Tag Archives: disability

ARC Review – Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl

Title: Kids Like Us

Author: Hilary Reyl

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Martin is an American teen on the autism spectrum living in France with his mom and sister for the summer. He falls for a French girl who he thinks is a real-life incarnation of a character in his favorite book. Over time Martin comes to realize she is a real person and not a character in a novel while at the same time learning that love is not out of his reach just because he is autistic.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was so excited when I received Kids Like Us because I have been wanting to read more stories that focus on characters with autism. I think my expectations were a bit too high, because when I started the book I was into it, then I hit the middle and wasn’t enjoying it, and then the ending happened. It was an interesting ending.

I think my biggest problem with this book is the very stilted narration. Martin’s voice, though I’m sure could be authentic, is very awkward. It also does one of my bookish pet peeves where the main character will say a word and then define it for the reader. It’s also a hard book to enjoy because I think at times Martin’s voice would fluctuate between a middle grader or a high schooler. The book is also so, so, so slow and given how short the book is, I found myself not liking the meandering pace that it had.

I see value in a story such as Kids Like Us, but ultimately I feel like it wasn’t to my taste, even as a reader who loves tough issue YA. Still, I feel like I did learn a lot about autism, but I’ve heard there are definitely better books out there on the subject. I think with the right reader this book can have the emotional impact I think it was trying to have, but it just didn’t work for me.

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ARC Review – Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern

25685283Title:  Just My Luck

Author: Cammie McGovern

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn’t found a new best friend. He’s still not a great bike rider—even though his brother George, who’s autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad’s recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom’s advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time. But when his dad ends up in the hospital again, Benny doesn’t know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life has thrown their way.

Just My Luck is a deeply moving and rewarding novel about a down-on-his-luck boy whose caring heart ultimately helps him find the strength to cope with tragedy and realize how much he truly has to offer his friends and family.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Cammie McGovern seems to have become an auto-read author for me as of late. There’s something about her novels where I find myself really connecting to her characters and their personal situations. Being that this was her first middle grade novel, I was a bit worried about how this was going to shake up. Turns out, it was fantastic ride that made me shed a few tears!

Benny is a delightful main character, and his voice is so delightful and genuine. He’s one of those kids who has a hard time making friends, mostly because he’s scared of being made fun of or hurt. He also has a brother with a disability, whom he shows great compassion towards, even if others do not. He confides in his Lego collection by making little movies as a means to share his love and passions.

Benny reminded me of myself when I was his age, although change Lego to Littlest Pet Shops. Like Benny, I’d spend hours of my day making elaborate stories with my Littlest Pet Shops, weaving new tales and seeing what kinds of antics the characters could get themselves into. Benny is also a kid who desires to be recognized, and when his school implements a Footprints Program (essentially, a good deed gets you a footprint with your name on it), Benny tries to put himself out there in ways, and I could totally sympathize with a lot of his feelings within the story.

I also loved Benny’s relationship with his family. His family is so supportive and strong, and yet they know they are also kind of a mess too. Benny’s family goes through so much in this tiny little book, and it’s amazing how much stronger they become in terms of dealing with their family problems. I thought the relationships between everyone were spectacularly writing, and easy to root for.

This book is just so genuine in every way. It leaves you thinking about how you were when you were a child, especially if you weren’t the most extroverted kid. This is my favourite book of Cammie McGovern’s to date, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

ARC Review – Shade Me (Nikki Kill #1) by Jennifer Brown

25773842Title: Shade Me

Author: Jennifer Brown

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.

Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.

The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?

Huge thank you to Katherine Tegen Books / Harper Collins Canada for the ARC!

River’s Review:

I am SO disappointed. I wanted to love this book so badly and alas it wasn’t meant to be. It had EVERYTHING going for it for me: synesthesia, kick-ass fighter girl, intriguing mystery… but sadly none of that really worked out well.

First I have to say that I felt like this story would have possibly worked better with a much older cast of characters. Possibly out of college 20-somethings. Ultimately I just felt like it was being forced into being a YA when it really should have been an adult (or even NA) mystery-thriller.

Anyways, Nikki Kill, our kick-ass MC, has synesthesia. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when your sense get kinda mixed up. Some people can see colors when they look at numbers or letters. When I was younger I was able to taste smells (like foods wold taste like the smell of something… I kinda outgrew it) so I always love reading books that deal with synesthesia. Nikki’s was the kind where she looks at numbers and letters and can see colors. She could also see colors connected to emotions. This… didn’t really work for me. It seemed a little too magical at times… like she was able to “predict” things by looking at people and seeing colors. idk. It just really felt a little far fetched at times. Then later on we find out that there’s another person running around with synesthesia who can apparently see the same colors ad Nikki does? I’m… pretty sure it doesn’t work that way. I don’t think that two people with synesthesia can experience things exactly the SAME WAY.

