Book Review: Kill the Boy Band

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Release Date: February 23rd 2016 
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 320 
Source: Publisher

Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying. We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him-his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets. We were not planning on what happened next. We swear. From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make-or break-the people we call “celebrities.”

This is one of those books I wanted to like so much. When I heard about it, I was super excited, but the reality is the book just doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it’s highly problematic.

Before I truly dive into what I had issues with, I want to mention that Moldavsky does weave an interesting murder-mystery tale. I was intrigued by the basic plot and it held my attention enough to finish the book. However, whatever potential it had was lost in passages that upset me.

I’m not going to go into the fat shaming because Sarah over at Women Write About Comics did a good job of that already. Anything I would have pointed out, she already has. I will admit that the tackle scene did not bother me as much as everyone else. Mainly, it’s because by this point, I was already outraged by the fandom passages, which I’ll talk about in a moment. However, the passage that did get me was this:

Her appearance was one of Apple’s main hang-ups. That was what she saw in the mirror everyday and the conclusion she always jump to when things didn’t go right in her life. And, I’m certain, it was always a reason she chose Rupert P. —-  out of all the Ruperts —to love the most. I had a theory that choosing which boy to love in a boy band has a lot about a person…..I think April loved Rupert P. because she couldn’t even envision herself being loved by one of the cute boys. She loved him because he was the only one who she thought could possibly love her back.

I think that boy bands don’t worry about having a snaggle-tooth of an ugly member in their otherwise perfect row of teeth — boys — because they know that there are girls like Apple out there. Girls who really don’t like themselves enough to aim higher.  (p 82-83)

No, just no. No. No. No. And I know, there’s a spark to truth in girls thinking they can’t aim higher, but this is because society continuously tells girls like Apple they’re not good enough. Can we please just stop pushing this ideology? Please and thank you.

All right, so fat shaming. Check. Making fandoms look like crazies? HUGE CHECK. I’ll be honest, this is where the book lost me. I know people will come at me and say BUT IT’S A SATIRE, but it didn’t work well as one for me. There are too many moments that speak of reality and what is actually happening in the world of social media that are quite scary. For example, threatening tweets. Here’s the passage about the type of things that Isabel sends:

Isabel’s infamous tweets range from the cartoonish and impossible:

I’m going to pull ur tongue out of ur mouth wrap it around ur neck n strangle u w it so hard ur eyes will pop out. i will pee in the sockets.

To the quaint:

get your funcking hands off him bitch I will cut u. # RupertLIsMine  (knife emojis)

To the cryptically disturbing:

I watch u in ur sleep. (p 24-25)

To me, these are too real. I know people who get tweets like this–or worse. There is nothing funny about them. It’s scary and disturbing and wrong. I suppose if you didn’t know social media well enough you would think they were over the top, but they’re not and they’re many people’s reality. And while the main character does seem to condemn those tweets, that type of attitude is basically what Isabel is all about.

The picture of fandoms that Moldavsky paints wildly varies depending on where you are in the book. At one point we get this

There was no point being a fan these days if you weren’t willing to go the extra mile for your idols. It wasn’t enough anymore to send them fanmail and kiss the posters above our beds. These days you weren’t a true fan until you engaged in Twitter death threats and endless stan wars. The fandom landscape was peppered with land mines, and there was no other way to navigate it but to walk until you hit one. You come out the other side a little crazier, yeah, but you’re also stronger. You are a true believer. You’ll do anything for the object of your affection. (p 32)

And then no more than 30 pages later we get this

Other people may have seen fangirls as crazy teenage girls obsessed with a fad, but they couldn’t understand the small but important joy you can get from indulging in these fandoms. They didn’t understand that a new gif of Rupert K. grinning at you could be the difference between a crap day and a beautiful one. They didn’t get the friendship that forms, the community of people who shared in your same joy. Maybe it was obsession, but it was also happiness; an escape from the suckiness of everyday life.  (pg 63)

So, which is it? Are they crazy obsessed teenagers or just a community that finds joy together? I suppose you could argue for both, but that second quote? Man, that’s what fandom is all about. That quote really hits at the heart of what they are and why people love and cling to them. When I saw that passage, I had hope that Moldavsky was going to give me something good. Instead, she goes back to painting them all as crazy. In fact, when a plea is sent out to the fangirls by one of the Ruperts to help find the missing Rupert, the girls start climbing the scaffold and busting into the hotel. I suppose you could argue that the over-the-top is where the whole satire/humor comes in, but to me, it felt more like shaming than anything else.

