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: Life in a Fishbowl (2017)
Author: Len Vlahos
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 336 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2017
Jackie’s life wasn’t perfect, but it was normal. That is, until her dad got a terminal cancer diagnosis. Then went and did what anyone faced with mountains of medical bills and a family to support would do: he sold his life to the highest bidder.
Which turned out to be a TV station.
Suddenly everyone from psychotic millionaires to cyber-savvy nuns wants a piece of Jackie’s family as they become a reality TV sensation. Her life spirals out of control just as her dad’s starts to run out and meanwhile the whole world is tuning in to watch her family fall apart…
2016 was the year I discovered reality television. The years before, I would catch some episodes of My Kitchen Rules, MasterChef, and The Bachelor/ette but never really stayed, having barely any attachment to the characters. Last year, though, I started watching these things from the very start and very quickly got sucked in. I rooted for my favourite contestants and ‘boo’-ed those I didn’t like. I sat glued to the TV, scrolling through the relevant Twitter hashtag. I was, put simply, obsessed — which was why Life in a Fishbowl should have been right up my alley.
Title: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel (2014)
Author: Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 304 pages
Release Date: October 7, 2014
High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard.
But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful.
Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.
I’ve read Sara Farizan’s other book, If You Could Be Mine, before and while I didn’t love it, I appreciated the thought that went into it and its exploration of what being gay in Iran is like. Unlike that book, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel takes place in America and follows Leila, a Persian teenager who recently realised she is gay. Sounds like a good premise? I thought so, but I didn’t really enjoy this book.
Title: Moon Chosen (2016)
Series: Tales of a New World – Book 1
Author: P. C. Cast
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 600 pages
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating clan strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…
Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and obliterate the forces that threaten to destroy them all.
Moon Chosen is actually the first I heard of P. C. Cast, who apparently is quite a big-name author back when vampires were making the rounds in fiction! Now, I missed that boat pretty much entirely, but I was glad for the chance to get acquainted with her writing through this book. Was I as impressed as I wanted to be? Well…