Realistic Fiction

The Sea of Tranquility

Five Stars

Title: The Sea of Tranquility
Author: Katja Millay
Publisher: Atria Books
Length: 426 Pages
Synopsis:

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

Overall Review:

This was a beautiful and emotional book. The characters were raw and damaged, which I found refreshing. I feel like a lot of times in YA the characters are very fluffy, but these ones were written so real it hurt. It was so character-driven, which is my favorite kind of writing- so I really enjoyed this book.

This book was a slow build, which worked perfectly for the plot. It wasn’t a boring slow, but more a strategic one that let me in to the story and to the characters in a natural way. Before I knew it, my heart was pounding and I had to catch my breath. The best part is that one of the passages in the book describes EXACTLY how it made me feel.

“When you look at her what do you feel? … Joy, fear, frustration, longing, friendship, anger, need, despair, love, lust.”
“Yes.”
“Yes, what?”
“All of it.” 

I particularly liked Nastya, who was pretty fragile and completely tough at the same time. She was smart and perceptive, even though she was sad and broken. Josh was kind of a loner, but he had the capacity to understand and protect. Between the two of them, they find a cautious romance that gets crazy heated as the story progresses.

The author has talent and it’s obvious through her words. I would love to read more of her work. She’s definitely on my must-read list!

FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Dark Touch

Four Stars

Title: Dark Touch
Author: Aimee Salter
Publisher: Alloy Entertainment
Length: 239 Pages
Synopsis:

Tully isn’t alone in her skin. Whenever she touches someone, they feel everything she feels. All her ugliness. All her darkness. All her pain.

The only thing she wants is to be left alone—and to finally get out of her small Oregon town. But then she meets Chris. He’s everything she’s not. Light. Trusting. Innocent. And he wants Tully. Tully knows she should spare him the heartache of being with her. But when he touches her, she’s not sure she’ll have the strength to push him away…

From the author of Every Ugly Word comes a poignant, emotionally raw story about the violence that plays out behind closed doors and the all-consuming passion of first love.

Overall Review:

In reality, I gave this book a 4.5. 4 stars just weren’t enough, but there were a few things that prevented it from receiving a 5.

Dark Touch was beautiful. It’s dark and raw and captivating and vulnerable. It was mature, but not too heavy for the Young Adult readership. It follows Tully, who goes through such a personal journey of acceptance and self love. This book stripped me down and messed with my minds in ways I did not expect. It was fantastically painful in parts, brutally honest, and very deep. I don’t even know how to accurately explain how I felt while reading it- it just moved me in a way a young adult book hasn’t in a long time and in a way I haven’t experienced.

Tully was raised by an abusive and alcoholic father after her Mom passes away. The abuse is horrific. It’s not a part of my life, but having it presented in such a way makes me truly feel for people who have been affected by it. It’s such a dark element of life, and while that was definitely portrayed, it was balanced with a message of hope in the form of Chris.

I liked the fantasy elements of the book, with Tully’s special ability and how it shapes her life. That was cool- it was melded into everyday life for her in a way that was smooth and seamless.

The main thing I had issues with was how tidy everything ended. When a book like this is so messy and so hard all the way through, a nice ending where everything works out just seems a little far fetched to me. Other than that, it was fantastic.

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Let’s Get Lost

Four Stars

Title: Let’s Get Lost

Author: Adi Alsaid

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Length: 339 Pages

Synopsis:

Five strangers. Countless adventures.One epic way to get lost.

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way.

Overall Review:

Let’s Get Lost had a lot of elements that I found charming. It touched on some very real struggles, as well as some very real and wonderful aspects of belonging to the human race. And the adventures…oh, the adventures. I love a book with mystery and exploration. All of the characters were pretty intriguing, but none of them were really very different from the characters I’ve read in the past. There were some repetitive elements in the plot, as well, but overall this was a pretty fun read.

The book follows Leila’s trip to Alaska (to see the Northern Lights!), but it’s told through other people she meets throughout her trip. This element didn’t work for me. I found myself frustrated with the different Points of View- they weren’t different enough, they were overly annoying, and I got the impression most of them were pretty passive characters. It contrasts nicely with Leila’s boldness, but it was still a rough spot for me.

I enjoyed the hints of sadness that were dropped from Leila’s overly bubbly personality. Someone that carefree is always hiding something, and I was refreshed when we finally got to hear the story from her own words. I didn’t really emotionally connect with her and her story, but I found her to be a very developed and interesting main character.
The biggest issue I had was the ending. It was too tidy. When there is emotional stuff going on and a lot of different elements that are brought up in the story, I kind of hate it when things resolve so nicely at the end.

