Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

When you hear that Jennifer Castle's The Beginning of After is about a girl whose parents and little brother die in a car crash, you might think that it sounds a lot like If I Stay. But let me clear that up - though a few very basic facts of the premise are similar, this is a completely different book, both in tone and content. This one is focused on how Laurel starts to pick up the pieces and figure out what she can and should do with her life once her family is gone, and how her relationships change with the people who are left, including her best friend, her grandmother, her crush, and the bad-boy neighbor whose family is also involved in the tragedy. Castle also does a great job of showing how people's attitudes toward Laurel change, both individually and as a community, as she becomes instantly notorious as The Girl Whose Family Died. There was a little less romance than I expected based on some reviews I'd read, but that was actually completely fine, as it made sense for that to be on a back burner for Laurel given the circumstances. And the ending was satisfying and hopeful without being too sentimental or pat. This was an absorbing, haunting read. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2012

REVIEW: Tris and Izzie

I picked up Mette Ivie Harrison's Tris and Izzie because I'm a sucker for anything Arthurian, but honestly, this one didn't really do it for me. As the title implies, it's a retelling of Tristan and Isolde, which has never really been one of my favorites, I guess. But in this version, I didn't like EITHER of the main characters - Izzie was pretty obnoxious, and Tristan just didn't have any discernible personality. So it made it hard to be particularly invested in their story. The descriptions were good, and there was a lot of action, but the dialogue was stilted and didn't sound like any teenager I've ever met. And I wasn't wild about how drastically the ending was changed, but I guess, as Harrison mentions in her afterword, today's market demanded it. All in all, if you're looking for an Arthurian story set at a modern American high school, I'd go with Meg Cabot's Avalon High instead.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Book of Blood & Shadow

Robin Wasserman's The Book of Blood and Shadow isn't out in the States yet, so I'm saving my full review for release week, but in the interest of recording each book I finish this year, let me just say: Oh my gosh I loved this book. And I loved it even aside from the fact that translating Latin played a big role in the plot, and really, I'm the sort of person who would happily read a novel that was just about translating Latin. But this also had mystery (which I always want more of in YA) and romance and centuries-old secrets and an extremely good portrayal of grief. I can't wait for you all to read it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

REVIEW: I Broke My Trunk!

I Broke My Trunk! is a book for beginning readers, so I'm not counting it toward my 100 for the year, but since I read it I thought I'd tell you what I thought. (I got it from the library because it's a Geisel honor book this year.) It's part of Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie series. The story is simple but very cute and genuinely funny; the illustrations reminded me of an old comic strip. Overall, I thought the book was cute, but it didn't necessarily strike me as a stand-out. But then, I've never been as big a Willems fan as a lot of people are. Again - nothing against him! And the book was fine! But I feel like I'm just not seeing whatever element it is that makes this one of the best books of the year.