Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

 photo abundance-of-catherines_zpsfowpqm9u.jpgTitle: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Penguin Books
DOP: 2013 (originally published in 2006 by Dutton Books)
Pages: 213
Rating: 3/5
ISBN: 978-0-141-34609-0
Twitter: @johngreen

An Abundance of Katherines tells the story of Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who is desperate to find the one thing that will set him apart from others now that he’s turned into an adult. He’s so engrossed into finding that one special thing when the nineteenth Katherine dumps him. Hassan, his best friend, decides it’s time for a road trip and as they leave, both Colin and Hassan are in for an adventure as they figure out who they are and want to become.

With The Fault in Our Stars having been adapted into a film last year, and Paper Towns coming to our screens in July, John Green has become an international phenomenon and an author you don’t want to ignore in YA. His books have been talked about and loved, which isn’t surprising as Green knows how to capture his audience with heart-breaking plots that turn your tears into smiles and laughs. Nevertheless, An Abundance of Katherines didn’t tick all the boxes I expected from a book written by the talented John Green.

The difference between Green’s other books and An Abundance of Katherines is that they deal with more approachable characters, which makes it more relatable for his readers. This story has a protagonist that’s very intelligent but with intelligence also comes a different style of telling. Prodigies have a different way of thinking and Green jumps from one thing into the other, throwing a few mathematical terms in between that often make you lose sight of what’s being told (unless math is a subject you understand). Thankfully, most things mathematical are explained in a footnote so don’t let this fact alone keep you away from reading the book.

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An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

Although Colin is not my most favourite character in book world, his personal drama is more relevant. Obsessed with finding that one thing that will make him unique (aren’t we all?), he neglects the Katherines he’s dating. Each one of them dumps him until the nineteenth Katherine is the final straw. Seeing his best friend wallow in unhappiness, Hassan decides a road trip will help to lift Colin’s spirits. They meet Lindsey, who’s the first person that seems to understand Colin but she is at the same time the opposite of him. While Colin wants to be different, Lindsey changes her behaviour depending on whom she’s speaking to and with this, Green creates strong and diverse characters.

Green isn’t only famous for his heart-breaking stories but his writing style is important too. In An Abundance of Katherines, he uses a mixture of techniques. While Colin reminisces on his past relationships in cleverly intertwined flashbacks, the flashbacks itself are addressed in a nonlinear narrative, demanding its readers to be attentive in order to understand the meaning behind all the Katherines and how they shaped Colin into obsessing about his theorem.

Despite of the writing style and interesting use of vocabulary, the story never captivated me like the others I’ve read before. It didn’t enrich me; it didn’t feel as special. A lot has to do with the mathematics, even though I’ve studied it myself (yeah…I did. Honestly.). It felt distracting and boring and slowed down the reading pace significantly. At some parts I experienced a hard time to pick up the reading from where I had left it and found myself skimming the pages to determine how long it would take me to the end.

John Green is amazing, of that I am sure, but this book is one of those that just didn’t make it to my high standards. It doesn’t mean I won’t read the rest of his books though. He is, like I’ve mentioned before, an author you shouldn’t miss out on and perhaps you like reading about child prodigies, graphics and theorems, who knows?

More books by John Green:

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Books
DOP: 
2014 (originally 2013)
Pages: 261
Rating: 5/5
ISBN: 978-1-4472-6322-7
Twitter: @rainbowrowell

After eighteen years of living together with her father and twin sister Wren, a timid Cath begins her first year at the university of Nebraska no longer co-living with her sister. Socially awkward and nervous to take these steps on her own, Cath hides in her room, turning to what she knows best and feels safest with: frequently updating her Carry On, Simon fanfiction while she waits for the eighth and final book in the Simon Snow series to be released (a homage to Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling).

