Title: After I Do (2014)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit
Extent: 353 pages
Release Date: July 1, 2014
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage.
She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
Taylor Jenkins Reid seems to have a penchant for taking my worst nightmares and turning them into brilliant, thought-provoking stories. While I didn’t love Forever, Interrupted or One True Loves for various reasons, After I Do finally hit (most of) the right notes with me, both in premise and execution. 🙆
Title: Lost Stars (2016)
Author: Lisa Selin Davis
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 272 pages
Release Date: October 16, 2016
In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister’s friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie – a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet – is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn’t even like, even though she’s desperate for a boyfriend.
Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat – boy poison.
Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister’s death, about her own family’s past, and about herself…as well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet – and no small help from Lou Reed – Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.
Despite the really beautiful cover and the potentially heartbreaking premise, Lost Stars did not engage me at all. I actually picked it up multiple times over a number of weeks, waiting for that moment of utter attention to strike, but after perhaps the fifth time I just gave up because it just never happened. Had this not been a review book, unfortunately, I probably would’ve DNFed it pretty early on.
Title: Openly Straight (2013)
Series: Openly Straight – Book 1
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 321 pages
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.
So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben… who doesn’t even know that love is possible.
How do I begin to review a book I have very, very mixed feelings about? I suppose we’ll start with a summary. Openly Straight is the story of Rafe, who moves to an all-boys boarding school far away from home because he is tired of being known as The Gay Guy. At this new school, he hangs out with people he wouldn’t normally hang out with, hides parts of himself, and essentially “reinvents” himself.
Title: The Serpent King (2016)
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 384 pages
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending one that will rock his life to the core.
I’ve seen this book around ages ago but never really planned to read it until I saw Marie’s review and knew, without a doubt, that I had to pick it up. A quiet, hopeful contemporary with distinct characters is right up my alley, so I got the book as soon as I could and started reading right then and there. Instantly, I was sucked into the story.
Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder (2017)
Author: Sara Barnard
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 320 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2017
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life — she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him.
To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder is my first book by Sara Barnard and I really, really enjoyed it. This is the story of Steffi, who has selective mutism andcan only speak when she’s really, really comfortable with the people around her. On her first day as a sixth former, she meets Rhys, a half-Guyanese deaf boy who is new to her school. The two become fast friends, communicating using text messages, the British Sign Language (BSL), lip-reading, and also in writing.