The mystery in this book was also not as mysterious as I’d originally thought it would be and hoped for. Everything felt so thinly connected and some of the conclusions that Nikki would jump to and have actually BE RIGHT just seemed to random and far fetched and just like really??? When we get to the BIG REVEAL I was just rolling my eyes so hard. And like every time Nikki would find a clue she was always like I KNOW BLAH BLAH BLAH with so much damn confidence that I was like ‘really? How do you KNOW?’ it was just really annoying.

The love interest was dumb too. I hated how quickly things went and how there was no development and suddenly there was ~love~. Just… Nikki was supposed to be this cold hearted bitch loaner chick and despite having no friends she has guys falling all over her. And wtf was up with the creepy detective? He kept following her around and wanting to take care of her and there was so much weird sexual tension and just… ew. I don’t care that she was 18 and legal, that dude had to at least be late 20s early 30s!

And the pretend to be a prostitute to get information crap… just again more no. More this is way too old for its characters.

Ugh so much ugh. Around page 350 I just wanted to put it down but kept going with the hope that something shocking was going to happen and it just never did.

Sam’s Review:

If I could describe Shade Me in two words, it would be ‘hot mess.’ The premise of this book is what drew me to it, and if I’m being honest, I spent a lot of this book so razzled and confused as to what the author was eventually trying to get at. Was this a noir? A thriller? An urban fantasy novel? Contemporary? It blends a variety of genres in terms of its presentation, but doesn’t excel at any of them.

I loved the concept of synesthesia, and that was what drew me to the story. However, I felt so confused in its usage during the novel. There were so many moments where I totally understood what Brown was using it for, and other moments where I was like “Okay… what?” and that really bugged me. I felt like I couldn’t connect to Nikki or how she saw the world, no matter how hard I tried as I read the book. It didn’t help that Nikki is such a bland character who just makes poor decisions (which is cool, she’s a teen, it’s allowed), but they are decisions where they are just odd or made me uncomfortable? There’s one scene in particular and as I was reading it on my way home from work that just made me go “WHO DOES THAT?!” to the point where I texted my co-blogger said response.

I think if the characters had been presented a bit older, like they were in college, I think aspects of this novel would have worked so much better. Horribly, I just didn’t like any of the characters, their motives felt shallow, and the plot just comes across to messy at times. A lot of the connections are hanging by tiny threads, and it’s just frustrating given how interesting the premise is.

It’s like wasted potential, especially given that we are told one think about NIkki’s emotions (how she is unfeeling) and yet she feels so much. Yet, there were times I admit, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I think with it being such a hot mess, part of me needed to see where this story was going to go. To be fair, I actually genuinely enjoyed the last forty pages or so, as I was completely engaged, and it was a solid, if predictable ending.

While this is my first Jennifer Brown novel, Shade Me has not deterred me from reading her back catalogue. I wish this had been a much more cohesive novel, instead of the confusing mess that it is. I think this novel will appeal to some readers, just don’t go into it thinking you’re getting a straight-laced thriller, because it just fumbles at any sort of genre convention it attempts to replicate. This isn’t a bad novel, but I admit, I think I hyped it up way more in my head, and was left sorely disappointed.

Late to the Party ARC Review – What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

20482713Title:  What Milo Saw

Author:  Virginia Macgregor

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Milo suffers from retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing, and he will eventually go blind. But for now, he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don’t. When Milo’s beloved 92-year-old gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo begins to notice things amiss at the home. The grown-ups won’t listen when he tries to tell them something’s wrong so with just Tripi, the nursing home’s cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill.

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

What Milo Saw is a very odd, yet interesting mystery novel. It stars a young boy with a unique disability called retinitis pigmentosa, meaning he will eventually go blind and can only see out of a small pinhole. Accompanied by his trusty pet pig, Hamlet, Milo investigates an occurrence that is happening at his grandmother’s nursing home.

If there’s one thing I adored about this book, it’s the exploration of elder abuse. Not only is elder abuse uncommon in media, but it’s topic that often goes completely undiscussed. A lot of the actions of Nurse Thornhill are quite vial, and while reading the novel you get this sense that although Milo is an armature sleuth, he still young and in a vulnerable position where he’s trying to understand the world from beyond a child’s perspective. He doesn’t feel like any adult would believe him if he told him what was actually happening, and given that Forget-Me-Not is a Nursing Home for those suffering from Alzheimer and Dementia, it makes for a tougher situation to prove.

That being said, it seemed odd that Milo had a disability in this story because from the perspective of how it’s written, given how little he can see, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for him. Everything came across a bit too easy and it seemed like it was written that he had more sight than was actually let on, and I found that rather disappointing, given that I love to read stories with diverse protagonists, but this aspect just feel very flat to me. What was the point in giving the character a disability if it’s not really predominate to how he views the world in the story? I mean, this is a fairly long novel, and given how little it’s mentioned while he’s attempting to solve the mystery behind Nurse Thornhill, it just didn’t work for me. That and Nurse Thornhill read like a caricature and not a character.