All in all, though, it was a pretty good book and one that shows the talent of the author. I look forward to reading more of her works in the future.

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Walk the Edge

Four Stars

Title: Walk the Edge

Author: Katie McGarry

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Length: 448 Pages

Synopsis:

Smart. Responsible. That’s seventeen-year-old Breanna’s role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyberbully’s line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas “Razor” Turner into her life.

Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don’t belong. But when he learns she’s being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it’s time to step outside the rules.

And so they make a pact: he’ll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she’ll help him seek answers to the mystery that’s haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they’re both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they’re going from here.

 

Overall Review:

Walk the Edge was a really interesting read, and it dealt with some really raw and real emotions. I was surprised by how emotionally charged it was. The underlying theme seemed to be sacrificing for those you love, which is a noble and important message for everyone- especially teenagers and young adults.

While I enjoyed the story, it did fall a little flat for me in some places. The motivations behind the main plot seemed a little weak, and there were some inconsistencies with the experiences of the characters and the age range they were supposed to be. A teenager in a rough and tumble biker club, who can fix his bike and carries a gun, but also saves people was a difficult thing for me to picture. Also, a teenage girl who was basically forced to raise her younger siblings and also work mysteriously had plenty of time to spend with her bad boy boyfriend- the idea seemed far-fetched.

The story in general was good. Some parts were intense and the conflict was good. It went fast enough in certain parts that the excitement, but other parts were a little slower. The writing was easy to read and the prose was sophisticated. The relationships between the characters were realistic and sweet. Razor and Breanna had a weird dynamic- like they didn’t know each other but had this random cosmic connection that made them both go against their individual families. All in all, I think it was a good read and I would recommend it.

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From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Four Stars

Title: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Author: E.L. Konigsburg

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Length: 176 Pages

Synopsis:

When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run fromsomewhere she wants to run to somewhere–to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

Overall Review:

I think everyone has a secret dream of running away to a big city and secretly laying low away from authority. Or maybe that’s just me…but either way, it’s a fun notion. And that exact notion is why I loved From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Two kids run away to New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They solve all sorts of problems like how to stay hidden and how to get food, as well as solve a legitimate mystery, which is even more awesome. They skirt the cops, sleep in historical beds, bathe in famous baths, and privately enjoy priceless pieces of art. Granted, it would never fly in today’s digital world, but as a story based in the 60’s. it’s such a fun premise. It’s a great read for younger YA audiences.

The author did a good job with the characters. Claudia was the typical older sister and had all the traits to balance out her younger brother Jamie. They are such charming and enjoyable characters, and when you add them in to the eccentric Mrs. Frankweiler, it becomes an even more enjoyable ride. I definitely recommend this book- it’s such a fun read.

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Mind Games

Two Stars

Title: Mind Games

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: Harper Teen

Length: 304 Pages

Synopsis:

Fia and Annie are as close as two sisters can be. They look out for each other. Protect each other. And most importantly, they keep each other’s secrets, even the most dangerous ones: Annie is blind, but can see visions of the future; Fia was born with flawless intuition—her first impulse is always exactly right. When the sisters are offered a place at an elite boarding school, Fia realizes that something is wrong . . . but she doesn’t grasp just how wrong. The Keane Institute is no ordinary school, and Fia is soon used for everything from picking stocks to planting bombs. If she tries to refuse, they threaten her with Annie’s life. Now Fia’s falling in love with a boy who has dark secrets of his own. And with his help, she’s ready to fight back. They stole her past. They control her present. But she won’t let them take her future.

Overall Review:

Mind Games fell a little flat for me. I really wanted to like this one, but it just didn’t do much for me. It’s told from two points of view- one for each sister (Annie and Fia). The writing was pretty basic, but it works well for the targeted age group so I was okay with it. There were some flashbacks (okay- a lot of flashbacks) that made things a little confusing, but they were alright once you pushed through them. The thing I had the biggest issue with was the points of view. They weren’t markedly different, which is something completely necessary when using two POVs. Another problem was the relationship between the sisters, which was positioned as “strong and unbreakable.” We’re told that many times, but there weren’t many examples of that in the actual work itself.

The premise of the book is interesting- with one sister blind and only able to see the future. The other sister, Fia, is an assassin who is forced to kill to protect bad things from happening to Annie. It unfortunately doesn’t do much in regards to character development. I found the sisters both whiney and selfish- and they didn’t get any better or grow into themselves as the story progressed.

The plot line was actually very interesting, with great twists and entertaining bits. The last couple of chapters were probably the best in the entire book- I was surprised with how it ended and how well thought out it was.

As a whole, it was a rocky read for me, and not one I can recommend to others.

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