Review: 45 Pounds (more or less)

Title: 45 Pounds (More or Less)
Author: KA Barson
Publisher: Viking/Penguin
Pub Date: July 11, 2013
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 12+
More by author: n/a

 Picture Me Gone


When Ann’s aunt announces she’s getting married – and that Ann will be in the wedding party – she knows that it’s now or never to lose the weight that’s been holding her back her whole life. Ann’s mother is a svelte perfectionist who, for years, has been pushing Ann to take control of her weight. Ann has tried every diet fad and tactic out there, all under the supervision of her mother, but this time things are going to be different. She forks over her savings for an infomercial diet that promises to be foolproof, finds a job to fund her weight loss method (she’s determined to do this without poking and prodding from her mother) and waits for the weight to melt away. But things aren’t so simple, not when it comes to changing her body… and not when it comes to changing what Ann sees every time she looks in the mirror. And, as she soon realizes, Ann isn’t the only one in her family with an unhealthy body image and relationship with food. It’s going to take more than five payments of $19.99 for Ann to achieve her happy ending.

Ann from 45 Pounds (more or less) is, more or less, me. Well, my high school self anyway. I like to think that I’ve achieved much of what Ann achieves by the end of the novel. But, all of the ups and downs regarding her weight – the self-loathing, the grudging acceptance, the moments of grim determination, and the times when weight loss seems impossible – were all too easy to relate to. I spent the entire book rooting for Ann and a fair amount feeling frustrated when she turned to bad habits (but only because I’d been there before and wanted to shout “Put down the french fries, Ann!! It’s not worth it – you have more to live for!” Ahem.). 

What I love most about this book though, is the positive changes that Ann and her family begin to accept after having meaningful and honest conversations. I truly hope that those who read 45 Pounds (more or less) will apply some of these changes (like positive language regarding food, weight, and eating) to their own lives. 

45 pounds (more of less) is, in my opinion, a must-read with an important message about adopting positive language and ideas of self-worth and being healthy in a society obsessed with shallow and unrealistic images of beauty.

Notable Quotes:

“And while the shape of my family might not match other families – or even what I imagined it should be – some pretty amazing people make room for me, watch out for me, and love me. Sometimes, even when I don’t know it. Make it so I fit. No matter what.”

“I change the channel to another movie. An old one, but new to me. And, ironically, a thin, gorgeous blonde—Meg Ryan, maybe—rides her bike on a country road. She smiles like she has no cares in the world. Like no one ever judges her. Like her life is perfect. Wind through her hair and sunshine on her face. The only thing missing are the rainbows and butterflies and cartoon birds singing on her shoulder.

Maybe I should grab my bike and try to catch up with Mom, Mike, and the kids. They can’t be going very fast. I would love to feel like that, even if it’s just for a second—free and peaceful and normal.
Suddenly, there’s a truck. It can’t be headed toward Meg Ryan. Could it? Yes. Oh my God. No! Meg Ryan just got hit by that truck.

Figures. See what happens when you exercise?”

Review: The Edge of Falling

Title: The Edge of Falling
Author: Rebecca Serles
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster
Pub Date: March 14, 2014
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by author: When You Were Mine

 Picture Me Gone

Caggie lives every day haunted by her failure to save her little sister from drowning. Even though no one ever says it, Caggie knows that her parents blame her just as much as she blames herself. Everyone at school thinks she’s a hero after saving a classmate from plummeting to her death at the beginning of summer, but only Caggie – and the girl she saved – knows what really happened on the rooftop ledge. Caggie has formed a wall of secrets and lies to keep everyone at arm’s length, including her best friend, who keeps pushing her to move forward, and her ex-boyfriend, who can’t seem to understand that Caggie isn’t the girl she used to be anymore. Then new boy Astor enters Caggie’s life and he seems to understand the darkness that threatens to overwhelm her every day and, best of all, he doesn’t push her to talk about what happened or to move forward. But Astor has secrets of his own and his demons might be hungry enough to swallow both of them… dead or alive.