After reading and watching all the praise her work has recently received online, I decided it was time to see for myself what all the hype was about and it’s fair to say that Rainbow Rowell didn’t disappoint. With this coming-of-age story, Rowell managed to capture the insecurities of freshmen seamlessly. What was most remarkable about Fangirl was how realistically Rowell managed to portray the ‘crazy’ feelings that come with a fandom, combined with simple but efficient dialogue and characters that could have stepped straight from the book to be your next best friend.

Continue reading Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: #1 If I Stay
Publisher: Speak
DOP: 2010 (originally 2009)
Pages: 234 (story itself) – the rest is extra content
Rating: 3.5/5
ISBN: 978-0-14-241543-6
Twitter: @gayleforman

It’s a snowy February morning when the local radio station announces the school closures, bringing Mia’s family together in a “wrong place at the wrong time” kind of situation but heartbreakingly, it is an every day’s reality. When Mia wakes up, the horror of what has happened slowly reaches through, putting her in a position with only two choices left: will she stay or will she let go?

Tainted with the hype coming from the release of the film adaptation and trailers on the Internet, I had formed a basic idea about this book. I already knew what was going to happen, hard to miss when watching the trailer, and the only thing that was left for me to discover was how this story would unfold itself in the book. Needless to say, I started reading this book with a certain level of expectation.

If I Stay begins with a sense of foreboding, the first sentence immediately warning that something isn’t as it should be and yet, the scene is so pure and homey when we meet Mia’s family this particular snowy morning. It’s the perfect family (maybe a bit too perfect?) and in that sense, it adds to the contrast of what’s to happen and increases the element of shock. The moment tragedy hits and the state Mia wakes up from, is so beautifully described that the scene was touchable and easy to imagine as if I was right there along with Mia. From that moment, the story alters between present time and the memories Mia has about her life, her family and her boyfriend Adam while she searches for the right answer to her question: what will happen if I stay?

There were several moments in this book that caused me to tear up, and I have two particular moments in mind: the one with Mia and her grandfather when he’s the first to acknowledge that Mia’s facing a tough decision and then the moment when Mia sees Willow and realises the meaning behind it. Along with the description of the event that has caused everything, these were my favourite moments of the book that made me appreciate the writing. With not many words, Gayle Forman managed to shock me and bring me to a set of teary eyes.

However, there were a few points that disappointed me. I can’t bring them all up out of fear for spoiling you in case you haven’t seen the film/trailer yet or haven’t read the book either but there’s one thing that I can mention and that’s Adam. I had expected so much more from him. Not him as in his character, but more like the purpose of his existence in relation to Mia’s condition. Does that make any sense? It took him so long to get to Mia that I expected him to be a part of that final decision and he wasn’t. Not really.

I liked this story, enough to continue watching the film adaptation last night and I’m confident I’ll be reading its sequel to find out more about Mia’s story. Maybe I expected too much from this based upon the hype and the trailer, I don’t know, but there were parts and scenes that made me hold my breath nevertheless. It was my first Gayle Forman book but definitely not my last.

Review: Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

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Title: Rumble
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: McEldery Books
DOP: August 26, 2014
Pages: 546
Rating: 4/5
ISBN: 978-1-4424-8284-5
Twitter: @EllenHopkinsYA

After losing his brother, Matthew Turner spirals down into a darkness that he finds difficult to escape from. The world he has known changes around him and he blames everyone for what has happened to Luke. He clings to his Christian girlfriend Hayden, afraid of losing her too while he, as an atheist, deals with the crumbling world.

Written in a poetic format, Rumble by Ellen Hopkins, takes a while to get used to if you’re not familiar with her previous books. Apprehensive at first, I hesitated to start reading this book but once I got through the first few pages and realised that the title was the start of each sentence of the page, the book read like a train.

Ellen Hopkins wasn’t scared to touch subjects such as Christianity, homosexuality, bullying, alcoholism and suicide and when combined all together, Rumble becomes a dark story of a young man struggling with the aftermath of losing a brother, questioning God’s existence and the kindness of humans.

