Mini Review: Pillow Thoughts II by Courtney Peppernell

pillowthoughtsIIPillow Thoughts II by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Pillow Thoughts II

Date Published: August 7th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 224 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Following the smash success of her best-selling book, Pillow Thoughts, Courtney Peppernell now returns with the follow-up sequel Pillow Thoughts II: Healing the Heart

Peppernell understands that healing is a process, and Pillow Thoughts II eloquently captures the time and experience that one goes through on their journey to peace through restoration. 

A collection of inspirational and comforting poems for anyone who is mending from a broken heart.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I read this a few months ago, as soon as I could get my hands on a copy, and I am still at a loss for words when it comes to describing this work. I’ll start by saying that the message of “healing the heart” rang so true all throughout these pages. It entered my life at the best possible moment—as I have been going through the mending of my own heart—and touched me incredibly deeply. She has a talent for crafting poems that are seemingly unassuming and straightforward, but that are, in actuality, extremely complex, vivid, and multi-dimensional. And the beauty of her writing lights up every line.

Each section of this collection focuses on a different type of healing, and makes for the perfect book to pick up either when in need of overall healing and positivity, or when going through a specific healing process. The range of emotion shown in these poems hits its mark time and time again, and makes this a widely accessible piece. Peppernell’s words seamlessly fill one’s soul with the comfort it is craving, as well as the healing you didn’t even know you were in need of. There is such safety and peace within these pages, a reader’s sanctuary where one can comfortably grieve and find release.

On a brief, more personal note, I discovered Courtney Peppernell’s work about a year ago and she immediately flew to the top of my favorite poets list. The messages, values, and general positivity that she puts out to the world through her words has been exceedingly impactful for me, and I truly admire her—she is an absolutely beautiful person. I want to have the strength to fully acknowledge and express who I am one day, and it is people like Courtney that, without knowing it, give me more courage. She has a way of always inspiring me both in my writing and in accepting and striving to be my true self—and this is a gift that is meaningful beyond words.

And since I honestly cannot rave enough about her work, I very highly encourage you to check out this collection, as well as Courtney’s previous poetry collections. I have reviews on both, if you’re interested! (Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between)

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry

themermaidThe Mermaid by Christina Henry

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: June 19th, 2018

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: From the author of Lost Boy comes a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea for love and later finds herself in P.T. Barnum’s American Museum as the real Fiji mermaid. However, leaving the museum may be harder than leaving the sea ever was.

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P.T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

The Mermaid is yet another beautiful novel from one of my favorite authors. After first hearing about it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I, like many other readers, immediately thought we would be getting a retelling of The Little Mermaid in typical Christina Henry fashion. It surprised me to see that this novel would be a historical fiction tale with fantasy mixed in—but, whatever the story, I was here for it. Going in, I knew I would enjoy it, but it surpassed all of my expectations. It is a different style of story than Henry’s most recent works, but it retains all of the raw emotion, vivid backdrops and memorable characters, and that undercurrent of magic that becomes almost tangible.

In this novel, we watch the life of a mermaid named Amelia unfold—as she finds her freedom and her place in the human world. This journey begins when a fisherman accidently catches her in his net. He could not bear to keep her, so he set her free. But Amelia does not forget glimpsing the deep loneliness in his eyes.  She realizes she could not stand letting him remain alone, so she found her escape from life in the ocean and transformed into a woman. And so the pair led a beautiful and happy married life together, until the fisherman was lost at sea.

Meanwhile, P.T. Barnum is looking for his next big exhibit to astound the public with, and he is determined to have it feature a mermaid. When he hears tales of a supposed mermaid living on a cliff by the sea, he is eager to find her. In his eyes, she is the exhibit that will ensure his riches and success. Though he agrees to Amelia’s terms—that she should be free to leave whenever she wishes—he doesn’t intend to keep his promise. There is no way he is going to let his most valuable treasure walk away.

I absolutely adored that this tale was based on historical events—events which I knew very little about prior to reading this. Being able to research P.T. Barnum and his American Museum on the side made my experience with the novel even more enthralling. The way that Henry so fluidly weaves magic into the lives that were real, the places that existed, is beyond brilliant and incredibly enchanting. I have never read a novel quite like this one, and Henry has the perfect style and voice to truly bring something like this to life.

