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Archive for the tag “YA”

Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Started: 10.1.15; finished: 10.5.15

Goodreads rating: 2/5 stars

my rating: facepalm

pages: 384

found: library

My main thought after reading this book is, “ow, my forehead hurts,” from all the times I facepalmed. Molly has got to be one of the dumbest, unlikable protagonists I’ve ever read bout. I liked the book enough, mostly just to see what moronic move she would make next.

In every situation, she chose the worst possible option available to her, and keeps repeating the same mistakes over and over, never learning until the end. At first, I felt sorry for her, because despite her responsibility in the initial incident, things were really crappy for her. More so than they should have been because no one in town would let her move on from her mistakes (also, they only seemed to punish her for something that took two people to do). As the story went on, though, I wanted to punch her in her face because everything that happens from that point on is on her. She made bad choice after bad choice.

About the best thing that Molly did was to finally stand up for herself against Julia and her idiot friends at the end–something she should have done a long time ago. Also, in the end, I felt a little sympathy towards her as she found out that Gabe’s intentions weren’t all that honest at the beginning of summer and Patrick also had ulterior motives in his feud with Gabe. They were both screwing with her head, and when you are bad at decision making, that spells disaster.

I summarized the book for my fifteen-year-old daughter who facepalmed about as hard as I did. It was a cautionary tale in don’t be a dumbass like Molly Barlow, and when your mom is a writer, don’t tell her your deepest, juiciest secrets, lol. Said to my fifteen-year-old daughter that likes to tell me all of her illicit doings and secrets. Fodder for my next novel, darling, fodder for my next novel.


Review: Epic Fail by Clare LaZebnik

Review of Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

epicfailStarted: 7.23.15; finished: 7.23.15 (read: 2013, 2014)

Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars

my rating: read again and again

pages: 295

found: in my library

Epic Fail has become one of my favorite soft teen romance novels. I love it for a quick read at the beach or to get me in the mood to write. I’ve read it three times now which is a record for me with any book.

I’ve never actually read Pride and Prejudice (I’m pretty sure I’m the only woman that hasn’t), but I’m a little familiar with the storyline. Maybe it’s because of that, I never got bored with Epic Fail. I didn’t know what to expect, having never read the original, so I was always surprised.

I loved the development of Elise and Derek’s relationship. As an adult, I laugh at all the idiotic things they do, but I understand that from a teen’s perspective, they all make perfect sense at the time. Hearing stories from my own teens… Well, I wish her life was more like Elise’s.

My favorite part was the slow realization that Derek is nothing like Elise expects and very much likes her, but is just as insecure as she is. It’s cute how they orbit each other, getting pushed and pulled from their mutual attraction, their friends, and enemies.

Elise was a bit of a dolt, not believing Derek like her–she was too wrapped up in her judgmental attitude. Juliana was a little too nice. I know a lot of teens, and I don’t think I know one that nice. I know ones that act nice around certain people (like adults), but when they’re out with their friends… not so much. I think it’s mostly because she doesn’t even get mad at her own sisters. She just accepts everything and always smooths over the disagreements everyone else has. I have five kids–three of them are teens–they fight constantly, even the “sweet and nice” one.

That leads me to Layla. If she were my kid I’d want to strangle her. I don’t think any of my kids are as annoying and spoiled. I get that she feels left out and hates sharing a room with her younger sister (who is ten and acts like a baby). My almost thirteen-year-old currently shares a room with her nine-year-old sister and five-year-old brother, and the only issues they have is the brother getting into their things and him needing to go to bed before they do. My nine-year-old acts nothing like Kaitlyn, but she has friends that do–most of them are only-children.

Chelsea also ticked me off–what a selfish, entitled brat, but I found her to be believable. There are kids like that–I’ve seen it among my children’s friends.

Anyway, Epic Fail will always be one of my favorite teen romance novels–my go-to book for a fun afternoon read. Maybe one day I’ll actually write a proper review.

