Starting in 2015 the WriteOnSisters will be doing their best to add more book reviews to the the blog. Today we jump-start that commitment with this bonus Friday Reads review of two Young Adult books.
Robin’s Pick: THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE by Jennifer E. Smith
When Ellie O’Neill gets a misdirected email asking her to walk a pet pig, she quickly responds back to clear up the mistake. What follows is an exchange of emails that soon has Ellie confiding her biggest dreams and aspirations in a total stranger. Over time an online relationship evolves and Ellie counts on her mystery friend for moral support and guidance.
When the summer brings a movie company to Ellie’s small Maine town, she and every other teenage girl is talking about the film’s star, Graham Larkin. What Ellie doesn’t know is Graham is her longtime pen pal. He’s come all the way from California to arrange a meeting with the witty, charming, “real” girl he’s fallen for. Of course Ellie has secrets of her own and being thrust into the spotlight of a teen hottie’s paparazzi-filled lifestyle is the last thing she needs.
This book has all the feels, solid friendships, loving parents and even a pig named Wilbur. Ellie is everything a teen girl should be: smart, funny and self-assured. She is never willing to change who she is or what she wants for Graham’s sake. Graham is a nice guy who respects Ellie and wants what’s best for her. Together they make a few mistakes and show some poor judgment but overall these are kids any parent would be proud of.
As I said, I’m not a huge romance fan, but I wanted these two to work things out and get their happy-ever-after. This book is sweet and well-suited to even younger teen readers.
Heather’s Pick: RED RISING by Pierce Brown
Like Robin blogged about here, I too have had a string of disappointing reads. Even “Best Of” lists don’t guarantee I’ll love – or even like – the book. But with fingers crossed, I selected RED RISING from Goodreads Best Of YA Fantasy list.
I was not disappointed. This book is a tour de force, a mix of HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, but with a world so unique and a story so well crafted that it can’t be shelved under “just another YA dystopia”. Nope. This novel is epic.
It takes place hundreds of years in the future on Mars. The main character, Darrow, is the lowest caste of human – a Red. He lives and works miles underground in the mines preparing Mars for human inhabitation, until he discovers that Mars has been inhabited for decades, maybe centuries, and the Reds aren’t preparing it for civilization, they’re simply slaves. Thus begins the journey of turning Darrow, a powerless Red, into an impressive Gold (top caste) so that he can infiltrate and take them down.
It’s a classic underdog-takes-on-the-world story.
A lot of people die in this book. There’s violence and cruelty. But there’s also redeeming transformation when our hero figures out how to overcome instead of surrender to the Golds’ worst characteristics. In my opinion, this is what makes the book great. It’s not just exciting plot twists, duplicitous characters and clever reveals, though I enjoyed all that too, it’s that the hero grows. This makes Darrow a hero worth rooting for!
If you love epic fantasy or political intrigue or action thrillers or all three, this book is for you. I’m actually going to read it again so I can study the expert plotting of the story. Yep, it was that good.
Update: RED RISING was voted Goodreads Best YA Debut! Yay! I’m not the only one who loved this book.