I could talk for ages about Henry’s writing style in itself. Her words flow seamlessly, taking the reader over the pages with ease and leaving them not wanting to let go. The way she builds the settings so vividly and creates the tone and atmosphere with such strength pulls you right in—the sounds, the smells, the intensity of the emotion travel along with you. Her words transfer you into an entirely new place, one that is unique, yet comfortably familiar. I always feel so invested in her characters’ lives, and like I am such a part of their world. And this is how a bit of extra magic is created for us as readers.

There are important messages threaded throughout the events of the narrative as well. Amelia is a strong woman, and she is determined to be independent, no matter what anyone else says. From the very first time we meet her, she is searching for her freedom, and once she has it, she keeps it and holds her own. She doesn’t care what people think or about conforming to the pressures that society puts on women—it is unfamiliar to her, and she will not let her mind be changed by it. Due to being brought up and learning to be a woman under much different circumstances, Amelia has a remarkable insight into the importance of unapologetically being yourself and living the life that is healthiest for you.

As I said before, this novel was everything I wanted and so much more. The multi-dimensional narrative is a joy to get lost in. It is bitter and sweet, heartwarming and heartbreaking, aching with loneliness, longing, and love. This is a beautifully crafted work that will have you spellbound. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for everyone, but especially for those who love to get swept up in a fantastical yet thought-provoking tale.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

Heartseeker_BlogBanner

33344380Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Heartseeker Series

Date Published: June 5th, 2018

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A vibrant fantasy-adventure debut about a girl who can see lies.

You’re a Fallow of the Orchard. You’re as tough as a green apple in summer . . . 

Only Fallow was just six harvests old when she realized that not everyone sees lies. For Only, seeing lies is as beautiful as looking through a kaleidoscope, but telling them is as painful as gnawing on cut glass. Only’s family warns her to keep her cunning hidden, but secrets are seldom content to stay secret. 

When word of Only’s ability makes its way to the King, she’s plucked from her home at the orchard and brought to the castle at Bellskeep. There she learns that the kingdom is plagued by traitors, and that her task is to help the King distinguish between friend and foe. But being able to see lies doesn’t necessarily mean that others aren’t able to disguise their dishonesty with cunnings of their own.

In the duplicitous, power-hungry court, the truth is Only’s greatest weapon . . . and her greatest weakness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Heartseeker is one of those novels that makes me even more glad that I am given the opportunity to read and review books, especially those for younger audiences. Reading has always been such an important part of my life ever since I was a kid, and it is something that has led me to find my other biggest passion of writing. I get such joy out of encouraging people of any age to read, and discovering a middle grade gem like this that I can so highly recommend is always wonderful. This novel reminds me of the fantasy stories I adored when I was younger, that piqued my imagination and creativity and solidified my love of reading. It is a beautiful tale full of love, magic, and strength that will captivate readers of any age.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Only Fallow, who has the ability to see lies. When people lie, she sees them ringed in a whole variety of colors, each connected to the type of lie and intentions of the person. However, this power comes with the curse of not being able to tell a lie without experiencing physical pain. As magic, or “cunning”, is not accepted among her people, she is forced to keep these things a secret—but sometimes secrets have a life of their own.

When Only’s powers are discovered by the King, he takes her from her home to live and work in his castle at Bellskeep. The King’s intentions are to have her assist him in determining deceit among those of his kingdom, as there are many traitors about. But this plan is not foolproof, as the potential cunning of others is not taken into account. Now, Only must navigate her new circumstances, where her greatest power can also be her greatest weakness.

This is such a unique and interesting story that I found myself immediately swept up into. The idea of seeing lies as colors—as well as the meanings given to each one—is not only an inventive way to portray this power, it is also truly and utterly magical. Readers are given the chance to fall into a vibrant world and an epic adventure that captures and carries the imagination into new realms. As a whole, this narrative is something that I believe will spark the creativity of all of its readers—I know it definitely did that for me.

Beatty has crafted every component of this novel beautifully. Her writing is incredibly easy to get caught up in, and fluidly carries the reader over the pages. The style in which she writes is very distinctive and fitting for the setting—this adds further dimension to the novel as a whole. The world is carefully constructed and vividly described. It unfolds and builds up around you as you fall into Only’s life. Beatty’s writing breathes life into her narrative and fully immerses the reader in every aspect of the story.

