Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a new young-adult novel about mental illnesses, family, love, and surviving in the aftermath of great emotional trauma.  Recommended for fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and Gayle Forman, All the Bright Places is sure to pull at your heart strings. Soon to be a major-motion picture starring Elle Fanning!

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

@Amazon - @Goodreads

I don’t know how it is possible to love a book that I am so incredibly mad at, but it has happened.  This is a book that will most-likely make you as angry as it made me, and probably very sad.   This is a book that will stay with you for a very long time if you have ever had suicidal thoughts, or experienced the loss of someone who has taken their own life.  

Meet Violet.  Brilliant.  Beautiful.  Damaged.  Less than a year ago, she was in a fatal car accident; her older sister, Eleanor, was killed.  Violet wants nothing more than to leave small-town Indiana for college and get on with her life.

Meet Finch.  Brilliant.  Bat-shit crazy, with a family history of domestic abuse.  Suicidal.  Known as “Freak” at school.  He meets Violet one day at school on the bell tower, and talks her off the ledge.  Over the course of the school year, they become friends and eventually more.  Yes, another damaged girl + damaged boy love story, but one that is incredibly well-written and relatable.  

The novel is told in the dual perspectives of Finch and Violet, concentrating slightly more on Finch, a 17 year old boy with what seems to be a death wish.  It is clear that Finch has an undiagnosed mental illness, and desperately needs help, but his family merely accepts him the way he is.

Finch is a complex character that is both lovable and infuriating.  And let’s be honest:  a little annoying.  His actions throughout the novel are selfish at times, and heroic at others.   Part of me hates him, while another part of me understands him at his core.  

I will not say much about the ending, except that it is tragic yet beautiful; haunting, yet inspiring, and will not be forgotten easily.

Folks, if you or someone you know someone is suffering from a mental illness and may be suicidal, please get them help.  And if you are suicidal, please think about the people you will most assuredly leave behind with guilt, regret, and questions that will forever be unanswered before you choose to end your life.    
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273-8255

Publication Date: January 6, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: Never Never (Never Never #1) by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher

Never Never is the first novella in a new collab series by the extremely popular Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher.

Best friends since they could walk.

 In love since the age of fourteen.

Complete strangers since this morning.

He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.

@Goodreads - @Amazon

This novel is told in the dual perspective of the two main characters, both of whom lost their memory at the same exact time without suffering any kind of injury or illness.  They just "woke up" one day at school, not knowing a single detail about themselves, such as where they lived, what their names are, or anything at all relevant to themselves.  But they remember all the latest technology and can use it efficiently.

As I type this out, I find myself thinking that the three-star rating I gave this novella is a bit generous.  It's a bit... far-fetched.   To put it mildly.

 Instead of telling a family member or, I don't know, a DOCTOR, about their memory loss, they instead do absolutely nothing, looking to each other to try to fill in the gaps about their lives. As this happens, Silas, the boyfriend, starts falling in love with Charlie all over again, who was cheating on him before the memory loss incident took place. Oh, but he was cheating on her, too, with the school guidance counselor. Two assholes. Now, two assholes with no memories. There is a twist at the end that interested me, but frankly made no sense at all, followed up a cliffhanger ending that answers almost nothing. So why the three stars?  Despite its flaws (the central one being the completely unexplained medical mystery memory loss, which is... pretty significant), it was a fast read.  I gobbled it up, and when I finished, I wanted more.   So what if it is the novella equivalent of a crappy daytime soap opera.  I liked it, despite... everything.  Somehow.

Publication Date: January 7, 2015

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman -- NEW RELEASE

For fans of Gayle Forman's If I Stay (now a major-motion picture), I Was Here tells the story of two best friends; one that committed suicide, and one that was left behind to pick up the pieces of her life. Grab your tissues!

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
 Two peas in a pod.
 Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

 When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question. I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.                                       @Amazon @Goodreads
I have to say, I absolutely love stories like this, so this review may seem a bit biased.  I have had a friend commit suicide, and while we weren't best friends... well, let's just say that I can relate to the main character of this story completely.

Meg was a girl that had it all.  Looks, brains, a close-knit family, and a full scholarship to her dream school in Seattle.  Cody, in contrast, didn't have much: a part-time mother, no father, little money, and hardly any future prospects.  One morning while checking her e-mail, Cody's entire world was changed; she had received a suicide note from Meg, who penned one last e-mail to her friends and family before drinking poison in an anonymous motel room.

Cody then makes it her mission to find out why her best friend committed suicide, all the while suffering through her own anguish -- why didn't she know?  Could she have done anything?  Why?

The answer is both surprising and unsurprising.  The novel, on a whole, is both inspiring and depressing.  Forman pulls at the heartstrings, and makes you really think about if your best friend were to commit suicide.  And hopefully, she will make you think of what would happen to those you love if you, yourself, were to commit suicide.  Don't do it!

Highly recommended to those of you that like a thought-provoking, emotional read.

Publication Date: January 27, 2015