Review: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles


leavingparadiseStarted: 7/20/15; finished: 7/20/15 (originally read: 2/24/13)

Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars

my rating: worth rereading

pages: 303

found: on my shelf (originally: library)

I picked up this book from the library in 2013. I love a good romance with a lot of teen angst. I know I’m weird that way. I read in a day last time.

Well, we were heading to the coast this week, and I needed something on the light side to read, so I grabbed this off of the shelf, having bought it used to keep in my collection (my Kindle has been taken over by my kids). I almost finished it between the three hour car ride there, a half hour at the beach (before the waves called me) and the three hour ride home. It was done before I went to bed.

What I like about this book is the development of the friendship between Caleb and Maggie. It seemed believable and real, if not odd. How many people make friends with the person that ran them over with their car and ruined their life? I think it worked because there was the basis of a friendship already there, from growing up together. I loved that they were able to talk open, freely, and honestly (well, to a point on Caleb’s part) about the accident. They don’t pussyfut around the topic like everyone else in their lives.

I also loved how Mrs. Reynolds went out of her way to get them past their issues. She knew they were meant to be together. I cried when she died. Especially when Maggie started babbling about the flowers. I just lost it at that point. Then Caleb goes to her house seeking refuge from the one adult he trusted only to find out she had died. It was heartbreaking.

This was one of the few teen books I’ve read that doesn’t end happily with the boy and girl together. I cried again at the end when Caleb refuses to stay. His attitude through the whole book rubbed me the wrong way, but I can excuse it since his situation with his family and friends was pretty messed up. His reactions to situations were annoying, but realistic in a way because teens do stupid things and say stupid things, often just to get a reaction. I know–I have three of them. I can’t imagine being in Maggie or Caleb’s shoes.

All-in-all, I enjoyed this book just as much the second time around. It’s a short book, perfect for a day trip. It might not be the light, fluffy read most people like when sitting on the beach, but it had just the right amount of sarcasm and angst for me.

Who Am I Writing For?

Possible teen readers

copyright Jen Connelly 2014

When talking about writing there are two halves of me. There’s the half that writes fanfiction and the half that writes original novels. Other than on the basic scale of word choices, my styles for each are completely different. My fanfiction is oriented for an adult audience (not to be confused with adult content); my original fiction caters to readers of young adult fiction.

According to an article in Publisher’s Weekly from 2012, the number of adult readers of YA fiction is growing substantially. They cite a study done by Bowker Market Research that shows that 55% of consumers of young adult novels are adults over eighteen.

I remember first reading this article back in late 2012 or early 2013. Although I’ve been a avid reader of YA since early 2012, my first thought when seeing this statistic was, “duh, of course because they are adults buying books for their kids.” That is true, but according to the study, 78% of the people polled were buying the books for themselves. That’s a lot of people.

As a 30-something year old woman, I fall into the largest segment of readers–the 30-44 age range. Teens, though, are a shrinking demographic. A Time article notes that the number of teens reading for fun has drastically declined over the last thirty years. According to the study they cite, 45% of seventeen-year olds read for fun only once or twice a year. Only 19% of seventeen-year olds read for fun every day.

Obviously things are shifting, but what does that mean for me as a writer? It means that my style for YA fiction is converging with my style for my fanfiction. That doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to be writing about the same things (for one, I write in a completely different genre for my fanfiction), but it means I’m writing for a different audience–to a point.

As I’ve been working on my NaNoWriMo novel this past month, I’ve noticed my thinking patterns have changed. I used to think about teens–about my kids and their friends–and about what they like when I’d develop a story. What would interest them? How would they react to a story? This time, though, I’ve been thinking about the adult readers. What would they want? What would they believe is possible within the context of my story?

Becoming aware of that has changed how I write, and how I think about YA as a genre. When thinking of promoting a book, I don’t think of reaching out to teens. I picture adults–women my age–who spend their time discussing books and writing on Goodreads, Facebook, and individual blogs. They are who I’m reaching out to.

