The Bones of Who We Are Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As you know, my weakness in my book life is YA. A few weeks ago I shared my thoughts on Swimming Sideways, and I loved it so much that I DM’d the amazing author and totally bonded. So when C.L. Walters reached out to me to be part of the The Bones of Who We Are I literally jumped at the opportunity.

The Bones of Who We Are, by C.L. Walters, dives into the realities of friendship, family, and personal growth.

The amazing characters pick up right where they left off, but this time we get Gabe’s story. The amount of build up to this will have you skimming pages to get to the good stuff, although the entire novel is quite fabulous. My goal is to not give anything away because I don’t want to ruin that reader moment for anyone.

Walters has a way of creating the most genuine characters I have ever come across. In The Bones of Who We Are, two characters really packed an incredible punch that have such positive impacts on Gabe’s life.

Martha, Gabe’s adoptive mother, has been depicted as the quintessential housewife. The woman makes fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies every day with an apron. But, we discover that Martha is an incredibly strong woman. We get a glimpse into her past during a heartfelt conversation with Gabe. Underneath the perfect mom, is a ferocious mama bear who has the biggest heart I have ever seen in literature. The love that she has for Gabe and the need to protect him reminds me of Lily Potter. Martha will stop at nothing to get her son what he needs to learn in a healthy environment. As a teacher and parent, I hear this story so many times from mom’s of classified students who have to fight for their children. Martha symbolizes the strength it takes to raise a child who is different in a world that is not understanding.

Dr. Miller, Gabe’s psychologist, is a true team player. We go back in time to the first session, and it’s clear that Doc Miller has way with children. I love how he is able to guide Gabe through the healing process with such kindness and heart. He is the glue in Gabe’s life. Dr. Miller’s insight is powerful and leaves readers to ponder their own lives. He is a pillar of strength in Gabe’s support system.

Along with incredible characters, Walters really dives into the themes of family and friendship. Families today look very different than families from fifty years ago. Families deal with addiction, separation, divorce, and abuse in a very judgmental society. Through Gabe’s story, Walters shows readers that a family does not have to be made up of biological parents and children. Family can be defined by those who love, fight, and protect one another. This is a very powerful message for readers today. It let’s them know it is okay not to have the perfect nuclear family. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect family.

Friendship is a re-occurring theme in Walters’ novels, and she continues to dig deeper into this concept with each novel. In The Bones of Who We Are, forgiveness is seen between all of the characters. They learn that regardless of what was done in the past, it is possible to move forward with relationships. True friendships have a solid foundation that can withstand anything, as we see with Seth, Abby and Gabe. The quality of friends is more important than the quantity.

Personally, I think that every reader can relate to Gabe. Throughout the novel, he is battling some serious internal conflicts that have plagued him for years. It is as though Seth’s accident and life/death situation has forced Gabe to battle through demons of his past. We see him contemplating suicide while extremely intoxicated in order to deal with Seth’s condition. Gabe’s personal growth is really explained in the second part of the book. We see his physical change in actions (sitting in the cafeteria again) but we also see some symbolism with his wardrobe. He exchanges his black hoody based attire for lighter colored clothing. It’s as though Abby has literally brightened his world. I love that he takes Dr. Miller’s advice of working through situations because it allows Gabe to morph into a stronger individual.

The Bones of Who We Are is an incredible book that I would recommend for readers 15 and up. There is some mature language and content included in this text. I truly can’t say enough about these amazing novels.

 

 

Swimming Sideways Book Review

It’s no secret that I LOVE a good YA novel. I’ve realized that I tend to gravitate towards dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi work, so it was nice escaping into a a realistic fiction piece.

Swimming Sideways, by C.L. Walters, is a relatable YA novel that focuses on the importance of family, love and friendship.

Our main character, Abby, has just moved from Hawaii to Oregon with her family (parents and twin brothers). Her parents are hoping for a fresh start so they can work on their marriage. Abby is hoping for a fresh start because of events that were out of her control in her old school (that involved social media).

