Reviews: Some Girls Bind by Rory James and The Videomaniac by Wil Mara

somegirlsbindSome Girls Bind by Rory James

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 1st, 2019

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Jamie knows that she isn’t like other girls. She has a secret. She binds her chest every day to feel more like herself. Jamie questions why she is drawn to this practice and why she is afraid of telling her friends, who have their own secrets. Could she really be genderqueer?

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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.

This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for an early middle school to early high school audience, so basically mid-middle grade and early young adult. I did like this story quite a bit and I thought the diversity shown here was fantastic. I love seeing more LGBT+ novels entering the world and it is particularly good to target younger audiences. Novels like these encourage open-mindedness and may help readers become more accepting of others as well as themselves.

I will admit, I felt once again that this was a topic that would have been better suited to a slightly longer format. I think expanding the story just a little bit would help readers connect with the characters and better understand the subjects being addressed. However, James does present and explain the process of discovering ones’ identity in a clear and concise way. This is a positive story that I could definitely see inspiring readers to better understand who they are and helping them view the world in a new light. The main characters were likable and easy to connect with, which makes this a fairly engaging reading experience. Overall, I think this is a solid addition to both hi-lo and LGBT+ literature.

3.0 TARDISes

thevideomaniacThe Videomaniac by Wil Mara

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: January 15th, 2019

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 120 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: At a local flea market, thirteen-year-old Brian Hart meets a creepy old man who gives him computer software that can predict future football NFL games. But is the power to see the future really as beneficial as Brian believes?

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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 feel terrible saying this, but I honestly don’t know what I just read. This is a weird story and, unfortunately, not in a particularly good way. Though it sounded promising when I first found it, I personally did not like the content of this story. The interactions between Brian and the future-predicting software system are quite eerie, which could have been a good thing, but I struggled to make sense of what was happening for the majority of the narrative.

All of the characters are really unlikeable, though the main character, Brian, is supposed to be to some extent. Their interactions with each other feel stilted and unrealistic. And what they let him get away with in terms of the bets they made also felt very unrealistic. The writing is very jumbled and confusing—it feels all over the place and there is no discernible direction many times.

Here is where I come to an opinion that is going to sound completely ridiculous given the type of story this is supposed to be. This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for a late elementary school to early middle school audience. It is intended to be short, but this story just needed more. It would be better if it was more fleshed out—if there were more details about the program or his friendships. It really just isn’t the right type of story for this short format. I have to admit I do not feel that this would be the best thing for a reluctant reader to read.

1.0 TARDIS

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Reviews: What If? by Anna Russell and And We Call It Love by Amanda Vink

whatifWhat If? by Anna Russell

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: December 1st, 2018

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Josh Baker isn’t sure why his brain tells him to do things that other people don’t need to do: checking his locker again and again, counting cracks in ceilings, and always needing to finish a song, for starters. He is a talented drummer, a math genius, and he knows everything about rock and roll. Yet, he knows his problems have the power to hurt his family and make him fail at school. When Josh is diagnosed with OCD, it’s a blessing and a curse. Can he overcome his thoughts, or will they break him?

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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’ve read a number of these hi-lo fiction novels recently and this one was definitely my favorite of the bunch. This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for an early middle school to early high school audience, so basically mid-middle grade and early young adult.

In this novel, we follow a teenage boy named Josh who is struggling to understand the way his brain is functioning. Something just does not feel right to him—his mind is driving him to do things he knows others don’t tend to do such as to repeatedly check door locks and counting cracks in ceilings. Deep down, he knows he does not need to do any of this, however, he feels that he must or harm will come to his loved ones. When he is diagnosed with OCD, Josh finally knows what is wrong, but overcoming it is a daunting obstacle looming ahead.

I feel a very personal connection to these types of stories as I have struggled with OCD for many years. In fact, I was around the same age as Josh—early high school—when I was officially diagnosed. This personal connection can be either good or bad. It can make me quite picky about the way it is portrayed. I think that Anna Russell ended up doing quite a good job with this. Josh’s struggles felt very realistic and accurate to what experiencing OCD is like and I believe it will be quite an informative story for readers.

It is difficult for me to put myself in the position of someone who is reluctant to read, but I felt it was important for me to check these types of novels out. I, of course, want to promote reading to everyone any chance I get. While I do wish there had been a little more to this book—not much, just that is was a bit longer and went into more detail about OCD—I do think this is a good addition to hi-lo fiction. This is definitely a story I can see readers really getting into, and I think it will not only encourage them to explore literature more but that it will also teach them some important information about mental health.

