Ask the Passengers Review

Title: Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown
Genre: Realistic Fiction, GLBT

Blurb: Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions--like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can't share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives--and her own--for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything--and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Me: A.S. King's writing makes you think and question. It evokes doubt and gives a different view of things. 

The Ups: The world has changed. GLBT are people we interact with everyday. In some places, people are not as open to the idea as others. People still foreign to the entire concept find it uncomfortable. But one thing in inevitable. People's views are changing, and so is the culture around us. A.S. King shows a very real and different side to what we consider a stereotypical story. 
I think we all have our suspicions. Some say that you are born with it, and I think that most of us assume that all of those people are very confident and secure with who they are. 
A.S. King proves them wrong. We often forget that these people are just people too. We call them "gay" like it is a label. Like it makes up their entirety. This book goes into the life of Astrid, who makes us realize that even though we pretend like it's "a universal fact" that we are all equal, we violate that fact so many times every single day. 
It made me realize that even people who are defying the general social definitions have their doubts about themselves, and are not all too comfortable in their own skin. 
The thing about her writing, though, that makes it so special, is that her characters are so incredibly flawed. They don't seem to get over those flaws either, like in other books, but instead, keep them and acknowledge them. Her family, her work, her school, Astrid's life is one huge mess, and instead of even trying to fix it, she keeps it together by sending love to passengers in airplanes. 
I think anyone can find a connection with Astrid, whether it be that they are going through the same worries that she is, or trying to find love, or find themselves. 

The Downs: Dee. I did not like that character at all. I wasn't too sure whether I was supposed to like her or not. She was very pushy, very physical, and maybe that was how it was supposed to be. Maybe one of the points was that Astrid still loved her and she still loved Astrid. But I didn't like her. 

Overall: So eye-opening and enlightening. Loved it. 

Rating: 4 kisses! 

Alienated Review

Title: Alienated
Author: Melissa Landers
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: Sci-fi, Romance

Blurb: Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Me: Aliens that are just crazy-evolved humans that don't have three eyes and green skin? Seems awesomeee.

The Ups: The entire concept of aliens not being some weird "I come in peace" green things and intellectually advanced, selectively bred, "better" versions of humans was really cool. I think that the entire concept of other life on other planets fascinates me, and to think of it like this was very fresh. I really enjoyed imagining L'eihr and the people living on it, and their culture and such. 
Aelyx was an amazing character, and I totally had a huge crush on him. I am not ashamed. I think that he really embodied how we make mistakes and view groups as stereotypes, and only think the way we were raised to think. His intellect and his cultural differences made him the perfect amount of awkward. 
Cara was, I think, somewhat of a "perfect" girl, and that annoyed me at first, but as the book went on and everyone seemed to hate her, I think that made me feel kind of sorry for her and sympathize.
What I really liked, though, were the small supporting characters. Tori and Eric were especially my favorite, sticking with her until the end. Her parents too, I think, showed a incredible surge of bravery. 

The Downs: This book had the potential to be something more. It had the strength to not be just another romance novel, but to make people compare our everyday lives and our bias about things we don't know, and how we could work to break that wall. Instead it turned into a book about saving Earth and staying together to marry each other or whatever and I was over here like, "Come ON." 
Also that and the book was so crazy cheesy. Like cheesy as in double cheese hamburger with a hunk of cheese as the burger and cheese fries with it. Some parts I was inwardly groaning because I could not take that much stereotypical teenage love at one time. 

Overall: Not bad, but it could have been more. 

Rating: 3 kisses! 

Summer/School Stories I Love

So it's the end of summer, huh? Well here is a collection of summer-based stories and school-based stories I love. 
Summer Stories: 
Jenny Han's New York Times Bestselling series about Belly and how her life has always been "measured in summers". A heartwarming romance series where the romance is sweet and beautiful and real, very touching. One of my absolute favorites...ever.

Such a sweet story of how friendship can make the biggest difference in your life. I fell in love with Sarah Dessen's writing a long time ago, and this is one of the best. you may feel abandoned, but you will find your place somewhere. 

Okay, now this one is an utter classic. Cheesy as the titles sound, these books are actually a beautiful story of how friendships can last, if you make them last. each girl has her own struggles but in the end, they all come together. 

School Stories: 
I'm sorry, but I am such a sucker for these books. I grew up with them, I guess, and I never grow tired of the characters. They feel like my best friends, fictionally. I think I find a little bit of myself in all of the characters, which is what the author intended to do. 

In love with these. Most of you have probably seen the movie, with Anne Hathaway and such. Mia is so funny and clumsy and dramatic that it's close to impossible to imagine her as a princess, but at the end of the day, she knows who she is, and the stories she brings are funny, yet sweet. 

I am so guilty of obsessing over Sarah Dessen, but this was my first book of hers, and I got it signed! Mclean is such a wonderful protagonist, and the situation that she is in and how she copes with it is painful yet admirable. This is what got me addicted, people. 