Only is an incredibly strong heroine. She is brave, intelligent, and extremely loyal—a very admirable female lead. Beatty does a great job of filling out her character, taking the time to really build her a three-dimensional personality. I had a quick and easy time connecting with her and coming to love her. The characterization as a whole is very solid, as Beatty fills this work with a cast of memorable characters. My particular favorites were Non, Jon, and Gareth. The relationships between everyone in this novel are very well-portrayed, and everyone plays a massive role in driving the narrative.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this heartwarming and exciting adventure, and was very reluctant to leave. The escapades of these characters continue to replay in my mind, and will surely stay with me for a long time. It is a story that I can see being universally accessible among readers of all ages. Heartseeker is a charming and wholesome read that I would highly encourage younger readers to pick up, and that I would recommend to everyone in general.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

16179801Melinda Beatty has had years of practice trying to explain to others why she was just having an imaginary conversation between two people that don’t exist, so becoming a writer seemed like the best way to stop everyone looking at her funny. After years of narrowboat living on the English canals, she and her British husband are now back on dry land in Maryland where by day, she’s a mild-mannered Indie bookseller, and by night, she wrangles words, craft projects, a Labrador and two fierce mini-women. Heartseeker is her debut novel.

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HEARTSEEKER BLOG TOUR

WEEK ONE

May 28 – @Book_Ventures – Book Asethetics

May 29 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Review

May 30 – GladiatorGlory – Review + Playlist + Moodboard

May 31 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Review 

June 1 – Bookopolis – Great Adventure Heroines in contemporary and classic books

Review: The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

theboyfromtomorrowThe Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 8th, 2018

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 268 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are twelve years old but a hundred years apart.

The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leave Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house and afraid for their safety, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. Can he help them change their future when it’s already past? 

The Boy from Tomorrow is a tribute to classic English fantasy novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden and A Traveller in Time. Through their impossible friendship, Alec and Josie learn that life can offer only what they ask of it.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Ever since I finished reading this novel, I have been searching for the right words to describe it—words that encompass every topic, every emotion, in the best way possible. Words like “charming”, “adorable”, and “sweet” are fitting to certain aspects, but somehow still feel wrong. However, darker words do not have a place here either, just as the characters do not allow darkness to remain in their lives. This is a novel of an endearing and vital friendship that defies the most impossible of circumstances. Of a life-changing connection bridging a century’s distance. To really pinpoint those words that I need, let’s dive into the story itself.

In this novel, we follow the lives of two young children—Josie and Alec—and their blossoming friendship. They both live in the same room of the same house on Sparrow Street. The twist? Josie is living in 1915, while Alec is in 2015. The pair meet across this one-hundred-year gap through the use of a hand painted spirit board belonging to Josie’s mother—who works as a psychic—and left in the house for Alec to find.

The two, along with Josie’s sister Cassie and their tutor Emily, form a deep connection, one that they rely on to cope with the difficult circumstances they are all in. However, the safety of Josie and her little sister is torn apart as events on their side quickly escalate to dangerous and life-threatening. Learning of this, Alec realizes he must do everything he possibly can to help bring them to safety and protect these people he has come to love.

I thought the main characters were very well portrayed, and were very much the driving force of the narrative. Josie, Alec, Cassie, and Emily are beautiful and utterly lovable. It is impossible not to get swept up into their lives, to feel every emotion they feel, and root for them all the way. We are given much insight into their points-of view, an intimate look at their situations, and a detailed depiction of their personalities. The three-dimensional quality of these characters magnifies the realism, connects the reader on a personal level, and sets a solid base for a powerful story.

There is a bit lacking when it comes to many of the side characters, however. Though some of them play very important roles in the plot, they still remain fairly two-dimensional. We never get to see particularly far into their stories, which I think would have expanded and deepened the plot further—it would have made the message of the novel even more poignant.

