Until We Meet Again

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Time travel is a popular genre that dates back to literature from almost 200 years ago. Hundreds of mediums use it as a plot device, from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine to the popular film Back to the Future. Renee Collins’ novel Until We Meet Again uses the element of time travel, but in a unique way.

Cassandra is a rebellious teenager who is dreading spending the summer on the Massachusetts shore with her family. Though they rent a historic old estate, Cassandra is more interested in taking risks with some of the local troublemakers. Then one night, out on the estate’s private beach, she meets an intriguing stranger, Lawrence. Through multiple meetings, the two soon discover they are living in different years, him in 1925, her in 2015, and can somehow see each other only on the beach. Their friendship soon develops into love, but living in different times makes their relationship complicated. Through her research, Cassandra soon learns the awful truth about Lawrence’s fate, and is determined to do something about it.

The story is written in first person and alternate perspectives, with Cassandra and Lawrence each narrating certain chapters. This added some historic depth, as you can see the contrast in how people spoke, acted and dressed in the different eras. Cassandra considers Lawrence’s time to be “simpler” than hers, anticipating how much will go on throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

The interesting part about this novel is how it seems to fall under multiple genres. While the plot definitely has romance, there’s some science fiction with the time travel aspect. The 1920s scenes also adds history to the mix, with references to speakeasys, flappers and more. I admire Collins for doing the research on the lifestyle and being able to write dialogue consistent with that time period.

I would definitely recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys a summer love story with some sci-fi and history mixed in.

All In Pieces

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Happy Almost Summer! Today’s review will be Suzanne Young’s novel All In Pieces.  

Teenager Savannah “Savvy” Sutton is facing a tough situation. After attacking her ex-boyfriend for making fun of her special needs brother Evan, she is sent to a alternative school to finish out her high school studies. At home, her life revolves around taking care of Evan, as their mother left years ago and their alcoholic dad provides little support. With her aunt Kathy threatening to take custody of Evan, Savvy feels like she can barely hold it together. Enter Cameron, a new student who’s nonchalance and nonjudgmentalism intrigues Savvy and provides as a distraction from her own complicated life. With her ex out for revenge and her family life quickly unraveling, Savvy hopes she can keep it together.

One of the thing I really liked was the realism of the writing. Young didn’t hesitate to show us Savvy’s inner voice, raw and real, as she narrates through her difficulties. Situations that happen to real people everyday, no sugarcoating.

As far as I know, this is one of the few novels I’ve read that features a special needs character, which can be a tricky element to write about, but Young did a great job. Evan’s excited and simplistic perspective of the world provides an anchor for Savvy to hold onto.

I look forward to reading more of Young’s work.

 

 

First & Then

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I realize it’s been a month since my last post. I’ve been busy with work and family, but finally got the chance to read a novel. This one is written by Emma Mills, also known as Elmify on her YouTube channel.

First & Then is the story of Devon Tennyson, a senior in high school who has no plans for her future and prefers life in the status quo. But that changes when her younger cousin Foster comes to live with her family. A former only child, Devon finds herself learning important life lessons that come with having a new addition in her family, and it triggers her thoughts for her future, friends and how people’s lives are shaped by certain events.

Devon reminded me a lot of myself in high school. She doesn’t seem to belong to one particular clique, interacting with the popular girls, sports players, smart students and so on. I never considered myself part of any one group, and knew a lot of people through extracurricular activities.

I liked the message that family is family, no matter what. Despite Foster biologically being Devon’s cousin, he still considers her his sister, and she thinks of him as her brother. Mills chose to focus on the relationship between cousins, a nice change from the common sibling-to-sibling, parent-to-child, or stepfamily dynamics seen in a lot of other books.

I look forward to reading Emma’s other books.

Open Road Summer

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Country singers make up a good portion of the music industry, with superstars like Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley having been around for over 10 years. Others, like Taylor Swift, started when they were young. American author Emery Lord’s novel Open Road Summer tells the story of a teenage country singer’s summer tour, but in a different kind of way.

Seventeen-year-olds Reagan O’Neill and Delilah Montgomery have been best friends since Reagan moved to Nashville from Chicago several years ago. To millions of people, Delilah is know as Lilah Montgomery, superstar country singer and songwriter. To Reagan though, she’s just Dee, a normal teenage girl trying to navigate her life and fame.

The two of them are traveling cross country on Dee’s summer tour. For Reagan, it’s the chance to distance herself from her old ways of drinking and partying that landed her into legal troubles. But when an unexpected photo leak puts Dee’s reputation in jeopardy, the publicity team invites former singer Matt Finch onto the tour as an opening act. While Reagan was hoping to spend the summer with Dee, she finds herself drawn to Matt’s nonjudgmentalism and perspective of family.

I liked Reagan’s character the most. She is a resilient, no-nonsense girl who knows what she wants and is determined to protect herself from the negative influences of her past and anything that could hurt her in the future. Dee, in contrast, complements Reagan with her calm and friendly demeanor.

Lord wrote about the side of fame that not all people think about: the limits. Dee constantly expresses her desire to be able to do normal activities without being followed around, but accepts that it comes with living her dream. It sheds a light on what the affect of fame can have on someone, especially when the person is only a teenager and has their whole life ahead of them.

