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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Before I Fall | Book Review

Before I Fall

Written by: Lauren Oliver 
Number of Pages: 470

Average Rating: 3.91/5 stars
My Rating: 1/5 stars 

Published: March 2010
Read in January 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

My Thoughts

This was such a hard book to get through. Whenever I would put it down, I was not very eager to pick it back up. I did actually own a copy of this book, and brought it away with me on vacation, but decided to save the luggage space and donated it to the library on the cruise ship. 

If you know my rating patterns, you would know that I hardly (if ever) rate a novel with one star, as I try very hard to find redeeming qualities in everything that I read. Unfortunately I can’t really think of anything positive to say about my reading experience with this one. The plot was generally unique, not something mind-blowing, but also not something you see often in YA literature. The characters, however, could’ve been picked out of any contemporary high school novel, and didn’t stick out enough to redeem the spiraling plot. 

There was too much teenage drama and angst involved, and I found the story painfully repetitive. I understand that the main point of the plot was that she relived her dying day seven times, but nothing drastic seemed to change. Instead I got bored of reading the same interactions, and didn’t find anything significant (in a character development sense), changing from her day to day. I think if this novel was about 150 pages shorter, I would have been able to bump my rating up by a star, just because it would have made it quicker to read. 

The ending was bland and didn’t stick out to me in any way. I understand what happened, but totally missed the characters moment when she realized that’s what needed to happen. I struggled to find true character development, and not just Sam acting the way she thought she should. A lot of the development in both the plot and characters seemed forced, and that took away from the experience without a doubt. 

Overall, I think I held onto this novel for too long, and it was one I should have read when I was still in high school. Since the movie adaptation was added to Netflix, I did try to watch it but could not get past the first half hour. The actors did a good job of portraying the arrogant mannerisms, but none of it felt genuine or real. I would recommend this to anyone that is interested in the plot, but would warn not to set your standards as high as mine were. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

This Is Not a Love Letter | Book Review

This Is Not a Love Letter

Written by: Kim Purcell
Number of pages: 368

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published January 30th, 2018
Read in January 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

One week. That’s all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future - decisions they had been fighting about for weeks. 

Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he’s run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river - the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened. 

As the police are spurred into reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie’s town who don’t like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’ character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats. 

Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit. 

My Thoughts

I received an e-book copy of this book in exchange for a review, but that does not influence my opinion on the novel. 

Although the title foreshadows that this will not be a romantic story, I went into this novel expecting a contemporary romance - but it hit so much harder than that. There are so many important themes covered in this novel, including but not limited to; racism, mental disorders, family dynamic, and friendship. I felt as though each of these was dealt with head-on and compassionately, however at times I felt that it was taking over the overall suspense of the novel. It was evident that the main focus of this story was the background of Jessie, and the relationship everyone in this town had to each other, and less about a potential kidnapping/murder of Chris. 

In browsing other reviews, I’ve seen comments talking about the lack of character building and description, but I feel it was written well enough when considering this entire novel is written as a journal. Our main character Jessie is writing letters to her missing boyfriend, who knows all of these people she references, so why bother adding personality details or physical traits? In my opinion adding that would have taken the reader farther out of the character’s shoes. 

I could not give this novel a perfect five-star rating, as I had some issues with the end conclusions. There were some things left unresolved, for example we never found out who was leaving her threatening calls and that was something I was curious about. I also would have liked more discussion on what some of the characters motives were, and to have seen the ending resolve a little bit slower. There was so much intensity built up that the revelation could have been much bigger and better than it was, but I also think that the way it was done was still okay. 

Overall, I thought this was a very powerful, painful, and thought-provoking read. I felt Jessie’s pain, and her manic episodes wondering what happened to Chris, and she brought so much life and energy (both positive and negative) into her letters. I was on the edge of my seat, and couldn’t put this novel down until I knew what happened. It is such a realistic story that I think is able to reach all reader’s through it’s biggest question of “what could I have done differently?” 

I recommend this novel to anyone interested in realistic young adult stories that deal with heavier topics, and I will be purchasing my own physical copy upon its release!