Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7, 2015
Pages: 320
Source: the publisher
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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.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the epitome of epic and adorable. Right from the opening line, I was hooked. Save for a handful of moments in the first half of the book when I felt a bit of a disconnect with the characters and the story, there was nothing about this book that I didn’t love. With real, relatable characters, an adorable coming-of-age/coming out story and Becky Albertalli’s gorgeous writing, this is a must-read for everyone!

Also, just so we’re clear, there’s no way this review can possibly do this book justice. It’s just one of those books that you have to read and see for yourself! But I’ll do my best to put the awesome into words :)

I loved Simon! He was adorably awkward and his internal monologues/one-liners were hilarious. Some of my favorite quotes in the book come from him. Albertalli did an incredible job capturing Simon’s voice and personality. I felt like I was right there with Simon, living and experiencing everything he did. He would bring up middle school and I’d instantly be back in middle school, remembering all the awkwardness. His fears and insecurities were spot on.

Martin was … Well, I don’t really know how to describe Martin because I’m still trying to figure him out myself. He had no problem with Simon, he just saw an opportunity and went for it. I hated him for the things he did to Simon and the way he treated him. But as the story went on, I also started to feel for him a little bit. Not as much as I did for Simon. But Martin showed he had an okay side at times and I like what he did in the end.

I loved Simon’s group of friends: Nick, Abby and Leah – Nick and Abby especially, though. Even though Abby was a new friend in his life, she was an incredible friend and I loved their dynamic. My heart broke for them near the end, but all ended up being well, thank goodness. Nick was just really cool and I loved the way he stood by Simon. As for Leah… I loved her in the beginning and I understand why she was so hurt in the middle/end, but… I hated her attitude and I felt so bad for Simon. It really changed my opinion about Leah. I get it, I do.. But she just annoyed me.

I loved that Simon had an awesome, supportive family. I loved that Simon’s parents were THERE. Unlike so may YA books where you never see the parents and wonder if the main character even has any, Simon’s parents were there for him and they set boundaries and rules and punished him when he did something wrong. But they were also fair. Simon got along with Nora and Alice, his sisters, for the most part. They didn’t always get along 100% and they sometimes had small fights, but nothing crazy or explosive. I’m so tired of YA novels where the siblings despise each other and are mean to each other and where the parents are practically invisible. It’s just not realistic and it was so refreshing to see something more realistic and relatable.

Also, another notable “character” that deserves a shout-out is Bieber the Dog! As a dog lover, I really just wanted to cuddle with Bieber! And I never thought I’d say “cuddle” and “Bieber” in the same sentence, but there ya go! I also liked how Bieber was always involved. Like, some authors mention the family has a pet and then the pet is never around. When you own an animal and it bonds with you or someone in your family, it’s ALWAYS around and ALWAYS wants attention. So I loved that Albertalli never forgot Bieber and he was interactive in the scenes at Simon’s house.

Simon and Blue’s emails were the actual best thing ever. They were my favorite part of the book and so adorable and sweet and real. Honestly, the whole book could have been made up of their emails and I wouldn’t have minded. I wish we’d had MORE emails. I grinned like an idiot for most of the email chapters. And a few times, they made my heart break. But they were the absolute best part of everything and I adored them. I especially liked the autocorrect fail Simon experienced near the beginning! Bahahaha!!!

When it came to Blue’s identity, I had three main suspects in my mind. One would have ticked me off, one wasn’t completely practical and one seemed really possible, if not a bit far-fetched. Roughly half-way through the book, I formed a very solid theory. Once in awhile, something would happen and my theory would shift among the main three suspects, but I mostly stuck to the belief that my original theory was correct. And, you know what? It was! And when we finally discovered who Blue was? I grinned like an idiot and pumped my fist and swooned! Because it was absolutely perfect and epic and I loved it and I could keep going on and on, so I’ll stop now… ^_^

My only (half-joking) complaint is that I would have LOVED more Simon & Blue (post-identity reveal) together time! They were adorable together and I wanted more of them!!! So.. Hey, Becky? Sequel, please?!?!? Or.. belated epilogue? Or deleted scenes? SOMETHING?!?!? *Puppy eyes*

So yeah… If you couldn’t tell from my gushy, fangirly, nonsensical review, I adored pretty much everything about this amazing, adorable, epic book. We need more diverse books and we need more books like this one. You just really need to read it cause my review didn’t do it justice. I recommend it to everyone. I will shove it into people’s hands if I have to. It’s a MUST read!!! I seriously can’t wait to read Albertalli’s next book! And every book she ever rights, period.


Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Review: Tease by Amanda MacielTease by Amanda Maciel
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 29, 2014
Pages: 328
Format: Hardcover
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From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault. At least, that's what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who's ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she'll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Warning: This review could be a Trigger for bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, etc. Please read with caution.

Tease by Amanda Maciel was an incredibly powerful book. It was emotionally difficult to read, but beautifully done. It’s an important book and everyone needs to read it.

I know a lot of people had mixed feelings about this book. The main issue, it seems, is that people didn’t like the MC, Sara. But… that’s to be expected. She bullied a girl to the point of suicide. That’s the point of the book! So if you go into it expecting to love Sara, then you’re gonna hate the book. And I get that and completely understand why people felt that way. I felt really disconnected from Sara because of her attitude and behavior. But at the same time, I knew that would be the case going into this book. In the flashbacks, I hate Sara. She’s a horrible person and she did horrible things. But in the present chapters, I feel sorta bad for her. At times, she seems so sad and miserable, it’s hard not to feel bad for her. At other times, I get so angry at her because she’s so convinced she’s done nothing wrong. But in the end, I saw some major, major character development with her and I was satisfied with where she stood by the time I was done reading the book.

Brielle was a horrible, horrible person. As bad as Sara was, Brielle was so much worse. Brielle was vicious and cruel. At least with Sara, she had moments where she felt guilty or bad, like maybe the were doing something wrong. But we never saw that with Brielle. We never saw even a hint of guilt or remorse. We never saw any character development. And I definitely feel like if Sara hadn’t been friends with Brielle, she wouldn’t have been so cruel or a bully.

Except for Dylan and Carmichael, I had a horrible time keeping track of the guys in this book. I know there was Tyler, Kyle and Jacob but I can’t, for the life of me, remember who they were or the parts they played. I’m not completely sure how I felt about Dylan. He was a nice enough guy and he tried so hard to be nice to Emma and tell Sara to back off. But… There’s just something about him that made me angry, especially in the present-day chapters. I can’t explain why at all. He just did.

I adored Carmichael so much, though. He was an awesome, fun, goofy guy. He was nice to Sara, even when she didn’t (in her eyes) deserve it. He was what she needed and I think he played a huge role in making Sara realize that she WAS a bully and she WAS mean to Emma. He opened her eyes to a lot of things and he didn’t hold back the few times they did fight.

The adults in this book really made me angry. I mean, I kind of liked the principal and the fact that she took action and tried to stop the bullying. My principal in elementary school never did that. But the adults just seemed to be so ignorant, they never asked the right questions, they always assumed the worst and they never seemed to bother getting the whole story.

There was a LOT of victim blaming, slut-shaming, etc in this book. And I knew there would be a lot of that, given the nature of the book. I knew there would be bullying, name-calling, all of that. But it still struck a chord, it still sucked and it was still upsetting.

This book brought back a lot of memories from elementary school and middle school, memories I’d rather forget. It made me think of my elementary school bully and how she probably had a shitty life and that’s why she tormented me. It’s made me feel bad for her and I don’t wanna feel bad for her. Not yet, when some of the things she said and did still hurt, even after all these years. This book also had me thinking about how kids who aren’t bullied don’t stand up for those who are, for fear of being bullied themselves. When you’re young, though, it’s hard to comprehend that doing nothing can be just as bad as being the bully. That not standing up for someone can have just as many consequences.

The ending was so difficult to read. The courtroom scene almost broke me. I broke down crying at this point in the book. I had maybe five pages left and didn’t feel like I could read any more. But I pushed through. The letters at the end made me cry again. And the Author’s Note was really touching and helped me understand why Maciel wrote this story.

Overall, as emotionally heartbreaking as this book was, it was incredible and so well written. It’s an incredibly powerful, moving, enlightening story and anyone who has bullied someone or has been bullied really needs to read it. It shows things from the bully’s perspective and it really makes you think. I think this book needs to be read in schools because it will open up a lot of important discussions in the classroom and maybe it will help with the anti-bully campaigns. I’m very eager to see what Amanda Maciel does next, though I’m sure it’s something that will require tissues and chocolate!

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please speak up. Speak to an adult you trust.

Important Links:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website
Stop Bullying website
NOH8 Campaign website

Heather Brewer, a young adult author and a big advocate of mental health and bullying prevention, has a special message for you, too. Check it out here.

