Tag Archives: harper collins

Books I Reviewed For the Library – Issue #1

One thing I now have to do as part of my job is review and curate our Fave Books of the Month lists. I do reviews for both our middle grade selections and young adult, and it’s easily one of the more interesting parts of my job because essentially I am reviewing titles that I want to see succeed in the library’s collection. I’ve also actively been picking titles I don’t have ARCs for or items that have already released so our customers can enjoy them right away. Here’s two reviews I did for our collection maintenance. 🙂

Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co. #1) by Anna James – Have you ever wanted the ability to travel into your favourite books? Anna James’ “Tilly and the Bookwanderers” is a bookworm’s dream! Tilly is a young girl who lives in her grandfather’s book shop, spending her days reading and devouring stories. When she accidentally meets Anne Shirley from “Anne of Green Gables,” shenanigans begin, and Tilly must come to terms with the fact that her favourite stories have come to life and that perhaps, there’s a larger mystery afoot. “Tilly and the Bookwanders” is filled with magic on every page, and is one of those books that feels like a nice warm hug when you read it. One of my favourite elements of this story was anticipating who Tilly would meet next! This is a love-letter to bookworms everywhere, and is a complete must read for those who love to dream about their favourite stories.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell – Freddie and Laura have a routine – they fight, the break up, they kiss and then they make up. At least, that was the story for awhile. When Freddie catches Laura in the act of cheating, she begins to question the healthiness of their relationship and what kind of a friend it makes her. This book is an emotional roller-coaster, especially for anyone who has dealt with a toxic relationship. Freddie is forced to question her actions and determine the kind of person she wants to be, which I think many readers will be able to relate to. The artwork in this graphic novel is gorgeous and flows beautifully with the story as well. “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me” is about finding your support networks and reminding yourself that you don’t have to put up with people treating you like crap.

ARC Review – Replica (Replica #1) by Lauren Oliver

28448287Title: Replica (Replica #1)

Author: Lauren Oliver

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

Molly’s Review:

Lauren Oliver is such a hit or miss author for me. I tend to LOVE her contemporary books and then just feel kinda meh about her other stuff. I wasn’t a huge fan of her Delerium books and Replica had a very similar vibe to those books which is partially why I think I didn’t LOVE this book. And I really wanted to love this book.

I also have a little bit of an issue with the ~unique structure~. Because it didn’t really feel that unique at all. When this book first appeared I was very curious to see how it could be read three different ways. I actually had pictured something WAY different in my head. But it’s basically two books that are just dual narratives that were split in half. I feel like you could do this with any dual narrative third person POV novel. But the three ways you can read this book are:

Read Gemma’s story start to finish.
Read Lyra’s story start to finish.
Read them while alternating the chapters. You can do every other chapter (that’s how I did it) or every two, three whatever.

It is literally just a dual POV narrative that was deconstructed. I honestly got annoyed because I had to have two bookmarks!

Anyway, the writing is solid Lauren Oliver. I didn’t feel much for the characters, I didn’t really care for the romance, and I was able to see every twist and turn that came our way. A lot of things happen very coincidentally and just kinda “work out”. I did find a lot of the concepts interesting, but there wasn’t as much mystery as I would have liked, and nothing really WOWed me.

I do think I’ll read the next one though just to see what’s going to happen because we WERE left with a lot of questions.

Overall though, not my favorite by her.

ARC Review – The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor #1) by Katharine McGee

24921954Title:  The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor #1)

Author: Katharine McGee

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. 
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

I REALLY enjoyed this book. Way more than I had expected to. It is very “Gossip Girl”, but I think it also has a lot of the diversity that Gossip Girl is lacking. And a lot of the diversity isn’t IN YOUR FACE THIS BOOK IS DIVERSE but it’s a lot more quiet. And that’s something that isn’t being said. So I thought I should point it out.

I wasn’t really big on the multiple POV, but the voices were all so different that I wasn’t lost or confused at any point. And I really actually enjoyed the story from each one. I loved the futuristic aspects, and the idea of the Tower was cool (idk how practice it actually would be, but whatever scifi, whatever).

This was a unique twist on a typical contemporary YA. The writing was good, the characters were all fleshed out, and the writing was really well done. I’ve heard some things about this book that people didn’t like (like insest) but most of the things that I heard people didn’t like either didn’t bother me or wasn’t really THAT WAY. So I guess if you’ve heard some of those things just go into this book with an open mind.

