through this. My creative juices need a new recipe, and even though it’s happening because of a royal screw-up, I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you soon.

Growth

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I’ve been thinking a lot about growth lately.

I would be lying if I told you senior year hasn’t kicked my butt. It has. Each week seems more challenging than the last, if I’m being entirely honest; I’ve got at least one college application to complete each week until the end of October, my coursework is plenty difficult, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. I’ve already had so many late nights doing homework, finishing an essay, and/or crying.

But it is so comforting, reassuring, and amazing to know that I am growing because of it all.

It’s no coincidence that at the same time I’ve been enthralled by this idea of growth, I’ve also become increasingly enamored with flowers. With my kindergarten-level artistic skills, I drew a little flower on my wrist the other night after praying because I felt like God had been telling me that He’s using my circumstances to grow me. I don’t usually care much about physical beauty or attractiveness, but bouquets are certainly an exception. I love how vibrant the colors are; the brightest blooms just call to mind the description violently alive. (Not swords and fistfights violent, but proud and bold violent.) I’d love to be like that. Violently alive: claiming this life with a force that seems almost unnecessary.

I am growing toward a fuller life, a life with more Jesus, more love, more people, and more good things. As I cry my way through senior year, as I press submit on application after application, as I freak out quite a lot, I am growing. It’s why this space is receiving a makeover and a revamping: I’m growing to take charge of my responsibilities, including my writing. I’m growing to pursue the things that I care about and/or that I am called to and let the rest go. In the wise words of Albert Einstein, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” I refuse to let these difficulties go by without wringing every last drop of opportunity out of them. Each and every struggle is growing me, and I am grateful for it.

Senioritis: An Honest Report from the Trenches, Part II

Retreat: August 23-24, 2015

A few weekends ago, my school’s senior class headed up to the Tennessee border for a two-day, one-night retreat of whitewater rafting, paintball, bonfires, and bonding. It was one of the best experiences of my senior year so far, and I’m so glad I went. It’s crazy how much can change from one night in a cabin.

In the first few weeks of school, I had gotten pretty stressed about the workload of my classes combined with college applications, leadership positions, and the desire to actually have a life. The retreat was a good chance not only to take a step back from that, but also to remember that senior year definitely has some positives, too.

I really can’t describe how being less than 300 days away from graduation all of a sudden unites people who have spoken fewer than ten words to one another, but it does. Both in my senior class at church and my senior class at school, we’ve taken on this identity as the seniors. I feel comfortable talking to just about anyone in the Class of 2016, because it suddenly feels like we have so much in common; a graduation date, a desire for a college acceptance letter, and fun senior shirts are just a few of the things that mark us and make us different.

The senior retreat was full of fun traditions for seniors, including whitewater rafting, and it was the emotional and social transition into senior year, compared to the academic transition that had occurred on the first day of school. Our senior retreat reminded me that homework might get overwhelming, college applications might seem daunting, and some days might feel impossible, but we’re going to get through it. After all, we’re seniors. And at the end of the day, I’m so so proud and #blessed to be a part of the Class of 2016.

Review: Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley

(I told y’all I had a lot of reviews coming your way. I received an early copy of Drowning Is Inevitable from Random House in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Trigger warning: mentions of abuse and suicide.)

“I think you’ve heard what happened. Most people have. We made national news. You don’t know the truth, though. The newspapers didn’t tell the whole story.”

Drowning Is Inevitable, chapter 1

Welcome to Drowning Is Inevitable, which is dark and intense and really freaking sad. This book follows seventeen-year-old Olivia, who has grown up in small-town Louisiana with the shadow of her mother’s suicide hanging over her; her best friend Jamie, whose family sucks about as much as Olivia’s; Maggie, the local free spirit; and Max, Olivia’s on-again-off-again boyfriend. A terrible tragedy bonds these four friends-then-fugitives together in a dark, twisted adventure with a shocking ending. I give Drowning Is Inevitable 6.5/10 stars for the stellar relationships, fairly relatable characters, and overall intensity.

Things I Liked:

  • The strength of Olivia’s and Jamie’s friendship is incredible. I just loved them a lot.
  • The writing matches the story really well. To me, it seemed plain, but its simplicity, moodiness, and darkness fit together with the plot like weird puzzle pieces. The writing also feels almost detached emotionally; the author describes more events and actual happenings rather than overusing flowy metaphors about pain, which worked really well. Add in several quotes that stood out to me, and I ended up liking the overall writing.
  • The setting is really great! Even though I grew up in Atlanta and not a small town in Louisiana, I could relate to a lot of the Southern traditions, charm, and heat mentioned throughout the book.
  • I like that Olivia’s relationship with her mom weaves in with the plot rather than being the plot in its entirety.
  • It’s a good sad book. I read a lot of sad books with sad endings and characters who are pretty messed up. Angst is my friend. Think Looking for Alaska (minus a lot of the humor) or We Were Liars. If that’s what you’re looking for, I highly recommend Drowning Is Inevitable.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • Drowning Is Inevitable is, like I said, a good sad book, but nothing stands out to me about it or makes me want to shout out from the rooftops that I would marry it if I could. I try to save 9 or 10 stars for books that absolutely blew me away. Drowning Is Inevitable was certainly a great and worthwhile read, but to me, it just wasn’t that extra level of phenomenal.

Things About Which I Have Conflicting Feelings:

  • Olivia’s and Max’s relationship is so. frustrating. On the one hand, this makes it seem more realistic: he doesn’t solve all of her problems for her because he can’t, no matter how hard he tries. On the other hand, I just wanted them to kiss and make up already.