Last year I read and very much enjoyed Rebecca Serles’ debut novel, When You were Mine, but I must admit that it pales in comparison to The Edge of Falling. Caggie’s story of grief and guilt is remarkably powerful and painfully captivating. It begins slowly but builds with a steady intensity that leaves the reader completely invested in Caggie and her search for meaning and redemption in the aftermath of her sister’s death. 
Notable Quotes:

“If I could go back to that night in May, I’d do things very differently. I’d never end up on that rooftop with Kristen. I’d never save her. I wouldn’t have to.

But even stories with the biggest impact, perhaps particularly these, don’t have the power to be re-written. If if if if… would everything be different? It doesn’t matter though. What’s done is done.”

“I’m trying hard to remain composed. His face slackens, smooths out, and I can’t help but run my eyes over his cheeks, his ears, the freckle on his face. I think about how many times I’ve kissed that exact spot. When someone breaks up with you they should take their memories with them. It shouldn’t be possible to remember someone when they’re no longer there.”

“Sometimes this happens without warning. Like the magnitude of the past – of all that has happened – creeps into the space and inflates. One minute it’s this little thing – contained, pocket-size – the next minute it’s a creature. With legs and arms and scales. That’s how grief works. It’s there even when you forget about it. It doesn’t disappear, but just morphs, changes form.”

Review: The Museum of Intangible Things

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin BFYR
Pub Date: April 10, 2014
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by author: The Probability of Miracles

 Picture Me Gone

Hannah and Zoe haven’t been given much in life, except each other, and they don’t have anything particularly wonderful waiting in their future. Unless you count enrolling at the local community college, which they don’t. The only worthwhile tie the girls have to the New Jersey town they grew is Zoe’s autistic brother, who relies on Zoe and Hannah to help him navigate the world and all the intangible things within it he struggles to understand. After climbing out of a dark depression, Zoe bounds into mania, declaring that Hannah might not have the best grip on the intangibles either. Hoping to recover the real Zoe in the midst of her cycles of depression and mania, Hannah agrees to ditch New Jersey and embark on a cross country road trip in search of those difficult to understand but absolutely essential intangibles: Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).
The Museum of Intangible Things is, at its core, a love story. Not the typical romantic love story (though there is one of those within its pages as well), but the story of the strong and enduring love between two girls who have always been and always will be there for one another. True best friends with a wild streak… Bonnie & Clyde Bonnie. Wendy Wunder gives readers an unforgettable story of two girls who take to the road and commit the occasional crime in an epic quest to ensure the others’ happiness.

Notable Quotes:

“I am a freshwater girl. I live on the lake, and in New Jersey, that’s rare. The girls on the other side of town have swimming pools, and the girls in the south have the seashore. Other girls are dry, breezy, salty, and bleached. I, on the other hand, am dark, grounded, heavy, and wet. Fed by springs, tangled in soft fernlike seaweed, I am closer to the earth. Saturated to the bone. I know it, and so do the freshwater boys, who prefer the taste of salt.”

“I come from a long line of downtrodden women who marry alcoholics. All the way back to my Lenni Lanape great-great-great-(lots of greats) grandmother, Scarlet Bird, a red-haired New Jersey Indian who married William Penn. I know this to be true because of the red highlights in my hair, and because, if you ever see the statue of William Penn in Philadelphia, the one that dictates the height of all the buildings in its perimeter, you will notice, if you look at him from behind, that he and I have the exact same rear end.”

 “My best friend Zoe has a perfect rear end and stick legs, and long, silky black hair. She is obviously not descended from William Penn. There are no dowdy pilgrims in her ancestry. Whereas I am grounded and mired in this place, she’s like milkweed fluff that will take off with the first strong breeze. Stronger than fluff, though. She’s like a bullet just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.”

Review: The Beginning of Everything

Title: The Beginning of Everything 
Author: Robyn Schneider 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins 
Pub Date: August 27, 2013
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 13+ 
More by author: The Social Climber’s Guide to High School

 Picture Me Gone

Ezra Faulkner had it all: gorgeous girlfriend, popularity, and athleticism and skill that held the promise of a full-ride to university. He had these things, but, after a fatal night where he first lost his girlfriend and then quickly lost everything else, Ezra’s present and future are forever altered. Enter Ezra’s one-time best friend (of roller coaster decapitation fame) and a mysterious new girl with a smile full of secrets and Ezra’s life is suddenly taking off into unforeseen directions. Maybe what seemed like the end, is really the beginning of everything.