I’m really glad that I gave this one a shot.

ARC Review – The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno

23253261Title: The Lost & Found

Author: Katrina Leno

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: LOST: Frannie and Louis met in an online support group when they were both younger. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.

FOUND: They each receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC of this for review.

Molly’s Review:

So I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of this from the author AND an ARC from the publisher (which I gave away on twitter) and I cannot wait to get my finished copy. If you know me you know that I LOVED Leno’s debut, and that I’ve forged a friendship with her on twitter. I have been dying for this book and then when I got it I was almost scared to read it because I had such high expectations.

This book went on a journey with me and I think it was the perfect companion and I’m kinda glad that I waited for the perfect moment to read this. I went to visit my family last week after not having seen them in two years. This trip was special to me and I knew that it was going to change me in some unknown ways. And this book is about that kind of journey. About following your instincts and finding yourself. I needed this book to be with me and I’m so lucky that I had it.

I love Leno’s writing and I could read her stuff for hours. I cannot wait to get more of her books in the future. I also love her characters, they’re all so naturally complex and diverse. She throws A LOT of diversity into this book, but it’s all very quiet and isn’t forced. It wasn’t done to make the book diverse, it was just the way that the pieces fell. Frannie has a very troubled past filled with mental illness. Louis is half Indian, as is his twin sister, and he suffers from PTSD and OCD tendencies. He’s an insomniac (something that I could SO relate to) and his sister is a disabled amputee. But this is NOT a story about their diverse characteristics, but about the characters themselves. And I loved how masterfully Leno was able to craft that into her story.

Frannie and Louis are both suffering from traumas in their past and they are both trying to find the things that they lose (literally, these things just vanish). There is an element of magical realism in this book (at least that’s how it read to me, it could be different for others) and I loved that so, so, so very much. Frannie and Louis are online friends and they met through a group of trauma survivors. And by a twist of fate they end up having the chance to meet in real life. They both head to Texas for their own reasons, on their own journeys, with their loved ones (Frannie with her cousin and Louis with his sister), and are just lucky enough to have the chance to meet.

The story is told in alternating POV chapters and usually I hate this but it worked really well because we got to see both sides of the story and each character’s journey from their own POV. I loved how things began to merge and the different experiences and growth that they all had. The side characters in this book are wonderful and complex and amazing.

I really loved how unconventional this book was. You think it’s going to be one thing and it pulls the rug out from under you and is something totally different. Yes there is a love story, yes there is a friendship story, yes there is a sibling story. But they are not what you think they’re going to be. And it’s a happysad ending. I was so satisfied.

ARC Review -Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi

25263136Title: Autofocus

Author: Lauren Gibaldi

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude. And when she is given a senior photography assignment—to create a portfolio that shows the meaning of family—she doesn’t quite know where to begin. But she knows one thing: without the story of her birth mother, who died when Maude was born, her project will be incomplete.

So Maude decides to visit her best friend, Treena, at college in Tallahassee, Florida, where Maude’s birth mother once lived. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena has changed. With a new boyfriend and a packed social calendar, Treena doesn’t seem to have time for Maude—or helping Maude in her search.

Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude in her search, she starts to find that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

Last year I read Lauren Gibaldi’s debut, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES and fell in love with her work. TNWSY was one of my favorite books last year and it was such a special book for me because it had a lot of things that paralleled with my own teen life.

And the same can be said of Autofocus. Personally this book hit close to home because my own mom is adopted. And as an adult she went through some of the same things that Maude did with finding out (for my mom it was straight up finding because her birth mother is still alive) about her birth mother. It wasn’t very pretty, much as it was for Maude. And I was able to really connect with that part of the book.

The other part that I connected with was how Treena was acting while at college. I went away for my 2nd year of college to a big school (first year I was at home at a smaller school and then transferred) and wow, a lot of what Treena did and how she acted was how I did. To be honest Maude reminded me of my Before College self and Treena reminded me much of my First Year of College self. I didn’t drink, never really thought of it, didn’t really spend much time (or have much experience) with guys, then I was brushing off friends for guys that I was interested in. I was trying to find myself and pushing people away and at the same time trying to figure out if what I was doing was even what I wanted to be doing. It was a mess and it took a few years for me to figure things out but I did and I’m sure that these characters will too. But it was just so true to life, and that is something that I ADORE about Gibaldi’s writing!

