Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Told in the form of a letter from Min to now ex-boyfriend, Ed, Handler’s novel is an explanation: why they broke up. Min begins the letter by telling Ed that she is dropping off a box of things pertaining to their relationship, along with the letter, and explains why each item is in the box. Kalman adds striking visuals to the story, as each item Min details is accompanied by an illustration, resulting in a visual, linear journey through the pair’s doomed love.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like this book. I was worried it would be a weepy, “I can’t believe it’s over” story — it wasn’t! Well, it kind of was. But it was actually a really great read. I love that the whole novel is Min’s letter to Ed. And I love that you know before you read the book that they broke up, so there’s no surprise there. Also, the inclusion of the illustrations was awesome! There’s a picture of each item Min talks about, giving the book a scrapbook-like feel; a sad scrapbook.

The book may be about a break-up, and it is sad in places, but Min does not come across as a weepy, hopeless girl. I really appreciated how strong she was. In fact, if you’ve just experienced a break-up, this might be a good read for you. You’ll be able to relate to Min’s feelings, and you can hate on Ed and pretend he’s your ex. Most characters in the novel are smart and funny, and Min’s humor adds a lot to her letter. Not a lot of novels out there include so many pictures, so pick this one up!

Also, there is a Why We Broke Up tumblr where people share their break up stories. It’s called the “Why We Broke Up Project”, and you can find it here.

Rating: 4/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Using Melinda’s diary-style narrative, Speak describes her nearly silent attempt to overcome challenges she faces freshman year of high school. Shunned by her friends and ignored by her parents, Melinda feels isolated, abandoned, and must face life alone. Melinda knows that the only way to free herself is to speak, and must decide whether she can overcome her fears, or forever remain silent.

An excellent book! Using her dairy, Melinda writes what everyone thinks about high school, but no one actually says: it sucks. For Melinda, it’s especially difficult because her friends have drifted off into different cliques, and she’s found herself alone and abandoned in a new school. She’s branded a social outcast, ignored, bullied, but can’t find the strength to speak up for herself. You’ll want to read this one without stopping, and I highly recommend it! 

Rating: 4.5/5

*This one is a movie! With Kristen Stewart! Here’s the link

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Set during the tumultuous and bloody French Revolution, Gardner’s novel tells the story of Sido and Yann, two teenagers who face seemingly insurmountable circumstances due to their birth. Yann, a gypsy with magical abilities, must race against time to rescue Sido from a marriage with the evil Count Kalliovski, who is only after her inherited fortune. Connected to the Count is the mystery of the deadly red necklace – a mystery that, if not solved, threatens to destroy them all.

This one is pretty entertaining if you like historical fiction. The French Revolution is one of my favorite periods in history. If you don’t know much about that time period, Gardner includes a brief summary of events in the back of the book. It’s an intriguing revolution — the poor rise up against the rich, and what starts as mere protests ends in bloodbath called “The Reign of Terror”. But don’t worry, reading this book is not like reading a history textbook. What I love most about historical fiction is that it brings events to life, and Gardner’s book does just that. Sido is an aristocrat (the people being openly slaughtered by the poor), Yann is a Gypsy trying to help Sido escape France. Throw the malicious Count Kalliovski into the mix, along with the mysterious red necklace, and you have an action-packed thriller. 

My criticisms of the book (why it only got 3.5 stars), are that it’s a little wordy. It reads pretty quickly, but the style isn’t as smooth as I think it could be. Also, the book lacks a strong female character. For the most part, Sido is your typical aristocrat lady, and I think she could have been much more. Yann is an excellent character, though! And Count Kalliovski is the kind of villain you’ll love to hate – definitely worth a read!

Rating: 3.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

 

Told using free-verse, first-person narrative poetry, Hopkins relates the disturbing story of twins, Raeanne and Kayleigh, sisters plagued by a dark family secret. Following an alcohol-related car accident when the girls were young, the twins witness the dissolution of their family life, and the beginning of abuse. Each twin deals with the trauma in her own way – Kayleigh with denial, and Raeanne with rebellion – but the two must come together in the end to overcome their demons.

