The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

32737635.jpg The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley.

Summary from Goodreads:

In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.

My thoughts:

I had a hard time rating this one, trying to decide between a 3 and a 4, so I will say it’s technically a 3.5. I enjoyed the gossipy aspect of the book and reading about the characters, but it all seemed out of order and a little jumbled up to me. The author did keep me in anticipation of what happened to a previous character while learning about a new one, so she did a good job of keeping me reading.  I feel like adults would enjoy reading about these rich, entitled kids more than teenagers would for some reason. As a high school teacher, I could relate to some of the things with the young, first year teacher: wanting to know about her students, trying to get through to them, etc.; but, she also takes it too far, which is part of the plot. It is an interesting exploration of the student/teacher dynamic and today’s teenagers in general…makes me not want to think about what they are doing outside of school time!

My rating: 3.5/5

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Holding Up the Universe (Part 2)

28671039 Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

**My opinions are based on an ARC of this book received from the publisher/author. It releases tomorrow, 10/4/16!

Read my initial thoughts about the book here.

Summary from Goodreads:

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. 
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

My thoughts:

Well, if you don’t know by now that I’m a huge fan of this author, Jennifer Niven, where have you been?! Here’s a reminder of the excitement on my face when meeting her:

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So, the new book is FINALLY coming out…yay! I can’t wait for lots and lots of people to get to read it. I still feel strongly like I did when I originally posted that this book is not offensive to fat people and I don’t know why some would think it is, unless they are just extremely unhappy with themselves and look for any way to be negative. I accept who I am, so why would reading about someone with some of the same struggles make me angry? If anything, it makes it more enjoyable to read. I have been talking this book up to my students, especially those that I know enjoyed All the Bright Places and I have let a few read the ARC. They have enjoyed this one as well and it made them feel really special to get to read a book that wasn’t out yet. 🙂 I feel like this will be another important book that everyone should read because I think we should all read books about people that are similar, as well as very different, from us. How else do we develop compassion and empathy?

Just a side note, I have recently been diagnosed with Raynaud’s Syndrome and my fingers hurt so bad, but I am fighting through that pain to type this because I wanted it out there. I feel like Jennifer Niven deserves recognition for her writing and for being such a kind, awesome person! Thank you for another great read, Jennifer. I can’t wait to get it in my library and into the hands of many readers.

My rating: 5/5

Girl Against the Universe

22297294 Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Summary from Goodreads:

Maguire is bad luck.
No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.
It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

My thoughts:

I kept seeing people talking about this book on Twitter and praising it, so I knew I had to read it as soon as I could fit it in with all my ARCs I need to read. I had already ordered it for my school library and it came in the last week of school, so I nabbed it to read over the summer. I picked this up Monday night and was finished with it by Wednesday night. I get the hype now and I am impressed as well. Maguire’s story is told so well and makes her mental health issues seem so relatable. I have read books before that make it pretty clear that one mental health issue doesn’t not usually show up alone and this book did a great job of explaining why those problems tend to build upon one another. Poor Maguire has PTSD, which leads to some OCD tendencies, and anxiety, and so on. Almost everyone that reads this book will be able to relate to the way she feels at some point in the book.

Maguire feels cursed and thinks that she is to blame for all the bad things that happen to people around her, so she has secluded herself for the most part. She has started to meet with a therapist, who helps her develop challenges to meet her ultimate goal of being able to travel for a memorial in Ireland for her father. In the process, she meets Jordy, who is dealing with problems of his own, and they are able to help each other along the way. I actually really adored Maguire and Jordy’s love story, which is not a usual thing for me. 🙂 I reminded me a bit of Finch and Violet in All the Bright Places, which is an all-time favorite of mine. I can really see some of my students loving this book and I can’t wait to recommend it when school starts again in August. Great read!

My rating: 5/5

 

You Know Me Well

27158835 You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 6/7/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

My thoughts:

I tried to grab this book at BEA a few weeks ago, but failed to do so…too much happening. I did get David Levithan’s other book, sequel about Dash & Lily, but not this one. So, I was pleased to be able to come back and still get to read it on Netgalley. First, let me say, that I would never have known (if I didn’t already know, haha) that this was two different people writing this book. He discussed it some in a panel I attended at BEA and said he wrote one point of view and Nina wrote the other and it was truly seamless. After seeing David speak, I could see his humor come through in this book as well, which was interesting. I have only read one other book by Nina LaCour, but I enjoyed it as well.