As an older sibling myself, I love how protective Abby is when it comes to her family. Even though she is hurting from her own social media situation, she hides it from all the members of her family so they don’t have to worry, suffer, etc. She carries her secret alone and deals with the emotional side effects. Her pain is felt in the first few pages and readers question why there’s a Good Abby and a Bad Abby.

Abby’s home life is also not as clean as one would hope. It’s clear that her parents are having marital problems and the family is struggling emotionally. Usually, the YA books I read only focus on the love part of being a teenager, but Swimming Sideways also tackles the reality of problems at home. The realness that Walters created with this conflict not only puts readers in Abby’s shoes, but also shows adults how children are affected by words and actions. The use of Abby’s point of view really does shed light on how a teenager interprets experiences.

As with any great piece of literature, there’s a little bit of a love triangle. Abby spent time in Oregon growing up with her grandma, who happened to be neighbors with Seth. The two of them pick their friendship right up and start to date. Meanwhile, Abby is fascinated by the school “freak” Gabe, and makes friends with him. And just to thicken the plot, Gabe and Seth used to be best friends. If I say anymore I will give away some of the plot, but Walters does a beautiful job of showing readers that friendship is the foundation of a good dating relationship.

One of my favorite characters was Abby’s new best friend Hannah. Hannah approaches Abby in the cafeteria on her first day of school and goes out of her way to make Abby feel welcome. Through all that happens over the course of the novel, Hannah never leaves Abby’s side, providing a safety blanket that teenage girls need, especially in social situations. This reminds readers that it isn’t the quantity of friends, but the quality that is most important. There were a few times I wanted to reach through the pages and hug Hannah for being a true friend.

As a teacher, I know some of the situations my students have dealt with in their personal lives. What really drew me into this story was how so many real life situations are woven into this text. Dealing with relationships, family problems, abuse, social media, and the social pressure of being a teenager all come together in such a realistic way. The ending does leave readers on an intense cliff hanger, so be prepared.

This was one of those books that I stayed up all night reading. I messaged C.L. Walters on Instagram the next day because I had to tell her how sucked in I was (and that I was grateful the second book was already out).

I would recommend this book for students in grades 9-12, parents of teenagers, and teachers working with high school students.

For more information check out the author’s website here

The Fever King Book Review

I really feel like my TBR pile has exploded in the last few weeks. I feel truly touched that authors and agents have reached out to me for book reviews, so be prepared for a lot of great new texts appearing on this little blog in the near future.

In the past I have reviewed books I’ve won from Goodreads giveaways (see Dating a Quarterback Secret #3). Today I’m sharing another one of my wins!

Fever King, by Victoria Lee, is a YA political novel about trust, love, and change.

The setting is futuristic in America that is no longer the country we all know. We follow Noam, a teenage boy, as he navigates the world among refugees, a virus, and a very tense political climate. Early on, Noam is infected with the virus and turns into a witching (a survivor of the virus with magical powers). His magic is so special, he is to be trained with the most elite witchings and has private tutoring sessions with Lehrer. Lehrer is the most powerful witching, who survived the catastrophe that transformed America over a hundred years ago.

In all honesty, it took me a while to wrap my head around the history of story. While texts like The Hunger Games are super straightforward about the history, Fever King was not as upfront. There are bread crumbs here and there to provide the reader with more background (letters, videos, etc), but it was hard for me to keep all of the information straight. I’m also not very big into politics to begin with, so my brain isn’t used to reading about political issues in a text. In my opinion, this text is a HUGE social commentary, and the timing of it is perfect with our current society.

I realized while reading this text, that most popular YA novels have a female main character, so it was quite a treat to have a male one. Noam is an incredibly intelligent, mature and responsible individual. It is also revealed that he is bi-sexual, which I loved. Since it is a YA book, there is a hint of romance, but it is not the center of the plot. Noam is a character that does wrong things for the right reason. He has difficulties trusting others and takes this very seriously. He is an extremely loyal individual, until he has a reason not to be.