The weird thing is that we all enjoy the same aspects of books that teens do, so why am I drawing a line between the two? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many reviews of teen books commenting on the unrealistic, unhealthy relationships boys and girls have in them. Or how events are unbelievable. For adult readers, a lot of the predicaments the characters get into can easily be solved with our hindsight, but for teens, most likely experiencing these things for the first time, the situations are plausible and insightful. They might help them figure out their own lives–they don’t want to see perfect relationships; they want all the messed up emotional fallout that goes with love because that’s what they know and need to learn to deal with.

I think right now I’m balancing along the line, but leaning towards writing for my adult readers. If the trends in teen reading continue as they are (which seems likely) then adults will be the only ones reading my books. Maybe then YA fiction will lose the stigma attached to it, and those of us who read and write it won’t feel like we need to mumble through our lists of titles when someone asks what we are reading.

Should Adults be Embarrassed to Read YA Novels?


Should adults be embarrassed to read young adult novels? That the question Ruth Graham asks over at Slate. The tagline to her article, “Against YA,” reads:

Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.

In her opening paragraph she states her thesis of why adults shouldn’t read YA. It’s not because the writing is bad, it’s simply because the books were written for teenagers. She then goes on to bash several popular YA novels, criticizes adults that enjoy them, and implies that adults that do read them aren’t sophisticated enough to get adult (read “real”) literature.

She bases her entire argument on her experience of reading YA books as a teen and how she just wanted to graduate to the adult aisle. She then assumes that all readers had this experience (as many, if not most, voracious readers do as teens) and simply can’t understand why adults would want to regress to the tripe of the modern teen novel.

It’s no secret that I read YA novels. In fact I love them, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. They’re fun to read. I can’t say they are great literature (whatever that means), but then again, I find supposed great literature to be pretentious most of the time. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to “get it.” Or maybe it’s just that when I want to read I don’t want to have to do mental gymnastics to understand what the story is about, then spend hours contemplating the meaning of it all. I just want to relax. I want to rest my brain, not exercise it.

Some of her other arguments against adults reading YA fiction just baffle me.

It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults.

Wait, what? Since when do adults always have to keep an adult state of mind?

Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple.

Who says only teenagers want to see these kind of endings? I happen to enjoy them. I don’t want to read depressing literature with complex endings. But Ruth Graham knows better than all.

She follows up with this gem:

Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this.

At the risk? No, I’m sorry, Ruth, but you’re not at risk of sounding snobbish, you are a snob. A literature snob. And last time I checked, being a snob was not a positive character trait. If being a lit snob is what it means to be an adult then I want no part of it. Call me unsophisticated, dumb, or uneducated if you want, but perhaps you just don’t have the imagination that’s required to read YA fiction. In my opinion that’s your loss.

Review: Played by Liz Fichera

Review of Played by Liz Fichera

played  Started:4/6/14 ; finished: 4/7/14

Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars

  my rating: AWWWWW (with extra aww)

  pages: 352

found: netgalley

Last year I read this book, Hooked, that I really loved about a girl named Fred who wins her way onto the boys’ golf team at her high school and eventually wins the heart of her partner, Ryan. At the end was a sneak peak of the next book in the series. This book. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an arc thanks to the people at Harlequin TEEN and netgalley. I was thrilled.

Played is the story of Fred’s friend Sam who has a huge crush on her, and Ryan’s younger sister, Riley, who wants a change in her life. The know of each other in passing because of Ryan and Fred’s relationship. In fact, Sam has already decided he can’t stand Riley simply because she’s Ryan’s sister. The two officially meet on a leadership retreat in the woods. They, of course, get paired for the scavenger hut and that one action leads to a snowball of crazy events that simultaneously drive them together and pull them apart.