While I had a few issues with Camille DeAngelis’ writing, overall, I do believe it fits the narrative and the book’s target age range pretty well. Her writing style is easy to fall into and her words flow nicely at a reasonable pace. DeAngelis is very descriptive, in terms of both physical and emotional details. The tone and atmosphere of every scene is very vivid, pulling the reader deeper into the lives and struggles of her lovable characters. It is easy to feel the wonder of the children, the joy and excitement of their friendship, the fear and pain in the darkest moments.

She also does a great job of switching between the two sides of the story, alternating between Josie’s and Alec’s stories every chapter. Her transitions over the space of a century are seamless. DeAngelis builds both children’s worlds skillfully, including plenty of historically accurate details that bring even more dimension into the setting. On top of that, she creates her own historical elements, centering around Josie and her family. I absolutely loved that she included this—it is such an interesting addition to the plot.

I only have a few issues with aspects of this novel. The biggest one is the style of writing within the chapters themselves. It felt as though every event, every day, completely ran together due to a lack of placing breaks between these parts. The fact that the narrative jumped around so much with absolutely no warning made things feel a bit jarring and choppy. This is something that could potentially make the story difficult for readers to follow.

The only other minor complaint I have is with the backgrounds of Josie and Alec. I feel like we are given very little insight into other parts of their lives. For instance, I would have liked to see some of the side characters, such as their parents, fleshed out a bit more. There is so much that is just hinted at, particularly on Alec’s side, and it left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. It is as if these aspects are multiple loose ends that were never tied up.

So, as we come back around to the beginning of this review, I feel as though I have a bit more clarity. Heartwarming. At its roots, this is a depiction of two lost souls finding one another. Bittersweet. This is a story of a beautiful friendship, but it is not by any means purely fluff. It deals with some heavy and incredibly important topics—DeAngelis does not shy away from showing the horrific and heart-wrenching aspects of neglect and abuse. Family. Family is not made up solely of those related to you by blood. Family is made up of those who make you feel whole, who love you deeply, who protect and always support you. And above all—this novel is unreservedly powerful.

4.0 TARDISes

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Reviews: The Heart is Improvisational by Various and Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

theheartisimprovisationalThe Heart is Improvisational by Various

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 1st, 2017

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Pages: 130 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Poets attribute an array of roles and capacities to the involuntary muscle. The heart becomes a repository of erotic and familial love, and a sanctuary for memory. The poets explore the flux of the heart’s responses and instigations: the heart’s tender overtures, its joyous pulse, its mating call for the other, its changeable temperament, its final tick in freeze-frame. Among the poets featured: Kenneth Sherman, Lorna Crozier, Marilyn Bowering, Roo Borson, Patrick Lane, Charles Bukowski, Eugénio de Andrade, John Barton, Robyn Sarah, and Mary di Michele.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a poetry collection featuring works from a wide variety of authors, all giving their unique perspectives on the most important part of human life—the heart. It was an extremely hit or miss collection for me, and I found it very hard to get into. In general, I tended to prefer the poems that focused on the less tangible, more emotional views of the heart, rather than the technical and clinical depictions. To me, the poems that spoke from essentially a medical perspective felt like reading a biology textbook—albeit a lyrical one—rather than a poetry collection.

All of the writers who contributed are extremely talented; all of the writing was strong and skilled. In my opinion, however, the flow of the writing—both individually and as a whole—was definitely broken up by the ones that focused more on fact than feeling. Of course, not all poetry needs to be abstract and romantic. The freedom to be whatever the writer wants it to be is one of the reasons why this is such a wonderful vehicle for creativity and expression. But for me, I think I just prefer poems that creatively expand on the emotional rather than the physical.

3.0 TARDISes

depressionandothermagictricksDepression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 22nd, 2017

Publisher: Button Poetry

Pages: 80 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views.

Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This collection was all right, but I found it to be just a bit disappointing. I had heard a little bit about Sabrina Benaim prior to picking this up, so I was quite eager to experience her work. However, though I did enjoy it to some extent, this collection wasn’t quite as good I was expecting it to be. The poems themselves were quality—Benaim has quite a talent for expressing herself in a vivid way, and speaks intelligently on many subjects that can be difficult to fully comprehend. However, while I did enjoy this collection, it did not click with me in the way I would have liked. Her writing style did not flow overly well for me so I never quite got fully into it.