The most common statement I’ve heard in reference to Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is that it is perfect for John Green fans. This is absolutely true, but I also have to point out that Green’s books, while they are very good reads with fantastic characters and plots, all feel very similar to me. Robyn Schneider, on the other hand, brings many things that I love about Green’s books – male POV, sarcastic wit, nerdy romance, etc – while injecting her own voice and magic to the premise. So, yes, Green fans will enjoy The Beginning of Everything as it shares the same spirit as books like Looking for Alaska, but it is distinctly different in terms of premise than anything I’ve read from Green.

Notable Quotes:

“Life is the tragedy,” she said bitterly. “You know how they categorize Shakespeare’s plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it’s a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it’s a tragedy. So we’re all living tragedies, because we all end the same way, and it isn’t with a goddamn wedding.”

 “Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many. Jokes could be grandly miscalculated, or stories deemed boring, and I’d learned early on that my sense of humor and ideas about what sorts of things were fascinating didn’t exactly overlap with my friends.”

 “You have this maddening little smile sometimes, like you’ve just thought of something incredibly witty but are afraid to say it in case no one gets the joke.”

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Review: Six Months Later

Title: Six Months Later
Author: Natalie D. Richards
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pub Date: October 1, 2013
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 13+
More by author: none

 Picture Me Gone

Natalie D. Richards gives readers a fast-paced mystery thriller with her debut, Six Months Later. Not only is this novel impossible to put down, it is uncomfortably easy to relate to: students facing the pressures of secondary education and struggling to be everything in order to achieve today’s version of “success” will identify with Chloe as her fears and their fears begin to intersect and overlap.

Chloe has never been a model student and she can’t be considered popular, but she’s her own person and the only person she needs is her best friend, Maggie. While her mother might not be thrilled with Chloe’s choices and view on life, she’s content. Everything changes when Chloe falls asleep during Study Hall in May and wakes in the same classroom… in the dark… with snow falling outside. Somehow, Chloe has lost six months of time, months in which her life has drastically changed. Now, she’s one of the top students in her class, she’s dating her long-time crush, and she’s a shoo in for the top universities in the country. Which all sounds great in theory, except for the fact that her memory is gone, Maggie refuses to speak to her, her boyfriend gives her the creeps, and she can’t stop thinking about a boy she barely acknowledged six months ago. Things aren’t adding up and Chloe is determined to prove she’s not crazy and figure out what happened in the six months she’s forgotten.

Not only does Six Months Later offer readers a great mystery and a realistic main character, it confronts some important ideas about high school life, including what constitutes academic success, dealing with pressure and judgement from parents and peers, and, though in an indirect way, the issue of stimulants and drug use in an academic setting. Though I didn’t necessarily think that last issue was necessarily a main underlying theme of the novel, I couldn’t help but compare some of the situations and details in the novel to the recreation use of Adderall and other stimulants that are often used by students to keep a competitive edge.

I highly recommend Six Months Later. It’s sure to hook readers with it’s skillfully constructed mystery plot, plus readers will appreciate that it’s a standalone. I look forward to the next novel from Richards, as her debut stood out with a memorable plot and unique and engaging characters.
Notable Quotes:

“Dr. Kirkpatrick sits back in her chair. She’s got some issues too, I’d bet. I’ve seen her a total of thirteen times, including this session, and in that time, she’s had three drastically different hairstyles. Talk about identity issues.

The last time, she had an auburn pixie cut. Now her hair is jet-black and angled harshly around her chin. She looked friendlier before, like a fairy just a few years past her prime. I can’t help feeling like this version of Dr. Kirkpatrick should slap on some red lipstick and pull a gun on me or something.”

“I pull out the paper and unfold it, and the scrawl on the front is immediately recognizable. Because it’s mine. The three words seem innocuous enough, but they send a chill from the roots of my hair through the soles of my feet.”