IMG_1489*Found on Facebook. Quote Anonymous.

Words can hurt. Bullying can hurt. You can’t judge someone when you don’t know them, because as the quote above shows, everyone has their share of problems. You can’t know what someone is going through just by looking at them.


Review: The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Dolls by Kiki SullivanThe Dolls by Kiki Sullivan
Series: The Dolls #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 2, 2014
Pages: 384
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right.

I’ve been dying to read The Dolls ever since I first saw it on Tea Time (Hosted by Epic Reads, A.K.A HarperTeen) during their Fall 2014 #ARCParty. The second Margot and Aubry began discussing it, I was major grabby hands! First of all, it has a GORGEOUS cover! Then, Margot described it as “Pretty Little Liars meets The Craft” and called it a “southern gothic boarding school cattiness” book. Sooo… Yeah, I was completely and totally hooked. I DESPERATELY wanted to get my hands on it! Well, the Book Gods smiled down on me because it was already on Edelweiss (An online site for reviewers and bloggers)! So I went and downloaded it right after #ARCParty was over! Sadly, I wasn’t able to read it right away – which I seriously regret now, knowing how much I loved it!! I wish I had read it sooner!!

First of all, I loved the characters in this book! All of them! Even the ones I wasn’t supposed to like. Sullivan did an amazing job creating these multi-dimensional characters. For almost every character, there was more to them than the face they showed the world. While they would say one thing to friends, they’d be feeling the complete opposite on the inside. Or, in some cases, they had mixed feelings/emotions, but didn’t want to be made fun of or ostracized for those feelings – something I think almost everyone can relate to.

Eveny was a fun protagonist. Like many YA characters, she has a tragic back-story, but it’s a bit more complex than it seems at first glance. She was cautious when she had to be, yet she seemed to trust too easily. I liked that she was hesitant to believe the stories she was told; it made it seem more realistic. Because really, if you were told all the things Eveny was told, you’d be skeptical at first, too… Unless you read a ton of YA, then you’d probably be totally on board! But anyway.. I felt there was a nice balance of her being skeptical and her doing what had to be done in order to protect those she loved. She was kind of like the moral compass of the story.

Peregrine reminded me a LOT of Noelle from Kate Brian’s Private series. She enjoyed the privilege and wealth afforded her and she reveled in the power she had. But she had moments where she was very vulnerable, too. Even when she was being horrible to Eveny, I had a hard time getting upset with her because I could tell there was more to her than that. I’m curious if we’ll get to see more of her vulnerable side in the sequel. Chloe was a bit of a cliche. She was the eager side-kick who wanted to do everything she could to please Peregrine. But she definitely had a mind of her own and, when necessary, expressed her opinions and feelings. She stepped up when she had to.

Arelia and Margaux really annoyed me in the beginning. They were the mean, snobby girls who assumed hanging with the “cool” people would entitle them to everything the “cool” people were entitled to. They were horrible to Eveny, too. But near the middle/end of the book, there’s a HUGE revelation with Arelia that completely changed my opinion about her.

Now for the guys! Let’s start with Drew! He was the awesome sweet-talker and had the boy-next-door feel in the beginning. He had moments where he was very judgmental, though, and a bit high and mighty about certain things. But that was explained at the end and whoa… *Clears throat* And Caleb!! I expected Caleb to be that “hot jock” who falls for the “average girl” and tells her she’s “so different from other girls…” Which would have been completely cliche and annoying. But I’m pretty sure Caleb ended up being the most interesting, complex character in the whole book. His backstory and the explanation of everything.. It just blew my mind.

I loved that the adults were kind of/sort of/at times involved and helping. You don’t see that often in YA. I liked Aunt Bea, though she totally loses brownie points for all the lies and deception. She had her reasons, I get that, but still! She could have saved everyone a LOT of trouble if she’d just been honest. Mrs. Marceau and Mrs. St. Pierre were interesting characters, though, and I’d love to learn more of the background on them and Eveny’s mother in the sequel. Also, Eveny’s dad… Which…. *Zips lips* I can’t because spoilers but OMG!!! Also, I loved Boniface! Not really sure how to describe him without spoilers, so just read the book and see for yourself!

The overall tone/feel of this book was CREEPY and EPIC. The first thing we learn about Carrefour is that it’s locked behind a giant fence/gate with a magical key handed down from generation to generation. No one can enter the town if they don’t have a key. Basically, everything that could possibly be creepy about a town, is creepy about this town.