I also really love the female friendships that she writes. They’re true and complex and messy and full of love. I really enjoyed the relationship between Treena and Maude and how they were willing to be themselves, to hash things out, to share and love and forgive.

Another thing that Gibaldi does well is write male characters. Okay, she basically writes about guys that I grew up with and was friends with. SHE BASICALLY JUST WRITES MY TEEN LIFE OKAY.

In this book we have a nice mix of characters too. Treena is Indian and her parent’s moved to America after they got married. Treena has spent time in India and grew up in a very Indian community. I loved that this was in the book because Gibaldi has the experience to write this. I know from social media that her husband and extended family is Indian and I loved that she used that resource and experience to write about Indian characters. I loved that Maude was adopted and grew up in a loving family but still had questions about her birth mother and her origins. I loved that Bennett was such a good guy and that Trey was such a jerk but that they were both rich characters that were representative of the types of people that you encounter in life.

I am so sad that I have to wait for MORE writing from Lauren Gibaldi because is a fav author now and I will read anything she writes.

ARC Review – What’s Broken Between Us by Alexis Bass

23633796Title:  What’s Broken Between Us

Author: Alexis Bass

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: A year and a half ago, Amanda Tart’s brother got behind the wheel drunk and killed his best friend. Today, he’s coming home from prison.

Amanda’s been the one living with the fallout, made worse by her brother’s recent unapologetic TV interview. People think he’s a monster. Still, she loves him. It’s her dark secret, until she starts getting close to Henry again–whose sister is paralyzed from the accident.  A year and a half ago, her brother destroyed his life. Now Amanda has to decide if she’ll let his choice destroy hers.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this!

River’s Review:

I will admit that I didn’t think I was going to like this book. And I was surprised that I flew through it in one sitting and got really into it. I ABHORRED Jonathan from page one and I was so glad with how things ended up with him. It was interesting to see how he didn’t go the predictable route and try to embrace his second chance.

This is the story about a group of friends who’s world has been cracked because of a careless mistake. We’ve all seen the drunk driving crash photos. I’ve thankfully never lost someone to drunk driving but it’s a very real fact in life. Jonathan crashes his car after WAY too many drinks and kills one of his best friends and severely injures his girlfriend. Due to a few legal issues he’s let out of jail early and returns to his home and family.

Amanda, Jonathan’s younger sister, had always enjoyed living in her brother’s shadow. Jonathan was the cool guy that everyone wanted to be friends with. He partied hard, had the best friends, and made anyone (sister included) popular by association. After the accident Amanda feels that she’s responsible for basically saving face for her family. She doesn’t allow herself to be angry at her brother, she doesn’t allow herself to grieve for Grace (the girl who died who was ALSO her friend), and she keeps everyone at arms length.

In steps Henry, the brother of the girlfriend, who was Amanda’s almost boyfriend. I had some issues with the way things happened between Amanda and Henry, but overall I liked him and them. I did NOT like how incredibly stereotypical the story was about how Henry and his family were from the UK. I get that HENRY himself was often playing up the fact that he had an accent and spoke British English, but there’s a moment when Amanda and Henry are hanging out, basically watching TV and making out… while eating fish and chips. FOR REAL. I’m sorry I don’t care how British you are, you don’t deep fry some battered fish and make french fries while hooking up with a girl! That’d be like if one of them was Japanese and they were eating sushi. Come on. And who just has ~fish and chips~ laying around in their fridge? (Other than British people apparently). Give them a pizza and be done with it. Stuff like that really takes me out of the story and drives me nuts (yes I AM a cultural accuracy nitpicker/ stereotype police).

Anyway, this is an ugly-pretty people story where there’s not really anyone to root for and not really a happy feeling in any of it. I like dark stuff like that though, and I was really happy to NOT root for certain characters and see them get what they fucking deserved.

ARC Review – Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

21393526Title: Magonia

Author: Maria Dahvana Headley

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.  Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

Huge thank you to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Wow, just wow. This book is so uniquely weird. If you don’t like weird books or unique writing styles, this wont be for you. But if you do, or you’re curious, try this. It’s amazing. It’s JUST weird and unique enough without falling into the “purple prose” category or the ‘wtf is going on” category.

