ARC Review: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber {4.0}

Author: Katherine Webber
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: March 4th, 2017
Pages: Paperback, 338
My Rating: 4 Stars

Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights in this sweeping, warm, arrestingly original novel about family, poverty, and hope.

Wing Jones, like everyone else in her town, has worshipped her older brother, Marcus, for as long as she can remember. Good-looking, popular, and the star of the football team, Marcus is everything his sister is not.

Until the night everything changes when Marcus, drunk at the wheel after a party, kills two people and barely survives himself. With Marcus now in a coma, Wing is crushed, confused, and angry. She is tormented at school for Marcus’s mistake, haunted at home by her mother and grandmothers’ grief. In addition to all this, Wing is scared that the bank is going to repossess her home because her family can’t afford Marcus’s mounting medical bills.

Every night, unable to sleep, Wing finds herself sneaking out to go to the school’s empty track. When Aaron, Marcus’s best friend, sees her running one night, he recognizes that her speed, skill, and agility could get her spot on the track team. And better still, an opportunity at a coveted sponsorship from a major athletic gear company. Wing can’t pass up the opportunity to train with her longtime crush and to help her struggling family, but can she handle being thrust out of Marcus’s shadow and into the spotlight?

While I was reading the first few chapters of The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, I thought I would not like the story. I thought it was weird because I am sure that this is supposed to be a contemporary novel, so I didn’t get what was up with the dragon and the lioness. To be honest, I still don’t get it after I closed the book, but I must tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. This is the first book I’ve read in a sitting for a long, long time, and that says a lot about how much I enjoyed this book.

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones is unlike any story I’ve ever read. It combines family, love, racism, sports, and self-discovery into a books that’s only a few hundred pages. It centers on Wing Jones, who has always lived in the shadows of her older brother Marcus, a football star. But everything changes when Marcus gets into a drunk driving accident that kills two people. Marcus himself is in the hospital, barely surviving. Then Wing discovers that she can run, and run she does. She joins the track team and proves to everyone that she can shine as well as her brother.

I don’t usually like books that center on sports because I tend to be clueless about them, but this one caught me by surprise. I really liked how sports played a huge role in the story, and how the main character grew by joining a sports team. I loved the journey Wing took in order to make everyone accept her, and to finally accept herself for who she is – quirks and all. The self-discovery and self-acceptance the main character went through was phenomenal, and it was definitely what made me love this book so much.

The family dynamics is unique. When Marcus got into the accident that landed him in the hospital, Wing’s family became consisted of only women. Two grandmothers, her mother, and Wing. Although there was not a “man of the house,” all four women worked hard in their own ways to help the family in the time of grief and financial instability. Although they may be stubborn, they do care very much for each other. The family also consisted of a number of races. Wing is a mix of being American, Asian and Black, and it really sends across a message of breaking racial barriers.

Overall, this book is surprisingly amazing and deeply enjoyable. I do recommend it to anyone who is interested. I swear, this book will not be like any other book that you have read.

4 deeply enjoyable stars

ARC Review: Top Ten by Katie Cotugno {3.5}

Title: Top Ten
Author: Katie Cotugno
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 320
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

  I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

At the beginning of this book, I actually hated it because it sounded juvenile for people who are already going to college. In the first chapter, the conversation did not go smoothly and there were so many breaks for every speech that my head was already swimming by the time the chapter concluded. However, and thank goodness for this, it slowly warmed up to me – the speech improved and they sounded less juvenile towards the middle of the book.

Additionally, I also really didn’t like how the story was formatted, wherein it’s not in chronological time order. The story lists down the top 10 moments of the two main characters’ friendship, and although the idea of the top 10 is what drew me to the book in the first place, I didn’t like that it was not in chronological order. It made it confusing for me to piece together the story during the first few chapters.

On another note, what I really liked about this book is how their friendship developed. The friendship of the two main characters is not a typical one – Ryan is a jock, while Gabby is a shy person with anxiety. I like how they constantly reassured each other about each other, and that they always had each other’s backs even though there were things they didn’t agree on. I also like that (view spoiler)

I also really loved the family dynamics of the Harts. They’re not a perfect family and there are many misunderstandings, but I’m glad that they always have each other’s backs no matter what, even though how they show it may not always be ideal and may be misinterpreted.