The story takes you on a realistic journey, slowly revealing the circumstances of Luke’s death. Although there were moments that brought me to tears, I was disappointed with the ending of this book. Matthew is searching for a way to move on and the way it was dealt with, felt empty. His growth starts (slowly) halfway through the story but is finished way too fast for me to accept as realistic. The catharsis felt incomplete and ruined some of the story (making this a four instead of a five). It felt unnecessary, just an easy and quick way to wrap things up.

I had hoped for a spiritual search (whether Matthew found God or not, I don’t care) but I was disappointed that the only Christians discussed in this book, were extreme in their views and were portrayed as doing anything good. No one is perfect but no one is all bad either and I feel, if there was someone in Matthew’s proximity who was Christian and didn’t have such extreme views, Ellen Hopkins could have used this to guide Matthew better and change his views (and if not change, then at least open his mind for other people’s religion), instead of using the epiphany coming from a certain event. I don’t believe this event can change someone’s view and feelings entirely and it would have pleased me more if we could have seen the change in Matthew afterwards and his growth from there.

However, the overall story was magnificent and carried me towards the ending in less than a day. I had a need to find out how some people would react when faced with some issues and I haven’t been disappointed.

I’d definitely recommend this book and when you’ve read it, I’d really like to know your opinion about the way Christianity was dealt with and how you think of the way this story was wrapped up.

Do you think Ellen Hopkins could have done more with the ending?

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Book Cover: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: contemporary YA, mystery
Publisher: Hot Key Books
DOP: May 15th, 2014
Pages: 225
Stars: 4.5/5
ISBN: 978-1-4714-0398-9

Cadence Sinclair Eastman spends each summer on the family island, Beechwood Island in Massachusetts. She’s the oldest grandchild of the Sinclair family, whom are rich, blonde and beautiful. They’re exactly what you expect a rich family to be and along with her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and Johnny’s friend Gat, they are called The Liars. They have the time of their lives until summer fifteen comes along…

Note of warning:

Before you continue reading this review, I have to give you a warning concerning this book. It is very important that you don’t read any spoilers if you decide on reading this beautiful piece. Why? It would ruin absolutely everything. Honestly and most sincerely. Reviewing this book without spoilers is nearly impossible so I strongly suggest to stop reading this, buy the book, read it first and then come back to read my review and share your thoughts. However, if you haven’t made up your mind yet by the summary above, I can give away a tiny bit of the book without spoiling you too much. But be aware, this is your own responsibility!

– Spoiler Free Review –

We Were Liars takes you on an epic and mysterious journey towards finding the truth of what happened in summer fifteen. The writing is metaphorical and poetic and the style is beautifully thought out to support the chaotic mess that is Cadence. There were moments when I had to stop and re-read certain paragraphs to let the feeling sink in and appreciate it at its fullest but not in a bad way (I always do this when I love the way an author phrased something).

I loved how E. Lockhart played with the style and broke apart sentences into different lines. Brilliant, although I understand it might annoy some people who don’t like the meaning of such a simple, but efficient, way of portraying a character’s personality and emotions. Things like these give me butterflies in my stomach because sometimes, a character is more than the words you are presented with; sometimes it’s all about reading between the lines, fill up the voids and figure out  the meaning of broken apart sentences.

However, as much as I loved the style, metaphors and the poetic feeling of the story, I had a hard time finding a connection with the characters. They came across as selfish, arrogant, naïve (so, so, SO naïve) and as stereotyped rich teenagers that I was so disappointed with them at first, although in hindsight, I kind of understand why they were acting the way they did but that wasn’t good enough for me to accept them.

I suppose I could easily say this book was more plot driven than spending time on character development and for once, get ready for a shock, it’s something that doesn’t bother me at all now I have finished it.

Big gasp!