I can honestly say I haven’t read any other books that are similar to Fever King. Between the heavy politics, bi-sexual romance, and complicated relationships, this book keeps readers on their toes. While reading the last few chapters, I found myself skipping lines to find out what happens next.

One aspect that caught my eye right away was style of writing. Usually YA books are written on a less complex writing level, making it user friendly for readers in middle school. Fever King‘s sophisticated writing is definitely geared towards an older audience, I would suggest sophomores and up. I can’t wait for the next book!!

Project Dandelion Book Review

My reader heart has been so happy the last few weeks with reading new YA books. Even better are YA dystopian novels.

Project Dandelion by Heather Carson, is a YA dystopian novel about the potential end of life in the US.

Katrina wakes up in a fall out shelter after multiple nuclear explosions have occurred. Like the other teenagers in the shelter, she has the Dandelion Gene, making her super adaptable. Like all heroines in YA dystopian novels, there is something different about Katrina. She tries not to get attached to the others (like her father told her), she uses her knowledge of survival skills to devise a plan for when the doors open, and she always seems to be one step ahead of the game.

The plot reminded me of Maze Runner, but a much more straight forward and quick read. I kept waiting for a plot twist with Nanny dropping a bombshell on the group, but the 14 days spent in the shelter moved along quickly. It didn’t feel as drawn out as The Hunger Games, which makes this a great read for students who struggle with reading stamina and comprehension.

While reading, I did have a few reader questions that weren’t answered. Why a dandelion? How does the government know the teens have this gene? Is there something more than these kids just being able to adapt well? None of these were answered in Book 1, so I’m curious if Carson will address some more of the back story in the next book.

As primarily a middle school teacher, I really appreciate YA texts that are appropriate for grades 6-12. The only little comment that raised a teeny tiny red flag was when Lark told James he just wanted to get laid. Personally, I think this will go over most middle schoolers heads, so I would still recommend it to readers in grades 6-12. There is a little bit of a flirting between Katrina and James, but it is purely innocent.

For more information visit the author’s website here.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Bound in Silver Book Review

I’m currently on a YA kick and I’m enjoying every second of it. I keep finding myself taking screenshots of books that I see on Instagram, which is how I found out about this lovely text.

Bound in Silver, by Marie Grace, is the total YA fantasy fangirl novel.

We follow Arabella Grace as she navigates the typical teenage issues (school, boys, the death of her grandparents) but her world gets turned upside down when she discovers she is a Clock Keeper. As readers, we experience her training, changes in her relationships with those around her, and the strides Arabella makes with her personal growth.

As a die hard YA fangirl myself, I LOVED all of the amazing references to Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, City of Glass, etc. I truly felt that the character of Arabella embodies girls like me (minus the super hero thing), which made me want to be her best friend. The first person narration made so many text to text connections (there were one or two I actually did not know) which made me appreciate the plot more because I was able to understand the significance of the events.

And just like all fabulous YA novels, there was a love story in the mix of fighting, Shadows, swords, and nightmares. However, unlike Twilight, this text downplays the love to explain more of the plot to set up future books. There is no mushy gushy nonsense happening. Each Clock Keeper has an Anam Cara, a true soulmate. As a romantic, I fell in love with this concept. It did remind me of parabatai from City of Bones, but on a much more intimate scale. The vow that is spoken to connect Anam Caras together is beyond beautiful and it should totally be part of future wedding vows for book lovers.

As a teacher, I really appreciated how the author was able to capture teenage thoughts without including curse words and nudity. It’s a little more conservative than Divergent and City of Bones, but the feelings and emotions are still powerful between the characters.

One of the overall themes of the novel is good vs. evil, and we see that with the constant mention of light and dark imagery. The Shadows, white ink tattoos, black ink tattoos, all express the importance of good vs. evil in the plot. Personally, I enjoyed how obvious the symbolism was because it allowed me as a reader to enjoy the story more. For struggling readers, especially high school students, this is a great way for them to make inferences and draw conclusions without feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

Without giving away any spoilers, I will say the plot kept me engaged, and it really ramped up the last two chapters. All of a sudden the book was over and I was left wanting more. The end doesn’t stop abruptly, but it definitely makes you want to start the second book right away (which I am trying very to wait patiently for).