Overall, I didn’t really like this book as much as I thought I would have, but then there were certain aspects that really stood out despite the bad beginning.

3.5 quick read stars

ARC Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera {5 stars}

Title: They Both Die at the End
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LGBT
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date:  September 5th, 2017
Pages: 384 pages
My Rating: 5 Stars

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day. 

““Entire lives aren’t lessons, but there are lessons in lives.” 

It’s completely illogical to mourn the death of two fictional characters, but that’s what I’m doing anyway. It has been 2 full days, and I am still not okay! It is quite obvious in the title that they both die at the end, but a part of me wished that there was something they could do to prevent it.

“But no matter what choices we make – solo or together – our finish line remains the same … No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end.” 

They Both Die at the End is the type of contemporary novel that I have been looking for and have only found a few times. Most YA contemporary novels build up on a romance and most of the time focus solely on the romance aspect, but They Both Die at the End is so much more than just romance. Romance was just like a teeny tiny fraction of the novel, and I loved it so much. This is not to say that YA contemporary romance novels are worth less, but as I grow older, I’m tending to look for more YA books such as this one – full of meaning, life (even if they both die), and amazingness (is that even a word). 

“Maybe it’s better to have gotten it right and been happy for one day instead of living a lifetime of wrongs.” 

The two main characters, Mateo and Rufus, are not exactly polar opposites, but they are really different from each other. Mateo is this precious human being filled with so much kindness, empathy and willingness to help others, which is why it broke my heart when his time came. Rufus, on the other hand, is a foster kid who at the moment that he was informed of his death, was actually beating up someone. It broke my heart when death came for him because he just found his family recently, but I felt like he embraced death in the end.

“People waste time and wait for the right moment and we don’t have that luxury.”

The main character’s best friends are all so amazing, and each has their own personalities. They felt every bit as important as the two main characters, and that’s not something that all authors can do. Most of the time, they just feel like sidekicks. The multiple POV of this book also amazed me in that it showed the two main characters from different perspectives, but also showed how truly connected we all are without our noticing it. 

They Both Die at the End filled me with so much hope and love, but also so much sadness and despair and longing for a life in which I embrace my full potential and live it to the fullest. This book made me want to live life properly so bad, but it frustrates me too because I don’t know how and I have no clue where to start. I would say though, that this book is perfect and I’m so, so glad that I read it. I haven’t read Silvera’s debut novel yet, but I sure will buy a copy soon and devour it because if this is any indication of what that book would be like, then I’m sure that it would be nothing short of perfection.

5 perfect stars

ARC Review: Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton

Title: Words on Bathroom Walls
Author: Julia Walton
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 4th, 2017
Pages: Paperback, 304
My Rating: 4 Stars

Fans of More Happy Than Not, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story will cheer for Adam as he struggles with schizophrenia in this brilliantly honest and unexpectedly funny debut.

Adam has just been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He sees and hears people who aren’t there: Rebecca, a beautiful girl who understands him; the Mob Boss, who harasses him; and Jason, the naked guy who’s unfailingly polite. It should be easy to separate the real from the not real, but Adam can’t.

Still, there’s hope. As Adam starts fresh at a new school, he begins a drug trial that helps him ignore his visions. Suddenly everything seems possible, even love. When he meets Maya, a fiercely intelligent girl, he desperately wants to be the great guy that she thinks he is. But then the miracle drug begins to fail, and Adam will do anything to keep Maya from discovering his secret. 

As a psychology major, I’m always fascinated with YA books that feature mental illness, which is why I immediately requested this one when I saw the synopsis, and this book did not disappoint. However, I can only give this book 4 stars because it felt kind of flat and didn’t really capture my emotions that way other books did.