The funny thing is, as I was reading, I had forgotten that Margot (Epic Reads) had described the book as “Pretty Little Liars meets The Craft.” I remembered hearing it was like a Southern version of Pretty Little Liars with magic, though. Then, about 20% into the eARC, I wrote a Goodreads status saying that “So far, this has a Pretty Little Liars meets The Craft feel to it.” Which means that Margot was dead-on with her description! It also reminded me a little bit of Beautiful Creatures, just for the southern gothic part of it.

The ending was insane and twisty and creepy and not at all what I expected. So many things happened, I felt like my head was spinning. I actually got to the end and couldn’t believe it was over – I was convinced there had to be AT LEAST one more chapter and I was SO SAD when I realized there wasn’t! I hadn’t heard if there was going to be a sequel, either, so that didn’t help my feels! But then I stalked Sullivan’s Twitter account and found out that there IS, indeed, going to be a sequel! And now I’m all excited!!! It’s not coming out until 2015, though, which is really far away.. I just hope we don’t have to wait until next September for the sequel! I seriously don’t think I can wait that long!!

So, overall (if you couldn’t tell from my review), I absolutely loved The Dolls. It was a creepy, gothic, magical read that I think will appeal to fans of Pretty Little Liars, The Craft and Beautiful Creatures. Also, I think fans of House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple will love it, too! In both books, magic has consequences. You can’t just cast spells and charms and get off scot-free – every action has a reaction and every action has a consequence. I can guarantee that Kiki Sullivan is now and forever more on my “Auto-Buy Author List” and I’ll read anything she writes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stalk Goodreads, Kiki’s website and the Epic Reads website for a release date for the sequel…


Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund HodgeCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28, 2014
Pages: 352
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

With a plot that is Beauty & The Beast meets Greek Mythology, I went into Cruel Beauty assuming I would love it. Unfortunately, I was very on the fence with this book and, even now that I’ve finished it, I’m still on the fence with it. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. I found it fascinating and intriguing, yet it was repetitive, boring and slow. Almost everything in this book had a love it/hate it contradiction.

Let’s start with Nyx. I liked her in the beginning because of her name. Right off the bat, we get a connection to Greek Mythology. She had a spunky attitude and was pretty hilarious. She didn’t fully accept her fate, but she also didn’t turn and run from it. Her banter with Ignifex was pretty hysterical and she was constantly hitting him and throwing things at him, trying to kill him – I was laughing out loud at several points throughout the book. On the other hand, Nyx was very whiny and bratty. She had a LOT of inner monologue going on and it got very repetitive – obnoxiously repetitive. Sometimes she played the victim, other times she seemed brainwashed. I just couldn’t follow her. I didn’t connect with her and I felt very distanced from her.

Ignifex was hilarious. I think he was my favorite character. His humor, his personality, his attitude. I just loved him. I don’t think we were supposed to love him, especially in the beginning. But, nevertheless, I did. Shade though… I think we WERE supposed to love Shade. He was supposed to be seen as the “Good Guy,” but I just never trusted him completely. And then the end of the book was… Well.. Whoa. This never felt like a love triangle, but if it HAD been, it would have been one twisted love triangle! Because.. Well.. Read it and you’ll see. I can’t explain without a spoiler.

The middle section of Cruel Beauty definitely picked up speed. The first 8-11 chapters are slow, boring, repetitive – as I mentioned earlier. But the middle picked up and I found it to be very interesting, with some great revelations. The ending was just.. Really confusing and weird and I still don’t know how I feel about it. It had me distrusting so many characters that I really couldn’t make any sense of it. I definitely feel like this book is one that needs to be read twice so that you can catch things you missed the first time around. I feel like a second read would make a LOT of things easier to understand.

There were some other characters that I should mention, but I also feel it’s hard to mention them without getting spoiler-ish – like Nyx’s sister, father and aunt. And a certain character we meet at the absolute end – I can’t even name that character cause.. Well, total spoiler. But, mostly, we’re only made to really care about Nyx, Ignifex and Shade – And of those three, really, we learn the most about Nyx and Ignifex, so there isn’t much to say about the other character’s anyway.

Overall, I’m completely torn on how I feel about this book. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it. I’d still recommend it to those who love Fairy Tale retellings or Greek Mythology, but it’s not something I would pick up again.