Aza is a girl who is sick and tries her best to deal with it. She’s sassy and witty and dark. She knows that death could claim her at anytime and her family and her best friend deal with it the best they can. Her family is quirky, her best friend Jason is a mad genius, and Aza has no filter and knows no bounds. She lives her life and when it comes time she lets go.

And is taken up into the sky to a place called Magonia where birds transform into people (who have a lot of bird-like qualities) ships sail in the sky, whales make weather, and song can control all things.

The writing in this book is just the type that I love to read. It makes you work a little, makes you think a lot, and just flows. I know that a lot of people don’t like this and there ARE books that are similar that I’ve had a lot of trouble with (Grasshopper Jungle kept coming to mind while I read this, but that book was just TOO much for me, while this was just right). I loved how quirky everyone was and yet so normal. I loved how Jason was just a touch crazy at times. I loved how Aza was so manic about things.

The world building is exquisite. On the ground we learn about Aza’s disease and how it’s handled and then we’re slowly fed ideas about this place above the clouds and when we go there with Aza it’s just breathtaking how everything unfolds. How Aza came to be how she is, and how she plays into this larger issue that Magonia is having. How her mother, her biological mother, lost her and found her an is she really a good person?

This book does take a little work and it’s a slower read than most books. I took my time with it and I’m glad that I did. I highly recommend this!

ARC Review – Little Peach by Peggy Kern

22573856Title: Little Peach

Author: Peggy Kern

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York City, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: she is alone and out of options.

Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels.

But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution where he becomes her “Daddy” and she his “Little Peach.” It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition.

Huge thank you to Balzer & Bray and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Books like Little Peach are painful to read. They are painful because there’s a truth that is often ignored in our world, particularly when it comes to the idea of under-aged prostitution. It’s a thing that exists, and the world attempts to brush this problem under the rug and refuse to acknowledge that it is exists. If anything, it’s likely because people see prostitution as a taboo topic — one that exists but we aren’t forced to acknowledge.

Little Peach is about women who need their story to be told. Peach’s story, how she’s brought into the ring, her friendships and guidance, it’s an unfamiliar world, and one that is difficult in some ways to look away from. It will make you nervous, feel disturbed, and yet there’s this desire to understand that world and know more.

I felt so sad reading this book, and my connection to Kat, Peach and Baby was quite strong throughout. You get a sense of survival and companionship between the girls — they want to protect each other. The men in this story made me so angry, but I feel like there’s some truth in their portrayal throughout the story. Devon just frustrated me, angered me, yet he twists their worlds by behaving as though he’s a saviour and it’s creepy to be honest.

The only issue I had with Little Peach was the writing style, which admittedly felt so blurry and disjointed at times. I recognize how intentional it was, but for me it didn’t always work and I found myself asking more questions than I had answers for! Otherwise, I thought the book was fantastic, and definitely one of the more darker YA reads I’ve encountered in my travels. If you have a weak stomach or don’t handle tough subjects well, this book might not be for you, but if you can, Peach’s world is one you might never forget.

ARC Review – Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

15726915Title:  Faking Normal

Author: Courtney C. Stevens

Rating: ★★★★/ ★★★★★

Synopsis: Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.

When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in “the Kool-Aid Kid,” who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.

Sam’s Review:

Faking Normal is a book I kept myself in the dark about. I had no knowledge as to what it was about or what exactly I was getting myself into, but I feel this is one of those books that should be read by everyone in terms of how it approaches the tough subject of rape. Let’s face it, rape is always a scary topic, but there’s various approaches to writing it, and I think Stevens takes a very fresh look at how one may behave after such a crime is committed.

Lexi’s voice is that of someone who is vacant. Regardless of things happening around her she behaves like she isn’t present in a lot of situations unless she is forced to face a situation head on. She tells the reader she’s “faking normal” as a means to show people on the surface that she is completely unaffected by what has happened to her, yet on the inside she completely destroyed, but void of any real emotion. In fact, reading this book, you can see how he character struggles to emote through a lot of the story.