The aspect of friendship also serves as an important part of the plot. It makes you think about all these famous celebrities- we know their name, their face and what they’ve done, but what are they truly like? Who are their childhood friends that knew them before they made it big? There’s a whole story behind the famous faces that we see everyday. Emery Lord does a good job at telling that kind of story.

When We Collided

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According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, more than 43 million adults in the United States are affected by mental illness every year.  With mental health being a common issue, it’s all the more important to highlight it through forms of media, including novels.

Emery Lord’s When We Collided takes place in the summertime in Verona Cove, California. Vivian “Vivi” Alexander and her mother have moved to the town for the season. Vivi, an outgoing and somewhat random teenage girl, takes an immediate interest in the town and its residents, landing a job at the local pottery store. It’s there she meets lifelong resident Jonah Daniels, a teenager who’s been struggling to keep his family together after the death of his father and his mother’s subsequent withdrawal from the real world. Vivi charms Jonah’s youngest sister and eventually becomes a friend to his four other siblings. Jonah, in turn, is drawn to Vivi because of her unfazed attitude toward his family life and her fearless demeanor. However, there’s a reason why Vivi is the way she is, a secret she doesn’t want in the open.

Honestly, I found Jonah’s character more realistic than Vivi. Her speech patterns and thought process were difficult to read because they felt all over the place. I understand that it’s the way her character was supposed to be, but it was just not my style. Jonah, on the other hand, was easier to understand, running his father’s restaurant in the shadow of his death and experiencing the incredible amount of stress that goes with providing for a family. I found that I related to Jonah better.

I did find the plot fairly predictable and didn’t really care for the love story aspect, but appreciate Lord incorporating mental illness as a major plot device. Her novel is an example of something that needs to continue to be out there.

 

Everything Leads to You

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Visiting Los Angeles, California has always been on my to-do list, but living 3,000 miles away and flights being very expensive can make that goal challenging. However, there’s plenty of ways to experience it through different mediums, this novel being one of them.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour takes place in the Los Angeles area. The protagonist, Emi Price, is an eighteen-year-old native who works to help dress sets for a major movie studio, picking out furniture and other pieces to place. The story picks up when Emi has just graduated from high school and is looking forward to the summer; her older brother has left her his apartment to stay in while he travels and she has her job to focus on. At the estate sale of deceased celebrity Clyde Jones, Emi finds an old Patsy Cline record, and in the record sleeve, a secret letter addressed to an unknown woman. With the help of her best friend Charlotte, Emi follows the letter to Clyde’s family secret that spans several generations and leads them to some of Los Angeles’s diverse neighborhoods. Emi also gets the ultimate chance to design all the sets for a feature film and discover more about herself in the process.

Being a huge movie buff, I liked reading about what goes into making a movie. Most people just see the finished product, not realizing that hundreds of people are involved in the actual process. When I was eighteen, I got the chance to be an extra in a low budget film shot near my hometown. It was unpaid, but it was amazing to be able to be part of a production, seeing all the cameras, lighting, the multiple takes, working with the director and the other people on set. It actually took the filmmakers two years to get the film from the writing stages to being released in theatres. Emi describes the jobs that most of the people have and how each role is essential in the film-making process.

LaCour combined the premise of movie making with a love story about two girls. I appreciated the diversity, as it made me realize that I haven’t read a lot of novels with gay or lesbian protagonists. The story’s themes also emphasize how movies are a kind of illusion, we see them and are captivated by them, but sometimes forget that they’re not real. I look forward to reading some of LaCour’s other work.

In Case You Missed It

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Viral videos and photos are a well-known entity in the world of the web. Recordings of people doing funny things, a chance encounter, and so on. It can be as cute as the dog whose owner dressed up as Gumby, or as outrageous as the cat mesmerized by his owner’s camera.

But there’s a dark side to viral items. Information stolen by hackers that can be accessed by people all around the world, such as the DNC emails from the 2016 election cycle or celebrity’s private pictures. What if all of your personal information was stolen? Not meaning your credit card information or social security number, but text messages, emails and your electronic journal. This is the focus of the Sarah Darer Littman’s novel In Case You Missed It.

Sammy Wallach is looking forward to finishing out her junior year on a high note: acing her AP exams, landing a date to the prom and planning for her future. That all changes when hackers target her father’s company files, and also access her family’s personal online cloud. They then post the stolen information online for the world to see, all of the Wallach family’s emails, text messages and Sammy’s journal.

Littman presented an interesting take on something that’s in just about everybody’s lives. Most of us have social media accounts, but we get to pick and choose what we share online. Sammy has to deal with the repercussions of having her private thoughts posted for anyone to read, with no control over how many people can see it.

This novel is about more than just hacked information though. Sammy and her family are forced to confront each other about the secrets that their emails reveal about their family. Littman emphasizes the importance of face-to-face communication and the effect it has on family dynamic.

I definitely recommend this book, as it takes on a prevalent topic and illustrates the importance of having real-life relationships with people instead of just with electronic devices.

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