And yet, this novel is really genuine and funny. There’s so many wonderful, heart-warming moments that really make you feel for the characters in the story. I loved the relation Milo forges with Tripi, and I loved how important his Muslim roots are to him. I really adored Milo’s relationship with his grandmother and his determination to solve what was happening at the nursing home. If I had an gripes about Milo as a character, he came across a little too perfect at times. I mean, I understood how naïve, innocent and young he is, but that boy came across like he didn’t have any flaws.

What Milo Saw is an interesting and engaging read. It asks the readers to come face first with a topic that is seldom explored and it’s a pretty horrific one. It’s also a book that will provide so many feelings as your reading it — from anger, joy, frustration, and a sense of justice. What Milo Saw is a book that I think both young adults and adults can enjoy equally, as it asks the reader to put themselves in a very unique set of shoes

 

ARC Review – Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton

18371361Title:  Chasing the Milky Way

Author: Erin E. Moulton

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Lucy Peevy has a dream–to get out of the trailer park she lives in and become a famous scientist. And she’s already figured out how to do that: Build a robot that will win a cash prize at the BotBlock competition and save it for college. But when you’ve got a mama who doesn’t always take her meds, it’s not easy to achieve those goals. Especially when Lucy’s mama takes her, her baby sister Izzy, and their neighbor Cam away in her convertible, bound for parts unknown. But Lucy, Izzy and Cam are good at sticking together, and even better at solving problems. But not all problems have the best solutions, and Lucy and Izzy must face the one thing they’re scared of even more than Mama’s moods: living without her at all.

Huge thank you to Razorbill CA/Philomel for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Chasing the Milky Way may be one of the best stories I’ve read that deals with mental illness as a prime focus. The book follows Lucy, a budding scientist at the age of twelve, who has to grow up a little faster than the other kids because her Mama isn’t quite all there. Refusing to take her meds, and being… all out frustrating, Lucy questions what it means to dream, when her reality is something she is struggling to change where and now.

I loved reading about the relationship between Lucy, Mama and Grammie. Throughout the books you’d get these italicized bits that really looked deeper into how these three woman all co-existed, especially Grammie and Mama in the treatment and raising of Lucy. There’s so much emotion within these sections, especially the fighting and aggression. Lucy functions as an observer throughout the text, and she’s watching her Mama come a part at the seams. It’s heartbreaking and raw, and I think many of us understand and have been in this kind of situation — sometimes you just never know how you should respond.

I think what I equally loved about this book is the maturity aspect. This is a middle grade novel, but it’s one that feels light-years ahead in terms of the overall themes and concepts. Lucy is very intelligent and mature for her age, yet she responds in the way any twelve year old might when encountering mental illness — she attempts to rationalize it. But coming to terms with mental illness is never that simple, and I love how Lucy tries to find logic in her situation when there’s no easy way to respond to it. All her feelings are so real and that made the connection is.

And then there’s Mama. So frustrating and aggravating, and even hateful at times. There were moments where I should have hated her — hated the treatment of her daughter and mother, and yet I couldn’t. I just couldn’t hate this woman with good conscience because of her desperation — her need for help but her lack of acceptance and will to find it. There are so many people like this, and you always want to hope that they do get the help they rightfully need, but it’s not as simple as we think it is, and the book does an amazing job illustrating that point.

I was captured by Chasing the Milky Way from the very first page. Erin E. Moulton has crafted some wonderfully real characters who feel so human in how they respond to the world around them. Lucy is the kind of dreamer where you want all the good to happen to her, and the ending is so bitter sweet that when you get there, there’s almost this sigh of relief. This is one emotionally little book and one middle grade read that definitely should be on your radar.

Also Lucy wants to build robots. BEST CHILD EVER.

ARC Review – Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

18599754Title:  Say What You Will

Author: Cammie McGovern

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern’s insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Wow. So this book… was amazing. I don’t feel that any review I could write about it would portray how I really felt about it, so I’m going to just list a few things that I loved and the two points that I really disliked.

What I loved the most is how this book is so honest and raw and it takes really difficult subject matter and tackles it in a very accessible way. I loved the risks McGovern took with both Amy and Matthew. They both have problems and they both deal with them in very different ways. They both struggle, they seek out help, they learn and regress and move forward again. I loved the ups and downs they both went through, together and alone.

For the first half of this book it was a solid five-stars. I loved the way the story unfolded, the way we could see things from both Amy and Matthew’s sides, the genuine emotions that leapt off the page and and the writing was very rich. But in the latter half of the book, probably around 60-70%, it took a twist that I was not a fan of. Despite not seeing the twist coming AT ALL, after it happened, I was left with a few questions that were never answered and should have been asked or at least thought about. I also am just not a fan of that certain plot line. So that bumped it down a star for me.

Another thing that I didn’t really like was the way that Amy and Matthew would fight and it was like THE MOST DRAMATIC THING EVER. He walked out on her TWICE and she felt so justified in what she was saying and he felt so justified in what HE was saying and I know that they’re teens, but man. It got a little old.

Over all this was very solid and the rest of the reviews are nailing it. Y’all will definitely want to check this one out, especially fans of Eleanor & Park. Highly recommend this!