Just like with Hooked, I thought the story was sweet and liked that the romantic (or potentially romantic) relationship between Riley and Sam wasn’t the whole focus of the book. The story followed Riley’s attempts at getting Sam and Fred together, which meant breaking up Fred and her brother. Nothing, and I mean nothing, goes to plan. And Riley seems oblivious to the fact that Sam doesn’t want her help or to win Fred over. In fact, as the story goes on it’s obvious his feelings for Fred have changed and no matter what he says, Riley won’t listen until she’s completely screwed everything up—her brother’s relationship, Sam’s life, her life, everything. Both Sam and Riley were a little on the clueless side when it came to feelings and what they wanted. The way they danced around each other without even realizing what they wanted was right in front of them was cute. There was lots of misunderstandings that lead to angst. And did I mention the angst. If you like that kind of thing. Which I do.

From the beginning, whether unwilling partners on the hunt for pine cones or working together on Riley’s plan or figuring out how to be friends, Riley and Sam were adorable together. If you liked Hooked, or just love stories where everything is a disaster until the end when the characters finally realize they already have what they want then this is the book for you.

Book Review: Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Review of Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

tinstarStarted: 11/24/13; finished: 11/25/13

Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars

my rating: Cool with a touch of AWWW

pages: 240

found: netgalley

I’m a lover of sci-fi but most of the books I’ve been reading lately have been contemporary (romance) and the occasional dystopia. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but after reading the first chapter I was hooked.

The book is about Tula Bane, young girl, that is betrayed by the man she trusted most in her life, Brother Blue—a sort of preacher leading their pilgrimage to one of Earth’s new colony planets. After questioning him about some cargo being left behind she is beaten nearly to death.

She recovers only to find her ship, the Prairie Rose, destroyed leaving her without her mother and sister, without another human being anywhere. She’s trapped, alone and scared, on the space station they docked at. Humans are seen in less than a good light. She makes friends with an insect-like alien named Heckleck who teaches her how to survive on the station.

The years pass with Tula making a living as a petty criminal, always under the watchful eye of the constable, Tournour. That is until there’s a coup among the galactic government. Things start to change including the arrival of three new humans. It’s been years since Tula has seen any of her kind and it throws her into a tailspin. Conspiracies, deaths, losses begin to add up for her. Through it all her hatred for Brother Blue keeps her going. Her mission is to kill him at all costs.


I really loved this book. I loved the writing from the very first paragraph. It just grabbed me. The station is crafted and shared with such care to detail. I can picture all the different species that inhabit the place and can feel Tula’s pain and loneliness of being the only human there. Her friendship with Heckleck starts out tenuous but before long you can see that he does care for her and does his best to teach her to survive should anything happen to him.

And always in the background is Tournour, the chief constable, that Tula considers intrusive to her business. But there’s a lot about aliens she just doesn’t understand. I knew from the beginning that Tournour was looking out for her. He was always around to make sure nothing bad happened to her. I assumed he felt a fatherly affection for her until the end when another of his species explains how young Tournour really is. And then I got the twist of these two character that danced around each other the entire book.

I just loved the whole backdrop to the story and how the aliens mixed together, the portrayal of humans being low on the totem pole. The thing I found hardest to follow was Tula’s scamming with Els (one of the humans that crashes at the station). Maybe I was getting tired but the whole thing just fogged over in my mind. I didn’t know who to trust but I had a feeling it would turn out the way it did. Nobody was who they seemed at the station.

This book reminded me of all the reasons I love sci-fi but left me feeling like something was missing. Tula doesn’t get her revenge. I have heard through other reviewers at Goodreads I did learn there is a sequel in the making due out in 2015. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

Book Review: Kiss, Kiss, Bark! by Kim Williams Justesen

Review of Kiss, Kiss, Bark! by Kim Williams Justesen

kisskissbarkStarted: 11/22/13; finished: 11/22/13

Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars

my rating: cute

pages: 176

found: netgalley

Don’t let the cover fool you, this is pure YA although this book would appeal to the younger side of the genre more. The book centers around fourteen-year-old Mattie who has to spend most of her summer vacation babysitting her four-year-old brother, Donny. Who thinks he is a dog. Mattie finds him intolerable and he’s ruining her life. She’s not very nice to him as it’s appointed out by her best friend, Livvy. But Mattie has other things on her mind besides taking Donny for a walk on a leash.