“I mean that cancer patients don’t frighten anyone. When you have cancer, people are sympathetic. Thy feel something for you and people even hold races to raise money for your cure. It’s different when people are afraid of what you’ve got, because then you get some of the sympathy but none of the support. They don’t wish you ill, they just want you as far away from them as possible. 
Cancer Kid has the Make-A-Wish Foundation because Cancer Kid will eventually die, and that’s sad. Schizophrenia Kid will also eventually die, but before he does, he will be overmedicated with a plethora of drugs, he will alienate everyone he’s ever cared about, and he will most likely wind up on the street, living with a car that will eat him when he dies. That is also sad, but nobody gives him a wish because he isn’t actively dying. It is abundantly clear that we only care about sick people who are dying tragic, time-sensitive deaths.”

Words on Bathroom Walls centers on Adam, who was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, and thereafter was sent to another school because of the bullying from his previous school. As a result, he kept his condition a secret from his classmates in this new school while he is undergoing this new drug trial. In this new school, he meets Maya, whom he slowly falls in love with. However, the threat of a bully is still present.

“Respect your elders, when shouldn’t it be, respect everyone?”

Words on Bathroom Walls, in my opinion, did a good job at portraying what schizophrenia is. I’m not an expert on the subject, but based on what I know the portrayal is pretty accurate. Adam was only able to distinguish visions from reality upon starting medication. Moreover, although he knows they’re only visions, they still feel real to him. I think that’s really what schizophrenia is like.

“I’m not asking for fair, nobody gets fair. And who says it’s up to you to decide what I can handle?”

I think my favorite character in this book is the step-father. Many would think that Maya is a great character for understanding and supporting Adam all the way through, and I think that she’s great, but I think the step-father is the best character. He sort of just lingers there most of the time, not exactly knowing how to interact with Adam, but you know that deep down he loves the kid. He may not always show it, most likely because he doesn’t know how to, but he’s definitely there ready to defend Adam when it matters the most.

“They contradict each other, like everything else in life, I guess. You’ll hear one thing that gives you hope and another thing that takes it away. Be who you are. But not that. anything but that.”

Overall, the book was a good one, I just didn’t connect to it in an emotional way. I absolutely love the portrayal of both schizophrenia and family in this novel, and I recommend this to anyone who would want to delve into the mind of someone with schizophrenia for a few hours to know what it feels like.

realistic stars

ARC Review: Looking for Group by Rory Harrison!

Title: Looking for Group
Author: Rory Harrison
Series: NA/ Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 25th, 2017
Pages: Kindle, 368
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Thelma & Louise meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in a brave, timely YA about two teens who embark on a cross-country road trip.

Dylan doesn’t have a lot of experience with comfort. His room in the falling-down Village Estates can generously be categorized as “squalid,” and he sure as hell isn’t getting any love from his mother, who seemed to—no, definitely did—enjoy the perks that went along with being the parent of a “cancer kid.”

His only escape has been in the form of his favorite video game—World of Warcraft—and the one true friend who makes him feel understood, even if it is just online: Nuba. And now that Dylan is suddenly in remission, he wants to take Nuba on a real mission, one he never thought he’d live to set out on: a journey to a mysterious ship in the middle of the Salton Sea.

But Nuba—real-life name Arden—is fighting her own battles, ones that Dylan can’t always help her win. As they navigate their way west, they grapple with Nuba’s father (who refuses to recognize his daughter’s true gender), Dylan’s addiction, and the messy, complicated romance fighting so hard to blossom through the cracks of their battle-hardened hearts. 

  I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
I was so not informed that this is going to be a road trip book. Let me tell you about road trip books – I usually do not enjoy them. I don’t know why, but when it comes to road trip books, I tend to get bored and I just want the book to be over already. This is why I tend to stay away from them. And in this world where change is constant, this fact seems to be something that has not changed yet.

In a way, my brain registers that this is an important book. It explores sexuality in a way that YA books I’ve read have not explored yet. But here’s the thing – I was so confused by how it was explored in this book as well. The main character Dylan is gay, and the other character Arden is a trans woman, so that makes her a girl if we are to follow the events in the book. But then Dylan and Arden falls in love, and it just made my brain go, “Oops, what the heck is happening here?” If someone knows how this works, please explain it to me because I just don’t get it, and I just can’t get over that fact.

