Sunday, March 2, 2014

Alcohol, Secrets, and Hitchcock Movies: Review of Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison

Anything to Have You
Paige Harbison

This book is actually much better than the cover implies, I promise!

This is the first YA contemporary fiction book I have read in a while, and I'm really glad that I picked it up.  I really only gave it a chance because I like to try to read outside my comfort zone, but generally I prefer paranormal/adventure YA books to books about rich suburban teen girls.

Anything to Have You is the story of two best friends, Natalie and Brooke, during their senior year of high school in Montgomery County, Maryland.  (This is weird because I used to teach in that county... so it was like reading a book about my students.)  The summary on the back of the book describes Natalie as "college bound," which is funny because one of the major issues that Natalie is dealing with is that she DIDN'T apply to college and doesn't know what she is going to do after graduation.  Also, Brooke DID apply and was accepted to a bunch of colleges, including University of Pennsylvania, so I'm not sure what that's about.

Basically, Natalie is a shy, quiet but beautiful girl who loves to cook and watch movies.  She has a very close relationship with her single father.  She feels uncomfortable going to parties, but Brooke is usually able to drag her to a few.  Brooke is a queen bee- every stereotype you could imagine for a popular blonde girl in high school.

Brooke's long-term boyfriend, Aiden, happens to be everything that Natalie wants in a guy, and when they end up paired together for a school project, she starts to become closer friends with him.  When Brooke drags them both to a party where they all overindulge, Natalie wakes up the next morning in bed with Aiden but with no idea what happened.  Aiden tells her that it's cool, nothing happened, and she believes him- after all, why would he lie, but over the next few weeks their relationship just gets weirder and weirder.  The whole thing blows up at the senior prom, as these things tend to, and the secrets turn out to be very juicy.

I genuinely enjoyed reading this book, much to my surprise.  As I said above, I usually do not enjoy contemporary fiction, but Anything to Have You was much grittier and relatable than I expected.  It helps that the first-person viewpoint switches between Natalie and Brooke, giving Brooke much more depth than she did at first, when I wrote her off as another Regina George.  She's actually a much more complicated character than that, and I found myself appreciating her perspective.  The supporting characters were also well-written and entertaining, particularly the-jerk-Natalie-lost-her-virginity-to, a nasty boy named Reed.  My favorite scenes were the ones between Brooke and Reed- he just seemed like he could be a real guy I went to high school with.

I would recommend this book to fans of Sarah Dessen- it's like this generation's Someone Like You.  I'm going to check out Paige Harbison's other books, and next time maybe I won't be so quick to judge a book by it's cover.

For more information, check out the author's website.

Amazon links:  PaperbackKindle

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Juvenile Delinquents, Boxing, and the Sweatbox- Review of Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Phoenix Island
John Dixon

Boys and girls in a mercenary boot camp- what could go wrong?

Carl is a orphaned teenager with a very clear code of morality- he believes it is his mission in life to stand up for victims of bullying.  Unfortunately for Carl, this often results in him beating bullies to a pulp and landing in trouble with the police.  A former boxing champ, Carl never loses and never backs down from a fight.  After one too many assault charges, Carl is sentenced to Phoenix Island until his 18th birthday.

Bootcamp starts off normally enough- the kids do push ups, put up with power-tripping sergeants, and serve punishment in a metal cage called "The Sweatbox," but eventually Carl starts to notice some weird things- for example, why do kids' faces get blacked out in photos after they disappear to the medical center with an injury?  Why are only orphans at this camp?  After being given a special book-keeping responsibility, Carl discovers information about the real purpose of the camp- information that changes everything.

I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to YA readers who enjoy other action and adventure stories such as the Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies.  It's awesome that the main character of this book is a teenage boy during a time when so many books are girl-centric.  Carl is brave, strong, and ultimately discovers his fatal flaw and uses it to make a difference.  There is a strong female character in this book, and some of the story is told from her viewpoint, but boys and girls alike will enjoy this book.  It's sort of pre-dystopian- to really explain I would have to give away secrets of the plot, but the book takes place modern-day but in a setting that hopefully is only real in our imaginations.

Check out the author's website for more info.

View book on Amazon:  Hardcover /  Kindle

March 2014 New Releases

Shannon Hale
March 4th

Lynne Matson
March 4th

Lauren Oliver
March 4th

Winner's Trilogy, Book #1
Marie Rutkoski
March 4th

Bethany Wiggins
March 4th

Carol Lynch Williams
March 4th

Into the Dark, #1
Bree Despain
March 11th