I thought Benaim’s way of tapping into and clearly conveying her feelings was very good, and it was easy to connect to her and feel her emotions on a deep level. Despite my feelings on the collection overall, I could definitely see how raw and poignant her words were. These poems deal with many of Benaim’s personal experiences in her life so far, and sheds some light on her experience with depression—a great way to help open minds on the subject of mental illness. I wish I had enjoyed it a bit more, but overall, I think this is a beautiful collection that many readers will love and relate to.

3.0 TARDISes

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Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

whatileavebehindWhat I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 15th, 2018

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Pages: 208 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.

Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.

When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I desperately wanted to love this book, and thought that I would, but I ended up feeling pretty lukewarm about it overall. Don’t get me wrong, what is contained in these pages is absolutely beautiful—there are so many touching moments between the very endearing characters. Every page made me fall more and more in love with every single aspect of the narrative—but then it just stopped. I was simply left wanting so much more out of it, and an expansion of the captivating plot and characters.

In this novel, we follow a sixteen-year-old boy named Will, who is attempting to deal with and process his emotions that resulted from his father’s suicide. His days have become repetitive, going from working at the Dollar Only store, walking all over the streets of his neighborhood in Los Angeles, and desperately trying—to no avail—to replicate his father’s famous cornbread recipe.

However, there are certain ties to his father that he cannot seem to face, particularly the blessings store that contains the chest of one-hundred Chinese blessings, his old best friend Playa’s house, and the Fourth Street bridge. After learning the Playa was raped at a party he had attended but left early, he shakes himself out of the sadness that has been controlling his every move.

Wanting to spread some happiness and make a positive impact in the world, he starts to leave small presents for many of the important people in his life: The Little Butterfly Dude, a child he passes on his way home every day; Superman, the homeless man who lives on a street he travels on as he walks to work; and Playa. Through these anonymous acts of kindness and selflessness, he finds that he is able to cope with his own suffering, and continue on with his life in a way that would make his father incredibly proud.

The format that this story is written in is wonderfully unique and adds to the poignancy of the narrative itself. Told in small sections and few words—one-hundred pages, each containing one-hundred words—the style felt so meaningful. On top of this, the writing is lovely and flows incredibly well. McGhee shows a huge amount of talent for creating a well-written and vividly emotional narrative. It is clear that every part of it is meticulously crafted.

Honestly, my main complaint—really my only complaint—is that this story is far too short, and deserved so much more time. The length and format is inventive; however it is nowhere near enough to take this story to the levels it should have gone. Everything about this novel is deeply touching and just plain gorgeous. I adored every second I spent in this world and with these characters.

I not only craved more, I also unfortunately felt like there really should have been more. The brevity of the narrative adds to the depth, but it ended up being a bit too brief, finishing quite abruptly. Though I clearly enjoyed it, I was left feeling unsatisfied. I wanted so badly to spend more time with these characters—to get to know them better. I wish McGhee would have kept that short vignette format, but extended the length of the novel itself, and delved further into the relationships, intense emotions, and Will’s recovery process.

I cannot fully express how beautiful and optimistic this novel is—the world needs more of this positivity and urging to spread kindness. Though it needed more to it, it was such a sweet story, and I do highly recommend giving it a read.

3.0 TARDISes

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Review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

ihateeveryonebutyouI Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 5th, 2017

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Dear Best Friend,

I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.

Sincerely,

Ava Helmer

(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.

Stop crying.

G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I Hate Everyone But You, the debut novel by two emerging major talents in YA, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn, is a story about new beginnings, love and heartbreak, and ultimately about the power of friendship.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I have put off writing my review of this novel for quite a while now for a few reasons. First of all, it has been a long time since I disliked a book as much as I disliked this one, therefore, I have a lot to say. So many aspects annoyed, frustrated, and completely enraged me due to how close to home they hit. However, I absolutely despise writing rant-filled reviews—I like to be as fair as possible—and immediately after I finished reading, I didn’t think I was capable of being calm.

Another aspect that is still causing me to be hesitant is my lack of real-life, firsthand knowledge of the situation that one of the girls was experiencing. Even though I was not able to fully connect to what she was dealing with, I still found that I had a lot of opinions on the way it was handled and presented from a bit of an “outsider’s” point-of-view. It’s about time that I gave this a try though, so I will do my best to explain my feelings as well as I can. Please remember, this is all just my personal opinion and interpretation of the novel.