There are many other passages that I could point out and use, but I fear they would make this review even longer than it is. And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other issues with race, sexual assault, and homophobia that are being pushed aside because it’s a “satire”. I know this will be a controversial review, but I just can’t support or recommend a book that is this problematic.

Final Verdict: Kill the Boy Band tried, oh did it try, but sadly it failed miserably in my eyes.

Book Review: Up From the Sea

Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz
Release Date: January 12th 2016 
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 272 
Source: Publisher

On that fateful day, Kai loses nearly everyone and everything he cares about. When he’s offered a trip to New York to meet kids whose lives were changed by 9/11, Kai realizes he also has a chance to look for his estranged American father. Visiting Ground Zero on its tenth anniversary, Kai learns that the only way to make something good come out of the disaster back home is to return there and help rebuild his town.
Heartrending yet hopeful, Up from the Sea is a story about loss, survival, and starting anew.

This is one of those novels that instantly transports you. You’re there with Kai as the quake hits and as he runs to get to higher ground to escape the tsunami. As the water keeps rising, you see the waves break apart the bridge he and his classmates had run to. And your heart will break as you realize he has, by some miracle survived, but lost so much as well.

While this books takes place in a coastal city in Japan, I feel like the emotions that Kai go through will resonate with everyone no matter where you live. The basic plot may be about the aftermath of a tsunami, but the heart of the story is truly Kai. It’s about his losses, his gains, growing up, and finding joy among the pain. Yes, he is often selfish and self-absorbed, but, at 17, he really is still a kid/teen. Up until this point, his biggest concerns were about finishing high school or what he fought with his mom about. Now, he has to learn how to get one without almost everyone that he loves. I loved that Lowitz didn’t hold back on the depression/survivor’s guilt as it’s an emotion that so many go through. Part of me does wish there had been just a tad bit more on it, but I understand it wasn’t the main focus as well.

I will admit that I found the dad side plot was a bit distracting. For the most part, it felt unneeded. Yes, it made it so that Kai wasn’t an orphan, but it felt out of place. The only really usefulness was to show that Kai had found where he belonged/didn’t want to leave after all, but there were other ways that could have been done. And maybe this will be the start of a real relationship between he and his father, but the whole thing just felt a tad forced.

The 9/11 connection always felt a bit out of place, but I liked this one more than I didn’t. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy that victims of one disaster helping other survivors heal. It’s one of those feel good, humanity still exists plots that I’m okay with. (This sentiment also applies to the lost soccer ball as well.)

Final Verdict: A powerful verse novel that is great for teens for all ages. It’s gives a look into the aftermath of the 2011 Japan tsunami that may otherwise been unknown.

Book Review: The V-Word

The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex by Amber J. Keyser
Release Date: February 2nd 2016 
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Beyond Words
Pages: 208 

Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like? Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

In The V-Word seventeen writers (including Christa Desir, Justina Ireland, Sara Ryan, Carrie Mesrobian, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, and Jamia Wilson) pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like. Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

Funny, hot, meaningful, cringe-worthy, gross, forgettable, magnificent, empowering, and transformative, the stories in The V-Word are never preachy, but provide a map for teens to chart their own course through the steamy waters of sex. With The V-Word girls can finally take control, learn what’s on the horizon, and eliminate the fear and mystery surrounding this important milestone. Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

Overall, this is a great collection of short stories about first times. The stories run the gamut from super awkward to not-so-bad first experiences. None of them were exactly awesome first experiences, but several came out pretty good. I like the open honesty that all the women shared. Most didn’t pull punches, which was refreshing to see. After all, the biggest problem with sex is that we don’t talk about it openly enough, but we treat it as if it’s something that should be swept under a rug. Our teens need this open honesty to see that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to talk about how they’re feeling.

I truly appreciate that Keyser made sure there were essays from all parts of life, especially when it came to be sexual orientation and identity. I loved that there were stories from lesbian, bisexual, and even a transgendered woman. Not only that, there were varying walks of life. There were people who were religious, who had been sexually abused, who waited for marriage, and who fell into it all by accident. It was also nice to see a range of ages, the youngest being 13 and the oldest at 23.

The best part is that Keyser spends 20 pages or so breaking issues down and giving more resources for teen to follow-up with. She covers topics like knowing your body, masturbation, sexual assault, age of consent, and talking to parents. It’s like a quick mini road map that teens can use to guide them to valid resources both in print and online.