3.5 TARDISes

andwecallitloveAnd We Call It Love by Amanda Vink

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: January 15th, 2019

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Clare and Zari are best friends. They write music together, go everywhere together, and they know everything about the other. At least they did before Zari started dating Dion. The more Zari falls for Dion, the less she has time for anything else. At first, Clare chalks it up to a new and exciting relationship, and she tries to be happy for her friend despite her loneliness. When Zari starts to show up to school with half-hidden bruises, Clare knows there’s something darker about this relationship that has to be stopped.

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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.

This ended up being an okay read. In this short novella, we follow two teenage best friends who begin to drift apart when one of them enters into a new relationship. Soon it becomes clear to Clare that something is wrong, as Zari is acting less and less like her usual self. She realizes that there may be some abuse taking place in her friend’s relationship. Clare knows she has to help her friend remove herself from this horrible situation. I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it either. This narrative deals with very serious issues that can take a while to fully understand, so while this was decent, a longer format suits this topic much better.

And this brings us to an opinion that is going to sound a bit silly given the type of story this is supposed to be. This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for a late middle school to early high school audience, so basically early young adult. This story definitely fits into the short format better than some other books of this type that I have checked out. However, I still ended up feeling that it needed just a little bit more to it. It is harder to connect with the characters given the small amount of information we get on them.

That being said, I do think this is one of the more decent examples of hi-lo fiction that I have come across. It is quite hard for me to put myself in the shoes of a potential reader of this novel as I want to read every book in sight. With this one, though, I did get into it a bit more. While these are topics that are hard to fully portray in this limited format, I think the author did an okay job. Domestic abuse and speaking up about it is such an important and timely topic, and I love the fact that Vink is contributing this work to an audience that needs to learn this information.

2.0 TARDISes

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Reviews: Fifteen and Change by Max Howard and Second in Command by Sandi Van

fifteenandchangeFifteen and Change by Max Howard

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 1st, 2018

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Zeke would love to be invisible. His mother is struggling to make ends meet and stuck with a no-good boyfriend. Zeke knows he and his mom will be stuck forever if he doesn’t find some money fast. When Zeke starts working at a local pizza place, he meets labor activists who want to give him a voice–and the living wage he deserves for his work. Zeke has to decide between living the quiet life he’s carved for himself and raising his voice for justice.

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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.

This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for a late middle school to early high school audience, so basically late middle grade and early young adult. In this novel, we follow a teenage boy named Zeke who is struggling quite badly in life. He lives with his mother, who is trapped in an abusive relationship, and they are all barely making ends meet.

So Zeke wants to make some money so he and his mother can escape this situation and he finds a job at a local pizza place. While there, he meets a group of labor activists who are fighting their unfair pay and offer Zeke a chance to stand up and have a voice. Because of this, he is left with the decision of whether to remain in his quiet life, focusing on work and an escape or to stand up for an important cause.

Of all the hi-lo fiction I have read recently, this was not one of my favorites. The idea for the plot is great and definitely deals with some extremely important and timely topics. I think it is something that would teach readers quite a lot about the unfairness in the workforce and how it is good to raise one’s voice for a just cause. However, I have to say I didn’t really get into this story. The writing made it feel jumbled and all over the place. It felt sort of disjointed and I never felt a sense of completion at the end. The characters also fell a bit flat. There is not enough time in a story this short to build these characters and fully develop the storyline given the deep topics it deals with. Overall, it wasn’t my thing, but I do think some reluctant readers may really enjoy it.

2.0 TARDISes

secondincommandSecond in Command by Sandi Van

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 1st, 2019

Publisher: West 44 Books

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Leo dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout and, someday, a police officer. He makes sure to always do the right thing and be responsible. With his mom deployed and his dad constantly working, Leo is often left in charge of his two younger siblings. Then Leo’s brother, Jack, gets caught up in a dangerous plot that rocks the community. Can Leo keep his promise to stand by his brother no matter what, or will he stand on the side of justice?

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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.

This is what is considered “hi-lo” fiction—short books that are designed to encourage young, reluctant readers to read more. This one seems like it is aimed for an early middle school to early high school audience, so basically mid-middle grade and early young adult. This novel focuses on how a family is affected when one member is deployed for the army—in this case, it is the main character’s mother. After his mother has left, Leo has to take charge of many household duties, including taking care of his two younger siblings. On top of this, Leo discovers that his brother, Jack, has become tangled up in a dangerous situation while running with the wrong crowd. Leo needs to find a way to hold his family together in the absence of their mother.

I quite enjoyed this story and found it really easy to get into. Van did a very good job building her characters and creating the atmosphere and tone of the narrative in such a short amount of time. I know I sound silly saying this about books in the hi-lo format, but I wish there was more to this story. I want to hear more about these characters’ lives—about how these major changes affect them—and learn more about what it is like to have a parent in the army. Van manages to pack a ton of emotion and heart into this book, which I was impressed by. I really do think this is a book that would entice reluctant readers as well as introduce them to a topic they might not be fully aware of.

3.0 TARDISes

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