She has crush on Livvy’s older brother, Nate, who acts like they are a nuisance. It doesn’t help that Livvy is throwing herself at Nate’s friend, Chris. Which is just embarrassing. Livvy takes a liking to Donny as she knows what it’s like to be the discarded younger sibling. Meanwhile, Nate actually asks Mattie out causing a riff between the two best friends.

This book is really short so great for the younger end of the YA age group. I thought the book was cute although Mattie’s treatment of Donny sometimes went over the edge. But having a thirteen-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son I see how they sometimes fight. If it weren’t for my other three kids coming in between the two of them I’m sure there would be even more animosity. Despite that I found it made Mattie more real because siblings fight.

The little romance that develops between Mattie and Nate is cute. I loved that she stood up to him about his treatment of his sister even if it risked her relationship with the guy she’s been crushing on for years. But she doesn’t relate that to her own treatment of her brother until he falls seriously ill.

There’s not a lot of depth here. Donny’s scenes are alternately funny (as he acts like a dog) and annoying ( as he talks like a two-year-old). The author has kids and grandkids so I’m not sure why she picked Donny’s voice the way she did. With five kids only one spoke that way at four and she was speech delayed. My other kids might have mispronounced a few words here and there but otherwise spoke clearly and with complete sentences. As I was reading I kept thinking my three-year-ole spoke better than Donny. The relationship between Mattie and Nate is chaste and sweet as they fumble to figure things out like any young teens (their first date reminds me a lot of my dates at thirteen—where we were forced to take our younger brothers no less).

All-in-all a cute little story that touches on a lot of feelings that young teens go through. I recommend this to young girls in the twelve to fourteen age range.

Book Review: Five Summers by Una LaMarche

Review of Five Summers by Una MaMarche

fivesummersStarted: 11/20/13; finished: 11/21/13

Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars

my rating: AWWW

pages: 384

found: library


Five Summers is the story of four best friends—Emma, Skylar, Maddie, and Jo—who meet at a sleep-away camp when they are ten. The story is told from their multiple point of views through different times in their life hinging around their first camp reunion at the age of seventeen.

Jo, whose father owns the camp, and Skylar are still there as counselors. Emma is living in New York with her brother in her aunt’s condo and interning at a magazine publisher. Maddie is flipping burgers back home and getting dumped by her boyfriend.

The four friends have lost contact during the three years since their last night of camp but the reunion is supposed to bring them all back together like they used to be. They all have ideas of how things will go.

Emma is trying to ignore the feelings she used to have for one of the boys at camp, Adam. The boy she had a crush on for years and chickened out of kissing on her last night at camp. Skylar has a big secret to tell her best friend, Emma, concerning the same boy. Maddie is living a lie at camp and knows she has to tell her friends the truth about her real life. And Jo wants things to go back to how they were, before she found out Maddie’s secret, before they all went their separate ways. The problem is things are about to get really messy.

Having never gone to camp myself I really enjoyed this book and how it portrayed camp. Also never having friends like the JEMS (as they called themselves—Jo, Emma, Maddie and Skylar) is hit a sore nerve. I honestly don’t know what it’s like to have friends like this and it makes me sad that I missed out on that as a child and still am because of my debilitating social anxiety.

I liked how the book skipped around from present to past as the girls remembered pacts they had made as kids and were now breaking intentionally and unintentionally as the reunion goes on.

I also really loved all the girls. I felt each girl had a little in common with me so I understood how they were feeling. I think I liked Jo the best who always felt like she didn’t fit in. She was quirky with her love for the camp she grew up and her penchant to take charge as if she were her father.