Final Verdict: A solid collection of stories about first experiences that should be put into teen hands. This is easily one I’ll put on my library shelves.

Book Review: Burning Midnight

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Release Date: February 2nd 2016 
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 320 
Source: Publisher

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.

No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere. Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them. Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

The start to this one is a bit slow. In fact, it took a good 20-25 pages until I fully understood what spheres were and why they were so important. Admittedly, this was slightly my fault since I didn’t re-read the description to refresh my memory before starting the book, but it also shouldn’t take so long to be introduced to the world. I almost wished that I had a little guide on  spheres, how they worked, and how many there were.

Once I grasped what was happening, I did enjoy the world. I thought it was an interesting concept, especially considering human nature. Who wouldn’t pay a couple hundred here and there for simple things like whiter teeth or ease of sleeping. People pay that now for different medications or gimmicks that aren’t always a sure bet. Of course, the super powerful spheres that increases intelligence or looks are rare and expensive.  Only those with lots of money could afford them. Maybe if you were a lucky hunter, you might who would find a pair to burn, but basically it was the rich get richer situation, which was fully realistic.

I will say the pacing was a bit off for me. There were times where the book moved along at a good speed, but then other times when it dragged. I loved the earlier hunting scenes with Hunter and Sully, but the scenes when they’re searching the water towers felt a bit too slow for me. I understand that McIntosh needed to show that it took a while, but I was quite bored. On the other hand, once they find the Gold, things seems to kick into super high speed. This is also where you have to start suspending belief. Almost nothing that happens after finding the Gold seems truly believable or possible. However, if you allow yourself to just roll with it, it’s a fun adventure.

The only part that I can’t quite get over is the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but it felt extremely too easy. I could buy into what the spheres actually were, but how they solved it all seemed almost like a cop-out. It tied up way too nicely in a bow for my taste. I guess I wanted more than what I got.

I’m a little torn on how I feel about the love aspect. There is a nice build up between Hunter and Sully, but it also have the feel of insta-love. For most of the book, there a pretty big distrust between them, especially when a deal goes awry. However, they do actually spend a lot of time hunting together, so when you figure in that it’s probably been at least a couple of months it does sort of work. I think it was the out-of the blue declarations that didn’t work for me. Most of the book, Hunter keeps Sully at arm’s length and then suddenly she’s proclaiming how he’s the best thing ever in her life. It was a bit cheesy, but I know know of teens who will probably eat it up.

All that being said, this was a fast sci-fi read. I read it in one day, and while flawed, I couldn’t put it down. I would easily give these to my teens who are just starting in sci-fi or who are looking for an adventure book. It’s a bit on the big side for reluctant readers, but one I do think they’d enjoy.  It would also be a good pairing for 5th Wave, although there aren’t nearly as many mind games or heavy strategy in this one.

Final Verdict: A great new YA sci-fi book. While it does have some flaws, it’s a quick read filled with tons of adventure.

Book Review: Traveler

Traveler by Arwen Elys Dayton
Series: Seeker #2
Release Date: January 12th 2016 
Publisher:Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 400 
Source: Publisher

Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.

Quin pledged her life to deception. Her legacy as a Seeker is not noble but savage. Her father, a killer. Her uncle, a liar. Her mother, a casualty. And the boy she once loved is out for vengeance, with her family in his sights. Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.

Yet Quin is not alone. Shinobu, her oldest companion, might now be the only person she can trust. The only one who wants answers as desperately as she does. Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.

But the deeper they dig into the past, the darker things become. There are long-vanished Seeker families, shadowy alliances, and something else: a sinister plan begun generations ago, with the power to destroy them all.

The past is close. And it will destroy them all.

Often times, middle books in a trilogy (at least I’m assuming it’s a trilogy) can be lukewarm, that bridge between book one and three that gives just enough information to move the story along. Thankfully, that is not the case for Traveler. I love how much information we get from this story about Catherine (John’s mom) and the whole seeker history.  

The POV is multiple just like the first book; however, we get a couple of additional character perspectives with Catherine and Nott. While six characters seems overwhelming, the majority of the story is really told by Quinn and Catherine. I was a bit sad that Maud didn’t have as much of a presence in this book, especially since she is one of my favorites. I still don’t really connect to John or Shinobu very much, although Quinn is starting to grow on me. I did love John’s growth as well, even though he is not my favorite. Catherine was a great addition and I was glad that we got to see the story unravel through her eyes, especially since so much of what we know is thanks to her and her detective work.

