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: 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. 

Mini ARC Review: Winning by Lara Deloza

Title: Winning
Author: Lara Deloza
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, LGBT, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Pages: 336
My Rating: 2 Stars

Whoever said being nice would get you to the top?

Certainly not Alexandra Miles. She isn’t nice, but she’s more than skilled at playing the part. She floats through the halls of Spencer High, effortlessly orchestrating the actions of everyone around her, making people bend to her whim without even noticing they’re doing it. She is the queen of Spencer High—and it’s time to make it official.

Alexandra has a goal, you see—Homecoming Queen. Her ambitions are far grander than her small town will allow, but homecoming is just the first step to achieving total domination. So when peppy, popular Erin Hewett moves to town and seems to have a real shot at the crown, Alexandra has to take action.

With the help of her trusted friend Sam, she devises her most devious plot yet. She’ll introduce an unexpected third competitor in the mix, one whose meteoric rise—and devastating fall—will destroy Erin’s chances once and for all. Alexandra can run a scheme like this in her sleep. What could possibly go wrong?

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

I consider Wining to be a pretty unique book. It’s hard to come across books with the supposed “villain” as the main character, but it’s even hard to find books where that “villain” is unapologetic. It was interesting for me to see all the scheming and ruthlessness done just to achieve the results that the school’s “queen” wants.

However, the thing is, I wasn’t really able to enjoy this book that much. At first it was entertaining and refreshing, but as the story went on, it just became dragging. I felt like rolling my eyes and I didn’t really see a point anymore. I wanted to put this book down, but I couldn’t because I always have a hard time DNF-ing books. As a result, I read this for a week, which for me is really, really slow.

I’d like to say that I enjoyed this book but I really did not. I’m only giving this book 2 stars because I think it was unique and kinda entertaining at first. It’s also hard to make a contemporary character who is “evil” through and through and who would stop at nothing to get what she wants.

dragging stars

Quote-Filled ARC Review: You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Title: You Know Me Well
Author: Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Pages: 256
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

 I received this book from Netgalley and St. Martins Griffin in exchange for an honest review.

“Have you ever wanted something so badly that it sort of takes over your life? Like, you still do all the things you’re supposed to do, but you’re just going through the motions because you are entirely consumed by this one thing? … Have you ever wanted something so badly to happen that when it’s about to happen, you feel the need to sabotage yourself?”

I have been avoiding David Levithan’s books because I didn’t really enjoy Every Day and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. No doubt he is an amazing writer who has a way with words, but I don’t tend to like the stories of the books I’ve read so far. But then he paired up with Nina LaCour, and I just had to read this, because Nina LaCour! Enough said!

“The heart is a treacherous beast, but it means well.”

Oh, I’m so glad that I took the opportunity to read this! Thank you St. Martins Griffin for offering me a copy for review. I went into this trying not to expect anything from it but my worries were futile because this book is absolutely amazing! I don’t know the writing process behind this book, but these two should definitely write more books together!

“You’re never going to be ready. Don’t you see that? You have to forget about ready. If you don’t, you’re always going to run away.”

“Except my problem has never been running away. My problem has been staying in the same place.”

You Know Me Well turned out to be a heavy book for me. It’s not because it’s a heavy-topic book filled with problems and whatnot, but because of all the emotions that I felt while reading it. Those emotions really cut through the heart, and I was really able to connect with the characters (something I have never been able to with the other Levithan characters I’ve read). I felt so much for them and I felt like I knew them personally. I was really able to put myself into their shoes as well.

“I thought it was the end of the world, but it wasn’t. I thought it was the start of the world, but it wasn’t. Instead it was an introduction to the halfway world we’d spend the next two years.”

There were just so many amazing quotes in this book that I believe can be applicable in every aspect of life. These two authors write so beautifully that it hurts. They make the most mundane things sound like music, and wow, just wow. If I were reading a paperback copy of this book, you would be sure to see it filled with sticky tabs on the side because of the amount of the beautiful sentences I read that I just want to remember forever.

“Even though there are no true beginnings in life – there’s always something that came before – there are definitely moments that feel like a beginning, and it’s always good to stop and take a second to enjoy them.”

This book is just filled with so much meaning, and it taught me a lot of things. It taught me that it’s okay to be lost, but it’s not okay to stay lost forever. It taught me to look for that freedom, and not be afraid to take it once it’s in front of me. It taught me to find my passion, and to do it with all my heart. It taught me to be courageous – in facing life, friends, family, opportunities, and especially feelings. Most of all, it taught me to live.

“Most lives are long, and most pain is short. Hearts don’t actually break; they always keep beating. This is not to diminish what you’re going through, but I’ve been there, and I’ve been through it.”