Favorite Character:

  • My favorite character for this book goes to Maggie! This is entirely because of the line, “No one matched the sheer velocity with which she approached life.” Maggie is a phenomenal secondary character, complete with a lot of support for Olivia, individual talents, and her own tragic backstory. Like Olivia says in chapter 2, “Everyone needed a Maggie.”

That’s it for Drowning Is Inevitable! Thank you to Random House for the advanced copy. Hope you enjoyed this review!

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

(I received an early copy of Everything, Everything from Random House in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Also hot dang look at that cover.)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is about a girl named Madeline who’s essentially allergic to the outside world: she stays in her house all the time, attends school online, hangs out with her mom a lot, and reads countless books (that have been decontaminated and vacuum-sealed, of course). All that changes, though, when a new family moves in next door and she sees Olly: all-black wearing, parkour-performing, totally mysterious and intriguing Olly. You can guess what happens next. As their relationship grows, Madeline learns more about the outside world she so desperately wants to be a part of and has to make a choice: stay alive or start living. I give Everything, Everything 9.5/10 stars for #relatable characters, such cuteness that I can’t even, all the deepness, and an ending that I truly did not see coming.

(Warning: this post contains minor spoilers!)

Things I Liked:

  • I absolutely adored the characters in this book. They’re super relatable and real. Madeline has this incredible balance of wanting a different life and trying to be content with the life she has; she isn’t some sort of “poster kid” trying to “live her best life today” and cheesily remaining positive in the face of every obstacle life throws her way, but she also doesn’t spend the entire book moping. At first, Olly seems like your stereotypical punk teenager, but you find out that he has a lot of depth, feelings, and hardships. He definitely reads like a real person rather than a stereotype. Nurse Carla and Zach are just fantastic. I love everyone.
  • The main character is a person of color! Diversity for the win! #WeNeedDiverseBooks
  • Two things stood out to me regarding the writing: great quotes and the super interesting way the book is put together. Rather than simple prose, going from paragraph to paragraph, Everything, Everything contains medical records, diagrams, Gmail-chatting, definitions from “Madeline’s dictionary,” and “Life is Short TM” book reviews. These pieces are incredibly creative and add a whole new dimension to the story. They also bring a lot of humor to a book whose subject matter could have been crazy angsty; this creativity is a great way to balance out the heaviness of Madeline’s struggles.
  • Madeline’s character development is phenomenal. I was so proud of the way she grows, and I loved how her growth is influenced both by her relationship with Olly and her increasing desire to be a part of the outside world. She goes through a lot and the odds are against her, but she keeps going, and I was very inspired by the way her character learns the difference between surviving and living.
  • I honestly did not see the ending coming, which grows rarer and rarer the more I read. Kudos to Nicola Yoon for surprising me.
  • Certain parts of this book are just so cute that I can’t even. The Gmail-chatting! Their first kiss! Their reunion! Gah.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • There was one scene in Hawaii that I wasn’t too big a fan of.
  • That’s really it.

Favorite Character:

  • As I said above, I loved every character in this book, but the favorite character award has got to go to Zach. He’s only in about five pages, but I could not stop laughing for those five pages. He’s such a funny third wheel and he’s got dreadlocks and he’s just great. I love Zach. A lot.

That’s it for Everything, Everything! I recommend this book to anyone looking for something cute like Stephanie Perkins mixed with the character development of John Green. I’ve got a lot of reviews coming this week, so be on the lookout for those. Hope you guys enjoyed this review!

Review: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

(I received an early copy of Hunter from Disney Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey is about Joyeaux Charmand, a teenage Hunter of monsters from the Otherside who is called to protect the citizens of Apex. On the outside, it looks like a sort of fantasy-dystopian combination with the chance for some action-packed goodness and a female main character who can kick some butt. On the inside… eh. I did not enjoy Hunter very much: the writing didn’t stand out to me, I didn’t really connect to any of the characters, and a lot of the backstory just did not seem very well done. I give Hunter a 3/10, because truthfully, I struggled to read it.

Things I Liked:

  • Hunter did have its moments. The pacing was pretty good, with conversation or personal reflection time to balance out the action-y scenes.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • I really didn’t connect very much to any of the characters. There were moments when I really liked Joyeaux at the beginning, but those tended to fade as I got closer to the end. She’s strong and can definitely kick butt, which I usually enjoy, but for some reason I was just not attached to her. All of the characters in Hunter fell flat for me.
  • The writing is bland and lacks maturity or sophistication. Comma splices and excessive explanation points drove me insane, but mostly it just felt very childish. Mercedes Lackey also uses annoying dystopian vernacular, in which new technology or innovations are just a play on current, similar objects. For example, “Hot Chocolike” is the new version of hot chocolate. This vocabulary in dystopian novels irritates me.
  • I was definitely not a fan of the backstory. The Diseray is basically when society fell apart and all the monsters from the Otherside came through into our world, and it was caused by the Christers, who are obviously Christians. I still can’t tell if this rubbed me the wrong way solely because I’m a Christian, or if non-Christian readers would find it odd that this book very clearly blames Christians for its apocalypse. Either way, the backstory felt random, unnecessary, and slightly offensive.
  • There are too many details to keep track of. Along with the backstory, new monsters are constantly being introduced, such as Gazers and Jackals. There are so many different monsters, and each of them is described briefly and then referred to only by its name, that I had trouble remembering them all. This made certain sections of the book quite confusing.
  • Honestly, the book didn’t hold my interest enough, and for the last 100-150 pages, I was just trying to get through it to the end.

I don’t really recommend Hunter. Maybe I couldn’t get into it because I have so much else going on with school and college applications, but I definitely did not enjoy it. I hope all of my lovely readers are enjoying interesting books right now, though, and I’ll see y’all soon with a new review!