The setting this time around felt a bit more jarring. I’m really not sure why it bothered me this time and not last time. Maybe because last time I had assumed it was a steampunk world, but I’m not longer sure that’s the case. It felt so more modern this time …  and yet not? I don’t know. I eventually just had to throw the whole setting thing out the window before it annoyed me to no end. I’ll go back to my initial recommendation of just rolling with it.  

The thing I liked the least was the romance between Quinn and Shinobu. Thankfully Dayton did not remind us constantly that they were distantly related; in fact, it may only be mentioned once. However, I just didn’t feel their relationship. I know they’ve known each other their entire lives, but it just felt super fast. While Shinobu has been in love with Quinn forever, she was set on John until just a few months ago. I guess, for the most part, I just didn’t feel the chemistry. Now, this could be that Seeker is a bit hazy in some details, but looking at my review of Seeker, I complained about it then as well. I suppose they’re just not the pairing for me. However, I do think it will be a big part of book three, especially considering how this one ended.

Speaking of how it ended, be ready for a cliff-hanger. Yes, most seeker history related things are answered, but my oh my, Dayton knows how to leave you hanging. I’ll be interested to see where book 3 goes, especially considering most things felt wrapped up in Traveler. I am sure there is a lot more to the story though, and I can’t wait to see it unravel.

Final Verdict: Great second book filled with much needed history and unraveled secrets. I’ll happily pick up book 3, especially considering the huge cliff-hanger.

This review is part of the Traveler Blog Tour. See below for other participants.

January 11 – Seeing Double in Neverland
January 11 – The Cover Contessa
January 12 –  Once Upon A Twilight
January 12 – Two Chicks on Books
January 13 – Take Me Away to a Great Read
January 13 – Lytherus
January 14Supernatural Snark
January 15Bookish Lifestyle
January 15The Eater of Books
January 16Adventures in YA Publishing
January 16Page Turners
January 17Winterhaven Books
January 17Black Dog Speaks
January 18A Dream Within A Dream
January 18Sci Fi Fan Letter
January 19Mundie Moms
January 19The Reading Nook Reviews

Book Review: How to Be Brave

How to Be Brave: A Novel by E. Katherine Kottaras
Release Date: November 3rd 2015 
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 272 
Source: Library

Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

I’m a bit mixed on how I feel about How to Be Brave. There are so many good things about this book, but at the same time there are some problematic things as well. The heart of the story is about Georgia and her dealing with the grief of her mother’s death. In a note that Georgia forces her to write, her mother tells her to do everything and to be brave while doing it. This sets Georgia to make a list with her best friend, Liss, of 15 things she’s always wanted to do/thinks she she should do.

The list itself is fine, but I questioned how the list made her tailspin out of control. Georgia is painted as a good girl who rarely, if ever gets into trouble. However, one day of cutting class and eating a bite of pot brownies sends her off the deep end. After that first time, she states she doesn’t cut too much “just once or twice a week”;getting high is the main event for these days as well. Last time I checked 2 times a week, even for a couple of weeks, is a lot. And the thing is she doesn’t stop on that day she’s called out by the teacher. As a goody-goody, it just seems so out of character that she would have a 180 that fast. Being brave or not, just seems like a really quick spiral and slightly unrealistic that no one at school would notice how many days are adding up and not mentioning something more about it. Her dad doesn’t even find out for another month and a half later when her art teacher calls and rats her out. (At least about the cutting class, the pot-use doesn’t come until much later)

The relationships (family, friends, & romantic) ring quite true. I love the ups and down of her and Liss’ friendship. Even their fight was highly realistic. Who wouldn’t get mad at a friend for screwing up like Georgia did, even if the bad pot was to blame. I love how honest Liss always is with her. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which makes her an often abrasive, but awesome character. And her relationship with her father. That whole having a parent be in your life, but not really seeing you and expecting you to be something that you’re not. I’m sure every teen can relate to that. It wasn’t even that he didn’t care/had a bad relationship, her dad was just too busy to see the truth. It was obvious that he loved her, he simply needed to be more proactive in her life, especially now that her mother is gone.