With LGBT books people tend to focus on the LGBT side of things, which I don’t know. Sometimes, I feel like it defeats the purpose of LGBT because they should be treated like the same as everyone else so their being gay or lesbians shouldn’t be worth mentioning or something. Maybe that’s just my opinion. But the point is, with this book, I never focused on that aspect of it. Instead, what I saw was the friendship – mending old ones and creating new ones. What I saw was all the life lessons that it has to offer. What I saw was the a journey towards finding oneself, and actually working hard to get there. What I saw was a journey towards accepting the things that you cannot change and opening yourself up to new opportunities.

“I’m not running away anymore. It’s a promise I’m making to myself. You can keep doing what you’re supposed to, what you’re expected to, and tell yourself it’s what you want. … Believe, at eighteen, that you know what your life will hold and how to prepare for it. But if you odn’t really believe it, if all that time you’re harboring a doubt so deep it creeps into even your best moments, and you break the rules and step away, then there’s going to be reckoning. You are going to have to explain yourself.”

Sometimes you just read a book, oblivious to the fact that it will change your life, and that’s exactly what this book did for me. This is such a beautiful book, and I wish that everyone could read this masterpiece. I couldn’t possibly mention all the wonderful things about this book; you guys would just have to find out for yourselves when you read it, and I really hope that you do.

“I want a fresh start. I would fight for a fresh start. But I also want it to be a continuation.”

“You want the continuation that feels like a start.”
4.5 magical-words stars. 

ARC Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Title: Symptoms of Being Human
Author: Jeff Garvin
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LGBT
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Pages: 352
My Rating: 3 Stars

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

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

“The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?”

  When I first read the synopsis of Symptoms of Being Human, I was immediately intrigued. I mean, it started out with with an amazing line which immediately captured my attention. And, when I finally got to reading the book, it was indeed the first thing I wondered – Is Riley a boy or a girl? It was really interesting for me as well because up until then, I didn’t know a thing about being gender fluid because I’ve never heard of the term before.

  Unfortunately, after the initial fascination with a main character who is gender fluid has passed, I felt more and more disconnected to Riley and the story itself.
It was just lacking that thing that would draw me in, you know? But I just really wanted to know where the story was headed, and so I read on. However, I just really couldn’t connect to it. I know that this is an amazing story with an eye-opening message, but I just didn’t have the connection to the story that I wanted as a reader.

  Another thing is that while I knew that Riley is gender fluid and the author didn’t want to reveal Riley’s biological gender, I kept trying to guess it until 70% of the story, at which point I thought that it really didn’t matter anymore and I just didn’t care anymore. Then I finished the book and got to the author’s note, and that’s when things just started to click for me. I realized what this story is really about and how the author intended for things to be but at the end of the day I still don’t feel connected to the book. Maybe it would have helped if I had encountered someone who is gender fluid before or something. I really don’t know.

  Overall, I get the message that the author is trying to put across, and I really appreciated this novel for that message. However, I just wasn’t able to connect to the story as much as I wanted to as a reader. I guess I’ll be the black sheep here. I’m not saying that I hated this book, because I didn’t hate it; I’m just saying that I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as others did.

3 no-connection stars

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LGBT
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  April 7th 2015
Pages: 303
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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.

  Oh my goodness, this book was unbearably cute (in a good way)! This, alone with Puddle Jumping, are the two books with the most feels for me. It’s already been a month since I read this, but whenever I remember or hear the title of the book, a rush of feels come towards me. I can’t even remember the specific details anymore, I just feel the feels!
I have to admit, I was scared to read gay books before. It’s not that I’m prejudiced against them, it’s just that I was kind of afraid that if I didn’t like a gay book, people would assume that it’s because of the MC being gay. But in the end, I was just too curious about the hype surrounding this book, so I looked for it immediately. I even bought a hardcopy since there were no paperbacks, which I never do. But I am oh so thankful that I did!
Oh my gosh, what was I even afraid about? It didn’t feel like Simon was just telling a story, it felt like he was telling the story directly to me. I laughed out loud a couple of times, and I hurt, I felt frustrated, and I just really connected with Simon. I also really liked how Simon worked through all his troubles. Above everything else, he is brave.
There were so many things covered in this book, like why is white and straight the default? I really liked it when Simon said that straight people should come out too. It really made me think of why gay people should come out, since that’s just who they are. 
I already know that this is a book that I would be rereading multiple times. Seriously guys, if you haven’t read this, just go ahead and read it. I know that I would regret it so much if I wasn’t able to read this, I swear.
4.5 cuteness-overload stars