Other than that, my main problem is that I couldn’t connect with the characters nor the story. I think I couldn’t connect with the story because of my luck with road trip YA novels. But the characters, I’m just so confused by them. I don’t want to say that Dylan is whiny, but Dylan is whiny. And Arden was just confusing. Also, I think that the characters don’t have enough depth to them. I feel like I couldn’t describe in a way that I could describe other characters, and that was a huge problem for me.

I liked the resolution of this book though. I like how everything was not perfect – because that’s how real life is like. It wasn’t sunshine and kisses and happily ever after, and we know that the story goes on even if we can’t see them anymore. The novel ended in a neutral note – neither happy nor sad – though I know that in the future there will still be a lot of happy and sad times. In that way, I think the ending was realistic.

Overall, I didn’t like much about the novel because I couldn’t connect with the story nor the characters. I like that it explores LGBT and cancer, but it had me confused as heck. 

2.5 another-boring-road-trip-novel stars

ARC Review: The Upside of Unrequited

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: April 4th, 2017
Pages: 352 pages
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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. 

It’s official, I’m adding Becky Albertalli to my list of auto-read authors! I’m always skeptical about reading an author’s sophomore novel when I have the debut novel 5 stars because more often that not, the author couldn’t top the first one. And more often than not, the second novel would be dull in comparison to the first novel. However, that was not the case with this book. This book is all sorts of fluffy and cute, and it’s as magical as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which if it wasn’t clear yet, I totally loved.

When I stated reading The Upside of Unrequited, I was not immediately hooked in, just as I wasn’t immediately hooked in when I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I guess with Becky Albertalli novels, you need to let the novel sink in first. As I got to know that characters, I loved them more and more. This book could have potentially been a shallow book, but with Becky Albertalli’s writing style and depth, this book became a book of growth, acceptance, family and forgiveness.

For instance, in this book, Cassie has her first girlfriend, and Molly feels left out because of it. Instead of it being annoying, Becky Albertalli allowed the two to converse and discuss what inevitable might happen – they may fall apart – but they also realized that they would try always to be there for each other. Another example is how Molly wants to get a boyfriend. But more than being a teenager who just wants love, Molly’s journey is also about resolving self-esteem issues and realizing that she is beautiful despite her imperfections – or maybe because of it.

What I really love about this book is how the family is not perfect, nor completely dysfunctional. With YA books these days, there is a slight tendency to just go on one extreme end of a spectrum. With this book, they seem like a very happy family, but there is actually conflict happening within – just like in real life. Molly and Cassie may be twins, but they still have their own unique identities. They may be super close, but they still have moments when they didn’t like each other very much. I also like how Becky Albertalli showed other types of families with this family, with them having two mothers and having have come from a sperm donor.

In the past few months I have been having trouble connecting with YA books, but I had no problem whatsoever in connecting with this one. I don’t have the words to describe how amazing this is, but for me it captures everyday life for a teenager. I like how Becky Albertalli spins everything into a lesson, and I just love how everything wrapped up together. This definitely did not disappoint, and I would want to read any other book Becky Albertalli publishes.

4.5 new-auto-read-author stars. 

ARC Review: Literally by Lucy Keating!

Title: Literally
Author: Lucy Keating
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 11th, 2017
Pages: Kindle, 256 pages
My Rating: 3 Stars

A girl realizes her life is being written for her in this unique, smart love story that is Stranger Than Fiction for fans of Stephanie Perkins.

Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel—and Annabelle is the heroine.

It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her.

But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story—or will Lucy Keating have the last word?

The real Lucy Keating’s delightful contemporary romance blurs the line between reality and fiction, and is the perfect follow-up for readers who loved her debut Dreamology, which SLJ called, “a sweet, quirky romance with appealing characters.”

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

When I first saw the synopsis for Literally, I was excited. I think a bookworm would be immediately attracted to what the story is about, because after all, it’s about a main character in an author’s story. However, it wasn’t like I imagined it to be, and I felt like there were too much ambiguities.