The idea of weight is where we get back into the problematic area. I want to start with Georgia first. She’s a size 16 and considered fat. I have no problem with that. As someone who fluctuates between a size 16 or 18, I do consider myself fat. However, it’s the descriptors that follow that size 16 that don’t work. First passage appears on 27

…I hoist my one-hundred-and-blah-de-blah self (the exact number is irrelevant and supersecret)…

This is where height is totally needed. If you’re say me, at  5’6, well,  I was a size 16 at 220. However, if Georgia is 5’3 or shorter than it’s plausible.  This is why height is so, so, so important. They paint a more accurate, although still not perfect, picture.

Then on page 242 we get this

..It’s called minus ten pounds…By all official medical charts, I should technically lose another 15 pounds.

There is no way that someone who only needs to lose 25 pound is a size 16. Using myself as the example again, when I’m a size 16 to be considered normal by medical standards I would need to lose another 70 pounds. I know this will vary from person to person, but the numbers just don’t add up! [edit: I should have said again this is where we need height/body shape instead of just dismissing it completely. It’s still important to press that a size 16 isn’t the same for everyone. We need more as a reader than just a few random numbers to make it believable/realistic.]

However, on the flip side, some of the things that Georgia has to go through are so relatable. Of course, she’s teased, which can happen at any size, but there’s a scene that took me straight back to my own childhood

I was twelve and I couldn’t find a pair of jeans in the Macy’s junior department that could fit me. I sat on the floor of the dressing room, sobbing. She had to take me to the adult section, where all I could find were this ugly, old-lady jeans that gave me high water.  pg 135

Oh man, I’ve been there. Although, for me it was that I was stuck in stretch pants (yes, I was a child of the late 80s/90s), but the rest rang true. When you’re a plus-size person shopping for clothes is so hard. A+ to Kottaras for capturing that so well. There are also plenty of passages where weight does not hold Georgia (or her mother) back from living life. And by the end, Georgia seems pretty solid in the skin she’s in.

While I’m on weight, I would be remiss not to talk about her mother. This is a spot where I wish there was more information on her mother. We know that she’s a size 24, but no height or weight mentioned. We know that she’s been sick with diabetes, kidney failure, and heart problems for a long time. Many people say that they took her mother’s weight as the cause of all the health factors plus her death. I’m a bit torn on this one myself. The implications are definitely there, especially when you take in the fact that her mother’s doctor told Georgia “don’t let this happen to you.” However, fatshaming by doctors is a very real thing. I’ve seen it happen to so many of my friends (and to an extent myself) that it’s not even funny. And of course, diabetes is tied often to weight, but it’s not the only cause. I think the one passage that give me a little pause is the following:

She could have done it. She could have controlled her sugar and eaten right and walked more, like she said she was going to, but she never did. Instead, she let herself gain weight and she didn’t control her sugar….pg 256

There are so many ways to read it. You can read it as the weight caused it all. Or you could read it as something bigger. Why wasn’t she controlling her sugar? And was it just sugar in food or was she not taking her medication to get her balance right? There’s such a lack of information surround her mom and her health. With all the stereotypes that being overweight means you’re unhealthy, it’s easy to see her mom and her death as something gross. My gut says there must have been so much more going on, but with the lack of information it’s truly hard to say what.

There is also a bit where someone tries to commit suicide. I wasn’t going to mention this part, but it keeps nagging at me. For me, it felt like a plot device. How it happened and how Georgia was involved allowed her to vent her frustrations about her mother not owning up to her problems/making Georgia and her father handle the final, crucial decision. It felt a bit out of place and nothing more than a way to tie up some loose ends. However, I will fully admit that I may be highly sensitive to this topic and that many readers won’t give it a second thought.

I know that I’ve pulled out quite a bit in the problematic area, but truth be told I did enjoy the story. I want to end with one of my favorite quotes, and one of the many things that readers take away from this book

But being brave isn’t about living every minute exhilarated. It’s about waking up and knowing that despite the worry and the sadness and the deep, dark fear, you’re going to go forth anyway. That you’re going to try anyway. That you have  choice, and you’re going to choose to live, today, bravely.

Final Verdict: A decent read, but not one without flaws. In fact, this will still be one I probably tell my teens to check out.

Book Review: If You Wrong Us

If You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr
Release Date: October 8th 2015 
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 240 
Source: Library

Becca and Johnny become entangled after a car crash steals the lives of two people they love. Officially, the crash is an accident. But Becca and Johnny are convinced: someone did this.