This is the kind of book that hits you straight in the face, no holds barred, no apologies. It’s incredibly heavy — like, really heavy — so if you have difficulty reading stories about family or child abuse, you may want to use caution with this one. The story of the twins literally haunted me for days – my stomach stayed in knots even after I finished reading. Hopkins is an amazing writer — her characters slide right off the page and into your life, and her stories refuse to loosen their grip on you. This book is no exception. I read it almost in one sitting, and could NOT stop thinking about it. Hopkins uses poetry to tell the narrate the novel, which only makes it more addictive to read. It’s simple, but doesn’t hold back. The twist in the novel took me completely by surprise — not easy to do! This is definitely not the book for you if you want a “warm fuzzy” read, but it is an incredible journey you won’t soon forget.

Rating: 5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.

How Not to Be a Dick by Meghan Doherty

Doherty presents an entertaining, illustrated guide on being a human being, and not – a dick. The guide is divided into chapters which present different situations and provide advice on how to effectively be a courteous and kind person in each. Doherty also provides illustrations and humorous, relevant references to exemplify her advice.

This book is great if you’re ever unsure how to deal with a tough situation — everything from having roommate to online dating is addressed. When reading through you may find yourself thinking “Hey! I do that! I didn’t realize it was dickish!” — that’s ok. Now you know. Doherty also provides a helpful section in the end that helps you identify certain kinds of “dicks”, so you can avoid both interacting with one and becoming one.

Overall the book is easy to read, has pictures (yay!), is funny, and offers helpful advice. Keep it around for when you need it!

Rating: 4.5/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In the realm of the Seven Kingdoms, those born with two different eye colors are deemed “Graced”, and possess an unnatural ability which surpasses that of anyone else. Katsa, niece to King Randa, is Graced with the ability to kill, and is ordered to use her Grace to bend the king’s people to his will. Katsa, with the help of Prince Po of a distant kingdom, must learn the true nature of her Grace so that she can maintain an independent identity, and not live in fear of her own power, controlled by others’ desires. 

I LOVED this book!! I was hooked at the premise: a world where people are “Graced” and have superior abilities? Sign me up. I kept thinking about what Grace I’d like to have – and those I wouldn’t want to have. Katsa is an awesome leading female character – strong, stubborn, funny, and she can fight better than any of the boys in the book. She reminded me a lot of Suzanne Collins’ Katniss, from The Hunger Games series – probably because her name is similar, and she’s also good with a bow…and has complicated relationships. However, this novel does not present a dystopian environment in which teens are forced to fight each other to the death — but it is action packed! Though it’s long, the book reads very quickly, (probably because of all the fighting!) and will leave you wanting more at the end. This is the first book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, although the other books are companion novels, not direct sequels (which made me sad because I wanted more of Katsa). I have not read the other two, but I certainly plan to – this first one was amazing!

Rating: 4.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

423 pounds and still invisible, Butter struggles through an impossible high school experience, finding solace only when he uses a fake identity to carry on an online relationship with beautiful Anna. But soon Butter can no longer handle the pressures of his life, and creates a website on which he states that he will literally eat himself to death on New Year’s Eve. Once the popular kids catch wind of the website, Butter is suddenly important and included, and must decide whether he will cling to his life, or be carried away on the morbid frenzy his website inspired.

I read this book in almost one sitting. It really highlights the high school experience for those who feel that they are social outcasts. The way the popular crowd urges Butter’s quest to commit suicide is terrifying — the scariest part being that it seems like something that could really happen. Lange deftly captures what cyber-bullying looks like in today’s world, along with its sometimes deadly consequences.

Along with cyber-bullying, Lange tackles such issues as the need for acceptance, eating disorders, online relationships, and parental neglect — all issues teens deal with on a daily basis. You won’t want to put this one down!

This one has a great book trailer! Click here to watch.

Rating: 4/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.