Don’t miss my review with the author of Six Months Later, Natalie D. Richards, here!

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Review: Vitro

Title: Vitro
Author: Jessica Khoury
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin
Pub Date: January 14, 2014
Genre: YA
Rec. Age Level: 12+
More by author: Origin

 Picture Me Gone

The author of Origin, Jessica Khoury, takes readers to a new locale and a new scientific experiment with her sophomore novel, Vitro.

Sophie Crue has spent most of her life living with her father in the United States, seeing her mother only a handful of times and only during exotic vacations, but before her parents divorced, they lived on a remote island in the Pacific. Her mother remained on the island after Sophie and her father set off for the States, staying behind to devote her life to making huge, life changing scientific breakthroughs…. or so Sophie always believed. 

After receiving a cryptic message from her mother, Sophie returns to the island and teams up with her childhood friend Jim, the only pilot on the island who will brave flying her to the sinister Skin Island where her mother works. Sophie doesn’t believe in the mysterious fear and whispered stories that keep the islanders from venturing too near Skin Island, but she soon finds out that there’s more truth that dark experiments are being performed on the island and that her mother may be at the center of everything.

Tackling big issues, like nature versus nurture, the myriad of questions associated with creation and science, and the bond between parent and child, Vitro is sure to garner praise from readers looking for depth packaged within a fast-paced story and an exotic locale.

Notable Quotes (aka, And so it begins…):

“I can pay you, I swear. I know it exists! My mom’s worked there for years.” 

“You could and over the key to the national treasury, wouldn’t make a bit of difference. It’s not there, I’m telling you! I’m sorry, miss, but I can’t produce an island out of thin air.” 

She drew a deep breath to steady herself, feeling like a torn flag whipped and battered by a hurricane. “If you can’t help me, then who can? There must be someone local knows the surrounding area.”

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Review: Picture Me Gone

Title: Picture Me Gone
Author: Meg Rosoff
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile/Penguin
Pub Date: October 3, 2013
Genre: MG/YA
Rec. Age Level: 12+ 
More by author: How I Live Now, There Is No Dog, What I Was, Just In Case, The Bride’s Farewell

 Picture Me Gone

Meg Rosoff, as always, delivers a stunning, emotional read with PICTURE ME GONE. 12-year old Londoner, Mila, has accompanied her father, Gil, to New York where is estranged best friend, Matthew, has disappeared. Mila notices things. An observer with a keen eye, she connects small details others dismiss or overlook. She’s puzzled by Matthew’s disappearance, and as she and Gil attempt to unravel the mysteries of Matthew’s life – his motives, his relationships, his guilt – Mila comes to realize big ideas about life, trust, and the things that define who we are. Absolutely brilliant and beautifully written, PICTURE ME GONE is Important with a capital I.
Notable Quotes:

“I would hate to have parents who were always looking over my shoulder, reading my diary, checking my thoughts. I would hate to be exposed. And so, perhaps, when I say I long to be a pane of glass, I am lying. I long for partial obscurity at the same time that I long for someone to know me.

It is confusing and difficult to be me.

Sometimes I I need to cry in order to release the great welling sadness I feel in my head.

For this I need privacy. I do not want anyone to see me and ask why, almost as much as I would like to be comforted.

Somehow, without ever being present, Matthew has exposed all of this, brought it wriggling to the surface like worms. They gather there now, vaguely nostalgic for the dark.” 

“In theory, I would like to lead a transparent life. I wold like my life to be as clear as a new pane of glass, without anything shameful and no dark shadows. I would like that. But if I am completely honest, I have to acknowledge secrets too painful to even tell myself. There are things I consider in the deep dark of night, secret terrors. Why are they secrets? I could easily tell either of my parents how I feel, but what would they say? Don’t worry, darling, we will do our best never to die? We will never ever leave you, never contract cancer or walk in front of a bus or collapse of old age? We will not leave you alone, not ever, to navigate the world and all of its complexities without us?”  

“I will not always be happy, but perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will be spared the agony of adding pain to the world.” 

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