I really liked reading from both Mark and Katie’s perspectives in this story, and found it to be a quick and very interesting read. Both of the characters were very entertaining and very lovable. This book focused mostly on LGBT relationships and Pride; which, of course, is really no different than reading about any other romantic relationship. I think this kind of book is an awesome way to expose readers to different kinds of relationships, romantic and friendly, without being intimidating. Some teens, especially, don’t want to check out an obviously LGBT book for various reasons, so this is a great way for them to be able to read what they want. You even see a character in this book that is struggling with coming out to his family and classmates. I have some students who really like David Levithan and I can’t wait to put this book in their hands when school starts again. This was a great read!

My rating: 5/5

Asking For It

Asking For It Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.
The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.
Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

My thoughts:

Okay, I have been waiting for this book to come out in the U.S. for ages and ages. I follow Louise on social media and was dying for it because I am obsessed with her first title Only Ever Yours. I knew what this book was about from her posts and all the awards/reviews it has received. I finally got my hands on it and ordered for my high school library, and I was not disappointed! This is an extremely tough topic that I know will ignite conversation and, possibly even some controversy, among my students; but, it is a valuable, necessary story. I will be putting this into the hands of as many students as I can. Emma’s story is heartbreaking, horrifying, and totally relatable for any female. It was like you were in her head and feeling all the awful things she was feeling. My school is really pushing a campaign to make students aware of what they post on social media and how it affects others, so this book came at a perfect time. We really need to think about the way our world looks at the rape culture and people always thinking that the girls were asking for it in cases like this. Females should have a right to be proud of themselves and look beautiful without having to worry about being attacked. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I would not be opposed one bit to reading a sequel to this book so I can find out what happened!

My rating: 5/5

Walk the Edge

Walk the Edge (Thunder Road, #2) Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 3/29/16.

Summary from Goodreads:
Smart. Responsible. That’s seventeen-year-old Breanna’s role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyber-bully’s line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas “Razor” Turner into her life.
Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don’t belong. But when he learns she’s being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it’s time to step outside the rules.
And so they make a pact: he’ll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she’ll help him seek answers to the mystery that’s haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they’re both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they’re going from here.

My thoughts:

Before I go any further, let me mention that this is one of my favorite YA authors out there….so if I gush, that’s why! 🙂  Katie McGarry did not disappoint me with this installment of the Thunder Road series. I love that her books are all connected by characters, but can be read as stand-alone titles as well, so I don’t have to make my students wait for a certain one in the series to be returned before reading another. I recommend books by Katie to my high school students all the time, and I have a few who come to me regularly to talk about them. This particular book was about a romantic relationship, but also about some other very real issues that high schoolers have to deal with, like people posting inappropriate pictures, rumors, trying to live up to expectations, etc. I think the characters are very relatable, even if you are not exactly like them. Most of us are not in a motorcycle club, I’m about as far from that as you can get, but I still found parts of Razor’s character that I could relate to and empathize with. Breanna also has talents/smarts that many people would be jealous of, but she finds that those things have a negative impact on her life as well, keeping her from fitting in with most people and feeling like she always has to be perfect. These are all things many high schoolers feel regularly. Katie also addresses sexual situations in a realistic manner, without focusing on the act itself, but the feelings behind it. I have never found those scenes or moments to be inappropriate.

This is definitely I book I will be recommending as soon as it arrives!

My rating: 5/5

This Is Where It Ends

This Is Where It Ends  This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 1/5/16.

Trigger warning: This is a book about a school shooting/hostage situation.

This is a story told from multiple viewpoints over a short amount of time about a school shooting. After a morning assembly, everyone (almost everyone) is locked in the auditorium of the school and the shooting begins. As students begin to figure out what is happening and who the shooter is, the intensity really gets started. From outside of the auditorium, a few students who were other places have to try to get help and figure out what is going on until police arrive. This is a school, seemingly, in the middle of nowhere, so that help does not come as quickly as they would like.

This was one of those books that I read in about two sittings because I could just not put it down. I had to know what was going to happen and who was going to survive. As morbid and upsetting as books about school shootings are, I just get engrossed in them.  Is that weird? It is also terrifying because the whole time I imagining it as the school I work at. (Horribly terrifying!) This is the kind of intense book that really gets you thinking and is more scary than any book about serial killers, ghosts, etc.  I also saw all the flaws in how the police reacted based on how we have been trained as school staff to respond and to expect in this kind of situation. Though it is told from many viewpoints, I never found it confusing or hard to follow.

Anyway, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes this kind of story. I will most likely order it for my school library, though it scares me a bit to do so…even though I hate to admit that.

My rating: 5/5