The only reason I haven't written a review of this yet is because it was so amazing that I think I'm going to read it again for a full effect. About Ryan Dean, who goes to a boarding school and struggles with the harshness of the bullying and the craziness, while falling in love with his best friend, Annie. Utterly HILARIOUS, yet heartbreaking (the ending!!) 

Monday Madness!

Okay, while I contemplate how school is tomorrow and I want to die and sob while praying to the seasonal gods to somehow let summer stay forever, here is my Monday Madness today! 

What I am currently reading: 
Aliens from planet L'eihr made contact two years ago, and now Cara's school is hosting the first foreign exchange...ever. Chosen to be the host, Cara faces the controversy about the new aliens while struggling to make Aelyx, the student, feel at home. That's when she realizes this isn't some cute little deal, and that the consequences may be deadly. Not only that, she has also fallen hard for this alien boy. She must figure out to save them, and her race.

Addicted, so far. For once aliens are not some crazy intergalactic monsters and they're just advanced humans. It's not some cheesy hollywood alien action book either. 

What I just finished reading: 
Hopefully I'll get reviews out soon, but here are some teasers!

“I am equal to a baby and to a hundred year old lady. I am equal to an airline pilot and a car mechanic. I am equal to you. You are equal to me. It's that universal.
Except that it's not.” - Ask the Passengers

"I think a lot of people want to be someone, but we are scared that if we try, we won't be as good as everyone imagines we could be.” -Love Letters to the Dead

“And then it's always that one word that makes you so different and puts you outside the overlap of everyone else; and that word is so fucking big and loud, it's the only thing anyone ever hears when your name is spoken. 

And whenever that happens to us, all the other words that make us the same disappear in its shadow.” -Winger

What I look forward to reading: 

Hopefully you'll pick these up. They sound great!

If I Stay Review

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: Contemporary

Blurb: On a day that started like any other, Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

Me: The movie came out a few days ago and I really wanted to watch it and see what all the reaction was about, so I decided to buy it. Regret it, too.

The Ups: It's a very fresh concept. We human beings, as a race, are constantly questioning what will happen to us when we die, and whether or not we get a say in it. This was a very nice take on that concept, and the idea of having a perfect life helped even more.
The thing is, all characters in books we read these days have deep flaws with their personal, home, or school life. And although this sounds very stupid and snobby, there are people with seemingly perfect lives, and this book shows that anything, even something that seems that strong can shatter in a second.
I really liked the decision that Mia had to make, and how in the end, love saved her. 

The Downs: Setting that aside, this was not sad. At all. I don't now if I'm just a completely insensitive human being or what, but the descriptions were not enough. The emotion was just not there. I feel like there wasn't enough connection between the reader and Mia and Mia and her family for me to feel the immense emotional pain she was enduring, and the difficulty of the decision she was trying to make. 
The romance was confusing, too. I think that the connections between the characters were not built enough. The love for Adam or whatever didn't seem like this beautiful, understanding love, but more like just another high school romance. Nothing worth living for, you know?
The parents were all too perfect. No parents are that perfect. No matter how cool, no matter how understanding, parents are bound to have flaws, and they didn't. 
Overall: Lacked connection and emotion. Hopefully the movie will be better. 

Rating: 2 kisses! 

Everybody Sees the Ants Review

Title: Everybody Sees the Ants 
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown 
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction 

Blurb: Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?

Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King's smart, funny and boldly original writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you and taking a stand against it.

Me: This was such a compelling book that left me utterly speechless. I cried. I laughed. I learned.

The Ups: Lucky's journey to standing up to his bully, his family, and himself is so achingly relatable and admirable. 
I think this book really mirrors modern society, where everyone has something hidden inside them, where nothing is perfect, where we blame the other person. It's a story of multiple flawed characters all coming together and realizing that they themselves have to face the problem and deal with it. 
There was something so real about all of the characters. So saddening, yet uplifting. His dad, who still hasn't gotten over his father's death, his mother, who's never stood up for herself, Aunt Jodi, addicted to drugs and evading the truth, Uncle Dave, a seemingly good man with a dark reputation. Nader. Ginny. Charlotte. All of these characters have such a believability about them that makes you sympathize and love them, especially Lucky.
Oh, Lucky Linderman. Do I love you. It's been a while since I've loved a character so much. Lucky is a bullied boy, who's trying to figuratively save his grandfather, who's struggles are so real. But he makes it sadistically funny, and he gets through it.
Such a beautiful story of people trying to make the best of their ruined lives. I think that the stories with a message are the ones that really last. And can tell that Lucky Linderman's story, and his message, will last for a long time.

The Downs: None. Simple. As. That.

Overall: Best book I've read this summer. 

Rating: BMS. Wow, haven't had that happen in a long time. 

Prodigy Review

Title: Prodigy
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: Sci-fi, Dystopian

Blurb: June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long. 

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?
In this highly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller Legend, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.

Me: This was so much better than the first. Which is startling, because usually the second book in the series is the worst. 