In this novel, we follow two best friends—Ava and Gen—as they navigate their first year of college on opposite sides of the country. This is the first time they have had to deal with a separation this huge, and understandably, the new experiences ahead feel incredibly daunting without the other by their side. In lieu of seeing each other in person, they keep up a correspondence every day, discussing all the aspects of their new lives and trying to maintain their strong friendship.

Admittedly, this is not something that I would have normally been interested in reading. However, the format that the story is told in is originally what caught my eye, and my attention. The entire novel is told through texts and emails sent between Ava and Gen as they support each other while trying to bridge the distance between them. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stories told through messages—I’m not sure why, but they have always been so much fun for me. Unfortunately, that was not the case this time around.

Let me begin by talking about Ava, as the themes used in her storyline are ones that I have the most personal experience with. These main themes are anxiety/social anxiety and OCD, and the obstacles mental illness can throw in your way—or at least that is what it is trying to portray. Instead, it ends up coming across as a very stereotypical and downright inaccurate caricature of serious mental illnesses, used many times for comedic purposes.

So, I may be overreacting to this as I do on occasion when it comes to the depiction of mental illness. And I completely understand that all mental illnesses manifest in unique ways for every single person dealing with them. But, as someone who has dealt with severe anxiety/social anxiety and OCD all their life, I am incredibly upset by the way it is shown here. Believe me, I am someone who truly values the medicinal effects of humor, and I do enjoy poking fun at the strangeness of my anxiety plenty of the time. However, here, every aspect is treated as a complete joke.

The absolute biggest problem I have with it is that a huge part of the time, her actions show the exact opposite of the severe social anxiety she claims to have—no, joining a sorority and throwing yourself at men is not a good example. As I said before, her anxiety only pops up when it can make a situation into a joke, and it is written in that clichéd “oh, I’m so ‘hashtag relatable’” kind of way. I apologize for the way I’m coming across here. I’m just absolutely fed up with the way people belittle the incredible amount of pain that this type of mental illness inflicts on those of us who have to deal with it on a daily basis.

Then we have our other main character, Gen. The main themes in her storyline are exploring one’s sexuality, experimenting and discovering what is right for you, and how one’s sexuality does not need to conform to a strict label. However, this is not the message that I feel her actions conveyed. It comes across more like she is very sure of herself and is just using people, manipulating their emotions, and putting herself at risk.

Granted, maybe this is my interpretation because of my own personal experiences, or lack of experience. I connect with her on what it’s like to learn about one’s sexuality and that desire to break away from society’s habit of labeling it. I am unable to connect with her actions though, as my journey, purely due to my personality, has been much less active. All in all, I am fairly irritated because I do not feel like her plotline positively or realistically portrays the queer community, particularly what it is like for those of us who find that we attracted to both genders.

Now, on to Ava and Gen’s friendship in general. Things started out well at the beginning of the novel—they are shown to have a rather sweet relationship and are incredibly close to each other. It’s very easy to relate to the sadness of having to be separated from your best friend whom you’ve always had by your side to face the challenges of life—I have been going through the exact same thing in the last few years. They are faithfully there to support each other through the changes that come with college living. However, somewhat quickly, things begin to take a turn for the worse, and by the halfway point of the novel, their friendship has proven itself to be horrendously toxic.

First of all, Ava is constantly acting relatively homophobic in many of her conversations with Gen when Gen shares things about her sexuality. And again, this is used as another tactic to create humor in the plot, which I think is atrocious. But the most major issue with their friendship is how they support and strongly encourage each other to make terrible, dangerous, and damaging decisions. It is so over-the-top, it’s extremely hard to believe that either of these girls actually cares about the other. Their relationship feels manipulative and destructive more than anything.

Suffice it to say, I think we can conclude that I Hate Everyone But You was clearly not for me. I of course applaud any authors committing themselves to helping diversify literature. Diversity is something we need so much more of, and sexuality, gender labels, and mental illness are all wonderful topics to choose. And I did love the format of the book—it made for a very fast read, and was the only really enjoyable part. The overall story itself just did not come across in the right way at all. Personally, I cannot, in good conscious, recommend giving this a read.

1.0 TARDIS

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