Annabelle discovers that she is a character in Lucy Keating’s newest romance book because the author visited her school. When the plot of her new book sounded similar to Annabelle’s life, Annabelle confronted her. Lucy then proceeds to tell her that she is a character in her newest book.

From this point everything that became weird for me because why would an author be in her own novel? If she’s writing the character, shouldn’t it have been impossible for them to meet? And why was Annabelle the only one out of all the character to notice the inconsistencies within the novel, and the only one to notice the TK signs? I mean, it’s just all hard to grasp when you’re reading about it, which is why I think this would have done better as a movie.

For the first half of the book, I really felt confused. However, at the latter part of the book, that when I started enjoying. I liked the message that the author was trying to get across, and there were lots of good quotes in the book. I also started enjoying when she finally decided to choose between Will and Elliot, and how she chose the one I was rooting for, haha!

“I think you have to try your best to find your best self, and the person who makes you your best self.”

“And just because something ends, doesn’t mean it didn’t mean anything. Sometimes, you have to take the risk.”

“You can’t expect anything real or awesome to happen to you, if you don’t take a chance.”

“The end is up to you now, Annabelle. You’ll find your Happy Ending, and it’s not about whom you end up with. I am only just beginning to figure that out.”

“I don’t do this because it was my plan; it was my plan because I love it. But I’m determined no to stick to it too closely. I have no idea what surprises the future will hold. Now my plan is to follow my dreams. My plan is to surprise myself, and write my own story. I hope, whatever age you are, each one of you chooses to do the same.”

Overall, I was really confused about this book at first but grew to love it when I learned the message of the novel. It’s a quick and fun read that helped me pass my time, and after all the confusion, it was kinda entertaining and enjoyable as well.

quick-read stars

ARC Review: The Last of August

Title: The Last of August
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Pages: Paperback, 336
My Rating: 4 Stars

In the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie and Charlotte are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other. 

When I saw The Last of August, I debated whether or not to request it for review. I thought that the first Charlotte Holmes book was just so-so, and because I don’t have much time to read anymore, I didn’t know if it would be worth my time. However, I’m really thankful that I decided to request this because it turned out to be even better than the first book.

There’s just something about The Last of August that’s captivating and addicting. I had a lot of homework at the time that I read this, but I couldn’t put it down for too long because I was always thinking about what might happen next in the story. I felt like I needed to know everything soon, and it kept me at the edge of my seat. I felt like the book had this sort of power over me so that it’s always on my mind.

The thing that keeps me from giving this book 5 stars is because there were some things that weren’t clear to me. I felt confused most of the time, but because it was addicting, I continued reading even if things were not 100% clear. I don’t know if it’s because I just couldn’t keep up or the story just wasn’t really clear enough, but there were times when I couldn’t connect the dots. This happened especially near the end, when there was a rush of things that happened. As a result, I felt like I didn’t get a proper ending.

I don’t know why, but I don’t think I will be reading the next book, if ever there will be one. I just don’t think the story flows well from one book to another. I mean, the cases they work on are interesting, but in terms of the overall picture of the two main characters’ relationship, nothing has changed. They’re still in that weird state of being in between enemies, friends and lovers. I mean I kind of get Charlotte, but sometimes she just really gets on my nerves.

Overall, the cases they solve is really interesting for me, but the overall story doesn’t really interest me that much anymore.

addicting stars

ARC Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: January 31st, 2016
Pages: Paperback, 352
My Rating: 4 Stars

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

Kasie West is definitely the queen of contemporary fluff! Whenever I need my fix of light and fluffy contemporary books, Kasie West is definitely my go-to person for it. Her books has never disappointed me before, and By Your Side is no exception.

By Your Side is about Autumn, who was left behind by her friends in the library and was accidentally locked up there for days. To make things worse, she finds out that she’s locked up with Dax, who has a bad reputation. Um, the girl is locked up inside a library. With a guy. What bookworm wouldn’t want to read this book? (Although Autumn didn’t really use the time to read books, tsk tsk.)