There was also a lot of angst in this book, which my readers might know now that I love. There were so many subplots having to do with dating and hooking up and love that I basically got my fill of UST and angst. I was kind of shocked about Adam’s behavior. I really thought Emma would be different for him (and kind of says she was) but at the end he’s become a total douche-nozzle. But even then I kind of liked him because I think he might have been genuinely sorry—like he got stuck in this reputation and didn’t know how to get out of it. Still, he was an ass to Emma and Skylar and deserved what he got.

My favorite, though, was Jo and Nate. Jo was so adorably clueless to Nate’s attentions until the girls started pointing it out and then suddenly she got it. I loved that as much as Nate adored her he wasn’t afraid to stand up against her even if it meant he might lose her. They complimented each other perfectly and were the most healthy couple of the entire story

I give this book 3 and ¾ stars. Why the minus ¼? For ragging on Southwest Airlines for losing Maddie’s luggage. Okay, I’m joking but as part of the Southwest family (my husband works for them) I feel a need to stand up for them. I actually laughed when she mentioned the lost luggage and Southwest.

So I really loved this book. There were many parts where I wanted to cry because of the pain the girls were in. Or because of what I missed as a kid/teen. It made me really feel what the girls were feeling, remembering what it was like to be a teen and in a crazy relationship (I did have one despite my awkward anxiety).

I did want to see Skylar confront Adam, though. More than what was shown. And I really want to know if Adam ever changes his ways. I guess that’s what fanfiction is for.* This would make a great summer read, especially for anyone that ever went to camp.


*Must. Not. Write. Fanfic. Must finish NaNo first.

Book Review: Stargazing from Nowhere by Isabel and Marilyn Thomas

Review of Stargazing from Nowhere by Isabel and Marilyn Thomas

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044]Started: 11/19/13; finished: 11/19/13

Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars

my rating: OK

pages: 448

found: netgalley


I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked the premise about a small town girl, Kristen, who blogs about celebrities getting to meet one of those celebrities, one she thoroughly trashed on her blog but secretly has a crush on. I liked that Michael, the drummer of the band she used to like but then didn’t like, is actually just a normal guy under a lot of pressure. I loved all the unresolved sexual tension and the angst and the sweet little romance between Kristen and Michael.

But I had a lot of problems with the book. First, it just went on and on and on and on. It probably could have ended at about the halfway mark and still been a decent, sweet love story. But is just when on with the main character, Kristen, thinking the same things over and over. A lot of it self-pity and whining because she screwed up her life by keeping secrets and just being stupid. Okay, she’s fifteen, going on sixteen so some of it is forgivable and I can’t say I wouldn’t have done anything differently in her case because confrontation always scared me, but after awhile it got annoying.

Second, her mom… I wanted to strangle her at certain points. Namely when she invites Michael over only to insult him and make both of them feel stupid and hurt. What kind of person does that? She’s just as immature as her daughter and she gets increasingly selfish as the book goes on about her dancing thing. I have five kids of my own so I get wanting to do stuff for yourself but she was blaming her daughter for her potential loss at the competition. That’s messed up.

Third, everything was too perfect. Michael was perfect, the guys in the band were nearly perfect, Scott was perfect, Uncle Jack was perfect. Especially Uncle Jack. Even Maggie came off as perfect. Oh, and Colin. While I was reading this my thirteen-year-old daughter came in carrying on and on about One Direction and their fans and some mobbing in LA today. It wasn’t the first time I looked at the story and felt it kind of read like fanfiction, with the names changed. It sounds like some of the 1D fanfic my daughter and her friends write (not saying this is fanfic, just that it reads like it). Kristen is like the anti-Mary Sue where everything she does is bad and screws stuff up more.

Another thing that bugged me is we never do find out who hacked her blog or blew her cover. I would have liked to have known just for curiosity’s sake.

I did love the ending. It brought closure to Kristen and Michael. But in the end I gave it a gracious three stars. It would have gotten more if half the pages had been cut, Kristen had confessed or her cover blown at the midpoint and then they get back together shortly after that. There was so much subplot that could have been taken out at the end and so much internal dialogue that was just whining and rambling on about her problems that she created over and over.

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