Tag Archives: death

Summer Contemporary Fling – The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

22429350Title:  The Start of Me and You

Author: Emery Lord

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2 / ★★★★★

Synopsis: Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics, The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Huge thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was my first Emery Lord book. I admit, I was afraid to tackle it given the high praise of Open Road Summer (which I own, but haven’t read yet). I was nervous to go into this considering how much a lot of my blogger friends love her books, but I’m glad I read this. The Start of Me and You, though it has a rocky start, ends on a satisfying note.

First off, I want to talk about Paige. I love the way she was written because unlike a lot of young adult novels, she felt and acted her age. Lord does this amazing job of making her voice and mannerisms so authenticate that when Paige behaves a certain way, it feels believable or right in the context of the situation. She’s nerdy, shy, a little reserved, and yet she wants to grow and become a stronger individual. She has aspirations for herself and her self-esteem, and she’s easy to cheer for because you see she wears her imperfections on her sleeve.

Paige faces the tragedy of her boyfriend dying in an accident, and she struggles to open her heart again. Enter Max, who by far might be one of the first YA love interests in awhile that I can say I rooted for. Max is darling, he’s hilarious, and capitalizes on his social awkwardness. In way, it makes him charming, darling and just plain funny. He has a lot of heart and like Paige struggles to put himself out there, but where he differs is that he’s more willing to make mistakes, get hurt, and learn from it. Lord provides both Paige and Max with a lot of depth, and what we have is a relationship that develops in a beautiful, organic way. There’s no insta-love, but you get this shy and awkward interaction between the two that feels very realistic.

Lord also does an amazing job of writing friendships. In a way it reminds me of reading a Robin Benway novel, where the protagonist has well developed friends who feel like real people and can be counted on. I thought Tessa and Kayleigh were adorable and I loved how much they cared for Paige and wanted her to grow as well. Heck, I even liked the way Paige’s family was portrayed, especially the relationship she has with her grandmother. I thought that was richly described and wonderfully touching. Not a lot of people can say they are super close to their grandparents, but Paige’s relationship with hers felt very strong, which is why I think it hurt all the more.

Like I said from the beginning, this is my first Emery Lord book and it definitely won’t be my last. I really enjoyed the level of depth that Lord carved into the relationships within the narrative and how everything felt neatly woven together. The book does have a difficult start and it might not capture the reader if you aren’t in the right mood to read a book like this. The Start of Me and You will tug at your heart-strings, and give you a story full of wonderful relationships and realistic characters.

River’s Review:

Last year I read Open Road Summer and was not impressed with it. I almost didn’t pick this book up, but I did. And I read half the first chapter and put it down. I wasn’t going to read it. Then I won a copy and Sammy added it to our Summer Contemporary Fling list sooooo I picked it back up.

And this book broke me. It was SO good (so much better than ORS in my opinion) and I just devoured it. I loved the friendships, I loved Paige’s voice, I LOOOOVED Max, and I love the family aspect too.

In this book Paige struggled with being The Girl Who’s Boyfriend Died. Two months into dating Aaron he dies in an accident and Paige is just left… floating in the wind. She’s torn between the fact that she wasn’t REALLY a huge part of his life (or his her) and how much she feels she should be grieving especially in comparison with his life long friends and family. Paige is terrified of drowning (how he died) and she struggles with PTSD as well. I thought this was interesting because Paige has this awful position of people feeling sorry for her and then herself questioning how much she should allow herself to feel sorry for herself. And she constantly asks herself if it’s okay to be happy. So she decides that this next year will be the year she gets back out there and she makes a plan (she’s a super realist and planner) to make the next year great.

And part of the plan is to date her super crush, Ryan Chase. Ryan used to be the golden boy but his longtime girlfriend breaks up with him over the summer and he basically falls down the social scale. Ryan is a cool guy tho, and he’s best friends with his cousin, Max. Paige randomly gets on Ryan’s radar and she befriend’s Max with the slight (but not like FULL) intention of getting closer to Ryan. Slowly Ryan and Max get pulled into Paige’s circle of friends and they all become really close. I LOVED this dynamic so much. I loved the girlfriend friendships and I loved the guy friend relationships. Each girl in the group has her own personality and while I enjoyed them, there were times I couldn’t keep them all totally straight. But other than that, the group was just so dynamic and I loved them.

Paige also has this amazing relationship with her grandmother and omg, that was such a bittersweet thing for me. I was SUPER close to my grandmother and when she died of cancer it was DEVASTATING for me. Paige’s grandma doesn’t have cancer, but she does have Alzheimer and lives in an assisted living center… much like my living grandmother at the moment. So that just made me cry like a million times and made this book so much personal for me.

I really loved Max and I loved his relationship with Paige. It was very much the perfect contemporary romance and I loved the growth of their friendship, the tension as they became something more, and the issues they faced with each other. It was just so emotional.

There were just SO many things in this book that really hit a lot of the right notes for me. I loved the family dynamic and how it was different but that the parents were present, I loved the sibling relationship and how it was there in the background. I loved the little side friendship that Tessa and Max had. I loved that Ryan and Paige became actual real friends. I loved that Paige and her friends seemed like actual real teens. And I even loved the down to earth teacher that pushed them and seemed like a real person.

This book was SO good and now I can’t wait for Lord’s next book!

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ARC Review – Me Since You by Laura Weiss

mesinceyouTitle:  Me Since You

Author: Laura Weiss

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old; a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.

If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother, and herself from the endless replay of heartache and grief.

Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC. I’m writing an honest review to say thank you.

Wow. This book is emotional. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried MULTIPLE TIMES while reading a book.