I think Stevens’ choice to portray Lexi this way really works because she giving you a sense of how one might behave in this type of situation. She also gives us Bodee, who brings out the more genuine emotions Lexi is feeling. Truthfully, I actually liked Bodee a lot more than I thought I would. I was worried his character would be nothing more than a knight in awkward armor, but he’s surprisingly more than that once you get over the beginning. What I love is that Lexi and Bodee actually get to know each other, and when they fall for each other, it doesn’t feel rushed or forced.

That being said, I wasn’t fond of how Stevens approached a few of the other characters, particularly Maggie. I wish she hadn’t treated Maggie like she was some hussy and I wish Lexi didn’t make those types of comments considering what had happened to her. It just felt awkward and out of place and I didn’t appreciate that very much. This was the only aspect to the story I really didn’t like one bit.

Overall I loved how this book was handled and how it dealt with this serious topic. There are books before it that have tried and failed to spotlight issue of rape (see Brave New Girl, one that angered me in its approach), but I feel like Stevens does a great job of giving you a mystery to follow, as well as a surprisingly satisfying story to read. If rape is one of your trigger warnings, this might be a book to avoid, but if you can stomach the topic, there’s a surprisingly rich story to engage with.

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this. Writing this honest review to say thank you

Wow. This book is GOOD. First off, this is a story about rape. If you have a problem with reading about rape, skip this. I actually don’t like rape stories (rape, teen pregnancy/abortion are two of my least fav things to read about), but that’s probably because most of the time they are done SO poorly. This book, is THE best rape book I’ve ever read. Rape is a very difficult topic to tackle, but this book handles it very well.

Alexi has a secret, she was raped over the summer. She deals with it by closing herself off and punishing herself by scratching the back of her neck. I LOVED the way this book dealt with self-harm. I think a lot of people don’t realize that there’s more ways to self-harm than taking razor blades to your skin. Sadly, THAT seems normal. Digging your nails into the back of your neck, not so much. Most people would think THAT is weird. Bodee, a boy who’s father just killed his mother, deals with his problems by hiding under his bed and doing pull ups. Such raw, real, strange, sad ways to deal with your problems.

I have never experienced anything like Alexi has (thank god) and I don’t know anyone who has, but I was able to connect with some of the other aspects of this story. The sister relationship was one of them. My sister and I used to have an awful relationship when we were younger, and thankfully we were able to repair it once we became more mature, but I was able to really understand how bad their relationship was. I was SO mad at Kayla for most of the story, but my heart literally swelled with emotion when she came around in the end and did the right thing.

And Bodee. My god. I loved him so much. He was the sweetest, kindest, most trying guy ever. I loved how he knew that Alexi was hurting, that he recognized it from his own experiences with abuse, and was just THERE for her. He understood why she did what she did to herself, and how to handle her. I loved it when he asked to kiss her and kept reminding her who he was and that he wouldn’t hurt her. I loved the slow way Alexi and Bodee became intertwined and slowly woven into each other’s lives. He broke my heart and the slow build of the romance almost made me cry it was just so beautiful. I wanted to hug him myself!

The writing in this is tight. It flows well and has just enough heft to it that the story is heavy, but not TOO heavy. It’s rich and has some gorgeous moments of imagery. I was totally immersed in it from the very start.

Seriously guys, check this book out and keep an eye on this author. So good.

ARC Review – The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

18114943Title:  The Promise of Amazing
Author:  Robin Constantine
Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who’s always done what she’s supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for allowing me the chance to review this book.

Robin Constantine’s debut The Promise of Amazing might have one of the most misleading titles I’ve ever come across in a book. It promises to be “amazing” but it lacks a lot of substance. The premise suggestions the potential to be a thoughtful, smart romance, only to transform into a book of irrationality and hormones.

I found the characters in this book to be very problematic. Wren starts out cute, funny, thoughtful, but as she develops she becomes this character with too many first-world problems without a real head on shoulders. I found instead of trying to be adult in a lot of her personal problems, she often chose a more immature route as a means to get the attention of the reader. She’s supposed to be average, but she’s described as anything but. Why can’t YA novels that say their heroines are average actually MEAN that instead of trying to play it up like it’s a flaw.