I think my favorite thing about this book is how it explores anxiety disorder, which I think not many YA books has talked about. I’m an advocate of mental illness, and I love how this book shows how mental illnesses may seem from the outside, and how social stigma can keep a person from admitting having a mental illness. For a light and fluffy contemporary novel, Kasie West definitely explored a topic that is worth exploring, and an important one at that.

The romance is definitely cute, as how it usually is with Kasie West books. However, this book, in my opinion, provided less depth than the other Kasie West books I’ve read in the past. As a result, I can only give this book 4 stars, instead of the 5 stars that I usually give to Kasie West books. I also don’t really have much to say about this book because of this. Overall, it’s really just a book to pass time, and I really enjoyed it.

cute and fluffy stars

ARC Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe {5 STARS}

Title: A List of Cages
Author: Robin Roe
Genre: Young Adult, Mental Illness, Contemporary
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date:  January 10th, 2017
Pages: 320 pages
My Rating: 5 Stars

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian–the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

“When I was little, I never wondered how I’d do it. I just knew one day I would go everywhere. But when you get older, you realize wanting is not the same as having. There are all those places you want to go, but it doesn’t mean you can actually get there.”

A List of Cages is one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read. When I first read the synopsis of this book, I didn’t think that the descriptions would be so vivid and realistic. As someone who is an advocate for mental health, the premise of the story immediately drew me in. However, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that it would make me feel. So just for anyone who is planning to read this book, get your heart ready.

“I wish I had the ability to talk to people like that. Talking is a talent; he probably doesn’t realize it, but it is.”

A List of Cages is told from two perspectives – Adam, a senior with ADHD whom everyone loves, and Julian, an orphan freshmen who lives with his uncle. Julian is someone who is experiencing something that no kid should experience, but sadly is a reality to many – child abuse. It’s a harrowing tale of something that could happen to anyone but we wouldn’t want to happen.

“Because when you’re between two shores and no one can see you, you don’t really exist at all.”

Honestly, I didn’t think that I would like this book a first because it was slow to start, and the tone was very somber. It brought down my mood even though not much was happening yet. But the emotions it brought me towards the latter half of the book felt so real that I couldn’t help but appreciate it. It shows that reality of the world that we avoid discussing, but is really there.

“Eventually, all the tears are gone, and I’m empty, but it’s a good sort of empty. Like I’m lighter.”

My favorite thing about this book is how realistic it is. First, Adam is not some perfect guy who is loved by everyone and cares about Julian. At times, like when he hurt Charlie for seemingly constantly choosing Julian over him, he can be clueless. Second, Charlie was jealous of Julian at first, but when he knew Julian, he started to warm up to him. This book shows that human beings are not perfect. That despite trying our best to understand the world, there would always be times when we are clueless and miss things that we should notice.

“I used to think struggle was what aged you, but if that were the case, Julian should’ve been a hundred years old. Now I wonder if the opposite is true. Maybe instead of accelarating your age, pain won’t let you grow.”

On the other hand, this book also shows that the world is full of kindness. We just have to dig deep within ourselves to find it. Right from the start, Emerald warmed up to Julian, even though he seemed to be “intruding” in their circle of friendship. Charlie, towards the end, also started really caring for Julian, wanting to protect him, and visiting him in the hospital. Julian, who has been through so much, after being hurt beyond imaginable, still has so much kindness in him for other people. (Just writing this is making me emotional.) It kind of makes me rethink what I’m doing with my life.

“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”

This book has made me feel a rollercoaster of emotions that I didn’t think I could feel. Too often it’s easy for people to be judgmental just because we don’t know what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes. This book shows that despite it being part of our instincts, we should; because people are going through so much, and each of us has our own problems to face. We just have to remember that every time we meet people.

“But why can’t good things feel like forever? It was all so fast … before they left. I want to spin it back… slow it down. Why is time like that? Why does it slow down in the places you don’t want it to, but it speeds away when you’re happy?”

I think this definitely is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives. Yes, it’s kind of a sad book, but it’s also a book that filled me with so much hope. I have no complaints about this book whatsoever. Just remember to be ready for heavy emotions when you read this one, but I definitely recommend it! 

5 harrowing stars