As they plot revenge against the person responsible, a bond—intense, unyielding, and manic—takes hold of them. And in an unexpected turn of events, they fall for each other.

Or so they think.

In an upside-down world where decay is beautiful and love and hate become one, Becca and Johnny find themselves grappling with reality. Nothing is exactly what it seems, including what they’ve come to believe about the crash. Question is: will they learn the truth before it’s too late?

No. The question is: when they learn the truth, will they care?

This is one of those books that I wanted to like so much, and tried to, but ultimately just couldn’t. The story itself isn’t bad. It’s a weird and twisted revenge plot where nothing is quite as it seems. The whole Gone Girl for teens is pretty accurate. Becca herself is a highly unreliable narrator and by the end it’s quite obvious that she’s mentally ill.  The ending is a bit rushed and it kind of falls apart as well. There were some “suspension of disbelief” moments , but none of that truly bothered me. In fact, it’s a quick fast read that I could have easily sold to reluctant readers had it not been for some highly problematic lines/issues that start popping up.

These issues started showing up pretty fast. In fact, on only page four we get this

I shift around in my seat, trying to get comfortable. It’s impossible because I’m stuffed into this desk-and-chair combo – much like Rosie is, sitting next to me jammed into her two-sizes-too-small bedazzled jeans.

There are so many other analogies that could have used. Why, why, why does it have to be this one? All it really serves is demeaning a female classmate. Sure, it forms an image, but does it have to be at the expense of a girl? Girls already have so many people yelling at them about their body, this does not need to added to their list.

The commentary on women’s body doesn’t end there. Less that 20 pages later, we’re given these lines:

Becca has no idea how hot she is, and that only makes her more appealing. pg 19

“Here, take this,” I add, shoving a granola bar into the chest pocket of her button-down shirt. I like my women with a little meat on their bones.” pg 20

No, no, no. A woman who lacks self-confidence is not sexy, and we do not need to be teaching our girls this. It’s okay, even good, to have self-confidence and know you’re beautiful. Also, can we please stop the commentary on what women should look like. I know this line was in a larger reference to her losing weight because of their revenge plot, but we need to express those words and not comments like “needing more meat on their bones”.

Speaking of weight, there are a couple of problematic lines on that as well. The worse offender is:

My brain is like a fat guy at an all-you-can-eat rib joint. Things are going along just fine, I consume, take things in just as I’m supposed to. But then, without warning, I reach out and grab something – a word, a phrase, a number – and it slips out of my greasy hands. pg 30

Again, I get what she is going at, but does it have to be at the expense of someone else. Why can’t it simply be “someone at an all-you-can-eat rib joint”? Why does it have to be someone that’s fat? It’s a stereotype that fat people eat/consume more than anyone else. It’s false and highly insulting.

The other line that deals with weight/unflattering description is

Mom checked in with an overweight blonde who smelled like perspiration and rubbing alcohol. pg. 49

This one seems not so bad compared to the other, but it still really bothered me. She’s overweight so she sweats more? I tried to find an angle that maybe she’s just moving around a lot, but she’s a hospital check-in desk person. Most likely, she is only manning the desk and maybe doing other light office jobs. Nothing that should make her reek of sweat.

There are other things that bothered me, like calling a psychiatric ward the Nut Hut, but the final nail in the coffin for me was the following passage

Call me sick, but I liked Travis’s dark side and the cloud of mystery and danger than hung over him. Brit didn’t understand this because she always got the attention. For me, it was new and exciting the way he fussed over me. I liked his possessiveness. It made me feel precious or something. pg 76

This passage comes a short time after we find out it’s rumored that he beat up his ex-girlfriend. Perhaps that’s not the dark side Becca  is referring to, but it’s the connection that I made. However, even if it isn’t, a relationship where someone is possessive is never good. This is an emotionally abusive relationship and it should not be spun as something good. Yes, I know there’s a twist to this passage that we learn later, but it still doesn’t make this passage okay. Her sister does try to use this fact to force Becca to break up with him, but it’s spun in a way that Brit just doesn’t want to be linked to the “talk” not that she’s worried he may be abusing her as well.

I know these passages seem small in comparison to the whole book, but I do think it’s still worth highlighting problematic things. It’s by no means an attack on anything, but something I believe we should be talking about.

Final Verdict: A fast-paced read with some problematic passages. It’ll be one that teens can still find on the library selves, but not one I promote/handsell.