Admittedly, I actually enjoyed Jazz and Mad. I’m confused in some ways how they would be friends with Wren, but I adore how they support her and try to be there for her despite her tribulations. The relationship between the girls worked for me and I think Constantine hits their relationship at just the right level. The only problem? There’s not enough of this strong female interaction because Wren is too fixated on her insta-love with Grayson.

Grayson is actually the character I have a huge problem with. While Wren’s flaws are a lot smaller, I couldn’t understand the appeal of how anyone could fall for Grayson. Constantine doesn’t give the reader enough to buy into how Grayson goes from man-slut to changed man — it just happens instantly when he meets Wren, and while she attempts to make him slip back into his old form once or twice, he’s always “But Wren, but Wren, but Wren.” He just didn’t seem realistic to me, and his dude-bro behaviour just didn’t give me the attraction level I want as the reader to buy into their romance. He steals JEWELLERY and thinks its ROMANTIC. I just didn’t understand where half of his motives came from and his consistency as a character was too all over the place for me.

And then there is the insta-love. There’s no hard to get, no witty banter — it happens right at the beginning of the book and it never gives up its stranglehold. The reader is beaten over the head that Wren and Grayson are meant to be. I just didn’t see how they could work as a couple, how they were meant to be. The reader is thrown into it and expected to root for these two characters, but I never did. I never found myself wanting them to be together. The way they talked about each other was so immature, almost sucky, that I really struggled with the romance.

Finally, we come to the ending, which is easily one of the biggest cop out endings I’ve seen in awhile. Our antagonist character gets away with metaphorical murder and the reader is just forced to accept it. There’s no karmic punch, no real explanation, it just ends with Grayson and Wren being happy and everything is wrapped up with a neat bow with barely any consequences. Luke and crew don’t get a comeuppance, so you’re left to question why Constantine did that other than to have the protagonists still be together. Fine, I get it, they like each other, but seriously give us a conclusion that is much more sound.

I didn’t hate The Promise of Amazing, but I found the negatives truly outweighed the positives for me. I found half the time I couldn’t connect to the characters, and in a way, this is a YA book that made me feel too old to be enjoying YA. If you can stomach insta-love and a story that isn’t always good at explaining itself, this book may be for you, but for those who like book with a nice sense of closure and characterization — you can do better than The Promise of Amazing.

River’s Review:

I received an ARC from the publisher and I’m writing this honest review to say thank you.

Okay so… this book didn’t work for me. I’ll keep it short because I just don’t want to get into everything, and my lovely co-blogger already posted a review that I ONE-HUNDRED-PERCENT AGREE with on our blog (https://innocencewalker.wordpress.com/…).

For me the biggest problem with this book was that it was YA that reads as if it’s for teens and ONLY teens. I’m not THAT old, or out of touch with pop culture and the ‘youth of today’ but this book made me feel old and that YA was too young for me. Something I never want to feel. I love that YA spans such a wide range of topics and is accessible for both young and adult readers. But this book felt so immature and juvenile. The amount of penis references was a huge, huge, huge turn off. I actually almost DNF-ed this because of a part where Grayson makes a comment about his balls sliding down his leg and running out the door. I was almost at the end though, so I pushed on through. But SERIOUSLY.

I don’t mind pervy-ness, I don’t mind slang. Swearing, drinking, sex, drugs WHATEVER is fine when it works for the book. But I do mind immaturity. And I hated that I felt so… god, idek, gross? while reading some of this. And it’s not even dirty! There aren’t any steamy smut scenes! Just gratuitous references to Grayson’s penis. Which is not something that I want to read about in a YA contemporary unless IT’S NECESSARY. And it wasn’t. All it did was make Grayson seem like even more of a douche than he already was portrayed as.

And Wren… I never got a good grip on who or what she was. Quiet shy girl? Okay but she was sometimes too ‘cool’ for that.

And that was another problem I had with this book. It’s like it was shouting HEY I’M COOL AND YOUNG AND WITH IT. I KNOW WHAT THE COOL KIDS LIKE. I KNOW THAT HOLLISTER WAS COOL AND NOW ISN’T AND ONLY TOOLS SHOP THERE. I KNOW ALL THE CURRENT LINGO. Just so much of this ‘I’m hip and with it’ was shoved into it that I was rolling my eyes and shouting OKAY I GET IT.

Ugh, just all the first world problems and lack of anyone getting what they deserved didn’t work for me.