Overall, I would recommend this book for any YA fantasy fans in grades 6-12.

Blood Book Review

My favorite genre is 10000% YA. I’m fortunate where I get to share my love of these amazing texts with my students. During our class discussions we often compare works to Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, and Divergent. I’m always on a quest for the next series to completely suck me into a different world, and I just found one!

Blood by Kirsten Krueger, is a fantasy young adult novel about people with special powers (Affinities). Readers follow a group of new students who are learning about their unique abilities and how it impacts the world around them.

I had the privilege of meeting this author at my writing workshop meeting a few weeks ago. We attended the same high school and grew up in the same town (such a small world). In speaking with her, we learned that her writing is based on Harry Potter fan fiction. After reading this novel, I can totally see it!!

My number one favorite aspect about this piece are the characters. Hands down they are the most entertaining and engaging characters I have come across since City of Bones. The dialogue is filled with sarcasm, sass, and brutal honesty that captures the true attitude of a high school student. I actually caught myself loling for a solid 30 seconds during the scene with the students in the van when Adara freaks out over Kiki and Seth’s mushy gushiness.

Adara is an incredibly hard young lady (although she’d probably yell at me for calling her a lady) that many students can relate to. She has a very heavy guard up, which makes sense based on her history, and her mouth is razor sharp. While the point of view is third person, it doesn’t always stay on the main character, which I liked. The shifts in POV don’t distract the reader from the action, but rather is used to explore more personal feelings and experiences of other characters at just the right points in the plot.

As in Divergent,  Blood also alludes to some political commentary. The Affinities pose a threat to the US government and the presidential candidates are in favor of imprisoning these individuals. Usually writers focus on corrupt governments in YA novels like this, but Blood didn’t go in that direction. Instead, it looks like it will be a key piece of the plot in book #2 like a domino effect.

Personally, the plot felt a little drawn out to me during my reading. However, as the story went on, I realized it was so detailed to provide readers with a clear image of the dynamics between the characters and background information for the next book. The last two chapters did make everything come together, but also left me with some questions.

I would recommend this book for high school readers because of content and language used. Just as a heads up, it has 502 pages. It reminds me of a grown up version of Harry Potter, mixed with a little bit of City of Bones and Divergent.

For more information on the author click here.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Dating the Quarterback (Secret # 3) Book Review

A few years ago I was looking for free books for my classroom library, and I stumbled on the giveaway section on Goodreads. About a month ago I entered a bunch of giveaways for young adult and children’s books not expecting to win anything. Well, I won three!!

Dating the Quarterback (Secret #3) by Emily Evans is a young adult romance novel. We follow the main character, Chelsea, as she tackles her love life while trying to get a letter of recommendation from a teacher to get into the college of her choice.

YA is by far my favorite genre. Part of me will always be a 16 year old girl, so romance YA books are my guilty pleasure. Dating the Quarterback is a fun novel that includes all aspects that appeal to teenage girls: boys, money, trips, and clothes.

I absolutely loved that Chelsea is an intelligent young lady. She has big dreams of becoming a doctor and works her butt off to make her senior year of high school the best she can academically. Her maturity made me forget that she’s still a teenager.

My only issue I had with this book is the choppy plot. I was confused a few times by the switch of scenes/time frames a few times before I got familiar with the pacing. It felt a little stop-start for me, which caused me to put the book down a few times because I would lose interest. I will say that even though I wasn’t a fan of the vision in the beginning, I really enjoyed how Evans incorporated the idea throughout the novel, especially at the end.

As a teacher, I always worry that some of the content may be a little too mature for my students. This novel was super conservative about the relationship budding between Chelsea and Sterling, which I really appreciated. I would feel completely comfortable giving this text to even my middle school students.

I will admit that I have never come across books by Emily Evans until this win, but that will be changing :).