The Ups: I think that so much more was revealed in this book than the other one. One of the reasons that sci-fi appeals to lots of people is because we find a connection in the worlds that the authors create. We realize that those worlds aren't very different from ours. I think that a lot of that sort of vulnerability of the government and of the situation the world is in is shown through Prodigy. I think it also shows a lot of misunderstanding, bias, and different thoughts that happen in our lives every day. 
Government is a really complicated concept and I think that Prodigy shows that too. How things can seem to be perfect, but there always will be flaws. How family doesn't always determine how a person thinks and wants. How your bias or support for something doesn't easily change. 
The plot twisters were awesome. They had me reading more and more and more. The secret planning, the sudden ending of their plan, and especially the end was gripping and mind reeling. 
I think that Prodigy incorporated lots of emotion into it too, making me feel like I was really part of this world they were in, the Republic, and it devastated me even more when truths were revealed. 

The Downs: Again, the same problem with Legend as with this one. It slips through your mind. I wish it would last a little more. 

Overall: Beautiful. Champion, here I come!

Rating: 4 kisses! 

The Program Review

Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Sci-fi, Dystopian 
Blurb: In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Me: I've always wondered and fantasized about the possibility of everyone committing suicide, and the domino effect it would have. (Think about it, if all your friends died, wouldn't you want to, too?) This is such an emotional book set on this idea.

The Downs: The only down I could find about this book was that the cause of the depression was said to be unknown, which just really annoyed throughout the entire book. I thought the truth might've become uncovered during the course of the book but it never was. I think that if the cause is not shown, then it just seems like the author was too lazy to think of one and make it tie in. There is a sequel though, so hopefully the history will reveal itself then.

The Ups: Everything else. Like I said, the entire idea had fascinated me, so I think to imagine the depression setting in and change the people was very saddening and real. This was such an emotional book. Most science fiction stories are more action/thriller style, but this book (being based on depression) was very evoking emotionally and I think I went a little crazy reading it. It makes the reader struggle along with the characters, who are going through depression, and it made my heart ache when James and Sloane were losing themselves to what they had so defiantly denied. After that, when their memories are erased, it makes a reader go nuts while screaming at the characters to remember. 
The characters were amazing. Realm was my personal favorite, being the bad guy who wasn't all that bad. He was selfish enough to fight for his own life at the cost of others, but human enough to give in for love. James and Sloane were both very strong and I think that made it all the more heartbreaking when they finally lost themselves to it.
The Program was a very interesting idea, and I could tell Suzanne Young had thought out the scientific side of it as well, which made it more believable. 
The romance was not overboard, but just enough to make it more excruciating for the reader when they got so weak they couldn't hold it in even for each other, and to make it more touching at the end.

Overall: Sequel. Now. Loved it!

Rating: 5 kisses!!

The Maze Runner Review

Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian 

Blurb: "If you ain't scared, you ain't human." 

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He's surrounded by strangers--boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It's the only way out--and no one's ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Me: Well, the blurb is definitely short and sweet. Okay, I had to read this because the movie is coming out in September and James Dashner is coming to Austin so...I think there was a lot of controversy about this book and so I decided to tell you what I thought about it. 

The Ups: The energy of this book really kept me going, wanting more, always curious as to what happened next and what they might found out. At first, it slightly angered me that they wouldn't answer his questions, but then I realized that that was a major part of their characters. 
I think that the best part of this book was the characters. All of them were so touching and real, but with their own uniqueness. One of my favorites was Alby, who had to keep it together and be like a tough adult when he was only a teenage boy. I personally have a huge fictional character crush on Minho. I mean, hot Korean guy who had huge muscles and has the perfect amount of vulnerability? YES. Thomas was such a wonderful protagonist. I feel like his courage and curiosity and sort of stupidity when it came to thinking about others was very lovable, as a character. I didn't get annoyed with him once during the entire thing.
Another thing I really enjoyed was how they didn't seem to know anything, and yet after a while they had all learned to cope. Most dystopian books the journey is already told and so the readers know everything that happens, but this one was a fresh read compared to knowing the intense history.

The Downs: I think that not knowing anything was nice, but when it came to the end, everything crashed down on me and completely overwhelmed me as a reader. I had no idea what was happening by the end because I was trying to compute it all. I still don't really understand what's happened, and although that makes me want t read the sequel, it doesn't tie the first book in nicely.
By the end when I kind of got what the purpose was, I realized that that was a really illogical and stupid reason for putting the kids in the Glade. And the kids didn't sound like the fittest, smartest kids. They sounded normal. So that got me very confused too. I think that the ending in general was very loose and that I didn't understand what James Dashner's point was for making the plot, and the maze. 

Overall: I want to read the sequel, but only because I didn't understand this one.

Rating: 3 kisses! 

Need to Read

Books currently strewn across my room, waiting in line, on hold at the library or books I just really...Need to Read.

Gosh, I wonder if I could get this finished before school starts? Read with me, since a lot of these books are by authors that are coming to Texas Teen Book Festival!