On Goodreads there are two different synopsis for this, and if you read the one attached to the hardcover, you’ll get some of the story spoiled… the one attached to the kindle version doesn’t say exactly what happens… but there is death and this is the story of losing a parent and dealing with the grief that follows.

There’s also a sub-plot with a dog that utterly wrecked me.

And this book deals with suicide and the way it was handled was really good. I hate it when books use suicide as a gimmick or plot device and this… was not. It was deep and terrifying and so utterly sad.

If you’re up for a really, really emotional book, this is worth a read.

Sam’s Thoughts:

Huge thank you to MTV Books and Netgalley for an advance reader copy of this book.

I was dreading reading this book, if only because my co-blogger told me repeatedly to brace myself for a lot of what the subject matter was about.

No matter how much I prepared myself, I knew I wasn’t ever going to be ready. This novel deals with the death of a father, a daughter who attempts to cope with grief, and a family that attempts to cling to each other in their time of loss. This is the situation I lived in now for almost a year, and while my father didn’t commit suicide like Rowen’s, I found myself easily connecting to her because of what she was going through.

This novel does not sugarcoat death, grief or loss. In fact, it’s realistic and does an amazing job of dealing with the more complicated emotions that exist when someone is grieving. Every time Rowan wrote in her grief journal, I found myself nodding along with her pleas. She wanted answers. I often find myself talking to my dad, whether it be in decisions I am making, or when I’m having a good cry. It’s hard because you often wonder why someone has been taken from you. There’s a feeling of abandonment, frustration, and relief takes along time to achieve. Admittedly, I know for myself, that I am not there yet.

Watching Rowan’s mother cling to her daughter is how I feel with my own mother. While my mother and I don’t fight the way Rowan and her mother do, I understood their frustrations. There’s a suffocating feeling with grief, and one you can’t endure alone. Moreover, it can be harder to grieve with someone else around you, but you learn to find strength in each other to keep moving and going. Rowan also had that in Eli, thankfully, because let’s face it — when you’re grieving you need the biggest support system you can find and one that respects when you want their friendship and when you need time alone. This book tackles all of this emotions and feelings with such ease and yet…

I had to put it down so many times. Not because it was a bad book, but because sections of it always felt too close to home for me. One scene in particular, Rowan’s father’s funeral, was done almost identical to my father’s, right down to the man wearing his work clothes in his casket. That image alone made me think back to my father’s funeral, and I knew I had to put the book away for awhile. This book is emotional and raw, and it’s not the best read for those dealing with loss. It’s not a book you seek comfort in, but how Rowan goes through the motions, the whirlwind — I’ve been there and I am still living it. That’s why for me, as painful as this read was, it was important as well.

There’s nothing light about Me Since You. It’s one of those books that deals with loss and grief in the right way but doesn’t force emotion or beg for the reader’s sympathy. Rowan isn’t a likable person, and in a way that’s why a lot of this novel works so well. This is a book you also need to be in the right headspace for, because if you’re like me and weren’t, the amount of angry and sad tears that will be shed are many.

ARC Review – Sorry You’re Lost, by Matt Blackstone

17934373Title:  Sorry You’re Lost
Author:  Matt Blackstone
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis:  When Denny “Donuts” Murphy’s mother dies, he becomes the world’s biggest class clown. But deep down, Donuts just wants a normal life—one where his mom is still alive and where his dad doesn’t sit in front of the TV all day. And so Donuts tries to get back into the groove by helping his best friend with their plan to get dates for the end-of-the-year school dance. When their scheme backfires, he learns that laughter is not the best medicine for all of his problems. Sometimes it’s just as important to be true to yourself.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Macmillian for giving me the opportunity to review this book. The opinions expressed are purely my own.

Denny’s story beings at his mother’s funeral. He is forced to accept a new change in his life — one that exists without the biggest influence in his life. I knew exactly where Denny was coming from having lost my father back in February of this year. It’s crazy to think how someone you had in your life every day can be gone in the blink of an eye.

I love that Blackstone doesn’t shy away from issues such as cancer in this novel. He doesn’t sugarcoat what cancer does, he makes the argument that regardless of age, cancer is something anyone can understand. What I love is that Denny wasn’t shy about asking questions related to his mother’s illness either. Denny has such a pure heart, he means well, but when loss happens, you soon realize how different you feel as a person.

The interaction between Denny and all the characters is really strong. Manny attempts to make Denny feel like the world hasn’t changed one bit, his teachers attempt to provide a sense of normalcy even if Denny doesn’t entirely think they understand what he is going through, and his father goes through a rough transformation as well: coping in a world without his beloved wife.

Having written pieces on loss myself, I feel like Blackstone hits the after-death-transformation dead on (pardon the pun). Sometimes we behave in ways that make us feel like we aren’t entirely ourselves, we act out because we want what we know isn’t possible, and sometimes we struggle to be ourselves because we feel like a small piece has been taken away. Yet, despite the darkness Denny feels, he gets into some crazy adventures (candy mafia!), goofs off, and still manages to keep a mostly lighthearted tone throughout. He’s a wonderful character who is supported by an equally strong ensemble cast and he makes the topic feel less painful in many ways because of it. The ending really broke my heart and then somehow I felt like it had been stitched back together.

I really commend Matt Blackstone’s efforts in making a realistic middle grade book about loss and how we cope. It’s not an easy feet to get younger readers to read about life and death in such a way where the effort can be truly personal and reflective. I feel like reader’s will have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this book, but ultimately there is such a beautiful story here that I can’t help but recommend. Denny is so easy to root for.