I was more captured with the mysteriousness of the whole story than its characters. Although I had figured out most of it by the time ‘the truth’ part began, I have to say that the hints were cleverly hidden and would have easily been read over if you just picked up the book knowing nothing about it except for the summary.

This book is perfect for a quick read between monster books and you still want something decent and challenging (plot-wise) to read. Overall, this deserves a four-point-five on the five stars’ scale.

– SPOILER REVIEW NEXT

Continue reading Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic book cover by Lauren Oliver.jpg

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: contemporary YA
Publisher: Harper
DOP: March, 2014
Pages: 408
Stars: 4.5/5
ISBN: 978-0-06-229514-9

Each summer, a group of graduate seniors from Carp High play a dangerous and illegal game called Panic. The contestants of Panic have to rival with each other during a series of life-threatening challenges while being rated by two secret judges. The stakes are high as each person is faced by fear, competing for a ticket out of town: a jackpot of at least 50,000 dollars.

From the author of the Delirium series, Lauren Oliver, comes now a contemporary young adult fiction that will thrill you from the very first chapter. Written in two alternating point of views, Heather and Dodge take us on their journey while they participate in Panic. The Opening Jump immediately sets the tone of Panic and not knowing what I was in for, I buckled up and tried to be prepared for this roller coaster as much as possible. Considering that the back of the book reveals absolutely nothing about the story and the summaries circulating the internet were as mysterious as walking blindly into a foreign forest, I could be in for literally anything. I haven’t made up my mind yet whether this is a good thing or not.

A half-dozen challenges were scattered over the pages and although they were dangerous enough to keep me intrigued, I often felt disappointed afterwards. The excitement that I wanted to feel, thought I felt, didn’t meet up with the satisfaction I was supposed to feel after each challenge. It wasn’t because they weren’t thrilling enough, they were, I just never felt completely connected to the situation. There was alway something keeping me distanced from Heather’s emotional involvement. The only challenge that achieved to make me bit my nails and sit on the edge of my chair, was her personal challenge. At this point, the story definitely reached its peak. Every little piece of the puzzle fell on its rightful place and definitely added to the suspense. I could have screamed with frustration and fear, almost cried while reading what Heather had to do. It was so well written. So cleverly thought of that at this point, you know enough as a reader to know how upsetting it is, not only from Heather’s point of view but also from a reader’s point of view.

Bishop (Heather’s male best friend) was my favorite character. His concern for his friends, Heather specifically, was real and I felt so bad for him during most of the story that I wanted to hug him. There’s so much going on for him that you can only pick up from reading between the lines and I really love this in a story. Bishop was so much more than just a written character.
With this being said, I wasn’t particularly fond of Heather and Natalie (Heather’s best female friend). Natalie came out as flat, uninteresting and shallow. Lauren Oliver dealt with her in a very easy manner, almost as if she wasn’t interested in Natalie either, only needing another female to balance the story. Natalie uses the people close to her and that’s inexcusable. I expected for this to blow up in her face but it never happened. She was easily, unrealistically fast forgiven.
As I mentioned before, somehow I never could connect with Heather emotionally. Although I could empathise with was happening to her, it never triggered anything more. However, Heather wasn’t as flat as Natalie. Her motivations changed during Panic and it definitely made me root for her.

Even though Panic appears to be all about the game at first sight, I can assure you it goes deeper than that. It’s about people living in a dying town and being desperate to find a way out. This is not in the slightest dystopian (as so many people suggest) because cities are dying because of the crises. This is real. And it’s happening right now. There’s no government dictating the seniors to play Panic (as some people seem to compare this to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). It’s a choice. The desperation is real and Lauren Oliver combined this desperation with a game that only the most desperate people would play.

Panic is enjoyable to read but complicated and challenging enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. The very first chapter was so different compared to other stories that it had me hooked from the beginning. I couldn’t stop once I had begun and I would recommend it to anyone who’s into contemporary young adult and who wants a pinch of reality.